Monday, January 26, 2009
Monday At the Movies
Monday's Movie is hosted by Sher over at A Novel Menagerie each Monday.
Movie: Gran Torino
Genre: Crime Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Nick Schenk & Dave Johannson
Gran Torino wasn't at the top of my list of movies to see, but the visiting in-laws were eager to see it, and so off we went to the theater. Two friends enjoyed a debate over the merits of the film earlier this month, one outright dismissing it because of the foul language and frequent ethnic slurs and jokes. The other was able to look beyond that, and appreciate the movie on a deeper level. Gran Torino is one of those movies that needs to be taken in context of the time period and the life situations of the characters. It is not your typical shoot 'em up movie. It tackles serious issues dealing with cultural and generational differences and similarities, as well as crime in urban areas.
Clint Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski, is a Korean War Veteran. He is stubborn and curmudgeonly, set in his ways. He keeps everyone at a distance, including his sons. Walt becomes unwittingly involved with the Hmong family that has just moved in next door when a gang tries to encourage the teenage neighbor boy to join them. Despite his contrary nature, Walt finds himself drawn to the family next door and their problems become his own.
Walt is a complex character. He is not instantly likable, but it is clear that he has built a protective shell around himself. The past haunts him and he has a good heart. While it took me a while to warm up to Walt, I immediately liked Sue Lor, played by Ahney Her. She was smart and undeterred by Walt's frequent attempts to push her away. Another favorite character was Father Janovich, the young priest played by Christopher Carley. Initially I thought he would be an annoying character but was soon impressed with his persistence and openness to hear Walt out.
I expected a slightly different ending, but was pleased at the direction the movie turned in the end. I have heard some say the ending was unrealistic, but I disagree. I felt it was quite fitting when all was said and done. I especially liked the added touch at the very end, Clint Eastwood singing the closing song, Gran Torino, a song he wrote along side his son, Kyle Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, and Michael Stevens.
As an aside, I may have to go back and watch it again just to count the number of times Clint Eastwood grunts and growls in the movie. Don't get me wrong; it fit his character, but I found it amusing just the same.
Rating: 3.5 Bags of Popcorn
Genre: Drama, War
MPAA Rating: R
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Writers: Clayton Frohman & Edward Zwick (screenplay); Nechama Tec (book)
I knew I wanted to see this film the first time I saw a trailer for it. Defiance is based on the true story of the Bielski brothers, who helped organize refugees and fight the Nazis in an effort to rescue fellow Jews during World War II. The four brothers played by Daniel Craig, Liev Schrieber, Jamie Bell and George MacKay, had only each other when they fled to the forest of eastern Europe in hopes of avoiding death at the hands of the Nazis. They never anticipated that they would be joined by several other Jews who were also fleeing for their lives.
Daniel Craig's character, Tuvia, steps in as leader, the refugees build a hidden community in the forest, determined to survive. Meanwhile, Zus Bielski (Liev Schreiber) is determined to fight against the Nazis, and he and several other strong and able refugees join him in the fight alongside the Soviet soldiers in exchange for supplies and protection of the Jewish camp. Fending off starvation and struggling to survive the freezing winter, the refugees have much to contend with, not to mention the threat of the encroaching German army.
One thousand two hundred refugees walked out of that forest alive when the war was over, thanks in part to the efforts of the Bielski brothers. The story itself is a powerful one, one of courage and hope against the odds. The refugees faced many hardships in their struggle to survive. They also faced moral dilemmas, learning from their mistakes. And yet I was left feeling Defiance could have been much more than what it was. I was underwhelmed. I do not think that the movie went deep enough. It only seemed to touch the surface.
Rating: 3.5 Bags of Popcorn