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Farenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11
Written and Directed by Michael Moore
Release Date: June 25th, 2004

Reviewed by Liberation Iannillo

In Michael Moore's follow up to 'Bowling For Columbine', Moore offers a frightening, though mostly one sided, view of President Bush's bungling of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

The film opens with the botched 2001 Gore / Bush Presidential election which, because of the events of September 11th, most people seemed to have forgotten about. It details Bush's connection with the media as well as Florida, the state who's votes were in question. In a joint congressional session, black representatives demanded an investigation but failed to get one because they lacked a single senator's signature. It's a slap in the face of minority voters at a crucial time in history.

From there Moore shows how Bush spent 42% of his first 8 months in office on vacation and his approval rating at this point was rapidly declining. Then came September 11th. Moore tastefully approached the horrible attacks by playing the audio of that mornings events to a black screen. While America was under attack from hijacked planes, President Bush sat in a Florida classroom reading "My Pet Goat" to a group of first graders. Though Bush was informed of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, he continued to sit with the children. He was then informed of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and for the next 7 and a half minutes he sat starring blankly holding his goat book. As one can imagine, Moore didn't hold back when he shared his thoughts on what the President was possibly thinking.

Within months troops are sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, giving Osama Bin Laden plenty of time to escape. Moore points out that 11,000 troops were sent in, a tiny figure when compared to New York City which has some 50,000 police officers on duty.

The film then moves on to the war with Iraq. Included is news conference footage of both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice dating to 2000 and 2001 in which they both state clearly that Saddam Hussein does not have the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction and poses no threat to the United States. The picture painted is that Bush went to war because there was money to be made from oil.

Moore makes many valid points in the documentary but sometimes his approach discredits him. In one example he tries to demonstrate how America blindly followed the the President's war plans for Iraq. He then cuts to a gum chewing Brittney Spears. Asked to give her opinion on the war, she gives an answer one would expect from a 19 year old pop star. Moore also takes advantage of the often inarticulate, off the cuff sound bites Bush has to offer.

There are times though when Moore is at his mischievous best. When he is told by Rep. John Conyers that the Patriot Act was passed by legislature because "we don't read most of the bills we pass", Moore hops in an ice cream truck and begins to read the document over the loud speaker while circling the White House.

Other areas Moore details include the billions of dollars the Bush family has made from the Saudi's, White House visits by a Taliban leader and how the Bin Laden family was flown out of America by the government on September 13th, 2001. Moore illustrates the insanity of this last point by asking if Clinton would have been impeached if he had flown Timothy McVeigh's family out of the country after the Oklahoma bombing.

It's unfortunate the documentary didn't get the PG-13 rating Moore hoped for as it would have only taken some minor editing to have achieved the rating. Though, if teens are finding their way into 'Kill Bill' they'll find their way into Fahrenheit 9/11.

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Joshua Marston's
Maria Full of Grace

Reviewed by John Pelham

I ate too much popcorn, plus I had to pee really badly. I thought I had problems. Try swallowing 62 pellets packed with heroin-pellets roughly the size of "Super-Absorbant O. B. Tampons"-and flying from Columbia to New York. Needless to say, Maria was full of more than just Grace.

Writer and director Joshua Marston's touching film, "based on 1,000 true stories," gives the audience a unique inside perspective on drug trafficking, as it follows Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a 17 year-old drug "mule" on her journey to the United States. A little bit of chance, quite a bit of money, and whole lot of desperation compels Maria to put her life at risk and accept this dangerous task. Sixty-two pellets and one extremely full stomach later, Maria is on the plane with a well-known colleague and a couple of others that she just met…all of them in the same situation. Marston does a fine job of keeping us in suspense as we watch the girls having to deal with a stomach full of drugs. It was made quite clear that if a pellet burst, it would result in a fatal overdose. Not to mention that if a pellet was missing after they were, um…passed over, the girls' families would pay the price. On the plane, one of the girls even had to re-swallow a pellet or two because she couldn't hold them in any longer. The plane lands, Maria and a couple others are randomly asked into questioning, some are luckier than others, and (one might declare) by the grace of God, Maria is sent on her way. But don't worry, more trouble ensues.

I hadn't realized this was a thriller, but I was on the edge of my seat throughout all of these scenes. Even when it's hard to imagine why someone would choose to do something like this, we feel sympathy for Maria. We want her to successfully smuggle into this country-not for the drugs, but for her safety.

But Maria's journey extends far beyond the point of her plane landing. There's an entirely different journey going on in Maria's mind throughout this movie, and by the end, we realize that the complete itinerary is all planned out. She has finally figured things out for herself. It leaves us feeling full of inspiration and hope for Maria…and alright, I guess you can also say, Grace.


Takeshi Kitano's

Japanese with English Subtitles
Opens Friday July 23, 2004

  Flying Limbs! Squirting blood! Cross Dressing! Tap dancing!
What more could a girl want?

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Zatoichi, written and directed and acted by the very talented Takeshi Kitano, is a spoofy fun romp about a blind masseur who is both a skillful gambler and a deadly swordsman.   According to the press release, films about this blind swordsman ruled Japanese cinema from the 60's through the 80's.  Takeshi Kitano, who has worn many hats as a stand-up comic, actor and director, has now revived the story of Zatoichi, a monk-like nomad who travels the countryside carrying a cane which conceals a hidden sword.  

Here is the synopsis from the press release:

"Zatoichi is a 19th Century blind nomad who makes his living as a gambler and masseur.  However, behind this humble facade, he is a master swordsman gifted with a lightning-fast draw and breathtaking precision.

While wandering, Zatoichi discovers a remote mountain village at the mercy of Ginzo, a ruthless gang-leader.  Ginzo disposes of anyone who gets in his way, especially after hiring the mighty samurai ronin Hattori as a bodyguard.  After a raucous night of gambling in town, Zatoichi encounters a pair of geishas - as dangerous as they are beautiful - who've come to avenge their parents' murder at the hands of Ginzo.

As the paths of these and other colorful characters intertwine, Ginzo's henchmen are soon after Zatoichi.  With his legendary cane sword at his side, the stage is set for a riveting showdown."

This story is both ancient and modern, a myth populated by quirky characters like a cross-dressing geisha who enjoys a dip in a communal hot tub.  Blood squirts and dismembered arms and legs fly but even the most sanguine scenes are hysterically funny, so who cares?  It doesn't seem real, and that is the charm. Bravo



Spiderman 2
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Release Date: June 30th, 2004

Reviewed By: John Pelham

Movie sequels based on comic books can actually be better than the original. Following in the footsteps of X-Men 2, the latest installment of the hugely successful Spiderman franchise is 10 times better than its predecessor.

With a solid plot,(as solid as save-the-world plots can be), emotional depth to the hero, and visual effects that make it all convincing in the first place, Spiderman 2 is an adorably entertaining film. Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi provide layers to Peter Parker’s character that penetrate deeper than just the bright red and blue disguise —a disguise which should never be washed with whites! Should a hero follow his heart or stick to his responsibilities of crime-fighter? Maguire does a great job of revealing his emotional struggle, even if it is expressed in voice-overs. Also coming through with strong performances are Rosemary Harris and current Broadway stars, Alfred Molina and Donna Murphy.

If nothing else, it’s thrilling to watch Spidey swing through the streets of New York City like a hyperactive ape in its own little heaven on the monkey bars. The visual effects surpass those in the first movie, and your suspension of disbelief doesn’t have to be stretched to such extremes. There’s already talk that may be this year Spidey will take home the Oscar in this category.

If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining, and often comical blockbuster, Spiderman 2 is a great option. This movie just reinforced our faith for superior sequels, now let’s just keep our fingers crossed until 2005 and hope for Batman to continue the trend.

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