07 October, 2007

Three-sentence movie reviews

Why three sentences? Because that's more than most of them deserve, and I'm not competent enough to say more on the ones that deserve more.

Akeelah and the Bee
What a great film. Just when I thought it was going to get all gooey and saccharine and stupid, it became...well, not great, but great all the same. Will it stimulate interest in teaching spelling again, or will the moronization of our culture continue?

Bridge to Terabithia
The book is, in my not-so-humble opinion, a decent adult book that a lot of people have mistaken for a great children's book. When my 7th grade English teacher read it to the class, I felt that the author betrayed the characters in order to score some points that weren't really worth scoring; conversations twenty years later made me realize that I wasn't alone in this opinion. The movie reminded me of both the books' strengths—the main characters and their wonderful relationship—and the book's weaknesses—primarily, its utter pointlessness.

Catch and Release
If you were ever tempted to try writing a film where you would address profound themes and say something real by describing in glowing terms the lives of several shallow characters whose personalities are all about being fake to each other, and who learn that life ought to be lived even more shallow but not quite so fake—sorry, but this film beat you the punch. Can't quite put my finger on it, but the approach didn't work for me. On the plus side, it features Kevin Smith, who has more talent than most comic actors, but can't find a good role to save his life.

Well, shoot, if I'd know it would have been this good, I'd have rented it a lot sooner. Heck with three sentences; quit reading this & go rent it today.

The Island
Wow. A decent film touching on questions surrounding the dignity of human life—but never getting too deep into these questions, staying safely on the side of "conscious" and "self-aware" human life—wrapped in all the jaw-dropping spectacle expected from the director of the live-action Transformers film (did they just do that! on a highway? no way!). Plus Ewan McGregor (aka the young Obi-Wan Kenobi)!

The Little Flowers of Saint Francis
The last religious film I didn't want to finish watching was that interpretation of the life of Christ in modern times that ended with fireballs descending from heaven and consuming the wicked who had dared to crucify God's anointed. This Italian film features instead the opposite sort of shallow religion: lots of people running around aimlessly like children, yes literally running around aimlessly like children, raising their eyes to heaven in the most saccharine manner and saying pithy little, well, sayings. Maybe if I'd finished it, I'd have gotten something out of it, but I've read The Little Flowers of Saint Francis and it's a lot better than what I watched of this film.

Miss Potter
Ms. Zellweger's strange acting nearly put me off this film, but I stuck with it and it was worth the effort. Three sentences, hmm... Watch this film & enjoy Ewan McGregor's acting.

The Ninth Day
All the gripes I aired about religious films when discussing The Little Flowers of Saint Francis disappear in this film. This German film takes religion head-first into despair, moral dilemmas, and an apparent abandonment by one's superiors. Best of all, it's based on a true story.

Tycoon: a New Russian
Soviet days are long gone, so Russians can make films featuring the brutal violence and explicit, uhm, "encounters" that rival the best that Europe, America, and Ang Lee have to offer. In the middle of all this indecency where everyone claims that fighting for oneself is really just a form of fighting for what is right, there emerges a glimmer of nobler pursuits that I don't recall seeing in most European, American, or Ang Lee films (not that I've seen any Ang lee films, so maybe it's there & I just missed it). Namely, a respect and pining for truth and success in science, an awareness of a heaven that was once touched and owned and now has been lost, cut off by our lust for money, and a lot more besides, while widows starve and children grow in ignorance of Sputnik and Gagarin.

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