Live-action family films have fallen on hard times of late. Perhaps it’s achieving that tricky balance between zaniness and feel-good that baffles filmmakers. Or perhaps they just need the right actor to blend these two elements together… like Steve Carell! Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day simply doesn’t work without his special brand of manic optimism. He effortlessly veers between the ridiculous and the poignant, elevating Alexander into a relentless gallop that every member of the family can enjoy.
Ambition can be the enemy of precision. With its multiple storylines and subplots, there is no denying the overarching ambition of Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children. What seems to be missing, however, is the attention to detail required to craft a rewarding and engaging film. The good ideas are undermined by ‘Young Adult’ clichés, and the interesting stories aren’t given enough time to flourish. The end result is a messy little film that doesn’t offer enough insight to warrant enduring the melancholy.
Dallas Buyers Club is an important film. Not because it tackles AIDS or bigotry or pharmaceutical companies or preservatives, although it does all that and more. It’s important because it shows one man who manages to overcome a 30-days left to live prognosis and makes a positive difference, all the while still being a real jerk, to put it politely. Based off of a true story, the material could have easily fallen into a Lifetime movie or docu-drama or a redemption story, but instead Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club is a compelling film about a real antihero, an alcohol and drug-abusing, flaming heterosexual Texan who contracts H.I.V. and lives to help himself and those around him, in that order.
J.J. Abrams has become a household name, particularly in the nerd sphere, but when Alias premiered in 2001, only a handful of genre fans had ever heard of him. Known primarily as the co-creator of the WB college drama Felicity, Abrams hadn’t had an opportunity to stretch his sci-fi muscles. This changed when, prompted by his pondering, “What if Felicity became a spy for the CIA?”, Abrams developed, pitched, and sold Alias.