Film Capsules July 2016

T o read a longer review, click onto the film title.

 The Free State of Jones

Rated R. Running time: 2 hours 19 min. Psalm 10:12; Galatians 6:7.

Based on a little known episode of the Civil War, this is the story of a Mississippi white farmer who deserted the Confederate Army because he was disillusioned by a new law permitting plantation owners with 20 or more slaves to keep one or more of their sons home. Joining with runaway slaves and poor white farmers, he sallied forth from their swamp headquarters to fight successfully against the Confederates, forming in Jones County “The Free State of Jones. A fascinating true story of men discovering equality while fighting for justice.

 Me Before You

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 50 min. I Corinthians 13:4-5.

In an English small town a waitress named Lou is hired by a wealthy noblewoman to provide day care for her paraplegic son Will. Once an energetic and rising star in business, Will now sits morosely in his wheelchair waiting to die. Lou, whose wild assortment of garish skirts, blouses and tights, reflect her irrepressible attitude, struggles to instill in her charge the will to live. It is a memorable love story that will raise some important questions about death and dying.

The Legend of Tarzan

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 44 min. Psalm 10:2-3; Matthew 23:25.

Forget all those early pigeon English-talking ape-man adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Lord of the Jungle. In this one Lord Greystroke has been living with Jane in his English mansion when he is lured back to the Congo. The film blends some actual history in the person of Samuel Jackson George Washington Williams, a real crusader for freedom who did go to the Congo late in the 19th century and began the public campaign against Belgium’s King Leopold II’s brutal exploitation of the natives.

Our Kind of Traitor

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 46 min. Proverbs 20:6.

Much like the couple in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, an ordinary English couple become involved in international intrigue when the man accepts a boisterous Russian’s invitation to join his party for a drink. The Russian handles the money for a ruthless mob boss about to eliminate him, and so uses the Englishman to contact British Intelligence to make a deal—exchange of information that implicates dozens of Western politicians for sanctuary for his family. But what if those to whom the Intelligence agents report are among those the Russian mob have paid off? Minus the usual car chases and crazy, unbelievable fights of the average summer thriller, this seems made for adults rather than adolescents.

Central Intelligence

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 47 min. Proverbs 21:21.

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart take a lame brain plot and get us to laugh and laugh as the odd couple struggle to keep a step of Johnson’s fellow CIA agents who think he has gone rogue. Hart’s character, highly successful in high school, is now an accountant with a humdrum job. Because 20 years ago he came to Johnson’s aid during a humiliating moment, now drastically changed from the fat, bullied slob, Johnson contacts him because he needs Hart’s computer/accounting skills to gain the information he needs on some bad guys. A fun romp that will make you forget your own troubles for a while.

The Purge: Election Year

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 45 min. Psalm 58:1-4.

This third installment in what seemed to me to be an improbable develop finds the action shifting to Washington D.C. as the annual Purge is about to begin. A U.S. Senator running for President on a campaign pledged to end The Purge finds herself forced out of her fortress of a film into the wildly dangerous streets. Not to worry, for the hero from the 2nd film (which I avoided) is on hand, and so are the characters of the second storyline, a black storeowner and his Mexican immigrant assistant. Has some good moments, but the premise still seems unlikely.

Now You See Me 2

If you like magic and illusionist stunts, you should be somewhat amused by this sequel involving a group of professional magicians calling themselves the Four Horseman. They are joined by a woman expert in manipulating playing cards as they travel from New York to Macao in their struggle to prevent a corrupt CEO’s plot to steal information from the millions who will be using his new Internet program. So many scenes are so totally unbelievable that I found myself not caring whether they succeeded or not.

On DVD or Streaming Video

 America’s Dream

TV Movie. Running time: 1 hour 22 min. Story segment: c. 30 min. Psalm 9:9; Luke 9:25; Romans 12:2.

I concentrated on the middle story of this 3-story anthology of dramatizations by Richard Wright’ John Hendrik Clarke, and Maya Angelou. While studying Third World depictions of Christ for my D. Min. thesis, I had been impressed by Clarke’s “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” and had written the author for permission to use a quote from it. Although changed somewhat from the original, it is still a good freedom-themed tale of what happens when a boy artist gives his favorite teacher his painting. It is Georgia, the year is 1948, and the black principal, having been promised a promotion due to his subservience, is well aware of what the white district superintendent will think of such a work should he see it.

Jeremiah

Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 min. Jer 1:1-8.

This is a pretty good depiction of the life of the lamenting prophet called to denounce his people and urge them to surrender while the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem. It would have been better had a fictional love story not been inserted, but many of the incidents from the narrative parts of the Biblical book are dramatized. You preachers who know that the O.T. Lections for August and September are from this Book, might want to check out my review, as well as the August issue of Visual Parables that suggests four clips from the film to use. Part of The Bible Series, this and most of the other films (especially Abraham¸which stars the great Richard Harris as the Patriarch) in the series should be in your church library.

Hiroshima

Rated R. Partly in Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 3 hours 5 min. Jeremiah 9:21; Revelation 6:8.

This Canadian-Japanese production, made as a TV miniseries, provides a marvelous, even-handed depiction of the events leading up to and immediately following the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Using newsreels, photos, dramatizations, and interviews of actual participants and eyewitnesses, the two directors make us feel as if we too were in the rooms in Washington and Tokyo listening in to the debates and plans of the politicians and the military officers. The scenes switch back and forth between Washington, Tokyo, Potsdam, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, providing most of us non-professional historians with a myriad of facts—and both sides of the controversy as to whether or not the A-bomb should be used are well presented. We learn of two little known incidents: one of Stalin’s putting off for weeks any response to the request for negotiations by the peace faction of the Japanese government, as well as the attempted coup of the No Surrender fanatics when Emperor Hirohito decides to surrender.

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