Movie REviews REviews by scripture reviews by alphabet
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                                            Beating The System


“21”:  Based on a true story, 6 MIT students learn to count cards and “beat the system” at blackjack in Las Vegas .  They make millions, and they make some rough people very mad.  Kevin Spacey plays the professor/tutor, and Jim Strugess and Kate Bosworth deliver fine performances as the “brains” behind the operation, and Laurence Fishburne intimidates as the casino’s enforcer.  Like steroids in baseball, back then it was an unfair advantage, but technically it wasn’t illegal.  So, do you root for the people who cheat legally?


“Dolphins and Whales 3D:  Tribes of the Ocean”:  Daryl Hannah’s sonorous voice preaches to us sweetly about the environment destroying the habitats of these remarkable sea creatures, from singing humpbacks to gentle manatees.  They’ll have to beat the system to survive.  But my money’s on the monstrous underwater species that have been around much longer than we have.


“Horton Hears A Who”:  Horton the Elephant (the voice of Jim Carrey) is attuned to a world that exists on the speck of a flower, but nobody believes him.  He tries to convince everybody to believe in that which cannot be seen (beating the system of cynical naysayers), which sounds suspiciously like Christian evangelism, the explicit moral being “everybody counts, no matter how small.”  A sweet-natured animation that feels like a faithful rendering of Dr. Seuss, whimsically expanded to the big screen.


“Semi-Pro”:  Will Farrell plays a 70’s-era basketball player of an ABA-type league, which is preparing to merge some of their teams with the NBA, but most of them (including his) would simply dissolve, unless they can prove they are very good, or can develop enough fan base to support a franchise, or both.  Raunchier than it needs to be, and not as funny as it tries to be, but they do beat the system through some old-fashioned unselfish teamwork.


“10,000 B.C.”:  The “four-legged demons” are the warriors from a neighboring tribe who have figured out how to bring horses into battle.  Our poor little spear-and-club tribe that hunts the rapidly-disappearing mastodon doesn’t seem to stand much of a chance against the ruthless invaders, who carry them off into captivity to a Babylon that looks much like Egypt, complete with constructing pyramids.  But wait, there’s a valiant warrior who escapes to lead the slaves into revolt, “Spartacus”-style, with his fair maiden whose hand scars just happen to align into----an imprint of the constellation Orion?  Which makes her the fulfillment of prophecy?  Oh, well, just let the ugh-a-bug wash over you and enjoy the campfire tale for what it is: an old-fashioned adventure/romance in animal skin costumes, like something out of the Hollywood of the 1930’s, including the bad accents and awkward acting, but no sex or nudity, either.   And no gutter language---just guttural.  So enjoy the popcorn and don’t think too much about it. 


“Young At Heart”:  A charming semi-documentary of a choir from a nursing home rehearsing not church music, but punk and rock tunes.  They “beat the system” by playing to packed houses, even receiving standing ovations from jaded convicts.   Their young audiences think they’re cute (we’ll ignore the implicit condescension).  And so do we (though some of us sing with octogenarians in church choir every week, and don’t consider it all that remarkable).  And since they are real people on the screen, and not actors playing parts, we start caring about them, and they overcome the callousness of us all.


“Funny Games”:  Why bother re-making a ten-year-old sadistic horror story?  Two young men manage to catch a young unsuspecting couple off-guard in their vacation home, and terrorize them and their young son, and we’re supposed to enjoy watching?  But it does raise the question about “beating the system” by having weapons in the house (despite the inherent danger to innocents), and according to current Texas law, at least, being perfectly within your rights to defend yourself and your family from intruders.  The sickly-sweet thugs break the carefully-crafted creepy mood by talking to the camera, and actually rewinding part of the film as a “do-over,” so they’re messing with the viewers, too.


Questions for Discussion:

1)      Is there a gun in your home? 

2)      Should gambling be legalized nationwide?

3)      What could we do to save the habitats of sea creatures?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas