Wild

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use

Reese Witherspoon Stars In Adaptation Of Best-Selling Memoir

Cheryl Strayed’s (Reese Witherspoon) life went into a tailspin right after the untimely death of her mother (Laura Dern). The grief-stricken 22-year-old subsequently became emotionally estranged from the people closest to her, including her husband, Paul (Thomas Sadowski), and her brother, Leif (Keene McRae).

And by the time she had finally bottomed out several years later, she was all alone and addicted to heroin. Yet she somehow summoned up the strength to set out on a transformational, solo trek along the Pacific Coast Trail that would take her from the Mojave Desert inCaliforniaall the way north to the border ofWashingtonandOregon.

The perilous, 1,100-mile journey would prove to be Cheryl’s salvation, as it afforded her an opportunity to purge her demons while conquering the elements. That magical metamorphosis would also become the subject of her best-selling memoir, Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Trail, an Oprah Book Club selection.

The story has now been adapted to the screen by Academy Award-nominated scriptwriter Nick Hornby (for An Education) as a touching tale of female empowerment featuring Reese Witherspoon as the intrepid heroine. The picture was directed by another Oscar nominee, Jean-Marc Vallee, whose Dallas Buyers Club netted Oscars for both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.

Unfortunately, this flashback flick fails to generate the same sort of sobering gravitas which made Dallas so effectively gripping. Consequently, it unfolds less like the similarly-themed Into The Wild (2007), a riveting survival saga, than Eat Pray Love (2010), another relatively-lighthearted romp about a woman finding herself.

Wild is an uneven endeavor which undercuts its own cause by including intermittent interludes of comic relief, such as when Cheryl’s overstuffed backpack repeatedly causes her to topple over. Hence, rather than ratcheting up the tension of a harrowing ordeal, the film merely recounts the assorted highs and lows of a poorly-planned camping trip run amuck.

Reese Witherspoon nevertheless delivers a decent enough performance to singlehandedly elevate an otherwise mediocre adventure to an entertaining one worth recommending.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 115 minutes

 

 

25 To Life

AFFRM

Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for action and sci-fi violence

Out-Of-The-Closet Documentary Chronicles Clandestine Life Of Brother Hiding His HIV Status

When William Brawner was 18 months old, his single mom Linda left him in the care of a suspicious male babysitter against her better judgment while she went off to class at Howard University. Upon returning home, she found her baby so scalded by hot water that he needed numerous skin grafts and blood transfusions.

Doctors didn’t buy the babysitter’s story that it was all the result of an accident. And the proof in the pudding rested in the fact that the creep quickly slipped out of town before subsequently disappearing from the radar entirely.

Unfortunately for William, this tragedy transpired in the early ’80s at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, well before the medical community became aware of how to protect the country’s tainted blood supply. Consequently, he contracted HIV from one of his transfusions.

Because of the social stigma then associated with AIDS, his mother decided to studiously hide Bill’s positive HIV status over the course of his childhood. Furthermore, since the guilty woman had no idea how long he might live, she also proceeded to spoil him rotten, admittedly raising a monster the rest of the world was going to have to deal with.

For, Bill eventually blossomed into quite the handsome ladies’ man. And while he did inform his high school sweetheart, Natasha, that he was infected, he never told any of the 20-plus classmates he slept with when he followed in his mother’s footsteps to Howard.

He even had unprotected sex with some of those sisters, and was almost outed by his angry ex-girlfriend who sent an anonymous letter to the President of the University, warning, “Bill Brawner is HIV+ and infecting everyone at your school.” But the roaming Romeo’s culpable response was to never again share his status with anyone, though he would remain promiscuous.

Finally, in 2006, William confessed to his shameless behavior by going on the radio to reveal to the world once and for all that he was HIV+. In addition, he founded a Haven Youth center, a healthcare facility offering infected teens treatment and counseling.

Directed by Mike Brown, 25 To Life is reverential biopic that revisits all of the above, opting to present Bill in a positive light despite his risky behavior with a string of sex partners. Granted, it’s great that he ultimately embraced honesty and even settled down and got married, but it would’ve been nice to hear from his former conquests to learn how they felt about being used and whether they’ve tested positive for the AIDS virus.

A cautionary tale about a charming predator’s penis dispensing potentially-lethal demon seed.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 87 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening December 12, 2014

 

Exodus: Gods And Kings (PG-13 for violence and intense images) Biblical epic recreating the perilous escape from the pharaoh (Joel Edgerton) to freedom undertaken by 600,000 slaves led by the prophet Moses (Christian Bale). With John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul.

 

Inherent Vice (R for profanity, violence, sexuality and graphic nudity) Five-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia) wrote and directed this adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon best-seller of the same name about a private eye’s (Joaquin Phoenix) attempt to solve the mysterious disappearance of an ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and her billionaire boyfriend (Eric Roberts). Ensemble cast includes Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Benicio del Toro and Jena Malone.

 

Top Five (R for sexuality, nudity, crude humor, pervasive profanity and drug use) Chris Rock wrote, directed and stars in this star vehicle about a standup comic trying to become a serious actor. With Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan and Rosario Dawson.

 

After The Fall (R for violence and some sexuality and profanity) Character study of a desperate family man’s (Wes Bentley) spiraling out of control when he turns to a life of crime after losing his job. With Vinessa Shaw, Haley Bennett, Audrey Walters and Jason Isaacs.

 

The Captive (Unrated) Oscar nominee Atom Egoyan (for The Sweet Hereafter) wrote and directed this crime thriller about the search for a missing teen (Alexia Fast) who vanished without a trace eight years earlier when momentarily left in a car by her father (Ryan Reynolds) while he stepped into a diner. With Rosario Dawson, Scott Speedman and Mireille Enos.

 

The Color Of Time (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use) James Franco plays C.K. Williams in this retrospective covering 40 years in the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Supporting cast includes Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Jessica Chastain and Bruce Campbell.

 

Free The Nipple (Unrated) Social satire revisiting the passionate women’s movement to decriminalize female nudity. Featuring Lola Kirke, Monique Coleman and Casey LaBow.

 

Isn’t It Delicious (Unrated) Dysfunctional family dramedy about a dying woman (Kathleen Chalfant) who decides to reconcile with her estranged children (Alice Ripley, Nick Stevenson and Jonah Young) and husband (Keir Dullea) after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. With Malachy McCourt, Mia Dillon and Robert LuPone.

 

A Little Game (Unrated) Unlikely-buddies drama, set in Manhattan, about the friendship forged between a grief-stricken, 10-year-old (Makenna Ballard) and a curmudgeonly chess master (F. Murray Abraham) she meets in Washington Square park. Cast includes Ralph Macchio, Janeane Garofalo, Olympia Dukakis and Rachel Dratch.

 

Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles (PG-13 for suggestive images, nudity, smoking and brief profanity) Reverential biopic examining Welles’ extraordinary genius.

 

We Are The Giant (Unrated) Moment of truth documentary relating the stories of a trio of individuals transformed by the decision to participate in the Arab Spring Movement. (In Arab and English with subtitles)

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