Monday, November 22, 2010

3 brief reviews: Unstoppable; Harry Potter 7; Morning Glory

Unstoppable (2010)
Director: Tony Scott
PG-13; 98 Min
Denzel Washington - Frank
Chris Pine - Will
Rosario Dawson - Connie

Director Tony Scott has consistently put out good films for over 20 years including, but not limited to: Days of Thunder(1990); True Romance(1993); Crimson Tide(1995); Enemy of the State(1998); Spy Game; Man on Fire (2004). More often than not he teams up with Denzel Washington and this is no exception in the freight-train-gone-wild film Unstoppable out now in theaters. Based loosely on the actual events of an unmanned train incident that took place in 2001, this is a film that initially interested me very little. How could they possibly make this a good film, I thought, and was sure it would be filled with a lot of over-the-top sequences and completely fabricated suspense. Well, I can't say they didn't employ those tactics a bit throughout, but overall I was very impressed with the speed of the action, the development of characters (not much, but not much needed to fulfill their roles) and overall arc and conclusion of the story. Chris Pine is fine as a rookie conductor working along side the soon to be out of work elder statesmen of the industry Denzel and Rosario Dawson is competent with limited material as director of the train yard. At just over an hour and a half it is fast paced and pleasantly cathartic.

**** out of 5

Morning Glory (2010)
Director: Roger Michell
PG-13; 102 min
Rachel McAdams - Becky Fuller
Harrison Ford - Mike Pomeroy
Diane Keaton - Colleen Peck
Jeff Goldblum - Jerry Barnes

My severe and delusional infatuation with Rachel McAdams (she will be my wife, oh yes she will!) is not nearly delusional enough for me to recommend her new film Morning Glory, a story of an upstart young woman (Becky Fuller) focused 100% on her career as a morning tv producer. Thankfully, for me, I am able to say it is not because of her performance, rather a dragging plot line which fails to bring the viewer into any sort of emotional caring, as well as a hugely disappointing role by Harrison Ford as the long time anchor Mike Pomeroy (think Dan Rather) with a career derailment sending him to lowly morning talk. If you had a problem with Christian Bale and his Dark Knight voice get ready to walk out early as Ford continually scowls his way through this film with a caricatured voice of which I lack the vocabulary to adequately poke fun. Jeff Goldblum gives Becky a shot at running the 4th in ratings and almost ready to fail morning show for the network IBS. She has Colleen Peck as co-anchor played well by Diane Keaton but who cannot play well with Mike (the two are from different planets) and it is only a matter of time before everything blows up. Can Becky save the day? Her performance saves the film from being terrible, but even her overly-bright and perky demeanor throughout cannot redeem the dreariness of this one.

** 1/2 out of 5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1(2010)
Director: David Yates
PG-13; 146 min
Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter
Emma Watson - Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint - Ron Weasley
etc, etc, etc

Director David Yates returns for his third installment in the Harry Potter franchise, this time with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Part 2 will be released in 2011 and will complete the series.) The magical little kids are all grown up now (seen Hermione?) but not just physically. Gone are the days of playful explosions and quiddich matches at Hogwarts - for Hogwarts figures into the plot about a total of 2 minutes. The world is a dark place with Lord Voldemort taking full control and without the aid of Professor Dumbledore things are looking pretty bleak. With just a handful of obscure clues to work with, the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione must search far and wide for the Horcruxes which conceal the soul of Voldemort, for only once they are destroyed can he be destroyed. This film takes a decidedly darker tone (much like the book) in content and appearance. Darker colors and less playful banter throughout help to make this a very compelling adaptation and one that leaves us with a strong sense that the final film should not disappoint. It can also be noted that the acting of all three main characters is vastly improved. Hopefully children who have grown up with the series are well into their teens by the time they see this film - I noticed quite a few very young children in the theaters and simply put, this Harry Potter film has moved out of the family friendly.

**** out of 5

Friday, November 5, 2010

A brief movie review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (2010)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2010)

Director - Daniel Alfredson
147 min; R
Noomi Rapace - Lisbeth Salander
Michael Nyqvist - Mikael Blomkvist

I'm not going to spend a long time on this third installment of the series, but I am happy to say that this film is much much better than the second (The Girl Who Played with Fire: Considering how horrible the second feature was, that isn't saying a lot, but this one does hold up just fine and answers all the questions we could hope to have spoon fed to us. The plot is absurd enough throughout all three films, especially in subtitles, that it is a welcome thing to have much of the plot broken down nice and easy for us. You may recall my high praise for the first in the series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: and once again we have the main characters back doing what they do best.

Do yourselves a favor and see the first film. If you like it then watch the second begrudgingly, and then finish off the series with a well made and decent finale.

*** out of 5

A brief movie review: Stone (2010)

Stone (2010)

Director - John Curran
105 min; R
Robert De Niro - Jack
Ed Norton - Stone
Milla Jovovich - Lucetta

I have a strong suspicion that your judgment of the film Stone will depend greatly on factors such as your expectations, your previous knowledge of the film content, and most likely on what you have already heard or read. I think we would all love to see this cast succeed and thus when the movie doesn't completely live up to any promised hype it may in fact feel like a let down. I don't buy it, though, and for the money I am more than happy to have sat through this film - it was worth it completely to see Ed Norton pull off a pretty impressive role, but even more so for a final act rant from De Niro that made me think of the once great actor in his prime.

De Niro is a soon to be retired parole officer who is simply riding out the last month of his career cleaning up his current case load. Norton is Stone, a prisoner who has completed 8 years of a 10-15 sentence for his part as the look out in a murder and the subsequent arson of the home. Milla Jovovich plays Lucetta, Stone's wife on the outside. To retell this plot is a little absurd. It is actually a very straight forward story that relies heavily on the actors bringing their characters to life and, just as importantly, it relies on we the viewer to do some thinking throughout. This is not an easy film to watch and it is highly woven with themes of religion and lots and lots of symbolism.

I'm not sure I can say 'see it', but I think it deserves better than the 50-60% rankings it is showing on the major sites.

*** and 1/2 out of 5