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Capsule reviews: 'Unstoppable,' 'Morning Glory'

The Associated Press, Thursday, November 11, 2010, 6:07am (PST)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" — You want tears? You want convulsive sobs, weepy remorse, pleadings for forgiveness? Well, look elsewhere, because Eliot Spitzer isn't going to give them to you. What he will do in this documentary is provide measured, succinct contrition. The former governor of New York knows he made a mistake in hiring high-priced call girls: "I did what I did. And shame on me." He takes this mistake very seriously — describes it as if it were Greek tragedy, compares himself to Icarus. He explains matter-of-factly that such dalliances fulfilled his needs in a less risky and emotionally taxing way than embarking on a full-blown affair. So no, this is not the cinematic equivalent of Spitzer sitting on Oprah's couch and psychoanalyzing himself. He's too self-possessed to allow the film to devolve into some sort of cheesy, crowd-pleasing catharsis; the most revealing statement Spitzer makes about himself comes when he recalls his father foreclosing on him while playing Monopoly when he was 10. That right there says so much about the forces that shaped the man who would become New York's crusading attorney general, prosecuting some of America's largest financial institutions and wealthiest corporate executives — and making the sort of enemies who would contribute to, and revel in, his disgrace. Similarly, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney ("Taxi to the Dark Side") seems uninterested in rehashing the juicy details of Spitzer's trysts; his is an old-school tale of big-city payback. R for some sexual material, nudity and language. 117 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Morning Glory" — This romantic comedy about a sunny, network morning show feels like ... well, a sunny, network morning show. It's glossy, moves quickly enough and has a few enjoyable personalities. Maybe the intermittent laugh. But afterward you realize it tried to cram a whole lot of vapid stuff into one compact time frame, and despite all the hard work that must have taken place behind the scenes, you haven't really learned anything and you're no better for having watched. The hardest-working of all has got to be Rachel McAdams as plucky, driven Becky Fuller, a young producer who has dreamed of working at the "Today" show since she was 8 years old. Instead, Becky is asked to help keep the fourth-place "Daybreak" alive. The network's head of news (Jeff Goldblum) isn't thrilled about hiring her, but no one else has stuck around for more than a year or so, so he decides to give her a shot. Director Roger Michell's film, from a script by "The Devil Wears Prada" writer Aline Brosh McKenna, finds Becky navigating her prickly co-hosts (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton) while trying to maintain a relationship with a fellow producer (Patrick Wilson). Trouble is, their connection never feels plausible and the two barely have any chemistry. The obligatory obstacle to their ultimate happiness comes out of nowhere, and when they do get back together (no big shocker there), it's hard to care. PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references. 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Tiny Furniture" — The best narrative feature winner at the SXSW Film Festival is the feature film debut of writer-director Lena Dunham, who plays a 22-year-old version of herself, Aura. She has also cast her mom, fine art photographer Laurie Simmons, as her mother, and her younger sister, Grace Dunham, as her sister. They're believable as a family not just because they actually are a family, but because Dunham's instincts are for naturalism. Having just graduated from college in Ohio, Aura has returned to her mother's Tribeca loft, a sleek, all-white apartment with seemingly endless white cabinets. They're a classic family of New York intellectuals, as observed by a flailing, uncertain and very funny daughter. She's in, as she says, "a post-collegiate delirium." Her family isn't sympathetic, and her romantic interests — a YouTube filmmaker (Alex Karpovsky) and a sous-chef (David Call) — aren't much interested. But we know things will eventually work out for Aura and/or Dunham: She's going to become a filmmaker with a bright future. Unrated. 98 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Unstoppable" — Finally, we've found the ideal use for Tony Scott's hyperkinetic, headache-inducing filmmaking style: a movie about a runaway train, barreling through small Pennsylvania towns filled with hardworking, unsuspecting people, at 80 mph. And threatening schoolchildren. Oh, and the train is a half-mile long and it's carrying hazardous material. Sounds insanely implausible, but that's part of the fun: How many layers of danger can they pile on here? Scott starts slowly and steadily cranks up the tension, and given the escalating action, his trademark tricks make sense. The grainy camerawork and various exposures, the snap zooms and quick edits all enhance the incessant sense of motion. The train rumbles and growls, rattles and clangs, and we're in the middle of it all — on the tracks, between the wheels, underneath and on top of the cars. It's overwhelming — but in a good way. While the premise may sound crazy — or like something out of a star-studded '70s disaster movie — it really happened. Mark Bomback's script is based on a 2001 incident in Ohio in which a train carrying hazardous cargo traveled 66 miles without a crew. But because this is a movie, the speeds are even faster, the danger is even greater, and there's only one man who can stop it and save all those innocent lives: Denzel Washington. With some help from Chris Pine. PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language. 98 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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