Kam on Film: ‘Before I Fall,’ ‘A United Kingdom’ and What’s New In Theaters

—by , March 8, 2017

Before I Fall

Open Road Films

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, bullying, sexuality, violent images, profanity and underage drinking

Bittersweet Tale Of Redemption Gives Deceased Teen Chance To Relive Last Day Over And Over

Samantha “Sam” Kingston (Zoey Deutch) was a spoiled-rotten brat the night she perished in a tragic car crash. First of all, she and her little sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay) were lucky enough to be raised in the lap of luxury by a couple of loving parents (Jennifer Beals and Nicholas Lea).

Secondly, the recently deceased 17-year-old was not only leaving behind a handsome boyfriend in Rob (Kian Lawley), but an ardent admirer in Kent (Logan Miller), a Platonic friend she’d taken for granted since grade school. Sam was also pretty popular at Ridgeview High School where she was a member of an exclusive clique along with her three BFFs, Liz (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu).

The snobby quartet took delight in teasing classmates like lesbian Anna (Liv Hewson) and reclusive outcast Juliet (Elena Kampouri). So, Sam would think nothing of participating in such mean girl rituals as dumping drinks on Juliet while calling her a “psycho bitch.”

However, after the accident, she was afforded an unusual opportunity to reconsider her cruel behavior when, instead of proceeding to the hereafter, her spirit miraculously reentered her body. Upon opening her eyes, she realized that it was again dawn on February 12th, and that she was about to relive the same day again.

In fact, Sam’s about to experience February 12th over and over, while learning valuable lessons in tolerance each go-round. Thus unfolds Before I Fall, a bittersweet tale of redemption based on Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel of the same name.

At first blush, the picture’s premise reads rather reminiscent of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day (1993), although this is a drama as opposed to a comedy, and it’s set on February 12th instead of the 2nd. The movie was directed by Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks), who puts a fresh enough spin on the familiar theme to make you forget Groundhog Day after 15 minutes.

Kudos aplenty are in order for Zoey Deutch who’s incredibly convincing as Sam in a demanding role which calls for the exhibition of a considerable acting range over the course of the story. Her supporting cast delivers stellar work selling an escapist fantasy which might otherwise fall apart oh so easily.

A déjà vu-driven, surrealistic morality play designed to leave you deep in reflection and weeping as you walk up the aisle.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 99 minutes

 

 

A United Kingdom

Fox Searchlight Pictures / Harbinger Pictures

Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and ethnic slurs

Historical Drama Recounts Scandalous Interracial Romance

Upon the untimely death of his father, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) was crowned the King of Bechuanaland at the tender age of four. But his Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) assumed the reins of power until the heir apparent could complete his education.

While studying law in Great Britain, Seretse fell in love at first sight with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a lowly clerk at Lloyd’s of London. Their whirlwind romance ignited an international firestorm of controversy because of their color, not their class, differences.

For, he was black and she was white, and this was 1946, a time of strict racial segregation. So, the couple’s scandalous liaison was met with resistance both in England and back of Africa.

Although they found themselves assailed with racial slurs like “slut” and “savage” while out on dates, the hostility only served to intensify their feelings for one another. Meanwhile, Seretse was threatened with the loss of his throne, since Bechuanaland was a protectorate of neighboring South Africa, a white supremacist nation. Nevertheless, he got down on one knee and proposed to Ruth and the two married just a year after they met.

Unfortunately, major impediments were subsequently placed between the exiled young monarch and his governing, and that struggle is the subject of A United Kingdom. Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), the film was shot on location in Botswana, which is what the country has called itself since gaining independence in 1966.

Because the movie telescopes tightly on Ruth and Seretse’s relationship, its success or failure is destined to turn on the performances of co-stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The good news is that they’re very talented thespians capable of disappearing into their roles while generating the requisite chemistry to make their characters’ enduring affair convincing.

The film’s only flaw is that it feels a bit rushed, as if director Asante had a long checklist of touchstones from Colour Bar (the 432-page book it’s based on) she was determined to shoehorn into the encyclopedic biopic. Nonetheless, the final product is a praiseworthy production reminiscent of another tale of racial intolerance recently in theaters.

Let’s say, “Loving,” African style!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 111 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules

For movies opening March 10, 2017

 

Kong: Skull Island (PG-13 for action, intense violence and brief profanity) Reboot of the King Kong franchise, set in 1971, revolving around an ill-fated expedition to an uncharted Polynesian island inhabited by a horde of monsters led by a giant ape. Ensemble cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins and Tom Hiddleston.

 

Actor Martinez (Unrated) Quirky mockumentary, set in Denver, highlighting the futile attempt of aspiring actor/computer repairman Arthur Martinez to kickstart his fledgling showbiz career. With Mike Ott, Cory Zacharia and Nathan Silver.

 

Betting On Zero (Unrated) Incendiary Wall Street documentary chronicling billionaire, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s crusade exposing Herbalife as the biggest pyramid scheme in history. Featuring appearances by corporate raider Carl Icahn, grass roots organizer Julie Contreras and Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson.

 

Brimstone (R for profanity, grisly violence, graphic sexuality, disturbing images and frontal nudity) Gruesome Western about a wrongfully-accused, frontier woman (Dakota Fanning) who tries to clear her name while on the run from a vengeful preacher (Guy Pearce). Support cast includes Emilia Jones, Carice van Houten and Kit Harington.

 

My Scientology Movie (Unrated) Faux documentary employing actors to recreate revealing incidents reported by disenchanted members of the Church of Scientology. Co-starring Andrew Perez, Stacia Roybal and Conner Stark as Tom Cruise.

 

The Other Half (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Toronto, revolving around the love affair between a grief-stricken cab driver (Tom Cullen) and a manic depressive with a bipolar disorder (Tatiana Maslany). With Diana Bentley, Henry Czerny and Emmanuel Kabongo.

 

The Ottoman Lieutenant (R for violence) Romance drama, unfolding at the outbreak of the First World War, about the love which blossoms between a Turkish lieutenant (Michiel Huisman) in the Imperial Army and a headstrong, American nurse (Hera Hilmar) stationed at a medical mission inside the Ottoman Empire. Supporting cast includes Josh Hartnett, Haluk Bilginer and Sir Ben Kingsley.

 

Personal Shopper (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and a bloody image) Supernatural suspense thriller, set in Paris, about a grief-stricken American’s (Kristen Stewart) attempt to communicate with the ghost of her recently-departed twin brother. With Sigrid Bouaziz, Ty Olwin and Lars Eidinger. (In English, French and Swedish with subtitles)

 

Raw (R for aberrant behavior, gruesome images, nudity, graphic sexuality, profanity, drug use and partying) Grisly horror flick about a 16-year-old vegan (Garance Marillier) who develops an insatiable taste for flesh after being forced to eat meat during a vet school hazing ritual. Featuring Laurent Lucas, Ella Rumpf and Joana Preiss. (In French with subtitles)

 

Suntan (Unrated) Romantic dramedy revolving around a middle-aged physician (Makis Papadimitrou) who jeopardizes his new position on a trendy resort island when he becomes obsessed with a flirtatious tourist (Ellie Tringou) about half his age. With Dimi Hart, Hara Kotsali and Marcus Collen. (In Greek and English with subtitles)

 

This Beautiful Fantastic (PG for mature themes and mild epithets) Unlikely-buddies dramedy about a cash-strapped, reclusive writer (Jessica Brown Findlay) befriended by the filthy-rich, cranky old codger (Tom Wilkinson) who lives next door. Supporting cast includes Jeremy Irvine, Anna Chancellor and Andrew Scott.

 

Uncertain (Unrated) Warts-and-all documentary taking a lighthearted look at the colorful denizens of Uncertain, Texas (popu. 94), a tiny town in the middle of nowhere you’ve got to be lost to find.


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