movie thoughts: 50/50 (2011)

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In “50/50”, 27 year old Adam (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds out he has a very rare form of cancer.  Adam, who never drinks, smokes, obeys traffic signals – never even learned how to drive because of the statistics – suddenly finds himself faced with his own mortality. 

Really, 50/50 doesn’t offer a whole lot NEW in way of story.  Seth Rogen plays Kyle, Adam’s best friend who is his exact opposite – drinking, smoking, fooling around with lots of ladies (though this is the calmest I’ve ever seen Rogen…he was actually playing an adult!).  Bryce Dallas-Howard plays Rachael, Adam’s estranged girlfriend who decides to stay with him after he tells her about his disease.  Angelica Houston is Adam’s mother, who reacts to the news the way any parent would. 

The only stand-out character is Anna Kendrick, who plays Katherine, Adam’s not-quite-yet-a-psychiatrist (since he goes to a teaching hospital for his treatment for some unexplained reason).  She is 24 and working on her doctorate and Adam is only her third patient.  Of course, she is thrown by his youth. 

50/50 is very watchable, mostly because of the cast (did I mention Anna Kendrick is in this movie?  Seriously, she is so awesome, I love her).  The story is what you would expect, but it’s the ensemble that makes you want to stay with the film until the end to see how it all turns out.  It is not “uproariously funny” as the box claimed, but it does have some chuckle-worthly moments.  It’s just a story of a life, so there is some natural humor and natural meloncholy.  If you’re a fan of any of these actors, it’s worth a look. 

movie thoughts: Contagion (2011)

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Within the first few minutes of “Contagion” you’re thinking:

“Wow, it’s scary how quickly a disease can spread, especially in today’s modern world of constant travel.”

About 30 minutes in, you’re shaking your head:

“Wow, it’s scary how quickly the mission to cure a disease can be overtaken by beaurocracy, politics, and selfishness.” 

An hour:

“WTF never mind the disease or the government organizations, what is wrong with people?  Are we really just animals pretending to be proper?”

And the movie ends:

*breathes out*  “Wow…that was tense.”

“Contagion” is a very simple story – it’s the story of a new disease, similar to H1N1 and SARS, that pops up on sheer chance and manages to devistate human society.  The movie gives us a glimpse into the lives of a suburban dad, a CDC agent, a scientist searching for a cure, a W.H.O. agent searching for answers, and a conspiracy theorist with an internet connection. 

It’s less like watching a story be told, but more like watching someone else put a puzzle together in front of you.  I suppose that is how it feels for the men and women faced with challenges like this daily.  When the movie starts, it’s like someone has just dumped all of the pieces out right in front of us and then run off with the box lid so we have no clue where to start.  Slowly, the scientists begin to put things together the only way they know how, slowly building up the edges, putting little things together they notice, working towards a big picture.

I think the scariest thing about disease is that it doesn’t need to be personified into an evil thing.  That’s what makes it scary.  Evil has a goal, a purpose — diseases are not aware of what they are doing as they slowly wipe out a person, a family, a town, a city…but people do.  People know what they need to survive.  Like “28 Days Later” and “War of the Worlds” (2005), the most disturbing scenes are when humanity falls apart and that basic survival need takes over. 

I will definitely be thinking about this movie for awhile.  Every time someone coughs or sneezes and then touches something…(yeah, don’t watch this if you have hypocondriac tendencies!) 

Stellar cast, riveting narrative – def. worth checking out!

movie thoughts: Midnight in Paris (2011)

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‘Midnight in Paris’ works because of Owen Wilson. 

Wilson plays the role that, if the movie had been made in the 70s, would have been played by the film’s writer/director Woody Allen.  But because Allen was smart enough to know he was better off behind the scenes this time, he cast Wilson, who shines.  You can hear the lines coming out of his mouth an imagine Allen writing them, but the way Wilson delivers them, with his unique voice and speech pattern, turns the main character into a likeable character.

Gil (Wilson) is a successful Hollywood scriptwriter who is working on his first novel.  He’s come to Paris with his fiancee, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams), and the visit has rekindled his love for the city that he visited as a younger man.  This movie is a romance, but it’s not about Gil and Inez – it’s about Gil’s love affair with Paris in the 1920s.  One night, when he goes on a midnight stroll, he finds himself transported into the past, rubbing elbows with his literary heroes, and inhabiting the time he feels was a golden age. 

I think movie will appeal to anyone who has ever felt regret and wants that chance to change everything.  Just earlier this week, I was reading an article (Some Advice for Young People), the crux of which was that you shouldn’t be afraid of quitting.  So many of us set our career goals but let our life goals, general happiness, fall by the wayside in the pursuit of these so-called milestones.  When Gil laments the fact that, when he first came to Paris year ago, he didn’t just stay in the city and become a writer, but instead went back to the U.S. to persue his budding scriptwriting career, I think many of us know exactly what that feels like. 

This movie will also appeal to anyone who has ever said “I was born at the wrong time.”  It’s a sweet little look at nostalgia and obsessions with the past and learning to love the now.  Again, it’s all about siezing the moment.  I think artists and dreamers always look to the past for inspiration and many begin to feel envious of the time when the things they love were new. 

It’s a sweet movie.  No big action scenes, it’s not about making big, world-changing statements — it’s about the simple pleasures of life and how easy it is to forget about them but how much we need them.  It’s a love poem to Paris, a city that has managed to mesmerize people for over a century, and still have a magical charm about it today.  I doubt it will win any awards at the Oscars but I’m glad it was nominted because it got me to watch it and I really liked it.  It has lots of heart and laughs and avoids getting too serious.  Again, I think a lot of the credit goes to Owen Wilson and his fantastic performance. 

So the next time you want to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and watch a good movie, I suggest “Midnight in Paris”.