When a New York couple is unexpectedly unemployed, they set out for his brother's home in Georgia. There is an entertaining travel montage: they sing, argue, sleep, and take turns driving. They spend one pleasant night at "Elysium," a Utopian camp along the way, but continue on to the home of the successful brother and his semi-catatonic wife. It doesn't take long for us to understand why she is in that condition; he is hateful, short-tempered, rude and selfish. Our horrified couple flees back to the Utopian camp.

Just let me caution you: This is a Judd Apatow-produced movie, so some of you shouldn't read any further because there will be raunch, nudity, profanity, nudity, fart jokes, nudity, diarrhea jokes, and a whole herd of elderly nudists running down a hill toward the camera.

If you're gonna go there, these are the folks you'll meet:
  • Paul Rudd ("Our Idiot Brother") is the hapless New Yorker who is commanded to experience free love with a beautiful blonde. You won't expect his reaction.
  • Jennifer Aniston ("Horrible Bosses") is the distaff side of the unemployed couple. She isn't too bad in this one.
  • Justin Theroux ("Your Highness") is the spokesman and guru for the commune. He gets dibs on our heroine right away!
  • Alan Alda ("Tower Heist") is one of the founding members of the commune. If only he could remember where he put that deed!
  • Ken Marino (lots of TV) is that vile brother. Marino is also one of the scriptwriters.
  • Joe Lo Truglio ("Paul") is the first person they meet at the com- mune. We see a LOT of Joe! (Remember I mentioned nudity?)
By the time we have explored "free love" and all the eccentricities and hypocrisies of the various occupants, I found myself becoming more and more impatient, so I was happy when our hero finally pops his cork and tells them off. He speaks for all of us and we agree with him whole- heartedly.

Paul Rudd is a handsome, capable actor who has found himself in a bit of a rut. He is evidently a great improviser and I suspect his scene talking dirty to himself in the mirror was improvised. I'm sure the crew was cracking up (I wasn't!); the screening audience of young adults loved it.

At least Jennifer Aniston was able to cast her boyfriend (Justin Theroux) in this one...sigh... Okay, I'll admit it. I laughed out loud...once....
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Act of Valor

Navy SEALs are America's warriors du jour. Remember that spectacular demonstration of marksmanship when three of them, standing on a tossing boat, felled three hostage-holding Somali pirates with simul- taneous shots? That was followed a year or so later by the end of Osama bin Laden, so these elite fighters are the ones we look to for military prowess.

I can only hope this film's regular release contains the introduction by the two principals behind this project. They were embedded with a platoon of Navy SEALs in hopes they would get enough material for a movie. It quickly became obvious to them that there are NO Hollywood actors who could approach the calibre of the men they were with, in terms of fitness, devotion to their families, intelligence, and skill levels. Consequently, they cast a group of active duty SEALs! (Shooting was occasionally de- layed when cast members were briefly deployed.) We know those guys up there on the screen have actually done the things we see, so it adds immeasurably to our involvement; plus, many of the scenes were shot using live ammo!

Even though the Bandido Platoon is a fictitious one, this story is based on feats of the most elite, superbly trained group of effective warriors in the modern world, using up-to-the-minute technology under extremely chal- lenging circumstances. Because of artistic license, we see the same seven men off the coast of Somalia, in the Ukraine, in the tropical forests of Costa Rica and just south of the Mexican border. They are trying to stop a chilling plot that uses ceramic pellets in suicide vests. Ceramic doesn't set off metal detectors, so terrorists plan a coordinated attack in crowded areas: football games, shopping malls, concert arenas and airports. When explosives kill and maim hundreds, the economic impact will be devastating (like 9/11).

This film starts with the rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative, which leads to the terrorists, who are linked to drug cartels in Mexico (they know how to penetrate America's borders). The domino effect of international terrorism and drug trade is compelling stuff. How can the American drug consumer ignore the down-range impact of his or her folly! Expect lots of gunfire, SCUBA diving, some really satisfying blowie uppie stuff, and stealth warfare (when these seven guys silently break the surface of that stream... goosebumps!).

I found this far more involving than your average run-of-the-mill action film. It's clear that these guys are SEALs, not actors, but there wasn't a moment when anyone's attention strayed; we were rooting for them to complete their mission so they could all return home to their families. As the tag line says: The only easy day was yesterday.
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Woody Harrelson a corrupt cop? Surely you jest! This thing has far more aspects to his character than mere corruption. He bullies, smokes, argues, drinks, drugs, dances, pukes, and shoots. In addition, he screws LOTS of women...in more ways than one, and not one of those women owns a comb.
  • Woody Harrelson ("No Country for Old Men") is convinced that all of his actions are logical and righteous.
  • Ben Foster ("3:30 to Yuma," 2007) is a wheelchair-bound pan- handler. BTW Foster is a producer on this one.
  • Anne Heche ("Cedar Rapids") is one of the female satellites that orbit around our cop.
  • Cynthia Nixon ("Sex and the City") is another mother of another one of his children. His appeal eludes me.
  • Robin Wright ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," 2011) is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen...in THAT bar!
  • Sigourney Weaver ("Avatar") is an official trying to clear the Rampart Division of the LAPD of its hard-earned bad reputation.
  • Ice Cube ("Are We There Yet?") is determined to re-open the Crystal Market case and see justice done. He makes a critically wise move!
The stylized sound and photography consist of super-close close-ups of eyes, whispered plots, flashing neon lights, thumping beats in sex clubs, glimpses of venal people debasing themselves, and far too many shots of Harrelson in various states of undress as he drinks, drugs, smokes and pukes. Can you imagine what his breath must be like?

It is the subject matter that repels me. How many times do we have to visit dark, dank dives? Maybe the production values are good... But did I LIKE it? I'll give you three guesses...and the first two don't count!
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What kind of mother would raise a mighty warrior like Coriolanus? How about Vanessa Redgrave? Now THERE is a mother!

"Coriolanus" is based on Shakespeare's play by the same name and the language is Elizabethan. Like much of Shakespeare's work, his theme is timeless: Once politicians feel safe, they quickly turn against the military. All it takes to update this story is contemporary clothing, uniforms, video cameras, television news and cell phones; human nature hasn't changed a bit.

Coriolanus is a returning war hero who holds conniving politicians in contempt; he tries to play the game but ends up raging at their self- serving views: with the safety of Rome secured, the senators have turned his heroism into treachery by manipulating public opinion. Coriolanus is exiled from his city, his family and his beloved army.

These actors speak Elizabethan like it's their mother tongue (Oh, wait... It IS their mother tongue!):
  • Ralph Fiennes ("Harry Potter") as Coriolanus, military to the core. He is incapable of smooth political double-talk, is uncomfortable with public speaking and can only writhe under the scrutiny of fame.
  • Vanessa Redgrave ("Anonymous") gives us a towering portrayal of Volumnia, grieving, demanding, and patriotic; she's determined to save Rome.
  • Brian Cox ("Red") as Menenius, an elder who understands the issues and sympathizes with our hero...to his own peril.
  • Jessica Chastain ("The Help") is Virgilia, wife of our legendary war hero, who sees the politicians turn on her husband. When the chips are down, she joins forces with his mother; this is a pair we can draw to.
  • Gerard Butler ("Machine Gun Preacher") is Aufidius, our hero's loyal opposition: General in the Volscian Army and sworn enemy of Rome, he can't believe his good fortune when our exiled hero offers his services.
Because Fiennes directed and shot this film in Serbia and Montenegro, things are just "foreign" enough that we buy into the entire concept. Uniforms, vehicles, buildings, the marble halls of government, all are slightly unfamiliar but still convincing. To see the mutual respect between our two military men, despite their enmity, is to believe they are both honorable men, which makes the ending even more poignant.

I was impressed.
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The thing about "Margaret" is, the more you know our heroine Lisa Cohen (NOT Margaret!), the less you like her. At the beginning of this chaotic film, Lisa wants to buy a Stetson in anticipation of her trip to Arizona with her father and his new wife. She wants to "fit in." ( ! )

After fruitless attempts in NYC stores, she spots a bus driver wearing one. He has already closed the doors and is moving with traffic, so she runs alongside, trying to find out where he got it. He is distracted, runs a red light and kills a pedestrian. She feels partially responsible, so she lies to the police officer and says the light was green...until Spoiler Alert! she changes her mind and her police report.

Everyone is caught up in this tangle of lies:
  • Anna Paquin ("True Blood") is our flawed heroine, immature, self- centered and angry.
  • Mark Ruffalo ("Date Night") is the bus driver.
  • Allison Janney (The Help") is the doomed pedestrian.
  • Jeannie Berlin (primarily a stage actress) does much of the heavy lifting for the cast. She is the long-time friend of the deceased and her observations are insightful and cutting.
  • J. Smith-Cameron ("Man on a Ledge") is Lisa's mother, an actress and single mom who is at her wits' end with her conten- tious daughter.
  • Jean Reno ("Couples Retreat") is a fan who falls for Lisa's actress mother.
  • Matt Damon ("Contagion") is her geometry teacher. her interaction with him was the final straw for me.
All of the verbal skirmishes were written with the same voice, no matter who was speaking. Lisa certainly personified an exasperating teenager, but Mom sounded Dad, who sounded like the teacher, who sounded like the bus driver, who sounded like the victim's best friend. These verbal gymnastics became circuitous. In addition, I never got a clue why this movie is called "Margaret," was it that poem?

My dislike for our eponymous teenager outweighed any loyalty or sympathy I might have had, and I didn't believe in her redemption at the end for one minute. And you know me: I want someone to root for. No such luck here....
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The Secret World of Arrietty

No one can recreate that first raindrop hitting a dry stone like Anime! We don't even remember what it looks like until we see it on the big screen. Charming Disney production and lovely Japanese Anime – a marriage made in watercolor-hued heaven – gives us an unlikely friendship between Spiller, a teenage boy, and Arrietty, a girl who is four inches tall. She is one of the "little people" who borrow from humans.

Do you remember "The Borrowers" from three previous versions? There is something about this idea that is captivating, i.e., little folks who live unnoticed among us, taking only what they need. Great theory for all those missing socks!

You may recognize a few voices from the two English language versions:
  • Bridgit Mendler (lots of TV) is Arrietty, American version; a happy, obedient girl, mastering the skills necessary to live in the walls and floorboards of a house while hiding from (human) "beings."
  • Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna") is Arrietty, UK version; she reminds us that Borrowers do not steal unnecessary items.
  • Moises Arias (lots of TV and the upcoming "Ender's Game") is Spiller, American version; a kind, lonely boy whose only friend is his aunt's cat.
  • Luke Allen-Gale (lots of TV and "Captain America") is Spiller, UK version; his heart surgery is scheduled and he hopes his future will be healthier.
  • Will Arnett (lots of TV and the upcoming "Arrested Development") is Pod, American version; taciturn and strong, a perfect but distant father figure.
  • Mark Strong ("The Guard") is Pod, UK version; is there anything this actor can't do?
The children in the audience were mesmerized by the challenge of climbing up an ivy vine or rappelling down the front of a kitchen cabinet when you're only four inches tall. The contrast between standard size and miniature is fascinating, e.g., when a lone sugar cube becomes an item of vital interest between these two youngsters.

For excitement, we have a house cat who sees Borrowers as prey, and Sadako, the maid/housekeeper, who suspects there are "little thieves" infesting their house so she calls the exterminators. Eek!

This takes place in Japan, so I was interested to see that the Mercedes had the steering wheel on the left, while the Japanese car had it on the right. Little touches like that please me. And I was relieved when Sadako cut air holes in the jar lid so her tiny captive wouldn't suffocate.

We always need someone to root for and Arrietty and her family are just the ticket!
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Declaration of War

Q: What is the difference between a surgeon and God?
A: God doesn't think he's a surgeon.

A little medical humor courtesy of this year's Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film from France (English captions). It won Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Film at the 2011 Gijon Film Festival in Spain. This oddly intimate but affecting little piece is directed by Valerie Donzelli, who co-wrote the script with Jeremie Elkaim, the father of her two children and it's based on their own experience. They play a couple who meet, fall in love, and have a baby boy. Before he's a year old he is found to have a malignant brain tumor.

The Declaration of War in the title is the determination with which they confront the challenges of having a critically sick child: they keep them- selves in good physical shape; they develop a plan to cope with friends and relatives; they present a united front to the medical world; they maintain a wry sense of humor; and they love their little boy without fail. As their world shrinks to the size of a children's hospital, we watch as they become familiar with the staff, the routine, the environment and the treatments. Occasionally they blow off steam by going dancing or riding on a motor scooter, but their everyday life is determined by their son's treatment schedule.

The sound track consists of some instrumentals, some songs sung by people on the screen, some rhythmic sounds that are the same beat as guys painting a wall with roller brushes, and others are just peculiar. Engaging but peculiar.... There are bits of humor scattered throughout, and given the topic matter, we clutch at them like a drowning man.

The hospital staff is mostly sympathetic, but this personal crisis is just part of the job to them. Clearly based on personal experience, little touches feel authentic: the child is completely oblivious to his prognosis, he's more interested in Nintendo. By the way, the boy who plays their son at age eight is actually their own child.

For anyone who has been through this personal hell, it's satisfying to see that many of their thoughts and concerns are universal to the human condition.
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This Means War

When two CIA agents find themselves vying for the same woman, their rivalry is epic! Lucky Reese Witherspoon, to be one-third of an eternal triangle with these guys!

Director McG ("Terminator Salvation," and "Chuck") certainly knows how to open a film with a bang and never slow down. Even though this is a romantic comedy, CIA activities and skirmishes are couched in enough reality that we invest a little skin in the game. But the banter and cama- raderie between two hunky heroes keep it cartoony and light. Further- more, the conversations between our heroine and her best friend are hilarious, particularly when they are being overheard.
  • Reese Witherspoon ("Water for Elephants") tests products and facilitates focus groups, but she hasn't quite recovered from her last break-up. Her best friend offers sage advice that positively drips with envy.
  • Chris Pine ("Star Trek") is the smooth man about town, a CIA- trained lady killer with blue eyes you could get lost in. Problem is, Reese isn't about to fall. She may be tempted, but she won't fall. ...maybe....oops....
  • Tom Hardy ("Inception") is the third side of this triangle, who pretends to be a travel agent, which contributed to the end of his marriage. Now he's competing with Chris Pine for Reese's affec- tions and not doing too badly, either, despite being British...
  • Chelsea Handler (lots of TV) is the best friend who keeps offering Reese all that bad, bad advice. She's so funny I'd probably try her suggestions, too! Hey, don't Volkswagens have air bags?
Once again we are confronted with a PG-13 film that is fairly anatomical, but it's so funny I guess I'll forgive them. The clever script is loaded with double entendres that had us laughing out loud ("the agent has entered the premises"). To watch Hollywood's version of the high-tech power the CIA can bring into this testosterone-laden rivalry is really fun! Plus, I've never seen Ms. Witherspoon so relaxed or funny before.

Expect no sweaty bodies, a snippet of profanity, lots of gunfire, some bloody fisticuffs, a bit of exciting vehicular mayhem, and even some blowie uppie stuff. Our happy audience made a LOT of noise as we left the theater. This should do very well, because it's good old-fashioned entertainment, no socially redeeming qualities, just silly fluffy fun.
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The Vow

Chick Flick Alert! We love 'em and aren't afraid to admit it. Happily, this sudsy PG-13 romance is based on a true story and we see a photo of the real people involved during the closing credits.

What does a devoted husband do when the lovely young woman he courted, loved and married, is injured in a devastating accident? When she comes out of her medically induced coma, she has no idea who he is; she only remembers her OLD boyfriend and events from five years and earlier!

Here are the principal players:
  • Tatum Channing ("Haywire") is Leo, a self-employed businessman who drops everything in an attempt to help his wife regain her memory. BTW, this actor does some of his best work with his shirt (and everything else) off. ...smile...
  • Rachel McAdams ("Sherlock Holmes") is Paige, daughter of a prominent judge. She hasn't been in touch with her family for five years but can't remember why. Nor can she remember why she dropped out of law school, or anything about a marriage to this nice stranger.
  • Jessica Lange ("American Horror Story") is Rita Thornton, our heroine's mother, who dashes to her daughter's hospital bedside, eager to bring her back to the bosom of the family.
  • Sam Neill ("The Hunter") is Bill Thornton, the judge who pulls strings to get his girl back into law school. He is somehow invol- ved in the underlying reason why she can't recapture those past five years.
  • Scott Speedman ("The Moth Diaries") is Jeremy, the old beau. He is delighted to realize that his is the only relationship she remembers and he is yearning to start all over.
So now we watch family dynamics, with the parents happy to leave her past forgotten, our forlorn husband trying to woo back his wife, her bewilderment when she sees her recent art work, and her reaction when she goes back to law school.

Only one person will sacrifice his own happiness to see HER happy. Who, you might ask? C'mon...it's a Chick Flick!
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Safe House

We really wanted to like this one, but overkill is overrated.

With two popular and charismatic stars like Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, how could we go wrong? Let me count the ways: ridiculous vehicular mayhem; over-the-top fisticuffs; double, triple and quadruple betrayals; an unrealistic rooftop chase scene; obligatory water-boarding; clichéd and heavily foreshadowed deaths; muttered dialogue; and lots of blowie uppie stuff, all contributed to a subdued screening audience as we exited the theater. I can always tell if people are excited by a film because of the volume level as we leave. Tonight, no one said a word...

These good people were wasted by the script, the direction and the sound design:
  • Denzel Washington ("The Book of Eli") is Tobin Frost, the most wanted dirty agent in the CIA. He has managed to elude captivity for nine years until he voluntarily takes shelter in an American Embassy in South Africa. He expects to be taken to a safe house.
  • Ryan Reynolds ("The Change-Up") is Matt Weston, a newly hired, low-level agent dealing with boredom as he waits for the CIA to need the safe house he staffs. When everything goes south, we can tell that he is a well-trained operative...and smart!
  • Sam Shepard ("Blackthorn") is Harlan Whitford, a high-ranking CIA official. When he says, "You did a good job. We'll take it from here," all of us reacted. You will, too!
  • Brendan Gleeson ("The Guard") is David Barlow, Weston's boss. He trusts that Weston will manage to pull this catastrophe out of the fire and bring his prisoner to an alternate safe house.
  • Rubén Blades ("Once Upon a Time in Mexico") is Carlos Villar, an old friend of Frost's. Cliché Alert! As soon as we saw he had a family, we knew he would die.
  • Vera Farmiga ("Source Code") is Catherine Linklater trying to manage her agents in the field but frustrated by the "suits."
We heard every bullet and every fist slammed into every body, every neck snapped, every gasp and every moan. But dialogue? Not so much....

Writer David Guggenheim and Director Daniel Espinosa clearly believe if a plot is too flimsy, ramp up the violence. Neither has a very lengthy résumé. Not to be too nasty, but I hope their careers stop right here.
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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Juvenile action films should always have Dwayne Johnson (formerly The Rock) in the cast. He has an unmistakable charm that spoofs his image and seems enormously likable. This time he treats us to his dancing pecs (yes, you read that right!) and a ukulele-accompanied version of "What a Wonderful World," but his focus is still kid-friendly family fare. No argument here!

To make an island this mysterious, Director Brad Peyton ("Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore") is once again using a LOT of Computer Generated Imaging. How else can we have puppy-sized elephants and honeybees big enough to ride?

We see:
  • Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids are All Right") as our hero, off in quest of an island that seems to exist only in books: Jules Verne's Mysterious Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Robert Lewis Stevenson's Treasure Island. He decodes a message from his long-missing grandfather and thinks he might be stranded on an island doomed to soon disappear.
  • Dwayne Johnson ("Fast Five") is our young hero's stepfather but his awkward attempt at a father-son talk is pretty pathetic. He agrees to take the boy on a trip to the South Pacific, but has no idea what the kid really has in mind.
  • Luis Guzmán ("The Caller") owns a rickety old helicopter which they hire (chickens roosting in it are his "security system"). He knows the danger, but really needs the money to send his daughter to college.
  • Michael Caine ("The Dark Knight") is our hero's grandfather, isolated on that mysterious island for many years and more than a bit daft.
  • Vanessa Hudgens ("Beastly") is here for set decoration and to provide a flimsy love interest for our hero.
Lame dialogue like "Who's up for adventure?" and calling three guys "ladies" is offered, along with 3-D images of centipedes skittering off rocks into our laps, cherries ricocheting off the pecs of Rock into our midst, and pieces of that helicopter as it disintegrates in a hurricane. The children in the audience weren't bored and I am, once again, impressed by Dwayne Johnson's career path. He is the most unlikely of PG-rated actors, yet he consistently entertains in these goofy things. Good for him.
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The Names of Love

"Le nom des gens" is a delightful award-winning French comedy (with English captions) that I obtained from the city library. It features a young extrovert whose life's mission is to convert conservative men to her left- wing point of view. She does this by seducing them, feeling that they are most open to new beliefs during intimacy.

This film is laugh-out-loud funny in many ways, and more sweetly subtle in others. One example is during a voiceover when our hero describes his parents. We notice right away that the man who represents his father is far, far older than his mother. Then he explains that he could never picture his father as a young man, so that character always stays the same age.

We see:
  • Jacques Gamblin ("The First Man") as Arthur Martin, which evidently is the same name as a kitchen appliance. Any time his name comes up, he has to explain that he is not that Arthur Martin. He may be conservative, but he is bewitched by this hedonistic beauty who sails into his life and leaves him tattered and tossing in her wake. Gamblin was nominated for a Best Actor award at the 2010 Césars, the French Academy Awards.
  • Sara Forestier ("Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life") is Baya Benmah- moud, dedicated to righting the wrongs in this world by seducing "fascists." Problem is, by her definition, pretty much every man she meets is a fascist. Forestier won Best Actress at the 2010 Césars.
We meet HIS parents, conservative (and closeted) Jews; HER parents (Mom is a hippie and Dad is an Algerian handyman); plus younger versions of our two lovers. Her younger self had piano lessons but the teacher neglected to teach her any music, he was far more interested in HER; he left town when her parents found out. His younger self is torn between admitting his Jewish heritage to attract girls, or keeping his mouth shut to please his parents.

Written and directed by Michel Leclerc (along with his wife Baya Kasmi, they won a 2010 César for Best Screenplay), we see LOTS of nudity that is so natural we forget to be shocked. We see random acts of kindness that warm our hearts, and we see adult children who really care about their parents.

Deep down, these are really nice people and we want them to be happy. It's always so satisfying to have someone to root for.
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Big Miracle

Ready for a PG feel-good movie? Okay, but get out your parka, 'cause it's gonna get COLD! We go to Barrow, Alaska to witness a real-life drama that took place in the 1980s. Not only is it BASED on real life, during the final credits we get to see the REAL people who were in- volved, along with the actors who portray them. What a treat!

Based on the book, Freeing the Whales by Thomas Rose, we are quickly involved in a news-making event where we see three gray whales trapped in Arctic ice, which triggers a media frenzy. We watch clips of many news reporters of the time: Tom Brokaw, Sarah Palin, Dan Rather, Larry King, and others, who provide moment-by-moment updates as the whole town of Barrow, Alaska fights the extreme cold to cut breathing holes in the ice that will help the whales reach open water.

We see:
  • Drew Barrymore ("Going the Distance") as Rachel, a fire- breathing, dyed-in-the-wool Greenpeace activist, determined to save the whales. I'm glad Drew's cosmetics contract seems to have expired; she looks normal in this one.
  • John Krasinski ("Something Borrowed") plays Adam, a newsman sent up from Anchorage to a small Alaska town north of the Arctic Circle; he's trying to find a news story that will allow him to break into the Big Time. Krasinski always seems so likable!
  • Ahmaogak Sweeney, in his first film, portrays Nathan, a clever local boy (this isn't Nathan's first rodeo) blessed with an equally clever Iñupiat grandfather. (Anyone wanna buy some cardboard?)
  • John Pingayak is Malik, Nathan's Iñupiat grandfather, who under- stands two things: 1) the value of tradition, but also 2) the power of modern-day media and its influence on public opinion.
  • Dermot Mulroney ("The Family Tree") is Colonel Scott Boyer, the military officer who actually told the White House to please call back when he wasn't so busy. He was in charge of an attempt by the United States to cut a path to open water for the stranded whales.
  • Ted Danson (Lots of TV) is the successful oilman who is mani- pulated into trying to save the whales. Danson clearly enjoys playing a bombastic anti-conservationist.
  • James LeGros and Rob Riggle are hilarious as a helpful pair of Minnesota inventors who bring their little homemade gizmo to Barrow. Their accents are spot on!
This film provides everyone with a forum to sound off, giving voice to the diverse points of view which surround oil drilling in Alaska: big business, wildlife conservationists, native people and small-town America. It shows the beginnings of a thaw in the Cold War when Gorbachev gets a call from Reagan asking for help from a nearby Soviet icebreaker.

There is one too-handy romance that blooms and I was skeptical until I saw the wedding picture of the REAL characters during the final credits. I appreciate that this is based on true life, therefore we can expect some loss and sadness. In my opinion, children shouldn't grow up on a steady diet of Disney where everything always works out and there is no sorrow. The children in the screening audience were intent, but not traumatized. The audience applauded this one.
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