Big expectations can lead to disappointment, especially with movies.
So I braced myself before attending a screening of the remake of "True Grit" from Joel and Ethan Coen, a movie I've been anxious to see since I first heard it was being made.
I needn't have worried.
The story of a girl's quest for the murderer of her father has that epic, almost biblical, flavor that Coens like to sink their teeth into. And the characters -- precocious Maddie Ross, dissipated U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, and an over-eager, big-talking Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf -- provided great material for the story tellers.
Unlike the 1969 original, which focused on John Wayne's Cogburn and won him his only Oscar, this version -- which opens this week -- is more the story of Maddie Ross, played with an amazing naturalness by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
She just turned 14 and is either blessed or cursed to have begun her career with such a choice role, and such an amazing performance.
The grown-up Maddie narrates the story as the trio trails Tom Chaney, a thug who murdered her father. There's plenty of gunplay, plenty of bodies and a surprising amount of humor, much of it at the expense of Cogburn and LaBoeuf. There's also a melancholy epilogue, where we see the grown-up Maddie, as she travels to link up with one of her long-ago fellow travelers.
The quest for Chaney is the driving force that picks up the movie from a slow start. There's a bit of work for the viewer in falling into the archaic rhythm of the late 19th Century speech patterns.
But that sometimes stilted dialogue plays into the biblical nature of this fresh, but pretty traditional Western. And the frequently dark humor reflects the Coen touch.
Jeff Bridges does a fine job as Cogburn, Matt Damon fits into the spurs of Texan LaBoeuf and Josh Brolin is as unlikable as you'd hope in the role of the unsavory Tom Chaney.
I can't say that "True Grit" is the best movie of 2010. The Coens didn't break any new ground in this Western. And, in the end, there were no surprises, despite the refocusing of the original movie to be truer to the original novel. It's the most mainstream movie the Coens have ever made.
But the two hours I spent watching "True Grit" was the most fun I've had in a movie theater this year.
Here's the trailer for "True Grit":
Then there's the original "True Grit": If you'd like to compare the new version with John Wayne's original, TCM has scheduled it to air 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Here's the trailer for that version:
On TV: Madison boy Bradley Whitford and his mustache are out of a job after Fox apparently decided against a second season for he "Good Guys."
- Milwaukee Public TV's annual "Letters to Santa" arrives at 5:30 tonight on Channel 10.
- Deadline Hollywood reports that the 10-episode second season of "Stargate Universe" this spring will be its last.
- Donald Trump is getting a celebrity roast. It'll tape March 9 and air on MTV sometime in the spring.
- Showing how flexible TV schedules can be, NBC has cut tonight's season finale of "The Sing Off" down to two hours, the preview of "Perfect Couples" airs at 9 and an "Office" rerun airs at 9:30 on Channel 4.
- Now that Larry King is done, The New York Times' Brian Stelter reports CNN will air reruns of his show through the end of December, and then start Anderson Cooper's show at 8 p.m. until Piers Morgan starts his new show. CNN says Morgan's new show starts Jan. 17.
TV to look forward to: Yes, I'm being sarcastic. MTV has the first trailer out for season three of "Jersey Shore," which starts Jan. 6.
If you must, here it is:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.