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Mitch Cyrus


I’m still not exactly sure what to think about “Unstoppable”, the latest collaboration between director Tony Scott, Denzel Washington, and a train.

In one regard, it is one of the most solid pieces of entertainment you are likely to see this year.  A short (90 minute) film that will have you gripping your chair due to its heart pounding action and tension.  If you want something to get your adrenaline flowing; this is the film to watch.

On the other hand, if you want a movie that has any depth?  You’ll have to go see something else…but that won’t stop you from enjoying this film.  For me, the lack of depth didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film while I was watching it.  Later on, it occurred to me that I had just had the visual equivalence of cotton candy, but I didn’t really mind.

Credit goes to Scott, Washington, and Chris Pine in his first major role since his breakthrough as Captain Kirk in JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise.  Scott for keeping things minimal.  Show the actors…let them get in a little background information on themselves…cue the runaway train.  But if the actors can’t sell themselves as sympathetic, then you are just there to watch the carnage…and you can do that for free every week watching NASCAR.  This is where Washington and Pine shine through.  There is very little time for getting too in depth with their characters, so they have to sell themselves quickly and believably.

Washington once again plays the older man facing his own mortality as Frank, a 28 year veteran train engineer staring down an upcoming forced retirement and life alone after the passing of his wife and his 18 and 19 year old daughters moving out of the house.  This time, Denzel doesn’t pack on the pounds for sympathy/character like he did with the uneven Scott directed “Taking of Pelham 123”; he just plays it straight, and it is a very effective, minimal performance that can stand up to any of his other roles.


Mitch Cyrus


So what’s been happening over the last few months?  That’s how long it’s been since I’ve talked about any News and Rumors.  Of course, one reason that I didn’t bring these tidbits up in the columns for September and October were because not much was happening.  That’s changed a lot over the past four weeks.

Hobbit Time!! – Those furry footed little critters were everywhere in the entertainment news over the past few weeks.  First was the story that Peter Jackson would indeed be directing the two films (for any of you who don’t already know, the first Hobbit film will cover the entirety of the book “The Hobbit”.  The second movie will cover the 60 some years from the end of the first book until the start of “The Lord of the Rings”, using Tolkien’s material).  Then there was bad news as a labor disagreement looked like it might put a kibosh on filming the movies in New Zealand. 

Next came casting news; the biggest of which was the long-rumored-about signing of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.  Excellent choice, as far as I’m concerned.  Freeman was perfect for the role, and does resemble Ian Holm (Bilbo in the LOTR trilogy) enough to make it work.  They also announced the casting of several of the dwarves.  I didn’t recognize any the names, but that doesn’t concern me, as they’ll be under as heavy of makeup as John Rhys-Davies was.


Mitch Cyrusred-movie-poster

Action comedies are a very unusual genre indeed.  Most often, they are primarily action films with a few laughs scattered about just to prove that they don’t take themselves that seriously.  “The A-Team” is a prime example of that type of film.  Other times, action films take on a lot of comedic overtones; often in the form of satire or black comedy; “Tropic Thunder” did it very well (despite the negative of Ben Stiller’s awful acting), while other films such as “The Mexican” and “Nurse Betty” failed miserably.

“Red” approaches action-comedy in a completely different way, one that got me thinking waaayyy back to a similar type of movie, 1980’s “Hopscotch” with Walter Matthau.  I was reminded of this film due to the fact that both have “bad guys” trying to kill our good guy former-spy heroes, but all the while you know damn good and well that the bad guys don’t have a chance, so you just sit back and watch the good guys play road runner to the baddies’ Wile E. Coyote.

Another similarity to “Hopscotch” is that you have protagonists that are older; although I’m still not sure how comfortable I really was in the way the script was continually calling out Bruce Willis’ character for being “so old”, when he is only in his mid-50s.  But perhaps that’s just a bit of paranoia on my part.  In truth, the movie is a testament to “experience over youth” on almost every level, a fact that the film hammers home in the use of some extremely talented “older” actors, most of whom usually do much more serious fare.


Mitch CyrusTheSocialNetwork

I have talked before regarding the dreaded “preconceived expectations” of a movie, which is the bane of a movie critic.  Most often, it comes in the form of me expecting too much from a film.  Other times, I expect too little based upon the comments from advanced screenings, or my own personal prejudices when it comes to films.

I went to “The Social Network” with an entirely different set of prejudices in mind.  It was just too highly praised by all the “snooty” critics.  Too many “four stars” trumpeted from the likes of the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, etc., which for some reason just turned my stomach a little bit, probably out of envy…a slight bit of jealousy for the “elite” snobs at those places, people who couldn’t possibly understand the tastes of those of us brought up in the Midwest, loving our beer, our football, and our action adventure movies.


Mitch CyrusCrystalball

For a September, it was a very good month at the movies.  But now is when things really start picking up through the end of the year, with Oscar contenders cropping up here and there for the next four months.

No Micro Reviews this month.  There was a Perfect Storm that limited my viewing of new DVD releases.  1) I caught a lot of the new releases at the theater, and have already reviewed them.  2) College and Pro Football has started in earnest, limiting my time.  3) The movies that I hadn’t caught at the theater were ones that really sucked.  I didn’t want to see them then; I don’t want to see them now.

The only exception was “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time”.  Meh.

It wasn’t bad, and if you compare it to other movies based on video games, it’s pretty good.  But that’s like saying you have more teeth than a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan.


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