Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movie Openings: Week of November 12th, 2010

Two major film releases share the highlight for this week's outing. One is a sci-fi alien invasion offering and the other is a more down-to-earth disaster film about a runaway train carrying toxic chemicals. Other releases this week include a romantic comedy, a couple of indie films and a documentary. So, let's get on with it, shall we?
Let's first start with a film that opened on November 10th, titled "Morning Glory" and it stars Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum. "Morning Glory" is a romantic comedy set in the fast-paced world of morning television talk shows. All the right pieces are in place for this rom-com, from director Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") to writer Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada," "27 Dresses") to Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook," "The Time Traveler's Wife"), who has been hailed as a revelation here, anchoring (pardon the pun) the movie to a better than average rating among critics. McAdams plays Becky, a TV producer hired to turn around a national morning talk show that is in deep ratings trouble. To shake things up, Becky brings in legendary TV anchor Mike Pomeroy (Ford)  to share the desk duties with co-host Colleen Peck (Keaton) but they instantly clash both on and off the air. To add to her already full plate, Becky's blossoming romance with fellow producer Adam Bennett (Wilson) starts to unravel as she tries to hold everything together. "Morning Glory" garnered only a 58% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but got positive reviews from Time Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. Rated PG-13.

From Universal Studios comes this week's special effects extravaganza, the aliens-invade-LA sci-fi flick, "Skyline." Curiously, try as I might, I could not find any early reviews for this film, which doesn't bode well for such a high profile release. It could mean that the film really sucks and the studio is not previewing it for critics so as to not cloud moviegoers' first impressions. Here's a synopsis of what the movie is about:

"After a late night party, a group of friends are awoken in the dead of the night by an eerie light beaming through the window. Like moths to a flame, the light source is drawing people outside before they suddenly vanish into the air. They soon discover an otherwordly force is swallowing the entire human population off the face of the earth. Now our band of survivors must fight for their lives as the world unravels around them. "

The cast of "Skyline" is mainly culled from the world of television. Eric Balfour can be seen now on SyFy channel's "Haven," Scottie Thompson stars on "Trauma" and has appeared as guest-stars on more than a few other TV shows, Brittany Daniel was on "Sweet Valley High" and Donald Faison was a regular on "Scrubs." So the fact that there are no REAL movie stars attached to this film should raise a red flag, right? Then again, "District 9" also had no-name actors but a great and engaging story. We shall see. "Skyline" is rated PG-13.

Up next is "Unstoppable" from 20th Century Fox and it stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson. Directed by Tony Scott ("The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3"), this is an old-fashion disaster movie about a speeding runaway train carrying toxic chemicals that is about to derail and decimate an entire town. Washington plays Frank, a veteran engineer assigned to work with young conductor Will (Pine) and they must race against time to catch up with the said train before it derails in a populated area. The simplicity of the plot should not be a deterrent for anyone looking for an exciting thriller to watch this weekend. Tony Scott has crafted a taut thriller that lives up to its title. Critics are generally unanimous in their praise for this movie, a healthy 86% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "Unstoppable" is rated PG-13.

"Tiny Furniture" is an IFC Films indie comedy that is written, directed and stars Lena Dunham, a young up and coming talent. This film was awarded the Best Narrative Feature prize at the SXSW Film Festival. Making it a family affair, Dunham's sister Grace and mother Laurie Simmons also star in the film. Here's a short synopsis:

"22-year-old Aura (Dunham) returns home to her artist mother's TriBeCa loft with the following: a useless film theory degree, 357 hits on her Youtube page, a boyfriend who's left her to find himself at Burning Man, a dying hamster, and her tail between her legs. Luckily, her trainwreck childhood best friend never left home, the restaurant down the block is hiring, and ill-advised romantic possibilities lurk around every corner. Surrounded on all sides by what she could become, Aura just wants someone to tell her who she is."

"Tiny Furniture" has received so-so reviews, with a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is opening in limited release. Unrated.

Another indie comedy opening in limited release is "Helena From the Wedding." This is essentially a typical indie talk-fest involving several married couples who are friends, coming together for a weekend. Expect plenty of tension and awkward moments as cracks in each of their marriages start to unravel for everyone to see. When an unexpected guest, the young and beautiful Helena, shows up, the facades begin to crumble. This kind of movie is catered towards a specific kind of audience and is certainly not for everyone.

Finally, we have our sole documentary release for this week. "Cool It" is a documentary by Ondi Timoner, who follows Bjorn Lomborg, the author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," as they explore the state of the global warming crisis and how to tackle it in more pragmatic and reasonable ways than is currently done. While it acknowledges that global warming is a serious problem, it refutes the more dire sky-is-falling assertions of some quarters. A thought-provoking doc that should open up more debate about the state of our planet. It is currently holding an above average rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Rated PG.

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