Archive for September, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Greed is Good, Again

It has been twenty-three years since Michael Douglas won an Oscar for preaching that “greed is good” as the financial hustler in 1987’s Wall Street. Now, the country is mired in a financial struggle that might just have been started by the very guys who were inspired by Gordon Gekko’s antics, so director Oliver Stone brings us the sequel. Unfortunately, if you are not a finance major, the slick looking new movie might go right over your head.

A Talk with Chad Gundersen
Onward, Christian Filmmakers

“So your buddy has made his first short? Great! But you want to bring that kid in as your gaffer?” prods Chad Gundersen, producer of Like Dandelion Dust and next month’s DVD release A Christmas Snow. “I’ll get you a gaffer who’s made Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ll give you that guy. I promise you. And they’re like, ‘Well, is he a believer?’ Who cares? Now, a big part of that is finding people you can trust so you know exactly what to expect of them. But why is the opportunity to be a witness on the set any different than the opportunity for the film itself to be a witness to the millions of people who see it?”

Easy A
Hester Prynne Goes to High School

One of Hollywood’s favorite things to do in the last decade or so is to take a classic piece of literature or theatre and adapt it to a modern day high school setting. One only need to look to Sydney White, She’s the Man, and 10 Things I Hate About You for examples. Although Easy A may not exactly be an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s often required-read The Scarlet Letter, it definitely makes for an interesting twist on the famous novel.

The Town
They Rob Banks

The final act of The Town is highlighted by a heist that takes place at Boston’s famed Fenway Park, where Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastremski was the last player to win major league baseball’s triple crown in 1967. That’s fitting, because the film’s director and star Ben Affleck seems to be building his own case for Hollywood’s triple crown. Already an Oscar winner as a screenwriter for 1998’s Good Will Hunting and proven to be something of a star on the screen, Affleck has recently moved on to directing. His first film behind the camera, 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, was very well received. With The Town, Affleck ups the ante and performs all three tasks at once. If not spectacular, the results are nevertheless entertaining.

Like Dandelion Dust
Does What Films Should Do

I did not at all expect to find a film scrupulously based on one of Karen Kingsbury’s novels to be incisive and even-handed in examining the human condition. Jon Gunn’s direction gives equal time to the saintly and sinful traits of all involved—so you’re likely to find a moving portrayal of ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances with tragic consequences as the only likely outcome. Unlike classic tragedies, though, the story is infused by the optimism of a Christian worldview: yes, people are messed up; but by the grace of God, His power—and the example of Christ’s sacrificial selflessness—can help us triumph over our petty and broken human limitations.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Somebody Still Makes Films Like This?

In the early going, I rather felt that the film would ultimately miss its satiric mark as a couple of gags—an early off-target footchase gunbattle with masked Mexican wrestlers, in particular—fell badly flat. But by the time OSS 17 finds himself prompted by LSD to participate in a hippie beach orgy, the film hits its stride. (Yet, it’s satire… and it’s funny.) And climactic scenes at spectacular Brazilian waterfalls as well as Rio’s iconic statue of Christ elevate what could have been mere sophomoric parody to almost an archetype of the form: a film that ultimately stands on its own, narratively, and not just as a touchpoint for messages and homages. That’s, frankly, something that the Monty Python crew even rarely accomplished with its films.

Going the Distance
It's Worth Going

It seems like there are dozens of romantic comedies that come out every year and let’s face it, all of them are virtually the same: two people that we know belong together overcome obstacles—many of which are self-inflicted—to find true love. Since the plots are so similar, what separates the good ones from the bad ones are the characters and the comedy. Fortunately, Going in the Distance features fun, lovable characters and plenty of good laughs.