Archive for September, 2011
A Slice of Two Lives
The notion is that a life examined has far more potential than the usual quiet desperation, and for the last ten years Stevenson has followed a fairly large cadre of kids who are now young adults. Two Brothers is the first feature-length documentary fashioned from the footage gathered over that period. Ten years ago, Sam and Luke Nelson were pretty typical gradeschoolers. Luke was the scrappy little brother, Sam the older—who tended to bully his siblings. Then Stevenson stepped in and started his standard interviewing, plus probing inquiries regarding the relationship between the brothers. And a funny thing started to happen. As Sam and Luke both started seeing the contrast between the way things were and the way they wished things could be, their reality started changing.
I attended a promotional screening of Courageous with my wife and parents. As we were walking into the theater lobby following the screening, my 74-year-old mom gushed, “That was the best movie I’ve ever seen!” When I followed up with a couple of rather surprised questions, she allowed that it was merely the best movie she’d seen in a long, long time. But still: this is the woman who dragged my siblings and me to see Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Fiddler on the Roof, The Ten Commandments, West Side Story, The Sting, Patton, Tora Tora Tora!, The Sound of Music, and Mary Poppins—even William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. So it’s not like her tastes run to the lowbrow. Take that endorsement as you will.
Is This a Rerun?
A woman decides to go on a mission to find Mr. Right. She thinks her neighbor—who is constantly going around without his shirt, showing off his ridiculously ripped physique—is a big jerk and exactly the kind of guy she is trying to avoid. But he likes her trendy, artistic hobby. Is there any doubt where this movie is going to end up? Anna Faris is a talented comedic actress and many forecast her as the next queen of the romantic comedy genre. She may be, but unfortunately What’s Your Number? is so formulaic and poorly written that her coronation will have to wait.
Comedy of Cancer
50/50 is a buddy comedy that tackles a subject that no buddy movie has dared before: cancer. It is based on the real-life experiences of actor Seth Rogen and his friend, producer/screenwriter Will Reiser. Reiser was diagnosed with spinal cancer at age 25 and it is something he and Rogen talked about often. Realizing that no movie had really captured their experiences, they began development of this film. No matter what people’s opinion of the final film, the story has a happy ending as Reiser has been in remission for years. Therefore, it is something of a bonus that the movie turns out to be quite good.
More Than an Emotional Appeal
The emphasis in the documentary 58: Movie is not on how unfortunate much of the world’s population is, nor on how selfish and decadent much of the West is. While the bulk of the film is spent with a single mother of four in Ethiopia, an Indian family in debt bondage, and on the streets of Nairobi, the appeal is not primarily emotional. It’s rational, based both on a sound analysis of the issues that Jesus stands squarely for in Scripture and hard facts about trends in infant mortality rates and poverty levels. In fact, when the film features Dr. Scott Todd of Compassion International summarizing both the challenge and the potential for success, the film crosses completely out of the realm of the emotional and into the matter-of-fact.
Grinches Need Not Apply
“Dolphin Tale is polished, inspiring, and moving. It seems there’s almost always room in our world for cynicism, but this film just about squeezes it all out.” That’s the post-screening blurb I fed the publicists who shepherded me and a dozen or so other journalists through the press junket for Dolphin Tale in Clearwater Florida, the home of Winter—the disabled dolphin who is the subject of the film. And I can tell you precisely the moment it won me over, completely. I won’t, though, as it might spoil that magical sequence for you. But go see the film, and I bet you a fin you can pick out that scene in a heartbeat. It’s an inspired, thrilling bit of filmmaking that invokes Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion.
A Talk With Charles Martin Smith
“Ultimately what moves us is people,” says Charles Martin Smith, the director of Dolphin Tale. “Having grown up with an artist as a father, I was always fascinated by the Impressionists and the post-Impressionists—and the difference between the ones who concentrated on landscapes, and the ones who felt like there was nothing worth painting except humans. You know, the people who did portraits: Toulouse Lautrec’s studies, and Degas: how they would study people, and what they were like, as opposed to the others who were doing landscapes, largely. Which is more valid? I don’t know; they’re both valid, I suppose. But it’s the connection between the two that I find the most interesting.”
A Home Run
Michael Lewis’ 2003 non-fiction bestseller Moneyball doesn’t necessarily read like a book that is destined for the big screen. Then again, neither did the author’s 2006 book The Blind Side and Hollywood still managed to turn that into not only a blockbuster but an Oscar nominee for best picture. One man who did see the book’s cinematic potential is star Brad Pitt, a guy who definitely has enough clout in Hollywood these days to get a project green lit. That’s fortunate for movie-goers, because Moneyball proves to be an engrossing sports drama, as well as an intriguing character study.
Not so Elite
There is a lot going on in the new action thriller Killer Elite. The cast includes three likeable leads in Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro, the fists and bullets are flying throughout, and the destruction of public property does not stop. Despite all those elements that would seemingly make an entertaining action flick, along with an intriguing “true story,” the movie fails to spark any real interest.
Courageous Director Goes All Out
“In this movie, Courageous,” says director, co-writer, and star Alex Kendrick, “there are five fathers who all take the same pledge, and not all of them turn out well. At the end of the movie, some turn out terrible. Some are in transition, and some make horrible decisions and have to face the consequences of their decisions. So I don’t think anyone will say of this movie, ‘Everything’s tied up in a nice, neat bow.’ But with God, all things are still going to be possible. He’s going to be able to do miraculous things, even if they’re in the heart. You’ve got to find that balance.”
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