Click onto the film titles (with two exceptions) to see the more detailed review.
Rated PG. Romans 7:15-20.
11 year-old Riley misses her Minnesota friends and haunts when her parents make a career-based move to San Francisco. The filmmakers visualize her emotional turmoil by taking us inside her mind and giving five emotions a bodily form. The dominant one Joy has been working with the blue Sadness, violet Fear, fiery red Anger, and green Disgust (Mindy Kaling) to arrange and store memories and come up with ideas while Riley has grown from infancy to childhood, and now to pre-adolescense. However, the girl becomes so stressed that inside her chaos breaks out, especially when Joy and Sadness become separated from the other five emotions. This is a delightful tale with insights as to how all emotions are important, even those considered negative, such as sadness and fear.
Rated PG-13. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.
The best youth film since the wonderful Short Term12, this story of the white Greg and the black Earl, who befriend Rachel after she is diagnosed with leukemia, will touch your heart and your funny bone. Greg and Earl, friends since kindergarten, have made 42 mini-films based on classic and foreign films, such as A Sockwork Orange and Senior Citizen Kane. A friend of Rachel demands that they make a film for her, but they find this more difficult. This is that rare film in which the youth do not jump into the back seat of a car (or into bed), and the adults are not stupid and hypocritical. Neither the youth nor parents and teacher are religious, but the film offers a good opportunity to talk about life and death, and of course, friendship
Rated PG-13. Ecclesastes 3:1-2.
If you have a list of films that treat the elderly with respect and dignity, here is one to add to it. That Blythe Danner is its star is a bonus. She is a widow who lost husband son years before in a plane crash. She lives in a lovely Southern California home where she visits three friends who keep trying to entice her to move into their retirement center. Matters change when two men enter her life, the young pool attendant, and a new resident her own age at the retirement center. The refreshing script, however, takes us far from the usual path trod by characters in more pedestrian movies. Prepare to laugh and to cry!
Rated PG-13. Genesis 11:4.
Along with the age-old cautionary warning about hubris, this rejuvenation of the Jurassic series adds the theme of corporate greed for profits. It is 20 years after the first film, and the JP has been expanded enormously into Jurassic World, thousands of visitors flocking to the island to enjoy dinosaur rides, excursions, hotels, restaurants, and dinosaur toys and products. When Sales notices a declining interest in the current dinosaurs, the corporate CEO greenlights a special project in which a far more ferocious (and larger, of course) form of the Tyrannosaurus Rex is created. Our hero will have to rescue two teenaged brothers and the gorgeous corporate operations manager—but not the hundreds of other employees and tourists who become dinosaur food when the beasts go on a rampage.
Rated PG. Psalm 91:5.
Here we go again with the little daughter of the newly moved in family standing before their TV console and saying, “They’re back.” When poltergeists, angry that their ancestral burying grounds have been violated by the housing project, kidnap the girl into their realm, the family calls in experts to get her back. I should rewrite that old pious dictum to read, “The family that is preyed on together stays together.”
If there is a crummier, more disappointing movie now playing than this piece of junk, then I haven’t seen it yet. A “found video” horror flick, it scarcely has 15 minutes of in-focus shots, the images blurred, too dark, and careening all over the place. The theater should issue nausea pills to patrons foolish enough to pay to see this thing. The clichéd plot concerns four high school students trying to prevent their school from staging a play in which 20 years earlier the lead actor in a period drama had been accidentally hung. They believe this to be a bad idea. When they sneak into the school at night to sabotage the scenery, strange, and eventually for some of them, grizzly, things happen. We see as much of the actors’ feet as their faces, which might be just as well. Oh yes, there is a scare or two, though my main fear was that it would go on longer than it did.
Rated R. Romans 12:2a
This comedy/drama, playing at all places at an art house theater, is also a mystery film, the mystery being how it avoided an NC-17 rating. The plot seems to pivot around one young husband’s small sex organ compared to that of another husband, the two and their wives spending an alcohol and drug-saturated evening of getting acquainted. (The one couple has just moved to California and are worried about making new friends.) The full frontal nude scenes leave nothing to the imagination, and the morals of the hosts as they seduce their naïve guests into acting against their better judgment, make the film unfit for most groups to see or discuss, unless you want an extreme example of two people “conforming to this world,” to paraphrase the apostle Paul. I think I have found the film mentioned in the review of The Gallows. Consider this and the previous one as more a warning than a review.
All of the films below unfortunately have come and gone from our local art house cinemas.
Rated R. Isaiah 5:20; Psalm 140:4-5; Luke 9:25
A Canadian surfer moves with his older brother to a beach town in Columbia where they hope to establish their paradise in the form of a surfing school and small restaurant. It becomes lost when the younger brother falls for a local young woman, who turns out to be the niece of Pablo Escobar. The latter, filthy rich as the head of an international drug cartel, dotes on the girl like he is a father, and embraces the young man. Caught up in the whirl of Escobar’s circle, the young man may be too late in coming to realize how brutal his benefactor is. Brilliant actor Benicio del Toro, as Escobar, easily dominates the film, showing how Evil can take on a kindly human face.
Rated PG-13. Ecclesiastes 9:1-4.
This enjoyable tale about Angelo J. Manglehorn, a man soured on life, boasts one of the best performances by Al Pacino in a number of years, the director apparently managing to reign in the actor’s over the top antics of so many of his other films. The film reminds me of Tolstoy’s story “Where Love Is, God Is,” and of the fine film based on it Martin the Cobbler. Pacino is a locksmith soured on life and God. He is obsessed with a girl that “got away,” making it impossible for him to enjoy the present, until…
Rated PG. Psalm 68:5-6a.
This Japanese anime film is about Anna, an orphan in Japan who regards herself as an outsider because one of her parents was Caucasian. She thinks her Japanese relative has taken her into her home to gain the government support check. When her asthma causes her guardian to send her north to the seaside home of relatives, she discovers a mysterious girl named Marnie. Mysterious because her new, golden hair friend lives in a mansion across the marshy cove. It has been abanonded for years, and yet when she is with the girl the decrepit house looks pristine. A delightful tale of reconciliation and self-accetance about how the past enterwines with the present. The scenery and hand-drawn figures are beautiful, adding to the pleasure of watching a good story.
Rated R. Genesis 2:8.
This gorgeously costumed period drama takes a feminist perspective on French history. Directed by actor Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet plays Madame Sabine de Barra, a talented garden architect hired by King Louis XIV’s master landscape architect André Le Notre to design and plan a portion of the Versailles Palace’s grounds that will become known as the Rockwork Grove or Salle de Bal, a terraced outdoor amphitheatre with a special water cascade. Of course the two fall in love, but complications arise—she is a commoner, he a nobleman, as well as already married. As usual with such romantic stories, the script easily justifies the adultery, but at least there is a restraint to their affair worthy of Jane Austen.
Rated R. Psalm 7:9.
You might recall the exciting award-winning William Friedkin film, but this one gives you the French side of the war against a drug lord in Marseilles of the 1970s. A newly arrived magistrate dedicates himself to the taking down of an international drug lord to the exclusion of his family relationships. The drug lord is a loving family man (reminding me of the Escobar film) but utterly ruthless outside his family circle. The magistrate is thwarted time after time in getting the goods on the drug lord because the wealthy criminal is able to bribe both local crooks and even officials in Paris. Both of them, however, will find a high price to be paid as they continue their war against each other.