5 out of 5

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The Road

The_Road_movie_poster Lisa and I recently watched The Road (2009,R).  From ScreenIt!:

A father tries to provide safety, shelter and food for his son while teaching him how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where none of those are guaranteed.

Before the film was released, I had a couple tickets to an advanced screening.  Unfortunately, it was a couple hours away and on a week night...so I decided not to go (figuring I'd just see it a few weeks later when it was released).  Apparently something went badly wrong with the release and marketing of the film because it was never shown anywhere near us.

When we watched it recently as a rental, we realized that somehow Lisa had missed much of the strong, emotional father-son connection when reading the book.  We also thought there might have been some meaning in a detail that Lisa remembered from the end that I didn't (a spoiler that I won't elaborate on here).

I loved the book and the film both and that the latter seemed so true to the former.  I give it 5 out of 5.

The Blind Side

225px-Blind_side_poster After opening presents Christmas morning, we went to see The Blind Side (2009,PG-13).  From ScreenIt!:

A confident woman and her Southern family take in a poor and undereducated teen, give him the home life he never had, and help him hone his football skills that make him a top college prospect.

The scenes in the projects of Memphis reminded me of the times Lisa and I visited similar places in Knoxville to bring kids to church.  Although I think some of the film’s critics make valid points, (as I mentioned before) I’m a sucker for inspiring sports movies and themes of racial reconciliation.

I give it 5 out of 5.


200px-HumanFactorInvictus Last night I went with friends from work to see Invictus (PG-13,2009).  From ScreenIt!:

The newly elected President of South Africa hopes to begin reconciliation among his black and white constituents by urging them to unite behind the nation's rugby team in the World Cup.

Over coffee afterwards, one of my friends talked about what it was like experiencing these events first-hand as an Afrikaner in South Africa.  She said the film brought back so many memories.  First of all, she was impressed with Freeman’s and Damon’s accents…saying they were spot-on.  Also, she indicated that the filmmakers did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of what the South Africans felt and experienced during that time.  Her family had gathered to celebrate her 21st birthday and watched the match together on a big screen.  Although they didn’t realize it at the time, she said that when Mandela walked onto the field wearing the #6 jersey of the Springboks (South African national rugby team, a deep-rooted symbol of Apartheid) it was a major turning point for their country and its racial reconciliation.  The celebrations in the streets afterwards were the first time they had done so without fear of violence and riots.  She said her parents have made big changes in their outlook since then.  On the other hand, her brother has not (still doesn’t want to use the same facilities as blacks, send his kids to school with blacks, etc.).  She said that the black middle class is growing and that it’s not unusual to see blacks buying homes in previously-white-only neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, the shanty towns are still prevalent.  Despite the fact that the country’s old flag (another symbol of Apartheid) was not banned, you never see it flown at sporting events any more.  She said the rugby was very realistic too, and she wanted to jump up and cheer during the film.  She wondered if the rest of us (who didn’t share that same personal connection with the story) would find it boring.  We didn’t.

I’m a sucker for sports movies and a sucker for movies about racial reconciliation, so I didn’t stand a chance.

I give it 5 out of 5.



Back in July we watched E.T. for family movie night.  From ScreenIt!:

An alien misses his spaceship ride home and is befriended by a young boy until his crew returns for him.

This is one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater (I was 10).  The first one was Star Wars (when I was 5).  I also remember seeing a Star Trek film but I don't know if it was the 1st one (when I was 7) or the 2nd (when I was 10).  It was actually a drive-in when I saw E.T. as a kid.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Back to the Future

200px-Back_to_the_future Friday night we watched Back to the Future (1985,PG) for family movie night.  From Wikipedia:

Back to the Future is a 1985 science fiction adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis, co-written by Bob Gale and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, as well as Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson and Thomas F. Wilson. Back to the Future tells the story of Marty McFly, a teenager who is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955. He meets his parents in high school, accidentally attracting his mother's romantic interest. Marty must repair the damage to history by causing his parents to fall in love, while finding a way to return to 1985.

This is one of my favorites of all time.  I remember walking out of the theater after seeing this film and realizing that I had been so engaged that I had spared zero attention for anything else but the movie for those previous two hours.  I'm not sure I've had that experience with any other film.

I give it 5 out of 5.


200px-Invincible_movie One of the last films in the bachelor's film festival was Invincible (2006, PG) (ScreenIt! Review).  From ScreenIt!:

Despite the long odds, his age, size, and lack of experience, an unassuming 30-year-old man tries out for a spot playing professional football for the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles.

I liked this one so much and it was so clean (check out all of the moderates, minors, nones, and milds in the ScreenIt! review), that I watched it again as a movie night selection with Lisa and the boys.  Since my boys are crazy about football, I knew they would love it...and Lisa did too.  It's an enjoyable film and an inspiring story.  It's not exactly deep or anything, but I thought it was excellent for what it is.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Children of Men

200px-Children_Of_Men_3 Last night we watched Children of Men (2006,R) (ScreenIt! Review).  From the Wikipedia:

Set in the United Kingdom of 2027, the film explores a grim world in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. Societal collapse, terrorism, and environmental destruction accompany the impending extinction, with the United Kingdom, perhaps the last functioning government, persecuting a seemingly endless wave of illegal immigrant refugees seeking sanctuary.

I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this one before.  It was fantastic.  I never would have guessed it was a "companion piece to Cuarón's Y tu mamá también."  You couldn't help but think of The Road and also 28 Days Later, and it was interesting for many of the same reasons...but also because so much of it felt so familiar...pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment, soldiers with German shepherds, hooded prisoners, etc.

I give it 5 out of 5.


Another race-related documentary film I watched today was Banished, from PBS' Independent Lens series.  From the Independent Lens site:

From the 1860s to the 1920s, towns across the U.S. violently expelled African American residents.

Today, these communities remain virtually all white.

As black descendants return to demand justice, BANISHED exposes the hidden history of racial cleansing in America.

At least 12 different counties in eight states banished their black populations. More than 4,000 black residents were expelled from their homes.

The film takes the approach of visiting four of the counties where this occurred, discussing the historical events as well as examining the towns today.  What it finds is that the counties remain almost completely white and that they are generally of two minds regarding blacks: either they still aren't welcome or they are (even though somehow that doesn't translate into any residents of color).  I tend to think about this kind of thing as being long ago in the distant past.  However, the film shows footage of  a visit to Forsyth County Georgia in 1987 (75 years after blacks were driven out) by a group of whites and blacks who planned to march in honor of MLK and in memory of what had happened in that county.  They were met by huge crowds of people from the KKK and other racist organizations who made it abundantly clear with signs, shouts, and even thrown rocks how unwelcome their visit was.  This was only twenty years ago.  It was also interesting to see the difficulty in coming to resolution about what happened...the conflict between the fact that these black folks basically had their land and property stolen when they were driven out long ago and the fact that the current owners were not the wrongdoers but rather just people who happened to buy land that at some point in the past was stolen.  Like the documentary about the Little Rock high school, this film left me depressed about where we came from and how far we apparently still have to go.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later

I recently watched a documentary from HBO Films titled Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later.  From the HBO web site:

The wave of desegregation that transformed the South during the 1960s began in Little Rock in September 1957. After Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defied the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling and ordered the National Guard to prevent nine black teenagers from entering Central High School, President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending troops from the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to protect the students as they entered the building.

But what is the legacy of the Civil Rights struggle for equal education today? To mark the 50th anniversary of the forced integration of Central High School, Little Rock natives Brent and Craig Renaud provide a candid look at the lives of contemporary Central High students in the documentary LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL: 50 YEARS LATER.

Brent and Craig Renaud followed the lives of contemporary Central High students, teachers and administration, as well as community leaders, over the course of a year for this intimate documentary, visiting classes, school meetings and assemblies, teenagers' homes and community events. Sharing the stories of both black and white students, the special reveals the opportunities and challenges facing them in and out of the classroom.

There are many interesting aspects to this film.  One of the most striking was how the school that was forcefully desegregated 50 years ago is today voluntarily segregated on the common line of race and wealth.  Another was hearing some of the black kids face the realization that their black peers don't care about school and neither do their parents, and they don't try very hard to succeed.  Another was how many of the black kids resent the advantages that the wealthy white kids have (which, admittedly, they do have) without acknowledging how hard the white kids work to succeed in their advanced coursework.  Another was a segment of a black kid admitting how prejudiced he is against whites.  In the end, the film was pretty depressing...both in terms of the situation we were in 50 years ago and the ones we are still in today.  We're certainly moving in the right direction...but it's obviously a long, slow process and we're nowhere near the end.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Balls of Fury

200px-Balls_of_furymp The third (and best !?!) film that I watched on the flight back from Germany was Balls of Fury (2007,PG-13) (ScreenIt! Review).  From ScreenIt!:

A former child ping-pong prodigy is recruited by the FBI to lead them to a mysterious crime figure with an obsession for the sport.

You don't start watching a movie like this with your expectations too high, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It was goofy and funny and pretty consistent throughout...never running out of gas.  Maybe it was the mood I was in, or lack of sleep, or something, but I really enjoyed it.

I give it 5 out of 5.

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