Friday, September 28, 2007

The Kingdom

Powerful ... a little Hollywood ... bullets fly, but the good guys all make it ... oh well ...

Up front, a brief and clear history of Saudi Arabia ... and the complex relationship between the Kingdom and the US - oil producer and oil consumer.

At first, I felt nothing but ill toward the Saudis, but the film moved my emotions along to a far more sympathetic point. We're all people, with families and dreams, trying our best to make our way through, to find a little peace and happiness.

Ashraf Barhom (Colonel Faris Al Ghazi) is incredible!

Jennifer Garner has one of the best fight scenes ever!

At times, a little draggy ... but high intensity ... great action. The extremists are just that - and when political extremism is linked to religious fanaticism, it's a volatile mixture that always explodes.

The end is filled with despair - the killing will go on.

Worth seeing ... obviously not family fare.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lowbrow and Raunch?

After ten tiring days, and a very exhausting luncheon, I needed some diversion, something lowbrow and raunchy!

So off to see Mr. Woodcock.

I was surprised by a good story, with good acting, some Billy Bob Thornton raunch as only he can deliver it, but all in support of a compelling story - definitely not lowbrow.

All about growing up ... really growing up. Not just the psycho-babble stuff of talk shows.

Susan Sarandon plays a widowed mother trying to negotiate a difficult pathway between her adult son (Seanne William Scott) - now a famous psycho-babble, talk-show circuit author home for a visit, and her boy friend, Billy Bob Thornton, a mostly whacko middle school basketball coach who torments his students, the son of a seriously whacko father.

The publicity is slightly misleading on this one - it's a far better story, and film, then what I was expecting.

Was it the diversion I needed? Yup, some good laughs, some good thoughts ... didn't have to think real hard, but it's a worthy story told well by some very talented actors and a good director (Craig Gillespie).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Resident Evil: Extinction

Any "Deathlands" fans?

I started reading that series 20 years ago, and my son continues to read it. Always wanted to see a film interpretation, but nothing until a few years, a sad HBO (?) effort.

Now, "Resident Evil: Extinction" - not a bad effort, and exactly what "Deathlands" should have looked and felt like.

Milla Jovovich did a great job as Alice, a bio project who defies and defeats the machines and scientist controlling her - loved her as Leeloo in "Fifth Element" (1998). Rest of the actors, so so. Bad guy, pretty bad, but sort of like all those B film monsters - scientists gone mad. Loved the "living dead" - reminded me of "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) - slobbering and shuffling ... but meaner.

Some scary moments, had me jumping a few times. Awesome music, good filming, special effects.

Worth seeing if you're a sci-fi buff. If you liked Leeloo, you'll like Alice.

Saw it at the Bridge in Westchester - great place. Hate paying the 2 bucks for parking - theater tickets can't be verified for parking. Oh well, I'm old enough to get the senior price. Which reminds me, the jerks at Pacific Theaters at the Grove no longer have senior rates on Friday & Saturday nights. Sure, first-run movies cost a lot - okay, so why not skip the senior rates for first-run films for two weeks, but stay with senior rates for other films.

Jerks ... what else?

3:10 to Yuma - the movie

All right, I'm a sucker for hope.

I've never seen the original (1957) nor read Leonard's short story of the same title, so all I have is the current film.

Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are favorites of mine, and they deliver: Crowe is evil and intelligent, and Bale is stubbornly in need of money and determined to show his son the right way. Both are ruthless.

Though some reviewers have dissed the ending, I loved it - a parable of sorts - the courage of Bale elicits respect in Crowe, and Crowe responds, bloody and cruel, in such a way that Bale could achieve his goal - not the money, but the admiration of a son.

It's a tough and tangled world ... good and evil, wheat and weeds, all run together. We settle for moments of grace - we head for the 3:10 no matter what. The son is rightly impressed, and with a whistle, the train pulls away, and Crowe's horse comes a-running. Good and evil remain, having touched one another, effected and changed one another.

Hope and goodness are sometimes, often times, forged in blood. Evil, in a strange and incomprehensible fashion, becomes a partner with redemption.

I guess that's what the Cross is all about.

Calvary, the 3:10 to Yuma for Jesus.

Invasion - the movie

"Invasion" is great - I loved the way it represented and reinterpreted the original story. Nicole Kidman was extraordinary and Daniel Craig hit it on the head.

For me, the best part of the story, both here and in the original, as well as the 70's remake, a simple question: what price will we pay for peace and safety?

Simply put, the "body snatchers" are fascists - total control, total peace. Our way or the highway. Life as we offer it, or you're outta here!

On a more philosophical level, what's a human being?

Without going over the top, the story again puts it simply: a human being is a jumble of emotions that are capable of producing greatness and sometimes horror, but like the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, there's no quick remedy - any attempt to uproot the weeds will uproot the wheat, too.

So, we're more or less stuck - but it's okay, and more than okay. It's who we are, and anything less would be a loss of our humanity.

We've got to put up with the bad, in order to have the good of which we're capable.

The "body snatchers," the fascists in our midst, have it all wrong.

We are what we are, and God is at work in all things for good, and we're partners with God working all things out.

Friday, September 21, 2007

In the Valley of Elah

What a profound film ... of father's and sons ... the grace of a family ... dignity and hope ... the madness of war and the courage to love.

Oscar-level in all regards.

The most powerful anti-war film I've ever seen without being anti-war - no politics here, just a family: a Vietnam veteran father, a mother - the death of an older son ten years earlier in a helicopter crash, and now their younger son, just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, missing from his base.

Dad hauls gravel in a small Tennessee town - when a soldier, he was military police; a no-nonsense kind of guy - few words, clear and to the point. Upon hearing of his son's disappearance, he heads west to the base. He mets a local detective who persists in following the leads, confronting inertia in both the military and local police departments - just another soldier. But not just another soldier - Hank Deerfield's son!

Tommy Lee Jones reflects the heart of every father - his face conveys every emotion - a man filled with military poise and dignity, looking for a boy whom he loves dearly.

Charlize Theron is Det. Emily Sanders - young, savvy, with a heart - incredible performance.

Go see this film ... and pray for our solders!

This war is doing horrible things to them, to our nation, to all of us!