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A Couple Of Early Reviews Of Sean Penn’s INTO THE WILD!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I had a chance to see this on Thursday night, and it’s going to be a little while before I publish my own reaction to the movie. Suffice it to say that it’s a film I think people will react strongly to, and we got these two reviews from a test screening that evidently also took place this week. This first guy gave us some quick impressions of how it worked on him:

Despite the gut wrenching reaction I get thinking about Sean Penn and his over the top, self-indulgent "IS THAT MAH DAUGHTER IN DERE???!?!?!?!" acting and patronizing political posturing - the trailer for the "Into the Wild" did honestly look intriguing. It looked like a blend of Grizzly Man with some of Malick's and Van Sant's lyricism. To be honest, I knew nothing of the book or person it's based off of but the trailer's apparent visuals, beauty, and escapist theme was enough for me to trek the ridiculous commute to Westlake Village in the middle of rush hour. After getting there 2 hours early to find 75 people already in line, we eventually got in and watched the 2.5 hour flick. While astoundingly acted, beautifully shot, and with an appropriately folky soundtrack - the movie didn't have the inherent, natural power of a Malick film which I was (totally unfairly) expecting. Despite it not reaching those God-like expectations, it did stand remarkably well on it's own. Heavily rooted in naturalist literature like James Joyce and Thoreau it approaches societal escapism from a much more wizened perspective. Although, we slowly learn philosophy is not the entire reason for the lead's departure. As the main character, Christopher tramps across the US, he has beautifully poignant and funny encounters with a wide variety of folks across the nation. They are all unique and perform at such equally high caliber that it's difficult to single out one as the most impressive. I will note it's was a rare and interesting role to see Vince Vaughn in and I totally bought his character without thinking, "God, that's Vince Vaughn" every time he was on screen. For a movie about a dude wandering around nature the whole time, it moved surprisingly fast. The pacing was spot on and I never drifted or lost interest...in fact, I even thought it would benefit with some more slower, lingering shots of nature. The ending, which I won't spoil at all was a surprise (I, again, am not familiar with the story) but it worked beautifully. I've found myself thinking about this movie all day since I saw it last night, which is rare and a hallmark of something special. There's not a lot of movies like this made...and made this well. ~Weazal

This next guy has a number of issues he articulates, but I think he’s still saying that he liked the movie a lot. I don’t know how malleable the film is at this point... it felt pretty finished to me. But this guys definitely has some things he wants to say about it...

Harry, I had the opportunity to see Sean Penn’s new film, “Into The Wild,” in Westlake Village, CA the other night. I wasn’t going to write anything about it. However, it’s been a couple of days and I noticed that no one has made any mention of the film on this site. So, I thought I’d contribute a few of my impressions, in case anyone might be interested. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, because it was a test screening, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with the filmmakers, in the event that they might be checking in, because the standard questionnaire, in my opinion, didn’t allow sufficient room to do so. This “scoop” will not be a standard review, per se. Rather, this scoop will be more or less an addendum to my questionnaire. I think I should mention that I’m a tremendous fan of Jon Krakauer’s book and, when I heard that Sean Penn was directing it, I was quite relieved. I’ve been a tremendous fan of his writing and directing for years, as both conjure up fond memories of one of my personal heroes, John Cassavetes. For those of you wondering what the story is about, watch the trailer and/or check out IMDb or Amazon. Either, I’m sure, will do it more justice than I can. Personally, although I liked the trailer, it did sound an alarm bell in the back of my mind. Why? Well, honestly, because it looked too “good.” By that, I mean it looked, for lack of a better word, “overproduced.” Still, because it was the trailer and because it’s designed to put asses in seats, I told myself that the marketing department (or whoever was in charge) probably jammed every money shot into it that they could. The film, I hoped, would be more subtle. All I can say is that I’m relieved that the film won’t open for a little while yet because it could benefit from some further judicious cutting. Hopefully, the test screening process has helped show the filmmakers which areas are working better than others and helped them develop a strategy for the next round of editing. Before I dive into my “concerns,” I’d just like to say that, thankfully, whatever problems I perceived to be in this cut are all FIXABLE via further trimming -- and, given that the current running time is well over two hours (perhaps 140 min., if IMDb can be believed), I’m sure the filmmakers are planning to do so anyway. I’d also like to say that, although this addendum to my questionnaire won’t go into all of the solid aspects of the film, there were many. In particular, Brian Dierker, Hal Holbrook, and Catherine Keener do outstanding work, in addition to a few elderly gentlemen who, I’m assuming, are non-actors. (Perhaps Dierker falls into this latter category, too.) In fact, part of me wishes every actor in the film could have been an unknown or a non-actor, but they’ve gotta sell tickets, right? Anyway, a few of my thoughts are as follows... THE BEGINNING. Overall, I felt like there were too many beginnings to the film and that the filmmakers needed to pick one in particular and go with it. I can’t remember all of the beginnings, so it’s difficult to list all of the ones I could do without. However, I do remember that the one, which featured Chris’ mother (Marcia Gay Harden) waking up in the middle of the night, stood out because it seemed the least necessary. I’m not sure if this incident occurred in real life. My guess is that some version of it probably did. However, I don’t think it should be included in the opening of the film because it felt artificial, like a hook that was inserted for the sake of having a hook. And I honestly don’t feel like you need that. The story, overall, has one hell of a hook all by itself. Trust in it. THE OPENING LETTER. Although I appreciate that this letter represents Chris’ own words and that it builds up to the main title of the film, I felt that the superimposition, combined with the big yellow letters, was very distracting from the establishing shots of Alaska, which I think work fine all by themselves. If you are dead-set on using this letter to open the film, it might be best to have Chris’ sister read it via voice-over, thereby establishing the pattern that follows throughout the rest of the film. BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL. The quick scene, during which Chris is eating an apple (and Hirsch appears to be improvising), featured a moment at the very end where Hirsch broke the “fourth wall’ and looked straight into the camera. Please, consider losing this in the next cut. It reminded me that I was watching a movie, and I did not want to be reminded. I wanted to remain immersed. THE CHAPTER HEADINGS. I can’t remember how many of these there were in the film – four or five, I think – but I think that, in the current cut, they do more harm than good. When the first one appeared, I was surprised that this was considered to be the first chapter, especially after all of those beginnings, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many chapters we had left. Three? Five? Ten? When the second chapter heading appeared, I remember being worried that I might be in the theater all night. THE FLASHBACKS. I strongly feel that the flashbacks to Chris’ childhood could be eliminated. If I’m correct, there are currently two flashback schemes at work in the film. The first flashes from Alaska back to the stops along Chris’ journey to get there, which is fine. The second flashes from the film’s “present” to Chris’ formative years, which is, in my opinion, comprised of superfluous, rather than essential, exposition. As audience members, we understand that Chris had a problematic childhood very, very quickly. Honestly, a little goes a long way in this regard. THE POINT-OF-VIEW. I didn’t mind that the film used Chris’ sister to help tell the story via voice-over narration. However, I do feel that Chris’ sister could have been better established. If I’m correct, the first time we meet Chris’ sister is when she and Chris arrive at his graduation dinner, but this was slightly confusing. For a while there, despite Chris’ father chastising her about driving the car, I still wasn’t 100% sure if this girl was Chris’ girlfriend or his sister or what. Regardless, I thought that the scenes, which showed what Chris’ family members were going through while Chris was on his adventure, were a distraction, not to mention a violation of what should have been the point-of-view of the movie (Chris’s point-of-view!). I didn’t need them. Chris’ sister’s voice-over was plenty. Anyway, these are just a few of my impressions. I have more, but who the fuck am I? Perhaps the few I’ve mentioned can be of good use to someone. -Anonymous
Readers Talkback
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  • July 21, 2007, 7:27 a.m. CST

    First

    by Athanatos

    first

  • July 21, 2007, 8:34 a.m. CST

    This is an AWESOME BOOK!

    by theBigE

    Seriously, if you haven't read it yet, go do so! I picked it up last month and read it in a couple days, despite a busy work schedule. I know high school kids have had this for required reading. <p> Spoiler alert - the end of the story is on the front cover of the paperback! They spell out exactly what will happen. And yeah, I can see how point of view could be difficult, because Jon Krakuer (sp?) writes this book from his own narrative, injects himself into it, skips all over the place, fills it with flashbacks, side stories, etc. <p> I really want to see this film. When I first heard of the book I thought that Chris (Alex) sounded like a real piece of work, but man this story just pulls you right in. Can't wait.

  • July 21, 2007, 9:34 a.m. CST

    amazing book, read it!!!! -

    by gringostar

    I was worried when I heard this was going to be turned into a movie... hopefully it will deliver. By the lack of mention in the reviews, it sounds as though Jon Krakauer's part in the book has been eliminated which, I am not certain was a good move. How the story of Chris McCandless unfolds is gut wrenching, but the way the narrative is handled by Krakauer, drawing from his journey following Chris's trail that leads to Alaska and combining that with his own life experience is what really anchored the story for me... I guess we'll see.

  • July 21, 2007, 9:53 a.m. CST

    Jon Krakauer...

    by Avenger534

    ...is a great author. I was a very big fan of "Into the Wild" and "Into Thin Air". If the film of the former works out, does anybody think we'll see a film version of the latter? It could suck... or it could be shockingly amazing.

  • July 21, 2007, 10:25 a.m. CST

    Under the Banner of Heaven also a GREAT read

    by CarmillaVonDoom

    Let's see them make a movie of THAT lol.

  • July 21, 2007, 12:03 p.m. CST

    Wow I didn't even know this was being made

    by jimmy_009

    Too bad they couldn't give Into Thin Air the film treatment it deserved. Hopefully they don't include Krakauer's self indulgent personal stories in this one.

  • July 21, 2007, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Penn goes into the wild to kill dead animals

    by CuervoJones

    Don´t ask

  • July 21, 2007, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Why couldn't Sean Penn stay in Iraq?

    by TheBloop

    I loved when he came back and was made Saddam used video of his "fact fiding mission" as propaganda. What the fuck did he think Saddam was going to do with the footage? Tool,,

  • July 21, 2007, 1:20 p.m. CST

    God I hope its not like a Malick film

    by Lovecraftfan

    But apparently it isn't cause I certianly wouldn't want to see it then.

  • July 21, 2007, 1:57 p.m. CST

    I am looking forward to this film

    by Miami Mofo

    I read 'Into the Wild' last year and have been looking forward to the movie ever since. I'm quite interested to see how Sean Penn adapts Jon Krakauer's book. Sure hope you don't take too long posting your review, Moriarty as I often enjoy your reviews even more that the films that you're writing about. ***Regarding "Penn goes into the wild to kill dead animals" sorry CuervoJones but I have to ask, how can someone kill a dead animal? Isn't it already dead?

  • July 21, 2007, 3:03 p.m. CST

    James Joyce? Naturalist?

    by eastertheatre

    Bollocks! Try modernist, mate.

  • July 21, 2007, 3:32 p.m. CST

    Lovecraftfan

    by BadMrWonka

    Way to prove, once again, that people that hate Terrence Malick films, are usually the same people that can barely write a coherent sentence.

  • July 21, 2007, 3:37 p.m. CST

    Sean pain in the ass

    by emeraldboy

    did not deserve his oscar for that film. I hated Mystic River(clints worst) and in no way does Saying that Is that my daughter in there line over and over again constitute acting. I think however his performance in the assisination of richard Nixon did however. I am not a huge fan of penns. I cant stand him really. I wish he just would go to some remote island and scream his lungs and come back when he is done and then go away.

  • July 21, 2007, 4:52 p.m. CST

    BadMrWonka

    by jimmy_009

    You have an unnecessary comma between films and are.

  • July 21, 2007, 5:43 p.m. CST

    It would be a great film.

    by lost.rules

    Under the Banner of Heaven that is. This one...eh. Pretty good.

  • July 21, 2007, 6:59 p.m. CST

    jimmy_009

    by BadMrWonka

    I also don't capitalize letters at the beginning of sentences...coherency isn't a synonym for perfect grammar and punctuation. I just like people to TRY to communicate clearly. make some effort.<p>kids today right like this and you just have to decifer what they mean u no and its hard because they dont even think about what they right and its hard to follow or get what they mean and everything looks like a text msg from a retarded monkey u no?

  • July 21, 2007, 9:03 p.m. CST

    rg10 you should be skull fucked

    by TheBloop

    Then shipped off to the remote island with Sean "I run my mouth to hear myself talk" Penn and his rag-shoot wife.

  • July 21, 2007, 10:38 p.m. CST

    I reed yue Wonka

    by jimmy_009

    No argyoumants heer.

  • July 21, 2007, 11 p.m. CST

    Who is Terrence Malick?

    by J-Dizzle

    Have I seen any of his films?

  • July 22, 2007, 12:19 a.m. CST

    extra in the film

    by kooky little elephant on beer

    i worked on this film as an extra. im so happy its rated R. pg-13 is a lame ass rating. Sean Penn was a cool person to meet. He was nice to everyone on the set. i just hope i made the cut in the graduation dinner scene.

  • July 22, 2007, 12:32 a.m. CST

    If Sean Penn made it, I'm watching it

    by BringingSexyBack

    Big Penn fan. I'm going to support him no matter what, but the trailer looked real good anyway.

  • July 22, 2007, 12:34 a.m. CST

    I guess TheBloop doesn't like articulate actors

    by BringingSexyBack

    Dipshit mouth-breather. Anyone who mentions skull-fucking ought to be skull-fucked.

  • July 22, 2007, 2:31 a.m. CST

    Not sure if I would consider Sean Penn articulate

    by jimmy_009

    He's a mumbler. I wouldn't not see a movie he was in just because of his politics (I hate it when people do that). Still, I do think he's a bit overrated. My favorite Sean Penn movie is Bad Boys.

  • July 22, 2007, 8:18 a.m. CST

    and for the above insult

    by emeraldboy

    about my gender, which I am happy to say is straight. This site has just lost a customer and as of now, I am going to do womething which I should have done along, terminate my aicn account. Screw this censorious cine-dictatorship.

  • July 22, 2007, 9:31 a.m. CST

    'Straight' isn't a gender

    by jimmy_009

    It's an orientation. Jesus H.

  • July 22, 2007, 12:41 p.m. CST

    WTF?

    by BigDude

    The title sounds like a Christopher Guest movie. I can already see Harry Shearer hitchhiking, being picked up by Michael McKean. Sean Penn used to be cool, not he's just an annoying know-it-all. Nobody likes a know it all. NOBODY!!

  • July 22, 2007, 1:24 p.m. CST

    I'm with those people

    by tk 421

    Who really enjoyed the book. I found it very disturbing, in a good way if that's possible. Krakauer does an excellent job in framing how small humans are in relation to the forces of nature. I hope this movie comes close to the book.

  • July 22, 2007, 3:34 p.m. CST

    this is what i like to call a

    by The Real MiraJeff

    must-see. That trailer was pretty impressive. Emile Hirsch doesn't get nearly enough credit as an actor. This could be a real wake-up call for a lot of people. Best case scenario it's his Half Nelson. And Sean Penn in the director's chair is always intriguing. I can't wait to see it and perhaps more importantly, I can't wait to read Mori's review. I'd be jealous but if there was ever a week to say, 'don't have a cow, man' I think it's this one.

  • July 22, 2007, 4:48 p.m. CST

    articulate actors?

    by TheBloop

    You mean actors who are so delusional they think the can show up in a country ruled by sadistic thug who filled mass graves and put people in to wood chippers if he though the disagreed with him, and think their "fact finding mission" will lead to discovers that the U.N. some how missed, because you know, he is an actor? Right, I am sure Saddam's goons were so impressed that the guy from "Fast Times at Ridgemont Times" was in their country, they left him have access to everything. Sure there buddy, he is really articulate. I heard he stopping by Cancer Research Center to see if the scientist have overlooked something, because you know, he is an actor.....

  • July 22, 2007, 10:33 p.m. CST

    am I the only one that thinks Penn is a bad actor?

    by Cotton McKnight

    Let me get something out of the way right off the bat- no, I don't like his politics, or his personality, for that matter. I think he is an egomaniac that has average intelligence at best- certainly not anyone who is in any position to lecture anyone else about anything. But you know what? I think that way about a LOT of actors, and yet I am able to watch their movies because I enjoy their work. Sean Penn on the other hand.. no. His acting is passable at best and absolutely absurd at worst (I am Sam, All the King's Men). He isn't an engaging peformer at all and I am stupefied as to how and why he continues to be a sought after actor in Hollywood. I think he has a BIT more range than Keanu Reeves but that's about as far as I will go.

  • July 23, 2007, 12:20 a.m. CST

    Oh, give it up Bloop...

    by BurnHollywood

    Supporting Bush and his jerk-ass war at this point is about as astute as admitting that you still listen to Creed or Limp Bizkit...get wit' the fuckin' times already.

  • July 23, 2007, 3:42 a.m. CST

    Oh come on Mirajeff

    by IndustryKiller!

    Emile Hirsch's Half Nelson? Thats insane. Now to be fair the jury is still out on Hirsch's talent, but I think it's safe to assume he's no Ryan Gosling, who already has proved that he is the best actor of his generation. Hirsch hasn't done anything to convince me he's above and beyond hte call of duty and in fact has some painful films (Alpha Dog anyone?) and some lame performances (Lords of Dogtown) under his belt. For Gosling level talent in other young actors you would be much better served looking for it in Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, or Heath Ledger.

  • July 23, 2007, 3:50 a.m. CST

    And about Sean Penn

    by IndustryKiller!

    Saying Sean Penn has a bit more Range than Keanu Reeves is...I can't even think of an analogy ridiculous enough to accurately show how asinine a statement that is. Clearly you are letting your feelings for him personally get in the way of your judgement, despite your disclaimer. Ill give you ALl the Kings Men but he was great in I Am Sam. Not to mention Dead man Walking, Carlitos Way, The Assasination of Richard Nixon (for which he should have won another Oscar), Casualties of War, 21 Grams, Sweet and Lowdown, State of Grace, U-Turn, HrulyBurly, just to name a few inarguably excellent performances. The guy has the utmost respect from just about every actor alive today and on a list of best actors of that generation he is never left off the top of the list. So say what you will about the guy, but saying he's a bad actor, even if you don't particularly enjoy him, is just plain inaccurate if you know the first thing about acting. And if you have ever seen The Indian Runner or the Pledge you'll know his movies, while really hard to stomach, are also impossible to shake.

  • July 23, 2007, 3:54 a.m. CST

    And as far as actors being political idiots

    by IndustryKiller!

    Look how well the cadre of never-worked-a-day-in-their-life rich kids, lawyers, and ex-coprorate big wigs the current political landscape is littered with has worked out. it doesn't matter what the fuck your profession is when it comes to being a good or bad politician, it has everything to do with your character. If you dont like Sean Penns politics its more than fair but it has nothing to do with what he does for a living.

  • July 23, 2007, 5:59 a.m. CST

    TWO GUNS

    by Mace Tofu

    That should be Sean Penn's next movie. Two handguns were stolen from Sean Penn's car while he was out in Berkley, California. Did the police ever find the guns? Has anyone been robbed or killed by them. Did Sean buy two more to replace them. Is he now packing on his person? Now that would be a movie I'd like to see.

  • July 23, 2007, 10:29 a.m. CST

    please in the name of God

    by canucklehead

    the trailer makes this guy look like some insightful visionary who finds the answers to life out there, not the bonehead who wandered in uneducated, got stuck and broke the hearts of all those close to him!