Morning Glory

Posted on March 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm

We love those disheveled but indomitable women of the television world, from Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News” to Mary Tyler Moore in her iconic 1970’s television series, Tina Fey in “30 Rock,” and Michelle Pfeiffer in the under-appreciated “I Could Never Be Your Woman.” Part Hermione Granger, part Cinderella, these are the girls whose hands were always raised in class turned women who inspire us with their determination, smarts, and skill. As Joan Cusack’s character says to Hunter’s, “Except for socially, you’re my role model.” On the outside, they may appear frazzled in a just-take-off-the-glasses-and-comb-the-hair-and-she’s-a-knockout mode. On the inside, they are super-capable, super-talented, and super-lonely. Hunter’s character scheduled crying time for herself each morning before spending the rest of the day keeping everyone on track and ahead of the competition.

And now there’s Becky (Rachel McAdams), dedicated, ambitious, addicted to her Blackberry — and about to be let go. When she’s called into a meeting with the boss, her colleagues are so sure it’s about a big promotion they have congratulatory t-shirts made. On the contrary. They love her, but in these days of tight budgets, they have other priorities. Becky’s mom (Patti D’Arbanville) is not encouraging. But Becky does not give up and soon she finds herself producing a network morning show (the good news) that is so awful half its viewers are “people who’ve lost their remotes” (the bad news). They cover stories like “Eight things you didn’t know you could do with potatoes” and chirpy interviews with celebrities.

Becky doesn’t get a very warm welcome. Co-host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) greets her with “Enjoy the pain, Gidget.” The security guard tells her not to unpack. She has no budget. But she has an idea — the station has a contract with a legendary newsman named Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford playing a character somewhere between Walter Cronkite and Wolf Blitzer) who is currently being paid but not doing anything. She coerces him into sharing hosting duties with Colleen, and starts to shake things up.

Director Roger Michell shows the same gift for endearing light romance that he did in “Notting Hill.” Once again he has some sly, understated pokes at the media and some surprising cameos and clever lines. Ford and Keaton are pros who make their characters real and interesting and very funny. Patrick Wilson makes a sympathetic Prince Charming. But in every way the heart of the story is McAdams, who is a wonder, lit from within and utterly captivating.

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Comedy Romance

Trailer: Morning Glory

Posted on June 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

A comedy with Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford, and Rachel McAdams? Oh, yes, please! “Morning Glory,” in theaters this fall, is the story of a harried morning talk show producer who brings in a once-great television journalist to improve ratings. Ford is a deft comic performer and he and Keaton should be great together. Can’t wait.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Extraordinary Measures

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 8:00 am

Harrison Ford has his best role in years as a testy scientist who listens to classic rock as he works all night in the lab and who may just have the key to a crucial medicine for a disease that kills children. Brendan Fraser plays John Crowley, the father of two children with a rare genetic disorder called Pompe disease that weakens muscles, enlarges organs, and had a life expectancy of less than eight years. Crowley quit his job as an executive in a pharmaceutical company to start a biotechnology firm to support the most promising research into a treatment for the disease.

That research was being done by Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), a twice-divorced, sardonic, and very stubborn professor. Crowley offers him the chance to get the resources he needs to test his theories. He raises the money for a start-up and handles the business side while Stonehill cranks up the Grateful Dead and insults people.

Ford, who bought the rights to the story when he read about it in the newspaper, produced the film and his long-time Hollywood experience and sure sense of story-telling shows. Screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs (“Chocolat,” “The Shipping News”) gently streamlined the story to shape the narrative. The Stonehill character is based on several different scientists who worked on the research and some of the most dramatic moments are shorthand summaries of real-life developments. But all of this is in aid of a powerful story that is pro-life in the broadest and most profound sense. Crowley has to ask himself what is best for his children — to be with them as much as possible while they are alive or to leave them for 20-hour days in the hopes of finding treatment that could keep them alive longer.

Ford inhabits the role the way his character inhabits his well-worn jeans and t-shirt. He knows this guy. He has no illusions but he likes him and he makes us like him, too. Fraser, too often underrated as an actor, manages to make Crowley inspiring without making him unbelievable, especially in the scenes with the children and with Keri Russell as his wife. Jacobs’ script skirts the usual tensions. The Crowleys have some agonizing moments, but they never question their commitment to their children and each other. The children are played by Meredith Droeger, who has a nice dry humor, and Diego Velazquez, who has beautifully expressive eyes. Their healthy brother John Jr. (Sam M. Hall) has a lovely moment when he shows how devoted he is to helping his siblings. And Courtney B. Vance is as always most welcome as the father of two other children with Pompe, making a strong impression in his brief time on screen.

Because the tension is between the Crowleys and the disease and between Crowley and Stonehill and Crowley and the bureaucrats and money people, the story can present the family as functional in the face of the greatest possible tensions and terrors. In the past, we’ve seen Ford fight the Empire and the Nazis and Fraser take on mummies, but in this story they take on something even more scary and the result is touching and inspiring.

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Based on a true story Drama Family Issues
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The Real Story: the Crowleys of ‘Extraordinary Measures’

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

“Extraordinary Measures” stars Brendan Fraser as John Crowley, the real-life dad who quit his job to raise money for research that could help his two children, critically ill with an incurable genetic disorder called Pompe disease. Here is a featurette with the real John and Aileen Crowley and their children.

For more information, read The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million–And Bucked the Medical Establishment–In a Quest to Save His Children and Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Stength, Hope, and Joy.

 

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Behind the Scenes The Real Story

Crossing Over

Posted on June 9, 2009 at 8:01 am

A well-intentioned but ham-handed exploration of U.S. immigration policies, this movie’s message is undermined by its cardboard characters and clunky script. Like “Babel” and “Crash” it is a multi-story exploration of one theme, but it is formulaic and uninvolving.

It starts off badly as one character says to Max Brogan, the immigration cop played by Harrison Ford, “must you always be the humanitarian?” And just in case we don’t get it immediately that the immigration defense lawyer played by Ashley Judd is close to sainthood when she is introduced on screen hugging a little African girl and worrying that if she is not placed soon she will lose her native language, Judd wears a necklace with a charm in the shape of Africa to make it clear where her loyalties are.

The movie unspools as though it had been laid out on a grid. On one side, we have the worthy immigrants who want to stay in the United States. On the other we have the evil or unfeeling bureaucrats who want to send them home. Brogan’s partner is a naturalized citizen from Iran (New Zealand’s Cliff Curtis, in one of the film’s best performances) whose father is about to become the last member of the family to be naturalized. The two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers (with huge ICE letters on their jackets) conduct raids on sweatshops to round up illegal immigrants. But the soft-hearted “humanitarian” Brogan cannot help getting involved. When one beautiful young woman pleads with him to make sure her son is all right, he literally cannot sleep until he tracks down the boy and delivers him to his grandparents in Tijuana.

The movie’s points are hit with a sledgehammer and the dialogue is almost as overweighted. Each character is a symbol with only one presenting characteristic. Slimy: predatory judge who insists on sexual favors in exchange for a green card. Misguided: Korean kid about to be naturalized who thinks that he has to be in a gang to get along in America. Even more tragically misguided: long, awkward conversations and confrontations in impossible circumstances, like a murder accusation in the middle of a naturalization ceremony. This is a serious and often tragic issue but the sincerity of the film’s good intentions cannot make it successful as a movie or as advocacy.

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Crime Drama
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