Well, it’s another Wintry weekend here in MN with snow and plummeting temps. But I’m looking forward to 30 degrees above zero this week, ahah.
Well, it’s relatively unproductive as I only saw two movies this weekend as I spent some time working on my ARGO write-up for The Lamb Devour The Oscars series.
This is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars.
Click on the poster to see my full post.
Do check out the other entries of the LAMB Oscar series.
Here are mini reviews of the two films I saw over the weekend:
People Like Us
While settling his recently deceased father’s estate, a salesman discovers he has a sister whom he never knew about, leading both siblings to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices.
Both my hubby and I wanted to see this when we saw the trailer. The two lead actors, Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks are both likable and charismatic, and I’m glad this wasn’t another silly rom-com or a Nicholas Sparks lovey-dovey romance. Instead, the film follows the journey of two incredibly flawed characters whose paths crossed after a famous record producer died after a long battle with cancer. Sam, a brash salesman, has been estranged from his dad for some time, in fact, he despised him so much he tried to weasel his way out of going to his funeral! But when his father left him a large sum of money and left a note for him to give him to someone named Josh Davis, it led to a journey that would change his life forever.
The film is quite predictable and at times perhaps seems rather formulaic, but what I do like is the emotional resonance. One can’t help but deeply sympathize for Sam, Frankie (Banks) and her son Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). There’s also a brief but effective performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as Pine’s mother. There are a lot of honest, heart-rending dialog between the two, and all the actors believably played their roles. At times I was frustrated by Sam’s decisions in keeping the ‘secret’ from Frankie about who he really is. In fact there’s one tense moment where Frankie’s rage was justified. I kept thinking what I would do if I were in her situation.
It’s interesting to note that this was Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut. He and Roberto Orci are the writers of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness you just saw the trailer last night. This is quite a different role for Pine though, there’s the cool confidence he projected as Sam, but there’s also some vulnerable moments that he was able to capture as well.
Despite some slow moments, I think People Like Us is a decent drama that manages to move me. There are some great music here and interesting camera work that adds to the level of enjoyment. I’d say give this movie a shot if you’re looking for something to rent. Not a bad first effort from Kurtzman, curious to see what he’d tackle on next.
3.5 out of 5 reels
Mission: Impossible (1996) – rewatch
An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.
Thanks to Ted for lending me the Blu-ray. It’s been ages since I saw this movie and I must admit I didn’t really care for it. It was just way too convoluted for its own good, and not nearly as entertaining as the latest movie. Upon second viewing though, I think I appreciate it a bit more, and it’s not as impossible to follow as I thought previously. Still, I think Tom Cruise and this franchise gets better with age.
Speaking of age, this film certainly feels dated, especially when Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) was on the plane watching the tape, ahah. It just looked so primitive! I didn’t remember how great the cast was though, especially Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave, both are sadly underutilized and not on screen long enough for my liking. The star of the show, as always, is Cruise as Ethan Hunt. The special features said he apparently loved the TV series, and certainly his um, mission to bring it to the big screen has paid off given how profitable this franchise has been.
The first part of the film has quite a different tone than the finale, it even felt like it’s a whole different film. Brian De Palma framed the whole failed mission and the chase through the streets of Prague like a Hitchcockian conspiracy noir, but by the end it was on a full-throttle Michael Bay style action flick with a chopper flying inside a tunnel and exploding, of course with the main hero unscathed.
Overall it was entertaining enough, the most memorable sequence when Hunt & co. tried to hack into the CIA mainframe through the roof still holds up. Jean Reno was especially hilarious in that sequence, but the rest of Hunt’s team wasn’t really given much to do. I don’t mind that there isn’t as much action set pieces here as in the other MI films, but at the same time De Palma seems to take this film way too seriously whilst the twist is actually pretty predictable. Thankfully, the franchise only gets better and the fourth film was excellent as Brad Bird could deliver a fast-paced and thrilling ride from start to finish.
Interesting that as I watched the Special Features, Cruise barely aged from movie to movie! He looked practically 17 in this movie, he’s just so boyish looking. So I guess that’s a good thing as even now that he’s 50, he actually looks about 40 which is what I’d expect Ethan Hunt to be.
3.5 out of 5 reels
Hansel & Gretel : Witch Hunters
– thanks to my friend Ashley S. for her review!
Van Helsing meets Kill Bill in this original retelling of the classic fairytale, Hansel and Gretel. Say goodbye to cliché fairytale nursery rhymes and hello to a badass duo, who set the record straight on being “victims” and take action into their own hands. This isn’t your average bombs and explosions action packed movie, but a blend of brutal yet simplistic medieval weaponry with sleek and highly functional modern technology. The fight scenes take place across murky waters, gorgeous forests, pious villages, and, oh yes, a candy covered house.
The makeup, wardrobe and props were spectacular! Each witch’s makeup was unique to her own evil attributes, but gave a nod to traditional folklore, without having to throw on a crooked nose and warts (burn her!).
The actors weren’t afraid to get down and dirty, either. When one is a witch hunter, one is bound to end up covered in their work—literally. There were several close up shots of the lovely Gemma Arterton covered in goop (almost as if she were being slimed), but even covered in blood, guts and dirt, she still manages to look beautiful, sigh. But what good would a period film be if we didn’t catch the main actor in only his pantaloons? Don’t worry! Jeremy Renner doesn’t disappoint and bares his chest (or more) to ease his aches and pains.
The short, snappy and dry dialogue is similar to other popular romacolypes (romantic apocalypse) movies like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. Be on the lookout for subtle and not so subtle hints of modern day culture amidst medieval inconvenience, which fits perfectly into the growing popularity of the “fairytale” genre. The movie isn’t just fantasy or action, but simply takes a classic bedtime story and turns it into something fun for every child-at-heart, adult. All in all, if you’re looking to be pleasantly surprised, have a few laughs and quite possibly be a little disturbed, this is the movie for you. It’s fun, unexpected and will leave you hoping for more movies like it to come.
Thoughts on these movies, folks? Do share your own weekend viewings in the comments.