It all started with a juvenile fiction novel about a teen boy with hidden magical powers and a grand wizarding destiny that he finds by leaving his non-magical “muggle” family and attending an English boarding school with a magical twist, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That book was published in 1997 with the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and a film version followed in November, 2001. Since then the seven Harry Potter books that document his years of study at Hogwarts and ultimate showdown with arch-enemy Voldemort have become a world-wide phenomenon, and the seven films to date have created a series unlike any other in the history of Hollywood, a cinematic storyline that spans a decade and has created millions of fanatical fans.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has successfully transitioned from a pro wrestler to an actor with some decent films to his credit, including The Rundown, a remake of Walking Tall and Get Smart, along with, inevitably, some real clunkers, including the oddly off-the-mark remake of Race to Witch Mountain and the ghastly Tooth Fairy. Johnson is solid in Faster, and it’s a pleasure to see him back in top form.
Despite advertising to the contrary, The Next Three Days isn’t anywhere near as much about convicted murderer Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) as it is about her obsessed husband John (Russell Crowe), who is convinced of her innocence and is willing to do anything – including break her out of jail – to restore their idyllic life together. It’s a darn good action thriller too, though a bit slow in the first half. Once John’s plan starts to unfold, however, it’s an effective fast-paced film.
Rarely do I see a film that has already garnered as much negative publicity as Skyline. Reviews have had titles like Skyline is galactically awful to Skyline: A recipe for disaster to Skyline not even good enough for cable TV and Skyline: Trapped in a Bad Movie, With No Hope of Escape. The titles are amusing, but, really, is Skyline quite that bad?
After directing films like Deja Vu, Spy Game, Enemy of the State and Crimson Tide, it’s clear that Tony Scott knows the formula for an exciting action film. His pacing prowess is the heart of the new thriller Unstoppable, a film that has so many plot holes that it resembles a block of Swiss cheese. Scott has cast Denzel Washington in quite a few of his films, including The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Deja Vu, Man on Fire and Crimson Tide, so it’s no surprise to find Denzel in the lead role of Unstoppable.
Living in Boulder, Colorado, I know my share of adrenaline junkies, people who are not just extreme athletes, but get involved with dangerous sports for the thrill, the rush. Getting hurt is the badge of honor. It’s easy to wonder what motivates these people and one of the things I most enjoyed about the gripping, lyrical 127 Hoursis that it’s just as much a film about the self-indulgent culture that created an Aron Ralston as it is about him being trapped in a slot canyon and having to make the shocking survival decision to cut off his arm with a pocket knife.