Most of this week's film options don't threaten to bring any weighty statements to the screen: Big Miracle is a film about good-hearted folks rescuing whales, Nicolas Cage stars in the thriller, Seeking Justice, and Madonna directs the romantic W.E. On the other hand, the Egyptian Cairo 678 makes a case for socially-conscious films.
In his first directorial effort, screenwriter Mohamed Diab portrays the plight of three Egyptian women fighting against the widespread sexual harassment in their country. Seba is molested during a football match; housewife Fayza is harassed everyday on the bus; and Nelly, an aspiring comedienne, becomes the first woman in the country to ever file complaints of sexual harassment.
Dir. Mohamed Diab, Egypt, 2010. Bushra, Nelly Karim, Ahmed El Fishaw, Maged El Kedwany. 100 mins.
O Grande Milagre (Big Miracle)
The best intentions spread like cancer over Big Miracle. In the story, a reporter asks his girlfriend, a Greenpeace volunteer, to travel to Alaska to spearhead a campaign to save a family of whales trapped in ice. Ken Kwapis, director of License to Wed and of a long list of TV shows, creates a final product that feels ready to become an after-school TV special. While it might be ‘based on a true story’, the uplifting plot becomes so absurd it sounds forged by aliens.
Older viewers might be reminded of Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, but we’ve got to agree that at least whales in ice sounds more exciting than a kid caught in the bottom of a well, right?
Dir. Ken Kwapis, USA/UK, 2012. Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney. 107 mins.
John Carter (John Carter – Entre Dois Mundos)
John Carter is a character created by writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan. He had already appeared in the low-budget production Princess of Mars, starring everybody’s favourite former porn star, Traci Lords. Now, we meet him again in this Disney super-production, which includes every CGI explosion studio money can buy. Carter is a soldier from the American Civil War who is inexplicably transported to Mars, where he finds himself smack in the middle of a conflict between the planet’s inhabitants. Director Andrew Stanton was very successful helming Pixar animations such as Finding Nemo and the fantastic Wall-E, so it’s curious that we can find more honesty and sophistication in those cartoons than in the live-action John Carter.
Dir. Andrew Stanton, USA, 2012. Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton. 132 mins.
Seeking Justice (O Pacto)
The wife of Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage) is raped, and with her acquiescence, a group of vigilantes beat up the thug who did it. The real problems start afterwards, when the group demands Cage return the favour by killing another criminal. The film’s morality is already very explicit in its tagline: ‘Vengeance always has a price’. With a protagonist that would give Charles Bronson a heavy heart, Seeking Justice is an example of a subgenre that has been around for decades, in which a regular Joe is dragged into an extreme situation and, at a certain point – for what is presumably a lack of a better solution – needs to strike back. Director Roger Donaldson is no stranger to this kind of cat-and-mouse game: he’s responsible for two solid flicks that deal with similar themes, No Way Out and White Sands.
Dir. Roger Donaldson, USA, 2011. Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Carpenter, Guy Pearce. 105 mins.
W. E. (W.E. – O Romance do Século)
In her second work in the director’s chair (the first being 2008’s Filth and Wisdom, which featured the band Gogol Bordello in both the cast and the soundtrack), Madonna sugar-coats the story of Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee socialite for whom Edward VIII abandoned the British throne in 1936. The second act, detailing a contemporary love story between a married woman and a Russian security guard, is told to mirror the alleged ‘romance of the century’. Keep in mind that the same W. and E. were portrayed in a less flattering fashion in the highly acclaimed The King’s Speech. Granted, Madonna’s intentions are very different, as is the end result.
Dir. Madonna, UK, 2011. Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy. 119 mins.