Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: November 2010

Morning Glory

At the basic level, this is the chick-flick version of Network, but with more heart than The Ugly Truth. Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, backed by  Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, make a fun film about broadcasting.

After Becky gets fired from her job at as a producer, she ends up at a morning show that is fourth in ratings. It’s on the verge of being cancelled, until Becky steps in to try to revitalize it. What starts as a bad idea, slowly finds its way. She fires the perverse co-anchor and hires Mike (Harrison Ford), a man just waiting to retire. Once she realizes the dire straights of the show, she pulls out all the stops. And along the way, she meets a man and romance flourishes.

This film feels a lot like Devil Wears Prada and Little Black Book, but fortunately more like the former. The principal cast does a great job of taking the film above the clichés usually associated with such fare. Harrison Ford is at his most cantankerous and delightful. It is interesting to see Diane Keaton and Ford share the screen, especially when you realize it is the first time.

A delightful film with a solid script and a great cast, and most importantly, a sense of humor about itself. Definitely a date movie, or just a fun way to kill two hours. 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Faster

Dwayne Johnson is back in the action/bad-ass mode. Unfortunately, the script isn’t worth his presence. CBS Films (soon to be bankrupt, I hope) releases their third film this year. And it may be the first one to make any kind of profit.

Johnson stars as Driver, a recent parole who instantly sets out to kill his brother’s killers. The film follows him as he guns down bad guys and acts vengeance without a second consideration. This is the entirety of the plot, meant to feel like a B-movie in the vain of Death Proof.

The film falls on Johnson to make it work, but he can’t do it all himself. The shallow script suffers from trite dialogue and an ambiguous ending that betrays the film’s concept. Despite it’s trappings, Dwayne Johnson is fun to watch. He steps back into his first action role in almost 5 years. He only falters when he tries to play naive and scared in a home video scene. A film for only true fans of one-note action movies. 2 out of 5 stars.

127 Hours

Danny Boyle surprised everyone a few years ago with Slumdog Millionaire. His follow-up is even more exciting. In 127 Hours, he creates a film that explores the mind of a man pined down in a canyon. It takes a truly talented director and crew to make a film that takes place in a small environment watchable. Not only does Boyle succeed, he makes a film that maintains tension throughout.

James Franco does an excellent job of bringing believability and gravitas to the film. The film is the story of Aron Ralston, a man who ended up stranded for 127 hours with his arm wedged in a rock canyon. He manages escape by cutting off his arm with a dull knife. But that’s what we know from all the news reports from when it occurred in 2003.

The film is the story Aron’s survival. Having heard the story before, it doesn’t convey the reality that the film does. You are there, asking yourself the same questions he is and hoping that he won’t have to do the inevitable. Very few films can take place in a single place and have it still resonate. 127 Hours makes the environment tangible.

Brilliantly shot with cinematography that keeps the tension rising until its climax, which is where the tension is almost unbearable. Definitely one of the best films of the year. A film that takes an uncinematic concept and make it rich storytelling. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Burlesque

I used to hate Cher. I don’t know why, but I did. After this movie, I have quickly changed my tune. Here is a blatant ripoff of Chicago, but one that is still fun to enjoy. Christina Aguilera has more acting chops than Britney Spears or Mariah Carey. This is a musical film that takes itself a bit too seriously, which makes the camp that much more entertaining.

Christina stars as Ali, the stereotypical small-town girl with big hopes type, who finds herself stepping into a Burlesque night club. The whole scene and most of the first act plays like Alice in Wonderland, before it spends the remainder of the movie as a flashier, less misogynist Coyote Ugly.

Though the film feels more like one big performance number, Christina never stops being believable as Ali. Backed by an impressive cast I couldn’t help but adore, the movie makes it to the end intact, but a little short of all the way. Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, and Alan Cumming all pop up adding some much-needed who’s who moments. If this film was released any other time of the year, it would have been a dud. But since it’s holiday season, a movie like this just makes sense as a break from all the shopping and turkey. Though not a complete film, it’s fun enough as what it is. 3 out of 5 stars

The Next Three Days

Anytime I can see Russell Crowe on the big screen is a treat for me. Ever since I saw A Beautiful Mind, I’ve been a big fan, going back and watching his other films. Some have been better than others,  but I always have fun seeing him do his thing.

The Next Three Days stars Crowe as an English teacher who is dealing with his wife’s incarceration. After she makes an attempt to end her life, he decides that his family must be reunited. The movie quickly becomes his quest to make the most detailed and thought out plan to get his wife out of prison. The amount of detail he puts into it makes his already quiet son that much more quieter. But he soldiers on, selling most of their belongings and even the house. He cases the prison and creates an intricate plan of attack. When she informs him that she will be transferred soon, the stakes get higher.

I thought the film was a bit weak from Paul Haggis (director of Crash/writer of Casino Royale and Million Dollar Baby). It isn’t a bad film, in fact it’s good, but it feels like it could have been so much better. Elizabeth Banks lends gravitas to her character in a manner she’s never done before. She is totally believable as Lara, and yet, we don’t know if she really is innocent or if Crowe’s John is just naive. We end up seeing the truth at the end, but in a manner that doesn’t remedy anything.

At first I thought the movie was going slow until I realized how tense I was. My nerves were fried as I tried to stay one step ahead of Lara and John during their escape, only to be one step behind. The steady build to the climatic escape is a calculated move that allows us to see John fully develop. Though his teaching job becomes more of a throwaway as the plot thickens, the rest of John is very much enjoyable to watch. A good thriller, 3 out of 5 stars.

Due Date

Going in, I knew this movie would be measured against two films: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles the recent success of The Hangover. Despite being neither, it is a solid addition to the buddy-road trip movie.

Robert Downey Jr. stars as Peter, a man desperately trying to get home in time to see the birth of his child. Zach Galifinakis is Ethan, the man that helps and worsens Peter’s race against time. They get put on the no-fly list, they wreck almost every car along the way, and take an accidental trip to the Mexican border.

Director Todd Phillips, fresh off of The Hangover, takes his shtick from previous films and puts it on the road. Both leads being prone to going off the script, play off of each other perfectly. The laughs aren’t all from one actor or the other. The punchlines are shared among the cast, but years from now, Ethan’s lines will be the ones most quoted.

A solid comedy. The script isn’t as strong as one would expect from such a collaboration, but it works for the most part. The locations and situations are fairly grounded in reality, with absurdity being just around the corner. If the trailer appeals to you, the film’s best lines aren’t all wasted in it. Some of the best lines weren’t used for promos, and that really counts. Too often, a comedy will put the best moments in the promos, like a highlight reel, effectively lessening the film’s freshness. This is slightly applicable here. 3 out of the 5 stars