Much to say, too little time!
* Children of Men: In short, brilliant direction and dead-on character focus transforms this contemporary revamp of what was once fodder for '70s off-mainstream (MGM's barely-released Z.P.G.) and TV movies into a vivid, deeply felt dystopian gem. Clive Owen delivers a perfectly realized performance as Theo Faron, a haunted man treading water in London of 2027, which isn't far from the tyrannical future postulated by Moore & Lloyd in V for Vendetta, sans the enigmatic masked vigilantism.
Here, the timely chords of terrorism (the film opens with a coffee-shop bombing which Theo barely skirts) and rampant xenophobia (immigration woes escalated to martial law on the streets and country compounds brimming with illegal detainees, fleeing their respective countries's catastrophes) are plucked in the context of a future sans procreation: mankind has ceased to reproduce, and the malady has precipitated global disaster on multiple levels. Given the extensive story giveaways of the previews, I'm not tipping any alarms by saying Theo is dragged by his ex (Julianne Moore) into an underground railroad seeking to spirit a pregnant lass (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to safety with an offshore group that may or may not exist -- on this ragged hook, director and co-scriptor Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y tu mamá también, the 1998 adaptation of Great Expectations, A Little Princess, etc.) constructs a potent cautionary science fiction parable of surprising power and grace.
The stellar cast is key -- including Michael Caine as the most sympathetic cartoonist in cinema history, a George Metzger-like 'back to the land' old hippy living self-sufficiently with his catatonic wife in a backwoods retreat (and a loooooooong way from Caine's misanthropic cartoonist antihero of Oliver Stone's The Hand)-- but it's Cuarón's exquisite orchestration of all elements and Emmanuel Lubezki's furtive, crisp cinematography that keeps the pulse quietly racing. P.D. James's novel was in the sober mode of UK apocalypse novels like The Day of the Triffids, No Blade of Grass, etc., and movies like The Day The Earth Caught Fire, though a more upscale literary incarnation in the eyes of most critics; Cuarón has honored the source novel and its precursors, forging a masterful meditation on hope, despair and reluctant activism in the face of death. Don't miss!