This Week’s Must-See Movies
by Chris Narloch
Anime fans have been anxiously awaiting the debut of the live-action, big screen version of ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ which stars Scarlett Johansson as a sexy cyborg named Major.
If you find yourself with any spare time in the coming week, check out that new movie or one of these other fine films currently in theaters or coming soon.
Ghost in the Shell
When the cyborg heroine of this action-packed movie discovers that her life was not saved but stolen, she goes rogue. That’s fun to watch both because the filmmakers give her a beautiful, ‘Blade Runner’-like world to inhabit and because the badass heroine, Major, is played by the curvaceous blond bombshell Scarlett Johannson, who rocks a clingy bodysuit for the role.
You could argue that an Asian actress should have received the starring role – and I would agree with you – but I am a Scarlett Johannson fan so I enjoyed the gutsy, physical way she attacks her part.
Fans of the original animated movie may take exception to the new script’s many changes, but I thought they were almost all for the better. That first movie had a fine premise and cool visuals, but its story was confusing and depressing.
The movie is still dark in its themes and look, but it has a much more upbeat ending, and the cast, which includes Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, and Takeshi Kitano, could not be better.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ is in wide release.
If ‘Ghost in the Shell’ reminds you more than a bit of ‘Blade Runner,’ this movie’s story is practically a direct lift from the ‘Alien’ franchise.
I would call it a rip-off except for the fact that I actually liked it much more than I expected I would.
Besides a cool looking, shape shifting, carnivorous creature brought on board from Mars, the sci-fi horror thriller stars the handsome duo of Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, who collectively put the “ass” in astronaut, although sadly neither actor has a nude scene in this film.
Reynolds exits the movie early on, and his last scene is a doozy. Gyllenhaal sticks around to watch the other crewmembers of an International Space Station try to make it back to earth before becoming appetizers for the alien.
A legitimate sequel to ‘Alien’ is expected in a couple months, directed by Ridley Scott no less, but until then you can enjoy the ‘cheap’ thrills – all 58 million dollars of them – in ‘Life.’
‘Life’ is in wide release.
If you’ve never seen the original ‘Trainspotting’ from 1996, don’t bother with the sequel, but if you enjoyed the first movie as much as I did, don’t miss this lesser but still compelling follow-up.
The core fearsome foursome from the first film – Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Ewen Bremner – are all back on board, as is director Danny Boyle, who revisits and reunites his crazy characters twenty years later.
The men are variously suffering from incarceration, drug addiction, divorce, and un-employment, but they make for surprisingly good company for a couple hours.
‘Trainspotting 2’ is playing at Sacramento’s Tower Theatre.
Land of Mine
This recent Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film is a tense historical drama inspired by real events involving German POWs sent to clear mines in Denmark after World War II.
When every day on the job could be your last, job ‘security’ has no meaning whatsoever, and that is the fate of the sympathetic young men in ‘Land of Mine.’
It is believed that more than 2,000 German soldiers were forced to remove mines, and nearly half of them lost their lives or limbs. Many of them were only teenagers.
This is a sobering movie that skillfully hammers home the message that war is hell.
‘Land of Mine’ is playing at Sacramento’s Tower Theatre.
The Eagle Huntress
If you missed this movie when it played at Sacramento’s Tower Theatre a few months back, you have another chance to see it now that it has been extended again at the Varsity Theatre, a very cool art-house cinema in downtown Davis.
Aishol-pan, a 13-year-old girl, trains to become the first female in 12 generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries.
While there are many old Kazakh eagle hunters who vehemently reject the idea of any female taking part in their ancient tradition, Aisholpan's father, Nurgaiv, believes that a girl can do anything a boy can, as long as she's determined.
Amen to that.
Speaking of the Varsity in Davis, that same theatre is joining a cinematic movement rejecting ‘alternative facts’ with a one-night-only screening of the acclaimed big screen version of George Orwell’s classic novel ‘1984,’ in which a man loses his identity while living under a repressive regime.
The film was originally released in 1984, but given the current political climate it’s probably more relevant now than it was then. ‘1984’ stars two of the finest British actors who ever lived, the late Richard Burton and the late John Hurt.
In a story based on George Orwell's classic novel, Winston Smith (John Hurt) is a government employee whose job involves the rewriting of history in a manner that casts his fictional country's leaders in a charitable light.
Smith’s trysts with Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) provide his only measure of enjoyment, but lawmakers frown on the relationship -- and in this closely monitored society there is no escape from Big Brother.
Almost 200 art house movie theatres across the country in 185 cities and in 44 states, plus five locations in Canada, one in England, one in Sweden, one in Holland, and one in Croatia, will be participating collectively in this National Event Day screening.
The April 4th date was chosen because it’s the day George Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith begins rebelling against his oppressive government by keeping a forbidden diary.
These theater owners strongly believe in supporting the National Endowment for the Arts and see any attempt to scuttle that program as an attack on free speech and creative expression through entertainment.
Less than three months into the new presidential administration, these theater owners collectively believe that Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures their own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies, has never been timelier.
This endeavor encourages theaters to take a stand for our most basic values: freedom of speech, respect for our fellow human beings, and the simple truth that there are no such things as ‘alternative facts.’
By doing what they do best – showing a movie – the goal is for cinemas to initiate a much-needed community conversation at a time when the existence of facts, and basic human rights, are under attack.
Through nationwide participation and strength in numbers, these screenings are intended to galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community, and bring us together to foster communication and resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society.
Participating theaters that charge admission will be donating a portion of the proceeds to local charities and organizations, or using the proceeds for the purposes of underwriting future educational and community-related programming.
For more information about the movement, please visit www.unitedstatesofcinema.com.
‘1984’ plays this Tuesday evening, April 4th, at 8:20 p.m. Visit www.davisvarsity.net for more information about the film’s only local screening.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Decidedly lighter in tone, my favorite Coen brothers comedy is back on the big screen this Friday, April 7th, for one night only, at the historic Crest Theatre on K Street in Sacramento.
George Clooney gives one of his loosest, most entertaining performances in this wonderfully loopy reworking of ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer. The movie also stars Holly Hunter, John Goodman, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, and Charles Durning.
The music in the film is magnificent, and there are some classic lines in the script, as when Clooney’s character states, “I’m a Dapper Dan man.” Ditto Hunter’s hilarious dialogue, dismissing a potential suitor as “not bona fide.”
Go to www.crestsacramento.com for more information.