Weekly Video Picks

Race Against Time (2000)

Pope John Paul II has warned us about a culture of death in which abortion, euthanasia and suicide become legalized and the norm. Race Against Time, a cable-TV sci-fi movie, is a pop-culture riff on the Holy Father's concerns. Suspense-filled action scenes and well-choreographed chases take precedence over ideas, but enough serious issues are presented to raise questions in the minds of even escapist viewers.

It's the year 2008, and all laws criminalizing suicide have been repealed.

This clears the way for outfits like LifeCorps, which pays big bucks to needy citizens in return for ownership of their vital organs in the future. A construction worker, James Gabriel (Eric Roberts), can't pay his son's medical expenses and sells his body parts to the company for the necessary funds. But when the boy mysteriously dies, he reneges on the deal and goes on the run. LifeCorps’ leader, Dr. Stofeles (Chris Sarandon), sends a ruthless bounty hunter (Cary Elwes) after him to collect.

Wild Strawberries (1957)

Each of us is going to die. As we get older, if we're wise, we face up to the fact and use it as an opportunity to examine our lives. Professor Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) is a 78-year-old physician who's about to receive an honorary degree. A hardheaded rational-ist, he's never had time for messy stuff like love and relationships. After a disturbing dream, he decides to take a car to the ceremony instead of flying.

The long journey becomes a spiritual odyssey that forces him to wrestle with his own mortality. His shortcomings are cruelly laid before him. He also comes to understand that, if you forgive others, you yourself may be forgiven. Wild Strawberries, one of the Vatican's top 45 films, dramatizes the hollowness of a life that denies itself love. But writer-director Ingmar Bergman shows us that it's never to late to start over if a person is honest in his repentance.

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Families eking out a life on the frontier faced a special set of challenges. The lawlessness, untamed landscape and occasionally hostile indigenous tribes made it difficult to set down roots and raise children. Drums Along the Mohawk, based on Walter Edmonds’ novel, is an intelligent, beautifully mounted drama set during the American Revolution. It focuses on a newly married couple, Lana and Gil Martin (Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda), who move to New York's sparsely settled Mohawk Valley in 1776.

Marauding Redcoats and their Indian allies invade the territories and disrupt the already harsh way of life. The Martins’ recently cleared homestead is destroyed in a scorched-earth invasion, and they seek safety in a nearby fort. These unfortunate circumstances transform Lana from a spoiled young woman into a warm-hearted, resourceful frontier matriarch, and Gil becomes a wilderness-savvy warrior.

John Prizer