Moore's Bowling for Columbine less daring than Roger
By Joe Kirkish
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (Rated R for language and violence ): After his surprisingly successful blast at Flint's
General Motors president in Roger and Me, Mike Moore -- now more corpulent
and scruffier than ever -- tackles the sobering subject of guns in America. Instead of finding a focus on the familiar city in which he lived and where he witnessed first hand the disastrous economic plight of laid-off GM employees, here he flits around the
United States, touching briefly on various places where tragedies have occurred through the misuse of firearms -- Columbine included. The resultant, over long, repetitious documentary, unfortunately, seems like a hit/miss film in which even the brash Moore, butting his way into unwanted places in
Roger, now seems almost reluctant to intrude, responds with a kind of meekness and stands dejectedly as he is left in each interviewee's dust. This isn't the cocky, sure-fire filmmaker
we earlier witnessed.
At the same time, after leaving familiar Flint territory for diverse places like California and Florida and even Canada, he appears out of his element. The episodes seem to repeat themselves with minor variations; they are brief -- all too brief to create the effect he elicited in Flint. There he could interview and observe a woman raising, killing
and skinning rabbits for a desperate living and contrast that with the opulence of the GM management's way of life. (He tries a similar use of economic contrasts here, but gradually they are all to obvious and lose their punch.)
His point in making this film is driven home with sledge-hammer clarity at the end:
For whatever reasons, we Americans are a gun-loving bunch who shoot first and act
later; and we are given the right to do so by a government's double standards in all things political and economic. (It's no wonder Moore was raised to god-like status with his film at the Cannes Film Festival!)
Even more than in the first film, Moore uses borderline techniques to drive home his satirical points. He chooses locations and backgrounds that suggest ironic juxtapositions, carefully selects bits of interviews that might or might not have been staged, or that out of context are condemning, and in general edits without regard to actual time -- and over the two hours it begins to show, unfavorably; it's obvious that we're seeing a well crafted lengthy piece of propaganda, not an impartial documentary.
For all that, there are touching surprises, the strongest of which is the interview with
Charlton Heston, who sits with Moore near Heston's pool. Heston's voice is carefully studied, calm, as he tells Moore he owns guns, not because he needs them, but because it's a choice he is permitted by law to do. While his voice never falters and his face is frozen into an engaging smile, his hands twist
and tremble nervously; and as he realizes Moore's true purpose in the interview -- to argue against his NRA "rights"
-- the smile fades, he gets up and slumps away, leaving Moore sitting alone. The camera follows Heston until he disappears into a far doorway -- crumpled, shuffling slowly out of sight like a broken old man.
If there were more scenes like that, the movie would be an overwhelming testimony against gun ownership and the proponents of the NRA. As it is, the movie is diluted, a weak repetition of the techniques that made
Roger and Me so good. (Grade: B)
DAREDEVIL (Rated PG-13 for plenty of graphic violence and a sexual situation): At the start, it looks very promising as a live action version of the Marvel comic book series: learning in flashback how our hero becomes blind, then how, with heightened senses, he spends a lifetime fighting for justice for all the losers in
Gotham. He dodges bullets, leaps tall buildings with a single bound and flies through the air with the greatest of ease, constantly on the lookout also for the murderer of his father. With fast editing, low key lighting, a barrel full of FX tricks and Graeme Revell's pumping musical score behind it all, our hero alternates impossible battle stunts with an aftermath of guilt that drives him time and again into a confessional. What do you know; he's vulnerable! There he pleads for absolution for his honorable motivation, but none comes.
So the poor guy has to fend for himself without religious salvation. (The movie, by the way, is infused from start to finish with religious elements, but never very sincerely -- only in the most tangential manner, as set dressings.)
So far so good. Then with heightened senses, the guy sniffs out the girl of his dreams. "I didn't get your name," he says by way of introduction. After a pause, she says, "I didn't give it." Wow, that's clever! Our hero may be vulnerable to physical and emotional harm, but there's nothing wrong with his libido. His eventual mating with her would make young Marvel fans shrivel up with disgust; their Daredevil would NEVER hitch up so readily with a mere woman! But he does, and a love/hate interest then splits attention with the main objective, that of finding and destroying the Kingpin -- the evil force behind more than just the murder of our hero's father.
But, kids, have no fear. It isn't long before the pair join platonic forces to combat the Kingpin
and his evil henchman; there's the required (over-extended) battle between good and evil, which becomes by this time so ridiculously silly that there are snickers rippling through the audience. I won't reveal the ending (as if you don't already know who's going to win out), but it's contrived to lead, awkwardly, to a possible sequel.
On the comic book level, OK for the first third of the film. After that, it plunges. Director Mark Steven Johnson does his level best to sustain interest despite the feeble script; he's aided and abetted by some fine camera work by Ericson Core. Ben Affleck, pumped up, looks fine in his dark leather mufti; and gritty, bosomy Jennifer Garner is an eye filler in deeply plunging
outfits; the two of them also do what they can to appear believable, but without much to go on, their talents just ain't enough. Oh, well, there are still 4700 more Marvel comic book characters to sift through for the next attempt. (Grade: C)
THE JUNGLE BOOK 2 (A big fat G): If you recall, the original Jungle
Book came out in 1967, and while it took typical Disney liberties with the characters they were still identifiable with those of the original Rudyard Kipling novel about little Mowgli and his jungle escapades. Here we have our little fellow, bored with life in his village, off for adventure in the jungle just across the
river where he is reunited with his old friend Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther. They, with Mowgli's new-found girlfriend and his little scamp of a brother, once again meet and defeat Shere Khan the Tiger. Tossed in are the ubiquitous, cute songs like "The Bare Necessities" to heighten the cuteness.
Oh, it's so cute, so harmless, so lip-smackingly happy-wappy (Mowgli's parents are sweet enough to give the viewers sugar diabetes) that the kiddies under the age of 10 -- way under -- will find it fairy-tale charming. For the rest of us -- uh uh. Best to wait for the video version
and let the kids see it without your painful presence. (Grade: C-)
Learn more about the author of this guest column, Joe
Visit the Keweenaw Now discussion forums to comment on this
|Note: Views expressed by our guest columnists are not necessarily the views of Keweenaw Now.
Want to stay in the K-NOW? Don't miss out on the whole story. Find out how you can help.
Hire a Writing Pro
Does the writing on your Web site leave something to be desired? Thesis grammar getting you down? Find out how we can help.
Lure Our Readers to You
Our readers share your passion for the Keweenaw Peninsula. Lure them to
you through banners, sponsorships, and more.