Review: The Last King of Scotland (dir. Kevin Macdonald, 2006)

Don’t let the title fool you. The Last King of Scotland takes place not in the Highlands but in Uganda, and the title refers not to some European monarch but to one of the most notorious African dictators, Idi Amin. So why do this film — and the Giles Foden novel on which it is based—bear this title? Partly because “King of Scotland” was one of the many titles Amin gave himself during his brutal eight-year reign; another was “Conqueror of the British Empire.” Amin, who rose through the ranks of the British colonial army under the patronage of Scottish officers before Uganda became independent, was a fan of all things Scottish, and sometimes wore kilts in public.

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Comment: Rethinking The Passion in light of Gibson’s folly

YOU MAY have heard about a little incident involving Mel Gibson, a speeding car, an open bottle of booze, and some racist and sexist remarks in late July.

For some people, the incident proved what many had been saying for at least three years, namely that Gibson is an anti-Semite, and that the controversial movie he made about the death of Jesus, The Passion of the Christ, is anti-Semitic.

But is it as simple as that? There are several issues tangled up in this story, and each one needs to be addressed separately.

First, it is dangerous to define a person by the sins with which they struggle.

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Review: Shooting Dogs (dir. Michael Caton-Jones, 2005)

SHOOTING DOGS would make an interesting double-bill with Hotel Rwanda.

Both films concern the genocide of 1994 — and the shock that those living in that country felt when the international community failed to do much more than evacuate those with white skin.

But whereas the latter film was largely about Africans who survived the massacre, thanks to a cunning hotel manager who knew how to push the buttons of the social elites, the new film concerns a Catholic priest (John Hurt) and a teacher at his school (Hugh Dancy), who can do little more than watch as the world gives up on their friends and neighbours.

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Much ado about movie ratings / Ratings now flag religious and political agendas

Facing the Giants, a low-budget movie about a high-school football team, was recently rated PG for parental guidance in the U.S. The film’s Christian producers and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which hands out movie ratings south of the border, agree the film should be rated PG. But they don’t agree on why the film was rated PG — thus launching one of the latest and silliest skirmishes in the culture wars.

Kris Fuhr, vice-president of marketing for Provident Films, told one reporter she had expected the film to be rated PG because the story dealt with mature subject matter, such as infertility. But when she asked the MPAA why the film got that rating in the end, the person she spoke to reportedly referred to the film’s evangelistic content.

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Review: The Da Vinci Code (dir. Ron Howard, 2006)

My initial reaction to the film version of The Da Vinci Code was almost one of relief. The film was a dud, a complete bore, and most critics, secular and otherwise, seemed to think so, too. Perhaps, I thought, this movie would bring the whole phenomenon to an untimely end.

But in the days since, I have come to think that the film, in some ways, constitutes an even worse offence against the Church than the Dan Brown novel on which it was based.

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Review: The Omen (dir. John Moore, 2006)

In the last few years, we’ve seen two prequels to The Exorcist and a remake of The Amityville Horror, so it was probably only a matter of time before someone got around to reviving that other popular 1970s supernatural horror movie, The Omen. The producers of this film had an especially timely marketing hook: a release date (6/6/06) that lends itself to ad campaigns with a mark-of-the-Beast theme.

In other ways, though, the remake of The Omen cannot help but seem as dated as the movie on which it is based. This is partly because the new film is extremely faithful to the original. Composer Marco Beltrami does not just emulate the style of Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score for the original movie, he even re-uses some of its themes. And screenwriter David Seltzer does not adapt his earlier script so much as dust it off and tweak a few time-sensitive details; for example, where the first film speculated that “the Common Market” was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Roman Empire — a key piece in the end-times puzzles of Hal Lindsey and others at that time — the new film refers to “the European Union” instead.

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