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Movie Reviews

Borat (2007)


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Review:
This movie is not for kids. The MPAA rates this movie R because of "pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language." Still, while this movie is crude it is also intelligent; it is outrageous and yet insightful, subversive and yet revelatory. Ostensibly, the movie makes fun of the people of Kazakhstan; the discerning viewer soon learns, however, that the real targets of the jokes are American denizens -- from feminists to anti-Semites to homophobes to Baywatch's Pamela Anderson (to name just a few). This revelation alone will, quite understandably, offend a lot of well-meaning Americans. Related antics, including nude wrestling; taking advantage of some well-meaning Pentecostal Christians; exposing racism in America will offend a lot more. All throughout the movie, Sacha Cohen, while playing the 'Borat' character (featured on HBO's 'Da Ali G' show), obviously takes several (possibly needless?) personal risks during this movie (which at times feels like one long series of segments from 'Da Ali G Show'). And, almost certainly, several people will be offended. Many other adults, on the other hand, will find it incredibly hard to stop their laughter-filled bellies from aching so much. At the end of it all, it's amazing to consider how a naive, prejudicial, foreign Kazakh character called Borat Sagdiev can shed so much light on our own.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2007
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The Passion of the Christ (2004)


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Review:
When I heard that Mel Gibson was making this movie, I thought 'Fantastic!' Here is a great, Oscar-winning filmmaker and actor; here is a strong believer; maybe he can truly translate the drama of the Passion (the last few hours of Jesus before crucifixion) onto screen. Needless to say, I did not have visions of extreme, graphic violence in my head when I thought that. To think of the Passion Play without violence would be foolhardy of course; after this is the story of the hours leading up to Christ's crucifixion, but perhaps it might be possible to convey the suffering another way, a less 'graphic' way if possible, like the 'Jesus of Nazareth' mini-series. So when I sat to view the movie, I was almost disappointed that the entire movie was nothing more than a visceral, heart-wrenching version of Christ's 'Passion.' I did tear up and despair at the suffering of the Son of Man -- but somewhere, in the back of my head, I was also thinking 'Where's the character development -- or the story?' Frankly, the movie bothered me (and I'm a Christian). Yet, I did shed a couple of tears after all. So the movie did have an impact. After mulling over this, it became obvious that this movie was NOT your traditional movie and definitely NOT your typical Jesus film. The story is, after all, part of the most well-known story on earth; so Mel Gibson didn't spend a lot of time with expository details. But it also so grippingly real (a lot of the time) that you can't help but feel that you are having a front-row seat watching the events of Jesus' last hours on earth. No, it's not a front-row 'popcorn' movie that you can relish in; it's a front-row 'I can't believe this is happening' movie that will make you think twice about your own difficulties, your own horrors. The cinematography and movie score are beautiful, but this is -- in reality -- a religious horror movie. True, many of the so-called 'bad guys' in the movie are of Jewish and Roman origin, but so are nearly ALL the 'good guys!' That being said, it may not take a leap of understanding to figure out why many (but not all) Jewish people were in uproar about this movie. After all, many unsavory leaders stood behind a veil of Christianity while committing horrible crimes against Jews. Still, I don't believe it was the film-maker's intention to make an anti-Jewish movie; I do believe that Mel Gibson truly wanted to finally make a movie that showed his appreciation of His Savior. In that sense, and in the sense that millions of other Christians appreciated their Savior even more after watching this movie, I think he succeeded.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2004
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Mr & Mrs Iyer (2002)

Review:
Although, on the surface, this might seem like an 'Indian' movie, it is extremely clear from the opening montage (which includes pictures and newspaper clippings about the US war on terror) that the topic is anything but. The chief characters in the movie are Konkana SenSharma (Meenakshi Iyer) and Raja (Rahul Bose) who are two travelers on a bus trip. Raja, who in reality has no relation to Meenakshi, is a gentleman that agrees to be of help to her on her trip to meet her husband. While on the trip, we are introduced to a variety of interesting characters of various religious, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds within India itself. We are given, in essence, a snapshot of the diversity of India. Somewhere along the journey, which might seem long at times, something happens to the bus. A group of Hindu fanatics responding to a murder of a few of their own stop and bus and menace the bus passengers into confessing whether any of them are Muslim or not. The events that follow can be considered depressing and even heartbreaking. Raja and Meenakshi escape the wrath of the fanatics by pretending to be a Hindu husband and wife. Over the remaining course of the movie, we find Raja and Meenakshi drawn to each other for the purposes of survival -- at least, intially; for, they also begin to develop deeper feelings for each other as they confront differences and prejudice. By the end of the movie, I was aware that the bus ride was somewhat long but quite worth it and even necessary. Indeed, I was left with the impression that I had seen a wonderful movie addressing the topic of prejudice in a way that transcends national or international boundaries. While the MPAA web site hasn't given this movie a rating yet (at the time of writing), I think that this is very much a PG-13 movie. Whatever the case, this is a great movie.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Year: 2002
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Shrek 2 (2004)


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Review:
I enjoyed the original 'Shrek' movie; it was a 'fractured' fairy tale that shredded the fantasies associated with several fairy tale characters, stories and notions. Try as it might though, it was still a fairy tale, with a happy ending after all. 'Shrek 2' doesn't stray far from this formula. You still see 'put-downs' of several famous fairly tale characters (like the 'Little Mermaid' in the honeymoon sequence) and yet you still remain in a fairy tale with a happy ending. The notion of a happy ending should not come as a surprise to you, I'm assuming, and if I've spoiled it for you, let me assure you that that revelation will by itself not spoil the movie for you. You will have fun as Shrek, his new wife and Donkey travel to Princess Fiona's parents' land; you will fun as Shrek begins to have problems with his new in-laws; you will have fun when Donkey finally turns into a 'noble' and magnificent steed! Yes, you will have fun! I enjoyed the movie every bit as the first one. Don't miss this one.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG
Year: 2004
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The Last Samurai (2003)


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Review:
I'm not really sure why Tom Cruise was not even nominated for an Oscar in 2004. Perhaps it is because of his famous/infamous breakup with Nicole Kidman; perhaps he didn't get enough publicity; perhaps Hollywood has just become bored of Tom Cruise. Who knows? One can only speculate and wonder. In my mind, though, this has got to be Tom Cruise's finest hour (or couple of hours) in his movie career up to this point. Tom Cruise's Nathan Algren seems to care little about shaming his uniform or country as a drunk and disillusioned Civil War veteran. However, he is then hired to help modernise Japan's military and help destroy the last remnants of the ferocious Japanese Samurai. When he is captured by the Samurai though, we journey with Algren as he metarmorphoses to the disciplined and honorable warrior -- much like the Samurai leader he was supposed to defeat (played wonderfully by Ken Watanabe). While some people and critics might feel betrayed by the last couple of scenes, I have to say that those scenes worked for me -- mostly because it helped relieve the incredible dramatic and martial tension (and despair) of the several scenes before. Trust me, I enjoyed the The Lord of the Ring's final chapter (which came out around the same time as this movie) but this movie is a heart-breaker (yeah, for us men out there too!). If you are expecting to be happy at the end of the movie, don't go see it; if you want to see a remarkable story paying respects to a remarkable people, some remarkable acting and some fantastic action, do not miss it.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2003
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