Frontline: In Search of bin Laden (2001)
Is he alive or dead? Frontline: In Search of bin Laden doesn't take a position. But producer-host Bill Moyers does offer background and an insightful analysis of the al Qaeda leader's life and motives. A timely update of a 1999 PBS special, this feature-length documentary chronicles how the son of a wealthy Saudi businessman worked with the Afghan jihad against the Soviets and then returned to his homeland to organize the overthrow of his government because of its ties to his former ally, the United States. This leads to the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa and fatwahs calling for the murder of Americans.
Moyers adds new material about bin Laden's role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole as well as interviews with reporter Judith Miller and former State Department counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson. The film is an excellent primer on the events and cultural influences that led up to Sept. 11.
Certain movies find a different audience than the one its producers intend. Legend, a cross between The Lord of the Rings and a Grimm's fairy tale, was originally marketed to sophisticated adults but has now become a cult film for young girls. In a time before recorded history, the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) wishes to rule the world and sends his ugliest goblin (Cort Hub-bert) into the forest to destroy the two remaining unicorns because they contain within them a positive force.
One of the creatures is killed and its horn taken to the underworld. The world then becomes a dark, frozen place where evil reigns. To save it, Jack (Tom Cruise), a forest dweller, must descend into the underworld, destroy the Lord of Darkness and rescue Lily (Mia Sara), a royal princess. More important than the plot is the imaginative vision created by director Ridley Scott. Although the film's cosmology isn't Christian, there's nothing to offend the faithful.
Woman of the Year (1942)
When people say “Hollywood doesn't make them like that anymore,” one of the genres they're referring to is the sophisticated romantic comedy that explores the difficulties of marriage and winds up celebrating the institution. Woman of the Year, directed by George Stevens (Giant) and written by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin, examines a couple's ups and downs in the months before America's entrance into World War II. Political columnist Tess Harding (Katherine Hepburn) is so involved in her antifascist causes that she publicly ridicules anyone who has time for frivolous pastimes like baseball. When her paper's sports columnist, Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy), defends the game in print, the two journalists lock horns in a publicized media squabble. Eventually, they meet, fall in love and marry.
The same issues surface as they try to settle down into domestic bliss. Sam believes that family should come first, but Tess refuses to drop any of her political commitments, and they have to work it out. The dialogue is witty, polished and surprisingly contemporary.