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Monday, November 15, 2010

Catching Up on Movies...

We've seen a few movies in the last couple of months and this is my first chance to get some reviews up, so here goes!

Starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich, this Disney picture is the story of the famous race horse and his Triple Crown win in 1973. When Penny Chenery Tweedy's (Lane) mother passes away, she begins splitting her time between her own household and that of her ailing father. While there, she reasserts her love and knowledge of horse raising and racing. She discovers that her father's horse-trainer is skimming off the top and she fires him. Chenery then hires wild-card down-on-his-luck trainer Lucien Laurin (Malkovich) whose out-of-the-box techniques turn out to be just the right fit for Meadow Stables. Then along comes the horse Big Red, who eventually gains the racing handle Secretariat.

My mom and I are both big Triple Crown racing fans. We remember 1973 (I was 5), especially Secretariat's spectacular run in the Belmont Stakes which won him the Triple Crown. I enjoyed the use of archival footage in the film, too, as that just reinforced my own memories.

The acting in this is very good. Larry thought that the best actor in the film was actually the horse playing Secretariat and he's on to something! That horse was amazing. How do you cast for that sort of role, do you suppose? Anyway, this is just a heartwarming, powerful, moving film that is well-acted, well-shot, and very enjoyable. Especially if you like horse racing, as there are some great races in here.

But, even if you don't, this is great family fare. We already know my mom liked it, so it gets a Mom Approval rating, too.

The Social Network
Starring a lot of newcomers, but written by the talented Aaron Sorkin and directed by the also-talented David Fincher, this is a story about the founding of Facebook. Loosely-based on and inspired by actual events, the story happens simultaneously in the past and the current day. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is on trial in two cases over the creation of the social networking website. Evidence presented in the trials fills in the backstory of the events that led to Facebook's uber web presence today. It's a very timely film as the cases have only recently been settled, and as Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to make news worldwide for the company's growth and Zuckerberg's charitable contributions.

This is tricky. None of the characters are likeable. The events supposedly leading to the creation of Facebook are uncomfortable at best and downright mean at worst. The lawsuits are vindictive. Friendships are broken and the main characters are not above stepping all over people to get what they want. Most of the time, I just felt depressed that I like using Facebook so much if all these people are so nasty.

That said, it is a well-written, well-paced movie, as you would expect. It is probably also well-acted. I just didn't like any of the characters in it. Okay, I take that back, I loved that there was a bit with Prince Albert of Monaco (not his real highness, an actor) - I thought that was clever. I have also since learned that a significant plot point in the movie never happened in real life. I may have to watch it again knowing that and see if it lightens my mood.

I still like Facebook, though, the website I mean. The rest of you will have to make up your own minds about the movie. Moms, probably not for you, sorry.

Starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman, this is the story of four retired CIA operatives who get thrown together for one last case. It's a big action thriller with lots of heists and hijinx. Stuff goes boom.

So, it's predictable. Willis is a lean, mean, killing machine. Malkovich is crazy. Mirren is fabulous. Freeman is suave and clever. The government is sneaky and corrupt. There's a Russian spy. Did I mention stuff goes boom?

It's just fun, folks. Silly, humorous fun. There's a plot and a little twisting, but mostly it's about the "We're getting the band back together" feel that is super well played by the starring foursome. Good times. Stuff goes boom. Sorry, moms, not for you.

Starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, this is based on a real railway incident that happened in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio! The movie is set in Pennsylvania, however. A train, including several cars full of hazardous materials, careens unmanned along the route, picking up speed and heading into populated areas with dangerous pieces of track. The potential for disaster of catastrophic proportions increases as the train continues to pick up speed and closes the distance between itself and major towns. Washington and Pine hatch a plan to use their own train to stop the runaway.

This isn't a movie, it's a roller coaster, a big, fast, furious, awesome roller coaster! It was totally predictable, but such fun! I had a blast, I was totally into it from the very beginning, flinching when the train whooshed by heading straight at the camera (such a basic trick, but well-used here), and hanging on to Bruce as they tried to stop the train. Such fun!

Guess what? Stuff also goes boom. Sorry, moms, not for you, but anyone else up for a good roller coaster ride in the off-season, get on board!