Friday, September 27, 2013


'RUSH' (R) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Ron Howard
Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara.

Not being a fan of Formula Racing, Nascar racing or any sport that goes around in a circle over and over, I wasn't getting Ron Howard's new Formula Racing movie "Rush". Especially in the first hour where every race seemed the same and the movie seemed too glossy and superficial. This was basically my problem and not the movie's for in the second hour I got it and I started to become amazed at one of the most fascinating rivalries I have ever seen or learned of in sports. Something happens in the start of the second hour or so that raised the stakes for this life threatening sport and how it effects the two men at the center of this rivalry.

"Rush" tells the story of 70's Formula One racing legends James Hunt and Niki Lauder. Hunt was a flashy playboy and very pretty while Lauder was German and not so pretty. Hunt will be seen as an ass and a jerk in how he treats Lauder and the other racers but I found Lauder an arrogant jerk also. The difference is that Hunt was flashier thus he could get away with it. You have to be arrogant to drive a vehicular weapon of death flying around at well over 100 miles per hour. The life threatening dangers of this sport can be seen as foolish but in Lauder and Hunt it becomes a focused battle of wills to be the best, no matter the sport.

In 1976, the year that Howard's movie focuses on, Hunt and Lauder were in a vicious battle for Formula One Champion the year after Lauder was champ. Lauder seems more serious about the dangers of the sport while Hunt is more focused on the fame, glory and the ladies. In the first hour that left me a little cold, "Rush" focuses on the quick fling, marriage and separation of Hunt and his wife Suzy Miller, played by the gorgeous Olivia Wilde. The first hour full of tedious races, which do look good, and the shallow depiction of Hunt's fame and quick divorce from Suzy left me a little bored until something special and powerful happens.

In the middle of "Rush" a tragedy befalls Lauder during a crash in one of the races in the middle of the season. That event will trigger a lot of great writing and powerful, emotional material in the second half. This is when I realized what Howard is trying to do here. The first hour of races and verbal battles between Hunt and Lauder seem superficial but when both are confronted with how dangerous their profession is a lot of soul searching from both men occur. Peter Morgan's screenplay becomes brilliant in capturing what this tragedy does to both men. In a brilliantly written scene near the end, one of my favorite of the movie year, Hunt and Lauder talk about the sport and Hunt tells Lauder that he needs to have fun in his life, stop being so serious.

That scene goes further and spells out what this movie is really about and how these two men have to recognize that they are similiar to each other, more than they think even among the hate they direct towards each other. Looking at real footage at the end of both men, Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Lauder are perfectly cast. Both men are wonderful and Daniel Bruhl gives a star making performance. The movie is beautifully shot by Ron Howard and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. The racing scenes are beautifully edited and edge of your seat thanks to Howard's technical prowess. The racing scenes are especially more effective after Lauder's accident. "Rush" is an exciting movie that becomes more powerful and fascinating as it goes on. You have to question a man who wants to drive a death machine but you have to admire that man also. "Rush" gives us two men whose drive to win is admirable, especially Lauder's will to win after staring death in the face.

Friday, September 13, 2013



Written by Michael Caleo and Luc Besson based on book by Tonino Benacquista
Directed by Luc Besson
Actors: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones, Domenick Lombardozzi

There is something refreshing about a "Mob" movie playing with the clichés of your usual "Mob movie and then adding some new touches. There are familiar scenes in "The Family" that you have seen before but also some deeper, smart material that I didn't expect. Plus the characters are fascinating and Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer playing a Mob family husband and wife!? There are also some surprising subplots that I haven't seen in this type of story.

Imagine Henry Hill from "Good Fellas" after he is relocated in the witness protection program and what his life would entail. Then you have a feeling of what "The Family" will be like. Though in some ways the movie is unpredictable, that is until the last half hour shootout. Until that violent ending teeming with bullets "The Family" is fun and entertaining. The black comedy tells the story of married couple Fred and Maggie Blake or the real family name, the Manzoni's. The family also includes their son and daughter Warren and Belle.

The Manzoni's are relocated to Normandy, France by their FBI handler Stansfield, played by the great Tommy Lee Jones. Giovanni (Fred Blake) ratted on some Mob family heads and now the family is living in France and they are not fitting in. Fitting in with the Normandy residents is hard and Fred finds it hard to hide himself in the fake story that he has come up with, that he is a writer.

"The Family" surprised me with some of the directions it takes with it's few subplots concerning each kid and the parents. The movie is a black comedy and it can be very violent but it has an endearing quality to it. DeNiro is delightfully playing a parody of his usual Mobster character and along with "Silver Linings Playbook" he is back after the last few, safe, horrible comedies he has been in. He looks like he is having fun here. You grow to like these characters like you shamefully do with a lot of crime family characters in other "Mob" movies.

It is also wonderful to see Michelle Pfeiffer given her best role in ages as a "Mob" wife and I automatically thought of her Oscar caliber performance in Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob". Pfeiffer is charming, very funny and great here as her character tries to adjust to the snooty town residents. John D'Leo and Dianna Agron (Glee) are very fine as the two siblings and we like following their side stories. Agron is very beautiful and reminds me of a young Michelle Pfeiffer! Add to this Tommy Lee Jones's deadpan, delightful turn as the FBI agent. Jones's reactions to the wild lies Fred makes are priceless!

"The Family" has a very entertaining, twisted and funny middle section and just wait for the big surprise joke towards the end of the movie. It had me laughing out loud and though I should have seen it coming, I loved it still. "The Family" is fun if you like violent, twisted black comedies about mobsters. I think it will go down easy because it is fun, the characters are interesting, the acting is solid and the movie is smarter than you would think. It should please "Mob" movie fans because it doesn't insult your intelligence and it does all the usual clichéd material right while also throwing us some curves.