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The Muppets
Campy, Quirky, and Oh-So-Well-Crafted

This reboot has a universal appeal that entertains any age. It is truly family safe and an outing that is worth spending money on and will not disappoint. The gift of this movie comes at a time in our country and the world when there is great tension and confusion about the future and concern about security. While it would be truly simplistic and ridiculous to say that a movie can make all these troubles go away, what becomes obvious is that Jason Segel (also the writer) and everyone else involved in this production are sending a message: Laughter heals. (Okay, maybe fart shoes, pratfalls, massive plays on words, and sight gags aren’t what get you up in the morning, but judging from the audience’s constant laughter, they hit all of us, no matter what age, in the funny bone.)

Hamlet 2
This Is How Low You Can Go

Hamlet 2 could have been a very funny movie if screenwriters Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming had shown a little restraint in the use of sexually profane language… and Dana Marchz’s portrayal of Jesus Christ. While I do not consider myself a rabid religious fundamentalist, I do take exception with the way Jesus’s name and person are so slandered by this movie. It’s as if Brady and Fleming deliberately put a chip on their shoulders so that they could call out the religious right, hoping for publicity. As the credits rolled, my final thought was, “is this the future of movie making?”

Frozen River
Masterful, Thoughtful Filmmaking

Frozen River is one of the best movies in recent years to address the issue of situational ethics, or morality-by-circumstance. However, writer and director Courtney Hunt has included a strange twist on that theme that many critics are missing. Ray is so fixated on a new double-wide trailer that she has chosen to make that the priority in her life and really is asking her children to suffer for the sake of her goal also. A mother that is truly concerned about putting food in her children’s mouths doesn’t watch them eat popcorn for breakfast while $4,000 is sitting outside in the car—and while she is still chain-smoking cigarettes. The case for situational ethics, in Ray’s situation, just doesn’t ring true. It’s hard to feel sorry for anyone but the children. While it is difficult to accept Ray as a heroine, Hunt does allow some redemption for her in the end. Hunt even divides her story well, leaving an edge of dissatisfaction since Ray’s and Lila’s fates differ—masterful! Ray only smiles once in the entire movie, and that is when Ricky wakes her up on the morning the half of the house is about to be delivered… before life gets even more complicated and falls apart.

Brideshead Revisited
Well Worth the Cinematic Treatment

Brideshead Revisited is a powerful primer on English social, religious, educational, and relational customs of the period between the world wars. The film is full of rich themes which are explored within the lives and contexts of the main characters, with a glimpse of profound observation occasionally contributed by a supporting character. Among the themes of Brideshead Revisited are: the capriciousness of love, which falls upon whom it will and in varying forms; adultery; homosexuality; Catholicism; atheism; relationships between parents and children; alcoholism; class and place in society; guilt; sin; and redemption of a strange sort. I can see no reason that anyone should walk away from this movie without something to think about or discuss.

Tell No One
Taut Thriller Done Right

Canet and his editor have done a fine job of presenting a movie that is taut, thrilling, suspenseful, and romantic while maintaining cohesiveness and movement. The movie is a bit over two hours long but never lags or makes the viewer aware that any time is important—except within the context of the story. The first thing that Canet does really well is to give his audience the real Paris, not the touristy postcard version. Beck finds himself in all kinds of company as he tries to hunt for Margot while staying out of the hands of the police. The viewer is introduced to the areas of Paris where gang activity is the norm and everyone seems to be armed to the teeth and not afraid to pepper an area with bullets at the slightest provocation. Too bad this film will only have a limited run in art house theaters. It is a real treat!

Thompson, Silly... Not the Muppets!

The original gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson was a driven man, and—as his friends and lovers and colleagues claim in this documentary, subtitled The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson—a man who could be soft, loving, romantic, and kind one moment and then hell-on-wheels crazy the next. Not one person from George McGovern to Pat Buchanan to Kurt Vonnegut to Jimmy Carter can help but shake their heads and say, with a wry smile, that Hunter S. Thompson was a crazy and unique kind of person. What director Gibney does well in this film is balance the “sane” Hunter with the “insane” Hunter so cunningly that you won’t likely leave the theater thinking that such a travesty of a human being has nothing to tell us. I find myself strangely drawn to discover more about the man.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Stirring the Pot With the Comedy Stick

As a whole, for a silly movie, Sandler is not quite as dopey as he has been in movies such as Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. However, he is not the sweet character that I enjoyed in 50 First Dates. The unfortunate detractors are Sandler’s insistence on hardly taking a step without a pelvic thrust, and walking around with at least five pairs of socks in his shorts. It’s just too much to watch for over an hour… well, even for thirty minutes! Still, the film is far from vapid, and there are several aspect of You Don’t Mess with the Zohan that I actually really like. It provides plenty of thought and conversation fodder, the value of which leads me to believe that Sandler’s film successfully (if comically) makes its point.

Before the Rains
Verdant Visuals, Parched Narrative

Santosh Sivan does a phenomenal job of proving his love for southern India with the direction and cinematography of Before the Rains… so it is truly a travesty that the screenplay doesn’t deliver the same passion. The writer stumbles trying to create characters that draw the viewer into their world and their emotions. As Sajani, Nandita Das comes across with a great degree of passion. Unfortunately, the other characters are so formulaic and predictable that once Sajani is out of the picture, the story just collapses. Regardless of the flatlining story, however, I recommend this movie just for the experience of enjoying the scenic grandeur of the land and the beauty of the tribal people—a travelogue with a simple storyline.

Prince Caspian
Narnia (and Adamson!) Restored

Even at almost two and a half hours, Prince Caspian never allows the audience to get restless. C. S. Lewis purists will realize that license has been taken, but the revamped storyline does not break down or conflict with the intent of the book. As for Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, and William Moseley who play the Pevensie siblings… well… it’s just plain hard to believe that they are the same children from the first film. Alongside Ben Barnes, wonderful as Prince Caspian, they join an entire cast who are comfortable in their roles. The film is full of integrity, faith, responsibility, duty, trust, humility, courage, and obedience. Parents will find many examples to share and discuss with their children on almost every age level.

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.

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