MOVIE REVIEWS: Unstoppable, and Tangled

In the very beginning of the story, Flynn talks about the day of his death; interesting, that, in the dark tradition of Disney stories.


The 2010 movie Unstoppable, which I saw with my wife on Black Friday in Oneonta in lieu of actual shopping, is a very competently-made thriller about a runaway train with toxic chemicals, and the heroic efforts of a couple railroad hands, a veteran (played by Denzel Washington) and a guy just out of training (Chris Pine, who played young James T. Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek movie) in stopping said train. It reviewed surpringly well, especially with the top critics. My wife’s stomach was in knots most of the way through, and mine wasn’t, but I enjoyed it as a pleasant diversion. “Pleasant?” my wife wondered aloud. Jaquandor’s take on the movie pretty much nailed it.

The movie was a production of Tony Scott, who last year created the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which I did not see, also starring Denzel Washington; from what I read, Unstoppable is the better movie, though it has no real villain, only a particularly incompetent worker.

I’m quite interested in the fact that the movie was based on an actual incident that took place on May 15, 2001. As described here and here, the initiation of the incident in the movie was pretty true to life, with the railroad employee (played in the movie by Ethan Suplee of My Name Is Earl) not securing the air brakes, jumping off the train to do some track switching, then unable to get back on the accelerating locomotive. This actually took place, though, in Ohio, not Pennsylvania; the train (the 8888, not the 777) never got faster than 47 mph, not over 70; and by the time the event that ends the ordeal – if you read about it, I suppose it’d be a spoiler – the train’s going much slower in real life.

The single thing that I found most distracting was the too-close-to-the-action TV helicopter. Yet I did “believe” the nature of the “breaking news” reporting, and the next morning, Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry was running in my head.

The annoying thing at this particular theater is that it had four commercials BEFORE the previews, two for auto companies (Chevy and Acura), and two for personal care products, one for a body wash that was soft-core porn, and so ridiculous that most of the audience laughed in derision. (As opposed to a genuine laugh for a Johnny Depp line in the preview for the Angelina Jolie film, The Tourist.) There were also previews for the new Narnia movie and the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit, neither of which I’m likely to see, but the latter used a posthumously-released Johnny Cash song to good effect.

Ethan Suple and Denzel Washington shared no screen time in Unstoppable, whereas Washington played Suplee’s high school football coach in Remember the Titans.
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Sunday afternoon, I saw Tangled 3D, with my six (“six and a HALF!”)-year-old daughter at a theater within walking distance of our house. It is being billed on the screen as Disney’s 50th animated film, which seems appropriate, because I’m feeling rather 50/50 about it.
+ Interesting and fresh setup for the Rapunzel story, with a psychologically mean stepmother type that worked for me
– But the story occasionally drags, especially early.
+ A couple great Alan Mencken-Glenn Slater songs, for the Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) character and some rowdy rogues;
– But the songs for Rapunzel, sung perfectly well by Mandy Moore, are mostly rather undistinguished.
+ Wonderful, occasionally stunning visuals, and moreover, great use of 3D, possibly the best I’ve ever seen, and I’m no big 3D fan. AT ALL.
– There is better chemistry between Rapunzel and her chameleon, or even between the lead male character, Flynn (Zachery Levi, who sings surprisingly well) and his nemesis, the horse Maximus, than between Rapunzel and Flynn.
Still, there’s enough story – plus, did I mention how great this movie looked? and probably even in 2D – to recommend it. It’s way better than the trailer suggests, that’s for certain, and better than I’ve described it, I suspect. I really did like it, as it had some excellent sequences. But I didn’t LOVE it.

BTW, my daughter remembers that in the very beginning of the story, Flynn talks about the day of his death; interesting, that, in the dark tradition of Disney stories.

This movie had about a half dozen trailers, all for animated 3D movies, including Yogi Bear (looks annoying), Cars 2, Mars Needs Moms (looks weird), and Gnomeo and Juliet; the latter had a audiovisual joke that more than one adult in the audience took as a reference to fellatio.
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A Ken Levine post about Tangled and Leslie Nielsen jokes. Re: the latter, I was sad at his passing, as Airplane! is one of my Top 5 comedies, but I didn’t have anything to add except this: if you remember him as a serious actor, and I probably saw more than 75% of everything he was in between 1965 and 1971, his subsequent revealed humor was, if anything, even funnier.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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