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Even Bullock can't save a feeble script

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

A documentary that is sure to raise your eyebrows and a thriller that cheats its audience are among this week's films in the DVD column.

Islam: What the West Needs to Know

Like most Americans, what's I've learned about Islam is that it had a violent past, but that modern Islam is truly a religion of peace. The terrorists who use the teachings of Islam as the reason for their actions are extremists who are out of the mainstream of the religion.

Is that viewpoint accurate?

This new film presents a group of religious and political scholars who answer the question "Is Islam itself violent?" Their answer will undoubtedly hurt some people, enrage others and confuse many because it is "yes."

Using many quotes from the Koran and other sacred Islamic texts, the scholars build an argument that terrorists are simply following the tents of their faith. The film advances the argument the world is now seeing a resurgence of an effort started by the prophet Muhammad to make the world Islamic through conquest.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the film is its belief that some Islamic immigrants to western nations are the advance guard for this new religious war.

In a country such as ours where religious freedom and acceptance of immigrants are two of the foundations for our society, a film such as this one comes across as almost blasphemous. I was watching this film just days before the attack on the airport in Glasgow. The suspects include two doctors who immigrated to Scotland from Iraq and Pakistan. It was chilling how this terrorist attack fit the scenario set forth by this film.

The film does leave many questions unanswered. For instance, how do we prevent waves of violence against moderate Muslims? How should our governments interact with Arab nations?

This is not an easy film to watch, but for anyone who is interested in exploring the topic, it is involving and chilling.

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The Tower

If you're a hardcore history buff or an Anglophile, this eight-part documentary series on the history of the Tower of London should be a must-see.

The Tower has been part of London for over 900 years. Originally a fortress and palace, it became well known as both the home of the crown jewels and as a royal prison.

Perhaps more than any other landmark in the United Kingdom, the Tower stands for the darkest side of royalty as it was here kings and queens were killed.

A solid effort, "The Tower" just might hold your imagination hostage.

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Standard disclaimer: I love Sandra Bullock and would watch her read the telephone book. That explains why I sat through this often slow-moving thriller that has one of the worst endings I've ever seen.

Bullock plays a wife and mother in a deteriorating marriage. She wakes up one day to discover that her husband has died in a car crash. The next day she wakes up to find that he is still alive.

The first third of the film actually moves a little slow as Bullock discovers what is going on. The middle part of the film actually is quite good as Bullock's character tries to grapple with a lack of faith in life, her marriage and herself. As she understands what is going on and begins to accept it, she takes action to change her life.

Then, however, come the climax of the film and seldom have I seen an ending that is so depressing and a cheat to audiences as this one is.

The DVD has the usual "making-of" features and a genuinely funny gag reel that shows Bullock and her co-stars have a great time despite the weighty nature of the drama.

With the right ending, this film could have been somewhat satisfying. Bullock's performance is very good, but she can't beat the shortcomings of the script.

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