Generally, I love the holiday season. I actually believe that it can be “the most wonderful time of the year.” There are two parts of the build up to Christmas, however, that just make me cringe. The first is Black Friday; the second is the sleigh-load of big-budget, often cheesy, feel-good movies that studios release, hoping to make big bucks during November and December.
One such feel-good movie is The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock. The movie is the story of “Big Mike” Oher, a teenager who’s been in and out of both the projects and foster care, has an incredibly low GPA and reading level, and is a force to be reckoned with on the football field. Mike is taken in by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock) and her family, who create a room for him in their home and in their lives, changing all of them, for the better, forever.
Not surprisingly, The Blind Side feels pretty formulaic. It’s a good kind of formula. It’s compelling, funny, and heart-warming. But, it’s a formula nonetheless. The label of “based on a true story” makes it significantly easier to pardon. What really sells the story, however, is the acting. Bullock brings in her tough and charming star power and her portrayal of Leigh Anne’s sense of humor and strong will is fun to watch. No family movie would be complete without the precocious younger sibling, and Jae Head as SJ Tuohy plays the role exceptionally well, nearly stealing the show. As Michael, Quinton Aaron is sweet and he subtlety plays the depth of the character in such a way that you could almost miss the development of his feelings throughout the film.
The Blind Side hits all the high notes of both a feel-good family movie and an underdog sports movie. I thought I would be a little misty-eyed throughout, but I was fine until the credits, when they show the family photos of the real-life Tuohy family with Michael. That The Blind Side is a true story (even if it is Hollywoodized) is really the best part of the movie. Otherwise, it pretty much left me feeling great as the credits rolled, but the more I thought about it, the less it sparkled. ***/5
I also went to see New Moon, the latest installment in the Twilight Saga, which made a killing at the box office during its opening weekend. In New Moon, Edward (Robert Pattinson) leaves Bella (Kristen Stewart) behind as his family moves to someplace new, so people don’t realize they’re not aging. Edward believes that he’s protecting Bella from other vampires, but in his absence Bella takes to extreme sports and dangerous excursions because with the rush of adrenaline she is also able to see and hear Edward again. To get through her separation from Edward, Bella also fosters a closer relationship with her childhood friend, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), whose latent werewolf gene has kicked in.
I’ve been pretty critical of the Twilight series all along, but I have a best friend who talked me into going with her and made me give it half a chance. Truth be told, I enjoyed New Moon. It was just fun, especially seeing it opening weekend with a crowd of teenage girls who giggled at everything Jacob or Edward said like they were on a first date. Really, it makes sense why the series has such a cult following among women, especially young women. I mean, Bella spends about half of the movie pressed up against someone’s bare chest. And while I question the example of codependent romance Twilight presents to young girls as a beautiful love story, the characters are growing on me.
New Moon delivers an exciting story and some pretty cool special effects. I wish, however, that the directors had spared some of the slow-motion. The abuse of slow-mo was at first annoying and eventually comedic as we witnessed yet another dragging shot of Bella and Edward or Bella and Jacob gazing at each other.
Aside from the pacing problem caused by the rampant special effects use, I thought New Moon was artfully made. My favorite scene was when Bella went into a months-long depression after Edward leaves and the void she feels is shown by her sitting in a chair looking out her bedroom window. The shot moves in circles as Bella is motionless, and each time the window passes, it’s a new month and/or season. October. November. December. I’ve been told that in the book these months were chapters with no words on the page. The scene was beautiful, and a great adaptation of a tricky scripting moment.
New Moon is not brilliant and at times it’s down-right cheesy and melodramatic, but, like I said, it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and it certainly made its target audience happy. ***/5
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