The Game: written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris; directed by David Fincher; starring Michael Douglas (Nicholas Van Orton), Sean Penn (Conrad Van Orton), Deborah Kara Unger (Christine), James Rebhorn (Jim Feingold), Peter Donat (Samuel Sutherland), and Carroll Baker (Ilsa) (1997): A twisty and enjoyable ‘What’s reality?’ plot derails towards the end for reasons I’ll leave to you to discover. Still, it’s fun getting there in what was director David Fincher’s third feature film (after Alien 3 and Se7en). Michael Douglas is suitably flustered, though the character’s anti-social tendencies and rigidity needed more development at the beginning to make the the ending work the way it seems to have been intended to work. This initial softening of the character helps make an improbable ending almost intolerable. Lightly recommended.
Hector and the Search for Happiness: adapted from the Francois Lelord novel by Maria von Heland, Peter Chelsom, and Tinker Lindsay; directed by Peter Chelsom; starring Simon Pegg (Hector), Rosamund Pike (Clara), Jean Reno (Diego Baresco), Ming Zhao (Ying Li), Christopher Plummer (Professor Coreman), Stellan Skarsgard (Edward), and Toni Collette (Agnes) (2014): Well, the whole thing is a bit gooey. Or perhaps mushy. But Simon Pegg is Simon Pegg, and much of the writing in this picaresque film is light enough to keep things from bogging down in First-World Problems.
The cast is first-rate throughout, though Pegg’s character is somewhat unbelievable as a psychiatrist: just imagine he’s the comic-book-shop employee/comic-book illustrator he played on Spaced and the whole movie makes way more sense. Funded by what seems to be about nineteen different countries, supplied with an international cast, and seemingly only released to about three theatres, the film almost seems to have been some sort of tax shelter scam. Oh, well. Recommended.
Unstoppable: written by Mark Bomback; directed by Tony Scott; starring Denzel Washington (Frank), Chris Pine (Will), Rosario Dawson (Connie), Ethan Suplee (Dewey), Kevin Dunn (Galvin), Kevin Corrigan (Werner), Kevin Chapman (Bunny), and T.J. Miller (Gilleece) (2010): Denzel Washington and the new Captain Kirk strive to stop a runaway train from blowing up half of Pennsylvania. This film was indeed inspired by real-life events which are crazy enough — both reality and film involve a train on the same tracks chasing down the crewless runaway. The movie pumps things up with helicopters, explosions, and domestic drama for Captain Nu-Kirk.
Still, the late Tony Scott was in his wheelhouse for this action/chase movie. He keeps things tight and tense, brings the movie in under 100 minutes, and supplies the viewer with enough train technobabble and real-world stunts to make the whole thing an engaging, old-school diversion. One could imagine this movie being made almost verbatim in the 1950’s, albeit with Humphrey Bogart in the Denzel Washington role and John Derek in Chris Pine’s position. The supporting cast is surprisingly deep and well-served by the movie, with Rosario Dawson as a female lead who isn’t required to fall in love with either of the male leads. I guess that’s progress. Recommended.