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De Palma Takes on War

Brian DePalma calls the current Iraq war “senseless.” That may a bit naïve coming from someone who hasn’t been violated by Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, or even by the U.S. Military, but war is never senseless to the participants. There is always a reason; we just may not agree with it, or we may not know enough to understand. That being said, De Palma’s film performs a valuable service: it opens some unadulterated windows into what is happening in this war in one way at least—presenting us with photographs of actual wartime casualties. Redacted is “inspired” by the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl in Samarra in 2006. What this fictionalized account shows is that war, and the evil that causes it, distorts and perverts even the best of people.

August Rush
Other Than Music, No Need to Rush

In short, this is a heartwarming film. But the acting is phlegmatic with few outstanding performances (except for August’s dimples). Special kudos to Terrence Howard as Lyla’s social worker, Richard Jeffries, though. Keri Russell is a lackluster disappointment as Lyla, and Robin Williams, as August’s mentor Wizard, is a little too sinister for young viewers. Despite the dead giveaway which is telegraphed from the outset, the story is interesting. In fact, familiar as the story may seem, there are some fun surprises—and I like the comfort of a familiar tale. And the fact that August feels and hears music in everything gives August Rush its underlying spirituality.

No Country for Old Men
And No Movie for Weenies

There is so much to commend No Country for Old Men, from additional cast members to set design. The script is sparing yet profound. The photography and music add to the desperate feeling. The stark beauty of west Texas adds its boundless hiding places, yet imperviousness to escape. In this barren world without humor the Coen brothers are able to utilize cliché and culture to find funny observations and insert them into the script. The sophisticated and deadpan humor is deftly handled by the cast. I started this movie prepared to be critical due to its subject matter. But the quality of this production and the human observations it makes are priceless. It is a terrific film.

Wristcutters: A Love Story
Road Film With a Bite

Look for funny lines and irony. Look for a good time. Look for the underlying theme. Wristcutters: A Love Story is a sort of road film with a bite. I would characterize this film as a mixture of Garden State quirkiness and Primer intelligence. The important theme is the utter selfishness of suicide. Belittling the self-consumed ones who consider suicide may be just the impetus they need to realize their destructive thought-life and reverse their course. Just go see it. You will find some funny and insightful stuff. And for what it’s worth, you will understand the kind of humor I appreciate.

A Fresh Look at Self-destruction

Control is more than an introduction of a rock star gone awry. Filmed in black and white and with humble reality, it is a great example of how new ideas in filmmaking can bring abrupt change to the art of cinematic storytelling. Director Anton Corbijn has captured a photograph’s intimate quality and transferred the effect to his film. I will even go so far as to say that it probably helps that Corbijn is a rookie director. He doesn’t have bad habits to unlearn. The film itself is somber but believable, and very engaging.

Things We Lost in the Fire
Susanne Bier Does It Again

Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro are accomplished, award-winning actors. Their performances in Things We Lost in the Fire are natural and easy to watch, true acting in every sense of the word. Their celebrity is not exploited. Their talents are honed and coaxed into finely tuned instruments of redemption. The story is an insightful masterwork of Allan Loeb about the relationship between Audrey and Jerry, who are brought together because Audrey’s husband dies heroically. Throughout the film, we see why he was a hero, we see why he is missed. And we see how Bryan’s life of serving his friends became a catalyst for change to all he knew.

The Ten Commandments
Not Ready for Primetime

The good news is that this is an accurate biblical extraction of the story of Moses and the children of Israel from the book of Exodus. The story is a good one and bears retelling. After all, the Israelites have told the story to their children for millennia. But The Ten Commandments would be better reserved for Saturday morning cartoon time. Perhaps some churches and synagogues will stock it in their children’s libraries; I cannot see any other viable interest for this cheesy, garish film. I attended a free screening for press and the public. Twenty of us started the movie; sixteen of us finished it.

Eastern Promises
More Than Anyone Bargains For

Viggo Mortensen stretches his chops and pulls together a strong performance as Nikolai. His character is simultaneously creepy and approachable. You wish him well, but he has made his bed with some pretty raunchy characters. I found myself pulling for him the whole film. I also knew he was one bad dude. He is an ape-like goon like the rest of his comrades, but still allows a human element to escape. I left the theater in deep thought—probably the right response if you ask the writer and director.

Rush Hour 3
Even Jackie Chan Gets Older

In Rush Hour 3, our inside-the-box social realities can be totally disregarded—and not only disregarded, but completely thrown aside—without repercussion. I think what makes this type of humor so effective and fun is that it exposes where so much social constraint really comes from: those who may be imposing their own preferences and ingrained racism, or worse, their presumptions of the veracity of the very stereotypes themselves. Actually, though, picking at our human foibles and traits may simply endear us to each other. We can truly rejoice in one another’s humanity and individuality. At least that is what our Rush Hour 3 Petri dish reveals.

Live-in Maid
Low-Budget, But High-Quality

Live-in Maid is a touching film and a very thought provoking one as well. How many of us can assume the unfamiliar role of friend and supplicant from a person who socially is many rungs below us? The embarrassment of the loss and the blow to your pride at having been “the boss” could be too much for many people to take. The film doesn’t tell us everything about the trip down from society, but it tells us enough. And Beba’s actions speak much louder than words. Excellent!

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