Archive | October, 2012

Surf and Turf

29 Oct

Calling Chasing Mavericks a cross between Blue Crush and The Karate Kid seems a bit too easy.

But it’s a pretty good description of the film, which tells the story of real-life surfing phenom Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), and his friend, mentor, and fellow surfer, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler).

In the film, Jay is a Santa Cruz, Calif., teenager who enlists the help of local legend Frosty to train him to survive the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth (crests can range from 25 to 80 feet high). Frosty’s methods are not always what Jay expects — including when he’s asked to write thoughtful essays. (As Frosty explains, surfing is not just about physical athleticism, it’s about mental toughness, too.) Continue reading

Is There Really a Method to the Madness of This Tale?

27 Oct

“Extend your patience for just a moment,” we’re told early on in Cloud Atlas, the new film from the folks who made The Matrix trilogy and Run Lola Run. “There is a method to the madness of this tale.”

Well, if that doesn’t clue you in right away that you’re about to see some gonzo filmmaking that won’t always make sense, then maybe you’d be better off seeing a different movie.

Over the course of nearly three hours (which, in my book, is not really a “moment”), co-writers/directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Twyker take audiences on an exhilarating journey of space and time, all to prove the point that we’re all connected. The film is based on a book by David Mitchell that many have called unadaptable, and if the big-screen version sometimes proves that point, it’s still an entertaining technical achievement. Continue reading

Let Me Touch You with My Words

24 Oct

The new movie The Sessions tells the story of a man who, shortly before his 40th birthday, finally loses his virginity.

But that’s about the only thing it has in common with a certain Steve Carell movie.

Actually, The Sessions tells a true story, that of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a writer in Berkeley, Calif., who contracted polio when he was young and who’s spent most of his life paralyzed from the neck down, supported by an iron lung.

Despite being a romantic and something of a ladies’ man, O’Brien has never enjoyed the touch of another human being for any kind of intimacy. So finally, at the age of 38, he decides he wants to lose his virginity. Since O’Brien is also a devout Catholic, he first gets permission from his priest (William H. Macy), who tells O’Brien that God “will give you a free pass on this one.” After all, as O’Brien explains, “Sex is a serious matter. It’s one of the most persistent themes in the Bible.”

And so, he meets Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt), who makes it happen over the course of six sessions. (That’s the chief difference between a surrogate and a prostitute: A prostitute wants repeat business, while a surrogate’s role is more finite.) Continue reading

The Best Bad Idea They’ve Got

12 Oct

There are few things the folks in Hollywood like more than making movies about making movies.

And if the movie puts the filmmakers in the role of hero, then that’s even better.

So no wonder everyone — on both coasts — is going gaga over Argo, Ben Affleck’s excellent new film about a rescue mission disguised as a movie-location-scouting mission.

True story: In 1979, during the early days of the Iran hostage crisis, a group of six American officials escaped the U.S. embassy and hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador. But they couldn’t stay there forever; if they were found by the Iranians, they’d be executed in the street.

Enter Tony Mendez (played in the film by Affleck himself), a CIA operative who comes up with the hair-brained idea to “send in a Moses” who will dupe the Iranians into thinking he and the other Americans are part of a Canadian movie production crew. That way, he’ll not only extricate the six and bring them home, he’ll be able to do it partly with the Iranians’ cooperation.

Will it work? Who knows. But it’s just crazy enough that it might. And besides, the CIA has run out of plausible schemes. This is the best bad idea they’ve got. Continue reading

Dog Gone It

11 Oct

Seven Psychopaths is another one of those movies where lots of characters talk too much.

And that’s a good thing.

Martin McDonagh’s film tells the whacked-out story of Marty (Colin Farrell), a Los Angeles screenwriter, and his buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell), a dog “borrower” (he takes the mutts, then returns them days later so he can collect the reward), who cross paths with a mobster (Woody Harrelson) when Billy dognaps his pooch.

But it’s not so much about the story as much as it is about letting a quirky cast spout the kind of dialogue you typically only hear in Tarantino films. Continue reading

Good Advice Is There. We Just Have to Listen to It

9 Oct

It happened again this weekend: I got lost.

I went to Wilson Farm up in Lexington, and from there, my next stop was Target in Watertown.

The area’s not completely foreign to me, but I decided to use Apple Maps anyway.

I hit the road, and Siri began telling me where to go.

When I got about a mile from the farm, she told me to make a turn … and because it didn’t look right to me, I decided to ignore her.

She recalculated, and I ignored those new directions too.

She tried a third time, and no, I didn’t follow those directions either.

I knew where I was. Sort of. Siri had to be taking me on a bad route. (Not an outlandish assumption to make.)

Except she wasn’t. Siri was trying to get me to my destination the fastest, most direct way she knew how. I was being stubborn, as usual, and not listening to her.

As a result, I wound up going places where I had no idea where I was.

Continue reading

Hot Dog!

5 Oct

If you’ve always thought Tim Burton was weird, well … chances are good that his latest animated film Frankenweenie won’t change that.

It’s filled with oddball characters, nearly all of whom have those same round heads and toothpick legs you’ve seen in films like Corpse Bride, wide eyes that sometimes make them look dead inside, and a decided lack of cuteness. It’s got a macabre sense of humor. It’s told in stop-motion. And as if that’s not enough to convince you of its offbeat sensibility, it’s an animated film that’s been made in black and white.

But, actually, dismissing Frankenweenie as just a weird film is really selling it short. In fact, this latest big-screen tale is Burton’s sweetest big-screen release since Big Fish. It’s an affectionate tribute to the filmmaker’s childhood, and all the monster movies he (and we) grew up loving. Continue reading

This Is What Fun Looks Like

1 Oct

Unlike so many other movies set in high school, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not about someone trying to get laid, or outcasts finding acceptance, or nerds looking for a party, or student competitors hoping to win against all odds.

It’s about someone just hoping to fit in and make friends.

Yes, I know that sounds almost simplistic — a high school movie about a guy who makes friends? That’s it? — and maybe it is, but it’s in the sweet and sensitive way that Wallflower tells its story that’s impressive.

Continue reading

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