Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
'Winter in Wartime' manages to create a conscientious coming-of-age drama
When most of us think of a coming-of-age drama set in Nazi- occupied Holland, our thoughts stray to the standard-bearer of the genre, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We think of Anne growing up in her attic and the stoic resolve of the Dutch family who hid the Franks, that delicate dance of fear, poise, and patience, as the ultimate in wartime courage. Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven opts for a more active, thriller-type boy's own adventure in Winter In Wartime. It covers some of the same thematic territory as Anne Frank: youth impatient to grow up, and the struggle to establish a moral imperative within a labyrinth of complex political realities. It's not always as profound or effective in all it tries to say, but it's a conscientious effort to portray the true wages of warfare on the human psyche.
Government vs. law in timely historical drama, 'Conspirator'
In The Conspirator, Robert Redford wants to remind us that those who do not remember history are forced to repeat it. Part criminal investigation, part courtroom drama, the film portrays America in the aftermath of a heinous national trauma, during which the government proves willing to suspend large chunks of its citizens Constitutional freedoms in the rush to find (or create) scapegoat "evildoers" on whom to wreak vengeance in the name of "justice."
Schoolgirls go wild in skillful, but implausible psycho-thriller 'Cracks'
Hot on the muddy, moor-encrusted boots of Jane Eyre comes a new film about English boarding school girls from a potentially bright new talent. Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley, niece of Tony) makes an assured and skillful feature film debut with Cracks, a psychological melodrama of illusion, identity, festering passions, and emotional mayhem-most-British at a staid girls boarding school in the English countryside.
Scott co-wrote the script with Ben Court and Caroline Ip, adapted from the controversial, experimental 2000 novel by Sheila Kohler. With its impressive production values, and scrupulously maintained period ambience (ca. 1934), this is a compelling mood piece that draws the viewer into the peculiar, hothouse sensibility of females cloistered away together deep in the country.
This one’s a keeper. A film that has smatterings of What The Bleep Do We Know? yet manages to tell a more relatable story you can’t help but admire. Most of that is due to its filmmaker, Tom Shadyac (bottom photo; Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura), a likeable if not fiercely devoted chap who offers us something we can really sink our teeth into: an interesting personal mission/vision quest. “Facing my own death brought an instant sense of clarity and purpose,” Shadyac tells viewers of his impetus behind venturing out into the world to ask significant minds what’s actually wrong with it—and what we can do about it. “We’re all interconnected,” the filmmaker soon realizes. Whether you believe it’s true or not, you can’t help but drink some of this Kool-Aid and walk away feeling inspired. Shadyac doesn’t simply go on to prove that point for the sake of being right, he allows us to experience his discoveries in a way that doesn’t feel overly manipulating.
Fukunaga crafts meticulous, vibrant new 'Jane Eyre'
Rising filmmaker (and UC Santa Cruz grad) Cary Joji Fukunaga wants to keep you guessing. His impressive first feature, Sin Nombre, was a gritty look at gang violence south of the border—in Spanish, yet. With his follow-up film, a new version of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's evergreen Victorian-era romance, not only does Fukunaga achieve a complete about-face, material-wise, his retelling proves to be a deeply felt, beautifully wrought little gem of mood and sensibility.