WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 58
1) From Paris With Love:
For a variety of reasons, I was skeptical when the drummer in one of the bands I play for recommended this film. With his tastes, I took it with a grain of salt. More importantly, I'd seen the trailer, and it looked like some dumb tongue-in-cheek spy spoof. I wasn't fooled by John Travolta's new “bad-ass” look, sporting a shaved head with a goatee. I'd never seen Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in anything before, but he was clearly playing “random affordable young guy #7 as a foil to the established veteran actor playing against type”. Still, every time I played a gig, this drummer asked if I'd seen it yet, so I finally put it on my queue. Going in with low expectations, I was surprised to see Luc Besson's name attached in the opening credits. Could this actually be...a good story? While he's done better, I was pleasantly surprised that it was more of a drama with comic relief than a solid comedy, and there were some truly shocking moments and occasional graphic violence. Travolta really plays a supporting role here, and over the course of the film you see he's less of a loose cannon and more of an experience CIA agent. Rhys-Meyers is a little rough at first, but makes for a good lead. He's working undercover, given minor assignments like planting bugs, but yearns to get more into the game. Complicating matters is his beautiful French girlfriend, and how their relationship is affected by all the cloak and dagger stuff once Travolta ropes him in is the meat of the film. It starts out as a simple drug bust, and somehow ends up being about taking down a terrorist cell before they take out the president. Don't make the same mistake I did and judge the trailer at face value; I watched it again after the movie ended, and was amazed at how a little editing can change the tone of any subject matter. It's probably not something that will stand the test of time, and certainly won't win any awards, but did show Travolta has some versatility and the new kid has some potential. All in all, I'd have to settle on giving this a resounding better-than-expected.
2) The Blind Side:
There's a little football anecdote at the start of the film, wonderfully narrated by Sandra Bullock(“One Mississippi”...hey, I just got that...), which purportedly explains the title of the film. I have a different theory, in that the name comes from the fact that you tear up so many times, it's hard to see the film. Maybe that's just me. Even though most of these little “D-awwwgotalumpinmythroat” moments were in the trailer, they still got to me. Michael Oher, or “Big Mike”, was removed from the care of his crackhead mother and bounced around from foster home to foster home, more often than not crashing on a friend's couch. When his friend's dad tries to get his son in to a better school on athletic merit, he also makes a case for Big Mike. So it came to be that the gentle giant, who preferred “Michael” to “Big Mike”, attended a mostly white Christian school with kids from affluent families. Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, and while the kid playing her son exemplifies everything that's annoying with precocious child actors, his outgoing personality allows him to reach out to Michael. Eventually, the Tuohy's would take Michael in, initially for one night, but eventually on a more permanent basis. It wasn't long before he was a part of their family, and officially adopted. Michael had a rough road ahead, struggling in school, but with the help and encouragement of his new family, he eventually got his grades up. And the one area he tested highest prior to coming to a new school was “protective instincts”, which translated well not only to family, but also on a football field. It's an inspiring and heartfelt story, and a lot more than just “kid from the projects makes good because he's athletic”. Quinton Aron does a great job portraying Oher, a role that often requires him to a convey a lot with silence and facial expressions. By the end of the film, when it becomes more about his football career and less about him bonding with the Tuohy's, I almost lost interest, but the drama soon returned, especially when his choice of school attracted the attention of a suspicious NCAA. And Bullock is outstanding as a woman who has it together, stays strong in the face of danger, and is extremely protective as both a mother and an adoptive mother. The cast did a great job bringing real people to life on the big screen, making you care about and like all of them, and overall it was a very enjoyable experience. I'm not a big sports fan, but this is so much more than a sports movie. Any one of us, with the right opportunities and right support, can use our strengths and bolster our weaknesses to excel at anything. Very inspiring.
More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!
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