Note: The links will connect you to the longer reviews at www.visualparables.org.
Rated PG. Isaiah 61:1; Galatians 3:28.
Set in 18th century England, this is based on the true story of Dido Belle Mansfield, the mixed blood child whom her sea captain father left with his uncle and aunt, Lord and Lady Mansfield, after his slave lover had died in the West Indies. Raised by them along with her cousin Elizabeth, Belle was given all the privileges of the upper class—except that she did not dine with the family when guests were entertained. Even they felt constrained to go along with the prevalent racism of the times. In one powerful scene we see Belle staring at her image and raking her fingers over her face, obviously distressed by her Negorid image. How she emerges from this self-loathing and finds love in the arms of abolitionist John Davinier is an uplifting tale that blends fact and fiction. The script was inspired by a famous painting as well as historical records which show that Lord Mansfield as High Chief Justice gave two decisions that led to the abolition of slavery, first in England, and then, thanks to the campaign of William Wilberforce, throughout the British Empire. For the great story of the latter see the film Amazing Grace.
Rated R. Colossians 3:21.
Master L.A. chef Carl Casper finds himself unemployed when he goes viral over the Internet dissing a food critic who, though praising his food ten years ago, returns and expresses his disappointment that Carl is serving the same menu. Unable to find work because of his public meltdown, Carl is aided by his ex-wife who persuades him to serve as their son’s nanny on her business trip to Miami. She had been wanting him to spend more time with Percy, the 11 year-old son he had hardly had time for before. She also helps him acquire a food truck, and aided by his former grill chef and Percy, he refurbishes it and embarks on a new phase of his culinary career as they travel back to L.A, serving food along the way in New Orleans and Austin. This is a delightful film of father-son relationships, as well as grace and reconciliation. If it were not for some language and a funny way to keep male private parts dry during the humid Southern heat spell, this would be good family film.
Rated PG-13. 1 Corinthians 12:31b.
Involving time travel that allows even President Nixon to enter the fantastic tale as an almost likeable person, the story begins in the near future when a seemingly unstoppable army of bionic creatures known as Sentinels are about to wipe out all mutants and a good portion of normal humanity. Logan/Wolverine is sent back, or rather his consciousness is sent back into his 1973 body. His mission is to prevent Raven from assassinating the scientist whose work has led to the creation of the Sentinels. Supposedly if he had lived, his project would not have gotten out of hand, and the world would not be so threatened. Like the other X-Men (sic) films, the special effects are awesome, but never dominate the human side of the story. Excellent for those who have traded their childhood Grimm’s Fairytales for the Marvel Comics counterpart for adults.
Rated PG-13. Ecclesiastes 3:15ab
It is appropriate that this fresh addition to the sci-fi genre opens on D-Day, June 6, because much of the action involves soldiers invading Normandy again and desperately fighting to get off the beach where they are being slaughtered. In the not too distant future aliens called Mimics have destroyed and taken over most of Europe and soon will be moving into England. In this Groundhog Day Meets Saving Pvt. Ryan film Tom Cruise plays a major who prefers his desk to the battle field but is sent into combat by the general who despises his wheedling ways. In a strange series of sequences he dies but wakes up back at his camp each morning, repeating the same acts each day—only as he figures out some details does he advance a little further, teaming up with the female soldier (Emily Blunt) whose battlefield exploits has made her into a poster soldier. How they figure out what is happening adds up to a suprisingly funny tale, despite the serious theme of saving the human race. One of the best sci-fi films (great special effects) you are likely to see this year!
Rated R. Galatians 6:7-8
If you appreciated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s fine work as much as I, you will feel a tinge of sadness as you watch his last performance as Mickey, a small time criminal living in the over-looked blue collar section of Philadelphia that gives its name to the film. When his sleazy show-off stepson threatens with his knife the wrong member of his construction cew, his head is bashed in. The cops buy the “accidental death” story of all the workers, but not his wife Jeanie, who smells something fishy. Promising to find out more details, Mickey asks as a favor that his crime boss dispatch a couple of his goons to go and question the construction workers. This leads to a series of bizarre incidents, some funny (such as Mickey winding up with the body of his stepson hidden in his stolen meat truck); some brutal and deadly; and even an afternoon of infidelity by Jeanie with a journalist popular in the Pocket. Every actor in this film must have been intent, in the presence of one of the great actors of the past few decades, to do their very best.
Rated PG-13. Psalm 119:147. Psalm 10:28.
This second installment of the web slinger super hero finds Peter Parker and his girl Gwen graduating from high school and facing even more daunting super villains than before. They have an on-off relationship because Peter is worried that villains will endanger her life if they learn she and Spider-Man are a pair. There are, of course, super villains, one who began as a friend of Peter, and the other as a rescued fan filled with admiration for Spider-Man. There is a heart-tugging tragedy later on that almost causes Peter to give up his crime fighting. Thus the theme of calling (vocation) is explored, as well as hope.
Rated PG. Psalm 7:14. Matthew 5:5 (The Message)
In this amusing tale our favorite puppets are approached by Dominic Badguy, proposing that the Muppet troupe can build on their success by going on a world tour. The fake impresario tells them that his last name is pronounced Badgee, he being French, so Kermit sees nothing ominous in the last name. However Badguy is working for the would-be greatest robber of all time Constantine, a green frog who looks just like Kermit but for a wart on his cheek. How the villain escapes from his Siberian Gulag and Kermit is forced to take his place leads to a riot of laughs. Tina Fey as the head guard of the Gulag, who develops a crush on Kermit, adds to the zany plot.
Rated PG. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
Based ontheRev. Todd Burpo’s best selling book, this is the fact-based story of his little son Colton’s near-death experience in which he claims to have gone to heave and met various people–including Jesus, a grandparent, and a sister he never knew about who died through a miscarriage. What could have been an overly pious and sentimental story is saved by the sincere acting of Gregg Kinear as the minister and the delightful little actor Connor Corum.
Rated PG. Ezekiel 36:26
This character transformation tale is about a skirt-chasing sports agent so desperate to survive that he comes up with the idea of going to India to find cricket bowlers who could be turned into major league pitchers. After what seems first a fruitless search, he finds two guys able to throw a ball over 90 mph, but can they learn to control the ball so that the pitcher doesn’t have to leap into the air to catch it? (Oh yes, neither of them likes or plays cricket.) When he neglects the two young men during their training, the comely doctor renting his carriage house comes to the boys’ aid, as well as bringing the heel to his senses. Based on a true story of two Indian ballplayers playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the film follows the usual sports arc of the underdogs leading up to The Big Game, only here it is the Big Tryout. Very enjoyable.
Rated PG-13.Isaiah 5:29-30.
This atom bomb-created mutant monster is as big and as fierce as ever, but is he the enemy, or–? The special effects in this remake of the 1954 version (in which actors dressed in rubber suits portrayed the creature) are far more effective, but the humans’ stories are not as moving–in the original a Japanese scientist who fears that a weapon he has just invented will be used for war (guess by which government), does choose to use it against Godzilla, giving his own life for the sake of humanity.
Rated R. Isaiah 28:7-8
A married couple with a cute baby are worried when the new neighbors turn out to be a college fraternity filled with horny, hard drinking dudes. War breaks out, no holds barred. There is far too much booze, drug use, fart jokes, attempts at humor that fall flat. Good comedy is based on at least a measure of reality, but there was hardly anything in the plot that was believable! I went because a couple of critics gave it such a high rating. You just never know, but then I was a kid who thought that vanilla extract would taste good.
Rated PG. Psalm 5:9; Micah 6:12; 1 Corinthians 1:16-17.
Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary might be the most disturbing film you see this year because the food experts she interviews point out that what we know about nutrition and dieting is for the most part wrong. The growing obesity of our children will continue as long as we think that eating less and exercising will reduce weight. Sugar, and its addictive power (as strong as cocaine one experiment shows) is the reason all weight loss regimens fail. The food industry is the villain, and she argues that even Michelle Obama’s praiseworthy program aimed at children fails because the food industry has joined in sponsoring her and diluting her earlier emphasis upon eating only natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods. This is one film that I wish every parent and grandparent, every aunt and uncle in America would see and take to heart!
On DVD/Streaming Video
Rated PG-13. Luke 15:17; John 1:1a; Jeremiah 1:11; Matthew 13:16.
Jack Marcus is a New England prep school English teacher in love with words but, because of his drinking is in danger of losing his position. When renowed artist Dina Delsanto shows up as the new art teacher, he engages in an on-going battle with her over whether words or pictures are more important. The students are drawn into this, with the result that we get to hear some very good quotations on the two sides of the debate from famous writers and artists. There are subthemes of father-son and coping with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis (Dina needs help getting dressed and mechanical aids in order to hold her paintbrushes). Clive Owens and Juliette Binoche make the conflict enjoyable to watch–and all of the engaging abstract paintings in the film are by Ms. Binoche.
After just a brief showing in Cincinnati this delightful little film was pushed out by the usual summer blockbusters. It is worth your time and effort to track it down!