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The King’s Speech Arriving on the scene like so much high–minded Oscar bait, The King’s Speech is anything but a stiff–upper–lip drama as constrained as a corseted queen. It is, however, perfect film fodder for discerning audiences starved for literate entertainment. Director Tom Hooper and particularly screenwriter David Seidler manage to build a towering film from a historical footnote: the debilitating stammer that haunted Albert Frederick Arthur George (aka the Duke of York and then King George VI) since childhood and the efforts of speech therapist Lionel Logue to cure him of his affliction. The film is careful to paint in the historical details surrounding this character crisis – the support of George’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the abdication of his brother Edward (Guy Pearce), the buildup toward World War II (Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill; love it!), etc. – but its best scenes are the ones centering solely on the unorthodox teacher and his quick–tempered student. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are accomplished actors on their own, but squaring off as, respectively, George VI

movies

and Lionel Logue elevates their game. It’s no wonder that they deliver the two best male performances of the year.

True Grit It’s been well documented the the Coen Brothers’ take on True Grit isn’t a remake of the 1969 film that won John Wayne his only Academy Award but rather a more faithful adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel. That’s all well and good, but when it comes to making that Netflix rental selection, the choice will be between the two film versions. By that token, no one will lose out, as both pictures are of comparable value. Forced to choose, I’d actually go with the Duke’s at–bat, although Jeff Bridges is certainly more than capable in taking on the iconic role of boozy marshall Rooster Cogburn, hired by young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to track down the desperado (Josh Brolin) who murdered her pappy. Sporting a sly sense of humor different than what was brandished in the ’69 model, this True Grit mines its colorful characters for off–kilter comedy, from talkative Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) to scraggly outlaw leader Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper, superbly channeling the original’s Robert Duvall). Bridges is likewise amusing and might have been even funnier if we could understand his frequently slurred dialogue. As it stands, whenever he’s talking, the picture needs English–language subtitles as desperately as Bergman’s Persona or Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

LITTLE FOCKERS

Let me get this straight. Dustin Hoffman deemed the script for Little Fockers so awful that he refused to participate until new scenes were written for him. And here he is now, having agreed to a revised screenplay that has him uttering lines like “You can pick your nose, but only flick the dry ones, not the wet ones.” Needless to say, that’s a long way from the likes of “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me ... Aren’t you?” and “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!” Then again, Little Fockers is pretty much the basement for most of the accomplished actors squirming up there on the screen. Even those charitable folks (like me) who didn’t think Meet the Parents’ first sequel, Meet the Fockers, was a sign of End Times will feel the comic desperation in this outing. There’s admittedly a chuckle here and continues on p. 32

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applauded by the other characters for being one of the “few good ones,” yet the way he ping–pongs between Kelly and Chiles makes him seem like merely a randy good ole boy. Chiles begins the picture as All About Eve’s Eve Harrington before transforming into The Sound of Music’s Maria. And even for a boozehound, Kelly’s actions rarely make sense from one scene to the next (this leads to a ridiculous WTF ending that left me cold). At least the unlikely character transitions allow the actors to provide some shadings to their portrayals. Hedlund is utilized far better here than in Tron: Legacy, while McGraw’s minimalist efforts work just fine for the part of James. And in the unlikely chance this proves to be a hit, it might provide Meester (TV’s Gossip Girl) with her breakout role, considering she makes the best impression of the four leads. At almost a full two hours, the film is criminally overlong and appears to have as many false endings as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The soundtrack includes many country tunes both old and new, but the only one that kept racing through my increasingly bored mind was Willie Nelson’s “Wake Me When It’s Over.”

Profile for Connect Savannah

Jan. 12, 2011 Connect Savannah Issue  

Featuring Savannah metal band Kylesa; remembering Spitfire Poetry Group founder Clinton Powell; Live Oak Public Libraries annual gala; versa...

Jan. 12, 2011 Connect Savannah Issue  

Featuring Savannah metal band Kylesa; remembering Spitfire Poetry Group founder Clinton Powell; Live Oak Public Libraries annual gala; versa...