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As the ending credits rolled on Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” my son G.T. leaned in close, and whispered, “Well? How many?” It is the question he always asks, and I love that he still cares enough about my opinion, to ask it.

You see, I am a bleeding-heart pacifist, cohabitating with a miniature warmonger. There are nicer ways to express this, but none of them demonstrates the political and ideological divide that separates my 14-year-old son and me. For a while, I figured it was one of those phases he’d grow out of. I even gave in to his choice of Summer Youth Programs, and sent him to Camp Pendleton for 10 days, in hopes that a taste of Boot Camp might change his mind. It didn’t. More than ever and more than anything, he wants to be a soldier.

The whole thing might well have become unmanageable, except for the Saturday Afternoon Truce, instated more than a year ago, and resulting in the shared experience of according to my Netflix account history 62 war-related films. What history teachers left out or glossed over during my educational years, this teenaged historian is all too delighted to teach me. So much so that I have to hide the remote, so he can’t pause every few minutes with trivia. “Do you see that plane there? We only used those in the Pacific Theater.” “Wow, OK. Can you hit PLAY again?”

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Reel Gurl Reviews “V For Vendetta”

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There’s no easy way to say this, so please forgive me for being blunt. It has, however, become glaringly apparent that the Wachowski Brothers do not like you. Oh they might let you buy them dinner at some swanky restaurant, and will most probably smile and nod as you praise them endlessly for “The Matrix”, but when you excuse yourself to pay the check, just know that they’re rolling their eyes and making lame jokes at your expense. Please, don’t take it personally, because it’s not just you. In fact, judging from their adaptation of Alan Moore’s “V For Vendetta”, Andy and Larry Wachowski don’t think too highly of any of us.

I tell you this, not out of spite or some unfulfilled desire for an ugly scene, but because I want you to go armed into that swanky restaurant, fully prepared to call them on their dismissal of the audience as sappy, unsophisticated, and more comfortable with grandiose explosions and spurting blood than with difficult questions, complex characters and ambiguity. To that end, I shall outline for you their three most egregious sins. (I’d say “four sins”, except that sheer clumsiness is probably more of an unfortunate fault than an outright sin.) Read the rest of this entry »

Reel Gurl; The Broken Heart of Brokeback

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t's lucky that I chose to see "Brokeback Mountain" alone, in the pouring rain of last Sunday morning, at the ungodly movie-viewing hour of 10:30 a.m., with a few dozen strangers scattered throughout the theater. I don't think I could have managed a casual after-the-movie conversation with anyone at that point. Also, a companion might have noticed that my face and neck and both sleeves were wet with tears, rather than rain, which is, I suppose, my way of saying that the film wrenched my heart right out of my chest.

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Just so you know: Disney is back in the game.

With the release of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” the company has effectively thrown that famous mouse-eared hat into the lucrative magic and fantasy ring, a genre made more popular than ever by the Harry Potter franchise and “Lord of The Rings” trilogy. Depending on the public’s response to this first installment, Disney is poised to bring the whole of “The Chronicles of Narnia” to life. With any luck, we’ll be feasting on magical Narnian Turkish Delight for years to come.

Based on C.S. Lewis’ classic novel, the film opens with the four Pevensie children Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy being rushed off to the country for safekeeping during the bombing raids of World War II. In the expansive house of the kindly professor with whom they’re boarding, the children fall upon a magic wardrobe, which leads them into the fantastical land of Narnia, where animals speak, trees whisper and the self-proclaimed Queen has sentenced the inhabitants to eternal winter.

But from the moment that Lucy first steps through the wardrobe, into that magical snowy forest, the presence of the Pevensie children threatens the Queen’s grip on the land. There’s a prophecy that the Narnians — lining up on the well-marked sides of Good and Evil — either expect the Pevensie children to fulfill or intend to prevent them from fulfilling. Soon, they find themselves in the midst of a struggle between the Witch Queen and Aslan, the oft-absent but true ruler of Narnia.

As with any morality play, the delivery is heavy-handed at times and only the troubled Edmund manages human shades of gray in a black-and-white world. The allegorical relationship between Aslan and Christ is made painfully clear and might have fared better with a lighter touch. Still, what “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” lacks in nuance and complexity, it makes up for with compelling characters and breathtaking landscapes.

Visually, the film is stunning. From the shaggy coats of its CGI wolves to the fully-realized centaurs and griffins in battle gear, the special effects are otherworldly. The chilling brilliance of Tilda Swinton as the evil Queen and the wide-eyed wonder of Georgie Henley as Lucy will remind audiences that the worth of any story is its ability to create an emotional response.

Those who cut their literary teeth on “The Chronicles” will sit smugly in their seats, whispering “It’s about time.” Quite frankly it is the perfect time for Narnia to come alive.

Even 10 years ago, this vision of Lewis’ mystical Narnia would have been impossible to translate to film with any measure of realism. It is the technological advances of the film industry that have allowed director Andrew Adamson of “Shrek” fame to bring this cast of talking fauns, beavers and one heroic Lion King to life. This is a film whose time has come, and it is none too soon to save Christmas.

 

Reel Gurl; Walk The Line

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I remember distinctly, where I was and how I felt when I first heard that Johnny Cash was gone. Standing in the archway between our living room and kitchen, twisting a dishrag in my hands as I watched the news scroll across the bottom of the television screen, my heart sank. It's one of those things we all accept but can never quite explain; how the passing of an icon can affect us on a deeply personal level.

Later that night, Remy and I sat out on the porch with a bottle of whiskey, listening to the most haunting track of Johnny's final CD, his cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt" and trying to figure out just what it was that set him apart, and what manner of magic he possessed, lifting him to legendary status and compelling two California kids like us to take his passing so damn personally.

Two short years later, we were lined up at the box office, paying homage to that magic. Who could resist? Especially when they put attractive "now" faces on legendary "then" icons, and tempt us with a glimpse of a black boot, a guitar held like a rifle, and that odd, half-mouth grimace behind a microphone. It's a rare thing to sell three generations of America on a film with a mere 30 seconds of shadows and hinting. It is rarer still to follow up such promises with both substance and style. Thankfully, "Walk the Line" delivers on both.

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