Survival Flick Features James Franco as Slumdog Mountaineer
James Franco is a marvelous character actor who has exhibited an enviable range in a string of memorable support performances in everything from Spider Man to Pineapple Express to Milk to Date Night. In 127 Hours, the subtle scene-stealer was afforded, not merely a rare opportunity at a lead role but, the luxury of basking in the limelight all by himself for the bulk of the picture. That’s because this is a stranded-in-nature vehicle, reminiscent of such survival flicks as Tom Hank’s Cast Away and Emile Hirsch’s Into the Wild.
Directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), the harrowing adventure recreates mountain climber Aron Ralston’s real-life ordeal during the spring of 2003 in a desert region of Utah far removed from civilization. While there for a Saturday hike, the young outdoorsman ended up trapped in a ravine when his arm became pinned to a wall by a dislodged boulder.
Because Aron hadn’t informed anyone of his itinerary before setting off alone, he knew there wouldn’t be any rescue party organized to look for him. In fact, no one even noticed his absence until he failed to show up for work after the weekend.
So, the desperate 28 year-old had to pin his hopes on the possibility of another climber’s coming along by chance. But neither his prayers nor bloodcurdling screams were to be answered over the next five days, leaving the unfortunate lad simply stuck under a rock in the middle of nowhere.
Thus, from about 15 minutes in virtually right up to the conclusion, this 2-and-a-half hour saga basically features James Franco delivering a protracted soliloquy. The versatile thespian more than meets the challenge to convey convincingly the gradually deteriorating physical, mental and emotional states of a person forced by circumstances to reflect upon his life while simultaneously resigning himself to an untimely demise.
After running out of food and water, we witness Aron using his free hand to carve his name and date of birth into the rock. He also videotapes heartfelt farewells to his friends and family, before he becomes delirious due to dehydration.
Far be it from me to spoil the ending for anyone who never read the newspaper account as it originally appeared. Suffice to say that when Aron finds himself facing certain death, his only option lies in a proverbial Hobson’s choice as unthinkable as it is gruesome.
What do you get when you let Danny Boyle put his spin on a fact-based cross of Cast Away and Into the Wild? An exhilarating episode of ‘Who Wants to Be a Slumdog Mountaineer?’
Running time: 94 Minutes
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Twilight 3 DVD Features Bella Embroiled in Supernatural Love Triangle
This third (of four) installments in the review-proof Twilight series, opens with the end of senior year fast approaching at Forks High School. But where valedictorian Jessica (Anna Kendrick) is concentrating on practicing her graduation speech, her good friend Bella (Kristen Stewart), our human heroine, still finds herself torn romantically between vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner).
After un-grounding his daughter, ever-clueless Police Chief Charlie Swan (Billy Burke) gives his blessing for her to date the latter, but she instead flies to Florida with the former, in order to visit her mother. The messy love triangle starts to take an emotional toll on Bella after she secretly accepts Edward’s marriage proposal while subsequently allowing her relationship with Jacob to escalate from platonic to physical.
The plot thickens when it comes to light that vindictive, Bella-hating Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) will soon be descending upon Forks from nearby Seattle with an army of newborn vampires intent on avenging the death of her dearly-departed boyfriend. This urgent state of affairs leads to a temporary truce and some comical sniping between Edward and Jacob as they join forces to protect the fair maiden whose hand they both seek.
“Doesn’t he own a shirt?” Edward asks Bella about his buff, bare-chested competitor. “Let’s face it, I’m hotter than you,” Jacob retorts, in a remark meant to be taken both literally and figuratively. Needless to say, they bury the hatchet to fight the newborns, a bloody battle which merely serves as a distraction from the palpable pressure ratcheting-up on Bella to decide which guy will get her heart.
So, what’ll it be Bella? A bloodsucking vampire or a rabid werewolf? That’s a tough choice when they’re both packaged in the hot bod of an adorably cute teen. Overall, a compelling enough sequel certain to enthrall the target demographic, though still not nearly as enchanting as the original.
Running time: 124 Minutes
2-Disc DVD Extras: Audio commentary by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, audio commentary by Stephanie Meyer & Wyck Godfrey, deleted and extended scenes, photo gallery, 6-part “Making of” documentary, “Edward Fast Forward” and “Jacob Fast Forward” featurettes, music videos and more.
For movies opening December 3, 2010
BIG BUDGET FILMS
The Warrior’s Way (R for graphic violence). Western action/fantasy, set in the Badlands, about a martial arts master (Jang Dong Ton) who emigrates from Asia to America to retire in peace, only to have to pick up his sword again to defend his adopted hometown and a beautiful local gal (Kate Bosworth) from the returning gang of marauders who had made her an orphan many moons ago. With Danny Huston, Tony Cox, Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
All Good Things (R for drug use, violence, profanity and some sexuality). NYC crime saga, set in the ‘80s, about the real-life case of the son (Ryan Gosling) of a real estate tycoon (Frank Langella) who falls in love with and marries a tenant (Kirsten Dunst) over his father’s objections only to have his wife subsequently disappear under mysterious circumstances. Support cast includes Philip Baker Hall and SNL’s Kristen Wiig.
Bhutto (Unrated). The definitive documentary chronicling the life and times of Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007), the polarizing political figure and two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan who was poised to return to power in the face of terrorist threats until she was felled by an assassin’s bullet. With appearances by Arianna Huffington, David Frost and Condoleezza Rice.
Black Swan (R for graphic sexuality, disturbing violent images, profanity and drug use). Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) directs this psychological thriller, set in NYC, revolving around a couple of ballet dancers (Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis) competing to land the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. With Vincent Kassel and Oscar-nominees Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder.
Come Undone (Unrated). Romance drama about a sexually-frustrated accountant (Alba Rohrwacher) who, against her better judgment, becomes embroiled in a torrid, clandestine affair, rendezvousing once a week at a cheap, cheaters’ motel with a married colleague (Pierfrancesco Flavino) who has a wife and two kids. (In Italian and French with subtitles).
Dead Awake (R for profanity, drug use and brief sexuality). Romance thriller about a morose mortician (Nick Stahl) who finds himself reassessing his dark view of the world after being reunited with the love of his life a decade after she mysteriously disappeared. With Rose McGowan, Amy Smart and Ben Marten.
I Love You Phillip Morris (R for sexuality, profanity and graphic dialogue) Ewan McGregor handles the title role in this homoerotic comedy about a happily-married police officer (Jim Carrey) who comes out-of-the-closet after a motorcycle accident and subsequently falls in love with his cellmate when he lands behind bars. With Lesley Mann, Rodrigo Santoro and Nicholas Alexander.
Mars (Unrated) Animated sci-fi comedy, set in the near future, revolving around the race between a robot and manned missions to Mars in the wake of the discovery of life on the Red Planet. Voice cast includes Kinky Friedman, Mark Duplass and Zoe Simpson.
Meskada (R for profanity, violence and one scene of sexuality) Crime thriller about a small-town detective’s (Nick Stahl) effort to bring to justice the killers of the son of a powerful, local socialite (Laura Benanti).With Norman Reedus, Kellan Lutz and Jonathan Tucker.
Night Catches Us (R for violence, profanity and some sexuality). Prodigal Son drama, set in Philly in 1976, about a former Black Panther (Anthony Mackie) who returns to his ‘hood after a four-year absence only to be met with suspicion by his former comrades except for an old flame (Kerry Washington) who has become a lawyer in the interim. With Tariq Trotter, Jamie Hector and Wendell Pierce.
Queen of the Lot (R for profanity and some sexuality). Romantic comedy about a conniving, aspiring actress (Tanna Frederick) under house arrest who attempts to leverage her drunk-driving convictions and her relationship with a matinee idol (Christpher Rydell) into a tabloid feeding frenzy. With Noah Wyle, Peter Bogdanovich and Sabrina Jaglom.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Unrated). Holiday fantasy, set in Scandinavia, where children start disappearing mysteriously right after Santa Claus is unearthed at an archaeological dig. Cast includes Peeter Jakobi, Tommi Korpela and Jorma Tommila. (In Finnish and English with subtitles)