Sights and Sounds

Judgment day: Intelligent design on trial

Yesterday I watched, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." This is a documentary about the Dover, Pennsylvania's public school system and its legal battle over whether or not to teach "Intelligent Design" alongside evolution. Of course there are two sides to every story, but one would not expect a small public school system to be in federal court on constitutional challenges to the first amendment.

On one side are the public school science teachers who prefer to only teach evolution in their classrooms because they believe that "Intelligent Design" is the same thing as biblical creationism. On the other side you have parents and a couple members of the school board who believe that evolution is a theory and that "intelligent Design" is just another alternative theory that should at least have some honorable mention.

Normally such matters would be resolved locally but this case makes it all the way to a federal courtroom to prove either that Intelligent Design is science, or that Intelligent Design is a cover for biblical creationism.

It's a tense documentary but a good one.

The End of Poverty?

Over the weekend I watched "The End of Poverty." This film has been in just about all of the previews of other new documentaries that I've watched so I thought it had to be a good one. The preview (see below) does grab your attention, but after watching it, I have mixed feelings about it.

We all know that poverty exists and there are some individual choices we can make to help those in need, but I don't see how we can completely reorganize our entire country to help poorer countries. Would the sum of all individuals make a collective decision to consume less and conserve more energy? That seems to be the rhetorical question that the film is asking. The answer lies with us.

Justified (2010)

There are few actors who can effectively pull off a cowboy hat anymore. Perhaps this has contributed to the relative death of the western, which is sad because I enjoy a good western. Every once in a while we'll get a True Grit or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but more often than not what we get is in the vein of the forgettable American Outlaws. Read more »

Exit Through the Gift Shop

In preparation for the upcoming Oscars, I picked up Exit Through the Gift Shop, nominated for Documentary (Feature). The film features Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant now living in L.A. Thierry is obsessed with filming. Anything that can be filmed, he films. When he discovers that his cousin is a street artist going by the name Space Invader, Thierry begins filming Space Invader's installations. Soon, Thierry expands to other street artists, Read more »

A river of waste.

There have been a number of food and "food production" documentaries out within the last two years with the most popular one being Food Inc.. Last night I saw another good one called, A river of waste. Read more »

Thirst (2009)

Thirst is the latest film from Chan-wook Park of Vengeance Trilogy fame (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance). It tells the story of a priest whose life is changed when he becomes a vampire. In the strictest sense, it is a vampire love story. However, it is a Chan-wook Park vampire love story, which means it's delightfully twisted, darkly humorous, fantastically violent, and bizarrely erotic. Yes, I do love my adverbs. If you can't overstate something, why even state it. That's what I always say. Read more »

Brick (2006)


Brick (2006) is a film that no matter how well you describe it, it still kind of sounds like a tacky idea and it easily could have been. A hard-boiled noir style detective film set in a modern-day high school? Hmm. But let me assure you that great care was taken with the specifics of the film that make this setup work surprisingly well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, 500 Days of Summer) stars as Brendan, a quiet loner who acts as the gumshoe in this movie. He's lost contact with an ex-girlfriend at school who was straying into the world of drug trafficking and wants to make sure she's okay. When she turns up dead, he begins a quest for answers through the underground world of popular kids, the drama vamps and the super-smart geeks.

See? Still sounds a little tacky doesn't it? What saves the film from collapsing under the ridiculous setup is the script and the performances. The characters play the roles like they're actually in a 1940's detective film complete with rapid-fire speech and archaic slang that takes a little effort to follow. All the film noir tropes are here: the smart detective who knows how to take a punch, the bombshell who can't be trusted, the menacing kingpin and his muscle-bound henchman. This is a film that doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence and succeeds by playing the whole thing straight with nary a wink to suggest that the situations are taking place in an out-of-context environment. The plot becomes convoluted as double-crossing and lies start to twist the narrative.

This is certainly no "Disney's High School Detective" sort of film. The violence and drug content makes it clearly intended for an adult audience. It's a smart, classy and surprisingly emotional film that succeeds despite its inability to be described in a satisfying way. Definitely recommended.

The Big Bang Theory

After receiving recommendations from a number of friends for the TV show The Big Bang Theory, I decided it was finally time to check it out. I sat down to watch a couple of episodes of the first season and ended up watching six back to back. The show, a half hour comedy, features physicists, roommates, and super geniuses Sheldon and Leonard. Settled comfortably into nerddom, their lives are interrupted with the arrival of a new neighbor, a blond waitress named Penny. Leonard, the more social of the two, is immediately interested, but Sheldon is taken aback and does not welcome Penny's intrusion into his ordered existence. Also featuring engineer friends Howard (ultimate nerd and wannabe ladies' man) and Raj (unable to even talk to women), The Big Bang Theory is hilarious. For its over-the-top but still believable characters and laugh out loud situations (such as when all four guys end up dressing as The Flash for Halloween), I highly recommend this show.

3D or not to 3D

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A while back I posted an article on this blog called "In Praise of Black and White." In it I mentioned that the invention of color film brought about a number of films that focused on color shock effects and explosions rather than focusing on the story. I believe that many of the films made today would not seem as good to us if we were forced to watch them in black and white. Today we have a rise in another new gimmick format called 3D. Read more »