First the bad news, for adolescent viewers, anyway: there don’t be any dragons. Not the leathery-winged kind, at least. The title refers to a medieval map-making custom of inscribing the warning “Hic Sunt Dracones” on unexplored regions. In this case the warning refers to the unexplored regions of the psyche, where destructive emotions may lurk.
Entries in Movie Reviews (164)
And that’s the happy ending.
It’s this unintentional resonance that threatens to turn In Time from a nifty thriller into an unintentionally obtuse message-movie, one that seems to say that an international financial disaster would be the best thing that ever happened to the poor. There may have been eras in the last few decades when a saucy statement along those lines might have been relished. Now is not one of those times.
[October 8, 2011]
Here’s a link to my interview on the PBS show, “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” about the movie Higher Ground:
Here’s what happens. You prepare for a phone interview with an actor or director by thinking up a list of questions. Really, you only need one or two good ones, and the conversation takes care of itself.
But the person being interviewed has a different perspective. There are certain points they want to get across, regardless of which questions you ask. They may have been reiterating these same points into different microphones a dozen times a day for many days.
When evangelicals hear that there’s a new movie about their brand of Christianity, they get nervous. All too often they are presented as idiots or villains. Stereotypes about narrow-mindedness, intolerance, cultish mind-control, and harsh subjugation of women abound.
Carolyn Briggs’ 2002 memoir, This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost hit a number of those notes. When their church leaders counsel her not to get a college degree, when they counsel her husband to forgo a plum job opportunity because they need instead the headship of the church leaders, when she refused medication during a complicated pregnancy and scoffed at taking shelter during a tornado, well, it sounds to many evangelicals like a pretty kooky church, if not a cult. But don’t expect members of the general public to make that distinction. Christianity Today’s review commented, “Unfortunately, this book is likely to win plaudits for its savaging of evangelical Christianity as the source of one woman’s oppression, and her abandonment of that faith as a fount of liberation.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series, opens today in a blaze of special effects: castles burning, bridges collapsing, dragon-fire blasting, stone knights clunking stiffly to life, giants whacking smaller figures off the earth like tiny golf balls. This is not the first fantasy-action film to suffer under a Disproportionatus Curse, in which whatever profound themes exist in a book are obliterated, in the film version, by spectacle. This is a two-hour movie, and one hour is devoted to the battle at Hogwarts. What adolescent boys think of as “the good part,” and headachey adults as “the noisy part,” is delivered with exuberance and excess. Many young fans are looking for exactly that, and the film will fulfill all their hopes.
Picture Tom Hanks. Got it? OK, now picture a guy whom Julia Roberts would find so overwhelmingly yummy that she would not only kiss him with the enthusiasm of a golden retriever, but even try to jump up and wrap her legs around his waist. Now, very slowly, try to merge those two images.
If you can’t do it, don’t feel bad. Almost no one can come up with a result they find plausible. Almost no one but Tom Hanks.
[National Review Online; Feb 10, 2011]
The Illusionist has been nominated for Best Animated Feature (I mean the new animated film, of course, not the 2006 live-action movie by the same title), and no one who has seen it was surprised. It is simply a beautiful motion picture. Our protagonist, slipping past middle age, watches mountains and rivers flow past his train window; rain is drizzling, summer is fading into fall, and on the soundtrack someone is wandering around the piano keys in a Gallic sort of way. Sigh. What could be more delicately poignant, or more lovely?
How bad can a blind date be? When Eric Messer (“Call me Messer”) shows up an hour late at Holly Berenson’s apartment, invites her to climb onto his motorcycle in a sheath dress and high heels, then answers his phone and makes a date for later (“11:00”—a glance at Holly—“no, 10:30”), it could hardly be worse.
Who thought these two would mesh? Pete Novack, Messer’s best friend from high school, and Alison, Holly’s best friend from college. After the disastrous date, we see a montage of home-movie clips of Pete and Alison’s life—wedding, dinners, parties, and baby Sophie’s first birthday—with Messer and Holly eternally sparring in the background.
Fans of Bella and Juno will be glad to welcome Expecting Mary, another film showing how an unexpected pregnancy can lead to a happy ending. This time around the mom-to-be is Mary, a 16-year-old runaway; she is headed for California and her dad who, she thinks, will be more understanding and “cool” than her uptight mom.
“I’m only having it because they [her mom and stepdad] don’t want me to,” she tells another character. Is that because of financial pressures, and too many mouths to feed? No, Mary replies, her parents are rich, and “could afford to feed twenty more mouths.” Mary has spent her life in fancy boarding schools while her parents traveled the world. The pregnancy is unacceptable to them because it is an embarrassment, considering their social circle. “They said, ‘Come home, have an abortion, we’ll say it was appendicitis.’” Instead, she ran away.