Tag Archives: Alan Arkin

Going In Style – Grey Power!

Going In Style – Alan Arkin as Albert Garner, Morgan Freeman as Willie Davis and Michael Caine as Joe Harding – Photo by Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Going in Style is the rare remake that is better than the original.

That’s because it creates a plausible (if not entirely believable) set of circumstances in which three octogenarians are forced to consider the unlikely remedy of robbing a bank – and are smart enough to do it.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Sunshine Cleaning: Making Things Just a Little Bit Better

Sunshine Cleaning, which opened wide this weekend, is a quirky, entertaining dramedy that mines the same kind of vibe that propelled Little Miss Sunshine to hit status. It’s about pursuing a dream even though it would have appeared that it was too late. It features a very familiar performance from Alan Arkin as Joe, the eccentric father to sisters Rose [Amy Adams] and Norah [Emily Blunt], and grandfather to Rose’s equally eccentric young son, Oscar [Jason Spevak].

(Left to right.) Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star in Overture Films' Sunshine Cleaning.

Rose works for a home cleaning company [a kind of maids-on-wheels gig], but was once the captain of the cheerleading squad and girlfriend of the quarterback. She’s still the girlfriend of the quarterback, Mac [Steve Zahn], a married police detective], but that’s the only thing her life has in common with her younger self. This is not where she thought she’d be – something that being invited to a baby shower for a former fellow cheerleader drives home.

Norah was probably the class clown until she dropped out and began a series of wage-slave jobs. Where Norah is responsible and maybe more than a bit worn down, Norah still acts like she’s in high school. We meet her as she gets fired from yet another job.

When Mac suggests that Rose get involved the lucrative crime scene cleanup game, she takes the idea and runs with it – dragging Norah along with her. Working together has opposite effects on the sisters: Rose really gets into it, learning everything she can about the job – and excelling at it [plus, she believes it makes things better in some small way]; Norah, who really needs a handler at all times, is easily distracted and not really interested – a combination that brings about some really bad results. Since Rose needs the money to get Oscar into a private school, where he can get the kind of attention an eccentric kid like him needs, this drives a huge wedge between her and Norah. Meanwhile, Joe is trying various get-rich-quick schemes with little to no success.

Sunshine Cleaning is not the next Little Miss Sunshine, but that’s okay. It is a witty dramedy that gives us interesting characters who react to their circumstances in very real ways. The script, by Megan Holley, is rich enough in terms of both characters and situation that it feels real and we can easily relate to them. Director Christine Jeffs draws a solid performance from her cast, but I doubt that Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are even capable of turning a bad performance. Where Jeffs’ skill shows, is in her work with young Jason Spevak. Oscar could have been just another precocious kid, but he’s not – in a world of precocious kid actors, Spevak is intriguingly fresh. He cloaks his character’s intelligence within his eccentricities in a way that really does make Oscar unique.

If Sunshine Cleaning doesn’t quite hit all the heights to which it aspires, it still has enough wit and intelligence and warmth to balance its darker moments [and there are a number of them, right from the fade in]. It is a solid, entertaining film.

Final Grade: B+

MOVIE REVIEW: Get Smart: From Analyst to Super-Spy by Sheldon Wiebe

Get Smart could have gone wrong in oh so many ways. Fortunately, rather than parrot the ‘60s hit spy spoof, writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember choose to give us the story of how super-analyst Maxwell Smart [Steve Carell] made the shift from computer jockey to field agent. Mixing clever gags with action is tricky, and while the ratio isn’t quite right, the film manages to maintain its entertainment quotient by keeping Max from being hopelessly incompetent. Instead, Max passes the field agent test with flying colors but is only sent into the field when the identities of all Control’s agents are compromised.

Only Smart and Agent 99 [Anne Hathaway, sexy in a Disney-cute way and deadly in a Modesty Blaise way] can find and destroy KAOS’s stockpile of nuclear weapons – cleverly hidden in a Moscow bakery [well, it would be cleverly hidden if the bakery wasn’t a huge building with an enormous sign bearing its name]. If they fail, it could be curtains for Los Angeles and the visiting President of the United States.

86 & 99

Staples of the series [Max’s love of little British sports cars; Agent 13, the master of disguise; certain trademark phrases] make appearances – including one that is so utterly perfect that I won’t mention the character or the actor. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for fans of the original series. Besides the homages to the original series, there are things about this movie that work because they are different.

Max is not incompetent – his bumbling usually occurs because his focus is too narrow and everything outside his focus gets past him – watch him deal with a hulking Russian assassin, for instance. He also cuts a mean rug in a party scene – where he gives an unlikely dance partner an incredible ego boost [which refers back to Max’s past].

Get Smart’s supporting cast is excellent, but underused. Since some of the action sequences run a bit long, it might have been a good idea to give more time Dwayne Johnson’s suave Agent 23 – or Terrance Stamp’s Siegfried. Another cool change is Alan Arkin’s Chief – instead of being put upon like the character originated by the late Edward Platt, here the Chief is very much a player.

Overall, then, Get Smart is a smart, if slightly overlong movie that reintroduces the characters from the TV series in a fresh way that does not negate the originals. For the most part, it is great fun – and the moments where it tries too hard can be forgiven. Peter Segal directs the film with good energy and if the action threatens to overwhelm the comedy occasionally, it never quite does. The result is an entertainment that should tickle fans of the series as well as those who’ve never heard of it.

Final Grade: B