I have been contemplating an essay for some time about what I call “second chance movies.” You probably have some of these in your cinematic past. A second chance movie is one that, upon first viewing, fell somewhere between seriously disappointing and absolutely hated. And that experience could have been due to a variety of factors: your age at the first viewing, where you saw it, something in it hit too close to home… you get the idea. Then later in life, when you decide to see that particular film again, imagine your surprise when it turns out to be not only good but also ends up as one of your favorites.
You might see the trailer for Tina Fey’s new movie Admissionand think, “oh, a nice comedy.” Sorry, but no. It’s at best a “dramedy.” Tina Fey plays an assistant admissions officer at Princeton University, a position she’s had for sixteen years. The head of the department is about to retire, and Fey is in direct competition with snarky Gloria Reuben to take over. Along the way toward that goal, she meets people who, in effect, turn her life upside down, and she has to face her past and assume some responsibility. Hence, the title Admission has a double meaning. It refers not only to her vocation, but she must own up to her errors in life.
Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to go into a genre film with no expectations and have it turn out to be very entertaining. Such is the case with the current action opus Olympus Has Fallen. “Olympus” is the Secret Service code for the White House, and the plot concerns evildoer terrorists seizing the White House and holding the president and his entire security staff hostage. Naturally, there’s a suffering hero who saves the day and there’s never a moment in which you believe the film will not arrive at its expected outcome.
Documentaries are good because, for the most part, they take us places we’ve never been and/or introduce us to people that we may have known about via sound bites and news stories, but really didn’t know in person. Such is the case with the film Koch, a look at the life and career of Ed Koch, the feisty, in your face, three-term mayor of New York City during a very turbulent period.