Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Soloist

I have to admit that I was sucked into seeing The Soloist largely because of the previews - those "change your life" trailers that pack humor and emotion always seem to get me. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx (yes, I think he's a good actor) were both draws as well.

For those unfamiliar with the plot I will explain briefly or you can watch the trailer here. The Soloist is based on a true story that follows a moderately famous LA Times columnist, Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) as he comes across and befriends a schizophrenic homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx). Lopez first meets Ayers as he plays beautiful music on a two stringed violin and then Lopez discovers that Ayers is a former student of Julliard - I smell cover story!

Lopez tries to better Ayers' life while writing his column, and we discover more about the tragedies of Ayers' genius while learning of Lopez's dreams and loss. But we are also drawn into a world of the L.A. forgotten - the skid row homeless. These elements and the journey of these two men, though predictable, is beautiful and for that we must commend Atonement director Joe Wright.

I found Wright's approach inspiring; we see and feel sound and music, and we hear obsession, suffering and hope. The Soloist is definitely unique in its presentation of a biopic/memoir-type film. It is a little convoluted though in presenting its story.

There are themes and metaphors that just don't fit. Lopez spends a good bit of time soaked in urine for no other reason that to get a giggle and it fails - surprise! And the representation of the homeless/skid row and LA's police was a bit overdone. I understand where Wright wanted to go, but he missed his mark. He did succeed in his direction of his two leads, however.

Downey Jr. and Foxx are good, particularly in the latter parts of the 2nd Act of this film as we see Lopez's obsession take over much like Ayers' schizophrenia has done with him. But lets not kid ourselves there will be no Oscar buzz around them for their performances in this film.

The film is slow paced, but that's not a bad thing. In terms of action and development, not much happens there either, but it's the thought-provoking quality and unique presentation of this film that are the draw. The movie ties together in the end and leaves you...well, where you hoped to be left. See this movie in theaters if you enjoy these type of slow paced dramas. Otherwise wait for DVD and enjoy it on a lazy day. -- 3 Reels out of 5

Angels & Demons

I don't remember much from the "The Da Vinci Code" movie, I know I didn't hate it and I know I didn't love it. That's not typically a good sign for a movie. Still I liked the book "Angels and Demons" a lot more than "DVC" so I was still looking forward to this movie. I didn't think Tom Hanks did a great job as Robert Langdon but I was willing to give him a second chance. Then when I found out my boy Ewan McGregor was going to be in it as well all bets were off. I saw it opening weekend.

And after two hours of watching Tom Hanks run around the Vatican and figure out every riddle in just the nick of time, I want my time back. The movie was just very bland and the supposed suspense never really got going for me. Now I should say that perhaps if I hadn't read the book and not known that pretty much everything was going to work out then maybe I would have been more on the edge of my seat. So I would say if you haven't read the book then it's worth seeing but I wouldn't rush to the theaters. If you have read the book, I'd just reread it.

Best Part- Tom Hanks' wig. My goodness it was breathtaking. He's in water twice in this movie and that thing doesn't move an inch. It was hypnotic, I don't even remember what happened in most of the scenes because I was too focused on it.

Worst Part- The female lead. She wasn't that attractive. I'm sorry but everyone in the theater was thinking it too. The girl from "DVC" was beautiful and then you lay this chick on us? No thank you Ron Howard. Also, she was not that good of an actress either.

Just Weird Part- At one point Robert Langdon falls down into a tomb or something and the entire room is filled with nothing but skulls. The walls are skulls, the floor is skulls. Yet he doesn't seem the least bit affected by this and it is never explained. Now I know the burial procedures hundreds of years ago were a little archaic, but I could have at least used Langdon saying something to himself about where he was or how these skulls got there

Biggest Gaffe- A Vatican employee comes to see Langdon in the beginning and in his office he has a framed photo of the girl from "DVC". Now “A&D” the book took place before "DVC" so he hadn't met her yet. I notice these things Ron Howard, and frankly I expected more from you. You should be very disappointed in yourself Opie.