Film Capsules September 2014

Calvary

Rated R. Romans 12:14-19.

Appropriately named, this Irish film stars the magnificent Brendan Gleeson as a priest who, in effect, is called to atone for the shameful sin of child abuse committed by the priests of the Irish Catholic Church. The fact that Fr. James is innocent and faithful to his calling makes his story even closer to that of the blameless One crucified on that hill outside of Jerusalem. Told with many touches of dark humor, Fr. James’ story is worthy of joining with that of the whiskey priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory or that of the naïve young priest in Robert Bresson’s masterpiece, Diary of a Country Priest. Lots of discussion possibilities of theological themes for people of faith!

 

 Boyhood

Rated PG. Proverbs 22.6; Romans 12:2.

Richard Linklater, using the same young actors over a 12-year period, tells the story of a boy and his slightly older sister from age 6 until he moves to college. Various mentors—his at first negligent father, his confused mother, two step fathers, a grandfather and grandmother, teachers, and the boss at his first job—all help shape him, but he at last shows he is his own person. Lots of humor and tender moments make this a must-see film!

 

The Giver

Rated PG-13. Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 49:13; John 15:11.

By far the best of the recent sci-fi stories set in a dystopia, the film at first is all black and white to show graphically a colorless society. Set in the future after an unnamed catastrophe called “The Ruin,” The Community has no poverty or racism. Newborn children are assigned new families, and upon reaching the age of 16 all youth are assigned by a Council of Elders their job for life. Jonas has unique abilities, so he is chosen to the Receiver of knowledge of the past that is closed to everyone else, even the Elders. When the Giver, the current guardian

 

When the Game Stands Tall

Rated PG. Luke 6:37b-38; Matthew 23:12.

Few sports films deal with losing, and none as well as this story of a California high school football team that, after a winning streak of 151 games, loses its 152nd—and the first two of the next season. Although a lot of fictional material has been added for dramatic purposes, most of the incidents are true, including the drive-by murder of one of the team’s best players. The devout coach uses Scripture passages to drive home his message that winning is not the most important part of the game, but the film is not a super pious affair. The ending will surprise and inspire you.

Magic in the Moonlight

Rated R. Psalm 14:1a.

Regardless what you think of Woody Allen the man, he continues to turn out a film each year far superior to most romantic comedies. This time, returning to his old theme of his masterpiece, Crimes & Misdemeanors, he tells the story of Stanley, an English stage magician whose rationalistic skepticism leads him to debunk a medium beguiling a wealthy widower and her son. Sophie turns out to be so beautiful that our hero falls under her spell, and then two things occur simultaneously—Sophie performs a miracle that he cannot explain, and his beloved aunt, injured in an auto accident, hovers near death, so that he is led to pray, at least for a moment. Set in the late 1920s, this is a delightful film enhanced by costumes, vintage cars, and the director’s usual good taste in selecting soundtrack music of the period.

 

What If

Rated PG-13. Proverbs 23:23.

The chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe’s and Zoe Kazan make this a delightful diversion. Best of all, unlike so many romantic comedies, the couple are not panting and stripping off their clothes within the minutes of their first meeting. Indeed, although Wallace is attracted to Chantry when they meet at a party, he throws away her phone number after she mentions at their parting that she has a boyfriend. Of course, they meet again, and their decision to become friends raises the old question of whether or not this is possible. Funny, and at times moving as well, this will appeal to those who loved Harry Met Sally.

 

Land Ho

Rated R. Colossians 3:13.

This story of the road trip of two retired men could easily have appeared in either the journal of the AAA (not the alcoholic one) or AARP. It is a delightful tale of an outgoing retired doctor cajoling his reticent former brother-in-law to come out of his funk caused by the death of his wife and embrace life again. The two actors are excellent in drawing us into the story, and as we journey to the little known Iceland with them, we share their joie de vivre.

 

Mood Indigo

“L’écume des jours” Original title

Not Rated. Ecclesiastes 1:1-4; 3:19-22.

A whimsical fantasy set in Paris, this romantic comedy might have been concocted by Salvador working with Mark Chagall. There are flying people; lovers riding in a cloud around the city; Rube Goldberg objects such as a door bell that runs around the apartment walls like a mechanical cockroach; a piano that mixes cocktails while one is playing; party goers whose legs are elongated while dancing; and more. The lovers’ idyllic marriage is threatened when a flower grows in the lung of the bride. This is a bizarre love story that the Teacher of the Book of Ecclesiastes, high on LSD, might have authored.

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Rated R. Romans 6:23.

The main reason for seeing this gore-fest, unless you are into sadistic violence, is the unique style of the art and dialogue of the film. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, the black and white photography stands in stark contrast to the splashes of red—usually the red hair of a couple of the “dames” and a dress. Interestingly, the filmmakers chose not to use this color whenever someone is shot, sliced, diced, beheaded by swords, or their eyeball gouged out—this would have been “over kill,” the effect of the change from B&W to color diminished–the body count being as high as that of a small war. The hardboiled prose and the fate of the femme fatale will bring to mind Mickey Spillane and his first novel I the Jury, though that author, back in the Fifties, never could have gotten away with the film’s graphic sex. This film is definitely bound to offend the tastes of most people of faith!

 

The November Man

Rated R. Isaiah 24:16-17.

Pierce Brosnan returns to the screen as an ex-CIA agent, induced to go to Moscow and bring out safely a mole planted so deep that she has become the personal assistant to the Russian President-elect. He soon finds himself pitted against the young agent he had trained, as well as his superior who has turned rogue because he has a master plan for controlling the Russian politician. This is another of those amoral spy thrillers in which the ethics of the CIA is on the same level of ruthlessness as those of the Kremlin. As such, it is akin to cotton candy, enjoyable for the moment, but soon gone and forgotten.

Frank

Rated R. Numbers 5:6-7.

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s unusual film is based loosely on a story by journalist Jon Ronson about a British comedian who wore a paper mache head and traveled with a band. It conjures up in my mind the film about genius and mediocrity, Milos’ Forman’s Amadeus—or rather what that film might have been if Salieri had joined a Mozart-led band and then through his low-level talent and desire for popularity had brought that genius to make his music more understandable and playable. This is a dark comedy/drama not to be missed.

Playing at the Esquire Theaters.

 

Life After Beth

Rated R. Psalm 55:4.

Director/writer Jeff Baena gives us a very different zombie film in this dark comedy/romance film. Zack and her parents are startled when Beth is “resurrected” a week after dying from snakebite. Made to promise by her father that he would not tell Beth she had died (and regarded by his unbelieving family as little unstrung when at first he claims to have seen Beth alive), he notices strange changes in her behavior and on her face, as well as a very strong sex drive. Others around town, including his mailman and the short order cook at the local diner, also change, and not for the better, emerging as ravenous zombies bent on seeking human food. Before the surprising climax there are several unexpected twists that made this non-fan of zombie movies a believer in this one.

Playing at the Esquire Theaters.

 

Forgotten Four

Not Rated–Documentary. Psalm 112:5

Even non-fans know of Jackie Robinson and Manager Branch Rickey’s bold and brave integration of major league baseball in 1947. There have been two memorable movies dramatizing the story, The Jackie Robinson Story and 42. There’s even a good film TV film about the player’s earlier battle against racism, The Court-martial of Jackie Robinson. But how many of us remember what Ross Greenburg’s new documentary calls “The Forgotten Four,” who in a real sense paved the way for Jackie and Branch’s courageous act a year earlier? These four black football players, aided by their white coaches, integrated pro football in 1946. Two of them even were teammates, playing with Jackie in college football at UCLA! You will never forget them after watching this cable movie, which premieres on EPIX Cable on September 23, 8 PM (EST). Watch the trailer at: http://www.epixhd.com/forgotten-four-the-integration-of-pro-football/.

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