Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Review: The Fighter
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Watching “The Fighter” is like being strapped to an electric chair – on wheels. A circus act of white-trash exploitation that has somehow emerged as prime awards bait, the movie jolts you incessantly while flying by the seat of its beer-stained, cigarette-burned, acid-washed pants. The tone of the first hour is so loopy, it fills the mind with a wholly unnecessary barrage of thoughts: Should I laugh? Cry? Cringe? Scream? Walk out? Based on the true story of working-class boxer Micky Ward and his contender-turned-crack-addict half-brother Dicky Eklund, the 1990s-set flick gnaws on most of its Massachusetts subjects, many of whom hail from what's portrayed as an insufferable freakshow family from hell.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Review: Black Swan
5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

I really didn't give “Black Swan” a fair shake. The first time I saw it, back in October when it opened the Philadelphia Film Festival, my damned undue expectations had me squirming every time I didn't get a class-A, cosmopolitan ballet thriller: Why is Winona Ryder all but breaking her teeth on the scenery as a drunken, past-her-prime cliché? Why is Mila Kunis spouting the lame-brained innuendos of a straight-to-DVD teen flick? And why the hell is the stunted, fractured mental state of Natalie Portman's prima ballerina reaching dizzy extremes so absurd that one can't help but laugh? Shame on me for trying to box this movie in. A little more time with it reveals: that scenery was meant to be chewed, that dialogue doesn't want to be any better than it is, and that absurdity couldn't be more throat-grabbingly effective. “Black Swan” is as much a lurid potboiler as it is an intensely sophisticated psychodrama. It's a probing character study, a window into an insular world, a twisted tale of sexual discovery, a perverse comedy and a mad nightmare of manifested fears. There's really no way in which it doesn't succeed.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Review: The King's Speech
4 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Can a movie be too perfect? It's a question you may very well ask yourself once you reach the immaculate, crowning conclusion of “The King's Speech,” an Oscar-hungry British biopic about stuttering monarch King George VI. Directed with faultless precision by Tom Hooper (“The Damned United”), it's about as crisp and square-cornered a prestige picture as you're likely to find. Its fact-based subject matter is at once grand and modest, it pays graceful homage to an oft-overlooked handicap, its well-behaved humor stealthily cuts through its highbrow tension, and its par-for-the-course conflicts rise and fall on cue. Its hard-won ascent and ultimate uplift are so bloody satisfying, it's easy to skip over the fact that there's indeed a little something missing. “Speech” covers all the bases, but in staying so close to the playbook, it sacrifices necessary amounts of surprise and risk.