Posted by: David Stewart | February 25, 2011

Movie Quick Takes

February included a trip to China. So it was a good month to catch up on movies that are somewhere between theatrical release and video.

Secretariat – I was prepared to dislike this movie because frankly I’m not a "feel-good movie" kind of guy. But Secretariat was great for several reasons:

  • The triumph of the "housewife" – the accidental owner of this great racehorse wasn’t a powerful tycoon but the wife of a lawyer and mom to four kids. I loved her go-for-broke attitude, willing to take risks to achieve something great, even when misunderstood and underappreciated.
  • How to be a great leader – I suspect that in future years, Secretariat will be use by teachers of leadership and management. There are fantastic examples of modeling accountability, holding others to their word, and apologizing when they are wrong.
  • Full immersion in the world of horse racing – I’m not all that interested in this sport, but I felt like I know more about what goes on in the paddock and racetrack. Why did their owners call the horse "Big Red" when the world called him "Secretariat" ? Are these big animals really athletes?

What was particularly fun for me were the scenes which took place in a suburban Denver home in the 1970s. It looked remarkable like the home I grew up in during the 1970s in suburban Denver. Like, Spooky similar.

Unstoppable – Like Speed on a train, an unmanned freight train is hurtling through the Pennsylvania countryside under full power! Headed toward a town! Carrying toxic liquids! And nobody will listen to the scrappy dispatcher on the ground, particularly the greedy corporate types. Oh, this is going to be a good popcorn movie. And indeed it was, with the power and inherent danger of the locomotives and class warfare representative of our times.

You Again – As hard as it may be to picture starlet Kristin Bell as a nerdy loser in high school, that is a guiding premise of this movie. Yes, she shed her ugly duckling look in her twenties, but she is thrown back to her childhood when her beloved brother is to marry her chief nemesis from her geek days.  Firmly in the genre of "I’m not understood at all when I go back home" which ran its course in Dan in Real Life, the trope is replayed by Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver, as rivals from the previous generation.  Oh, the humanity! Actually, the best parts were side characters played by Victor Garber as the dad and Betty White as the grandmother. I tell you, that Betty White has really honed that hot granny performance.  Honestly, I didn’t really care about how this movie came out in the end.

Life as we Know It – Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl are confirmed bachelors (and frenemies) who find themselves as instant parents of an infant, when mommy and daddy die and name them as the guardians. You can tell it’s a rom-com when there is a race to the airport to stop someone "before it’s too late." Oh please. At least the weepie elements were kept to a minimum.


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