'All is Lost' is mesmerizing
"All is Lost" (PG-13): Robert Redford gives a powerful performance as a nameless man, stranded in the Indian Ocean in his damaged yacht and struggling to survive long enough for rescue. Some middle schoolers and a lot of high schoolers - it's OK for most teens - could find this unusual film mesmerizing. Redford's nearly wordless performance - apart from a brief voice-over at the beginning - is all in his eyes, facial expression and posture. In the voice-over, his character is reading a farewell note to his family. The rest of the film is a flashback explaining how he got into this predicament: Sailing alone on his small yacht, he's awakened by a loud noise and finds water pouring in from a gash in the hull. A stray shipping container has collided with his boat. His calm, resourceful efforts to repair the damage are defeated by huge storms. He must eventually get into his life raft. Many days go by and supplies run out. He desalinates tiny amounts of water, and uses an old-fashioned sailor's sextant to navigate by the stars. As with his excellent Wall Street drama "Margin Call" (R, 2011), filmmaker J.C. Chandor paints an inventive profile in courage.
When things go badly, Redford's character shouts the F-word at one point, but the film earns its PG-13 for the existential, life- and-death nature of the yachtsman's struggle and the possibility of a watery - perhaps shark-toothed - death. Certain moments are harrowing because of the up-close way they were shot. "About Time" (R): What a treat for this leading edge of the holiday season - a sweet, uncynical love story with a light touch from writer/director Richard Curtis, who gave us "Love, Actually" (R, 2003) and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (R, 1994, writer only). Actually, it's a sweet, uncynical love story with a dash of low-tech time travel. Rated R for language and sexual innuendo, the film is fine for most high schoolers and some thoughtful middle schoolers.
Our hero is Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), the genial, nerdy ginger- haired son of a family of well-off English eccentrics. When he turns 21, Tim's droll Dad (Bill Nighy) informs him that the men in their family have the ability, upon coming of age, to travel back in time - not in history, but in their own lives. Tim must decide how he wants to use his power, and for him, it's all about getting time-travel re- dos to woo his true love. He moves to London to be a lawyer, he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) and that's it.
Whenever anything goes a little wrong - an uninspiring first lovemaking, for example - Tim goes back and improves it. It is only a few years later that he learns he can't use time travel to change his sister's (Lydia Wilson) bad choices or a parent's illness.The film's entire message is: Life is good - enjoy it.The script includes a lot of profanity, including many F-words as nonsexual expletives, as well as a nongraphic verbal joke about oral sex. Sexual situations are implied but never explicit. There is a liquor- fueled car wreck and a theme about grieving over a lost parent."Bad Grandpa" (R): Also billed as "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," this movie takes the "Jackass" film and TV tradition - performing ridiculously dangerous stunts and lewd practical jokes before unsuspecting bystanders - to a new level. This time, a fictional story overlays that gimmick. It is not for under-17s, though many will see it. "Jackass" stalwart Johnny Knoxville, in heavy age makeup, plays 86-year-old Irving Zisman, a spry widower eager to celebrate the recent demise of his cranky wife with a binge of boozing and womanizing. Unfortunately for Irv, his crack-addict daughter dumps her 8-year-old son Billy (Jackson Nicoll) on Irv because she must go to prison for a while. Irv is supposed to deliver little Billy to his dead-beat dad in North Carolina. But what is disturbing about this latest film is not the gross, sexually explicit, glass-shattering stunts themselves. It is the way Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine use their unwitting audiences. They pull off a majority of their gags in front of lower-income Americans, often people of color, often poor people who are obese, more or less playing them all for suckers, often making fun of their kindnesses. In out-takes at the end, we see the film crew let these folks in on the joke. Yet the film itself often makes them the joke.The language is profane, but not horrific.
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