Monday, February 18, 2013

Nemo, Side Effects, A Good Day to Die Hard, and Safe Haven

I was on a roll there, posting weekly on each movie I saw this year, and then Nemo hit Cape Cod with high winds, lots of snow, and Capewide power outages. Nature rules. In anticipation of the impending storm, schools were closed on Friday, February 8th, so I was able to see an early showing of Side Effects before the travel ban at 4:00.

Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects is a crafty, well-made mystery about depression, mood-altering drugs, and deception, featuring excellent performances by Jude Law and Rooney Mara, a very awkward performance by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and some artful cinematography and editing. Rooney Mara is especially good as the devious Emily. The story keeps you thinking, though the whys and wherefores get a little perplexing in the film’s final third. This is an enjoyable film to watch, and I love how Soderbergh makes distinctly different one-offs to refresh us in this day and age of sequels and remakes.

Back home, we lost power that night and wouldn’t get it back for 48 hours. We have the fireplace, and I have a camp stove and lantern for cooking and light. I had cooked a massive stew before we lost power, so we had a hot meal on Saturday night. I’m a survivalist. Nights were very cold, however. My wife, my daughter, and I spent Saturday night huddled near the fire, watching The Hunger Games on my iPad. All day Saturday had been spent shoveling to keep ahead of the snow that fell all that day. We would shovel, go in for tea and food, shovel, eat, shovel, eat, all day long. We have a long, sloping drive that I call Truckee Pass.

Nights were very cold, so after two nights like that, my wife and daughter went to my brother-in-law’s place in Westborough, where they had more snow but still had power. I stayed behind, shoveled, cut limbs off a fallen tree that smashed the backyard fence, and made my way to Panera in Hyannis for warmth and Internet. That night I got power.

Friday, I saw A Good Day to Die Hard. Very silly. John McClane (Willis) looks for his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), in Russia, where the chip off the old block is a CIA operative. The franchise needs to end here, but I have to say I was fascinated by all the damage done to prop cars, and some of the flying car stunts are amazing. Many cars flip, many Russians die, many things explode. You get the point.

Sunday, the 18th, more snow! More shoveling. Bad roads! I’m not enjoying this winter. But today, a sunny one, my daughter and I saw Safe Haven.

Safe Haven is a perfect little world of wish fulfillment and second chances. Typical of films based on novels by Nicholas Sparks, a beautiful woman and a handsome man both enjoy second chances in love in a quaint and beautiful rural town in the South. In this case, Katie (Julianne Hough) is fleeing an abusive husband, a policeman who uses his power to track her down. Alex (Josh Duhamel) is a widower with two cute kids who runs a quaint general store in an idyllic North Carolina coastal one-store town. As in all Sparks stories, the two fall in love, the kids love the newcomer too, there’s a scene in the rain when the lovers get all wet and start kissing, there’s the ubiquitous misunderstanding (Alex thinks Katie is accused of murder), there’s the scene where they run back into each other’s arms, and there’s always a flood or fire and a rescue. Neither Hough nor Duhamel is a great actor, but the locations shots are gorgeous, Hough is not hard to look at, and after a week of snow and shoveling and hazardous driving and cars sliding down Truckee Pass and cancelled Drama Club shows, I have to say I enjoyed this perfect little world. Once in a while, it’s nice to watch everything come out all right.

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