Posts Tagged ‘Michael Apted’

“63 UP”  My rating: A- (Playing Jan. 17, 19 and 20 at the Tivoli at the Nelson-Atkins)

125 minutes | No MPAA rating

When Brit director Michael Apted first launched his “7 Up” documentary series back in 1963, among its major themes were politics and class.

The project’s big idea was to take a bunch of 7-year-olds from various social backgrounds and study them over time, returning every seven years with an update of how they’re doing (“21 Up,” “35 Up,” “56 Up”).  Originally much was made of the differences between the privileged kids and those who were struggling in the lower levels of the British beehive.

More than a half century later the world’s longest-lasting cinematic experiment continues, but the emotional tenor of the piece has mellowed. At age 63 Apted’s subjects have been seasoned by the death of parents and friends and the expectations of their own demises (in fact, we learn that one woman subject died just a couple of years ago).

So now it’s not so much about Tories vs. Labour or even Brexit (though the subject does come up) as about figuring out what to do with the time you’ve got left.

Apted’s methodology remains unchanged. He approaches his still-participating 12 subjects one at a time, alternating past footage with current interviews. It’s weird watching someone age instantaneously before our eyes; in the dad guts and double chins and graying (or missing) hair we are forced to confront the forces working on our own bodies.

Tony, the once-aspiring jockey who became a London cabbie, now laments that Uber is putting him out of business. The self-described “Cheekie Chappie” augments his income with walk-on film roles and retains his working-class childhood belief that in class warfare “it’s us or them.”

Corporate lawyer Andrew at age 63 laments that he was so career driven he failed to make time for his family.


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Noomi Rapace

“UNLOCKED” My rating: C

98 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Despite a “name” director and an impressive cast of solid B-listers, the spy drama “Unlocked” feels terribly generic.

Viewers may be forgiven for thinking they’ve seen it all before.

CIA interrogator Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace), on the rebound from a disastrous assignment that led to mass civilian casualties, is now posing as a London social worker, collecting evidence on possible terrorist activities within the Islamic community.

When the agency snatches a courier carrying messages between a radical imam and a terrorist developing a biological bomb, Alice is called in to break the captive’s will and get details on the impending attack.

Except that the CIA dudes running the interrogation seem a bit dicey…in fact, Alice finds  herself a pawn in a rogue operation. Marked for death by her own people, she barely escapes and goes on the run.

Among her supposed allies are a CIA bigwig back in the States (John Malkovich) and her agency mentor (Michael Douglas). Unsure who to trust among her own colleagues, Alice turns to a Brit intelligence master (Toni Collette) and at one point teams up with a petty crook (Orlando Bloom) whom she discovers burglarizing an apartment where she has taken refuge.

Peter O’Brien’s screenplay keeps us guessing; almost nobody in this movie is what they first seem.

There is much running around and the bodies pile up, but nothing about “Unlocked” is particularly compelling.  Director Michael Apted (whose impressive resume includes “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” lots of first-rate HBO and Showtime offerings  and the brilliant multi-decade “7 Up” documentary series) keeps things moving but never makes us care.

| Robert W. Butler

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56 up“56 UP” My rating: A- (Opening March 8 at the Screenland Crown Center)

144 minutes | No MPAA rating

Every seven years for the last half-century, director Michael Apted has turned his camera on a group of former British schoolchildren he first encountered in 1964 when they were only seven years old and he was an assistant with the BBC.

The idea back then was to take a dozen or so kids from all sorts of social and economic backgrounds and follow them for…well, for as long as they would tolerate it. There undoubtedly were political/sociological gears turning behind the project — one suspects the creators of the “7 Up” series envisioned it becoming an indictment of the British class system.

But over time it has become something even more powerful…a study of the stages of life we all go through, of marriages and divorces, careers established and lost, of becoming parents and losing parents, of love and loneliness, wealth and poverty.

Now we have “56 Up,” with the 14 former children now on the brink of senior citizenship.


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