Henry Poole Is Here

And there was I, just yesterday, wondering whether I could phone the Advertising Standards Authority to complain about the “Call on the name of Jesus and be saved” billboard on the N1. I mean, quite patently I couldn’t make such a definitive claim about washing powder or motor oil or fat burners without being forced to prove it, so why the leniency for the god-squad?

Anyway, I only digress a little because last night I saw Henry Poole Is Here, starring Luke Wilson. He plays a man with a terminal disease who returns to confront his demons and die alone in a house in his old neighbourhood in Los Angeles. Quite miraculously (yes, that’s the point), a picture of Jesus appears in the stucco on the walls of his new home, and the interfering Latina next door thinks this is a sign. When it starts weeping blood and people start being cured of all sorts of ailments, then Luke is forced to rethink his Mr. Grumpy persona and reintegrate himself into the world.

So, it’s a film about faith in unlikely places. It’s about the tangible reality of belief for those who believe – though it’s hard to get beyond the fact that all that blind faith comes across as being completely deranged. It’s delivered with some great lighting and steady pacing, but to be really honest, I’m not sure I find movies about the insufferably self-righteous even vaguely worth the price of a movie ticket. Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with religious people generally, as long as they don’t call for my death or weep (metaphorically) for my descent into hell for my fast living and wicked ways. The fact that they so often do leaves me pretty unentertained, frankly.

The nameless, faceless burb of tract homes and not-high-enough fences is the City of La Mirada, in Los Angeles, California. Astoundingly ranked 34 in CNN’s Money Magazine’s best places to live survey, it’s only saving grace in my book: Amber Riley, La Mirada Resident.

Rogue

It doesn’t happen quite so much these days, but there was a time when you mentioned living in Africa and people thought there were giraffes in the street. I did live in Zimbabwe for a while and I remember startling a zebra once, when out on a morning run (the run being more unusual than the equine, quite frankly). I also can vividly recall the moment, out canoeing on the Zambezi, when I realised that log-shapes in the the water all around me were crocodiles. Good times.

Anyway, I recount this because I caught Rogue on DSTV – a great little Australian movie about a monster croc that’s chewing its way through the good folks of the Northern Territory. It stars Radha Mitchell and Michael Vartan, but there’s also Sam Worthington – pre, but very much on his way to, meteoric fame. In short; there’s a tour boat, it sinks, the ill-assorted survivors struggle to an island, but the island’s going to be below water by nightfall….. And guess who comes out to eat at night?

So what can I tell you? Well to be honest, there’s very little to fault. The characters, though familiar, are well acted and their psychologies feel real enough given the limited amount of time we spend getting to know them. The animatronic croc is great, the scenes are tense and the Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory stands out as a completely gorgeous but utterly ruthless backdrop. (Me, I’d be freaking about the snakes.) Interestingly though, the nocturnal scenes were not shot in the Northern Territory; the director used a specially built island in the midst of a lake in the Yarra Valley in Victoria.