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MOVIES: Best, worst & could-have-been

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — Although several four-star films with artistic and technical merit have captured the attention of critics and moviegoers, I want to choose a few “bests” with themes that uplifted the spirit and entertained the heart.

These entries are my favs of the year, but some include content that may be considered objectionable. Due to space restrictions, please read my full reviews and get the reason for their ratings by going to www.previewonline.org. As for the “could have beens,” though containing powerful messages, the filmmakers couldn’t manage to tell their stories without the use of crude or excessive content. This raises the question: does their profundity outweigh the profanity?


— “Gravity”
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stuck in space. Then, just Sandra. Lots of twists and turns occur in this beautifully photographed lost-in-space action thriller. Seeing it in 3D and in IMAX is a visceral experience unlike anything since “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Now, maybe I’m reading more into it than the writers intended, but its thoughtful moments about life and death suggest the sanctity of life. While not a tool for proselytizing any particular religion, it does contain ethereal questions amid its action sequences. (PG-13)

— “Captain Phillips”
This true story of a freighter hijacked by Somali pirates gives Tom Hanks his best role in years.

Its central theme, much like Gravity’s, revolves around man’s instinct for survival. And like Gravity, as well as Robert Redford’s “All is Lost,” Captain Phillips’ reflective moments concerning the preciousness of life give spiritual dimension to its storyline. (PG-13)

— “Unstoppable”
In this thoughtful, heartfelt documentary from Provident Films, Kirk Cameron addresses the age-old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” From a technical, artistic and spiritual perspective, Unstoppable is the most riveting and inspiring documentary I’ve seen in years. I saw 60 minutes of passionate examination that asserted we are more than mental and physical beings, and that our Creator is with us through the good and the bad: “… in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). (PG)

— “42”
Chadwick Boseman stars as Jackie Robinson in this powerful indictment against prejudice and bigotry. 42 also exemplifies courage and faith in the ultimate good of man, and reminds us that one man, backed by another, can turn our world around. 42 is an engaging film, and despite the reenactment of injustice and the evil of bigotry, it is a film that offers hope and goodwill. Caution: (PG-13)


— “The To Do List”
In this youth-aimed comedy, a teen girl feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced compiles a list of erotic sexual activities to accomplish before attending college in the fall. It’s not just a movie that exploits vulgarity, but it also reflects the casualness of sex in today’s society, never a good thing. (R)

— “The Lone Ranger”
So here’s a great idea for a film: take a beloved, iconic cowboy figure and update him as a klutzy moron. That should bring the folks in. (It didn’t.) Along with the over-produced look, the several subplots too many, and the fact that Johnny Depp as Tonto does the same shtick he does in all his action/comedies, it’s also an offensive, biased, insulting characterization of the pioneers. The movie further frustrated me by presenting every Christian character as either an imbecile or a villainous hypocrite. You can be sure that’s the way some in Hollywood see us. I thought that thinking was called prejudice. (PG-13)

— “The Big Wedding”
A dysfunctional family gathers for a weekend wedding celebration. The movie contains not one single fresh idea or true emotion, just stale gags, crude and often irreverent humor, and few insights. The Big Wedding is a big vulgar mess. The subject of a young couple entering into wedlock is ripe for incisive satire, but here we are given nothing of true substance or clever wit, just jokes about puke and bawdy sexagenarians, and irreverent religious jabs. And Robin Williams playing a “funny” priest? The comedian shouldn’t play a pastor, he should see one. (R)


— “All Is Lost”
After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor (Robert Redford) finds himself staring his mortality in the face. I only have one fault with the film; at no point does the protagonist call out to God. Even if you’re not a religious person, if the end seems at hand, don’t you out of desperation cry out to a Higher Power? Yet, neither God nor the sailor’s place in the afterlife are ever considered by the film’s protagonist. (PG-13)

— “Man of Steel”
Superman, our flying caped defender of the American way, gets a bit of an overhaul in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Though he can still leap tall buildings and is faster than a locomotive, we see him as a vulnerable, introspective outsider with doubts. Filled with spiritual metaphor, this is a good film, one that gives dimension and thoughtfulness to an overly familiar screen presence. Sadly, the Christian symbolism that radiated throughout the proceedings was overwhelmed by the bombastic and endless carnage. There was no blood, hence the PG-13 rather than an R rating. But make no mistake; by film’s end we were all beaten up as much as that guy from Krypton.
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