Movie Review: “The Walk”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Clément Sibony, César Domboy
Robert Zemeckis

Philippe Petit’s death-defying walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974 was previously spotlighted in James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary, “Man on Wire.” But for as compelling as that film was, it lacked a key element: footage of Petit’s performance. Recognizing an opportunity to recreate that incredible moment (one that only a small crowd of people had the privilege to experience) on the big screen, director Robert Zemeckis gives Petit’s famous high-wire act the Hollywood treatment with the generically titled “The Walk,” and in IMAX 3D, no less. Though a majority of the movie doesn’t benefit from the premium format, it’s worth the upgrade for the big finale, which utilizes the added sense of depth to showcase the danger and awe of what Time magazine called the “artistic crime of the century.”

The story begins six years earlier in 1968, when Philippe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was just a young artist in Paris performing for audiences on the street. While waiting in a dentist’s office one day with a toothache, Philippe sees an article about the proposed construction of the Twin Towers and immediately becomes obsessed with walking between them on a high wire. Several years later, Philippe meets a street musician named Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and falls in love, eventually enlisting her help, along with fellow friends Jean-Louis (Clément Sibony) and Jean-Francois (César Domboy), to fulfill his dream. There are a number of logistical issues standing in the way of Philippe’s success – including how they’re going to get a 200-foot steel cable across the gap between the buildings – but with construction on the towers almost complete, the group heads to New York City to put their plan into motion. No amount of surveillance and rehearsal could have prepared Philippe and his team for what they were about to attempt, and yet despite numerous close calls and an injured foot, Philippe emerged at the top of the South Tower on the morning of August 7th, with no harness and 1,368 feet in the air, and proceeded to put on a show for the next 45 minutes, crossing the gap eight times (in addition to some other tricks) before surrendering to the police.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to October


The awards season machine continues to chug along this month, with several high-profile contenders making their debut, including the latest from Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg and Danny Boyle. Of course, if prestige films aren’t your thing, there are still plenty of options for those who simply want to be entertained, whether it’s Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic horror flick, Vin Diesel hunting witches or the origin story of Peter Pan. This is shaping up to be the best October in recent history, and moviegoers won’t want to miss it.

“The Martian”

Who: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig
What: When he’s stranded on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
When: October 2nd
Why: Andy Weir’s 2011 science fiction novel, “The Martian,” was one of the most talked about books of that year, so it’s not surprising that producer Simon Kinberg was so quick to nab the rights to adapt it for the big screen. Though director Ridley Scott has been in a bit of a rut lately, the premise for this movie is almost too good to mess up. Matt Damon is the perfect choice to play the stranded astronaut (even if it’s oddly similar to his cameo in “Interstellar”), while the supporting cast is comprised of A-list talent that should be headlining their own films.

“Steve Jobs”

Who: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen
What: The true story of the life of visionary Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
When: October 9th
Why: Do we really need another movie about Steve Jobs so soon after the 2013 version starring Ashton Kutcher? Probably not, but the fact that it’s written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle makes it awfully difficult to come up with reasons why you shouldn’t see it, even if the film appears to cover much of the same ground as “Jobs.” Michael Fassbender may not be the first person you’d think of to play the Apple co-founder (Christian Bale was originally attached to the project before dropping out), but he’s an incredible actor who will undoubtedly make up for his lack of physical similarity with yet another top-notch performance.

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Movie Review: “The Intern”

Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Anders Holm, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Andrew Rannells, Christina Scherer
Nancy Meyers

It’s a good thing that Nancy Meyers has so many friends in Hollywood, because if anyone else made a film as terrible as “It’s Complicated,” it likely would have ended their careers. The 2009 romantic comedy took Meyers’ brand of wish-fulfillment fantasy to gag-inducing levels, and Meyers addresses some of those criticisms with “The Intern,” a welcome departure from her typical fluff that forgoes the romance between its two leads in favor of something more genuine. Granted, the movie still looks like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog, but thanks to some good performances from Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, it’s a relatively enjoyable workplace comedy that’s marred only by its bipolar script.

De Niro stars as Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old widower who’s quickly grown bored of retirement and is searching for something to help fill the void. When he applies for a senior internship program at a flourishing online fashion site, he’s assigned to be the personal intern to founder Jules Ostin (Hathaway), who in just 18 months has transformed a simple idea into a successful business, despite having no experience. Though her hands-on approach is admirable, the job has begun to consume her life, leaving little time to spend with her husband (Anders Holm) and daughter (JoJo Kushner). Jules is burnt out and clearly in over her head, but when the company’s investors suggest hiring a seasoned CEO to help steady the ship, she’s hesitant about handing over the keys to an outsider. Ben enters Jules’ life just when she needs it most, gradually breaking down her hard shell to become a mentor figure as she faces life-changing decisions in the office and at home.

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Movie Review: “Mississippi Grind”

Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Gambling addiction has been explored to terrific results on film, with two of the finest examples being Robert Altman’s “California Split” and “The Gambler,” both the original film starring James Caan as well as the overlooked Mark Wahlberg-led remake. The tropes of gambling films are well-established, and writing/directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”) aren’t afraid to acknowledge those conventions in their newest and deeply human film, “Mississippi Grind.”

At the start of the story, Gerry (Ben Mendlsohn) has already hit rock bottom. The gambling addict has a rightfully bitter ex-wife, a job as a real estate agent that he’s no good at, and he owes money to everybody. His luck quickly changes when he meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), a younger, more charming and luckier fellow. Curtis is a people person, and he wants to help Gerry out, so the two gamblers decide to team up and go on a road trip through the South, hitting up all the big games and casinos together, with Curtis bankrolling Gerry.

This might be Boden and Fleck’s best collaboration to date. Their script is dense yet loose, hugely influenced by Altman’s approach to “California Split.” In fact, the first half of “Mississippi Grind” almost plays out as an unofficial remake of the 1974 film, sharing more than a few character traits and story beats in common. But what could’ve been a recycled, pale imitation of Altman’s film ends up standing on its own. “Mississippi Grind” features fully realized characters, from the film’s stars to the small supporting roles. We get snippets of other gamblers’ lives, whether at the poker table, or in a friendly and seemingly random exchange with Gerry and Curtis, and these discussions create a lived-in, believable atmosphere – one filled with highs and lows, desperation and joy.

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Blu Tuesday: The Flash, Arrow and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“The Flash: The Complete First Season”

WHAT: When Central City forensic investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) gains super-human speed after he’s struck by electricity during a failed science experiment, he teams up with Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and his two assistants – Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) – to stop criminals and other “metahumans” created from the explosion who don’t use their powers for good.

WHY: The idea of a “Flash” TV series didn’t sound very promising when the Barry Allen character was initially introduced in the second season of “Arrow,” but co-creator Greg Bertlanti quickly proved me wrong by delivering an immensely enjoyable (and much lighter) superhero drama that only got better as the season progressed. Much like its sister show, “The Flash” thrives primarily due to its awesome ensemble; everyone has a purpose, and they all bounce off one another incredibly well. Grant Gustin is perfectly cast as the titular hero, Tom Cavanagh handles the dual role of mentor and villain with ease, and Carlos Valdes provides great comic relief as the Q-like inventor/superhero expert of the group. Even the villains aren’t nearly as cheesy as they could have been, with Cavanagh’s Reverse-Flash, Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Mark Hamill’s return as the Trickster among the standouts. The romantic subplot between Barry and childhood friend Iris West (Candice Patton) suffers from the same problems that plagued the first season of “Arrow” (namely, it’s just not as interesting as the superhero stuff), but “Flash” makes up for it with some sci-fi heavy mythology that isn’t afraid of alienating viewers by leaning on its comic book roots.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary by executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg on the pilot episode, four production featurettes, footage from DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014, deleted scenes and a gag reel.


“Arrow: The Complete Third Season”

WHAT: After defeating Slade Wilson and being accepted as a hero by the citizens of Starling City, Oliver Queen/The Arrow (Stephen Amell) struggles to keep his family together while facing off against a terrible new threat in the form of Ra’s al Ghul (Matthew Nable). Meanwhile, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) assumes the mantle of Black Canary after Sara is brutally murdered, Thea (Willa Holland) begins her training under Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and Queen Consolidated is taken over by wealthy businessman/aspiring hero Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh).

WHY: Despite making some huge strides in its sophomore year, “Arrow” suffered a bit of a slump during Season Three due to a number of factors. Though the superhero drama has had a problem maintaining the same level of energy and quality over the course of each 22-episode season, it’s especially noticeable here, in large part because the accompanying flashback storyline (which trades the deserted island setting for Hong Kong) isn’t very compelling. Additionally, the show’s insistence on making nearly everyone in Oliver’s life a crime-fighting member of Team Arrow not only defies logic (there’s no way Laurel, Roy and Thea got that good in such a short amount of time), but gives Oliver less to do as a result. Laurel, in particular, is so lame as the new Black Canary that it’s almost as if the writers were trying to find ways to make her character even more annoying. Thankfully, Season Three isn’t a complete disaster. The group dynamic remains one of its best assets, the crossover episodes with the Flash are a lot of fun, and both Brandon Routh and Matthew Nable prove strong additions to the cast. “Arrow” doesn’t play to its strengths as often as it should, but when it does, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better comic book show on TV, other than “The Flash,” of course.

EXTRAS: The four-disc set includes a pair of audio commentaries by executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, featurettes on costume and production design, a behind-the-scenes look at the Atom’s first fight, deleted scenes and a gag reel.


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