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"The Weather Underground"

Directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  8/7/03

We here at Bellview normally don’t like to talk about politics, but let me say this and get it out of the way--

Two words:  Schwarzenegger for governor!!


I skipped this one on my first go-round because I had some friends here in town hangin’ out, so I was pumped to catch the documentary “The Weather Underground” the first chance I got.

Maybe I shouldn’t have run THAT fast.  This documentary, which follows 1960s and 70s revolutionary activists as they bomb their way to notoriety, starts off and gets you hooked in right away.  Members of the Students for a Democratic Society, the main 13 members of the Weathermen were all-star activists in their own right that seemed to come together to fight violent US governments acts domestically and around the world with...more violence!  The group protested everything that the government was into at the time, and represented a new face of angry protester during the Civil Rights Era:  that of the well-to-do young white socialite.  The footage that is detailed in “The Weather Underground” early on shows us the turmoil and the hatred stemming from all orifices during the late 1960s, and some of the more violent riot shots go way over the top but paint a solid picture of what was happening around the world at the time.

This first half-hour, plus just the things I learned about the Weathermen during those 30 minutes (I had zero prior knowledge), made for some great Opening Weekend-like fare.  But, as the film goes on, directors Sam Green and Bill Siegel profile the individual members of the group and those members just didn’t make for very interesting fare.  The group’s mission, their tactics, their affiliations and their impact on society during this time period is very interesting, but the individual parts of the group really don’t add up, at least interest-wise.  The pictures and crime-scene shots of some of the Weathermen’s bombing efforts are not very interesting, either; maybe my thoughts on what a bomb would do to a building created an unfair expectation, but these bombs didn’t look all that lethal to me!

There is still plenty of good, though, within “The Weather Underground” that makes it worth your hard-earned $7.  I rarely go to summer films to learn anything, but I found myself taking in some good historical information on the time period while watching, and some of the people that the Weathermen interact with during their run lock in their place in history.  Who doesn’t love old news reels?  Who doesn’t love shots of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw from some of their work literally 30 years ago?? Learning about how these activists--who seemed to be regular staples on the nightly news for a couple of years--could stay under the radar and in hiding for so long is pretty interesting, too.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09