The Walk (2015): adapted by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne from the non-fiction book by Philippe Petit; directed by Robert Zemeckis; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Philippe Petit), Ben Kingsley (Papa Rudy), Charlotte Le Bon (Annie), and James Badge Dale (J.P.): Robert Zemeckis has used his later career to good, often startlingly uncommercial advantage. Good on him. The Walk is a slightly fictionalized account of a real even previously detailed in an award-winning documentary, Man on Wire.
The film details the attempt by French aerial artist Philippe Petit to high-wire walk between the recently completed World Trade Centre towers in 1974. It’s a charming, vertiginous movie about Art with a capital ‘A’. All the primaries are good, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a credible French accent. And it all manages to remain vertiginous, even on the small screen. Recommended.
Watership Down (1978): adapted and directed by Martin Rosen from the novel by Richard Adams; starring the voices of John Hurt (Hazel), Richard Briers (Fiver), Michael Graham Cox (Bigwig), Ralph Richardson (Chief Rabbit), Harry Andrews (General Woundwort), and Zero Mostel (Kehaar): Lovely hand-drawn animation is used to adapt Richard Adams’ out-of-nowhere 1970’s bestseller about heroic rabbits. The rabbit creation myth, done in extremely stylized animation at the beginning, is a stunner and a beaut. The rest of the movie is good too. Adams combined the animal fable and epic fantasy in a way that no one managed before or since.
The movie is a bit short, but exciting and affecting. The voices, especially John Hurt as the leader of the rabbits who leave their burrow because of a prophetic dream by visionary rabbit Fiver, are all top-notch. Well, Zero Mostel goes a bit overboard as a helpful Greek seagull. Only an occasionally incongruous score detracts from the proceedings, but otherwise this is a terrific, forgotten work of fantasy. Highly recommended.
Interstellar (2014): written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan; directed by Christopher Nolan; starring Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Ellen Burstyn, Jessica Chastain, and Mackenzie Foy (Old, Middle, and Young Murph), John Lithgow (Donald), Bill Irwin (Voice of TARS), Anne Hathaway (Dr. Brand), Wes Bentley (Dr. Doyle), Michael Caine (Professor Brand), David Gyasi (Dr. Romilly), Casey Affleck (Tom), Topher Grace (Dr. Getty), and Matt Damon (Dr. Mann): Christopher Nolan’s love letter to epic science-fiction films and the Power of Love is visually stunning, especially when one discovers that many of the effects involve old-school models and not CGI. Matthew McConaughey continues his run of excellence as the pilot charged with leading a somewhat convoluted mission to save humanity from the dying Earth. And boy, the science goes completely screwy once a black hole shows up.
Nolan’s tendency to bury dialogue behind Hans Zimmer’s bombastic sound stylings can grate at points. And in another Nolanesque moment, Michael Caine delivers an almost incomprehensible death-bed confession while talking through what seems to be a mouthful of marbles and oatmeal. Still, the alien vistas and space sequences are impressive. The plot even makes sense if you assume that beings in the future are stuck enacting the convoluted and somewhat ridiculous humanity-saving plan in the movie’s present because that’s how things happened. They would have made things easier, but time is a flat circle, baby. Recommended.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015): adapted by Jesse Andrews from his own novel; directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; starring Thomas Mann (Greg), RJ Cyler (Earl), Olivia Cooke (Rachel), Nick Offerman (Greg’s Dad), Connie Britton (Greg’s Mom), Molly Shannon (Rachel’s Mom), Jon Bernthal (Mr. McCarthy), and Katherine Hughes (Madison): Excellent teen-centric movie based on an acclaimed Young Adult novel and adapted for the screen by that novel’s author. Thomas Mann , RJ Cyler, and Olivia Cooke do great, funny, and sensitive work as the (respective) characters of the title. The adult characters are a bit more humourously two-dimensional, which is how teens often see the significant adults in their lives. For a movie about death and loneliness, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is awfully funny and surprisingly wise. How this wasn’t a hit is beyond me. Though maybe all the Werner Herzog jokes curtailed its earning potential. Highly recommended.