February 2010

Avatar (2009)
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Running Time: 2 hrs, 42 min
Rated: PG-13

Review by Brother Reed

The story for James Cameron’s record-breaking 3-D adventure extravaganza, Avatar, is a mosaic of elements from countless different movies; including but not limited to Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, Fern Gully, this year’s Surrogates (though the idea for Avatar likely pre-dates that film), and even Cameron’s own Aliens. Yet despite not having an original bone in its 10-foot-tall blue body, Avatar is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. READ FULL REVIEW

The Hurt Locker (2008)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
Running Time: 2 hrs, 11 min
Rated: R

Review by Brother Reed

“War is a drug.” That pull quote from journalist Chris Hedges sets the tone for The Hurt Locker, a supremely suspenseful war thriller set just a few years ago during the Iraq conflict. It’s a sentiment that takes a moment to settle – one usually hears the more familiar “War is hell.” In truth, both statements are illustrated to some extent in this movie; but the former may be the more unsettling. We often imagine soldiers as men and women who carry out their tasks with bravery and skill but who ultimately wish only to return to their families and remove themselves from the constant danger they experience on foreign war grounds. While there are plenty of career military personnel who rise through the ranks, we start to worry about a field operative who enjoys his job a little too much. READ FULL REVIEW

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey, Angela Lansbury
Running Time: 2 hrs, 6 min
Rated: PG-13

Review by Brother Reed

The Manchurian Candidate has often been called a great film. It’s achieved the status of “classic” in recent days and I assume this is because it is an influential thriller with a star-studded cast. At the time of its release it fed into the political paranoia of the Cold War. Between Communist threats, political conspiracy, and assassination, many relevant ideas are played with in the movie – relevant, that is, in 1962. If you are politically-minded or very interested in the McCarthy era this film is likely to be a greater treasure to you than to others. A few of the movie’s themes are still applicable, as there is always some new foreign threat or political unrest. Conspiracy theorists are probably as numerous today as they were then. Yet when I view this movie, there seems to me very little urgency. Unlike some viewers, I get little sense that this movie speaks to the world today. Perhaps this is because I don’t readily entertain far-fetched espionage plots, or because I have relatively little interest in politics and right-wing/left-wing bickering (though I’m not above tossing out the occasional zinger about the powers that be). READ FULL REVIEW