A Quiet Passion
Music Box Films / Hurricane Films
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, disturbing images and suggestive material
Cynthia Nixon Delivers Exquisite Depiction Of Poet Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) had less than a dozen of her 1,800 poems published, while she was still alive. Since she was only appreciated posthumously, it makes sense that a movie about her life might revolve around something other than the literary prowess that went unrecognized by her contemporaries.
In bringing her story to the big screen, writer/director Terrence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) wisely resisted the temptation to pore over the prolific scribe’s evocative verses in favor of plumbing the depths of her terribly tortured soul. The upshot of that endeavor is A Quiet Passion, an exquisite costume drama alternately presenting the protagonist as an iconoclastic visionary and as a retiring recluse.
On the macro level, the socially-conscious production subtly suggests that the agnostic, feminist abolitionist was ahead of her time and withdrew from the world in response to being raised in an era when evangelism, slavery and male chauvinism were the order of the day. Meanwhile, on the micro level, the character-driven drama telescopes intensely on a fragile psyche ostensibly further crippled by a cloistered existence.
As the film unfolds, we find Emily (played in her teens by Emma Bell, later as an adult by Cynthia Nixon) just finishing a frustrating freshman year at Mount Holyoke. She soon decides to drop out due to the pressure being unfairly exerted by the school’s president, Mary Lyon (Sara Vertongen), to conform to the outwardly pious practices dictated by the Christian revival movement. Introspective Emily rebels because she sees her relationship with God as a direct and personal matter as opposed to one demanding public displays of devotion at church services.
So, she returns to Amherst, Massachusetts, where she again takes up residence on the grounds of the Dickinson family estate inhabited by her parents (Keith Carradine and Joanna Bacon), brother (Duncan Duff) and sister (Jennifer Ehle). Unfortunately, headstrong Emily proves unable to bite her tongue when visitors like the local pastor (Miles Richardson) or even a potential suitor (Stefan Menaul) come a callin’.
Although she does eventually make trusted confidantes of her sister-in-law Susan (Jodhi May) and the equally-irreverent Mabel Loomis Todd (Noemie Schellens), her preference remains the solitude of the remote, upstairs bedroom which affords her the opportunity to craft her immortal poems in secret. Cynthia Nixon has never been more convincing than conveying the emotional fires simmering just beneath the surface of such a stoic countenance.
A melancholy mood piece for the ages!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 126 minutes
Black Site Delta
Military Misfits Take Shot At Redemption In High Body-Count Splatterfest
Black Site Delta is a micro-budget production most reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen (1967). Like that classic action flick, the action-oriented tale of redemption revolves around the patriotic exploits of a rag-tag team of convicts.
However, given the film’s financial constraints, it features a team of six instead of 12 protagonists. They are led by Jake (Cam Gigandet), a vet suffering from PTSD who, at the point of departure, lands in a military prison following a bar fight. He soon discovers that the place doubles as a black site kept off the radar of the general public.
His fellow inmates are other disgraced soldiers, such as Simms (Benjamin Charles Watson), a former drone pilot incarcerated for refusing to drop a bomb on a terrorist at a child’s birthday party full of kids. Truth be told, the facility has been hijacked to secretly serve as the command center for a treasonous operation employing a weapon of mass destruction.
Apparently, one Colonel Irving (Michael Dale) has gone rogue and is now doing the bidding of an Afghan warlord named Khan (Arash Mokhtar). Once that fact comes to light, Jake recruits Simms, his love interest Vasquez (Teri Reeves), and a few other cellmates with the hope that their heroics might lead to full pardons. What ensues is a spectacular splatterfest worthy of John Woo or Sam Peckinpah.
Thus unfolds Black Site Delta, a gratuitous snuff flick laced with lots of gory kill shots. The movie marks the directorial debut of Jesse Gustafson who does a decent enough job to satiate the bloodlust of fans of the high body-count genre.
A “Dirty Half-Dozen,” tailor-made for folks who appreciate scene after scene of incessant slaughter.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 86 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening May 12, 2017
Dead Awake (Unrated) Suspense thriller about a social worker (Jocelin Donahue) who lands in a world of supernatural terror while investigating a series of mysterious deaths where each victim contracted a condition called sleep paralysis. Ensemble cast includes Jesse Bradford, Brea Grant, James Eckhouse and Lori Petty.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13 for violence, action, suggestive content and brief profanity) Charlie Hunnam plays the title character in this reimagining of the medieval tale which finds the mythical monarch in a quest to reclaim the crown after being robbed of his birthright by a power-hungry uncle (Jude Law). With Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Aidan Gillen.
Lowriders (PG-13 for sensuality, profanity, violence, mature themes and brief drug use) Dysfunctional family drama, set in East L.A., revolving around a teenage street artist (Gabriel Chavarria) torn between his need for self-expression and his father (Demian Bichir) and ex-con brother’s (Theo Rossi) obsession with cruising around in a custom car that bounces. Featuring Eva Longoria, Melissa Benoist and Cress Williams.
Snatched (R for sexuality, brief nudity, pervasive profanity and crude humor) Action comedy about an uptight, helicopter mom (Goldie Hawn) who joins her recently-dumped daughter (Amy Schumer) for a getaway to a supposed paradise, only to have their exotic vacation turn into a never-ending nightmare. Cast includes Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack and Christopher Meloni.
Absolutely Anything (Unrated) Sci-fi comedy about some advanced aliens from another planet who test the human species’ morality by temporarily blessing a Special Ed teacher (Simon Pegg) with superpowers. With Kate Beckinsale, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Rob Riggle and Eddie Izzard. (In English and French with subtitles)
Generation Iron 2 (Unrated) Bodybuilding sequel featuring the perfect physiques of five of the top figures in the field: Kai Greene, Rich Piana, Calujm Von Moger, Iris Kyle and Mamdouh Elssbiay.
Meri Pyaari Bindu (Unrated) Romantic comedy about a best-selling author with writer’s block (Ayushmann Khurrana) who returns to his roots to work on a love story about the free-spirited woman (Parineeti Chopra) he just can’t get out of his head. Supporting cast includes Aparajita Adhya, Abish Mathew and Malvika Sitlani. (In Hindi with subtitles)
Paris Can Wait (PG for smoking, mature themes and mild epithets) Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford) makes her directorial debut with this romantic comedy about a miserably-married housewife (Diane Lane) who gets a new lease on life when she embarks on a carefree jaunt from Cannes to Paris with her preoccupied husband’s (Alec Baldwin) business partner (Arnaud Viand). With Cedric Monnet, Elise Tielrooy, Elodie Navarre and Pierre Cuq.
Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Stefan Zweig (Josef Hader), chronicling the celebrated Jewish author’s years in exile following his fleeing his native Austria for South America in 1936. Featuring Tomas Lemarquis, Barbara Sukowa and Charly Hubner. (In English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and German with subtitles)
The Wall (R for violence and pervasive profanity) Iraq War sniper saga revolving around a couple of American soldiers (John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who find themselves pinned down in the desert with only an unstable wall standing between them and a sharpshooter (Laith Nakli).
The Wedding Plan (PG for mature themes) Romantic comedy about a jilted, Jewish bride-to-be (Noa Koler) who instead of cancelling the wedding, enlists the assistance of matchmakers in her desperate attempt to find another mate in a month. With Dafi Alferon, Oded Leopold, Udi Persi and Ronny Merhavi. (In Hebrew with subtitles)
Whisky Galore (Unrated) Remake of the 1949 farce of the same name about some Scottish pals’ plunder of booze from a ship that ran aground in the Outer Hebrides. Ensemble cast includes Eddie Izzard, Naomi Battrick, Ellie Kendrick, James Cosmo and Sean Biggerstaff.