Valdosta Daily Times

October 11, 2013

'Gravity' soars

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times


“Gravity” (Drama/Science-Fiction: 1 hour, 31 minutes)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Rated: PG-13 (Intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language)
Movie Review: Academy Award nominee Alfonso Cuarón has just ensured himself another Oscar nomination for next year’s ceremonies. “Gravity” is a gratifying space drama with plenty of thrills.
Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), an engineer on her debut shuttle mission, and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are last survivors of the shuttle Explorer after a catastrophic accident. They float in space trying to survive after their shuttle is damaged by space debris. The darkness and silence of space inspire panic, and they are diminishing their oxygen supply.
The thought of drifting in outer space with no means to stop is a terrifying concept. This thought drives the film. If one wants to join Bullock and Clooney in their disoriented state of space drifting, watch this film in 3-D. It is a perfect film for this type of movie viewing.   
Alfonso Cuarón and his son, Jonás Cuarón, script one of this year’s most creative and intense films. The film cleverly uses a small cast and simple plot to create cinematic originality. The film has thrills and a talented cast and turns those variables into a screenplay that easily increases one’s apprehension.  
Viewers should easily find themselves trying to aid the astronauts. This screenplay gives us little time to know Dr. Stone or Commander Kowalsky, but it is not necessary to know them to feel for their predicament. A pressing need is evident; they need assistance. The want for these two people to achieve that assistance is paramount.  
The Cuarón father-son team does a great job of making the audience feel they are there. You feel for their characters. You see two people trying to survive in the harshest of environments, the expanse of space.
Oscar recipients Bullock and Clooney play their parts well. Bullock is especially convincing. Their characters exist in the gravityless, cold confines of space. One cannot call 911 out there. In a harsh environment, Bullock and Clooney effortlessly make their characters rewarding.
“Gravity” has some scientific quirks and could have used some more runtime, but it is an intense photoplay. The special effects are keen. The images of Earth and a star-filled space, via special effects, visual effects and computer-generated imagery, are mesmerizing, and the plot is original. The result is fine entertainment.
Hats off to the Cuaróns, Bullock, Clooney and production teams for this stimulating tale. It is a truly magnificent experience.
Grade: A- (Gratifying.)
“Runner Runner” (Crime/Drama: 1 hour, 31 minutes)
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck and Gemma Arterton
Director: Brad Furman
Rated: R (Profanity, sexual innuendo, sexuality and nudity)
Movie Review: As a crime drama, the excitement value is low. This screenplay is comparable to observing a sporting event where no team has scored a point after two hours. You stay with the game hoping it becomes better. “Runner Runner” never reaches a state where it could be considered better.
The film follows Princeton University graduate student Richie Furst (Timberlake). He pays for school through online gambling. After losing thousands of dollars, Furst realizes the site is rigged. He travels to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block (Affleck), the owner of the offshore gambling website. Block is intrigued by Furst and invites the young man to become part of his operation. Furst accepts Block’s offer. Soon, Furst is neck deep in the illegal operations of Block’s enterprise. All is well until FBI and local law enforcement in Costa Rica also try recruiting Furst.
Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer,” 2011) directs this misguided piece. The plot is not compelling. From the start, it is not believable enough to draw and keep one’s attention from drifting.   
The plot suffers from ADD. The scenes are a disarray of scattered moments. This plot haphazardly jumps from one scene to the next without a smooth connection. This exists mainly because the characters are not well established nor are they believable. They are flat. Major stars Timberlake and Affleck can do nothing to better this film.
A neat premise is turned into a crime thriller that fails energize. The conclusion is less gratifying after putting audiences through lackluster moments. The ending happens without a substantive reward.    
Grade: D (If you are a runner, go in the opposite direction of this film.)
“Grace Unplugged” (Drama/Religion: 1 hour, 42 minutes)
Starring: Amanda "AJ" Michalka, James Denton and Kevin Polk
Director: Brad J. Silverman
Rated: PG (Thematic elements and brief teen drinking)
Movie Review: Grace Rose Trey (Michalka) is a Christian singer/songwriter along with her father, Johnny Trey (Denton), at their local church. Grace decides she wants to do more and be a star like her father. Johnny was once a major rock star, who charted a Billboard number one single. Twenty years ago, Johnny hit rock bottom before becoming a devout Christian. Now, Grace wants her chance to be a star. Defying her parents, she leaves for Los Angeles with hopes of making it big. She teams up with Johnny’s former manager and producer, Frank "Mossy" Mostin (Polk). Grace achieves stardom, but she soon finds she may need her Christian faith to survive in Hollywood.  While nothing spectacular, this faith-based tale manages to be mild but just able enough to entertain with a message. The film has a good story but fails to push the envelope when it is in its grasp. It could have easily made itself more dramatic but goes for the light and easy, focusing on message more than substance.
The acting is nominal and the story, again, is mild. Both could have been improved upon to make this film a better production.
Stardom takes courage. The film portrays that in abundance through the character Grace, yet it fails to take that message and adequately turn it into a superior, cinematic experience. The film concentrates on the downside of celebrity status to counter it with faith. A presentation of the perks of stardom would have been nice. The film could have shown the temptation of becoming a celebrity and its enticing concepts first in more detail to make such life desirable. Then, the application of stardom’s downfalls as a means to show why a young lady needs Christ in her life could have been inserted. This would have inserted more substance to this mild screenplay.           
Grade: C- (Needs more unplugging.)