Monday, February 12, 2007


A few new DVD reviews:

(Dir. Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, 2006)

“There’s a new church like this every 2 days in America. It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election. If the evengelists vote they determine the election. It’s a fabulous life!” - Pastor Ted Haggard

The trailers with shots of churches full of children speaking in tongues with tears in their eyes may imply an in-your-face liberal expose a-brewing, but the Best Documentary Oscar nominated JESUS CAMP simply showcases several participants and their stories with an absorbing lack of slant.

No voice-over narration is provided but there are bits featuring Christian Air American talk show host Mike Papantonio criticizing the movement and confronting Pentecostal children's pastor Becky Fischer on-air that serve as book-ends. Also giving the film a time period frame are radio sound-bites of the stepping down of Sandra Day O'Connor and subsequent appointment of Samuel Alito.

However, the bulk of the film follows a few kids (Levi, Rachael, and Victoria) on their pilgrimage to Devil’s Lake, North Dakota for Christ camp fun! Believing they are part of “the key generation” (as Levy stresses in one of his sermons) they learn to bash science, engage in a weird coffee cup breaking ritual, fondle tiny fetus dolls while swearing to end abortion and pray for (not to – as Becky claims) a card-board cut-out of George W. Bush.

The soundtrack is a bit spooky and judgmental sounding at times (though Ewing and Grady say that’s exactly what they didn’t want it to be in the commentary) but there’s a strong and sincere attempt here to put a face on a culture that may be more statistically scary than anything else.

(2006, From footage filmed 1977-1980)

The basic back-story: Donner was to make SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II concurrently. He filmed material for both films then the producers (Alexander & son Ilya Salkind) replaced him with Richard Lester (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT) who took Donner’s material and interjected broad slapstick humor and a smattering of narrative contrivances that fanboys have griped about for years.

Still though the released Lester-only credited movie was pretty solid, did good business and is a favorite of many.

Some questions lingered though - like – why did Marlon Brando not return? Was it really just because of his wanting more money? How did Superman get his powers back? What’s the deal with the memory erasing kiss Superman gives to Lois Lane? Can he really do that? Yep, silly geeky questions – but hey I was 11 when I first saw the movie.

All those questions are answered and more in SUPERMAN 2: THE RICHARD DONNER CUT though it really doesn’t work as a real movie on it’s own. It’s more like a glorified DVD bonus extra.

The seams show like crazy: Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder screen tests fill in the gaps that look like '70s TV soap opera and boy do they clash next to the big action sequences, CGI cleansing, with rampant inconsistencies riddled throughout. Still it’s an immensely watchable curio with the restored Brando footage taking the cake.

The scene where Jor El (Brando) appears and places his hand on his son’s (Reeve) shoulder granting all and then passes on is one of the most powerful moments in the entire SUPERMAN canon. So glad I finally got to see it. 

More later...

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