Kon-Tiki

The Weinstein Company

Rated PG-13 for violence.

Norwegian Anthropologist Replicates Polynesia Settlers’ Migration In Oscar-Nominated Seafaring Epic

At the beginning of the 20th century, the conventional wisdom was that Polynesia had been settled by Asians arriving from the Far East. But it’s one thing for a pompous professor to simply sit in an ivory tower and speculate about who might have discovered the island group some 1,500 years ago, and quite another to go about proving a theory correct by attempting to replicate the putative pioneers’ perilous feat.

While doing research in the Marquesas on the isle of Fatu Hiva in the mid-‘30s, a Norwegian anthropologist named Thor Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Hagen) came up with a novel idea about the roots of the natives. After studying the local fauna and flora, watching the flow of the tides, and listening to aborigine folklore about their ancestors’ arduous trek towards the setting sun, he reasoned that the region must have been settled by tribes migrating there from South America.

Then, when his iconoclastic notion was roundly ridiculed by scholarly colleagues back in academia, Thor decided to prove his detractors wrong by mounting a 5,000-mile expedition fromPerutoPolynesia. And although he knew nothing about sailing and couldn’t even swim, he did have the sense to assemble a team capable of assisting him in the dangerous endeavor.

The plan was to build a balsa wood raft identical to the type used by indigenous people in pre-Columbian times, painstakingly following their methods of construction down to the smallest detail. And since they would not be able to steer this vessel christened the Kon-Tiki, Thor estimated it would take about three months for the currents and winds to take them to their destination.

His intrepid crew was comprised of four fellow Norwegians and a Swede, including childhood friend Erik Hesselberg (Odd Magnus Williamson), the navigator; radioman Knut Haugland (Tobias Santelmann), a decorated World War II veteran; Torstein Raaby (Jakob Oftebro), another radio expert; Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), an engineer; and Bengt Danielsson (Gustaf Skarsgard), the Swedish steward.

Co-directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, Kon-Tiki faithfully chronicles their historic, transoceanic voyage. Despite the fact that most of the picture’s dialogue is English, it somehow earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category earlier this year.

The men set sail in the spring of 1947, encountering storms, shark attacks, ship rot, insubordination and a host of other challenges en route. The deliberately-paced production repeatedly harks back to a bygone era when much of the Earth’s surface was yet to be explored.

Replete with breathtaking Pacific panoramas shot on location, Kon-Tiki is worth watching for the captivating visuals alone. However, the storytelling is solid, too, with all adding up to a fitting tribute to the enviable exploits of the legendary Thor Heyerdahl.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

In English, Norwegian, Swedish and French with subtitles

Running time: 118 minutes

 

 

Pain & Gain

Paramount Pictures

Rated R for graphic nudity, bloody violence, crude sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity.

Crime Caper Recreates Real-Life Kidnapping Plot

MichaelBayis a director whose name has mostly come to be associated with mindless, stunt-driven action flicks such as Armageddon, Bad Boys and the Transformers franchise. His latest offering, however, Pain & Gain represents a relatively cerebral departure in that it tones down the special effects and pyrotechnics in favor of credible plot and character development.

Based on a true tale that transpired in Florida back in the ‘90s, the alternately comical and gruesome crime caper revolves around the felonious exploits of a trio of bodybuilders who hatched a kidnap for ransom plot that went terribly awry. The mastermind of the ill-fated scheme was Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), an ex-con employed as a personal trainer at Sun Gym inMiami.

A regular there was Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), an arrogant businessman fromColombiawith an oversized ego and a temper to match. That condescending attitude makes it easy for Daniel to consider extorting cash from his client, especially given how rich the guy is.

So, he enlists the assistance of couple of equally-buff cronies, recently-paroled Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and steroid-addicted Adrian (Anthony Mackie). But the seat-of-the-pants plan has little chance of success, despite the pea brains of the operation’s assurances that “I know what I’m doing” because “I’ve watched a lot of movies.”

One complication is born again Paul’s reservations, since he’s turned his life over to Jesus. Meanwhile, Adrian himself is very distracted himself by a case of juice-induced erectile dysfunction.

Nevertheless, the three still proceed with the conspiracy, abducting Victor and taking him to an abandoned warehouse where they torture him mercilessly to figure out where his fortune is hidden. The grisly goings-on are repeatedly presented as humorous onscreen, effectively masking the fact that the participants in truth landed stiff prison sentences for their evil deeds.

Credit the convincing performances by the leads, especially Dwayne Johnson (cast against type here as a fairly sensitive soul), for actually inducing the audience to empathize and laugh at the wacky antics of some despicable miscreants. Ditto Tony Shalhoub, who plays such a dislikable victim that he makes it easy to root for his captors.

A reminder ripped right out of the tabloids that while crime does not pay, it sometimes serves as fodder for lurid headlines and hilarious hijinks.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 129 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening April 26, 2013

 

The Big Wedding (R for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity). Hollywood remake of Mon Frère Se Marie, the French farce about a long-divorced couple (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton) pressured to pretend they’re still happily married at the wedding of their adopted son (Ben Barnes) when his conservative birth mother (Patricia Rae), a devout Catholic from Colombia, unexpectedly decides to attend. Ensemble includes Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Katherine Heigl. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

 

Arthur Newman (Unrated). Midlife crisis dramedy about a depressed, recently divorced man (Colin Firth) who fakes his own death and assumes a new identity before taking to the road where he becomes beguiled by a kleptomaniac (Emily Blunt) he finds passed out at a seedy motel. Support cast features Anne Heche, Autumn Dial and David Andrews.

 

At Any Price (R for profanity and graphic sexuality). Prodigal Son saga about the rebellious offspring (Zac Efron) of a struggling farmer (Dennis Quaid) who’d rather pursue his dream of becoming a race car driver than try to save the family business by following in his father’s footsteps. With Heather Graham, Maika Monroe and Red West.

 

Graceland (Unrated). Filipino crime thriller about a corrupt politician’s (Menggie Cobarrubias) chauffeur (Arnold Reyes) forced to take the law into his own hands after ruthless mobsters kidnap his daughter (Ella Guevara) for ransom. With Leon Miguel, Dido De La Paz and Marife Necesito. (In Tagalog with subtitles)

 

King’s Faith (PG-13 for violence, drug use and mature themes). Christian-themed morality play about the challenges faced by a former gang member (Crawford Wilson) when his troubled past comes to threaten his newfound commitment to faith, family and a better future. Supporting cast includes Lynn Whitfield, James McDaniel, Kayla Compton and Kristen Royal.

 

Midnight’s Children (Unrated). Screen adaptation of the Salman Rushdie best-seller, set in Mumbai on Independence Day in 1947, following the contrasting fates of babies switched at birth, one (Satya Bhabha) born to a lowly beggar, the other (Siddharth Narayan), to a prominent family. Featuring Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor and Ronit Roy. (In English, Hind and Urdu)

 

Mud (PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexual references, smoking and mature themes). Matthew McConaughey stars in this fugitive drama set on an uninhabited island in the Mississippi River about a couple of 14-year-olds (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who try to help a man wanted for murder elude bounty hunters so he can reunite with the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon). With Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon and Joe Don Baker.

 

An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty (Unrated). Animated romantic comedy revolving around an optimistic artist’s reaction to being stood up by an intriguing young woman he was hoping to date. Voice cast includes Terence Nance, Namik Minter, Chanelle Pearson and Shante Cozier.

 

Paradise: Love (Unrated). First installment of a trilogy directed by Ulrich Seidl revolving around a 50-year-old, Austrian sex tourist’s (Margarete Tiesel) trip to Kenya where she plans to spend her vacation sleeping with young African men. Co-starring Peter Kazungu, Inge Maux and Dunja Sowinetz. (In German, Swahili and English with subtitles)

 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (R for profanity, violence and brief sexuality). Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) directed this adaptation of Moshin Hamid’s novel of the same name about a Pakistani Princeton graduate (Riz Ahmed) working on Wall Street who, in the wake of a hostage crisis, finds himself torn between the American Dream and the call of his homeland. With Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber.

 

Tai Chi Hero (Unrated). Historical biopic about martial arts master Yang Lu Chan (Yuan Xiaochao) who founded Tai Chi in the 19th century. With Qi Shu, Tony Leung and Angelababy. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

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