NEW AT THE MOVIES: New turn for 'Dirty Harry' - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

NEW AT THE MOVIES: New turn for 'Dirty Harry'

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Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:21 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Rated R for language throughout and some violence. 116 minutes. Grade: B.

As Korean war vet Walt Kowalski in “Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood seems to be playing a crotchety Dirty Harry.

I never took Harry Callahan seriously, although, in a guilty-pleasure kind of way, I greatly enjoyed his manginess. Harry was Eastwood’s avatar of a righteous lawman swamped by society’s scum (i.e., hippies, lefties, feminists, and any wacko combo therein). He existed in a perpetual state of slow burn punctuated by gunplay and kabooms.

In “Gran Torino,” which Eastwood also directed, Walt is a recently widowed Detroit auto worker whose fuse is as short as Harry’s. He can’t stand his bickering children and spoiled grandchildren. Well stocked with beer but still in fighting trim, he spends quality time on his porch bemoaning the influx of Asian immigrants into his blue-collar neighborhood, particularly the Hmong family next door. Spewing racial epithets under his breath, often over his breath, too, Walt is a snarly Scrooge, which should be a tip-off that redemption is on the way. (Walt’s intermittent bouts of coughing up blood are a blatant tip-off that mortality is also en route.)

“Get off my lawn!” is Walt’s battle cry, which may explain why his lawn is as immaculate as his mouth is foul. Chief target of his wrath are the local Hmong gangbangers who are trying to recruit teenage Thao (Bee Vang), who lives next door with his old-school mother, grandmother, and plucky sister Sue (Ahney Her).

One of the nicer things Walt calls Thao is “Toad.” When the boy, too meek to be gang material, flubs a gang initiation by attempting to steal Walt’s mint-condition ‘72 Gran Torino, Thao’s family makes amends by requiring him to do Walt’s chores. Soon enough, Walt feels closer to this kid than to his own brood, and Sue, who has Walt’s number, wears down his gruffness.

This is Eastwood’s first acting job since “Million Dollar Baby,” and his range, like his raspiness, is fairly one-note. As an actor, he draws on the ample affection he has built up with audiences of all stripes over the years.

This is among his lesser recent movies, which doesn’t diminish its likability. In fact, it’s pleasing to see Eastwood working the middle of the emotional register for a change. — Christian Science Monitor

BRIDE WARS

PG for suggestive content, language and some rude behavior. 90 min. One star out of four.

This cliched comedy tosses out stereotypes about female materialism and cattiness with all the giddy gusto of a newly married woman flinging the bouquet at her single girlfriends.

Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway star as Liv and Emma, best friends who’ve obsessively fantasized about the ideal wedding since childhood. When Liv and Emma both get engaged, they accidentally book their weddings at New York’s Plaza Hotel on the same day.

Neither will budge, which leads to an increasingly destructive game of sabotage and one-upmanship.

It’s unabashedly mean, yes — think of it as “The War of the Roses,” and the peonies, and the hydrangeas — but it’s also never all that funny. Neither could have picked another date or found another venue? Really? — Associated Press

THE UNBORN

PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images, thematic material and language including some sexual references. 95 min. One and a half stars out of four.

The Kabbalah. Hot college students. A creepy, abandoned mental institution. Gary Oldman. Jogging. Twins. Nazi scientists. A suicidal mother. A lost blue mitten.

What do these things have in common?

They’re all pieces in the convoluted mythology of “The Unborn.”

Best as one can tell, writer-director David S. Goyer’s film is a sort of Jewish version of “The Exorcist,” which is a vaguely novel concept.

There are some effective scares here, and you’ll laugh at yourself afterward for jumping like a little girl. But other images and pieces of dialogue are just as hilarious — and that probably wasn’t their intention.

Odette Yustman runs around in tight jeans, tank tops and boy shorts as Casey Beldon, a young woman being haunted by startling dreams, then a weird little neighborhood boy, then hallucinatory images of insects, and finally a full-blown spiritual attack.

Only Oldman, who classes things up in his few scenes as a rabbi, can help her fend off the impending possession. — Associated Press

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