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MOVIE CLIPS: Previews of upcoming releases and special screenings

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STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media

“Age of Adaline”

Does the prospect of eternal youth sound pretty appealing to you? What would inspire you to give it up?

This romantic fantasy focuses on Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively). Born in 1908, her life is rather unremarkable. She follows the prevailing social conventions, getting married and having a child. At an early age, she becomes a widow.

Then, one night, circa 1935, Adaline is involved in a car accident. Coincidentally, she is struck by lightning. As a consequence, she is permanently frozen at her current age. As the film pronounces, she is “immune to the ravages of time.” Is this a premise that makes any sense whatsoever?

Over the years, Adaline has to concoct a series of unconvincing cover stories to account for why she doesn’t grow older like normal people. Because of her condition, Adaline assiduously avoids being entangled in any romantic relationships.

Fast forward to the present. At a New Year’s eve celebration, a handsome philanthropist, Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman of “Nashville” and “Game Of Thrones”), espies Adaline and is immediately smitten. The film posits that if Adaline becomes involved with this hunky suitor, she will lose her gift of eternal youth. Go figure.

Do any of these funky perversions of the aging process sound vaguely familiar to you? A reversal of the aging was the theme of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In it, the titular character, played by Brad Pitt, starts out life as a senescent homunculus, then becomes progressively younger. When he reaches his mid-twenties, he marries an age appropriate spouse (Cate Blanchett).

This image released by Lionsgate shows Ellen Burstyn, left, and Blake Lively in a scene from "The Age of Adaline." (Diyah Pera/Lionsgate via AP)

This image released by Lionsgate shows Ellen Burstyn, left, and Blake Lively in a scene from “The Age of Adaline.” (Diyah Pera/Lionsgate via AP)

The only problem is that he continues to become progressively younger until he is a baby. Meanwhile, his wife becomes older. Eventually, she is an older woman with a husband, who is a baby. The film side-stepped the awkward question of when they ceased to function as a couple. Of course, I never understood by Benjy didn’t regress all the way to a pre-embryonic state.

Does the romantic formulation of the film sound tortured to you? It should come as no surprise that one of this film’s screenwriters, J. Mills Goodloe, previously adapted the Nicholas Sparks’ novel, “The Best of Me” into an execrable film.

Opens wide on Friday, April 24 at multiplex theaters and the PFS Roxy Theater (2043 Samson Street). PG-13 (for some violence) 119 minutes. Lionsgate Films

“Little Boy”

Set during World War II in the small fictional town of Ohaire, California, this faith-based drama involves a touching premise.

The film’s seven-year old protagonist, Pepper Flint Busbee (Jakob Salvati), is distraught that his father (Michael Rappaport) is away at war. He’s been reported missing in action in the Pacific Theater and is presumed to be an internee in a Japanese P.O.W. camp.

Nicknamed “Little Boy,” Pepper is teased and bullied mercilessly for his diminutive stature. If only his dad was there to protect him. Pepper would do anything to have his dad return home safe and sound.

A local priest (Tom Wilkinson) advises a credulous Pepper that there is a possible solution. If only Pepper expresses enough religious faith and performs acts of charity, it may hasten the end of the war and the return of his daddy.

Of course, the use of the title, “Little Boy” is presumably intentional. This was the code name code for the atomic bomb that was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Nazi Germany had already surrendered to the Allies. However, Japan spurned the demands for its unconditional surrender. The United States threatened “”prompt and utter destruction,” albeit to no avail. Ultimately, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and days later on Nagasaki.

The presence of Wilkinson and Emily Watson (as Pepper’s mom) in the cast are encouraging signs. The film’s Mexican director Alejandro Monteverde, had an auspicious debut with the well-regarded film, “Bella.” It won the People’s  Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, that was back in 2006. Monteverde’s résumé reveals a curious gap since then.  Roma Downey from “Touched by an Angel” and her husband, Mark Burnett, are among the movie’s executive producers.

Opens wide on Friday, April 24 at multiplex theaters. PG-13 (for some mature thematic material and violence) 106 minutes. Open Road Films

“Touchdown Israel”

Is football becoming an international phenomenon? Were you even aware that there is a football league in Israel?

As detailed in the documentary, “Touchdown Israel,” it turns out that there is. Even if you a hardcore sports fan, that fact may have eluded you.

When San Francisco-based filmmaker, Paul Hirshberger, learned about it, he decided that it had the makings of a documentary.

In 1988, an organization, the American Football in Israel (AFI) group, was formed. It grew grew to more than 90 contact and non-contact flag football teams. Hirshberger credits Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, for making football more viable in Israel. In 2005, Kraft was persuaded to sponsor the fledgling Israeli Football League League. He financed the construction of fields and acquisition of uniforms.

In the course of the ensuing years, the Israeli Football League (IFL) has burgeoned from 25 players in Tel Aviv to more than 600 amateur players throughout the country.

Although they engage in an American style full contact football, there are deviations from our format. Rather than the standard 100-yard fields used in the NFL and American collegiate football, their fields are smaller. Instead of on field squads that consist of 11 players, in the IGL, there are only 8 at a time.

In Israel, ethnic and ideological tensions are virtually ubiquitous.  Rather than dwell on the athletic aspects of the IFL, Hirshberger’s film focuses on the interpersonal aspects of the game. Rosters consist of Jews, both secular and Orthodox members, Muslims, and Christians. Hirshberger has asserted that, “Kraft Field is likely the only place in the entire Middle East you’ll find Palestinians and Jewish settlers embracing after a big win.”

After the screening, there will be  Skype session with filmmaker, Paul Hirschberger, and Greg Cosell, Senior Producer at NFL Films.

Plays on Monday, April 27 at the Gershman Y (401 S. Broad Street) No MPAA rating. 81 minutes. In English and Hebrew with English subtitles

“The Water Diviner”

Set in the aftermath of World War I, this fictional historical drama stars Russell Crowe and marks his debut as a director.

Crowe plays Connor, an Australian farmer with an uncanny penchant for ferreting out subterranean reservoirs of water in the parched outback. With the outbreak of the Great World War, Connors’ three sons had done their patriotic duty to King and country by joining ANZAC expeditionary force. They are shipped to Turkey, where they are deployed as part of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. All three of them go missing on the same day and are presumed dead.

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Russell Crowe in a scene from "The Water Diviner." (Mark Rogers/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Russell Crowe in a scene from “The Water Diviner.” (Mark Rogers/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Consumed with despair his wife has committed suicide. Connor vows to go to Turkey, recover their bodies, and return them to be buried alongside their mother. It seems like quite a quixotic venture.

When Connor reaches Turkey, he encounters the resistance of bureaucratic resistance from the military bureaucracy. They have banned civilians from visiting the site of the Gallipoli invasion. Has Connor traveled thousands of miles for naught?

Meanwhile, Connor rents a room in the home of Ayshe (Olga Korylenko), a beautiful Turkish woman. She has lost her husband at the front. Now, Ayshe faces unwelcome pressure from her brother-in-law to become his second wife.

The outcome of the Gallipoli campaign was inauspicious for the Allies. Nevertheless, in Australia, it continues to exude considerable resonance. It is marked by the annual Anzac Day, which eclipses Remembrance Day, their analogue of Armistice Day.

“The Water Diviner” has been well received in Australia. At the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, “The Water Diviner” shared the Best Film Award with “The Babadook.”

Opens at the Ritz 5 on Friday, April 24. R (for war violence including some disturbing images)111 minutes. Warner Brothers Pictures

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.

 

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