The Aftermath

Posted on March 21, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexual content/nudity, and violence including some disturbing images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Military violence with some disturbing images, brief Holocaust images, characters injured and killed, sad deaths
Diversity Issues: Post-war ethnic hostilities, Holocaust references
Date Released to Theaters: March 22, 2019
Date Released to DVD: June 24, 2019

Copyright Fox Searchlight 2019
The Aftermath” is the sort of soapy wartime melodrama people often think of when they complain that they don’t make movies like they did in the old days, except that it has more sex and, if you look past the steamy romance, a disturbing whiff of both sides-ism. The focus of the film is grief and the honorable work of rebuilding — literally, politically, diplomatically, personally after the tragic necessities of war, including demonization of the other side and the inevitable atrocities of country leaders sending young people to kill each other.

It takes place in Hamburg, Germany, five months after the end of World War II. The British are occupying the all-but-destroyed city. As residents comb through the rubble, still seeking thousands of missing people, and we are reminded that the Allies dropped more bombs in a week on the city than Germany dropped on the UK for the entire war, creating an uncomfortable parity. An elegant mansion is requisitioned by the occupying forces for its military leader, Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) and his wife, Rachel (Keira Knightley).

They allow the former owner of the home, architect Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) to live in the attic with his teenage daughter, Freda. Lewis is gone most of the time, trying to maintain order while many Germans are still loyal to Hitler and furious with the Allies and the occupation. Some have burned 88 on their arms (for Heil Hitler, because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet). Rachael spends some time with other Brits stationed there, but she is lonely and still grief-stricken over the death of her young son in a German bombing attack on England.

And then, she begins to see Stefan not as an enemy but as a human, a father, a man of culture, a man mourning his own losses, and also a man who looks very appealing as he chops wood wearing a blue sweater. They are drawn to each other because they are lonely and because each represents for the other a complete break with the past, almost a way to obliterate it.

Author Rhidian Brook based the story on the experiences of his grandfather, which he first sold as a screenplay idea, and then made into a novel while he worked on the script. The issues of transitioning from war to peace, with awkward, useless official inquiries to try to make impossible assignments of guilt, basically asking, “Just how much of a Nazi were you?” are intriguingly raised but not very thoughtfully explored. Lewis is an exemplar of decency and yet cannot comfort his wife. He admits that he has seen and done unspeakable things but cannot talk to his wife about that, either.

There is so much potential here for tying together the issues of the broken city and the broken world and the broken marriage, but instead the focus is on the forbidden romance. As enticing as the steamy love story may be (did I mention the log-chopping scene?), its failure to recognize and address the issues it passes through leave the film, like the home at the center of the story, pretty but empty.

Parents should know that this film includes military and rioter/protest peril and violence with characters injured and killed, some grisly and disturbing images, brief Holocaust photos, some strong language, explicit sexual situations, nudity, non-explicit teen sex, and drinking and drunkenness.

Family discussion: What is the right way to treat citizens of a conquered country? How did Stefan, Lewis, Freda, and Rachael handle grief differently?

If you like this, try: “The Exception” and “Operation Finale”

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Based on a book Drama DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format Romance War

The Legend of Tarzan

Posted on June 30, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and brief rude dialogue
Profanity: Some racist epithets and mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and violence, characters injured and killed, some disturbing and graphic images and scary animals
Diversity Issues: Historical abuse and enslavement
Date Released to Theaters: July 1, 2016

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
“The Legend of Tarzan” gets some things right. The swinging through the trees is exhilarating. Alexander Skarsgård (Tarzan/John) and Margot Robbie (Jane) are beautiful to look at, as is the African scenery. The CGI animals are pretty good. Thankfully, other than a few flashbacks, it avoids dwelling on the over-familiar origin story. And it is nice to see a shift from the colonialist perspective of some Tarzan stories to recognition of the real-life atrocities inflicted by Belgium’s King Leopold on the African natives, exploiting their resources and enslaving their people.

But there’s a lot the movie does not get right. It’s not terrible; it’s just oddly off, as though it was assembled by a committee that didn’t communicate with each other very well. The first problem is that Tarzan is depressed. I do not know why people seem to think that we somehow make classic literary characters more sophisticated or modern by making them depressed, but I’ve had enough of it. We’ve already had a depressed Batman and a depressed Superman this year. We don’t need a depressed Tarzan. Tarzan, now using his birth name of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, is living in England when we first see him. Presented with an invitation to return to the Congo as the guest of King Leopold, he declines. Lifting a pinky as he sips from a porcelain teacup to demonstrate just how far he has come from running naked through the jungle, he explains simply, “It’s too hot.” He does not want to go back. But an American named George Washington Williams (played by Samuel L. Jackson and a toupee) persuades him to return, so he can investigate charges of abuse and enslavement. Jane is thrilled to return to Africa, and John reluctantly agrees to let her come along.

The invitation from the King was engineered by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, in his usual ultra-civil, ultra-evil mode). If he can deliver John to Chief Mbonga (a regal Djimon Hounsou) the chief will give him access to the diamond mines. When John escapes, Rom takes Jane and some of her tribal friends prisoner.

There’s an unfinished quality to the film. The tone shifts from a literally heavy-handed early image of a cruel hand wrapped in a rosary ripping a flower from its stem to some awkward and anachronistic attempts at humor (Samuel L. Jackson after a diplomatic speech: “And I thought the Civil War was long!”), and distracting random camera-swooping. But the real drag on the film’s momentum is Tarzan himself, who is so morose that the energy seeps out of the story. Reportedly, Skarsgård spent six months working out all day. He looks great, but to be honest he already looked great, and the fixation with male or female movie stars remaking their bodies for roles is barbaric. What needed the work was the script.

Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and violence, guns, spears, explosions, predator animals some disturbing images, characters injured and killed, some sexual references, and brief strong and racist language.

Family discussion: Why did John and Jane have different views about going back to Africa? How did John’s idea of honor change and why?

If you like this, try: the many other movie and television portrayals of Tarzan and the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Movies -- format Remake

What Maisie Knew

Posted on May 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Emotional confrontations
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 24, 2013
Date Released to DVD: August 12, 2013 ASIN: B00D5XC8MC

whatmaisieknewShe has the face of a flower and she still believes that the world is an enchanted place that cannot hurt her.  She does not understand what is going on around her, but we do.

Her name is Maisie (the exquisite Onata Aprile).  She is seven and she lives in New York with her parents, a fading rock star named Susanna (Julianne Moore) and a British art dealer named Beale (Steve Coogan).  They are self-centered and feckless, and she does not yet realize that their hugs are more about themselves than about her.  They split up, and then, incapable of being alone and primarily to reassure themselves and spite each other, immediately take on new, very unwise partners.  Beale begins a romance with Maisie’s nanny, Margo (Joanna Vanderham).  And Susanna, feeling doubly betrayed, one-ups him by impetuously marrying a bartender named Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård).  This comes out when Lincoln, who Maisie has never really met, appears at her school to pick her up.  “I’m sort of like Maisie’s…stepfather,” he sheepishly tells the teacher.

Maisie’s clothes often have fantasy elements, like a tiara, showing the gloss of fantasy she brings to her world — and the casual indulgence of the adults in her life. Moore’s neediness, as a woman who is losing her career, her romantic partner, and her child, is raw and affecting. Coogan gets a rare chance to show what a fine serious actor he can be. In one scene, he impetuously invites Maisie to go to England with him, and then immediately changes his mind. We see every thought on his face, including his chagrin at recognizing that he is betraying the daughter still young enough to believe in him.

This movie feels very much of this moment and has a very specific sense of place in its shabby chic New York settings.  But it is based on a book by Henry James written more than a century ago.  Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have a delicacy and sensitivity that gives their superb cast the chance to create complicated characters. They are not afraid to mix moments of humor with selfishness, heart-wrenching loss, and tragic choices.

Parents should know that this movie deals with themes of parental neglect and family dysfunction. It includes sexual references and non-explicit situations, drinking, strong language, and many poor choices.

Family discussion: What will happen to Maisie? What will she think of her parents when she gets to be a teenager? A grown-up? What has changed since Henry James wrote the book?

If you like this, try: “Careful, He Might Hear You”

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