Movie Review: Risen (2016) 3.5 Stars


Released: 02/19/2016

Watched BluRay: 06/23/2016

Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Story by Paul Aiello

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

Brief Plot Synopsis (via IMdb): In 33 AD, a Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of an executed Jew rumored to have risen from the dead.

My Thoughts

I normally detest police procedurals (there are way too many of those in a myriad of permutations in prime-time television), but this one intrigued me.  Excellent sets, costumes, locations and above average acting gave me hope that this faith-based film would overcome it’s predecessors shortcomings.  And for the most part, I was not disappointed.  I had minor historical quibbles which I confirmed at IMdb’s Goofs page ( I caught them all without checking the internet).

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Movie Review: Beyond the Mask (2015) 3.5 Stars

Beyond the Mask

Release Date: April 2015

Watched via Netflix DVD: May 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (from IMdb): The chief mercenary for the British East India Company, being double crossed by his former employer, has made his way to the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name, William Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) now hides behind a different mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte, a woman he has been lying to, as well as a colonial intellectual by the name of Ben Franklin. All the while he races against time to defuse a plot that could have devastating effect on the birth of a new nation.

My Thoughts

The story was intriguing and I’m always a sucker for a Revolutionary tale. The actors performed well (I laughed, I almost cried).  Yet, I remained unconvinced in the sincerity of Will’s conversion, but his actions and convictions spoke louder than his words throughout.  Charlotte’s constant protestations of confusion made me doubt her intelligence, but she redeemed herself admirably before the credits.  I spotted the telegraphed clues to the mystery early on, so the plotting was almost as heavy-handed as the special effects, which I thought were a bit over-played.

I liked the score, except perhaps for the repeated use of Pachelbel’s Canon,  which really wasn’t popular until the 1970s, not the 1776 (in fact it was pretty much lost to history until the early 20th century).

Christian film-making is improving.  I continue to hold out hope and with each passing year my prayers are answered for an improved storytelling experience.

Give Beyond the Mask a try.  You might find a spark of redemption waiting for you.

Movie Review: The Ultimate Gift (2007)

The Ultimate Gift (2007)

3 out of 5 stars

I added this DVD to my Netflix Queue back in late July.  Terry and I found nothing worthy of watching on DirecTV (live or via DVR) last night so I slipped in this DVD for a Sunday evening viewing.

I thought of giving this movie higher marks, because it succeeded in making me care about Emily, Alexia and even Jason.  But it failed on its message.  I applaud and approve of the Twelve Gifts, but found at least two vital ones missing and a third implied one that galled me.

Death underlay the entire plot, starting with the death of Red Stevens, followed by the knowledge that his son died when Jason (his grandson) was about seven or eight.  Emily is dying and we meet her at Red’s funeral, although no explanation is given why an unrelated little girl with a pink umbrella is attending the funeral of one of the wealthiest men in America.  Security must have been preoccupied by a Westboro protest.   With all this death, the Gift of Life should have been an obvious addition to the list.

In the midst of Jason’s Gift of Learning month, he seeks his father’s plane crash site in the Central American jungle, despite warnings of lethal drug lord patrols and occupation.  Predictably, Jason and his reluctant guide are kidnapped and held captive, presumably for ransom, with a threat of execution if the money is too long in arriving.  In a cruel twist, the captors remove the prisoners from their cells for Christmas Day and invite them to join in their drunken celebrations.  Afterwards, they are returned to their cells with the gift of knowing they will die the next day.  Again, death looms, but the Gift of Freedom seems most precious when it is taken from you.

But what disappointed me most about the entire message boiled down to Jason receiving his reward in a textbook happy ending.  Yes, he learned his lesson(s).  I just don’t agree that any earthly reward should be expected.  My BFF died for me, and may/would have gone to Hell for me.  I should strive to do no less than Him.  That doesn’t mean I will succeed, and I am most assuredly doomed to failure, but I need no material motivation to do what is good and true and right.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, the acting by the main players was above par.  Especially, Abigail Breslin, whom I recognized from Signs fame.  Drew Fuller sported the worst haircut or hairstyle of any supposedly rich brat I’ve ever seen in a movie, but his performance overcame that handicap and then some.   I enjoyed seeing Brian Dennehy and James Garner as well.

A family friendly film that you’ll need a Kleenex or two for (unless you’re completely oblivious to children dying of leukemia).

Movie Review: Captains Courageous (1937)

Captains Courageous (1937)

4.5 out of 5 stars

I’m taking full advantage of TCM finally making the leap to HD quality broadcasting.  I have hours and hours of four and five star movies already recorded.  If only I didn’t need to sleep. 

I started watching Captains Courages late Sunday morning.  Terry joined me about halfway through, which prompted me to provide a recap of the first half of the movie.  So many great actors appear in this film:  Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, John Carradine, Mickey Rooney and of course Freddie Bartholomew.  But the story, written originally by Rudyard Kipling, provided the wind to the actors’ sails in this must-see family adventure classic. 

I haven’t read Kipling’s Captains Courageous, but I plan to download an ebook edition from Project Gutenberg or Feedbooks in the near future and compare the original publication to the screen adapation.  Interestingly, and sadly, Kipling passed away the year before this film was released to theatres.

Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo (2011)

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

4 out of 5 stars

Terry and I saw this in the theater about a week ago (on a Monday afternoon, since I had the day off from work). Matt Damon played the bereaved widower, Benjamin Mee, excellently but failed to convince me of his anguish as the widowed parent of a teenager. MacFadyen and Church provided some great comic relief, but Scarlet Johansson, as the lead zookeeper Kelly Foster, didn’t really click as the romantic interest for Damon’s character.  Although, she totally captivated me while trying to convince Benjamin to ‘let go’ and euthanize a seventeen-year-old Bengal tiger.  A good family film and a pleasant afternoon spent laughing and crying at the local movie theater.