Saturday, March 28, 2009

Broadcast News

It must be old movie week. After the classic Magnificent Seven from the 60's last weekend, it is the 1987's Broadcast News this week. Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter and William Hurt all dance though the network newsroom (figuratively, of course) of Washington DC, each with their own soapbox, idiosyncrasies and neuroses. The film probes the viewing needs of the public, asking whether we want drama and story or news, and asking whether the public should even have a say in what it gets. The 80's storytelling style is evident as the film feels more "play-like" than modern film, setting up scenes, lengthy dialogue, and the requisite dramatic angst of friendship. In the end, there are not clearly identified protagonist and antagonist roles, with each character revealing the struggle of decisions in their own life.

The Magnificent Seven

There is something relaxing about a classic western. Released in 1960, we find Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen gathering a group of gunslingers to take on pro bono work protecting a village in Mexico from the local bandit. All very stereotypical, all very fun. Perhaps the one thing that I like about the old school westerns (and was reminded about again here) is that they don't glamorize the life. Almost always, at least one cowboy/gunslinger is having self doubt or expressing the loss of a "normal" life. Maybe the difference for the Magnificent Seven is that in a variety of ways, they were all lamenting that loss.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

F/X 2

I liked the original F/X oh so many years ago and when this popped up on my netflix watch instantly, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a lazy sunday afternoon. With retired special effects expert Rollie Tyler getting into trouble again by helping out a cop friend, Brian Dennehy is back in the picture as the retired cop (now PI) to work out a rescue plan. Nothing fancy, nothing dramatic. Just good, clean B-movie fun with special effects hi-jinks that don't really surprise or wow, but are cheesily (is that a word) effective. And don't miss the clue that this is a 1991 movie by the size of the car phone Tyler uses. Am I easily entertained? Perhaps. But I'm not really embarrassed about it either.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Henry Poole Is Here

Nothing new here, unfortunately. Have you seen this movie before? A troubled, morose single man moves into a new neighborhood. Extraordinary events introduce him to the nosy neighbor who won't leave him alone. The cute single mom next door is brought into the scene by following her even cuter (but traumatized) kid into the yard of the morose single man. Single man and single mom hit it off, single man becomes father figure to kid, secret is revealed that nearly ruins everything, nosy neighbor rallies the new couple around the previously mentioned extraordinary event so that everyone can end up happy. While Luke Wilson is well suited for the depressed but sexy Henry Poole role, I can't recommend this.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I knew this was going to be a long movie when I went in, but sometimes long movies don't feel long. This felt long. In order to appeal to a mass audience, most of whom have no idea who the watchmen are (me included), the first hour was necessary to set the stage for an actual superhero movie. If we had just been instructed to do our homework first, we could have entered with this background already covered and had a normal length movie. As for the superhero part of the movie, there is really only one superhero, Dr. Manhattan. He is not that unique in that he reminded me of a cross between the Silver Surfer and Galactus. It is probably part of the point of the film, that superheros are just regular people with regular problems and we can all identify with them. A couple of things that I do like in films did occur here. First, an alternate reality was created. Just the fact that Richard Nixon was holding his 5th term of office as President opened all kinds of interesting avenues (none of which were explored). Any time a movie can channel Sliders, I am at least marginally happy. Second, the film clearly presents a Just War theology. I like when films put ideas forward that need to be addressed. My disappointment is that the theology presented is just that... presented. If we are really watching a superhero movie that isn't about superheros, but is about relationships and humanity instead, then why can we not also present a Just War theology that explores the extremes of pacifism or brutal aggression as alternatives. By placing the superhero and the human on the same screen, we are able to better understand the difficulties of each. Placing our theologies on the screen side by side would similarly illuminate our understanding and biases, and hopefully lead to dialogue on a subject that is too often left untouched.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I'm Not There

Here is true art film. And by art film, I mean a film that I am pretty sure I didn't get the point that the writer/director was trying to produce. A multiple story-line picture based on the music and personality of Bob Dylan was, I suppose, illuminating the man in a way that couldn't be done with a straight biopic. Instead, I felt lost throughout. I kept looking for connections between the story-lines (none) and a coherent theme (none). So while overall this was disappointing, there was one scene that made me laugh. Bob Dylan and Alan Ginsberg standing at the foot of a giant crucifix, looking up and yelling... "Hey you, get down from there, you might get hurt" and "Why don't you do some of your early stuff".

Full disclosure: Watching a late night friday film when I have not had my mid-day friday nap results in me dozing in and out throughout, which could be the cause of my lack of ability to follow story-line and theme. But I am sticking with disappointing and crediting Annika with helping me to remember the crucifix scene.