Blu-ray Review: People Like Us

Buy People Like Us.

Elizabeth Banks was in a movie with Captain Kirk and Catwoman!  People Like Us is a lovely little coming of age story about a man whose  career is crashing down on him just as he finds out about the death of his estranged father.  His reluctant return home stirs up more than just bad memories when he is handed a satchel of cash from his father with instructions to take it to a young boy who turns out to be the son of a sister he never knew he had.

It’s a nice light drama with a good cast of characters, most memorably and wonderfully complimented by Michelle Pfeiffer as the newly widowed mother.  The scenic and personal story about two people coming to terms with living in their father’s shadow in the wake of the consequences of his decisions sets a tone as a movie similar to The Kids Are Alright, though thematically it is very different.  For those who know the film’s locations intimately it has a very keen sense of reality which is rare for movies set in Hollywood.  It resonates in a way that Alexander Payne’s films have, adding a richness to the story without drawing attention away from the film’s plot.

Chris Pine plays the prodigal son Sam,  a swindler in a fast paced world of sales that’s about to leave him behind.  He’s been running all his life and tries to avoid returning home when he gets the news of his father’s death.  His father, a respected yet under rated music producer leaves instructions that lead him to Frankie (Elizabeth Banks)his sister from a secret relationship with another woman.   Afraid to reveal his identity, he befriends her and his nephew and gets in so deep he runs out of excuses to keep running.  His better half, performed  by Olivia Wilde, is an exceptional character with limited screen time, but significant bearing.

The film is co-written and directed by sci-fi giant, writer and producer Alex Kurtzman and it’s some of his truest, most relatable work.  As a Dreamworks/Disney release the Blu-ray presents a format similar to The Help with its emphasis on language selection.  It also boasts two separate audio commentaries.  One between Alex and co-writer Jody Lambert and another between him and the cast.  It’s also got improvisational outtakes from Chris Pine’s favorite taco stand, deleted scenes, additional scene commentary with Michelle Pfeiffer, and an expository featurette about creating the film.  Of course the DVD is also included.

Movie Review: Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes is one of those films where the two protagonists duke it out under escalating circumstances that threaten to completely ruin their lives.  One man (Samuel Jackson) is an is a divorced alcoholic fighting for custody of his kids.  The other is a blissfully unaware lawyer (Ben Affleck) who wakes up to some dark truths about his business and how greedy people succeed.

These characters struggle with their conditions in thought provoking ways that raise philosophical questions without overduing it or neglecting the momentum of the story.  By not pushing too hard on the philosophy aspect, it becomes a very philosophical movie, one with a real resolution that brings a proper end to the drama of the film.

It all starts with a freeway accident between two strangers with important court dates.  Gavin leaves Doyle high and dry and as a result Doyle misses a custody hearing.  Gavin’s day gets worse when he realizes a crucial file for his case was left with Doyle at the scene of the accident.  The two then irrationally, but understandably, try to bully/get back at each other as Gavin attempts to get his file back.

The rising conflict is a little harder to watch.  On the other hand the film does a terrific job of making you care about the characters and still understand that they are bringing all of this trouble onto themselves and that they deserve each other.  For this reason their constant unraveling is endurable and the depth of thought beneath the tumult makes it worth watching and investing in.

It’s a delicate sort of film and this movie was handled by a surgeon.  The story and screenplay credit goes to Chap Taylor, although Michael Tolkin gets screenplay credit as well and may have been the surgical hands involved. A