MARY AT THE MOVIES
Director Oliver Stone has a knack for bringing us movies that tell us things we need to know; things we wish were not true. SNOWDEN shows us the backstory that led whistle-blower Edward Snowden to abandon his career as a CIA analyst to alert the public to the ways in which our privacy is being eroded through the massive collection of electronic data by the United States government. Ironically, the movie opened in the same week that Colin Powell’s private emails where made public, underscoring the havoc this can potentially wreak on anyone of us.
Edward Snowden volunteered for Special Forces following the attacks of September 11, 2001 but was forced to leave following a badly broken leg. A brilliant and self-taught programmer, he then joined the CIA and later the NSA where he worked mostly in cyber technology and is likely one of the most brilliant programmers ever to have worked there. Dubbed “Snow White,” by one of his more cynical co-workers, Snowden, became disenchanted with his government career once he understood the magnitude of the information the government collects on everyone, –everywhere, without their knowledge or consent.
Through the efforts of Snowden and the U. K. Guardian’s staff, the public became aware of a classified 2013 FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court) order that required a subsidiary of Verizon to provide a stream of all call detail records, including domestic calls, on a daily basis to the NSA. He was also instrumental in leaking the 2007 PRISM program to the public, which allows the government tracks data from Internet companies such as specific FISA approved search words on Google. As a result, he has been charged with espionage and currently resides in Russia, a stateless man. The U. S. seeks his extradition. Snowden joined the board of the Freedom of the Press organization in 2014.
So why should I care, you ask? Privacy is a fundamental civil right. Do you really want someone viewing what the camera on your computer sees in the corner of your bedroom? Yeah, probably not. Snowden tapes over the camera on his computer and he became proficient in American Sign Language, so he could communicate privately with another co-worker but I am betting there was an unobtrusive camera somewhere that preserved their conversation for posterity.
And what about the signal emitted by your cell phone, which in reality, serves as a personal tracking device for someone who has the equipment to receive the signal? According to Seeker.com, since 2005, more than 1,070 people working the media have been killed or gone missing. Seeker.com reports that Snowden and hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang have developed a prototype lawful technology to alert users when their signal is being tracked.
You argue that the government needs mass surveillance to protect us from terrorism? The world has seen quite a few terrorist attacks over the past few years that were undeterred by these programs.
The screenplay, written by Kieran Fitzgerald and Oliver Stone, is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent in the title role. Shailiene Woodley delivers a solid performance as Snowden’s loyal girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. Ryhs Ifans is suitably chilling as spymaster Corbin O’Brien. Nicholas Cage is proficient as CIA computer whiz Hank Forrester.
Stone uses the camera to great effect in a scene where O’Brien tele-conferences Snowden, enlarging O’Brien until his image fills the entire screen to intimidate Snowden. This is a thoughtful film that every American should see to understand the real impact that technology and unconstitutional government intrusion have on our lives.
MPAA rating R for language and some sexuality/nudity. Violence: Footage of real war explosions are seen. Characters talk about making life and death decisions from a remote location. A suicide attempt is mentioned.
© 2016 Mary Keon
REVIEW: BRIDGET JONES’S BABY
It has been eight years since we last dropped in on the life of Bridget Jones, Britain’s loveable screw-up. Now a news producer in London, 43-year old Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), is a bit more polished and secure, but still single. Her friends are all married, with children though and as she blows out the candle on her cupcake, Bridget wonders how things went so terribly wrong while “All by Myself” blares from the CD player.
She let the handsome Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) get away. (Yes, Bridget: MAJOR MISTAKE!) Darcy and his wife turned up at the memorial service for Daniel (Hugh Grant in the previous two films), her former boss and lover. Too late to do anything about that, though and she switches on House of Pain’s Jump Around to cheer up.
Bridget does manage to spark up her love life and twelve weeks later, when her health regimen and vow to lose weight are not having the desired effect, it is for a very good reason: she is having a baby! But Bridget’s happiness is short-lived when she realizes that she can’t be sure who the father is. Could it be mystery-man Jack, with the dimples to die for? Or Mark Darcy, who always was rather irresistible? Leave it to Bridget Jones to triumph over her train wreck of a life and pull it out of the hat yet again as both men fight to win her over.
Zellweger, too long away from the screen, is luminous as Bridget and has not lost her comic touch. Colin Firth is excellent as the dashing Mr. Darcy and Patrick Duffy is charming as Jack, –as nice as he is good-looking and professionally, quite the over-achiever. Emma Thompson plays Bridget’s supportive obstetrician.
The screenplay, written by Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson, is based upon the book by Helen Fielding and directed by Sharon McGuire. Bridget Jones fans will not be disappointed with the movie they waited 8 years for and hopefully, will not have to wait quite so long for a sequel.
MPAA Rating R for some strong language, sexual references and nudity.
© Mary Keon 2016
On the afternoon of January 15th, 2009, many New Yorkers on the West side of Manhattan were startled to look out their windows and see a commercial passenger plane gliding in low over the George Washington Bridge. Heading south over the Hudson River, it was clear the plane was in trouble. Later that day I, along with millions of tristate residents logged onto the internet while others watched on TV, astonished to see that the passengers and crew of U. S. Airways Flight 1549 had all been safely rescued from their emergency landing on the river.
It was a bitterly cold day. Captain Chesley Sullenberg and co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, took off from LaGuardia at 3:26 PM, heading for Charlotte, North Carolina. They were still trying to gain altitude when the plane struck a flock of birds, three minutes later. The impact took out both engines. Sullenberg sent off a distress call, made a harsh mental calculus and landed in the Hudson: the only space close enough, long enough and smooth enough to give everyone a chance to survive. There were 155 souls on board.
As it turned out, landing safely on the Hudson was relatively easy for someone of Captain Sullenberg’s skill and 42 years of experience. The real drama would ensue when he faced a review board of Monday Morning Quarterbacks. Armed with flight simulators, they would second-guess every decision he made, –in a situation no-one had ever trained for. Although all passengers survived, U. S. Airways and their insurance company had lost a plane. Serious questions would be asked and Sullenberg’s career was in jeopardy; his pension would be forfeit if the board ruled against him.
SULLY, well-directed by Clint Eastwood, stars Tom Hanks, who is very persuasive as the unflappable Captain Sullenberg; Aaron Eckert delivers a solid performance as Skiles. Laura Linney is well-cast as Mrs. Sullenberg, trying to be supportive of her husband while ignoring the army of reporters camped out on their front lawn. At the end of the film, Eastwood offers cameos to several passengers, whose ability to remain calm and follow directions, in no small part contributed to their survival.
Eastwood delivers a well-crafted film that inter-weaves the flashbacks and nightmares Sullenberg experienced in the days following the crash and the odd situations he encountered, following his sudden notoriety. It is awe-inspiring to see the calm in the cockpit as Sullenberg and Stiles quickly run through their emergency protocol and prepare to land. Eastwood, who spent a great deal of time with Sullenberg to get the flight procedures correct, does a good job of simulating the crash and alternative potential crash scenarios, making this a riveting story, even though we all know it thankfully, ended well.
The screenplay, written by Todd Kamarnicki, is based upon Chesley Sullenberg and Jeffrey Zaslow
Sullenberg is a great tribute to an amazing pilot whose skill and calm under pressure no-doubt saved more than 155 lives that day.
© Mary Keon 2016