Film Review: A Walk In The Woods (2015)

Release Date: January 23rd, 2015 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Written by: Rick Kerb, Bill Holderman
Based on: A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson
Music by: Nathan Larson
Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Kristen Schaal, Nick Offerman, Mary Steenburgen, Emma Thompson

Route One Films, Wildwood Enterprises, Broad Green Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

“Intimidate the bears? They’re fucking bears!” – Stephen Katz

A Walk In The Woods interested me for two reasons. The first, is that I’ve wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail for quite some time. The second, I’ve always been a fan of Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

This film is based off of the memoir of the same name by travel writer Bill Bryson. Redford plays Bryson and Nolte plays his old friend Katz, who accompanies him on his long journey walking from Georgia to Maine.

I’ve never read the book, so I am not sure how close the film depicts the source material. Although, I expected something deeper and more serious. With a couple of old chums who haven’t seen each other in decades, I was looking forward to not just a grand adventure but also seeing them have to deal with the challenges of their once close relationship and how their lives have gone in different directions since they last spoke. While this is touched on, there is no big heartfelt moment or a real catharsis for the characters – at least nothing is really explained; they just act enlightened. In fact, the motivation as to why Bryson wants to go on this journey is never really explained. He is questioned about it several times but it is never clear what it is he is expecting to find on this journey.

What saves this film is the chemistry between Redford and Nolte. Also, the comedy elements are really good and at least I enjoyed the film for that.

Kristen Schaal shows up and is pretty hilarious. One of her Last Man On Earth co-stars, Mary Steenburgen, shows up too. I enjoyed their small parts, as well as Emma Thompson’s.

Oh yeah, and Ron Swanson, er.. Nick Offerman shows up for a bit as a salesman at REI.

When comparing this to the recent Pacific Crest Trail film Wild, this is missing the heart and the purpose that that film had. While I love the book Wild more than the film, the movie still connects much deeper than A Walk In The Woods does. Maybe I will read the book at some point and I can compare them from a literary standpoint.

This film is worth a watch but it certainly isn’t a vital must-see.

Film Review: The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

Release Date: March 13th, 1975
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: George Roy Hill, William Goldman
Music by: Henry Mancini
Cast: Robert Redford, Bo Svenson, Margot Kidder, Bo Brundin, Susan Sarandon

Universal Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

This is one of those movies that seems to be somewhat forgotten.

Robert Redford stars as the title character and the film follows him, as he works as a stunt pilot while having a burning desire to go up against the great German ace Ernst Kessler.

The film also stars Bo Svenson, Bo Brundin, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Lewis and Margot Kidder. With such a strong lineup, this film offers up some seriously good performances from its cast.

The Great Waldo Pepper is directed by Academy Award winner George Roy Hill and this is in the upper echelon of his pictures. Granted, most of his films are pretty damned good.

The cinematography in this film is spectacular. The shots of the planes doing stunts and battle with one another are beyond stellar. This film has a timeless vibe to it and the shots that were captured on film, especially for the limited technology available at the time that this film was shot, goes to showcase the greatness of Hill’s filmmaking prowess.

This is an underrated, underappreciated and under recognized work of art. Redford is as charismatic as ever and as cool as he is, what’s cooler than a bi-plane stunt pilot?

Film Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Release Date: March 13th, 2014 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 136 Minutes

captain_america_the_winter_soldierReview:

*Written in 2014.

It took me some time to get to the theater to see this due to my ridiculous schedule lately but I finally got around to it, just in time to drop a review about 3 weeks too late. But whatever, here it goes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is unlike any other Marvel film before it. Granted, they all fit different subgenres other than just being straightforward comic book movies but this chapter in the ongoing Avengers cinematic saga was something refreshing and quite spectacular.

Instead of a cookie cutter over the top blockbuster ass kicker film, we got more of a political thriller, a conspiracy movie and a great espionage flick rolled into one big cornucopia of awesomeness with a handful of action sequences that didn’t feel overdone or made just for the sake of trying to placate to those soulless tentpole fanboys who worship the Michael Bay style of filmmaking. In fact, the film was so engaging that when action sequences started, it was like, “Oh yeah, I’m watching a comic book movie!”

Now this wasn’t a flawless film by any means but despite that, I thought it was the best Marvel film in the Avengers series. It had the best story that the studio has given us so far and it took chances that the other films haven’t. Chris Evans was great, as were Sam Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders and Robert Redford. Then there was Scarlett Johansson, I always love Scarlett Johansson.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was not just a worthwhile comic book movie, in an era where they are becoming way too common, mundane and redundant, but it may be the best film in that genre since 2008’s The Dark Knight. On IMDB it currently sits with a rating of 8.2; I say that it is a well earned rating and I don’t disagree with it.

*2016 Update: It is infinitely better than its sequel Captain America: Civil War.