Monday Movies: Hero or villain?

The Fifth Estate: a fascinating but flawed portrait of WikiLeaks's Julian Assange and Carrie revisited in First Blood

WikiiLeaks started out as an obscure, whistleblower website that leveraged the power of the Internet to topple crooked bankers and embarrass African dictators alike. WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, was an obsessive hacker with a messianic compulsion to expose people corrupted by wealth and power. Within a few years he morphed into a news-making titan when – in concert with three of the world’s most respected newspapers – WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of top-secret documents and videos from the American government. Most notorious was footage of the crew of a U.S. Apache gunship laughing as they casually slaughtered a half-dozen innocent civilians on the streets of Baghdad. Soon, though, Assange himself was exposed – as a reckless megalomaniac with slippery ethics and a vengeful streak.

He is, in short, a marvelously complex person and a great subject for a biopic. Unfortunately, The Fifth Estate proves to be a fascinating but flawed portrait of Assange (captured marvelously by Benedict Cumberbatch). It dwells at excessive length on his intense relationship with Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl, Rush), an idealistic and moral computer “hacktivist” who became an early – and malleable – conscript for Assange’s campaign. (The movie is mostly based on Berg’s tell-all book, which presumably accounts for this imbalance.) The contrast between the two men is striking, and forms the glib measuring stick by which the audience is asked to judge the flaws of the vainglorious Assange. The two actors are both brilliant, though, and give the narrative its strong emotional core.

There is much more to the Assange story than is shown in Estate (check out the documentary We Steal Secrets, from the gifted director of  Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room). And this movie version is further hobbled by the repeated use of over-the-top visual flourishes that attempt to convey the nature of data and communication in our wired world. That said, this movie tackles one of the most important issues of the last several years. Data has become more powerful than weapons, and our governments are becoming ever more secretive with it. Assange, for all his flaws, is the hero who bravely demanded transparency. He did us all a huge favour by punching the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department in the nose. ★★½

PERFECTLY POTABLE:

Root: 1, despite its odd name, is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. Rich and complex, this wine has dark cherry, black currant, toffee and licorice flavours. It is also appealingly soft in the mouth, and offers notable sophistication for the modest price of $13.50 (on sale at the LDB till Oct. 26).

 

First Blood

Mix fear of puberty with religious mania and telekinesis and you’ve got an interesting premise for a horror film – 37 years ago, that is. Why anyone would rush out and spend many months and many more millions remaking Carrie is anyone’s guess. But (re)make it they did, and the results are less than inspired.Very little has changed here, as shy Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the school’s oddball outcast. Her humiliation in the shower room at the hands of a half-dozen mean girls happily lacks the voyeurism of Brian De Palma’s original, and is modernized into a cyberbullying episode put up on the Internet to magnify the shame. Slowly, Carrie discovers her strange powers and tries to distance herself from her controlling, religiously-obsessed mom (Julianne Moore). It’s all a prelude to Carrie’s revenge at the school prom, which feels like it is almost a shot-for-shot copy of the original. The actors do a fine job, particularly Moore. And although Moretz isn’t any threat to Sissy Spacek’s original performance, she is convincing and affecting as a mocked outsider. But Carrie just isn’t frightening. And the apocalyptic climax back at the White household is literally laughable – certainly not what author Stephen King had in mind. Rating: ★★½ (The Fifth Estate continues at the Odeon & SilverCity; Carrie continues at the Odeon, Empire Uni 4, SilverCity, & Westshore)

 

Film OPENING

ALL IS LOST -(Odeon) Cinema icon Robert Redford should be great in a wordless performance as a solo sailor whose life is threatened after his sailboat has a devastating collision with a rogue shipping container in the middle of nowhere.

BAD GRANDPA -(SilverCity/Westshore) Head jackass Johnny Knoxville spins off his “crazy grandpa” character into a full-length comedy about an irascible and incorrigible 86-year-old troublemaker who takes an accident- and crime-ridden journey across America with his 8-year-old grandson. Spike Jonze (!) co-wrote the story.

THE COUNSELOR -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4) Ridley Scott helmed this promising crime thriller about a lawyer who learns the (very) hard way that it’s a bad idea to get involved in the illegal drug business. Written by Cormac McCarthy and starring Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, and Cameron Diaz.

★★★ ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW -(Roxy, 7:30, 10 pm) It’s Time Warp time once again! Note: only showing on October 31.

CONTINUING

★★★★ CAPTAIN PHILLIPS -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Talented director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy) tells the true tale of a ship captain (Tom Hanks) whose boat is captured by Somali pirates. Tense but also thoughtful, this is a thriller with a brain.

★★½ CARRIE -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Stephen King’s horror classic gets a competent but unnecessary remake at the hands of Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry). Chloe Grace Moretz plays the shy high school outcast, while Julianne Moore is her religiously obsessed mom. See review online mondaymag.com.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 -(SilverCity/Westshore) The wacky animated comedy about an infamous machine that churns out scary food-animal hybrids was popular enough to merit a sequel. Consider yourself warned! With the vocal talents of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and Will Forte.

★★½DESPICABLE ME 2 -(Caprice) The 2010 original, about a loathsome criminal mastermind who was reformed by the love of three young orphan girls, was a goofy delight. The sequel, although still clever, is much more scattershot, with an unimaginative plot and unwelcome dashes of mean  spiritedness. Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, and Russell Brand supply the voices.

★★½ ELYSIUM -(Caprice)  Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in a futuristic sci-fi thriller where the Earth has become a polluted ghetto and the lucky few get to live in luxury on a floating space station orbiting languidly above. Well, that’s about to change. It’s hard to argue with the politics, but this new film by the writer-director of District 9 is too heavy-handed and cliched to take seriously.

★★★½ ENOUGH SAID -(Odeon) The latest from delightfully quirky writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends With Money) features a divorced woman who sets her sights on a man – only to learn that he is the much-loathed ex-husband of her new gal pal. This sweet, clever, sexy, and insightful sort-of romantic comedy stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and, sigh, the late James Gandolfini.

ESCAPE PLAN -(SilverCity/Westshore) Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up in a brutal actioneer about two convicts who will do anything to break out of the world’s most secure prison. ΗΗΗ½

GRAVITY -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a harrowing, brilliantly-executed thriller about two astronauts aboard a space station who survive an accident only to find themselves drifting helplessly through space, with little hope of rescue or survival.

★★½ FIFTH ESTATE -(Odeon/SilverCity) Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Julian Assange, the mastermind behind whistle-blowing WikiLeaks, in an uneven drama that benefits from superb performances and a balanced look at a complicated and self-contradictory man. See review.

★★★½ PRISONERS -(Westshore) Quebec director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) has been getting great praise for this bleak and violent police procedural about two kidnapped girls and the dad who will do anything to get them back.

RUNNER RUNNER -(Caprice)  A smart college student with a knack for gambling (Justin Timberlake) hooks up with a sinister offshore entrepreneur (Ben Affleck) who runs an online poker empire from a corrupt Caribbean island. This has become one of the worst-reviewed movies of the year.

TURBO -(Caprice) The latest from Dreamworks Animation is a family comedy about an ordinary garden snail who acquires magic powers – and the chance to achieve his dream of winning the Indy 500. With the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, and Samuel L. Jackson.

★★★★ WATERMARK -(Odeon) The newest collaboration between documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal and renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes) is a profound and engaging meditation on our complex relationship with water – and especially how our use of technology is affecting the world’s water supplies.

★★½WE’RE THE MILLERS -(Caprice) A crass comedy about a long-time pot dealer who hires a stripper and two feral teens to pretend to be his middle class family as cover for when he smuggles a massive load of weed across the border from Mexico to the States.

★★★ WOLVERINE -(Roxy, 8:55) Hairy-faced and Adamantium-clawed Hugh Jackman travels to Japan to confront the diabolical Silver Samurai, in an entertaining Marvel Comics smackdown that combines X-men flair with martial arts and yakuza elements.

★★½ THE WORLD’S END -(Roxy, 7:00) In a disappointing but occasionally funny follow-up from the makers of Shaun of the Dead, five old friends reunite for a pub crawl only to find themselves in a droll sci-fi action-adventure of epic proportions. Starring Simon Pegg.

SCREENINGS

MUSIC MOVIE WEDNESDAY -slips on its ruby slippers for a return to the magical realm of Dorothy, the Tin Man, et al. in the immortal Wizard of Oz. Costumes welcome! 7:00 pm Wednesday in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.

OPEN CINEMA -commences its 11th season of inspiring local dialogue via the screening of provocative documentary films. They are showing Connected, a funny and thoughtful examination of “what it means to be connected in the 21st century.” Wednesday, 7 pm, Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St. Admission by donation.

VIC THEATRE

GOOD OL’ FREDA -(Fri.-Wed., Oct. 25-30: 7:00) Beatlemania takes on a slightly more subdued note in this documentary focusing on Freda Kelly, who was lifelong secretary for the Fab Four.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS -(Thurs., Oct. 31: 7:00) Why not sing along with your favourite carnivorous plant, as this classic – and very tuneful – horror spoof rolls into town on the eve of Halloween?

 

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