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Review: Official Secrets

Remember back in 2003, when US Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations to make the case for war against Iraq, basing his appeal on what later turned out to be false intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda and Weapons of Mass Destruction? Of course you do. Need a refresher, or a reason to get your blood boiling all over again? Official Secrets should do the trick.

Snowden

Unless you never watch the news or have been hiding under a rock for several years, you’ve probably heard of Edward Snowden. A gripping documentary called Citizen Four was made about him in 2013 and won the 2015 Oscar. Here’s what I said about that film:

In January of 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras began receiving emails from a mysterious person who only identified himself as “citizenfour” and who had information about US government surveillance on a scale unheard of in history. A few months later, after a number of encrypted email exchanges, Poitras headed to Hong Kong along with journalist Glenn Greenwald to meet the sender. The rest is history. Waiting for them in a hotel room was Edward Snowden who would hand them evidence of massive citizen surveillance and data mining by the NSA and other government agencies, and would expose our global cyber-spy program.

Oliver Stone’s new movie Snowden begins in that hotel with Poitras (Melissa Leo) and Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and flashes back to Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tortured path to this clandestine meeting. The film succeeds in telling its story without becoming a typical Oliver Stone polemic. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Yes, the story is somewhat different. But it’s also kinda the same. And therein lies the rub. There’s nothing wrong with the Spider-Man reboot – it just doesn’t need to be. The incredibly talented cast is wasted on a retread. I mean, c’mon Hollywood, can’t you find just one solid, original script worth taking a multi-million dollar gamble on?

First, for what’s different: The Amazing Spider-Man focuses on the true origins of the Spidey character, including Peter Parker’s quest to understand why his parents left him in the care of good ol’ Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) when he was just a boy.  When Peter (Andrew Garfield) crosses paths with his father’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), you know that can’t end well. Especially when Dr. Connors starts putzing around with a serum that turns him into a giant killer lizard.