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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

Good Kill

What is the nature of contemporary warfare? “Good Kill” explores the ethical implications of a newfangled paradigm of battle dynamics, drone warfare.

Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) had been a traditional combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Now, Egan is deployed in a different role. Rather than flying aloft as a winged warrior, he spends his days in an air conditioned comfort in a Las Vegas bunker. There, he plays a glorified, real life version of a video game. Welcome to the world of drone warfare.

As Egan’s cynical commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood), makes abundantly clear, this is the new face of military engagement.

After all, why build expensive fighter jets and risk the lives of American pilots, when the same objectives can be reached by alternate means?

So, Egan remains earthbound, spending twelve hour shifts, operating a joystick. He drops bombs on suspected Taliban terrorists, who are thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. Each time that Egan or one of his comrades hits the intended target, Johns exclaims with discernible approbation, “good kill.”

However, Egan is troubled by certain aspects of drone warfare. How carefully vetted are his targets? What about the collateral damage of innocent women and children, whose only transgression is being at the wrong place at the wrong time? In a seemingly endless war against terrorism, does drone warfare really accomplish its putative objective?

How will wrestling with these moral quandaries impact Egan? What toll will it take on his relationship with his wife, Molly (January Jones) and children?

The résumé of New Zealand writer/director, Andrew Niccol, is full of conceptually provocative futuristic films.  He wrote and directed, “Gattaca,” (which also starred Hawke), about the perils of genetic engineering. Niccol followed up by writing the original screenplay for, “The Truman Show.” The screenplay was Oscar-nominated and won the BAFTA. Subsequently, Niccol wrote and directed, “Lord of War” and “In Time.”

Look for “Good Kill” to combine riveting footage of drone warfare with a sobering meditation on its ethical implications.

R (for violent content including a rape, language, and some sexuality) 102 minutes IFC Films

Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent was one of the 20th century’s most influential fashion gurus. The designer’s philosophy is epitomized by his quote, “Fashion dies, but style remains.”

With model turned actor, Gaspard Ulliel, in the titular role, “Saint Laurent” focuses on the designer’s heyday in the sixties and seventies.

What are the chances that the fashionista would inspire two separate movies within a year of one another? In January of 2014, “Yves Saint-Laurent” was released in France. Last summer, it played the stateside art house circuit. Another biopic with the truncated title of “Saint Laurent,” debuted at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or. It is now playing in select theaters in the United States.

“Yves St. Laurent” and “Saint Laurent” portrayed the same character. Eventually, they came head to head for the annual Caesar Awards. “Yves Saint Laurent” scored seven nominations, all in the acting and technical departments. “Saint Laurent” garnered ten nominations, but only won for Best Costume Design. Pierre Niney, the lead of “Yves Saint Laurent,” bested Ulliel in the Best Actor category. While “Yves Saint Laurent” received only a single nomination at the 20th annual Lumières, “Saint Laurent” received five of them. This time around, it was Ulliel, who triumphed over Niney as Best Actor.

“Saint Laurent” offers a different stylistic and narrative perspective on the fashion icon than the one provided by its antecedent, “Yves Saint-Laurent.” Seeing the two in juxtaposition would constitute an interesting twin bill.

R (for graphic nudity/strong sexual situations, substance abuse throughout and some language) 150 minutes. Sony Classics. In French with English subtitles

Tomorrowland

The new Disney vehicle, “Tomorrowland,” is  a science fiction film, starring George Clooney. The vehicle has been eagerly awaited, but largely shrouded in secrecy.

This prompted widespread speculation about the film. People wondered about its connection to the popular theme park attraction of the same name and the ethos that it embodied.

When it opened back in 1955, Disneyland featured Tomorowland. It was dedicated to an ultra-optimistic depiction of what the future holds in store for the human race.  This projection provided no evidence of such woes as pollution, poverty, famine, or war. This same upbeat perspective manifested at the Disney designed exhibition at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Subsequent Disney theme parks, built in Orlando, Hong Kong, Paris, and Tokyo, also included a section called Tomorrowland. Each of them involved strong corporate sponsorship and embodied a rosy vision of the future.

Innitially green it back in 2011 “Tomorrowland” has had an interesting journey to the screen. Originally, it was projected as a film, starring Dwayne Johnson. It had no substantive connection to the theme park attraction.

In 2013, Walt Disney Pictures announced that it had a project, titled “1952” in development. It was disclosed that the film was going to be directed by Brad Bird. Originally. Bird was known for helming animated films, such as “Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles,” He made a successful transition to live action with “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” Somewhere along the way, “1952,” was redubbed “Tomorrowland” with Clooney supplanted The Rock as the lead.

The film revolves around a one-time whiz kid, George Walker (Clooney). Forty-five years before, Walker had invented a jet pack contraption. Now jaded, Walker meets a teen-aged girl, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). Her intellectual curiosity and optimism are evocative of Walker’s adolescent self. Together, the two travel on a perilous mission to Tomorrowland, a realm that exists in some sort of alternate universe. A strong cast is fleshed out by Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Judy Greer.

Thus far, the summer has been dominated by “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This most recent addition to the Marvel cinematic universe epitomized a disturbing trend in filmmaking. It seemed to be driven by a zeal to generate an aggregate of franchise tentpoles, rather an interest in developing a coherent narrative.  “Tomorrowland” looms as a prospective antidote in the form of a good old-fashioned, freestanding blockbuster.

PG (for sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language) 130 minutes Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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

 

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