By Robin E. Simmons

Walk WoodsThe Appalachian Trail is 2,100 miles long. You’d think that was long enough to extract some great gags as two older but still charismatic stars trek (star trek?), bond and grumble.

The cinematic sub-genre of “mature” movie stars on a road trip or dubious quest is fully embraced here with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte hiking from Georgia to Main.

Strangely, opportunities for rich cinematography are not seized – in fact, they are seemingly avoided in this spectacularly rugged region of great unspoiled natural beauty. However, Redford and Nolte do work their intermittent charm in this mostly predictable comic adventure as two unlikely guys, travel writer Bill Bryson (Redford) and his irascible, philandering former friend Katz (Nolte) — who have very different motives for making the trek — discover unwelcome adventure and unexpected insights when things get difficult.

Walk Woods Nolte-RedfordEmma Thompson plays Bryson’s loving stay-at-home wife.  (They should’ve taken her along.) Ken Kwapis directs Bill Holderman’s screenplay based on Bryson’s bestseller.  When it was over, I felt I had seen it all before but with different actors in a different setting. Now playing.


Steve MITMJobs


Documentarian Alex Gibney has a knack for exploring our fascination with cultic-like institutions and the products, the devotion and personalities associated with them. I first discovered filmmaker Gibney through ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM and the equally chilling 2007 Academy Award© winner TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (about the killing of an innocent Afghani taxi driver).

On display in his latest film are the jarring contradictions that made up Steve Jobs. This often-damning documentary reveals a complex individual — a manipulating genius and controlling artist with more than a technical flair for profound, culture changing innovations.

The definitive array of vintage but riveting interviews flesh out a picture of the Apple co-founder that in the end may not be familiar to most of us – even after reading Walter Isaacson’s revealing biography.

Like Gibney’s terrific Scientology deconstruction GOING CLEAR, this examination of Jobs and the Apple cult raise disturbing questions about our reliance on addictive information systems, in this case wondrous hand-held gadgets that can not only access most of our collective human knowledge, but also connect us in real time.

This CNN produced film, by turns scathing and searching, also takes an unsettling look at the outpouring of grief that swelled up when Job’s died.  (His last words were, “Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!”) Gibney considers our strange, deeply personal connection to technology and how Jobs was able to tap into that notion and emotion. I loved the generous use of archival audio and video images that let us a look at the 1971 beginnings of  Jobs and his school chum Steve Wozniak’s partnering and inventive entrepreneurship. The editing by Michael Palmer is masterful and keeps the story flowing. The ups and downs of Jobs and his astonishing career are even more gripping when viewed through his dark, character flaws.  Now playing.



“Madame Bovery,” Flaubert’s literary classic gets a naughty reboot in this delightful film that plays with the notion that life imitates art in the most unexpected ways when delicious, unsophisticated British beauty Gemma Bovary (Gemma Arterton) and her furniture-maker husband move to the village where Flaubert wrote his celebrated novel a hundred years ago. Gemma Arterton’s endearing performance in the title role is reason enough to see this sweetly alluring film.

A big, sold out hit at our last Palm Springs International Film Festival, here’s a chance to see for the first time — or again — this visually lush and beguiling film. The amiably rambling story becomes more focused when Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), a local baker and Flaubert fan, is smitten by the lovely Gemma and decides to be her mentor. Soon, Martin wheedles himself into Gemma’s life and begins imagining parallels between the purely fictional creature and the flesh and blood woman. But — no spoiler here — Gemma soon finds herself in a looming crisis when Joubert insists she is reliving the fate of Flaubert’s literary heroine. Circumstances soon demand that Gemma make an uncomfortable decision.

Director Anne Fontaine has crafted an adroit adaptation of the eponymous graphic novel that is as much a sexy romance as it is a fête of French country life.  Interesting extras on the disc include: “In The Footsteps of Emma – The making of Emma Bovary,” Master Class with Director Anne Fontaine,” “From Page to Screen” and a Graphic Novel Gallery.  Music Box Films.  Blu-ray.