I am posting my latest set of Film Capsules, prepared for the leaders of Cincinnati Presbytery, because of the first film, THE ATTACK. Relegated to the art house circuit because it is an Arabic film with English subtitles, it is not attracting much attention–4 others were present when I caught it–but it should. Any film that sheds even a little light on the complicated issues of the struggle for the Palestinian people against their occupiers and the equally compelling desire of Israelis for their security against terrorists deserves a wide audience.
Film Capsules July 2013
The Attack (Arabic with English subtitles)
Rated R. Jeremiah 17:9
This is one of those rare films that immerse you in an alien culture, leaving you at the end with a little more awareness of why someone unexpectedly does the inexplicable.
Co-written and directed by Ziad Doueiri, this is a dark and troubling film about a dark and troubling situation–the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Dr. Amin Jaafari, a Muslim surgeon who has chosen to live and work in Tel Aviv where he receives its highest honor for a doctor, is devastated when his wife, killed by a suicide bomber at a café, is accused of being the bomber. After the suspicious police confirm that he was not involved, the rest of the film is his parallel spiritual and physical journeys back to his hometown of Nablus in Palestine where he confronts a truth so terrible that it will scar him forever, making him an outsider to both his Israeli friends and to his Arab family. One of the most spiritually challenging films of the year, Lebanese-born Ziad Doueiri’s film is as helpful for understanding the Palestinian viewpoint as was the 2005 film about two friends preparing to become suicide bombers, Paradise Now. Every peacemaker should see this film, available thus far only at art house theaters.
Despicable Me 2
Rated PG. Ezekiel 11:19
It’s the summer movie desert time of year when all the boom-boom, chase-chase, hit-hit blockbusters are dominating the screens, so it should come as no surprise that at this moment two of the best films, at least for those who love good films, are two children’s animated films. The once villainous Gru has become the doting foster father of three little girls when he is recruited by a curvaceous agent of a spy agency to investigate a super villain who has a serum that can change the loveable little minions that serve Gru and others into vicious little monsters. Lots of fun and laughter here.
Rated G. Ecclesiastes 4.9; Proverbs 18.24
This prequel shows how Mike Wazowski and James “Sulley” P. Sullivan started out as enemies before forming their staunch friendship in their first film. Disliking each other from the start and winding up in the same fraternity of losers, the pint-sized Mike vies with his big furry rival to lead the fraternity in a series of games that could earn them the right to enroll in the schools famous Scare Program. Ever since a child, Mike has wanted to be able to scare people. As with other Pixar films, this is filled with funny scenes and dialogue and a lesson about what to do when we fail to achieve our dream. Adults will enjoy this as much as children, so do not send them—go with them and share a delightful experience.
The Lone Ranger
Rated PG-13. Psalm 34:16
This rebooting of the once popular franchise is definitely not the Lone Ranger that my father and I eagerly listened to at 6:30 PM on our old Philco radio. Part camp, and more Pirates of the Caribbean (or should we say Texas), this remake is such a mess of anachronisms (a toy electric train in 1869!) and CGI enhanced action scenes that are both too long and too unbelievable, it is no wonder that it came in third to Despicable Me 2 on its opening week. The cartoon is actually far more realistic! The humor, with Johnny Depp’s Tonto given the best lines, does make this fun to watch, but I recommend that you wait and catch this at a cheap seats cinema—as they say on TV, “Don’t waste your money!”
The Way, Way Back
Rated PG-13. Matthew 10:31
Poor Duncan, a 14 year-old boy with an unfriendly older teenaged sister and a newly divorced mother (Pam) who is so enamored with her snarky boyfriend Trent that she cannot see the hurt he inflicts on her son, is dragged along to a beachside cabin to spend the summer together. He would much rather be with his dad, but the latter claims his circumstances do not allow this. On the way Trent tells the morose boy that on a scale of 1 to 10 he rates Duncan as a “3.” Real paternal skills here! Fortunately at the cabin Duncan meets a friendly girl slightly older than he and, best of all, Owen, a crazy-talking guy who works at the Water Wizz Park and takes a shine to the lonely boy. This is one of the best coming-of-age films that I have seen, certainly one of the best of any kind of film this summer. It is devoid of the juvenile humor of the usual Hollywood film about teens. There are adults who are jerks, but also some who have the wisdom of experience to impart, and the compassion to pass it on. Treat yourself and take this one in.
White House Down
Rated PG-13. Psalm 55:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15
How we love our adult fairy tales in which the unlikely hero gets pummeled, shot at by a hundred goons unable to shoot straight, falls unwounded (even crashing through windows) from great heights, and is able to save the day. As in Olympus Down, the White House gets shot up a lot, but this time the President (played by Jamie Foxx) also gets into the action, overcoming his peaceful ways to blast away beside our hero, a Washington cop just turned down by the Secret Service. The villains are a little more believable than the North Koreans of the previous film. This time they are homegrown goons out for a huge stash of cash, and whose backer is convinced that the President’s Middle East Peace Plan will lead to the destruction of America—there also is another secret scoundrel. Entertaining hokum that should be seen on a big screen to take full advantage of the special effects, but wait till it comes to a cheap seat theater.
Rated PG-13. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are fun to watch as the bumbling Odd Couple who manage to con their way into the internship program at Google. Though fish out of water amidst the 100 or so brilliant college grads—they are both in their 40s and know little more about computers than how to turn them on and off—they bring life experience and a knack for team cooperation that stand them in good stead. The interns are divided into teams—no one wanting to work with the “old guys,” they wind up with the other lone rejects—and engage in a series of games and tasks designed to show who is the most creative. Only the winners will be given a chance to work at Google. It is fun to see the Google campus and a little bit of its workings. If it were not for an unnecessarily vulgar sequence set in a pole dance club (a few years ago this film would have been rated R!), this would be a good film for a church group to discuss teamwork and mutual respect.
Showing now at Danbarry Dollar Saver Cinemas
Rated R. Hebrews 10.24
This cop buddy movie stars two outstanding actresses—Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy—who demonstrate that women can equal the guys in the foul mouth department. It’s the old formula of two guys—er, gals—starting off on the wrong foot, and this sequence is really hilarious, especially on the part of the rotund McCarthy’s trying to squeeze through the window of her car. Of course, as they hunt for a drug lord flooding Boston with drugs, they slowly come to respect, and then to like each other. Amidst the raunchy humor are several poignant moments of the women arriving at a sense of sisterhood.
World War Z
Rated PG-13. Exodus 4:13; Jeremiah 1:6
Still another man saves the world from zombies tale, this has some good CGI effects, especially when thousands of zombies attack the walls of a besieged Jerusalem by piling atop one another. These are not the silly slow-shambling zombies of most of this deplorable genre, but fast running critters in more hurry than a New York taxi driver to sink their fangs into an uninfected victim.
Rated R. Psalm 10:8-9.
This dystrophic film would be a little more believable if it were set more than twenty years into the future, a time when the US Government has set up a program of catharsis that allows everyone one night a year to let loose their violent impulses. There is no indication of churches and other groups, especially peacemaking ones, ever objecting to such a barbarous system—but then so many sci-fi tales fall short by pretending that religion and the church have faded away under the onslaught of the new religion, science.
During the period of The Purge murder and mayhem are not punished, the result supposedly being that during the rest of the year crime has decreased to less than 1 % of the population. Oh, sure. The story is about the family of a successful home security salesman whose family comes under attack when his young son takes pity on a stranger under attack outside and allows him entry into their house. A very violent film with a dubious take on Aristotle’s teaching of catharsis, the film at least offers opportunity to discuss the issue.