The Reel Deal

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"Martian Child"

I had two movie options for the week of Nov. 2. It was either going to be "American Gangster," with hottie Russell Crowe, or "Martian Child" with my adolescent crush John Cusack.

I chose "Martian Child" for a few reasons, the first being my long-time crush on Cusack. The second was on that weekend, I was not in a "violent movie" mindset, and the third is what I called the handbook reason.

When I saw the trailer, I thought I should see this movie because I have a strange feeling that if and when I have children (emphasis on the if) that they, too, will be similar to the main boy in the movie, Dennis. At first, he spends most of the daylight hours in a box with only a slit to see out of to protect him from the harmful rays of the sun, and when he comes out, he wears his gravity belt so he will not float away. Then he says things like "I am not human" and proclaims that he is from outer space.

After being abandoned by his parents, Dennis, played extremely well by Bobby Coleman, becomes convinced he arrived here from Mars, sent to observe the human race and fulfill a mission before being called back home to the mother planet.

The movie does not really delve into what he thinks his mission is, mainly because his adopted father David (Cusack) doesn’t ask when Dennis talks about it.

 

I suppose one could conclude his mission was to not only find someone that would love him for all of his quirks and eccentricities, but to find someone that would never leave him.

Naturally he finds one in grieving widower David Gordon, who is a best-selling science fiction author who sees a bit of a kindred spirit in Dennis. He still feels this during the "trial period" but he feels like he has failed Dennis because he is still having problems relating and getting along with the Earthlings. Oh, and sometimes he won’t stop speaking "Martian" and stealing from people (he’s gathering samples).

Yes, this movie is a bit clichéd and predictable, but it is sweet and the acting is good, especially by Coleman.

So, if you want to see a cutesy, family movie for a change (trust me, I was shocked when I decided to pick this over "American Gangster" and Russell Crowe, but not displeased by my choice), this is the movie for you.

I gave this film a B-

Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.


"The Brave One"

"Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality"

Any movie that can take that poem from Emily Dickinson and use it in a context that actually pertains to the movie, you just know it has to be good.

Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan’s "The Crying Game" latest foray onto the big screen is a powerful and questioning movie.

"The Brave One" put you into the shoes of radio host, turned vigilante-heroine, Erica Bane, played by the always-magnificent Jodie Foster.

When the movie first starts, we see Erica walking along the streets, picking up the sounds of New York for her radio segment "Street Talk."

Those sounds that she loves becomes menacing after she and her fiancé David (Naveen Andrews) are brutally beaten in a tunnel while taking their dog out for a walk. In the aftermath, she wakes up from a coma three weeks later, only to find out that David did not survive the mugging.

Not only was she physically traumatized by the attack, she was mentally shaken up because her sense of security went away with the first punch thrown.

To cope with her feelings, she illegally purchases a gun, and forgets that going with strangers to an unfamiliar place probably is not a good idea. Nothing bad happens to her there, you just think she might be more suspicious and aware of her surroundings after what took place a few months early.

After she purchases the gun that is when the movie really starts to pick up. She goes into a convenience store late at night and comes upon an irate husband, whose wife is working the register at said store. When he finds he isn’t the only one in the store after shooting his wife, he seeks her out. Now, empowered with a weapon, she can finally fight back against what happened to her.

It seems she accidentally, then deliberately becomes a vigilante after that encounter.

The movie raises questions of that premise. Is she seeking violent people out to kill them, or is she no longer afraid of death? Does she have remorse for what she is doing, or is she glad because they are no longer threats to society?

The movie also questions how far someone would go to reclaim his or her sense of security. To not live in fear after something traumatic happens. Would they become a shell of themselves, or morph into someone entirely different?

In the movie, after Erica shoots and kills two other men in a subway, she notices that her hands are not shaking. She wonders, "Why won’t somebody stop me?"

I think "The Brave One" presses us to think that while we cannot stop other people, it is just up to the individuals to try to stop themselves.

This movie is profound, with wonderful performances by both Foster and the delectable Terrence Howard, who plays Detective Sean Mercer, the one seeking the intriguing vigilante.

I gave this film an A-.

Dedra Cordle is a staff writer for the Messenger Newspapers.

"The  Jane Austen Book Club"

There is a scene in "The Jane Austen Book Club" where one of the characters is waiting for the light to change so she can cross the street to go to the hotel where her just graduated high school student is waiting to commence their affair.

Disappointed with her marriage, does Prudie (Emily Blunt) seek solace with the boy who she likens to a spoon that looks at her as if she were ice cream, or does she take a step back and evaluate who she is and why is she so unhappy with her husband?

Her epiphany comes when the blinking sign flashes "What Would Jane Do?"

She is a part of the six-member book club that celebrates the timeless author Jane Austen. Each month they get together and discuss one of her novels, while finding out how their lives correlate with books that were written over 200 years prior.

The club is started by the "married six times and thinking of taking a seventh husband" Bernadette (Kathy Baker) after her friend Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) finds out her husband is leaving her for a co-worker that is around her same age, much to her surprise.

Included in the group are Allegra (Columbus’ own Maggie Grace), the lesbian daughter to Sylvia who always finds herself in the hospital after trying new adventures; Jocelyn (Maria Bello) who mourns over her dog and spends most of her time in relationships with them rather than the opposite sex, and then there’s Grigg, the only male in the group. He was originally asked to be there by Jocelyn, who wants him to get together with her friend Sylvia.

Each member of the club has their own issues to sort out and cope with, but all find a common place of comfort curling up with the world and the words of Jane Austen.

Robin Swicord, who also co-wrote the screenplay with "The Jane Austen Book Club" author Karen Joy Fowler, directs a charming movie that celebrates not only the joy of reading books, but it also shows thinking about your actions before you jump headfirst into situations.

The acting in the movie is all around fantastic, but English actor Hugh Dancy, who plays Grigg, steals the show with his boyish and quirky presence.

Yes, I am sure most would classify this movie as a "chick-flick" and while I normally stay away from that genre, the "Jane Austen Book Club" is my exception. It makes me wish it were already out on DVD so during those winter months I could curl into a blanket, drink hot cocoa and watch it before snuggling up with my unfinished Jane Austen novels.

I gave this film a B+


Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.

"Into the Wild"

"Into the Wild" is a movie that will split the viewing audience in two; or maybe even the person watching.

There are those who will think Christopher McCandless is a spoiled, ignorant and selfish boy who just wanted to break away from his parents by doing something crazy. Then there are those who will find themselves relating to McCandless. They’ll identify with his restless spirit of wanting to experience a grand adventure, to break away from society and find their own true self into those new experiences. They’ll also identify with his pull of the outdoors, which is seductive yet often dangerous.

I fall into the latter category, but see both sides to this mysterious traveler. Here is a man who after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta takes the $20,000 left in his college fund and donates it to the Oxford Famine Relief Fund, heads off in his 1982 Datsun to the West, all the while not telling his family of his plans, or even his whereabouts during his almost three-year trek.

While exploring the West, his ultimate goal seems to be beautiful Alaska.

"Two years he walks the earth. No phones, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return ’cause ‘The West is the best.’ And now after two rambling years come the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization, he flees and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild."

That is a quote from McCandless that was inscribed in the abandoned bus he found in the Alaskan wilderness. That same bus he spent over 16 weeks in, and due to a mistake regarding an inedible plant, also starved in.

"Into the Wild" takes us along on his journey and makes us think about his actions. Is he really a nutcase for giving up the promise of a bright future, or is he a hero for making his own true choices, and not that ones that society expects from us?    

Emile Hirsch ("Lords of Dogtown") plays McCandless and his performance is almost as captivating as the cinematography. He plays Supertramp (the pseudonym McCandless goes by) with such stubbornness and sensitivity. His chemistry with a weary widower, Ron Franz ("Hal Holbrook") is great, and his goodbye scene had me crying in the theater, which has not happened since I saw "Titanic" in 1997.

The acting is superb, the director is wonderful, if not a bit idolizing of McCandless, and you cannot argue with the beauty of the West, which is portrayed so beautifully by Eric Gautier. Even the soundtrack is great, mostly comprised of the haunting vocals of Eddie Vedder.

The movie length might be a problem for some. It clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, but I did not mind the running time. I was so swept away by this film that I found it hard to be annoyed with the woman who was obviously wanting to leave and picking a fight with her husband about it.

"Into the Wild" does not have a wide release for the Columbus area, but it is too good to pass up. Be still my heart, I love this movie and admire the over-confident, but brave man that was Christopher McCandless.

I give this film A+

Dedra Cordle is Messenger staff writer.

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