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Sunday, August 21, 2011


We all have our likes and dislikes.  I saw the following four films this weekend, and list them from best (for me) to worst (the numbers in the parentheses are audience reactions from Rotten Tomatoes).  Actually, all of them had redeeming virtues and were enjoyable. 

#1  Sarah's Key (83%), Tokyo Film Festival winner, was the surprise, as I really had not heard much about this film.  The editing was flawless, weaving between World War II in France during the Nazi occupation and the present.  Very little has been reported on French Jews being sent to death camps.  Ten year old Sarah and her family are arrested, but she is able to hide her little brother in a room, promising to come back for him and locks the door with a key.  Eventually she is able to escape the camp, but returns to Paris only to view her brother's decomposed body.  The details are uncovered by Kristen Scott Thomas as a journalist, whose  husband's family coincidentally owns this apartment and to which they were scheduled to move into.  Meanwhile, back in time, Sarah finds her way to the U.S. at the age of 18, gets married, has a son, and commits suicide, not being able forget her guilt.  Aidan Quinn plays the son, now matured and unaware of his mother's history, or that she was even Jewish.  The journalist, who already has a daughter and a workaholic husband, becomes pregnant, but he is against having another child.  The final scene is of this journalist, who has had to divorce her husband and had moved back to New York City, with her then young daughter, meeting with Sarah's son, and too much has been left out to appreciate the impact, but he learns that the journalists daughter is named Sarah...  Maybe the best movie I have seen this year.  Trailer.

#2  Another Earth (72%) has won awards at the Sundance and Maui Film Festivals, and while it has huge scientific flaws, as I once worked on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence looking for extrasolar planets, found the premise of an Earth 2 suddenly appearing about as far away as our present Moon from Earth 1, interesting and creative.  Nothing is explained as to why--although this could have something to do with parallel universes colliding--but the heroine, who was soon to enter MIT to major in astrophysics, while driving back home from a party, and obviously inebriated, is transfixed on the new planet and runs into the car of a Yale professor and composer, played by William Mapother (who is a character in the Lost TV series and has had small parts in five Tom Cruise films...they are cousins...Cruise's real last name is Mapother--and William took on this commanding role for $100/day).  He survives, but his pregnant wife and young son are killed. Actress Brit Marling is relatively new to the screen, and co-wrote the script of this film.  She spends four years in jail, and the rest of the film has her attempting to make up for this tragedy, where the relationship with the composer becomes intimate, without any knowledge on his part about her past.  Turns out that Earth 2 is a mirror of our Earth, with what appears to be the same people.  A journey to Earth 2 is planned, and the student wins an essay contest to join the expedition.  After finally admitting who she is, the opportunity to go is given to the professor to revisit his possible family.  A few months later, the final scene shows the two Marling characters staring at each other.  This movie gets you thinking.  Trailer.

#3  Rise of the Planet of the Apes (89%) is a prequel to the six Ape movies, and is very well done.  James Franco (co-hosted the recent Oscar with Ann Hathaway) plays a San Francisco biotechnologist who develops an anti-Alzheimer's (with which his father is stricken) potion and tests it on apes.  The active virus serum enables the brain to get smarter.  The scientists did not realize that the chimp that progresses the best had a baby, and circumstances lead her to go berserk.  The company decides to kill all twelve inoculated animals, but Franco takes the baby home without their knowledge.  To make a long story short, this brain enhancement trait can be inherited, and Caesar (all the chimps are computer generated, but mimic real human actors) grows up like a son in the household.  Franco's father, played by John Lithgow, is cured by this serum, but his body eventually overcomes the effect, leading Franco to produce a more potent virus, which turns out to be fatal to humans, with a hint that a global pandemic is coming.  Caesar becomes lord of the Apes, and no doubt there will be a sequel, then another.  Franco will get old just on this series.  Trailer.

#4  One Day (75%), is the kind of movie you think you might have already seen.  A couple (Ann Hathaway and James Sturgess) who are not, melded with movies like Same Time, Next Year, results in a good film.  I gained a totally new impression of Hathaway from her recent rap parody of Lil Wayne.  I can see her in a future film playing the Audrey Hepburn role in a film to be called London Holiday.  Now, who will be Gregory Peck?  Anyway, Ann's and James' characters meet almost annually from 1988, when they graduated from Edinburgh University (Prince William and Kate's alma mater), to almost the present, and in the final scene, we see Sturgess with his young daughter, for Hathaway has tragically died from a traffic accident.  This is a movie of what could have been or should have been, but wasn't.  Trailer.

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