The most surprising thing about "The Martian" is how relaxed and funny it is.
House Republicans, who have promised action on their 10-point "Contract With America" in the first 100 days of the new Congress, reach the halfway mark today. No one has been more identified with the GOP's recent surge in Congress than Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). He has used his new position as House speaker to promote his vision of where the country should be heading - and to suggest the viewing of movies as a means of shaping social policy. Who better to give Newt some movie guidance than Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert?
House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a movie fan. He recommended we solve the problem of broken homes by studying "Boys Town," and thinks the baseball strike could be settled if we'd watch "Field of Dreams."
But the speaker is a busy man, and may not have had time to check out all the titles at the video store. So here are ideas for additional viewing, focusing on other areas of concern.
Gun control: In "The Quick And The Dead," Gene Hackman holds a contest in which pairs of gunslingers shoot it out until one of them is dead. The winner advances to the next round. At the end of the contest, there's only one gunslinger left in town, so the gun problem has been eliminated.
Kids and street violence: In "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991), a 12-year-old takes control of the good Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and programs him to stop killing people. Instead, T2 only shoots to maim.
Prostitution and ecology: In "Milk Money" (1994), a 13-year-old kid hires a hooker with his lunch money and moves her into the tree house of his suburban home. He tells his dad she's a math tutor. Dad falls for this, being a dreamy idealist who chains himself to trees to save the timberlands. Mentally ill street people: After the Reagan administration returned them to the streets, many drifted about, confused. They should study "The Dream Team" (1990), in which mental patients, separated from their supervisor during a field trip, team up to outsmart a bunch of bad guys.
Medicare: In "Cocoon" (1985), a group of elderly characters discover they no longer need federal health funds after they bathe in waters infiltrated with a life force from outer space. Soon they're doing back flips off the high board, and saving tax dollars. Contract With America: In "A Night at the Opera" (1935), Groucho and Chico go through a contract, removing any clauses they have a problem with. They throw out the Sanity Clause after Chico points out, "There is no Sanity Clause."
Public broadcasting: In "Pump Up the Volume" (1990), Christian Slater plays a high school kid who runs a pirate radio station out of his basement at no cost to the public.
Education: In "Dazed and Confused" (1993), a recent grad tries to understand why high school was so great, but "everything since then sucks." The answer: Everything does.
Unemployment: In his 1993 sequel to "Roger & Me," Michael Moore revisits Flint, Mich., desolate since General Motors moved its factories to Mexico, and finds entrepreneurial spirit in a local woman who raises rabbits in her backyard. The movie takes its title from her motto: "Pets or Meat."
Book contracts: In "Wall Street" (1987), financier Gordon Gekko makes a memorable speech: "The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed - for lack of a better word - is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit."
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An interview with Michael Shannon on Freeheld, 99 Homes, Boardwalk Empire, and more.