Archive for August, 2010

Fun Descends into Self-Importance

When I think of some of the more popular heist movies in recent memory, I think of movies like Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job. What do they have in common? They were fun. They featured fun characters, a sense of humor, and a sense of cool. They also invited the audience in on the clever plans, while leaving just enough information out for a surprise or two. For two-thirds of the running time, Takers is exactly that kind of movie. Then, for some reason, it decides to take itself way too seriously. Ironically, that is when it becomes goofy.

A Talk With Conrad Anker
Back for More: Anker, Mallory, Everest

“Well, the rewards are greater than the risks,” says mountaineer Conrad Anker about returning to the mountains that nearly claimed his life and killed his climbing partner on Shishapangma. “I just think that there are certain people who are hard-wired in their DNA to go out and take on more risk than their fellows. Look at Homer’s Odyssey: these great tales of leaving behind the family and going off into the unknown—and great risk of death or disfigurement. And then they come home and are heralded as heroes. It goes back into when we were hunter-gatherers. The men would have to go out and do this, and it is sort of the basis of how we have created society.”

Eat Pray Love
Worldly Advice

Eat Pray Love is the much-anticipated film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir fully titled Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. The book lasted 158 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and no less than Julia Roberts has been tapped to play Gilbert. The often charming film that results is likely to win praise from fans of the book and others in its target audience, but may prove too dull and preachy for the rest of us.

The Expendables
A Macho Throwback

If you were a fan of action movies in the eighties and early nineties, then it is hard not to be excited for The Expendables. Not only is the movie written and directed by its star and action icon Sylvester Stallone, but it also marks the first time that Stallone has appeared together with fellow action icons Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie promises to be a throwback to the macho movies that used to dominate the box office and in certain parts it succeeds. In others, however, it just proves why those kinds of movies have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Video Game Adaptations, Take Note

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may be based on a graphic novel, but it plays like the best video game adaptation ever made. Even the opening Universal Studios logo and fanfare is given a classic Nintendo feel. Sitting in the theater attempting to absorb this busy movie, one gets the feeling one is caught in the middle of an epic battle between Guitar Hero and Mortal Kombat, with some of The Legend of Zelda thrown in for good measure. The result is a movie that will require at least a second viewing to fully catch all the references… but it only takes one viewing to win you over.

Letters to God
About What You'd Expect

Letters to God does have a lot a going for it. It lovingly tells the story of a young boy who bounces back from brain-tumor surgery for a time and inspires friends and family with his titular prayer-letters to God; it thankfully doesn’t drag us through tragedy-of-the-week territory, instead jumping right into Tyler’s attempts to reintroduce himself to life; it features a strong and appealing central performance from Robyn Lively as Tyler’s mom, Maddy; and nowhere do you feel like the producers are trying to sneak by with second-best. Even for its target audience, though, Letters might feel a little too much like a fantasy—as if the filmmakers themselves live on film sets rather than in the real world, and can no longer tell the difference.

The Wildest Dream
Get Your Everest Fix

Never mind that the film wasn’t actually shot in IMAX, or that it’s not, properly speaking, an actual documentary. It’s kind of Himalayan reality TV, with high-def camera crews on hand to capture Conrad Anker’s staged recreations of George Mallory’s final assault on Everest in 1924, and his attempt to free-climb the legendary “Second Step” of Everest’s north ridge, the obstacle which most likely—most likely—turned Mallory and climbing partner Sandy Irvine back before summiting. So my biases aside… Is this worth your ten or twenty bucks for a ticket? I’d say probably yes. I know way more about Everest than is likely good for me, but I still know an entertaining film when I see one.

The Other Guys
Somebody’s Gotta Do It

The Other Guys is the latest collaboration between director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell, whose track record includes Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Having already attacked the world of news anchors and NASCAR drivers, the pair now turn their attention to the world of cops; or cop movies, anyway. It’s similar to what director Kevin Smith tried to do with Cop Out earlier this year starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan (who cameos here), only funnier, more entertaining, and far more worth your hard-earned buck.

To Save A Life
True Grit

This is a film that lets no one off the hook. We live in a screwed-up world, and we all contribute to the mess in some fashion, despite our best intentions. To Save A Life doesn’t hold out empty promises of a false but wide and comfy road to salvation. Instead, it demonstrates quite clearly that the path to God is narrow and treacherous—and that we travel it one life at a time. I’m encouraged that the Christian publishing industry, a necessary evil of sorts here in the West, has finally seen fit to acknowledge that “family friendly” isn’t the only viable form that products for the Christian niche market may take.