Fluff, Fear, Fright & Flight
“Mad Money”: A silly little movie about three women who work at a Federal Reserve Bank, and their plot to steal money. Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes gamely do the sight gags and utter the predictable lines, but the script has no heart, no soul, and no passion. They aren’t really desperate, just greedy. And we’re supposed to root for them so they can have backyard parties, pay for private school tuition, and buy motor homes? Puh-leeze.
“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”: A particularly raunchy spoof of a musician (John C. Reilly) who morphs from country to pop to rock, featuring awkward acting, mediocre music, pointless casual nudity, and stupid sight gags. The Golden Globe nomination for Best Song has to be itself a spoof. One of the worst movies of the year.
“The King of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters”: The ultimate in geekiness, a documentary about people who play competitive Donkey Kong. No, really. There’s a champ and a challenger and an official referee and several hangers-on, kind of like video game wizard paparazzi. Yes, they have real jobs (like teaching, or owning their own condiment company), and some even have families (“Dad, can you get off the game, please?” “Just a minute more!”) But it’s an obsession with these guys to be the best at something, anything. That sounds commendable, by itself, but what about life priorities? Are you going to write on your tombstone “World’s Best Donkey Kong Player”?
“The Orphanage” (“El Orfanato”): This Spanish film has already won several awards, but probably will not translate well to American audiences. A young woman (Belen Rueda) raised in an orphanage decides to buy the now-abandoned facility and convert it into a living quarters for herself, her husband, her young son, and some needy children. She ignores, at her peril, her son talking about his new imaginary friend. Features scalp-tingling moments, lots of creaky doors, some confusing plot sequences, and a supernatural ending. Not warm and cozy.
“Reign Over Me”: an unusual role for veteran comic actor Adam Sandler, who plays a grieving Dad who lost his whole family in the 9/11 tragedy, reverting to angry loner adolescent. His old college roommate (Don Cheadle), re-connecting by accident, sort of makes him his patronizing pet project, but our successful, professional family man has a few things to learn about living, as well. This film takes everybody seriously, including the therapist (Liv Tyler), the judge (Donald Sutherland), and the devoted but conflicted wife (Jada Pinkett Smith). Guys will probably not flock to see this quiet little film about relationships, but it’s a strong statement about male friendships, and how important they are to maintain, especially in changing circumstances.
“Talk To Me”: a biography of ex-con Washington, D.C. disc jockey Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene (Don Cheadle), who rose to brief stardom in the 1960’s as a talk show host, but fell victim, again, to his own self-destructiveness. Though the language is truly that of the gutter, Cheadle’s performance is wondrous, with the apt foil of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Dewey Hughes, his sponsor, manager, protagonist, conscience, handler, and, finally, lifelong friend. Like “Reign Over Me,” the relationship between the men appears to be uneven, but there is a subterranean mutuality here. Dewey says that Petey can say the things he’s afraid to say, and Petey says that Dewey can do the things he’s afraid to do. Featuring a painful re-visiting of the night Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and a strong supporting performance from Taraji P. Henson as Petey’s long-suffering girlfriend.
Questions For Discussion:
1) When have you been tempted to steal?
2) What silly, pointless game do you enjoy?
3) Did you have an imaginary friend as a child, or know someone who did? Do you think that it is a harmless phase, or symptomatic of a deeper psychological disorder?
4) Have you ever seen grieving to the point of debilitation? Is there a “cure”?
5) How is male bonding different from female bonding?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church,