Catching up...thoughts on recently-seen movies.

Finally had a chance to catch up on a few movies.  


MINOR SPOILERS below, but nothing major.


The Visitor: Richard Jenkins, a Coen Bros. regular perhaps most famous as the deceased dad in Six Feet Under, plays an aimless college economics professor merely going through the motions in life.  When a business trip (that he doesn't really want to go on anyway), sends him to New York, where he maintains an apartment, he arrives to discover that a young, biracial Muslim couple that may or may not be living in this country illegally, has taken up residence in his apartment.  He reluctantly agrees to let them stay for a few days until they find a new place to live, and is surprised to find himself slowly taking an interest in their lives, especially that of the male, an emigrant from Syria who plays the African drum.  Of course, the requisite bad shit happens and Richard Jenkins - the Visitor - must decide between loyalty to his boring, but stable, university job back in Connecticut and his newfound friends in NYC.  A good little film, from the writer/director of The Station Agent and on a similar scale with limited locations and only about 6 characters in total.  Richard Jenkins - who has always played taciturn, passive characters to begin with, such as his lovestruck fitness instructor in the recent Burn After Reading - is even more restrained than usual, but it works wonders for the film.  I don't think Oscar will come calling on him, as some of the critics do, but it is a good performance in a good indie worth seeking out if, unlike Coaster, you're not interested in explosions, chase scenes, and such general malfeasance.  B+.


Bottle Shock: Another indie, this one likely to have never been picked up - or even made - if it weren't for the success of 2004's Sideways.  The story goes all over the place with numerous characters making mistakes and falling in love along with way to eventual success, but the basic premise is the true story of how Napa Valley wines from California earned their place in the world as true competitors to French wines, thanks to a once-in-a-lifetime competition arranged by a snooty British oenophile (Alan Rickman) living in Paris.  Light and sweet - if not quite as memorably funny as the aforementioned Sideways - the cast also includes Bill Pullman as a struggling vineyard owner, Freddy Rodriguez as his trustyworthy (or not) right-hand man, Eliza Dushku in her usual bad performance as a local barkeep, and Dennis Farina as Rickman's only friend, a wine-loving American who lives in Paris and who sports a very obnoxious wardrobe.  The best moments come from the strained father-son relationship between Pullman and his hippie son (don't recall the actor's name, but he's good), who have differences of opinion on how to run the family business.  B+.


Religulous: I soooo wanted to love this movie, but Maher comes across as an arrogant I'm-better-than-you jerk even more so than he does on his HBO talk show and stand-up routines (in which he is usually quite funny).  Maher's documentary-style dissection of what's wrong with religion just rubbed me the wrong way.  Maher begins to ask a probing question: why do people who are otherwise so intelligent then believe such utter nonsense as taught by Catholicism, Judaism, Scientology, Islam, Mormonism, and Evangelical Southern Christianity (I think I covered them all)...but never really answers the question.  The film is directed by Borat's Larry Charles and, in fact, feels like one of Borat's mockumentary interviews, but this time it's for real.  Some interesting moments, especially when Maher goes to a "Holy Land" theme park in Orlando and interviews an actor playing Jesus - who really thinks he IS Jesus and who is surprisingly well-versed in the Bible, but too often, these probing moments are cut short by split-second cuts to scenes from cheesy 1950's Charlton Heston-style Biblical epics that serve only to mock the audience.  Sorry Bill, I still love your HBO show but on this one I gotta say, Borat did it better.  C.




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Religulous left a bad taste in my mouth

Terribelle's picture

Okay, To be fair, I haven't actually watched the movie, but I saw numerous clips of it while Maher was out hawking it on the talk-show circuit and elsewhere.   I saw enough manipulation, mockery and snarkiness to say "no, thank you" to paying eight bucks to sit through the entire circus.   I will most likely watch it eventually - I just ain't in the mood right now.

I've also noticed something rather hypocritical about some of my agnostic and atheist friends (and family).  They bitch and whine about "those damn Christians/Muslims/Whoever are always trying to push their stupid religion down our throats."   And yet these same agnostics and atheists are no better, and certainly no different.

Anyway, thanks for your review on Religulous, HS.   On the subject of Religion and Hypocrisy, I'm just sayin'...

Whaaa? Of course we're better!

Coaster's picture

As an active atheist in the buckle of the Bible Belt, I enjoy socializing with like-minded people a few times each month at atheist and humanist meetups.  The activist atheists, which constitute a small subsection of the main group, deal with promoting our group to other atheist and attempting (Futilely most of the time 'cause this is Oklahoma) to keep religion out of our schools and governments. 

As for us being better than you, when was the last time an atheist promoted the teaching of beliefs in a science class?  When was the last time an atheist sought to deny funding for all family planning clinics in poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa if one of their outlets dared mention (GASP!) terminating an unwanted pregnancy?  When was the last time an atheist promoted spending $1.5 Billion Dollars (link) on Abstinence Only Education when study after study has shown that Abstinence Only Education does not work?  Heck, when was the first time an atheist did any of this nutsy-cuckoo stuff?  And while we're at it, when was the last time I had this much fun with bolding and italicizing?

I don't want to get into the "Evolution is just a theory" thing here because I know you're smart enough and educated enough to know the difference between the scientific and non-scientific use of the word "theory." In fact, I'm sure you could have written this: (link).

Honestly, sister T, I don't think I'm better than you (After all, I don't have breasts), just a bit more rational when it comes to the belief in mythological super-beings.  The pity of it is, you'll be missing a well made amusing movie that delves into a viewpoint a bit different than your own.  (Links you'll appreciate)


Atheist are on the opposite side of the same coin

Rajah's picture

They are all so certain there isn't a God or an afterlife. Well, nobody knows and there isn't any proof that there is or isn't. I a bit tried of folks like Maher painting christians and what not with a broad stroke. I know plently christians who believe in evolution and don't take the Bible literally. I have my own goofy beliefs that don't square with any one religion. My personal God is an uncaring god and humans don't have a special place in that universe. I don't push my beliefs on anyone and having them doesn't hurt anyone one wit. Atheists seem a bit too smug to me much like their religious counterparts. My point is you just don't know and there is no way to prove it either way, so there!

 Rajah has spoken!

My $0.02

HS's picture

I'm an atheist, much to the chagrin of most of my friends.  This may be because I was raised without religion playing any role in my life, so while I ultimately became curious about religion in my late teens, it was ultimately just a phase that I "outgrew."  For a long time I really, really wanted to believe that there was something out there, but without any physical proof - and with so many conflicting stories from different faiths about what is and what isn't truth, ultimately I just couldn't make that leap anymore. 

Unfortunately, my religious friends refuse to discuss religion with me because (in my opinion) they are unable to answer my questions, and also because (in their opinion) I am obnoxious and intolerant...which I vehemently deny.

I have traveled all around the world and have visited more than my share of churches, temples, and mosques.  Sometimes it was to enjoy a few moments of tranquility and calm (4th Presbyterian Church in Chicago, most recently), sometimes it was to see something I had never seen before (my first to a Hindu temple in Singapore, for example), sometimes to learn something new (the Blue Mosque in Istanbul) and sometimes it was just to admire the humbling architecture (Salisbury Cathedral, near Stonehenge, comes to mind).  But always have I been respectful.  Snapping pictures maybe, but never with flash, never while munching on food, and always while keeping quiet and trying not to be noticed by the parishioners.  I think religion is fascinating, because it has played such a huge role in history.   

I think religion is *mostly* a good thing, in that it gives decent human beings guidance in making decisions about life and faith to carry on when times are hard.  Where I get fed up is with the "our religion is better than your religion" garbage, with the "only religious people can be moral" nonsense, and with the tendency for evil people to use it as a crutch (can we say Osama bin Laden?).  On this very last point, I WANT to believe that it's not religion itself that's bad...but there such seem to be a lot of clerics teaching their school of it IN A BAD WAY...mullahs, Swaggart-like TV preachers, etc.  Believe what you wanna believe, but just don't use Dogma written centuries ago (and poorly translated for a modern age) as an excuse to be a hate-filled asshole or ignoramus....because when you do, you just provide fodder for atheists less tolerant than Coaster and myself to mock the whole lot of ya...and that's not fair to either side.



Ya'll know me, no more OCD...

TMundo's picture

...I ain't going back to the constant counting, checking and hand washing that made me a nervous wreck back in the day.  If that means believing in Jesus but living a life without OCD as a result, than sobeit.

Yeah, I used to be agnostic, so what?

There's an interesting book

jazzdrive3's picture

There's an interesting book coming out called "Is Christianity Good for the World?".  It's a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson ( 

Douglas Wilson is one of those guys that Maher seems afraid to get within 5 miles of.  Intelligent and articulate.  And of course Hitchens has a sharp wit as well. 

They're currently doing a debate tour to promote the book at a few colleges around the country.

Wilson is also meeting with the colleges atheist clubs/groups to answer questions, etc.

The real problem with "Religulous"

Marion's picture

was that it just wasn't all that funny.  A few chuckles, but for seemingly rich, ample material - stupid people trying to defend their stupid views - short on funnyness.

Don't anyone get upset, I'm not saying  if you believe, you are stupid.  But come on, smart people weren't going to make it into the movie.  Even Buddy Jesus, while a bit more well-versed than some of the other Christians Maher spoke with, was still kind of dumb.

As for the relative arrogance or smugness of atheists, can we not all agree that each side has its share of the obnoxious, and any attempt to quantify who's worse is akin to settling the question whether or not God exists?

I really want to see The Visitor

Critico's picture

I love The Station Agent, is one of the few movies that i wanted to see what happened to the characters after the movie, i felt it could perfecty be an HBO series.

There should be more atheists like Coaster and HS

Terribelle's picture

Nay, there should be more people like Coaster and HS.   I can understand and even agree with some of their (and Raj's) beliefs, and just talk about this stuff knowing that they ain't gonna go Swayze on my ass.  (Sorry, I just watched Roadhouse again and it was, as always, priceless, which only goes to prove my point - there is a God!)

Coaster, I don't mind paying for and watching movies to learn the viewpoint of others - quite the contrary.   What I don't particularly like, is watching a supposed intellectual run around the country looking for zealots and (let's face it) mentally unstable nutjobs, to mock and play games with.  Especially when Maher thinks he knows all the rules to the games, when he clearly doesn't.

I will watch the movie, though, I can promise you that.  But only at matinee prices - I can promise you that, too!

Btw, I don't believe that evolution is a theory

Terribelle's picture

I believe that God created evolution.  

For that belief alone, I am like soooo going to heaven!

No one puts Terri in the corner!

Rajah's picture

Have you seen that Wong Fu movie? I wonder after seeing that movie you'd have the same opinion of Swayze.


'Cheesy 1950's Charlton Heston-style Biblical epics...'

Trufflesnuff's picture

Strange. Last night I dreamt of Chas, in my very own remake of 'Ben-Hur.' He was hurtling round the track in the famous chariot, cracking a huge whip as I desperately tried to simultaneously keep out of reach and out-run the -




On foot.

I think I 'won'.

I'm typing this, aren't I?



I saw an old Bible epic, but I don't recall the name...

TMundo's picture

I turned it on just as Cain had slewn his brother Abel.  Cain was tying up crops busily and stressed out like he hadn't just done something wrong.  God was always depicted from the camera's POV, so you could never see him, but he would always decend slowly, and in this case ominously as Cain was ignoring his presence.

The film followed the Bible forward until it hit the begat section and a camera panned back revealing a pyramid tree of humans.  It then told the story of Noah's arc, and ended when they found land.

Anyone recognise this film?

Sounds like the 1966 epic THE BIBLE

FearlessFreep's picture

It was directed by the great John Huston, who also played Noah, but they say it wasn't one of his better films.  The cast included Richard Harris as Cain.


The artist formerly known as Zorro.

Well, I don't know of his other films...

TMundo's picture

...but this one, if it's the one I was talking about, was pretty good.

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