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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Clarke’

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong

“FIRST MAN” My rating: B 

141 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

With “First Man” wonderkid director Damien Chazelle has segued from the high artifice of a musical (“La La Land”) to a soaked-in-realism docudrama.

“First Man” is the story of Neil Armstrong, who in 1969 became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

The creation of NASA, setbacks in the U.S. space program and the eventual triumph of a moon landing  already have inspired the HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” and films like “The Right Stuff” and “Apollo 13.”

The emphasis from Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer is on momentous events as experienced by one man…and not a terribly demonstrative man at that.

The Neil Armstrong of this retelling is a jet jockey whom we first meet in a near-disastrous sub-orbital test flight of the experimental X-15 plane. Like a lot of guys who risk death as part of their daily routine, he keeps his feelings — both fear and love — pretty much to himself. Whatever  ego he possesses stays hidden…getting the job done is his primary goal.

So it’s a good thing, then, that Armstrong is played by “La La…” star Ryan Gosling, who has the skill and talent to project the inner turmoil of a man who doesn’t give away much.

The screenplay cannily focuses on Armstrong’s most traumatic experience.  It has nothing to do with  ejecting from a crashing plane and being dragged across the landscape by his wind-propelled parachute.

No, it’s the cancer death of  his young daughter, a beautiful child who, thanks to the Chazelle/Singer screenplay, appears periodically to Armstrong’s inner eye, a reminder that no matter his stoic appearance, there’s fierce emotion bubbling beneath.

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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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Jason Clarke and (beneath the CGI) Andy Serkis

Jason Clarke and (beneath the CGI) Andy Serkis

“DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES”  My rating: B (Opening wide on July 11)

130n minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Despite the overwhelming evidence, there is no rule that big summer blockbuster films have to be insufferably dumb.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is actually pretty smart.

Oh, not in its plotting, which is all too familiar. Or in the acting from the “human” cast, which is perfunctory.

But in creating a  world 10 years after the great ape revolution depicted in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,”  director Matt Reeves (“Let Me In,” “Cloverfield”) and his huge team (the closing credits feel as long as the rest of the movie) have given us a vision that is part Eden, part sci-fi dystopia and populated with monkeys who at their best generate real emotions.

The film begins with a thrilling deer hunt by ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his followers through the primordial greenery of Muir Woods.  Screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback envision the apes as a sort of undiscovered South American tribe living in a sprawling Ewok-ish town of massive “nests.”

These apes eschew the technology of the humans who once persecuted them, but they do make their own weapons of wood and stone.  Most communicate through sign language (we get subtitles), though Caesar and a few other chimps have learned to speak. They create their own versions of totem poles (assemblages of sticks and animal bones) and some of the females even wear rudimentary jewelry.

Most striking of all, the apes have a school, taught by an orangutan who understands human writing. (In the previous film we learned how the simians gained human-like intelligence as subjects in a military experiment.)

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