Archive | September, 2011

Decent Odds

29 Sep

Cancer isn’t funny.

Anyone who’s been touched by the disease knows this.

And yet, sometimes the only thing you can do to cope is laugh. That’s the crux of the new movie 50/50, the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who at 27 learns he has cancer.

The film was written by Will Reiser, and is loosely based on his own experience — both with the disease and with his best friend Seth, who had a hard time dealing with it too. Continue reading

Play Ball

22 Sep

For baseball fans, especially Red Sox ones like me, the new movie Moneyball couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

That’s because Moneyball reinstills a love of the game, one that can’t be tarnished even by a losing team.

It’s a top-notch Hollywood entertainment, featuring an old fashioned star turn at its center, and it instantly became my favorite movie of the year (so far) as soon as the lights went up.

Batter up, indeed. Continue reading

Lots to Watch

19 Sep

Many people look forward to the fall.

They enjoy the cooler weather, the chance to start anew, and the return to normalcy after a vacation-filled summer.

But not me.

Each year around this time, the fall TV preview issues of Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide arrive in my mailbox and I’m reminded that for at least a couple weeks, I’m not going to have much of a life as I struggle to watch all kinds of new shows.

And if I do try to have a life, then my DVR is going to get a workout and I’ll be up late as I time-shift my TV watching.

I know, woe is me.

So allow me to continue an annual tradition of sharing which shows I’m going to try and watch this season.

Thankfully, a couple shows have already debuted, so I’ve already previewed them. One made the cut (Ringer) and one was knocked off my list (Up All Night). But plenty of others remain.

Here’s the list: Continue reading

He’s Got a Fast Car

18 Sep

What is Drive?

From the font treatment used on the poster and in the opening credits, as well as the songs on the soundtrack, you might think it was either an ’80s movie or a throwback.

With a star like Ryan Gosling, and a cast that also includes Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston, you might think it would be an award-worthy, must-see movie.

And with a plot that centers around a movie stunt driver who is a getaway car driver in his spare time, you might think Drive would be an exciting action film.

Wrong on nearly all counts. Continue reading

All Paid Up

12 Sep

If you were to make a mashup of Munich and Inglorious Basterds, you would have The Debt. Like Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film, this movie explores the toll revenge takes when Israeli agents seek to even the score with enemies of their people, and features a cast that includes Ciarán Hinds. And like Quentin Tarantino’s also-Oscar-nominated film, it features Jews kicking ass (specifically, a strong female Jew kicking ass), and a revenge plot involving Nazis. With direction by Oscar-nominated John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and a cast that also includes Oscar winner Helen Mirren, The Debt takes a rightful place with those other films.

The Debt flashes back and forth between two time periods: 1966 and 1997. In that later year, we meet retired Mossad agents Rachel (Mirren), Stefan (Tom Wilkinson), and David (Hinds), who are brought together because of a new book about their mission in 1966, when the trio (played, respectively, by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down and kidnapped Dieter Vogel, the former Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christensen), in East Berlin, and killed him. Or did they? In 1997, developments call their successful mission into question, and send one of the three back into secret duty.

A tense thriller, The Debt is carried by strong performances across the board. But it’s the ethical and moral issues that left the greater impact on me. The trio’s mission is simply to kidnap Vogel and bring him home to stand trial. That is how it is decided they will right the wrong. But when things go awry, the trio has other options, ones they don’t want. As at least one character says, they are not murderers, they are people of peace. No matter how many deaths Vogel caused during World War II, how great must the crime be to merit an equal response? As noted, this is a similar issue covered in Munich, and here it is no less an intense conflict, especially as Vogel, now held prisoner and a witness to the interactions and frustrations between the trio, begins to exploit the situation, playing anti-Semitic mind games with any of the three who listens.

Chastain, whose Rachel is not just caught between right and wrong, but is also the focal point of a love triangle, shows how challenging the dilemma is. Her simultaneously tough and fearful performance is a mile away from the ones she gave in The Help and Tree of Life. And in Rachel’s later years, Mirren communicates less through words than by facial expressions how that answer never gets easier.

Right and wrong is not as simple as black and white. And in The Debt, our “heroes” earn your support and your sympathy. That doesn’t make what they do any easier to watch. I’m giving the movie a B+.

Ten

11 Sep

Until I was 22, I was a New Yorker.

The plan was that after I graduated from college, I would move back to New York, and get a job and an apartment in the city.

But things don’t always go as planned.

In February 1997, I made the decision to leave New York and move to Boston. And it’s at least partly due to that decision that I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

As we observe the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I can look back on that day and know I was nowhere near the World Trade Center. Instead, I was in Boston, on my second day at a brand-new job, being told about the benefits package, when the first tower was hit. Continue reading

This Movie Is Sick

8 Sep

If you’re anything like me, you’re gonna need to take a long Purell shower after seeing Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s thriller about a mysterious airborne illness that wipes out a significant portion of the world’s population.

And that’s just for starters.

You won’t be able to touch a glass or piece of silverware in a restaurant, put your hand on a subway pole, or pass along a folder in your office.

You won’t want to eat bacon, or give another person a hug, either.

Heck, you may as well just stay home and contain yourself so you don’t incur any risk of catching a similar virus. Continue reading