Promised Land A Deep But Largely Forgettable Film

Courtesy:  Focus Features/Universal Studios

Courtesy: Focus Features/Universal Studios

Matt Damon’s new starring vehicle, Promised Land is not one of the best of 2013’s crop of new movies.  It is however, worth at least one watch.  It’s a relatively simple movie, despite what so many critics and audiences have apparently thought of it.  It is not as deep as those individuals would have people believe.  The crux of Promised Land has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of fracking.  The real issue at hand in this seemingly socially conscious story is that of corruption within the world’s major energy companies and businesses in general.  It just so happens that the issue of fracking is used as the backdrop for that plot.  And at the heart of it all is Matt Damon’s character of Steve Butler who thinks all along, that he is doing something good, until a twist late in the story leaves him questioning everything that he has known.  Of course, add in a minor romance subplot for Steve, and audiences get the end result that is this interesting but not entirely memorable story.

The major hurdle that Promised Land faced when it originally debuted in theaters in early 2013 was figuring out a way to take the tried and true plot centered on business corruption from being stale and boring.  Stories centered on corruption within the business world are nothing new.  See Michael Douglas’ Wall Street franchise or Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming movie, The Wolf of Wall Street.  Since this plot is nothing new to Hollywood’s brass, it should be said that at least the execution of the story line is original even if the plot isn’t.  So the movie as a whole does have that much going for it.  For its attempts to be at least somewhat original, Damon and his co-writers deserve some credit.  The real problem with the whole movie was the timing of its release.

Promised Land had trouble performing at top notch levels in theaters.  There is no denying this.  Its performance issues were not just because of its subject matter, but also because of the timing of its release.  America is currently in an economic and political climate that necessitates movies as means to escape even more than ever.  So being faced with a story that deals with issues that have been all over the news, viewers obviously turned largely away from it.  Had the nation’s economic and political situations been different when this was released, movie-goers’ reaction might have been different.  From that angle, it can be said that perhaps this is a positive.  It’s a positive in that it serves as an example of what not to do in planning the release date for a movie.  So it has that going for it, too.      

For the issues surrounding Promised Land, it isn’t entirely without its merits.  Lead actor Matt Damon was at least mildly convincing as the socially blind Steve Butler.  In its own way, his portrayal of Steve is realistic.  Just look at the way that supporters of one political party or another blindly support their side every day on every major issue.  Look at the way that PR professionals cover up the wrongs of their companies.  In many cases, those professionals actually believe the words that they spew out.  This isn’t always the case.  But it does happen.  So Steve’s reaction in figuring out that he has been little more than a pawn in Global’s bigger plot makes him a more sympathetic character for audiences.  He becomes someone to whom audiences can relate and for whom they can cheer.  It’s at least one reason for viewers to take in this story at least once.

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Your Sister’s Sister Not A Typical Romance Story

Courtesy: IFC Films/4 Culture/Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs/Northwest Film Forum/mpi media group

Your Sister’s Sister is not for everybody.  That needs to be noted right off the top of this new indie flick from IFC Films.  The story’s summary tends to focus largely on the lead character, Jack as it opens with his brother Tom having died.  The story doesn’t explain how Tom died.  But that’s not important as it’s his death that leads to the story’s most basic roots.  At its most basic roots, Your Sister’s Sister is exactly as the story’s title notes, a story about sisters.  At the same time, one can’t help but note the similarities to Seth Rogen’s 2007 hit movie, Knocked Up.Your Sister’s Sister has been marketed largely as a romantic dramedy.  But the reality is that the central story is that of the relationship between sisters Iris (Emily Blunt –The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt – Mad Men).  The eventual revelation of the story between the pair is that while Hannah is a lesbian, she wants a child of her own.  So she essentially sets up Jack.  How she does that will be left up to viewers who have yet to see this movie.  But when this is revealed, the crux of the story is also revealed, which is the seemingly hidden turmoil between the sisters.  The problem is made worse because of something that Iris reveals to Hannah after Hannah finally admits to Iris what she has done and why.  This is where the similarity to Knocked Up comes into play.

Unlike Seth Rogen’s character in Knocked Up, Jack (Mark Duplass – The League) was in the dark about Hannah’s plan, too.  That is until the sisters return to the house after their alone time.  The whole thing turns almost into an odd Jerry Springer episode as the story’s final moments play out, even leaving the story wide open for interpretation in a near Sopranos style close.  Considering all of this, Your Sister’s Sister won’t appeal to everyone.  But for those who are open minded enough, it’s a story that is worth watching at least once.

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The Odd Life Of Timothy Green Is Anything But Odd

Courtesy: Disney Studios

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is anything but odd.  While so many critics have obviously had their field day with this magical, touching film, perhaps the reason they so abrasively bashed it is because they couldn’t see past their own noses to actually take in the story.  Yes it is schmaltzy and saccharine.  Yes it is aimed at childless parents.  It’s all that.  But it’s also much more.  It’s a story that teaches audiences about life.  It teaches audiences about the importance of family.  And most of all, it teaches audiences to NEVER GIVE UP.  Hope is the most important thing in life.  As Morgan Freeman noted in the 1994 hit movie, The Shawshank Redemption, “hope is a dangerous thing.”    Without hope, what do we have?

It’s obvious that The Odd Life of Timothy is entirely fantastical.  But at a time when Hollywood is continuing to churn out endless streams of prequels, sequels, and remakes, this heartfelt family film stands as tall and colorful among the forest of movies currently out there as the leaves on the trees in this movie.  What makes it so enjoyable is the emphasis on family.  Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) finally came to realize that he was overdoing it as a father to compensate for his own father not being there for him emotionally.  How many fathers out there can honestly look at themselves and say that hasn’t happened to them?  Perhaps some.  But odds are that number is likely very small. 

Jim isn’t the only one who comes to realize what he was doing as a parent.  Both he and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) realized in wanting a child so bad that they were letting the pressures of parents and others around them get to them.  Most parents will likely scoff and say they have never done such a thing.  That would be a lie, and those parents know it.  No parent is ever ready to be a parent.  A parent can only do the best that a parent can.  And Timothy reminds Jim and Cindy that they were doing fine, as they were just trying to be the best parents that they could.  Perhaps all of this is why so many critics have decided to have the take that they did on this dramedy.  Much like certain sitcoms on television over the years, it’s such a mirror image to reality, that it’s unsettling to its viewers who refuse to admit that they see themselves in the roles.

Let the critics say what they will.  Those critics have obviously forgotten that while yes, movies are meant as an escape, they are also meant to be memorable.  And that is what The Odd Life of Timothy Green is.  It’s an escape in that it is so fantastical of a story.  At the same time, because of its magic and its heartfelt story, it has proven to be on of Disney’s best in a very long time.  In other words, it is a truly memorable story.  Sure the end is somewhat bittersweet (it won’t be revealed for those who have yet to see it).  But it still does have a happy ending proving the value and the power of hope.

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