Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Federal Budget in Perspective

I suppose you've all seen this, but just in case:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Luther Movie Review

How refreshing to see a movie where following the Bible and a love for Christ are shown without irony or humor. Or a “look at these strange creatures” detached feeling. Or a hip “ain’t God cool” vibe. Luther is just a straight story about one of the most significant lives in history.

Joseph Fiennes is Martin Luther. We first see him panicking in a thunderstorm and vowing to become a monk if he lives. He becomes a brilliant but guilt-ridden monk. He is sent to Rome on some business and sees that Rome has become "a circus" as a couple of different characters say. Then other events take place that send Luther toward his rebellion against abuses in the Catholic Church which the Church, needing money, will not admit are abuses. To be fair, there are those in the Church hoping for reform, but many of them consider Luther to be going too far in his criticisms. Things begin to spin out of control as people begin to believe they are oppressed politically as well as spiritually. Luther must live with the consequences of his writings and actions. One wonders, if Luther hadn't been away for a year in the castle, could he have prevented the Peasant Revolt?

The viewer gets a vague sense of the dangers individuals faced making choices, but probably there is no way to adequately show how much risk there was to every word or move for some. One does get a sense of the confusion and difficulty faced by those in power.

The movie moves pretty quickly and it’s hard to get a sense of the time passing. Luther spent almost a year in Wartburg Castle, but that is not understood just by watching the movie. I guess Martin Luther deserves an HBO miniseries like John Adams.

Peter Ustinov is fantastic as Fredrick the Wise. Frankly, I wish the movie had been made 30 years ago with Ustinov as Luther.

For some background on Luther, read Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Lutherby Roland Bainton or just the Wiki article.

Luther (the film) is not as great as A Man For All Seasons, but not many films are. However, it is very well done and certainly worth your time.

Luther, directed by Eric Till, written by Camille Thomasson and Bart Gavigan, starring Joseph Fiennes, Jonathan Firth, Peter Ustinov. 123 minutes. 2003.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Burn After Reading Movie Review

Joel and Ethan Coen have an unusual and dark view of the world that they brilliantly project through a variety of genres. And they use much more swearing than is really necessary. In fact Burn After Reading is rated R for “pervasive language” among other things. I’ll talk a little more about that later.

Osborn Cox (John Malkovich) is an analyst working for the CIA who gets demoted so he quits. He decides to write a memoir. His cheating wife (Tilda Swinson) decides to divorce him and the lawyer tells her to get all his financial information. She copies his files including his memoirs. When the disk is found in the ladies locker room at a gym called Hardbodies, Chad (a hilarious Brad Pitt) thinks he’s found some top secret documents worth some “reward” money. He and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), who wants several body sculpting surgeries, decide to try for the money. Cox is a jerk however, and instead of just telling them they don’t have anything, he causes them to think they have something really important and valuable. Somehow George Clooney figures into all this, first as the man Mrs. Cox is cheating with, then he is with Linda. It all gets tangled up Coen Brothers style and there is no “happily-ever-after.”

Why do the Coens find excessive swearing so invigorating? John Malkovich basically spends the movie saying “WTF?” Only he doesn’t abbreviate. However, Malkovich does a fantastic job of being a jerk and the swearing seems like something his character actually would say, not something forced into the script for humor or shock like Pappy O’Daniel in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Basically everyone in this movie is a moron, but that could be expected as it’s in Washington, D.C. Burn After Reading is slow paced and not the best Coen Brothers movie, but it is funny and a fully enjoyable black comedy if that’s your thing.

There, now I’ve written a review of a Coen Brothers movie without using the word “quirky” other than in this sentence, of course.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Valkyrie Movie Review

Valkyrie Directed by Bryan Singer, written by Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander. Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson. 2008. PG-13 120 minutes.

Valkyrie is a good World War II movie and fits well with the many World War II movies made in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s not a “great” Oscar-bait type movie, but Singer tells the story well and the acting is superb.

The story of Valkyrie is about the famous assassination attempt on Hitler by members of his own high command. Previously, I had known that there was a bomb in a briefcase that got placed too far under a table and only slightly wounded Hitler, but I did not know all the story around it and how it went farther than just an assassination attempt, but also a coordinated attempt to take over the government. There are quite a few important men involved in the coup and it is far from a neat single-minded group. However, they consider the cause to be greater than anything, even endangering their own families.

Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who was seriously injured in North Africa and could have sat out the war in a comfortable position in Berlin. Instead, he becomes a “traitor,” as he willing calls himself, to save the honor of his beloved Germany. Country above party or current leader. They also show von Stauffenberg as the committed Roman Catholic that he was.

Tom Cruise is a Movie Star. And I say that as someone who isn’t really a Tom Cruise fan. He holds the screen anytime he is on, his charisma captivates you. But, he is a good enough actor to sink into the roll and not overwhelm it, as several top actors/actresses of the 1970s have taken to doing. Many of the other actors show the complexity and conflicts of their characters.

Valkyrie is rated PG-13, but except for one word could have been PG. Patton has more swearing and The Guns of Navarone has more violence. My 13-year old son wanted to go, but I don’t trust the ratings system. After seeing it, I should have taken him, in fact, my 10-year old will probably watch Valkarie when it comes out on video.

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