September 15, 2006, - 11:02 am
Weekend Box Office: Glorifying Juvenile Prison, Vicious Anti-Christian “Documentary,” Immature Adults, Etc.
By Debbie Schlussel
**** UPDATE: OOPS! I forgot one movie that I reviewed and which is being released nationwide today, “Conversations With Other Women.” See the review at the end of this entry, where it’s been added. ****
This weekend features a lot of new box office releases. Unfortunately, the only good one is an animated one for kids. Here’s the rundown:
* “Gridiron Gang“–My full review of this film is here. Starring Duane Johnson a/k/a “The Rock,” and heavily marketed to Black America, this well-executed film glorifies juvenile murderers and other violent felons because they get the undeserved opportunity to play football. It’s message to them “You are somebody” has echoes of Jesse Jackson. Again, read my extended review. Skip-worthy.
* “Jesus Camp“–I originally planned to skip seeing this “documentary,” but publicists from NBA billionaire Mark Cuban‘s Magnolia Films e-mailed me and asked if I’d review it. I was initially going to skip it because I figured the film–about fundamentalist Christian youth missionaries in America–would be an anti-Christian film portraying Christian kids with values as weirdoes and freaks. I thought it would be portrayed from the point of view of a liberal nightmare with the fallacious view of how Christians are destroying America.
And this film did not disappoint that expectation. The movie is also a not-so-veiled attack on President Bush, through the characters in the film. They openly voice and show their support for him throughout, we see his photo on the wall of some of the participants, view a cardboard cut-out of him at the Christian camp, and even hear audio clips from Bush speeches.
I’m not sure why Becky Fischer, the Evangelical Christian minister who trains young kids to be evangelists, agreed to be filmed for this. They portray her and the children in the worst light possible–all set to very eerie, scary music for maximum fearful effect. Although I am not a Christian, I have tremendous respect for religious Christians, and it pained me to watch this liberal propaganda silver screen screed defaming them.
First, it must be noted that the gruop represented in this film–at the evangelical camp–are just a small sliver of Christianity in America, and even of Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity in America. Also of note, the “protagonist” of this film is the local liberal Air America radio host, Mike Papantonio, who attacks fundamentalist Christians and Bush. A point of light: Air America is basically out of business now, but America’s Christians–a bulwark against extremist Muslims–remain numerous and strong.
Yet, even though this “documentary” tried its damnedest to defame Christian evangelicals, it couldn’t do as much damage as hoped. The kids in the movie are smart and strong-willed. They don’t succumb to peer pressure of those who mock them. They’re cute and sage well beyond their years. If all kids in America’s public schools shared their values and maturity, kids might actually learn something and get along.
But they’re not taught in public schools. They’re home-schooled and taught to question liberal theology, such as global warming. (That’s mocked by this movie, too.) Their parents–whom the film also tried to tear to shreds–still shine through as loving, devoted parents concerned about the values and ideologies with which their children will grow up. They’re true patriots and instill that in their kids, though that’s not the way this movie tries to portray them.
Perhaps Fischer regrets her comparison of teaching her kids to evangelize with Muslims who train their kids to murder via jihad. But we’d love to see these filmmakers–and especially billionaire producer Mark Cuban of Magnolia Films–bankroll a documentary that’s far more important: Jihad Camp, and what young Muslims–in America, e Palestinian refugee camps, Hezbollah terror training camps for kids, and madrassahs all over the world–are taught.
But they’re far more slick and cunning, unlike Fischer and the fundamentalist Christians . . . and dishonest. They’ll never give those funded by Cuban and his various movie companies in the indie distribution chain the full, unfettered access to what they’re really saying and doing with their youths.
So, instead, the villain of the day is America’s Christian evangelical youth. Sorry, but they’re not the ones who inspire the flying of planes into buildings. Or anything close to it.
* “The Black Dahlia“–If you re-read my review from last week’s “Hollywoodland,” you can apply it to this movie, only this one’s a lot more dreadful (though I didn’t fall asleep during this one). It’s high on ’40s and ’50s style–fashion, make-up, cars, and sets. But low on plot, story, and everything else. It starts out well enough, but drags on. A few women’s breasts and a silly lesbian porn angle are thrown in because that’s all that can hold the audience’s attention in this bore. There’s no mystery in this “mystery.”
This long, disjointed movie–about two L.A. police officers’ investigation of the famed, brutal “Black Dahlia” murder of the late ’40s–may be labeled a “thriller,” but there’s nothing thrilling about it. It’s bizarre, non-sensical, complicated, and doesn’t really focus on the murder or its investigation. It’s more about the tawdry lives of the two cops–played by the Josh Hartnett and the talented Aaron Eckhart–who investigate the murder and their bed partners.
Just as in “Hollywoodland,” there’s no reason we should care about the woman murdered–your average star-wannabe who turns to porn to survive–or the people investigating her. They are unlikable and uninteresting. Ditto for “starlet” Hillary Swank, whose accent sounds blatantly fake. Scarlett Johansson co-stars and looks pretty, but it’s unclear why she’s there.
* “The Last Kiss“–Think the screaming, yelling and bickering of the couple in “The Break-Up,” minus the funny jokes. If you need more bickering and fighting than you already have in real life, this movie is for you. The frustratingly awful film is about couples just approaching their ’30s, featuring immature males who want to leave their female significant others.
The main couple–played by Zach Braff and Jacinda Barrett (who once was a self-centered, mean model on the MTV reality show, “The Real World: London”)–are unmarried and living together. When the Jenna discovers she is pregnant, Michael gets spooked and decides he is not ready to settle down with one woman. So he cheats on her with the beautiful Rachel Bilson. Another couple is married, but the father also wants to get away from his life of a crying baby and a yelling, unhappy wife.
Why should we enjoy this movie, which celebrates–besides yelling and screaming couples–immaturity, cheating, and leaving responsibilities of families for freedom and adventure? We shouldn’t. Movie posters for this film feature the tagline: “We all make choices. What’s yours?” This movie’s choice is to promote bad choices.
Enjoyed seeing the scenery of Madison, Wisconsin’s University of Wisconsin (where I got my law and MBA degrees), though. It’s unfortunate that it was wasted on this awful film.
* “Everyone’s Hero“–The most enjoyable film this week. It’s animated and great for adults who want to enjoy the kids film they’re taking their young family to see. It’s the charming story of a young boy’s thousand-mile journey to return Babe Ruth’s bat and help “the Babe” and the New York Yankees win the deciding game of the 1932 World Series.
* “Conversations with Other Women“–Yet another release, this weekend, starring the talented Aaron Eckhart–and Helena Bonham Carter, too. A man and a woman in their late ’30s meet at a wedding and begin flirting with each other. But did they just meet? Their conversation suggests they know each other from long before and have a history. What happens when you reunite with your one true love, but you can’t go back in time?
This movie is interesting and has its charm. But the dual/split screen technique gets old quickly and is distracting. Still, I found it entertaining, even though the ending isn’t satisfying and the message isn’t one with which I agree. Did not think a movie with basically only two characters having a prolonged conversation could hold my attention the way this one did.
Tags: Aaron Eckhart, Air America, America, Becky Fischer, billionaire producer, Black Dahlia, Bush, Christian camp, Conversations With Other Women, Debbie Schlussel, Documentary, Duane Johnson, etc, Everyone's Hero, football, Glorifying Juvenile Prison, Gridiron Gang, Helena Bonham Carter, Hezbollah camp, Hillary Swank, Hizballah, Hollywoodland, Immature Adults, Jacinda Barrett, Jesse Jackson, Jesus Camp, Jihad Camp, L.A., L.A. police, London, Magnolia Films, Mark Cuban 's Magnolia Films, Mike Papantonio, Minister, MTV, National Basketball Association, NBA, New York Yankees, President, Rachel Bilson, The Black Dahlia, The Last Kiss, The Real World, The Rock, University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Zach Braff