Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Miracle

Big Miracle – 107min – PG

This movie is based on real life events that happened in Alaska in the 80s. There were three whales that were blocked by the ice and could not get out to migrate to warmer waters. It’s the world that came together and worked out a way to get them out. This movie is a Green light film for its nostalgic qualities but I am a sentimental sap

I remember this news story when it happened. I followed the story and it was a good retelling. It was interesting to see from a closer perspective than just what we saw on the news. Adam Carlson (John Krasinski), a local news reporter doing a few pieces on a small Alaskan town, finds some blue whales trapped in the ice and unable to get to the open sea. He does a story on them and it gets picked up nationally.

The focus on this story is so big that it draws the attention of Greenpeace and reunites Adam with his ex-girlfriend and Greenpeace volunteer Rachel (Drew Barrymore). Looking to generate some good press the local oil drilling company CEO J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson) lends his ice breaking equipment to the cause. The news story get so much focus that governments also work together to help the whales.

A subtext to the story is how this event affects the locals, the Inupiat people. The movie examines one native boy, Nathan (Ahmaogak Sweeney), wrestling with the impact of his family’s traditions and the exposure to the world outside of his community. Nathan’s grandfather, Malik (John Pingayak), struggles to engage Nathan in his family’s heritage.

What I like about this story is that Adam respects Malik’s beliefs and does not intrude on the lessons he is trying to teach Nathan. He is very supportive of the people and their culture. Ahmaogak Sweeney and John Pingayak are first time actors; they do a remarkable job of bringing the grandfather/ grandson relationship to life. I would be interested in learning more about these two characters because of their authenticity.

This story does a great job of keeping the focus on the whales and only mentions in passing the differences of politics and cultural beliefs that are normally in conflict. Ken Kwapis directs the film with a good balance of historical facts and fictional elements. This is a great journey for the family without feeling preached to.

Movies based on historical events are harder to do right in my opinion. Who walked into the movie called Titanic and expected a happy ending? Because people already know how a story ends makes it important to really make the characters identifiable so people care about the inevitable.

Spoilers here!!!! History doesn’t have a corner on the Spoiler market.

Kristen Bell plays a reporter that is truly dedicated to her profession. I loved the part where she had frozen feed because she did not want to buy any cardboard to stand on. She made a convincing reporter willing to do anything and be completely emotionally detached when they got the news Bam-Bam died.

The oil company and Greenpeace working together is not who you would pick as partners. Kathy Baker was wonderful as the wife of the Oil Company CEO. She manipulated the situation to work toward the whale’s advantage supremely. I loved how she knew just the right thing to say to get the desired outcome.

I was unimpressed with the unneeded cameo by Sarah Palin. They had some old footage of her when she was working the news in Alaska so they fit it into the film. It really added nothing to the film other than a “huh” moment at the end. They could have dropped it and been fine.

What animal focused movie made you cry in the theater? It could be real or animated.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge - 102min –PG13

This is an interesting twist on the heist film. I was entertained by the spirit of the film more than the film itself. Let me explain. This film mixes well used elements from previous films and tries to add a fresh new spin by adding the height of a skyscraper. The down side is that there are no new ideas here and no red herrings. This movie telegraphs everything that is going on, no secrets. I appreciate the film for the lack of thought so I just strapped in and enjoyed it. This is defiantly a yellow light film. One that does not make you work for anything and looks good on screen.

Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is wrongfully accused of stealing a diamond from billionaire developer David Englander (Ed Harris). Nick went to prison and has spent the last three years planning a heist to steal the diamond to prove he is innocent of stealing the diamond. I know, I know, just run with it.

Nick’s father passes away and at the funeral he makes a break for it and puts his plan into action. While he is on the ledge his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), and his girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), work on breaking into Englander’s vault. Nick requests Officer Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) be the one to talk him off the ledge. Officer Mercer is the only one he will talk to because she has been through similar circumstances at work.

The movie is directed by Asger Leth and is only his third project and his second time in the director’s chair. I say it’s not a bad second attempt at movie making. He has an eye for building tension and pacing. There is really no mystery in his story but most of that may be from the script. This is a very clean straight forward film and has no desire to be anything different. At least, I hope not. If so it was an utter failure.

This would make a great Lifetime movie of the week but as a movie it does not carry enough good story elements to make it to the big screen. The writer (Pablo F. Fenjves) has the fragment of an interesting concept here. Unfortunately it does not have the feel of a well polished story. This story could stand to go through a critique group or two. Its good, but it could be much better.

Warning Spoilers!! People who are not afraid of heights click here.

I love Kyra Sedgwick, I am a big fan of her work. I have to admit that her character must have married into the name Morales, because it was painful to hear her say it when she was introducing herself on the news. She through on way to much Latino spin to the name and it made it comical.

I knew the valet(William Sadler) was Nick’s dad from the second interaction. The entire heist was like a giant amateur hour. No one involved was a criminal so it was normal people doing this and I think that’s what I liked about it.

This entire movie is biting its thumb to the 1%. You have the little guy beating the uber rich and powerful guy. I think the film makers thought they could capitalize on the whole occupy movement and have people occupy this film. Well maybe not so much.

What is your favorite Sam Worthington role? I read a very unflattering review of his performance overall, and I disagree with their comment that he has no presence on camera. I would argue that he has not found his perfect role yet.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

War Horse

War Horse - 146min – PG-13

The trailer for this film lets you know you’re in for an epic emotional journey. Surprisingly, it does not give away anything about the film. I went in thinking that I had seen all of the good parts. I was so wrong. This movie has so much more than just the surface story. There are elements of family, war, pain and hope. It’s an intertwining of two stories during WWI: the horse’s journey and that of the boy. It’s an interesting study of the relationships the horse creates during the journey of the film. This movie is a green light film for its uplifting story about an indomitable spirit. Out of all of the horse movies I have seen this one is now my favorite.

The story starts out at the birth of this remarkable horse. Joey, the horse, has bonded with Albert (Jeremy Irvine) they work together on the farm. The family lands on hard times and Albert’s father, Ted (Peter Mullan), sells the horse to an Army officer (Tom Hiddleston) to make ends meet. We separate the horse and owner and watch the journey of Joey through the war.

I took the journey and was completely swept up in the story. I like the elements that you have to follow how family and connections are a constant theme. How a war is stopped if only for a moment to bring together two people who communicate and find very little difference between them.

Ted has been to war and his experience in that war has formed his life now. Rose (Emily Watson) Albert’s mother explains the reasons his father does the things that he does. As war has come to England and Albert is of military age this is foreshadowing of what is to come. It’s a transition into manhood. The son goes to war and comes back a man.

Steven Spielberg does a wonderful job of storytelling. He takes a horse and makes it a leading character. Without vocalization he gives the horse a definable personality. There are Rocky-esque story elements in this film, you have the little guy, sorry horse, fighting insurmountable odds but through a strong spirit gets the job done.

Spielberg’s attention to the details of the setting and the story never fails to enthrall me. Not all of his work has this effect on me but he does a great job here.

Spoilers are here, if you don’t want to read them gallop past this point.

David Thewlis does an excellent job as the landowner, Lyons. His snobbery and grudge against Ted is played well, so well that I wanted to smack him. It was glorious to see Rose tell him off about how to raise her son.

Watching the horse run through no man’s land was hard to watch, seeing Joey get caught in all of that barbed wire. Still hurts me to think about. But it was necessary to set up the moment of calm in the war. The truce to save the trapped horse was a great scene. A connection was made between the British solder (Toby Kebbell) and the German solder (Hinnerk Schönemann) it was great to see the bond forming, but both knowing that after this moment it’s back to business as usual. An act of kindness brings two opposing sides together.

The section with Emilie (Celine Buckens) was great and a good break in the tension. She and her grandfather (Niels Arestrup) made the horrors of war seem miles away, but it was heart breaking to see the realities of what surrounded them come back and take everything away.

What is your favorite horse movie or if you have none what is your favorite horse from a movie?