NORBIT #1 – Okay People, Everybody Stay Calm…

I mentioned to a co-worker over the weekend that I read an article about how NORBIT (#1 in the USA right now) may hurt Eddie Murphy’s chance at an best supporting Oscar for DREAMGIRLS. She said “it’s bigger than that. NORBIT is hurting America.”

I went with some friends yesterday to my favorite home town theater to see :

PAN’S LABYRINTH (Dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006) At the end of this film (don’t worry – no spoilers) I heard someone in the audience say “WTF?” – that’s right they said the initials as the kids today are known to do – and yeah I could see where they’re coming from. This dark grotesque gothic tale is exhausting and weirded me out to the edge of my seat many times. Seen through the eyes of a young girl – Ofeila (Ivana Baquero) in Fascist Spain in 1944 we witness the violent cruel realities mostly via an evil Captain Vidal’s (Sergi López) that she and her sick pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) suffer daily after relocating in a remote hideout in the wooded hillside under Vidal’s rule. Ofeila slowly discovers and gets drawn into a netherworld with a faun, a few fairies and one large disgusting toad. In this world she may be a Princess and may be able to find the key to open the portal to…oh jeez – this is a bit much with the over-simplified plot description! So I admired this movie more than I actually enjoyed it. While it’s freaky and fantastical to at times exhilarating extremes it could have done with a little more fun.

Now some DVD reviews :

JESUS CAMP (Dir. Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, 2006)

“There’s a new church like this every 2 days in America. It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the evengelists vote they determine the election. It’s a fabulous life!” – Pastor Ted Haggard

The trailers with shots of churches full of children speaking in tongues with tears in their eyes may imply an in-your-face liberal expose a-brewing, but the Best Documentary Oscar nominated JESUS CAMP simply showcases several participants and their stories with an absorbing lack of slant. No voice-over narration is provided but there are bits featuring Christian Air American talk show host Mike Papantonio criticizing the movement and confronting Pentecostal children’s pastor Becky Fischer on-air that serve as book-ends. Also giving the film a time period frame are radio sound-bites of the stepping down of Sandra Day O’Connor and subsequent appointment of Samuel Alito.

The bulk of the film however follows a few kids (Levi, Rachael, and Victoria) on their pilgrimage to Devil’s Lake, North Dakota for Christ camp fun! Believing they are part of “the key generation” (as Levy stresses in one of his sermons) they learn to bash science, engage in a weird coffee cup breaking ritual, fondle tiny fetus dolls while swearing to end abortion and pray for (not to – as Becky claims) a card-board cut-out of George W. Bush. The soundtrack is a bit spooky and judgmental sounding at times (though Ewing and Grady say that’s exactly what they didn’t want it to be in the commentary) but there’s a strong and sincere attempt here to put a face on a culture that may be more statistically scary than anything else.

SUPERMAN II – THE RICHARD DONNER CUT (2006 – From footage filmed 1977-1980) The basic back-story – Donner was to make SUPERMAN : THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN 2 concurrently. He filmed material for both films then the producers (Alexander & son Ilya Salkind) replaced him with Richard Lester (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT) who took Donner’s material and interjected broad slapstick humor and a smattering of narrative contrivances that fanboys have griped about for years. Still though the released Lester-only credited movie was pretty solid, did good business and is a favorite of many. Some questions lingered though – like – why did Marlon Brando not return? Was it really just because of his wanting more money? How did Superman get his powers back? What’s the deal with the memory erasing kiss Superman gives to Lois Lane? Can he really do that? Yep, silly geeky questions – but hey I was 11 when I first saw the movie.

All those questions are answered and more in SUPERMAN 2 – THE RICHARD DONNER CUT though it really doesn’t work as a real movie on it’s own. It’s more like a glorified DVD bonus extra. The seams show like crazy – Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder screen tests fill in the gaps that look like 70’s TV soap opera and boy do they clash next to the big action sequences, CGI cleansing, with rampant inconsistencies riddled throughout. Still it’s an immensely watchable curio with the restored Brando footage taking the cake. The scene where Jor El (Brando) appears and places his hand on his son’s (Reeve) shoulder granting all and then passes on is one of the most powerful moments in the entire SUPERMAN canon. So glad I finally got to see it.

More later…

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