Along with the promise of fall movies just around the corner, late summer brings something else for movie lovers: Some of the year's best movies finally start to trickle onto DVD.
This week brings two of mine, the best animated movie I've seen this year and the inspiring story of Bethany Hamilton.
First up is "Rio," and on paper at least, there's no way this movie should be as good as it is. The story is at once very familiar, that of fish (well, actually birds) out of water, this time a blue macaw raised in comfortable domesticity until forced to fend for himself (with, of course, the help of new friends, this being a children's movie) in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
But what sets "Rio" apart from the animated pack is vibrant color, both local and overall. The streets of Rio spring to life in vibrant hues rarely seen in animated movies these days, especially if you watch them in muddied 3-D. Add to that a cast of memorable characters led by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway as the macaws and also featuring voice work by the likes of Jane Lynch, Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes and other funny people, and you've got a great rental idea for this week.
My second weekly pick is "Soul Surfer," a nominally Christian movie that, even without that quality, couldn't help but be inspiring as it tells the tale of Bethany Hamilton, the Hawaiian girl who lost an arm in a shark attack but still went on to a successful career as a professional surfer. What it isn't, however, is mawkishly sentimental, dealing much more with life than dwelling on tragedy.
The movie has two principal strengths, starting with the performance of AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany. Her passion for the character shines through, and she gives Bethany an infectious spirit that makes this great story even better. And secondly, the surfing action throughout is first-rate, and beautifully shot in Hawaii and Tahiti by director Sean McNamara.
Add all that together and mix in just a good story very well told, and you've got a movie well worth a rental.
Guild to climb the 'Tree of Life'
The Macon Film Guild has some very interesting movies coming up in the next few months, starting with the Kelly Reichart Western "Meek's Cutoff" on Aug. 14 and then the Italian psychological thriller "The Double Hour" in September. It's in October, however that the guild has scored a real coup with Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life."
The great director's immensely personal movie won the Palme D'Or for best film at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and having seen this, I can confirm it's well deserved. In an at least partially autobiographical tale, Malick tells the story of a boy growing up in a suffocating family in Texas in the 1950s, and uses this springboard to ask powerful questions about faith and the meaning of life.
Believe me, it's all much, much better than I can make it sound here, so go ahead and mark your movie calendar for "Tree of Life" on Oct. 9 at the Douglass Theatre, and note that because of its 138-minute length, there will only be two screenings, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.