Film Capsules February 2016

To see a longer review with the full Scripture text, click onto the film title.. Churches are welcome to reprint any or all of the reviews in their newsletters or in what would otherwise be a blank space in a Sunday bulletin.

 At Theaters

 The Finest Hours

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 57 min. Psalm 89:9; Titus 1:7b-9a.

This thrilling sea adventure, with its Churchillian title, is based on the “impossible” Coast Guard rescue of over 30 sailors stranded on a split-in-two tanker near Cape Cod during a furious storm in 1952. It can also be viewed and used as an excellent study in leadership, there being two in the film that contributed to the rescue mission’s success: the Coastguardsman whose skill and perseverance prevailed over those who wanted to turn their small craft back because of the 70-foot waves; and aboard the doomed ship, the chief engineer who prevented the crew from drowning in the lifeboat they wanted to flee in, and then whose ingenuity resulted in a plan to keep their broken vessel afloat just long enough for the rescuers to find them. Go ahead at the climax and give in to the strong urge to applaud and/or cheer, just like in Rocky—only this film is based on a true story.



Arabic with English Subtitles. Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 40 min. Hebrews 13:2

This excellent Jordanian film, a candidate for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, takes place in 1916 at about the same time as the Arab uprising described in Lawrence of Arabia. The title is the name of a young Bedouin boy who has to grow up quickly or die when marauders kill the party he is a part of. Led by his older brother, and consisting of a British officer and his guide, the group had been searching for an old well near the railroad controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The film is also the story of unwelcome change because the railroad has disrupted the Bedouins’ means of livelihood, guiding pilgrims through the desert to Mecca. I love this kind of film that drops us down into the midst of an unfamiliar land and culture!



Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 30 min. Proverbs 17:22.

Charlie Kaufman, who gave us Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, wrote and directed this stop-motion animated film about a motivational speaker who has run out of motivation. The story takes place in Cincinnati, but don’t expect to see any familiar sites, the action unfolding in an airliner, taxicab, toy store, and mostly in a hotel. Nor will you recognize the Fregoli Hotel—unless you’re real smart (I did not) and know that this is, according to Wikipedia, “A disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact the same person.” This “same person” delusion is well conveyed by having the same actor voice every character, woman or man, except for the protagonist and the woman he meets who draws him out of his funk. Be forewarned that there is a sex scene that pushes the “R” rating to the limit. A quirky film that will not appeal to many, it is worth the time of those who seek films that challenge the mind and heart.


13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Rated R. Running time: 2 hour 24 min. Psalm 91:5

This film, allegedly telling what happened during the terrorist attack on two US compounds in Benghazi, Libya, is very controversial because at least two of the CIA staff members who were there say the author of the book the film is based on misrepresents the facts about a rescue team being held back. Others also question the timing of the film’s release, charging it is meant to embarrass Hilary Clinton and her Presidential campaign, even though she is not actually mentioned in it. Regardless of the above, it is a thrilling combat film, though one that will tend to reinforce the views of anti-Muslim super patriot who wrap themselves in Old Glory.


Streaming Video or DVD

 Sin Hombre

Rated R. Running time: Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Matthew 25:35.

Those who want to see the ordeals that many illegal migrants from Central America undergo will relish this powerful film. Sayra is a Honduran teenager with her father and uncle riding atop a freight train as it heads north to the U.S. El Casper is a member of a Mexican gang, along with his younger friend Smiley, whose initiation into membership involves his killing a captured rival gang member. However, during a robbery attempt of the Hondurans Casper prevents the gang’s chieftain from raping the Sayra by killing him. Now a marked man, Casper joins her in heading north. Knowing that his time is short before the gang alerts others along the way of his act, the pair become romantically involved. Eschewing sentimentality, the filmmakers thrust us deep into the lives of those whom too many Americans write off with the faceless label of Illegals.”


Blood Done Sign My Name

Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 8 min. Hebrews 11:32-38 & 12:1-2; Isaiah 5:20; Isaiah 11:6.

Thank Goodness for DVD, this powerful true story social justice film having gone nowhere at the box office when it was first released. Based on the memoir by Duke University Professor Timothy B. Tyson, the film follows two men in the small town of Oxford NC in 1970 when the murder of a black veteran just returned from Vietnam disrupts the town. The author is the son of liberal white minister Vernon Tyson whose preaching of equality lands him in hot water with some of his parishioners. Ben Chavis has been teaching high school English and running a diner that is the center of black social life. Propelled by the fiery speeches of Civil Rights activist Golden Frinks, sent to town by Ralph Abernathy, Chavis will lead an economic boycott of the white-owned stores to end the Jim Crow laws. And years later he will become the youngest president of the N.A.C.C.P.


American Gun

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 34 min. Lamentations 1:12; Luke 19:41-42.

Although the filmmakers would probably not be welcomed into the NRA, their film is not a strident attack on gun ownership and abuse, but a series of vignettes showing the impact of guns upon seven people across America. The first story, taking place in an Oregon town where three years earlier two teenagers had massacred a number of fellow students at their high school, involves the mother of one of the murderers and her younger son who, because of family financial difficulties, has to return to the high school where the crime took place. It also involves the police officer who was the first responder, dealing with the ugly belief held by many that he should have been able to have stopped the killings. In Chicago a burnt out black principal of a ghetto high school struggles with both family and student issues. When he catches one of his high achieving students hiding a gun just outside the school’s metal detector, he threatens the boy with expulsion, even though the unloaded weapon was used by the student to scare off any thug threatening him at his dangerous place of work. Last of all, in Charlottesville VA a depressed female University of VA student, working in her grandfather’s gun shop, decides to take gun lessons when her best friend is nearly raped at a drunken party. The filmmakers offer no solutions, pro or anti gun, but do offer plenty of food for thought on an important and complex issue that especially plagues America.

Dr. Edward McNulty, editor/reviewer of


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