Sometimes in April, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Edison: The Invention of the Movies

Video/DVD Picks
National Catholic Register
June 12-18, 2005


Sometimes in April (2005)
This HBO drama is built around the same shattering events depicted in Hotel Rwanda — the 1994 holocaust in that country. But it opts for a broader canvas both in time and space, exchanging a strong dramatic center for increased depth of detail and insight.
Compared to Hotel, Sometimes is grimmer, less focused, and more uncompromising. Both films follow a connected, successful Hutu family man with a Tutsi wife and a number of children, but this man’s story is more ambiguous and tragic.
The Catholic faith is a largely positive presence in Sometimes. One of the film’s most wrenching scenes is in a Catholic boarding school for girls, where the nuns seek in vain to protect their charges from the murderous militias, and the young Hutu students courageously choose solidarity with their Tutsi classmates even though it means martyrdom.
Though the imagery is at times horrific, Sometimes is restrained, never showing the notorious machetes in use (onscreen violence instead usually involves firearms).
Content advisory: Horrific depictions of post-massacre mayhem and disturbing images; graphic if restrained violence; references to rape; an instance of obscenity. Mature viewing.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
In Trek movie lore, there are the even-numbered episodes, traditionally regarded as the good ones, and the odd-numbered ones, which are the weaker entries. There’s something to that — but one of the odd-numbered episodes, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, is not only far better than adjacent odd-numbered episodes, but is also a necessary bridge between the two best even-numbered episodes.
In contrast to the turgid original Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (also known as “the God episode”), which are all but unwatchable, The Search for Spock contains humor, excitement and real sentiment. It also forms the essential middle chapter of the trilogy that is the highlight of the Trek movie franchise, connecting the classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the crowd-pleasing Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (“the one with the whales”).
The story, in which Spock’s body and soul separately transcend his death and are ultimately reunited, deals with sacrifice and hope. Good stuff.
Content advisory: Stylized sci-fi and combat violence. Teens and up.

Edison: The Invention of the Movies (1891–1918)
This amazing four-disc DVD set from Kino and MoMA is like a visit to a museum of film history in a box, with 140 very early films made under the auspices of Thomas Alva Edison, ranging in length from under half a minute to almost 20 minutes, plus over two hours of interviews and commentary.
Edison is credited not with single-handedly inventing motion picture technology, but with developing it in a practical, commercially viable form. This excursion into the very dawn of film history is an often fascinating look not only at the evolution of cinema but also at American culture of 90 to 115 years ago.
The earliest films, often under a minute, usually depict curiosities, spectacles or slices of life: Acrobats, dancers, vaudevillians and firemen are favorite subjects. Different cultures are represented, especially in dance. Early experiments in special effects, color, synchronized sound, editing, camera movements and other techniques are explored, along with the rise of storytelling as films get longer. Essential for cinemaphiles.
Content advisory: Occasional violence and menace including simulated decapitation and firing-squad executions. Most individual features are fine family viewing.

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