Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hollywood Bites Reviews: "127 Hours"

"127 Hours" starts like a freight train, a really fun, brakeless freight train, rolling downhill at top speed. Kinetic and pulsating, in typical Danny Boyle fashion it careens around corners, playing snap-the-whip with the audience as you race to keep up with the frenetic pace the Oscar-winning director of "Slumdog Millionaire" sets from the onslaught.

James Franco, tan, handsome, a vibrant livewire, charges off into the wilderness, his internal soundtrack vibrating the walls of the theater. The music, just a touch too loud, plays as if you stole someone's iPod and are running away from the scene of the crime, the last song they were listening to still blasting. In front of you, the Utah landscape, all red rocks and blue sky, stretches as far as the eye can see as Franco romps over and through canyons, in a rugged Cirque du Soleil performance.

Then, suddenly, he's scrambling, falling and—boom—trapped, a boulder pinning his arm to the side of the canyon. The music stops, replaced by silence and labored breathing, and the title card appears: "127 Hours."

In that moment, panic sets in, both for the viewer and the character Franco is embodying, as you realize you're trapped here, in the story, in this canyon. And that, my friends, is damn fine filmmaking!

Walking into "127 Hours," there are certain things most audiences already know. The film tells the story of Aron Ralston, a mountaineer who became famous in 2003 when he amputated his own right forearm after it got trapped by boulder during a climb in Utah, an ordeal he chronicled in his riveting 2004 memoir, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."

With the ending a foregone conclusion, a narrative that amounts to a one-man show and your lead immobilized for ninety percent of the movie, how do you create a compelling piece of cinema?

Welcome to the genius of Danny Boyle.

Every frame of "127 Hours" is riveting thanks to Boyle's unparalleled storytelling abilities and Franco's Oscar worthy master class of a performance that ricochets from emotional peak to valley in a hairbreadth.

Equal measures heartbreaking and exhilarating, we can't think of another film we've seen that elicited such an auditory response from an audience outside of the occasional cheap thrills of a horror flick meant to make you jump. The simplest moments, like a sliver or sunshine or a dropped object, earn gasps and whimpers from viewers, while the film's climatic scene, one meant with cries and shouts, is viscerally tangible.

When the movie was announced back in January, we wrote, "If anyone can make a solitary man trapped in a canyon compelling, it's Danny Boyle." Boyle calls the film, "an action movie with a guy who can't move." We call it a serious Oscar contender.

written for NBC's Popcorn Biz

Stuck with some time to kill? Try these amazing slow roasted tomatoes. The flavor of the tomato, especially in summer, becomes hyper-intensified but also surprisingly sweet. Try them over crusty bread with a little butter or soft cheese, or pureed into an incredible rainy day soup

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
12-15 ripe tomatoes, halved (a mix of in-season heirloom tomatoes is best in summer, in winter, try to find Odorikos)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, smashed

Preheat oven to 200F.

Lightly oil a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

In a bowl, toss tomato halves with second tablespoon of oil, Herbes, salt, pepper and garlic.

Place halves, cut-side down, in a single layer on baking sheet. Tuck garlic in between tomatoes.

Season again with salt.

Slow roast 10 - 12 hours, checking every few hours to make sure they aren’t charring.

Tomatoes will keep refrigerated for up to one week.

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