Rated PG, 4 stars
Part of the experience of climbing the tallest mountain in the world involves passing the corpses of other climbers. In a making-of article, Anthony Geffen, director of The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest, says, "At first, when you see a body up there, it freaks you out. They're just like you, only they didn't make it. But worse than this, you become almost used to it. You're so out of it up there that it becomes almost natural to see dead people. I remember someone said to me, 'Turn left at green boot.' It was only when we saw the boots that I realized what they meant."
The Wildest Dream, showing at the IMAX theater at the Indiana State Museum downtown, is a traditional documentary that worked for me because of both the Wow and the Why Factor. So many harrowing images presented so starkly. The line between life and death is right there – and the people that do this travel incredible distances at great expense, monetary as well as personal, to go to that line, over and over.
Why do they do it? I understand the allure of taking risk. You tackle a daunting task, like skydiving. If you do everything correctly, you get a feeling of satisfaction and exhilaration equivalent to the degree of risk you faced. Along with the pure fun of freefalling and parachuting, there's that great feeling afterwards.
People skydive, race cars or shoplift with money in their wallets, for that matter. I get that. But the risk/reward dynamic involves tension followed by release. With mountain climbing, the tension keeps going, and going, and if you make it to the top, you're only halfway done. Why subject yourself to so much tension with what appears to be so little release?
"Because it's there," George Mallory famously told the New York Times when asked why he set out to climb Everest. He went on three expeditions, disappearing on the third, in 1924, along with his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine. Mallory's frozen body was found in 1999 by mountaineer Conrad Anker. You see it in the film, as Anker and young climber Leo Houlding recreate Mallory and Irvine's attempt to reach the summit, using the same kind of clothing and equipment the men used at the time.
Director Geffen, working with National Geographic, does a whole parallel story production about the two expeditions, utilizing letters between Mallory and his wife Ruth. Liam Neeson narrates, with voice work from Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Dancy and Alan Rickman. The Mallory and Ruth story is meant to provide an emotional core to the film, but I was too interested in the current expedition to get fully involved in the relationship story.
Instead, I held my breath watching Leo Houlding free climb early in the film. What a thing to do — and he is so matter-of-fact about it! I stared at the images of Mallory's body and thought, "They're going to leave the corpse there. It will look the same when someone else finds it in 10, 20, 50 years." I marveled at the shots of Anker and Houlding trying to reach the summit, especially the ones taken from above. How in the world did the camera crews manage that? Turns out that local climbers did some of the hardest camera work when the pros succumbed to altitude sickness.
The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest lays the musical cues on thick. I imagine that some people will be distracted by the deliberate pacing of the 93-minute feature. I wasn't, though. There were too many incredible visuals, too many questions, both philosophical and practical, to worry about the film's problem areas. When the historical outfits are being discussed, Conrad Anker's young son is asked what he would wear to climb Everest. "I wouldn't climb Everest," he replies flatly. Good for you, kid, but I'm glad I got to see your daddy do it.
Eat, Pray, Love
Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, who finds herself at a crossroads following her divorce. Confused about what she really wants in life, Liz opts to step out of her comfort zone and take a trip around the world to sort things out. That's what I like to do, except I can usually only afford to take a lap around I-465. Anyway, the movie is based on the bestselling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert and the costars are James Franco, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis and loads of gorgeous scenery. 133 minutes.
Action flick directed and starring Sylvester Stallone. Also starring Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, plus a brief appearance by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, and mixed-martial arts champion Randy Couture and ex-NFL player Terry Crews also turn up. Woo boy, I bet the air of testosterone on the set was enough to make people woozy! The story is ... action and attitude, dude! I'm just amazed that this movie and the new Julia Roberts' flick are opening on the same day. If people get mixed up and go into the wrong theater, somebody might get hurt. Or fall in love. 103 minutes.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Michael Cera (Juno) plays Scott Pilgrim, who must battle his new girlfriend's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win their heart. Based on the graphic novels. We had to promise not to post a review until opening day, so check www.nuvo.net this Friday for Ed's reaction to the film. 113 minutes.
Stand By Me
4.5 stars (PG)
Stand By Me, arguably the best coming-of-age drama ever made, is coming to the IMA Amphitheater on Friday, Aug. 13 (6:30 p.m.). Based on a Stephen King novella, the film follows a group of adolescents as they search for a dead body. What they (and we the viewers) end up finding along the way is much more important — the power of friendship. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and a chubby Jerry O'Connell turn in tender performances. Directed by Rob Reiner. 89 minutes. $10 public, $5 members, free for children six and under. — Sam Watermeier
The Other Guys
3.5 stars (PG-13)
The Other Guys isn't as laugh out loud funny as I expected from ads for the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg film. It's amusing throughout and there are a number of major laughs, but the tone is different than I expected. The film is a mismatched-cop buddy comedy, but it's not a satire of the genre – it simply is a mismatched-cop buddy comedy. Didn't expect that. Liked these characters. Liked that the clunky, overwritten plot was taken seriously. Sure, the mechanics of the case overtook the film towards the end. Sure, I wish the movie had more big jokes, but I enjoyed myself. With Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson.107 minutes.