Films Worth a Look: About Time

MV5BMTA1ODUzMDA3NzFeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDgxMTYxNTk@._V1_SX214_AL_I was pleasantly surprised by this film. On the surface it looks to be a bland rom-com using time travel as a plot device. Instead it is a moving story of being given second chances to right mistakes; but doing so has consequences.

After a particularly disastrous New Years Eve party and on his 21st birthday, Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father (played by the always-excellent Bill Nighy) that the men their family are able to travel back in time. Tim uses his newly realized ability to go back to make his New Years Eve experience much better: he avoids bumping into a young woman which caused her to spill her drink down the front of her shirt; he kisses a cute girl the second time, rather than shaking her hand.

Tim realizes that using his time travel ability will be about love. He has never had a girlfriend and is determined to use his power to get one. The next summer, his kid sister’s friend, a young, attractive blonde girl, comes to their house in Cornwall to spend the summer. He is immediately attracted to her, but waits until her last day to make his move. She puts off his advances. Tim decides to go back in time to make his move right away, but the second time around she puts him off again. Tim realizes that he can’t make a woman fall in love with him, no matter how much he is able to stack the deck with his time-traveling abilities.

After moving to London, Tim meets the love of his life, Mary (played by Rachel McAdams), through a chance encounter. But he loses her when he goes back in time to help a friend. In the new time line, he never met Mary as he was elsewhere the night he originally met her. Even worse, he finally does track her down to “accidentally” run into her, but learns she just started dating a new boyfriend.

The movie explores the themes of regret, consequence, responsibility. Tim learns through sometimes very harsh lessons that time traveling to “fix” problems sometimes only makes them worse or changes things in ways he had not considered. He comes to realize that some problems can’t be fixed for people; sometimes a person has to fix his or her own problems.

The movie is touching, even moving in some scenes, but never overly sentimental or cloying. There is a lot of witty, sly humor as well. Rachel McAdams is adorable, as always. The scenes between Tim and his father stand out as well.

Click on the following link to place a hold on it:

About Time

Worth a look if you like moving, yet witty films dealing with love and life.

Skip it if you don’t like British romantic comedies.

-Steve
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic

 

 

One Book One Broomfield

The One Book One Broomfield announcement at the City Council meeting is only one short week away! On July 22, the Manager of Reference and Adult Services, Kathryn Lynip, will present the title (as well a copy of the book) to the City Council members.

A One Book program is a designed to get people in the community reading and discussing the same book at the same time. As with any book discussion, opinions will be varied. The programs have been growing in popularity and participation since the first one in 1998 when Seattle read The Sweet Hereafter. Broomfield began its program in 2006, with The Meadow by James Galvin. The selections since then have been The Greatest Generation, Breakfast with Buddha, Eventide, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism, Healer and last year’s pick The Dog Stars.

What does this year hold for Broomfield and its readers? Tune in!

-Sarah BG

 

Under the Radar Movies: Dark City

MV5BMTg3MjI3NjYxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODIyMzA4MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_This is one of my all-time favorite movies; it is a bleak, surrealistic exploration of the nature of reality. It didn’t do well at the box office, and has been mostly ignored since it’s release in 1998.

The film opens with John Murdoch (played by Rufus Sewel) waking up naked in a bathtub. He has lost most of his memories and even worse, he finds he is wanted for a string of brutal murders, which he may or may not have committed. While trying to unravel the mystery, he uncovers a sinister plot involving malevolent, infinitely powerful beings, The Stangers, using humanity  for their nefarious purposes. When Murdoch finally unravels the truth, it is much more horrific than he could have possibly imagined.

 Dark City uses many themes from Gnostic Christianity, which was a early, mystical branch, branded early on as heresy by the Orthodox Church and eventually persecuted out of existence. So complete was the extermination of Gnostic thought, that most of what we know came from the discovery of a hidden cache of their documents in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. This was perhaps the greatest religious discovery of the 20th Century. Some themes from the writings of the Nag Hammadi library include: reality is an illusion; the material world is corrupt; an infinitely powerful but imperfect  being, (named the demiurge, after Plato) is actually the creator of the Earth; human beings, while being made of corrupt matter, contain a divine spark; the only path to salvation is through secret, arcane knowledge.

In the world of Dark City, reality is an illusion: the infinitely powerful and malevolent Strangers continually form and reform reality using the memories and dreams of the denizens who are unaware of what is truly happening and thereby are permanently trapped. John Murdoch is the Christ/Savior/Messiah figure who is able to transcend the illusion and ultimately offer salvation to those trapped within it. He does this by “tuning” which is the ability to step outside the illusion and see reality as it truly is.

If all this sounds sort of familiar, The Matrix also explored these themes, but was released the year after Dark City.

The supporting cast is very good: Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt turn in excellent performances. The only criticism is that Kiefer Sutherland’s character possesses an annoying stammer, which is distracting. But other than that, Sutherland is fine in his role.

The movie raises the question: is it better to know the truth, however horrible? Or is it better to be trapped in a safe, familiar, comfortable illusion permanently, never realizing that it is illusion? For some, illusion is preferable as the truth would drive them mad. But  on the other hand, there are those who must know the truth, no matter what the cost and no matter how unsettling.

Click on the following link to place this movie on hold:

Dark City

Worth a look if you like dark, introspective films dealing with the nature of truth and reality.

Skip it if your favorite director is Michael Bay.

-Steve
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic

Europa Report vs. Last Days on Mars

MV5BMjA2OTk5ODkxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc4MDk0OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Europa Report

Europa Report is the story of the first manned expedition to explore Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The film is of the “found footage” genre, which uses footage from the mission, sent back to Earth to tell the story.

The privately funded mission has six scientists going to Europa to look for life. On the way, one scientist dies in outer space while saving the life of another.

When the remaining scientists reach Europa, there are complications when landing, complications when looking for life on the ice-encrusted moon, and complications when trying to take off. All of these disasters threaten the survival of the team. If they are not able to take off, they will never be able to inform Earth of their findings.

The movie is well acted and has a few familiar faces: Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness) and Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District 9) and Michael Nyqvist (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.) The other actors are mostly unknown to American audiences. This can be a good thing, though; sometimes huge movie stars can be distracting in roles if they can’t disappear into them.

One thing to note is that there isn’t any unnecessary conflict between the scientists. The conflict of being in a harsh, alien environment and trying to survive it is enough to drive the plot.

The film looks great. The props and sets look convincing and the science is plausible. Gravity works like it should, and allowances for generating gravity in outer space are fully explained.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Europa Report

Worth a look if you like science fiction films dealing with the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Skip it if science fiction is not your thing, or you don’t like the found footage genre.

Last Days on MarsMV5BMTk4ODgxMDU0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTg0NzcyMDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

In contrast, Last Days on Mars is similar to Europa Report in that both deal with survival in harsh, unforgiving, extraterrestrial environments. LDoM starts out as science fiction, but becomes a horror film about half way through.

Last Days on Mars is the story of the first human exploration of the planet Mars. On the last day of their mission, one of the scientists thinks he may have discovered fossilized evidence of bacterial life. The scientist lies to the commander about his it and sets out to confirm his discovery as he wants all the credit for himself. When the scientist reaches the discovery site, the ground gives way and he disappears into  a large crater.

The rest of the team scrambles to rescue the scientist. But what they find when they reach the crater threatens the survival of the team as the hour for their departure looms closer.

The cast is good; Liev Shrieber, Elias Kotas, and Olivia Williams are good as always but I can’t help but feel that their talent has been wasted on this rather mediocre horror film, which describes this film very well. It’s not that it is terrible, in fact, it is shot and edited well and the acting is competent. The special effects are good, and the sets and equipment look real. But I can’t help thinking that something isn’t right; the film switches gears about halfway through and goes from being straight from hard scifi to horror/survival, with a very implausible plot twist.

The film itself is rather derivative of two different horror genres but doesn’t really combine them well. Sometimes I can suspend disbelief, but I feel this film went too far in requiring this from the audience. There were several “really?” moments for me when watching the film.

I feel like Olivia Williams’ character was written to be unnecessarily contrary to increase tension among the characters and drive the plot. In a survival situation such as being on Mars, it seems to me that  only a crew who was able to get along for long periods time together would be chosen to increase their chances for survival. The conflict between the scientists and the environment should be enough.

Another thing that bothered me is that the gravity on Mars is about one third of the Earth’s gravity. A person who weighs 100 pounds on the Earth weighs about 38 pounds on Mars. It appeared that everyone in the film was operation under Earth-like gravity conditions rather than Martian.

Another annoying thing about the film was that the vehicles always seemed to run out of energy just when the plot called for it, just to increase tension.

But don’t take my word for it, you may like it. Click on the following link to place a hold:

Last Days on Mars

Agree with me? Disagree with me? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Worth a look if you like science fiction films or horror films. Or even a mash up of both.

Skip it if you don’t like movies with a mediocre plot or glaring inconsistencies.

-Steve
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic