Archive for April, 2008

The Life Before Her Eyes
Living in the Wake of Violence

The Life Before Her Eyes asks the question, “What would you do?”—not only in the moment itself, but in living with the outcome as we watch Diana’s life unravel. The survivor’s guilt is not just that she lives through something that others did not, but that she lives because others, namely her best friend, did not. As the film slowly climbs to its dramatic peak, the audience is drawn into not only the difficulty of making moral decisions, but also into vacillating ambivalence between empathy and shame for Diana. People of faith may wonder if they could be as strong as Maureen, loving Diana so deeply despite her sin, even being willing to die for her friend.

A Talk With Chiwetel Ejiofor
The Problem with True Believers

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who stars as Jiu-Jitsu guru Mike Terry in David Mamet’s upcoming film Redbelt, is very much drawn to playing men of character. “These people still do exist,” he says, “even though, in the wider society, it’s become unpopular to point out people like this without trying to find fault in them, without trying to find where they’ve maybe done the wrong thing. But society runs well, for the most part, because there are people of good conscience and good self-knowledge and awareness—even if they don’t consciously have a code of ethics that they live by.”

Baby Mama
Not What I Expected... Good Thing!

I like to see a movie I’m going to review without knowing much about it. I try to be as unbiased as I can be, but sometimes that’s just not possible. In this case I’d seen the trailer for Baby Mama and wasn’t very impressed. Frankly, even the title of the film grates on me like screeching fingernails on a chalkboard. Thus you can imagine how I wasn’t very excited as a dragged myself into the theater to see this one. I was sure I was in for a miserable experience. Simply put, I was wrong.

In Too Deep

This is a potential thriller with no thrill to be found. The plot is so transparent that the only way you could possibly be surprised by the supposed twists and turns is if you happened to doze off early in the film and awaken just before the credits roll. You’d be justified in thinking, though, that Deception would be the recipe for a halfway-decent thriller if nothing else. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. But it’s hard to blame the problems on the casting. McGregor and Jackman perform about as well as you’d expect.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
A Very Nasty Taste Test

No child under seventeen, accompanied or not, should be subjected to this movie—and from the comments of many of the adults walking out on the screening (with me among them), neither should the grown ups. And guys, be careful. If you think this would make a good date picture, make it a date with the boys. The women were just not laughing. Now, I labor under no misconceptions. This film will probably kill at the box office; and sadly, that is a testament to the state of our culture today.

The First Saturday in May
More Than Horses, More Than Trainers

The filmmakers themselves are two brothers who grew up in horseracing and thus had unparalleled access to the stables, the trainers and the races. For telling the human story this worked quite well, but what I was really itching for was more footage of the horses and races themselves. But watching these men struggle to fulfill their dreams, their stories become part of the American Dream. The blood, sweat and tears of their struggle is that of the classic Horatio Alger novel, Struggling Upwards.

The Forbidden Kingdom
Martial Arts Gets the Jones

As for the cast… Well, what can you say when the headliners are Jackie Chan and Jet Li? Joining these two in what must have been an intimidating role is American actor Michael Angarano; he manages to hold his own, and even make it look easy. Overall, I found The Forbidden Kingdom to be an outstanding adventure film. The martial arts action scenes are every bit as good as you might imagine. Perhaps not surprisingly, given Chan’s influence, there is more than a little humor along the way. Fans of Jet Li and Jackie Chan won’t want to miss it. And even if you’re not familiar with these two martial artists but are in mood for a rollicking good film, take a chance and go see it!

A Talk With P.Z. Myers
A Respectable Discussion

“I’m a loud and proud atheist, and I make no bones about it. I think Christianity is a disaster—that religion in general is an affliction on society—that what we have here is a set of myths that people use to shape their lives, and it’s all a big mistake,” says Myers. “They can acquire comfort from it, and I can understand that; I was a member of a church for many years. [But] sensitive-minded liberal Christians are sitting there silently while fundamentalists are taking over the schools. So we are screaming loudly, and we’re screaming loudly at the Christians in general—not because the Christians are entirely to blame for these problems, but because too many of them have been sitting there just too darn quiet.”

The Visitor
Out With the Piano, in With the Drums

Richard Jenkins portrays a quiet power awakening, while Hiam Abbasss, as Mouna, communicates an equally gentle and alluring beauty. A mature couple hasn’t been this appealing onscreen since—I don’t know—On Golden Pond? They’re just not as theatrical and lively, or as old. Their romance is also more tragic, yet beautiful. In The VisitorThomas McCarthy has written and directed a quietly worthy film that says: Guess what, Walter? It’s not your apartment any more. You don’t deserve it. You’re just taking up space. When you’ve figured out what it means to really be alive, maybe it will mean something to you.

Young @ Heart
A Country Very Much for Old Men

In a country where we hide our senior citizens away in house-like boxes where they can be conveniently fed and cared for, Young @ Heart reminds us that our elders have more to offer than we think. Conductor Bob Cilman has been directing the chorus after which this film is named. The sole prerequisite? Having completed at least seven decades of life. Lest you (mistakenly!) dismiss this as some geezer novelty act with old folks singing “My Darling Clementine,” suffice to say that the opening number serves notice that you’re in for something unique—and while my lips remain sealed, their opening song was a hit for The Clash, and it sets the tone for the film. These are not folks who will “go gently into that good night.”

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