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Flight (2012/I)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A journey into the soul of an addicted man..., 8 January 2013

Director Robert Zemeckis has enjoyed the lucrative and profitable business of animated films for the past decade or so - making wholesome family films like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. The director of Forrest Gump and Cast Away is back where he belongs with Flight, an insightful, mature and thrilling character study.

Flight documents the internal struggle of an addicted man. Denzel Washington gives an incredible and nuanced performance as William "Whip" Whitaker, a pilot who pulls a miraculous stunt in midair, saving the lives of 96 of 102 passengers on a doomed flight from Orlando to Atlanta. Thought of in the media as a hero, Whip's history of drug and alcohol dependency is completely ignored until it's shown through a blood test that he was drunk at the time of the plane crash, blurring the line between hero and criminal.

Zemeckis's last live-action film Cast Away is all about external struggle, beating the odds around you to save your own life. What's interesting about Flight is that it's about a completely internal battle. The actual plane crash lasts for about the first twenty minutes of the film, and from then on, it becomes a cautionary tale about addiction. Whip's problem doesn't stop at drinking too much. He's also addicted to cocaine, which he needs to wake up after a heavy night of drinking. Whip quits drinking and relapses many times throughout the film. He befriends a woman who he meets in the hospital, post crash, who is there because of a heroin overdose. She tries to "save him", but fails multiple times until he's faced with having to save himself.

Washington gives the stellar performance that his fans expect, and for the most part, his performance carries the film. However, some real talent lies in the film's supporting cast. Kelly Reilly plays Nicole, the junkie who Whip finds as a kindred spirit. At first it seems like she's nothing but a bad influence for this character who really needs to get his life together. However, her subtle performance gives an unexpected depth to the character. She's facing her own demons...she's not there just to be a tool in Whip's recovery. John Goodman is here for comic relief as Whip's cocaine dealer, who is a character straight out of The Big Lebowski.

One thing that might drive audiences away from this film is that the lead character is totally unlikable. He treats everyone around him like garbage, including the ex-wife who he doesn't talk to anymore, and the son who he neglects. The audience member knows that these strained relationships were directly caused by his alcoholism. But in the end, the damage he's doing to himself is the most inexcusable.

Washington's antihero reminds me of a similar character in a film I saw last year, Young Adult. Charlize Theron's character Mavis Gary is a writer of young adult fiction who hasn't grown up mentally at all since high school. Drinking heavy amounts of vodka and whisky just to get through the day, Mavis doesn't admit her addiction to anyone, not even herself. She ignores this as her big problem. Whip's story is a lot like this. However, the viewer doesn't have to be an alcoholic or a junkie for this story to resonate. Films like this illuminate the mental part of addiction, which I truly find fascinating. Its ending is a little too "happily ever after" for my taste, but it leaves a hopeful message. It also reminds me that a lead character doesn't have to be likable to be interesting. It's an old-fashioned melodrama, and it's all the better for that. The film's quality and resonance is what inevitably soars.

Grade: A

7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
A vision of history that only Tarantino could bring us..., 8 January 2013

As an avid fan of Quentin Tarantino, there's a level of quality that I expect from each film that he makes. I expect to connect with his characters, but not necessarily like any of them. I expect to see a film that satisfies the film geek in me. More than anything, I expect to see a film that entertains throughout the prerequisite bloated running time.

"Django Unchained" is nearly three hours long. But it never feels that long, it entertains and surprises every step along the way. When I first checked my watch, we were already two hours into the film. All of Tarantino's films are usually about this long. Tarantino has been having fun with fictionalizing historical periods lately. This started with 2009's "Inglourious Basterds", which was easily one of the best films of that year. My eighty-something year old grandmother, who lived through the time that the film depicted - World War II - said that if events actually happened as they did in that film, that we would be living in a better world today. I think that's a pretty high compliment, especially since my grandmother is not Tarantino's target audience. He was able to design a great story - not an idealistic view of that time period, but still a pretty fascinating one.

"Django" is about slavery...a taboo subject in any film, a strangely popular one, recently, as the same time period is explored in "Lincoln". It's about Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who is bought and then freed by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, one-upping himself from the fantastic performance he gave in "Basterds"), a dentist turned bounty hunter. White supremacist slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) bought and enslaved his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), and Django and Schultz are out to correct the grave injustice done to both of them, and this doesn't mean just capturing and killing Candie, but many others who are responsible for the trauma experienced by Broomhilda.

Christoph Waltz has got to be one of the finest living actors in Hollywood. He's incredibly charismatic, but he cares about his character, first and foremost. As the prime antagonist in "Basterds", he was positively horrifying. In this film, he's the hero, but at the same time, he's anything but that. He brings humor and depth to a character that wouldn't have worked this well otherwise. Jamie Foxx does a good job as well, but I don't necessarily see him winning anything this Oscar season.

I'm half-tempted to call "Django" Quentin Tarantino's superhero movie. Django is by no means that, he's an oppressed figure with no real "super powers", however he's a kick-ass guy who the audience roots for from the very beginning. He even has his own theme song! We don't know how he appears to be more literate than other slaves, and he is somehow always able to outsmart those around him.

"Django" shows Tarantino having slightly more respect for genre than he ever has. It's a western revenge epic, first and foremost. It's also kind of a comedy, with some of the most clever dialogue I've heard in a film in 2012. It's also a romance, displaying the forbidden love between Django and his wife. But it's first and foremost a western, and Tarantino sticks to that.

This film isn't perfect, however. One thing I expect from Tarantino is well-developed strong female characters. We don't have that in "Django". I was hoping that Kerry Washington, who is also badass protagonist Olivia Pope in ABC's "Scandal", would be smart and strong-willed enough to get herself out of the problems which are out of her hands. I was hoping for Tarantino to give her some snappy dialogue, to show that her character is, like Django, superior to all of the other slaves around her. She isn't. She just kind of stands there and whimpers. She's helpless, and I wasn't expecting that from Tarantino, who has written some of the best female protagonists in film.

Other than this, "Django Unchained" is a masterful film. It takes a lot for a nearly three hour long film to be engaging the entire way through, and it is. It's wickedly funny, and at the same time, extremely dramatic. With its graphic violence and filthy mouth, it isn't for the faint of heart. All of the actors here, especially DiCaprio, seem to be having tons of fun here, and it shows. Tarantino loves to fictionalize history, and if such films are as good as "Django Unchained", I think he should keep doing it. It's a vision of history that only Tarantino can bring us.

Grade: A-

6 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
A successful adaptation in every way possible..., 4 April 2012

The very point of young adult literature is to give the few young individuals with an interest in reading, a world to immerse themselves in, and a character or two to root for, who will hopefully teach them a thing or two about the world they live in, and hopefully, about themselves. Such a character should be a role model for these young people. In 2012, we are left with no more "Harry Potter" films to be made. The "Twilight" series, which has albeit made a great deal of money, doesn't quite cut it for those of us who expect something more from our movie-going experience.

"The Hunger Games" has it all: a wonderful slew of characters, an unfamiliar and interesting world, real problems to overcome, not to mention a star-making performance by Jennifer Lawrence. One major problem that I find in the "Twilight" series lies in the lack of role models for young women reading them. Bella Swan is an idiot. She relies on men for every single thing she does, and doesn't change and become her own person over the course of the four books, ultimately becoming the epitome of anti-feminism, in this viewer's eyes.

Having said that, "The Hunger Games" is something of a godsend. Katniss Everdeen is headstrong, brutal, resourceful, witty, uncannily smart and a truly original personality. She knows when to back down, yet she knows when to take charge. She is an ideal role model for young people who will undoubtedly approach the film.

"The Hunger Games" takes place in the post-apocalyptic region of Panem, divided into twelve "districts". Once a year, an Olympics-style event takes place where one young man and woman from each of the twelve districts is forced to take part in a fight to the death on national television, where only one contestant can survive. A member of working- class District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) takes her young sister's place after she has somehow been chosen in her first year of eligibility. Katniss has essentially raised her sister, with a mother who has been useless ever since the father's death. She learns to put her knowledge to good use, becomes something of a badass in her quest to above all else, stay alive.

Like I mentioned, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, is a revelation. She clearly knew the character she was playing. While her performance is strong and ever-commanding, the character of Katniss was never permitted to let her true emotions show, and Lawrence obviously understood that. She couldn't have been better. Josh Hutcherson does a good enough job as Peeta, the other contestant from District 12, who becomes a good friend to Katniss; and possibly a love interest? We'll let the next film in the trilogy tackle that.

The film has a tremendous supporting cast, including Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, the often-inebriated mentor to Katniss and Peeta, "30 Rock"'s Elizabeth Banks as the loud and flamboyant Effie, Donald Sutherland as the country's president, and the always-great Stanley Tucci, as Caesar.

My only gripe lies with director Gary Ross, who has previously directed "Seabiscuit" and "Pleasantville". His shaky camera-work works in scenes where we're seeing events from a character's perspective, especially when the "games", themselves, begin. However, shaky hand-held camera- work is present, even in scenes where only two characters are having a conversation. Why? It's distracting, and should have been done differently.

However, Ross did a well enough job interpreting this novel, which I believe many other directors could have screwed up. He made a sensitive, yet not-for-the-faint-of-heart film out of a novel that felt exactly the same way. Like the "Twilight" series, there is a love story in "The Hunger Games", but it's not the most important thing going on. The film could stand as simply an adaptation of a novel, or could be interpreted as social commentary, with obvious hints being made about the Occupy Wall Street movement, as well as the grim picture it paints of what our society could one day become. Yet it's quality entertainment that even the least discerning film-goer can appreciate. Bring on "Catching Fire".

Grade: A

64 out of 99 people found the following review useful:
I wanted to love One for the Money...I really did., 28 January 2012

I wanted to love "One for the Money", and I should have. It had fantastic source material, a writer from one of my favorite shows ("Nurse Jackie"), and an actress from what used to be one of my favorite shows ("Grey's Anatomy"), but this film could not have been any more disastrous. There was a movie that I hated a few years ago called "The Bounty Hunter", with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. I felt like that film was as contrived as could be, and was unfunny, unromantic and incredibly unconvincing. I hate to say that "One for the Money fell into that same ball park.

One of the reasons why I love the book, "One for the Money", by Janet Evanovich is because its heart, Stephanie Plum was an unapologetic badass, profane and saucy. I always pictured someone like Sandra Bullock playing the lead role, a born-and-raised Jersey girl who was down on her luck, who finds her inner badass through a series of misadventures, but ultimately comes out on top in the end.

I don't necessarily blame Katherine Heigl for ruining this movie. She did the best she could, even though her Jersey accent is laughably bad. She was simply miscast. She should have never discontinued her work on "Grey's Anatomy, because if these are the kinds of roles she's getting, her future's only going to get worse.

Julie Ann Robinson ("The Last Song") directed, who I blame for the movie's obviously unclear vision. You get the idea that she didn't know what she wanted this movie to be. Maybe she thought that after all of the books that had been written, fans don't remember the first chapter of the franchise. Did she and the rest of the filmmakers intend this to be a film franchise as well? You get the idea that no one really cared, given the film's messy ending and sitcom-y writing.

Liz Brixius (Nurse Jackie), Karen McCullah Lutz (Legally Blonde) and Kristen Smith (The Ugly Truth) are responsible for the travesty of a screenplay. Women ARE funny. There have been so many funny and smart movies that had primarily female writers, actors and directors, so why does this film seem misogynist? It's a mixed message, and an implication that I really don't like. Their version of Stephanie Plum is an idiot. She's not a saucy badass, like the one I loved in the books. Her profanity is turned down, too, because of the meaningless desire that the filmmakers must have had to get a PG-13 rating. Why would kids want to see this movie? Oh, of course...Katherine Heigl's inevitable "sideboob".

I enjoy the work of Liz Brixius, considering that she is the creator of one of my favorite shows, "Nurse Jackie". She has shown over the years that she knows how to properly illustrate complicated characters. She is not beyond character development, and making characters fully what went wrong here? Why didn't she scream at the other two writers, "what the hell are you doing?!"

I can only imagine how bad true fans of the books felt about this travesty. There are eighteen Stephanie Plum novels, plus short stories, novellas and crossovers. People clearly like this character, and there have got to be a bunch of true fans out there. The first book was written in 1994, and there was talk of a movie then. It had been in development hell since then, and it's a shame to say that it probably should have stayed there.

Grade: D-

50/50 (2011)
A salty-sweet heartbreaking-heartwarming tragicomedy,, 25 January 2012

False advertising: it's the reason why so many people are disappointed with so many movies. A film's trailers and television spots are what convinces so many of us to go to the movies, and if a film's advertising is misleading, it is usually anything but a good thing. I've never seen a falsely advertised movie have better end results than "50/50". The film was marketed as a laugh-out-loud comedy in the vein of "The Hangover" and "Superbad". It's nothing like either of those movies, and oh, was I happy about that.

First of all, I find very few gross-out comedies to be soulful and important. For the most part, they are just throwaway fluff that are impossible to be remembered. "50/50" is definitely more of a drama than a comedy, which can be assumed from its premise alone.

It follows Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young man who re-examines his life after a terminal cancer diagnosis. His diagnosis is some rare kind of spinal cancer, and his chance of survival is at about 50/50. He intends to learn what matters in life, and to live every minute to its fullest, knowing that any one of those minutes could be his last. His profane and ignorant best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and his young therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) supply him with optimism and humor when he needs it the most.

There has been a television show running for the past few years, with a similar concept called "The Big C", and this is pretty much that same kind of story. I love "The Big C", I think that it handles its difficult and horribly sad concept wonderfully, never making anything too dour or bleak, thanks to a much-needed sense of humor, however, despite being a fantastic series, not many people have seen "The Big C". What "50/50" is doing is basically telling the same story to a wider audience, and that's okay because of how strong it is on its own.

Being decidedly more a drama than a comedy, it has the pathos and dramatic flare that I expected, but it has a way of surprising the audience. It had me crying actual tears, and then laughing audibly a moment later. It's more dramatic than funny, although it is also very very funny. The most refreshing part was that it didn't try too hard to be a laugh-out-loud comedy. It appears effortless, but it definitely works.

Also, the supporting cast is dead-on. Anna Kendrick plays Adam's therapist, Katherine, a grad student working on her doctorate, whose third patient (ever) is Adam. Anjelica Huston plays Adam's overbearing mother, whose husband is dying of Alzheimer's. Huston gives a fiercely funny, yet understated performance. Bryce Dallas Howard is sure on a role. She seems to have a knack for playing terrible people. Between this and her role in "The Help" earlier this year, I wouldn't be surprised if her next role featured her kicking a puppy.

I think I'm a Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan. I loved his work in "500 Days of Summer", and he plays the easy-to-root-for everyman very well. I think Seth Rogen is funny, but he can easily be overkill. He plays the same role in every movie in which he stars, I find. However, he's clearly there for comic relief in this film, and he does his job fairly well.

I also have to applaud the script by Will Reiser, which is apparently semi-autobiographical. I think the right actors were clearly chosen, and everything fell into place from there, but this kind of film could be a disaster without the right screenplay. It shouldn't have been as good as it was, if I think about it. I don't know why I love "The Big C" as much as I do, but that and "50/50" share the same nuance and attitude about life and death, which I really appreciate. While not quite asking the "big questions" (reincarnation, meaning of life, etc), "50/50" seems very wise and very intelligent. It's the best case of false advertising in recent memory.

Grade: A

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A brutal, yet fearless character study of prolonged adolescence, 25 December 2011

We all know a woman like Mavis Gary. She's the kind of girl who everyone feared in high school, who was always effortlessly beautiful, and yet she had no personality whatsoever. She would do whatever was thought to be "cool". Her loved-but-feared status meant that she probably barely registered your existence at all. We assume that this kind of woman goes on to do great things, and becomes an amazing person who would have a whole new generation of people fearing her, but that is not always the case, and that is where we meet Mavis, in "Young Adult".

Diablo Cody will forever be known for writing 2007's hip-dialogue laden and instantly memorable "Juno", a somewhat controversial teen comedy, which served as a star vehicle for Ellen Page, ensuring that she will play rebellious teenagers well into her thirties. Diablo Cody has reunited with her "Juno" director, Jason Reitman, for "Young Adult". I would like to mention that aside from auteur moments in Cody's writing, this is nothing at all like "Juno", and that's a good thing.

"Young Adult" is the study of a borderline psychotic personality. It's the story of Mavis Gary, a woman pushing 40, who lives alone, with her obviously neglected Pomeranian, in her disheveled condo in Minneapolis. She is a ghost writer of young adult fiction, which is ironic, considering she hasn't grown up at all since high school. She is not emotionally matured in any way, and thinks that her living in a neighboring city of her suburban hometown means that she has a life. She gets an e-mail from an old high school boyfriend who invites her to a baby-naming ceremony, or something like that. Fully intending to get him back, she blatantly ignores the fact that he is a husband and new father. In her mind, there is something not right in the universe, and she intends to fix it.

We don't really know, as an audience, if we are supposed to feel empathy for Mavis, or if we should just feel pity. At several points in the film, we see Mavis laying face-down on a bed, either in her cold pigsty apartment, or her hotel room, where she appears to be dead. She's never dead, just dead drunk. Her character says to her parents at one point, "I think I might be an alcoholic", and the statement is largely ignored. Anyone who says this aloud knows damn well that they are, and the fact that her parents ignored this statement shows you what kind of family this woman came from. Mavis is definitely an alcoholic, seen repeatedly drinking heavily just to make it through the day. She may as well have been drunk in every scene. This is a study of a depressive character, but the thing that bothered me was that her parents ignored this statement, because they would obviously rather pretend that there is no issue. It's upsetting, but like I said, it shows where this woman became this way. That's good writing.

This film works because the lead character is extremely well written and observed, but also because Charlize Theron knocks this one out of the park. First of all, before I get to any other facts about this character, I must say that Theron plays a drunk very well. The last thing I remember seeing her in was her infamous performance as Aileen Wournos in 2003's "Monster", and it is going to sound trite, but she's playing a different kind of monster here. She is a woman whose main goal in this film is to break up a marriage. She gave so much of herself to this character, and she may as well be responsible for the film's success. I personally liked Mavis, a character who we're supposed to hate, or feel great pity for, and I give Theron most of the credit for that.

With "Juno", "Thank You For Smoking", and "Up in the Air", and now "Young Adult", Jason Reitman has a fantastic track record. I have enthusiastically enjoyed each of his films thus far. It's interesting for me to think of this film as a companion piece to 2009's "Up in the Air", two films about emotionally stunted individuals. George Clooney's character in "Up in the Air" didn't want to feel anything, and didn't want to get too close to anyone. The film ends with him not exactly changing, but moving forward in his life, ignoring factors that would have emotionally devastated the average person, and just moving forward. Meanwhile, Mavis is irrevocably stuck in the past. The best time in her life was high school, where she was popular and kind of feared, and now she is just pitied. Yet she is obsessed with making her glory days a reality again.

There is nothing warm, sentimental or happy about the ending of this film, let me just say that right off the top. The film itself is dour, bleak and emotionally brutal. The performances are powerful, and the writing is excellent, yet it doesn't have the warm, happy, everything- is-better-all-of-a-sudden ending that American audiences are used to, and that's a damn good thing. Most character studies about unlikable people typically have the antihero change for the better in the end, in an ending where everything is warm, and everyone is left happy, but Mavis doesn't get off the hook that easily. While the film, in a whole, is quite depressing, its brand of black-as-night comedy is refreshing and welcome. I would call it the meanest Hollywood film this year, and that's a very good thing.

Grade: A-

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Bad Teacher, 3 November 2011

2011 has been an above-average year for female-driven comedy, with recent films like "Bridesmaids", and "What's Your Number", proving to be the good and the bad. Today, we have "Bad Teacher", a Cameron Diaz film that falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

It follows Elizabeth Halsey, a morally corrupt middle-school English teacher, whose plans to quit her day job, to be a kept woman, were derailed. She's not necessarily a bad person, in my eyes, but she really shouldn't be teaching. She drinks, smokes weed, and puts on movies for her class, on the first day of school. She plays films for her class about good teachers, like "Dead Poets Society" and "Freedom Writers", while she pours airplane bottles of vodka into her coffee mug, ignoring her students completely.

All of this is very funny to me, because this part of the movie is pretty well-conceived. Cameron Diaz gave a great performance, and proved herself to have above-average comic timing. She isn't to blame for where "Bad Teacher" went wrong. It leaves this viewer underwhelmed, at a film that should have been a lot funnier. However, it isn't necessarily a bad movie either. It's just never as funny as it should be.

Written by "The Office" alums Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the film slightly resembles a long episode of "The Office" - something that has a brilliant concept, and the fully capable actors, however, it never really comes together in the end. However, there are a lot of reasons why this movie did work.

One being that it makes pretty good use of the time that it's given. It runs about 90 minutes, on the dot, and it feels full and decently conceived. One big reason is Cameron Diaz, proving herself not to be just a pretty face, but something of a cunning comedienne. She plays one of the most detestable characters that American cinema has recently seen, however, the audience can't help but root for her.

However, when the movie approaches moments of golden politically incorrect humor every so often, it's not what it should have been. A standard has been set for R-rated comedy films in the past few years, by films like "Knocked Up", "The Hangover" and "Bridesmaids", showing that there's a new point-of-no-return for comedy. This involves raunchy humor, yet it proves every so often, that new comedic punchlines and ideas haven't run dry.

However, "Bad Teacher" shows us nothing we haven't seen before, recycling jokes from other (and better) movies. From a lame school car- wash scene, to a borderline degrading subplot about a boob job, there isn't enough good to outweigh the bad. As I said, it has its moments, but there aren't enough of those moments to make this a great film.

Grade: B-

Drive (2011/I)
2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Drive: What "The American" should have been., 25 September 2011

Last year, there was a film called "The American", that was distributed by Focus Features, and had George Clooney in the role of a hit-man who had lost his way, and was hiding out in a gorgeous Italian landscape, waiting to go on one last mission. This was something of an art film. It meant to be subtle, and emotional, and beautiful, and at the same time, somewhat surprising.

It did none of these things. I tend to be the occasional film snob, enjoying the kind of film that relies on subtlety, rather than either laughs or violence, or something like that, that the average audience is more likely to enjoy. However, I hated "The American". Nothing happened in it. It was dull and boring, and too snooty for even me to enjoy.

I mention all of this, because "Drive", a film I saw yesterday, was fantastic. It displayed exactly what "The American" was going for, but missed completely. This is a fully realized version of that movie. One reason why "The American" failed, is because I am completely tired of George Clooney. He's had his time in the spotlight, and that was one of his weakest performances.

However, Ryan Gosling is the heartbeat of "Drive". He's charismatic, charming, sexy, and one hell of an actor. You never know where his character is going to go, and that's what this movie wants of its audience. His charm isn't something easily accomplished, he becomes his character, like only the best actors do.

"Drive" follows an unnamed man, who is a stuntman for Hollywood movies. On the side, he moonlights as a getaway driver. He never works for the same person twice, and works anonymously. He falls in love with a woman (Carey Mulligan) who lives in his apartment building, whose husband (Oscar Isaac) is in prison. Somewhere in the film, Jewish mobsters (Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman) become involved in the story, threatening the lives of everyone.

The story is a slow-burner, taking awhile to set into affect. However, that's the way it should be. Unlike "The American", the story eventually does go somewhere, and it has an ending that packs a huge punch. Unlike many action films that I've recently seen, it has undeniable style. It has a Tarantino-esque feel, and a look that separates it from a lot of other similar films.

It has a somber, and melancholic feel, and yet has many "gasp" moments. Its final act is unforgettable. Story lines overlap, and crash together in an almost classical way. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, though, as quiet moments in the film are broken by moments of brutal violence. However, that's one of the things that makes this film so good.

However, there are a few moments that lag the pacing, somewhat. A few things could have easily been cut out, because they don't bring the story along at all. But that doesn't hurt the overall product. Once you see how it ends, it more than makes up for its flaws.

Grade: B+

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An okay film that could've been a great one., 16 September 2011

I've seen a few good romantic comedies in my life. I've seen a few great ones as well. I even saw a couple especially good ones this year. However, I can't quite say that for "Something Borrowed". It's not that this was a bad movie, because it wasn't. Everybody gave a good performance, and the characters were welcomingly flawed and damaged, yet, "Something Borrowed" has a fondness for formula and clichés that ultimately hurts the end result.

The story follows Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a woman who's never gotten what she's wanted. She had a big crush on Dex (Colin Eggelesfield), ever since law school. One night, on a semi-date with him, he meets Darcy (Kate Hudson), who he falls in love with immediately. Fast forward some time, Dex and Darcy are engaged, and Rachel is turning thirty. Due to drunken behavior, and not-quite-healed wounds, Rachel and Dex have a fling, and the film is about the downfall from that.

Ginnifer Goodwin isn't a particularly good actress, yet I like her. She has a kind of cutesy flawed type-A personality that brings this kind of character to life. I liked her in "He's Just Not That Into You", an ensemble romantic comedy which I felt that she kind of held together. In this one, she's the heroine you're supposed to root for, and yet it isn't easy to. She sacrifices so much of her potential happiness on her jackass of a best friend. She lies, cheats and betrays everyone, yet, in the end, she owns up to her own issues, which I liked.

Kate Hudson was the best thing in this one, for me. Her antagonist Darcy was much better thought-out and realized than the rest of the characters. She plays the bitch awfully well in this one. Soap opera alum Colin Egglesfield is a welcome addition to this soap opera of a story. He does a nice job, he's pretty to look at, and…that's all he really has to be. "The Office"'s John Krasinski was very good, being the voice of reason among all of the mess going on.

What kills this one for me is that it ended almost exactly the way I expected it to. A lot of the characters are reduced to stereotypes, and they never quite come to life. If these characters had more room to work with, and with a better writer, this could have been a fantastic movie. It feels chaotic, yet at the same time, it has a slow pace. It has soap- opera feel, with sitcom-y jokes thrown in. It has a few good moments that almost make it a good movie, but in the end, it falls flat.

Apparently, this was a best-selling novel by someone named Emily Giffin. Also, there was apparently a follow-up novel, telling this same story from Darcy's perspective. I can't help but think that would have made a better movie.

Contagion (2011)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Contagion: A chilling, disturbing and effective disaster film., 16 September 2011

Not a lot scares me, when it comes to movies, anyway. I can watch the goriest horror movie, and not be scared, even in the slightest. But "Contagion" got under my skin. It has more effect than even the most well-done horror movie, yet, it's not really a horror movie at all. It's mostly a psychological disaster film, and at one point, it feels like something of a docudrama, and then it morphs into a humane psychology story, and has overtones of the power of paranoia and fear that start when the film begins, and don't end until the last, satisfying moments.

"Contagion" is director Steven Soderbergh's first feature this year. A few years ago, he directed two films in the same year, Matt Damon comedy-thriller studio-produced vehicle "The Informant!" and porn star Sasha Grey's first mainstream (albeit indie) film, "The Girlfriend Experience". This year, he repeats himself, doing two films in the same year, this, and the upcoming independent action thriller "Haywire". I'm intrigued to see that one as well, but I can't see it being any better than "Contagion".

"Contagion" scared the living crap out of me. It follows characters, living throughout the world, all effected by a mysterious pandemic that threatens the lives of everyone. It's something like bird flu, but not quite. It has the worldwide reaction that H1N1 had on the world, but worse. It becomes a government conspiracy tale, that proves that something of this catastrophic weight is not a cut-and-dry kind of thing. There are twists coming from each imaginable angle. The biggest mystery is how this thing began, which isn't ignored, like I thought it would be.

One thing that "Contagion" has going for it, is a lot of big names. Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Everybody brings more to the table than you expect them to. Each character's story becomes vital to how the story unfolds, and, even as it begins to delude into something of a cut-and-dry docudrama, it pulls the wool out from under your eyes, and surprises you with realistic, yet not melodramatic emotion, and becomes quite the emotionally draining and devastating tale, leaving such an impression on the audience, making this one impossible to tune out.

I choose, for this review, not to really get into each character's story, because, one, it would take up too much time, and two, it's much better experienced, not knowing very much about it, as the story unfolds.

It'll stick with you for longer than you expect it to. I read advance reviews before seeing it today, that claim that leaving the theatre, no one in the audience spoke about it, or touched anyone, or contacted with anyone around them. Paranoia is a main ingredient to "Contagion", proving that no one is immune to fear that is unspoken, but completely pinpointed, and like I said, impossible to ignore. Seeing an afternoon show, in the college town where I live with a few friends of mine, I didn't quite experience this. However, it's completely believable. It leaves you in such a state of paranoia and euphoria, that it's maddening, considering that there aren't many films like this nowadays.

Another thing that "Contagion" has going for it is how it's made. Soderbergh doesn't waste any time here. Keeping it concise, at a humane running time (105 minutes), it's a roller-coaster from the very first unsettling scene, right up until the last frame. It's written in a way that feels overall very clinical and to-the-point, yet becomes an emotional journey that makes you feel something for each one of its characters.

The scariest thing about "Contagion" is its plausibility. Unlike your regular horror movie, it has a base which actually could happen, and has happened, in the past. The scares come from things that human beings encounter every day. No ghosts or zombies (in the literal sense of the world) pop out and scare you, while the typical ominous, trying-to-be scary score plays in the background. It's proof that the quietest movies can be the most terrifying. There's a horrifying atmosphere about this one, that sneaks up on you when you least expect it to. This is compelling stuff, don't miss it.

Grade: A-

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