Monthly Archives: January 2012
A couple of real surprises this week…. The Whistleblower landed without any hype; in fact I hadn’t even heard of it, but thought the premise seemed promising. It’s based on a true story of a Nebraska beat cop, played by Rachel Wiesz, who joins a private security company contracted to run crime investigations for the U.N. in post-war Bosnia. She uncovers information that her own co-workers are involved in a sex trafficking ring, and risks her own life to expose it. The movie’s heart and soul is the performance by Wiesz, and although the story can be grim at times, it’s a fantastic film.
Hugh Jackman in “Real Steel” is another one that caught me by surprise. I’m not the biggest fan of movies about “mecha” characters, in this case boxing robots, but with Steven Spielberg producing, I figured I had to give it a chance. Glad I did, because it really is a great movie. It has characters that you’ll care about, and kind of heartwarming story about an estranged father and son, and the “boxing” elements take a lot of cues from inspirational stories like Rocky. I mean, let’s be real, it’s not a film for fans of the festival circuit – it’s still about boxing robots – but I suspect that most mainstream viewers are going to watch this and find themselves really enjoying this.
50/50 was marketed at a “laugh-out-loud” comedy, but while there are some great comedic moments featuring Seth Rogan’s trademark potty-monologues, the movie’s core is a story about cancer. Not exactly a topic that evokes hilarity. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who plays Adam) is a great actor who likes to fly under the radar with roles that flirt with the indie scene, and brings that vibe to a more mainstream feature here. He and Rogan have wonderful chemistry together as a pair of shlubs who are dealing, each in their awkward way, with a disease that threatens to kill one of them. Bryce Dallas Howard, as Adam’s cold, emotionally aloof artist-girlfriend, brings the same kind of nasty charm that she brought to The Help. Great cast, great story, great movie.
Contagion: A pretty tight medical thriller from Steven Soderberg (Traffic) with an ensemble cast. Takes a look at the breakdown of society in the face of the worst epidemic in history. Scary stuff. Makes you worry more about the behavior of your neighbors than the prospect of getting a disease.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) wrote and produced this remake of the 1973 film (which scared the crap out of me as a kid). It’s a pretty stylish film, laced with all the opulent dread he usually delivers. Biggest issue with the film is that the director ditches any sense of build-up and starts showing us the creatures within the first 30 minutes. By that point a lot of the wind had come out of the sails, leaving a pretty rote horror movie. Still, it’s worth a watch for fans of either del Toro, or the original.
The Guard: Fantastic Irish/UK fim starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle. Gleeson plays a beat cop who stumbles into a murder which is part of a huge drug shipment, and has to work with Cheadle, as the American FBI agent tasked with solving the crime. If you think this sounds like a typical fish-out-of-water buddy cop movie, you couldn’t be more wrong. The movie takes just about every cliche from this genre and turns it on its head. Lots of subtle, witty jokes in typical Brit style.
Shark Night: Possibly one of the goofiest shark movies I’ve ever seen. There’s actually a scene where one of the characters, after having his arm chewed off, decides to avenge his girlfriend (who was killed by a shark) by wading into the shallow water with a spear and screaming at the shark to bring it on. Seeing this guy flailing away at a hammerhead with one arm is worth the price of a rental.