Magic Story Spoilt

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a Disney film based in part on E T A Hoffmann’s 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. A family dance scene as well as flashes of a ballerina dancing – particularly as the credits are rolling – indicate the famous Nutcracker ballet.

This version centres around one family – the Stahlbaums – and in particular younger daughter, Clara (Mackenzie Foy). Clara, like the rest of her family, is grieving the recent loss of her mother and Mr Stahlbaum’s (Matthew Macfadyen) wife. The action opens one Christmas eve when each of the children receives a gift from their late mother. Clara’s gift is an elaborately carved silver egg with a message that tells Clara ‘everything you need is inside’.

What ensues is a fantastical adventure in which the young Clara ‘finds’ herself, becomes the heroine, comes to terms with her mother’s death, and contributes to Disney’s eternal message that goodness is always found within oneself.

The make-believe world Clara enters is lovely and the sets and costumes are grand and gorgeous. Toys come alive, war with one another, and Clara leads them in a battle between good and evil that takes place in the fourth realm. She uses her natural science brain to solve mechanical problems, an aspect that makes her an interesting and feisty heroine.

But when Foy is not leading soldiers in battle she minces around with her arms out to the side like a ballerina, delivering lines like a wooden puppet. Keira Knightly, who has an interesting role as Sugar Plum, is irritating. She is awkward throughout and fails to give her character any kind of depth. These aspects and a few holes in the script detract greatly from the depth and pace of what is otherwise a wonderfully imaginative children’s story.

Despite these problems The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is still worth seeing. It opened at cinemas in South Africa on 2 November 2018.

Explore time and space with Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

A review by Brenda Daniels

In a near-future scenario the earth is subject to failing crops and no rain. Massive dust storms cover everything in layers of dirt endangering people’s health and leaving an empty, hopeless pall over mankind’s survival. Enter Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an incorrigible scientist. Cooper is also a farmer, former astronaut and widower with two children.

One of those children, Murph (Mackenzie Foy as young Murph and Jessica Chastain as adult Murph), encounters what appears to be supernatural phenomena in her bedroom. Someone or something from “beyond” is trying to communicate with her. This scene involving books that fall in a seemingly random manner, and dust that settles in unnervingly systematic lines, is a very important part of the plot, an element that is resolved for viewers only at the end of Interstellar.

In a bizarre mix of science and what appears to be the supernatural Cooper is “called” to embark on a space mission that will save mankind. Joined by Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and others, the astronauts leave earth in search of previously earmarked destinations in order to evaluate their viability as a replacement home for mankind.

They will either return for the humans on earth or start a new “colony” with specially prepared human embryos.

What makes the story fascinating, however, is not the future setting or its intergalactic nature, but its intriguing exploration of the space-time-gravity continuum. Explaining too much here would spoil the adventure for viewers.

Suffice to say that Interstellar is a multi-layered space adventure that also examines the human heart and its capacity (or not) for altruism. Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain give particularly good performances. Michael Caine and Matt Damon also star.

Interstellar opens at all cinemas in South Africa on Friday 7 November. It runs for a lengthy, but absorbing, two hours and 50 minutes.

Matthew McConaughey stars in the gripping new film, Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Matthew McConaughey stars in the gripping new film, Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Jessica Chastain stars alongside McConaughey in Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.

Jessica Chastain stars alongside McConaughey in Interstellar. Photo: Creative Commons.