Friday movie roundup: Walking the "Planet"
This is a week where one really good movie makes up for a whole bunch of bad ones.
That excellent movie is "The Loneliest Planet," a fascinating and emotionally rich drama by director-writer Julia Loktev. It follows an engaged couple, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, as they take a backpacking trip across the Caucasus mountains in Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the other one). The trip is marked with long walks and some gorgeous locations until a particular moment when everything changes between the young lovers. The drama is slow-moving at times, but intense.
Another new movie this week is pretty good: "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" is an engrossing documentary profiling the pioneering fashion editor who melded celebrity and fashion in ways the world is still experiencing today. Vreeland's voice permeates the film, and she's a woman well worth spending 90 minutes getting to know.
The big studio movie this week is "Playing for Keeps," which never finds a balance between silly sex farce and warm-and-fuzzy romantic comedy. Gerard Butler stars as a former international soccer star, now a screw-up divorced dad. He decides to help his son (Noah Lomax) by coaching the kid's soccer team, and his muscular presence starts drawing the soccer moms (including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman and Judy Greer) like moths to a flame. But his heart still belongs to his ex-wife (Jessica Biel), so he sets out to win her back. Director Gabriele Muccino ("The Pursuit of Happyness," "Seven Pounds") can't settle on the right tone here, and Butler's leading-man charisma is taken too much as a given.
The documentary "Waiting for Lightning" tells of pro skateboarder Danny Way, who in 2005 attemped to jump over the Great Wall of China. The movie details that effort, as well as Way's touching personal story and an annoying amount of product placement. This one's for action-sports fans only.
Lastly, the Megaplex 20 at The District (South Jordan) is playing the Utah-made comedy "Ben Banks," in which the title character a stoner journalism student, played by a guy also named Ben Banks (in a thinly fictionalized version of himself, we're told) stumbles into a blackmail plot while also romancing a tender-hearted barista (Mischa Barton, formerly of "The O.C."). The humor is scattershot and not very funny, but writer-director Bryce Clark makes good use of the St. George locations and Barton's lithe beauty.