GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

October 3, 2013

Las Vegas Weekly

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A&E | SCREEN > GRAVITY BLUES Bullock and Clooney fight for their lives; Bullock explores a damaged space station (below). TV COURTROOM RUMBLE Legal drama, not boxing, takes center stage in Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight FILM THE FINAL FRONTIER Gravity makes space travel seem exciting and dangerous again BY JOSH BELL Hollywood has given us so many futuristic and action-packed space-set movies that it's easy to forget how dangerous and unforgiving space is for the people who actually travel there. Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity brings that danger home powerfully, with the story of two astronauts (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney) who end up stranded after their space shuttle is damaged by flying debris. There are no aliens, no gun battles, no explosions (well, a few explosions), just two people trying desperately to survive in impossible conditions. As a story of survival, Gravity is nearly unparalleled. From the moment that Bullock's Dr. Ryan Stone and Clooney's Lt. Matt Kowalski receive an urgent message that debris from a destroyed satellite is headed their way at high speed, Cuarón keeps the suspense at a breathless level for nearly the with such dire circumstances. Unfortunately they're also saddled with some incredentire running time. The amazing special effects, along ibly sappy backstory-illuminating speeches with the ever-roving camera of cinematograthat threaten to undermine the movie's intenpher Emmanuel Lubezki, convey the immense aaaac sity. There's one scene in particular toward emptiness of the characters' environment, and GRAVITY the end of the movie that's nearly unforgivable every bid for safety presents new challenges Sandra Bullock, in its cheap sentimentality, and the score from and dangers. George Clooney. Steven Price, so essential to the scenes of chaUnlike, say, Apollo 13 (which gets a nod in Directed by Alfonso otic danger (Cuarón sticks to the realism of the form of Ed Harris as the distant voice of Cuarón. Rated PG-13. space being soundless, which means the score mission control back on Earth), Gravity doesn't Opens Friday. is all the audience hears), turns corny and have the comfort of a real-life happy ending overwrought when the characters reveal their to mitigate the suspense. There's no reason to believe that Stone or Kowalski will make it through emotional baggage. There's so much visceral power in the their ordeal alive, and Bullock and Clooney (whose role is fight for survival that it doesn't need a typical Hollywood actually much smaller than previews indicate) effectively redemption arc. As long as Cuarón sticks to the danger and express the desperation and determination that come along suspense, Gravity is a masterpiece. Despite its title, the HBO original movie Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight isn't really about Muhammad Ali. The legendary boxer appears only in archival footage, while the central narrative focuses on the nine Supreme Court justices who decided his fate in 1971. That's when Ali's appeal of his draft-dodging conviction reached the nation's highest judicial body, and the movie spends most of its time behind the scenes as the justices deliberate Ali's case (along with brief looks at other cases of the same session, related to anti-war protests and employment discrimination). Director Stephen Frears (The Queen) assembles an impressive lineup of actors to play the justices, including Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella, Danny Glover and Ed Begley Jr., but they're more historical mouthpieces than fully fleshed-out characters. Plummer's John Marshall aabcc Harlan II gets most MUHAMMAD of the focus, as it ALI'S was his vote that ulGREATEST timately decided the FIGHT Ali case, but other October 5, 8 p.m., than a few touchHBO. ing moments with his wife and some heavy-handed depictions of his declining health, he serves mainly to articulate legal arguments. Even worse, the filmmakers invent a clerk (played by Benjamin Walker) who ends up heavily influencing Harlan's opinion, and who exists solely to state the movie's point of view. When the real-life footage of Ali's speeches and interviews is consistently more fascinating than the scripted drama, it's clear that the movie's priorities are off. The copious exposition that sounds awkward coming from the mouths of actors playing characters would have fit much better in a documentary; maybe HBO can commission one of those instead. –Josh Bell 40 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM OCTOBER 3–9, 2013 40_Screen_1_20131003.indd 40 10/2/13 2:55 PM

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