Infidel

If “inspired by true events” is meant to suggest that you’re about to watch a true story, then labeling a food as “light” will help you lose weight.

So, no, Infidel is not a true story. And that’s good, because if the two main characters were truly as reckless as portrayed in this film a more appropriate title would have been “Imbecile.”

Doug Rawlins, a famous evangelical Christian blogger is invited by a friend to travel to Cairo to be a guest on a popular talk show. His wife Liz who works at the State Department warns him not to make the trip, double dog dares him not to evangelize while there, and then equips him with her seemingly CIA-like skills so he can send her a secret encoded message if necessary.

Doug is played by Jim Caviezel, the tall, dark and deadly Mr Reese, from the successful television show Person of Interest. He has also had his share of religious themed roles, as the apostle Paul and as Jesus himself in Mel Gibson’s brutal 2004 telling of The Passion of the Christ. In Infidel, his appearance on the Egyptian talk show goes smoothly until he turns to the camera and states, “Jesus IS god.” Until that point the audience was happily applauding Jesus as a teacher and prophet. At this point he initiates an international incident and his own kidnapping by Hamas terrorists. Fortunately, Rawlins is able to use his magic USB drive to get a message to Liz, but first he drops the drive within sight of his captors, and then a hacker on the Internet intercepts, decodes and posts the message. Out comes the power drill and Doug agrees to anything they want.

Not to be outdone, Liz Rawlins, played by Australian Claudia Karvan, throws on her hijab and travels to the Middle East to rescue her captive husband. She is alternately helped and harassed, stumbling through a series of chance encounters, eventually gaining the attention of Israeli agents from Mossad who need her help to liberate their own captives. A hint for married couples reuniting during a raging gun battle. Don’t stop for a loving embrace while hand grenades are rolling toward your feet. And if you’re going to pick up a live grenade and throw it at the bad guy, don’t think about it for a few seconds.

Some unbelievable sequences make for decent action and suspense, assuming you can suspend your disbelief. The film examines the very real topics of kidnapping and honor killing, which is Director Cyrus Nowrasteh’s intent. His own father was detained and arrested on a trip to Iran in 2013. Plenty of coverage on the evening news has focused on tragic events like the kidnapping and death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. Nowrasteh’s only other directorial credit during the last ten years is for a film called The Young Messiah, about Jesus from age seven as he grew into his religious identity. The film lost over ten million dollars worldwide.

Infidel (2019) runs 1 hour, 48 minutes and is rated R.

 

 

The New Mutants

When a movie starts with the graphic flipping pages of a Marvel comic book I’ve come to assume it will be a top-notch film and an enjoyable couple of hours. So much for that theory.

This is an origin story of a handful of young “new mutants” who have been sequestered for their own protection by Doctor Cecilia Reyes, played by Alice Braga. The secret facility allows monitoring and guided development of superpower skills that put the mutants on a path to someday becoming X-men. This is obviously a world in which X-men are known and mutants are still feared and marginalized.

Problem one: they’re troubled teenagers. Problem two: the newest recruit (or prisoner) is Danielle Moonstar played by Blu Hunt. I think Blu Hunt is a better name than Danielle Moonstar but, oh well. She has the ability to materialize everyone’s worst fears. She is Native American and believes that inside every person dwells two bears, one good and one evil. The evil bear makes an appearance late in the film.

Charlie Heaton, recognizable from his work in Stranger Things, plays the Kentucky coalminer Sam Guthrie, whose powers cause a mine collapse that kills his father and leaves him with survivor’s guilt.

Anya Taylor-Joy plays Magik, an armor-plated, sword wielding bully with a bad attitude and a personal history with monstrous “Smiley Men.” Her strangely wide-set eyes feature as prominently here as in her recent portrayal of Emma in the movie of the same name.

The film spends far too much time on character development. The Mutants are discovering the limits of their powers, a convenient means of educating the audience as well. It seems we also need lots of convincing that Dr. Reyes is not a sweet, softspoken caretaker after all. Dani and her new buddy Rahne head off on a young lesbian love tangent, and the Smiley Men add a bit of Guillermo DelToro style monster horror. It should be horrifying enough that real life Marilyn Manson voices over one Smiley Man.

Eventually it is determined that Dani is too powerful to be controlled. Dr. Reyes receives some sinister instructions from an offscreen superior and the Mutants bond against a common enemy.

Originally intended to be the first part of a trilogy, multiple delays interfered with this film's promotion and release. It is now considered the thirteenth and final chapter of the X-men series even though the ending screams “sequel.”

 

The New Mutants (2020) runs 1 hour, 34 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Marvel fans are pushing this film to huge box office receipts. I’m not sure it’s deserved.  I recommend that you see  Iron Man 3  before see...