The Weekend Movie Recap: 1/20/12

posted by Rolocop

EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE – I was looking back at director Stephen Daldry’s filmography and realized that he was nominated for an Oscar for all 3 of his previous films (BILLY ELLIOTT, THE HOURS and THE READER).  I’m sure he’s hoping he gets nominated for his fourth film in a row.

The story takes place in 2002 New York City and is about a pre-teen named Tom Schell, who may or may not have Asperger’s Syndrome.  His father (Tom Hanks) died in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks and the event has extremely effected Tom.  But then he finds something in his father’s closet that he believes is a clue.  You see, when he was still alive, he would create and send Tom on scavenger hunts across the city, in order to force him out of his comfort zone and communicate with others.  So Tom thinks this clue could be another hunt.  This adventure brings him all over the city meeting all sorts of characters, including a feuding couple (Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright) and a mysterious renter in his grandmother’s apartment (Max Von Sydow).  Does this journey have an end, and will it bring closure to the death of Tom’s father?

Any time you deal with a subject that is heavy, and is based on true, tragic events, it can be a little touchy.  You have to have just the right balance to pull it off, as to not have it feel exploitative or manipulative.  I can see someone finding this movie too much.  It all depends on the person.  At first, I felt that it may be pushing it too far, but as the film went on I was rewarded with a nicely told (even if it is emotionally heavy) character based drama about a kid coming to terms with the hard truths of reality.

Tom Horn does a pretty impressive job as the boy, though I can see how someone can find his precociousness irritating.  But since I have Asperger’s myself, I found his portrayal spot on.  The supporting cast is solid, from John Goodman as a hotel doorman, to Davis’ tortured wife.  Tom hanks does a decent job as the father, but his time is very limited.  Sandra Bullock surprisingly delivers an emotional impact as Tom’s mother, who tries to give her son his space.  The real standout is Von Sydow as the renter.  His character hasn’t spoken in over 40 years and only communicates by writing on a small note pad.  His face tells you everything you need to know.  It’s a brilliant performance.

The movie is full of sappy scenes, but I bought right into them.  I was completely involved in Tom’s story to find out the mystery, and discover the truth.  I was crying by the end of the film.  The script by Eric Roth is heavy handed, but it kind of has to be with this subject matter.  One scene that is handled very well, is when Bullocks gets the call from Tom Hanks that he is in the World Trade Center.  Her reaction is heartbreaking.  Daldry provides the appropriate direction for his dramatic material.  I do think that the film may be too much for the Academy to nominate him for a 4th time, which is too bad, cause I think this is better than his overrated THE HOURS.

If you’re looking for a tearjerker, and an emotionally rewarding experience (if you buy into this kind of thing.  You know if you are or not), then this will satisfy you.  I am looking forward to sharing this film with my daughter, who was already crying during the previews.  Sometimes, people just need a good cry and need to be moved.  This fits the bill.  In Wide Release.  Rating:


RED TAILS – Remember those war films of the 40’s and 50’s?  Those pro-war, pro-American propaganda films that had simple stories and corny dialogue? Did you like those?  Cause that’s what Red Tails is.  It’s an old fashioned “Hooray for America” film that used to grace the screen.  Who needs cynical, realistic war films when there can be a movie this much fun in the theaters?

The movie is about the Tuskegee pilots in WWII.  They were the first black men that fought fighter pilots, battling the Nazi’s.  I’m sure there is a lot more to it in History books, but this pretty much sums up the movie.  It’s not deep.  Colored pilots (but preferred to be called Negros, as we find out in the film), want to prove themselves during the war, and they do.  The end.  There are four main pilots with schlocky nicknames like Easy, Joker, Ray Gun, and Sticks.  Also 2 leaders of the program played by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard.  The Nazi’s are one dimensional villains that seem right out of a comic book.

If any of the above comments sound sarcastic or like I’m putting the film down.  I’m not.  I really enjoyed this.  Is it a serious work and accurate account of history?  Hell no!  But that’s fine.  What I got was cornball entertainment.  I love old war movies like THEY WERE EXPENDEABLE, FLYING LEATHERNECKS, AIR FORCE, and WINGS OF THE EAGLES.  Those weren’t realistic either.  But they were a lot of fun.  And that’s what this is.  It’s cliched, it’s cheesy, and…. it’s really well directed.

The acting is appropriately corny and every actor does there part.  The standout for me was Nate Parker as Easy, who looked and acted very much like a young Denzel Washington.  The real reason to see this is for the flying assaults.  They are perfectly storyboarded and expertly crafted.  It’s all CGI, but it looks fantastic!  Even though George Lucas is only listed as Executive Producer, his touch is all over this.  The action scenes very much have that Star Wars flavor.  I even heard several sound effects straight from those movies, which for me, added to the enjoyment.  The energy is very high during these scenes which are very excited, and had me cheering in my seat as the Americans blew the Nazi’s to smithereens.

If I have one complaint, it would be  that there may have been one too many subplots (just like the old war movies), and the movie was about 15 minutes too long.  But overall, I had a fun time.  If you want a realistic account of the Tuskegee airmen, then you will be sorely disappointed.  You have to know what you’re getting into when you go see this (and it seemed like many critics had no clue, as most of them are criticizing how cheesy it is).  It’s like a 1950′ pulp comic book, full of silly dialogue and beautiful, stylized action.  If that sounds good to you, then you’ll have a good time.  In wide release Rating:


HAYWIRE – Steven Soderbergh is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, always challenging himself as he tries different genres and styles.  This time he’s made his version of an action movie.  It stars MMA fighter Gina Carano as a covert agent who was betrayed by Ewan McGregor.  Her plan is to find him and find out why. Along the way she kicks a lot of ass!

If this sounds like a pretty standard action movie that would normally star Jason Statham, don’t worry, cause the filmmakers do everything they can to make it far from mainstream Hollywood junk.  Screenwriter Lem Dobbs (who also wrote Soderbergh’s sensational The Limey) makes a smart decision by telling half the movie in flashbacks, which adds to the unique style.  Soderbergh shoots the movie like it was an arty low budget indie film, with very little cuts.  This makes the action scenes easy to follow, and they certainly let you enjoy the awesomeness of the choreography as you can always see who’s hitting who. An action nut who’s used to seeing crap, full of incoherent action scenes might find this approach to be dull, but those that have taste will appreciate it.

Gina Carano isn’t a serious dramatic actress, but she proves to be an effective action heroine.  Her stunning looks clash with her ability to wreak havoc on people, which works to her advantage.  Because of this, it’s even more shocking when she’s breaking bones.  Soderbergh made the brilliant decision to surround her with some of the best actors around.  Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton (as her father), Michael Angarano and Michael Douglas.  The only one who doesn’t quite work is McGregor.  He is the heavy in the movie, and yet he’s surprisingly dull, delivering every line as if he were a robot running out of batteries.  But everyone else is good, even Channing Tatum!

The plot in this movie is secondary to the hip style and tone that is helped by a funky score by David Holmes.  The other big reason to see this is for the fight scenes.  Since Carano is a professional fighter, it’s of no surprise that she can handle herself admirably in this department.  The fights are quick and brutal. I can’t wait to see it again, to dissect how they were staged and shot. Also, Soderbergh did a smart thing by adding a smidgen of humor to a few sequences, the highlight being the end of a car chase, which had the audience laughing out loud.

It’s not going to change the game, but HAYWIRE is a fun, unconventional action movie that still delivers the goods, when most entries in the genre don’t.  In wide release.  Rating:


Also opening this weekend:

PARIAH – A low-budget drama about a black lesbian teen who is hiding her secret from her family.  It has an unique look and has a great performance by Kim Wayans as the girls mother, but some of the acting comes across amateurish as does some of the writing.  I think writer/director Dee Rees’ next film is going to be great, but this one wasn’t.  It felt more like it was from a filmmaker trying to find her voice.  She’s almost there. Opens at The Uptown.  Rating:

UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING – The fourth in the series wasn’t screened for critics.  I may see it this weekend, and update the article with my review.

THE DIVIDE – Wasn’t screened for me.  Showing this weekend at The Uptown, at Midnight only.

FULL METAL ALCHEMIST: THE SACRED STAR OF MILOS – Wasn’t screened for me.  Showing at St. Anthony Main.

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 at 10:55 pm