Saturday, July 28, 2007


In the last six years, the movie musical has fluctuated from the resurgence to past glory (Moulin Rouge!, Chicago) to overload (Rent, The Phantom of the Opera) to make-it-stop already (The Producers) to okay, maybe one more (Dreamgirls.) Director Adam Shankman's transfer of John Waters's beloved Hairspray is happily, and to my suprise, a step in the right direction. In adapting Waters's 1988 film turned Broadway musical turned movie musical, Shankman uses the right approach-- make it fun and don't try too hard to do too much, and in turn it's a delightful, blissfully non-ironic blast from the past. In the role that made Ricki Lake a star in the 80s and gave Marissa Jaret Winokur a Tony Award, newcomer Nikki Blonsky plays Tracy Turnblad, fond of "The Corny Collins Show," dancing and integration. Tracy has always been the heart of Hairspray, and Blonsky gives her the right note of chipperness and charm. The proud and chubby daughter of Wilbur and Edna Turnblad (Christopher Walken and John Travolta), Tracy was always the purest of Waters's characters in his tamest sideshow. Travolta, in the role immortalized by Divine, Waters's muse, was always the oddest choice on paper here, but despite some of the problems (mostly a strange and ill-fitting accent) that never lift the performance from the sidelines, Travolta underlines his\her Edna with sweetness and it's great to see him dance once again. The story is pretty simple-- Tracy longs to dance on "The Corny Collins Show." and snog with local star Link Larkin (Zac Effron); along the way she finds substance in breaking the barriers of segregation, while showing off villainy station manage Velma von Tussle (a wonderfully fiendish Michelle Pfieffer), and her bratty daughter, Amber (Brittany Snow.) What makes Hairspray special is it's sense of fun and play, while simultaneously debunking the low expectations one might have about a musical adaptation from an artistically challenged director (Shankman previously directed Bringing Down the House and The Pacificer after all.) The performances are period spot-on and overall terrific as well. As Corny Collins, James Marsden nails the period's put on a happy face, Dick Clark role, and proves himself a terrific singer as well. Queen Latifah is splendid as Motormouth Maybelle, and her rendition of "Bring on that Pecan Pie," is as funny as it is soulful. Christopher Walken proves a charming song-and-dance man in a role, really only he could play. Youngins Amanda Bynes, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelly and Effron are good as well. So brava to Mr. Shankman for concocting the happiest movie of the summer, and proving me wrong. GRADE: B+

Monday, July 23, 2007

For Your Consideration

This is a plea to the trusted actors, producers, writer, directors, and other film craftsmen to not forget the wonderful performance given by Molly Shannon in Mike White's Year of the Dog come years end. Shannon plays Peggy, a lonely secretary and dog lover, when her beloved pooch Pencil dies, Peggy goes on a weird, metaphysical odyssey that's tragic and comic and strange. It's a credit to White's insightful screenplay, but mostly Shannon's outstanding, and un-showy performance. She never relies on histrionics or actorly tricks, there's no grandstanding her, which is why I fear that her turn her get lost in the crowd when this year comes to a close. Shannon nails the characters quiet aloofness whether she's debating the sexuality of fellow dog lover Peter Sarsgaard, quietly despising sister-in-law Laura Dern for her anti-animal awareness, or treading in pain while being romanced by a creepy John C. Rielly. The most joyous scene in the movie shows Peggy on her bed with a houseful of dogs running around destroying her place-- here Shannon exposes the passion and redemptive quality of giving a life purpose. BEST ACTRESS- Molly Shannon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

Let me preface by stating I have read not one word of J.K. Rowling's six (about to be seven) book opus and with the exception of Alfonso Cuaron's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, haven't been all that impressed with films spawned. However watching Peter Yates' (a veteran of BBC television movies, most notably The Girl in the Cafe) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, for the first time I actually want to pick up the damn book. This a darker, more brooding film. Harry is more brittle and rattled and the change makes for the best Potter film to date. The sense of whimsy is little, but the magic is there.
The fifth film picks up where the clumsily put together Goblet of Fire ended; Lord Voldemort has returned, Cedric Diggory is dead, and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, nailing the angst and vulnerability beautifully, possibly learning a thing or too from the seasoned actors that take part in this films) is downtrodden and haunted. Order of the Phoenix works better than the other films because it's less about plot and more about Harry's emotional state-- it's not brimming with climaxes every five minutes, and stops to breathe every couple of minutes. It's the most nimble of the series so far, and with the shortest running time.
Things get grimmer for Harry and gang as the next year at Hogwarts commences. A new Defense of the Arts teacher is on board, Dolores Jane Umbridge (played with delight and rage by Imelda Staunton.) She's a member of Ministry of Magic sent to Hogwarts to cleanse the school of it's values, and the possibly dangerous intentions of headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), one of the few personages who believes Harry that the Dark Lord is indeed back. Another new edition to the story is Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, and without giving anything away, she's crazy and wonderful, and without reading the original text, I may not be shrewd in stating, but perfectly cast. The whole story of the Ministry and Ms. Umbridge adds a smidgen of political commentary to this segment (an ineffectual governement, unburdened by evidence, and with a knack for fear mongering, come on.) So not only does Harry have to defeat Ms. Umbridge, and Voldemort, but also his own psyche, which makes for the darkest, deepest, and most cinematic Potter film to date.
Yates, a Potter neophyte, along with newcomer screenwriter Michael Goldenberg have concocted the most imaginative and splendid of the five films, this is only one that has a sense of real magic and real doom, it's the best realized of the films to date, not so focused on slavish adaptive rendering for the fear of upset fans. The acting is a lot better too-- Radcliffe seems sharper and more focused, even as Harry is more withdrawn and complex and Staunton gives an award worthy performance for her Miss Brodie Jean role on crack. So kudos are in order here-- it's really the first Potter film that made me give a damn. A-

Saturday, July 14, 2007

There's Something Unsettling about That!

In my previous entry, I essayed the allegorical context of films past. Now it's time for the present. Movies are such a powerful medium, many of noted that when watching them, we have similar brain activity as when we're dreaming. Even the worst of mush can lull us. Classics like On the Waterfront and High Noon, great, must-be-seen movies lull us into a false sense of security-- giving a great story (with two contrary opinions) and are actually about something completely different. We can state that now since that period is long and gone, even though it still burns to those involved and still alive. But what about today, in a post 9/11 world, the Bush world, the "war on terror" world. Again films are springing forth that while not exactly addressing today modern woes, they allude to them just as before, even those that might surprise.
I started thinking about those a long time ago, different trends that seem to popular in modern filmmaking, and am slightly jarred, if not exactly surprised. It's interesting, I think, that the last five or six years have seen a rebirth in based-on-comic-book movies and a revisionist take on horror movies. Sure lots of these movies were greenlit, possibly even made before 9/11, but there seems to an up tick in the sort of politically commentary, even if very subtle. It's hard to think about this when watching movies like Spider-man, The Hulk, Superman Returns, Batman Begins, etc., but it makes sense, in our post 9/11 world, that they would be popular. In a time when fear seems to be president's alley, maybe it feels like we need a superhero to set things right, to make peace with the world. Things are so bad us ordinary schleps can't do it at all. My mind directly thinks of that moment in Spielberg's War of the Worlds, when mayhem starts, and little Dakota Fanning exclaims, "is it the terrorists."
When it comes to horror films, it seems the general consensus is that one can never cross the like of too-bloody, too-gory, too-whatever else. In movies like Hostel, Saw, The Hills Have Eyes, etc., countless destruction is shown in all it's non-glory. It's torture porn, but it could also be an artistic expression of the palpable rage of authority in this country. This is an outlet for my anger and confusion at the world, the present state of this country, the lack of direction, the madness of living in a post 9/11 world. Another trend I've noticed (forgive me for my haphazard way of writing) is that between 2003-2005, there seemed to be a lot of vigilante-type films arriving. I'm thinking of the Kill Bill serious, Man on Fire, The Punisher, I'm sure there's some I'm forgetting. It seems another outlet for underlying anger felt by this country.
One of the best examples of a modern allegory is, in my opinion, Lar von Trier's Dogville. It's about a young woman, Grace (Nicole Kidman), whose running away from the mobster bad thugs guys and stumbles upon a quaint Rocky Mountain village. After much debate, the members of Dogville (the name of the town) agree to help hide her out in exchange that she works for them. Grace happily agrees and for a while everything is heavenly. Then the township turns on her, becoming greedy and demanding too much, to extent that she becomes a slave. When her past catches up with her, she has the option of vengeance and takes it. It's ripe with political commentary, and a great movie. When Dogville opened a few years back, lots of criticism poured in that von Trier was anti-American, which may be true (he is supposedly a bit of loon, who's never actually been to American, due to a fear of flying), but that's besides the point. What's up on screen to me does not point fingers at American specifically, but the ugliness of human nature, exposing the fabric of greediness and selfishness we all possess. But what makes this film a juicy one to analyze is that basically it's a modern day version of The Crucible. The film, made in a bare-boned auteurish way, is a modern day allegory of events leading up to 9/11.
I want to conclude by stating I'm a bona fide patriot, but also it's important to know and understand the bad things America has done, past and present. It's important to argue, debate, and discuss these things. I believe the open discussion is what makes America so wonderful-- you read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, it's beautiful, empowering writing; it makes you want to high five all the four fathers and go out drinking with them and learn some more.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Cold War Goes to the Cinema

This was an essay I wrote in a film/history class I took years ago. I like the paper, so I'm publishing it here, and tinkering stuff. Forgive if not interested:

The 1950s were a difficult time for America. A fear loomed that was unlike anything before or after. The word "communist" could send chills down your spine; it was so palpable. In 1950, Joseph McCarthy, Republican senator from Wisconsin, would become "the accidental demagogue" (Halberstam 49) to the phenomenon that was already in full swing when he alleged there were communists in the state department. The threat had been around since 1918, when the first red scare occurred in the United States, however it was in the wake of the Great Depression that communism started to really become appealing to the American lower classes, as the thinking was that capitalism just doesn't work, or at least doesn't work anymore. As WWII came to an end, the threat and paranoia grew, through Harry Truman's Executive Order No. 9835 (issued so Democrats wouldn't be considered soft on communism, which Republicans alleged), which probed federal employees for communistic leanings, through the madness of McCarthyism, and the establishment of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
The HUAC was created to monitor the film industry, to investigate any subversive material that might be in movies or television. This was a huge blow to the film industry and film in general, as the HUAC, was "inclined to believe any accusation from anyone" (Halberstam 12). If someone was accused of communist leanings, or refuse to rat out on others, they would be blacklisted, barred from working, it was the ultimate survival game. However, movies are possibly the most powerful medium we have, and a great many movies (from the 1950s and beyond) responded to witch-hunt. A great many are told in allegories, but the heartache and sure madness of the period is captured on film as a sort of historical document.
One such film is the masterpiece, High Noon. Made in 1952, High Noon was directed by Fred Zinnemann, native of Vienna, and written by Carl Foreman, who coincidentally was a blacklisted screenwriter. Although the film is literally based on a short story, entitled "The Tin Star," the film is really an allegory detailing the blacklist experience, using the western genre as its veil. The film centers around Will Caine (Gary Cooper, who won an Oscar for his performance), a recently retired marshal of the small town of Hadleyville. Immediately after his wedding with Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), news comes in that Frank Miller, the wild, crazy murderer Caine sent to be hung is on the noon train to "make trouble." Caine refuses to leave and round up deputies to aid him in fighting off Miller, but like Carl Foreman, and all blacklisted people in show business, Caine is deserted by his old friends, themselves ruled by fear that by association they would be done for.
There's one scene in High Noon that is particularly haunting after learning its roots and subsequent agenda. The scene takes place in a church (of all places)-- Caine comes barging in on Sunday mass to round up deputies and panic ensues, argument wage over whose responsibility this really is. Then a townsman makes a speech about how Caine as marshal cleaned up Hadleyville to the point where it was safe for families and more importantly, businesses. The speech continues by stating the if the rumble between Caine and Miller takes place, all that progress will by shattered; unless Caine leaves town. In essence, Caine, or the communist, is a threat to capitalism.
In 1954, a film with an even more bracing view on the Red Scare opened. On the Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg, two people gave names the HUAC, made the argument that sometimes it's in your best interest to snitch. On the Waterfront is such an unusual movie it was a defense, not a protest of the actions going on in Hollywood. The film centers around Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando, who won an Oscar for his performance), and his conflict of conscience with the corrupt mobsters, led by Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), who controlled the waterfront. In the film Terry stands for Elia Kazan, the conflicted, but good, all-American guy. Johnny Friendly, and his evil murdering cronies are the none-too-subtle stand in for communism, and the waterfront crime commission, where Terry turns Johnny in, is the movie's House of Un-American Activities Committee.
There's an interesting dichotomy in High Noon and On the Waterfront, and it has do with religion, and it's take on communism. When Will Caine barges into the church, the minister conducting the mass doesn't have anything to say, as if the situation itself (being communism) is so massive, there isn't even salvation in God at this point. Whereas in On the Waterfront, Father Barry (Karl Malden) practically leads the fight against Johnny Friendly, and is one of the only influences that truly gets to Terry. In essences ratting out communism (I mean Friendly), Terry is doing God's work, the right thing, which is reinforced by Kazan's abundant religious metaphors scattered throughout the movie. The bleeding, broken Jesus-like way Brando is held by Eva Marie Saint in the final scene is no accident.
In 1953, Arthur Miller (a former friend and frequent collaborator of Elia Kazans) wrote the play, The Crucible. Set in the 17th century Puritan town of Selma, Massachusetts, The Crucible is perhaps the most famous allegory ever written on the subject of McCarthyism. The play was in a way a response to Kazan's actions with the HUAC. The amazing 1996 film version, surprisingly the only major motion picture of the masterwork, directed by Nicolas Hynter and penned by Miller himself recounts the tale of the Salem witch trials.
In the film, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) is a young woman who tries to cast a spell that would kill Elizabeth Proctor (Joan Allen), the wife of the man, John (Daniel Day-Lewis) she has fallen in love with. Interestingly, the first scene of the film shows Abigail's face covered in blood-- showcasing her "red"ness. Abigail and her friends are caught dancing in the forest and assumed to be doing the "Devil's work." Immediately Abigail speaks of people, "blacking her name," and in an attempt to save herself from death, she rats others out (she rats out people she has grudges with, like Kazan did at the HUAC): they're the culprits of her and her friends "Devil work." Immediately, the entire town of Salem is struck with fear and paranoia. After informing on several people, eventually Abigail alleges Elizabeth is a with.
The metaphors are fairly obvious in The Crucible (using the real Salem witch hunt as a stand in for McCarthyism), and the play, and subsequent movie can be interestingly compared to On the Waterfront (even though the film came out a year after the play opened.) Abigail could almost be a stand-in for Terry Malloy (an in essence Kazan himself, an interesting take given the famous feud Kazan and Miller had after Kazan named 11 names to the HUAC), and she is most certainly the film's villian. Abigail fully cooperates and names several people, and doesn't have any struggles of conscience with it as long as it clears her name.
In fact, Abigail could be a stand-in for all the filmmakers who cooperated with the HUAC, and their actions were certainly understandable. After all, if you didn't give names, you were blacklisted and couldn't work-- your career was dead. That Abigail and her friends are made out in the material to look like silly little schoolgirls clearly shows Miller's disdain for them. In the end John Proctor is given the option of either being killed or confessing to witchcraft, he chooses death, as his good name is too important to him.
Working as an antithesis to On the Waterfront was The Front (1976). The Front was directed by Martin Ritt and directed by Walter Bernstein, who were, you guessed it, blacklisted in the 1950s. The Front is an interesting film because it's one of the few feature films that tackled the subject of communism and the blacklist without the use of a carefully plotted allegory. It's also interesting because it serves as both an honest film about 1950s McCarthyism, while simultaneously being a testament to the 1970s; the cynicism on American politics is a brazenly, post-Vietnam, '70s fixture, not '50s. The Front is about Harold Prince (Woody Allen), a schlep wasting away as a cashier until he's hired as a "front" by screenwriter friends of his who were blacklisted. As he becomes successful, Harold meets comic actor Heckie Brown (Zero Mostel), a communist. As Harold, the moral opposition to Waterfront's Terry, witnesses Heckie's downfall from the HUAC, he must make a decision when he is called by the committee. In the end, he can't bring himself to snitch. the film honestly depicts the struggle and the hopelessness of those canonized by the HUAC.
Another film that works as a companion piece to The Front was 1991's Guilty by Suspicion. Written and directed by Irwin Winkler, Guilty by Suspicion revolves an esteemed Hollywood director named David Merrill (Robert De Niro), who must pass muster with the HUAC before he can begin work on his next film. After refusing to rat his friends out, including his writer chum Bunny Baxter (George Wendt), Merrill is blacklisted. The bulk of the film revolves around this experience and the desperation and rejection of the period.
There's a noteworthy scene in Guilty by Suspicion in Merrill finally gets work directing a crummy, low budget western. The villain's name is Frank Miller, the same as in High Noon, and there's a shot of a man throwing his tin star on the ground. It's a throwaway reference to another film about the blacklist experience (though that one couldn't be told directly.) This scene shows the interconnectedness of all these films and the universal destruction of the era on the film industry, where no one was safe.
The themes of all of these films and McCarthyism is very resonant today in the age of war on terror and George W. Bush. Many have noted of the similarity in time periods-- being afraid of the unknown. Instead of communists, we've moved on to terrorists, and the Patriot Act could be a prime example of a piece of legislation putting restrictions on people. Guantanamo Bay could by this generation's HUAC. Off the top of my head, I think of one film that could be used an allegory for present day American woes-- Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003)-- watch the ending ask yourself if that could be metaphor for 9/11. Thinking of of a modern day film that recounts the period exactly and excellently, George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck springs to mind. This one with Senator McCarthy playing himself. I remember reading an article about test screenings of Good Night, and Good Luck, and people complaining the actor playing McCarthy was too hammy and over the top, thought that was funny.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

All I Want to Do is Have Some Fun

Ode to a Saturday night in the mind of early twentysomething-- School is finished, now what? Working a dead end, slightly demeaning job for little pay and less personal integrity, with dwindling prospects of possibility in the future, but a feeling of lostness. Lost in a world of newfound responsibility-- bills and rent. Lost in a world of dreams, thinking no matter how much you think your capable of, rules, restriction and monetary funds stand in your way. Lost in a world of who knows what-- maybe I'm not smart enough, maybe not attractive enough, maybe not connected enough. Now what? Sitting in a ratty apartment with your best friends talking and laughing about nothing easing the pain and anxiety with cheap tonics and alcoholic beverages, thinking this is the time of our lives. Maybe it is, it is pretty sweet-- responsibility (but not too much), living on your own, but mooching off everyone else when the paycheck dies out, having fun and laughing at nothing and everything, thinking passionately, but not too deeply. This the American youth dream! Hopefully you stick it out and keep dreaming big; it's the time when your deepest desires are less attainable, but still optimistically fresh in your head. It's heaven and hell and beauty and horror. Yeah I still can wait a few years before I officially have to grow up, but I'm living independently, happily and sadly. All you need is a few close friends to get through the day. There's days both bad and good, adventures of sublime and the downright depressing, but it is the time of our lives, the thing of memories, things to be nostalgic about, but when will they end, and what will be the results of the finality?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Time Capsule Review

directed by Alfred Hitchcock
written by John Michael Hayes & Cornell Woolrich (short story)

Rear Window is perhaps one of the most technically accomplished films ever made, but so much of it is so subtle you would probably never even realize it, which is the beauty and wonderment of the fi
lm. The story is simple, but the movie sweeps you into it so gently and so quickly it's easy not the notice the little things that make Rear Window so triumphant and dazzling, which, of course, was the forte of Mr. Hitchcock's films in general. But, if you ever catch it again (on AMC or DVD, or Netflix to the uninitiated), look closely and watch one of the most perfect American movies of all time. It's not Hitchcock's deepest film (that honor goes to Vertigo), but it's his nimblest.
The en
tire film is set in one Manhattan apartment, that of L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), a renowned photographer, wheelchair bound after an assignment went awry. To calm the boredom and sweltering summer heat, he looks out his window into the courtyard of his neighbors. Over the course of his two-month sojourn from the real world, he watches them and observes them. There's the sad Miss Lonelyhearts, desperate and alone. There's the newlyweds, always seen in various states of undress and attached to each other's limbs. There's the songwriter, trying to write a new tune. There's the lovely Miss Torso, often seen with a slew of suitors. It's funny how none of this characters speak, and none of them really transcend their archetypes, but their still more developed than most leading characters in motion pictures. Of course, this being Hitchcock, we need suspense, and one of the neighbors fits the no good nick bill. That of Mr. Thorwald (Raymond Burr), whom Jeffries watches and watches with the suspicion he offed his invalid wife.
This being Hitchcock, there's also a romance. Jeffries long suffering, pining for a rock girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont (Gra
ce Kelly), a privileged blue blood who wants to settle down. As Jeffries becomes more obsessed with his neighbors he hooks Lisa in, as well as his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter-- the most reliable supporting player in the '50s.) Which is what makes Rear Window a sort of an homage to movies themselves. We go to the movies to watch other people and other people's behaviors, just as Jeffries watches his neighbors, making us all voyeurs in our own right.
What makes this movie special, and special in the Hitchcock canon is the grace, the beauty, the suspense, and the humor of the whole film. The witty dialouge and the wonderful acting and the amazing technician. Look at the courtyard-- all studio shots, and built and manufactured. Looking at the sets of current Hollywood films, it's hard to tell sometimes what was made and what was computer simulated, but looking at Rear Window you can see the beauty and majesty of a film built from the ground up.
Stewart's performance is a beaut too. It's not as layered or idiosyncratic as his Vertigo role, but he hits everything just right, with his everyman characterization whether starring out his window of complaining about Lisa's lack of adventure Kell
y is dynamite too, Hitchcock always had the perfect of way using her in the three pictures they made together. She's the epitome of the Hitchcock blonde-- beautiful, but slightly mysterious. From her opening closeup, your entranced by her.
I often thought who would fit the Hitchcock blonde type if he working today-- perhaps Nicole Kidman (who is great when guided by gifted, and slightly tweaked auteurs), or Uma Thurman (who regularly masks her intelligence by her beauty), or maybe Michelle Pfieffer (I don't know why, but I think her Catwoman take have impressed the master.)
The reason I anoint Rear Window one of my all time favorites is because whenever it's on-- television, DVD, or in the theater (the digitally re-mastered release a couple years back was heavenly)-- it entrances. I get lost in it and my love for fine filmmaking is rejuvenated, if only for a little while. It inspires and bewitches every time.

For a fine satirical rendering, revist "The Simpsons" episode where Bart breaks his leg and spies on Ned Flanders, thinking he killed his wife. The made-for-television remake with Christopher Reeve and Daryl Hannah is avoidable, as is the Gen-Y ripoff Disturbia.

Lust, Caution

Just found the poster to Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, starring Tony Leung-- a great actor-- watch In the Mood for Love and 2046 and say otherwise-- I dare you. I'm looking forward to this one because Lee has never disappointed me, with the exception of Ride With the Devil, but that one doesn't count in my opinion. This one is set in WWII- era Shanghai, and since Lee is such a great shape shifter of a director I'll be there. If he can nail a comedy of manners with gay undercurrents (The Wedding Banquet), repressed Austenian corsets (Sense & Sensibility), sexual dysfunction in 1970s suburbia (The Ice Storm), martial arts grandeur (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), comic book wannabe blockbuster (The Hulk-- a bit of a stretch but go with it), and gay cowboys (Brokeback Mountain), all with equal aplomb, I'll be there.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fourth of July Weekend


For anybody who hasn't heard Transformers opened Tuesday, and grossed $27 million opening day. Anybody else out there who think real filmmaking died the day daily grosses became news. Like lets not even comment on quality (haven't seen the film, I'll reserve myself until fully viewed), but it made a crap load of money. It's a winner.

Fortunately, some interesting stuff comes out as well, like Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale, which is currently getting good notices. Some small quibbles, courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes:

"A small miracle-- a smart popcorn movie,"

"A potentially commercial audience-pleaser that retains of the characteristic Herzog complexity and nuance, Rescue Dawn is an electrifying action adventure that clamps your nerves with jaws of steel"

So happy movie-going fourth-- don't let number dictate your life!
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