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7/10
Detention Sensation
24 December 2017
"Smitty tossed me the keys to the storeroom. 'Jake, find some whiskey, will you,' he said, and when I came back with Jack Daniel's and shot glasses and started to pour, Grandpa pulled over another stool. 'Make room, men,' he said. 'This might as well be the night.'"

Some stories open with an initiation rite-as here did Frank Baldwin, *Jake & Mimi* (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2002, 161.) In "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" the 1996 night goes to teenage beachcomber Alex (Nick Jonas) after discovering a strange board game in the sand and disappearing when he plays it.

"'Nobody misses the war, boy,' he said. 'You understand?' I nodded. ... Every glass of beer was your last. Every letter home. So you got drunk any chance you could. And when you wrote, you made your words count. ... It isn't the war you miss. It's the spirit of those days. Some of us, who got lucky and lived through it, learned how to live. Like we'd be gone tomorrow. Because a lot of us were.' He looked at me. 'You got me, boy?' I nodded. 'Okay, then,' he said gently. ... 'Find something that gives you that charge, Jake. That fires your blood.'" (Ibid., 164.)

Four students at Brantford High School, Spencer the nerd, Fridge the jock, Bethany the fox, and Martha the wallflower, are given detention and admonished to, "Think about who you are at this moment of time and who you want to be." Getting bored with their assigned task, they pick up the board game Jumanji and start playing its electronic version.

The word *jumanji* can be rearranged thus: break it in two to get Juman-ji. Migrate the 'm' in the middle to the end thus: Juan-Jim. Juan has an alter ego Jim. Each player will discover himself in a game avatar unlike his real life persona. Jumanji having a funny time line, and Alex having a twenty year jump on the others, turns it into a metaphor for living as their adult selves to come, or at least to think about it. As often happens upon graduation the nerd suddenly finds himself in a strong position career-wise, while the football jock's a has-been, to become somebody's lackey. However, in Fridge's case he discovers his calling (zoology), not history that was never his forte. Bethany who was a total manipulator of men now experiences life in a male body, with all its excitable equipment. She'll learn the value of friendship. Martha has game strengths involving martial arts and dancing, good disciplines to develop one's self confidence that was all this babe-in-the-making needed.

The game portion of "Jumanji" borrows heavily in its graphics from Daniel 2 in the Bible. There was "a great image... and the form thereof was terrible" (31). There was a powerful king, "the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven ... given into thine hand" (38). In Daniel "a stone was cut out without hands" (34) which will eventually smite the image; in "Jumanji" a jewel was plucked by hand out of the image's eye socket, which needs to be replaced. The image in Daniel does the same disappearing act as do the Jumanji players when they're transformed: "like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them" (35). The story in Daniel 2 represented a great prophesy, but in Jumanji it's just a matter of thinking through life decisions when on the cusp of adulthood. Daniel and his three friends (17) had to interpret the king's dream in order to get themselves out of their "detention" unscathed.

The story seemed to me pretty juvenile, but then that was the intended audience. The CGI was none too subtle. The tom-toms work well if there's lots of bass in the sound system. The black mamba snake was more realistic in "Kill Bill" than in this movie. Spencer comes out with the occasional Yiddishism ("Oy veh!") Jack Black was adorable playing a female in a male body. Dwayne Johnson struggles to play against type. The rest of the acting was okay; they weren't challenging parts.

There are two serpentine lip-action scenes you'll likely want to forget--if you can--of the I've-never-done-this-before variety. Good close-ups if you can force your eyes to remain open.

It was based a children's book. It's good kiddy fun.
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8/10
The Cowboy, the Playboy and the Career Woman
16 December 2017
"Just Getting Started" explores the interactions of the 'cowboy' Leo (Tommy Lee Jones), the 'playboy' Duke (Morgan Freeman) and the 'career woman' Suzie (Rene Russo) as they find themselves in the luxury resort community Villa Capri. Leo acts like he owns the place although it's Duke's official fief. Suzie is a bit standoffish in her mysterious work role. The plot develops slowly at first while the movie gets started.

Alfred Hitchcock employed the term MacGuffin to refer to a device introduced to move the plot along although of itself it is not significant to said plot, or at least not fully explained. Here the MacGuffin is what a student of the Proverbs might term a recurring tornado: ref. (Prov. 10:25) "As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation" The whirlwind is like the New Jersey mob in its devastation, gone once the law puts it out of business, using a good citizen's testimony, which qualifies him for the witness protection program where he can peacefully put down roots. Leo is such a one prospering in his adopted surroundings while keeping a low exterior profile. Alas for a T.V. clip that blows his cover ("The s.o.b. is in Palm Springs!") His discovery leads to complications ("They found me.")

The action is set during the few days leading up to Christmas. The music comes in fits and starts, with an emphasis occurring on the line: "God and sinners reconciled." Duke's sinful life consists of: "Sex, booze, and golf"--golf like many other of Duke's games includes wagers, gambling. The movie carefully avoids any religious conversion, but Duke's competition with well-heeled Leo leaves him no time for sex. World-wise Leo in fact takes on the role of guardian angel helping him avoid sin and more pragmatic dangers. Suzie whose "final marriage is my job" is sexless like the Virgin Mary, and she will exert a restraining, sobering influence on the Duke. As is pointed out, the wise men couldn't have got to Bethlehem without those camels, so could not the Christ child have arrived without Mary. Duke to win a combination play against Leo makes his final move where "his knees touched the floor." That's a common enough occurrence of those who pray, although here the movie just imitates aspects of the religious without actually going there.

The movie was shot on location in New Mexico. It includes a guest appearance of and performance by Johnny Mathis. We get great comedic acting, enough suspense to keep us alert, a modicum of background Christmassy emblems (without forcing religion), and some genuine shoot-'em-up action. It's a well done flick and should provide an alternative to the sorry Christmas fare that gets overly saccharine.
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4/10
Black and White
15 December 2017
"Guess Who's Coming" opens with a shot of a United airplane in flight. Because of the angle of the wings, the sun reflects bright white off one and dark off the other. This uniting of black and white portends the plot where 23-year-old Joanna (Joey) Drayton (Katherine Houghton) flies from Hawaii to San Francisco to surprise her mom Christina Drayton (Katharine Hepburn) and dad Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) with her new beau 37-year-old Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). Since her parents have been liberal about race relations all along, she expects, "There's no problem."

Desmond Morris (best known for his book *The Naked Ape*) observes human interactions in *Manwatching* (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974, 169): "If we see something that excites us, whether with pleasure or fear, our pupils expand. If we see something mildly distasteful, they contract." On the following page he relates about, "when liberally minded people were shown photographs of black males kissing white females. Although all the subjects spoke approvingly of racial equality, their pupils split them neatly into two groups--the liberals 'at heart' whose pupils matched their stated beliefs, and the 'merely persuaded' liberals, or perhaps pseudo-liberals, who, despite their praise for racial integration, revealed pinprick pupils when confronted with the black-kissing-white display."

The suspense of the film lies in trying to guess which categories the parents will settle into.

The colored maid and the suitor's black father both hold forth that the Negro doctor is exceeding his station in life. The white dad admits to being "flabbergasted." Everyone cautions the starry-eyed couple that it might not end well. This is an eminent example of (Prov. 30:21-22) "the earth is disquieted, and it cannot bear: for a servant when he reigneth."

This is supposed to be a rare Hollywood message movie. But there are messages and there are messages. One message I read by subtracting 7 years from the lives of the couple, to get a 16-year-old girl and a 30-year-old guy, the exact same age difference between a once 30-year-old Roy Moore now in the news and the 16-year-olds that he was purportedly interested in at that age. His marriage to one of them did turn out just fine. Can it be we Yankees are overly judgmental on the southerners who are more accepting of age difference, just as the South was more judgmental about race? The second message is what if your family is not so liberal? One should perhaps not date someone from a class he or she could never marry into; if they fall in love, what then? Here the couple fell in love 20 minutes after meeting. That would seem to rationalize against fraternization.

Typically, in a Hollywood film, love conquers all. We certainly have a cast to give us hope to pull it off. Sidney Poitier is the only Negro actor at the time a White audience could abide in a leading role. The actresses were just the ones to tug at the heart strings. Notwithstanding the great acting here, Poitier and Houghton just didn't have any chemistry together. For supposedly being in love, they simply didn't look at each other often enough. Furthermore, Portier's speech inflections were nowhere near those of his character's parents making it hard to believe he was their son. The movie was redeemed in part by Billy Hill's song, "The Glory of Love," played in various forms throughout.

"Guess Who is Coming to Dinner" was directed by Stanley Kramer, with Ray Gosnell the assistant director. The Gosnell clan (of whom I am one) originally hailed from Virginia; perhaps that accounts for all the southern style hospitality shown in the film. It was released 50 years before I just now saw it, back in December, 1967. It just got accepted into a national archive to preserve culturally significant films. Its "message" has to do with things perhaps changing in fifty or a hundred years. I wouldn't hold my breath. It probably has application to other "special difficulties" as well.

It followed the template of a play, more or less, with limited fixed settings and heavy dialog. I wasn't overly impressed by it.
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8/10
Blended, Befriended, and Upended Noel
10 December 2017
Brad Whittaker (Will Ferrell) and Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) have befriended themselves in a co-dad system managing their two young wards, Megan and Dylan, who take turns at each father's house. Dusty has by now remarried to Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), a writer, and he's step­dad to Adrianna, Karen's daughter. Brad and his wife, Sara (Linda Cardellini), along with Dusty and Karen, are gearing up for Christmas when they learn Megan is dissatisfied going to two different houses for two different Christmases. The family's joint solution is to combine the two Christmases into "one Christmas together … all of us." Together­ness incorporates an added dimension when both Dusty's father Grandpa Kurt (Mel Gibson) and Brad's dad Don (John Lithgow) join the fray.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on the limbs of host trees. Birds propagate it by ingesting the berries and then depositing the seeds in their scat on other branches. Old custom had it that when two enemies chanced to meet below some mistletoe, they were required to exchange a kiss of peace. This custom got imported into Christmas, a time of "peace on earth."

The two fathers Dusty and Brad are ostensibly the best of pals, but they have been challenged to put their friend­ship to the test in the joint Christmas adventure. It is suggested that perhaps they have been harboring hidden resentments. "Daddy's Home 2" will expose any harbored animosity, and not just between those two.

Proverbs 24:26 states, "Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer." When Dylan begins to show interest in girls, the dads (and grand­dads) determine it is time to give him "the talk", but from which "father." They all have different views on, say, participating in a humiliating sport one is not good at, making a move on a girl one likes, and firearm safety. Radically different views are presented to the kid to choose from. To the extent he adopts the right answer, he will be met with the audience's eminent approval.

This movie is an over-the-top comedy without trying too hard—the material speaks for itself. Even without having seen the original megillah, I was able to keep track of all the roles on account of every­one staying in character. The excellent cast played well off each other; even the child actors nailed it. This was for me a laugh out loud experience.
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8/10
Thinking Outside the Box
13 November 2017
In 1934 world renowned detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is vacationing on the Orient Express as a means to relax his mind. Unfortunately, a man turns up murdered by some­one on their Calais Coach, and rather than let the local gendarmes at the next station flub their investigation, he decides to solve it him­self and hand it to them on a platter.

Based on an Agatha Christie novel by the same name—she being a whiz with words—the title bears considering. It seems to distance itself from any dualism: i.e. not life and death, but murder; not on and off but merely on; not Orient and Occident (East and West) but Orient only; and Express with­out any Impress.

Timothy Materer writes on *James Merrill's Apocalypse* that "Merrill struggled with the limitations of dualism … In a journal of 1954, he addressed the way dualities interfere with our perception of reality: ¶"' in all circumstances we are deluged with interpretations, simplifications, falsifications of our experience, by reference to non-existent poles, life & death say, or any of the convenient dualities. We think in these terms, see life as Life—and at once it is simpler, slightly evaporated, on its way *away* from reality'." (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2000, 12).

An example of this in a train novel is the western *Night Passage*, by Norman A. Fox: "Harbin asked,'You know him, Utica?'

"'I ought to, Curly. And I think I can tell you why he's here. He's been following me around for a long spell, trying to talk me out of the trail I ride. Now he's caught up with me again. Isn't that it, Grant? You spotted me from the train, so you came after me. You see, Curly, he's my brother. I'm Lee McLain—and he's Grant McLain.'

"Harbin said, 'The hell you say!'

"'That's it, Curly. The McLain tribe balanced up even—one owlhooter, one honest man.'

"'Lee and Grant,' Harbin said. 'You're funnin', Utica'

"'We were Missouri folks, Curly. Missouri was a split state while the war was on, so Pappy straddled the fence. He named his first son for Grant and his second son for Lee.'

"'This is straight, Utica?'

"'Straight as a string. Tie a can to him and send him down the mountain, Curly. We'll likely be shaking the dust of this place by sunup. It won't matter if he talks about this hide­out. And he won't talk any­way. He always tries to keep me in the clear.'

"'I dunno,' Harbin said with a shake of his head. 'This takes some thinking.'" (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1956, 136–7)

It's not a matter of us and them, but of us and us. Maybe. It's going to take some thinking. And if this example is any indication, the Orient Express detective has his work cut out for him.

The color scheme of "Murder On" is amorphous. Only two colors are used much: blue and red; and these but sporadically. There are blue panels on the train, and red lipstick, lights, and wine. Beyond that it's muted earth tones. The whole movie is a waste of a scenic journey, the diverse characters as bland as an unbroken field of snow.

Then we encounter the "husband hunter" Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer) who sports a purple dress (mixture of blue & red) and suddenly a single character amidst all the suspects is flagged, at least visually. But alas, the dancer, too, having blonde hair and red lip­stick wears an orange garment (combo of yellow & red). Since she's eliminated as a suspect on account of lacking the strength to knife the victim with such ferocity, the camera's attention to Mrs. Hubbard must have some significance other than her guilt or innocence. Her purple dress materialized right after dialog about the combining of two elements; that's all we can say.

However, there is noted a common saying in "Night Passage" about the combining of disparate elements: "A forty-four barrel on a forty-five frame./ Never bet aces in another man's game." The last line would indicate a winning hand that the card player for some reason doesn't want to play, but it's a reach to apply it here. This movie doesn't even mention the saying.

There is, though, a throwaway line at the end of "Orient", about the detective's next assignment, which also shows up in the "Passage" book. Poirot is being sent to "Egypt, right on the bloody Nile." In "Passage" one of the brothers involved in a three-way love triangle is said to have visited "a river in Egypt called de nial."

Poirot is portrayed as one smart detective, right up there with Sherlock Holmes, I'd say. And he's not bashful about his accomplishments. It's like (Eccl. 8:1) "Who is as the wise man? And who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed."

This movie is well constructed, and it keeps us guessing until the end. I think Agatha Christie should be her own genre, because those novels all bear her stamp. However, this one is similar to a western I mentioned above, so perhaps one should keep an open mind. I liked Christie but haven't read but two of her novels. Maybe I'll read some more after seeing this movie.

The actors also included Judi Dench, Leslie Odom, Jr, Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, William Dafoe, Josh Gad, and Daisy Ridley. They all worked well together and got along off-set, too.

Don't see this one for the scenery as it's hard to even tell when the B&W flashbacks occur, the colors are so muted. If you're looking for a detective yarn, though, this one will fill the bill.
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Suburbicon (2017)
9/10
White Flight Fright
30 October 2017
Suburbicon, a manufactured town founded in 1947, is an iconic haven for white middle class Americans on the order of its arche­type Levit­town, NY that in the 1950s refused to admit blacks. A black family Mr. and Mrs. Mayers (Leith M. Burke and Karimah Westbrook) with their boy Andy (Tony Espinosa) grace Suburb­icon with their presence courtesy of the NAACP. While the whole neighbor­hood is having a cow, another boy Nicky Lodge (Noah Jupe), living adjacent to the Mayers, is dealing with the freshened demise of his own mother.

The plot more or less tracks on the arc of Zane Grey's 1919 western *The Desert of Wheat* in which members of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) backed by Germany infiltrate Washington state's lush Columbia basin: "Gentle­men, we are here to discuss the most threatening and unfortunate situation the North­west was ever called upon to meet."

They start out as Mr. Nice Guy: "We read that Western towns are starting to deport these rebels. In the old days we can imagine more drastic measures would have been taken. The Westerners were handy with the rope and the gun in those days. We are not counseling lynch law, but we think deportation is too mild a punishment." The civilized recommendation is that the blacks help themselves more before attempting integration. It would have been in keeping with an erstwhile black leader Booker T. Washington who counseled blacks to accept menial work and better them­selves with education to eventually be accepted at better positions. This is also Ur-Grey: "We are too 'civilized' to apply the old Roman law, 'Spare the conquered and extirpate the rebels', but at least we could intern them. The British have found it practicable to put the German prisoners to work at useful employment. Why couldn't we do the same?"

Eventually it will come down to (Grey), "Your dad has organized vigilantes, like he belonged to in the early days. An it's the vigilantes thet will attend to this I.W.W. outfit," and ("Suburb­icon"), "All these people, you'd think we were in Mississippi."

The two boys do play well together and even share a pet garter snake. They decide not to name it because it's just a snake. More is probably meant here. Take the "ground snake" that eats "grass­hoppers and crickets." Gut the word 'grass­hoppers' to get 'g ers'. Add 'g' from 'ground' to get 'ggers'. Add 'i' from 'crickets' to get 'iggers'. Then take the 'n' from 'snake' to get the n-word that will suffice for what the Mayers are called here. People in the 1950s didn't need to go through some foofaraw to find another sobriquet to attach to them.

The lessons of the two neighbor boys in "Suburbicon" run along the lines of a pair of biblical verses. (Eccl. 7:16) "Be not righteous over much; neither make thy­self over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" Don't try to integrate too fast or get too fancy with terminology, or else you can trash your acceptance in the community. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) was of a different mind in his 1963 "Letter From Birmingham Jail"; he rejected "gradualism" in favor of the "FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW!"

(Eccl. 7:17) "Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?" Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) having got into an auto accident that left his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) paralyzed obtained a good insurance settlement. He would do well to take care nothing further happens to the girl, and in any event nothing to generate a claim for life insurance on her, or else it would make him look suspiciously bad, not to mention the danger to his own life of another "accident." The dark underside of suburbia is offset somewhat by the restraint of the suburban police who stick to proper procedure and don't over­react. On the other hand, the drivers of the emergency vehicles seem to be following MLK's rush rather than Booker T.'s restraint.

This film's time is dated in the fifties, as indicated by the 50s autos in the streets. The (instrumental) song, played on vinyl, "When I Fall in Love" originally came out in 1952. The flashmatic TV remote control made its debut in 1955, but it was soon supplanted by better technology when it was discovered it couldn't discriminate a flash­light from other light sources. This gadget sets the whole story circa 1955 besides making a statement in favor of discrimination, at least as far as radiant technology is concerned.

The child actors were well coached, and name-recognizable actors filled main adult parts. With a realistic 50s setting, good acting, and a tight plot worthy of a master of irony, this movie rates way up there in my book. It reinforces the adage: Be careful what you wish for. It was written by the Coen brothers and directed by George Clooney.
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The Snowman (2017)
8/10
A snowman in every crime scene.
23 October 2017
The opening snow scene depicts an isolated hut where a kid's "Uncle Jarnis" drops in unexpectedly to grill his kid on Norwegian history. When the boy doesn't know the answer, the "uncle" takes it out on the mom, i.e. the uncle's mistress. When the couple repair to a private room, the kid builds a snow­man out­side. It's fitting as in the quiz the Norwegian head of state resumed his position on June 7, 1945, and a snow­man gets its head put on it, too. Amidst some grinding gears the visit ends in separation. The movie picks up years later when some­body has been dismembering women, mothers whose care for their young left some­thing to be desired.

The Oslo police have assigned a couple incompetents ("the drunk and the half­wit") to one case. A raw recruit Katherine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) investigates another one in Bergen. The official indifference is a seeming indictment against loser moms. In a way it reminds me of an anecdotal story of the Crusades: Opposing armies were set in array when a Muslim rider showed himself trailing a pennant reading "Ave Maria" and dipped in blood. A Christian knight courteously asked the queen for permission to fight him in order to defend the Virgin Mother's honor. Permission was granted, and they had a vigorous fight resulting in them being de-horsed, grappling on the ground, the Christian ending up pinned by the Mohammedan who is just about to administer the coup de grace when suddenly he rolls over dead. The Christian had shortened his sword now using it to stab his opponent in the heart. It was taken as a miracle.

Professionally burned out Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) on a leave of absence asks the new recruit to look into her case. He's got enough cachet to be accepted. He makes progress, but he's out­matched by his opponent both in smarts and equipment. Just as chivalry prevented the armies from interfering with the contest of champions above, there doesn't seem to be any cavalry to come to the rescue. But he's fighting for sacred mother­hood, so who knows what will happen?

There is a concurrent story running about Norway's quest for the World Cup, which seems some­how tied into "values that make Norway great." Norway is competing with many other countries. If it's child rearing values, the Jews (whom Hitler slaughtered) held of their law that, (Deut. 6:6-7) "thou shalt teach these words diligently unto thy children, and talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up." The "uncle " in a way was attempting this when the film opens.

This command would be modernized by Christianized nations, as per, say, the historical fiction of Rev. William Ware (1797–1852) in his *Julian*: Jesus, "preaching the truths which he conceives to be most essential, and in which the differences are to be discerned between what he holds to be best, and the ancient Law of Moses. … he seems to be rather a restorer of the Law to its true significance, and a rebuker of prevailing corruptions and abuses of it, than one who would over­throw and destroy it." Or in this case (Eph. 6:4), "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." I've just supplied my own take on the best child-rearing practice that would take the cake on the values scale; the movie doesn't tell us. It just suggests that it must be some­thing better than what was portrayed in the first scene. The viewer is free to supply his own nominee. The movie does, how­ever, suggest that the mothers did have viable matronly instincts but were rail­roaded by their men into impossible situations with their children. But then again, the women made poor decisions on which men to mate with in the first place. And Norwegian culture does seem to be depicted as too permissive to embody the best family values.

The scenery in "Snowman" is ultra-simple. The snowmen are basic, and so are the notes. The snow scenes are typically white all over. The back­ground colors are basic solids, lots of prime colors. The music is a succession of single tones, no chords or harmonics. The detectives if they muse on their cases, keep it pretty much to them­selves. If this is a psychological thriller—and it is—then it's basic psychology. Anybody can see it. The effect is a stark depiction of the bleak life of the orphan or neglected child. I mean, the movie never becomes maudlin, nor does it preach, but it leaves one in total sympathy with the children, and even some­what sympathetic to the neglectful moms.

"The Snowman" was directed by Tomas Alfred. It is too sedate and unpretentious to compete with American detective thrillers for the action-addicted aficionado, but it will surely appeal to the European taste in more mellow fare, and for those who enjoy foreign films. European actors tend to be trained and experienced. Those here were spot-on in their roles and not at all ostentatious. The (important) conversation is all in English, so there's no translation distraction. It's a well done film, but one must have a taste for this kind of detective film to appreciate it.
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9/10
A Worthy Encore to "Groundhog Day". Déjà Vu All Over Again.
16 October 2017
Bayfield U. co-ed Theresa (Tree) Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is having a bad day in Louisiana. She's living her birthday over and over again à la "Groundhog Day" in which Bill Murry played a Pittsburgh weather­man whose holiday gig repeated itself every day—only hers has a more tragic ending. She shares the same birth­day with her deceased mom; they used to celebrate it together. We wonder if anyone else shares her Monday the 18th celebration.

The U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787. Since in 2017 the 17th is on a Sunday, Constitution Day is celebrated on the 18th. At least we'd be comparing apples to apples, two designated holidays. But what has Constitution Day got to do with Groundhog Day?

In John Trotwood Moore's circa 1897 story, "First Monday in Tennessee", he relates "the origin of First Monday in April, a day now entirely devoted to the display of livestock, was a kind of feast day in the temple of Ground-Hogium, celebrated in honor of the termination of the Ground-Hog's potent prophecy." People rode their horses to town after the six weeks of extended winter was over. "The custom was gradually changed from Ground-Hog worship to horse swapping." He relates the festivities: "the pikes are fairly alive with folks, peoples, horses, jacks and nigg'rs. … that is the order in which they stand socially in Tennessee. … when 'all hands' have reached the classic town of Columbia, for instance, their first duty is to repair to the nearest bar for a drink. … When a portly gentle­­man of the first class walks in, his face shining behind a silver grey mustache, … the best in the house is set up. He's folks. But when one of the other class walks in, the bar­keeper peeps over the counter to observe his foot­gear. If he has on shoes and stockings, the bar­keeper knows his purse will stand Lincoln County's Medium; if he has on shoes but no stockings, apple brandy from the county of Warren … is set out; but if, in looking over the counter, the bar­keeper's eyes meet the sprawling flabbiness of two po'white feet, bust-head at five cents a glass is what he wants. In no case is any question asked except, 'How are you shod, partner?'"

In "Death Day" Tree wakes up to put on her best evening dress high heels, sans stockings. She goes to a good school but the students are hardly academics, being given over to partying and hookups: strictly middle class. Her daddy, though, is shown doing some fine dining at a fancy restaurant, where a colored waitress serves the tables. Tree's sorority had a prejudice against "chocolate milk." Tree's mom had an endearing "horse laugh." Tree did a "Lady Godiva" number sans horse. Those were social liabilities. And at least one jack­ass in the dorm deserved a swat on the ass. Discriminations are rife in this place, which Martin Luther King Jr., who now has his own MLK Day immediately preceding Ground­hog Day, would have been dead set against.

Schools receiving federal funds are mandated to teach about the Constitution on Constitution Day. Here there's a girl soliciting signatures against man-made global warming; she's taken as seriously as the water sprinklers, false car alarm, and stand-till-you-drop stunt, which all follow natural cycles. The homo­sexual who tries to go straight is not helped either. These are nonstarters here.

If we want traction, we need to consider a Mormon sermon set down in Owen Wister's 1895 short story, "A Pilgrim on the Gila": "Don't empty your swill in the door-yard, but feed it to your hogs. … Rotten meat, rotten corn, spoiled milk, the truck that the thought­less folks throw away, should be used. Their usefulness has not ceased because they're rotten. … nothing is meant to be wasted in this world. … Waste it by the threshold it becomes deadly, and a curse." The food tray spilled by the dining sorority was not cleaned up right away, and Tree tosses her uneaten cupcake in her dorm room's open trash can. Festering food can be deadly. "That sagacious patriarch told his flock the things of week-day wisdom down to their level, the cleanly things next to godliness." To complete the cleanliness with godliness dyad, there's also a lesson against committing adultery, sleeping with one's professor to skate with good grades.

These were the two things the Christian community held against MLK: he marched without a parade permit, spewing trash that the city was not prepared to clean up, and he was a well-known womanizer. But by the time Constitution Day rolls around, MLK Day is already forgotten. Relating it to Goundhog Day makes it still relevant.

Article IV, Section 2, ¶ 3 of the US Constitution mandates the return of escaped slaves to their owner even from free states if need be. This was obviated by the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. However, ratification required ¾ of the states' approval, and some southern states were occupied until they consented, making that approval non-voluntary. If MLK could be considered still subject to slavery—he was, after all, highly worried—, then his birthday replacing halves of both Llincoln's & Washington's would place him in the position of: (Prov. 30: 21-22) "the earth is disquieted, … and cannot bear: for a servant when he reigneth." Having the days out of whack would qualify for this disruption. Q.E.D.

When Tree's friend Carter (Israel Broussard) turns to help her, we see her in good hands, Carter having been the last president before Reagan instituted MLK Day.

I loved "Groundhog Day", having seen it 13 times on the big screen. I saw "Happy Death Day" on Friday the 13th, in House 13 of the multiplex. The number 13 was not wasted on this movie. The acting was all adequate to the plot. It incorporated the best of "Groundhog Day" while not being entirely redundant. It has my hearty recommendation.
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Flatliners (2017)
8/10
Why be concerned about the mysteries of the afterlife when this life has problems enough?
9 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Several med students at prestigious Trinity Immanuel Medical Center are competing for best residency options upon graduation. Courtney Holmes (Ellen Page) invites her erstwhile African-American friend Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) to join her for some extra­­curricular activity—we think drugs, this being a hospital. Ander Monson in his book _Neck Deep_ writes an aside on Dramamine: "the lethal dose (LD50) of Dramamine in rats is 500 mg/kg. LD50 means that at this dose, 50% of the subjects die. … taken in larger amounts, it causes tripping with hallucinations" (Saint Paul, Graywolf Press, 2007, 96). Courtney takes 50 mg of propofol, Michael Jackson's drug of choice, with the same result as Michael's and in half the rats. It has a quick onset but also wears off quickly.

In William Henry Johnson's 1897 book _The King's Henchman_, he writes, "A petard is a small cannon, as it were, secured against a wall or gate to be breached, the machine fired by means of a fuse at its rear end. To us this engine of war was then new, and we awaited the results of its employment with mingled uncertainty and hope." This new engine of war had the habit of going off before the munitions engineer was clear, giving rise to the expression: "hoisted by one's own petard," now meaning that the device one employs against his opponent hurts the user instead. These students fiddle around like Keystone Cops with the fuse lit. Their ambitious flatliner experimental results are as likely to destroy their careers—if not them­selves—as to gain them notoriety.

Once a hole is breached in the wall, one may look in, true, but what in tarnation may come out? "What if our sins are coming for us?" they ask. What matters their technical doctoring ability if they can't own up to their own moral failings? For trying to outdo the competition with this deadly experiment, they could end up hoisted by their own petard.

Their experiment is set in a fully equipped duplicate hospital on hand for an apocalypse. Since their hallucinations involve quasi-stellar objects (QSO's), we have to think cosmically. There are lots of water scenes and one boat. There was even a scene of distracted driving resulting in a drowning, reminiscent of Max Ehrmann's 1915 "Jesus: A Passion Play": "they heed not. It was just so in the time of Noah before the flood. And the flood came and swallowed them." This provides a mechanism of sorts for sins to transcend death, down through generations. Sophia's sin of broadcasting a person's nakedness and disrespecting her own parent's house with some rough sex parallels what Noah's son Ham did to him, in Genesis 9:20-27. William Graham Cole's book _Sex and Love in the Bible_ says of it, "a revulsion against both sexual perversion and filial impiety lay behind this story" (NY: Assoc. Press, 1959, 382). This resulted in a sentence of servitude on Ham's offspring. Cush, Ham's oldest, in Hebrew means black; he settled in Africa.

Sophia was uppity, wanting to do her trip on the same night as another tripper when there wasn't enough time. Her hasty trip was subtly different from the others, like the medium as opposed to the mystics in Blaise Cendrars's _SKY Memoirs_: "In the mystic, it is *ecstasy*, in the medium, *trance*. Both phenomena may show certain organic symptoms in common: alienation of the senses, cooling of the extremities, slowing down of the rate of breathing, and often rigidity, anesthesia, catalepsy. ¶"In the case of mystics a state of ecstasy, the cessation of heart­beat, and tachy­cardia, reveal the move­ments of the soul and its trans­ports; in the case of mediums, cramp and turgescence, often accompanied by orgasm, denote a profound moral disturbance" (NY, Paragon House, 1992, 138–9).

Sophia was in so much of a hurry that one of her fellows had to distract the night janitors to pull her chestnuts out of the fire. Its parallel is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, title VI, that moved race relations in a whole different direction. Here, though, every­one wanted to be the best physician possible, but that required owning up to past circumstances they might other­wise have gotten away with were it not for their "flatliner" experiment opening them to their past.

One of the mystics' visions was of a sacred church setting. In effect the visionary students were confronted with a de facto saying of Jesus, (Matt. 11:28-30) "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." You'd be hard pressed to find more burdened workers than these med students. The path to the meekness of Jesus opens as a real possibility once they give it some thought.

This movie has adequate acting throughout and a plot that takes a curve or two. Owning up to one's past is not necessarily at the top of the young adult's agenda, but their horizons were expanded by their experiment. For some reason the theater was empty except for me at the early showing. Being alone in a dark room added a sense of dread I hadn't expected. The examples of personal responsibility were quite on point. Since as evident from the name of the hospital it's Christian, and the class­­room instruction shows the usefulness of optional reading, I've thrown in a historical application that the movie only implies but can be got from the Bible. It's a good drama as well as having a satisfying creep factor.
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American Made (2017)
8/10
God bless the USA.
2 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Based on a true story covering the Carter years to the Reagan/Bush administration. Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is a TWA pilot who in '78 supplements his income with a pickup and delivery service bringing in Cuban cigars via a Canadian connection. He catches the eye of the CIA who enlist him to take recce photos for them out of a shell corp., flying a hot twin-engine plane. Sure enough, he ends up supplementing his income again, heavier drugs this time, a regular trifecta of arms, drugs and currency on the behest of the CIA. He's "protected" by a crucifix dangling from his dash.

He'd do better to heed (Sirach 9:13) "Keep thee far from the man that hath power to kill; so shalt thou not doubt the fear of death: and if thou come unto him, make no fault, lest he take away thy life presently: remember that thou goest in the midst of snares, and that thou walkest upon the battlements of the city." If he gets on the wrong side of some drug pooh bah, it's the final curtain, and prison would make him a sitting duck. His brother-in-law JB (Caleb Landry Jones) is not trusted by the cartel to keep silence once he learns too much. Seal flies an intricate pattern to avoid getting snared by law enforcement, per CIA intel. And in the end he fears to start is car—kaboom!

"American Made" opens at the Baton Rouge airport with a loudspeaker advising that a good place for history buffs is Louisiana. The average Joe will know that Thomas Jefferson wrote all men are created equal and that a later civil rights movement capitalized on the neglected equality of the Negro. History buffs, how­ever, familiar with the Louisiana debates will be aware that "Negro equality" never came up when Congress went over the slavery issue upon admitting Louisiana to the Union. People back then just didn't think in those terms. The Declaration of Independence was but an experiment in whether shop­keepers could run the government.

Sacred history addresses the other in the uniquely favored Noah who escaped a world-killing deluge, with his family. Seal was favored by the CIA and he packed off his family to settle in Mena, Arkansas and raise horses. (Gen. 9:18) "And the sons of Noah, that went forth from the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan." From Shem came the Semites, here via a British/American connection represented by Barry. Japheth (meaning enlarged—they settled every­where) are the Central Americans in this movie. Ham (the father of Canaan) through his son Cush (means black, settled in Africa) is represented in the movie by JB who doesn't get the family wealth but is given menial work. Ham's offspring were given a sentence of servitude on account of bringing into the post-flood world the wicked thoughts and violent deeds that got the old one drowned. JB also has a flourishing history of bad language and a record of two felonies. He is not a sympathetic character.

The actual prophesy is (Gen. 9 :27) "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." The Contras had a training camp on Barry's land, i.e. dwelling in the tents of Shem. The blacks in the movie served: a black DEA agent doing the drudge work following a money trail, and two colored boys offering parking of a hot plane in their yard, and a bike for a get­away. Lucy Seal (Sarah Wright), wife of Barry, escaped DEA confiscation with only what jewelry and fur coat she wore on her body. Noah escaped the judgment of being a drunken bum only by virtue of the covering his two sons Shem and Japheth gave him, Ham having mocked his father's nakedness, whence the judgment against Ham's offspring.

The above was for the benefit of the history buffs; it might sail over the heads of everyone else—sorry. What is explicitly explained, though, is the Contra-weapons-drugs-money-Sandinista (illegal) connection, with a hint of an Iran-Contra scandal to come, and a mention of the CIA trafficking drugs during the Vietnam fiasco. America is portrayed as both a land of opportunity as well as a land of some illegal shenanigans, though, surprisingly a relatively benign form of Negro slavery as justified by a Christian country is brushed aside by some historical bench­marks. The Confederate battle flag is proudly displayed in the South in the movie. The smuggled Cuban smokes is not condemned—people need their cigars. Virginia—where Robert E. Lee hails from—only imported slaves from the Caribbean—not from the brutal African trade—and then only to harvest their tobacco when there weren't enough laborers otherwise.

This movie portrays America with its warts of drug/arms trafficking, but it doesn't get all bent out of shape over the past slavery issue. I was of draft eligible age during the Vietnam War and didn't like what was going on with us there, so I have particular objections to what the CIA continued to do, as portrayed here. Never­the­less, I figured that if Barry could remain patriotic till his dying breath, after being used by his government, I can feel patriotic, too. This might be just me, a creature of contradictions at times, but the movie has the potential of inspiring good feelings for a flawed country. The LA history lesson is a bit obscure, except for history buffs, so I figure it's just history reasserting itself through an artist's open imagination, after being twisted by contemporary politics.

The plot was easy to follow. The American "good guys" were easy to root for even when they were technically on the wrong side of the law. Oh, well, some movies succeed despite inherit contradictions. Tom Cruise did well in his part of a regular guy getting in too deep. There were some great flight scenes.
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9/10
Gold Finger-Ring
25 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
(Illegal) drug mogul Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) decimates the British super-spy organization Kingsman and attempts to black­mail the U.S. president with her contaminated world­wide drug supply. A remnant of Kingsman survivors initiate their "doomsday protocol" to team up with their American counter­parts the Statesman in Kentucky and retaliate using the latter's "Arm–ageddon." The theme of the story—repeated from an earlier episode—is "Manners maketh man." The Southern Statesman acknowledge they got their "manners from the British." Okay.

The development corresponds to a passage of Solomon in the Bible. (Eccl. 9:7) "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works." A flash­back shows Kingsman Eggsy, a.k.a. Galahad, (Taron Egerton) being taught table manners. He is told that he doesn't have to wait for every­one at the table to be served before starting: "Unless you're eating a cold meal or dining with royalty, other­wise tuck right in." He proves the exception when dining with his blonde Swedish girl­friend Tilde (Hanna Alstrom) and her sharp-eyed folks.

Wine may help a person relax after work, or perhaps something stronger. The president's war on drugs snares such innocents as well as the abusers.

(Eccl. 9:8) "Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment." Both the good guys and the bad guys are well-dressed throughout. The Kingsman cover is a tailor shop est. 1849. Poppy has a salon.

They all use pleasant personal touches, as well: an artificial arm, and eye patch, and medicine to reduce unsightly blue veining of the face.

(Eccl. 9:9) "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life: … for that is thy portion in this life and in thy labor." Eggsy has qualms about using his (spy) labor to be a 'sparrow' trading sexual favors for espionage advantage. He'd prefer to wait for a marital commitment to his girl and go that route exclusively.

(Eccl. 9:10) "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor know­ledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest." Here's where the movie shines with some humdingers of fight scenes, including ones where they are pitted against double agents, and one where an agent about to meet his demise breaks out into song.

I'm reminded of an obscure Civil War battle here in Oregon. The two sides lined up on opposite sides of the street and threw rocks at each other. The technology in "Kingsman" is more high tech. They throw bowling balls.

This movie abounds in spy genre spoofs. For example, there's the guard dog with a vicious bark, to say nothing of its bite, that gets gold-plated like the babe in "Gold­finger". It looks real fine but can't do nothing. I suppose one might say, you can't have your bite and plate it too. It's like those fine Civil War memorial statues that are getting pulled down these days, resulting in "rock" fights by opposing sides in the street. You can either memorialize a war that's finished (and decided) or else pick up the battle all over again. Either/or.

Paul Darcy Boles in his 1957 novel _Deadline_ (NY: The Macmillan Co.) makes this very point about those who live in the past: "The rememberers, those who do it in the veins, they are often wrong: they were wrong in the Civil War … but they were wrong with the valiant banner of sticking to their cause, however lost. They're still wrong; but it is a worse wrongness to be one of the new ones, and to still want your cake—every loving bit, he thought—and eat it too, every fabulous crumb; you don't want integration; you just want money" (53).

Of course, outright greed is a major driver of the plot of "the golden circle." This movie defies categorization. The plot is too silly to qualify it as a spy-action movie, but the spoofs are too subtle for satire. At times it breaks into song like a musical—"Country Road", a nostalgic song about W.Va., gets sung twice. All I can say is it was a lot of fun to watch; I enjoyed it way more than I expected to. It boasts a number of accomplished actors in good form. The special effects are believable, though the stunts them­selves are improbable. Were it not so ridiculous, this flick would have received my top score.
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9/10
Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise
18 September 2017
Brown University grad student Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) is on a dream vacation: swimming on a beach in Spain, wearing his favorite shorts w/his favorite girl Katrina (Charlotte Vega), capturing it all on video as he offers her his (deceased) mother's ring and asks her to "Marry me." He's on top of the world. "I'm gonna get a drink," he tells her. "I'll be right back." In a movie that's almost a guaranteed cue for disaster.

Eighteen months later from an Internet connection in Providence, R.I., a now bearded Rapp, with great chutzpah, texts Muslim Adnan Al-Mansur that he's "ready to go on vacation"—code for jihad—in a cell the CIA has been unable to penetrate. He gets intercepted by Irene Kennedy, Deputy Director in charge of counter­terrorism who remarks, "I like your agenda." She enlists him in the elite Orion Unit, against the objection of her colleagues, telling them, "This one is different. What happened to him on the beach that day changed him. You can't train that into some­one." He's to be trained by ex-Navy Seal Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton.)

In Marion Boyars's 1963 short story, "The Island", he writes—as quoted from his Collected Prose (NY: Marion Boyars, 1984)—"If people could be taken apart success­fully, inside there would be a complexity of jutting hooks, and places for such hooks to fit into, and what people consider as relation­ships would be the fact of a complement of such hooks and places, fitting together, until some external shake or jarring pulled them apart." Rapp whose girl was torn from him now loves to get his hooks into the terrorists, with consummate success, but his coach has to tell him never to let it get personal but to rely on his training, a lesson the rest of the team needs to heed as well.

This lesson is applicable to a broad range of life experiences and has even been put into a proverb: (Prov. 28:26) "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." In this nail-biter of an action movie, we mentally urge on the good guys while being all too cognizant of this common problem they face.

"American Assassin" is tightly plotted with realistic action and an easy to follow plot, even with its big stakes. It delivers to the action-loving crowd but is not heavy on the romance except at the start. It is what it is. I liked it and highly recommend it.
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Home Again (2017)
8/10
Struggling artists in L.A. look for a break.
11 September 2017
Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) has been separated for five months from her New York husband Austen (Michael Sheen.) She's moved to her deceased father's house in L.A. to pursue a career as a home decorator. Her web­site is kaput, yet she has one so-so lead. Her two little daughters are about to be enrolled for their first day of school. They see their father every other weekend.

Three struggling artists Harry (27) the lead singer of the band, Teddy the rising star, and George an unproven script writer have hit the big city running. After three days their funds run out, so they go out drinking and run into Alice celebrating her 40th birth­day. Owing to a woman's sexual prime occurring later than a man's it seems likely Alice and Harry might hook up ("Let's be friends.") At least the three men will find a place to crash for the night.

When they recognize Alice's mom Lillian as once having played the lead in "Lola," a connection is made. She makes a suggestion to Alice: "They need a place to crash, and you've got a guest house."

In James A. Michener's 1959 "Reader's Digest" article, "The Hardest Working Women in the World", he observes that while in most countries middle class women will have some kind of servants to help with the house­work, comparable American women don't. Quoting an example from *A Michener Miscellany: 1950–1970* (NY: Random House, 1973), "a staff of helpers such as most Chinese families would have: three indoor servants, a gardener, a driver … the joy of having a built-in baby-sitter" (38). A friend of Alice remarks concerning her three house­guests that altogether she has: "live-in child care, free tech support, and sex." It's a fact of life that in Hollywood success as a screenwriter does not occur overnight. As Stuart Woods put it in his novel, *Beverly Hills Dead* (NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008) "I don't think you should count on price for the treatment; after all, we're talking about a new writer, not an established one" (120). These boys' script doesn't take off any faster than one would expect. Further­more, there is resistance from Harry when his two partners seek to acquire some needed independent income to tide them over: George from rewriting horror scripts, and Teddy applying for other parts.

"Home Again" is actually a classic take on (Prov. 12:9) "He that is despised and hath a servant, is better than he that honoreth him­self, and lacketh bread." Reese Wither­spoon does a bang up job playing the "single mom" whom guys fall all over them­selves trying to help, though she meets disapproval from certain quarters. That's better than Pico Alexander who as Harry nails it as a guy with too much self-worth to allow independence in his friends to contribute until he makes it.

I yearly honor the Jan. 19 birthday of Robert E. Lee as a tribute to my southern family roots that passed on to me a sense of hospitality, courtesy, and slow pace of life, from a culture where women had "the joy of having a built-in baby-sitter," though some do disparage that culture's earlier practice. When I tried to buy a Robert E. Lee T-shirt from a black vendor of T-shirts at an open air market in town, he informed me that he didn't sell any Civil War T-shirts. I had to order one on the WEB. But then numerous people at the market have complimented me on my shirt. There's a ready market here in Oregon for these shirts, which the black vendor has not tapped. The above proverb and this movie help put the difference in outlooks into perspective.

Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation enjoined the now freemen to accept whatever work was available for reasonable wages, but their descendants, it seems, now will pass on income that insults their black pride. Lincoln also enjoined them to put aside animosity and abstain from violence. These days they are pulling down statues of the general, even though he is hardly going to be fighting for the South again. In this movie when Alice's estranged husband plays a surprise visit, there results some childish fisticuffs with one of Alice's guests. Sometimes life and art imitate each other.

This movie showcases Reese Witherspoon's talent of portraying a determined woman for whom fate shines favor­ably. The men in the movie get a bumpy ride as they learn from the lumps they take. It's a chick flick all the way. Even has a female director. The one fight scene is hardly manly. The women engage in seemingly endless chatter, but I suppose other women will enjoy that. I'm not marking it down any for targeting an audience other than me, because it should be fine for the women. It contains a universal lesson per one of the proverbs, and I was able to enjoy it regardless.
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Wind River (2017)
8/10
In Deep Water
5 September 2017
The opening titles declare "Wind River" to be "inspired by actual events." The opening scene is a protracted one of an Indian girl—barely an adult—running then crawling across an open expanse of snow, trying to make the tree line as she recites in her mind a poem of hers: "A Meadow in My Perfect World." The poem has the view­point of up in a tree. It's almost as if she is longing for higher ground. It could conceivably be an arche­type of a widespread flood.

Next is a scene of a wolf worrying some Wyoming sheep. Wild­life official Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) takes care of it. Now we start thinking in terms of Noah who shepherded a passel of animals into an ark. Noah according to the book of Enoch was an albino, and Cory is dressed in camouflage white.

Next stop is the town of Lander where Cory picks up his eight-year-old boy. Of course, after the ark landed, Noah himself would be a *lander*, the name of the town. Here's where it gets positively weird. There's a globe on the shelf next to Cory as he warns his ex-wife Roma about the oncoming blizzard. Of course, Noah had preached about a coming world­wide flood.

It's more of the same from here on. Noah's wife was evidently too old to bear children after the flood—she didn't have any more—and likely not able to shortly before it either. Their youngest Ham was conceivably the off­spring of a maid­servant, per the custom of the time. The servant girl did not make the cut for the ark ride, but Noah had custody of Ham when they took it. Like­wise, Cory has custody of his kid this day, and his ex- has a job inter­view, her location being defined by her work.

Next we get to a scene where Cory teaches his kid how to dominate their riding horse. After the ark landed, God renewed man's dominance of the animals (Gen 9: 2), "And the fear of you shall be upon every beast of the earth." Then comes Cory's wildlife patrol where he discovers some cat tracks next to a slaughtered steer ("It's a lion, all right.") Multiple tracks ("Mama's teaching her kids to hunt.") Once that happens she has doomed her whole family. Here in Oregon we'll put down a rogue wolf that kills live­stock. Here it seems to be a matter of their family business, not individual character but the pattern of their paw prints. Oh, well.

Now comes the gist of the story proper. Seems the body of the introductory scene Natalie is discovered frozen having succumbed to weather as a proximate cause, from evident foul play earlier. Cory is drafted by local law enforcement to simply drive around a green FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), and then his tracking expertise kicks in. His own daughter had been brutalized three years ago, so he is self-motivated to seek justice for this new death. It's similar to the way the antediluvian world was full of violence causing God to flood it out. There­fore Noah didn't want to see violence introduced into the cleaned-up world. Gen. 9:19-27 relates an incident that cast's Noah's youngest son Ham in a bad light for having looked upon his father's nakedness. According to *The Interpreter's Bible*, Vol. I, p. 556, "In the primary, popular form of the story there probably occurred here—as shown by the reference in vs. 24 to 'what his younger son had done to him'—an account of an indecent attack by ((Ham)) on his father." In the film some stir-crazy drunken boys living in this isolated region wanted to practice voyeurism on Natalie ("All I want is a little peep"), which escalated into some­thing far worse. We are spared much of the details, just as the Bible story spares us.

There's an accounting to be had by the tracker who will search out all the miscreants. Noah pronounced a life of servitude on Ham's offspring. The Tracker like­wise will give his targets a chance rather than kill them out­right if he can avoid it.

For the record, Noah's other two sons (righteous Shem and Japheth) can have their off­spring represented by the whites ("crackers") and the native Americans in this film, traveling the rocky road to some kind of integration, (Gen. 9:27) "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem." Integration of blacks is not dealt with in this movie, and does not follow the same formula in the archetype. Ham's oldest son Cush—Hebrew for black—settled in Africa where real lions dwell. How­ever, it can be projected that Cory is a negrophile on account of the women's magazine article he reads about the ten ways to tell he's into you, which includes him looking in your eyes during conversation. Cory does look into the mountain lion's eyes in its den where it is pitch black.

This is, like, one strange whodunit, "not in the land of backup, but the land of you're on your own." There is minimal police procedure—just some jurisdictional wrangling—but justice proceeds more on atavistic grounds, as, say in the days of Noah where they were not surrounded by the safe­guards of civilization, although God seemed to trust Noah in his judgment. Noah's travails seem to be the best paradigm to relate this movie to, although there is lots of human and wilderness appeal without considering any of that. It just impressed itself on my mind that way, and it's not an unheard-of story, so I put it in my review.

I quite enjoyed the show going along at a slow pace, punctuated at the right time with flared-up violence. Unless you're set in some more traditional formula, I find it worthy of my recommendation.
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8/10
The Odd Couple
28 August 2017
"The Hit-man's Bodyguard" opens on the morning oblations of one Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynalds) getting ready for work. He's neat as a pin for his gig as an Executive Protection Agent in charge of shepherding a Japanese arms dealer in a high value transport. We will come to learn of his back­ground as a Boy Scout, then trained by the CIA, then gone private. He is emblematic of, (Prov. 22:6) "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Still follows the Boy Scout motto: "Be prepared." Some two years later Interpol is losing some necessary witnesses due to a mole in their organization. They have one witness left, a hit-man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who is no boy scout (i.e. not "morally straight") but his wife affectionately calls him cucaracha (Spanish for cock­roach) on account of his scurrying around and that he's hard to kill. In desperation Interpol contracts Michael, now on the skids, to be the hit-man's body­guard transporting him from Manchester to the Hague. They make an odd couple. The hit-man got into the business by disrespecting his preacher father's advice that revenge should be left entirely to God.

The deal they offer Kincaid is they will set his wife free (but not him) if he will testify ("It's mighty white of you.") Michael will get his three star status back if he's successful. And Kincaid goes back to prison after being self-motivated to insure their success. That puts (black) Kincaid in servitude to (white) Michael, and he's already a love slave to his (white) wife. The only one out to protect Kincaid's interests is his lawyer. We'll see how far that goes.

Along the way they will encounter a group of singing nuns. The nuns will put us in mind of "The Magnificat," a canticle sung at vespers, about God scattering the proud, putting down the mighty, and exalting the meek and humble. Historically, that would include wiping out a world of sinners with a flood, rescuing Noah and his brood, Noah then passing on a blessing to his two elder respectful sons and their progeny but placing the brood of his youngest son Ham in servitude due to his disrespect. And let us not forget Naomi who sent her unworthy Moabite widowed daughter-in-law Orpah back to her father but took her worthy one Ruth with her to her Jewish country. Ham was the progenitor of "African Americans" through his son Cush (Hebrew for black) who did in fact end up in America in slavery to the progeny of Ham's other two brothers. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David, and by rabbinic tradition Orpah was the great-grandmother of Goliath, which shepherd boy and giant fought each other. History didn't used to be so important, but now that the Confederate statues are coming down on account of their reminders of slavery and conflict, let us not forget other historical figures; that is, if the lawyer doesn't come through and obviate the movie's servitude.

Despite the historical template in play, the race relations between the two principals in this film end up being good giving us good feelings. It is white of Michael to give Kincaid his best three star protection. And Kincaid is forth­coming in giving good love tips to Michael ("a romantic retard"), putting us in mind of (Acts 13:1) "at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as … Simeon that was called Niger" (Latin for black.) There are a lot of bullets that fly in this movie, coupled with the humor of two different personality types working together. It treads in the area of race relations, doing pretty well even though it's up to a single lawyer to hold the line on political (& legal) correctness. It's a bit loud at the start with a vigorous gun battle, but it settles into a dull roar as it goes along. The actors pull their weight, the script­writer doesn't fail to come up with some zingers, and the body count mounts beyond numbering. This is one righteous movie if you don't mind plenty of action.
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Kidnap (2017)
9/10
Say when.
21 August 2017
African-American single mom Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) photographically tracks the growth of her son ("Baby Cakes") in stages from infancy until age six when he's suddenly abducted from under her nose in a park setting. Losing her cell phone in her rush, she visually tracks him in the clutches of his abductors, on foot and by car, through various stages of an intense chase. In desperation she prays ("I never pray to You except …") promising God never to ask for any­thing again if he'll just help her get her son back. What follows is an answer to her prayer in a 'God helps those who help them­selves' kind of way, which the police will later characterize as "an unprecedented civilian pursuit." She sticks with them like a drowning man clutching a lifeline.

I'm reminded of a colloquialism uttered by a trail boss rescuing a drover gone under in the raging Red River in William MacLeod's 1930 novel _Rutledge Trails the Ace of Spades_: (p. 12) "Can you hang on if I let go yore head? Good. Stick to that stirrup, boy, like death to a nigg[_]r's heel" (Garden City, NY: Doubleday), which expression probably derives from the low life expectancy of over­worked and abused slaves back in the day. I might venture to say that the intensity of the black mother's pursuit of her taken child is owed in part to her racial memory of abducted negroes from Africa, not wanting to have it happen all over again ("You took the wrong kid.") She sticks fast to her son, and the kidnappers flee as if pursued by death itself.

Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the states in rebellion and enjoined the now freed­men to accept what­ever work was available to them at reasonable wages. Karla had a "regular job" as a waitress in a greasy spoon diner where we saw her refuse to do a double shift—we assume with over­time pay—in order to take her kid to the park ("got plans with my kid") leaving a (White) customer in the lurch with no-one to wait on her ("You need help"). In a Hitchcockian way her arrival early at the park set her up for attending the noisy music venue when a critical phone call came in necessitating stepping away from her son to find a quiet spot to take it, allowing him to be taken. Now she's the one who needs the help in a place teaming with oblivious people. This only illustrates (Prov. 26:27) "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein."

If one wanted to draw into the allegory the incident of Rosa Parks on Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama negotiating with a White person for his intended seat on the bus, the script­writer need but develop a plot in which the white kidnapper ("Love Taker") gets into the car with Karla to negotiate, and in a heroic altercation loses her seat and her shirt to the black lady who then drives the caravan. Then we could finish up with the car coming back to hit Karla per the last half of (Prov. 26:27) "and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." Assuming "Kidnap" to have been written for a savvy audience, this illustrates the glass half empty or half full dilemma. If she can recover her son, she still has the custody battle with the kid's father to go through, and he's in a financially better position. Just because the North won the American Civil War, doesn't guarantee a level playing field for the freed slaves, just the right to work as available at reasonable wages. A person seeing a glass half empty could conceivably crush the bottom of the glass, but those statues of Confederate soldiers are not going to re-animate them­selves and fight for a return to slavery, just won't happen. Best to just work for that level playing field, helping our­selves as best we can even if God is not.

"Kidnap" (2017) is one intense film, and it seems to be directed to an audience already having a lot on its plate what with racial problems that have not yielded to post Civil War efforts to correct them. I mean, the film is intense in its own right without including thinly disguised racial issues.

This is one thriller of a movie, any politics being nothing more than a suggestion to a news-weary audience. It can be taken on different levels, but it will keep you going for all of its 81 minutes.
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Unforgiven (1992)
10/10
A New Leaf
14 August 2017
Circa 1890: The American wild west has been partially tamed. William Munny (Clint Eastwood) a man once known for his "notorious intemperate and vicious disposition", having once killed for money, has now taken to home­steading in Wyoming thanks to the gentle ministrations of his wife Martha now departed three years. He hasn't had a drink in eleven years. Her tomb­stone lists her age of passing at 29 meaning she would have been pushing 21 when she got married, old enough to make a big girl's decision what kind of man to marry should the farm not pan out and he had to fall back on some former occupation to provide for their children-to-be.

The west is not so tame that some men don't need killing. A coterie of whores in Big Whiskey have offered their combined savings to set things right with a couple cowboys they have it in for. It's a golden opportunity for Munny and a couple confederates Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and the 'Schofield Kid' (Jaimz Woolvett). They would be competing with English Bob (Richard Harris)—who has with him a biographer to chronicle his exploits. Guarding Big Whiskey is the sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman).

The plot will bring out the true character of those involved. *Temperance*—not talking of alcoholism per se—means moderation in thoughts, feelings, and actions. The 'Schofield Kid' is immoderate in thought giving an inflated tally of the number of men he's killed. Ned is immoderate in his feelings letting them interfere with his job. And Little Bill is immoderate in his vicious whipping of (suspected) miscreants.

The real cowboys set the biographer straight concerning a lot of bogus reports that had made their way into pop western literature of the time. Historically it was about the same time as another major literary sea change, the established King James Version (of 1611) being challenged by a new bible for Great Britain, the English Revised Version in 1885, followed by the American Standard Version in 1901 for America. I've always thought it curious how translators could take an authoritative book that enjoins being "temperate in all things" (1 Cor. 9:25) and be most immoderate in word substitutions. The easy answer is they substitute "self-control" for "temperance" in Gal. 5:22-23 & 2 Pet. 1:5-6. Now they don't have to feel obligated to temperance in their translation, but have put God's word into human, i.e. self-, control.

Be that as it may, self-control—or lack of it—has found its way into this story, as well. A working girl is ill advised to let loose a "little giggle" when she spots her john's "tiny pecker", a house­guest is ill advised to offer as a fix to a leaky roof, "shoot the carpenter"—the owner built it him­self—, and English Bob is ill advised to insult the American president on Independence Day.

In "Unforgiven" temperance and self-control (or lack of them) are both well illustrated, being two different words not exactly synonymous; you can find pertinent illustrations for your biblical injunction for which­ever of the two you would use depending on whether you use a modernized version or the KJV. The chronicler's experience might also make one want to question the accuracy of other pop literature.

Unforgiven is an outstanding classic of the western genre. It somehow strikes a deep chord in the American psyche. It bears repeated viewing. It was directed by Clint East­wood at his seasoned best. There's lots of drama and suspense as well as exciting action. The humanness of the characters comes through along with plenty of irony. I highly recommend it, but not to children.
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The Big Sick (2017)
8/10
The B.S.
24 July 2017
A coterie of stand-up comics review their techniques backstage at a Chicago night club. They discuss using the F-word, but we are spared hearing it in their riffs. As is his wont, comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) has a one-night stand with a fan Emily (Zoe Kazan). They talk about doing the F-deed but no sex scene is shown. Neither wants to get serious, but their mutual attraction leads them to a number of one-night stands with each other. When their relation­ship turns serious enough to warrant meeting each other's folks, that's the end of it. Emily's dad is mildly xenophobic, and Kumail's Pakistani parents insist that he marry a Pakistani. The love-struck couple is unable to "visualize any world in which we could be together."

A spate of movies about such an east-west conflict shows it to be colorful dramatic material, but other mixed marriage conflicts closer to home might be easier to under­stand. A Christian marrying a non-Christian is taken to be prohibited by (2 Cor. 6:14) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." That in turn is supported by the rhetorical question (2 Cor. 6:15) "For what part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever?" The Corinthians' familiarity with such a mismatch is present in Paul's earlier letter (1 Cor. 7:12-17) where he permits such mixed marriages. The Corinthians can deduce from the unbelieving spouse's lack of church involvement that mixed worship is not going to work. The common wisdom is that Paul permits marriages that existed before the one partner converts, but he prohibits a believer from marrying a non-.

However, since Paul was merely answering their questions about these arrangements (1 Cor. 7:1), they already had them, and we can see where they came from in Acts. In Corinth (Acts 18:9-10) "spake the Lord to Paul, speak, and hold not thy peace: for I have much people in this city." Paul (Acts 18:11) "continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." Plenty of time for a new convert to have her planned "June wedding" with her as-yet-unconverted intended. (Acts 18:18) "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while." More time to enter mixed marriages that couldn't wait longer. Then there is essentially Paul's whole second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-23) before he ends up in Philippi whence he writes to the Corinthians accepting their mixed marriages. And if there were any hold­outs, there's another six months before he writes in 2nd Cor. his prohibition against being unequally yoked, which applies to mixed worship, not to mixed marriages. After reading Acts 18, we *can* imagine a world in which mixed marriages are permitted for Christians: the early days of Christianity, before there was an established Christian population from which to choose a mate, before anyone even knew what a Christian was much less plan to marry one.

"The Big Sick" shows a similar mechanism at work. Alfred Hitchcock used what he called a MacGuffin: an element of plot separate from the main story but that moves the plot along. Here it is a mysterious disease contracted by Emily. This movie is not about a medical mystery per se, but its introduction provides time—like in the Corinthian story—for the writers to come up with some kind of resolution to make it possible for the couple to wed. In fact the added time approximates that introduced in the book of Acts. Just reading proof texts from the Corinthians letters would by itself make is seem impossible for Christians.

I thought "The Big Sick" was like a recent trip I took to the county fair. The chicken judging contest was so protracted that I got bored watching some guy look for lice under the chickens' wings, and I split. Kumail was confronted by a stream of eager Pakistani girls his parents brought by for him to look over. Boring! What I thought was sexy was the hand-washing station. I poured some disclosing powder over my hands and washed them thoroughly on both sides for a timed 20 seconds. Then under a UV light I saw how well I did. Kumail and Emily had time in stages to resolve their issues before the spot­light showed how well they did.

Kumail's discussion with his dad brought out that an arranged marriage can be a happy one. Love marriages, however, have an added element of joy, as a man is told in (Eccl. 9:9) to "Live joy­fully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life." Kumail and Emily had their "Whoo, hoo!" moments. While arranged marriages can be happy marriages, love marriages have the possibility of being happy and gay. That they would be more readily called a gay couple in Chicago than in New York or Montreal—other comedic circuit destinations—where people more readily accepted same-sex marriage than in Illinois where it had to be imposed by an outside Court, shows that Illinois is perhaps a better place for their love to flourish than, say, in New England, New York or D.C.

This kind of dramatic movie is easy enough to make a good one of, but harder to make an excellent one of, so I was not disappointed to rate it a 'B'. Not every movie wins the Oscars. This one lived up to its potential in my opinion. The stars were good, the supporting roles not too bad, and the back­drop authentic enough. This one is as good as any along that vein. See it if you enjoy this stuff.
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Wish Upon (2017)
10/10
Swish Upon
17 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A woman Johanna Shannon (Elisabeth Rohm) is shown (reluctantly) throwing out a cloth-wrapped treasure in the trash. Her preschool daughter Clare (Raegan Revord) asks if she can ride her bike down the street. Her mom tells her it's okay but she has to come right back and stay on their own block. That's safe, to keep within an established time­frame and in one's familiar surroundings. She goes off with her pup Max, explores some baby birds in a tree nest, and returns home.

Fast forward to Clare as a high school senior. Her neighbor bakes with apples. Clare is the apple that doesn't fall far from the tree, taking after her mom who "was a good woman but she had a rough child­hood, … secrets too big to live with." Clare has a sensitive artistic side like her mom's, which combined with a child­hood trauma and a slight frame, makes her a target for bullying. Max is a big dog now. Her dad Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) is a suave jazz sax player with a sideline of dumpster diving. He would have made a real catch in his day. The dumpster diving was fun when Clare was little, but now her dad is a source of embarrassment among Clare's schoolmates.

One day Jonathan finds a clamshell music box among the detritus—presided over by a gargoyle. Belated research will prove it to be a Chinese wish pot managed by a demon (Chinese: Yao Guai) that grants its holder seven wishes coming with a non-optional "blood price." After the 7th wish the Yao Guai claims its holder's soul. This particular pot had a tragic beginning, but its subsequent owners led prosperous lives—what remained of them—surrounded by lots of death.

This puts one in mind of (Prov. 26:27) "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him", now bastardized into, "What goes around comes around", or in pc terms messing with a level playing field. Rolling a stone uphill with affirmative action is what causes it to roll back down, and the pit is dug to handi­cap the competition. Who could blame those owners for capitalizing on their "leveling" device to give them­selves a playing field more to their liking, collateral damage notwithstanding?

Jonathan gives it to Clare as an early birthday present. Lacking the maturity of the previous owners, she makes various droll requests concerned with her status among her high school crowd. If you count coming down with a disfiguring disease and falling madly in love, there are plenty of hits and falls associated with Clare's wishes. Double whammies are not out of the question, either, where there is both a hit *and* a fall. A hanging, for instance, involves a fall from one's support, then the knot of the hang­man's noose striking the back of the cranium to knock out the soon-to-be-deceased before the rope breaks his neck. An auto-pedestrian accident may start with the struck person being launched through the air to fall upon some­thing. At any rate the sound of a falling body is 'swish' and a hit *upon* is like the *Upon* in the cute title. When Clare turns 18, her wishes turn more mature.

The setting looks genuine Ohio where I once lived. The actors are all good, down to the dog, and the principal (Clare) is photogenic, easy to look at. The plot is consistent and strangely relevant to real life. The music from the box sounds western, but the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation in the Chinese class was spot on as they did their drills starting with the teacher's name. "Wish Upon" was not overly gory, relying more on suspense and imagination to get to the audience. It's short at 1 1/2 hours, but if you stay past the end, there may be an extra scene. This is an altogether well-crafted film and earns my highest marks. Unfortunately, it hasn't been heavily hyped, so horror lovers may miss a good one if they wait too long. It's clever enough to deserve more than one viewing to catch what you missed the first time.
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8/10
Handy housewife and gay froggy slow boat their way to the city of lights.
19 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Happy American homemaker Anne (Diane Lane) and her successful businessman husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) are at a mile­stone in their lives. Their only daughter has gone off to college leaving them an empty nest. They take a European vacation.

Michael's business keeps intruding on him ("The vacation can wait") via his ubiquitous cell phone—with a dog bark ring tone. Anne, ever practical, finding her­self in a hotel in Cannes, which doesn't serve cheese­burgers, orders a hamburger *and* a cheese sandwich—her hubby can afford it—to construct her own. When Michael gets diverted for business to Budapest and Anne has ear troubles ("I don't recommend you fly today"), she avails her­self of the kind offer of one of Michael's associates Jacques (Arnaud Viard) to drive her with him from the south of France to Paris. Oh, the stops they make! Anne, ever practical, is not above getting under the hood of a kaput auto­mobile. They stop for the night and Jacques orders them adjacent rooms ("*companion chambres*") while Anne not knowing French just plays along.

Jacques educates her on French culture: "We French are practical" concerning marriage and all that. There's a practical way to make a man sandwich: Her husband is the hamburger, bringing home the bacon, but he neglects her. Jacques while too much a creature of circum­stance to inspire monetary security, is one consummate cheesy romantic—with the best French cheese, of course. This option is perhaps best expressed in (Prov. 20:30), "Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness." Anne indulges herself on rich chocolates along the way, and she doesn't worry about some broken crockery. Practical, granted, but applied to marriage, neglecting vows and morality figuring the mess can be cleaned up, is not a "practicality" to be lightly engaged in.

As they tool along the French countrywide, Jacques the Lothario who encounters other "practical" dames in his haunts along the way, keeps one wondering if Anne is going to be beguiled as well. It's sort of like boiling water; there's the adage: "A watched pot never boils." One woman in my row even left the theater when nothing happened after a long time.

The French actors were superb (except for one inadequately coached kid in a minor part), and the American actors seasoned. The French cuisine was a visual feast but beyond my ken to recognize it (save for the dande­lions & escargot). This movie of incipient sexual adventure is pretty tame by American standards but would more appeal to Europeans for milking the buildup. I liked it, but I like a wide range of movies. It may not move fast enough for some tastes. The scenery is engaging.
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9/10
Nightmare on the dirt road
12 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens on a dystopian future in a makeshift isolation room. An old man Bud (David Pendleton) is delirious ("Can you hear me?") as he is consumed by plague. His daughter Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), her husband Paul (Joel Edgerton), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) wearing gas masks and rubber gloves trans­port Bud to his final resting place. Sarah doesn't want their 17-year-old son to see this, but Paul needed his help loading Bud into and out of the wheel barrow. This film is so R rated that even the actor playing the 17-year-old should be kept from seeing the scene he's in.

From a later dream sequence we gather the disease is sexually transmitted, as well as by air and by body contact. Further­more, worries about the dog getting loose give us to under­stand it can jump species. It's no wonder the authorities are not called—what authorities?—and the family tries to avoid people—what people? By and by, they team up with another trio: Will (Christopher Abbott), Will's wife Kim (Riley Keough), and their toddler son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). They figure the greater number will help them stand against outside trouble that's sure to come. How­ever, Paul advises his son Travis, "You can't trust any­body but family, good as they seem." This premise is going to be tested.

Precious little info is given us on their previous lives, although we learn that one of the men had been a teacher of history. I hate history as much as the next guy, but this hints we might learn some­thing from it. Because of the apocalyptic scope of their troubles, I'd want to try biblical history. Let's look at the after­math of the deluge.

The old world was beset by sin and violence passed on by a corrupted seed; however, (Gen. 6:9) "Noah was … perfect in his generations." His wife also presumably came from good stock, and they and their three sons Shem, Ham & Japheth along with their three wives were saved from the world­wide punishing flood by riding out the rain in an ark. Noah was 600-years-old and his wife 100 years older when that happened, so she'd quit bearing by when the time came to repopulate the earth, and perhaps a good while before then. Since the mother of Shem and Japheth is mentioned in the book of Jasher, but not the mother of the youngest Ham, speculation has arisen that the latter's mother could have been a hand­maid according to custom, perhaps not of the best seed. At any rate Ham failed the test Noah gave him, but Shem and Japheth passed. (I've elaborated in my review of "The Dinner.") Noah blessed Shem—from whom came the Semites—and also Japheth—whose name means enlarge, and whose offspring settled all over—saying, (Gen 10:27) "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant." Canaan was the youngest son of Ham who failed the test, the judgment being delayed for a number of generations.

Paul in our movie has a namesake Paul in the Bible, a converted Jew self-described as "an Hebrew of the Hebrews." Sarah's biblical name­sake was Abraham's wife. Will and Kim raised goats and chickens and show a fondness for onion soup an ethnic food, so they represent Japheth who spread all over and was to dwell in the tents of Shem (the Semites), as we see here Will's family dwelling in the house of Paul. Canaan included the tribe of Gibeon who in fact became (Joshua 9:23) "bond­men, and hewers of wood and drawers of water" to the Israelites, this being preferable to complete annihilation. In this movie hewing wood and pumping water were the two farm tasks shown giving a sense of normalcy.

Here's the interesting part. One of Ham's other sons (who would also inherit servitude) was Cush, Hebrew for black, who went and settled in Africa, providing a sort of eventual justification for Negro slavery. In "It Comes At Night" Paul is white, and his wife is black but could pass as white if one doesn't look too closely. Their son Travis, how­ever, through some trick of genetics, has pronounced Negroid features, so that when his (white) dad orders him around, it looks like a white man bossing a black "boy." But Travis is kind of stupid, so our sympathies are that he needs bossing. And this is not politically incorrect, for his dad married a black after all, and pc is based on Thomas Jefferson's all men being created equal, not on the story of Noah. However, racism is based on that story, so from that perspective the film is racist. Racist and politically correct at the same time. Go figure. I give it kudos for cleverness.

Anyhow, it you're black and you're looking for a film to help make you feel good about yourself, there are plenty of offerings in theaters, which will do just that, but this isn't one of them. Instead, it's mind bending in its simplicity and one I enjoy for what it is. If you like dark films, here's one that might appeal to you for added variety. If you like more upbeat Holly­wood fare, go see something else.

The acting worked, but was nothing outstanding. The sets and background were elemental.
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Snatched (2017)
7/10
Foreign Adventure
15 May 2017
An opening line of text tells us that in 2017 two women were kidnapped near Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. Sounds ominous.

Dowdy department store clerk Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) has modified the saying about a customer being always right to her being always irrelevant. She gets fired. Next, her boyfriend Michael (Randall Park) tells her, "I can't go to South America with you." He's got bigger fish to fry. Her trip is nonre­fun­dable. All her friends reject her offer as well. As a last resort ("No one else will go with me") she settles on her mom Linda (Goldie Hawn) to "help me put the fun in nonre­fun­dable." In Ecuador a fellow tourist Ruth (Wanda Sykes) warns them about kidnappers ("You can't let your guard down.") A guy at the bar, James (Tom Bateman) chats her up and next day escorts them on a tour. They take the scenic route back ("Where the hell are we?") Kidnapping these two is about as profitable for the kidnappers as was the tape­worm in Emily's gut: Try to make a meal of it and who is digesting whom? Not to worry. Emily's brother Jeffery (Ike Barinholtz), "a middle-aged man who never leaves the house," mounts a rescue. He's the A-team … 'A' for agora­phobia. Ruth's friend Barbara heads the B-team. She used to be in special ops. She's better at ingress into the enemy camp than egress from it. Michael quotes the saying, "A man cannot discover the ocean unless he has the courage to forsake the shore." The women's unscheduled trip to Colombia, "the sack of the Jaguar," is not exactly an incentive to tourism.

If you're into advice and you read the Proverbs, you can get some swell insights by switching the genders from son to daughter in Prov. 6:20-21. "My son, … forsake not the laws of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart and tie them about thy neck." Linda liberally rubs in the sun­screen on Emily's shoulders and hangs a rape whistle around her neck, just as her advice should be rubbed in and her recom­mendations held close by the girl at all times. (Vs. 24) "To keep thee from the evil man, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange man"—I changed 'woman' to 'man' in this citation. Linda thought Emily's sharing drinks at a foreign bar with a stranger not a good idea.

Ideally Emily's experiences should convince her (and us) that her mom, "She's awesome!" Goldie Hawn was excellent; I'm a big fan of hers. Amy Schumer could act, but she's not photogenic. Her film promos did not help her get in character either. The plot has its share of twists and turns, and I found myself laughing despite myself. This would make a good Mother's Day flick.
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The Dinner (I) (2017)
9/10
Getting along with the brother from another mother.
10 May 2017
"The Dinner" opens with a collage of: a faint radio voice asking about danger, panning to an ATM closet, then to a Civil War memorial, a graveyard, and then some rap music with its distinctive vocabulary. Some kids are seen drinking until the cops bust it up and the youngest pukes.

What follows is some of the most boring footage ever shown, where high school history teacher Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) narrates to us his love for ancient history and to his wife his desire not to attend a planned dinner. It can only get better from here.

They meet up with Paul's brother Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) a consummate politician. Dinner conversation coupled with some judicious flashbacks explore the historical and political dimensions of racism in America as they discuss solutions to the jam their boys are in.

Stan's hard working (black) assistant Nina (Adepero Oduye) while not occupying the high side of any glass ceiling nevertheless can exemplify Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that exhorts the freed Negroes to accept available work at fair wages. Paul's high school with its half White half Negro attendance would follow the Eisenhower era decision of Brown v. Board of Education on integration. The colored diners at an exclusive restaurant represent their access to services as demanded by MLK. And the remaining progress is covered by Stan who has the African-American vote sewn up.

The problem arises when Stan and his wife's black younger boy Beau having been adopted tries playing the race card to gain power with his sibling and cousin, they being natural offspring. Paul resents him personally. If institutional racism has been completely conquered in society, is it even possible to have racism with just one black person in a family? You'd be surprised.

That's just the political dimension; the historical is worse. The bloody battle of Gettysburg pales compared to the ancient Deluge of Paul's period. Ellen Gunderson Traylor in her historical novel _Noah_ (Polson, MT: Port Hole Pub., 2001) writes, "prurient lusts so corrupted the line of Adam, that it was a rare family indeed which had no blood of the gods in its veins. The daughters of man­kind had so often been vulnerable to seduction, that it was extremely rare to find an unblemished line" (p. 59-60). "Noah was perfect in his generations" (Gen. 6:9), so any impurities would have come from the female side. In "The Dinner" the source of mental illness in the Lohman family line was attributed to their mother ("Mom was a wacko.") In Noah's family it appears to have been from maybe a hand­maid the mother of Ham the youngest—after the mother of Shem and Japheth quit bearing—, who brought the bad seed, which was demonstrated in the drunken Noah incident of Gen. 9:18-27 resulting in a fixed servile position of the youngest son of three, whose offspring through Cush (Hebrew for black) colonized Africa. In "The Dinner" history repeats itself in an incident with a "stinko bum" and miscreant son(s). Some rearrangement in the modern telling is added to keep it interesting.

The second time I saw "The Dinner" I wore my Robert E. Lee T-shirt in the spirit of the movie's depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg. Passing through our liberal college campus to drop off my ballot in the box along the way I remembered that my shirt did have a small Confederate battle flag on the front. But nobody here in Oregon noticed or cared. I suppose it's mainly in the South there was such a furor over it. This film is like that. Although there's a strong suggestion of a linkage to a biblical incident that befell Ham and his off­spring, only some people would even notice it or be concerned.

Richard Greer was all-in as a politician. Steve Coogan was a so-so "psycho brother"—I've seen scarier psychos. The women exhibited a strong range of emotion. Miscreant children looked bad. The innocent kid(s) had little acting to do except to be the deer caught in a headlight.

The flashbacks are set off by soft lighting. The ending is not emotionally satisfying unless you listen to the closing song all the way through. I found the movie compelling once I got through its boring beginning.
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9/10
To Be or Not To Be
8 October 2016
City Radio talk show host of "Passing Through Your World" Chen Mo (Chao Deng)—in China surnames come first—advises people on their problems. A female caller complains of being lonely on her birthday. He tells her she shouldn't be; millions of people all over the world are sharing the same birthday with her. She is not alone. His female co-host (Baihe Bai?) calls it quits ("It's break up.") He helps all kinds of people with their problems. Who is going to help him?

After two years of diminishing ratings, nobody will co-host with him … except for one fresh intern Yao Ji (Tianai Zhang) ("I'm Birdie.") For all her self-efface­meant, she manages to "erupt with unexpected elegance" when he gets in a bind.

His best friend "Chubby" Zhu Tou (Yu Yunpeng) after yearning greatly for the prettiest girl in college Li Zhi, seizes an opportunity to help her finish and graduate, earning her appreciation if not out­right obligation.

Female beat cop Yan Zi (Liu Yan) spends her days chasing petty miscreants and dreaming of promotion until one day by mistake she chases a nerd Mao Shiba (Yang Yang) whose only contraband was used electronic junk he collected to recycle. In his nerdy way he was afraid and ran on account of her being so pretty. Having similar minimal relation­ship experience, they hook up with each other. He loves her extravagantly ("Such devotion to Yan Zi") with home­made gizmos and gadgets, which may sound corny, but he really puts him­self into it.

Add some financial troubles at the station, a stern female program director Xiao Rong (Dun Juan), and a fading dear mother Madame Liu, and we've got all the makings of a fine drama.

The title "I Belonged to You" may be misleading in English. The tense of Chinese verbs can be a bit ambiguous, may even have elements of past, present, and future all at once. Maybe the oriental view of time is different than in the west. How­ever that may be, we have in one movie here three couples who will end up, when the credits roll, in a relation­ship either in the past, present or future. The challenge is to figure out which one will be which, and thanks to some clever writing it may not be the ones you expect.

"I Belong" has all the hallmarks of a Chinese drama film. The tears on their occasion are copious, and the declarations of love effusive. It's a triple romance with no mushy stuff. One couple goes so far as to discuss intimacy in a relation­ship, but only indirectly. The callers, on the other hand, are direct to the point of being shocking. The film itself is rated PG in Canada (British Columbia) & Singapore.

Chinese is a simpler language than English, so the subtitles seem to go by too fast when you're trying to follow writing that's more complex than the spoken parts. The scenery captured on film is at times breath­taking. There's some brief but decisive martial arts thrown in from a surprising quarter. The male leads (nerd, slob, and fatso) are made to look different enough for a western eye to tell them apart, and one of the women is always seen in a fetching uniform.

I'm a Chinese film aficionado to the point of having taken a couple years of Mandarin Chinese just so I can understand the movies better. I just love this stuff. The acting did not suggest any Oscars, to be sure, but it was done well done enough for an enjoyable viewing experience. Some few scenes put the strain on suspension of disbelief, but we were able to pass on them due to the pleasure of the plot. Screen­writer Zhang Jiajia appears fleetingly towards the end of the credits.
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8/10
Down the Rabbit Hole
17 April 2015
A hooded figure proceeds along a deserted beach, clutching a white cloth inscribed with a hand-stitched topographical map that aligns with a grotto on a bluff. Once inside, a tunnel leads to a wet rock, under which a deft hand unearths a package ... containing a marginally wrapped tape.

The Zellner brothers who wrote it were heavily influenced as children by the starts of the James Bond films. If this were 007, we'd see him take the tape to the lab for analysis. After some sleuthing, he'd pursue the lead to some exotic location, with reluctant cooperation of the authorities at home and abroad. M would worry when he disappeared from their radar. He'd meet up with a "Bond girl" with whom he'd engage in some situational sex. He'd end up trekking across a featureless tundra, guided by a pocket compass, pursued by some kind of dirty dog whom he'd dispatch with the latest in technological gadgetry. If God is still on the side of the British Empire, he'll survive to some day go on another mission.

The audience would eat it up. However, to a person who'd never seen a secret agent film or a Bond flick, the main character would seem touched in the head if not downright suicidal. Why doesn't he settle down? To take off suddenly from his office does not look like a career move. And he picks a lousy vacation destination.

"Kumiko" makes perfect sense as a conquistador film and its 29-year-old Japanese Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) the heroine. Friendly Americans want to help the stranger, but she just wants to help herself. The writers borrowing from the mischievous Coen brothers who brought us "Fargo" engage in some punny business by having her repeat her goal: "Fargo, I want to go Fargo," or should we say, "Far-go, I want to go Far"? She gets pretty far out there.

But she's not really crazy, we see, because she recently got promoted at work, cares for her fat and flourishing pet bunny, keeps her personal space neat, and is chastised by her mom for nothing more than setting her own goals. If we think of her as a dumb broad for hitting the road to find some movie treasure as if it were real, then we should also consider that we're looking at a screen that itself isn't real. I compare her to the airport proselytizers who waste their time doing their thing. They're just accepted as part of the scenery.

This is a great little artsy picture that will sail right over a lot of heads. If you'd like something a little different with a tightly constructed plot that only appears to veer into madness, this one will fill the bill. It's slow and easy to follow if you pay attention. Don't look for alternate endings, because the one they gave it is perfect.

See my full review at http://www.bibles.n7nz.org/movies/m2/kumiko.htm

©2015, Earl Gosnell
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