Political Content in Mainstream Movies From Early February: The Wolfman, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Dear John, From Paris With Love, Valentine’s Day… Indie DVDs From Early February: The Limits of Control, XIII: The Conspiracy, Triangle, The Vicious Kind, Swedish Auto, Wrong Side of Town
1. The Wolfman: [Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore.]
summary from imdb.com:
Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman, is lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father, Talbot sets out to find his brother… and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself. Talbot’s childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe, tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline has come to investigate.
starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving,
1. Darin Miller at Big Hollywood
2. Carl Kozlowski at Big Hollywood
3. Kyle Smith
4. Christian Toto
5. Kurt Loder
6. PJMedia: John Boot
7. Sonny Bunch
8. Debbie Schlussel
10. movieguide.org Christian Movie Reviews
While the production design is a sumptuous swirl of eerie and disturbing Victoriana, there’s a 21st century subtext to the legend. The characters’ backstory hinges on a bloody encounter in “the Hindu Kush,” the British imperialists’ name for eastern Afghanistan, and Del Toro’s sessions of medical torture look a lot like the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” for al Qaeda suspects.
In an interesting touch, the clergy in the film are a bit hysterical in preparing their worried followers for each full moon, but are overall shown respectably, while del Toro is seen in prayer – complete with sign of the Cross – as he agonizes over his fate. Perhaps these brief Christian-friendly moments can be chalked up to the historic era of the film, but they are nice gestures to see nonetheless.
There are other allusions—to waterboarding, during a scene in which Lawrence is subjected to the primitive therapies of an asylum quack; to religious extremism, when the local preacher ascribes the crimes of the Wolfman to divine retribution for unspecified sins.
2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief [Rated PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language.]
summary from imdb.com:
A teenager discovers he’s the descendant of a Greek god and sets out on an adventure to settle an on-going battle between the gods.
starring: Logan Lerman, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Melina Kanakaredes, Joe Pantoliano, Uma Thurman
a couple bits of dialogue:
[the ferry man just burned the money he gave him] Come on man, You could’ve warned me…
We’re in a recession!
guy: holding up the Medusa head] Guys, I cannot pee with her watching!
[the passing maid sees the head, screams, and runs off]
girl: We better leave before Homeland Security shows up.
as well as an anti-war message that is well-meaning but too obviously on-the-nose and preachy.
1. from Newsbusters:
New Teen Movie Includes ‘Zinger’ That Obama ‘Might Be a Demigod’
2. Does Teen Movie Claim Obama’s a Demigod?: Exclusive Interview With ‘Percy Jackson’ Screenwriter Craig Titley
by John Nolte at Big Hollywood
3. Dear John: [Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence.]
summary from amazon.com:
a soldier home on leave meets Savannah, a college student. The two may not have been looking for love, but love finds them anyway. Then the September 11 attacks happen, and John is torn between love for Savannah and duty to country.
starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas
Savannah is a pretty and intelligent young woman with a solid set of values. She doesn’t drink, smoke or sleep around and seems at ease in her own skin. She is confident, compassionate and gives freely of her time and energy to her friends and the larger community./John, while his family life has been challenging, has overcome a troubled past and has become an honorable, though sometimes volatile, man… a warrior./I sat back and thought, “Wow. What a nice couple of kids.” Weird, huh? I chuckled to myself when I realized that I’d gotten so used to snark, that I’d just been sucker punched by “nice.” What the hell were these people trying to pull?/First and foremost, I was pleased by how SSG Tyree and the military in general were portrayed. This film got it right. John and his fellow soldiers demonstrated their professionalism, teamwork and commitment. Further, as far as I could tell, the Special Forces were accurately portrayed as to their mission and how it is implemented (i.e. training of foreign troops, etc.). I admit that, hailing from the Marine Corps, I’m not extremely well versed on the Army but everyone looked squared away./Autism is another thread that runs through “Dear John.” John’s father is played by the wonderful Richard Jenkins, who first caught my eye in the brutally funny “Flirting with Disaster.” His portrayal of Mr. Tyree was of great interest to my wife and I. As parents of an autistic child we often wonder what the future might hold for our son. There is also a young boy in the story played by an autistic actor by the name of Braeden Reed. He reminded us so much of our own son and we both were quite moved by his performance and by how naturally his autism was presented. Kudos to Phil Blevins, Executive Director of CarolinaAutism.org, who was a consultant on the project.
I liked this a lot because it’s very pro-military and patriotic. Whereas Hollywood generally portrays our military guys as bad guys, losers, mentally unstable, or worse, the U.S. Army soldier in this movie (the very hot Channing Tatum as “John Tyree”) is a saint, who enlists in Special Forces and re-enlists after watching the 9/11 attacks. He serves in Iraq and gets shot, and he’s just an all-around mensch. A ton of bad things happen to him, but he behaves with dignity and sacrifices everything for those he loves, with no expectation of getting anything in return.
DEAR JOHN is an emotional story about a man willing to risk the love of the girl he wants to marry by reenlisting to serve with his troop in the Army following the 9/11 terrorist attack./John promises to leave the Army in a year when his tour of duty is up and come home to Savannah to stay. She returns to college, and he to duty in Africa. They exchange romantic letters. When the World Trade Towers are brought down, the other members of John’s troop all plan to re-enlist if everyone in the troop does. They have a weekend to consider the decision. John takes the weekend to go see Savannah, who is heartbroken to learn he feels compelled to re-enlist for two more years./The beauty of DEAR JOHN is the sacrificial love shown both by John and Savannah. DEAR JOHN is very moving and well made with great performances by the two main characters. Love for others and duty to country are clearly shown. The filmmakers have created a solid romance in the context of a patriotic movie. Thus, there is a whole lot to like about this movie.
A party guest thanks John for his military service. As does the movie in its own way.
Dear John gets another point for topicality by using the U.S.’s lack of universal health care to help jerk the tears. Again, I’ll avoid any plot spoilers, but you know it’s an American movie when people have to sell a house to pay medical bills. The U.S. health-care system and President Barack Obama’s frustrated attempts to reform it – now that’s something worth crying over. But not this bogus paean to selfless love.
the one instance of the troops looking bad, from Plugged In Online:
Overseas, American soldiers joke about women in burkas wearing fishnet on their faces to look sexy.
for the ultimate crabby leftist review of this movie, you should click right here
4. From Paris With Love: [Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality.]
summary from imdb.com:
In Paris, a young employee in the office of the US Ambassador hooks up with an American spy looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city.
starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
1. Carl Kozlowski at Big Hollywood
2. Kyle Smith
3. Sonny Bunch
4. Debbie Schlussel
5. Christian Toto
6. Kurt Loder
8. Hollywood, STFU.
9. movieguide.org Christian Movie Reviews
What works best about the movie is John Travolta as Wax, a larger than life anti-hero of sorts with a single-minded purpose of stopping terrorists.
In both “Taken” and “Paris,” Morel’s choice of villains is refreshingly straightforward. Even as most Hollywood action films in the Age of Terror ridiculously posit any group of humanity other than Muslim radicals – even bringing back ex-Soviets! – as the prime threat afflicting their heroes, both “Taken” and “Paris” matter-of-factly address the fact that there’s plenty of Middle Eastern baddies to go around too. Viewers responded viscerally to “Taken,” knowing that there was an underlying authenticity beneath the surface menace – by no means are Muslims expected to be the villain in every movie, but on the other hand, don’t be so ridiculous as to rule them out either.
A clear example in From Paris With Love comes midway into the film’s admittedly well-choreographed mayhem as the gun-crazy operative Charlie Wax (Travolta) exasperatedly explains to his new partner, James Reece (Rhys Meyers), the reasons for all the corpses piling up around them: “It’s about terrorists,” Wax declares, ending Reece’s illusion they’re chasing cocaine traffickers. Nothing more than those three words needs to be said; the film, with no further explanation of motives, nationalities, beliefs, or backstories, suddenly gets a free pass into the kill-or-be-killed zone. It’s primary and elemental and has none of that French philosophical dross mucking up the film’s astronomical body count.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reese, a level headed U.S. Foreign Service employee who works in the embassy by day and for a C.I.A. like organization by night. His big break in the agency comes when he is asked to pick up his new “partner”, Charlie Wax, played by John Travolta. Wax is the stereotypical cocky, rude, American cowboy type of cop. From the moment they meet, Reese looks on with comic horror as Wax goes into Paris, guns a-blazin’ non-stop until the job is done./Now, normally I would object to this portrayal of Americans and the police. However, Besson and Morel portray Wax like this for a reason. And that reason is that France is at the point where they can no longer ignore the Islamic Fundamentalism which has permeated their entire society. France’s own brand of P.C. still refers to “gangs of youths” engaged in vandalism and violence, never once mentioning the common thread between all of these “youths”, radical Islam. These “youths” attend sporting events and boo the French National Anthem and any non-Islamic player. These “youths” torch cars in the street and claim it’s a protest against unemployment and French discrimination. Besson attempted to pay off some of these “youths” for “protection” by hiring them as “Security” during the filming of “From Paris With Love”. These “youths” showed their appreciation of that employment by torching ten of the film crew’s cars./France, in fact all of Europe, is a mess with this same problem which a delusional P.C. faction refuses to allow to be correctly identified. However, despite them, Besson and Morel have made a movie which directly addresses this problem, and it is a movie with a message. The message in “From Paris With Love” is this: yes, Americans can be cocky and uncouth; yes, they can be a bit pompous with their power; but the worst thing they ever brought to France was McDonald’s fast food; and that’s far more preferable than our current group of drug dealing, anthem booing, car torching “youths” who every once in a while go maniac with a death wish and a suicide belt./In short, Besson and Morel “get it”. I’m not sure what political leaning either men are, but when Reese’s character goes from asking, “What if it’s never over, what if we can’t beat these guys?”, to realizing that, no matter how hard you try, some people would rather jump than step back from the edge, their personal leanings do not matter, they “get it”./The mainstream critics will aggressively pan this movie. They will go out of their way to tell all who will listen what a truly bad movie this is. They will do so because either the story offends their delicate sensibilities or because they also understand the message which Morel and Besson are conveying./I, however, do not pan this move. In fact, as the story faded to black and the credits were about to roll, I shouted out loud for the entire theater to hear, “Luc Besson, You ROCK!” And to leave little doubt that “From Paris With Love” was a message film, as the credits rolled, the first music selection to play was, “Are You With Me?” by Vaux./I’d like to respond to that question. Liberté, égalité, fratenité. Je suis avec vous. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
If I had one reservation, it’s John Travolta’s constant wearing of a keffiyeh
5. Valentine’s Day: [Rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity.]
summary from imdb.com:
Intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine’s Day.
starring: Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Julia Roberts, Emma Roberts, Larry Miller, Shirley MacLaine, George Lopez, Patrick Dempsey, Kathy Bates, Hector Elizondo
[this part not finished yet]
Some Indie Dvds Or Straight-to-dvd From February:
1. The Limits of Control [Rated R for graphic nudity and some language.]
summary from amazon.com:
a mysterious loner arrives in Spain with instructions to meet various strangers, each one a part of his mission.
director: Jim Jarmusch
starring: Isaach De Bankole, Tilda Swinton, Paz de la Huerta, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Bill Murray
movieguide.org Christian reviews
from a Salon.com interview with director Jim Jarmusch:
And then going to Seville, one of the jewels of Spain of that period when Islamic culture, Judaism and Christianity coexisted and flowered, until about the 14th century, you know? And then the Christians killed the others./I interpreted the title, “The Limits of Control,” as referring to the limits of political and/or military control.
Once its destination is reached, you might find something pat about The Limits of Control. It ends up as a political allegory, in which an international group of hipsters led by a black man overthrow a reactionary white man, played by Bill Murray. Perhaps Jarmusch was thinking of the election of Obama. Yet the experience of watching its first 90 minutes only touches on politics in the most abstract way./Bill Murray’s character, billed as a nameless “American” in the end credits, scoffs at the notion that art could ever be important or that Bohemia could be real. His attitudes are familiar, but Jarmusch has the courage to imagine an alternative to the philistine culture in which we live. That’s what is truly political in The Limits of Control.
art trumps capitalism!
With some pretty blatant depictions America as a force of control and people of other nationalities as outside or opposing that control, the film does seem to have a political message of some sort.
from 2 commenters on imdb.com:
#1: The film is also about imperialism, specifically American imperialism. Murray’s character is authority in general, but I think specifically relates to the previous administration in Washington.
#2: Later on I also thought that Bill Murray isn’t named The American for nothing. And what about an african american guy playing some kind of james bond, not on his way to kill a bad Russian but a bad American :)/Haha
Again, I’m not so calculating about those things but it’s always been a great interest to me, that kind of subterranean power culture that all these groups have. Like the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Skull and Bones. And the secret administration we are emerging from is kind of a descendant of all of that./But, on a larger scale, the meaning of Limits of Control is that ideas and imagination are a lot more powerful than these physical power structures of money, police and military power. Their powers are so weak compared to the power of ideas./And now we’re on some kind of apocalyptic cusp, rethinking our perceptions. All these old models are crumbling and we have to consider new ways of thinking if we are going to survive. The internet, the genome project, stem-cell regeneration, all of these new phenomenon that will completely change how we view things. And if we don’t change, we’re just to continue to follow the same old thugs. Maybe it’s already too late for the planet. I don’t know. But again, I’m going back to the idea that the imagination is much stronger than any of these forms of power that are imposed on us. And I definitely think that’s a theme somewhere in the film. And this relates somehow to these secret organizations that existed either to maintain their physical power over things or these organizations that were preserving ideas and imagination that were not fitting in with the power structures so they had to do it secretly.
what they are doing is making an argument that he (and we the audience) open ourselves to the endless possibilities of life and cinema, that there is more to all this than just ‘going through the motions’ as capitalism requires./There is so much more to gain from art when one learns to dispense with the capitalist imperative towards homogeneity.
I think Welles himself might’ve approved of the Kipling quote that came to mind: “It’s pretty, but is it art?” Yes, and maybe. Is it a slow-burn anti-capitalist screed? Eh, perhaps. Should you seek it out? Meh, perhaps.
and Bill Murray (identified as “The American” and channeling Donald Rumsfeld).
2. XIII: The Conspiracy: [Rated R for violence]
summary from amazon.com:
The first female U.S. President is shot dead by a sniper during her Independence Day speech. Three months later, a wounded man is found hanging from a tree with no memory of his identity. The only clue is a tattoo on his neck, ‘XIII’. Submerged in a far-reaching conspiracy which threatens to overthrow the entire government, XIII’s identity becomes the key to unraveling a complex and dangerous truth
starring: Stephen Dorff, Val Kilmer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Stephen McHattie,
Anywho, here’s what I learned from this long, slow slog through mediocrity:/Republicans are evil fascists./Typically, these conspiracy flicks go out of their way to obscure the identity of political parties, going for a non-partisan tone. Heck, if you had never watched the first season of 24 you’d have no idea the political lineage of each successive president. Not with XIII. They want to make sure you know who exactly the malevolent forces behind global domination and a totalitarian overthrow of Western democracy are: the GOP of course!/As soon as you leave the Marine Corps you turn into a domestic terrorist./I gave Avatar crap about its representation of ex-Marines as blood-thirsty, native-smiters, but XIII is even worse. The main bad guys who guard the evildoers’ headquarters and the dirty-bomb-making facility are all former Marines. Of course they are, because we all know the Few and the Proud all secretly harbor and intense desire to nuke Maryland. Hey, XIII: blow me./Conspiracies always involve the same people with the same ambition./Namely, corporate executives and political retirees who have nothing better to do than kill a lot of innocent Americans in the name of patriotism or something.
To say that the assassination of the country’s first female president and a subsequent wave of unclaimed terrorist attacks lead to a conspiracy of “people in government and from the highest echelons of corporate America,” as one character describes it, is to say only that nothing unusual is proposed here./As the product of a pair of Belgians working in the 1980s — Jean Van Hamme and William Vance, who created the original comic — its picture of America is very much, you know, the product of a pair of Belgians working in the 1980s; it has a Babelfish quality. (The film itself is a Canadian-French co-production not originated by NBC.) This adaptation, by Philippe Lyon and David Wolkove, adds the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security (operating out of an underground lair equipped with sophisticated torture devices), laptop computers and a nuclear bomb.
from The Times:
A similar if less contained sense of Bush-era paranoia pervades “XIII,” a two-part Canadian and French mini-series/Within seconds, President Sally Sheridan is gunned down in the middle of a speech in which she is promising to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Someone or rather something — huge and reaching up to the highest levels of political and corporate life and, who knows, maybe even the worlds of professional figure skating and yodeling — has no use for her dovish policies./We don’t even get to find out what she thought about No Child Left Behind before her docile vice president has taken over, and her brother, a Republican governor, has mounted an electoral bid against him, guaranteeing an America safe from the now-rampant subway gassings and tunnel bombs. What we seem to have here is a political dynasty modeled after the Bushes, if George W. Bush were more like Pat Schroeder, and Jeb were the love child of Franco and Dick Cheney./Chasing XIII is a puffy-faced Val Kilmer, here going by the name of Mongoose, as well as a military hack and torture fetishist
newspaper article headline shown on screen:
Discharges follow Inquiry into Haditha Killings
person 1: I want a lawyer
person 2: a lawyer?
person 1: yeah, I’m entitled to one
person 2: no, you’re not… you can thank the Patriot Act for that
woman announcer on a news station: Telecommunications Security Act: that’s the controversial bill that would allow federal law enforcement to access American’s phone records and email accounts without obtaining warrants.
person 1: Big Brother has officially arrived.
person 2: you can’t trust the government, that’s for sure.
Stratus Dynamics: that’s the crown jewel… 2nd largest military contractor in the world
the only thing people respond to is fear… strike enough fear in their hearts, they’ll let you do anything… anything at all to protect them…
3. Triangle: [Rated R for violence and language]
summary from imdb.com:
When Jess sets sail on a yacht with a group of friends, she cannot shake the feeling that there is something wrong. Her suspicions are realized when the yacht hits a storm and the group is forced to board a passing ocean liner to get to safety, a ship Jess is convinced she’s been on before. The ship appears deserted, the clock on board has stopped, but they are not alone… Someone is intent on hunting them down, one by one. And Jess unknowingly holds the key to end the terror.
starring: Melissa George
Poli-Bits: nothing detected
4. The Vicious Kind: [Rated R for some strong sexuality and pervasive language.]
summary from imdb.com:
A man tries to warn his brother away from the new girlfriend he brings home during Thanksgiving, but ends up becoming infatuated with her in the process.
starring: Adam Scott, Brittany Snow, Alex Frost, J.K. Simmons
Poli-Bits: 2 snippets of dialogue:
Hey, can you tell me why Peter is all of a sudden… he’s dressing like Mike Wallace or something… Is he a republican now?
person 1: It’s Thanksgiving, you dumb s***… what are you doing?
person 2: nothing… I don’t celebrate the fact that my ancestors exterminated a race of people…
5. Swedish Auto:
summary from imdb.com:
SWEDISH AUTO is the dramatic story of a small-town mechanic who voyeuristically observes life from the shadows. When he discovers that a young woman is similarly watching him, he is compelled to confront a world that he has always avoided.
starring: Lukas Haas, January Jones
Poli-Bits: nothing detected
6. Wrong Side of Town: [Rated R for violence, language, brief drug use and nudity.]
summary from imdb.com:
In order to save his kidnapped daughter, an ex-Marine is forced to take on a gang of killers when an accident leaves the brother of a malicious criminal dead.
starring: Rob Van Dam, Dave Batista, Ja Rule
Poli-Bits: nothing detected… except for this bit of dialogue:
We’ve come a long way from slavery to Obama… we need to stop using the N-word… it’s disrespectful…
A Link For Today:
Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus”, produced by acclaimed filmmaker Raphael Shore, explores the proliferation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents on North American college campuses.
go here for a clip and more info.