Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: Billy Mitchell, Steve Weibe
This documentary is just as sweet as it appears in the trailer, and much funnier. If you have the means, I highly suggest getting to your nearest independent movie theater and seeing this immediately. It's definitely worth the price of admission. I can't explain the premise any better than that trailer did, but suffice it to say that some of the interviews with the gamers involved are priceless. And Billy Mitchell is just as much of a badass as he looks. Did you see that mullet!?! I've only seen one other real documentary (Murderball, in case you were wondering), but if more documentaries would cover cool stuff like this I'm sure their audience would grow at an exponential rate. This provided an inside look at Steve Weibe's life as he attempts to beat Billy Mitchell's Donkey Kong record and, in true documentary fashion, it does a great job of showing not only his gameplay and the competitive side of his personality, but his family life and how his play affects people around him. This movie opens your eyes to the world of intense world record caliber gaming, and after seeing it you'll never look at a classic arcade machine again without smiling.
Into the Wild
Director: Sean Penn
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, William Hurt
What is it with actors wanting to be directors these days? Just kidding, Sean Penn. This was actually a pretty good movie. I guess actors-turned-directors have a pretty good track record in my book in recent years with Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Into the Wild, and Apocalypto. Part Castaway, part road movie, Into the Wild blends modern society with isolated nature and provides a pretty scathing critique regarding capitalism and materialism along the way. Casual fans might be interested to know that Eddie Vedder was responsible for the music in the film, and the music is one of its greatest assets and a huge reason behind its success. Emile Hirsch's performance is the other reason: after all - the movie hinges on him. He's totally believable as the rebellious Christopher McCandless, who, after graduating from Emory University, donates all of his money to charity and starts trekking north to live on the land up in Alaska. The film shows some of his time there, intercut with flashbacks to show his adventures along the way. There are appearances by some pretty good actors/actresses, including Catherine Keener (who I normally HATE, but enjoyed for the first time), Jena Malone, some guy who sounds exactly like The Dude in The Big Lebowski, Vince Vaughn playing Vince Vaughn (again), and the aptly named William Hurt looking like he just realized he ate a Grande Combo at Taco Bell and the nearest bathroom is 200 miles away (pictured at right). I'm glad he always plays characters that are so torn up inside so he can struggle with himself in a pained voice - otherwise, he'd be really boring to watch.
Jena Malone plays Hirsch's sister, and provides most of the vocal depth to the movie through her insightful voiceovers. The combination of her voice and the words she was reading was beautiful, but you'll have no idea what I'm talking about unless you've seen it. Sean Penn did a surprisingly good job of varying camera angles and using his locations to their fullest effect, which had an impact on the viewer. Unfortunately, the movie dragged on a little too long and the protagonist dies at the end, so that's kind of a downer. But when you think about it, he really succeeded in his mission: to find the truth. That's what the whole movie was about - Chris' search for truth. He didn't believe in the crap that society was feeding him, and he boldly refused not to accept his place in the system. He didn't rebel in a lawless manner like most disillusioned people would (at least in the movies); he kept to himself on a quest of self-discovery and a search for the truth in this life. At the end of the movie, when he is close to death, he realizes that truth: happiness is nothing unless it is shared. By this time in the film he's trapped in the wild and too emaciated to attempt another escape, so he dies with his newfound knowledge, but at least he found what he was looking for. It had a good message, even if it took two and a half hours and some tragic events to get to it.
That's all I've got for now, film fans. Take a look at Branz's poster for Saw VIII if you haven't already, and check out my review of Saw IV directly below it. Until next time...