Film Capsules February 2014

Click onto the film title to go to a longer review.

 The Monuments Men

Rated PG-13. Matthew 6:19-21.

George Clooney directs and stars in this very different World War Two film. Although the film opens with Clooney’s character rounding up his crew for a special mission, just as Lee Marvin’s character did in The Dirty Dozen, the objective this time is not to kill and blow up. Instead the goal of what came to be called “The Monuments Men” is to preserve and save. The Nazis have stolen millions of paintings, statues, and such for display in a Hitler art museum the dictator plans to build when he has won the war. In the event that he should lose, his orders are to destroy all of the treasures. Thus there is a sense of urgency, and as we soon see, also great danger. There are numerous tense moments, as well as humorous ones, and even more that will make you happy for the world legacy saved by this hitherto unsung group of heroes.

 Labor Day

Rated PG-13. Psalm 25:7; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

A crime/escape caper that turns into a tale of romance and redemption, this could be seen as a parable of the familiar phrase from the Old Testament (especially Psalms). “Hesed” is often translated as “steadfast love,” and that is what develops between the severely depressed Adele Wheeler and escaped convict Frank when the latter thrusts himself into her life and that of her 13 year-old son Henry. A few details seem unconvincing to me (such as such a deep impact over just a holiday weekend), but there are so many tender moments that it is not hard to put such doubts aside. The scene of the three of them creating from scratch a luscious looking peach pie might have come out of my favorite food film Babette’s Feast, except that their pie is too lop-sided to have been created by a master chef, though there is just as much love put into it. In the case of Henry, who narrates the film many years later, this is also a coming of age tale.

 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Rated PG-13. Lamentations 2:2.

This rebooting of the old franchise is distinguished by both its director—Kenneth Branagh and supporting actor Kevin Kostner. We follow young Jack’s (Chris Pine) progress from a student in the London School of Economic through his brief Marine career, his rehab in a hospital after he is severely wounded when his helicopter is shot down, and his meeting with the two people most important to him afterward. The first is his rehab doctor Cathy Muller, and the second is Kostner’s CIA operative who recruits Jack into the CIA. The Russians are again the villains, but they are a very different bunch from the Marxist days of the Cold War. Branagh himself stars as the Russian plutocrat fixing to set into motion a complex plot that will ruin the USA financially and create such unrest that violence will break out all over the world.

 August: Osage County

Rated R. Numbers 14:18; Psalm 69:20; Matthew 5:21-22.

Although this film version of the stage play is a family film, it is not a good choice for Valentines Day viewing. Imagine if Edward Albee’s viciously feuding husband and wife had birthed three daughters, one of whom is just as mean as her parents, and you will catch just a glimpse of the fireworks that erupts when this dysfunctional family gathers for the funeral of the family patriarch. Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper are especially outstanding, but the supporting cast is also impressive. Seldom have the dynamics of family feuding been dissected so tellingly. If there is such a thing as “God forsaken,” it would this little part of Osage County. Do not go to this black comedy/drama alone, nor when you feel a bit blue!

 Lone Survivor

Rated R. Proverbs 17:17; Genesis 19:11.

This “true story” is one of the most intense war stories to be filmed since the bloody Normandy Beach landing in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. When four SEALS are dropped for scouting a Muslim village in the Afghan mountains in preparation for a strike on a notorious Taliban commander headquartered there, things start going wrong. An old man and a teenager herding goats and sheep appear, giving the men the choice of either killing the pair on the spot and going on with the mission, or letting them go and saving the honor of the SEALS but ruining the mission and endangering their own lives. They choose the latter, and all hell breaks out. Best things about the film are the courage displayed by the soldiers and, later on, an incredible act of grace on the part of the leader of a Muslim village. A rewarding film, but not for the squeamish.

 Delivery Man

Rated PG-13. Philippians 2:3-4

This character transformation film was a surprise in that it turned out to be far better than expected. Vince Vaughn is David, a slacker delivering meat for his family-owned butcher shop. The day that the lawyer from the sperm donation clinic that he has visited hundreds of times shows up changes his life. Told that over 500 children grew from his sperm through the years, he is equally shocked to learn that over a hundred of them have joined together in a lawsuit to set aside the privacy law and discover the identity of their father. When he visits several of the now grown children incognito, he is moved by their difficult plights to offer some help, which leaves him with a good feeling and a desire to take responsibility for the welfare of his offspring. Often funny, the film also is touching as David discovers a new family and a sense of purpose for his life.

 Ride Along

Rated PG-13.

This is a formulaic film about a loser, Ben, played by Kevin Hart, falling in love with a lovely woman but needing to prove himself worthy to her highly disapproving older brother James (Ice Cube). Our hero is a security guard aspiring to be accepted at the Atlanta Police Academy, and the brother is already a member of Atlanta’s’ “finest.’ When James challenges Ben to ride with him for 24 hours, the cop thinks that Ben won’t last out the time, and Ben grossly under rates the danger he will soon be in. It was fun for a while, but nothing I would ever want to see again, life being far too short.

 That Awkward Moment

Rated R. Proverbs 17:17.

This raunchy tale is about the ups and downs of three buddies who make a pact that they will not enter into any more serious relationships because two of them have been dumped by their women. The movie is just a small step above the huge number of teen comedies that seem to specialize in fart jokes. In this one ejected body gas is replaced by penis humor, even a visual one, our supposed hero showing up at a party with a faux penis dangling from his pants like a snake. (The girl who issues the invitation said it is a dress up affair, which he takes to mean not formal but costume.). If you can stand this kind of humor, as well as some sailor language issuing out of the mouths of the women as well as the men, you will discover some tender moments, even a lesson that showing up when a person needs you is what relationships are all about.

 On DVD or Streaming Video

Unfortunately this film, panned by too many uncomprehending critics blind to its spiritual undergirding, has not drawn many theater goers, even from the religious community, so you probably will have to seek it out on DVD or video streaming.

Gimme Shelter

Rated PG-13. Isaiah 53:6; Luke 12:6

Based on a true story, this is a sometimes-harrowing tale about a pregnant teenager fleeing from her drug-addicted prostitute mother and launching out on her own. April, insisting always on being called by this nickname rather than her given name Agnes, seeks out her birth father, now a wealthy Wall Street broker, only to flee him and his wife when they demand that she abort her child. Next she flees from a would-be pimp, crashing his car and landing in the hospital where a concerned chaplain at last links her up to a shelter whose director gives her the tough love she needs. Panned by some liberal critics who fail to understand that a woman’s right to choose sometimes means she will choose to say “No” to an abortion, this film should not be missed!

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