2011 In Film: Number 2: Country Strong by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

Generally speaking, country music isn’t my thing. Sure there are exceptions but as a whole, it’s not something I can really get into. Add on top of that the fact that, outside of Iron Man, I’m not a massive fan of Gwyneth Paltrow. So it’s fair to say that Country Strong, the film starring Gwyneth Paltrow as an alcoholic country singer, is the least aimed at me film that could have possibly been made. Still, I made a commitment to sit down and watch all 200 or so movies listed on Wikipedia’s list of films released in 2011 and so I sat down and watched it.

The main gist of the story is that Gwyneth Paltrow is Kelly Canter, a famous country singer who is in rehab after falling over drunk whilst five months pregnant on her last tour. Whilst in rehab she begins an affair with Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), an aspiring singer/songwriter, but her husband/manager James (Tim McGraw) takes her out of rehab early in an effort to get her to tour again and rebuild her reputation. He also picks up Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) to support her on the tour and, having seen them perform together, he decides to take Beau along as well, under the pretense that he’s also there to look after Kelly as her rehab sponsor.

So during the tour, Kelly gets drunk and either misses or fucks up the show. She also grows increasingly jealous of Chiles and increasingly resentful of Beau and James. Due to her constant inability to perform, it’s more and more up to Chiles and Beau to keep the tour going and so they find themselves becoming more and more famous and eventually they fall in love. Anyway, Kelly finally cleans herself up for the last big show and knocks it out of the park. Everyone is happy and things look like they’re gonna finally be OK. And then Kelly kills herself with an overdose. Beau moves on to California to work on a ranch and play his music for the love of music, man, and eventually Chiles joins him.

Christ, I know that there was more than that in the film and I literally watched it a little while ago but my mind is mostly drawing a blank. This film was so cliché, so by the numbers and so incredibly, incredibly boring. Even the big shock ending wasn’t a shock. Of course Kelly was gonna die. I’d be more shocked if she’d finally sorted herself out and did good.

Also the main point of this story seems to be that you can have fame or you can have love but you can’t have both. Really? Maybe if your husband is also your manager and so both your incomes rely on you but I’m fairly sure there are famous people who have managed to handle having both.

I suppose if I can say something good, it’s that everyone seems to be trying really hard and everyone’s singing there own songs and doing pretty well at it as far as my ear for country music goes but honestly, this film is just so… meh that I really can’t recommend it. Half a pint out of five. Laterz.

Review: The Fighter by Jamie

Boxing is a sport I’ve never been that interested in. After watching this film, I think I understand why. If boxing was shown on TV in the same way it’s shown in films with great close-ups and dramatic camera angles, I would watch it every time it was on. Sadly it’s generally just watching two people punching each other. So I guess what I’m saying is I don’t really like boxing but I really enjoy films about it.

So, The Fighter is based on the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his half-brother Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) and the various other people in their life. Dicky was known as ‘The Pride of Lowell’ (Lowell, Massachusetts, the town where they both live) after he fought Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s currently having a documentary about him being made by HBO which he hopes will enable him to make a comeback. Micky on the other hand has been that successful in the boxing world. He’s managed by his mother Alice (Mellissa Leo) and trained by Dicky a combination that probably hampers his chances more than helping them.

You see, having tasted success and not really doing much with it, Dicky has slipped into using crack, something which his mother seems to ignore, at least at first, because it’s clear that Dicky is her favourite son. Because of his addiction, Dicky is regularly late for training sessions with his brother leaving him at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to fighting. Also his family don’t seem to know exactly what is best for Micky’s career, convincing him to fight an opponent who is heavier and taller when his scheduled opponent drops out due to illness. Micky loses badly which prompts him to give up on boxing altogether so he can focus on real life and a relationship with Charlene Flemming (Amy Adams).

Alice arranges another fight for Micky but he brings up an offer he’s received to be paid to be trained in Vegas. Dicky, desperate to keep his brother nearby so he can continue working with him, offers to raise the money and pay Micky instead. He goes about this in a… let’s say technically very illegal manner which leads to a brilliant chase scene where he’s pursued by the cops. Micky get’s involved when he sees his brother being brutalized by the police and the two brothers are arrested though not before a policeman breaks Micky’s hand with a truncheon. Micky is freed and Dicky is sent to jail.

That’s about where I reckon I’ll leave the synopsis since it’s pretty much where the trailer gets up to and going any further is going into spoiler territory.

So what can I say about ‘The Fighter’? Well, it’s a pretty amazing film to be honest. Yes, it’s Oscar season so you’re probably gonna see a few of these reviews around here at the moment (Although the only other one I’ve really seen is True Grit so maybe just one more). The performances are amazing and much has already been said about Christian Bale. Yes, he is brilliant in this and deserves the nominations he’s gotten but I’m quite surprised that Mark Wahlberg’s performance seems to have been overlooked somewhat in all the things I’ve read about it.

It’s Wahlberg and the relationships he has with the other characters throughout the film that provide the real depth to the film… Hmmm, that’s not fair. Bale is indeed a massive part of it, especially his addiction to crack. I suppose a better thing to say is that this is both actors doing what they do best. Wahlberg is very good at being understated and it can be hard to see how good of a job he’s doing compared to the much more frantic and bombastic character that Bale is playing.

Adams and Leo are also great, particularly when they are on screen together (along with the seemingly thousands of sisters that Dicky and Micky have). The tension between them is so thick you could cut it with some kind of cutting device. They both feel as if they know what’s best for Micky and they genuinely seem to hate each other because those ideas are in such conflict.

The plot of the film is actually pretty much secondary to the development of the characters which, to be honest, is probably a good thing. The story is interesting and all that but it plays out quite predictably. Of course, it is based on a true story so I suppose that was the way it had to play out but without the great depth giving to the characters this would have honestly been a rather standard sports film that probably wouldn’t be getting as much attention as it is.

Right, that’ll do. Man, I hate reviewing films I liked because I have to reign myself in from giving too much away and then I feel as though the reviews are short and lacklustre. Ah well, never mind. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

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