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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Wednesday, July 23, 2008
    Netflix Review

    Rejoice, readers: it's another useless film review from Dr. Alice. Lately I seem to have rediscovered my interest in watching movies. When I was in medical school in Philadelphia I was lucky enough to be within walking distance of a South Street video rental store which specialized in art films and the esoteric; I worked my way through a lot of Ealing comedies and early Peter Sellers films back then. I've been a Netflix member for a while but the DVD's would sit for months before I managed to watch them. I think I've seen more movies in the past six weeks than I did in the previous year.

    At any rate, I suddenly realized that the films I've seen recently share one characteristic: a treasure hunt of some type figuring into the plot. This may be the focus of the film (National Treasure) or it may get relatively little attention compared to other plot points (The Rundown) but it keeps cropping up. So let's compare and contrast.

    National Treasure - the whole movie is one long hunt for a treasure hidden during the Revolutionary War, rather cleverly done. I enjoyed it. Extra credit for the presence of Nicholas Cage, whom I like. I keep thinking of him as the modern version of James Stewart. Also liked the location shots of downtown Philadelphia. Downside: Cage decides to steal the Declaration of Independence and pulls it off in just a few days?! Did he and his sidekick get all their fancy surveillance equipment from the Acme Company that supplies Wile E. Coyote? And did they get it on credit? Oh well, never mind.

    The Librarian: Quest for the Spear - a very pleasant surprise. This film, a parody of the Indiana Jones type of adventure movie, stars Noah Wyle of ER as a guy who's been in college for fifteen years and knows, literally, everything. He becomes the librarian of a top-secret library containing the Ark of the Covenant, a unicorn and the Holy Grail among other things (the library support staff consists of Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin, both of whom are great). When the Spear of Destiny is stolen he has to go after it, develop self-confidence, use various bits of esoteric knowledge he's acquired in the course of his studies, etc. Extra credit for the great cast and the humorous take on the plot. Wyle gets a couple of good lines in. My favorite, uttered after he's been trying to figure out what dialect an Amazonian tribe is speaking: "It's Portugese! I was overthinking it!" Downside: terrible special effects. Well, it's a made for TV movie. Would be good for kids.

    The Pacifier - tough SEAL officer Vin Diesel guards/babysits five kids while hunting for a missing secret missile guidance program, eventually loses his tough persona and bonds with the kids, etc. You can write the script on this one yourself: pleasant but predictable. Upside: an annoying little bedtime jingle he has to sing to get the toddler to sleep turns out to be a classic "in plain sight" clue to the location of said secret program. Downside: not only is this plot reminiscent of The Sound of Music, the writers actually worked a performance of Sound of Music into the movie. Gah.

    The Rundown - best of the bunch. Stars The Rock, or Dwayne Johnson, or whatever he's calling himself these days. He's a sort of glorified repo man who really wants to be a chef; the opening scene has him taking notes on recipe ideas while waiting in his car on a stakeout. Loved it. A local criminal hires him to go down to the Amazon and fetch back his son, who's there looking for a priceless relic. When Rock gets there he finds himself in a gold mining town run by Christopher Walken, who's also after the relic. Things escalate from there and the film ends with a classic Western shootout. The actual finding of the relic doesn't take that long and is almost a side issue. The real treasure here is Walken's performance; he plays the owner of the town like Colonel Kurtz on LSD. The scene where he lectures a bunch of armed thugs on the Tooth Fairy is priceless. Downside: there isn't one. Rent this movie.




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