Author Archive

Heady Stuff

CGI or not, the storyline, the details, the plays on words, the black-hatted bad guys and white-hatted good guys, and the comedic situations and remarks are refreshing after the recent tries to recapture the World of Animation by changing their signature style. I find it interesting that Rapunzel trusts Mother Gothel’s motive of “protection” to the extent that she remains in the tower despite having the means to escape. I can’t avoid the parallel to how often we feel imprisoned by sin, despite the door having been flung wide open, where a world of freedom awaits if we just take those steps out the door.

Love Finds A Home
Good Role Models

As a rule, I do not like romance novels, Christian or otherwise—they foster unrealistic expectations and, in my experience with couples counseling, can be as dangerous to intimacy as pornography. But Janette Oke’s novel-turned-movie left me feeling more positive about the world, about the power of God to turn hard situations into amazing blessings. What struck me most was the innumerable times that people asked for—and were offered—forgiveness. Whether addressing word, deed, or personal prejudice, the ministry of reconciliation was beautifully portrayed throughout the entire film, and my heart was lighter for having watched it.

Nim’s Island
Walden Media Scores Again

Nim’s Island succeeds on multiple levels. The casting offers lively interaction and apparent chemistry among the lead actors. The setting provides plenty of eye candy—transparent turquoise waters, deep, lush greens, sandy beaches, and a home/science lab that blows Swiss Family Robinson out of the water. The film is far from perfect; the greatest care was not taken in certain editorial aspects—those little details like continuity flaws, unrealistic events, and implausibilities that critics love to use to flex their egos. But this film isn’t about facts and evidence and details; rather, it subtly repeats a mantra-like theme: “You must be the hero of you own story.”

The Narcoleptic Critic’s Society
The 2007 Somnolent Awards

When we ran our 2007 year-end lists two weeks ago, Jenn had just been admitted to the hospital for a rather unpleasant 7-day tour… so she missed out on the round up. Fortunately, that has given her an additional two weeks to refine her own selections, just enough material to justify an entire column unto itself. By way of explanation, Jenn attended just over 40 screenings last year—all before a long-in-coming diagnosis of a rare sleep disorder was established. Thus we have… the “Somnolent Awards.”

Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint
Cinematography, History, Not Much More

The most stunning part of Milarepa is the cinematography. Angles, lighting, and long (but not of Malick proportions) shots of landscapes offer pacing that is a bit on the slow side for my taste. The acting is particularly bland (the film is directed by a monk, after all), although the subtitles may have distracted me (the dialogue is spoken in Tibetan). But the greatest achievement is bringing to life a millennium-old Tibetan tale which teaches that revenge is never one-sided—both parties are harmed, as seen in Milarepa, whose guilt over “the futility of revenge” will accompany him for the rest of his life. Or at least until part two of Milarepa’s tale is told, projected for a 2009 release.

What Would Jesus Buy?
Moore-ishness Minus Boorishness

Besides being a somewhat tedious and dry production, the big problem with this film is that it offers no answers to the problem. And even bigger still, VanAlkemade never answers the film’s titular question: What Would Jesus Buy? Would He only buy Made-in-Israel products? Who knows? And the movie never addresses the question head-on—it squirms around it. I’d like to be pleasantly surprised by this documentary, particularly since my spending habits lean toward frugality in its most basic form. Unfortunately what we get is over ninety minutes of the same “arguments” in numerous bits and pieces.

Amazing Dancing, Complex Plot

Not being Indian, I find it difficult to judge the cadence of the movie. While it carried itself well, the end seemed just a bit slower and lengthier—though my husband and I agreed that the pacing may have been somehow related to the rhythm of Indian dancing. While it never reached anything close to plodding or drawn-out, it did seem to wind down rather than conclude. Beware: Vanaja is not a flimsy romance. It is a full-length feature film that reveals much about something many Westerners do not understand. The dancing and music are enough to warrant watching Domalpalli’s first feature, regardless of whether it was an assignment or not.

Mr. Woodcock
Both Less and More Than Expected

The film’s strengths are probably the cast and the chemistry between them. Billy Bob Thornton deftly plays a thorny middle-aged man wooing his lady; the gruffness is there, but it is not the only character trait Woodcock possesses. Susan Sarandon does well as a not-so-educated woman who probably falls a little too easily in love. Seann William Scott (as John Farley) plays a rather unremarkable character, though perhaps that is a directorial issue rather than a talent issue. In short, Mr. Woodcock is a mildly humorous popcorn-munching flick.

Balls of Fury
When Parody Becomes Too Narrow

Again, the disclaimer: this isn’t my most favorite genre, and I am completely ignorant of the style of such parodies. The physical humor that Dan Fogler exhibits in Balls of Fury during his character’s two-week training course (and his ping-pong style) was humorous enough to keep the preview audience plenty entertained—they got what they came for, which is certainly important to note. The production qualities are fairly good as well, with plenty of verbal sparring intermingled with the physical sport itself. Unfortunately, the humor is so broad-based as to seem hollow—not substantial enough for a hearty laugh, but good enough for an occasional chuckle or grin. The mystery to me (and to my husband, just for the record) was the PG-13 rating.

A Narrow Demographic Hit Very Narrowly

In general, I can ease into the land of make believe for such characters in animation. But I have to draw the line at live-action films based on fashionista dolls. A cartoon would at least make sense, but turning poorly-proportioned, “BFF” Barbies-of-the-new-century into (nominally) human characters just crosses the line for me. And Bratz is as shallow and aimless as it sounds. Creating a feature-length film based on four dolls (whose heads were as disproportionate to their bodies as Barbie’s breasts were to hers) may seem like a great summer-break film concept for kids, but the vapidity and predictability with which Bratz assaults the intelligence of the audience is more irritating than entertaining.

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