Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review: The Hurt Locker

I had heard so much hype about this movie from several people I know. I have to saw I was slightly disappointed with The Hurt Locker. Kathryn Bigelow (Mrs. James Cameron) did do a great job of depicting a raw and real Iraq on the big screen. Her vision was backed up by a solid group of ensemble no-name actors led by Jeremy Renner that convey what it must be like to be enlisted into an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) squad in Baghdad.

The movie focuses on the task of disarming IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in and around the Iraqi front line. As we watch the main characters rove around the city from assignment to assignment you really do get an appreciation for what these men and women are going through in Iraq and the sacrifice they make to serve their country. Some of it is fascinating but in the end the film seems to drag on at times. I think the biggest drawback of the movie is that I saw this after having seen Generation Kill on HBO. The Gulf War miniseries was shot with a very similar handheld documentary style and also was effective at making the war seem very real. I enjoyed the camaraderie and characters better in Generation Kill and this movie seemed almost like an afterthought compared to the epic arc that HBO put forth last summer.

A reader of this blog made a point to claim that this movie is superior to District 9. I would have to strongly disagree with that statement based on sheer originality alone. Yes, The Hurt Locker did take an interesting twist on the Middle East conflict by focusing on an EOD squadron. But for the most part it seemed to be a follow-on episode of Generation Kill.
For those of you who have seen this movie and haven't seen the HBO miniseries, I recommend renting it to get a broader more entertaining look at the war. As a stand-alone effort though, The Hurt Locker is well crafted and earns a 3.5 out of 5 JR rating from me. I almost gave it a 4 simply because the sniper scene in the middle of the movie is so well done.

If I hadn't already seen Generation Kill I probably would have boosted the rating by a full point. That being said, District 9 is still the most original and thought provoking movie in years and if you're reading this and still haven't seen it, get to the theater soon before its release is finished.

Frodo and Gollum In The Woods

Last night I made a visit to Wolf Trap to watch The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers. Tickets were $45 a piece which may seem awfully steep for a movie that came out in 2002. The uniqueness of last night's performance lied in the fact that the musical score for the film was performed live by a full symphony orchestra and choir. A first class collection of musicians accompanied by the City Choir of Washington pumped out Howard Shore's amazing score in complete sync with the action on-screen.

For those of you who don't know, the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park is an outdoor amphitheater known for excellent acoustics. My friend Doe and I sat back in the balcony area covered by a roof. There were cheaper tickets to be had out in the lawn but I was concerned about the impending rain which didn't actually fall as well as the decreased sound quality. Doe had been to the performance last year of The Fellowship of The Ring and suggested I attend this year. I am a huge fan of the LOTR trilogy (best film trilogy in cinematic history - sorry Star Wars) and am in the tank for Howard Shore. I was not disappointed at all and thoroughly enjoyed the world class performance of the orchestra. The choir and soloists were so good that if I were brought to the venue blindfolded I wouldn't realize the film has a live score.

Watching The Two Towers again (probably for the 5th or 6th time) I am once again reminded of the wonderful work that Weta Digital did with Gollum. He is such a complex and well-defined character in the movie and remains the most accomplished digital actor ever to appear on the big screen. He and Jar Jar Binks are polar opposite examples of how digital characters should be immersed into movies. I can't wait for 2010 and The Return of The King at Wolf Trap. ROTK is my favorite movie of all time and the Academy Award winning score is even better than the first two films.

I apologize for the recent lack of posts. Work has been very consuming over the last week and I hope to try to return to a more normal posting schedule soon.