By Jennifer Merin
WeNews film critic
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Several superb films rescue this August from the usual late-summer cinematic doldrums. Kick things off with "The Whistleblower" on Aug. 5 and don't miss the revelatory tribute to Gloria Steinem on HBO on Aug. 15.
Three other films create a trilogy of cultural confrontations. Opening Aug. 10, "The Help" is set in the Deep South during the 1960s and sees an unlikely friendship form between a privileged white woman (Emma Stone) and her black housekeeper (Viola Davis) who, together, challenge the prevailing culture. The plot is engaging and the performances -- especially that of Davis -- are strongly affecting. Entitled "Littlerock," but set in Little Rock, Calif., not Arkansas, director Mike Ott's indie feature opens Aug. 12. It brings us the adventures of a young, non-English speaking Japanese tourist in an isolated desert community. The film is something of a "Lost In Translation" in reverse; a bit slow and stumbling but helped along by genuine intrigue and raw appeal. The principal character Atsuko is played by Atusko Okasuka, who also co-wrote the script.
Set in 18th century Vienna and Paris, Rene Feret's "Mozart's Sister" is based on the life of Maria Anna 'Nannerl' Mozart (Marie Feret), who was five years older than her brother Wolfgang (David Moreau) and a prodigy in her own right. The film centers around Nannerl's Herculean efforts for artistic recognition in a culture that would have her bear children rather than compose music. Nannerl is clever and captivating. Scenery, costumes and music are superb. August also brings two femme-centric action flicks to the big screen.
In "Colombiana," opening Aug. 26 and directed by Olivier Megaton, Zoe Saldana plays Cataleya Restrepo, a stone-cold female assassin with a mitigating back story: As a child living in Bogota, she witnessed the murder of her parents. The character is a bit reminiscent of Liz Salander in "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
"Spy Kids 4: All The Time in the World" gives Jessica Alba the chance to play Marissa Cortez Wilson, a former agent who recruits her two stepchildren to help save the world. This is kiddie fantasy fare but it gives women and girls a chance in the driver's seat.
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In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com (http://documentaries.About.com ) and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (http://www.AWFJ.org ), a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the Broadcast Journalists Association.
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