Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Unstoppable" - in theaters

Tony Scott is having a love affair with Denzel Washington.

Or so it would seem.

"Unstoppable" marks their 5th collaboration, and I gotta say, it's kind of awesome.

I went into the theater expecting the worst. I thought for sure the story would revolve around some terrorist organization that hijacks a train loaded with chemicals in order to annihilate some mid-sized city, and that it was up to some ballsy train conductor to stop it. That was not the case. In fact, the train gets going because some moron made a mistake at the train yard. It was merely a happy coincidence that the train was full of hazardous waste.

Meanwhile, Frank (Denzel), a weary engineer is paired that morning with up and comer, who is also a little down on his luck, Will (Chris Pine) for training that day. They were just picking up their load when they got the notice that there was a runaway train. They narrowly avoid getting bombarded by it, and then make the decision to chase it down and try to stop it.

It's actually all very straight forward.

My favorite character was Connie, played by Rosario Dawson, who monitored the trains on that stretch of track. She's the person that Frank and Will communicate with throughout the film, getting updates on the runaway and relaying stuff to corporate. Connie is a strong woman, who is great at her job and not afraid to yell at the Director of Operations. Needless to say, every time she was onscreen, she seemed to steal the show.

Come to think of it, every actor brought something to their character, whether it was Frank's steadfastness or Will's hotheadedness, it all comes together for a highly entertaining action film. There were times when I was on the edge of my seat, or clutching my friend next to me. And it totally took me by surprise.

So on the CWeave scale, I rate this an 8. Again, it was a fun action film, and with the current award hopefuls being released, a welcome relief to the high drama that those films contain. And definitely worth a trip to the theater for. I don't think it's going to look the same when it's on the small screen...

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Due Date" - in theaters

I had high hopes for this film, mostly because the previews were downright hysterical. Not only that, but the advertisers totally sold the movie by the director, Todd Philips, who also did "The Hangover".

But this movie was no "The Hangover".

It centers around Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.), an expectant father who was on business in Atlanta when an unfortunate run-in with Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) caused him, through a series of mishaps, to be put on the no-fly list. With his wallet and bag left on the plane, all Peter has is his cellphone. That is, until Ethan comes along and offers to drive him to LA.

What happens from there are the sort of things that you expect in a road trip movie: a violent confrontation with a disabled veteran, stopping off to buy drugs at a dealer's place in Alabama, a run-in with Mexican law enforcement, a gross-out masturbation scene, and the piece de resistance - a trip to the Grand Canyon.

Overall, while the movie was funny, it wasn't hysterical. A lot of the funny bits were in the trailer, which was disappointing. Also, Peter is an extremely dis-likable character. He has a serious anger problem, not to mention his own ego is the size of a rhino. He believes himself to be so perfect that no matter what Ethan does, it is seen as sub-standard.

Galifianakis is playing the character that he always plays - the slightly stupid, do-gooder, who can't seem to do anything right. I would love to see him do a comedic role where he is still able to show his talents, but he doesn't have to play the "dumb" guy. In "It's Kind of a Funny Story", we got to see a small piece of that. So now, Zach, I plead with you: DO MORE OF THAT!

Jamie Foxx plays Darryl, Peter's friend from college who is a little too attached to Peter's wife (Michelle Monaghan). It's creepy, but also quite funny. But Darryl offers a little insight into Peter's past life, and how he functions as a human being, which I found refreshing because otherwise he is just a giant douchebag.

So on the CWeave scale, I give this movie a 6. Again, it wasn't hilarious, but I laughed out loud in a few spots. Even the stuff that was from the trailers was still funny when placed in context. And though Peter rubbed me the wrong way, I enjoyed the other characters far more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"RED" - in theaters

I had the pleasure of seeing this movie in a theater that was totally empty save for me. I've never had that happen before, and it was quite exciting. (Pathetic, I know, but it's the little things...)

"RED" stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous, and it's in reference to retired operatives of the CIA, FBI, and pretty much every other government agency that has a black ops division. Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA "analyst" (*cough* yeah right *cough*), who is living a quiet life in some nondescript Midwestern town. He spends his days talking to Sarah Ross (Mary Louise Parker) at the pension office in Kansas City where he pretends that he isn't getting his pension checks so he can chat her up. All is going well until one night when a team of agents comes into Frank's house, intent on killing him. Needless to say, that doesn't go over too well, and Frank takes them all out.

Not knowing why he's being hunted, he heads to Kansas City, sort of kidnaps Sarah (because she's being hunted too, even if she doesn't believe him), and then heads to New Orleans to talk to Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman). Joe seems to have his finger on the pulse of what's going on and soon discovers the reason behind all these attacks. In the 1980's there was an operation in Guatemala involving a person high in the government going slightly berserk, and now everyone who helped clean up the mess is getting killed. The reason is because a reporter began to uncover the details behind this operation, including a list of names of the people involved. Needless to say, everyone on that list was dead, save for the few RED members.

Frank and Sarah pick up Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) along the way, as well as enlisting the help of a Russian agent, Ivan (Brian Cox). This motley crew then works to figure out who is trying to kill them and how they're going to stop it. Karl Urban is the guy that's hunting them, and I always enjoy when he shows up in films. I fully support all of the "Lord of the Rings" actors.

This film is ripe with dark humor and subtle romance. You can tell that all of the actors are having a lot of fun. And it's also safe to say that Bruce Willis could still kick your ass, and not in a "Die-Hard" kind of way that's completely ludicrous. Not to mention that Helen Mirren is totally badass when she's shooting a gigantic gun.

So on the CWeave scale, this movie rates a 7.5. It's no Oscar contender, but it's a helluva lot of fun. And it just adds further evidence to the fact that older people are awesome.