Friday, March 18, 2011

Get Unstoppable!

The theme for this post seems to be "based on a true story." Both of the movies are in one way or another based on a true person or event. In each case the movies are a good blend of truth and Hollywood embellishment, albeit completely different genres.

Unstoppable - (3 1/2 Stars)*
Some action movies are so predictable and formulaic, that they end up being quite enjoyable. This is "Unstoppable." Denzel Washington is the veteran railman worried about his job's future, Chris Pine is the rookie fresh out of training paired with him. But, the movie doesn't start with them. First the story has to be set up, the problem established. This comes in the form of a lazy, overconfident conductor. In fact, the movie really could have been over after 5 minutes if this guy had done his job. Alas, there's no fun in that and the train gets a rollin'.

UnstoppableFrom the beginning of the movie onward, I more or less predicted everything that was happening. But it was because of this predictability that it was so fun. Denzel reteams with Tony Scott, who's last movie also involved Denzel on rails in the Subway thriller "Taking of Pelham 123." This time around, the suspense and action are a lot more enjoyable. The story is based on an actual event that happened in (wait for it Ohio friends...) Walbridge, Ohio. Of course the movie transports the story to Pennsylvania and drums up the suspense and action.

As I've already hammered home, everything about this movie is predictable from Denzel's acting/character to Tony Scott's directing (the classic "flash flash slow-mo dramatic" shot) to basic tenets of any action movie you'll ever see. But, that's exactly why it works. It's a fun, sometimes tense, and always action-packed movie that won't disappoint. Unless, of course, you're expecting to be surprised.
(98 minutes - Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language - 2010) (Netflix)

Get Low - (3 1/2 Stars)
Robert Duvall is Felix Bush, a hermit of local repute who decides to throw a funeral party for himself that he'd like to attend while alive. He turns to the local (and struggling) funeral home run by the slightly dubious Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his young partner Buddy (Lucas Black). Bush, however, has quite the reputation around town, the specifics of which change depending on who is telling the story. These stories are exactly what Felix is hoping people will share at his funeral party, but it's his own story he knows he must tell at some point.

Get LowRobert Duvall and Bill Murray shine in their respective roles. Both roles are familiar for each actor with Duvall often being cast as the cranky old codger and Murray as a sardonic swindler, but that doesn't diminish their performances in any way. The story is light and whimsical at parts, like a folk tale, but with a darker edge to the story just below the surface that comes to a head by the end. "Get Low" is a great story that is equal parts humorous and touching that delves into the idea of atonement and forgiveness.

Felix Bush did actually exist (as Felix Breazeale) and did hold a funeral party in 1938, but the real reasons for doing so were unknown. As is usual with Hollywood adaptations, character connections and motivations are also tweaked for the sake of the story, but the heart of everything remains true.
(103 minutes - Rated PG-13 for some thematic material and brief violent content - 2009/2010) (Netflix)

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