End of Watch. A+, four stars. Blown away with how unexpectedly great this was, and how much I loved it. Start with something like Miami Vice, but dial back the moody cool and swap in more humor and camaraderie. Loved, loved, loved this movie.
The Grey. I wish the poem at the heart of the movie was better. For me, there’s not quite enough there for the melodrama it’s asking for. I think maybe it would have been better without knowing the reasons our hero is so dour. But of course I like the survival bits. The surprises and set pieces are all great.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I had so much fun. Good action movies make you want to do the things you see on screen. Iron Man is fun to watch, but I don’t feel like I want to fly around and shoot beams out of my hands. But this? Yeah, I want to hold up a shield and run through locked doors. The First Avenger is still my favorite of the Marvel movies, but this is a nice elaboration and keeps the good drama/humor balance. Such a great character, becoming more suspicious, more wary of what he’s asked to do.
Warrior. I’ve raved about this movie before. A few things I appreciate on third viewing… 1. The efficiency of the startup. A few bits of dialogue, usually barbs hinting at old wounds. Some are too vague to be effective (“That shit you pulled”), but some are so wincingly perfect for character and delivery (“Must be tough to find a girl who could take a punch nowadays.”) 2. Shot, reverse-shot. Sports movies have to deliver on dialogue when you’re not at the relevant events. This is why you care about Rocky or Rudy. Style-wise, these shots reminds me of Michael Mann, peering over the shoulder. 3. Obstructing the shots. I’m thinking of the husband-wife conversation in the bathroom and the father-son scene in the hotel room. Doorways and bodies block the view, so you instinctively want to tilt your head a bit. It also works in the fight scenes cage, where you’re trying to peek through the fence to get closer to the action. In a way, those shots feel more like you’re “there” in the arena than when you get the clean close-ups. 4. This movie is now 3-for-3.
The Grey. It’s great. Watch it. There are (spoiler) wolves that (spoiler) eat people! Cinematically! The occasional narration and flashbacks in the story didn’t entirely sit well with me right away, but the strength of the rest of the acting, set pieces, sound work, and general grim relentlessness were spot-on. I think maybe you can even argue in favor of the bluntness of the voiceover writing. We’re so used to heroes being accomplished, superlative, clever, admirable. This is kind of a regular guy, down and out and swallowed in his own drama. How many people have written a good diary entry, literariness-wise? Who, in those circumstances, would be self-conscious enough to turn out new insights and artisan memories? No, you get by on what you have with you.
I didn’t think about that stuff much when I was watching the movie, though. I was already having too much fun. Other movies I’ve seen recently that involve the protagonist in a man vs. canine situation: The Hunter, White Dog, The Bourne Legacy. Man vs. cat? Life of Pi.
Warrior. Some plot points are about subtle as a kick to the head, but the power is there, too. Much, much better than I expected, thanks to a great cast (A.O. Scott: “These are tough guys, but you can only care about them if you believe that they can break.”) and a great pace. Ebert:
This is a rare fight movie in which we don’t want to see either fighter lose. That brings such complexity to the final showdown that hardly anything could top it — but something does.