Opening This Month: September 2015

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Happy September! Fall is when we see fewer sequels, superheroes and shootouts, more dramas based on real stories or best-selling books. Here’s what we have to look forward to this month:

September 2

A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson’s book about his trek through the Appalachian Trail is now a film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Emma Thompson.

September 4

Learning to Drive Katha Pollitt’s essay about getting her first driver’s license after a breakup has been softened a bit for this movie with Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley.

Transporter Refueled Newcomer Ed Skrein takes over the role of the implacable driver for hire, this time driving three gorgeous female bank robbers in Sia wigs.

September 11

The Visit M. Night Shyamalan returned to spookiness with this story of children who find there is some very, very creepy stuff going on in their grandparents’ house.

The Perfect Guy A lobbyist played by Sanaa Lathan gets into an intense and steamy rebound relationship after a painful breakup. She is flattered by his attention, but then….

September 18

Black Mass Johnny Depp plays one of the most notorious gangsters of the century, Boston’s Whitey Bulger, at times an FBI informant, and now in prison for 19 murders.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials They escaped the maze in the first film. Now what’s beyond the maze is even more dangerous.

September 25

Hotel Transylvania 2 All the spooks and monsters are back, as Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) have a baby and grandpa Dracula (Adam Sandler) wants to make sure his grandchild continues his vampire heritage.

The Intern Writer-director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated”) has two Oscar winners in this film: Anne Hathaway as a harried mom with a quickly expanding business and Robert De Niro as a retired executive who becomes her intern.

99 Homes Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, and Michael Shannon star in this searing drama about desperate people trying to make the best of a collapsing economy, surrounded by foreclosed homes.

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Opening This Month Trailers, Previews, and Clips
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Trailer: Nick Nolte and Robert Redford Hike the Appalachian Trail in “A Walk in the Woods”

Posted on August 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Writer Bill Bryson came back to the US after 20 years in Great Britain and decided to reacquaint himself with his home country by walking the Appalachian Trail. And he took along a friend, or maybe a friend-ish, a cranky guy who was the only one who would come along, primarily because he had nothing else to do. In the grand tradition of other hiking sagas like Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
— but much funnier — he wrote A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Now it’s a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

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Based on a book Based on a true story Trailers, Previews, and Clips

The Company You Keep

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I can’t help thinking that even though this movie is based on a novel by Neil Gordon, it is primarily a trip down memory lane for director/star Robert Redford.  Shia LeBeouf plays Ben, an idealistic investigative reporter a la Redford in “All the President’s Men.”  Redford himself plays a “Three Days of the Condor”-style guy on the run from the government and the aging radical living under another name from “Sneakers.”  There are the buried family tensions of his first filmas a director, “Ordinary People.” And let’s not forget — no matter how much we try — the long debates about philosophy and policy in his last directing/starring movie, Lions for Lambs,  For a moment, I thought he was going to jump off a cliff a la “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

There’s nothing wrong in wrestling with the same themes, especially themes as meaty as the conflicts between our larger responsibilities as citizens and our responsibilities as family members and friends and when the ends justify the means — or when the means just make you into the same kind of bad guy as the people you are fighting.

Redford plays a single dad and small town lawyer who, it turns out, has been living under an assumed name for longer than he lived under his own.  When a suburban mother of two teenagers (Susan Sarandon) turns out to be a long-missing fugitive sought by the FBI for her role in a bank robbery that led to the felony murder of a guard (himself a father of two children).  The robbery was the last act of a splinter group from the anti-war Weather Underground.  (Apparently, this fictional theft was inspired by the 1981 Brinks robbery by members of the Weather Underground and Black Panthers.)

Ben, a reporter at a failing newspaper called the Albany Sun-Times, does some research and discovers that the man known as Jim Kent (Redford) is really Nick Sloan, also a fugitive accused of participating in the robbery.  Jim/Nick leaves his 11-year-old daughter (singing sensation Jackie Evancho, sweetly natural) with his brother (Chris Cooper), and goes on the run, contacting the old gang (including Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, and Julie Christie), none of whom are very happy to see him.

Meanwhile, both the FBI (Terrance Howard and Anna Kendrick) and the reporter are chasing after Jim/Nick with all kinds of high-tech surveillance (FBI) and looking at old microfilms for the kinds of esoteric newspaper archives and property records that are not even online (reporter).

There is some talk about protest here, with a pause for a professor’s lecture to his class about determination to make absolutely sure we do not miss the point.  And there is more talk about parents and children and how they change the calculus of responsibility and a great big metaphor of a character who is supposed to represent all of that.

Like “Lions for Lambs,” this is a talky film, but the balance this time is more on the side of story, and the non-stop parade of top-tier actors hold our interest.  The title is as much about our relationship as long-term fans of these masterful performers as it is about the characters who have been hiding out as they come to grips with their failures and betrayals.

Parents should know that there are glimpses of wartime and protest violence and characters use strong language.  The movie includes drinking and drug dealing.

Family discussion: How did having children make people evaluate their options differently?  Do you agree with Ben’s decision at the end?  How did the characters show their different ideas of loyalty?

If you like this, try: “Running on Empty” and “Steal This Movie”

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Warrior

Posted on September 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Imagine if Rocky, instead of fighting Apollo Creed, got into the ring with another Rocky.  And they were brothers.

I know, I know, but somehow it works in a surprisingly affecting story of the sons of an abusive alcoholic who have not seen each other since they were teenagers and end up fighting each other for a mixed martial arts championship title.

That’s the magic of movies.  Somehow, they can take a story of a welder who does post-modern dance numbers in a Pittsburgh bar and dreams of being a ballerina or cartoon characters are live in old-time Hollywood and feel real-er than real life.  As cheesy as this movie gets, it keeps raising the emotional stakes over and over again until we just tap out and go with it, largely because of full-hearted, powerhouse performances from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.

Tommy (Hardy) comes home.  He’s been away a long time.  His father, Paddy (Nick Nolte) is glad to see him, but Tommy says he wants to deal with his father only as a trainer.  He has no interest in catching up or mending their estrangement.  He just has one goal, to win a $5 million mixed martial arts championship.

Brendan (Edgerton) has a good life as a high school science teacher with a family.  His wife says, “I thought we agreed that we weren’t going to raise our children in a house were their father gets beat up for a living.”  But paying for his daughter’s health care has put the family at risk of losing the house.  He needs a lot of money fast and the only way he knows to get it is to win the mixed martial arts championship.  He goes into training with an old friend.  Cue the montages.

The script by writer/director Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle”) is as corny as an “up close and personal” Olympics athlete profiles, but as effective, too.  Every time you think you’ve made up your mind who to root for, it switches around on you, and then switches around again.  The fight scenes are powerful, but in large part due to the emotional weight given to Tommy and Brendan by Hardy and Edgerton.  The final bout, well, its a knock-out.

 

 

 

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