Trailer: Finding Your Feet

Posted on January 30, 2018 at 2:00 am

This year’s cuddly British film is “Finding Your Feet” and I have to admit I can’t wait. The cast is sublime, with Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie (of “Marigold Hotel,” in a similar vein), and the divine Joanna Lumley.

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The Journey

Posted on June 16, 2017 at 2:56 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent images and language
Profanity: Some strong and bigoted language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: References to and depictions of historical civil unrest, violence, and murder
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: June 17, 2017
Copyright 2016 IFC

First thing, I’m going to ask you to overlook two obvious problems with this film.  The first is the awful title, pretentious and overused.  The second is the film’s complete distortion of the real-life facts and details in favor of a condensed and heightened portrayal that puts decades of delicate negotiations into one car ride.  Let’s just agree to get past both of those for a moment and we will return to them later, I promise.

Here is the truth.  Two men who were the bitterest of enemies at the center of The Troubles, one of the worst, longest, and most intractable conflicts in modern history, found a way to create an enduring peace.  One was Ian Paisley (played by Timothy Spall), an evangelical Protestant minister.  The other was Martin McGuinness (played by Colm Meany)  a leader of the Catholics.  Although they despised each other, and blamed each other for the violent attacks that led to thousands of deaths, they were statesmen enough to realize that no one would ever win if they kept fighting each other.  In  2007, when the two men visited the White House to see President George W. Bush, McGuinness said, “Up until the 26 March this year, Ian Paisley and I never had a conversation about anything — not even about the weather — and now we have worked very closely together over the last seven months and there’s been no angry words between us. … This shows we are set for a new course.”

This movie imagines what the first conversation between the two men might have been, placing them in a streamlined, highly artificial, and very heightened dramatic context to have it.  This is not a documentary.  It is not history.  It is intended to be seen by people who have very little notion of the story.  So, the good news is that it is very accessible.  The less good news is that it will confuse the audience into thinking that this is how it happened, so be warned.

But it is a touching, inspiring, beautifully performed and very timely story about finding common ground even under the most bitter partisan circumstances.  And it is a powerful reminder that at the end of the day policy and statecraft and clashing ideologies may give rise to briefing books filled with charts and footnotes, but at the end of the day sometimes it just comes down to two people who agree to acknowledge their common humanity. “These men are anarchy,” one of the government officials says. “They are The Troubles.” But he might just as well say, “They are the answer.”

Parents should know that the theme of this film includes decades of civil unrest and murder during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, some graphic and disturbing images and references to sad deaths, and some strong language.

Family discussion: What was the turning point on the journey and why did it make a difference?  Read up on the real relationship between Martin and Ian, which evolved over decades, not one car trip.

If you like this, try: “In the Name of the Father” and “Maeve”

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Trailer: Denial, the True Story of a Holocaust Denial Courtroom Battle

Posted on June 21, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, and Andrew Scott (“Sherlock’s” Moriarty) star in “Denial,” based on the true story of a libel lawsuit filed by Holocaust denier David Irving against Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, over her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.

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Upside Down

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm

 Argentinean writer-director Juan Solanas has created a work of bracingly singular imagination that is sheer visual pleasure, with some mind-bending ideas and a deeply romantic sensibility.

We are told by Adam (Jim Sturgess) that throughout the universe, there is only one solar system with “dual gravity.”  He lives in the “down” side of mirror-image parallel worlds.  Interaction between the two worlds is strictly forbidden, with the exception of a tightly controlled transfer of energy by a vast, soulless, and predatory corporation.  The laws of physics in this world also impose a barrier.  Matter from one side quickly heats up and burns when it is placed in the other.  People carry their gravitational pull with them, so that anyone who visits the other side will give themselves away by floating back toward their home turf.

Adam was orphaned following an industrial accident.  His only family is his Aunt Becky, who sends him into the mountains to gather a very rare pink bee pollen that stands out in the wintry gray and blue of the bleached-out color scheme.  On the highest peak, he glimpses a girl named Eden Moore (Kirsten Dunst) in the mountains of the up world.  They are close enough to talk to each other.  Within a few years, they are in love.  He pulls her down on a rope and with her back up against a protruding crag to keep her from floating back up, they kiss.

But they are tracked down and she is badly hurt trying to escape.  Ten years later, Adam learns that Eden has survived the accident and works for the corporation.  He has to find her again.  But it turns out the totalitarian regime and gravitational barriers are not their biggest obstacles.

Solanas has created two worlds of vast and stunningly intricate detail.  Identical desks extend endlessly across both floor and ceiling in cavernous offices.  Eden likes to drink upside-down cocktails, blue liquid served in a stem-up glass and slurped from below.  And the consequences of reverse gravity are imaginatively (if not always consistently) explored.  Adam remembers to use hairspray to help him pass as a top world resident, to make sure that his hair won’t hang the wrong way (up instead of down) when he goes to see Eden.  But when he hides out in the men’s room, he does not think about the fact that his pee will hit the ceiling, not the urinal.  His early experiments to help him pass for an “up” have a limited time span that adds a Cinderella quality to the story.

Timothy Spall provides zesty comic relief as Adam’s “up” world colleague and Dunst and Sturgess have a swoon-worthy chemistry that makes the story feel, well, grounded.  The daring originality of Solanas’ vision more than makes up for some narrative lags and makes this one of the most promising debuts in recent memory.

Parents should know that this film includes peril, chases, and some violence, including shooting, with some characters injured.  There is a fire and there are references to sad deaths and a brief image of hanging.  A character smokes cigars and some drink cocktails and there is brief potty humor.

Family discussion: What kind of government is in place in this movie?  Why is there income disparity between the two worlds?

If you like this, try: “Looper” and “Solaris”


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