At the Movies: The Fighter, How Do You Know, – Tron 2, I Love You Phillip Morris

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, something gets left out. Sadly, this week it was “Yogi Bear.”

Who am I kidding? I’m not the slightest bit sad about missing a 3D quasi-live action version of a cartoon I was never that fond of when I was a kid. Has anything really good ever come out of the TV-Cartoon-Adapted-to-Live-Action-Movie genre? Video games have a better track record.

The Fighter

The RROY REPORT’s Pick Hit Movie of the Week is an inspirational true sports story. “Irish” Micky Ward isn’t exactly a household name in the annals of sports heroes, but his story is interesting enough to make for good cinema.

Micky (Mark Wahlberg) is a light welterweight boxer struggling to make it in the ring. His manager is his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and his trainer is big brother Dicky (Christian Bale). Dicky is a former boxer whose claim to fame is that he once knocked Sugar Ray Leonard to the floor — although some would argue that Leonard simply tripped.

Micky is loyal to his family, even if that’s not in his best interest. But when Dicky and Alice put him in the ring with a significantly larger opponent against his wishes, he starts to consider other offers while recovering from the beating.

He’s egged on by his new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), who’s not afraid to stand up to Alice and her passel of daughters. When Dicky runs into trouble with the law, Micky moves out from his shadow. But family can prove to be just as tenacious as any boxer.

Inspirational true sports stories are a dime-a-dozen in Hollywood. What makes “The Fighter” special are the unique family dynamics swirling around Micky Ward. Mother, father, brother, sisters and girlfriend all want what’s best for Micky but come at it from different, sometimes conflicting, angles. There are no villains here, everyone has their flaws and strengths.

Director David O. Russell has crafted this tale with humor, heart and dramatic flair. The actors are all fine but Bale is the standout.

Did it work for me? “The Fighter” is one of the year’s best movies. I’ll spare you the boxing reference gags.

How Do You Know

James L. Brooks has made such fine relationship films as “Broadcast News” and “As Good As It Gets.” “How Do You Know” is not in that league.

Reese Witherspoon stars as Lisa, a beloved athlete who has just discovered she’s past her prime when she doesn’t make the cut for the Olympic softball team.  Facing an uncertain future, she jumps into a relationship with Matty (Owen Wilson), a self-centered professional ball player.

Paul Rudd stars as George, a reluctant businessman working at his father Charles’ (Jack Nicholson) company. When the business comes under investigation, George comes under fire even though he swears he’s done nothing wrong.

Lisa and George are brought together through a mutual friend and while that initial meeting doesn’t go well, some mutual attraction keeps bringing them back together.

“How Do You Know” tries to be clever and charming but for the most part it fails. It’s hard to imagine why Lisa hooks up with Matty. It’s hard to imagine why she would bother with George after that initial date. And Jack Nicholson seems to be playing a parody of Jack Nicholson more so than an actual person.

There are a few funny and charming moments. I liked the bit in the hospital with George’s secretary (Kathryn Hahn) and the Play-Doh speech.

Did it work for me? Despite a likable cast, I’m giving this a split decision, leaning on no.

TRON: Legacy

This one should have been filed alongside last week’s trio of films that are long on style, short on substance.

Twenty-eight years is a long time between movies, but then no one was really crying out for a sequel to “Tron.” It came about, no doubt, because improvements in special effects combined with the current 3D craze made revisiting this cyber-world spectacle seem like a good idea.

Jeff Bridges returns as Kevin Flynn, computer genius and head of a high-tech company. Kevin goes missing one day and 20 years later his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is snooping around his father’s old arcade where he discovers a secret office. Sam begins pecking on an old computer and before you know it, he’s been digitized and sent to cyberworld.

This neon wonderland is ruled by Clu (also played by Bridges), who seeks to impose perfection through tyranny. He’s also amassing an army to — I think — somehow invade the real world.

After playing your basic Tron games — Frisbees of Death and Lightcycle Deathrace — Sam escapes with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), whose back story I don’t have the time to explain. Quorra and Sam hook up with long-lost dad and now the three of them must stop Clu and get back home.

I wasn’t expecting much from “Tron: Legacy” and yet I still went away disappointed. Putting aside the paper-thin plot, the point of this sequel was to wow you with the special effects and 3D and I just wasn’t wowed. The effects were good, certainly a step up from the original, but I guess I was thinking they would be mind-blowing. I didn’t even find the 3D to be that impressive. You’d probably be just as well to watch it in 2D.

Speaking of which, the first 20 minutes or so of the film, which takes place in the real world, is shot in 2D and I found the picture was brighter and clearer with the glasses off. You’ll need them, though, once Sam goes to cyber-land.

Did it work for me? The gladiator scenes are pretty cool and the look of the cyber world is interesting, but the people parts are dull and predictable. Worth seeing for the special effects but that’s about it.

I Love You Phillip Morris

We wrap up our week of holiday movies with this rather unusual true love story.

Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is a police officer, husband and father. He’s also gay. After surviving a car crash, Steven decides to come out of the closet and embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

Unfortunately, it’s an expensive lifestyle, so Steven becomes adept at the art of the con. Eventually this lands him in prison where he meets sensitive, shy Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). From there it’s a series of cons and scams as Steven gets Phillip out of jail and they try to live the high life as long as they can avoid the law.

Based on the novel by Steve McVicker, “I Love You Phillip Morris” is told with a comedic tone narrated by Carrey. It’s a smart, funny movie about a pretty amazing con man. His final con is especially clever.

Did it work for me? Yep.      

 

 

 

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2 responses to “At the Movies: The Fighter, How Do You Know, – Tron 2, I Love You Phillip Morris

  1. Question: Will I like the Phillip Morris movie even though I can’t stand Jim Carrey?

  2. Tough call. He does a good job but he also uses plenty of those Carrey mannerisms that can annoy people.

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