Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
A polar bear family trying to survive in the arctic--their plight exacerbated by global warming. African elephants on a grueling, dusty migration to a far away oasis. A mother humpback whale and her calf swimming 4,000 miles to their feeding grounds--dodging the great white shark along their perilous way.
Five years in the making, spanning 62 countries and 7 continents, Disney's Earth is the latest awe-inspiring nature documentary to hit the screen. With breathtaking cinematography, (shot from planes, helicopters, and hot-air balloons) Earth chronicles the stark life and death struggles that constitute the everyday reality of Mother Nature's world.
Along with the story line of the bears, elephants, and whales, we are treated to majestic scenes of caribou migrating across the tundra; birds teeming in the sky in such numbers that they obliterate the sun; and fish that swim nearly 70 miles per hour--all to the tune of a stirring soundtrack and the dulcet-toned narration of James Earl Jones.
Like every other nature flick I've seen, Earth does not spare us the obligatory scenes of carnivores tracking and chasing down their prey--ostensibly to make a point about the kill-or-be-killed aspect of nature--and, perhaps,to transmute it to the human realm to try to provide some cynical explanation about the nature of our own society. (It's a dog-eat-dog world out there!)
The other side of nature's split-personality doesn't normally get much play--that being the relatively gentle (yet powerful) herbivores--horses, hippos, rhinos, elephants, etc.--who are quite content to munch the day away on something green. But that wouldn't make for a stirring, adrenalin pumping film, now would it?
There's a certain segment of the movie going population that just wants to see blood--human or animal--they're not that picky. Earth may disappoint in that regard, as it stops just short of any real gore, (or AL GORE for that matter) though the Bambi factor might still be present with small children who may wonder why the cutest creatures normally get the short end of the stick.
Adults may be left to ponder about when, if ever, HUMANS might evolve beyond this dog-eat-dog world.
GRADE: B +
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Sandra Bullock continues to hit and miss on the romantic comedy scripts she chooses. Miss Congeniality was one of the worst rom-coms I've ever seen. The Proposal was one of the best. I'm going to rank All About Steve somewhere between those two.
Bullock, as Mary Horowitz, creates crossword puzzles for her local Sacramento newspaper. Her research has given her a seemingly endless knowledge about everything (except knowing when to shut up!) She's a non-stop motormouth, a trait that annoys a lot of people--including handsome TV news cameraman Steve, (Bradley Cooper) who gets set up with her on a blind date. They've just gotten situated inside his SUV, when Mary (who hasn't gotten much lately) decides to jump Steve's bones right then and there. As they're writhing around, unbuttoning and unfastening things, Steve figures he's hit the jackpot. (Ironically, Bullock exposes more of her boobs in this movie than she did in the much ballyhooed, so-called "naked" scene in The Proposal--go figure.) But it doesn't take long for Mary's nuttiness to make Steve consider himself lucky to be sent on assignment with reporter Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church) as they cover a number of breaking news stories for their cable news network, CCN. (No, you're not dyslexic.)
Madly in lust with Steve, (and convinced that the feeling is mutual) Mary pursues him around the country in a manner that would fit the legal definition of stalking--though the script would have us ultimately believe she's just UNDER APPRECIATED and MISUNDERSTOOD, and not a totally clueless, can't-take-an-obvious-hint PSYCHO chick.
Thomas Haden Church has found his niche as a self-serving prima donna type who has his sights set on an anchor position with the network.
There are some good LOL moments--as when Mary participates in one of those "career days" with a group of feisty young kids who grill her about her job, living with her parents, etc.
I'm giving All About Steve a better grade than the majority of reviewers out there, because it doesn't go for the totally predictable, standard rom-com ending--and provides a philosophical message at the end.
After watching this film, one is left to ponder which will occur first: Sandra Bullock(age 45) will stop trying to pass herself off as an age match with her younger leading men, (Bradley Cooper is 34) or Madonna (in her fifties now) will quit gyrating about the stage in her underwear like someone who desperately needs to find a restroom in the next fifteen seconds.
By the way, be sure to sit through all the rolling of the credits at the end of All About Steve, because there's a little more movie left at that point. (I'll wager that I'm the only person in America who's actually seen this!)
GRADE : B -
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Whenever I watch any kind of story that's set in the sixties, I'm already cringing at the beginning because I've been disappointed and disgusted too many times over the inability or unwillingness to FAITHFULLY recreate the LOOK and the FEEL of the era. Note to aspiring directors: MOST YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE LATE SIXTIES DID NOT HAVE SHORT HAIR! Even straight folks (meaning non-freaks, in this context) grew it below their ears. If you want proof, check out the hair styles on some of those Lawrence Welk TV shows from that period (admittedly kind of funny to look at today).
Anyway, the first thing that made me SMILE about Taking Woodstock is that its world is populated by oodles of AUTHENTIC looking hippie types. My mind set at ease, I knew that academy award winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) was going to do his best to do justice to the peace and love generation.
Based on the memoirs of Elliot Tiber--who was instrumental in bringing the Woodstock festival to fruition--Taking Woodstock is a coming of age story that follows young Elliot Teichberg,
(Demetri Martin) president of the Bethel, New York chamber of commerce--the guy who issues the permit to allow the festival to go forward after it's been banned in Wallkill due to "hippie phobia."
Elliot helps his parents run the dilapidated El Monaco Motel, where they charge extra for bath towels. Elliot"s mom, Sonia, (Imelda Staunton) is a hyper-stereotypical Jewish mother--and Staunton was born for this role. She's totally meshuggah.
Elliot, who tries to promote the area with his own modest local talent concerts, contacts Michael Lang, (Jonathon Groff) promoter of the Woodstock festival, and the rest is history. Groff has obviously studied Michael Lang with a keen eye--and those who've seen the Woodstock documentary (and who hasn't?) will find the resemblance (especially the hair) to be quite remarkable.
Eugene Levy (in a role that doesn't call upon his comic abilities) plays Max Yasgur, the local dairy farmer who provides the site for the momentous event.
Don't go to Taking Woodstock expecting to see any clips of Hendrix or Joplin on stage--you can immerse yourself in that by revisiting the documentary. This film is the personal story of Elliot's coming out of the closet and coming into his own--but still with enough naked hippies, pot smoking, mud sliding, and music of the era to get the job done ("Wooden Ships" by Crosby, Still, and Nash is such a GREAT song!) I especially liked the scene where Elliot joins a young couple in their tent and drops acid with them. It's a dreamy, colors melting, mind-blowing sequence that drips with authenticity.
Had Taking Woodstock been a made for TV movie (and God, I hope we NEVER have one of those) it would have ended with some moralistic anti-this or anti-that message; instead, the movie ends appropriately with a foreshadowing of the days to come following an era that occupied a shining, but all too brief moment upon the world stage.