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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

After Earth; Before Midnight; Midnight’s Children; Mozart’s Sister; Much Ado About Nothing; Pain and Gain; and The Princess of Montpensier

After Earth   2013   100 minutes   Will and Jaden Smith play  General Cypher Raige and his son Kitai.  They live on a planet far from earth 1000 years from now.  Earth has been declared uninhabitable and off-limits, the atmosphere here has deteriorated to such extent that breathing assistance is required, and all forms of wild life have evolved to be dangerous to humans.  Kitai, a cadet, accompanies his father on a training mission.  They are carrying an ursa, a fearsome creature that can only detect humans by smelling the pheromones we produce when we are afraid.  The only way to defeat an ursa is to eliminate one’s  own fears.  Naturally their ship is caught in an asteroid storm and crashes on earth.  Only Cypher and Kitai and the ursa survive, and both Cypher’s legs are broken.  The beacon that could summon rescuers is in the tail section which broke off and landed about a three days walk away.  Kitai has to retrieve it.  All he has to do is walk three days through a thick forest, climb a few cliffs and ford a few rivers, survive attacks by the animals, avoid a giant eagle when he is sort of hang gliding, kill the ursa,  find the tail section and turn on the beacon.
Before Midnight   2013  108 minutes   This is the third film in the series that started with “Before Sunrise.”  The dialog continues between Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  This time they are vacationing with friends in Greece.  They aren’t married, but they have been a couple for nine years and have twin daughters age 6.  The dialog is about parenthood, middle age and faded romance.  It’s brilliant.  I didn’t remember from the earlier films that they were so horny.
Midnight’s Children   2012   148 minutes   The film is as complicated as Salman Rushdie’s novel.   Saleem Sinai, bastard child of a beggar woman and a street musician, was born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, in the first moments of India’s independence.  In the Mumbai hospital he is switched by a nurse with Shiva, the child of a wealthy couple.  Saleem grows up a child of privilege and Shiva becomes a street urchin.  All of the 1001 children born in that first hour of independence have special powers and are able to communicate and even gather together telepathically.  Saleem, having been born closest to midnight, becomes their leader.  Shiva is present at their gatherings but is aggressive and uncooperative.  The film follows Saleem through India’s struggle to become a modern democratic state, the turmoil that accompanied the partition that created Pakistan and then the three way struggle when Pakistan was partitioned into two states, East and West.  It’s an amazing film which leaves one wanting to read the even more amazing 800 page novel.
Mozart’s Sister  (Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart)   2011  120 minutes   Mozart’s older sister Maria Anna also called “Nannerl” was a talented musician who was known for her skills on the harpsichord and fortepiano and may have composed some music.  She has been the subject of several novels.  This film is a fictionalized account of her teen years.  In the film she wanted to play the violin and compose, but her father discouraged her, refused to let her perform except as Wolfgang’s accompanist, and refused to allow her to sit in on the composition lessons he gave his son.  On her own she attracted the attention of Louis, Dauphin of France, who encouraged her, persuaded her to compose a piece which he had performed by court musicians, and then he dumped her.   It’s a fantasy and beautifully produced.  Worth a look.

Much Ado About Nothing   2012   109 minutes   Director Joss Whedon shot this black and white film in his own house and garden in 12 days.  This is Shakespeare in modern dress, but there are no modifications to the original script.  I was amazed that none of the dialog seemed archaic or difficult.  The credit goes to the author, of course, but also to an incredible cast, some of whose members had been meeting weekly for a year at Whedon’s house for readings.  Amy Acker’s Beatrice is at least the equal of Emma Thompson’s and maybe better.  Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry is a work of genius. 

Pain and Gain   2013   129 minutes   Watching this film won’t make you a better person and you won’t learn anything useful, but you will have a good time discovering that stupidity and murder can be funny.  The plot is so bizarre and the criminals, Danny Lugo and Adrian Doorbal, are so inept that it’s hard to believe that the film is based on real events.  As the idiots try to torture Tony Shalhoub and then try several times to kill him, one can only wonder how Monk would have handled this.  Mark Wahlberg (Lugo) is certainly ripped, but he seems to be putting on a little weight.
The Princess of Montpensier  (La Princesse de Montpensier)  2010  139 minutes   A princess is forced to marry a guy she doesn’t love instead of the other one.  The only thing interesting about this film is the little bit one can learn about religious conflicts in 16th C France.  The horses are nice.

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