Submarine movies are perhaps the most Sartrean films of the war genre: What better place to experience existential hell than a metal tube with no exit? The canned air, twisted spaces, and infernal company of others -- all are fertile ground for despair, especially if the sub in question is the Soviet shitbox that is the setting of K-19: The Widowmaker. With its malfunctioning gauges, leaky pipes, and a nuclear reactor on the blink, this sub adds a lethal twist to that most familiar of war-movie dilemmas: the tension between doing your duty and doing right by your men.
The film Road to Perdition resembles nothing more than a finely made coffin: all square, burnished heft, a regal showcase for a body painstakingly made up to look alive. The sophomore effort by American Beauty director Sam Mendes, Perdition not only maintains the visual impact of his first movie but expands on it, with exquisitely composed frames and recurring images. But while Mendes' visual storytelling has reached a new height, depth has deserted his characters entirely. They stumble through the film, as waxen and two-dimensional as corpses. And without human warmth and spontaneity, even the movie's most stunning visuals fall flat.
It takes a lot to make a pug unfunny. With a squashed face, bulgy eyes and oddly dainty legs, a pug is a natural comedian -- especially if he is the pug from the first Men in Black movie. MIB fans may remember him as Frank, the gravelly-voiced, smart-mouth alien masquerading as a dog. In the first movie, he was a brilliant little side joke, a throwaway gag. In the second, he makes an extended appearance -- but in this case, more is not better. In lieu of showcasing new material or a coherent plot, the creators of MIB have decided to trot out old jokes like Frank over and over again until even he, chock full of charm, wears out his welcome.
The walk to the H street welfare office from Washington, D.C.'s Union Station takes a good 20 minutes, longer if you've got small children in tow. You see manicured gardens give way to empty lots, bottles in brown paper bags, and a grocery store that's fenced-in to prevent cart theft. When you get to the office and ask a few questions about eligibility -- I was inquiring on behalf of a made-up friend, undocumented, with two children born in the United States -- it seems that you will often get the wrong answers. But that hardly seems to matter: If you are an immigrant -- a legal permanent resident, a refugee, or an "illegal alien" -- you probably wouldn't be in the office in the first place because you would be too afraid to apply for benefits at all.