Chasing Ice

Ice, ice baby

Ice, ice baby

(2012) Documentary (Submarine Deluxe) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinter, Kitty Boone, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Suzanne Balog, Dennis Dimick, Emily Balog, Simone Balog, Sylvia Earle, Jason Box, Synte Peacock. Directed by Jeff Orlowski

The world is changing. That’s a given – our lives are sometimes too short a span to really notice it but I think most of us have noticed that the climate has been changing. Storms are becoming more severe; the summer of 2012 is one of the warmest ever recorded. Wildfires are becoming hotter and more frequent.

James Balog is a nature photographer with the National Geographic Society. He is one of the best in the world at it, having won numerous awards for his work which have for the most part dealt with deforestation and endangered species. He has recently become intrigued by ice and on a photo shoot in Iceland watched a massive glacier calve before his eyes.

Aware that scientists were recording that the glaciers were melting at a faster rate than previously recorded, he decided to document the event. To that end he set up the Extreme Ice Survey which raised funds through grants and Balog’s own personal  funds to set up cameras in Montana, Alaska, Greenland and Iceland (and eventually the Himalayas).

The challenges of doing this are severe. The equipment is delicate; setting up cameras designed to shoot photos once an hour for six months at a time in conditions that are as severe as any on the planet requires some innovative engineering (which doesn’t always work). Setting those cameras up requires sometimes precarious mounts which required some climbing skill. To make matters worse, Balog had some serious knee problems which eventually required four surgeries just for him to function.

But the results are worth it. Balog takes some stunning still photos of the ice which are just breathtaking while the video footage shot of the EIS team in these various locations show the stark beauty of the ice. Most importantly the time-lapse photos of the glaciers are terrifying and convincing – if you didn’t believe the scientific warnings before you will now. Of course if you listen to the airheads on Fox News you still might not.

Even more convincing is a massive calving sequence that was caught on videotape by the EIS of a glacier losing ice the size of Lower Manhattan and ten times the height of the Empire State Building. Watching the sequence literally took my breath away and left me with a pounding heart. It’s beautiful yes, but the implications for our world and our species is disturbing.

This is a movie that needs to be seen, to be shown in high schools and shown to government officials. The commentators at Fox News need to be nailed down into chairs and forced to watch it. America is the only industrialized nation on the planet that hasn’t adopted stricter carbon emission laws and it is our job as citizens not just of this nation but of the world to demand our congress do so. It behooves us to remember that we are stewards of our planet – not for those who came before but for those who come after. James Balog and Jeff Orlowski are well aware of that – and the evidence is on the screen.

REASONS TO GO: Incredible photography. Presents the argument for reducing carbon and carbon dioxide emissions concisely.

REASONS TO STAY: Only if you’re making a fortune in the oil industry and others that benefit from emitting carbons into the atmosphere.

FAMILY VALUES:  There are a few bad words uttered here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Balog was the first photographer ever to be commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service to create a full set of stamps.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/18/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews. Metacritic: 75/100. I would call it a critical success.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: An Inconvenient Truth

ICE AT NIGHT LOVERS: There is a sequence near the end of the movie when Balog takes pictures of ice on a bright moonlit night (he cheats a little with some well-placed lights) that is simply stunning.


NEXT: The Vicious Kind


New Releases for the Week of December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


(New Line) Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy. Directed by Peter Jackson

At long last it’s here; Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth to take on the original J.R.R. Tolkein masterpiece to which The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a sequel. In it, the wizard Gandalf approaches the respectable hobbit Bilbo Baggins to accompany him and thirteen dwarf warriors to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. However to get there they will have to travel the goblin tunnels where Bilbo will meet a creature named Gollum who has this ring…

See the trailer, clips and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images)

The Bay

(Roadside Attractions) Kristen Connolly, Jane McNeill, Christopher Denham, Kether Donohue. When researchers discover the levels of toxic chemicals by a small Chesapeake Bay village have reached alarming levels, nobody listens. But when those chemicals spawn a parasitic life form that takes over first the minds and then the bodies of the villagers, “I told you so” just isn’t enough. From Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson.

See the trailer and a link to stream the full movie at here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for disturbing violent content, bloody images and language)

Chasing Ice

(National Geographic) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Adam LeWinter, Louie Psihoyos. A photographer for the National Geographic hits upon the idea of documenting photographically the shrinking polar ice caps. Setting the cameras up in the harshest environment on Earth proves to be a life-risking challenge but the results are both beautiful and terrifying.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language)

Miami Connection

(Drafthouse) Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, Maurice Smith, Kathy Collier. A martial arts rock band in Orlando decides to take on the drug cartels and make Florida a safe place to rock and roll once again. Although this was filmed back in 1987 (and looks it), it is getting its first American release thanks to the good folks at Drafthouse Films, the distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse theater with dining chain.

See the trailer and a link to stream the full move at here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: November 2012

November 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Distributor/Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

1. SKYFALL (1.0)
2. LIFE OF PI (1.3)
3. FLIGHT (1.4)
4. LINCOLN (1.5)

3. THE BAY (1.3)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

NOVEMBER 2, 2012

A LATE QUARTER (EntertainmentOne) Genre: Drama. When a member of a renowned string quartet receives grave news, the groups fragile dynamic threatens to explode prior to their 25th Anniversary Concert. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The amazing cast includes Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener.
A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Brainstorm) Genre: Animated Feature. The late Graham Chapman of Monty Python reads his life story set to animation created by 14 different animators. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The closest thing we’ll ever get to a final Monty Python film.
A MAN’S STORY (Trinity) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ozwald Boateng, one of the UK’s most innovative and influential clothing designers of the past 20 years who struggles to balance his family life and career. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 Once again, fashion documentaries really don’t float my boat much.
THE BAY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Horror. A quiet Maryland bayside town undergoes a metamorphosis when insidious parasites invade the bodies and the minds of the town’s residents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 The latest from Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson looks to be maybe the most terrifying film of the year.
BONES BRIGADE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The story of skateboarders Tony Hawk, Stevie Caballero and Stacy Peralta whose amazing exploits revolutionized the sport in the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.7 Interesting from a historical perspective but only if you’re into the lifestyle.
CAFE DE FLORE (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Two people – one in 1960s Paris the other in modern day Montreal – are connected through time in profound and mysterious ways. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 9). RATING: 2.9 Looks kinda trippy.
THE DETAILS (Radius) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man goes to war with a pack of raccoons that have invaded his yard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks full of genuine weirdness and human frailty all in one delightful crap sandwich.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (Self-Released) Genre: Drama. A troubled teenager in 1980s New York City dreams of reuniting with her father in Guyana. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 A compelling subject but a curiously passionless trailer.
FLIGHT (Paramount) Genre: Drama. A pilot hailed as a hero for saving a passenger jet from certain holocaust is suddenly viewed differently once he’s put under the media microscope. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 The return of director Robert Zemeckis to live-action features is marked by an outstanding cast including Denzel Washington.
HIGH GROUND (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. Eleven veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan aided by veteran mountain climbers make an ascent up one of the highest mountains in the Himalayas (Mount Lobuche) in order to find some healing from their ordeals. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.3 How many documentaries about war are actually about healing? This is a must-see.
JACK AND DIANE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Two young women hook up in New York and find a deep, fulfilling relationship but when it threatens to break up it triggers terrifying changes in one of their bodies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 It looks kind of out there but in a good way.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Universal) Genre: Martial Arts. A shipment of gold in 19th Century China ignites a long-simmering clan war with a blacksmith who makes incredible weapons of war caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 The directing debut of RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s (who also produced) Kill Bill.
MIAMI CONNECTION (Drafthouse) Genre: Martial Arts. Florida, circa 1987, is controlled by vicious motorcycle ninja gangs who incur the ire of martial arts rock band, determined to take back the Sunshine State for the people. Release Strategy: (New York City; opens in Los Angeles Nov. 9). RATING: 2.2 Exceedingly retro and campy; will either be serious fun or seriously annoying.
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Weinstein) Genre: Dramedy. A somewhat addlepated rocker who is estranged from his father returns to New York for his dad’s funeral and decides to take on his father’s crusade to find the man who humiliated him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Sean Penn is the only reason you need to go see this one.
VAMPS (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror Comedy. Two single party girls who happen to be vampires must choose between love and eternal life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 From director Amy Heckerling, stars her clueless star Alicia Silverstone, Kristin Ritter and Sigourney Weaver among others but trailer looks a bit cutesy-pie
WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. An arcade videogame villain decides he wants to be a good guy and leaves his game to find another that will accept his inner hero. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 A definite must-see for anyone who loves classic arcade videogames.

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

FIRE WITH FIRE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A firefighter, in witness protection for testifying against the mob after witnessing a murder, must go into places he couldn’t have imagined to protect those he cares about when his identity is compromised. Release Strategy: On Demand. RATING: 2.8 Josh Duhamel and Bruce Willis make an intriguing pair.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012

A ROYAL AFFAIR (Magnolia) Genre: Romance. The true story of a scandalous love triangle in the 18th Century between a German Doctor, the Queen of Denmark and her deranged king. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A florid historical epic that might well be more interesting than the trailer suggests.
CHRISTMAS IN COMPTON (Barnholtz) Genre: Comedy. When the son of a beloved Christmas tree lot owner tries to make some improvements and jeopardizes the business, a miracle will be needed to make things right – the kind of miracle only found in Compton. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks a little corny but with an extra heaping helping of heart.
CITADEL (Cinedigm/Flatiron) Genre: Horror. An agoraphobic dad raising his daughter alone tries to protect her from an invading gang of mysterious hooded thugs hell bent on kidnapping her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer is legitimately frightening; got raves at SXSW this year.
THE COMEDY (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. An aging Brooklyn hipster finds himself getting restless with his life and yearns to move into something more meaningful. Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Featuring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, looks decidedly more cerebral and artsy than what they’re known for.
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Well Go USA) Genre: Drama. A womanizer must choose between the sensuous socialite and the chaste humanitarian he loves Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A sumptuous new version of the classic French novel, transplanted to 1930s Shanghai.
IN THEIR SKIN (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. A friendly evening among friends turns into a terrifying struggle to survive when one of the men, obsessed with perfection, turns to violence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks twisted in a good way and a decent cast (albeit not household names) sweetens the pot.
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) Genre: Biographical Drama. America’s 16th President leads his country through the bloodiest war in its history. Release Strategy: Limited (Opening Wide November 15). RATING: 1.5 The latest from director Steven Spielberg takes on Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator; might be an Oscar contender.
NATURE CALLS (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. A pair of brothers become at odds over a group of boys in the elder brother’s scouting troop. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Even with Patton Oswalt, this looks mind-numbing.
SKYFALL (MGM/Columbia) Genre: Spy Action Thriller. Indiscretions in the past of M, the starchy head of MI-6 will lead the agency to come under attack by a ruthless madman whom even James Bond cannot stop. Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX opening Nov. 8). RATING: 1.0 The most successful franchise in cinematic history returns after a brief leave of absence with one of the most anticipated films in the 50 year history of the Bond films.
STARLET (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A young woman who lives to get high befriends an elderly woman in the San Fernando Valley after a confrontation at a yard sale. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 The trailer is a pretty sweet one with plenty of L.A. heart.

NOVEMBER 13, 2012

JAB TAK HAI JAAN (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A former soldier relocated to London is living a double life. When his two lives collide he must choose between them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest from legendary Bollywood director Yash Chopra.

NOVEMBER 14, 2012

BUFFALO GIRLS (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Two eight-year-old girls in rural Thailand become professional Muay Thai fighters to provide for their families. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles Dec. 7). RATING: 3.1 This practice isn’t uncommon; a moving look at what two little girls will go through to help their families escape abject poverty.
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A look at the laws created in the wake of the Six Days War that relegate the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied territories and how those laws are used to promulgate injustice even today. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 A very powerful examination of a situation that modern Israeli’s grapple with, and with the soul of a nation at stake.

NOVEMBER 15, 2012

BARRYMORE (Image) Genre: Drama. As he rehearses a play that must be a do-or-die comeback performance, legendary stage actor John Barrymore looks back at the events of his storied life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 With Oscar winner Christopher Plummer in the title role this could be one for the ages.

NOVEMBER 16, 2012

ANNA KARENINA (Focus) Genre: Drama. A Russian woman of the upper class, married to a member of the aristocracy, falls in love with a common soldier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on the Leo Tolstoy classic and from the director and actress of Pride and Prejudice.
CHASING ICE (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. A heroic National Geographic photographer captures the erosion of the Arctic Ice in an effort to move the debate from whether there is climate change to what to do about it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 A movie that should be shown to everyone – policy makers, citizens – we are all affected.
FUNERAL KINGS (Freestyle) Genre: Comedy. A couple of irresponsible teenage altar boys open a locked trunk and get far more than they bargained for. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.9 Irreverent and foul-mouthed – might well give you another reason to despise certain teens.
HITLER’S CHILDREN (Film Movement) Genre: Documentary. The descendents of the leadership of the Nazi party struggle today with the legacy of their family shame. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 Riveting stuff; how does one live down that sort of family name?
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD (HBO) Genre: Documentary. Four courageous young men try to get justice for the systematic abuse of children by priests of the Catholic Church. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 This may very well be the Church’s lowest moment.
PRICE CHECK (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man working for a supermarket chain gets a new boss whose attraction to him turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 I’m always up for watching Parker Posey go ballistic.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 (Summit) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. The series concludes with the Cullens battling the Morituri for their very survival. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 The last two films in the series have been dreadful; no reason to expect a change here.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012

LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) Genre: Adventure. A young man survives a disaster at sea and forms an unlikely bond with the other sole survivor – an irritable Bengal tiger. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Director Ang Lee looks like he’s crafted yet another beautifully shot masterpiece.
RED DAWN (Film District) Genre: Action. When the Chinese invade the United States, a small group of teenage boys and girls fight as an American resistance . Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 I’m not sure why this movie needed to be remade but it has been sitting on the shelf for a very long time.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Jack Frost, Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman stand united to protect the children of the world against an evil nightmare spirit named Pitch. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.1 Although I love the concept and think the animation is crackerjack, I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach for this one.
WAR OF THE BUTTONS (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. Two rival gangs from neighboring French villages must band together to save a Jewish girl from the Nazis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. The story of five teenagers wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a woman in central park whose lives were irrevocably changed and the fight to see justice – albeit delayed – done. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A feature length documentary by PBS mainstay Ken Burns.
HITCHCOCK (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of how the greatest director of his time put up his own personal funds to make a picture that nobody thought he should make – a little film called Psycho. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock makes me think this movie is going to gain a little bit of attention come Oscar time.
RUST & BONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrific accident is nursed back to health – physically and spiritually – by a struggling single father. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks absolutely enthralling and emotionally powerful; Marion Cotillard may need room on her mantle for another Oscar.

NOVEMBER 28, 2012

BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (SnagFilms/Insurgent) Genre: Music Documentary. Legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker of Cream remembers his success, his excess and his inner wild child. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating look at one of rock and roll’s most difficult – and talented – musicians ever.

NOVEMBER 30, 2012

CALIFORNIA SOLO (Strand) Genre: Dramedy. A former Britpop artist turned organic farmer and podcaster faces deportation and must face past demons with his estranged ex-wife and daughter to stay in the U.S. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles.. RATING: 1.3 Looks really, really good and Robert Carlyle is at the top of his game here.
THE COLLECTION (LD Entertainment) Genre: Horror. When a wealthy man’s daughter is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer and put in a maze of deadly traps and torture, he hires mercenaries who in turn enlist the only man to escape the maze who returns – reluctantly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Looks kind of like a Saw rip-off – and with the writers of the last four films of that series in charge of this film it’s not surprising.
DRAGON (Radius) Genre: Martial Arts. When a village craftsman saves a shopkeeper from notorious gangsters, the village detective suspects he may be more than who he seems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Not many martial arts films get a showing at Cannes – this one earned it.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) Genre: Crime Comedy. A hit man is called in to investigate the robbery of a mob-protected poker game. Release Strategy: Limited.. RATING: 2.0 Pretty nifty cast includes Brad PItt, Sam Rockwell, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta.
KING KELLY (See Think) Genre: Comedy. An aspiring Internet star does webcam stripteases and surfs social networking sites. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 Recorded entirely on phone cams, shows a media-obsessed self-absorbed youth culture. Rawr.
TALAASH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. A cop investigating the drowning death of a popular film star is embroiled with a housewife and a prostitute in a tangled web. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks like it could hang with the best of the Chinese cop dramas.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. After waking up to find his family slaughtered, a family man discovers that he may have more to do with the Universal Soldiers who he believes were involved than he could have thought. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 The last few direct-to-video films in this franchise have been downright awful but this one looks at least somewhat better.

Flight, The Man With the Iron Fists, Miami Connection, This Must Be the Place, Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, The Silver Lining Playbook, Killing Them Softly