Review: Standard Operating Procedure (dir. Errol Morris, 2008)

Errol Morris has been open about his politics at times, not least when he spoke out against the invasion of Iraq while accepting an Oscar for his documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. But until now, his films have never been all that concerned with current events. Instead, they have tended to explore the nature of evidence and the psychological factors that affect how people interpret that evidence. Where some documentaries can come across as works of politically-minded journalism, Morris, a former private detective, tends to be more interested in forensic science, and in the philosophical ambiguities and absurdities that result from people’s investigations of the cold hard facts.

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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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