The Croods is fine. It’s pretty, it tells a nice story, and its voice cast includes personal favorites Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, and Cloris Leachman.
That’s about all I can say for it, however. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t cry. I just sorta rocked along pleasantly for an hour and half. That ain’t bad. It ain’t great, either. It’s fine. No, really. It’s fine.
I spent the first hour or so of Rush not enjoying the movie. Like Amadeus, the film sets up a conflict between a natural talent (Chris Hemsworth, a British Formula One driver) and a grinder (Daniel Brühl, his Austrian nemesis (the actor also appears in A Most Wanted Man, discussed below)). Thing is, I identified with the grinder. Hemsworth’s character put my teeth on edge.
Then the movie took an unexpected turn, went in an entirely different direction than I’d expected, and made me hold my breath, tense in sympathy to the action onscreen, and hang on every twist and turn of the competitors’ races.
I feel like I started out with Days of Thunder and finished with something wonderful. Rush is the most surprising movie I’ve seen this year.
A Most Wanted Man
Some deaths get to you, even if you never really knew the person in question. I still miss Phil Hartman. I miss Philip Seymour Hoffman.
In A Most Wanted Man, Hoffman plays the Hamburg chief of a small German intelligence organization occupied with hunting terrorists. The film, based on a John le Carré novel, occupies itself not with fast cars and gadgets, but with the nondescript, dedicated, and frequently exhausted people who actually make the intelligence community go. Hoffman, overweight, disheveled, and brilliant, is a perfect match for this world. His character belongs in dimly lit bars, crafting plans and making deals, and I believed in him every step of the way.
The plot? Well, it’s a le Carré story, so it features twists and surprises and a kind of mundane weariness that feels all the more immediate because we can imagine it happening right in the next booth over.
The effect? Well, mostly sadness. Sadness for the characters in the story, but particular sadness for the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of our generation’s great actors and a talent that I’m sure to miss for a long time to come.