After the Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire told this story with such energy and suspense, it was only a matter of time until someone decided to make a full-on adventure movie. And it's no surprise that the filmmaker turned out to be Robert Zemeckis, known for putting the seemingly unfilmable on the screen, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Forrest Gump to The Polar Express. So even if the film feels oddly artificial, this is a rousing, thrilling movie overflowing with cheeky energy.
At the centre of the story is Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a twinkle in his eye and a faintly silly French accent that works perfectly. In Paris, Philippe is working as a street performer when he sees a drawing of the planned Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center, and he immediately vows to put a wire between them and walk on it. Over the next few years, he recruits a team of accomplices, including his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and his circus-performer mentor Rudy (Ben Kingsley). Then in Manhattan, they find some men (James Badge Dale and Steve Valentine) to help them on the inside. And in August 1974, just before the towers were finished, they set their elaborate plan in motion.
While other accounts of this story describe Petit's high-wire performance in words and grainy still photos, Zemeckis uses swooping camera movement and vertiginous angles to give the audience goosebumps as Petit elegantly walks back and forth more than 400 meters above the gawping crowd below. After the rousing caper that went on before, this sequence is exhilarating. And Gordon-Levitt plays it beautifully, channeling the man's mischievous passion into every step. This even helps the audience accept the silly narration segments, in which Petit describes the action while perched on the top of the Statue of Liberty with 1970s Manhattan in the background.
Continue reading: The Walk Review
With another deeply committed performance, Washington brings badly needed complexity to what is otherwise a contrived, overstated drama about addiction. It helps that the film is directed by Zemeckis as a kind of companion piece to his last live-action movie, 2000's Cast Away, another film about a man whose life is dramatically changed by a plane crash. Although here he's lost in a wilderness of substance abuse.
Washington plays Whip, a veteran commercial pilot who fills his days with women, alcohol and drugs. Even when he's flying a plane full of passengers. On a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta, a catastrophic malfunction sends his airliner hurtling toward the ground, prompting an outrageously inventive reaction that saves 96 of the 102 lives on board. Then the investigators discover that he had both alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time. His union rep (Greenwood) hires a high-powered lawyer (Cheadle) to represent him, but Whip doesn't even try to straighten up until he meets young junkie Nicole (Reilly), who's serious about cleaning up her life.
The main problem here is that Gatins' script completely misses the point of his own story, never remotely touching on the central theme of a flawed hero who has no real moral compass. So drugs are the villain; it has nothing to do with Whip's personal failings. Instead, the script just uses a variety of contrived characters to confront him with his drug problems until he finally cracks under all this pressure. Fortunately, Washington is excellent as the high-functioning addict, and the supporting cast is solid in providing whatever element Gatins needs at the moment: Cheadle's straight-arrow efficiency, Reilly's hopeful anguish and Greenwood's steadfast friendship, plus scene-stealer Goodman as Whip's hilariously honest dealer-buddy and Leo as a ruthlessly tenacious investigator.
Continue reading: Flight Review
Surly 9-year-old Milo (performed by Green with Seth Dursky's voice) is annoyed by the way his mother (Cusack) runs an efficient house. But this is precisely what the Martian Supervisor (Sterling) needs to help her raise her regimented planet's female population (the useless males are sent to an underground rubbish tip). After Milo accidentally hitches a ride to Mars, he's found by a human, Gribble (Fogler), who's hiding underground. And they meet a friendly Martian (Harnois) who wants to help them find and rescue Mom.
Continue reading: Mars Needs Moms Review
For seven years after his business partner Marley dies, Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey) ruthlessly pinches his pennies, underpaying his assistant Bob Cratchit (Oldman) and neglecting the family of his nephew Fred (Firth). Then on Christmas Eve, Marley's ghost informs Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts, and that night Scrooge takes a terrifying odyssey through his past, present and future, realising that he has completely missed the point of his life. And of Christmas.
Continue reading: A Christmas Carol Review
The Beowulf legend originates from a 700 A.D. oral tradition that was adapted in epic poem form by the English and into film form by director Robert Zemeckis -- using motion-captured live-action performances that are turned into a computer-generated light show. Much like the IMAX 3D screenings of Zemeckis' previous effort, The Polar Express, Beowulf's tale of a hero who comes to rid a Scandinavian village of its monster, while screaming his name every chance he gets, is more a showcase for RealD technology than an engaging film.
Continue reading: Beowulf Review
Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.
Continue reading: The Polar Express Review
Every perfect and picturesque neighborhood - at least in the movies - has one: that creepy old house that fuels the nightmares and serves as the centerpiece of the double-dog dares for the local kids.
DJ (Mitchel Musso) has made the house his mission. He's set his bedroom up as home base to watch old Mr. Nebbercracker across the street, an irate curmudgeon (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who steals any balls or bikes that find their way into his yard, chases after kids to keep off his lawn, and, presumably, thinks the music kids listen to today is nothing but noise. Within an hour of DJ's parents leaving for the weekend, Nebbercracker is dead (from a heart attack during an apoplectic moment at finding DJ on his lawn) and DJ is finding out that the old coot might not have been the most dangerous part of the creepy old house, because the house itself is starting to... eat people.
Continue reading: Monster House Review
Wayne Wang's Last Holiday might be the first film to allow both bright spots to shine in support of a good feature. Essentially a remake of a 1950s Alec Guinness comedy, Holiday casts Latifah as Georgia Bird, a kind-hearted department store sales clerk who is too shy to ask out her dream man, Sean (Cool J), and too timid to pursue her dream career as a chef. After receiving a brutal bump on the head at work, Georgia is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer and told she has three weeks to live. This shocking truth jolts the homebody out of her mundane existence. She drains her bank account, books a flight to Prague, and proceeds to splurge on life's finer points before her time runs out.
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But even Scott proves that he can't suppress his frosted side forever, thanks to this spirited and undeniably sweet look at the con game spliced with a family drama -- his best work in years.
Continue reading: Matchstick Men Review
But what a crazy chain of events Forrest Gump has spawned: a poorly-received book sequel, a restaurant chain, and hordes of imitators -- not to mention a critical backlash.
Continue reading: Forrest Gump Review
But seriously, Carl Sagan's ode to the superior intelligence of aliens (and how us darned humans mess everything up) is consistently beautiful and interesting, but it never makes a point (except for that bit about the darned humans). The plot, which gives Jodie Foster schematics from space and focuses on the technical and bureaucratic minutiae that go into the construction of an extradimensional travelling device, is rather on the nose -- and the only real surprises in the film come from its obsession with God (in which the late Sagan did not believe) and the complete and utter disappointment received with the aliens are finally revealed.
Continue reading: Contact Review