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Into the Wild (2007)

I’m going to paraphrase Thoreau here… rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth.

— Christopher McCandless

I was always wanted to see the #145 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Into the Wild where people in the movie blogger community was saying that this movie got shafted at the Oscars when it was only nominated in two categories for Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Hal Holbrook. People were showering this movie with endless amounts of praise. When I saw the movie was on the shelf at my local library, I jumped at the chance to rent it. After watching the movie, I was thinking to myself what is the big deal.

Bad boy actor, Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and directed the true life story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) based on the book by Jon Krakauer. McCandless came from a privileged life in the early 90s. He graduated from Emory University, but he feels that his parents, Billie and Walt (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) are living in a superficial world of wealth and affluence. Chris wanted to live in a world where money doesn’t matter.

He decides to sell his possessions, cut up his credit cards, cash out his life saving and abandon his car to hitchhike across the country to find his authentic self. He doesn’t tell his parents or his younger sister, Carine (Jena Malone) about his whereabouts.

The audience gets to see Chris having chance encounters with a hippie couple, Rainey and Jan (Brian H. Dierker, Catherine Keener) in Arizona, working for a farmer, Wayne (Vince Vaughn) in Iowa, meeting  a  girly that crushes on him, Tracy (Kristin Stewart) and a broken war vet, Ron Franz (Holbrook).

I understand that this movie was supposed to talk about living an authentic life, finding yourself in the world and all that. The whole spiel about quoting Thoreau, having the holier-than-thou attitude about other people left a bad taste in my mouth. It is a sad story. If I don’t care about the lead character, why should I care about this movie?

Judgment: The movie was gorgeous to look at, but it felt empty to me.

Rating: 6/10

What Just Happened (2008)

In Hollywood, everyone can hear you scream.

Based on his book of the same name, famous Hollywood producer, Art Linson brings the fictionalized version of what happened to him in Tinseltown to the big screen. What Just Happened recounts two weeks in the life of Ben (Robert De Niro), a frazzled producer dealing with multiple crises at once.

One crisis deals with a renegade British director, Jeremy Burnell (Michael Wincott) unwilling to change a controversial ending tohis movie, “Firecely.” Will he change the ending to please studio boss, Lou (Catherine Kenner) so it could be shown in Cannes? Should he maintain his integrity and cost the studio $25 million in loss profits?

There is a crisis with Bruce Willis playing a version of himself refusing to shave off his beard before the start of a new picture that Ben wants to start production. His producer life hangs in the balance to the direction Bruce has to make. Will the production shut down, because of facial hair? He tries to get Willis’ agent, Dick Bell (John Turturro) to change his mind.

Lastly, there is a crisis on the personal front with his relationship with his ex-wife Kelly (Robin Wright Penn). Is she having an affair with a struggling writer, Scott Solomon (Stanley Tucci)? What is the nature of the relationship between his teenaged daughter, Zoe (Kirstin Stewart) and a dead agent, Jack McDonaugh? Will he find some stability in his life?

This Barry Levinson directed movie gaves a satricial jab to the Hollywood types. The movie is witty. Good dialogue. The pacing is frantic and choatic when Ben is in the car going from appoitment to appoinemnt. It slows down on some of the tender scenes of the film.

The best part of the movie is at the burial of Jack McDoanugh. I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say, Ben, Bruce, Dick and a shovel.

My judgment: If you want to be a producer in Hollywood, this movie would steer you from attempting such a feat.

My rating: ***1/2

FB Recommendation: 21 Grams (2003)


I know I haven’t posted in a couple of days. I have seen some shitty movies that I dare not write about, because of their mediocrity. I heard on a blog that I frequent that 21 Grams is being shown now on Hulu. I was happy. I have the film at home.

This was a vastly under appreciated movie when it came out in 2003. It only got two Oscar nominations for Naomi Watts and Benicio del Toro. It deserved alot more than that. The script by Arriaga should have gotten a nom.

The movie is about three broken people that intersect. Naomi Watts plays Cristina, a former drug addicted mother that recently suffers a loss when his entire family is killed in a traffic accident by Jack Jordan (Benicio del Toro).

Toro is an ex-con that has found Christianity, and is trying to find some redemption for his past deeds. Eddie Marsan plays Reverned John, his mentor that is tried of him being a loose cannon. When Jack comes back home to his wife, Marianne (Melissa Leo), they try to cover up the crime.

The last piece of the puzzle is Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a mathamatician that is in the middle heart failure when he recieves a heart from Cristina’s late husband, Michael (Danny Huston). He goes to seek out the family of the man that gave him life. He watches over Cristina that is regressing back to drugs. He falls in love with her.

Tragic consequences happen in course of this movie. Check this movie out. I couldn’t stress that enough.

My rating: ****1/2 stars.

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