Joseph Gordon-Levitt — remember that name. You may recognize this actor from his youthful outing on the TV show “3rd Rock from the Sun” or possibly from the charming Indie, “(500) Days of Summer” (released in 2009 and well worth a DVD rental).
In “50/50,” Gordon-Levitt leaves his comedy chops at the door and tackles a serious situation. His character, Adam, learns he has cancer. How he handles the news as well as how those around him react is the heart of this film based on a true story.
Seth Rogan, comic actor and writer, encouraged his friend Will Reiser to write this script since Reiser survived cancer as a young man and Rogan helped him through the treatment. He supplies the comic relief in this serious drama, but he is not alone.
Anna Kendrick plays Katherine, Adam’s therapist. A novice at the trade, she stumbles on occasion, but is well-meaning and provides an outlet for Adam to work though his emotions. His mother (the always excellent Anjelica Huston) is held at bay by her son and she struggles with being on the outside looking in.
There’s something about Gordon-Levitt. Whether it’s his unassuming charm, his ability to seem like your favorite nephew or his subtle acting ability à la Jimmy Stewart, the young actor is here to stay.
“50/50” is about the odds of survival, but it’s an odds-on winner in dealing with serious subject matter in a thoughtful way.
“Incendies” cannot be easily categorized. Nominated for a 2010 Academy Award in the Foreign film category, is this Canadian film (a) a war movie? (b) a mystery? (c) a family drama? (d) a thriller? (e) all of the aforementioned categories? The correct answer is (e) and much more.
Two fraternal twins are each given a challenge, revealed in the reading of the last will and testament of their mother, Nawal. The deceased’s trusted notary instructs the young adults as to their mother’s wishes. Jeanne accepts the challenge, which includes traveling to her mother’s homeland in the Middle East to seek the truth. Simon refuses to become involved until Jeanne beckons him to join her on her dangerous journey.
Originally a play, “Incendies” tells two parallel stories, the twins’ search for truth and their mother’s unknown life before their birth.
Not wanting to give away the twists and turns of the plot, it is difficult to explain the pull this film has on the viewer.
Where is Jeanne going next in her search? Why are so many stumbling blocks thrown in her path? What will Simon uncover? When did Nawal write the letters? What happened at the pool?
A word of caution: the film’s flashbacks reveal the horrors of war. Therefore the film is suggested for mature adults. That being noted, “Incendies” is a brilliant example of storytelling and highly recommended.
Everyone in the United States can go to school. How we spend our time and how much we learn differs widely, but the opportunity is a given. When it was announced on the radio in Kenya, that “everyone was entitled to an education,” school age children rushed to register to learn. Among them, and clearly a standout, was Margue (pronounced Ma-roo-gay). At first the teachers refused to save a place for him because of his age.
Based on a true story, “The First Grader” centers around Margue, an 84-year-old who wants desperately to learn to read. Every barrier that is placed in his way he overcomes until he finally is allowed to take his place in the classroom beside the 5- and 6-year-olds.
Teacher Jane (Naomie Harris) is confronted by angry parents, angrier administrators and a husband who can’t comprehend why she is willing to sacrifice so much for this old man.
“The First Grader” was filmed on location in Africa and used many locals in the cast. Director Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) does a brilliant job capturing not only the obvious new challenges for the old man, but the shattering events from his past that reveal why he is so determined in his goal.
“The First Grader” has brief scenes of torture that may be disturbing. There also are occasional subtitles that are small and go by quickly. (Keep the remote handy to pause.) Don’t let either of those issues keep you from watching the inspirational “The First Grader.”
Grading this week’s DVDs: the ABC’s
Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Politics, political figures and spies
Tue, Mar 6, 2012
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
And now, reality
Mon, Jan 30, 2012
Looking back on the year that was (Part 1 of 2)
Wed, Dec 7, 2011
Film buffs should revisit ‘Northwest’
Wed, Nov 2, 2011
Conspiracy theories played out on film
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Mix-ups, marriage and horse management
Mon, Oct 3, 2011
Going ‘Grease,’ locally and on DVD
Tue, Sep 13, 2011
It’s All About the Music
Fri, Sep 9, 2011