Terrence Malick carves out a new path in A Hidden Life, abandoning mystical Americana to tell the harsh true story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) a pacifist living in Nazi-occupied Austria who risked his life and his family’s welfare to defend his non-violent beliefs. He refused to fight for reasons clear to us now, while his fellow townsfolk worshipped, or were seen to worship at Hitler’s feet. Jägerstätter and wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) were shamed and attacked in their ancestral village; when he was imprisoned no one stepped up to help Fran work the farm. Poverty follows and the family home is sold. Malick’s gorgeous sense of nature, love, family and the oneness of life remains but overshadowed by the power of tragic true events. Still, its Malick and rises to the metaphysical in balance with straightforward historical, social and human collapse. The leads’ delicate performances, founded in emotion, strength and quiet opposition are incredibly moving. Also stars Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jurgen Prochnow, Bruno Ganz, Alexander Fehling, Ulrich Matthes.
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Clint Eastwood tackles another contemporary news event in Richard Jewell the true story of the security guard who discovered a bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Park and saved lives of those watching the 1996 Olympics.
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The overweight law enforcement wannabe who lived with his mother was a hero, but within days was ridiculed in the media and accused of staging the event to further his career. Paul Walter Hauser plays the confused guard with subtle depth and empathy, who watches his world collapse and his mother’s (Kathy Bates) while morally wanting reporter (Olivia Wilde) pushes on with her made-up allegations. Sam Rockwell plays lone wolf attorney Watson Bryant who initially refuses to believe Jewell’s innocence, but recognises the true spirit of the man. Their work’s cut out for them defending against the FBI, GBI and APD as an agent (Jon Hamm) misreads him. The humiliation continues with endless psychological tests, house searches and arrest. Eastwood’s film is clean, crisp and well made but it belongs to Paul Walter Hauser.
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The events of a heart-wrenching afternoon in the life of two Vancouver women sets in The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open apart from the crush of splashy movies out there. Writer director Kathleen Hepburn and co-director and star Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers have created a slice of life that’s real and messy and powerful. A businesswoman (Tailfeathers) sees a barefoot, crying indigenous woman standing, lost on a rainy cold street corner, as a man hurls abuse at her. The young woman, hauntingly played by Violet Nelson is pregnant and in distress. She doesn’t share that she has been abused, as evidenced by significant bruising. She says very little as the woman rushes her to her apartment to recuperate and attempts to help by putting her into the care system. The girl rejects her. The conversation that follows opens their eyes to truths about each other, they are wary of one. The filmmakers leave much to our imagination and empathy in this barebones and deeply affecting film. Newcomer Nelson has tremendous presence, gravity and authenticity.
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A group of 13 British seven-year-olds was first interviewed for a BBC documentary series in 1964:
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The subjects’ progress has been followed every seven years since and the latest installment, Michel Apted’s 63 Up, has landed.The seven-year-olds are seniors now, and their lives continue to evolve for better and worse, but the overall feeling of success in life is viscerally real. The ambitious series is unique in cinema and can be treasured for its endurance, the subjects have given good parts of their lives over to public scrutiny in what must have seemed like a social experiment back in 1956. The film is a fascinating addition to the roads traveled but is well worth a standalone viewing experience. Extremely moving, take your tissues.
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Midnight Family by director Luke Lorentzen reveals the sad state of health care in Mexico City. Population 9 million, number of official ambulances – 45. No wonder private for-profit ambulance services are popping up, most run by unqualified practitioners. Lorentzen makes a provocative documentary following the Ochoa family ambulance, as they attend falls, beatings, shootings, car accidents and other serious medical emergencies in the city’s wealthiest districts. It’s a scary business; the Ochoas are unusual in that they are trained and skilled, but that doesn’t mean smooth sailing. Police demand bribes and when they don’t come through a family member lands in jail. They barely survive on the pittance they earn as most victims refuse to pay for their services, still, they carry on. They may always be wiping up blood, but they seem to enjoy the work, helping ease pain where they can. Not easily forgotten, this dark trip.
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Watch for a stunning retelling of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol on FX, that may just blow your mind. It offers a sizeable expansion of one of the best-known modern Christmas season stories, with an amazing cast, lavish Victorian goth art design, and a superbly eerie atmosphere. Guy Pearce is Ebenezer Scrooge the miser who disdains the world from his big empty house on Christmas Eve while others celebrate, causing him to go down a black hole of self-pity and hatred. Bob Cratchit his put-upon clerk played by Joe Alwyn, isn’t the timid masochist of the novel, he stands his ground and reminds Scrooge that he’s missing out on life. Stephen Graham is the deceased Jacob Marley, burdened by the chains of the deaths he caused by cutting corners in their Welsh coal mines. He announces three spirits are coming to change Scrooge’ and Scrooge’s strange, hallucinatory journey begins, ramping up and up. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Andy Serkis) sends Scrooge back to his abusive childhood and the roots of his uncompromising isolationism, followed by more spirits and guides of all shapes and sizes. This is a gamechanger in Christmas entertainment, scary, but not too scary, psychological but by no means dry and infinitely entertaining. Written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and directed by Nick Crowe.
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Downton Abbey will be available on Blu-ray TM️, DVD and Digital. Attention Anglophiles: the film event of the YEAR has landed! Downton Abbey reunites our dear upper-crust friends to return to the Abbey to see what has transpired.
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It’s now 1927, some are marching to a modern beat while others look in the rear-view mirror to traditional ways as society changes. The King and Queen announce that they are coming to visit the Granthams sending shockwaves upstairs and down. The place must be bandbox ready but interference in the form of servant wars and weighty family matters complicate life at the Abbey. Overzealous footman check, wine lists wars, check, and snooty Royal household staff appear to take over the entire operation. Interesting tidbit Geraldine James who plays Marilla on Anne with an E appears as Queen Mary! Julian Fellowes does this up right –Lady Edith and daughter Marigold are reunited, and husband home again while Lady Mary tries to contain her nerves over the Royal invasion. Didn’t know she had any! Thomas decides to be a nice person, Mr. Carson saves the day, and much excitement.
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This highly polished follow-up is a joy, the look, sound, musical themes and the characters are heightened for the fans. Perhaps I can’t be objective as the entire experience is a beautiful, nostalgic love letter to the well-mannered franchise. Its refinement stands out today as we are doused in daily chaos and uncertainty IRL. It nods to changing times and ways of thinking, but its all our friends. It’s not deep or profound but who cares? With Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Haig, Geraldine James, Robert James-Collier, Simon Jones, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Penelope Wilton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lesley Nicol, Kate Phillips, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton and newbie Tuppence Middleton.
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Critics Choice Association/AWFJ/TFCA/FIPRESCI