The Invasion

Posted on January 29, 2008 at 8:00 am

This fourth movie version of the Jack Finney story about “body-snatchers” again reminds us that the scariest enemies are not creatures with sharp talons and teeth, aliens with super-powerful weapons, or enormous dinosaurs with powerful jaws but the prospect of losing ourselves and those we love by having everything that makes them individuals erased by some sort of emotionless collective mind.
Unfortunately, it also reminds us that a scary premise and a top-notch cast are not enough to make a good movie. This movie does to the original Jack Finney story what the alien virus what-not does to the characters — it sucks out all of the energy and spirit. Where the original earned its thrills through good old-fashioned psychological terror, this one substitutes a couple of “boo!” moments and some gross-out effects. In the original, as people slept, their duplicates grew silently in alied pods. In this one, the virus that turns people into drone-like automatons is transmitted by — projectile vomit. Ew. And in this one, first-class performers better known for Shakespeare are covered with slime and barf on each other. Ewww.
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a brilliantly terrifying film that resonated and illuminated the issues of its time. Liberals claimed it as theirs, arguing that it portrayed the consequence of soulless conformity. Conservatives said it was a parable about the dangers of communism. The 1978 version (rated PG) was directed by Philip Kaufman (“The Right Stuff”) and features Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams in a post-me-decade take on individualism vs. the community. In 1994, another version, this time called Body Snatchers (and rated R) was released. That version is less a political analogy than a reflection of a teenager’s conflicts over identity and separation.
And now this one which is sort of about…national security? Would it be worth it to give up our individuality and ability to feel emotions to gain what every Miss America claims as her platform, world peace? That might be worth thinking about, but thinking is something this film does not do. If it did, perhaps it could tell us how someone could avoid an impenetrable roadblock keeping anyone from leaving Washington DC by buying a ticket and taking the train. Or how sometimes the infected creatures seem to share one consciousness and other times they do not. Or why the bad guys check everyone’s IDs but don’t seem to notice that one of them has the name of someone from their Most Wanted list.
Reportedly, this film was retooled with new directors after an earlier version did not pass muster with focus groups, and some scary stuff was added in. It only serves to make the story more disjointed. The action sequences are dull and the story does not work at face value or as metaphor. It was a great mistake to remove intentionality from the threat, which weakens the story further. Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, and Roger Rees look great (except when Rees is covered with slime and creeping along the floor like Regan in “The Exorcist”), but their greatest achievement as performers in this film is hiding what must have been strong emotions about appearing in this film. Someone should check the basement of the studio for pods.

Parents should know that this is a creepy thriller with graphic shots, some jump-out-at-you surprises, chases, suicide, and some gross-out effects. There are bloody wounds, corpses, adults and children in peril, and bodies covered with ooze. Characters shoot guns, crash cars, and hit each other with various blunt objects. A child gives an adult a shot with a syringe into the heart. There is brief strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the Russian ambassador’s statement that “in the right situation we are each capable of terrible crimes.” What evidence does the movie have for and against that view? How does this version of the movie attempt to reflect our times?
Families who like this movie will also like the book , the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland, the 1994 version, or The Faculty. This film continues the tradition of putting alumni of the original in small parts. Actor Kevin McCarthy and director Don Siegel from the original appear briefly in the 1978 version. And one of that film’s stars, Veronica Cartwright, appears in this one as Mrs. Lenk.
A grislier exploration of some of the same themes is in Night of the Living Dead and its remakes and sequels. The classic children’s book A Wrinkle in Time also deals with the same issues.

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Interview: Aria Wallace of “Roxy Hunter”

Posted on January 28, 2008 at 8:00 am

Aria Wallace plays Roxy Hunter, a clever young sleuth whose persistance and inquisitiveness sometimes gets her into trouble but often solves mysteries. I interviewed Ms. Wallace via email.

roxy2.JPGWhat’s the best thing about playing Roxy Hunter?

I love the different adventures. The best thing about being an actress is meeting new people, and having fun. For Roxy, I would say definitely solving mysteries!

What makes Roxy such a good detective?

I love how she observes everything. Roxy has studied Sherlock Holmes, and really tries to observe everything to solve the case. I really like how she allows her friends to help too.

What does she need to get better at?

While observing every clue – I think Roxy is a little mischievous. I think she should try not to get into trouble. Roxy tends to get in trouble while on the case.

Who are some of your favorite actors?

I LOVE Reese Witherspoon! I also like Nicole Kidman, Rene Zellweger, Steve Carell, Steve Martin, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts!

What’s on your iPod?

I love music! Led Zeppelin is my favorite band. I have like every one of
their albums on my iPod. I also love Alicia Keys and her song Fallin’, and Christina Aguilera and her song Hurt. If you looked at my iPod you’d see like a million songs, it’s crazy!

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Interview

Rocket Science

Posted on January 28, 2008 at 8:00 am

Hal (Reece Thompson) has something say but he has a lot of trouble saying it. On the bus, he can practice asking for pizza, but when it comes to the moment and he is standing in the cafeteria line, he can’t quite get it out. He has a stutter, the kind of speech impediment that keeps the words stuck in his throat. People tend to ignore him. Either they are tied up in their own worries and do not realize that he deserves their attention, or they assume that because he does not talk he must not be worth listening to.


And then Ginny (Anna Kendricks) sits next to him on the school bus and invites him to join the debate team. She says she sees greatness in him. And, perhaps because of that, or just because she is hyper-articulate and sure of herself, maybe because his parents have just split up and love seems very confusing to him, all of a sudden Hal begins to feel feelings for Ginny that are seismic and shattering and uncontrollable. And so, his actions become as confused and embarrassing as his speech. He sort of stalks her. He sort of grabs her. And when he feels that she has betrayed him, he goes to any length to try to at the same time let her know he does not need her, defeat her, and win her back at the same time.


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Director Jeffrey Blitz showed sensitivity to the throes of adolescence in his award-winning documentary about the national spelling bee for middle schoolers, Spellbound. He got those kids to trust him and here, too, and he gets the most from his talented young cast. Thompson is superb, showing perception and vulnerability without seeming mannered or excessive. Kendricks, a Broadway veteran so good in “Camp,” raps out her complex speeches with devastating effect; completely compelling as someone who would bring a dozen perfectly sharpened number 2 pencils to the SATs and challenge them all the way to the Supreme Court if they tried to give her one point less than a perfect score.


The screenplay wavers at times; the structure is a little ragged, there are a couple of self-consciously quirky indie moments, and the ending a little weak. But Thompson and Kendricks and the debate scenes make this one of the best coming-of-age stories in many months.

Parents should know that there are some crude sexual references and high school situations. Characters use some strong language, a teenager smokes, and there are references to drinking and drug use.


Families who see this movie should talk about how difficult it was for Hal to find someone who could understand or help him. Why were all of the adults around him so clueless?

Families who like this movie will also appreciate Napoleon Dynamite and the award-winning spelling bee documentary directed by Blitz, Spellbound. And they will enjoy this interview with writer-director Jeffrey Blitz.

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Comedy Drama Genre , Themes, and Features Independent

U2 3D

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: Promotion of tolerance and understanding a theme of the performance
Date Released to Theaters: January 23, 2008

“U2 in 3D” doesn’t just give you the feeling of being at a rock concert. It gives you the feeling of being a rock star. Super-big, super-close, super-clear, and super-charged, it broke the record for the most 3-D cameras used for a single movie and combines footage from seven different performances, giving it a seamless fluidity of camera movement that always feels vital and immediate. No time is wasted backstage, no interviews with fans or roadies. We are onstage from the first song to the encore, inside the performance, and inside the music.
Bono is more often seen as a statesman than a rock star these days, so it is a welcome surprise to see what a mesmerizing performer he is. He and bandmates Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, Jr. and the Edge are in top form and the concert is everything rock and roll should be — musically, visually, spiritually. This is what they mean when they talk about rocking your world.

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Movies

How She Move

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some drug content, suggestive material and language.
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drug overdose death (offscreen)
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: January 25, 2008

Raya Green (Rutina Wesley) has to go back home because her Caribbean immigrant parents can no longer afford the tuition at her tony private school. They spent that money on drug rehab for Raya’s sister. But they were unable to save her; she died of an overdose. Raya comes back to her old neighborhood to face parents who are devastated and fearful and old friends who are resentful and suspicious. They feel that Raya thinks she is too good for them. Her first reaction is to try to play down her intelligence. When called to the board to solve a quadratic equation, she pretends it is very hard for her. But she does not fool her teacher, who assigns her to tutor the student who has been most hostile to her, Michelle (Tre Armstrong). When the two of them face off against each other, they don’t trade insults or punches — they show off their best dance moves. how%20she%20move.jpg

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Movies Musical
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