Archive for the 'Recent DVDs' Category
Do Yourself a Favor: See It
Miss Representation royally pissed me off, and in the best possible way. Bear in mind that I’m the lone audience member who walked out on a packed commercial screening of Risky Business because I was so incensed at that film’s portrayal of women. From the first time I saw Joe Francis’ ridiculous Girls Gone Wild commercials on cable, I’ve lamented how the misguided women who buy into Francis’ fetish are traitors to their own gender. And no, Halle Berry’s sex scene in Monster’s Ball was not empowering; she merely sold her integrity for the sake of artistic “respect.”
A Powerful Post-9/11 Drama
Movies about the events of September 11, 2001 are tricky. Still, the impressive list of talents behind the latest effort to capture the terrible loss would lead anyone to believe that Loud and Close just may be able to pull it off. Based on a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer and adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Eric Roth, the movie is directed by Stephen Daldry, a man who has earned best director Oscar nominations for each of his previous three films. Add to that the fact that the adult leads are played by Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and you have yourself some legitimate Oscar bait. Ultimately, though, the movie’s success rests in the hands of an untested 12-year-old who steps into the challenging lead role.
Flawed But Memorable Classic
Most adults, of course, seem to have very little memory of what being a teenager is like; the normal result is a lack of sensitivity and understanding, much as we see with the parents of Neil and Todd in Dead Poets (played brilliantly by Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke). However, in his passion for flipping that insensitivity the opposite direction, John Keating (Williams) equally forgets the impressionability of youth—and with tragic unintended consequences. Keating is not the catalyst for the tragedy, of course; but he’s not entirely unaccountable, either.
Given that I picked up this review opportunity in a rather eleventh-hour fashion, I did not know was that Thurgood is essentially a filmed take on a tour-de-force one-man stage show written by George Stevens Jr. Rather than a standard biopic, we are here presented with the faux reminiscences of an aged Marshall as he “returns” to alma mater Howard University for a lecture to a “friendly audience.” As Marshall warms up to his topic—his personal involvement in turning the tide against American apartheid—he casts off his cracking voice, shuffling gait, and cane, rejuvenated by Fishburne’s energetic portrayal of a modern man of justifiably mythic proportions.
A “Manifesto to God”
The frustration in Corrine’s life culminates when she leaves a characteristically stilted “house church” meeting. Those in attendance talk to each other in muted catch-phrases and euphemistically-couched expressions of spiritual denial. Outside in the car, Corrine cries out to God in an honest fashion that should rend your soul—and when she asks God to reveal Himself to her, who should appear but her husband? He is so alienated from her at this point, and their love for each so dead, that all he can coldly suggest is that she no longer bother coming to the meetings since her “heart isn’t in it.” Oh, but her heart is so much in it! And that’s the problem in Higher Ground.
More Than More of the Same
In the Christian niche market, “more of the same” from directors and producers generally results in an audience (and pastoral) response that looks more like “Well, I think I’ll take a pass this time.” That’s because, for the most part, the product in question is substandard in one or more ways and has been marketed in a bait-and-switch fashion that packages cut-rate entertainment as the next great evangelistic tool. Think of the Left Behind series (now on the verge of being rebooted… whoo-hoo!), The Nativity Story, or even Rocky Balboa. Yup. There are only so many times you can sell the same pig. Well, Courageous bucks that trend entirely.
The Art of Smuggling
Any thriller worth its salt will continue to up the stakes for its protagonist, thus increasing the level of tension. Contraband, the new smuggling thriller starring Mark Wahlberg, does just that. That is, it continually ups the stakes for its protagonist. Unfortunately, the level of tension does not increase along with the stakes as it should. This leaves Contraband to be rather dull—with the exception of one legitimately tense sequence near the end—despite all the crazy stuff going on with the plot.
When Special Features Detract
Even though Joffe overreached himself here, and made it nearly impossible to patch together a coherent cut of the film, what Joffe was aiming for was so much more worthwhile than films like Avatar, The Dark Knight, or Inglourious Basterds—to name just a few. And while those films are ultimately far more finely crafted (and, uh, successful) than Dragons, ultimately empty, self-referential, pseudo-profound popcorn flicks like those don’t hold a candle in my book to less successful films that are about ideas that really matter. Joffe tells this story in a way that just might—just might, mind you—radicalize your faith just a little. So I’ll still recommend the film… but also recommend you skip the deleted scenes!
Spielberg Goes Back to War
When it was first announced that Steven Spielberg was going to be directing War Horse, a movie that featured young actors and a war-based story, the initial thought was “How could it go wrong?” After all, this is the same guy who won an Oscar for directing Saving Private Ryan, he produced Band of Brothers, and he worked with kids in everything from E.T. The Extra Terrestrial to this summer’s Super 8 (which he produced). Unfortunately, the end result, while not necessarily a bad movie, certainly fails to live up to its high expectations.
A Nice Family Movie
In 2006, the Mee family purchased the closed down Dartmoor Zoological Park in England, refurbished it, and reopened the zoo to the public in July 2007. It is a very nice story that has already inspired a four-part television documentary, and Benjamin Mee, a former journalist, wrote a book about how the experience changed their lives. Now, their story has inspired Cameron Crowe to return to the director’s chair for the first time since 2005’s Elizabethtown. The resulting film also makes for a nice story; nothing more, nothing less.
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