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MOVIES: Alternatives to the summer lineup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — Were you disappointed with the new, more conflicted Superman movie? Did you find the spiritual symbolism to be overshadowed, as promised by Christian reviewers, by the film’s bombastic and endless carnage? And did you further venture into the local Cineplex in June, seeking amusement from comedic entries such as “The Internship,” only to find that once again Hollywood writers mined much of their material from various degrees of crudity? Are you expecting the same let-down from the rest of the summer offerings?

It continues to frustrate this Christian movie reviewer that most of Hollywood’s productions aren’t just devoid of spiritual relevance, but that those making them seem determined to deliver just the opposite.

For instance, “The Bling Ring” reminds us that the culture surrounding our youth is straying further and further from the spiritual element that completes our mental and physical makeup. It’s an important message, but how do I recommend this justly R-rated film? If it were the exception rather than the rule, I could perhaps defend the film’s profundity over its profanity. Sadly, most films contain abusive elements. We are bombarded by such content.

How about “Much Ado About Nothing?” This romantic comedy, set in current times yet dialogued by William Shakespeare’s original words, points out that despite all the modes of media available, there are few communicators willing to reintroduce wit and substantive discourse back into our way of talking. With all the strides modern man has made in the world of communication notwithstanding, there seems to be little desire by those who entertain us to emulate the eloquence of the “Bard’s” thoughtful and whimsical language. But, dare I recommend a PG-13 film that, along with the “Bard’s” wry way with words, also contains three rather graphic sexual situations. You may be willing to overlook the sensuality in order to hear the august articulation, but more than a few of my readers will declare that I have gone over to the dark side should I promote such a film. So, what’s our movie-viewing alternative?

Like any of you who purchase a ticket, I go into a movie hoping it will surprise me. Will it entertain? Will it edify? Will it do both? Certainly, there is a plethora of films containing little or no redeeming value, but every once in a while a cinematic treasure comes along, overflowing with spiritually rewarding messages. Allow me to suggest three on DVD that might do for you what the summer’s theatrical releases will not.

Space Warriors: This made-for-TV movie concerns a 15-year-old who is invited to Space Camp in order to compete with a team of kids (the Warriors) against other teams for seats on the next space shuttle. Just when the Warriors are feeling defeated, an urgent crises aboard the International Space Station opens a door for them. It’s now up to the kids to solve a problem even NASA can’t handle. Using their skills to work together as a team, the Warriors hatch a brilliant plan that may save the day. A clean film with life lessons, this as yet unrated adolescent-aimed actioneer is now available on DVD and suitable for preteens and their family.

“This Is Our Time”: From Pure Flix Entertainment, this youth drama concerns five friends who have just graduated from college and are heading out into the world, believing they will make a difference. The opening sequence with the friends in their graduation garb reminded me of “St. Elmo’s Fire” in that comfortable kids were going out into an uncomfortable world. But there is a difference; the protagonists in This is Our Time have a devout faith, one that will be tested. With good production values, despite an apparent limited budget, the movie is a satisfying, spiritually uplifting drama that has something in common with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The newer release reminds us that while we can sometimes feel overshadowed by others, we can affect the lives of those around us. This movie is not rated, but I found nothing objectionable and consider this movie suitable for ages 12 and up.

“The Confession”: From the press notes: “Based on the novel by New York Times best-selling author Beverly Lewis, ‘The Confession’ is the continuing story of Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman who goes on a journey in search of her identity — only to find herself embroiled in a mystery that must be solved before she can be reunited with the ‘Englisher’ mother who gave her up to adoption 20 years earlier.”

Like his dad before him, director Michael Landon Jr. has a definitive storytelling style. Though the younger Landon is hampered by a limited budget, and the Amish novels from which the main character came have become a cottage industry aimed at Harlequin-loving audiences, there’s still a charm about this production. One might call it a sophisticated banality, as it inspires but never challenges. We know from scene one that everything is going to work out and the evildoers will get their just desserts. Sometimes that’s all we want from a movie.

Michael Landon Jr. is a Christian and delights in bringing gentle tales to the small screen. Proficient and prolific, he has been successful in delivering homespun optimism to his fans. (My fav of his productions: “The Last Sin Eater.”) With The Confession, the midsection of a TV-made trilogy, Landon also delivers. This movie is not rated, but I found nothing objectionable and consider it suitable for teens and above.
In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He is also a regular contributor to “The World and Everything in It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Phil Boatwright