26 November 2010

127 Hours

James Franco is shown in a scene from "127 Hours."
Could you do it?

That is the unspoken question of "127 Hours," a riveting, life-affirming story of determination and survival from director Danny Boyle, whose last film, "Slumdog Millionaire," swept the Academy Awards two years ago.

Would you do it?

Have you truly lived your life? Appreciated the people around you, your family and friends, and the time you spent with them?

Life, even to the most indomitable of spirits, can be such a fleeting thing. It's also our most precious gift, sharing it with others.

19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Daniel Radcliffe is shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."
So here we are, nine years after the first film, 13 years after the publication of J.K. Rowling's first novel. The boy wizard Harry Potter and the actor who portrays him, Daniel Radcliffe is a boy no longer. Neither are his companions, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), the children we first met. The wise and kindly Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), teacher, adviser, friend and protector, is no more. Hogwarts, the school that had been the primary setting to this point, is virtually absent, replaced by the streets of London, the forests of the English countryside.

As film No. 7 in the saga, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," opens and as it progresses, the bad guys, led by Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), have won and continue winning, claiming both Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic. They aim to subjugate not just the wizarding world but the world of Muggles, as well.

12 November 2010


Chris Pine, left, and Denzel Washington are shown in a scene from "Unstoppable."
"Unstoppable" is a lot like the runaway freight train at the center of the movie's action.

Starting slowly, it's kind of boring as it chugs along the tracks. We expect something dramatic to happen, but we're not sure what that is. We don't know what the stakes are. It's just a half-mile of screeching, groaning metal meandering through rural Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, locomotive engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) has taken conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine), fresh out of four months of training, under his wing for his first day on the job. Frank, who has been railroading for 28 years, and his other old-timer friends, many of whom have been laid off, resent youngsters like Will coming in and taking their jobs. So the pair spends the morning bickering and bonding, while dispatcher Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) searches for a way to stop the runaway train.

05 November 2010

Due Date

Zach Galifianakis, left, and Robert Downey Jr. are shown in a scene from "Due Date."
At one point in "The Hangover" (2009), Bradley Cooper's character, Phil, says to Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis, "You are literally too stupid to insult."

But here's the thing: Alan isn't stupid. That's what "The Hangover" got right. Alan, we later learn, is kind of a genius. He's naive and childlike and very, very weird. He's driven by an endearing sincerity, and—here's the key—the movie never mocks him, never flat-out laughs at him and doesn't encourage the audience to do so either.

That brings me to "Due Date," which also features Galifianakis as a weird, immature man-boy and reteams the actor with his "Hangover" director, Todd Phillips. This time, Galifianakis' character, an aspiring thespian named Ethan Tremblay, is a buffoon. In "The Hangover," the gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) laughs at Alan, saying, "It's funny because he's fat." Over and over again, "Due Date" all but says, "It's funny because he's stupid." Ethan feels like a refugee from "Dinner for Schmucks," the horrid summer comedy in which Galifianakis also appeared.