Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Patriot

[Written for Film.com]

How can a filmmaker with this much bad taste be blessed with such a dazzling gift for making images? That’s the puzzle posed by The Patriot, directed by Roland Emmerich, the German-born creator of Independence Day and Godzilla. Emmerich is like a database of classic compositions and camera angles, spewing out gorgeous tableaux with a punch of his visual keyboard. When South Carolina plantation owner Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) goes to his front door, and opens it to see a night battle waged in the trees on his farm, it’s an image out of a dream: musket-fire lighting up the darkness with white flashes, powder rising, the ghostly sound of voices.

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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: Denial

“Not all opinions are equal.” How good it is, in this our time of cultural lunacy, to have these words definitively spoken. The fact that the phrase is uttered in a not-especially-great film is perhaps disappointing, but you gotta start somewhere, and movies have been known to lead the cultural conversation. Even when they’re not great.

Denial is written by the esteemed David Hare and directed by the journeyman Mick Jackson, so you might be able to guess where it soars and where it staggers. Hare, the unsparing author of Plenty and Skylight, based the script on Deborah Lipstadt’s experience in the world of Holocaust deniers. Lipstadt is a New York-raised academic (she once taught at the University of Washington) who was sued for libel in British court in 1996 over her book Denying the Holocaust, which named English author David Irving as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. The UK legal system mandated that Lipstadt had to establish that what she said was true—a situation that essentially put her legal team in the strange position of proving the Holocaust happened.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘Little Boy’

Jakob Salvati

This home-front family drama of hope, friendship, and faith, shot through the sepia-tinged light and faded hues of nostalgia, is part of a new trend. Faith-based movies are increasingly breaking out of niche theaters and into wide release. Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, prior stewards of The Bible and Son of God, are executive producers of Little Boy, directed by Alejandro Monteverde in a Norman Rockwell-style 1940s California seaside village (actually created in Mexico).

Pepper Busbee (Jakob Salvati) is the adorable 7-year-old whose stunted growth makes him look like either a sophisticated toddler or a juvenile understudy for The Wizard of Oz’s Lollipop Guild.

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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘ Selma’

David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo

The most suspenseful scene in Ava DuVernay’s Selma does not depict the dramatic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, nor an Oval Office facedown between Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Lyndon Johnson. No, the real cliffhanger happens during a twilight domestic scene between King (David Oyelowo) and his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo). The husband’s alleged extramarital affairs are the immediate concern, and at this crucial moment in the civil-rights struggle, two married people must acknowledge a few intimate truths. The storytelling takes a pause, the gifted actors operate on a slow simmer, and Selma conveys a tingly sense of the way the march of history turns on human give-and-take in humble rooms.

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