February 17, 2012
Homelessness is a fact in America and “Good Deeds” shows how one act of kindness can change the lives of everyone involved. Tyler Perry and the film’s distributor Lionsgate have teamed up with Covenant House (that offers a place to live for runaway youth) in a campaign called “Good Deeds: Great Deeds”. Visit the website to see how you can pay it forward for the good things in your life this Lent: www.gooddeedsgreatneeds.com. Act of Valor“Act of Valor” is not a Hollywood film; its backer, at least in terms of support and casting, is the U.S. Navy. So I think it needs to be seen more as a recruitment film, or a film that can cloud the audience’s need to ask: What’s really going on here? What Christian values does it support or deny? “Act of Valor” just made me sad.
February 17, 2012
“Undefeated” is not a movie about football, it’s a beautiful documentary about love, brotherhood, community, education, forgiveness, prayer, respect, humility, character, faith, and yes, beating one another to pulp over some inflated pigskin. I cannot really express how deeply this film touched me.
This film is about gifts: the ones we share, the one’s we receive, and the ones we never see coming. The Woman in BlackThis is a film about grief and love, about mental illness and who decides who is ill or not. In some warped way, when Arthur tries to set the universe aright to appease the woman in black, she returns the favor. And it is not all that upsetting except to the living. The story also has a terrible Pied Piper quality about it because vengeance for an original crime is the real horror. “The Woman in Black” is well scripted, acted, and filmed. But is it horror or about the power of love? Can they be the same?
February 10, 2012
The film could have gone deeper into the emotional and moral dilemmas but chose to skim these by creating a more dramatic backstory for Paige and her family and maintaining the eye-candy appeal of the lead actors.
Leo’s devotion to his marriage vows is reinforced throughout, as well as his respect for Paige, and Paige’s faith and courage, regardless of any other seeming flaws in the film, creates the overarching meaning of “The Vow”.Journey 2: The Mysterious Island“Journey 2” is a thoroughly enjoyable family film – and I do not make this observation lightly. So many “family films” are so sanitized that they can bore one to tears. But “Journey 2” is about great literature (please note all the literary references and authors that will be familiar to most kids ten and above), adventure, imagination, growing up, and family relationships that include forgiveness and reconciliation.
February 3, 2012
In a presidential year, “Coriolanus” is worth watching. Pride, even if it be a man’s natural personality, is a deadly sin. It is a lesson Coriolanus never learned and it cost him his life. Albert NobbsI thought this was a compassionate story about women in a culture in which men preyed on females without impunity and that women, in order to survive, did what they could. Sometimes we just don’t know why people do what they seem to be doing. Director Rodrigo Garcia is quite at home directing sympathetic films about strong women beset by difficult choices, tragedy and rays of hope.
January 27, 2012
Director Steven Soderbergh never makes a frivolous movie. Here, using a tight script written by Lem Dobbs, he makes a case for the precarious ethical union between the U.S. government and the military industry that is unregulated, extremely profitable, and thriving. Red Tails“Red Tails” is based on true facts but the script is tedious and the action slow throughout most of the film. Director Anthony Hemmingway has made a fine reputation for himself for television, but here the pace is so slow that I think such an important movie may not receive the audience it so deserves. The writing obviously struggled to create tension and friendship among the men, but it was so obvious it was a cliché. The actors have so much potential but their performances are stilted.
January 20, 2012
There are plenty of surprise switch-and-bait plot points to keep you watching, but somehow I just couldn’t buy the premise except for one major point. The story reminded me somewhat of Mark Wahlberg’s personal story of moving from a life of trouble making to a family man, good citizen, and productive member of society. CarnageThis is a dark comedy set in a stuffy hell created by these
parents who don’t really know who they are. The acting is
taut and fine by all the actors but some plays are better
left to the theater.
January 13, 2012
“Joyful Noise” is not a great film, but it is high energy and very entertaining. It’s not especially good on moral theology either (one of the lady choir members sleeps with another one and when he dies during the night, she wonders if it is God’s punishment; the pastor assures her it isn’t but he is not particularly concerned that sex outside of marriage falls outside of Christian behavior.)The Devil Inside“The Devil Inside” won the box office last weekend, but I thought it was a boring rehash of the same old story. The good part is that the film reminds people that the devil is still around and he sure doesn’t seem to be leaving Hollywood anytime soon.
January 3, 2012
The Iron Lady
Is there anyone the multi-nominated and Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep cannot portray? As I was leaving the theater after watching this most watchable film I asked a woman if she came for a movie about Margaret Thatcher or to see Meryl Streep perform? She smiled and said, “If I have to tell the truth then it was to see Meryl Streep.”Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseLove is what the movie, at its heart, is all about. And if it is about love, it is about hope and faith. I loved it, as hard as it was to experience September 11 through the eyes and life of this child who feels everything so intensely.
December 22, 2011
There are many good things to say about “War Horse”. In most films featuring animals we learn how we can become more human, more humane, and “War Horse” does this beautifully. Friendship, love, sacrifice are themes that bind the film together. We Bought a ZooIt’s not easy to make a movie about grief, and grief is uncomfortable yet it is part of all our lives. Not sure it’s the best choice for a Christmas release, but I can see the film extending a healing touch to those who are feeling loss.
December 16, 2011
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Ultimately the theme is about patriotism, loyalty, and betrayal on the level of the individual and one’s country, and between countries with the same goals. It is very well acted and worthy of seeing for the performances and quality of direction if nothing else. Young Adult“Young Adult” tries hard to be witty but it falls flat at every turn. It is a bleak excursion into the soul of a person who does not even realize she has one. Even the one likeable character, Matt, played by Patton Oswalt, loses his footing and falls prey to Mavis’ bleak search for what she cannot have and certainly does not deserve.
December 9, 2011
The younger generation is made up of lonely rich kids; Matt’s generation is made up of middle-aged people waiting around for a financial windfall, and the grandparents are lonely and slowly losing their mental powers. Is this all life is meant to be? “The Descendents” is a short circuit of a film; it goes in a circle and only hints at breaking out.My Week With MarilynThis film, directed by Simon Curtis, seemed to really be about capturing the aura and pathos of the life of two gifted and beautiful actresses: Marilyn and Michelle. I think Michelle has already learned enough lessons from the film business to last a lifetime.
December 2, 2011
I found myself profoundly moved by the film and at one point, I just started crying for the sheer joy of seeing the creative imagination validated. If we approach the film intentionally, willing to wait for the story to unfold, to savor the blend of sight and sound, to become a curious child again, we, too, will be rewarded, just like Hugo. Arthur ChristmasWhat movie-going child today under the age of ten or twelve won’t think it’s normal for Christmas to be run by the entities such as the Pentagon or the U.N. and soldiers? That’s is the part I didn’t like.
Here’s the part I did like: The film challenges militarization and war games when the elves confront Steve: “What do you mean one child doesn’t matter? If she doesn’t matter, who decides which child does matter?”
November 23, 2011
There are a lot of inter-textual references, that is, inside jokes about Muppets and Hollywood, plus much music and guest appearances, including politico James Carville – twice! The film is a very enjoyable crowd pleaser.Breaking Dawn, Part 1There is a lot of blood in this film and if anything links it to the Mormon faith, it is the symbolic nature of the blood connecting families, past generations, and even those yet to be born. As vampires are immortal, so are Mormon men who are the channels of salvation and immortality for their wives.
November 18, 2011
Into the Abyss
Herzog treats his subject with an even hand. At the end Adam Stoler’s sister says that she is doesn’t want to seem like an evil person but that she is glad she went to the execution. Herzog asks her if the death penalty is something she thinks Jesus would do. She replies, “Probably not.” A Very Harold and Kumar's 3D ChristmasIt was never my intention to see this stoner celebration of perpetual adolescence, in the Harold and Kumar pothead franchise, but I received a request from St. Anthony Messenger to give my perspective on the film.
November 11, 2011
The film was OK but I was disappointed that it wasn’t as
funny as the previews led us to believe. Heists are supposed to be improbable
tales about losers outwitting the winners and this one did so with interesting
characters, though it was almost impossible to understand Casey Affleck’s
mumbled lines.J. EdgarClint Eastwood’s vision in this film is interesting because he is commenting on
American individualism taken to the extreme of almost unbridled power that
neither elected or appointed government officials could regulate. Eastwood never strays far from the Western myth
and the consequences of accepting it without question.
November 4, 2011
The interesting aspect of “Anonymous” is the commentary it offers of the role of Puritanism at the court of Queen Elizabeth. The legacy of Puritanism is with us still, seen, for example, in school boards banning books or groups promoting boycotts in reaction to television shows and movies, rather than taking a reasoned, educational approach to pop culture artifacts.Puss in Boots“Puss in Boots” is a contrived tale of a quasi-felonious feline that wants to get back his good name. The movie looks good but is only mildly entertaining.
October 21, 2011 The WayI think “The Way” expresses well what the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that most people come to the Church (or return to the Church) by means that the Church does not approve. When it comes to God’s grace, there are no limits for God is all-powerful and colors outside the lines to get our attention. The movie offers us so much to talk about.
“The Way” is a movie full of grace.
September 23, 2011
Machine Gun Preacher
This story is morally and ethically complex because it showcases the use of violence justified by the Bible. But unfortunately the film reduces the moral dimension to what seemed more like propaganda to me. Dolphin TaleDolphin Tale parallels Winter’s story with that of two children of single parents, and a returning soldier wounded in Iraq. Although the film is in 3D, the story is beautiful in its simplicity. The courage of some of the children who visit Winter goes right for the heart.
September 16, 2011
The interesting thing about “Contagion” is that it shows us what a pandemic looks like in a panoramic way. We see the nobility and decency of people contrasted, and sometimes replaced with humanity’s basest instincts. From a Christian perspective, you will find all of the Beatitudes and the Deadly Sins represented in the film. The Lion King 3-D“The Lion King 3D” won’t pop out and scare you, the sound won’t overwhelm you, and the 3D will not annoy you. It’s a refreshing 3D experience. The music is as great as ever and the story is one for all seasons. The opening sequence especially is visually stunning.
September 9, 2011
“Warrior” is about forgiveness, and if cinema is at its best when it is the external manifestation of internal realities (and I think that it is), then the intense interior struggle to forgive and reconcile with one’s brother, is portrayed in extreme passion, pain, and physical force. The DebtThis is a very provocative film and though the subject explores the deepest and darkest recesses of the human heart and our own inhumanity to one another, the film has substance, it is interesting and extremely well acted and directed.
September 2, 2011
Seven Days in Utopia
For anyone who has ever made a retreat, there is much to like about this gentle film beginning with the seven-day structure. To examine one’s life, to articulate one’s identity, is always a salutary practice. To become aware of the world and others, to forgive and reconcile, to be open to wisdom, are well presented in the story. The cinematography, especially in the opening sequences, is beautiful. Higher GroundAnyone who has felt the inner movement of grace to take the next best step in the spiritual life will recognize Corrine’s dilemma and journey of discernment. As a Catholic, Christian I felt the absence of the sacraments for Corrine, and wondered where her journey might lead. The thing is, Corrine knows that God is faithful and that indeed “all is grace.”
August 26, 2011
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World
“Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World” is a sturdy family film but it felt like the special effects outweighed the plot and certainly the dialogue. The good news is it is better than the comic books into film we have been getting, with more discernment about the situation that the simplistic good vs. evil.The HedgehogI felt that I had seen fine literature come to life with this film that takes place almost entirely in an apartment building. Indeed the story is based on the critically acclaimed French novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery.
August 19, 2011
Crazy, Stupid, Love
“Crazy, Stupid, Love”, written by Dan Fogleman, who wrote “Cars”, “Bolt” and “Tangled” vacillates between charm, humor, and the unsatisfying consequences of careless sexual behavior. But he does manage to show that marriage takes work, that temptations abound, and that it is precious, and requires character, courage, and effort. Attack the BlockI didn’t see any advertisements for “Attack the Block”, no marketing at all. It just happened to be the one film at the local multiplex that was new and that I had not yet seen. I was the only one in the theater as well. That’s too bad, because this film is one of the good ones: entertaining, a little scary, good acting and directing, thoughtful about human freedom and dignity, and just a little cheesy in the alien department.
August 12, 2011
“SENNA” has won major awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Adelaide Film Festival. When the publicist invited me to the screening and said it was about Formula One racing, I was glad she could not see the blank look on my face. But then she said that Senna, the subject of the film, was a Catholic and the film has a surprising spiritual dimension. I was intrigued, so I went to the screening – and cried at the end.The Help“The Help” is a tribute to human dignity, faith, and forgiveness. It is relevant, engaging, and entertaining. It will take you by the heart.
August 5, 2011
“The Whistleblower” is not an easy film to watch. Human trafficking films such as “Trade” (2007) are very difficult to watch, yet they pull away the shades covering up human misery that we really do not want to know about. But then, what are we to do? C.A.S.T., the coalition for the abolition of slavery and trade, educates, advocates for legislation, and provides shelter and immigration services to women and children who are able to escape from bondage. Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the DarknessAs the ad says, before there was “Fiddler on the Roof” there was Sholem Aleichem, the Yiddish storyteller whose takes of Tevye the Dairyman were the inspiration for the beloved award-winning musical and film.