Sunday, November 14, 2010

Movie Review: Morning Glory

I'm come to a conclusion. Rachel McAdams might be my favorite actress working today. She consistently gives good performances, is not annoying at all in any of her roles, looks pretty damn good and is totally believable in anything she does. McAdams completely carries Morning Glory, a quirky and often slow RomCom from the Bad Robot production studios (a J.J. Abrams joint). McAdams plays Becky, a TV producer who gets fired from a New Jersey morning show only to get a shot at being executive producer for a New York based morning show on a fifth place network (the fictional IBS).

Becky's biggest challenge is to get co-anchors Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford to play nicely together. Ford's character is a legend in the television journalism industry who is on the verge of retirement. He's lured back in to a fluffy daytime anchor job in order to make some more money towards the twilight of his career. Keaton's character feels that Ford is trying to step in and take some of her fame away from her. The two veteran actors do an admirable job of playing angry off each other. Ford is a little over-the-top with his deadpan voice and delivery as he plays the cranky old man role. Keaton is OK but nothing special and McAdams' love interest is a throw-away piece as well.

All in all this movie does a good job at depicting the behind-the-scenes nuances of network television. Several of the jokes do hit their mark but I found myself feeling a bit underwhelmed overall. There is nothing really "new" here and at times some of the chemistry seems forced, especially between McAdams and Ford. I hate to say it but Harrison is no longer an A-list talent in Hollywood. Yes his name is still notable and he is still a box office draw, but a good part of his appeal in his heyday was that he brought all of the physical traits to his performances.
As a headlining actor without a whip or a cool Star Wars vest, he just doesn't have that star power that he used to. I contrast what he's done lately with other aging stars as Robert De Niro and Clint Eastwood who still deliver strong performances at an advanced age. Thankfully we still have Rachel McAdams in her prime. Her performance alone lifts Morning Glory to 3 out 5 JRs. She really makes you believe that she's a driven young executive, hungry to succeed in the television industry.

One thing I failed to mention initially in writing this review is that the soundtrack for this film is probably one of the worst I've ever heard. Throughout the movie, song after song gets played way too loud in a tone that is so out of place. It was extremely distracting and took away from some of my enjoyment of the movie as a whole. We get goofy R&B ditties, Jack Johnson sound-a-like nonsense and other terrible songs that I would never want to hear again. Ideally a film's soundtrack should enhance the overall movie-going experience not severely hamper it.

Movie Review: Unstoppable

For the fifth time, Director Tony Scott and Denzel Washington have teamed up for another action thriller. Strangely enough, Unstoppable marks the second straight Scott/Washington combo that deals with trains. In last year's Taking of Pelham 123, Washington played an official in the underground subway industry. This time around Denzel is a train conductor above ground working one of his last shifts, operating an engine with the new up-and-coming company hire (Star Trek's Chris Pine).

Due to an error by a train worker, a fully linked multi-car train is on the loose, operating at speeds of over 50 MPH with no one driving it. Washington and Pine just happened to be in the wrong place and the wrong time and decide to try to run down the out-of-control train to slow it down before it reaches a populated area. As the action unfolds, we end up with three main characters in this movie: Washington, Pine and the runaway train itself. Scott does a great job with establishing the train as an independent character.

Unstoppable is an excellent action thriller that becomes a non-stop bundle of energy after the opening half-hour. Scott never eases up on the throttle and I never found myself bored or looking at my watch throughout the runaway train ordeal. Rosario Dawson is serviceable in a supporting role, but Denzel and Pine really do carry this film. Washington never really makes a bad movie and Pine is slowly but surely becoming one of the go-to young actors working today. The biggest problem I had with the movie was the constant coverage of Denzel's two daughters who worked as Hooters waitresses. Let's just say that their reaction of the perils that their dad was involved with on TV were rather unbelievable. Thankfully there is not much wrong with this movie and it really is one of the most exciting movies of 2010. A healthy 4 out of 5 JRs for Unstoppable.