Movie Review: The Bucket List

The Bucket List

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes
Production Company: Storyline Entertainment

The Bucket List is the odd couple formula with a little incentive: they’re both dying of cancer, and want to make more of their last months on earth. It’s a stoic effort, but a few too many of the plot devices hinge too heavily on a few factors.

Super intelligent and world weary Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) is a kind hearted mechanic that once had a dream: to be a history professor. After 46 years of marriage and three children, he’s all but put aside his wants and focused entirely on his family. On the other side of the spectrum is billionaire commercial hospital real estate owner Edward Cole (Nicholson) as the vicious businessman who’s put his work first and his family second. Both are diagnosed with terminal cancer, and given only 6 months to a year to live. As fate goes, both are hospitalized in the same room of Cole’s hospital where the rule is ‘two beds to one room’. Upon Carter’s dismal diagnosis, he crumples up a sheet of paper; his ‘bucket list’ he later tells Cole, all the things we wishes to do before he dies.

“Okay, you shoot me, then I’ll shoot you.”

The wildly rich and lovable Cole with all his fortune decides to take his new friend and fulfill his list, by jetting to exotic locales such as Paris, Egypt, and India (who knows if the studio merely put them in front of a blue screen, the salaries alone for this pic sounds pretty hefty). Which goes to show, as bleak as a situation is, it isn’t so bad when you’re stinking rich. Not exactly something shared by all. Could be why I didn’t give this flick a higher rating, it’s not like I could do things I’ve been meaning to do since I was 15, I simply don’t have the funds, and the worrying about paying back the loans would kill me.

“Yeeeha! Geriatrics is fun!”

I love seeing Nicholson do some comedy now and again, call me crazy, but I think he’s pretty good when he’s paired up with a big leaguer like Freeman. Besides, I had to chuckle when they were skydiving and arguing like the old guys they are. Both are funny in their own right. But the chemistry doesn’t seem like it’s melding here, perhaps they’re not liking the idea they’re in a buddy-movie for old men. Either way, the lack of sparks made the film seem flat and tired. Even the god-like voice over narration of Freeman seemed a bit desperate, as if Rob Reiner tried to tag on a line of ‘c’mon: it’s Morgan Freakin’ Freeman!’ Both play their parts to a ‘T’, Nicholson being the wild eyed prankster, and Freeman being the kindly wise man. Neither can do much to keep the Bucket List from becoming a sappy re-telling of grumpy old men.

The real treat is the ending, not exactly a feel good type but it certainly does tug at your heart strings, and hits all the right notes at the close.

6.5 out of 10

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men
Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem
Distributed by: Paramount Vantage

Simply put, No Country for Old Men is a bloody good movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘masterpiece’ or monument, it’s good, but it’s not exactly fantastic. Brothers Joel and Ethan have kind of built their film careers off some pretty unique, quirky and always charismatic characters. Given the material, I think they did a commendable job, but really they lose points because they didn’t really take any risks.

No Country smartly starts off on a slow and steady foot, with all narration done by the aged Sheriff Ed Tom Bell played by Tommy Lee Jones. Each scene reluctantly leads to the next, and each one seems to grip you tighter and tighter into this world full of violence, hitmen and choices from everyday people. As the narration serves, you slowly learn the guilt and moral aptitude of Jones’ weathered sheriff is meant to counterbalance the ultra violence of professional hitman Anton Chigurh (Scary-as-shit Javier Bardem). And while we’re on that topic, let’s illuminate a little on Bardem. Seriously: he creeped the hell out of me, I’m sure if a one time meeting with Chigurh doesn’t kill you, it’ll put you in the trauma ward. It’s that quiet intensity, that broiling, seething, almost soft spoken killer that lurks underneath that really gets you. Even the poster for the movie shows Bardem’s eyes, warily watching you, seeing you, figuring out how to get you, should you become locked in his crosshairs. And isn’t that the scariest part? Not knowing?

Anyhow, the Coen’s head back to the Texas landscape in their newest story of a hunter, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbling across a satchel of drug money, becomes pursued by the homicidal and ultimate badass Chigurh, all the while Sheriff Bell tries to make sense of it all before someone else ends up dead. That’s really the crux of the story, but the genius in the story telling is how they made each character interact with each other.

Given the three main characters, they were destined to meet. However, it never happens – which is a good thing. Not once do the characters share any sort of screen time, and that in turn builds all the tension necessary. While Chigurh is walking around with is silenced ultimate bad ass shotgun, aiming for Llewelyn’s head, it’s done with clever shadows, plus it probably helped that it the scene happened in the dead of the night.

Tommy Lee Jones’ performance can’t really be called main actor type stuff, mainly because I saw him as more of a supporting character to the struggle of the hunter and psycho hitman. His narration does serve a greater purpose in putting all the screen executions and good, well,.. Intentions in perspective. I’m just a little more upset he didn’t really do anything, other than be the lazy sheriff and let the FBI figure out the hard stuff. Hey, that’s just me – the way the role was written, he was acting exactly in character. So sue me for making a few comments.

Plus, I realize that all the Coen’s characters, in any Coen movie, can simply be labelled things like ‘psycho guy’, ‘dude’ and or if possible ‘guy with crazy accent’. And from the looks of things, some characters can have more than one trait to their name. No Country might not be as quotable as the super-fun Big Lebowski, or as quirky as…let’s face it; all their movies are damn quirky. But the seriousness level gets taken up a notch from Fargo, and the screen time isn’t wasted – not a bit. It’s certainly good, but it’s not must-see material.

6.5 out of 10