We’re The Millers

It’s my experience that we all choose our families. Sometimes they are relationships of blood (hej hej the Cuffs), but sometimes they’re not who we’re born with but rather they are families magicked together out of friendship or sex or shared experience or even of necessity. So I totally get the basic premise of We’re The Millers – finding your true family is a wondrous thing. It takes a while to get there though….

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In We’re The Millers, Jason Sudeikis plays David, a self-absorbed, small-time Denver pot dealer who’s forced to make a drug run into Mexico on behalf of a gleefully amoral narcissist. To get through the border there and back, he enlists the help of a spunky teenage runaway, a geeky naif and the proverbial stripper with a heart of gold (Jennifer Anniston) to fake the happy all-American Miller family. Thus ensues an R-rated comedy that’s partly genius, partly stomach-cringing crass, partly funny, partly embarassing – but ultimately it’s saved from its gross-outs (I’m about 30 years too old for all the cock and vagina jokes) by a genuine affection for the mismatched protagonists.

Denver isn’t Denver of course, it’s Wilmington, and Mexico is New Mexico, but what can you do?

Arthur Newman

Wallace Avery (Colin Firth) has basically frittered his life away – including his work and all his primary relationships. So he decides to fake his death and reinvent himself as Arthur Newman, pro-golfer. He’s joined in a road trip by a damaged and fragile young woman (Emily Blunt) and the two of them basically spark off each other’s negative bits for the rest of the movie.

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So, I didn’t enjoy Arthur Newman. The combination of ruined lives, mental illness, housebreaking and two of Blighty’s finest doing American accents just didn’t sit well with me. Plus it was a bit boring. Why do people make films about this stuff if they’re going to make it boring? It was billed as a comedy drama and I just found it tragic. The cross country locations are all North Carolina.

Iron Man 3

They say nature abhors a vacuum. And in the immediate aftermath of The Avengers and the shocking alien attack on New York (yes, shark, jumping, etc. etc…..and amazingly no-one in this movie even vaguely thinks this is strange) RDJ’s Tony Stark is having a bit of a meltdown. He’s obsessed with his suits, he’s ignoring his girlfriend and he’s having panic attacks at the milkbar. And into this vacuum slips the ferocious, scary and utterly deadly Mandarin, a world-class villain who’s missing a world class hero. Factor in some genetic meddling, a dodgy politician or two, a mad scientist, some human bombs, a former love interest and a smart kid, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty entertaining movie.

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Did I like it? Yes, enough. The supporting cast – Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Gwynnie Paltrow – were fantastic. Pacing, cinematography, big explosions, great! But I really just couldn’t ever get past Robert Downey Junior hamming it up like Nick Cage on crack. I found myself repeatedly unable to suspend disbelief while he was showing off just how clever and funny and entertaining he is. Entirely spoiled the whole movie for me.

A couple of other things about the film. 1. It filmed in North Carolina, courtesy of the NC State Incentives. The impact of this one film on the local economy is outrageous – $179.8 million in direct spending with 719 vendors in 84 communities across the state – $104.1 million spent directly on 2,043 jobs for North Carolinians. 2.) Separate Chinese scenes were filmed for the growing Chinese audience (one of the Chinese characters heals Tony Stark with acupuncture!). More here.

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games – the gazillion dollar box office success story – is set in a dystopian future where an uneasy peace is enforced nearly a century after a brutal civil war in North America. As penance for their part in the uprising against the central power, the districts outlying the Capitol are forced once a year to send two teenagers – one boy, one girl – to a stage-managed arena, where they are forced to battle it out to the death with 22 other unfortunates while the crowds watch it all play out on tv. However, for the 74th Hunger Games, the Capitol makes the big mistake of picking prickly Katniss Everdeen – no slouch with a bow – as the female tribute from District 12, and the kind, clever Peeta Mellark, who’s in love with Katniss and will do anything to protect her, as the male tribute…..

I won’t add more except to say, go see it, absolutely. Read the book too, which is actually pretty damn good; Katniss is as conflicted a heroine as you’ll come across, and Peeta is the kind of charismatic kid I’d have totally been in love with as a thirteen year old. So here’s my easy answer: I completely loved the movie, the casting was spot on, it stuck closely to the book and was evocative, and moving, and thrilling all in the right places.

Hunger Games filmed in North Carolina. Henry River Mill Village, an abandoned ghost town just outside of Hildebran, (about one hour’s drive east of Asheville on I-40) plays the beaten-down mining town of Katniss and Peeta’s home (great depression-era styling there). This whole location is currently for sale by the owner for a cool $1.4 million – which, given the interest in the film and books, and the tourism potential, would completely be a steal. Other movie locations included DuPont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest, Charlotte’s Knight Theatre and the former Phillip Morris Plant in Concord. Part 2 in the Hunger Games trilogy – Catching Fire – starts filming in August.