The temperature outside Sunday felt like I imagine it feels standing barefoot on the surface of the sun. Another day at home seemed confining so Josie suggested she and I go see a movie. I loved the idea, but was ambivalent about the options. Robert Redford’s “A Walk in the Woods” was released to middling reviews and I hate it when my theatrical heroes disappoint me.
I loved the Bill Bryson’s book, but I’m one of those writers who encourages writers who are less accomplished than me and disdains all those who aren’t.
Bryson certainly fits in that category. He’s a fine writer and seems free of the kind of obnoxious pomposity I’d love to acquire if I had even a whiff of his acclaim. So I was reluctant to go see a movie about him that starred the still-charismatic Redford as the author.
But how bad could it be?
Well, it wasn’t at all bad. In fact, to hell with the reviews, it was very enjoyable.
It was a great buddy movie with lots of jovial laughs. It was a little distracting to see Nick Nolte, who looks incapable of walking away from the catering truck, acting like he’s toughing out a 2,100 mile hike.
And I just love going to the movies.
Heck, I love going to see the previews of the movies.
Good thing, too, because they last about 20 minutes.
As the kids are back in school, Val and I now take in more movie matinees and are hoping for a good season of adult movies, I mean, er, mature movies.
Here’s some of what’s being released with requisite snark. If one out of every five of these promising sounding movies is worthwhile it’ll be a miracle.
• “The Intern,” starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway looks interesting. I thought of DeNiro during “A Walk in the Woods.” He was in one of my favorite buddy movies, 1988’s “Midnight Run” with Charles Grodin. It’s one our great swearing movies and was one of his first comedic roles. I loved him in “Meet the Parents,” but refused to see him in all the increasingly lame-looking sequels. “The Intern” looks like a good fit for him.
• “Everest,” is based on the 1997 Jon Krakauer book, “Into Thin Air.” And what a book it is. It’s Krakauer’s account of being on the mountain during the ill-fated ’96 ascent that killed 8 climbers and left most everyone else with so many frostbite losses that standard hitchhiking became impossible. It’s an incredibly harrowing tale and I only wish it had been released this week where I could have enjoyed an temperature differential between what was outside and what was on the screen of about 120-degrees. Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who is increasingly becoming one of my favorites since the darkly satirical “Nightcrawler.” Plus, he’s filmed several flicks in Pittsburgh and always says nice things about the city.
• “The Walk,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Val and I have loved him ever since he played Tommy in the uproarious “Third Rock from the Sun.” He plays Philippe Petit, the French daredevil who in August 1974 achieved what has been called the “artistic crime of the century” by stringing a cable between the Twin Towers and performing a 45-minute high wire act a quarter mile above the ground. The trailer is so dizzying I predict people are going to boast about having the guts to sit in a theater and see it. I hope to be among them.
• “Black Mass,” is the Whitey Bulger story. It’ll take euphoric reviews for me to see this one. First of all, I already saw the Whitey Bulger story. It was called “The Departed,” by Martin Scorsese and starring Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio from 2006. It’s very compelling. “Black Mass” stars Johnny Depp and I’ve vowed I won’t see another Johnny Depp movie until I can recognize Johnny Depp. His penchant for absurd dress up leads me to believe his next career move will be to achieve off-screen animation. So, no, I doubt it.
• “99 Homes,” starring Andrew Garfield. Based just on the trailer, this looks really good. Garfield stars as a man whose home is repossessed by a corrupt real estate mogul — and, oh, how I wish I could say it’s Donald Trump. To get his home back, the character must go to work for the mogul and begin evicting families just like his.
• “Love the Coopers,” is a Christmas movie starring John Goodman, Diane Keaton and a very appealing ensemble cast. I knew it was filmed in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t know it would include idyllic shots of the Ligonier’s town square. It’s featured prominently in the trailer and was a pleasant surprise. To my recollection, it’s the first major motion picture to feature Ligonier since “Slap Shot” when players on the team bus pulled down their britches and mooned protesting locals — and I’ve lost count of the number of times I wished I could have done just that in downtown Ligonier. It looks fun and charming with the kind of tense family dysfunction that is what Christmas is all about. Barring lousy reviews, we’ll see this one.
• “By The Sea,” starring Brad and Angelina Jolie Pitt. How a movie starring two people named Pitt (and probably a squad of their children) wasn’t filmed in Pittsburgh hints at inept production. I’d see a movie starring this power couple if it was about the two of them dishing about the other, but I’ll never see one where they’re acting like they’re either in love or about to kill one other, or are robbing a bank. Trying to gauge whether there is any real chemistry between the two will be too distracting to sit through. I once thought Pitt had a chance to be great — like Robert Redford/Paul Newman great — but he’s been a major disappointment (link below). No chance. In fact, I intend to one day argue in this space that our finest screen performer is the woman who plays Flo in the Progressive Insurance commercials. Have you seen her range?
• “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon. This looks like a good one to me. Did you see Damon in “We Bought a Zoo.” He’s becoming the anti-Pitt. He looks like he makes movies because it’s fun. It shows in his movies.
Others of interest include “Learning to Drive,” with Ben Kingsley, “Captive,” about the “Purpose Driven Life” book, and the Ron Howard adaptation of the Nathanial Philbrick sea-going tragedy book, “In the Heart of the Sea.”
I strongly recommend both “The Descendants” starring George Clooney and “The Way Way Back” starring Sam Rockwell. Val’s been urging me to see both for about year. Both, written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, are smart, funny and poignant as apparently are both Faxon and Rash.
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