Thursday, May 4, 2017

By Land and Sea

Brief reviews of two recently viewed flicks in which the destination is the journey:

** **

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

I frequently walk the walk. No I’m not talking about politics with that much overused phrase. I mean actual walks. Typically not far, though. Oh, I’ve hiked a bit in a few National Parks and pounded miles of sidewalks in various cities for sightseeing purposes, but I don’t pretend to be ambitious with my footsteps on any regular basis. When I’m feeling particularly lazy, which is most days of the year, I’ll keep the “walks for walks’ sake” (rather than for the sake of business or errands) on my own property. At present I live on 5 acres. That’s a smidgeon more than 2 hectares by the reckoning of 95% of the world’s people. [Congress made the metric measurement system official in the US with the Metric Act of 1866, but after 151 years has yet to persuade a majority of Americans to use it for anything but illegal drugs.] Four of the acres are wooded, and I have a serpentine footpath that is long enough to clear the mind but short enough that my instinct for sloth doesn’t overwhelm my impulse to use it.

One walk I never seriously considered taking is the entire 2200 mile (3500 km) Appalachian Trail – a dedicated footpath from Maine to Georgia. One needs a certain freedom of money and time (including someone back home to pay bills and feed the cat) to spend 6 months hiking in the mountains. Yet, about 2700 people per year try it; most don’t finish. About 2,000,000 hike at least a portion of it each year.

The reader might notice that I have yet to say anything about the movie. That is because there is not much to say. Septuagenarians Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) and Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) walk the whole Appalachian Trail and talk like grumpy old men along the way. That’s about it. Redford and Nolte’s chemistry is OK, but their act gets repetitive. The little side plots are contrived and add nothing valuable. The scenery is nice. The non-fiction book on which the movie is based, like almost everything written by the real Bill Bryson, is clever, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable. Read the book instead.

The movie is not actually painful, but nonetheless Thumbs mildly Down.

** **

Moana (2016)

Set entirely in a Polynesian mythological universe, Disney’s tale is as surreal as an acid trip. Nonetheless it is coherent in its own terms and is friendly both to kids and adults.

The ocean delivers a stone to the child Moana, whose name means “ocean.” Years later, 16-year-old Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) learns from her grandmother that her people, currently bound to a single island, were once voyagers and explorers. She also learns that life in the world is slowly dying because the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) had stolen a pounamu stone, which was the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti and the source of the power to give life; in a battle with Te Ka, a lava monster, Maui then lost the stone in the ocean. It is, of course, the stone the ocean gave to Moana. Defying her father and her village, Moana sets out alone across the ocean to find Maui, return the stone to Te Fiti, save her people, and remind them of their heritage as voyagers. Along the way she must face the natural elements, pirates, a very egocentric Maui (who is annoyed that he gets no respect from people), and Te Ka.

It’s a rousing well-produced tale with a well-crafted heroine and signature Disney artwork and music. Thumbs Up.


  1. The woods there looks like the woods there, but I don't go walking in them too much. For one thing it's too thick in places and there are snakes and I don't like getting spider webs in the face depending on when you go. I need to get out there around the perimeter of my house and spray for poison ivy.

    I saw Moana, but didn't know what to think of it. Quite honestly I slept thru some of it too, so I need to watch it again. But it's enjoyable if not a bit formulaic somewhat or at least that's my initial reaction.

    My favorite viewing lately has been Fargo on the FX channel. This season has been pretty engrossing. There's a plot thread about an old golden age SF writer. One of his stories last night was animated into the episode. Quirky characters, unusual music at times, and mystery make it a pretty good watch.

    1. I liked the movie Fargo and I see the TV series get good reviews, but I haven't seen it. As with so much else these days, reviews of Moana tend to focus as much on politics as on cinematic merit. (There are complaints of cultural appropriation but praise for the total absence of any romantic interest for Moana, as examples.) I liked it regardless. At bottom, of course, it is still a Disney animated feature, so, yes, the story arc and ending have few real surprises.

  2. No editing, ha. The wood here look like the wood there or vice versa.

    1. Wondering what's behind the next tree is part of the fun. So far I've scared nothing bigger than a deer. If I encounter anything that scares me I'll let you know. There are a few coyotes and bears in these parts, but the only ones I've seen anywhere near the house had no interest in me.