‘Unstoppable’ and Christmas buzz flicks
A deadly missile heads for a city of nearly three-quarters of a million. It’s not coming down from the sky but over the rail — an engineer-challenged freight hauling hazardous chemicals.
Turning to a pre-disaster premise that has your eyes grasping through every shrill whistle, rushing rumbling tracks and a couple of teaser crashes, “Unstoppable” catches the remarkable express. Complementing those sounds, the appeal of two average working Joe’s becoming last-chance heroes not through vast academic resumes but by maintenance experience working with locomotive engines and the cars carried.
Film loves trains (“Stranger on a Train,” “North by Northwest,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Von Ryan’s Express”) and this one takes elements of two older films — “Cassandra Crossing” and “Runaway Train.” Both of the earlier versions did not turn loose a 70 mph choo-choo with hazardous cargo barreling into a heavily populated area.
Disaster flick aficionados will like the requisite insurance/liability corporate decision sequence, however, odds favor the men in suits, not those in gloves, as this out of control mass of steel pound and screeches toward catastrophe.
Kudos to director Tony Scott whose remarkable train chasing sequences boast nothing short of remarkable detail and danger once reserved for sure footed westerns.
Denzel Washington and Chris Pine become the engineer and in-training conductor of a second train chugging on the same track as the one that got away. Both men have personal issues that occasionally impact their time at the throttle. Washington, the veteran, does not let a thought divert and the young Pine does well as he absorbs the words of a mentor and balances them with his own decision.
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY FILM BUZZ
As the date grows closer to Christmas, you can divide film release into two types — ultra family friendly (many in 3D) and those aiming for a broader adult demographic, along with the holiday Hollywood trait, remaining still suitable for all viewers.
First, Yogi Bear and Gulliver’s Travels have animated appeal followed by the third sequel that visits the Land of Narnia, where dragons, dwarves and lost warriors await at world’s edge.
“Tron: Legacy” threatens to be a gamer film that succeeds beyond expectations given its core — a treasured, before its time classic, in which a virtual world collides and encompasses. This journey though will be in 3D and might require a few superlatives beyond awesome.
On Dec 10, the ho-hum sounding “Tourist” title boosts the ultra star power of Johnny Depp on a trip to Venice to recover from a heartbreak quickly engaged to an Interpol agent (Angelina Jolle ) who has more baggage than a broken heart.
Reese Witherspoon snagged a first (or nearly so) — the role of a female athlete at an age past her prime. “How Do You Know” has James L Brooks in the director’s chair –a job he only occasionally assumes, though his stories and producer credits are plentiful, particularly televised episodic series. Brooks has a history of directorial winners — “Terms of Endearment,” “Broadcast News,” and “As Good as It Gets — among the now six films he’s personally directed (others were “Spanglish,” and “I’ll Do Anything.“) This one opens Dec. 17.
Dec. 24 brings the delayed from summer, “Little Frockers” starring Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Teri Pol and Owen Wilson (of which early reports are in the “make the movie” range). Accompanying “Frockers,” two days later (Dec. 26) the Cohen Brothers commit an unpardonable sin — they have re-made the John Wayne western, “True Grit.” Oscar winning Jeff Bridges dons the eye patch and award buzz has started building.