Film Capsules September 2015

At Theaters

 Most of the titles include a hyperlink that will take you to the full review at visualparables.org.

 He Named Me Malala 

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hours 27 min. Genesis 50:20a; Matthew 5:9-10.

This wonderful documentary about Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is a must see for those concerned about social justice and peacemaking! The film takes us with the teenager to Pakistan, Africa, the United Nations, the White House, and her own home in England where Malala speaks on behalf of the millions of girls denied an education by tradition and reactionary forces such as the Taliban. We also see the human side of this activist icon as she teases her two younger brothers and does her homework. The importance of her fat her in her development is seen in the title and many tender scenes of them together. Representing the best of Islam, she also bears a cross, having survived the brutal attack on her life and now living with her family in England because of the threats to her life if she should return to her native Swat Valley. Leaders should gather a group to see and discuss such issues as women’s rights and resistance to oppression when the film opens in October.

Jimmy’s Hall

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 49 min. Psalm 103:6; Proverbs 25:15; Ecclesiastes 3:16.

In 1932 Jimmy Gralton returns from exile in America to his Irish home and with the help of supporters reopens a dance hall. It becomes the hub of community activities again, but the local priest denounces it, mainly because of Jimmy’s speaking against the cruel landlord system holding the people in bondage. Although a younger priest sees Jimmy’s cause as just, the older priest has the backing of the landlords and the government. This social justice film has some wonderful Irish music and dancing. It probably will not be around for long, so I urge you to go out to the Mariemont right away.

Phoenix 

German with English subtitles

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 38 min. Psalm 10:17-18.

This post Holocaust film about Nelly, a newly released woman from Auschwitz searching through rubble-filled Berlin for her husband, is like a film noir or Hitchcock mystery. Her friend thinks Nelly’s husband, who had been hiding her, betrayed her when he was arrested, tortured, and then released right after her arrest. Because of reconstructive surgery to her ruined face, her husband does not recognize her, but something about her causes him to invite her to pretend to be his wife so he can obtain the large family inheritance due her.

 Straight Outta Compton

Rated R. Running time: 2 hours 27 min. Psalm 37:35; Jeremiah 22:1-3.

Despite the heavy dose of ghetto street language offensive to ears more accustomed to the words of a Sunday sermon, this film about the rap group N.W.A. is important for people of faith. It provides vital background for understanding the Black Lives Matter movement. The group’s raps protesting police brutality are as shocking as Isaiah the prophet’s walking naked around Jerusalem to make clear God’s judgment, or Jeremiah’s daring to tell his people to surrender with the enemy right outside the city gates. We see in several stark scenes the N.W.A.’s attitude and protests grew out of the way they and their friends were treated by racist L.A. police. See more details of this in the full review—but above all, do see the film if you are concerned enough for social justice that you want more background information on a subject as timely as the current headlines.

Z for Zachariah

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 35 min. Psalm 7:10 .

This post-apocalyptic story is set in a secluded valley out west where a devout young woman named Ann is the soul survivor. One day she comes across a black man who falls ill to radiation sickness but is able to nurse him back to health. As their relationship develops, a third man turns up. The allegorical title of the film seems to come from a book Ann has, a children’s religious book named for the first man, A Is For Adam, with one of the last two men standing in for Zachariah. It is great to see a film depicting a sincere Christian in such a positive way! The review will be posted at the Visual Parables site this Friday, Sept. 11.

Into the Woods

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 44 min.

The main reason for seeing this modest story about hiking the Appalachian Trail is to watch two seasoned actors strut their stuff as they interact amusingly with each other and Mother Nature. Robert Redford, who years earlier had wanted to produce this film with his buddy Paul Newman as his co-star, made a good choice with the shaggy faced Nick Nolte as his stumble bum pal from whom he has been estranged for many decades. They are a delight as, pushed far beyond what their 70+ year-old bodies should endure, they cope with sore muscles, two bears, a fall onto a shelf of rock, a snowstorm in April, rain, and various stripes of people. Although we see her just at the beginning and end of the film Emma Thompson is enjoyable as Redford’s caring wife who had insisted that he not tackle the Trail alone.

The End of the Tour

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 46 min. Proverbs 14:10; Ecclesiastes 3:4;

Isaiah 55:1-2.

This fictionalized version of Rolling Stone’s writer David Lipsky’s book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, is about the few days he author spent interviewing novelist David Foster Wallace. The novelist was at the height of his fame, about to complete what would become the last book signing tour of his life before retreating into his private life and then suicide triggered by his bouts of deep depression. Their conversations, as reported by Lipsky, cover a wide range of topics—pop culture, writing, and more. The Wallace family has voiced strong objections to the way Wallace is depicted. This might add interest to an already interesting film.

Shaun the Sheep

Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 24 min. Psalm 7:15-16.

This goofy animated film from the producers of the equally goofy Wallace and Gromit is about a sheep named Shaun who leads the flock into the city to find their farmer who was carried away there and lost his memory when hit on the head. The nasty villain of the film suffers a fate similar to that of Haman in the Book of Esther, though it is a bulldozer rather than a gallows that does him in.

American Ultra

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 35 min. Psalm 7:15-16.

Strictly escapist fare, this extremely violent thriller is often funny when a slacker convenience store clerk is attacked by CIA assassins (yes, some agents of the spy agency are again cast in the role of villains) out do kill him. He is shocked to learn that he has super martial skills, which he acquired when he was the object of a CIA experiment gone badly and his handlers wiped out his memory before sending him to the isolated town in West Virginia.

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation

Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 11 min. Psalm 34:21.

Lots of thrills, but little of significance in this new edition of the male adult fantasy franchise. The baddies still haven’t learned to hit their targets, even though they are equipped with assault weapons. All the villainous agencies in these films need to get together and train their thugs how to shoot. At least Tom Cruise’s character can hang on tight as the super cargo plane to which he clings rises high into the sky.

Amy

Rated R. Running time: 2 hour 8 min. Job 19:2.

The sad story of Amy Winehouse, the popular British singer with the powerful voice, is told through clips from the family’s home videos, interviews with the stars, and her numerous friends offering their observations on her life and talent. There is a delightful scene of her singing a duet with her idol Tony Bennett, and his testifying that she was the greatest voice talent in decades. With her dying by suicide because of her losing battle with alcohol, drugs and depression, the film serves as a powerful cautionary tale. Look for it to be talked about a lot come Oscar season.

 On Video

Iron Jawed Angels

Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 3 min. Luke 10:40-42; 1 Corinthians 14:35

This HBO biography of suffragettes Alice Paul and Lucy Burns is a good accompaniment to the soon to be released film Suffragette, a story set in early 20th century England, because Alice Paul demonstrated for women’s rights there before returning to America. She and her friend upset many fellow suffragettes for their radical public attacks on President Wilson who was loath to lend them his support due to more important items on his agenda such as the tariff. A powerful drama reminding us Presbyterians that we probably wouldn’t have elected a Madame Moderator if it weren’t for our fore-mothers’ sacrificial efforts!

Boyz N the Hood

Rated R. Running time: 1hour 52 min. Psalm 72:14 (A Psalm describing the ideal king, but what about the ideal cop—see Officer Coffey in the full review?); Ephesians 6:4.

Go see Straight Outta Compton, and then watch a video of this fictional but true to life film that launched the film career of the rapper with the curious name of Ice Cube. As with the theatrical film, this story of a father trying to extricate his son from a gang and a dangerous situation, provides great background for understanding the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as compelling drama.

Gemma Bovery

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 33 min. Proverbs 11:19.

A middle-aged baker in Normandy fantasizes about his gorgeous new neighbor from England. Gemma Bovery. Her last name is spelled differently from that of his favorite Flaubert novel, but he fears that the arc of her life, when she enters into an affair with a student from Paris while her husband is away for a spell, seems to parallel the tragic one of Madame Bovary.

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