The Old actor and the sea
Cinema icon Robert Redford clearly suffered to make All Is Lost. The film presents a harrowing account of a solo yachtsman’s attempt to survive a mounting series of challenges, after his 39-foot sailboat has a devastating collision with a rogue shipping container in the middle of the trackless Indian Ocean.
The unnamed “our man” awakes to find water pouring into his boat after it was holed by a sharp corner on the trailer-sized container. With all his navigation and communication electronics ruined, he grimly sets about crudely patching the large puncture just above the water line.
Within a day he is set upon by a massive storm, one that he and the boat barely survive. Nothing if not resourceful, the sailor digs out an old-fashioned sextant and a book on celestial navigation, slowly charting his limping progress towards the distant shipping lanes, where he hopes a passing freighter will respond to his distress flares. That’s assuming, of course, that his meagre rations of food and water can sustain him, and those circling sharks find something else to eat.
Austere and rich in equal measure, Lost is cinema at its most pure. Nearly wordless, this one-man tour de force of acting sees Redford create a richly-drawn character out of simple actions and a face that displays an evolving series of emotions, as this gifted and determined sailor does everything he can to survive … while slowly realizing he will likely perish.
Writer-director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) does a great job of pacing as he works on an exceptionally small canvas. The film is intensely claustrophobic at times, and quietly harrowing, but Chandor includes sunny moments and underwater shots where the floating hull and nearby schools of fish create a mood of dreamy, otherworldly beauty. This won’t be to all tastes, but Lost is well directed and marvelously acted.
No movie for good actors
Revered author Cormac McCarthy has some serious apologizing to do. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is no stranger to Hollywood: No Country for Old Men did the best of several adaptations, winning four Oscars.
Known for his western settings, gothic themes and dense prose, McCarthy sets his sights on the illegal drug trade along the Tex-Mex border in The Counselor. Unfortunately, and despite a killer cast and legendary director Ridley Scott at the helm, the movie is a stunning misfire. Sluggish, stilted and riddled with pretentious dialogue, this laughably “macho” crime thriller is as appealing as a bullet-riddled corpse in a designer silk suit.
The film’s “counselor” (Michael Fassbender) is a slick lawyer with lots of unsavoury clients. Ethical up till now, he has money problems and decides to buy his way into a $20-million drug deal where the product is shipped up north by a Mexican cartel. His partners include the glamorously decadent Reiner (Javier Bardem) and the mysterious Westray (Brad Pitt). There are scenes of pet cheetahs chasing down jackrabbits while Reiner and his posh yet menacing girlfriend (Cameron Diaz) sip cocktails and savour the cruelty, and dialogue that ranges from the gynecologically misogynistic (don’t ask) to the pompous (“you don’t know someone ’til you know what they want”).
The plot is your basic double-cross, but still manages to be somewhat confusing. There is little momentum, just tedious set pieces intermingled with moments of intense violence. And well before “the counselor” realizes that he is sliding down to hell, most people in the audience will have felt like they got there way ahead of him.
(All Is Lost continues at the Odeon; The Counselor continues at the Odeon, Empire Uni 4 & SilverCity)
Let’s head to Italy and open the cork on a savoury Chianti Classico from Tuscany. The 2010 Peppoli hails from the fabled house of Antinori and is nicely framed in oak, with notes of dried cherry, spices, and dark chocolate. A bit of a splurge at $26, but I’m sure you’re worth it.
ENDER’S GAME -(SilverCity/Westshore) Yet another teen book series comes to the big screen, this time featuring a young boy with exceptional powers who is cultivated as a military leader destined to save the Earth from a deadly alien attack. With Harrison Ford.
LAST VEGAS -(SilverCity/Westshore) Four sixty-something pals head to Las Vegas for a last hurrah. The geriatric laughs will be generated by Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline.
FREE BIRDS -(SilverCity/Westshore) Animation goes to the birds in this comedy about a mismatched pair of turkeys who travel back in time to change the course of history . . . by getting a certain very tasty fowl off the holiday menu. With the vocal talents of Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.
DIANA -(Odeon) The very talented Naomi Watts looks convincingly beautiful as the doomed Princess Diana, in a biopic that focuses on the last two years of her life, including her secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.
ABOUT TIME -(Odeon) Writer-director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill) has been getting great reviews for this romantic comedy about a young man who knows how to time travel. When he decides to do something about his nonexistent love life, things become more complicated than he imagined. With the great Bill Nighy, and Rachel McAdams as the heart throb.
★★★★ RUSH -(Caprice) Gifted mainstream director Ron Howard (Apollo 13) delivers high-octane thrills and lots of human drama as he tackles this biopic about the legendary 1970s rivalry between Formula 1 race car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
★★RIDDICK-(Roxy, 8:45) Vin Diesel blasts back into outer space for the latest iteration of this gory and terrifying sci-fi series about a fugitive who once again finds himself battling alien predators and bounty hunters who want his head – literally.
SWEET SUMMER SUN: HYDE PARK LIVE -(Odeon) For those who missed out on the latest mini-tour by the Rolling Stones, check out this one-night-only showing of the documentary based on their recent, extremely well-reviewed performance in Hyde Park as they played their hits for an ecstatic hometown crowd. Mon., Nov. 4 only.
ALL IS LOST -(Odeon) Cinema icon Robert Redford is great in a near-wordless performance as a solo yachtsman whose life is threatened after his sailboat has a devastating collision with a rogue shipping container in the middle of nowhere. See review.
BAD GRANDPA -(SilverCity/Westshore) Head jackass Johnny Knoxville spins off his “crazy grandpa” character into a full-length comedy about an irascible and incorrigible 86-year-old troublemaker who takes an accident- and crime-ridden journey across America with his 8-year-old grandson. Spike Jonze (!) co-wrote the story.
THE COUNSELOR -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4) Ridley Scott helmed this pretentious, inert and disappointing crime thriller about a lawyer who learns the (very) hard way that it’s a bad idea to get involved in the illegal drug business. Written by Cormac McCarthy and starring Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, and Cameron Diaz. See review.
★★★★ CAPTAIN PHILLIPS -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Talented director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy) tells the true tale of a ship captain (Tom Hanks) whose boat is captured by Somali pirates. Tense but also thoughtful, a thriller with a brain.
★★½ CARRIE-(SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Stephen King’s horror classic gets a competent but unnecessary remake at the hands of Kimberly Peirce (***Boys Don’t Cry). Chloe Grace Moretz plays the shy high school outcast, while Julianne Moore is her religiously obsessed mom.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 -(SilverCity/Westshore) The wacky animated comedy about an infamous machine that churns out scary food-animal hybrids was popular enough to merit a sequel. Consider yourself warned! With the vocal talents of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and Will Forte.
★★½ DESPICABLE ME 2 -(Caprice) The 2010 original, about a loathsome criminal mastermind who was reformed by the love of three young orphan girls, was a goofy delight. The sequel, although still clever, is much more scattershot, with an unimaginative plot and unwelcome dashes of mean spiritedness. Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, and Russell Brand supply the voices.
★★★½ ENOUGH SAID -(Odeon) The latest from delightfully quirky writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends With Money) features a divorced woman who sets her sights on a man – only to learn that he is the much-loathed ex-husband of her new gal pal. This sweet, clever, sexy, and insightful sort-of romantic comedy stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and, sigh, the late James Gandolfini.
ESCAPE PLAN -(SilverCity/Caprice) Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up in a brutal actioneer about two convicts who will do anything to break out of the world’s most secure prison. ΗΗΗ½ GRAVITY -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a harrowing, brilliantly-executed thriller about two astronauts aboard a space station who survive an accident only to find themselves drifting helplessly through space, with little hope of rescue or survival.
★★★½ PRISONERS -(Caprice) Quebec director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) has been getting great praise for this bleak and violent police procedural about two kidnapped girls and the dad who will do anything to get them back.
RUNNER RUNNER -(Caprice) A smart college student with a knack for gambling (Justin Timberlake) hooks up with a sinister offshore entrepreneur (Ben Affleck) who runs an online poker empire from a corrupt Caribbean island. This has become one of the worst-reviewed movies of the year.
TURBO -(Caprice) The latest from Dreamworks Animation is a family comedy about an ordinary garden snail who acquires magic powers – and the chance to achieve his dream of winning the Indy 500. With the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, and Samuel L. Jackson.
★★½ WE’RE THE MILLERS -(Caprice) A crass comedy about a long-time pot dealer who hires a stripper and two feral teens to pretend to be his middle class family as cover for when he smuggles a massive load of weed across the border from Mexico to the States.
MOVIE MONDAY – screens Still Mine, a marvellous – and under-seen – drama. Themes of aging are powerfully and poignantly explored in this heartfelt true-life story about an 89-year-old New Brunswick farmer who ends up having to fight both a city hall bureaucrat and his wife’s debilitating illness. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.
GOOD OL’ FREDA -(Fri.-Sat., Nov. 1-2: 7:00) Beatlemania takes on a slightly more subdued note in this documentary focusing on Freda Kelly, who was lifelong secretary for the Fab Four.
ALL THE WRONG REASONS -(Fri.-Tues., Nov. 1-5: 9:00) The complex and increasingly muddled relations between four co-workers at a big-box department store are at the heart of this dramedy by director Gia Milani. This is the last film made Glee’s Cory Monteith.
SHORT TERM 12 -(Sun.-Tues., Nov. 3-5: 7:00) A 20-something who works as a supervisor at a foster-care facility experiences both personal and professional challenges.
THE STONE ROSES: MADE OF STONE -(Wed.-Thurs., Nov. 6-7: 7:00) Influential British rock icons The Stone Roses, who broke up in the mid-’90s and reunited in 2012, are profiled in a documentary praised as “warm an energetic” by The Guardian.
★★½ THE WORLD’S END -(Fri.-Sat., Nov. 1-2: 3:00, 7:00, 9:10 In a disappointing but occasionally funny follow-up from the makers of Shaun of the Dead, five old friends reunite for a pub crawl only to find themselves in a droll sci-fi action-adventure of epic proportions.
★★½ DESPICABLE ME -(Sat.-Sun., Nov. 2-3: 1:00 matinee) The 2010 original, about a loathsome criminal mastermind who was reformed by the love of three young orphan girls, was a goofy delight. The sequel, although still clever, is much more scattershot, with an unimaginative plot and surprising amounts of mean spiritedness.
★★★★ BLUE JASMINE -(Sun., Nov. 3: 3:00, 7:00, 9:00 & Mon., Nov. 4: 7:00, 9:00) Cate Blanchett is headed for an Oscar nomination for her role as an emotionally fragile woman struggling to recover after her life as a glamorous socialite implodes. Complete with a great cast, this is one of Woody Allen’s best films.
★★★★ SUNSET BOULEVARD -(Tues., Nov. 5: 7:00, 9:10) They don’t get any more classic than this 1950 Billy Wilder film noir about the relationship between a failed screenwriter (William Holden) and a faded silent movie star (Gloria Swanson) who dreams of reclaiming lost glory via a new film.
★★★ SALINGER -(Wed.-Thurs., Nov. 6-7: 7:00, 9:20) J.D. Salinger, the reclusive literary icon who gave us Catcher in the Rye, surrenders a few of his secrets in this occasionally lurid but undeniably interesting documentary with contributions from ex-lovers, estranged family members, literary lions, and such luminaries as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Tom Wolfe, and Gore Vidal.
FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES -(1 pm)
HIDDEN UNIVERSE -(11 am, 4 pm, 7 pm)
KENYA: ANIMAL KINGDOM -(3 pm)
ROLLING STONES: AT THE MAX -(Thurs., 8 pm)
SPACE JUNK -(noon, 5 pm, Fri.-Wed., 8 pm)
TITANS OF THE ICE AGE -(10 am, 2 pm, 6 pm; NOTE: no 10 am show Wed.)
TO THE ARCTIC -(10 am, Wed. only)