Motorized Mediocrity

Did the name "Imogen Poots" sound too immature for poster billing?

Did the name “Imogen Poots” sound too immature for poster billing?

Not fast enough, but quite furious, Need for Speed offers a decent drive in your jaunty car through the continental United States, but little else.

Let me preface this review with these sentences: I don’t play the games on which the film is based, I never watched “Breaking Bad,” and I am very selective about 3D conversions.

As the film begins, we are not eased into the film’s story or characters, but rather assaulted by Michael Keaton as a DJ with a darn-near replication of his Beetlejuice voice (he must be desperate to don the striped tux again… and who can blame him?). Come to think of it, the film doesn’t really begin; rather, it happens. Via Keaton’s DJ character, Mo Monarch (who we later find out runs a racing event), you only get the basest idea of the situation our lead character, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”), is in — that his father is recently dead, that he runs a car shop with his childhood chums and he partakes in street racing. After such a race in the film’s beginning, Marshall’s old rival, the bizarrely named Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, Tamara Drewe), gives him and his mechanic pals the chance to repair an apparently vintage Mustang…

You know, when you go see racing films, you rarely go for the story, and there’s no reason to do so here. Need for Speed has limited appeal as a story, but the action is enough to whet the appetite of most moviegoers, in this reviewer’s opinion. The acting from Misters Paul and Cooper is not their finest, but in a film like this, it doesn’t need to be. The same can be said of the more-or-less token women in the film, Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later) and Dakota Johnson (The Social Network), whose characters are templates, but are mercifully not made to appeal to misogynists and no one else. Basically, if you want dumb fun at the movies (albeit long, at two hours and ten minutes), then Need for Speed is for you.

As for the film’s 3D conversion, do not be bothered that it was only promoted as a 3D film recently — the filmmakers began converting the film last September, and the end result is excellent. Normally, I’d get sick of the 3D effect if I’m not enjoying the film at hand, but for some reason, this was enjoyable. See it in 3D, if you must.

Rating: 2.5/5

Second Best is Still Among the Best

Y'know, I like the English poster a whole lot more.

Y’know, I like the English poster a whole lot more… though they forgot a comma between “Frears” and “Director.”

Philomena is a beautiful film, and ranks as my personal second best film of 2013, above The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and just below Saving Mr. Banks. As before, spoilers will be detailed, so go see the film if you haven’t already (as of this writing, it’s still in my area theaters).

Are we ready? Okay, here we go. The performances by Mr. Coogan and Miss Dench are well-thought and refreshingly believable; these leads never stoop to caricature or needless emphasis on a singular facet of the very real people they play — they are human beings, and little else, which is as it should be. Coogan’s portrayal of Martin Sixsmith (the straight man, if you will) is appropriately dry and wry, but he gives him a heart, with many moments of bonding throughout and notably exemplified in the film’s climax (which I will not spoil for you all; it has to be seen and/or heard).

As for Miss Dench, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so cuddly and innocent in a film before. She has acted in such a way before (i.e.: Ladies in Lavender, Tea with Mussolini), but in playing Philomena Lee, she isn’t happy-go-lucky from the get-go. In her first scenes in the film, she is a woman with a lot on her mind, her faith at a crossroad, and a heart that is empty, gradually improving as the film goes on, and in spite of the fact that she finds that her son is dead midway through the film, she then decides to learn about him from those who knew and loved him.

There’s a lot of faith to be found in Philomena, not just with Philomena’s faith that she’ll find her son, but learning to find footing in your faith — in this film’s case, Catholicism. As a Catholic myself, I am struggling to regain my faith due to a few past hardships, and while this movie doesn’t “cure” me or anyone (it doesn’t seek to, anyway, nor is it supposed to), it is somewhat inspirational, for reasons that should become evident if you have seen the film, and if you haven’t, definitely do so and as soon as you can!

Rating: 5/5