Tag: michael apted

56 Up

56 Up (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Almost half a century has passed since the original fourteen British-born children appeared on film which was initially conceived as a project to show the distinctions among socioeconomic classes in 1960s England and how one’s standing in the hierarchy might shape a person’s future. Since nothing like it has ever been done on film, it cannot be denied that the “Up” series is a great achievement and a must-see for anyone who loves the movies. Needless to say, I am already looking forward to the next one, if there will be any, though I find it slightly daunting that I will be thirty by then.

A sense of closure is on the horizon in Michael Apted’s “56 Up.” Sue’s life appears to be relatively stable now that her children are no longer at home. It is strange that in her thirties, we get the impression that she has missed out of a lot by being a single mother. For instance, she had let go of her dreams of performing such as singing and acting in order to focus on raising her children and making ends meet. Now in her mid-fifties, with a stable career and some extra time on her hands, her journey feels almost complete in that she has joined a group where she can sing and act. Maybe I haven’t thought that far ahead in my own life but what is there to do once one has reached stability?

I criticized “49 Up” for being organized in an odd or unexpected fashion. I stand by what I had pointed out, but the changes made in this installment make more sense. The first involves separating Sue, Lynn, and Jackie’s segments. With the exception of “49 Up” and “56 Up,” the three were always presented together. They were often seen sitting on the same couch and been allowed to reciprocate one another’s viewpoints since all three came from a similar background. Here, each woman’s story is bookmarked by another thread as if to suggest that they can no longer be considered a group because even though they shared many similarities early on, their paths have diverged in very different and at times unexpected directions.

The second surprise comes in the form of Nick and Suzy being in the same room. I found this to be very amusing because in “7 Plus Seven,” these two began to pique my interest: Nick for his statement that he was interested in physics and chemistry despite his father and grandfather being farmers, Suzy for coming off such a spoiled brat in her answers and overall demeanor. Both of their transformations uplifted me and it is so nice to see them interact with one another and make intelligent comments about the value of the series.

Discussions of the subjects’ children and grandchildren are especially prevalent. The more they are talked about, signs of the participants’ old age become all the more apparent. Bruce remains to speak in such a calm manner but his movements are a lot slower now, perhaps also due to weight gain, even though he still plays cricket. Suzy’s face has become less round and bonier but there seems to be more wisdom in her eyes. As for Jackie, health has become an issue especially since she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

I always enjoy Tony’s segment because his attitude toward life is tackling it head-on. He has so much energy and is such a personality that one cannot help but smile every time he speaks. The bit about him visiting familiar places and what he used to do there as a kid made me think of that seven-year-old who I thought would get involved with the police at some point during his adolescence and be put away. I’m glad he didn’t. Instead, he made something of his life. The metaphor that I think applies perfectly to his journey is what the dog racetrack, his former place of employment, had been turned into. To see him, now fifty-six, sitting in that new building is very fitting and I was moved.

The next installment, if there is going to be one, is “63 Up.” It will be the first time in which I have to wait years to find out what happens to the remaining subjects. In theory, I will be thirty by the time that one comes out. The thought scares me a little bit—being that “old.” But then I look back on the stories I have had the pleasure to watch unfold.

Suddenly, I feel reassured. Clearly, thirty is just the beginning.

49 Up

49 Up (2005)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Jackie has always been a firecracker. It is always a highlight when she is lit up by one of the director’s questions—often one that she feels is inappropriate because it is too personal like her level of experience when it comes to men in “21 Up.” When she claims that her youngest son is most like her and Michael Apted asks if that worries her, she goes after the filmmaker and it is a most welcome change of pace. Because even though Jackie is older now, deep down, she is and always have been a spitfire.

In a way, the “Up” series is not just about the words coming from the mouths of the subjects. These are things they have control over. To get the complete picture, a viewer should be sensitive to the text, context, and subtext. Sometimes we learn a whole lot more about the subject through how he or she answers or responds to a question.

John is not the most relatable of the bunch. I must admit, however, that when he is absent, there is a rather significant void which is felt in “28 Up” and “42 Up.” He comes from a privileged family and so there is a pompous air about him. Still, even though I may not agree with many of what he has to say, I could not help but to listen because he is very well-spoken. Many may consider him to be the “villain” especially in the second and third installments, but I do not. He is a subject and hence he should be able to express his opinion freely.

Because six films have come before it, it is most interesting when the director asks what one’s attitudes are when it comes to participating every seven years. To my surprise, more than a handful of the responses lean toward negative. I suppose it is easy for a person to wish to be visited every seven years, to be recorded and asked about a range of topics, and to be shown one’s story to the world. But I imagine it must be hard for the participants because Apted is not afraid to ask personal questions, including very sad memories, and the answers broadcasted to the world. And we all know, partly because we are guilty of it, how quickly and intensely people judge.

The organization is a little odd this time around. Previously, Jackie, Lynn, and Sue’s segments follow one another. Here, Lynn’s is separated from the other two for no good reason. It disrupts the flow as well as what we come to expect. Instead of focusing on the material, it gives us a few minutes to wonder whether it is one of those times when a participant refuses to appear in the installment.

Lynn does make an appearance and, I must say, I have learned to appreciate her story much more. On my review of “42 Up,” I confessed by thinking of her as “depressing.” While I stand by that claim, I respect the work she does in the library, especially working with children who happen to have disabilities. Though the government thinks that just about anybody can do her job, I know for a fact that such a line of thinking is wrong. To be in her life of work requires a lot of patience, empathy, and energy. I enjoyed that the director spends more time with her because it becomes clear how much she loves and values her job. In some ways, it has defined her over the years.

Suzy’s segment is perhaps one that made the biggest impression on me. She has made her children to be her life but now that they are away due to school, a job or starting an independent life, there is a sadness to her just beneath the surface. I hope that the next time she is in front of the camera, she has found another passion—one that is for herself. I still could not believe that this woman is the same little girl who claimed that when she had babies, she would prefer to have a nanny to raise them.

42 Up

42 Up (1998)
★★★★ / ★★★★

A bit of hair loss, more noticeable extended waistlines, and less elastic facial skin have begun to show, but these classic attributes of aging do not make the subjects any less interesting. On the contrary, these have made them more accessible because it appears that with age comes wisdom and experience despite one’s initial class standing.

A common theme this time around is legacy. Just about everyone has married (or remarried) and produced children. They talk about their hopes for their children, acknowledge some potential limitations their offsprings might face in the future, and what they feel they can still accomplish. Each of them sounds and comes across very middle-aged in that they radiate a comfortable calm. Even though none of their lives are perfect, there is an unspoken awareness that they will manage and move on.

I found it intriguing because at this point in my life, I do not yet have such a perspective. When a situation does not meet my sometimes high expectations, I make a point to do something about it. Here, it appears as though the subjects have loosened their reigns on expectations. Sure, they still have goals they hope to fulfill until they are no longer able to, but there is a general feeling that if they are not met, maybe it just isn’t meant to be.

For example, in the previous films Paul had acknowledged his lack of confidence, a trait that he believes to have stemmed from his parents’ divorce when he was very young. When asked about it this time, instead of saying that he will actively work on it, he simply says it annoys him still and does not know how to deal with it. But the underlying message is not that he has given up. Instead, it comes off as a realization that maybe that is just the way he is, that the attribute has become a part of him—that maybe it is all right to just leave it be.

I have always found Lynn to be depressing. I am not quite sure whether it is due to the way she delivers the answers to the interviewee’s questions or the fact that she rarely smiles while facing the camera (she seems a lot friendlier when she isn’t sitting on the couch), but I found her to be more engaging here. She seems less uptight to a degree and the way she elaborates upon her answers is welcoming rather than repellant. I liked the answer she provides when asked about what she thinks has been lost over time from when she was a child until being forty-two.

As usual, perhaps the most interesting segment is Tony’s. Though some of other subjects acknowledge how hard it is to stay married, Tony and his spouse are unafraid to provide specifics—even if it is painful. It turns out that Debbie had caught him having an affair. When the director asks why she forgave him, the instantaneous silence between the question and the answer feels like a long time. This documentary series is at its best when very difficult questions are asked and feelings are about to get hurt.

In “35 Up,” when director Michael Apted asked Neil to predict where he would be in seven years, he said that he would probably be homeless and wandering the streets of London. Neil did move to London but he is not homeless. He looks healthier. He interacts with a lot more people than he did during his time in the Shetland Islands. We are even shown a special friend that he contacted upon his arrival in the city.

I think, in some small way, this series has helped to save Neil’s life. I’m just happy he hadn’t been found dead in a ditch in the middle of nowhere.

Apted: What’s the most enjoyable thing in life for you at the moment?
Neil: I think it’s looking to the future.

35 Up

35 Up (1991)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Perhaps the most important theme in “35 Up,” directed by Michael Apted, is its subjects having reached a point where most of them have become comfortable with their identities. Although the significant changes in their lives have diminished a bit, the manner in which they try to deal with new conflicts or problems that they still have are, in a way, more interesting angles worth exploring. For instance, a death in one’s family or one’s discovery of a serious health problem is not something that maturity or time can cure.

Tony talking about the death of his mother and how much he loves her is, to me, one of the most emotional moments in the series. Here is this happy mid-thirties family man, a good father and husband, who I thought would grow up to be some kind of criminal back when he was seven years of age. Though he does not say it exactly, I believe that he feels his mother is key in keeping him from losing his way.

In my mind, there are tears not because he feels sad that she is no longer around but because he is grateful for everything she had given him, that he intends to pass on the torch to his children. Tony’s wife saying afterwards that she feels like Tony’s mother is more a friend to her than a mother-in-law gives the impression that the woman must have been a terrific person.

The very reserved Bruce moved out of the country to become a teacher in Sylhet, a village on the northeast corner of Bangladesh. It is such a welcome change I was finally able to recognize the sense of humor in this well-educated and well-spoken man. When he was twenty-eight, twenty-one, fourteen and, yes, even seven, every time he would answer the interviewer’s questions, I was very drawn in whatever he had to say.

There is a soothing—sometimes eerie—calm in the way he carries himself, like a silent river, and often surprises by offering a wisdom beyond his years. In this installment, the subtle change in him is he coming off more relaxed. His passion when it comes to the value of education and what it can do is one that very much reflects my own.

When “28 Up” premiered, Nick admits he was surprised that people did not respond well to his relationship with his wife. He claims the two of them were just being honest about what they thought a marriage is or should be. After the program aired, Nick heard that a lot of folks thought he and his wife would end up divorced. I found it very funny not because I was convinced what they had would not work out but because I did not respond well to their new relationship either.

More specifically, I felt that she did most of the talking in the predecessor even though the segment was supposed to be about him and what he had to say. I was peeved because Nick is one of my favorite subjects, a farm boy who became a nuclear physicist. The highlight of his segment this time around is he talking openly about his brother who happens to be deaf. Nick living in America and his brother living in England proves tough because a communication via telephone is not exactly ideal.

I was disappointed that Symon, one of the kids, along with Paul, who grew up in a children’s home, was not even acknowledged for being absent on screen. His story is a staple to the series because from such a young age he was content to work in jobs that did not provide much opportunities to advance. The other working-class subjects, on the other hand, at least when they were younger, are always looking to advance, to achieve a dream. Simon fascinates because he puts little value in looking to the future. Look back and think about the answers he provided when asked about what he wants to do or become. His mindset does not appear to be wired to think that far ahead.

At this point, when Neil’s name appears on screen, a part of me dies a little bit. I get nervous, anxious, afraid of what the next few minutes will reveal. With the past two films, it seems like everything was against him. I wondered if this guy would ever catch a break. Whether he does or does not in here, I will not reveal. But I will provide this:

Apted: Do you ever think you’re going mad?
Neil: Oh, I don’t think it, I know it.

28 Up

28 Up (1984)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Suzi’s previous interview featured a chain-smoking woman, very cynical, angry, and clearly directionless about what she wants to do or become in the future. Coming from a privileged background, she appeared to be content in traveling the world and not much else. Seven years later, now twenty-eight years of age, Suzi is now married and has two boys. This segment underlines the core strength of the “Up” series: In seven years time, just about everything can change for the fourteen subjects. For the first time, I found Suzi to be highly relatable and accessible. Before, I found her to be very shallow, a brat who could have just about everything she ever wanted so there wasn’t much character there.

But not all changes are for the better. We find Neil, perhaps the most effervescent child in the first film, living off the state and renting whatever place he can find to accommodate his nomadic lifestyle. He appears to be functioning only on a survival level. Recounting his struggles is almost unnecessary; he must have gone through a lot up to this point because he looks several years older than the other subjects.

I looked at the frame of his body and could tell right away he is not healthy. He is able to answer questions but some of his responses are not completely sensical. And then comes the revelation of the condition that has afflicted Neil since he was sixteen. In the future films, my hope is that this man will have gotten the necessary help to move forward in his life.

Many of the subjects have gotten married. Perhaps this is the most crucial trend in this installment. The other is that there is a calm in all of them that was not there when they were twenty-one. It gives the impression that now they know who they are and what is important to them. Admittedly, I was less able to relate with the subjects this time around. I suppose it is because in terms of where I am in my life right now, I am closer to the mindset of someone who is twenty-one than a person who is twenty-eight.

I wished some of the spouses had less time to talk to the camera or had been shut out from the film completely. Although some of the bits shown garner some interest, I would rather have heard more from the subjects themselves. For example, Nicholas, who has since become a nuclear physicist and assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin, is already a sort of quiet subject. His wife’s personality is so big that I felt as though she overpowered his moments at times. I would have loved to have heard more about Nicholas’ attitude about leaving England because he felt as though his country of origin did not want him to pursue what he had been trained to do.

Tony continues to surprise. The less is said about him, the better. But I will say this: His story is possibly the one that warms my heart the most. I think that out of all the subjects, he probably was the one who had to fight most especially because he came from a disadvantaged background. And yet he is not bitter or angry about his struggles. I admire people who are able to create a rewarding life despite great adversity.

“28 Up,” directed by Michael Apted, is structurally different from its predecessors. Instead of allowing the stories to intertwine or blur together by jumping from one subject to another, each is given a segment. Although more organized, I found it less compelling at times. Gone are the immediate direct parallels of the subjects’ answers to surprising and difficult questions. It will require a bit of adjustment.

21 Up

21 Up (1977)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Certainly the most complex installment of the first three because the original former seven-year-old subjects are now adults, director Michael Apted is now able to ask difficult questions directly, sometimes out of thin air, and capture the joys and sadness in raw form that comes with the trials and tribulations of early adulthood.

Perhaps the biggest shock is Neil, son of two teachers, who was once full of energy and vitality when he was seven. In the first film, he was one of my favorite children to watch interacting with a friend from school, the director, and the camera because I was able to relate with his exuberance. Twenty-one-year-old Neil is like a completely different person, a shell of child who appeared to have a real chance of being the happiest out all the fourteen kids even though he may not be as privileged as some of the others—like Suzi, Charles, Andrew, and John. Here, Neil is significantly more subdued and the questions he is asked are designed to give us an idea of what possibly went wrong.

One of the most wonderful qualities of the series is its ability to hone in and explore change. The story of the former aspiring jockey, Tony, is akin to a life cycle of a butterfly—at least taking only the first three films into account. As a child, he appears very rough, sort of unlikable, one of those kids who gets into a lot of trouble at school for not following rules. As a teenager, he was so dead set in becoming a jockey, very focused and highly serious, one gets the impression that if he failed to reach his goal, it would just ruin him.

Well, he did not become a jockey… and yet he appears to be perfectly content. In fact, it looks like he is the happiest he’s ever been. He seems to have a better grasp of who he is in that he is able to express his capabilities as well as his limitations. His alternate career of choice may not be glamorous by any means but we feel that he is enjoying where he is and what he is doing. He smiles a lot more now. There is a confidence in Tony that is alluring, like he is someone you can share drinks with at a bar and hang out with all night. Is he a success story? Some might argue that he is not. But in my eyes, he is. At least for now.

A common theme this time around is the questions surrounding the divorce of the subjects’ parents. Apted likes to ask how the separation has impacted one’s outlook on love, marriage, in staying together or not staying together. A few are convinced that their parents’ divorce has had very little impact on them at all. But then there are others who think that it may have handicapped them subconsciously not just in terms of connecting with others but how they come to view themselves.

This is a particularly interesting topic to me because I do not know how it is like to have divorced parents even though I have a lot of friends whose parents are no longer together. I found it fascinating that certain perceptions or opinions that the subjects have, toward themselves and others, are shockingly similar to the views held by some of the people in my life. I wondered to what degree the similarities are.

I wanted to know more about Nicholas, once a boy from a small village whose father and grandfather were farmers. When he was fourteen, he revealed to the camera that he was interested in physics and chemistry, not farming at all. Now studying at Oxford to become a physicist, when the director makes a claim that he is the best success story of the group, Nicholas’ response hit home. I was able to relate deeply when it comes to his evaluation of what others believe he has achieved versus his own feelings about achieving his goals.

“21 Up” gives the audience a lot of information to digest. This is appropriate because the people being interviewed have developed a solid enough set of reasoning skills which allows them to provide answers that better represent where they currently stand. At the same time, although the subjects are children no longer, their basic ideals, at least with many of them, are more or less the same. It also gives the impression that luck, even though a lot of us may dismiss its role outright, may be a force that can help to influence one’s life in one direction over another.

7 Plus Seven

7 Plus Seven (1970)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Director Michael Apted takes creative control of the longitudinal project which involves revisiting every seven years a group of individuals who belong in various levels of the British social strata. The subjects are now fourteen years old and many of their perspectives, about themselves and others, have undergone a shift. What is surprising this time around is how certain aspects of their personalities or the way they think have not changed one bit. In fact, some of their beliefs appear to have been solidified.

The fourteen young adolescents are more interesting this time around because they are better equipped to communicate what they wish to express. Particularly fascinating is John. When he was seven, he knew exactly which school he was going to attend. Coming from a rather privileged background, it was expected of him to get there—and he did. With hopes of becoming a politician, although I did not necessarily agree with a lot of what he had to say especially in his dismissal of the value of diversity, I enjoyed that he is quite articulate—perhaps the most out of the fourteen interviewees—and confident but not overbearing. We feel that he is proud of his intelligence without the need to flaunt it. He is a true product of a school with high standards.

The tone is calmer but it is not devoid of a sense of humor. The subjects have grown physically, mentally, and emotionally and so they are aware in some way that whatever they have to say might end up being seen or heard all over the world—and the possibility of being judged for it. Apted makes a correct decision to allow the teenagers to evaluate the project. In other words, do they think it is actually worth pursuing? Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by some of the responses. And yet on another level, I was not. Certain things simply come with time.

A question that comes from the first film is whether the subjects have boyfriends or girlfriends. It is a bright moment because we are allowed to peek into the self-consciousness of the teenagers. To us, it is very amusing to watch them grasping for a “correct” answer or an answer that sounds just about right. In retrospect, when I was at that age, such a question just reeked of awkwardness. Why? Because the answer may not be as simple as a “Yes” or a “No.” Worse, if the answer was a “No,” there was that fear or concern of being judged. We are amused by the way they respond and yet we relate with them without a doubt.

The questions require a bit more thought this time: Do you want to be rich? Do you believe in God? As the teens provide their answers, we cannot help but turn to ourselves and evaluate where we stand. The funny thing about this series is that although each person—or group of persons—is a representative of a certain class, we think we know exactly what they will say. It really is telling how much fictional movies, especially standard Hollywood fares, have influenced our collective unconscious.

The director does an exquisite job selecting clips from the predecessor and using them as reminders as well as comparisons in terms of how the teens were like when they were seven. He knows exactly what to show from the past to get the point across.

“7 Plus Seven” is not only informative but also very entertaining. By the end, I wanted to know more. I was especially interested in Nicholas (later called more commonly as “Nick”). His grandfather and father are farmers. When asked whether he wants to follow in their footsteps, his answer is a quiet yet powerful “No.” Nicholas is interested in physics and chemistry. I wondered if, like myself, he will aspire to become a scientist.

Extreme Measures

Extreme Measures (1996)
★★★ / ★★★★

Two men (Shaun Austin-Olsen, André De Shields) wearing no clothing run out of a building, desperate to get away from a car with two men holding guns (David Morse, Bill Nunn). Claude and Teddy decide to go their separate ways for a better chance of survival. Claude ends up in Gramercy Hospital under the care of Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant). But the patient is barely able to speak because his very high fever is accompanied by uncontrollable body seizures, requiring about six people to hold him down. When Claude’s smorgasbord of strange symptoms calm down on their own, seconds before his death, the patient mentions “Triphase” which Dr. Luthan assumes to be a drug. The doctor is deeply bothered by the incident so he decides to investigate.

Based on the novel by Michael Palmer, “Extreme Measures” works like a treacherous vine that slowly wraps around the audience. When it finally decides to put on the squeeze, it is too late for us to resist its dark charms. Our minds are too invested in the mystery that connects doctors, cops, and homeless men.

The early scenes in the emergency room unfold with great fascination. Because Dr. Luthan is inevitably our eyes, ears, and moral center, there has to be something concrete about him that we can root for. In the emergency ward, we learn about his capacity to deal with stress. Not only does he have to make rapid and astute decisions about which drug to use or which tool is necessary to make the patient more comfortable, he has to take into consideration the various personalities of his staff, patients, and random onlookers. When he is asked to make a decision to give the only operating room available to either a criminal or a cop, I swore I held my breath.

The distinction between a moral and medical decision is a fine line indeed. He gains my attention and confidence not because I thought he made the right or wrong call. It is because he deals with his decision seriously yet not without a sense of humor.

Tony Gilroy’s screenplay consistently increases the ante with Dr. Luthan snooping around certain dark rooms because no one can or will bother to answer his questions about Claude’s missing corpse, but I wished it has less scenes of suggestive romance between our protagonist and a nurse (Sarah Jessica Parker). While Grant and Parker are convincing in their roles, the romantic angle feels forced and ultimately distracts from the mystery and thrills. It does not help that there is a drought of chemistry between the actors when they give each other too knowing dreamy looks.

I would rather have seen more of Dr. Myrick (Gene Hackman) and the methods of his research. At times, the material challenges us whether the nature of his work makes him the villain of the piece. After all, there is no denying that he just hopes to give people with severe spinal injuries a chance to be able to go on with their lives again.

Directed by Michael Apted, “Extreme Measures” poses interesting questions about ethics and morals in medicine and research. Though most are left unanswered, it is most understandable. The answers that matter most are sometimes found in ourselves and they may not necessarily be so easy to come to terms with.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), youngest of the Pevensie siblings, were left in England to live their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) while their parents and older siblings, Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley), lived in the United States. Edmund and Lucy did not get along with their cousin, but the three of them ended up in Narnia when a painting of an ocean with a ship turned to life. They were taken aboard by Caspian’s (Ben Barnes) crew and explained to them their mission of collecting seven swords and defeating an evil green mist. The third installment of “The Chronicles of Narnia” franchise, based on C.S. Lewis’ books, was ultimately disappointing because it failed to capture a right balance between magic and heart. While it was heavy on the special and visual effects, the fighting scenes felt empty because the picture did not establish a good reason why they were fighting in the first place. Yes, the green mist was obviously a negative entity, but I had questions about who was controlling the mist and what was the common theme that tied the various characters together. Having faith in the majestic Aslan simply did not cut it because the kids from the first two films have grown up. Therefore, their personal challenges, too, should have evolved. The way they chose to deal with their respective challenges should have had a certain level of complexity and it should have always been at the forefront. Hints of such challenges involved Edmund and his feeling that he was always second best. Now that his brother was no longer allowed in Narnia, he thought that it was his turn to be a leader. His expectations were dampened when Caspian was seen as the leader instead of him. Aside from two measly scenes, one was when Edmund tried to enlist in the army and the other when he and Caspian had an argument in a cavern full of gold, the movie did not tackle Edmund’s insecurity in a thoughtful way. The same happened to Lucy as she craved to have her sister’s beauty. Her obsession led her to a dangerous spell but aside from one or two scenes, her problems were seemingly solved. The film should have taken the opportunity to explore that angle because so many girls suffer from low esteem. Sacrificing two or three battle sequences would have been more than fair. I’ve heard that the writers, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni, made some drastic changes from the original material. I was fine with it as long as they proved to me that the changes were made for the better. I wasn’t convinced. Despite “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” directed by Michael Apted, looking gorgeous as usual, it was choppy, lacked real tension, and the core characters felt secondary. That was an unforgivable sin.

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988)
★★★ / ★★★★

Directed by Michael Apted, “Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey” was about an inexperienced woman (Sigourney Weaver), in terms of interacting with primates, who decided to help out in Africa in order to study and protect the gorillas from extinction. I thought this movie was strong up until the last thirty minutes. I was amazed whenever Weaver interacted with the real-life gorillas but at the same time worried because I knew they were dangerous animals. The movie was definitely at its best during the scenes when the humans would interact with the gorillas and sometimes the gorillas would charge at them. I caught myself holding my breath for the characters because it was so intense. On one hand, I think this is a nice tribute to a person who successfully prevented poachers from driving a certain species of primates into extinction. On the other hand, the way Dian Fossey was presented in the last thirty minutes felt a bit disrespectful to me. I mean, I wasn’t there so I can’t really account to what degree Fossey became obsessed with protecting the animals but did they really have to make her look so over-the-top the point where it was laughable? I had this huge respect for the woman more than two-thirds of the movie but I was a bit taken aback with what happened during the last final scenes. In my opinion, they still could have been honest with what transpired in the mountains but it didn’t have to result to the extremes. I also enjoyed the scenes of the romance between Dian Fossey and the National Geographic photographer Bob Campbell (Bryan Brown). While I admit that sometimes they were a bit cheesy with each other, it was a nice change from the scenes that consisted of mostly observations and no words. I enjoyed watching them because they initially didn’t seem to like each other and they were so different from one another. But at the same time those nice scenes highlighted how limited the script was. I found myself checking the time once in a while so I felt that the movie did not need to be over two hours long. Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching the film because it had heart and captured the passion of Dian Fossey’s work. I was glad that the story turned dark whenever it needed to such as the scenes involving the killings and beheadings of the poor animals. Perhaps the picture could have been stronger and more involving if it tackled the politics in Africa head-on instead of just dealing with it from time to time.