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 of 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 surprisingly 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 occurred, 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 Suplee and Denzel Washington shared no screen time in Unstoppable, whereas Washington played Suplee’s high school football coach in Remember the Titans.


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 of 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 an audiovisual joke that more than one adult in the audience took as a reference to fellatio.
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.


T is for Titans

Three actors were on NBC programs that started after their appearance in the movie.

Uncharacteristically, I was flipping through the TV channels recently. This is highly unusual, because generally, when I watch television, I go to a particular show, usually prerecorded. I came across this 2000 movie I saw in the theaters, Remember the Titans. Part of the IMBD synopsis:
“It’s 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia and successful high school football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) has just been deprived of the head coaching job at the new integrated T.C. Williams High School to make way for equally successful black coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Yoast debates pursuing opportunities elsewhere, but when most of his white players vow to sit out the season unless he coaches, he changes his mind and stays on as Boone’s assistant.”
The Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: “An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it’s also well-crafted and features terrific performances.”

Well, yes, predictable, including having the Big Game. I enjoyed it well enough, and it at least tried to tackle the issue of race.

Looking back at it, though, I noticed an interesting coincidence:

Donald Faison, who played football star Petey Jones, became Dr. Christopher Turk, best friend of quirky Dr. John Dorian on the TV comedy Scrubs (2001-2010), with seven years on NBC, and the final two on ABC. Turk and JD were probably the epitome of a word I’m not fond of, “bromance”.

Ethan Suplee, who played big-hearted lineman Louie Lastik, was the some-what simple-minded younger brother Randy Hickey to the title character on the comedy My Name Is Earl (2005-2009, NBC). Earl dragged Randy into his plans to fix the outcomes of some of their less-than-desirable activities after the elder brother discovered karma following a car accident.

Hayden Panettiere played Sheryl Yoast, daughter of Coach Yoast: “My daddy coached in Alexandria, he worked so hard my momma left him, but I stayed with coach, he needed me on that field.” She initially resents Coach Boone for supplanting her daddy, but:
Sheryl Yoast: Coach Boone, you did a good job up here. You ran a tough camp from what I can see.
Coach Boone: Well I’m very happy to have the approval of a 5-year-old.
Sheryl Yoast: I’m 9 and a half, thank you very much.
Coach Boone: Why don’t you get this little girl some pretty dolls or something, coach?
Coach Yoast: I’ve tried. She loves football.
After playing Ally McBeal’s daughter in that program’s last season (2002), Hayden played Claire “Save the cheerleader” Bennet on Heroes (NBC) from 2006 until its cancellation in 2010.

So all three actors were on NBC programs that started after their appearance in the movie but that are all now off the air.

When the upstart American Football League (AFL) was formed in 1960 to challenge the long-established National Football League, the franchise in the US’s largest city was called the New York Titans. Major League Baseball’s National League experienced an expansion in 1962, and the city got the New York Mets. When the Titans were sold to new owners in 1964, the team changed its name to the New York Jets, to nominally link it to the popular, though inept, baseball franchise. The AFL merged with the NFL in 1966, though it wasn’t finalized until 1970. the Jets, of course, were the first AFL team to beat an established NFL in what became known as the Super Bowl, in January 1969. (The Mets would win the World Series later that same year.)

Another of the charter members of the AFL was the Houston Oilers, which relocated to the “state of Tennessee in 1997, first playing temporarily in Memphis for one season before moving to Nashville. For two seasons, the team was known as the Tennessee Oilers before changing its name to Titans in 1999.” So the Titans’ name lives again.

When I was collecting comics in the 1970s through the mid-1990s, I was pretty much a Marvel fan (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four) rather than a DC fan (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman). I never read, never even sought out, the original Teen Titans, a book about the sidekicks of the established stars from back in the 1960s. But because of the creative team of writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez, I did collect the NEW Teen Titans, starting in 1980, even though Robin was the only character I knew, and it became one of the most popular titles of its time.

There was also a Teen Titans TV series in the first decade of the century. New episodes stopped in 2006, but they are rerun often; I watched a part of an episode just this week to get into the spirit of this post.

Here is an extensive team history of the Teen Titans.

Finally, there is Clash of the Titans, the cheesy 1981 film with Harry Hamlin, and the 2010 remake. But I’ve seen neither, so I thought I’d just do the photo comparison.

ABC Wednesday

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