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posted: 3/21/2013 6:00 AM

Local director brings a bit of 'The Force' home

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  • A recreated scene from "Star Wars" is part of Westmont native Cris Macht's new documentary "The Force Within Us," premiering at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

      A recreated scene from "Star Wars" is part of Westmont native Cris Macht's new documentary "The Force Within Us," premiering at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

  • Gilberts filmmaker Cris Macht has fun with "Star Wars" head gear in his documentary "The Force Within Us," premiering at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

      Gilberts filmmaker Cris Macht has fun with "Star Wars" head gear in his documentary "The Force Within Us," premiering at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

  • Video: "Force Within Us" trailer

 
 

The force is with us!
"The Force Within Us" comes from writer/director Cris Macht, a Westmont native and graduate of Westmont High School. He now lives in Gilberts. His movie is a follow-up to his earlier "The Force Among Us."

In his new doc, Macht makes the case that the "Star Wars" films have brought families together, solidified generational ties between parents and children (just like baseball in other families) and, in his case, brought back memories of happier days at the movies with his father before he died some time after "The Empire Strikes Back."

This original, moving treatment of the "Star Wars" phenomenon makes for a touching film, but one that becomes diminished when this ambitious doc veers away from this narrative hook and begins piling on testimonials from fans not nearly as passionate or articulate as Macht (including actor Jeremy Bullock and artist Dave Dorman).

"Did 'Star Wars' change your life?" the movie constantly asks. The answer is always "Yes," but what follows soon becomes a freight train of similar, generic responses that might have best served "The Force Within Us" by being excised with a light saber.

The theatrical showing of "The Force Within Us" premieres at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. with a party and music. Cocktails and food can be purchased. Free admission! Go to oshows.com.

Reel Life film notes:
• Join me in celebrating the greatest love stories ever put upon the silver screen as I go Raymondless to present "Love Goes to the Movies," 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, at the St. Charles Public Library, 1 S. 6th Ave., St. Charles. Free admission! Clips from such romantic films as "Casablanca," "The Way We Were," "Ghost" and many more. Go to st.charleslibrary.org.

• The After Hours Film Society presents "A Royal Affair" at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. General admission costs $9. It's the true story of a love triangle between Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), the royal physician and Queen Caroline Mathilda. Go to afterhoursfilmsociety.com.

• The recent news reports of military women (and men) being raped and abused at an estimated rate of 19,000 per year is nothing new to anyone who's seen Kirby Dick's powerful documentary on the subject, "The Invisible War."

This hard-hitting, emotion-charged doc -- built upon statistics and other information supplied by the U.S. government -- estimates that 500,000 military women and men have been assaulted, then nearly all of their cases ignored or dismissed by military justice.

"The Invisible War" won best documentary at the Chicago Film Critics Awards last month. You can get it on Amazon, Neflix and iTunes.

Reel Life mini-review: "War Witch"
The most impressive element to Kim Nguyen's Oscar-nominated child-warrior drama "War Witch" would be its restraint in depicting the horrors that confront its preteen protagonist caught up in a hellacious civil war in Africa.

At the age of 12, Komona (nonprofessional actress Rachel Mwanza) is forced to choose between shooting her parents with an AK-47 or letting invading soldiers hack them to death with machetes.

Soldiers force Komona into child slavery as a soldier. They beat her and constantly send her into danger. She catches some luck when the leader Great Tiger (Mizinga Mwinga) thinks she has magic power and anoints her his "war witch."

Yet, she might be something of a witch after all, for she sees the whitened ghosts of the murdered, including her parents, still protecting Komona from the grave.

Komona's voice-over narration is one of the few examples where the device actually works and is used to maximum effect. Here, the conceit involves Komona telling the story of her terrible life to her as-yet-unborn baby, whom she fears she will not be able to love after birth.

Mwanza, like Quvenzhane Wallis, is an ideal non-pro choice to play a role reduced down to basic humanity and survival. Komono treats a blossoming romance with an albino teen named Magician (Serge Kanyinda) with emotional detachment, for she knows what happens to people she cares about.

"War Witch" is part horror tale, part coming-of-age drama and part moral investigation of the human soul caught up in inhuman circumstances. Screenwriter Nguyen directs the story with economy and restraint without sacrificing the daily horrors this little girl -- for that is what she is -- endures as normal.

"War Witch" opens at the Music Box Theatre, Chicago. Not rated by the MPAA; suitable only for mature audiences for violence. 90 minutes. ★ ★ ★ ½

Reel Life mini-review: "Ginger & Rosa"
In Sally Potter's impersonal personal period domestic drama "Ginger & Rosa," the performances sing and Robbie Ryan's camera work seduces the eyes with frame after frame of artful images.

Yet, Potter's plot-challenged coming-of-age tale of two British girls revels in informational minutia.

In 1962, nuclear war seems inevitable as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. rattle their atomic sabers, terrifying Ginger (Elle Fanning) and her best bud Rosa (Alice Englert, star of the recent "Beautiful Creatures").

Ginger and Rosa have been together since they were born the same day in the same hospital. Now teens, the girls begin to separate.

Ginger becomes an anti-nuke activist. Rosa, the less developed character of the duo, prefers to smoke, kiss boys and take a sexual interest in Ginger's handsome dad (Alessandro Nivola), a narcissistic romanticist separated from Ginger's salt-of-the-earth mom (Christina Hendricks.) Yeah, that would create a little tension, wouldn't it?

Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt pop in as the family's concerned gay friends, with Annette Bening's feminist poet hanging around to contribute extra encouragement to a discouraged Ginger, whose final test teaches her a lesson in forgiveness.

"Ginger & Rosa" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago and the Evanston CineArts 6. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual situations and teen drinking and smoking. 89 minutes. ★ ★ ½

• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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