Movie reviews: 'War Made Easy,' 'Sea Monsters,' 'Milarepa'

  • Updated: October 4, 2007 - 6:09 PM

WAR MADE EASY *** out of four stars

Unrated; documentary war violence. Where: Oak Street.

There's no claim of objectivity to this documentary narrated by Sean Penn and directed by left-leaning filmmakers Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp, but it is thought-provoking work nonetheless. Examining the rationales that Washington policymakers have offered for wars from Vietnam to Iraq, the film finds a disturbing pattern of public utterances far removed from the facts and optimistic prophecies belied by harsh reality.

Media critic Norman Solomon contends that the mainstream media, much-vilified by conservatives for perceived liberal bias, has in fact served time and again as an uncritical mouthpiece for presidents and Pentagon brass. His case is bolstered by 40 years of archival footage of what Solomon terms "the drumbeat media echo effect" of uncritical coverage of war preparations.

While the film is intensely skeptical of the power elite, it has a refreshing faith in democracy. (COLIN COVERT)

SEA MONSTERS 3D: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE

*** out of four stars

Unrated; suitable for all audiences. Theater: Great Clips Imax.

This Imax documentary is not your typical monster movie. It's a computer-animated look back at a time when the world was covered by oceans that were ruled by giant creatures. Think "Jurassic Park" without the people.

The filmmakers combine modern-day science with modern-day FX. Starting at the sites of a series of archaeological digs, the movie flashes back 80 million years to provide the scientists' best-guess look at the creatures whose bones they are examining.

It is not an easy place in which to survive. Every fish is some other fish's idea of lunch. The fish with the biggest teeth wins, and there are some pretty darn big teeth.

The movie, narrated by Liev Schreiber, was inspired by a 2005 issue of National Geographic magazine. It's informative, but parents of younger children should be aware that it also can be quite intense. (JEFF STRICKLER)

MILAREPA: MAGICIAN, MURDERER, SAINT

** out of four stars

Rated PG for some violence/disturbing images and thematic elements. In Tibetan with English subtitles.

Theater: Lagoon.

The story of Milarepa, the 11th-century shaman who was to become Tibet's most illustrious yogi and saint, is a tale of murder, magic and morality worthy of a central Asian Harry Potter. Cheated of his inheritance by a greedy uncle, and spurned by villagers when his family appeals to them for help, the young man sets out to learn sorcery in order to punish his enemies.

He learns to levitate stones (with the aid of charmingly modest computer-generated special effects) and to call down lightning and avalanches on those who have wronged him. When he grasps the suffering he has caused, he renounces revenge and embarks on a path of enlightenment that will be explored in the 2009 sequel the end titles promise.

While the drama is rather poky, Jamyang Lordo plays the part with dignified restraint, the film's ethical perspective is admirable, and the picturesque setting in the Spiti Valley on the Tibet-Indian border is as spectacular as a boxed set of National Geographic. (COLIN COVERT)

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