Bad, Mad, Glad, Sad
 
 Changeling” is definitely not happily ever after.  Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single Mom of the 1920’s, whose young son disappeared from home one Saturday while she was at work.  What follows is her harrowing experience with the LAPD, who first did nothing, then didn’t believe her, then tried to pawn off another kid as hers, and then considered her crazy when she wouldn’t accept him as her own.  Unfortunately, in those days, they apparently had the authority to incarcerate someone against her will, for uncooperativeness.  And being stubborn, once in the psycho ward, will get you overmedicated, and if that doesn’t work, electroshock treatments.  Fortunately, Mrs. Collins had an advocate, the pastor of the local Presbyterian church, no less, Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), whose pet project was to confront the secrecy, arrogance, incompetence, and corruption in the police force.  “Changeling” is high on determination in the face of tragic suffering, but low on happy endings.  Just because it’s true doesn’t make it pleasant.
“Max Payne” is neither true nor pleasant:  in fact, nobody’s happy, ever.  A movie based on a video game could only be “Us verses Them,” and the winner is the last one standing.  Mark Wahlberg plays a detective whose family was murdered, and they never caught the killer.  So now he works the cold case file, hoping to catch some possible connection, so he can……..yes, have his personal revenge.  He encounters a weird kind of underground cult, consisting of gothic characters sporting tattoos of wings representing the Valkyries of ancient Norse mythology.  They lead him to a shady pharmaceutical company that has developed a “battle rage” drug that makes the partaker think he’s invincible.  But it also makes him hallucinate, and see…..apparitions that look like medieval depictions of fallen angels?  Sure, theologically, it’s a mess.  Plus, his “partner” (Mila Kunis) is an assassin.  But somehow we think that after he participates in all this violence, he’s going to turn back into a sweet peace-loving police officer with a beautiful young family?
The plot to “ Sex Drive ” is more plausible, even if the characters aren’t:  lonely high schooler named Ian (Josh Zuckerman) asks his best friend (Clarke Duke) to accompany him on a road trip, to hook up with the girl of his dreams, whom he met on the Internet.  Trouble is, he told her he’s a star football player, when, in fact, he’s just a typical nerd, though a nice guy at heart.  Somehow, his friend-who’s-a-girl-but-not-his-girlfriend (Amanda Crew) winds up tagging along with them, and their misadventures lead them to places unknown and people unexpected.  Not surprisingly, the Internet girlfriend (Katrina Bowden) does not turn out to be exactly the way she represented herself, either.  But somehow we find love in unexpected places, anyway.
            In “The Express,” there’s not much love for a black boy growing up in the Deep South of the 1950’s.  But this particular boy, Ernest Davis (Rob Brown), had a huge talent, which was only discovered when his mother moved with him to Elmira , New York , and he started playing football.  This boy could run.  He was so quick and agile and speedy that coaches couldn’t help but notice, including the head football coach at nearby Syracuse University , Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid), who had just enjoyed having the great Jim Brown play for him.  Despite the three black players on this national championship team having to occasionally stay at different hotels and eat at separate restaurants because of vestigial segregation practices, Schwartzwalder treats all his players fairly and with respect, and Ernie Davis becomes the first black player to receive the Heisman Trophy.  Rob Brown, both a natural actor (“Finding Forrester”) and a natural athlete (he played football for Amherst ), keeps this movie from drowning in its own clichés, and Quaid keeps it from being too syrupy, along with its sudden sad ending.
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)      What evidence have you seen of vestigial racial prejudice in America today?
2)       When have you not told the whole truth about yourself on the Internet?
3)      Who should have the authority to commit someone to a mental institution?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas