Movie Poster: Big Trouble in Little China


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Movie Trailer: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

You may meet a tall dark stranger - you may also meet a pompous, boring movie. 

Geez, an Allen flick about a bunch of dissatisfied jerks.  At least he's decided to break new ground. 





The Last Winter (2006)

 Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Should I see it?
Nope.



Made back in the old days when Global Warming was still called Global Warming instead of the more vague term Climate Change, this film plays off the usual Global Warming/Green Communist tripe - oil companies are evil and Global Warming is a) not a Marxist front and is actually happening and b) is the fault of capitalist idiocy.

Oil drillers begin to go insane as they drive further into the Northern Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - apparently their work is releasing toxic gases. Heroic environmentalists are along for the ride.

This production is so burdened by its agenda it never leaves the ground. It would have not been out of place for the narrative to stop and for Al Gore to show up with his PowerPoint.


Related Reviews:
Global Warming movies
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)


Other Critic's Reviews:
Film Critics United
Cineopinion


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The Way Home (2010)

Reviewer: Christine Hunt

Should I see it?
Yes.


Short review: A true story on the importance of family—good choice for family movie night. Heartwarming though it does often feel like a well done made-for-TV movie.


The Way Home is the true story of a family whose two year-old boy disappeared, how a rural community rallied to search for the missing child, and how the lives of many of those involved in the rescue were changed as a result. The storyline is predictable yet the important moments are sufficiently well done to pull me in and help me feel what the various characters experienced—and not just the main characters but secondary and tertiary characters as well.

The film focuses on the dad (Dean Cain of TV’s Lois and Clark) who suffers from all-too-normal workaholism—and therein lies the predictability. During the search, Dad realizes his need to be involved in the lives of his wife and children. Cain portrays this well (except for the first minute, which should be cut from the film) and his emotional journey carries the storyline. The payoff at the end is believable.


PhotobucketDean Cain (Dad), Sonny Shroyer (Searcher), Tom Nowicki (Sheriff), Bruce McKinnon (Papaw), and L. Warren Young (Sheriff’s Deputy) were excellent casting choices, as was little Pierce Gagnon as the lost two year old—that little kid was a scene stealer. Lori Beth Edgeman (Mom) was the weakest casting choice; her performance frequently hit me with the fact she was acting, which continually pulled me out of the story, but Cain, Shroyer, Nowicki, and Brett Rice (Fire Chief) pulled me right back in again. In the end, the story won and I cried in spite of my intentions not to.

The music was well done though standard for this type film. I admire director Lance Dreesen’s courage to do without music in many of the scenes and let the skittering of animals in the forest, emptiness of a junk yard, or isolation of a pond speak all the more clearly to the desperation of their search.

This is a film about Christian faith in the God Who is Here and, though at times it seems the actors are too aware of what they’re portraying, the inclusion of faith is presented realistically, especially for this type situation. Particularly poignant for me was when the TV news reporter glances around, awed by the number of volunteers, and sees a small prayer group among the trees. Interviews with the actual people involved are included in the Special Features and are worth the time to watch; footage includes shots of the child who was missing, now a teenager, on the set of the movie shoot.

Messages on the importance of faith, hope, love, family, and unity within a community are timeless. We need to be reminded of their reality. The Way Home, while no Hollywood blockbuster, is a pleasant taste of why they are significant.


Related Reviews:
Christian movies
Facing the Giants (2006)
The Cross and the Switchblade (1970)


Another Critic's Review:
CBN


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Screen Shot: The Notebook


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Movie Poster: Stalker


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A Serious Man (2009)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring


Should I see it?
Nope.


The Coen Brothers are hit or miss.  They basically have two kinds of films.  They make visionary, brilliant films that have established them as perhaps the best film making pair in history (Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, O' Brother Where Art Thou?, Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men and Fargo).  Then they have their more "personal" movies.  By "personal" I mean "lousy" (Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, Burn After Reading, The Ladykillers).

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This is a lousy personal movie - meaning it is lousy even when compared to their other lousy movies.

Quite simply, this movie about a Jewish man who is exasperated as his life completely falls apart.  He's in trouble at work, his wife is leaving him, his kids are rotten, his brother is a criminal, and on and on.  Watching this movie is like listening to a man with a whiny voice complain for ninety minutes.


Related Reviews:
Coen Brother movies
Burn After Reading (2008)
No Country for Old Men (2007)


Other Critic's Reviews:
Roger Ebert
Sight & Sound



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Movie Quote: Get Shorty (1995)


Harry Zimm
I once asked this literary agent, uh, what kind of writing paid the best... he said, "Ransom notes."










Since You Went Away (1944)

Reviewer: Christine Hunt

Should I see it?
Yes.


Short Review: All-star cast in an Oscar-winning, WWII-era film of a family who must cope with hardships on the home-front when Father is sent to war. Real issues of life and death are faced with determined optimism and love for each other, and faith wins.

 


 The film opens as Mrs. Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) returns home from the train station. She has just said good-bye to her beloved husband, an army captain, who is going to war in Europe; now she and her two daughters (Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple) face a future full of death and uncertainty. Anne must sell the family car, let go of their long-time housekeeper-cum-loving caregiver, Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel), give up her bedroom to a lodger—a retired army colonel whose demands are sometimes more than she can keep up with—and eventually train to be a welder. The elder daughter, Jane, experiences her own set of joys and tragedies, including the death of a close friend, which Anne must help her navigate.

PhotobucketRemarkably and refreshingly absent from this film is any sense of victimization so prevalent in our culture today. Anne and her daughters meet each new crisis with the internal, spiritual awareness that there is One who is at work in every circumstance of our lives. Pain is real—it must be accepted, death deserves tears be cried—but it is not misguided to understand and acknowledge the reality that life is so much bigger than the set-backs we face.  Since You Went Away beautifully depicts life’s balance between  true optimism  and the onslaught of tragedy.

At the beginning of the film, as Fidelia says good-bye to the family, she states the Central Question of the film: "The Lord, Hisself, is just gonna have to take care of these calamities somehow." The Answer by movie's end is, He does.

Not intended as a Christmas film (released July ’44), Since You Went Away ends with a stirring Christmas Eve scene that kick-starts my holiday feelings. Especially poignant to me since my son was with the Marine Corps in Iraq over the last few years.
 

Related Reviews:
Another Joseph Cotton movie
The Third Man (1949)



Another Critic's Review:
DVD Verdict
Illuminated Illusions


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Screen Shot: Sunshine


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Movie Poster: In Cold Blood


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Movie Trailer: The Mechanic

Remember every other Jason Statham movie?  Change the name and poster and whammo - new movie.



Movie Quote: I Am Legend (2007)

Anna
The world is quieter now. We just have to listen. If we listen, we can hear God's plan.
Neville
God's plan.
 
Anna
Yeah.

Neville
All right, let me tell you about your "God's plan". Six billion people on Earth when the infection hit. KV had a ninety-percent kill rate, that's five point four billion people dead. Crashed and bled out. Dead. Less than one-percent immunity. That left twelve million healthy people, like you, me, and Ethan. The other five hundred and eighty-eight million turned into your dark seekers, and then they got hungry and they killed and fed on everybody. Everybody! Every *single* person that you or I has ever known is dead! Dead! There is no god!




Movie Trailer: The Lincoln Lawyer


I love Michael Connelly's books and this will have to do until someone figures out how to make The Poet which I think has been overlooked.

This is an adaptation of his book of the same name.  A lawyer works out of the back of his Lincoln and off the books.  He gets entangled in a murder case which is pretty well summed up in the trailer.

The trailer itself is stock stuff with the traditional breaks and emphasis.  It is odd that they would go so conventional on their trailer and the end with the weird final moment.  I found it to be rather awkward.

This could be good, if done right.  The director Brad Furman doesn't have a deep enough resume to make any assumptions.  The cast is pretty strong and the source material is top notch however.





Screen Shot: Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon


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Movie Poster: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay


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Movie Trailer: Mao's Last Dancer

I don't see how this isn't going to be great.

Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Black Robe and Evelyn) directing a film discussing the evil oppression of the Chinese Government by contrasting it to the free society available in the U.S. - we need more of these.  As our leaders eagerly pass the mantle over to the Chinese, it is great to see someone displaying what these evil oligarchs do to their people.



Movie Trailer: Source Code


Wait!  Wait!  Wait! 

They have a bomber on a train and they send a guy in using all this high-tech made-up nonsense.  THIS IS POST-AMERICA!  If we think there might be a terrorist attack we do it the Post-American Way - we force all the obviously innocent people to be molested by government employees and give the kids and cancer patients strip searches. 

The guy's boss actually tells him to "look for someone nervous".  You can't do that!  THAT'S RACIST!

Regardless, this movie would have been so much better if it took place on a short bus instead of a train.





Screen Shot: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith


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Movie Poster: The Incredibles


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Movie Trailer: The Green Hornet


Rich white snot who decides to become a superhero and relies on his friendly neighborhood minority to slave away making him gadgets and protect his back.

So, this movie is just Batman's unemployed, loser cousin?

When I first learned that they had green lighted a Green Hornet movie I thought it could be good.  Then I learned they cast Seth Rogen in the lead.  Then I changed my mind.  The guy is the poster boy for the loser hero archetype - that's not a good thing to be.

While Jay Chou as Kato appears to be done right, the rest of this looks like a loud, derivative of a half a dozen of other movies.  What's the call to see with this one?  Come see a loser hero beat up guys who are worthless enough to be beat by a loser hero?  Thanks, but no thanks.






Arn: The Knight Templar (2010)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring


Should I see it?
Yes.  But know that it is flawed.


Arn Magnusson (Joakim Nätterqvist - say that 10 times fast) is the son of Swedish nobility who grows up in a monastery.  There he excels at swordsmanship, a part of his education.  As he is coming of age, Arn has a brief encounter with Cecilia (Sofia Helin). When the times comes for him to leave the monastery and rejoin the public, Arn finds Cecilia and has another brief, but far for intimate of an encounter.  Cecelia becomes pregnant.  For punishment, Arn is sent off as a Knight Templar to pay for his sins protecting the Holy Land. 

Arn fights in the Crusades, and hopes to win his freedom and return home to the woman he loves. While he is gone Cecelia has been locked up in a convent, unable to see Arn or their son who was given away at birth.  The trajectory of the plot is plain to see.  Arn makes it back and reunites his broken family.

PhotobucketThat should be the end of it right?

No there’s more.

Lots more.

So much more you will plead for the thing to end.

This is two movies wrapped into one and it shows.

This film has a serious issue with false endings and it makes the production nearly unbearable. This could have been a great film. The story is rich, layered and fully drawn. Nätterqvist's performance is quite striking and introduces him as a notable screen presence.  Director Peter Flinth shows the worlds of old Sweden and Jerusalem with all their complicated social and political characteristics. This is an epic film to be certain. The problem is that it gets epically boring.

A false ending is where the story builds to a logical and fulfilling conclusion - the hero confronts his main conflict and defeats it - but then the credits fail to roll. What usually happens with a false ending, and is the case here, is that a minor or newly constructed conflict is brought to bear. What was a sideline issue takes front and center. This leads to the writer having to pump up this point of the storyline, reintroduce its importance and then try to build enough tension to keep the narrative flowing. Almost always this is a story killer.


Stories can have subplots but they can only have one central plot to be successful. The plot is where all of the meaning, symbolism and design reside. Subplots (minor side stories, conflicts) work to enhance the central plot line by reinforcing the point being made or by working as a contrast to the major movement of the story. Tacking on a plot after the main action is resolved is like adding a few extra hundred kilometers to a marathon beyond the finish line. Everyone knows the race is over but everyone just keeps plodding along, step by step.

These false ends are a shame because, as I mentioned, this could have been a great film. Everything is there except the director knowing when to say stop.  What makes this more frustrating is that this film has a sequel.  This film should have been drawn out into two films by itself, let alone adding on another full film afterward.

If you are a fan of historical dramas or films about knights and Crusades, this will work for you. Just make sure to go in knowing that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings and they brought a bus loaded with chubby chicks to the proceedings.



Worldview: A quick note about the theological thread of the movie.  This is a film about The Crusades, which is not a simple topic to handle.  The trend since 9/11 is for the quisling/dhimmi left to overstate the evils of Christians and downplay the actions and motives of Islam (Kingdom of Heaven).

This film thankfully takes a more measured approach to the Christian characters.  Some are good and some are downright evil - just like in real life.  But at least there is a variety and it is based on character not stereotype.  The Muslim side of the Crusades is presented through Saladin.  Yes, they have Arn hanging out with Saladin.  Saladin is a handsome, calm and wise man who displays what seems to be an artistic or poetic personality.  He's not brutish, but patient and reserved.

All that was missing was a Coexist bumper sticker on his camel's butt.

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How interesting will it be when Westerners decide it is okay to show Muslims as flawed people who, like us, come in all stripes instead of showing them as silly politically correct caricatures?



Related Reviews:
Another Movie with tons o' swords
Blades of Glory (2007)


Other Critic's Reviews:
Cinematic Concerns
Movie Moxie


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Friday Rewind: Control (2008)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

***Originally posted on June 9, 2008***

Should I see it?
Yes - if this is your thing.


Short Review: Here's a shocker, a musician who's a depressive and selfish jerk. Wow, that's so unique, we better make a movie about him.

I've never been interested in Joy Division's music and never had much need to know anything about them. I come to this movie as a completely disinterested party. Actually, that's not true, as someone who has seen a lot of movies, I did come to this with the hope that this wasn't going to be yet another self-absorbed jackass who finds success and then destroys his life just like Walk the Line, Ray, The Doors, and Sid and Nancy. Although I liked these movies, they tend to be very predictable, overly sympathetic to the artist, and just plain depressing.

This movie sticks to the template but cuts out the sympathy. This is a predictable film for anyone with cursory knowledge of English pop culture, Curtis has been dead for 28 years now, we know how this is going to end. Where this film breaks from the crowd is in its warts-and-all look at the man. Where Walk the Line and Ray are splashy, epic feeling odes, this is a gritty examination of the artistic mind and the often dark results it produces.

The film follows the rise and abrupt fall of Joy Division's front man Ian Curtis. Curtis is a mopey fellow with a haunting voice. As his band climbs through the ranks for the Manchester music scene, he hastily marries his girlfriend Deborah. Like clockwork, as Ian's fortunes rise, his marriage falls apart. This collapse is plain to see given the two appear to be far too immature when they tie the knot. It is also plain to see that Curtis is too selfish to be in a serious relationship. They crank out out a child and the pressures of life begin to weigh the singer down. On top of this, he is stricken with epilepsy which intrudes on his band's live performances as well as his private life.

The implosion of Ian Curtis is reminiscent of Jim Morrison in many ways. Both were deeply selfish men who were spurred on by their associates and fans. Both preferred to look through the back end of life instead of trying to see anything actually beautiful in existence. Both cruelly tormented those who loved them. And both could have been spared their fate by getting some help.

Director Anton Corbijn (known for his work making videos for U2 and Depeche Mode) does well to connect Curtis to the pantheon of rock stars. He clearly lines Curtis up with the likes of Morrison, David Bowie and Lou Reed and the film is very successful at establishing Joy Division's worth. He also does a fantastic job at getting at the sorrowful man's private life and choices.

PhotobucketThe film doesn't give Curtis any sympathy at all, in fact, he comes off as a horrible person, not for who he is but the ultimate choices he makes. Again and again, he is given a chance to be redeemed , to be something - to live for someone other than himself. In his depressive stupor, he chooses to feed his own needs and eventually finds himself completely isolated. Corbijn, in his feature debut, handles the subject with a gentle but unflinching hand and gives us a film that, while a little slow, is nonetheless enthralling.

The performances are as strong as the direction. Sam Riley is mesmerizing as Curtis. Much of Curtis' issues are internal and Riley gives light to these dark thoughts in a quietly intense performance that is worthy of a best-actor nomination.

Opposite Riley is Samantha Morton (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) as Curtis' estranged wife Deborah. Usually, in these stories of imploding artists, the girlfriend or first wife is a cursory character who is pushed aside once the narrative moves along (see Walk the Line for a great example of this, Vivian Liberto, is cast aside by the film like yesterday's trash). In this story however, the abandoned wife clings on and we see the devastation brought on by the artist's myopia. Morton is brilliant in this role and honors Deborah Curtis with fair and moving performance. This woman obviously had to deal with a huge amount of pain being married to this man.

This movie is depressing and not for everyone. I recommend it but only if you're into watching depressing, independent flicks about self absorbed jerks. Being a former self-absorbed jerk myself, (now I'm just a jerk,) I can enjoy aspects of this film. I'd be surprised if there is a large audience for this kind of film.

Cautions: Foul language abounds but it is all contextual. It is a part of the culture shown in the film and hardly gratuitous. Although there is a adulterous affair in the center of the story, it is handled with care. Corbijn is thoughtful director and doesn't play the more lurid parts of this story for cheap thrills.

***Spoiler Warning - I may ruin aspects of the film from this point forward***

Worldview: Curtis was clearly a troubled guy. The opening scenes show Curtis as a teen in his dingy bedroom with pictures of David Bowie and Lou Reed hanging on his wall. Racked with teenage angst, Curtis loses himself in listening to music and going to concerts. His trouble isn't unique or spectacular - he's just another Goth kid in the making. Your artsy types are a temperamental lot.

The teenage years come to a close with Curtis dressing himself in glam rock style, mascara and frills, gender bending in the safety of his own bedroom. From early on Curtis is at odds with himself. You don't begin emulating Ziggy Stardust because he's cool, one does it because they want to escape what they really are - normal.

As Curtis gets older and his band succeeds it's precisely the normality of life that seems to drag him down. He has a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter and makes a living honestly helping people by locating jobs for the disadvantaged. Everything the man needed to be a complete person, a happy person, was at his fingertips. But Curtis was blinded by is angst, unimpressed with normality, he reveled in his torment thinking it was valuable.

His torments seem to come right from the verses of Ecclesiastes 2:17

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

His troubled mind wasn't petty, but it was littered with the results of looking for peace in the wrong place. Worshiping rock stars and actors and looking to them for leadership is foolish. When you seriously consume messages of anger, depression and spite, impact the way you see the world.

Curtis replicated what he consumed and became another sour lyricist projecting his sorrow in his music. His music, as interesting as some of it may be, does nothing to improve the world. He, like many artists, believed the lie that he needed to coddle his depression and denounce the world in order to be authentic.

In the end, his disintegration was not surprising. When we deny the beauty of the world - a world created by God ,the meaningless of existence will overcome the best defenses and self-loathing and bitterness will be the result. The real shame of suicide is its angering senselessness. Curtis' death destroyed a number of lives beyond his own. All he needed to do to was turn his pathetic self around and see the real world around him.


Related Reviews:
Samantha Morton movies
Code 46 (2003)
The Libertine (2004)



Other Critic's Reviews:
Rolling Stone
The Times of London



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