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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Movie Morsels - February 2009

by Mary K. Morgan - member of the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association.

At the St. Louis Science Center: Grand Canyon Adventure—River at Risk
The star of this beautiful Omnimax® Theater offering is the ancient, endangered Colorado River—the heroes are river environmentalists Robert F. Kennedy and Wade Davis and their Native American river guide, Shana Watahomigie. With their crew, they embark on a river rafting excursion on the Colorado River that, when captured by the camera, is transformed into the most visually exciting film I have ever seen. There is nothing like a four-story domed screen and a 15,000-watt sound system to catch your attention and put you in the center of the action.
The Colorado River is an illustration and a microcosm of worldwide fresh water issues that plague our planet. The film explores the “spiritual, artistic and life-sustaining powers of water,” according to the film’s producers.
Actor and environmentalist Robert Redford narrates the film and guides the audience through the action scenes as well as the ending discussion of our need for fresh water solutions. The sound track is impressive. Performed by The Dave Matthews Band, it features several original songs written for Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk.
There are six showings daily. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for students and seniors. Call (314) 289-4424 for information.

Gran Torino (2008) (R)

If your idea of entertainment is the incessant growling of an angry old man, you won’t want to miss this latest (and, perhaps, the last) film starring Clint Eastwood. There’s no doubt the character played by Eastwood, Walt Kowalski, is angry at the world. A Korean War vet, his life is going downhill faster than his old neighborhood. He hates his foreign neighbors, his wife recently died, and a meddling young priest refuses to let him languish in his unhappiness. What’s a mean old guy to do?
In this case, mean-old-guy Walt (Eastwood) decides to single-handedly take on the neighborhood gang bangers. It seems a change of heart has exposed a ray of humanity in him as he witnesses the strife of his hard-working (but still foreign) Hmong refugee neighbors as they try to protect themselves from the criminal elements in the neighborhood. At first willing to turn his back on their woes, about mid-film Walt makes a complete 180 and rises to their defense. Therein resurrects a very elderly, but still capable, Dirty Harry. Bad guys, watch your backs!
To make the Gran Torino tie-in for you would just be a spoiler—better to see it for yourself.

Defiance (2008) (R)

This dramatic, true story of a unique and effective Jewish resistance movement led by four Polish brothers will impress you with its acting, cinematography and historical significance. The brave Bielski brothers, living in Poland during the Nazi occupation, create and execute a plan to save 1,200 Jews from certain death by leading them in an escape to a nearby forest. There, they organize the refugees into a makeshift village and prepare to defend the group from the Nazi invaders. In the area now known as Belarus, the tenacious villagers manage to survive in spite of the overwhelming odds against them.
Nechama Tec originally told the Bielski Brothers’ story in her book, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. Tec was an eight-year-old girl when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. The screenplay, a joint venture of director Edward Zwick and Clayton Frohman, brings her compelling story of these Eastern European resistance fighters to the big screen.
The dramatization is strong in theme and boasts some of the best talent available. Outstanding performances by Liev Schreiber as Zus and Daniel Craig as Tuvia will change the notion of “compliance” to one of “defiance” when the resistance movement of these Eastern European Jews is considered.

Fraternal rivalries and philosophical differences between the brothers persist throughout the plot and create some personal drama within the broader aspect of the story. The hotheaded Zus, filled with resentment and anger, is frequently pitted against his brother, Tuvia, a more calculating and contemplative avenger.

Celebrate the resilience of the human spirit with a ticket to Defiance.