Saturday, December 29, 2012


Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Carole Mallory


Movie Review: A Promised Land Delivers

Posted: 12/27/2012 12:27 am

Matt Damon co-wrote and co-produced A Promised Land, a film about the evils of fracking. This has a boring ring to it. But it is not. Matt Damon films are not boring. As Jason Bourne he has assured us of that. Also in 2007, Damon was chosen as People's Sexiest Man Alive, an image he downplays. No, he is into philanthropy and humanitarian causes. Shedding light on fracking and how it is damaging our country is his latest and most important concern. When he believes in shedding light on an injustice, his eyes get a glint and determination that is compelling. You want to know what he is thinking and the only way to know this is to watch the film. Listen to him. Closely. His body cables clues. His movement is at times wiry.
This drama is directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) and stars Damon (Steve Butler) as a corporate salesman who travels through Midwestern farm country to buy drilling rights from struggling farmers. Frances McDormand (Sue Thomason) is his partner. They intend to extract natural gas by drilling deep within the earth by means of fracking and offer these impoverished farmers huge sums to lease their land. They make all sorts of Elmer Gantry promises to the gullible landowners and it is sad to see how these folks are manipulated by the country con of these ace salesmen.
More manipulation enters in the form of co-writer John Krasinski (Dustin Noble), who plays an environmental activist who is opposed to Butler Industries pillaging the land. Noble slanders Steve to thwart Thomason and Butler's chances of getting signed contracts with the townspeople while Noble is publicly speaking out against them.
Meanwhile Hal Holbrook (Frank Yates) as a school teacher sees goodness in Steve and tries to talk him out of working for Butler Industries and to do something honorable with his life. To have a sense of purpose. Fulfilling purpose. Local landowner and school teacher Rosemarie DeWitt (Alice) also sees qualities in Steve, who is attracted to her, but she is attracted to the perceived purity of Krasinski. A Promised Land portrays an America where big business and the strength of the small town community converge. A dynamite O'Henry conclusion will surprise you.
The soundtrack is reminiscent of early Paul Simon while the countryside is filmed in a nostalgic oh-why-don't-we-see-this-rural-beauty-more-often landscape. Your heart feels a bit of what Matt Damon may feel when he wants to protect it from America's corporate greed. And why he has fought for this film. A Promised Land's pace is a tad slow at times, but if you allow yourself to become a part of its love for rural America, you will enjoy this film, an homage to our countryside.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Carole Mallory


Cirque du Soleil: World's Away in 3D

Posted: 12/24/2012 1:36 pm

Having seen the original Cirque du Soleil in Battery Park in Manhattan several years ago, I was not eager to see this film. How wrong I was. Cirque du Soleil: World's Away is a dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment. The acts are spectacular and original though some were seen at Las Vegas. Steve Wynn has been instrumental in the financial well-being of this troupe. In 1993, Wynn's Treasure Island Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Strip purchased the act Mystère, in which the origins of life in our universe are explored. Wynn went on to produce other Cirque du Soleil acts.
Originally, the troupe had severe financial hardship which propelled its success. In 1979, Montreal street performer Guy Laliberte, a college dropout who had mastered fire eating while living on unemployment, toured Quebec. Laliberte met up with Daniel Gautier and Gilles Ste-Croix who ran a youth hostel for performing artists called Le Balcon Vert. In 1980, as a publicity stunt Ste-Croix walked 56 miles on stilts from Bain St. Paul to Quebec to raise money for his idea. In 1980, these three were awarded a government grant and thus formed the origins of Cirque du Soleil.
The music of this James Cameron-produced film is soothing and nostalgic with a great deal of the finest Beatles' melodies. This splendid 3D example combines circus acts with the story of an innocent ingénue, Mia, walking into the big top. She sees a man and their eyes meet. He has a spectacular body and is part of the circus troupe. Their eyes lock with longing. Then someone calls him away. A poster with his photo falls on the ground and it says "Acrobat." Mia picks it up and carries it with her throughout the film which is about her journey through a dreamlike underworld to find this handsome man. No one speaks. In the opening perhaps three people exchange words.
Then Mia sets out into a fantasy world of circus performers and acts and sets and fantasy that grows and grows as she seeks to connect with the acrobat with whom she has fallen in love.
Some of the acts that Mia sees in the underworld are O (from eau French for water), Viva Elvis, Ka, Mystere, Love. O is particularly enjoyable as a woman contortionist swims in and out of a giant glass of water and does various contortions on the rim of the glass. She is beautiful and does things with her body that would make Houdini marvel.
Andrew Adamson wrote and directed this extravaganza starring Erica Linz as Mia and Igor Zaripov as the Aerialist. I was soothed and cleansed after seeing this film devoid of violence and a joy for the family this holiday season.