Fall Movie Bonanza: All is Lost

Technically fall doesn’t start until December 21, so it’s still fall, and I can write a fourth edition of the Fall Movie Bonanza series of blog posts, right? Right.

all-is-lost-robert-redford-02-600-370Writer/director J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost stars the weathered and rugged, crinkled but well muscled 77-year-old Robert Redford as “Our Man,” a seasoned sailor who becomes lost at sea after a stray shipping container punctures his craft, and a storm has its way with the man and his ship. Having read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea recently (as mentioned in a previous post), it was an interesting coincidence to be able to compare and contrast two fictional nautical tragedies. Continue reading

A Matter of Some Gravity: Ender’s Game Book vs. Movie

MV5BMjAzMzI5OTgzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTU5MTAwMDE@._V1_SX214_

I picked up Ender’s Game when I was about 13 years old in a special only-$3.99 paperback edition on a weekend bookstore trip with my dad, who could only agree to buy me low-priced paperback editions. I devoured it probably overnight, and then quickly devoured the rest of the books in the series too. No one can really tell you why certain books are so special, especially in childhood, but I think a major component for me was that Ender was a young child, but a brilliant one who thought like a full-on real human being – instead of being dumbed down to irrelevance like 99% of children – and his ideas and actions really mattered. A lot.

Author Orson Scott Card has been floating around the idea of a movie version since at least back then. The project at that time would star Jake Lloyd, who was 9 and had just played Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I. In the early days of the internet Orson released a full screenplay he had written that began with Mazer Rackham’s battle in the asteroid belt in full space-opera fashion.

At the time I thought an Ender’s Game movie was a terrible idea. Continue reading

A Million Trillion Lifetimes That I Could Spend With You

MV5BMTA1ODUzMDA3NzFeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDgxMTYxNTk@._V1_SX214_

“About Time” wide release Nov 8

Every year around Christmastime I watch Love Actually, alongside whoever is willing to watch it with me. Every year for ten years now, and I’m looking forward to it again. Love Actually is one of those movies everyone agrees is pretty great, even normal people: as smart as a successful, big-production romantic comedy can probably get. I still remember leaning in with pleasure for the first time as Colin Firth leads a town to the Portuguese restaurant where he’ll propose, as that little boy playing Liam Neeson’s stepson outruns airport security (surely courting death in our post-9/11 world) to see his crush before she flies home, as Billy Mack beats out the little-pricked wankers in the boy band “Blue” to take the year’s #1 song hit.

The man behind Love Actually is British director Richard Curtis, whose new release is the gentle time-travel love story rom-com About Time. The movie comes out in wide release this Friday, but luckily for me it came out in limited release yesterday for major cities like Chicago, and its near staging areas like Evanston. My expectations for Curtis going in were high this close to Love Actually season, especially with time travel love tossed in to boot. Would he pull off another quiet triumph? Continue reading

Fall Movie Bonanza: Captain Phillips

Like Gravity, Captain Phillips is a potential Oscar nom entry in this fall’s prestige movie season that never lets up until the end.

Like a lot of people, I’ve admired Tom Hanks for a long time. When buying DVDs on a regular basis was a thing everyone was doing, my first project was to use my Columbia House subscription to get my hands on every DVD movie with Tom Hanks as the star. He has the unique ability to play an Everyman or the interesting outsider and do them both well. Rare is the exception to the rule that Hanks can dissolve himself and embody another person or the enjoyment of the audience.

Captain Philips is not one of the exceptions. He sells the New England native title character who is tasked with shipping cargo from Oman and past the Horn of Africa to Kenya. You buy his accent. You buy his leadership of the crew. And you buy his handling of the situation that arises when a skiff of Somali pirates approaches closer and closer until they hook a ladder to the side of the Maersk Alabama and board it.

I love about Hanks’ performance that it isn’t big or flashy. Director Paul Greengrass (the Bourne series) should be credited for not force-feeding us the kind of “Big Acting” speechifying moments that were the largest flaw of the otherwise fantastic Gravity.

The actor who played the lead pirate — whose name I’m too lazy to look up because I’m writing this blog post on a bus ride to Washington DC — had a very impressive debut performance. The raw intensity of his screen presence was refreshing. He’s the scariest possible skinny person I can think of. As the guys on the Filmspotting podcast pointed out, the trailers had me worrying we were going to get an overly sympathetic portrayal of him, but that fortunately didn’t turn out to be the case.

I recommend catching Captain Phillips on the big screen, but only if you’ve already seen Gravity in IMAX 3D. That should still be your top filmgoing priority.

Fall Movie Bonanza: Gravity is a Tour de Force

Goodbye and good riddance, summer. That’s what I say. People talk about how short it was and how they didn’t get to go to the beach as many times as they wanted, or get enough tan lines, or wear enough Crocs and flip flops, or rock out at concert festivals in their plastic sunglasses, or whatever it is that summer-lovers do. I say summer was too long, and not just because I’m tired of sweating every time I go outside. I’m excited for the fall movie season, when the big studios finally push out their top quality product for Oscar consideration.

maxresdefaultThe first big October movie you need to see is Gravity, and you need to see it in IMAX 3D. It won’t be cheap (a whopping $21.50 per ticket at an AMC theater in NYC), but it will be worth it.

Some people have actually told me they saw a trailer for it and thought it looked boring. How? What about astronauts getting exploded off of their space stations is boring? I guess it’s just a matter of taste, but I found all the trailers, teasers, and behind the scenes footage I watched in advance of the movie to be exciting. And I don’t even like Sandra Bullock.

Having seen the movie, I can assure you it’s anything but boring or slow-paced. Continue reading