Tag Archives: ‘The Walk’

At the movies: Top 10 in 2015

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

By Tim Lammers

There surely will be some disagreements, but here are 10 of the films that made movie-going worthwhile in 2015.

10. “The Walk” – Robert Zemeckis’ direction is at its jaw-dropping best with this stunning recreation of French performer Phillipe Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) “artistic coup” – a death-defying wire walk between the void of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. The point-of-view shots on the wire were among the most, if not the most, intense scenes on the big screen this year.

9. “The Martian” – Director Ridley Scott returns to space once again – sans any alien life forms — with one of the most entertaining films of the year in this tale about an astronaut (Matt Damon) who was presumed dead after a vicious storm hits his team’s Mars expedition. True, it’s mostly a one-man show for Damon, but in between, the talented ensemble including Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean help create an engaging rescue mission filled with as many laughs as there are thrills. It’s a real blast (off).

 8. “Legend” – Tom Hardy flawlessly demonstrates why he’s one of the best actors today with a dual performance as twins Ron and Reggie Kray, a pair of brutal gangsters who ruled the East end of London in the 1960s. Nearly identical in appearance, Hardy immediately establishes the distinct personalities of the Krays, making you quickly forget that what you’re watching are essentially impressive camera tricks. Proceeded by his kick-ass turn in “Mad Max: Fury Road” and followed by his frightening turn in “The Revenant,” 2015 was the year of Tom Hardy.

 7. “The Big Short” – Four groups of Wall Street outsiders stick it to the big banks during the housing meltdown of 2008, which feels great until you realize that even after the financial Armageddon, nothing really changes. Director Adam McKay makes an impressive transition from comedy to satire and drama with a film so slickly executed that it hearkens the greatness of Martin Scorsese. Christian Bale is the best of the film’s winning ensemble cast.

 6. “Inside Out” – Pixar’s “Up” Oscar-winner Pete Docter is back with this ingenious tale of how five emotions become mixed when an 11-year-old girl struggles with her family’s relocation from Minnesota to San Francisco. Like “Toy Story 3,” “Inside Out” is as much an emotional roller coaster for adults as it is a visual wonder filled with laughs for kids.

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 5. “Steve Jobs” – Michael Fassbender gives a career performance as the complex, socially-inept co-founder of Apple Computers, ingeniously played out during three pivotal moments of his career. Director Danny Boyle realizes his vision more like a stage play through Aaron Sorkin’s whip smart dialogue, where Jobs’ embattled colleagues (expertly played by Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and to a lesser degree, Seth Rogen) wrack their brains trying to figure the prickly computer pioneer out.

 4.”Cinderella” – Far and away the most beautiful piece of cinema in 2015, this Kenneth Branagh-directed gem is one of the few films this year to deliver on all levels. Sometimes emotional, sometimes funny, and always full of heart, “Cinderella” has everything from stunning performances, awe-inspiring sets, gorgeous costumes, an emotional score and the recalibration of a classic character to reflect the modern age without damaging the classic tale’s integrity. Most of all, the film’s important message, “Have courage and be kind,” is one that will resonate for ages.

3. “Spotlight” – The film’s subject matter is depressing as all hell, but this film about The Boston Globe’s uncovering of the Boston Archdiocese’s priest sex abuse scandal in the early 2000s is so compelling that you can’t help but be gripped by it from beginning to end. The film not only recalls the greatness of “All the President’s Men,” but also serves as a reminder of today’s sad state of investigative journalism (if not journalism as a whole), which has been shot to hell by the Wild West Internet landscape where every media outlet has to have the story first, even if the facts aren’t completely right.

2. “Mad Max: Fury Road” – Writer-director George Miller finally gets the opportunity to make the “Mad Max” film he’s always wanted to make with this hyperkinetic road opus that can’t be described as anything but “batshit crazy.” Tom Hardy wipes the memory slate clean of Mel Gibson with his brooding performance as the title character, and Charlize Theron gives a furious performance of the aptly-titled character Furiosa.

 1. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Sure, it’s not perfect, but how often can a film match the tone of the original 37 years after its release, and the monstrous expectations that go with it? The Force is back in a big way thanks to the ever-burgeoning creativity of writer-director J.J. Abrams, and this seventh episode in the “Star Wars” saga serves as a big reminder why we love movies in the first place. “Episode VII” can’t come soon enough.

 10 honorable mentions: “Ex Machina,” “Black Mass,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “The Revenant,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “Ant-Man,” “Creed,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “The Peanuts Movie.”

Worst film of 2015: “Sisters” – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler force an uncharacteristic brand of raunchy comedy down our throats that’s dreadfully unfunny and downright embarrassing. How this film got the greenlight to begin with, is one of the great mysteries of 2015. The “Saturday Night Live” alums must know where some bodies are buried.

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Interview: Real-life Twin Towers wire walker Petit talks ‘The Walk’

'The Walk' -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Philippe Petit (photo: Sony Pictures)

By Tim Lammers

For the lack of better words, it’s been a real balancing act for famed wire walker Philippe Petit for the past nine years — considering not one but two films about his death-defying walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center have made it to the big screen.

The first, of course, was director James Marsh’s 2008 Oscar-winning documentary “Man on Wire”; and now, nine years after Petit got a call from filmmaker Robert Zemeckis in a bid to tell the wire walker’s riveting tale in narrative fashion, “The Walk” is finally stepping its way into theaters.

“Although ‘The Walk’ is not the first film to take a look at the part of my life, it’s different because of the dimension and its immensity, and if you look at the movie in IMAX 3-D it is incredible,” Petit told me in a phone conversation from New York Wednesday.

Now playing in IMAX venues and expanding to theaters nationwide on Friday, “The Walk” chronicles the life and events leading up to the then-24-year-old Petit’s thrilling wire walk between the void of the Twin Towers in 1974. Directed and co-written by Zemeckis, “The Walk,” based on Petit’s book, “To Reach the Clouds,” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit and Ben Kingsley as his mentor, Papa Rudy.

The interesting thing about “The Walk” is that Petit wasn’t looking to make his story into a feature film — that is, until he got a call from Zemeckis out of the blue. Once Zemeckis obtained a copy of the 2003 children’s book “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,” he was determined to flesh Petit’s story out on the big screen.

“I received a phone call from him because he had the children’s book that he was reading to his little kids,” Petit recalled. “He said, ‘I want to make a movie about you in 3-D, putting people on the wire with you, and nine years later, the movie has opened. It’s really been an adventure.”

At the same time, the French artist said, “Man on Wire” was in the works, so he felt that there would be a chance Zemeckis wouldn’t be interested in telling another version of his story.

“The first thing I said to Robert when I met him was, ‘Did you know that there’s a documentary in production?’ and he said, ‘That’s great. It can only help. This film will be a different form of storytelling from the ideas in my head.’ So after the ‘Man on Wire’ production, I started another adventure with Robert,” Petit recalled.

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“The Walk” is particularly special to Petit, because as a PG film it is accessible to a wider base of movie fans. Petit said what makes the film experience particularly poignant — even though it is not addressed in “The Walk” itself — is the retelling of his tale in the wake of the terror attack on the Twin Towers.

“It’s incredible, seeing my story first as a children’s book and now being open to film audiences as a family movie by Robert Zemeckis. I have a whole new generation getting interested in what has become a legend, in a way, because the towers are not here anymore,” Petit said. “I have kids from schools sending me beautiful drawings, poems and questions, and at the end of the year, one school even puts on a little play that reconstructs my walk. The films have opened the door to a different age. That’s a great compliment for an artist to witness.”

Petit has maintained a great sense of humility about his accomplishments (“The Walk” also chronicles his walk between the two towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in 1971), as well as sense of humor. In his in his Twitter bio @PetitWTC, he proudly describes himself as “Man On Wire — been arrested more than 500 times for … Street-Juggling!”

The irony is, Petit said despite everything he’s done — and as many times as he’s been arrested — it’s never been for the attention. In fact, as it’s demonstrated in the film, Petit assembled a small crew for his “artistic coup” to walk the wire between World Trade Center towers, which was pulled off like a heist underneath the noses of New York City authorities, city personnel and construction workers.

“What is extraordinary is that I’ve never sought fame, it came naturally in the aftermath of the things I did,” Petit said, humbly. “If I had a goal, it was to venture in that strange, magic space created between the Twin Towers. I’m glad what I offered the people watching below and people around the world inspired them. I’m glad when people came up to me afterward and said, ‘You inspired us,’ instead of just offering them a slice of the impossible.”

If Petit’s dizzying walk between the Twin Towers in “The Walk” proves anything, it’s shows that you can go to incredible places as long as it’s your passion — not fame or fortune — that’s guiding you.

“People often ask me what the recipe is for the life I lead, to walk a wire, I always refer to the word ‘passion,'” Petit, 66, said. “If I look back at my life, whether when it was at 6 years old when I was learning magic by myself or at age 14 when I started to learn juggling, the passion was what mattered. I was practicing 12 hours a day, and was thrown out of school because I was so passionate and wanted to attain perfection. Passion should be on everybody’s slate throughout life.”

Movie reviews: ‘The Walk,’ ‘The Martian’

Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in TriStar Pictures' THE WALK.

By Tim Lammers

“The Walk” (PG) 4 stars (out of four)

Director Robert Zemeckis takes the art of filmmaking to dizzy new heights, quite literally, with “The Walk,” a brilliant dramatic recreation of Phillipe Petit’s death-defying wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Even though the amazing feat was chronicled in the Oscar-winning 2008 documentary “Man on Wire” and we know how the story ends, Zemeckis — through the stellar acting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit — still expertly manages to place the viewer right on the wire with the famed wire walker and creates an air of uncertainty. Before that, Zemeckis recounts the extraordinary events leading up to the walk, ingeniously framing them within something you’d see in a heist film.

“The Walk” can only be seen on IMAX screens until its wide opening Oct. 9, and quite frankly it’s the only way to see it. It’s a film experience that might not play well for those afraid of heights, as Zemeckis creates one of the most intense film atmospheres in recent memory. While “The Walk” is an uplifting film, there’s obviously a looming sense of sadness as the vision of the Twin Towers recalls the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 — an event that Gordon-Levitt handles with heartbreaking subtlety with a beautiful soliloquy at the film’s conclusion. It’s one of the best films of the year.

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“The Martian” 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

The curse of lukewarm Red Planet movies is lifted by director Ridley Scott with “The Martian,” a smart, sci-fi epic that wonderfully mixes action, adventure, drama, comedy and great visual effects into a relatable narrative about a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars. A movie that respects its audiences’ intelligence, “The Martian” works real science into the story, yet presents it in a way that we can all understand. Following the brilliance of director Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” Scott continues to raise the bar that future space films should strive for.

Unlike his classic space thriller “Alien,” and “Alien” prequel “Prometheus,” Scott’s monster in “The Martian” is time, as astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left alone on Mars and presumed dead after a storm separates him from his crew. Featuring a stellar ensemble cast including the likes of Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Wiig, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor as astrona

uts and NASA personnel scrambling to assemble a rescue plan, “The Martian” proves that Scott is once again at the top of his game.