"Resurrecting The Champ": It's almost impossible to discuss this movie without disclosing the major plot twist (even saying that much is to foreshadow the surprise), so in lieu of "spoiling," we'll just say that Samuel L. Jackson's performance is outstanding. There's a lot of depth here, about relationships, about personal integrity, and about sorting out what's really important. It's only tangentially about boxing, and not at all about resurrection.
"The Brave One": Another outstanding performance, this time from Jodie Foster, who survives a brutal random beating, though her fiancÚ doesn't. But her successful resuscitation is something less than a resurrection. It transforms her, all right, but not into something beautiful, dazzling, and healing. Instead, she turns, Mr.Hyde-like, into an angry killer, even while realizing that this other person inhabiting her former self is not exactly benign. Terence Howard plays the "straight man," the detective in search of a vigilante, but he's got his demons, too, they just don't seem to possess him as forcefully. The ending will be disquieting.
"Illegal Tender": Another version of taking the law into your own hands, but here the motives are not even remotely noble; it's merely kill or be killed. An ancient enmity haunts a single mother (Wanda De Jesus) and her adult son (Rick Gonzalez) but even discovering the reason for the rage doesn't make it any less a cold-blooded retribution. This is their idea of mother-son bonding? To transform from genteel suburban personas to gun-wielding desperados? This isn't a resurrection, this is being "born again" to the Dark Side. Despite wanting to root for anybody named Jesus, this film is unsatisfying both in its delivery and its message.
"The Kingdom": This is a story of American FBI agents taking Saudi Arabian law into their own hands, by going after a group of terrorists who were responsible for bombing a picnic gathering of expatriate Americans. Along the way, they first have to overcome competing jurisdictions back in the U.S.A., then lack of cooperation on the explosion site, then lack of support from the locals (law enforcement officials from the Saudi "Kingdom") before they finally begin to chase down some leads. We want to be able to wave the flag at the end, but instead, the message is quite different: all the people who saw family members die have the fire of vengeance in their eyes, and that means there is no end in sight. Lots of bloody personal violence, and extreme language corresponding to the grisly context, but we don't have any time for love or sex. Just revenge.
"Into The Wild": It's not immediately evident why this story keeps getting resurrected, about Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), the young man who graduated from Emory University in 1992, and decided to wander around for a while (nothing unusual there). He quit contacting his family (he was still mad at his parents for lying to him about how they met?), and discovered to his chagrin that he couldn't survive in the wilderness by himself (a college graduate can't figure out that he needs to make a living?). Sean Penn directs this glacially-paced valentine to a modern-day hobo, who was first romanticized in Jon Krakauer's best-seller of the same title. Possibly of interest to aging hippies and anyone else who's ever fantasized about dropping out of sight and either living invisibly "under the radar," or just leaving civilization behind entirely. He doesn't find God, but he does discover that without any other people around, eventually he gets lonely (duh!).
Questions For Discussion:
1) Who is the one person for whom you would figuratively "take a bullet"? How about literally?
2) If you were the King (or Queen) of the world, what would you do about the Middle East?
3) Have there been times in your life when you've fantasized about just "dropping out"? Did you give some thought to exactly how you would do that?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas
a role hardly sympathetic or heroic, but we can't keep our eyes off
him, anyway. Bale is the straight man, the petulant foil to
Crowe's rascally charm, but he can handle plenty of camera time, as
well. Together, they create a kind of dynamic tension that
carries the viewer through the entire film.