Film Review: Lady in the Water (2006)

Bryce Dallas Howard

A loner finds a water nymph in a swimming pool? How did that pitch meeting go? “Okay imagine this, it’s like Splash! but on barbiturates!”

Should I see it?
It is M. Night Shamalamadingdong, so no.

Director/Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban and Freddy Rodríguez

Rated PG-13 for imagery

When The Sixth Sense hit in 1999, M. Night Shamalamadingdong was quickly cited as being the next Spielberg. Thanks to self-indulgent, pompous, snore-fests like this outing, those breathless proclamations have been silenced. Honestly, who thought this was a good idea? A loner finds a water nymph in a swimming pool? How did that pitch meeting go? “Okay imagine this, it’s like Splash! but on barbiturates!

Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), an apartment building superintendent with a name straight out of an undergrad creative writing assignment, finds the aforementioned nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) in his swimming pool. She’s mystical and special and he’s a depressed mess. She needs his protection from a growling dog like lump in the grass that attacks her randomly as the film progresses. It turns out the watery tart is here to help a human write a book that will help save the world. Too bad she wasn’t showing up to help M. Night when he was writing the script.

Paul Giamatti Bryce Dallas Howard
So, this liquidy lass needs protecting because, as I mentioned, she is being threatened by the….. ………. ………. ……… ….lllllll llllllllllll llllllllllllllllll kkkkkkkllkklll llllll…

Sorry, I feel asleep on the keyboard. You’ll have to excuse me. This is cinematic melatonin.

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Film Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr Strangelove War Room

Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War black comedy is more clever than funny. Still, it is one of the great films you should see at least once.

Dr Strangelove PosterShould I see it?
Yes.

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern and Peter George

Starring:  Peter Sellers, Sterling Hayden, George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, Keenan Wynn and James Earl Jones

Rated PG for content, including sexual references

As a child of the Cold War, I can tell you there were times when people went to sleep honestly concerned about a nuclear apocalypse. The United States and the Soviet Union spent decades living under ‘mutual assured destruction’, a military strategy where both Super Powers understood that if one were to attack the other, both would die in the resulting bath of fire and radiation. In other words, you pray the other guy is as interested in living as much you are and/or no one screws up. While this strategy did help keep the world from the real Climate Change™ that is a nuclear winter, it did funnel our conflict into numerous side adventures and proxy wars.

The Cold War, like other conventional wars, was one fought by leaders divorced from the reality and consequences of their decisions. Stanley Kubrick brought attention to this disparity in his brilliant anti-war film Paths of Glory. Much like that film about a WWI unit commander dealing with his men’s mutiny while under the foolish, né murderous direction of a glory hungry general, Dr. Strangelove focuses primarily on the foolhardy, sometimes outright insane results of incompetent, self-serving leaders.

This black political satire is set in motion when General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), suffering from a psychotic attack, orders his B-52s to bomb the Soviet Union.British attache, Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) desperately attempts to get the general to hand over the recall codes for the planes only to have the madman cite Alex Jones’ style conspiracy theories.

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Film Review: Moon (2009)

Sam Rockwell Moon

We live in a time of the same old Star Wars crap.  Do yourself a favor, enjoy the pleasure of an actual science fiction movie. 

Moon PosterShould I see it?
Yes. Double yes.

Director: Duncan Jones

Writer: Nathan Parker

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Benedict Wong and Matt Berry

Rated R for language

Actual science fiction is an uncommon thing to find in the cinema. Think of it, when was the last time you watched a science fiction film that didn’t center on aliens, demons, zombies or hippies in bathrobes carrying light sabers?

Sam Rockwell portrays Sam Bell, a worker on an isolated moon station. Bell is alone – totally alone. As one would expect, there is a price to pay for his solitude has its price. Slowly, Bell loses his grip on reality. He hallucinates and increasing gets confused about what he is doing.

The only company Bell enjoys is a boxy computer named Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey. Gerty is an obvious throwback to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 3000 complete with a passive voice and mechanic responses. Gerty is little more than a computerized butler and is incapable of overcoming Bells building loneliness.

Moon Sam Rockwell

I am hesitant to delve too deeply into the plot as there are too many ways for me to ruin what is a very thoughtful, delicate script. I will say that director Duncan Jones handles Nathan Parker’s script perfectly. Given Parker worked off of Jones’ story idea, it’s not shocking their efforts blended seamlessly. The end result is remarkably good. Rockwell gives what is easily his best performance and I do think much of his success is rooted in the sharp script he gets to deliver.

I’ve seen enough films that I am confident that I can predict most final act outcomes.  Honestly, I misread this one and I did not know where it was going. That alone forces me recommend it. Unpredictability is a seriously rare commodity these days.

If you enjoy intelligent, patient science fiction this should be on your short list of films you need to see.

Film Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2017)

Brett Dalton Gavin Stone

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone Poster

This charming Christian film is exceptionally well done. If other filmmakers would create movies like this, the Christian film genre wouldn’t be such a disaster.

Should I see it?
Yes.

Director: Dallas Jenkins

Writer: Andrea Gyertson Nasfell

Starring: Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, D.B. Sweeney, Neil Flynn and Shawn Michaels

Rated PG due to mild drug talk and some fake blood

I’m going to come right out and write it: I hate Christian films. I loathe them. I didn’t at first, but over time they taught me to hate them. Before I took my site down on hiatus, I had seen innumerable Christian films, each more saccharine and embarrassingly unaware than the next. Reviewing Christian films is like being the taste tester at the worst cooking school in the world. Once you choke down one indigestible mess and think it can’t get worse, here comes another fresh steaming plate of good intentions gone wildly wrong.

Despite my contempt for the genre, I can clearly say that I loved this Christian film and strongly recommend it for both Christian and non-Christian audiences (with a caution).

The film centers on Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a haughty former Hollywood child actor. His hedonistic life lands him doing community service at a church in his small hometown. While there, he claims to be a Christian to land the role of Jesus in the church’s passion play, directed by Kelly (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes), the irritable pastor’s daughter. The two clash as Gavin’s arrogance invades the production. A budding romance, situational comedy and the obligatory (yet effective) closing salvation scene ensue.

This is a cross-genre film. It is a Christian film, but it is also a romantic comedy – a chaste romantic comedy. Director Dallas Jenkins (What If…), and screenwriter Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (Moms’ Night Out) mix these genres wonderfully. Gyertson Nasfell’s script takes the commonality of both genres and weds them. The usual structure of a Christian film isn’t boy gets girl, boy loses girl, but rather boy gets Jesus, boy loses Jesus. Here, the boy (Gavin) gets Jesus by getting the girl (Kelly). The melding of the genres leads to an impressively emotional final act. It has been a long time since I’ve seen so many people weeping at the end of a film. I didn’t mind you. Because I’m a man.

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Film Review: May 6th (2004)

Theo Van Gogh

Before being murdered for the crime of insulting the “religion of peace”, Theo Van Gogh proved he was a growing voice defending the West.  R.I.P. 

06/05 Theo Van Gogh movie posterShould I see it?
Yes.

Director: Theo van Gogh

Writers: Theo van Gogh and Tomas Ross

Starring: Thijs Römer, Tara Elders and Cahit Ölmez

Not Rated

Dutch filmmaker and journalist Theo Van Gogh (great-grandson of Theo van Gogh, the brother of Vincent van Gogh) was a vocal critic of Islam and its subjugation of women.  His criticism most notably took the form of a 10-minute short film titled Submission (the translation of “Islam”) in 2004.  The film presented nude women with Quranic texts written on their skin in henna tattoos.  Completely out of character with his belief system and its history, a Muslim overreacted.

On November 2nd, 2004 amateur film critic, Mohammed Bouyeri, a practitioner of the modern and intellectually rigorous “religion of peace”, shot director Theo Van Gogh eight times.  Bouyeri proceeded to nearly decapitate Van Gogh and then embedded two knives in the dead man’s chest.

Van Gogh’s last film, 06/05 fictionalizes the assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn and places it within the context of a murder mystery. Fortuyn was a former communist politician who took a stridently anti-Mulsim immigration stance.  For his opinions, Fortuyn was assassinated by environmental radical Volkert van der Graaf, who took exception to Fortuyn’s views that the “religion of peace” may not be as peaceful as everybody wants.

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