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Rating History

Munich (2005)
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[/font][/color][color=black][font=Book Antiqua][size=3]Steven Spielberg operates from one side of his brain at a time. The left side is affectionately known as The Entertainer. The Entertainer is responsible for glorious escapist fare like [i]E.T., Hook, Jurassic Park,[/i] and[i] Jaws.[/i] The right side of Spielberg?s mind is known as The Artist. The Artist has enriched the world with poignant, challenging films such as [i]Schindler?s List, Amistad, [/i]and[i] Saving Private Ryan.[/i] While I remain grateful that The Entertainer gave us [i]War of the Worlds[/i] last summer, I am far more enthusiastic about what The Artist created a few months later. Yet, [i]Munich[/i] is so much more than a work of art; it?s an important film, an essential film, a masterpiece overflowing with questions each American should be asking himself in our war-prone times. And if Oscar voters can stop dreaming about cowboys for two more months, [i]Munich[/i]will rightfully be recognized as the best picture of the year.[/size][/font][/color][color=black][font=Tahoma]

[/font][/color][size=3][i][color=black][font=Book Antiqua]Munich[/font][/color][/i][i][color=black][/color][/i][color=black][font=Book Antiqua]is based on the true story of 11 Israeli athletes who were massacred at the 1972 Olympic Games. However, the movie is not as much concerned with the event itself as it is with what happened next. The crux of the narrative concerns a group of five Mossad agents, led by a kind-hearted Jew named Avner (an Oscar-worthy performance from Eric Bana), who were secretly commissioned by the Israeli government to hunt down and assassinate each individual who played a key role in planning and implementing the Munich murders.[/font][/color][/size][color=black][font=Tahoma]

[/font][/color][color=black][font=Book Antiqua][size=3]What differentiates [i]Munich[/i]from other popular films with a similar narrative of vengeance, such as 2004?s [i]Man on Fire[/i] and 1999?s [i]The Boondock Saints,[/i] is a close examination of the moral dilemma inherent in the assassin?s deeds. In [i]Man on Fire[/i] the director invites us to giggle with delight as Denzel Washington breaks the fingers of potential kidnappers because, ?Well, they had it comin?!? In [i]The Boondock Saints,[/i] the audience is supposed to cheer along as two brothers mow down hardened criminals with bullets ?in the name of God.? [i]Munich[/i]rightfully approaches the subject of revenge more delicately. While the first hour and a half is devoted to Avner and his crew dishing out vengeance in the name of righteousness, the last hour powerfully demonstrates the devastating repercussions of murder on each team member?s mind and soul. This is most vividly portrayed in the main character of Avner who digresses from hopeful, boyish, optimism into a lost, paranoid, vacuum of a man ? hopelessly confused about what he has done and why he has done it. Ultimately, Avner and his crew thought they would be killing monsters. To their surprise, they encountered humans.[/size][/font][/color][color=black][font=Tahoma]

[/font][/color][color=black][font=Book Antiqua][size=3]The element of [i]Munich[/i] that transports the film beyond masterful art and into the realm of importance can be found in the last shot of the film: the Twin Towers. In this profound, yet subtle, moment [i]Munich[/i]hits close to home. Is answering violence with violence truly the path to peace? Is our violence against other nations accepted by God simply because we?re America? Will foreign bloodshed in response to domestic bloodshed lead to anything but more bloodshed? These are the types of questions that ?Munich?stimulated in my mind days and weeks after seeing it. Christians, of all people, should be the ones asking these questions - even if the answers still elude us. In a recent telephone interview with Roger Ebert, Spielberg made the following statement: ?People feel my voice is represented in Avner. Butthe movie says I don't have an answer. I don't know anyone else who does. But I do know that the dialogue needs to be louder than the weapons." The Artist has spoken.[/size][/font][/color][color=black][font=Tahoma]

[/font][/color][size=3][b][u][color=black][font=Book Antiqua]In Short:[/font][/color][/u][/b][color=black][font=Book Antiqua] [i]Munich [/i]joins Steven Spielberg?s fellow masterpieces [i]Schindler?s List [/i]and [i]Saving Private Ryan[/i] in proving that not only is he the greatest director that ever lived, but the most important one as well.[/font][/color][/size][color=black][font=Tahoma]

[/font][/color][size=3][b][u][color=black][font=Book Antiqua]Grade:[/font][/color][/u][/b][color=black][font=Book Antiqua] A[/font][/color][/size][color=black][font=Tahoma]

[/font][/color][size=3][b][u][color=black][font=Book Antiqua]Rating Reasons: [/font][/color][/u][/b][i][color=black][font=Book Antiqua]Munich[/font][/color][/i][color=black][font=Book Antiqua] has been rated R for ?strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity, and language.?[/font][/color][/size]

Thank You for Smoking
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[size=3][font=Book Antiqua]
[font=Book Antiqua]In the opening scene of [i]Thank You for Smoking[/i], a spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies sits next to a cancer patient on a talk show and receives unanimous boos from the audience. Within minutes, the tobacco representative has convinced the studio audience that not only would it would be in the best interest of tobacco companies to keep the cancer victim alive and smoking, but that the only person who truly benefits from the terminally ill are anti-tobacco representatives like the panel member to the boy?s left. The audience cheers with new understanding and our protagonist Nick Naylor smiles into the camera with an empathic grin.[/font]

[font=Book Antiqua]The fact that director Jason Reitman elicits laughs from the above scenario rather than outrage is a credit to his comedic sensibilities. You see, [i]Smoking[/i] is a satire, not a message movie. Reitman?s aim is not to offer new reasons why smoking is bad for us. We already know that. Instead, [i]Smoking [/i]pokes fun at smooth talkers like Naylor who spin the truth with such finesse that his audience forgets what they were angry about in the first place. With deft direction and a humane performance from Naylor?s Aaron Eckhart, Reitman turns [i]Smoking[/i]?s potentially offensive subject matter into an intelligent comedy that makes us laugh at corporate truth benders and also ourselves.[/font]

[font=Book Antiqua]The crux of [i]Smoking[/i]?s success stems from the nuanced performance given by Eckhart as the tobacco company?s spin doctor who begins to question his occupation after viewing it through the eyes of his son. Eckhart generates sympathy for a despicable character by making Naylor endearingly likeable and suave. Nolan does not lie and manipulate the truth because of a perverse longing to inflict suffering on the innocent. He spins the facts because he is good at it. Nolan also readily recognizes the moral dilemma of his position. Though he reasons away his nagging conscience each time it arises, the fact that he thinks about the ethical ramifications of his actions makes him human nonetheless. Through a commanding screen presence and subtle non-verbal emotion, Eckhart?s performance is both fascinating and hilarious. [/font]

[font=Book Antiqua]Joining Eckhart is a remarkable supporting cast. William H. Macy garners laughs as a hypocritical politician who wishes to install an ostentatious picture of a ?skull and crossbones? onto cigarette packages. Rob Lowe is pitch-perfect as a clueless Hollywood executive. And Maria Bello and David Koechner, representatives of the alcohol and firearm industry in a group known as the M.O.D. Squad (Merchants of Death), steal every scene they are in. [/font]

[font=Book Antiqua]The other component to [i]Smoking[/i]?s charm is writer/director Jason Reitman. A high percentage of the film?s laughs come from Reitman?s masterful use of visual gags, song choices, and comic timing. As with all great comedic directors, Reitman knows when to sustain a shot and when to cut away for maximum comic effect. However, Reitman?s most essential skill is his knack for smart screenwriting. [i]Smoking[/i]?s script is an unusually intelligent blend of satire and humor. Many of the jokes are so subtle that the audience I was with would often laugh three or four seconds after the lines were delivered.[/font]

[font=Book Antiqua]Yet, [i]Smoking[/i] is by no means a perfect film. The largest problem is the unconvincing redemption of Nolan. The end of the movie indicates that Nolan changed his way of thinking in regard to Big Tobacco, but the scenes leading up to this do not offer a clear explanation as to what precipitated his new mindset or the extent to which Nolan has changed. In addition, I had trouble believing the performance of Nolan?s son Joey. The delivery of his lines regularly seemed forced and inappropriate for a child his age. Finally, Reitman does not successfully maintain his kinetic momentum throughout the middle act of the film. The middle portion of the movie lacks the slick pacing and comedic edge that both precedes and follows.[/font]

[font=Book Antiqua]Despite its modest shortcomings, [i]Smoking [/i]remains an enjoyable experience. The film is a refreshing departure from most mainstream comedies in the level of sophistication it displays. Movies like these are definitive proof that film can still be funny without resorting to bathroom humor or cheap slapstick. A mere handful of comedies are released each year for the enjoyment of mature and literate audiences; [i]Smoking[/i] is one of them.[/font]

[b][u][font=Book Antiqua]Grade:[/font][/u][/b][font=Book Antiqua] B+[/font]

[b][u][font=Book Antiqua]Rating Reasons:[/font][/u][/b][i][font=Book Antiqua]Thank You for Smoking[/font][/i][font=Book Antiqua] has been rated R for ?language and some sexual content.? The film contains 21 F-words and a scene of discreet sexuality. [/font][/font][/size]

North Country
North Country (2005)
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]A particularly harrowing scene from the recent DVD release of [i]North Country[/i]depicts a female mine worker venturing into a Porta John to relieve herself. Immediately, some nearby male co-workers rock the Porta John, tipping it over and laughing with indifference as she stumbles out of the sewage. The topic of sexual harassment is rarely the center of modern day discussion. We live in an era of equality, where women need only to point to past court decisions if their rights are ever in question. [i]North Country[/i] reminds us of a far different time for women; a time when sexual harassment was something they endured in order to maintain their employment in male dominated vocations. [i]North Country[/i] is a powerful film with an extraordinary performance from Charlize Theron, and solid direction from director Niki Caro. Caro proves, along with her directorial debut, [i]Whale Rider,[/i] that she is a force to be reckoned with.[/size][/font]

[size=3][i][font=Book Antiqua]North Country[/font][/i][font=Book Antiqua] is inspired by the true story of Lois Jenson, the first woman to organize a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit against a corporation in 1984. Jenson?s landmark case not only transformed the work environment of the mine company she brought to court, but also paved the way for equal rights legislation in work places around the world.[/font][/size]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]Jenson (named Josie Aimes in the film) is played by actress Charlize Theron, who previously won an Oscar for her transformation into a vile serial killer in 2003?s [i]Monster. [/i]Theron was once again nominated for an Oscar this year for her work in [i]North Country[/i][i].[/i] Her performance is nothing short of mesmerizing. Theron perfectly embodies the fear and vulnerability of a woman standing up for what she knows is right, even in the face of rejection from family, friends, and co-workers. Theron does such a masterful job of drawing the audience into her character that the injustices done to her resonate as if they are happening to us as well. Theron?s performance is matched by Frances McDormand, an actress also nominated by the Academy for her work in [i]North Country[/i][i]. [/i]McDormand?s character is more thick-skinned than Josie, and earned the respect of her fellow miners by becoming a union representative. Theron and McDormands? combined performances prove that they are among the finest actresses working in film today. I was also impressed with Sean Bean and Woody Harrelson, who instead of enacting their typical roles as shady villains, successfully portrayed moral men. [/size][/font]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]The most harrowing scenes in [i]North Country[/i]take place in the mine where Josie works. There, the men take turns degrading their female co-workers with unsolicited sexual advances and lewd practical jokes. These scenes are sure to make the blood of any male who respects women boil with rage. I found myself wanting to jump into the movie screen and give each man a piece of my mind for callously abusing women in the name of male machismo. As time went on, however, I became equally furious at the female co-workers who vehemently condemn Josie for attempting to reform the mining company ? choosing to endure daily abuse rather than losing their jobs. Yet, to Caro?s credit, the film does not limit itself to Josie?s fight against the mine. Caro also takes the time to paint an intimate portrait of Josie?s relationship with her family. The most heartfelt sub-plot, occurring between Josie and her estranged father, stems from two inherent themes: his long-standing disapproval of her relational failures, and the threat to his manhood, resulting from Josie?s controversial employment at the mine.[/size][/font]

[size=3][i][font=Book Antiqua]North Country[/font][/i][font=Book Antiqua] is not entirely devoid of flaws. The transformation of some of the characters happen quicker than plausibility would suggest. Moreover, the ending of the film feels overly neat and tidy, considering the events that precede it. However, the beauty of [i]North Country[/i]is that its blemishes are only apparent in retrospect. Caro?s success in igniting outrage from the viewer overrides any skepticism, and elicits cheers of triumph at the resulting justice. [/font][/size]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]As with all other films depicting discrimination, [i]North Country[/i] is a devastating testament to the darkest of man?s capabilities. To torment women on the basis of their gender and vocational preference is a slap in the face of my Creator. I am thankful that God has blessed women with skills and abilities that are equal to, and sometimes greater than, any man. We must applaud a woman like Lois Jenson who, in the face of public ridicule and scorn, was brave enough to say ?We deserve better.?[/size][/font]

[size=3][b][u][font=Book Antiqua]Grade:[/font][/u][/b][font=Book Antiqua] A-[/font][/size]

[size=3][b][u][font=Book Antiqua]Rating Reasons:[/font][/u][/b][i][font=Book Antiqua]North Country[/font][/i][font=Book Antiqua] has been rated R for ?sequences involving sexual harassment including violence and dialogue, and for language.? [/font][/size]

Firewall (2006)
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]Indiana Jones is dead. His fedora has sunk into the depths of the desert never to be seen again. If Steven Spielberg attempts to resuscitate the popular franchise with a fourth installment, an imposter will appear on movie screens donning the familiar garb. But, don?t feel be fooled. Enjoy the whip-cracking hero on DVD and shun the 63 year old man who still thinks he?s an action hero. Harrison Ford?s latest monstrosity ?Firewall? isn?t just one of the worst movies ever made it is a nail in the coffin of a legendary career. [/size][/font]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]Harrison Ford no longer speaks, he growls - like a dog that needs to be put down. When he?s happy, his growl comes with a lop-sided smile. When he?s angry, his growl accompanies a bark. Unfortunately, growling does not endear an audience to a character. Han Solo and Indiana Jones did not obtain their iconic status by mumbling like a canine. In fact, nothing is likeable at all about the main character we meet and follow in ?Firewall.? Ford?s Jack Stanfield, a bank security specialist who is soon forced to hack into his own impenetrable system, is a non-emotive bore. Yet, the monotone performance is not entirely Ford?s fault. Growling aside, Ford isn?t given any meat to chew on. The primary concern for the first thirty minutes of any movie should be to show its audience why the central character is worthy of their attention and care. In [i]Firewall[/i], a kiss on the cheek to his wife and children and a few exchanges with his employees is all the character development we?re offered before Jack is plunged into danger at the ten minute mark. If we don?t care about Jack as a person, why should we give two barks about what he goes through?[/size][/font]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]The actors surrounding Ford fare even worse than he does. The talents of Virginia Madsen, fresh off an Oscar nomination for her work in ?Sideways,? are completely wasted as Jack?s wife Beth. Madsen gives it her all but, like Ford, her character is a skeleton to service the story rather than a flesh and blood creation. The rest of the cast ranges from bad to cringe-worthy. I loathed the child actor who played Ford?s son from the first overwrought line he delivered. I also developed an immediate antipathy for Ford?s secretary who, despite having zero screen presence, somehow manages to appear in half the scenes. The only temporary saving grace is Paul Bettany as the devious mastermind Bill Cox. His character injects some life into the film for the first hour, with a classy mixture of suave and evil, and then without warning disintegrates into a paranoid, whiny, wreck thus rendering him both dull and no longer frightening. [/size][/font]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]By the time [i]Firewall[/i] reaches the three quarters mark, the movie unravels completely. What was once merely awful becomes outright horrific. When Ford?s secretary needs to get a cell phone from someone, she seeks the man out in the middle of a church worship service for which he is playing guitar with the chorus ?Jesus, Jesus? plastered on the screen behind him. In our post-?Passion? era Christians are now apparently supposed to giggle with delight at any reference to their Savior no matter the cost to the tone or story. Furthermore, when Ford desperately needs to locate his missing family, he suddenly remembers that lo and behold their dog who is with them has a GPS locater installed in his collar; three clicks on the internet (from his car) later and a bright red beacon appears on his laptop showing their exact location. Whew! Finally, after Ford has graced us with his obligatory fistfight with the villain, we are treated to one of the single most emotionally false, and groan-inducing, slow-mo shots to ever close a film. [/size][/font]

[font=Book Antiqua][size=3]Indiana Jones is dead. I hope with all of my heart that Spielberg saw [i]Firewall [/i]on opening weekend and promptly told Ford the news. [/size][/font]

[size=3][b][u][font=Book Antiqua]In Short[/font][/u][/b][font=Book Antiqua]: A disaster from start to finish that will no doubt sweep the Razzies and put a decisive end to Harrison Ford?s claim that he still has what it takes to play an action hero. [/font][/size]

[size=3][b][u][font=Book Antiqua]Grade:[/font][/u][/b][font=Book Antiqua] F[/font][/size]

[size=3][b][u][font=Book Antiqua]Rating Reasons[/font][/u][/b][font=Book Antiqua]: [i]Firewall[/i] has been rated PG-13 for ?some intense sequences of violence.? Please visit before seeing this film.[/font][/size]