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Reviews for the Week of 2/15:

Touching the Void



Not Rated | 106 mins


     As opening credits of Touching the Void commence, all of the audience members who actually read them will be informed that the film was done in association with KPBS. This, in itself, is a bit of a turn-off. Material similar to that of Touching the Void plays on the public-cable station regularly. However, I’d estimate that only about one-eighth of the viewers, who will partake in watching this movie, would do the same if it were on television. There’s something so distinctly “educational” about KPBS, and most (myself included) never realize that the programming featured on it is often more enthralling than the latest episode of “Survivor.” I’m not sure how strongly affiliated KPBS is with Touching the Void, and I apologize if the connection is loose. However, I believe the point that I’ve made to be valid. The big screen not only enhances the content in this movie, but also allows for the applause of all critics, luring those unsure about it into their local art-house theatre.

     I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie quite like this one—on film, at least. It’s a part-documentary and part-fictional-footage view of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson. Yates and Simpson were two mountain climbing partners, who headed out to climb the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, in the year 1985. No climber had ever successfully made it to the tip of the Siula Grande before, but Yates and Simpson were reasonably confident they could do so. They ascended to the peak with a breeze, but on the way down, danger was prevalent. Simon and, particularly Joe, experienced some insanely unreal, near death situations, when inching their ways down the mountain. We are aware that the two survived, as they both discuss the events of the situation, in between reenacted segments of the climb, featuring actors Nicholas Aaron and Brendan Mackey. However, the fascination with how they remained alive stays with us until long after we have watched Touching the Void, and is what keeps us interested for the entire duration.

     Most people (I would guess), have pondered what being near death feels like. What thoughts, or lack thereof, rush through one’s head? How does it all come to an end? Yates and Simpson are two of the few that are actually alive to tell us today. Touching the Void allows the general public to understand death, in one of the most brutal forms. This movie isn’t as much of a visceral experience as it is an intriguing one. Touching the Void is not about its two main characters gaining our sympathy, but rather about their insights on life. This is one surreal film, and, hopefully, not a single person will follow their own personal tastes, when deciding whether to shell out nine bucks for a ticket to see it or not. It may not seem all that appealing, but this time, critics have the right idea.


The Perfect Score



Rated PG-13 | 103 mins


“I want to be a good mother who is dedicated to her kids. One who cares more about them than the name on her business card…or porn.”—Francesca (Scarlett Johansson). Or something along those lines.

     The Perfect Score, which opened three weeks ago, and desperately flopped, is a modern-day fable about six teenagers who devote themselves to stealing the answers to the S.A.T. test, to get into the colleges they either want or need to attend. And, judging by the last portion of the line that I’ve included above, the few people who saw the movie were probably convinced that the S.A.T. would actually completely determine the characters’ futures. The team is led by Kyle (Chris Evans), and includes Francesca, Matty (Bryan Greenberg), Anna (Erika Christensen), Roy (Leonardo Nam), and Desmond (Darius Miles). There is something enchanting about the whole picture, even though it often is crude and conventional; my admiration overpowered my disgust for it, when watching. That is, until the disappointing ending, where The Perfect Score cops out and follows everyone’s favorite formula.

     The actual heist plot, however, is absolutely brilliant, considering the film is targeted at the teenage population. The audience won’t feel as if there is anything wrong with the team’s intentions to cheat on the exam, because it’s all in good fun. The Perfect Score is just about as splendidly contrived as a movie can get, equipped with nutty and charming little plans to outsmart security guards, office workers, and, of course, the police.

     The most pleasing aspect of The Perfect Score is not the contrivance, though. The sole method of not instituting any classroom-scenes works to its advantage the most. The academic performance of our team of heroes and heroines is not one of our concerns. Anna’s 4.0 GPA is appears just the same to us as Roy’s 0.0 (minus the humor created as a result of the latter student’s bottomless grades).

     After writing reviews on the web for almost two years, it seems a little corny to be picking a favorite character in a movie, but with this one, it’s hard not to. To be honest, I’m torn between Nam’s portrayal of Roy and Johansson’s work as Francesca. However, I lean towards the latter. Roy is the classic stoner—bubbly and zoned-out, humorous because of this. The very problem is that, while he is quite comical, it’s not exactly hard to play someone under the influence of drugs. I would never deny that Nam is a budding talent, but I can also say that Johansson pulls off something more than him. She brings a piece of inspired creativity to a dopey project, just as Jennifer Connelly did in The Hulk (even though that picture, on the whole, was loads better than this one).

     If the embodying “message” in it could’ve been as good as the heist, I might’ve been able to say that The Perfect Score would’ve made a great night out at the movies. Rather, I can only recommend paying matinee price for it, as a result of the mediocre finale. All in all, though, this is quite the compliment, considering The Perfect Score was released in the cinematic wasteland that is January.


50 First Dates



Rated PG-13 | 99 mins


     Hey, look at Adam Sandler! He’s nice! And people love him because of it! He’s more giving and caring and…and…and… nice, did I mention that he is nice!?

     Sadly, I want the mean Sandler back because, goddammit, I don’t like him like this! He’s too likeable! I just loathe him when I sympathize for him! Why must he have morals and become attached to people!? It shouldn’t work like that! I’m about to start hyperventilating in a second! Breathe, Danny, breathe…

     Okay, so he’s not all that bad here, but I still do prefer him when he plays an asshole, unlike almost every other sole on the planet. 50 First Dates is actually quite watchable, and I enjoyed it. I certainly wasn’t able to say that about his last effort, Anger Management, where he teamed up with Jack Nicholson. Sander has certainly improved over the years as an actor, and I cannot deny that. Hopefully, he’ll actually make something just as inspired as Punch-Drunk Love sometime in the near future. Or maybe I’m just blatantly criticizing him for no good reason, because he got to kiss Drew Barrymore fifty times.

     Barrymore plays Lucy, who Sandler’s character, Henry, falls in love with. Herein lies the problem. Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss, so she cannot remember anything that happened to her after the night before the car accident that provoked the condition. Lucy’s family never tells her of her disorder, though, making her believe everyday of her life is really the day in which the accident really took place on. She, of course, is helpless enough to believe it all, too. Henry spends the whole film trying to win Lucy over each and every day, even though he is told by professionals that she’ll never remember him. And, since 50 First Dates is really just one big fairy-tale, the audience is convinced that Henry will do just about anything for Lucy.

     50 First Dates is heavy on romance and light on comedy. This is a good thing, because Sandler, frankly, isn’t very funny, when he doesn’t have a bastardly attitude working in his favor. This movie, on the whole, is a pleasant little experience, full of witty one liners and sweet dialogue—just enough to keep its viewers satisfied. I was usually amused by it, and it was certainly never a painful experience. 50 First Dates is actually pretty remarkable for a February release.


Catch That Kid



Rated PG | 95 mins


     Aww…Don’t you feel sorry? About what, you ask? I’ll tell you what, little missy! There’s this new movie for little kiddies called Catch That Kid, and it’s really obvious. So what if it has to be that way, in order for the young ones to understand it? This doesn’t excuse it from being undesirable. I wanted to have fun when watching it, I really did! Is that so much to ask? No, it’s not! At least, I don’t think it is. But, of course, director Bart Freundlich ruins it for me. He allows me to predict the result of every single situation, every time. That little twit! What kind of a name is Freundlich, anyway? Yeah, I’m acting really pathetic now, but I just wanted to have a sweet time at the cinema for once. Too much seriousness was beginning to bog down my brain, and what do I get? More depression—that’s what! Depression as a result of a lazy filmmaker—that’s right—LAZY!

     The premise is cool, too. In the story, a team of three preteen kids rob a bank. No bullshitting. They rob a bank. But that’s okay because it’s all for a good cause, right? Right. Little Maddy’s (Kristen Stewart’s) father is an ex-mountain-climber, who operates a go-kart track. However, one night, right before he’s about to get busy with her mom, and dance the night away, he falls to the floor with a thud for some reason and cannot move any of his body parts. His doctor tells the family that Maddy’s father needs a $250,000 operation or, or, or…he will (whisper) die. But, of course, his family doesn’t have that kind of money, and their request for a loan has been denied. So, it’s only natural that Maddy, being such a wiz-kid she is, decides to break into the vault of the bank her mom works at. It’ll be a hard battle that she might not win (shudder). Oh my gosh, her poor father!

     Well, at least there’s Kristen Stewart there to save the picture. If there was an Oscar for “Cutest Creeper-Arounder When Robbing A Bank, Under the Age of 15,” she would easily win. I mean, total piece of cake. The other contenders wouldn’t even be half the performers as her, combined. It’s so damn…ahem…darn cool to see her rob this bank. And you cannot forget the moment when she contemplates the password her mother set for the vault. What a deep-thinker! I never would’ve guessed the password in a million years, and was thoroughly impressed with Maddy’s detective-skills, when utilizing the trial-and-error method. Oh, how emotional it was. I can’t believe I fought the urge to cry as well as I did. A cup-full of tears was nothing compared to the other audience members.

     But, again, I must ask you, Mr. Freundlich—why, why, and why? You completely killed a fun flick! Now, only the target audience of five-year-olds will be able to enjoy it. This is one of the biggest and most barbaric crimes I have ever seen in my life. I think we need to call in the White House to help bring about some change. I certainly do not deserve being victimized, nor do the other teenagers and adults across America.


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