Saturday, April 2, 2011

SOURCE CODE: Reel Rhino Review


AMC Mainstreet

Source Code: 4 of 5 horns
The China Syndrome: 4.5 of 5 horns

It was a helluva week at sea.  I had a major CSI call out that took the better part of a straight 24 hour work day to wrap up.  Later in the week I made a 6 hour and a 2 hour presentation at a conference being held in town.  Let me tell you...this old boy is tired!

It was a great joy to ring the end of day bell a few hours early today, to slip out and catch a flick.

I made a break for AMC Barrywoods to see Source Code, the sophomore effort from Duncan Jones, his follow up to the excellent effort in 2009's MOON, with the one man wrecking crew in Sam Rockwell.

I took great pleasure in rewarding myself with a popcorn, after such a long week it week, it was much deserved.  What surprise I had when I was handed my medium and realized that AMC has downsized their portions.  When I asked why, I was given a line on the rising price of corn.  WHAT!  The mark up on popcorn and soda is ridiculous already, is it really such a losing gambit to offer a few extra kernals per bag?  AMC is suffering elsewhere as they have officially instituted their pay-per-Rewards program STUBS, which has supplanted their longstanding and popular MOVIEWATCHER program. 

I ask AMC this...was the size adjustment in the face of the other controversy really a good move?  I am a fan of AMC, but sometimes I think corporate is making moves with no real idea of where the pulse of the average moviegoer lies. 

I'll stay loyal, AMC, but thanks for nothing on this one.  Tread softly friends, as all pre-6pm showings at the Cinemark movie houses in the KC area run for $4 a show.  No, their theaters are not as nice as yours, but in these tough economic times, do you really want to gamble? 

Okay, enough complaining Rhino...onto the show!

Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens.  We meet Captain Stevens as a confused helicopter pilot, who wakes up in a strange body, riding a commuter train towards Chicago.  This train we find out in short order, has exploded and Captain Colter has been sent into the memory, or source code, of one of those killed in the blast, in an effort to learn more about the event to stop a subsequent bombing planned for that same day in downtown Chicago.

His handlers are Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright).  Both are, in my opinion, very watchable in all of there films, and the same holds true here. 

Colter is sent to the beginning of the 8 minute sequence multiple times throughout the film.  He is sent into the body of a school teacher who in real life, was contemplating commencing a relationship with a young lady, also on the train, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). 

With each trip into the code, Colter gains some bit of sympathy for Christina and the other passengers, all of who perished in the train explosion.  The chemistry between our leads is a bit disjointed as a facet of the story, but it is forgivable for those few moments when Gyllanhaal and Monaghan emotionally engage one and other, I felt the heat as Monaghan's cheerful demeanor portrays young love in a very convincing manner.

As revealed in the trailer, Colter wants to try and save them all.  And honorable notion, but is it metaphysically possible?

This is a film worth seeing.  I wasn't blown away in the same way I was by moon, but this was a very enjoyable film.  There is a reveal around half way through, and depending on your perspective, some twists towards the end of the film.

I don't feel comfortable calling the twists, "twists," per say.  Instead, I shall call the plot, as it unfolds, an original tale.

I commended in my last post the original visuals in Sucker Punch, as dreamt into reality by Zach Snyder.  Duncan Jones takes fresh faced writer Ben Ripley's words and crafts them into an original sci-fi tale that is suprising simlar to those films previously made on the writings of Phillip K. Dick. 

I commend again her originality.  In a world of remakes and sequels, many of which the fanboy in me will come to love, I say we have plenty of space in this world of cinema for original work.

This film is seemingly a bigger budget, studio effort for Jones.  And while this story wraps itself up very nicely, in true studio form, I see a sliver of an opening for a sequel, if it is, in fact, deemed "profitable." 

I think Source Code will take the weekend.  It is a very safe PG-13, other than the script optioning its one F-bomb and having a bit of up close and personal violence.  The rating will help fill sets with teens in love with Gyllenhaal and Monaghan and the concepts will draw in adults who are interested in being entertained by a solid sci-fi effort.

Duncan Jones has done it again and I offer SOURCE CODE up as a 4 of 5 horn effort by the son of David Bowie. 

On a home video note, as I sat here typing, I watched the second half of a movie I started watching some time ago.  THE CHINA SYNDROME, starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Wilford Brimley, and Michael Douglas.  WOW....Effing wow!  The second half was as riveting as any thriller out there today and the last ten minutes were surprisingly gripping and emotional. 

The film begins with Fonda as a riving reporter, with Douglas working as her camera man.  They are doing a fluff piece on a nuclear power plant in Southern California, when there is an "incident."  After being told to keep their camera off, Douglas's character disobeys and captures footage that is believed to have been moments leading up to a near-miss with the "China Syndrome."  That would be a core melt down and the nuclear material burning through the earth all the way to China.

The footage he captures becomes the central focus of the first half of the film, and the latter half is Lemmon's character, the shift supervisor on duty during the accident, and his fears about the safety of the plant.

The film takes place while through its duration, a public hearing for an application for a nuclear site license by the same company, is underway in Los Angeles.

It is a well told story that is competently acted and tightly directed.  The film comes off at times as more of a compelling spy thriller than a drama, much due to the well directed mix of live action intercut with news footage and a pseudo-documentary look at the ongoing hearing.

This is a must-see from 1979, Reel Rhino gives The China Syndrome a 4.5 of 5 horn salute!

For me, by the time you are reading this, I may be enjoying the comforts of the Kansas City Zoo.  As for my second film of the weekend, I am 99% sure that it will be James Wan's INSIDIOUS.  You know of course, Insidious is insidious.  A clever bit of marketing, indeed!

For now and until later....take care,

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