Mid to late January is often the dumping ground for smallish films that studios don’t exactly know how to market or genre flicks that the powers that be lack faith in.
Many times that leads to disappointing or uneventful trips to the theater, but I’m happy to report two recent releases left me entertained.
Now, I freely admit my expectations going into each of these movies was rather low. Neither will be vying for any trophies next year during awards season, but I left the theater satisfied after both screenings.
“Missing” is a smart but out-there techno-thriller written and directed by the team of Nick Johnson and Will Merrick in their directorial debuts.
The film plays out on the computer screen of June Allen, a precocious and self-absorbed teen played pitch perfectly by Storm Reid. Her performance is the key to making the film work as her character uses her computer skills to search for her missing mom, Grace, played by Nia Long.
Grace disappears on a trip to Columbia with boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung), and June stuck at home in Los Angeles begins her sleuthing effort on-line through various forms of social media.
During her search, June learns so much about her mother that she begins to feel that she really didn’t know her at all.
The film takes a few leaps of logic, and goes down some unbelievable paths, but Reid’s charisma makes you want to go on the ride with her no matter how unrealistic some of the film’s shenanigans end up being.
I had fun with the movie, and Reid is a charming talent whose career bares following in the future.
(PG-13) 1 hr. 51 min.
“Plane” is a big, dumb action movie that is a throwback to the genre’s hey days of the 1980s. And just like those films that made stars out of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris, “Plane” is a lot of fun if you don’t think about it too long.
Gerard Butler has become the king of moderately budgeted action fare over the last decade, and while many of his efforts might leave your eyes rolling if you are looking for semi-serious entertainment, I have to admit I had a great time watching him and co-star Mike Colter play shoot-em-up on the big screen.
Butler plays veteran commercial airline pilot Brodie Torrance, who is working a sparsely populated overnight flight from the East to Hawaii. One of the passengers on the flight, Louis Gasparre (Colter) happens to be a prisoner being extradited on a U.S. murder rap decades ago.
When a lightning strike forces an emergency crash landing on an island near the Philippines that is run guerrilla fighters, Torrance and Louis are forced into using skills developed previously in the military to take actions to save the passengers and remain crew on the plane.
While there is nothing revolutionary about the film, directed by Jean-Francois Richet from a script by Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis, the film’s action and pacing move along so quickly there’s not enough time to dwell the film’s lapses in reality and logic.
The plane-crash sequence is extremely well done, and while the action is over the top, it avoids being too cartoonish for the film’s own good.
The movie offers no real surprises, but Butler and Colter make for a winning action duo, who are fun to watch on the big screen.
(R) 1 hr. 47 min.
Classic Corner – Roman Holiday
With the holiday season just beyond us and the January blues setting in, it’s only appropriate to take a look back at a movie where getting away from it all is central to the plot.
That’s definitely the case with the 1953 romantic-comedy “Roman Holiday.”
The film will screen at 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Malco Razorback and Malco Pinnacle Hills theaters as part of Fathom Events’ classic movie series.
Like so many other films over the years, the movie, which was nominated for seven Oscars and won three, benefitted from producer-director William Wyler’s first choices not being available for the leading roles.
Wyler originally envisioned Cary Grant for the part of reporter Joe Bradley and Elizabeth Taylor and then Jean Simmons for the role of princess Ann, but he settled for Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in her American film debut as his stars.
Now, that’s my kind of settling.
As marvelous as, Grant, Taylor, and Simmons were, I can’t imagine them or anyone else doing a better job than Peck and Hepburn in the roles.
Their chemistry was simply perfect in the film, whose plot has been reworked scores of times for the big and small screen. If not for the pattern set writers Dalton Trumbo and John Dighton, I’m not sure the Hallmark Channel would have thrived the way it has all these years.
Hepburn plays Ann, a princess of an unnamed nation, who is on diplomatic display in Rome. Feeling too tied down by her royal duties, she runs away to experience Rome like a commoner would.
When she falls asleep on a bench, reporter Joe Bradley (Peck) finds her, believes she is drunk, and platonically takes her in for the night not realizing who she is.
When he discovers her identity, he attempts to take advantage of the situation by escorting her around Rome, so that he can later write a tell-all article for his news organization.
However, he did not bargain for being so enchanted by the lovely princess.
The film takes a few other twists and turns that I won’t reveal, but it’s quite fun to watch the two at first resist each other but then fall in love on their “Roman Holiday.”
The film not only made a star out of Hepburn but also helped her win the Best Actress Oscar. Peck, whose contract called for lead billing in the film, was so enamored by her work that he asked Wyler to make her the co-lead.
Peck is no slouch in the film. It’s one of his best comedic performances, and he shows his skill by giving great support to Hepburn in a role that you would think was written specifically for her, if you didn’t know better.
It’s a terrific mid-century fairy tale that set a high standard for many fanciful romantic-comedies that followed.