I am a total sucker for a romantic comedy and much less so for a romantic drama. Hope Springs falls mainly into the latter category, albeit with some very funny incidents.
This is a PG-13 rated self-described comedy/drama. There are love scenes between people of my age, which should not be inflicted upon the impressionable minds of the youth. We actually want them to reproduce and we don’t want to throw them off task.
Still, I was captivated by Hope Springs. This is a four saw blade film that many of us in Rim Country will understand. If you stay away from action flicks or horror movies, and who can blame you, go see this one. You will be touched and inspired.
Tommy Lee Jones (66) and Meryl Streep (63) play a couple somewhat younger than their actual ages. The couple has been married for 31 years, hasn’t been intimate for four years and barely notice that they are growing insular and lonely in their own home. The wife, Streep, arranges a get-a-way weekend in Maine to attend an intensive marital training session to improve the communication between the couple and hopefully re-generate some affection and connection.
Steve Carrell, a comic of great skill and success, plays this one absolutely straight. He has the manners and inflections of a professional marriage councilor down to a tee. He is careful, kind, understanding, non judgmental and above all, firm. He gives the uncomfortable couple no wiggle room, no place to dodge their disappointments or their duties.
Tommy Lee Jones is such a powerful screen presence that it is difficult to see the character behind the actor, but he pulls it off. Jones is perfect as the tired, nearly 60, husband who no longer has any hopes or illusions. He only wants peace. Jones is bored, tentative, angry and eventually courageous and charming.
But Meryl Streep is beyond compare. She surely is the leading lady of the silver screen and will remain so just as long as she wishes to continue working. She can do more with a look or by not moving a muscle than most actresses can do with a nude love scene. She is top notch. And she is a worker. She makes loads of movies and in between she appears on both the small TV screen and live theater.
I loved her performances in Julie and Julia and The Devil Wears Prada. I thought It’s Complicated, her recent romantic comedy, was beneath her talent but the public ate it up, a caution against giving too much credit to critics.
This two hour and one minute drama has a lot to recommend it to seasoned citizens, who have the wisdom and the mileage to appreciate the fine writing by first timer Vanessa Taylor. Director David Frankel also directed the successful Marley and Me and the Meryl Streep vehicle The Devil Wears Prada. With a smallish $30 million budget this extra fine film has brought in a purse fattening $80 million.
If you get to see this movie you will be as pleased as the newly enriched producers. Do it.
Taken 2 - Improbable, but enjoyable
I told one of my pals that if he wanted to see a movie where the bad guys get killed in large numbers without a lot of plot to get in the way of the action, Taken 2 is the movie of the week for you. I thought to steer him to more adult fare. Instead he said “Great, that’s just what I want to see.” He is not alone this week. Taken 2 massed a huge $50 million over the weekend and a worldwide total, which includes both domestic and overseas, of $117 million. This is on a modest budget of $45 million of which a goodly portion must have gone to star Liam Neeson. When the people speak with such a unified voice I stand out of the way to avoid the stampede.
The bad guys are truly the absolute dregs of human existence, soul-less Albanians who make their living enslaving women into prostitution. The head bad guy tells Neeson that his beautiful daughter will “be sent to the worst brothel we can find and be abused by the lowest kind of men.” In essence, it is a re-play of Taken, the 2008 hit with exactly the same theme.
The beautiful daughter is played by the beautiful Maggie Grace who played the daughter in Taken. Movie magic has Ms. Grace looking believably like a young collegian, which was easier four years ago than today at her advanced age of 29. I thought she was about 20.
Famke Janssen is back as the mom. She gets kidnapped this time instead of the daughter and has an innovative horror committed upon her innocent self. Janssen had her first acting gig on Star Trek the Next Generation and has had plenty of screen time both on TV and the movies. She stared lately as Jean Grey in the X-Men films.
Liam Neeson needs no explanation.
Director Oliver Megaton (Colombiana, Transporter 3) re-joins his collaborators, writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. All three of them worked on Colombiana, a fierce little action piece with Zoe Saldana as the vengeful killer. Besson and Kamen also co-wrote The Fifth Element, one of my favorite movies of all time. Besson also produced Taken 2.
This three saw blade action flick is very well produced. The chase sequences are good and there are a couple of excellent side-lights. One sequence has the daughter setting off hand grenades in Istanbul so captive daddy can figure out where he is by the sound. In another clever sequence Neeson tracks the bad guys to their den by remembering the sounds he heard as a captive.
But well done or not it is still rubbish, outlandish and violent with improbable plot twists that are plopped in from time to time to keep the body count up. Think of The Expendables 2 done by people who can act, write, direct and produce better than most and you have the idea.
But I am embarrassed to say that I quite enjoyed it. I found the bloodletting cathartic, God help me. And so did a whale of a lot of other people.
The PG-13 (violence, large body count, no undue gore) film is over in one hour and 31 minutes. James Bond is coming soon for those who appreciate their bloodletting done with a little more style.
TOP TEN MOVIES
Hotel Transylvania (PG) animated
Looper (R) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis
End of Watch (R) Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena
Trouble With the Curve (PG-13) Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams
House at the End of the Street (PG-13) Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Shue
Pitch Perfect (PG-13) Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow
Finding Nemo (G) animated
Resident Evil: Retribution (R) Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez
The Master (R) Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix
Won’t Back Down (PG) Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal