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LOW SCORE {BY AL HOFF}

THE FILM HAS ALL THE HALLMARKS OF A PRESTIGE BRITISH PERIOD PRODUCTION

Chris Columbus’ comedy Pixels offers an amusing idea that is both too slight for a 105-minute movie and curiously underdeveloped despite the generous running time. The set-up: What if aliens saw screen footage of arcade video games circa 1982, and assumed those character shapes to attack Earth today? There’s something hilariously horrifying about seeing our world consumed by gigantic 8-bit-ish Centipedes and Pac-Mans. And it would naturally fall to the former Kings of the Arcade to defeat them.

Pac-Man panic

And so it does here, where viewers get a four-pack of man-boys: Adam Sandler (works as tech support), Josh Gad (lives in grandma’s basement), Peter Dinklage (jerk) and Kevin James (inexplicably president of U.S.A.). Through a lot of lazy plotting, we see them fight and defeat the aliens — and be awarded beautiful women as trophies. It’s a curiously hollow exercise in which only a dozen people worldwide seem to notice the attacks; no explanation is ever proffered for why the aliens attack Earth and kidnap exactly three people; and the central premise of beating arcade games by memorizing patterns doesn’t hold up in the “real world” battles. Even today, there is plenty of residual affection for those old arcade games, and Pixels drops the opportunity to deliver something more entertaining than another nerd-bro comedy starring the deeply unfunny Sandler and James. Save your quarters. AHOFF@PGHCITYPAPER.COM R.COM

And now ow the winners! rs! The Best st

he of the Pittsburgh gh 48-Hour ur Film Project ct submissions ons screen tonight. Prizes awarded, tears shed, careers launched (maybe). A great way to support truly local filmmaking. 6:30 p.m. Fri., July 31. Hollywood. $7-9

WAR TORN {BY AL HOFF}

T

.ESTAMENT OF YOUTH begins Nov.

11, 1918, as the end of the Great War (later to be World War I) is being celebrated in the streets of Britain. But it’s clearly a day of anguish for one young woman, who ducks into a church, and reflects back to … … the halcyon summer days of 1914, where in the pleasant, peaceful countryside, the woman, her brother and his pals toggle between goofing off and planning their futures. Vera (Alicia Vikander) wants to sit exams for Oxford, though her parents (Dominic West, Emily Watson) think higher education isn’t the route for a nice upper-middle-class girl. r But B she finds an ally in one of her brother’s e friends: handsome Roland (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington), who agrees to T swap sw poems while the lads are away at military school. Meanwhile, there are stirrings of trouble in Europe … James Kent’s handsomely produced film is adapted from Vera Brittain’s eponymous 1933 book, a memoir based on her coming of age during the war years.

No time for romance: Kit Harington and Alicia Vikander

While there have been many accounts of the war, Brittain’s was notable for relating its impact on the homefront, particularly illuminating the experiences of women.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH DIRECTED BY: James Kent STARRING: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton STARTS: Fri., July 31. Harris

CP APPROVED Even without the somewhat clunky foreshadowing of the film’s pre-war scenes — “At least you wouldn’t be buried alive in Buxton,” Vera tartly tells the young men — for us, it’s a painful wait until the inevitable. The war, which once seemed a grand adventure — Vera’s brother frets that if he doesn’t hurry he may miss it altogether — quickly grows horrific. Vera, now at Oxford, scans the newspaper’s multiple pages of tiny type listing the war dead; Roland, on leave, is

already psychologically damaged; and soon, the deaths come. Testament also flags as doubly distressing a strain of British stoicism that leaves those in Vera’s circle with few emotional outlets for their fears, grief and horror. Vera abandons Oxford (“Writing? That belongs to another life”), and becomes a nurse, eventually serving near the front. One senses that Vera joins up not out of patriotism, but simply to assuage her feelings of helplessness, and perhaps to counter the war’s futility by doing something. Kent’s film has all the usual, even predictable, hallmarks of a prestige British period production: The drama is relatively quiet, but the emotional impact is no less for it. The European losses in WWI were numbered, but incalculable — nearly an entire generation of young men killed, and each left behind survivors tormented by those lives unfinished. In that respect, Vera’s tale is no different from a million others, even today, and yet, that universality is what demands we take notice. AHOFF@PGHCITYPAPER.COM

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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER 07.29/08.05.2015

Profile for Pittsburgh City Paper

July 29, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 30

July 29, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 30