Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: November 12, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is like a runaway train filled with toxic chemicals. He could derail and explode at any moment. And it’s a good thing Tony Scott isn’t making a movie of his life because there aren’t enough whip pans and helicopter shots to capture his awesomeness. While he raps Scott’s knuckles with a railroad tie, he also gets giddy over the beautiful Rachel McAdams and gives some props to the Brothers Strause for the effects in Skyline. And then he explodes, and all the toxic chemicals threaten to wipe out a small town in Pennsylvania.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Neil Miller and he meet up in the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.


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Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee and Kevin Dunn

Directed by: Tony Scott

What it’s about: An unmanned train filled with toxic chemicals is rocketing across Pennsylvania, threatening to derail in a populated area. It’s up to Malcolm X and Captain Kirk to save the day!

What I liked: There’s a lot of things that Tony Scott does right with Unstoppable, and it begins with the casting. Denzel Washington is almost always a winner in his films, and he plays the grumpy old man turned action hero well. Likewise, he’s balanced out with up-and-comer Chris Pine, which results in almost too much man-sexy testosterone on the tracks.

Ultimately, Unstoppable is a button-pusher and a crowd pleaser. It’s got some neat action moments, even if it does bog down with only so many ways to shoot an oncoming train. It’s exciting, and it moves pretty fast. At just over 90 minutes, the film does not overstay its welcome. And it beats the pants off of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 at almost every step.

What I didn’t: No one can deny that Tony Scott has style. In fact, he has so much style that it is often his own worst enemy. With Unstoppable playing out more like a feature-length music video, it almost looks like Scott’s trying to hide flaws. There’s really only so many ways to shoot Washington and Pine at the controls of a train, and he repeats his shots over and over and over again, making it as visually tepid as a locked-down shot.

There’s really only about 40 minutes of story here, and it’s padded out with backstory on both our heroes, neither of whom has a very interesting life. From the writing angle, the film is seriously bloated, cramming in cliche after cliche, not the least of which is Kevin Dunn as the evil corporate fat cat who is thinking more of the bottom line than the safety of the citizens. As an antagonist, he’s unnecessary because isn’t “a missile the size of the Chrysler Building” enough of a villain here?

Finally, the end of the film just gets stupid. There’s no other way to say it. Don’t think too much about it, or you’ll find the whole movie a futile exercise. But damn if it doesn’t make a crowd cheer.

Who is gonna like this movie: Denzel fans and people who aren’t bothered by Tony Scott’s unstoppable cinematography.

Grade: B-

Studio: Rogue Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content

Starring: Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, David Zayas, Scottie Thompson and Brittany Daniel

Directed by: The Brothers Strause

What it’s about: Too much partying at a swanky hotel in Los Angeles leads to a rude awakening when aliens invade.

What I liked: I have to say that I respect what the Brothers Strause did with Skyline more than I can say I really liked the movie. Sure, it looks awesome when the aliens are on screen, and with a reported budget between $10 and $20 million, it’s pretty amazing what we ended up with.

So yeah. Aliens look cool. Action is well done. High concept storytelling is pretty different from the standard Hollywood fare. In short, this is a really slick version of a Syfy Original Movie. Think of something like Sharktopus with plenty of awesome special effects instead of a poorly animated digital shark. The strengths of this film lie solely on what was achieved on a limited budget and how, at least visually, it stacks up against many sci-fi action films out there.

What I didn’t: Characters, plot and story. They really don’t exist. The people in the film hold no sympathy from the audience, and that’s saying a lot considering one of them is pregnant and most of them are fine to look at. Remember how I said this was like a bigger-budgeted Sharktopus? Well, the script is about the same as anything Roger Corman put together in his lifetime.

The film is populated with second-rate television actors, none of whom has the “it factor” that is needed to sell a movie like this. Donald Faison is no Will Smith, and Eric Balfour is no Tom Cruise. The casting, characters and plot reek of mediocre independent film, and it’s clear why no one has really risen out of the stigma of a TV actor.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who want to see a Syfy Original Movie with some awesome special effects and action.

Grade: B-

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum

Directed by: Roger Michell

What it’s about: Rachel McAdams plays the new executive producer of a morning program that’s dead last in the ratings. After forcing a veteran newsman (Harrison Ford) to be the co-anchor, she must deal with the many shenanigans of the show and struggle to keep it from being canceled.

What I liked: I found Morning Glory to be surprisingly cute and sweet. The real selling point in this film is McAdams in the lead. It’s her movie, and she carries it so well, it’s almost irresistible. Channeling the charisma of a young Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock, McAdams manages the light romance/comedy extremely well and brightens every scene she’s in.

On the whole, this film is a very safe date movie with such a breezy plot that it’s not threatening anyone. Like a good morning show, it doesn’t try to tackle any big issues but rather entertains in safe mode. And there’s some good chemistry between Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford as they banter back and forth on the air, Anchorman-style.

What I didn’t: I know that Harrison Ford has gotten more attention than McAdams did in the promotion of this film because it plays so far out of his Han Solo and Indiana Jones wheelhouse. Unfortunately, this is just a re-tread of the character he played in the truly, truly horrible Extraordinary Measures. He’s taking gravely voice lessons from Clint Eastwood, and this pissed-off old man shtick is starting to get old.

When anyone but McAdams is the focus in this film, it takes away from the movie’s charm, because it is ultimately her story. For the most part, the filmmakers know this, but Ford does get too much of a spotlight, especially near the end.

Who is gonna like this movie: The date crowd.

Grade: B-

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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