Friday, October 15, 2021

Special docs go way underground for amazing 'Rescue' and 'Velvet' times

If you have just one movie to see on this crowded, third weekend of October, then make it "The Rescue," a fabulously real documentation of how the world collectively helped save a baker's dozen young lives during one especially wet summer in Thailand.

Twelve boys and their coach -- all soccer players and rural kids who used neighboring caves as their "playground" -- were celebrating birthdays on a memorable June day in 2018 when extraordinary and sudden Monsoon rains engulfed the area, and then some.

Bicycles left at an entrance to a huge and treacherous cave became visual alarms, and within hours -- while limestone walls were acting like sieves taking in tons of water -- worldwide news cycles were catching up on the drama, with help already on the way from the U.S., Australia and China.

Thai Navy SEALs did their utmost to pitch in, but specal spelunking expertise had to come from a British expat, who remarkably suggested getting in touch with a handful of cave-diving hobbyists from his country. Their arrival sparked hope, a bit of humor, and the remaining 90 movie minutes filled with some of the most tense and emotion-generating drama you might see on screen this year.

Last month, "The Rescue" won the People's Choice Award (for docs) at the 46th annual Toronto Internatioal Film Festival. The honor was the second there for co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who took home the identical prize in 2018 for "Free Solo," which then went on to win the Best Documentary (Feature) Oscar. Don't be surprised if and when their thrilling latest turns the same neat trick during the Academy Awards telecast next March.

("The Rescue" opens today in numerous theaters, including six in northeast Ohio.)

Rated "PG" by MPAA: thematic material involving some peril and language; 1:47; $ $ $ $ $ out of $5

The thrills come visually and musically in "The Velvet Underground," a typically compelling film from director Todd Haynes ("Far fom Heaven," "I'm Not There," "Carol") whose features are fearless and generally rock.

His innovative documentary skills, though, show up early here with large moving headshots of the musicians/principals involved in the titular '60s band, blinking and staring out through an assortment of avant-garde images and experimental storytelling.

Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Lou Reed, likely both the most famous and infamous of the featured players, mostly stars, but anyone remotely contributing to their unqualified, if short-lived success earns mention from a knowing few insider talking heads or by way of sparkling archival leftovers. The result means that all, including pop superstar Andy Warhol, who was the group's producer and art director, and quiz-show host Garry Moore and his regular, irregular panelists on "I've Got a Secret," offer something weird, amusing or eminently watchable.

("The Velvet Underground" is playing exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights and streaming on Apple TV+.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: language, sexual content, nudity and some drug material; 2:03; $ $ $ $ out of $5

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