THE VILLAGE (A-2, PG-13): Community elders have pledged never to leave their village at the edge of a forest.
When Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) wants to go beyond the forest and buy medicine that will help Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), he is turned down by the elders, who are led by Edward Walker (William Hurt) and Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver).
Lucius, who loves Walker’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard, director Ron Howard’s daughter), is attacked and left for dead.
After Ivy has an inner vision, she is allowed to leave the village to obtain medicine. Her blindness, her mission and the terrors of her journey unmask the nature of the village’s fear.
Despite what many critics say, this horror film is about fear: how fear is the result of chaos, how fear creates chaos and how normally rational people use fear to control others, believing it will protect them from the chaos of bad things happening to good people. Intense thinking person’s film with some frightening images; clever storytelling with the moral that fear is useless.
I, ROBOT (A-2, PG-13): Del Spooner (Will Smith) is a robot-wary homicide detective in Chicago in 2035 who investigates the apparent suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), founder of U.S. Robotics.
Del meets the president of the company, Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), who is anxious to show there is nothing amiss, and Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), a psychologist who makes the robots more human.
While Del and Dr. Calvin are inspecting Dr. Lanning’s room, a robot named Sonny jumps out at them. His human traits are obvious, and Del arrests him for murder.
Del suspects that the three rules of robotics are not always true: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; a robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law; a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law. Del continues, even though Lt. John Bergin (Chi McBride) doesn’t believe his suspicions.
Some film reviews deal with the lack of homage that screenwriters Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman give to Isaac Asimov, whose 1950 book inspired this film. But what stood out for me was the illogical ending. The writers talk about the usual sci-fi issues such as the nature of humanity, free will, humanity’s determination to destroy itself through war and even the notion of a redeemer. But the plot is driven by the fact that the film’s robots do evolve and must be deprogrammed.
If this were a true sci-fi movie, it would ask deep questions about human nature and leave us pondering, like the cult classic Blade Runner. Some action violence and problem language; disappointing summer flick (though Will Smith is always likable).
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (A-3, PG-13): Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living with Marie (Franka Potente) in India. He has spent the last couple of years trying to regain his memory about his life, the C.I.A. and the ease with which he kills whoever threatens him. Marie has been teaching him that killing is not the way to discover his identity or to have a meaningful life.
Jason sees a man out of place and intuitively knows he and Marie are in danger. They flee too late.
Jason thinks the C.I.A. is after him because of the death of his former boss, Conklin (Chris Cooper). The C.I.A. is after him, but so are some Russian criminals who have links back to Conklin and the C.I.A. Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) is the C.I.A. bureau chief in Berlin searching for Jason, who surfaces in Europe, where the race and chase begin anew.
I have read just about every book written by Robert Ludlum, who died in 2001. Whether spy-scapades of the Cold War or other threats to the world of today, they are entertaining and moral.
The original Bourne Identity was a 1988 made-for-television movie starring Richard Chamberlain. Matt Damon’s film version was released in 2002.
I liked the editing technique that blurs the violence so that it seems less intense, but gave some viewers an eye-ache. Intense action violence; Damon more than proves himself capable of playing the amnesiac seeking his identity and inner peace.
SEX ON TELEVISION: I recently received the following letter from a male prisoner:
“I’m writing to ask you to review a TV series because I enjoy your style and view on secular entertainment, but first let me explain my view.
“Before I came to prison (four years ago) I was your typical 21-year-old punk who cared little for religion and only watched shows with ‘less than moral’—shall we say—plots. As I turned to Catholicism, and more recently St. Francis’ way of life, I found my views changing! My interest in TV waned and I found myself chastising the shows for their gratuitous sex, materialism, etc. I was horrified that I had become—a prude!
“Anyway, I’m watching this show on FX called Nip/Tuck. Admittedly, it’s full of sex and drugs, but there’s a moral to every episode that emerges at the last five minutes. Somehow I’m drawn to the show and appreciate the way each episode ends. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think a Christian wrote the script....I guess I am just amazed that you can have 55 minutes of sin, then—wham—end with a moral!”
One of the most difficult challenges a reviewer must deal with is the content of films and TV programs. Criteria that evolved from the pre-TV days of the 1930 Hays Code include examining content analysis (counting up the number of profanities, etc.). This Code regulated every aspect of movies that deals with human life: sex, language, violence, alcohol, women smoking or misbehaving, or any representation that might sway the audience’s sympathy to “wrong, evil or sin.”
Content analysis is especially appropriate when assessing media consumption by children. But such analysis is less helpful to reviewers who explore the context for mature, faith audiences with varying experiences, expectations, interpretations and criteria.
NIP/TUCK (FX, Tuesdays): I had heard of this show but someone told me it was just a lot of sex, so I didn’t bother with it. Now in its second season, Nip/Tuck has strong ratings among young adults (18-40) and I can understand why. The show is not about sex; it’s about the search for meaning in life. My prison critic was right.
This continuing morality tale focuses on two Miami plastic surgeons, both Catholic, who seem to deal with superficialities, but actually are always dealing with empty souls—their own or those of others. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) is married with children; Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) is a playboy who keeps repeating the same sins over and over in his search for intimacy and meaning.
The sex portrayed in this show is as ugly and unattractive as the scars the doctors work to fix. They ask each patient, “What is it you don’t like about yourself?” The answer provides the show’s weekly drama.
Plastic surgery is the metaphor for the characters’ spiritual superficiality. Their need for faith, human dignity and redemption is exposed each week. I think it’s a worthy show because it has heart as well—if you can stand the graphic surgical procedures. I hope my prisoner friend gets to read this. Thanks for the tip.
RESCUE ME (FX, Wednesdays): Denis Leary is Tommy Gavin, a hard-nosed Catholic New York firefighter in the midst of a divorce. He lost four members of his firehouse, including a cousin, on 9/11. Tommy, part flawed hero, part adolescent, is continually visited by a Greek chorus of his lost friends and other fire victims he could not save: They function as his conscience.