Posts Tagged ‘John Hawkes’

everestmaxresdefault“EVEREST” My rating: B 

121 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Very few of us have the skill, the will or the financial wherewithal to tackle Earth’s tallest peak.

After watching “Everest,” though, don’t be surprised if you feel as if you’ve been to the top of the world, where the human form is ill-prepared to survive at the cruising altitude of a 747.

Based on the disastrous day in 1996 when Mount Everest claimed the lives of eight climbers — the same tragedy described in Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book “Into Thin Air” and a 1998 IMAX documentary — the film eschews Hollywood hokum for a [hugely] realistic depiction of what happened.

The first hour focuses on New Zealander Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), operator of a commercial guide service,  as over a month he prepares a party of clients for an expedition up the mountain.

Most of the customers are like Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a Texas businessman with pockets deep enough to handle the $65,000 Hall charges for a climb. They’re middle-aged, wealthy men of commerce determined to push themselves to the limit before age interferes.

An exception is Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a working-class guy who failed to reach the summit on an earlier attempt. This will be his last chance … and Hall has given him a discount so that he can afford this climb.

The film’s second hour is the ascent itself, which found most of the party going all the way up, only to be ravaged by a fierce storm on the way down.

Written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy and directed by Baltasar Kormakur, “Everest” features a star-heavy cast.

Among the familiar faces  behind bushy beards are Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, aka “Mr. Mountain Madness,” a rival guide who joins forces with Hall because the mountain is so crowded with 20 expeditions. Michael Kelly plays Krakauer, the well-known outdoor writer who was a member of the team. Sam Worthington is a fellow climber helpless to effect a rescue.


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Mos Def, John Hawkes and kidnap victim Jennifer Aniston

Mos Def, John Hawkes and kidnap victim Jennifer Aniston

“LIFE OF CRIME”  My rating: C+  (Now showing at the Cinetopia)

98 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Movie chemistry is a weird thing.

Sometimes you can have a lot going for you — terrific performances, a literary pedigree — and yet the damn souffle won’t rise.

Such is the fate of “Life of Crime,” an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel The Switch and set in his familiar world of bumbling crooks and unlikely heroes.

Written and directed by Daniel Schechter, whose credits include the little-seen “Goodbye, Baby” and “Supporting Characters,” the film has a plot that might be a variation on O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” that classic short story about kidnappers who discover the rich brat they’ve snatched is more than they can handle. (It might also remind you of “Ruthless People,” the 1986 Bette Midler comedy about a kidnapping.)

Low-level Detroit crooks Ordelle (Mos Def, performing under his real name of Yaslin Bey) and Louie (the ever-excellent John Hawkes) cook up a scheme to snatch Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of local crooked businessman Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins).  They will hold her in the home of a third accomplice, a Nazi-worshipping head case (Mark Boone Junior).

What nobody counts on is that Frank is having an affair with a scheming younger woman, Melanie (Isla Fisher), and has no reason to cough up a $1 million ransom for the return of the wife he was already planning on trading in.

Typical of a Leonard yarn, “Life of Crime” is a mix of both humor and suspense. We’ve seen this formula work wonderfully in movies like “Get Chili” and “Out of Sight”, but something goes wrong here.  It’s not that Schechter’s movie lacks either humor or suspense, but rather that the proportions seem out of whack.  The best Leonard adaptations are actually funnier than the books they are based on. One is likely to respond to a Leonard book more with a wry grimace than with an outright belly laugh, and that’s the style Schechter adapts.


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“MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE” My rating: B (Opening Nov. 11 at the )

102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

One of the great thrills of moviegoing is coming across a young performer and realizing, within the space of just a few moments, that this could be a major star.

That’s what happens with Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,”  writer/director Sean Durkin’s moody, almost unbearably creepy look at a survivor of a Manson-type cult.

Durkin’s tightly-wound feature debut follows our titular protagonist as she surreptitiously slips away from the farm commune where she has lived off the radar for the last couple of years. She phones her older  sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who drives three hours to pick her up. Soon she’s living in the guest room of the posh lakeside vacation home of Lucy and her husband Ted (Hugh Darcy).

Martha and Lucy share a troubled history. Lucy is ambitious, well-educated; Martha a  rootless drifter.

But whatever sibling issues they’ve been through, it’s clear that the last few years have done a number on Martha.


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Vera Farmiga in "Higher Ground"

“HIGHER GROUND” My rating: B- (Opens Oct. 14 at the Tivoli and Glenwood at Red Bridge)

109 minutes | Audience rating: R

The loss of religious faith is a challenging, hot-button topic for a filmmaker’s directing debut.

So much could go wrong.

“Higher Ground,” from actress Vera Farmiga, doesn’t go wrong, exactly, but it never really adds up.

Working from a screenplay by Carolyn S. Briggs (adapting her memoir This Dark World), the film chronicles the gradual falling away from Christianity of Corinne (Farmiga), a young wife and mother.


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Gwyneth Paltrow...not feeling so good

“CONTAGION’’ My rating: B (Opening wide on Sept. 9)

105 minutes |MPAA rating: PG-13

There’s no shortage of big names in the cast, but the real star of “Contagion” is filmmaker Stephen Soderbergh.

His latest is a hypnotic juggling act, a carefully calibrated mashup of characters and situations that proves him a master storyteller.

This time the maker of “Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Che” and “Out of Sight” (and, yes, the “Ocean’s” flicks) delivers a “what if?” thriller about a killer flu pandemic that puts mankind on the ropes.

“Contagion” paints a grim but fully-detailed picture of how we’d react in such circumstances, and it’s not pretty.


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