Movies reviewed in brief: "Diana,” "Let the Fire Burn”

  • Updated: November 7, 2013 - 4:23 PM
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Members of the radical group Move and children in a 1978 confrontation in a scene from “Let the Fire Burn.”

Photo: Zeitgeist Films,

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Diana

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sensuality and smoking

Theater: Inver Grove

 

Dismiss it as worthy of a Lifetime Original Movie if you want, but “Diana” gives us insights into this poor little royal plaything that Americans, at least, will find eye-opening.

Based on “Diana, Her Last Love,” by Kate Snell, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film depicts a manipulator practicing her most withering lines about her failed marriage to Prince Charles in front of a mirror.

Outcast from the royal family and not close to her own, Diana (Naomi Watts) only takes counsel from a trusted confidante (Juliet Stevenson) and Oonagh Toffolo, her acupuncturist/confessor (Geraldine James).

But she has a genuine gift for empathy. Dashing into a hospital to visit Toffolo’s ailing husband, she ignores the nurses who swoon in her presence and the doctors who ogle her. But that empathy leads her to cool, handsome and charming heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews).

Their love affair, the strains of celebrity and of being “the most famous woman in the world” in love with a Pakistani Muslim, sucks up the bulk of “Diana.”

Watts masters Diana’s look — the way she carried her head and used those wide, coyly expressive eyes — but is only passable at impersonating the voice. It’s a studied performance that doesn’t give away the wheels turning as Diana plays the angles to try and get what she wants out of the royal family, the press, her doctor-lover and her life.

ROGER MOORE (MCT)

Let the Fire Burn

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Unrated: mature themes, violence, language, brief nudity.

Theater: Lagoon

 

Jason Osder’s stunning debut documentary offers a disturbing look at a forgotten tragedy. In May 1985, 11 members of the black liberation/survivalist/anti-technology group MOVE died after a 24-hour standoff with Philadelphia police. With the approval of Mayor Wilson Goode, and the police and fire commissioners, a helicopter buzzed the row house that served as MOVE’s commune-like headquarters and dropped a bomb on the roof. The ensuing blaze killed six adults and five children in the house. It spread out of control to destroy more than 60 homes spread over three city blocks. Why did it happen?

With scrupulous neutrality Osder lets the facts speak. In a 12-year-long war of nerves MOVE repeatedly clashed with police, who considered them terrorists. One 1978 siege resulted in the death of a police officer and the serious beating of a MOVE member. The confrontations antagonized both sides.

In the years that followed, MOVE alienated its working-class black neighbors who filed complaints with the city about harassment, sanitation and child neglect. Police evacuated the neighborhood and bombarded the fortified compound with jets of water, teargas, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and finally the bomb. Videotaped proceedings of the commission investigating the incident offer a worst-case scenario of mutual contempt escalating with literally explosive results.

Colin Covert

 

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