Under Review: ‘Home’
-by BEV QUESTAD-
Completely produced through aerial photography and presented with Glenn Close’s perfectly fitting narration, this beautiful film about Planet Earth is mesmerizing in its beauty. The gentle, seductive soundtrack is reminiscent of a mixture of Indian, classical and multi-cultural traditions. The photography, from land formations explaining the beginnings of the world, to bustling cityscapes, is an art form.
The main purpose of “Home,” is to motivate people to both treasure and sensibly protect our home, our earth. As Close tells it, “We are in the process of comprising the climatic balance we’ve had for the last 12, 000 years.”
In order to change the trajectory of global warming, “Home” advises us first to “testify to a new awareness based on moderation, intelligence and sharing” through becoming aware, passing this awareness information on, supporting environmental action and acting responsibly.
Originally released on June 5, 2009, on Earth Day, French photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand was the creative power behind this film. He was inspired by the 2006 doc, “Inconvenient Truth.” Over a period of 3 years, with 217 shooting days in 54 countries, Bertrand has perhaps created the only film on record completely produced through aerial photography.
“Home” has remained free to view because of the sponsorship and funding of PPR, a French investment consortium that includes Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Puma and Stella McCartney. It premiered in 14 languages in over 87 countries in theaters, on television, the Internet, DVDs and public viewing locations in New York City, Paris, London and Boston.
Some of the most important issues covered in this beautiful free film include the following 5 points:
1. The more the world develops the greater its thirst for energy.
2. Three-fourths of our fishing grounds are already depleted, exhausted or near to it. All fish stocks are threatened.
3. One river in 10 no longer flows into the ocean
4. 1 in 6 people live without access to fresh water, sanitation or electricity.
5. Hunger affects 1 billion people
In an interview Yann Arthus-Bertrand was asked what the film’s core message was. He answered that we are having a greater impact on Earth than it can bear. “We over-consume and are depleting the Earth’s resources. From the air, it’s easy to see the Earth’s wounds… Everybody knows about what the film says, but nobody wants to believe it. So ‘Home’ adds its weight to the argument of environmental organizations that we need to revert to a more commonsensical approach and change our consumer way of life.”
What is best about this film is that it seems almost spiritual, almost holy. Glenn Close’s narration, the slow moving panoramic high definition cinematography, the peaceful music and calculated pace all promote viewer reflection.
When asked what he liked best about the movie Arthus-Bertrand said he liked it because it lent itself to contemplation. He explained that “… it is also a film that causes you to listen and stop to think. People don’t like hearing some of the things the movie has to say, but I wasn’t prepared to make any concessions.”
The most startling predictive statistic is related the continuing melting of the ice caps around the globe. As water starts rising people will lose their homes. “Home” predicts that by the year 2050 there may be at least 200 million climate refugees. Isn’t that an interesting scenario?
Some ways the film suggests the viewer support the environment:
1. Support building houses that produce their own energy
2. Eat less meat
3. Support solar energy development
4. Proselytize a new consciousness based on moderation, intelligence and sharing
5. Get involved and join www.goodplanet.com
This film is a symphony, a love letter from our home, from our earth, that just asks us, right now, to be informed and pass the information on.
Click either address to watch this film (for free):
Controversies over ‘Karate Kid’
-by BEV QUESTAD-
Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan get a big YES for their work on this film, but at least three controversies swirl over this re-make of the 1984 Macchio version of “The Karate Kid.”
First of all, the casting director, Poping Auyeung, flopped when it came to casting the Asians. Though Taraji P. Henson, the mom, is really sweet – the rest of this cast and the script are not up to the caliber of the film or its stars.
Auyeung is noted as a Canadian casting director who has been working from China for the last five years casting English-speaking Asians for international film and TV roles. How much she had to do with casting Smith’s girlfriend and the blond boy who could speak Chinese is not known, but these uncomfortable choices lent an unprofessional quality to the production.
Sometimes there are competing interests in casting, and in order to showcase one lead the director wants to make sure there is no competition from the minor players. But there was no need for anxiety in this area. Smith handles this film all by himself just fine. But he must only play opposite the best so that the quality of the total film can shine forth. When he was in a scene with Jackie Chan there was magic! Casting him against kids who obviously feel awkward delivering lines only lets the audience notice that the script just isn’t too good.
Though credit is given for the story to Robert Kamen, who wrote the original version, Christopher Murphey wrote this weak screenplay. There are so many loose ends. How does a an American mom from Detroit get transferred to Beijing to work in an auto factory? What car company does this? If kung fu is not about having no mercy, then why does the Asian (he doesn’t look Chinese) teach his boys that way? Does the girl make the violin selection or not?
Beside the blatant casting gaffes and mundane script, there is the title problem.
Why call the film “Karate Kid”? Couldn’t they come up with some other name since the production neither used the same script nor karate?
“Karate Kid Goes Fung Fu,” “Karate Kid Re-Play,” “Karate Kid – Chinese Version.” Or how about putting Ralph Macchio in it and having him pass a torch, calling Smith the “Kung-Fu Kid?”
Karate was developed on Okinawa and is Japanese in origin. Kung fu, of course, is a national Chinese martial art. Accusations of cultural insensitivity, ignorance, bias and even racism have been leveled against the film.
Jerry Weintraub, the producer of the Macchio versions, did not want to do this film. Will Smith came to him with the idea as a great project to cement his son as a star. However, using his famously instinctive good sense, Weintraub declined. So Smith sent his people to Weintraub’s every day for months until Weintraub relented. But then Weintraub insisted, despite Smith’s idea to call it “Kung Fu Kid,” to keep the original name, because he saw it as a brand – a recognizable marketing ploy.
However, one compromise was made. Weintraub allowed “Kung Fu Kid” as the film title in the People’s Republic of China, Japan and South Korean.
Was it a mistake not to give it that name everywhere?
The Chinese scenery was majestic, the acting of Smith and Chan was superb and the conveyance of the message brought tears to my eyes, but the script, casting of the other kids and film title were unfortunate.
This film gets a 2 out of 5. As Anderson Cooper would say, “Keeping it honest.”
Director: Harald Zwart
Producers: Jerry Weintraub, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Zhenwei Wang, Yu Rongguang, Wen Wen Han
Story: Robert Mark Kamen
Screenplay: Christopher Murphey
Casting: Poping Auyeung
Released: June 11, 2010
The Girl who Played with Fire âï¿½ï¿½ Movie Review
-by BEV QUESTAD-
Better than the book because Noomi Rapace breaks the glass ceiling
Itâï¿½ï¿½s not every day that a film is as good as or even better than a great book. Daniel Alfredson, director, and Jonas Frykberg, screenwriter, have accomplished a surprise. Despite being made for European TV, despite its lack of theme development and despite its sensationalism of Lisbethâï¿½ï¿½s sex rendezvous, âï¿½ï¿½The Girl who Played with Fireâï¿½ï¿½ film is excellent.
Stieg Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s book version of this second part of the Millennium Trilogy would receive a realistic book rating of 4 out of 5 because of the difficulty in following and completely understanding all the plots that webbed out from the driving action. The close to 1,000 page book is so anxious to mirror its themes of control and dominance that some of its subplots, like governmental corruption, got a little confusing.
Revolutionary Female Force
Audiences world-wide were sold on the first film, âï¿½ï¿½The Girl with the Dragon Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ because Lisbeth Salander, played by Noomi Rapace, despite being beaten down repeatedly, gets back up with greater strength each time. The attempts to destroy her only serve to strengthen her resolve.
Lisbeth is the 2010 female icon, eclipsing the classic Superman, Skywalker and Ring Trilogy heroes with realistic depth, angst and suffering. Following the classic stages of Josephâï¿½ï¿½s Campbellâï¿½ï¿½s universal journey of the hero, Lisbeth Salander inspires and mesmerizes the viewer. Despite her nightmare childhood and seemingly insurmountable challenges, through cunning, strength, and personal talents, Lisbeth always rebounds with greater cleverness and strength to overcome.
In book/film 2, âï¿½ï¿½The Girl who Played with Fire,âï¿½ï¿½ this resilience is tested further, and that becomes the focus of the film more than any theme or universal message.
Jonas Frykberg, the screenwriter, was able to cut through all the extraneous subplots of Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s winding tale, stick to the major action and deliver a suspenseful thriller that rivets the viewer. Noomi Rapaceâï¿½ï¿½s strong screen presence, with her dark piercing eyes and small, unsmiling, often silent mouth command the viewerâï¿½ï¿½s allegiance and awe.
It is through this character development that Rapace, nailing the spirit of Stieg Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s somewhat androgynous character, honors both the book and the greater purpose of Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s work in bringing to focus a revolutionary female force.
Why not 5 out of 5?
It all has to do with theme development. While the book version of âï¿½ï¿½Fireâï¿½ï¿½ gets overly detailed in additional and sometimes not fully explained plot details, particularly the government corruption angle (not covered much in the film), the movie only focuses on the literal plot and not the great Larsson themes. This is unfortunate.
Perhaps the third installment of the Millennium Trilogy will round up all the loose ends and slam-dunk Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s greater theme and purpose. But âï¿½ï¿½Fireâï¿½ï¿½ does not significantly follow up or develop the fundamental themes in âï¿½ï¿½Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ to make it strong enough as a stand-alone movie or a great, life-changing cinematic experience.
At the core of Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s work is his perception of the basis for human failure. Leave it to the Scandinavians, home of Edvard Munchâï¿½ï¿½s âï¿½ï¿½The Scream,âï¿½ï¿½ to lift up the rock to reveal a slimy, creepy, dark reality. His lifeâï¿½ï¿½s work revolved around manâï¿½ï¿½s inhumanity to man and primitive, instinctual drive to survive through power and control.
Development of physical strength has its most obvious benefits and the most obvious recipient would be those who were outwardly physically weaker. This is the origin of the male/female conflict that Larsson examines through a multi-faceted prism in his trilogy. It is through this drive to dominate and control that Larsson exposes the roots of bias and prejudice that end up manifested in a tangled web of corruption and destruction in current society.
What is interesting and ultimately so universally appealing about his protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is that Larsson takes this concept of dominance and control in new instructive directions. Omitted from the film are allusions to Lisbethâï¿½ï¿½s interest in advanced math and her phenomenal success with chess, showing Lisbethâï¿½ï¿½s own attraction to dominance and control of the playing field.
And this control is what Lisbeth, an early victim of violence, is determined to never lose again.
Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s instructive, ironic homily on a deeper level, is that when men take away a womanâï¿½ï¿½s access to choices, to control, there is a reciprocal self-destructive karma for the perpetrator.
The Bottom Line
Yes, the film follows a simplified slice of the book action, and it does it very well, despite having a different director and screenwriter than âï¿½ï¿½Tattoo.âï¿½ï¿½ The production is professional, fast-paced, and gripping. In addition, book club members world-wide have reported that reading both âï¿½ï¿½Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ and âï¿½ï¿½Fireâï¿½ï¿½ beforehand enhanced their viewing of the movie, so be warned.
Whatever the case, donâï¿½ï¿½t see this film without seeing âï¿½ï¿½The Girl with the Dragon Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ (now available on DVD) first, and if you have the time and ability, read each book before seeing each film. Larsson is a detailed writer whose webbed plots and theme development dramatically enhance these fine productions.
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Writers: Jonas Frykberg (screenplay) Stieg Larsson (novel)
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Mikael Nygvist and Lena Endre
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
European Release: September, 2009
UK Release: August 27, 2010
US Release: July 2, 2010 in 7 theatres in NYC and Chicago.
July 9 âï¿½ï¿½ 16, at selected theatres: -soon/the-girl-who-played-with-fire/