Along with the list (in the right sidebar) of movies I’ve watched and books I’ve read I want to try to provide at least a brief review of my impressions rather than just a thumbs-up or -down.  Over the Christmas break we watched two movies, each the third in their series:  Bourne Ultimatum and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Bourne Ultimatum

Bourne UltimatumBourne was as action-packed as ever.  Bourne films are somewhat unique among techno-action films because they have a nice mix of slick technology (on the “bad guys'” side) balanced against Bourne, who uses simple intelligence and everyday objects to outsmart his ennemies.

This third instalment in the Bourne series uses some of the same shaky camera action that made the second movie nearly unwatchable (I got sick to my stomach in that one) but not too much this time.

Fans of the Bourne movies should definitely watch this one.  If you haven’t watched the first two I think I’d recommend you see those first, though in theory this one could stand alone.  Fans of the books already know the first movie was only loosely related to the book, and this third, like the second, is not even remotely like any of the Bourne books besides the main character’s name.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

At World's EndConfusing!  Whew!  I still don’t know what happened.  Maybe because I was confused all the way through the second movie too.  Fun action, fun costumes, but all in all I’ve been rather disappointed with the second two Pirates movies.  And considering Pirates is supposedly a family-oriented Disney movie marketed at children I was appalled at the mass hangings they dwelled on in the opening scene.

I’m hovering between a “no thumb” rating or a “thumbs-down” on this one.


Phyllis recommended Ushpizin last April, and Helen and I finally got to watch it.  We loved it!  Highly recommended.

Ushpizin is the story of a Jewish couple in modern-day Israel during Succot, the “feast of booths”.  They are at a tough time in life, with no money and without the essentials needed to properly celebrate Succot, so they pray for a miracle.  But when God grants them their prayer, it’s more than they bargained for!

Like Phyllis I was struck with and challenged by the sincerity of their prayers and their faith.  The movie reminded me of what James wrote long ago:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

I thought this was the easy pick at Blockbuster on the weekend, a definite win.  Look at all the big-name holywood actors:  Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson…  Those who know me know I’m really not up on actors, but I know most of those names and I’ve loved them in other movies.

What a disappointment!  I spent most of the movie wondering if there was going to be some punchline at the end that would reveal the whole story as a joke.  I think the problem is an unbalanced mix of humour and seriousness.  Plenty of great one-liners from Murray and others, but the serious storylines were too serious to be mixed with that humour.  It reminded me of Sahara, another movie I barely made it through because of how it combined the heart-wrenching subjects of epidemics among the poor and civil unrest alongside the triviality of a constant stream of witty one-liners by the two main characters.

Definite waste of a rare evening when the kids actually got to bed on time!

Sorry for posting two negative movie reviews back to back!  I’m not an overly-critical movie-goer normally, promise!  I just happened to get a couple of duds this time.

I picked this movie out at Blockbuster because I like word plays and because even after reading the single-paragraph description on the cover, I had no clue what it was about.

I’ll speak for myself, but I think Helen felt similarly.  After watching Palindromes I was happy to have watched it because it was different than anything else I’ve seen (and I like expanding my horizons), but I wouldn’t exhuberantly recommend you go rent it tonight.

It follows the life of Aviva, a 13-year old girl whose only desire is to have lots of babies, because they’re cute.  (The scary thing is I could see Shana being like that!)  You see her and her parents and other characters learning some tough lessons through her experience.  The author’s message, though, is that nobody can ever really change.  So although several characters make some strong and tearful confessions that “I’ve changed, I’m a new person,” you can tell they really haven’t deep down.  This leaves you in the end with a rather depressed, fatalistic view of life.

The most interesting cinematographic technique in the movie was its use of half a dozen or so different actresses–of various ages, sizes and races–to act the part of Aviva.  The purpose, I believe, was to show that who you are is deeper than what you look like.  As the viewer, you didn’t grow attached to the main character’s appearance, but her personality (which was the same no matter which actress was playing the part).  I felt that was a neat twist and made an otherwise depressing movie more interesting.

Definitely not for young kids, and don’t watch this for a fun evening at the movies.  But if you want something different and thought-provoking it might be worth it.  Just be prepared for discussions about abortion, sex, right and wrong, and of course the meaning of life.