If you love well-told, original stories and good acting, then check out these two Oscar-nominated foreign films that have finally arrived in Orange County:
"In Darkness"— The true story of a small group of Polish Jews who hid beneath the Lvov ghetto in 1943 for an incredible 14 months.
Acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland created a tense drama about moral courage, and the lack of it, for those above and below ground. Robert Wiekiewicz is wonderful as Leopold Socha, the sewer worker and greedy opportunist who gradually became the champion for "his Jews."
Sunlight, soap and hot water will never be taken for granted again.
"Bull Head" — Jacky is a Flemish cattle farmer and part of the "hormone mafia" that injects animals to fatten them up, and kills cops to keep them quiet. He is also a steroid addict, but the reasons aren't made horribly clear until midway through the film.
Mathias Schoenaerts, as Jacky, is brutally handsome as a damaged, raging bull with the emotional maturity of a little boy. He gives a compelling edge to an unlikable character. This is a strange little thriller from Belgium that gives one good reason to go organic.
'Act of Valor' an authentic depiction
"Act of Valor" overflows with realistic depictions of high-tech military operations. The riveting combat action is made possible by a cast of real Navy SEALs, often using live ammunition. Their true names are never credited. But they bring authentic detail to every step of the complex maneuvers shown on screen.
The fictional story contains familiar elements from current headlines. Mexican drug cartels and Islamic terrorists become strange bedfellows. They use established routes to smuggle drugs and weapons across international borders. They combine forces to pose new dangers to innocent victims.
The SEAL teams are the tip of the American spear used to penetrate and destroy these sinister ventures. Their lightening missions are no-nonsense affairs that operate seamlessly on land, sea or air. They span the globe to bring their focused power and bravery to every situation.
Being professional soldiers and not actors, the anonymous stars are somewhat lacking in the skills of the performing arts. The dialogue they recite is right out of the formula playbook for these kinds of films.
But if you want to see some serious combat footage with gripping realism, "Act of Valor" was made for you.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.