Rated PG-13 for violence, intense action and brief profanity.
Father And Son Belatedly Bond In Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot Saga
Boxer turned fledgling fight promoter Charlie Kenton’s (Hugh Jackman) dreams of winning a world title were dashed the day robots began replacing human beings in the ring. Broke and in a losing battle with booze, he currently finds himself struggling to stay a step ahead of all the impatient loan sharks holding his IOUs.
Charlie first tries to pay off his debts in one fell swoop by placing a big bet on his only robot in a bout against a bull being staged at the state fair. But that endeavor leads to disaster when his rusty, remote-controlled machine not only loses, but is reduced to a worthless pile of rubble in the process.
Charlie is about to hit rock bottom, when he receives word that an ex-girlfriend has just passed away, suddenly making him the legal guardian of an 11 year-old he’s never known. Max (Dakota Goyo) soon arrives accompanied by his filthy-rich Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and Uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn) who assume that the down-and-out, deadbeat dad would be more than happy to let them raise the boy in the lap of luxury.
After conniving Charlie threatens to put Max up for adoption, he signs away his rights for what amounts to a $100,000 ransom and a chance to spend the summer with the boy before finally surrendering custody. The couple grudgingly agrees, thereby affording the two an opportunity to develop a deep bond while turning an obsolete android that was abandoned in a junkyard into a contender for the World Robot Boxing Federation crown.
So unfolds Real Steel, an overcoming-the-odds boxing flick packing a surprisingly powerful emotional punch (pardon the expression) for a cliché-ridden sci-fi revolving around Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots in 2020. Though the picture’s basic plotline superficially sounds like a futuristic version of Rocky, the sentimental father-son drama actually features far more of the earmarks of a kid-friendly Steven Spielberg (who served as executive producer) adventure than that Sly Stallone classic.
Credit director Shawn Levy for cultivating an endearing chemistry between co-stars Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo while simultaneously ratcheting up the tension around their pugilistic robot’s ring prospects. Consequently, the audience ends up caring as much about Charlie and Max’s blossoming relationship as about their underdog quest for the crown. Maybe more, as real heart trumps real steel.
Excellent (3.5 stars).
Running time: 127 minutes
Sarah Palin: You Betcha!
Sarah Palin Takes It On The Chin In Unflattering Biopic
Fair warning: This revealing expose’ is not for diehard supporters of Sarah Palin. For the damning biopic essentially paints the former Governor of Alaska as less of a Mama Grizzly Bear than a power-hungry witch who goes to great lengths to crush her adversaries of any nature, be they political or personal.
Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is directed by Nick Broomfield, who also stars in the alternately humorous and eye-opening documentary. Like a British cross of Borat and Michael Moore, he crisscrossed Alaska, including his subject’s hometown of Wasilla, in order to sort the truth from fiction in terms of all the ugly rumors.
What he found was that most of the natives were reluctant to appear onscreen, ostensibly out of a fear of suffering reprisals for cooperating with his project. As a result, most of the folks who were willing to talk were those who had been so betrayed by Palin that they were not inclined to mend fences.
For instance, John Stein laments how in 1996, when he was then the incumbent Mayor of Wasilla, he was stabbed in the back by his protégé, Sarah, who not only declared her candidacy for his job but proceeded to run campaign ads calling to replace him with a Christian. So much for separation of church and state!
In another sequence, her ex-brother-in-law recounts how at the top of her agenda upon becoming Governor was to try to have him fired from the State Police Force because he was divorcing her sister. Others testify that this sort of vindictiveness was typical, as she exhibited an unusual interest in matters that affected her family. Meanwhile, she ostensibly ignored the business of government, often emailing and text messaging instead of paying attention during official meetings and hearings.
As for Sarah’s side of the story, the intrepid Broomfield is shown sticking a microphone in her face in public on several occasions. And while she politely agreed to a tête-à-tête at a more convenient time to talk, her office apparently never returned any of his calls.
A hatchet job or an accurate portrait of a Machiavellian manipulator? That’s apt to depend on whether you lean left or right.
Excellent (4 stars).
Running time: 91 minutes.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing A Film Fun
For movies opening October 14, 2011
The Big Year (PG for profanity and some sensuality). Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson co-star in this buddy comedy set in 1998 about a trio of avid ornithologists competing against each other to spot rare species in an annual bird-watching contest. Ensemble cast includes Rashida Jones, Anjelica Huston, Anthony Anderson, Brian Dennehy, Corbin Bernsen, Tim Blake Nelson and Dianne Wiest.
Footloose (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, violence and teen drug and alcohol abuse). Remake of the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic about a city kid who moves from Boston to a small town in Georgia where he falls in love with the preacher’s (Dennis Quaid) daughter (Julianne Hough) while leading a rebellion against a local ordinance banning loud music and dancing. With Andie MacDowell, Miles Teller and Ser’Darius Blain.
The Thing (R for profanity, gore, graphic violence and disturbing images). Prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi suspense flick revolving around a paleontologist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and a Norwegian scientist (Ulrich Thomsen) who unwittingly unleash a dormant, deadly alien parasite when their Antarctic expedition discovers an extraterrestrial spaceship buried in the ice. With Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Kim Bubbs.
America The Beautiful 2 (Unrated). Filmmaker Darryl Roberts directs another thought-provoking expose’ examining the cultural pressures which lead to eating disorders and an unhealthy obsession with thinness.
Bombay Beach (Unrated). Dream deferred documentary presenting portraits of three members of an impoverished Southern California community located in the desert: A retired oil worker, a boy with a bipolar disorder and a teenager in search of safe refuge from the slums of L.A. in the wake of his cousin’s murder by a gang.
The Chalet Girl (Unrated). Class conscious romantic comedy about a teenage tomboy (Felicity Jones) in a dead-end job who gets a new lease on life when she lands a gig in a glamorous getaway in the Alps where she soon falls in love with the boss’ (Bill Nighy) son (Ed Westwick). Cast includes Brooke Shields, Tamsin Egerton, Bill Bailey and Sophia Bush. (In English and German with subtitles.)
Father Of Invention (PG-13 for sexuality and profanity). Kevin Spacey handles the title role in this tale of redemption about a disgraced entrepreneur’s attempt to restore both his reputation and his billion-dollar empire. With Heather Graham, Camilla Belle, Virginia Madsen, John Stamos and Johnny Knoxville.
Fireflies In The Garden (R for profanity and sexuality). Melancholic, intergenerational drama, inspired by the Robert Frost poem of the same name, about a family torn apart by the untimely death of a mother of two (Julie Roberts) in a car driven recklessly by her domineering husband (Willem Dafoe). With Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hayden Panettiere.
The Skin I Live In (R for rape, profanity, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, disturbing violence and drug use). Pedro Almodovar directed and wrote this twisted thriller adapted from Tarantula, the Thierry Jonquet novel about a revenge-minded plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who gives his daughter’s (Blanca Suarez) rapist (Jan Comet) an involuntary sex-change operation, only to find himself falling in love with the creep. Cast includes Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes and Barbara Lennie. (In Spanish with subtitles.)
Texas Killing Fields (R for violence, profanity and sexuality). Fact-based crime drama about a sheriff (Sam Worthington) who enlists the assistance of a former NYC cop (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to solve a series of grisly murders by a sadistic killer who has been dumping his female victims’ mutilated bodies in an abandoned oil swamp. With Chloe Grace Moretz, Jessica Chastain and Annabeth Gish.
Trespass (R for violence, terror, drug use and pervasive profanity). Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman co-star in this crime thriller about a husband and wife who hatch a plan with the help of their teenage daughter (Liana Liberato) to escape from the gang of cold-blooded kidnappers holding them for ransom in their own home. Cast includes Cam Gigandet, Dash Mihok and Jordana Spiro.
The Woman (R for profanity, torture, rape, gruesome violence, frontal nudity and disturbing behavior). Graphic crime thriller about a country lawyer (Sean Bridgers) who puts the lives of his family in jeopardy when he tries to civilize the last surviving member (Pollyanna McIntosh) of a cannibalistic clan. With Angela Bettis, Carlee Baker and Lauren Ashley Carter.