Laura Dern

Sundance 2015: ’99 Homes’ is a bold, big and tense examination of the American dream

“America doesn’t bail out losers, America bails out winners!” preaches Richard Carver (Michael Shannon), like a modern day Gordon Gekko of real estate to the young, innocent but determined Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield). This is what the American dream is now. It’s not enough to work hard anymore, achieving the American dream is to win at all costs. Ramin Bahrani’s examination of the American dream and the corrupt nature of it follows Dennis Nash, a young father who with his son and mother (Laura Dern) are evicted from their family home. To get it all back, Dennis begins working for the man responsible for his troubles, greedy real estate broker Richard Carver. This is the American dream.

‘Wild’ looks lovely but leaves you longing

Wild is a mildly-satisfying travelogue through one woman’s troubled life that never quite delivers the catharsis it promises. Reese Witherspoon gives a brave, physically-demanding performance, despite her character’s unconvincing psychological transformation. Director Jean-Marc Vallée deftly intertwines our hero’s tragic past with her epic hike along the Pacific coast, but neither informs one another on an emotional level. The result is a beautiful looking film that feels lonelier than a desolate mountain pass.

There’s something to be ‘Wild’ about with Reese Witherspoon’s magnetic performance

In the wake of tragic events that include her inevitable divorce from affable husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski), the heart-wrenching death of her free-spirited mother Bobbi (Laura Dern), sour memories of a chaotic childhood with her younger brother that featured an abusive stepfather (as well as heroin addiction and random reckless sexual encounters), native Minnesotan Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) sets out to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail as a therapeutic means to confront her heavy disillusionment. We witness the determined hotel-bound Cheryl trying to handle her overstuffed backpack (later to be nicknamed “Monster”) that is perched on her petite shoulders and back. And so she sets off, ready to embark on a mission to walk off her major angst-ridden hostilities and heartache in the trying trail that lies ahead.

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‘Jurassic Park’ and Digital vs. Film: Sound on Sight Podcast # 353

With Steven Spielberg’s landmark blockbuster Jurassic Park making a 3D-assisted comeback in theaters, Ricky, Josh and Simon take a look back in order to rank it among Spielberg’s crowd-pleasers and see how it stands the test of time, regardless of technological additives. After that, the floor is opened to a general discussion of the digital vs. film debate, sparked by the Keanu Reeves-produced and hosted doc Side by Side. (Special guest Gregory Ashman of CriticalMassCast joined us for the first chunk of the show, but had to be dropped due to a Skype issue.)

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Looking at Dinosaurs: ‘Jurassic Park’ and Its Powerful Hold on a Generation

Jurassic Park, like many of Spielberg’s best films, allows us to be children again, even if this is, ironically, a film most kids would be scared to death by. It’s a movie that indulges in horror-movie tropes while making them feel fresh, layering a patina of intelligence over the intense, earth-rattling action. Though the human-dinosaur face-offs are the stuff of movie legend, the early sections where Drs. Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm, and Ellie Sattler debate the ethics of a theme park full of the living, breathing extinct are strangely fascinating and entertaining, at least to 28-year old me.

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