Focus Features / American Zoetrope
Rated R for sexuality
Southern Belles Vie For Union Soldier’s Affections In Sofia Coppola’s Sublime Tale Of Seduction
The Beguiled is a Civil War saga based on the best seller of the same name by the late novelist/playwright Thomas Cullinan (1919-1995). The sublime tale of seduction was first adapted to the screen in 1971 as a melodramatic revenge flick starring Clint Eastwood. This relatively-refined remake was directed by Sofia Coppola whose effort was richly rewarded at Cannes where she became only the second woman to win Best Director in the history of the festival.
The story is set in 1864 at a Virginia boarding school for girls run by prim Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) with the help of equally-proper Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). They have five students entrusted to their care, ranging in age from prepubescent to the late teens.
At the point of departure, the sounds of battle are audible off in the distance. The raging conflict cuts a sharp contrast to the serenity of the idyllic campus where we find Amy (Oona Laurence) foraging in the forest for wild mushrooms.
She stumbles upon a wounded Union soldier hiding in the woods. Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) had been felled by a bullet to the leg. The innocent adolescent instinctively brings him home, only to be criticized by an elder classmate (Angourie Rice) for rescuing a “dangerous enemy.”
After initially issuing a stern warning that “You are a most unwelcome visitor,” their ordinarily icy headmistress inexplicably melts. She allows the ailing adversary to remain on the premises without even informing the Confederate army of his presence.
Personally assuming the responsibility of nursing their guest back to health, man-starved Martha soon finds herself swooning for the solicitous stranger. Trouble is, John proves to be quite the Casanova, knowing just the right words to surreptitiously charm the pants off each of the females, one-by-one.
Of course, the cat’s eventually out of the bag, and his collective spell is broken. And after the heartbroken lasses put their heads together, he probably wishes he’d simply surrendered to the Rebels rather than seek refuge.
Hell hath no fury like some Southern belles scorned!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 93 minutes
Sony Pictures Classics / Lucky Bird Pictures
Rated R for sexuality and disturbing violence
Historical Drama Recreates 1939 Attempt To Assassinate Hitler
Believe it or not, over a dozen different attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler (Udo Schenk) were made before he took his own life in April of 1945. The year before, he only suffered minor injuries in the bombing that was the focus of Valkyrie (2008), a docudrama starring Tom Cruise.
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall), 13 Minutes chronicles the first try after Hitler had taken control of Germany. The incident occurred in Munich on November 8, 1939, in a hall where the Fuhrer was scheduled to deliver an address.
Trouble is, Georg Elser’s (Christian Friedel) homemade time bomb went off too late, as Hitler had completed his remarks and exited the building 13 minutes earlier accompanied by several henchmen, including Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes), Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess, and the architect of the Holocaust, Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen).
Later that same day, Georg was apprehended while trying to slip into Switzerland. Border guards took him into custody upon discovering incriminating evidence in his possession suggested a connection to the explosion.
He was soon delivered to Germany’s Chief of Police Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klauszner) and Gestapo Chief Heinrich Muller (Johann von Bulow) for interrogation, but refused to answer any questions until they threatened to arrest his girlfriend Elsa (Katharina Schuttler), too. Georg confessed to protect her, but they still didn’t believe the simple carpenter could have possibly acted alone, given the powerful explosion that claimed eight lives and wounded 62.
So, they resorted to torture to extract the identities of his suspected accomplices that only existed in their imaginations. But Georg had nothing further to share, other than an explanation of exactly how he’d secretly amassed enough gunpowder to construct a weapon of mass destruction.
13 Minutes employs an unorthodox story structure, as it opens with the failed coup, and is followed by a series of Georg’s flashbacks. While behind bars, he reminisces about everything from his disgust with Nazis to his ill-fated relationship with Elsa.
A long-overdue tribute to an unsung hero who came that close to changing the course of history.
Excellent (4 stars)
In German with subtitles
Running time: 114 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 30, 2017
Baby Driver (R for violence and pervasive profanity) Ansel Elgort plays the title character in this crime comedy about a music-loving getaway driver pressured by a powerful crime boss (Kevin Spacey) to participate in an ill-fated bank heist. With Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Big Boi and Flea.
Despicable Me 3 (PG for action and rude humor) Fourth installment in the animated franchise (if you include Minions) finds Gru (Steve Carell) facing his most formidable foe ever, an ex-child star (Trey Parker) still obsessed with the character he played back in the ’80s. Voice cast includes Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews and Russell Brand.
The House (R for sexual references, drug use, violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity) Dysfunctional family comedy revolving around a married couple (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) who open an illegal casino in their basement after bankrupting their daughter’s (Ryan Simpkins) college fund. With Jeremy Renner, Nick Kroll and Allison Tolman.
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (R for brief profanity and graphic nude images) Oscar winner Errol Morris (for The Fog of War) directed this documentary chronicling the career of Elsa Dorfman, a proponent of the Polaroid Land camera from 1980 until the company went out of business in 2008.
Inconceivable (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and violence) Suspense thriller about a married couple (Nicolas Cage and Gina Gershon) who come to regret hiring a mysterious nanny (Nicky Whelan), new to town. With Faye Dunaway, Natalie Eva Marie and Leah Huebner.
The Little Hours (R for sexuality, profanity and graphic nudity) Romantic comedy, set during the Middle Ages, revolving around a runaway servant (Dave Franco) who takes refuge from his master (Nick Offerman) at a monastery filled with sexually-repressed nuns. Ensemble cast includes Molly Shannon, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, Paul Reiser, Fred Armisen and Aubrey Plaza.
Mali Blues (Unrated) Concert documentary featuring performances by Malian musical icons Fatoumata Diawara, Bassekou Kouyaté Master Soumy and Ahmed Ag Kaed in the face of death threats from radical Islamists. (In French with subtitles)
Okja (Unrated) Sci-fi adventure revolving around a young girl’s (Seo-Hyun Ahn) attempt to prevent a multi-national corporation from kidnapping her massive pet. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, Paul Dano, Devon Bostick and Giancarlo Esposito. (In Korean and English with subtitles)
Pop Aye (Unrated) Unlikely buddies drama, set in Thailand, about a jaded, big city architect (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) who embarks on a cross-country trek with his long-lost pet elephant (Bong) back to the farm where they were raised. Cast includes Penpak Sirikul, Narong Pongpab and Chaiwat Khumdee. (In Thai with subtitles)
The Reagan Show (Unrated) Political exposé revealing President Ronald Reagan as just a made-for-TV leader of the Free World.
The Skyjacker’s Tale (Unrated) Justice delayed documentary about FBI Most Wanted List fugitive Ishmael Muslim Ali, who hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1984 after being convicted of masterminding a massacre of eight at a Rockefeller country club in the Virgin Islands.