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At the Movies | ‘Eye in the Sky,’ ‘Doris’ -- two great movies to see

Helen Mirren in “Eye in the Sky.”
Helen Mirren in “Eye in the Sky.”

Eye in the Sky ****

Since the Gulf War of 1990 and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (2001), Hollywood has slowly, cautiously nurtured into being a cannon of modern warfare films, documenting and dramatizing true stories and creating thought-provoking fiction based on an all too horrifying and close to home reality. With probably dozens of respectable efforts produced over the past 25 years, the viewing public has seen the shocking, heartbreaking, realistic, and both the macro and hyper-focused view of the conflicts fought in the Middle East, North Africa and other war-torn regions of the planet. Eye in the Sky, which may be hard to find in the theater, is the latest of these “ripped-from-the-headlines” films and gives us an insider’s view of a single fictionalized military operation in Nairobi, Kenya. Unfolding in real-time, we watch the action from three vantage points; military posts in London, Las Vegas, and within an impoverished village near Nairobi, under Sharia Law and the notorious Al-Shabaab faction. Eye in the Sky is an appropriately titled film about drone warfare starring Helen Mirren (National Treasure, Woman in Gold, Trumbo) as a British intelligence officer on the hunt for high-level terrorist leaders. She operates from her banks of hi-tech imaging computers hidden in offices somewhere near London. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) is a drone pilot working the joystick from a pod in the dessert of Nevada. From the safety of our theater seats we watch, along with military leaders also far from the action, as these drones, “eyes in the sky” target the terrorists, while we debate whether and when to fire a hellfire missile from high in the sky. The difficulty faced by those with their collective fingers on the trigger, and for us as the sympathetic viewer, is the collateral damage; the innocent civilians who are almost always shielding, even accidentally, those who are targeted. Alan Rickman (Harry Potter’s Severus Snape) plays a British General working with Mirren’s hard-lined character. This is Rickman’s last film. He died from pancreatic cancer last January. Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) plays an operative on the ground, risking his life to provide intelligence for the operation at the heart of this well-directed, tense, ticking-clock-thriller, that gives a fair shake to both sides of a complicated and important dilemma faced by all of us, regardless of where we’re sitting.

Hello, My Name is Doris. ****

Hello, My Name is Doris is a warm, funny, but far from perfect, low-budget indie dramedy starring Academy Award winner Sally Field, as a mid-60-ish, shy, lonely office accountant with a serious crush on a late 20-something co-worker played by Max Greenfield (Ugly Betty). Thurber-esque in its use of Doris’ daydreaming, and written with plenty of believable angst and embarrassment, the film becomes a heartwarming tale suggesting no one is ever too old for a crush, and even a little light stalking. The film suffers from one glaring missed opportunity, a spoiler that can’t be detailed here, because, despite the obvious omission in the storyline, this is still a film worth seeing. The standout cast includes a spot-on performance from 70-year-old Emmy Award winner Tyne Daily, and excellent supporting performances from Wendy McLendon-Covey (Reno 911!), Steven Root (Office Space) and Isabella Acres as a Doris’ teenage pal who helps her navigate through the foreign territory of Facebook and the first blush of true love. Hello, My Name is Doris should appeal to men and women of all ages and will give hope to those looking for love, even in May-December romances.

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What do those stars mean?

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