People Like Us

People Like Us

Run time 120 minutes.
OK for children.

From l, Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Hall D’Ad-dario in “People Like Us.”

Not many people saw the 2005 indieHeights, but I thought it one of the best of the year and marked Elizabeth Banks as a real comer, not just a pretty face (and she is probably the most beautiful woman inHollywood).

She has since appeared in lots of films, but never as the lead. Here she finally gets to strut her stuff, and she exceeds my expectations.

Based on writer/director Alex Kurtzman’s background, Frankie (Banks) is a 30-year-old unwed mother of 11-year-old Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). She is a recovering alcoholic working as a bartender, barely making ends meet. Sam (Chris Pine) is in his 20s, a smooth (or not so smooth) salesman in deep trouble on a business deal when he learns his estranged father has died. When he reluctantly returns for the funeral, he discovers the existence of Frankie, who is his half-sister from an affair of his father, and things spiral onward from there.

Congratulations to Disney and DreamWorks for making and distributing an American movie that actually has a story, emotions, great acting and directing, and not even the hint of a special effect or a superhero.

I think that two hours is too long for a movie of this sort, but this passed the watch test with flying colors as I never was cognizant of time passing. While part of that is the sheer enjoyment of looking at Banks’ beauty, most of it is the excellence and tenderness of the story and the wonderful acting by the principals, Banks, Pine, D’Addario, Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays Sam’s mother, and Olivia Wilde, who plays Sam’s girlfriend at the beginning of the film.

Los Angelenos will appreciate some of the familiar city locations.

I’m closing my critique with something that has nothing to do with the film but everything to do with the people who achieve stardom inHollywood. I understand from a friend who was there that when Banks accepted an award for Best Actress at the Maui Film Festival she dropped an F bomb in front of an audience that included lots of children. If this is true, and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t, she needs someone to counsel her about class, refinement, good taste, and responsibility. Shame on you, Elizabeth.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Runtime 138 minutes.
OK for children.

Andrew Garfield is “The Amaz-ing Spider-Man.”

Of all the superheroes, Spider-Man is arguably the least credible. I thought the previous films virtually unwatchable, silly stories. They were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

For this one, Columbiagot a new director, Marc Webb, who directed (500) Days of Summer, one of the best romcoms of 2009. Webb gets a new cast, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, and Emma Stone as his high school crush, Gwen Stacy. Since Stone is one of the most beautiful and best actresses extant, I went into the film with less trepidation than I would have had I been forced to sit through more of the same. Unlike Maguire,Garfield actually looks like someone who could really be in a fight. For one thing, Maguire barely tops 5-7 and looks like a little boy, whileGarfield is almost 5-11 and has rugged looks. As to sex appeal, Dunst doesn’t come close to Stone.

I was rewarded with a very entertaining movie that explains the origins of Spider-Man. The special effects are very good, but few enough that they don’t overwhelm the story. The love story between Parker and Stacy is well done, mostly because Stone is such a talented actress that she conveys her infatuation and love for Parker through her incredibly expressive eyes.

I saw it in IMAX 3-D, which I found out is different from regular 3-D. There were two screenings and I got the glasses for the regular 3-D, even though I was in the IMAX theater. When the film started, there was no 3-D. One of the ushers got me the IMAX 3-D glasses and they worked. The 3-D is better than you usually see in 3-D movies and it doesn’t mute the color.

Even though the story starts slowly as it explains how Spider-Man came to be and develops the relationship between Parker and Stacy, it’s well enough done to hold interest. Although the villain doesn’t appear until the last half of the film, Rhys Ifans gives a fine performance as the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde oriented Dr. Connors. Also contributing good performances are Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Parker’s aunt and uncle, and Dennis Leary as Stacy’s NYPD father. Field is especially effective, unabashedly looking her age (56), wrinkles and all.

This is a superhero film that’s actually worth seeing.

Read more reviews at www.tonymedley.com. 

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