Who Do You Trust?

Who do you trust?

It’s a rainy Saturday night and you’re in the mood to go to a movie. If you live in a major city, you have many choices of where to see a film and what to see. Do you rely on word of mouth? Is there a newspaper with a reviewer you trust? Or, like many Americans, do you simply pull up Rotten Tomatoes? If that’s the case–you’d likely miss out on this fine film, The Aftermath.

Keira Knightley has made a career of emotionally-riveting performances in period pieces. How you feel about this film will depend on your affinity for her, for foreign films set during war time, and complicated storylines featuring fraught romances. Will you trust me that this trio of well-regarded actors create nuanced characters, that the screenplay based on the book by Rhidian Brook presents a side of World War II that’s a different perspective than Americans are used to, and that the costumes and production design are phenomenal? Or will you believe the reviews on Rotten Tomato?

Director James Kent introduces this story of a British Colonel and his distraught wife with falling bombs. After an awkward train station greeting that reveals their discomfort, we see the devastation of Hamberg as they travel to their new home. The contrast between the visiting British military–the Victors, and the citizens–the war victims, still digging thru the rubble in the streets is starkly drawn. The couple, played by Keira Knightly and Jason Clarke spy a mother combing her daughter’s hair thru a bombed out apartment wall. Cut to the view of a beautiful mansion in the snow. The door opens to their new home–the luxurious manor home of a German architect (Alexander Skarsgård) filled with art and modern furniture.

Instead of the typical American film where the backstory is feed to us upfront, in The Aftermath, we discover each person’s tragedy as the story unfolds. The movie trailer reveals the steamy romance at the center of the story but it’s the Hitler youth and the tragedy of the young men lost on both sides of the war that is the central narrative. The daughter of the architect, Freda, played by a remarkable Flora Thiemann suffers the lose of her mother, then must see her home stolen from her family as she’s forced to live in the attic. How can she trust that her father will take of her?

The film wants us to think about how the British Military was sent to start Reconstruction when the city was full of starving, grieving displaced families that didn’t want them there and viewed them as the enemy. Would you trust the people who bombed your city to help you? How does a family grieve? How does a city grieve?

Alexander Skarsgård is the handsome star that will draw an audience. It’s Jason Clarke, who’s performance as the Colonel who’s had to bury his humanity to survive the evils of war, that deserves the attention. I left this film feeling like I’d had a history lesson but also experienced how war and tragedy changes us all. Trust me, it’s worth a watch.

Drinks with Films Review: 4 glasses of purloined German wine (out of 5)

Cinema celebrates Science! Three films fit for geeks, nerds and sci-fi fans but made for everyone!

Fellow geeks and nerds, rejoice!  Science is in the news and on the big screen and for once–it’s all good news!

First we have the incredible news about the European Space Agency landing a spacecraft on a the comet. “We’re there, and Philae is talking to us,” says Stephan Ulamec, the manager of the lander, “We are on the comet.”  This is big news.  We even had a special Google doodle with Philae on it.

Interstellar

In theaters now and coming soon, are three films that celebrate science!  Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bender, with a variety of screening options (3-D, IMAX) and it’s an amazing immersive experience any way you choose to see it.  It’s science fiction but with a strong science background. A producer credit is given to Kip Thorne, an American theoretical physicist, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics.

The setting of Instellar may be the future, but the film is firmly grounded in the personal. The narrative is driven by the emotional pull Matthew McConaughey‘s character feels to return across space and time to be reunited with his family.  The performances in the film are outstanding.  From the beginning, the film embeds you in the lives of one family. Using the isolation of a small farm with the emotional connection audience’s feel for well-known actors (McConaughey and John Lithgow), strong family bonds are quickly established. The focus is on the daughter who yearns to follow in her father’s footsteps.  Mackenzie Foy is remarkable as the 10-year who will grow up to be the scientist, Jessica Chastain. They are the heart beat to the science that fills the screen with action.

The scenes in space are thrilling and tense but without the central theme of family ties and the father-daughter bond, the audience might get lost in the technical jargon and be set adrift as an observer in the alien worlds.  Instead, despite some clunky dialogue, you care about scientist Anne Hathaway and her love for both her father and a fellow astronaut trapped on a far away star and the fate of this crew.  Will they save the Earth or be forced to start a new colony while all they know and love is left behind to perish?  You will be left thinking about the science but it’s the emotional drama that will stay with you.

Today comes the announcement that the Turing Award has been tripled.  What is that you say?  It’s an award named after Alan Turing, an English mathematician, wartime code-breaker and pioneer of computer science. Raising the endowment to a cool million puts this award in the Nobel Prize territory.  It also brings an unexpected boost to a film opening this week in Britain and screening this Sat, Nov 15 at the Starz Denver Film Festival.  The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch, in an Oscar-caliber performance as the code-breaker who along with a stellar British cast (Keira KnightleyMatthew GoodeMark Strong) tells the stirring story of trying to end World War II.  Brilliantly bringing this mathematician, with all his flaws, to life, Cumberbatch embodies the ego and lack of interpersonal skills that almost lose him access to the project he loves.  If you’ve never heard of Alan Turing or know nothing of his work, this thrilling film will be an education. Turing was an incredible man and this film is a tribute to his brain-power but also his bravery.  He triumphed over incredible odds and was subject to punishing discrimination.

And finally, in another fabulous turn (I couldn’t help it) of events, The Theory of Everything  is coming to a theater near you.  This is the story of the young Stephen Hawkings and his incredible wife.  Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones give extraordinary performances in this intimate story of Hawking’s struggle to live a full life and continue his ground-breaking work about Time.  Redmayne gets the physicality of the role but also manages to portray the essence of Hawking’s drive and humanity and Jones does a lot of the heavy lifting–both literally and metaphorically–to bring this story to life.

There’s a great piece on Buzzfeed about Eddy’s work to transform his body.

A film about Space, one about the origins of Computers and one featuring the study of Time; Cinema celebrates Science and we are all the better for it!

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2768744217/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

Ratings: 1-5

Interstellar: 4 beers chugged on the porch with Matthew.  Bechdel rating: You go (to the stars) girl!  Yes, it passes with flying colors.

The Imitation Game: awkward conversation ensues as 5 British beers are swilled in a pub.  Bechdel rating: passes: thanks to Keira Knightley’s portrayal of a women who defies convention to join the code-breaking inner circle.  Her role is crucial in the film.

The Theory of Everything: 5 champagne glasses–the fancy kind you serve at a wedding for a couple overcoming all odds.  Bechdel rating: passes: Jane Hawking’s inspiring story is the basis of this film and without her determination, Stephen’s story may not have had a happy ending.

 

 

 

 

“Laggies”– a reverse Apatow

Okay, not really a REVERSE Judd Apatow movie but Laggies is similar to an Apatow film; only the Seth Rogen role is played in this film by Keira Knightly.

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How much you enjoy the film will depend on whether you like Keira Knightly in her twinkly, cutesy roles.  If you are like me and prefer to limit your Knightly exposure to her British films, skip this one.

It’s an interesting exploration of one woman’s journey back to adolescence but rather than indulging in jokes about bodily functions and bad behavior, director Lynn Shelton explores how not wanting to make the wrong choices in life can sometimes lead to interesting situations.  In this case, living in a teen’s bedroom.

Laggies poster

With a dumb poster and truly awful tagline (A Comedy About Acting Your Age And Other Adult Decisions), I fear this sweet film will not find it’s audience.  It’s not as insightful as  Your Sister’s Sister, nor as awkward as Humpday, but Sam Rockwell is wonderful in the film.  And Chloë Grace Moretz gives her usual wise teen performance a nice warmth here.  Kaitlyn Dever plays the best friend with a nice sarcasm.  She was so good in Short Term 12 and also did a great job in Men Women & Children.  These teen actors are amazing.

Now if only someone had stopped Keira Knightley from wearing that ugly white dress!

Rating: 3 shots of tequila while wearing really ugly clothes

Bechdel rating: passes.  Some good talk about bad parenting.