Jim's Recent Reviews
The U.S. and Canadian teams of quadriplegics compete in a rugby-like game called murderball in the paraolympics.
The first impression of some of these people is not positive, but nonetheless interesting: they come off as testosterone-fueled assholes, but they're in wheelchairs, so all expectations of this being a feel-good Lifetime after-school special are shot to the moon the first time an paraolympian tells a story about threatening to kick the ass of a random bar patron. But as the film goes on, we get underneath the veneers of these players. There are a few vulnerabilities, but what they want more than your pity is your respect, your fear, and your recognition that their injuries do not threaten their masculinity.
The film tries to fashion a sports story out of its subject, but it doesn't work. There isn't a lot of suspense in the games' outcomes.
Overall, documentaries often open worlds that we never imagined existed, and what is true of those documentaries is doubly true of Murderball.
A group of Trappist monks must decide to flee or remain when a nearby village is threatened by Muslim extremists.
As slow burns go, Of Gods and Men is one of the most compelling. Tightly scripted and slowly but tensely paced, as this story unfolds, the film's themes emerge subtly: the film portrays the austerity of faith and how faith leads to a sense of security and conviction. While I'm not personally committed to these theses, the film's portrayal is richly textured and compelling. By the end of the film, we get to know these monks about as well as we get to know anyone in an understated French film, and it's hard not to admire them.
Overall, this is profound and compelling story well-told.