The Movie Snob shares his pain
One for the Money (D-). Has Katherine Heigl (The Ugly Truth) ever made a good movie? I guess she hasn’t been in all that many movies yet, so she’s not like in Jennifer Aniston territory yet, with a list of awful movies longer than my arm. But she’s heading that way. Anyhoo, let the record reflect that today was the last day that I could use a free movie ticket at this one particular Dallas movie theater, so my options were extremely limited. I knew this movie was supposed to be bad, but I thought maybe it would be “fun” bad. No, it was more lifeless-on-the-screen bad. Heigl plays a broke chick in New Jersey who decides to become a bounty hunter to make some dough. Her first case is a rogue cop who is accused of shooting an unarmed man–and who just happens to be a guy who slept with her once when she was 17 and never called her again. Nice. Lots of faux-romantic dialogue, and lots of unbelievable run-ins with really bad guys who would’ve killed this ding-a-ling amateur within about 10 seconds. Let’s just say if I had paid money to see this turkey, I’d be one unhappy camper.
A book review from The Movie Snob
Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies, by Marcello Pera (Encounter 2008). I actually finished this book a few weeks ago, so my account of it may be a little inexact. It is a dense work of political philosophy by an Italian who is both a professor of philosophy and a successful politician–Mr. Pera was president of the Italian Senate from 2001-2006. His thesis is reasonably straightforward: Liberalism, in the classical sense of a political philosophy that favors limited government, autonomy of civil society, free markets, and individual freedom, is ascendent in the West. But liberalism has become unmoored from its Christian underpinnings, and a complete removal of those underpinnings will be the death of liberalism. He contrasts classical secularism, which opposes theocracy and submission of the state to the church, and which he favors, with modern secularism, which is an ideology that opposes religion in and of itself as being antithetical to science, progress, and human flourishing. He also critiques moral relativism and multiculturalism, and he talks about the challenge Islam poses for Europe in particular.
I am personally sympathetic to Mr. Pera’s argument (and the current Pope wrote a complimentary forward for his book), but I cannot say it left me fully satisfied. For one, it seems to me that classical liberalism (which we generally associate with conservatism in America) has never really been ascendant in the West outside the English-speaking countries, and even there it is pretty well eroded. Another, and bigger, problem is what to do if Christian belief simply isn’t strong enough to animate the West anymore. Mr. Pera seems to argue that it is enough for Westerners to be culturally Christian, to acknowledge and appreciate the Christian roots of the better parts of their civilization, but I cannot see how this can be enough without a critical mass of actual believing Christians. So it’s an interesting and thought-provoking book, but I cannot say I found it entirely persuasive, and it certainly does not give me much confidence for the future of liberalism.
The Bleacher Bum reports on a 2008 documentary.
Food, Inc.: I have been watching more documentaries of late. My first rule is that the information being presented has to be truthful and accurate. Secondly, the information must be presented in an entertaining way. Food, Inc. abides by these rules. Food, Inc. looks at and examines how America’s farmers, ranchers, and businesses grow, develop, raise, market, sell, and deliver food to America’s grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias, and dinner tables. At times, the documentary did get a little preachy against big business, but the information presented was researched well and was thought provoking. Several individuals with their personal stories touched me. I finished the documentary thinking that I had learned something and had been enlightened. I suggest you take a bite of Food, Inc. GRADE: B+.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Higher Ground (B). Movies about devout Christians are, it seems to me, a rarity, so this one caught my attention when I read about it in Entertainment Weekly last fall. It eluded me in the theaters, but then I saw it advertised on a Redbox, and I made sure to rent it. The movie was directed by the lovely Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), who also stars as an evangelical Christian named Corinne. Corinne marries her high-school sweetheart Ethan, who is a somewhat doofusy rock musician. They apparently both have conversion experiences and become active members in a smallish fundamentalist church. As the years pass and Corrine and Ethan’s family grows, Corinne begins to struggle with her faith and with unhappiness in her marriage. Nothing huge or outrageous happens, which I appreciated. According to EW, Farmiga is not a believer herself, but I think she tried really hard to understand and accurately portray evangelical Christianity “from the inside,” as it were. At least, I never felt like the movie was being condescending. Although I am not an evangelical Christian myself, the movie seemed pretty realistic. It is definitely worth a rental, if you are interested in this sort of thing.
The Movie Snob chimes in.
The Artist (A-). I’ll keep it short, because I agree with Mom Under Cover’s review from a few days ago. Who would have thought that a silent, black-and-white movie could succeed in this day and age? This one does, and it’s a triumph. The tale is a familiar one–the paths of an established star and a rising ingenue cross as their careers travel on opposite trajectories–but the telling is so fresh and lively, I almost guarantee you’ll be hooked. I could feel myself smiling through a good chunk of the movie.
A new book review from The Movie Snob.
It’s Beginning to Hurt, by James Lasdun (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2009). This is a collection of short stories that I saw a favorable review of somewhere. I quite enjoyed it. Most of the stories are reasonably relatable, meaning they are about reasonably ordinary folks, but the characters often have some personality quirk or foible that makes them particularly interesting. “An Anxious Man,” which won the National Short Story Prize in the UK, is about a guy who is, well, unusually anxious about stuff. A professor confronts his mortality in “The Incalculable Life Gesture.” A successful chap has an unexpected reunion with a college friend who has not lost his youthful radicalism in “A Bourgeois Story.” A jewelry-store employee has an odd connection to an occasional customer in “Peter Kahn’s Third Wife.” And so it goes. With 16 stories in only 220 pages, I enjoyed reading a couple of stories each night before bed.
DVD review from Nick at Nite
Not the best baseball movie I have ever seen. The best is either Bull Durham or The Natural. I’d watch either repeatedly. Moneyball not so much. I’ve read the book. It was engrossing. Every baseball fan should read the book. The movie – well – I got bored. The book is an interesting blue print for making the Oakland A’s, the Red Sox, the Rangers, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays so successful (the A’s have fallen on hard times again). I digress. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are an interesting odd couple. The muscled (Pitt) and the out of shape (Hill prior to whatever brilliant diet he is on) trying to piece together a baseball lineup after the departure of the roided up Giambi and his mates. They have little money so they must ignore their baseball scouts and put together a team based on what the statistics tell them. It is a movie for nerds. Baseball nerds. I give it a “B.” I do not give it a Golden Globe or an Oscar.