KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — What’s right with Hollywood? It would be glib to answer, “Not much.” Come on, you loved watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” with your family last Christmas. And who doesn’t watch “Casablanca” whenever they come across it on TCM? There are some films that uplift the spirit or gladden the heart. The following is a list of motion pictures from this past year now on DVD that do just that. You might find them enjoyable during the Thanksgiving weekend (you know, between the big games.)
While I stand by these films as having positive messages, if you follow the links for the entire review, you can read the content (the reason for the rating) and decide if they are suitable for your family.
— “Seven Days in Utopia” (G) follows the story of Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black), a talented young golfer set on making the pro tour. After a meltdown on the links, Luke crashes his car in Utopia, Texas, home to eccentric rancher Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall). But Johnny’s more than meets the eye, and his profound ways of looking at life force Luke to question not only his past choices, but his future direction.
It’s not a great movie, like, say, “Tender Mercies” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The depth and precision of those filmmakers is not found in Utopia. But it is a good film. First, the two leads, Duvall and Black, give solid performances. And in a year when cineplexes were overloaded with CGI superheroes and rude/crude rom/coms, Seven Days in Utopia was actually about something of substance. It captivates with the ethereal theory that most accidents aren’t really accidents. What’s more, the plot purports a need for a Christ-centered life, its spiritual message subtly incorporated but nonetheless unmistakable. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3706
— “Buck” (PG) is a documentary/bio about “horse whisperer” Buck Brannaman. The description from the press synopsis says it all: “In this film, the animal-human relationship becomes a metaphor for facing the daily challenges of life.” http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3687
— “Captain America: The First Avenger” (PG-13) is pumped with things that go boom, for sure, but after several letdowns in this genre this past summer, I found the Captain lively, fun, clean, patriotic, a totally engaging popcorn-munching movie. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3695
— “The Eagle” (PG-13) stars Channing Tatum in a Roman epic action adventure. In 2nd-century Britain, two men — master and slave — venture beyond the edge of the known world on a dangerous and obsessive quest that will push them beyond the boundaries of loyalty and betrayal, friendship and hatred, deceit and heroism. Action packed and involving, I was reminded of the dynamics found in “Spartacus” and “The Robe.” Though nowhere near the artistry of either of those two films, still it reminds viewers of what’s important in life — love, honor, faith. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3642
— “Jane Eyre” (played by Mia Waskiowska) comes to Thornfield Hall, where she works as a governess for Adele, a child under the custody of Thornfield’s brooding master, Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). It’s a long movie – 120 minutes. It only takes 95 to wipe out an entire planet of invading aliens, so how come so long to tell the story of a governess looking for love? Well, classic stories are like fine meals — the ingredients need to be simmered in order to get the most out of the recipe. And oh, those ingredients — rich dialogue, flavorful characterizations and a tangy story. Yes, it is long, but it’s sumptuous and satisfying. It is rated PG-13. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3668
— “Of Gods and Men” (PG-13) is a stirring story of faith under fire. France’s official entry in last year’s Academy Awards, Of Gods and Men is based on a true story of French Cistercian monks serving in Algiers in the 1990s. With violence erupting nearby between the army and extremists, foreigners were warned to leave. But a group of monks elected to stay in order to continue serving their Muslim neighbors, and to bear witness to the reality of their own faith. They were kidnapped and later found murdered, but by whom remains a mystery. It is truly a character study, giving us an intimate look at a group of men who have dedicated their lives to others through their devotion to their faith. All too often filmmakers choose to focus on the hypocrisy or failings of people of faith, while director Xavier Beauvois presents followers of Christ who have denied themselves in order to achieve a higher goal, to honor and serve. http://http://moviereporter.com/reviews/display.php?id=1950
— “Soul Surfer” (PG). Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a shark attack at the age of 13, yet went on to become a world class surfer, has had a emotional impact on her generation, her resolve putting forth the homily, “If I can make it, so can you.” She openly declares her relationship with Jesus Christ and though somewhat distilled, that declaration is nonetheless a component of the film. PG.
Here are some other notables. Caution: read the content as some contain brief language and other content you may object to.
“Courageous”: http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3712 (still in theaters).
“Dolphin Tale”: http://www.previewonline.org/holyholly/dolphintale.html
“The Help”: http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3702
“The Way”: http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3716
“The Mighty Macs”: http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3719 (still in theaters).
“Christmas with a Capital C”: http://www.previewonline.org/newondvd/christmascap.html
“Tim Tebow”: http://www.previewonline.org/newondvd/tebow.html
“Love Begins”: http://www.previewonline.org/newondvd/lovebegins.html
But perhaps the best film of the year opens Dec. 23 in theaters: “War Horse.” We’ll have the review here in December. I will, however, leave you with this: War Horse is a moving parable for teens and grownups. The director of “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” has given us a perfect movie. Indeed, it is a triumph, a work of art.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad,” available on Amazon.com. He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org and moviereporter.com.