Film Capsules May 2014

Click onto a film title to read a fuller review at


The Railway Man (2013)

Rated R. Romans 12:7-18.

Told in flashbacks, this is a true WW 2 POW story of Allied soldiers forced by the Japanese to build the Burma to India railroad. When Eric Lomax makes and hides a radio to receive news, he is caught and mercilessly tortured, damaging him so much that the effects threaten his new marriage over 30 years later. His confrontation with the Japanese guard who had participated in the torture is at first harrowing, but then changing into something quite different than he had intended. This is the third film based on building the invasion railroad along the River Kwai—the fictional Bridge on the River Kwai being the least satisfying, and the marvelous To End All Wars, based on Ernest Gordon’s classic spiritual memoir Through the Valley of the Kwai, being the best from a spiritual standpoint.

 The Lunchbox (2013)

Rated R. Proverbs 16:24; Luke 13:16

A wrong delivery of a lunchbox in Mumbai results in the neglected wife corresponding with a stranger. Ila tries to win back the affection of her husband by following the advice of an older upstairs neighbor by cooking special lunches and sending them via the popular messenger service, but the rare mix-up leads her into a correspondence with a dispirited government accountant, both of them emerging as better, more hopeful, persons as a result. A totally charming tale that winds up in a different place than you might expect.

 Le Week-end (2013)

Rated R. Ecclesiastes 9:9.

A British couple married for 30 years return to Paris to breathe new life into their stale marriage. Their future is uncertain after a supper at a former student’s home where the host pays tribute to the husband, and the latter responds inappropriately. The wife wants more freedom, and the husband seeks more security. Neither seems able to live with or without the other. This interesting story of marital relationship of an elderly couple is quite different from Still Mine or Unfinished Song,

 Under the Skin (2013)

Rated R. Proverbs 5:1-5

This film about a mysterious woman picking up and seducing single men in Scotland is a maddening film. Especially for those like myself who have not read the sci-fi novel by Michel Faber that it is based on. We are given no context to the story about the woman who has some connection with a motorcycle rider dressed in racing togs who seems to clean up after her, just some visual hints suggesting she is not of this earth—and that her victims (we are never shown her killing them) are meant to become food at some mysterious destination. In the last part of the film the full meaning of the title is revealed, as well as her tragic fate. Many critics have given it a high rating, but I recommend it only if you can overcome frustration at not understanding for the first two-thirds of the film the acts and motives of Scarlett Johansson’s character—yes, she is the main attraction of what is probably the most bizarre film of the year.

Joe (2013)

Rated R. Romans 7:21-23; Proverbs 31:8-9.

At last Nicolas Cage has found a film that does not waste his considerable talents after so many years of appearing in cinematic junk. The film is similar to Pulp Fiction in that it is suffused with touches of grace amidst a world of degradation and violence. Joe heads a crew in charge of poisoning trees so that the lumber company can get rid of the useless tress and plant more hardy pines. When he hires 15 year-old Gary, he takes a keen interest in him when he observes the alcoholic father abusing the boy. The violent climax of redemption will remind some of that of Gran Torino. Be warned, however, that Joe and Gary’s bottom of the barrel world is filled with violence.

 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Rated PG-13. Psalm 146:3.

What a surprise for me that I found this computerized special effects movie filled with warm and tender moments. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, because Marvel Comics films have always explored the human side of its strange super heroes. While saving the world against a host of villains, Steve, aka Captain America visits his old girlfriend from the World War 2 era. And I do mean “old”–in case you don’t know, Steve was the subject of a WW 2 government experiment that turned him into a super hero, and then he crashed in the arctic and was frozen for several decades before being found and reawakened. Thus the still youthful \Steve’s visit is at a home for the elderly. Very touching scene.

 Rio 2 (2014)

Rated G. Psalm 24:1.

This animated tale of two macaws, Blu & Jewel, finds the pair and their 3 kiddies immersed in the Amazon rain forest where Jewel is reunited with her family. Blu has troubles adjusting to his unfamiliar surroundings, preferring the old city life, and also having to deal with the dislike of his father-in-law. The former “owners” are also in the vicinity battling a villain intent on clear-cutting the forest, thus threatening the habitat of the macaws and the denizens of the forest. The combination of family humor, absolutely gorgeous animation, and the environmental theme make this a winning film for families. While full of fun for children and adults, it provides an opportunity to talk about threats to the environment. (My full review suggests a couple of good websites on this subject.)

 Draft Day (2014)

Rated PG. Proverbs 20:14.

This Kevin Costner film is similar to Moneyball in that the story takes place in the front office of a sports team, rather than on the playing field. The team is football’s Cleveland Browns, and Costner’s GM Sonny Weaver Jr. has 12 hours before the annual Draft Day ceremony takes place in distant Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Sonny wheels and deals with other GMs, the coach of his own team, a belligerent player, his girl friend who announces she is pregnant, his estranged mother, and his boss who wants him to make “a big splash” with his announcement—but definitely not the deal he eventually decides upon. Clearly Sonny has a lot on his plate, and the ways in which he handles them demonstrates what good leadership is all about.

 Transcendence (2014)

Rated PG-13. Genesis 11:1-4; Isaiah 14:13-14.

America’s favorite pirate, Johnny Depp, dons a lab coat to portray a computer genius who suggests to an audience of admirers that his work on Artificial Intelligence makes him God. When shot and poisoned by anti-computer rebels, his collaborator and wife uploads his mind into a computer server, and he is soon absorbing all the knowledge of the Internet and the power that knowledge bestows upon its recipient. His former mentor and a good friend oppose him because of their fear that his growing knowledge endangers the world. Thus this is another cautionary tale that joins the long list of such sci-fi films as The Fly, Jurassic Park, Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein.

 Brick Mansions (2014)

Rated PG-13. Proverbs 11:30.

Set in the near future when Detroit has still not recovered, this martial arts movie centers on the large public housing project whose name gives the film its title. An escaped convict and an undercover cop form an uneasy alliance (and as usual in such adult fantasies, a 2-man unstoppable army that can take on 20 or 30 goons armed with rapid fire guns recruited from The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight). Lots of action with our heroes running and jumping from wall to wall during the many chase scenes. The drug lord villain threatens to blow up downtown with a nuke rocket—and he’s shackled with a rope the girlfriend of the convict to the rocket. Oh my!

 Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Rated PG-13. Deuteronomy 12:16; Matthew 26:27-28.

Vampire lovers, curiously named Adam and Eve, are living apart but reunite in Detroit when the wife worries that her husband’s depression about the bad state of society might be endangering his health. She has good reason to be concerned, for when she flies from her residence in Tangiers (via a night flight, of course), she discovers he has purchased one specially made brass 38-caliber bullet with a wooden head. Their discussions of music (he is an experimental rock musician who collects rare electric guitars), history, and society are interrupted when her wacky teenaged sister shows up uninvited and wreaks havoc. Director Jim Jarmusch’s dark comedy, enhanced

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