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[MOVIE REVIEWS]

Everest: The mountain wins

| marksburger@yahoo.com

Everest, director Baltasar Kormakur’s screen account of the fateful 1996 ascent of Mount Everest, is extremely well-made, extremely convincing, and extremely depressing.

Despite some complaints about the film’s accuracy by author Jon Krakauer, who wrote Into Thin Air about the event and is played in the film by Michael Kelly, in cinematic terms the film is an impressive saga and respectful toward its reallife characters – some of whom did not return.

Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Worthington, Emily Watson and Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson portray members of the climbing teams who lead their clientele to Mount Everest, yet even their expertise and experience mean little when circumstances turn against them. Josh Brolin, Naoko Mori and John Hawkes (especially strong) play those whose dream to climb Everest turns into a nightmare. Keira Knightley appears as Clarke’s pregnant wife and Robin Wright plays Brolin’s wife, both waiting and worrying at home.

There’s a palpable sense of exhilaration and accomplishment when the summit is reached after so arduous a journey, but it’s a long way down, and the tragic events which soon transpired could be attributed only in part to human error, and the rest to dreadful luck. As one climber observes at a base camp even before the ascent, the mountain will always win.

Much like William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay, which carefully sidesteps excessive sentiment yet still rouses considerable emotions, Kormakur doesn’t dress up the proceedings with unnecessary flash or over-emphasis. The mountain speaks – and stands – for itself. It is an implacable, emotionless foe. If anything, man is the intruder. Those who dare take their lives in their own hands. !

Living on the edge

Writer/director Oren Moverman’s low-key but highly effective character study Time Out of Mind affords Richard Gere one of the richest, most powerful turns of his career, in a role unlike any he has ever played before.

He’s George Hammond, a homeless man shuffling through a meaningless existence on the streets of New York City. The camera follows George unobtrusively and dispassionately, and the film’s pacing – which make take some audiences time to acclimate to – slows to the character’s pace, rambling and shambling along.

George is clearly damaged goods. There’s an oblique reference to Sept. 11, 2001 as a possible catalyst for his downfall, but fragments of memory flicker across Gere’s face, conveying the sense that he’s somehow trying to get those brain synapses firing properly, to somehow wipe away the shadows that have clouded his mind.

George’s past is hinted at as the story progresses. He occasionally keeps an eye on his embittered daughter Maggie (Jena Malone) even as he exists in a limbo among the other discarded, forgotten souls of the city. (In its own way, the film makes its plea for a better understanding of the homeless.)

Gere, also one of the film’s producers, has rarely been better – and he receives strong support from Malone, Brian d’Arcy James, Kyra Sedgwick, Geraldine Hughes, Yul Vazquez, Jeremy Strong and Steve Buscemi. And Ben Vereen, as George’s equally destitute but more unstable friend Dixon, delivers what may be his finest screen performance ever. !

Time Out of Mind opens Friday

A ribald rom-com

Sleeping With Other People is a saucy romantic comedy in the Judd Apatow vein, which may not be surprising since it counts long-time Apatow collaborators Will Ferrell and Adam McKay among its producers.

Writer/director Leslye Headland has taken familiar material and given it a cheerful and snappy spin. It’s never in doubt that leads Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie will walk off into the sunset together – actually, down a street in midtown Manhattan – but getting there is all the fun. And in the case of Sleeping With Other People, it’s plenty fun – and plenty funny.

In college, Jake (Sudeikis) and Lainey (Brie) lost their virginity to each other, then 12 years later are unexpectedly reunited as a 12-step meeting for sexual addiction. Without rekindling their romance, they decide to be platonic friends and discuss their thoughts of love and sex openly, without fear of consummation or commitment.

Sudeikis is likable and charming, Brie is sexy and winsome – and her Ecstasyfueled dance to Bowie’s “Modern Love” is nothing if not a show-stopper. With a friendly cast that includes Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, Katherine Waterston, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Mantzoukas, Adam Brody, Andrea Savage and Marc Blucas, the film stays bubbly and buoyant throughout – and it’s never mean-spirited. !

Sleeping With Other People opens Friday

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