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October 2010 Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 10/8/2010

Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in October of 2010.  Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.

Go directly to my review of Secretariat and It’s Kind of a Funny Story.

Secretariat Review

Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane) was a housewife in Denver in 1969.  With her conservative attorney husband Jack (Dylan Walsh), they had four kids…hippie Kate (AJ Michalka), Sarah (Carissa Capobianco), Chris (Sean Cunningham), and John (Jacob Rhodes.)  One morning, Penny gets a call that her mother Helen has died, so she goes to her hometown in Doswell, VA to help her dementia-suffering father Christopher (Scott Glenn) run the family’s struggling horse-breeding farm called Meadow Stables.  Her Harvard economics professor brother Hollis (Dylan Baker) wants to sell the farm, but Penny doesn’t.  After firing the current trainer Earl Jansen (Graham McTavish) for almost selling some potentially valuable horses, she takes the advice of longtime family friend and business associate Bull Hancock (Fred Dalton Thompson), to hire semi-retired, Superfly-looking Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) to be her new trainer.  He doesn’t want to do it at first, but when she wins a coin toss with Ogden Phipps (James Cromwell) of Wheatley Stable for the offspring of Phipps’ stallion Bold Ruler and Chenery’s mares Hasty Matelda and Somethingroyal (she chooses the latter), Lucien agrees to do it.  When Somethingroyal’s foal dropped, she names him Big Red.  Elizabeth Ham (Margo Martindale), her father’s secretary and her current assistant, renames him Secretariat (because the horse tracks only wanted horses with names like Secretariat, though the family still called him Big Red.)  The farm’s groomer Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis), who thinks that he knows what horses think, stays on after Christopher goes to live at New Rochelle Hospital in New York.  After a bad first fourth-place race at Aqueduct Racetrack with original jockey Paul Feliciano (Grant Whitacre), Lucien tells Penny to hire jockey Ronnie Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth) to be their new rider (despite making the heart of a previous horse he rode explode), and Secretariat wins his next five races.  When Christopher dies, the family faces a huge estate tax, so both Hollis and Jack try to convince Penny to sell Secretariat to Ogden.  Bull’s son Seth (Drew Roy) and Penny decide instead to syndicate the breeding rights to the highest bidder, because she is convinced that Secretariat will win the U.S. Triple Crown (a series of three Thoroughbred horse races for three-year-old horses consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes), which hasn’t been won in 25 years.  Secretariat’s main rival for those races is a horse named Sham, owned by Frank “Pancho” Martin (Nestor Serrano) and ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr. (Keith Austin.)  I don’t mean to spoil anything, but since Secretariat is possibly the most famous racehorse ever…I’m sure that you know how this story ends.  Mike Rich…the screenwriter of several feel-good true story sports movies (2002’s The Rookie and 2003’s Radio, and uncredited rewrites of 2004’s Miracle and 2006’s Invincible)…wrote this one as well, using William Nack’s book Secretariat: The Making of a Champion.  He would be the one to go to write this story…but why did they use Randall Wallace to direct?  He is known as the screewriter and/or director of war movies, like 1995’s Braveheart, 2001’s Pearl Harbor, and 2002’s We Were Soldiers.  The only fighting I saw in this movie was the friendly one upmanship between Penny and Pancho over who had the better horse.  He did it though, because he managed to pull off an effective and satisying movie for the whole family.  Now…do I think that it will rival 2003’s Seabiscuit in Oscar love?  Two years ago, I would have said no.  Since the Best Picture field has been expanded to ten slots though, there is a slight possibility.  I also think that Lane and Malkovich may get Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor noms as well.  Like Seabiscuit though, I’m afraid it will go home empty-handed.  Also…why did it take so long for someone to make this movie?  When I heard about Seabiscuit, I thought to myself, “who is Seabiscuit?  Is he like Secretariat?”  For some reason, the former horse has gotten more cultural portrayals in art, film, and literature than the latter…yet if you asked your average non-racehorsing person to name a famous racehorse before the Seabiscuit movie, they would probably only come up with Secretariat.  There were three non-human athletes on ESPN’s list of the 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century (he came in 35th place.)  If this movie is a hit and earns some Oscar nominations, then I think that we will see biopics of the other two non-humans on this list…racehorses Man o’ War and Citation.  Get Rich to write the screenplay and we might have a hit!

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Review

Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) is a 16-year-old from Brooklyn whose life is so depressing that he thinks about leaping off the Brooklyn Bridge to end it all.  He doesn’t though, because of how his parents…smothering mom Lynn (Lauren Graham), workaholic dad George (Jim Gaffigan), and younger genius sister, Alissa (Dana DeVestern)…would react.  Why is he so depressed?  Well…he’s in love with Nia (Zoë Kravitz), his best friend Aaron’s (Thomas Mann) girlfriend.  In addition, his dad is pressuring Craig into get into the college that he wants, even though Craig is struggling anyway going to the prestigious Executive Pre-Professional High School that he is currently enrolled in.  Instead of killing himself, Craig goes to the emergency room of Argenon Hospital one Sunday morning and tries to talk the on-call doctor Dr. Mahmoud (Aasif Mandvi) into giving him some anti-depressants or something that will help him with his problems.  When the doctor hears that Craig is suicidal, he passes Craig off to Dr. Eden Minerva (Viola Davis), who tells him that he has to stay a required five days in their mental ward to make sure that he is okay.  Unfortunately, the teen wing of the ward is being refurbished, so he has to do his time in the adult ward.  Craig is led to the ward by ward assistant Smitty (Jeremy Davies) and given a tour of the ward by fellow patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), whom he originally thought was a doctor (Bobby steals scrubs and ducks out of the ward so that he can get the better coffee, which is usually in the emergency room.)  While giving the tour, he introduces Craig to the other patients.  Johnny (Adrian Martinez), a hostile guy who is easily offended; Humble (Matthew Maher), a gentle guy with a cleft on his lip; Craig’s Egyptian roommate, Muqtada (Bernard White), who never leaves his bed; Solomon (Daniel London), a Hasidic Jew who can’t tolerate noise after a disastrous acid trip; and fellow teen patient, Noelle (Emma Roberts), who is a cutter.  Craig thinks that he has made a mistake, and besides…he has to get to school the next day.  As the days go by, he warms up to the place, and he soon finds himself in a love triangle between Nia, who finds out that he is in there and is suddenly attracted to him, and Noelle, whom Craig is attracted to and is ironically the more “normal” girl for him.  Meanwhile, Bobby is hoping to be accepted to a halfway house after six suicide attempts, and he is trying to convince his ex-wife (Mary Birdsong) and their young daughter that he is getting better.  Almost all of these patients are longtime residents there, so to think that Craig could be cured in a week is ridiculous.  The screenplay for the movie…co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck…was co-written by the couple as well, adapted from Ned Vizzini’s 2006 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.  I keep hearing that this movie is a disappointment after their last two collaborations…2006’s Half-Nelson and 2008’s Sugar…were so well-received.  Since I have honestly never seen those movies, I can’t say either way.  What I can say is that I liked the film.  Gilchrist managed to play a completely different character than he played on Showtime’s “United States of Tara.”  Everyone is surprised that weird funnyman Galifianakis can do a more dramatic role, but I saw it in him.  He has a Robin Williams-like demeanor to him that I knew would work for either drama or comedy (even more than Adam Sandler or Will Farrell when they try to get into drama.)  Even if he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, maybe he will get a Golden Globe nom (hey…it worked for Jim Carrey…twice.)  The movie is no One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but other than an unusual scene where the patients lip-synch Queen and David Bowie’s 1981 hit “Under Pressure,” I think that you will be committed once you see it.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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