National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks and Passes 10.12.2008

BY Steven D. Greydanus

October 12-18, 2008 Issue | Posted 10/7/08 at 2:45 PM


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) - PICK

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) - PICK

March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934) - PICK

New this week on DVD, one of the most important films of the year — and one of the hardest to watch: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is too disturbing to give it a blanket recommendation, but its frank, uncompromising depiction of the collateral damage of an illegal abortion is worth noting, even if the film isn’t for everyone.

Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s film is set in 1987, in the last years of Romania’s Ceauescu regime, and focuses on two college students trying to obtain a back-alley abortion.

The film bypasses abortion-related talking points by beginning on the crucial day, with the decision already made, and displaces the conflict to surrounding circumstances — namely, the monstrosity of the abortionist.

In the end is a moment of truth in which a problem to be gotten rid of is given a face, and the human dimension of the proceedings is squarely confronted. At that point, it is felt to be no longer possible to treat the fetus as a piece of tissue, to be disposed of like so much waste. Or is it? Isn’t that what would have happened with a legal abortion?

Also new on DVD this week is Hollywood’s latest nostalgic 1980s neo-sequel, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, with aging Harrison Ford back wearing the iconic fedora. As with similar recent sequels, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels more like an homage than a credible continuation the franchise, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull frankly benefits from the diminished expectations. Set in the Eisenhower era, the film pits Indy against Russians, instead of Nazis, and offers spaceships in lieu of holy vessels. But ancient temples and deathtraps, vehicular fight scenes, lost cities, creepy-crawly vermin and literal cliffhanging remain very much the order of the day.

Another new release, perennial Christmas classic March of the Wooden Soldiers mixes Laurel and Hardy slapstick with a rare storybook feel that few movies manage, unevenly but generally successfully capturing the magic of childhood wonder and terror in a way that at its best recalls The Wizard of Oz. The songs can get tiresome, but Silas Barnaby achieves genuinely iconic villain status, and the bogeymen and bogeyland are the stuff of the very best nightmares.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days: Extensive and explicit depiction of the procuring of an illegal abortion, nudity; a lingering shot of a post-abortion fetus; some obscene and profane language. Extreme discretion advised. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Much stylized action violence, mayhem, and menace; a few gruesome images; minor profanity; references to out-of-wedlock parentage; vaguely New Age trappings. March of the Wooden Soldiers: Menacing images that could be too frightening for young children.