Movie Poster: Ice Station Zebra

The Mysterious Islands (2009)

 Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Should I see it?
Sure.

Photobucket


This is a well-shot visit to the Galapagos Islands with a smiling Christian Creationist as your tour guide.  Dr. John Morris and his kid boat and wander around the islands made famous by Charles Darwin.  Morris excitedly explains how Darwin's theories have been shown to be wrong, or at least fallible.  Morris also promotes the Creationist point-of-view.  He isn't talking Intelligent Design, he is going the full Creationist route.

The bottom line is that this is a propaganda film.  To the production's credit, unlike most documentaries, they don't try to hide it.  The movie has a very specific point-of-view and hammers at it without hesitation.  Morris explains Darwin's assertions and debunks, or at least casts doubt, on each one.


Again, this is a very deliberate production with a very specific worldview to promote.  I assume those in the Evolution camp will be readily irritated by many of the points made by Morris.  Speaking as a regular dope with no formal understanding of biology beyond the basics, I found Morris' presentation interesting.  Was he compelling?  Sometimes, sometimes not.  Simply having questions on a theory doesn't prove it wrong any more than wanting something to be true makes it accurate. 

Morris certainly has a confident presentation and makes his points well.  Taking just his word for things, he probably is very convincing.  With subjects like Creation/Evolution, I always find it best to open things up to debate.  Creationists can't complain that Evolutionists dominate the discussion and then be comfortable avoiding their side of the issue.

The lack of actual debate aside, this is a clearly stated and interesting presentation of the Creationist side of the argument, made by someone who is comfortable with the subject.  Even if you do not believe in the Creationist argument, I would still recommend this simply to understand what the "other side" is thinking.


Related Reviews:
Documentaries
Rated-R: Republicans in Hollywood (2003)
Street Fight (2005)


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Firm Foundation


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Stranded (2007)

Reviewer: Julie Davis

On October 13, 1972, a young rugby team called "The Old Christians" from Montevideo, Uruguay, boarded a plane for a match in Chile--and then vanished into thin air. ... 16 of the 45 passengers miraculously resurfaced. ... Thirty-five years later, the survivors returned to the crash site--known as the Valley of Tears--to recount in their own words their harrowing story of defiant endurance, intense spirituality, and indestructible friendship. ... this shocking true story finally gets the cinematic treatment it deserves. Visually breathtaking and crafted with riveting detail by documentary filmmaker (and childhood friend of the survivors) Gonzalo Arijon with a masterful combination of on-location interviews, archival footage and reenactments, Stranded is a hauntingly powerful and spiritually moving celebration of humanity.

If a rugby team and the Andes were ever mentioned to me I very vaguely would remember something about a plane crash and the survivors having to turn to cannibalism to stay alive. That was all I knew and frankly I never gave it much thought. After watching this DVD, I can say that there are hidden depths to this story that make one reflect for days afterward the indefatigably of the human spirit and tenacity of our survival instinct.

The "Old Christians" rugby team with family and friends boarded their plane in a carefree, holiday frame of mind. Most were 19 years old from upper class families. These were pampered kids dressed for spring weather who were not equipped for wilderness survival. The plane ran into a storm system high above the Andes that crashed them in the middle of a forbidding landscape. At first, grieving for those who died in the crash, tending to survivors, they waited for a rescue team to pick them up within a few hours. However, this was not to happen. As day after day went by, they began dealing with the rigors of the climate, lack of food, and the uncertainty that comes with not knowing if rescue would ever come. Eventually, with survival uppermost in their minds, they were forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.

This story is told strictly through the words of the survivors, their family members, and others who were part of the story. We see the faces of the men telling their story, woven with beautifully and sensitively reenacted scenes to take us through the story. There is never a single word of narration. This forces a slow pace that I found frustrating at first. I longed for a narrator to clarify locations, time lines, and provide an omniscient point of view. Gradually, I realized that we would eventually receive all that information just as everyone else did at the time. This put us even further into the story with the men, agonizing as no one came to help, suffering as they realized what must happen to survive, and holding out hope even when uncaring nature seemed certain to leave none of them alive.

The story unfolds on two levels. First, there are the simple mechanics of the rescue. I had no idea if they were found or rescued themselves, how long they endured this time stranded, or what they actually went through simply to survive on the mountain. I am deliberately refraining from discussing these details so that any similarly unaware viewers may also follow the story as it develops. Rest assured that the story is simply incredible.

Secondly, there was the spiritual and mental level of survival. The promotional materials I received for the movie spoke stirringly of how they survived with the aid of their Catholic faith. This actually was not an overarching theme and depended largely on the individual person, as one might expect with any group of people. Occasionally one person or another would speak about how saying the rosary helped him at a particular moment. Another would talk about a time when he felt distinctly the presence of God. Regardless, one cannot miss the many images of hands telling the rosary beads that the director shows in the background time and again, even when no direct words are speaking about faith.

A particularly moving instance is when the survivors talk about when they realized that they were going to have to eat the dead in order to live. I don't know why this never occurred to me but it is not as if it were a plane full of strangers, which would be horrific enough in itself. These people were all friends and, in some cases, close family members. Just watching the faces of those speaking gives an immense depth of feeling to the horror of the very idea when it surfaces and then again when it becomes clear that cannibalism must be carried out. For those who were deeply Catholic, the thought that helped carry them through was that Christ himself gave his body and blood to his followers through Holy Communion. They said that if Christ did such a thing surely they would be forgiven for following those actions through their extreme reluctance. This subject is treated with the utmost respect and reverence on all levels.

One thing that we realize above all is how precious life is, that it is worth fighting for, and just how much these men love each other both in life and in death. Especially touching was seeing the men visit the crash site with their children and the children of those who never left the mountain.

Highly recommended.



Related Reviews:
Documentaries
Food, Inc. (2008)
Beyond the Gates of Splendor (2005)



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CineBanter
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Movie Quote: Guns of Navarone (1961)


Mallory
[On Andrea]
He's going to kill me when the war's over.

Major Franklin
You're not serious.

Mallory
Yes, I am. So is he.





Screen Shot: Taxi Driver (1976)


Taxi Driver movie still


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Movie Poster: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Movie Trailer: True Grit

"Retribution - This Christmas"

Nice.

I tend to see this like most other folks I've seen online: one doesn't go remaking a classic like this - but, if someone has to, the Coens are the one's to get it done right. I know I already love the way this looks and Jeff Bridges is a good casting choice. Matt Damon though...not so sure about that pick.






Our Heroes Are Scumbags

By Wayne Johnson


The other evening after a very long day we decided to stop at McDonalds for dinner. My daughter wanted a Happy Meal, mainly for the toy.  After Dinner I was cleaning up and noticed that the Happy Meal box was double sided, one side with Strawberry Shortcake the other with Anakin Skywalker.

Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader was the hero on the box! This is the iconic hero for the little boys of our next generation. Really? This is the same character that betrayed his friends and murdered a whole bunch of innocent kids. Let alone helped destroy planets and bring evil to an entire Galaxy and almost allowed his son to be murdered before his own eyes.

Why is this character the hero? Do we not have a better choice? Do we expect our kids just to ignore all the stuff we know about this character and only look at the “good” stuff he did during the Clone Wars? Isn’t good old George Lucas pushing his worldview a little too far with this?

Lucas is a follower of Joseph Campbell, Campbell was a very smart guy, he studied Myth from cultures all around the world and discovered that they all had a very similar pattern. One of his biggest contributions to movies is his study of the Hero. Specifically the Hero Cycle but primarily he subscribes to Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious. If I could sum up Campbell in one sentence it would be; “follow your bliss.” I have issues with that, but I’ll leave it for another time.

Lucas also is a strong follower of the existentialist idea. It is best illustrated in his story Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where he uses the last part of the movie to explain how Existentialism works. A blind leap of faith not based on reason, Indy’s leap from the lion’s head. (True Christian faith is not a blind leap, and is based in reason. Hebrews 11:19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead…) Also, his worldview is perfectly defined in his last film, Revenge of the Sith, when Obi Wan said “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Clearly Lucas is a relativist.

I can’t put all the blame on Lucas, just most of it. I really have to blame the audience for supporting this stuff. My generation grew up on Star Wars, it is part of us, but we have allowed the ideas expressed in the films to become our worldview. And now we are allowing the promotion of a hero who is a total scumbag. Is this right?

I have a very hard time with this. The hero has been trashed and smashed for the last 40 years or more in our culture. He has been torn down and given feet of clay and turned into a scumbag. There are no heroes today that are worth emulating, none that are worth celebrating. And what message does that send to our children? It tells them that there is no one and nothing to look up to. It destroys hope; it discourages valor, courage, honesty and truth.

What can we do about it? The first thing you can do is turn it off. I do.



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Screen Shot: Full Metal Jacket (1987)



Full Metal Jacket movie still


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Movie Poster: The Time Machine

Movie Trailer: The Fighter

It is always a bad sign when they have to shovel in the whole film into the trailer.  Watch this and you have no reason to pay to see it in the theater.



Låt Den Rätte Komma In “Let the Right One In” (2008)

Reviewer: Julie Davis


Oskar is a lonely and bullied 12-year-old. Eli is the 12-year-old girl who moves into the apartment next door. They form a friendship over puzzles and Morse code. Except that, as Eli tells Oskar, she is not a girl. He must discover for himself that those puzzling words mean she is a vampire. Naturally, one cannot have a vampire in the neighborhood without missing people and murders, which leads to an interesting and telling side-plot about someone who is attacked but lives through it.

This is a Swedish vampire movie and, as such, is somehow completely Swedish with contemplative photography, neutral colors, and the square, Ikea-ish buildings. It is also somehow completely a vampire movie in the truest sense of the word with evil dominating everything once Eli shows up. That evil is expressed through gore that is also somehow completely in line with a Swedish movie because we are as distanced as it is possible to be from it. Much more immediate is the bullying that Oskar must endure, which is an interesting contrast to the unworldly vampirish sort.

At one point we had to pause the movie for some reason and I told Tom that this was not the "great movie" I had seen praised by so many. He said, "Well you can look forward to the American remake. They'll probably have an explosion or two to liven it up." I had to laugh ruefully. How true.

However, our appreciation of this film grew greatly through reflection and conversation as we put together the puzzle pieces more completely. In fact, I am now going to be curious to see the American remake because we all wonder if the Americans will not somehow find it irresistible to muddy the moral message.

It is definitely worth seeing for the artistry and for the unflinching examination of evil, our attraction to it, our own muddling of what we know to be right and wrong in order to grasp what we find attractive, and the fact that we have the power to turn evil away or invite it into our lives. Oh, and for the cats scene in the apartment. Definitely for the cats scene. Never have cats been so ennobled in the fight against evil.

Caution for viewers: Rated R. There is, of course, vampire induced gore and violence. As well, there is a one second flash of nudity (Eli's genitals). Scott Nehring rightly points out that this is child porn. However, and this is a big however, the moment when this happens is well telegraphed. We know Oskar is going to look ... and with that warning ... we can not look. I avoided plenty of this movie's vampire violence in that way and wish I had done so for that moment of nudity. Having read Scott's comment, however, I was curious though wary about exactly what he meant. He's right. It adds nothing except some disgust. Do what I say, not what I do. Don't look.

Further reflections upon the message ... with POSSIBLE SPOILERS
(I have tried to do this without spoilers, but for those who want absolutely no clue about the story then this is something to skip.)

Unbelievably, I have seen this called a tender and pure love story. That is far from the case, if we are seeing it clearly and sorting out all the evidence that we are given right up to the very end of the film.

It can be difficult to sort out the evil and our feelings because we see that 12-year-old girl and want to find some redemptive value in the friendship she has with Oskar. Again and again we are shown her monsterish habits and yet somehow still shake them off because they come in the sympathetic guise of a pretty young girl. This leaves us turning against what our brains tell us to be true as we watch victims lured to their end and instead relating to Oskar, who is at best emotionally stunted since he wants not just relief from the bullies but the ultimate revenge which he is too weak and afraid to exact.

At the end of the movie, we are left with the contrast between the actions of the attack victim who could tell what she was becoming, the fate of Eli's original companion, and the deliberate luring (some might say wooing) of Oskar. In considering the fate of Eli's original companion, we see what Oskar's fate is. That fate is not any semblance of love. It is the result of cooperating with pure evil.





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30 Days of Night (2007)
The Lost Boys (1987)


Other Critic’s Reviews:
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Movie Quote: Apocalypse Now (1979)


Kilgore
Smell that? You smell that?

Lance
What?

Kilgore
Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.

[kneels]

Kilgore

I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like

[sniffing, pondering]

Kilgore
victory. Someday this war's gonna end...

[suddenly walks off]









Screen Shot: Planet of the Apes (1968)



Planet of the Apes movie still


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The Dark Corner (1946)

Reviewer: Jeff Burton

The Dark Corner is a 1946 film noir that tells of man fighting against a conspiracy to frame him for murder. It is an unremarkable except for two reasons. The first is the appearance of Lucille Ball as the detective hero's secretary. It's great fun to see an icon in a wholly unfamiliar role, and she doesn't disappoint. Thankfully, there's no stuffing-chocolate-in-the-mouth or sneaking into the Copa, but her brassy broad schtick is subtly previewed here. She also reminds us of life in mid-forties America, when she complains about the shortage of nylon for hosiery.

The other reason to like this film is Clifton Webb. He plays the wealthy art dealer Hardy Cathcart. In an amazing bit of plagiarism, Dark Corner's writers reprise in this character the role of Waldo Lydecker in one of my favorite noir's: Laura. Laura was made two years earlier, and it is somewhat of a spoiler to even draw out the similarities between the characters, so I won't be explicit. In any case, see Laura first, as it is a beautiful and melancholic study of impossible desire.

The Dark Corner, though "B" material, is actually a bit more noir'ish than Laura. Film noir is characterized visually by a contrast between light and darkness, and the skillful use of shadow to blur the boundaries between the two. The visual elements should also be reflected in the story, in that the characters are pushed to moral limits in exploring the frontiers of good and evil. Dark Corner's plot accomplishes this; Laura's less so, but that is no failing. The Dark Corner's flawed plot, with the villain's reveal coming far too early, makes the second half a bit tedious, but there is enough to interest the noir enthusiast or the lover of '40's film.


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Double Indemnity (1944)
Casablanca (1943)


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Movie Poster: Adam's Rib

Movie Trailer: Secretariat

Read the review here: http://www.goodnewsfilmreviews.com/2010/09/secretariat-2010.html




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Movie Trailer: Due Date

Looks like Planes, Trains and Automobiles sans the funny.

Could they project the coffee joke more?  Me thinks not.


Your dad's ashes are in a coffee canYesGOLLY, I HOPE WE DON'T ACCIDENTALLY DRINK HIM!



Movie Quote: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Screen Shot: Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon (2000)



Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movie still


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Movie Poster: A Streetcar Named Desire



Movie Trailer: Hereafter



Speaking as someone who died and was brought back, I can tell you that worrying about dying is stupid. While dying can stink, being dead doesn't hurt and you have a good chance you won't even know you're about to die. Even if you do, you won't remember it BECAUSE YOU'RE DEAD.

What happens after you die? The bill you've rung up your whole life comes due. If you're a Christian like me, this means you rely on grace to get you through. If you're an atheist the accumulation of your life is summed up in your memory and the impact you've had on those around you. Those people eventually die themselves and wa-laa you're forgotten. Your life is precious and dwindling - try not to screw it up...such as wasting more of it watching yet another needless Matt Damon movie.





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Movie Trailer: The Tourist



This is a very conventional trailer for what appears to be a very conventional movie. This is the kind of film that elicits no strong desire to see it, will bring audiences out for a week, maybe two and then disappears to then reappear in the Netflix queue where it again fails to elicit any strong desire to see it.

I don't know of any reason to see the film given this trailer. This looks like Wanted without Morgan Freeman and the obnoxious special effects?




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Posting It Because It's Stupid

Movie Quote: Down by Law (1986)




Bobbie
My mama used to say that America's the big melting pot. You bring it to a boil and all the scum rises to the top.










Movie Poster: Play Misty For Me



Posting It Because It's Stupid

Friday Rewind: Bella (2006)

Originally Posted July 29, 2008

Should I see it?
Yes.


The producers of this film are a tenacious lot. Their behind the scenes work marketing this film has been very strong but also polite (which is uncommon, trust me). They were so nice that when they called me at home last year to alert me of their film, it didn't even feel like a marketing call. They deserve a good amount of credit for tackling the marketing issue of this film so effectively and with tact.

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. To be completely honest, I thought I was in for yet another low-budget, low talent, Christian film with too much agenda and not enough good writing. This film thankfully manages to avoid the heavy handed sermonizing it could have displayed and relies on its characters to deliver the message - just like a movie should.

Eduardo Verástegui and Tammy Blanchard (Stealing Harvard) star in this story about a former soccer player Jose (Verástegui) who comes to the aid of Nina (Blanchard) who is newly unemployed and pregnant. The script by writer director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde and Patrick Million and Leo Severino does a very good job of developing the relationship between these two characters and giving them a reason to fall in love. Where the film shines however is in its secondary characters and environment. 

The people who populate the film feel quite real. In many films the supporting characters tend to be shallow plot props written to give the lead a hand in moving the story forward. Here, the supporting characters appear to have a value on their own. The development of the world in which Nina and Jose exist is also well handled. In many instances there is a slight documentary feel to the scenes. Given the low budget of this film it is likely the sets were real locations that weren't dressed up too much for the shoot. This works in favor of the film, grounding it in reality and giving many scenes a warm personal touch.



The acting is quite strong. Verástegui and Blanchard are charismatic and have some chemistry. Verástegui in particular stands out as a strong lead. Despite his accent he has the toughest job in the film given his character's back story. He also has to act through this bristly beard that smothers most of his face. While he may look like Cat Stevens, the beard and long hair are actually a good idea. I am a firm believer that an actor can be too good looking. Catherine Zeta-Jones is a good example. I'm sorry, she's simply too good looking to play most parts. Someone who looks like her seems out of place as a stewardess or banker - she's a model. People who look like models stand out too much in ordinary circumstances.  This can distract from the movie. Verástegui has this problem, he's clearly a model and looks like one. Covering his mug with hair disguises this and normalizes his character. It is also very effective when placed in context of his character.

Many Christians have applauded the film as being "anti-abortion" and if you read much on this film the subject of abortion will surely come up. It's important to note that this is not overtly pro-life in a heavy-handed, "you're going to get this message whether your want it or not" way. Thankfully, the message is there, albeit indirectly. Overall, as I mentioned, this film avoids being overly preachy and relies on the relationship between Nina and Jose to get its points across. That is the primary reason I recommend this quiet, but well delivered film.


Related Reviews:
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The Hiding Place (1975)
The Second Chance (2006)


Other Critic's Reviews:
World Magazine
Rotten Tomatoes



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