127 Hours

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Danny Boyle (debut)

If the only reason you’re questioning whether or not to see Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle’s newest film “127 Hours” is because of the graphic amputation scene supposedly causing audiences to pass out in their popcorn, that’s not a good enough reason to skip one of the best films of the year. Suck it up, skip the snack, and go on this stylish journey of survival and self-discovery as soon as possible.

“127 Hours” is based on the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston, who in 2003 gets his arm caught between a boulder and a canyon wall in Utah and lives to tell about it after he makes the brave decision to cut through his own limb to free himself.

Trapped in the crevice for more than five days, we watch as Aron (James Franco in the best performance of his career) uses the few tools he has to chip away at the rock pinning him down, conserves the little food and water he’s brought along into the isolated canyons, and slowly lose all hope as the days get longer and nights get colder.

Through compelling flashback scenes and others where Aron hallucinates, Boyle makes some remarkable directorial choices to help us understand exactly the situation Aron has found himself in. Unlike the film “Buried” where our main character spends 90 minutes literally laying in a coffin, Boyle takes audiences deeper than just the idea of how claustrophobic the experience is.

Boyle allows us to enter the mind of our protagonist and into the crevice itself. When he takes short drinks from his water bottle, we’re aware of just how much time he has left. When he holds a sincere conversation with himself or records a message on his camcorder, we become transfixed in Aron’s need to escape and his acceptance of his own mortality.

Franco captures this through an emotionally-charged performance that will surely earn him an Oscar nomination. It’s a role unlike anything we’ve ever seen him in before and one that will truly be labeled as career definining when all is said and done. “127 Hours” is a fascinating example of what an actor can do with a intense screenplay and so little room to maneuver.

As graphic as the final scene is, it is not gratuitous. By that time, you will be so invested in Aron the pain he feels during these excruciating moments will become all too real. Boyle doesn’t let up and the film is all the better for having a director bold enough to make those tough decisions.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

August 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel
Directed by: Sanaa Hamri (“Something New”)
Written by: Elizabeth Chandler (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”)

While I was not much of a fan of the first film released three years ago, there were, at least, some thematic elements that bordered on over-sentimentality, but generated strong life lessons. In “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” all those tween dreams are wasted away as the girly foursome is faced with a new set of problems, all of which are despairingly disjointed.

There is not much of a sisterhood in “Pants 2” as Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel), Carmen (America Ferrera), and Bridget (Blake Lively), graduate from high school and are now at different colleges. As in the first one, a pair of worn-out jeans they can all magically fit into, helps link them to one another as they plan to spend their summer apart.

Lena decides to take a sketching class at the Rhode Island School of Design where she stumbles into a relationship with one of the nude models. Filmmaker-wannabe Tibby takes up a job at a local video store and is presumably working on a screenplay while juggling a courteous boyfriend. Bridget has packed her bags for Turkey where she will dig up bones on an archeological expedition and sort out her life after the death of her mother. And Carmen, who was expecting all the girls to spend the summer together, ends up in Vermont auditioning (under duress) for a part in a Shakespeare play.

While away, the magic pants become a meaningless prop as the girls Fed Ex them back and forth to each other with notes about whether or not anything miraculous happened when they were worn. Forget miraculous. If something even remotely convincing happened to any of the four, it was quickly smothered by the clumsy direction of Sanaa Hamri, not to mention odd editing choices by Melissa Kent (“Something New”). It’s not so much that Kent cut it up like a daytime soap opera, it’s that it seems like when she returns to one of the girl’s stories 15 minutes later, she forgot where the bookmark was.

More distressing is that after an entire summer that these girls are supposed to be “finding themselves” in this pseudo-coming-of-age tale, they all seem to stay as baffled by life as they were from the beginning.

Still, it’s the boy problems (they all have them except for Bridget who is happily living the single life) that manage to swamp “Pants 2” the most, like any other formulaic teenage dramedy. The demographic it aims at will surely find the drippy stories innocent enough, but anyone not plugged into Miley Cyrus-type meltdowns should probably ask for a pass.