REVIEW: BAD LAND: ROAD TO FURY (THE YOUNG ONES)

CAST

Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In)
Robert Hobbs (District 9)
Aimee Mullins (Stranger Things)
Alex McGregor (Searchers)

In a post-drought apocalypse United States, people kill for water. Ernest Holm lives with his son Jerome and daughter Mary in their small townhouse and field. His wife has been involved in an accident earlier and is now permanently hospitalized in a facility where she can walk while wired to a special frame. While everyone else has left the area, Ernest and his family remain, as Ernest believes that the land will grow once more if only there is irrigation. Ernest gets water for his family by delivering supplies to the “water men” who extract water from deep wells through a government deal. When his mule breaks its legs and he has to kill it, Ernest goes to Sam Lever’s auction house and buys a robotic carrier machine called Simulit Shadow (“Sim”) to replace it, beating the offers of Flem Lever, Sam’s son, a young, troubled man who has been seeing Mary without Ernest’s consent.One morning, Ernest finds the Sim is missing, and he goes looking for it. When he gets to the water men, he is accused of stealing their supplies. He finds Flem transporting the stolen supplies with the Sim; Flem plans to sell them at the border. Ernest takes Flem captive, ties him to the machine, and aims to take the supplies back to the water men. When they stop due to dehydration, Flem convinces Ernest to rehydrate with the liquor they are transporting. Wanting to escape, Flem throws a stone at Ernest’s head and frames the machine for Ernest’s death. Flem marries Mary after helping the family obtain illegal irrigation from the water men, thus saving their farm, which was originally Flem’s father’s. But after finding out Ernest had overwhelming debts to repay to a bank, which is now going to repossess the farm, Flem tricks his friend Robbie into selling his baby behind his wife’s back. Robbie is killed and the Sim is lost in an altercation with the buyers. However, the machine returns limping and mangled to its manufacturer, who resides in a city across the border. The owner, Calvin Hooyman, reaches Jerome at the Holm residence via CB radio, informing him about the machine.Jerome crosses the border with the help of Anna, a girl who lives with the “settlers”, people fighting back against the government’s regulations and considered terrorists. Jerome meets Calvin, who gives the repaired Sim back to him, and shows Jerome how the machine’s laser sensor behaves like a rudimentary video recorder. Jerome plays the recording and finds the truth about Ernest’s death. Arriving home before Flem, Jerome questions him as to how the machine found its way home, since Flem claimed to have sold it in order to repay the debt. Flem’s lies only infuriate Jerome more, but at first he takes no action. Instead, he lures Flem out in the desert by posing as Robbie via radio and letters, ultimately causing Flem to fall into a pit trap and break his legs. As Flem cries for help, Jerome, who has been secretly following him, comes at the pit’s mouth. Flem realizes that Jerome knows about what happened to Ernest. He tries to elicit Jerome’s mercy, but Jerome coldly shoots him in the head. Jerome ultimately decides to withhold these events and the circumstances of Ernest’s death from Mary, who is pregnant with Flem’s child. Brother and sister remain in the house, planning to bring their mother there from the hospital now that they can pay for her brace wires, and wishing the baby will be a girl. A gritty film, it’s a futuristic dust bowl tale as grim as Grapes of Wrath. It’s memorable and keeps your attention, while portraying Sci-Fi in a very believable way. The mix of poverty and high technology, the extremes of the haves and have-nots, and water shortages in the US, amplifies the current state of a society as all good sci-fi films do.

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REVIEW: DADDY DAY CARE

CAST

Eddie Murphy (Dr. Dolittle)
Jeff Garlin (Wall-E)
Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family)
Steve Zahn (Roadkill)
Regina King (The Big Bang Theory)
Kevin Nealon (Weeds)
Jonathan Katz (House of Games)
Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Men In Black)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Max Burkholder (The Purge)
Elle Fanning (Maleficent)
Jimmy Bennett (Star Trek)
Rachael Harris (The Hangover)

Charlie Hinton is a food products marketing executive whose wife Kim Hinton has just gone back to work as a lawyer. They enroll their child, Ben Hinton, in Chapman Academy, a very academic pre-school headed by a woman named Miss Harridan. But when Kim finds out how much the parents have to pay per month, she takes Ben out of Chapman and looks for other daycare facilities. Some time later, Charlie and his best friend, Phil Ryerson, are laid off. Unable to find either a suitable daycare or new employment, Charlie decides to open up a day care center in his home with the help of Phil, and calls it Daddy Day Care. At first, the local parents are suspicious of men wanting to work with kids, but as Daddy Day Care is cheaper and more child-centered than Chapman Academy, the latter begins to lose students.Unwilling to accept the presence of competition, Miss Harridan attempts to shut down Daddy Day Care by notifying child services that Charlie and Phil are not following the relevant regulations. Mr. Dan Kubitz, a director of child services, notifies them of the codes that need to be fixed, which Charlie and Phil quickly correct. Daddy Day Care grows in popularity and attracts more children. Mr. Kubitz informs Phil and Charlie that they need another employee to keep an appropriate ratio of children to caregivers. Luckily, Marvin, a nerdy former co-worker, had dropped by, and after seeing how good he is at entertaining the children, Phil and Charlie ask him about joining. Marvin is unsure at first, but then finds himself falling for Kelli, the single mother of Dylan and agrees.Later, Mr. Kubitz tells them they have too many kids to stay at Charlie’s residence. They find an abandoned building with potential, but do not have the money to buy it. They hold a fund-raising event called “Rock for Daddy Day Care”, which Miss Harridan finds out about. She and her assistant, Jenny, wreck the festival by unplugging a bouncy castle, filling the food with cockroaches, switching face paint with glue, releasing animals from the petting zoo, and turning on the park sprinklers. Daddy Day Care does not raise enough money. Shortly after, Charlie and Phil are offered their old jobs back, accepting Miss Harridan’s offer to take the kids back to the academy. Marvin, heartbroken by the closing of the day care, declines Charlie and Phil’s offer to be on board their marketing panel.Charlie soon realizes during a cereal pitch that the time he has given to his new life, and the increased bond with his son is “the most important thing”, and starts to question the morality of his current assignment (which involves marketing high-sugar breakfast cereal to children). He quits his job and tells Phil to quit with him. Then he and Phil pick up Marvin before heading off to Chapman Academy. During the confrontation between Miss Harridan and Charlie, Jenny makes the comparisons between the two. She discovers that unlike her boss, Charlie and Phil actually took the time to get to know the children to understand their needs. They successfully convince the children and their parents to return to Daddy Day Care, making it a raging success, causing Chapman Academy to shut down for good. Marvin is now in a relationship with Kelli, Miss Harridan gets demoted to a crossing guard, and Jenny joins Daddy Day Care at the new facility.The movie is harmless and fun. Not a great film, just a fun one to pass the time.

REVIEW: TAKEN (2002)

CAST

Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Eric Close (American Snuper)
Catherine Dent (Terminator: TSCC)
Joel Gretsch (V)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Tine Holmes (Half Nelson)
Steve Burton (Cyber Tracker)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Stacy Grant (Shanghai Noon)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Michael Moriarty (Courage Under Fire)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
James McDaniel (Sleepy Hollow)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Ryan Hurst (Bates Motel)
James Kirk (X-Men 2)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Brenda James (Slither)
Chad Morgan (The Purge: Anarchy)
Jonathan Young (Sanctuary)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Emily Holmes (The Wicker Man)
Erin Karpluk (Being Erica)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Desmond Harrington (Ghost Ship)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Emily Bergl (Carrie 2)
Britt Irvin (V)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gabrielle Rose (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Linda Ko (Antitrust)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Justin Chatwin (Taking Lives)
Gwynyth Walsh (Van Helsing)
Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project)

From none other than visionary Steven Spielberg comes TAKEN (2002), which I first saw during it’s initial run on the BBC. I admire the scope, ambition, and emotion attached to this entertaining mini series.It starts off in 1944, with Russell Keys, along with his bomber crew, being ‘taken’ by an alien spacecraft during their WWII mission. The crew is experimented on, but Keys is essentially the lone survivor. Keys returns home with PTSD, not due to war, but due to the alien experience. This compels him to leave his wife and child to solve the mystery. Eventually, the aliens take Russell’s teen son Jesse Keys. The aliens obviously see an internal resolve in the Keys’ men that distinguishes them from the rest of the human race.
A second parallel story starts around 1947, and involves the lone survivor of a downed alien spacecraft that manages to take human form as “John” , who seeks refuge on a Texas farm owned by Sally Clarke, a hard-working waitress and single mother of two. John and Sally bond and she is impregnated, leading to a human-alien hybrid Jacob Clarke (superbly played by then-newcomer Anton Yelchin, now known for being the new Chekhov in the re-booted Star Trek franchise).The final parallel story also starts in 1947 in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, where the local Air Force has found John’s downed ship and his 4 alien compadres who did not survive. Backed by the government, the military takes over the super-secret project, which starts off being briefly led by Colonel Campbell and is soon taken over by his ambitious son-in-law Captain Owen Crawford (brilliantly played by Joel Gretsch), military intelligence officer. Gretsch perfectly essays the role of megalomaniacal Crawford, who runs the project with unapologetic brio. I really felt that Gretsch’s character carried the first few episodes (spanning 1947 to 1962) with strong support from the other actors.
Taken’s first half  storytelling is strong, a perfect balance of science fiction, politics, speculation, and drama. One really buys into the premise that these goings-on could have actually happened. It’s definitely not fiction that many an American have reported UFO sightings and alien experiences over the years, and this miniseries is one of the better attempts at relaying this message to the viewer.
With the second half of the mini series the puzzle pieces finally start to come together to an interesting conclusion. Emily Burgl (as Lisa Clarke) and Andy Kaufman (as Charlie Keys) were commendable as the adult versions of the last respective offspring of the Clarke-Keys clans, the main highlight of the second half was  was the performance of newcomer Dakota Fanning (who plays Allie) whose wonderful narration is a key to the series overall success. She stole the show from all of her adult counterparts. I would definitely recommend the miniseries based on ambition and overall scope and the tightly woven storytellingthe show demonstrates. It’s an epic Sci-Fi story that is intriguing and at times touching. It wasthe series that made Dakota Fanning a star.

REVIEW: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

CAST

Brad Pitt (World War Z)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange)
Taraji P. Henson (Date Night)
Julia Ormond (Resistance)
Jason Flemyng (Rob Roy)
Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage)
Phyllis Somerville (Little Children)
Jared Harris (Lincoln)
Elias Koteas (Crash)
Tom Everett (Die Hard 2)
Elle Fanning (Maleficent)
Josh Stewart (No Ordinary Family)

In 2005, elderly Daisy Fuller is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches; she asks her daughter, Caroline, to read aloud from the diary of Benjamin Button.

From the reading, it is revealed that on the evening of November 11, 1918, a boy was born with the appearance and physical maladies of an elderly man. The baby’s mother died after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button, abandons the infant on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie and Mr. “Tizzy” Weathers, workers at the nursing home, find the baby, and Queenie decides to care for him as her own.

Benjamin learns to walk in 1925; he declares it a miracle, after which he uses crutches in place of a wheelchair. On Thanksgiving 1930, Benjamin meets seven-year-old Daisy, whose grandmother lives in the nursing home. He and Daisy become good friends. Later, he accepts work on a tugboat captained by Mike Clark. Benjamin also meets Thomas Button, who does not reveal that he is Benjamin’s father. In Autumn 1936, Benjamin leaves New Orleans for a long-term work engagement with the tugboat crew; Daisy later is accepted into a dance company in New York City under choreographer George Balanchine. In 1941, Benjamin is in Murmansk, where he begins having an affair with Elizabeth Abbott, wife of the British Trade Minister. That December, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, thrusting the United States into World War II. Mike volunteers the boat for the U.S. Navy; the crew is assigned to salvage duties. During a patrol, the tugboat finds a sunken U.S. transport and the bodies of many American troops. A German submarine surfaces; Mike steers the tugboat full speed towards it while a German gunner fires on the tugboat, killing most of the crew, including Mike. The tugboat rams the submarine, causing it to explode, sinking both vessels. Benjamin and another crewman are rescued by U.S. Navy ships the next day.

In May 1945, Benjamin returns to New Orleans and reunites with Queenie. A few weeks later, he reunites with Daisy; they go out for dinner. Upon failing to seduce him afterward, she departs. Benjamin later reunites with Thomas Button, who, terminally ill, reveals he is Benjamin’s father and wills Benjamin his button company and his estate. In 1947, Benjamin visits Daisy in New York unannounced but departs upon seeing that she has fallen in love with someone else. In 1954, Daisy’s dancing career ends when her leg is crushed in an automobile accident in Paris. When Benjamin visits her, Daisy is amazed by his youthful appearance, but, frustrated by her injuries, she tells him to stay out of her life.

In spring 1962, Daisy returns to New Orleans and reunites with Benjamin. Now of comparable physical age, they fall in love and go sailing together. They return to learn that Queenie has died, then move in together. In 1967, Daisy, who has opened a ballet studio, tells Benjamin that she is pregnant; she gives birth to a girl, Caroline, in the spring of 1968. Believing he can not be a proper father to his daughter due to his reverse aging, Benjamin departs after selling his belongings, leaving a bank account book holding the proceeds behind for Daisy and Caroline; he travels alone during the 1970s. Benjamin returns to Daisy in 1980. Now married, Daisy introduces him, as a family friend, to her husband and daughter. Daisy admits that he was right to leave; she could not have coped otherwise. She later visits Benjamin at his hotel, where they again share their passion for each other, then part once more.

In 1990, widowed Daisy is contacted by social workers who have found Benjamin—now physically a pre-teen. When she arrives, they explain that he was living in a condemned building and was taken to the hospital in poor physical condition, and that they found her name in his diary. The bewildered social workers also say he is displaying early signs of dementia. Daisy moves into the nursing home in 1997 and cares for Benjamin for the rest of his life. In the spring of 2003, Benjamin dies in Daisy’s arms, physically an infant but chronologically 84 years of age. Having finally revealed the story of Caroline’s father to her, Daisy dies as Hurricane Katrina approaches.
It is an extremely graceful depiction of life, love, and the things we lose. After so much anticipation I was certainly not disappointed. This movie is probably not for everyone though. It’s not your average drama that spoon feeds it’s audience their emotions. It is something of awe and astonishment, an absolute gem. What makes our lives memorable are the moments we never seem to grasp long enough before letting go. Life in itself is indeed very, very curious and Benjamin Button is no less of a wonder.

REVIEW: MALEFICENT

CAST

Angelina Jolie (Mr and Mrs Smith)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Sharlto Copley (Powers)
Lesley Manville (Vera Drake)
Imelda Staunton (Paddington)
Juno Temple (Horns)
Sam Riley (Control)

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a powerful fairy who lives in the Moors, a magical forest realm bordering a corrupt human kingdom. As a young girl, she meets and falls in love with a human peasant boy named Stefan, whose love for Maleficent is overshadowed by his ambition to become king. As they grow older, the two grow apart, and Maleficent becomes protector of the Moors. When King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) tries to conquer the Moors, a grown Maleficent forces him to retreat. Fatally wounded in battle, he declares that whoever kills Maleficent will be named his successor and marry his only daughter, Princess Leila. Stefan visits Maleficent in the Moors, where he drugs her but cannot bring himself to kill her. Instead, he cuts off her wings and presents them to the king as evidence of her death. Maleficent awakens to find herself wingless. Overwhelmed by Stefan’s betrayal, she declares herself Queen of the Moors, forming a dark kingdom with Diaval (Sam Riley), a raven to whom she gives human form. He acts as her wings, her spy and confidant.

After some time, Diaval informs Maleficent that Stefan (Sharlto Copley), now king, is hosting a christening for his newborn daughter, Princess Aurora, with his wife, Queen Leila (Hannah New). Bent on revenge, Maleficent arrives uninvited and curses the infant princess: on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep from which she will never awaken. When Stefan begs for mercy, Maleficent offers an antidote: the curse can only be broken by true love’s kiss. Stefan sends Aurora to live with three pixies – Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville) – until the day after her sixteenth birthday, while he destroys all the spinning wheels in the kingdom and hides their remnants in the castle dungeon. He sends his armies to find and kill Maleficent, but she surrounds the Moors with an impenetrable wall of thorns. King Stefan slips into madness and paranoia trying to prevent the curse, even neglecting to see his wife on her deathbed.

Despite her initial dislike for Aurora, Maleficent begins to have feelings for the girl. After a brief meeting with the young Aurora, Maleficent watches over her from afar. When Aurora (Elle Fanning) is fifteen, she encounters Maleficent. Knowing that she is being watched over, she refers to Maleficent as her “fairy godmother.” Realizing she has grown fond of the princess, Maleficent attempts to revoke the curse, but is unsuccessful. In the forest, Aurora meets Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites), and the two are instantly smitten with one another. On the day before Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, Maleficent, invites her to live with her in the Moors. The pixies inadvertently tell Aurora of her past and reveal Maleficent’s true identity, and a distraught Aurora runs away to her father’s castle.

After a brief reunion with his daughter, Stefan locks her away in her room for her own safety. However, the power of the curse draws Aurora to the dungeon, where remnants of a spinning wheel pricks her finger. She falls into a deep sleep, fulfilling the curse. Maleficent, intent on saving her, abducts Phillip and infiltrates Stefan’s castle, but Phillip’s kiss fails to awaken Aurora. At her bedside, Maleficent apologizes to Aurora and kisses her forehead. Aurora awakens, as the motherly tenderness proves powerful enough to break the spell. Aurora forgives Maleficent, but as they attempt to leave the castle, Stefan and his guards spring an ambush, trapping Maleficent in an iron net. As her attackers close in, Maleficent transforms Diaval into a dragon freeing her, but they are driven back by the guards. Stefan beats and taunts Maleficent, but before he can deliver a killing blow, her wings are freed by Aurora and fly back to Maleficent reattaching themselves. Fully empowered, Maleficent carries Stefan to the top of the castle’s highest tower. At the precipice, she cannot bring herself to kill him. Stefan attempts to kill her, however, and both plummet from the tower. Maleficent is able to break away, and Stefan falls to his death. Soon after, Princess Aurora is crowned Queen by Maleficent, unifying the two kingdoms in peace.

Maleficent is the perfect blend of excitement and fairy tale.

REVIEW: BABEL

CAST

Brad Pitt (Fight Club)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Mohamed Akhzam (Prisoners of The Sun)
Peter Wright (Hot Fuzz)
Harriet Walter (Atonement)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gael García Bernal  (The King)
Nathan Gamble (Marley & Me)
Clifton Collins, Jr. (Traffic)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Kōji Yakusho (13 Assassins)
Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim)

Babel

Babel focuses on four interrelated sets of situations and characters, and many events are revealed out of sequence. The following plot summary has been simplified and thus does not reflect the exact sequence of the events on screen.

Morocco

In a desert in Morocco, Abdullah, a goatherder, buys a .270 Winchester M70 rifle and a box of ammunition from his neighbor Hassan Ibrahim to shoot the jackals that have been preying on his goats. Abdullah gives the rifle to his two young sons, Yussef and Ahmed, and sends them out to tend the herd. Ahmed, the older of the two, criticises Yussef for spying on his sister while she changes her clothes. Doubtful of the rifle’s purported three-kilometer range, they decide to test it out, aiming first at rocks, a moving car on a highway below, and then at a bus carrying Western tourists. Yussef’s bullet hits the bus, critically wounding Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), an American woman from San Diego who is traveling with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) on vacation. The two boys realize what has happened and flee the scene, hiding the rifle in the hills.
Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt
Glimpses of television news programs reveal that the US government considers the shooting a terrorist act and is pressuring the Moroccan government to apprehend the culprits. Having traced the rifle back to Hassan, the Moroccan police descend on his house and roughly question him and his wife until they reveal that the rifle was given to him by a Japanese man, and then sold to Abdullah. The two boys see the police on the road and confess to their father what they have done, believing at the time that the American woman has died of her wounds. The three flee from their house, retrieving the rifle as they go. The police corner them on the rocky slope of a hill and open fire. After Ahmed is hit in the leg, Yussef returns fire, striking one police officer in the shoulder. The police continue shooting, hitting Ahmed in the back, possibly fatally injuring him. As his father rages with grief, Yussef surrenders and confesses to the crimes, begging clemency for his family and medical assistance for his brother. The police take him into custody.
babel
This first plotline is interspersed with scenes of Richard and Susan, who came on vacation to Morocco to get away from and mend their own woes. The death of their infant third child, to SIDS, has strained their marriage significantly and they struggle to communicate their frustration, guilt, and blame. When Susan is shot on the tour bus, Richard orders the bus driver to the nearest village, Tazarine. There, a local veterinarian sews up Susan’s wound to stem the loss of blood. Richard contacts the US embassy to request an ambulance. The other tourists wait for some time, but they eventually demand to leave, fearing the heat and that they may be the target of further attacks. Richard tells the tour group to wait for the ambulance, which never arrives, and eventually the bus leaves without them. The couple stays behind with the bus’s tour guide, Anwar, still waiting for transport to a hospital. Political issues between the US and Morocco prevent quick help, but eventually a helicopter arrives and carries Richard and Susan to a hospital in Casablanca, where she is expected to recover. Richard calls his children’s nanny, Amelia, from the hospital, and they agree not to tell the children that Susan has been shot yet. Richard cries as his son tells him about his day at school.
Babel-screen2
Japan

Chieko Wataya (綿谷 千恵子 Wataya Chieko, Rinko Kikuchi) is a rebellious, deaf Japanese teenage girl, traumatized by the recent suicide of her mother. She is bitter towards her father, Yasujiro Wataya (綿谷 安二郎 Wataya Yasujirō, Kōji Yakusho) and boys her age, and is sexually frustrated. She starts exhibiting sexually provocative behavior, partly in response to dismissive comments from a member of her volleyball team. While out with friends, Chieko finds a teenage boy attractive, and following an unsuccessful attempt at socialising, exposes herself to him under a table. Chieko encounters two police detectives who question her about her father. She and her friends take ecstacy pills in public and attend a rave. Chieko sees one of her friends kissing another boy she finds attractive and leaves the party alone.

She invites one of the detectives, Kenji Mamiya (真宮 賢治 Mamiya Kenji, Satoshi Nikaido), back to the high-rise apartment she shares with her father. Wrongly supposing that the detectives are investigating her father’s involvement in her mother’s suicide, she explains to Mamiya that her father was asleep when her mother jumped off the balcony and that she witnessed this herself. It turns out the detectives are investigating a hunting trip Yasujiro took in Morocco. Soon after learning this, Chieko approaches Mamiya nude and attempts to seduce him. He resists her approaches but comforts her as she bursts into tears. Before he leaves, Chieko writes him a note, indicating that she does not want him to read it until he is gone.

Leaving the apartment, Mamiya crosses paths with Yasujiro and questions him about the rifle. Yasujiro explains that there was no black market involvement; he gave his rifle as a gift to Hassan Ibrahim, his hunting guide on a trip in Morocco. About to depart, Mamiya offers condolences for the wife’s suicide. Yasujiro, however, is confused by the mention of a balcony and angrily replies: “My wife shot herself in the head. Chieko was the first to find the body. I’ve explained this to the police many times.” After leaving, Mamiya stops at a bar to read Chieko’s note. The note’s contents are not revealed. Chieko is leaning on the balcony when her father enters the apartment, and the two embrace as she breaks down in tears.

United States/Mexico

Richard and Susan’s Mexican nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza), tends to their children, Debbie (Elle Fanning) and Mike (Nathan Gamble), in their San Diego, California home while they are in Morocco. When Amelia learns of Susan’s injury, she is forced to take care of the children longer than planned and becomes worried that she will miss her son’s wedding. Unable to secure any other help to care for them, she calls Richard for advice, who tells her that she has to stay with the children. Without his permission, Amelia decides to take the children with her to the wedding in a rural community near Tijuana, Mexico. Her nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal) offers to take her and the kids to the wedding. They cross the border uneventfully and the children are soon confronted by the Mexican culture and street scene. The revelry of the wedding extends well into the evening, and the kids enjoy themselves in the festivities. Rather than staying the night in Mexico with the children, Amelia decides to drive back to the States with Santiago. He has been drinking heavily and the border guards become suspicious of him and the American children in the car. Amelia has passports for all four travelers, but no letter of consent from the children’s parents allowing her to take them out of the United States. Intoxicated and worried, Santiago trespasses the border. He soon abandons Amelia and the children in the desert, attempting to lead off the police.

Stranded without food and water, Amelia and the children are forced to spend the night in the desert. Realizing that they will all die if she cannot get help, Amelia leaves the children behind to find someone, ordering them not to move. She eventually finds a U.S. Border Patrol officer. After he places Amelia under arrest, she and the officer travel back to where she had left the children, but they are not there. Amelia is taken back to a Border Patrol station, where she is eventually informed that the children have been found and that Richard, while outraged, has agreed not to press charges. However, she is told she will be deported from the US where she has been working illegally. Her plea that she has been in the US for 16 years and has looked after the children (whom she considers “her children”) for their entire lives does not secure lenient treatment. Amelia meets her son on the Mexican side of the Tijuana crossing, still in the red dress she wore for the wedding, now torn and dirty from her time in the desert.

Blanchett and Pitt are at the center of the movie (in that order), and both are excellent. Blanchett gives a stunning performance as the critically wounded wife, and Pitt acquits himself well as her anguished husband, as they rediscover their love under duress. But the supporting cast is also excellent, particularly Kikuchi as the rebellious teenager, who feels isolated from the world around her, and is still grieving from her mother’s tragic death. So she acts out sexually. And Barraza gives a solid performance as the nanny, in a nightmarish situation that is particularly haunting because it really happens. It may comment on the lack of communication between cultures and people, but “Babel” is so compelling in its acting and visuals that it could easily have been a silent film. A brilliant, thought-provoking movie, and one that deserves to be seen

REVIEW: SUPER 8

CAST
Elle Fanning (Maleficent)
AJ Michalka (The Lovely Bones)
Kyle Chandler (Zero Dark Thirty)
Joel Courtney (The Messengers)
Jessica Tuck (Flashforward)
Joel McKinnon Miller (Men In Black II)
Ryan Lee (Goosbumps)
Zach Mills (Changeling)
Ron Eldard (Sleepers)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Amanda Foreman (Alias)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
In 1979, Deputy Sheriff Jack Lamb (Kyle Chandler) of Lillian, Ohio, and his 14-year-old son Joe (Joel Courtney), mourn the death of his mother Elizabeth (Caitriona Balfe) in a steel mill accident. Jack blames her co-worker, Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard), as she was covering his shift while he recovered from a hangover. Four months later, Joe’s best friend Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths) decides to make a low-budget zombie movie for an international film competition. Charles enlists the help of Preston Scott (Zach Mills), Martin Read (Gabriel Basso), and Cary McCarthy (Ryan Lee), as well as Dainard’s daughter, Alice (Elle Fanning). Though their fathers would be furious, Joe and Alice become infatuated with each other.
Charles wants to film a scene at a train depot using a passing train to add authenticity. While filming, Joe witnesses a pickup truck drive onto the tracks and ram the train, causing a massive derailment that just about destroys the whole train and the friends barely escape. The children investigate the wreck and find crates full of strange white cubes, then discover the truck’s driver is Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman), their biology teacher. Woodward, barely alive, warns them at gunpoint to forget what they saw that night, or else they and their parents will be killed. The children flee the scene just as a convoy from the local U.S. Air Force base, led by Col. Nelec (Noah Emmerich), arrive at the scene. Nelec discovers an empty box of Super 8mm film, and assumes the event was captured on camera.
While Joe and Charles wait for their film to be developed, the town experiences strange events: All the dogs run away, several townspeople go missing, and electronics from all over are stolen. Overhearing military communications, Jack approaches Nelec to address the rising panic in town, but Nelec instead orders him arrested. Nelec orders the use of flamethrowers to start wildfires outside of town, as an excuse to evacuate people to the base. Suddenly, soldiers sweep into town to begin the evacuation. Meanwhile, Joe and Charles watch the derailment footage and discover that a large creature escaped from the train.
At the base, Joe learns from Alice’s father that she is missing, abducted by the creature. Joe, Charles, Martin, and Cary convince Jen, Charles older sister to pretend to hit on Donny (worker at the camera shop) in order to get into town to rescue Alice. They break into Dr. Woodward’s storage trailer and discover films and documents from his time as a government researcher.
They play the film, which reveals that an alien crash-landed in 1958. The Air Force captured the alien and was running experiments on it while keeping it from its ship. Woodward was one of the scientists experimenting on the ship, composed of the white cubes. At one point, the alien grabs Woodward, apparently establishing a psychic connection with him. Now understanding the alien, he was compelled to rescue it and help it escape from Earth. He finds out about the train, years later, and sought the opportunity to help the creature. The boys are caught by Nelec, but as they are taken back to base, the alien attacks their bus. The airmen are killed and the boys escape. Meanwhile, Jack escapes from the base’s brig and makes his way to the shelter housing the townsfolk. He learns from Preston about Joe’s plan to rescue Alice. Jack and Dainard then agree to put aside their differences to save their kids.
In town, their hardware malfunctions as the military attempts to kill the alien. Martin is injured in an explosion, so Charles stays behind with him while Joe and Cary head to the cemetery, where Joe had earlier seen something there that made him suspicious. Inside the cemetery’s garage, they find a massive tunnel leading to a warren of underground caverns. In a chamber beneath the town’s water tower, they find the alien has created a device from the town’s stolen electronics, attached to the base of the tower. The alien also has several people, including Alice, hanging from the ceiling and unconscious. Using Cary’s firecrackers as a distraction, Joe frees Alice and the others, but they end up trapped in a dead end cavern after the alien chases them down. Alice and Cary scream and cower against the tunnel wall, but Joe steps forward and tries to talk to the alien. The alien grabs Joe, who quietly speaks to the alien, telling him over and over that “bad things happen” but that the alien “can still live”. After studying Joe for a moment, the alien releases him and departs, allowing the three to return to the surface.
As Joe and Alice reunite with their fathers, everyone watches as metal objects from all over town are magnetically pulled to the top of the water tower. The white cubes are also pulled in to assemble into a spaceship around the water tank. The locket that used to belong to Joe’s mom is also drawn towards the tower and Joe, after a brief moment, decides to let it go, completing the ship. The alien enters the completed spaceship; the water tower implodes and the ship rockets into space. Joe takes Alice’s hand as they watch the ship depart into the night sky. During the credits, the kids’ completed film, entitled The Case, is shown.
Super 8 is a homage to classic 70’s & 80’s style kids adventure movies, touching on those teen/adult growing pains. It’s well filmed, well acted, and albeit a little long winded in places, it manages to come together to create a film that kids today can get a taste of what their parents grew up watching, while the mums & dads get a nostalgia trip. Make sure to stick around as the final credits roll, to watch the guys finished zombie movie, it’s just as good as the whole film.