50/50 = 100% Awesome!

Balance.  That is a tricky feat in Hollywood storytelling.  Many films struggle to find the right tone or direction–and sometimes you find it–the perfect balance.  50/50  sounds like a downer–a young man is diagnosed with cancer and we get to watch his experience.  Woohoo!  Fell good movie of the year–right?  Actually…yeah, it is!  I laughed out loud, cried a bit and LOVED every minute of this film.

I should also tell you that I am a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  He continues to impress me.  From 3rd Rock from the Sun to Inception.  His young career is filled with memorable, wonderful performances and 50/50’s Adam is another one to add to the list.  If Joe doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination I will be upset because his Adam is layered and nuanced.  An everyday guy faced with a difficult roadblock on his life’s  journey.

A nice surprise is Seth Rogen.  Who I like, but can be a bit annoying sometimes.  Not this time.  As Adam’s best friend Kyle he shines.  All his strengths are highlighted and he very funny.   Add a fabulous Angelica Houston,  the adorable Anna Kendrick  and a getting good at being nasty,  Bryce Dallas Howard and you have a strong supporting cast.

The biggest credit must go to screenwriter Will Reiser, who was inspired by his own battle with cancer and has created this lovely, heartfelt, funny and realistic story.  His timing is perfect.  Just when you think it is too deep or serious, the tone changes smoothly and you find you are laughing–even if you don’t think you should be.  I will keep an eye on this guy.

Not to be overlooked is the director Jonathan Levine.  He directed the little known gem titled The Wackness back in 2008 (if you haven’t seen it–check it out–it is quietly good).  He deftly tells this story by showing details rather than telling you.  It works.  You learn more about these characters by these actions, than by anything they could have said.  I will definitely be watching his career.

Dez and I were lucky to get to a preview screening of 50/50 and we both agreed it is one of our favorite movies of the year–so when it goes wide on September 30th–put it on your MUST see list!  You will not regret it!

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Contagion will freak you out a bit, but that’s it…

A montage of six characters, each with a different response, mostly related to the pandemic.

I had high hopes.  The trailer was very effective.  I was wiping down my shopping carts with those handy sanitizing wipes–something I’ve never done.  I was trying not to touch my face.  Why?  Because I was suddenly aware that germs and viruses were all around me.  I was  surrounded!!!!  Yet, Contagion was strangely unsuspenseful and unemotional for me.

Steven Soderbergh is a gifted storyteller.  He is hit and miss with me, but I can not deny his talent.  Soderbergh has created a tense, realistic story about a pandemic that just happens to be lacking in human connection.  There are too many characters and storylines–some that are abrupt and unfinished–and though it is well acted, you are unable to form any emotional attachments.   Yeah, it sucks that virus is wiping out humanity, but I should care about some of the humans being wiped out,  right?

As stated, the cast is great.  All fine actors.  But none of them are on-screen long enough to make any kind of impression.  So, what you are left with is an interesting tale about how a virus could kill us all!! It is scary, but not terrifying.  And by the way,  I did love all the science geeky stuff (which I wish there was more of).

The  movie that Contagion most compares to is  Outbreak.  And although Outbreak tends towards the Hollywood-version of viruses gone amuck, by keeping it centered around a small town and only a handful of characters, it is more successful in generating a connection and therefore creating a more satisfying movie experience.

At the end, I walked out thinking that it is amazing that there are doctors and scientists that deal with this stuff on a daily basis–all I want to say is thanks guys! Thanks for keeping us safe.  And I will still try not touch my face!