Friday, June 1, 2018

Saddling up with 'The Rider' might be a better choice than staying 'Adrift'

While Hollywood still tries to bask in the glow of overstuffed summer blockbusters such as 'Solo' and 'Deadpool 2,' a pair of more modest films arrive today in local theaters. Ironically, both are true stories featuring fascinatingly dissimilar riding vessels: horses in one and a sailboat in the other.

Brady Jandreau is the man with the horse in "The Rider."
"The Rider," which picked up five Independent Spirit Award nominations last year well before its 2018 release, tells the tale of young Brady Jandreau, the legitimate South Dakota rodeo standout, playing himself (albeit with a character surname of Blackburn) and painfully recovering from serious injuries that likely took his career, almost his life, but certainly not his soul.

The unexpected result of this often majestic film, as keenly written/directed by Chloe Zhao (which earned her the ISA Bonnie Award), is the likelihood of Jandreau actually becoming a movie star. I mean, he's certainly the magnetic center in a cast of non-actors (including his dad Tim and sister Lily), not to mention a performance that might remind some of Robert Redford in "The Horse Whisperer" and definitely offers the quiet grit of the late James Dean in just about anything.

It's also an extremely good-looking effort, with cinematographer Joshua James Edwards returning to the same soaring visual realities of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation landscapes shown off in Zhao's debut feature, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me."

Rated "R": language and drug use; 1:45; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Meanwhile, the lesser "Adrift," based on a real adventure of  survival on the high seas, probably should have been more harrowing than it is in the hands of  Baltasar Kormakur, an Icelandic director of some note after helming "The Deep," a similarly themed thriller; "2 Guns," and "Everest."

Woodley and Claflin find themselves "Adrift."
Alas, we get more lovey-dovey romance -- in too many silly flashbacks -- than thrills in this fact-based story of a couple that quickly falls in love before earning big money to man the aforementioned sailboat from Tahiti to San Diego. Obviously, nothing funny happens on their way to what was supposed to be a 4,000-mile picnic, either, just too many huge closeups of Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, as the happy twosome (at least for a while).

I'm tempted to call the whole ill-fated affair drippy, but you'd swear I was trying to make a fun pun about what allegedly actually occurred.

Rated "PG-13": injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements; 1:33; $ $ out of $5

Also opening is a sci-fi, blood-fueled fest called "Upgrade," one of 10 buzz worthy films we listed as ones to seek out in our summer movie preview back in April. Regardless, BH Tilt distributors did not see fit to extend us an invitation to a Cleveland screening, so we'll never know if the hype is or was legit.

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