"Fracture": Anthony Hopkins (the criminal) and Ryan Gosling (the attorney) match wits and personalities, in one of the few instances where audiences cheer when the DA wins.
"Georgia Rule": Jane Fonda (the uptight grandmother) and Felicity Huffman (the beleaguered mother) and Lindsay Lohan (the truant daughter) match wits and personalities. A typical "chick flick" in that the emphasis is on dialogue (rather than action sequences), the primary characters are all women (and the men are either absent, indifferent, incomplete, sleazy, simple, insensitive, or all of the above), and the plot involves emotional development (where progress is neither easy nor smooth). Some humorous situations and poignant moments, but it's too rough-edged for the Youth Group outing.
"28 Weeks Later": "For at that time there will be great suffering such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." (Matthew 24:21-2)
We believers know that the world will not again be destroyed by flood (Genesis ). But what about plague? And what if the dread disease is so communicable, so rampant, so virulent, and so inescapable that whole populations are immediately ravaged, leaving entire cities uninhabited? What makes this scary zombie movie more than just a fright flick is the focus on one family, and the dynamics of protection, rescue, and betrayal.
"Pirates Of The Caribbean" (Part Three): A really fractured screenplay about a fractious group of pirates. ("Yes, but now that we've got them all in costume, what do we do with them? We can't just run a bunch of special effects and hope people will be dazzled, can we? Or maybe we can…") There's a haggard attempt to join forces against the common enemy, the hated British in their Victorian splendor, but we don't even see what happens at the big naval confrontation. Instead, we witness a comely young woman (Keira Knightley) pledging her eternal affection to a…ghost? This movie is a song without a melody. And are the sorcery, voodoo, and mythology idolatrous?
"A Mighty Heart": Difficult-to-watch re-telling of the drama of Danny Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped by Muslim terrorists, from the point of view of his widow, Mariane (Angelina Jolie). With the grainy, hand-held camera shots and the anguished, confusing sequences, a pall of desperation enshrouds the whole film. Yes, there are subtitles, and bad accents, and plenty of debate about casting choices, but this movie makes a strong impact, particularly with the heavy irony contained in the postscript.
"Severance": If "A Might Heart" is difficult to watch, then this one is practically impossible to sit through. (And many moviegoers walked out even during a promotional screening, but your intrepid reviewer remained for the visual punishment.) Is it possible to make a slasher/horror movie that's also a comedy? Well, maybe, if it's done just exactly right (Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors), but this one really isn't. An office retreat to a remote lodge in the woods for "group building" encounters stalking, sadistic vigilantes. For the viewer, the choice is to laugh at others' misery, or enjoy watching physical torture and extreme emotional anguish. What possible target audience is envisioned here? Warning: beware of even letting your teenagers rent this one.
Questions For Discussion:
1) Should journalists be considered "above the fray" in the constant cultural clash of the world's "hot spots," and if so, who would enforce their immunity?
2) Have you ever experienced a retreat that went wrong? Could the disaster have been foreseen?
3) What diseases may indeed become rampant upon the earth? Are there lethal ones we haven't yet experienced?
4) When have you found yourself rooting for the DA?
5) Why are pirates romanticized?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian