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Quint doubles up on buddy flicks THE KITE RUNNER and THE BUCKET LIST!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a twofer. These two films shouldn’t ever draw comparisons, but I saw them in short order to each other and thought they’d make a perfect double-up. THE BUCKET LIST and THE KITE RUNNER are radically different films. The quality of filmmaking, the tone, the personal impact they both have… polar opposites. But at their core they are both about a true friendship and the lengths you’d go to for a real friend. I don’t mean an acquaintance or buddy. Those are great, too, of course. But I mean true friendship. “I’d take a bullet for you” or “You’re my family” friendship. You’re lucky if you find that kind of friendship in your life and it’s always heartwarming for me to see it in film. THE BUCKET LIST is a comedic ODD COUPLE/GRUMPY OLD MEN take on that kind of friendship and THE KITE RUNNER is a more emotional gut punch realistic take on it. THE BUCKET LIST, if you don’t know, stars Morgan Freeman as a kind hearted encyclopedia of a man. He’s got a loving family and has remained centered even though he’s lived a hard mechanic’s life. He is deadly smart, his brain a sponge that soaks up trivia and facts… and even more impressively stores them away for easy reference (that’s the real trick, I’ve found). Jack Nicholson is this man’s opposite. He’s insanely rich, a cruel-hearted sarcastic douche-bag of a man. He is self-centered, loud, vulgar… Everything that Freeman’s character isn’t, for good or ill. For instance, Nicholson’s self-centeredness allowed him to become a cut-throat businessman, where Freeman gave up his chance at a high paying career for the sake of his family, leading to a life of hard labor. They are both diagnosed with cancer and find themselves bedmates in the hospital during treatment and recovery. The filmmakers cleverly make Nicholson the guy that owns the hospital who has loudly and publicly declared no specialized treatment at his hospitals. No hospital suites. Always one room and two beds. “No exceptions.” Of course, he said that to make it a bigger profit margin for himself, but he’s also too conscious of his personal image to change his stance when he is the one affected. While they recover they bond, of course. After they both get bad news they decide to live the rest of their lives to their fullest, creating a list of things to do before they die. Rob Reiner directed and I fucking love good Rob Reiner. THE PRINCESS BRIDE, MISERY, STAND BY ME, SPINAL TAP, A FEW GOOD MEN and THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT… But bad Rob Reiner is just depressing. THE STORY OF US, for instance. Here, this one is a bit hard to wrap up. The movie really coasts on the charm of Nicholson and Freeman. The emotional moments and funny moments are predictable, but still effective, thanks in large part to the likability of Nicholson and Freeman. The filmmaking itself is pretty bad. The editing is distracting, the continuity errors (which I never notice on the first viewing of a movie) were all over the place and the CG face-replacements are terrifying (see the skydiving moment from the trailer). However, I think it’s saying something that despite the sloppy filmmaking the movie still packs an emotional punch and a steady stream of laughs. The audience loved it. Sniffles and chuckles all over the place, from beginning to end. I honestly almost didn’t go to THE KITE RUNNER. I’ve heard great things about that book and the buzz on the movie has been positive, but the trailer really turned me off. It was so Awards hungry and on the nose that I thought it was going to be the next CRASH. However, I did end up going and I’m really glad I did. There’s a lot of subtle work in the flick, so my worry of it being CRASH-like proved completely unfounded. The film covers a lot of territory, spanning the youth and young adulthood of Amir. He is the son of a wealthy and wise man and his best friend, Hassan, is the servant’s kid. What I loved about the first half of the movie, which takes place in Afghanistan pre-Communist invasion, is what I thought worked really well in THE BUCKET LIST, but instead of a Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon friendship, it’s those special kinds of friends you only really have as a child. You remember the ones… the reason why summer was anticipated, the days running around apartment complexes, going swimming, sneaking into R-rated movies, hitting the arcades, playing NES and Sega until 3 in the morning. Well, that was my summers as a kid. Because of a move at the age of 13 I lost touch with all those friends, but I still have very fond memories. THE KITE RUNNER very accurately captured those feelings for me. Marc Forster’s a good director and his talent in leading nuanced performances is on display in all aspects of this film. From the child actors, who are very natural (it helps they speak in a different language, I guess, but there is still no over-acting) to the fantastic older cast to even the day players… everyone is firing on all cylinders here. There’s one day player in particular… I don’t know his name, but there’s a scene in the film where the Communists invade and Amir’s father spends his wealth to get him and his son out of Afghanistan. They’re stopped at the border and the Russian being bribed wants a little more. He also wants 30 minutes with one of the women. This is probably my favorite scene in the movie because her husband, who is built as a big, threatening guy, is a quivering puddle, pleading for his wife (holding their newborn baby, no-less). It’s a fantastic scene and that bit-part is heart-breaking. It’s also a great scene for who I consider the star of the movie. Homayoun Ershadi plays Amir’s father and he steals the movie. There’s a quiet strength to him that makes him a true hero, a true man of courage and conviction. He’s fantastic in the above mentioned scene, the only member of the refugees who is willing to stand up and risk being killed in order to prevent the woman from being raped. If Ershadi isn’t nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar I will be fucking shocked. The second half of the movie focuses on the pre-9/11 Taliban take-over of Afghanistan and Amir trying to help the son of Hassan. Their relationship didn’t end on a good note, but their bond of friendship (with some addition information I will not reveal) give Amir the courage he never had. Amir has to leave comfortable married life in America to return to his home and be the brave one that stood up for the weak, which he was never able to do. Hassan was always the one who stuck up for the two of them. It’s a fantastic arc. I really liked the movie when I first left the theater, but the more I think back on it, the more impressed with it I am. It is a movie that feels longer than its 2 hours, but I never felt bored or twitchy. This’ll be a big Oscar movie… I don’t know if I’d call it my favorite of the year, but it is a powerful movie that is well-crafted and packs an emotional punch. I wouldn’t complain if it took home the statue. -Quint

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