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Old March 13 2011, 11:29 PM   #240
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

39. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (A)
40. The Fugitive (A-)
41. Dark City (A)
42. The Food of the Gods (F)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: I had been meaning to see this for a while, then had that enthusiasm tempered by a post by stj, and then finally watched it when my roommate picked it up on Blu-Ray and suggested it. I'm glad I did. It would be worth seeing for Roger Deakins' "artsy" cinematography alone, which is absolutely beautiful. But it's also worth it for just about everything else, too. The performances are great. Brad Pitt is excellent, if a little old, as Jesse James (he's about ten years older than Jesse James was in the last year of his life). Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell play the Ford brothers to perfection. Even Mary Louise Parker, who seems to have had her entire role cut when the movie was reduced from four hours to 160 minutes, delivers in her one or two scenes of note. The music is hypnotic. And the use of language (both in dialogue, and the voice-over narration, which is never redundant) is terrific.

Better yet, despite being endorsed by the James family, it's nothing close to portrait of the man made with rose-colored glasses. Jesse James in the movie is a violent son-of-a-bitch. He cares for his children, and his wife, and has an uncanny sense of when to get out of town, but that is the extent that the movie shows him in a positive light. The rest of the time he's busy murdering (or, attempting to murder, before his cohort gets him to back off) innocent people he's robbing, as well as killing (or threating to kill) his entire gang, half the time for no reason at all. By the end of the film, it's clear that the film is working in opposition to its title, which is taken from the famous folk song.

Also, in response to stj, it is worth noting that in the train sequence in the beginning of the film the train seems to spend quite a distance coming to a stop, doesn't seem to be going particularly fast when it first appears, and that James stops it with a barricade and not, in fact, standing in front of the train while on a horse. There is surely artistic license here, but hardly the kind that should make continuing the movie impossible. It's well worth spending the time on (despite the length, it never feels long).

The Fugitive: This is a terrific thriller, a genre that is often unappreciated, and a fine adaption (probably, an improvement) of the 1960s television series. Tommy Lee Jones deserved his Academy Award and I'm glad he was able to star in a sequel (even if it didn't turn out to be as good).

Dark City: I still think this film is terrific, and am glad the Director's Cut is available on Blu-Ray (the narration in the theatrical cut is just insulting to the audience). I was surprised to see just how fast things move in the film. Despite the film's reputation, it is anything but slow. In fact, I'd probably make the film a little longer to slow down the pace if I was editing it. But it's fine the way it is.

The Food of The Gods: Words can't explain how bad this film is. The effects are terrible, the performances are terrible, the direction is terrible, the writing is terrible, and the editing is terrible (there must be five or six minutes showing the characters riding around on a ferry for absolutely no reason). A perfect movie if you're looking for something to ridicule-- no redeeming value is to be found.
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