Friday, June 29, 2012

Hidden Family Secrets Are Revealed in ‘People Like Us’

FAMILY secrets. We all have them. And so often they come falling out of the booth in the back in the corner in the dark when we least expect them.

Such is the case for Sam (Chris Pine) in the film, "People Like Us," which opens today.

Sam discovers that his father has an “outside child” – Sam’s sister – after the death of the latter. It seems that the old man may have had a crisis of conscious at some point because he leaves the daughter he never publicly acknowledged a pile of cash. It is the responsibility of cash-strapped Sam to ensure that Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) gets it and presumably learns that the father who abandoned her really did love her. It's just that he had made the difficult choice to remain with family No. 1, including his wife, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer in a solid supporting role).

Sam’s errand drives the drama in “People Like Us,” a truly touching film. He does not initially tell Frankie that they are siblings. It’s understandable. These are not easy things to say, especially when one is dealing with the shock of it all. And when money is involved and one needs said money. (See trailer above).

Sam (Chris Pine) and Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) have strong ties in "People Like Us."

Sam is immediately drawn to his sister; he sees their father in her. The two begin spending time together, and Sam learns that he is an uncle to Frankie’s adorable, precocious and rambunctious son, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario).

The suspense in “People Like Us” continues to build, though, as Sam eventually has to break some big news to Frankie. It has tearjerker potential.

“People Like Us” is rated PG-13 (for language, some drug use and brief sexuality).

Latest Franchise Rollout Is 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

IT’S summertime and the blockbusters are comin’.

The first out of the gate is the latest iteration of Marvel’s the Spider-Man saga, “The Amazing Spider-Man.” It opens on 3 July. No doubt, it will make a gazillion dollars at the box office as the batman saga, “The Dark Knight Rises,” is expected to do in its first weekend later in the month (20 July).

In “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Andrew Garfield replaces Tobey Maguire in the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. In the new film, Peter is portrayed as a brilliant, awkward Queens high school student who lives with his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen). Despite his guardians' dissuasion, Peter sets out to uncover clues about the disappearance of his parents, particularly his scientist father. That quest leads him to the scientific lab, Oscorp, where his classmate/crush Gwen (Emma Stone) is an intern. It is also at Oscorp where Peter meets his father’s former research partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). At Oscorp, too, a clandestine search lands Peter in a lab where he has accidental contact with a genetically altered spider, imparting to him the power that transform him into Spider-Man. (See trailer above).

In the end, Peter must save humankind from Dr. Connors. The scientist truly becomes mad after, under pressure from an investor, he injects himself with a serum that transforms him into the Lizard, complete with the regenerative powers that Dr. Connors craves. Increasingly delusional because of high doses of the serum, Dr. Connors decides to unleash it on the whole of New York City and the world. It is left to Spider-Man to stop him, though the superhero's efforts are complicated by NYPD police captain George Lacy (Denis Leary). Capt. Lacy is also Gwen’s father.

Of course, it is all cartoonish, and "The Amazing Spider-Man" is more than two hours long. What saves and makes the film, though, are the special effects, action sequences and fight sequences. All are SPECTACULAR. The IMAX 3D enhances the film immensely. Much of the action looks as if it is unfolding a hair’s breath away. In one scene the definition is so great that the antenna spire atop a building (is that the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building?) appears to be heading straight for the heart. Duck!

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

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