The best way to describe director Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion is to imagine 28 Days Later without the zombies. Much like in the Danny Boyle film, a highly contagious virus is unleashed onto the public and no one on earth is safe from its deadly effects. Except, in this case, the virus does not send the infected into a homicidal rage—it causes them to suffer a slow, excruciating death. An all-star Hollywood cast is thrown into the middle of the fray, including Laurence Fishburne who plays a doctor from the Centre for Disease Control, Kate Winslet as an epidemic intelligence officer working to contain the pandemic, Jude Law as a slimy freelance journalist, and Matt Damon as a father who is desperately clinging to his humanity after tragedy strikes.
Those who despise movies that feature large, star-studded Hollywood casts should not dismiss this film because of its advertising. Soderbergh does his best to suck all the glitz and glamour out of his stars. Gwyneth Paltrow (Damon’s wife) wears next to no makeup in most scenes, Law has some weird crooked teeth added for effect, and Fishburne sports a creepy moustache that is sometimes more terrifying than the virus itself. They all look like real people, which adds to the raw, ultra-realistic tone that remains consistent throughout the film.
Despite its drama, the film never finds its emotional centre. It is such a scientifically minded movie that the audience never feels connected to the characters. Although the science behind the virus is interesting, this also means that we spend less time with relatable, everyday Matt Damon, and by doing so, the film loses a bit of its humanity in the process.
Soderbergh may have had success with large ensemble casts in the past (Traffic, Ocean’s series), but here he fumbles on the execution. While everyone in Contagion turns in a solid, believable performance, the cast is stretched thin and not all the characters are given a satisfying conclusion to their story arcs.
Despite its shortcomings, Contagion is a decent film that makes you feel an overwhelming paranoia that the world that is under attack by an invisible enemy. Needless to say, this movie is every germaphobe’s worst nightmare. I wouldn’t blame any movie goer if they feel compelled to load up on bottles of Purell after the credits roll.
AS A DEVOTED Sex and the City and Sarah Jessica Parker fan, I was overwhelmed to see SJP outside of her Carrie Bradshaw role and secretly hoped to see a great deal of fashion.
Parker plays Kate Reddy, a Boston-based workaholic with two children and a loving husband. She is trying to do far too much: The kids’ bake sale, birthday parties, family reunions, and a killer schedule at work. Kate is thought of as a superwoman—one minute she is flying to New York for a conference, the next she is at home juggling her domestic tasks. But she is not as perfect as people think. The breaking point comes when she has to leave her in-laws’ country house on Thanksgiving night for a business trip. Can she pull it off?
I Don’t Know How She Does It is one of those movies that doesn’t have a plot or an obstacle. The entire movie is too focused on Kate’s daily struggle with work and family. Without any realism, the movie fails to draw sympathy from the audience. As much as I love SJP, her exaggerated acting and clichéd mannerisms in this movie are hard to bear. The monologues of characters might work in Sex and the City, but they add nothing inspiring to this movie. The glamorous Carrie Bradshaw as a dull professional makes for a boring movie.
HEAR THE DUELING banjos faintly playing in the background? How about a town local whispering in your ear, “You got a perdy mouth”? This may not be Deliverance, but it is pretty darn close.
Starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, and True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård, Straw Dogs is a revived 1970s cult classic horror about Los Angeles screenwriter David (Marsden) and his wife, Amy (Bosworth). The two move back to Amy’s hometown of Blackwater, Miss., for David to write his newest screenplay, but Charlie (Skarsgård) and his band of hooligan followers make it increasingly difficult for the couple to settle in.
From beginning to end, the film will have your stomach in knots. There was a scene that had the entire theatre disturbed and people began to walk out; only those with a strong stomach endured the rest. Although the acting was not amazing—with the exception of James Woods (when is he not amazing?)—the story accomplished what it wanted to do: It keeps you on edge and goes out with a bang.
If you like other cult classics, like Deliverance and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then you will enjoy this movie. If your stomach is weak and you’re easily offended, then perhaps a light comedy will tickle your fancy.
IT’S NOT HARD to love brother Ned Rochlin in Our Idiot Brother. Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Rashida Jones, the film tells the story of Ned (Rudd), a man who just tries to see the best in people. After being released from prison for selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer, Ned attempts to go back to the farm he worked at prior to the arrest, but Janet (Kathryn Hahn), his ex-girlfriend, refuses to take him back. He spends the night at his mother’s house before deciding to roam each of his sisters’ couches. Ned’s philosophy in life is, “If you put your trust out there—if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions—people will rise to the occasion.” His trust in humanity is inspiring, as is Rudd’s performance. This movie has the rare ability to get both laughs and inspire a belief in our fellow man. Although you sometimes have to question the idiocy of Ned, this uplifting movie will make you chuckle.
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AFTER SETTING OUT to see Olivier Megaton’s Colombiana, I’ve got to say: If you’re a hardcore movie buff with a taste for bloodshed and steamy sex, then this is not the film for you. The lucid and overdone plot is about the death of Cataleya’s (Zoe Saldana) parents, a loss that makes her become an assassin and seek vengeance for her parents’ deaths. If you’re familiar with Megaton’s other works as a director, such as Hitman or Transporter 3, it’s not surprising to discover that Colombiana is just another style-over-substance action flick. The nature of the violence was too subdued and the no-panty-dance I was anticipating from Saldana never came. The extent of character development was also expectedly weak . If you are in the mood to go to the movies, check out what else is playing.