Monday, May 09, 2011

Thor and True Grit, a Double Review

A curious thing happened on Saturday night.  See, Keisha and I had plans.  Her aunt cooked us a nice, big meal and invited us over.  We couldn't refuse.  But then, the cogs in my brain started working, and on the off-chance that we were done early enough, I thought we'd go to the drive-in.  Thor was playing with True Grit on the B-side.  As it turned out, we finished our meal and fellowship at 7:30ish, and the movie started at 7:55.  So, into the car--blankets, seats, and a stereo in the trunk--and onto the road, we hit the drive-in.

I didn't really have much interest in seeing Thor.  But, I thought, it could be like Iron Man.  I decided not to watch Iron Man until several months after it was out on DVD, cause frankly, it looked ridiculous, and I never was much of an Iron Man fan.  But, as it turned out, I enjoyed the movie.  And (here's the curious part) similarly, I wound up rather enjoying Thor.

Thor, starring a cast of handsome and pretty actors, is a movie about mythology and aliens and sibling rivalry and evil government agencies and science and interstellar weather patterns.  In Asgard, where Thor and the Norse pantheon reside, Odin is ready to settle down into retirement and pass the mantle of king off to his eldest son, Thor.  Loki, Thor's jealous brother, doesn't like this idea too much, and so he plays the role of the antagonist.  Oh, and there's also Natalie Portman hanging out in the New Mexico desert.

In short, Thor is largely a movie that serves as a stepping stone into next summer's massively epic (redundant?), Joss Whedon-directed Avengers.  It also helps to introduce the Norse god-alien-man-thing to the American audience, as I suspect Thor ranks on a lower tier than many other superheroes (since we're Marvel here, I'll mention Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Iron Man, to name a few).  But, oddly enough, the movie had enough action and plot (plus some good humor) to keep me interested.  In particular, I really thought the frost giants were a very cool enemy people.

Overall, if you're looking for a mindless, fun action film, Thor is it.


The highlight of the night, though, definitely rested in the Coen Brothers' recent adaptation of True Grit.  This movie has been out so long that there's probably no reason to review it, but I do so, if only for completion purposes.  True Grit is the story about vengeance and retaliation.  Mattie Ross, played by the delightful Hailee Stienfeld, is directly involved in a manhunt for Tom Chaney, the man who murdered her father.  She's forced to take matters into her own hands, as she fears nothing will be done about his death.  So, she hires the meanest US Marshal in town, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to help track Chaney.

The story is simple, but the film is wonderful.  From the faint opening chords of an old-timey piano through the start of the credit reel, True Grit keeps you captive.  Bridges performance as Cogburn is hilarious and masterful.  His mannerisms and brogue are fitting and perfect.  Stienfeld does a remarkable job in her first feature film and definitely steals the scenes with her quick tongue and sharp wit.  The movie is somehow both funny and serious, and the Coens did a great job with the movie.  Every actor played their parts perfectly.

In addition, the score is beautiful.  Old hymns whisper through the scenes, always on an old-sounding piano and rustic accompaniment.  It seems the Coens always have great scores and soundtracks (Raising Arizona is a classic, O Brother started a revival of bluegrass across America, and many more are memorable), and this film is no different.

If you've not yet watched True Grit, do yourself a favor and pick it up.  A good western is hard to beat, and True Grit is a good western.*  Paced perfectly and cast the same, this is a film well worth the Oscar nominations it received.**

*Let it be noted that I've not seen the original True Grit, starring John Wayne, though my wife informs me that it, too, is quite good.

**Check out Omphaloskepsis for another review of True Grit.  L always has excellent reviews, and if you aren't reading her blog, then you should be.


contemplatrix said...

ah, Thor. I too am thinking dvd, but drive-ins are a lot of fun (which reminds me that I should check if our local outdoor screen is open yet). Glad Thor was amusing at least. I find it weird how many 'serious' actors were cast.

the old hymns were great weren't they? I hadn't thought about the Coens' soundtracks of films past, but you are so right, consistently good!

thanks for the link and the kind words!


David Wagner said...

I love me some Coen Brother's flicks. True Grit has been on my radar for a while - I'll definitely see it.

I may even check out Thor as well!

Thanks for taking the time to review.

Two movies starting at 8pm? Dang! I hate to imagine how late (early?) it was when you got home...

logankstewart said...

@L: Aye, I typically view films at the drive-in only when the movies are something I'm not overly concerned with. Plus, $8 for two movies is a great deal.

@Dave: You're welcome, friend. And yep, it was after midnight when I left the place...

Carl V. said...

True Grit is a movie I am looking forward to. I had hoped to see it with friends in the theater but it just didn't work out.

I've heard nothing but positive things about Thor, which should surprise me given the fact that I think Kenneth Branaugh is a pretty amazing director. Still, I hadn't planned on seeing it as the character isn't one I care about. However, the more I hear about it the more tempted I become. Wouldn't be surprised if I end up catching it.

Okie said...

I haven't seen True Grit yet but I still really want to. Saw Thor last weekend and enjoyed it much more than I was a lot of fun.

Thanks for your reviews. :)