Matt Damon was supposed to make his directorial debut with Promised Land, the ripped-from-the-headlines drama about a controversial natural gas production method that he wrote with John Krasinski (from The Office), but at the last minute he enlisted his old collaborator Gus Van Sant to handle the duties.
That was no doubt a good decision, our Philip Martin reports, for Van Sant’s eye and sense of poetry elevates the film above the environmentalist screed it could have become, while Damon and Krasinski — who also co-star in the film — work hard to make their somewhat sketchy characters seem real. “...it’s two-thirds excellent, one-third ordinary, but any movie that gives actors like Tim Guinee and Titus Welliver their own moments of grace will get a break from me,” Martin concedes.
Also this week, the enviro-horror film The Impossible, which Martin calls “an uplifting story against the backdrop of unspeakable horror” — namely the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, which killed nearly 250,000 people but somehow spared the Alavarez Belon family of Spain, though not before subjecting them to terror and heartbreak. The movie changes the name of the family, shifts around their nationality and installs Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in the lead roles (though the film is stolen by teenager Tom Holland), but though some might have qualms about its premise, it’s finally an excellent example of humane storytelling.
In other news, Bill Murray impersonates FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson. He’s OK, but it’s hard to understand why the movie exists. Certainly not as a history lesson.
And finally, one of the year’s best documentaries, Tchoupitoulas, and David Chase’s rock ’n’ roll memory book, Not Fade Away, are opening in Little Rock. You can find reviews of them on blooddirtangels.com.
Read more in Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.