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January 2011 Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 1/7/2011

Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in January of 2011.  Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.

Go directly to my review of Country Strong and The Mechanic.

Country Strong Review

Superstar country artist Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow) is an alcoholic who has gotten in trouble with the law and with her personal life.  Previously at a concert in Dallas, the five-months pregnant Kelly fell off a stage in Dallas while drunk, resulting in a miscarriage.  She gets treatment from a rehab center, and she has an affair while there with a country singer-songwriter named Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), an orderly at the rehab center who sings at a local honky tonk bar.  Kelly is married though to James (Tim McGraw), a man who also happens to be her manager.  He has booked a three-city tour with JJ (Jeremy Childs), a promoter who starts her in Houston, then Austin, and finally the city where she had her accident…Dallas.  She has a month left on her rehabilitation though, but she agrees to do the tour…only if Beau can be her opening act.  James already has an opening act in mind though…a young beauty queen turned country singer named Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester.)  James can kind of see that Beau is not just an “orderly,” or even Kelly’s “sponsor,” but he agrees to see Beau perform in a bar with Chiles being another act performing there.  When he sees Beau saving “Country Barbie” Chiles from her nervousness with a duet of Garth Brook’s “Friends in Low Places,” James agrees to have Beau co-open with Chiles.  Kelly continues to have her affair with Beau…all while being threatened by the cute and talented Chiles stealing her husband and/or her career.  Several things happen on tour that reminds her of that fateful Dallas day, leading her possibly to relapse while touring.  Let’s start out by acknowledging the good things about this movie.  The three main actors that sing in the movie do a very good job singing (McGraw…a country superstar…is ironically the only one who doesn’t sing, though he does do a duet in the closing credits with Paltrow called “Me and Tennessee,” a song written by Paltrow’s Coldplay lead singer- husband Chris Martin.)  I already knew that Paltrow and Meester could sing though.  Paltrow had a number one song on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart with Huey Lewis with a cover of Smokey Robinson’s 1979 hit “Cruisin’” from Paltrow and Lewis’s 2000 movie Duets.  She also sang Cole Porter’s 1929 jazz standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” in the 2006 movie Infamous.  Recently, she showed off her singing chops as substitute teacher Holly Holliday in FOX’s “Glee” where she sang three songs.  “Gossip Girl” star Meester had a #13 hit on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart with “Somebody to Love” featuring Robin Thicke.  She also sang on Cobra Starship’s hit “Good Girls Go Bad,” which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  This movie is Hedlund’s singing debut (as far as I know) and he is a much more credible country singer than Colin Farrell was in 2009’s Crazy Heart.  Now for the bad.  While the acting was decent, the story was very generic.  Stealing from every hard luck movie about a singer…from movies like 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, to 1985’s Sweet Dreams, to 2005’s Walk the Line, to Crazy Heart (even though the first three were biopics)…this movie doesn’t surprise.  If anything, it’s loosely based off the troubles of country star Mindy McCready and her problems with substance abuse.  It was hard for me to believe that Hedlund has any chemistry with either Paltrow or Meester.  I did believe that Paltrow and McGraw had a broken marriage though, and while he still cared for her…he was just using her as a meal ticket.  I recommend picking up the soundtrack, which features the single “A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans, songs by the cast, and more songs by artists like Lee Ann Womack, Trace Adkins, Ronnie Dunn (formerly of Brooks & Dunn), and McGraw’s wife Faith Hill.  As for the movie…maybe you could rent it, if you’ve already seen everything else.  I’m more excited to see Paltrow come back as Holly on “Glee” (her performance was so well-received that the writers have given her a recurring role if she wants it.)


The Mechanic Review

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a professional hitman from New Orleans who asks no questions and makes his hits efficiently.  After making drug cartel leader Jorge Lara’s (James Logan) hit in Columbia look like an accidental drowning, he meets with his wheelchair-bound boss and mentor at “the company,” Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), and later has sex with his escort friend Sarah (Mini Anden.)  The next day he meets with the head of “the company,” Dean Sanderson (Tony Goldwyn), who tells him that his next assignment is to take out Harry, who sold out the organization because of his terrible financial problems, resulting in the death of five assassins who were on a mission in Cape Town, South Africa.  Bishop takes the job of killing his mentor and friend (because, as Dean points out, someone else will do it instead) by making the murder look like a carjacking.  Bishop meets Harry’s unstable son Steve (Ben Foster) at the funeral and decides to teach him the tricks of his trade so he won’t attract attention to himself because he was currently roaming the streets of New Orleans at night hunting for carjackers to find the one who killed his father.  Bishop does this even though Steve has no idea that he was the one who killed Harry.  Steve becomes good, but undisciplined and vicious while he learns to become an assassin.  His first assignment is a fellow “mechanic” (an assassin) named Burke (Jeff Chase), a very tall gay man with a fondness for small dogs and young boys.  After that botched job is another one… a wealthy, drug-addicted televangelist and author named Vaughn (John McConnell) who claims to be a “new Messiah,” but is just a scam artist.  Bishop and Steve both mess up the hit that was supposed to look like a drug overdose.  When he learns that Steve’s next assignment is Bishop, he keeps an eye on Steve while going after Dean.  I had honestly never known that this movie was a remake, and I had certainly never seen the 1972 Charles Bronson/Jan-Michael Vincent original.  After I saw the screening of this version, I tracked down the original and watched it.  There are many critics who think that remakes are inferior to the originals, but I’m not in that camp.  I actually liked this version better.  Bronson was always good at shooting, but I never liked his fighting (or acting) style.  Statham, on the other hand, is one of my favorite action stars…mainly because of his fighting style.  I liked all of the Transporter and Crank movies, and this one is good too…but I guess that I was hoping that I would see more of that Transporter action.  Either way, it was still better than the original action-wise.  Even the explosions were better (it seemed like car crashes in the original resulted in an overblown big ball of fire, which seemed a little goofy to me.)  I mean no disrespect to Vincent, but Foster seemed more menacing in this version.  If I had a big criticism though, it would be the involvement of Anden’s character.  Her 1972 equivalent made more sense plot-wise, because she showed how isolated he was.  In this version, she just seems to serve as part of a gratuitous sex scene (I’m not knocking a gratuitous sex scene, but it just seemed unnecessary in this version.  Statham’s Bishop didn’t seem as lonely and isolated as Bronson’s Bishop.)  Simon West, the director of 1997’s Con Air and 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, has made an action film worth checking out…and it’s probably his best film since those two films.  If you are a fan of Statham, you’ll be pleased.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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