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Movie ReviewsMovie Review

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Making his debut as a motion picture director, Tommy Lee Jones presents a film of serious artistic value within a painfully inconsistent moral framework. In The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, several characters earn their salvation by surviving disturbing experiences, and they do so convincingly, but the film itself falls short of redemption.

Tommy Lee Jones, also the film's star, plays Pete, a ranch hand whose best friend Melquiades has been gunned down by the Border Patrol in this south Texas town. Pete embarks on a journey to bring Melquiades' body to his home town in Mexico, fulfilling a promise he made to bury him near his family. Pete has also kidnapped Mike, the border patrolman who killed his friend, forcing him to assist with Melquiades' burial in a bizarre act of penance.

Aesthetically, Three Burials is impressive, employing the austere desert landscape to mimic the brutal and sterile lives of its characters. They float indifferently from task to task, suffering from what Pope Benedict XVI would call "lethal boredom." Pete's quest, although bordering on insanity, is enviable in this context because it gives him something to care about.

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This need for man to have a deeper purpose, while not extremely original, is a morally relevant message in our culture. Also positive is the way Three Burials exposes the consequences of pornography. Mike, who is seen using pornography, in turn treats his wife as no more than an object. However, if Jones intends to convey this truth, his message is regrettably inconsistent. The film condemns Mike's objectification of the female body in one scene and in the next supplies its own needlessly graphic images.

In the end, I do not recommend this film, primarily for its unnecessary sexual content and its flippant portrayal of marriage. Tommy Lee Jones has proved himself a talented filmmaker to be sure, but the movie's raw beauty is not enough to compensate for its moral inconsistency.

 

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Years after the surprise hit Ice Age (2002), Ice Age: The Meltdown brings its cast of mismatched prehistoric characters back into theaters. While there is nothing groundbreaking about this sequel, I found it entertaining and at times quite clever.

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This sequel tracks the path of three characters from the previous film: Manny the mammoth, Syd the giant sloth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger, who has tamed his carnivorous nature in order to join this eclectic herd. The sequel's story is accessible without having seen the original, but it does assume that viewers are already familiar with its characters. In this installment, our heroes are forced to flee the valley they call home, which is on the brink of flooding as the ice age comes to an end.

Along the way, it becomes painfully clear that Manny is the only woolly mammoth around, inciting a string of insensitive extinction jokes. Those familiar with Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body will appreciate Manny's experience of original solitude. Eventually, he runs into Ellie, a mammoth who believes she is an opossum. She is a charming character, brought to life through Queen Latifah's energetic voice, and she and her two opossum "brothers" fit nicely in the herd.

Ice Age: The Meltdown offers a variety of good laughs, ranging from cheap sight gags to the irony of now extinct creatures mocking a mammoth for being the last of his kind. My favorite moments in both movies involve a headstrong squirrel willing to risk his life for a single acorn. Overall, this film will appeal to audiences of all ages, but it should be especially amusing and even instructive for children, emphasizing the importance of love and self-sacrifice within a community.

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