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Movie Review: Planes

Movie Review: Planes

From the ones who brought you Pixar’s Cars and Cars 2 comes the newest animated picture, Planes. As the name suggests, the movie revolves around airplanes, including “Dusty Crophopper,” a dust-cropping airplane who wants to be the best plane racer in the world.

Positive Elements

The characters (planes) within the movie had a unique flair, each representing a different country like India, Britain or Mexico. Without spoiling the plot, the planes world-wide race took them around the globe and through some amazing scenery. Moreover, this underdog-who-fights-the-odds-to-compete story will fire the imagination of many children, and the military references are all positive.

Negative Elements

The movie was fairly clean and family-friendly, but there were some crude jokes and double references throughout. Further, there are several moments depicting wooing a love interest between a man and woman (plane) that parents will have to explain. Finally, the characters did not quite live up to the lively personalities of Cars, such as “Lightening McQueen” and “Tow-mater.”

Spiritual Content

The religious and spiritual references in the movie were, unfortunately, nonChristian. In fact, there is a recycling reference while they are in India that clearly implies reincarnation. Be that as it may, the movie upholds the timeless, universal truth of, well, truth. Further, the heroes and villains each display the goodwill and ill-will that will help children recognize right and wrong.


Within the Pixar movie library, Cars and Cars 2 are among the most beloved. Because of that, this movie was bound to fall short of those expectations. If compared to the ordinary children’s/family movie, however, it was above average and fairly entertaining. There are some scenes that could scare some of the youngest of viewers, and parents really need to make sure children know that the crude references and imitative phrases are a no-no. Nevertheless, I predict Planes will do pretty well at the box office, as Cars fans turn out in fleets to see it (though they just might leave with their tires a little deflated).

Rating: 2.5 stars

Movie Review: 42

Movie Review: 42

I had the chance to see 42, the Jackie Robinson story. I invited my mother to go with me because I knew she would enjoy it. Mom grew up around the time Robinson went through his courageous experience.

I enjoyed it as well. I like biographical films, especially if they are done accurately and feature great acting. 42 meets these criteria.

The movie has a PG-13 rating, and anyone who has any idea of what the movie is about should not be surprised by such a rating. The “N” word is used excessively throughout the show. There is an uncomfortable scene featuring Phillies manager Ben Chapman, who says this disgusting utterance in similar fashion as one calling chickens.

The details of the historic ballparks were amazing. How they replicated the Polo Grounds, where the former New York Giants played, was a thrill for this sports nut to view. The Polo Grounds featured an unusually deep center field that was uniquely designed with a square notch at straightaway center. The movie made you feel like you were sitting in the stands.

Chadwick Boseman is excellent playing Robinson. He looks like an athlete, and shows some of the attitude Robinson was known to have.

But the star of the show is obvious. Veteran actor Harrison Ford gave an incredible performance as Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey.

Ford is not known for playing historic characters. He hasn’t done impersonations or replicated mannerisms. He made his fame yelling at robots, kissing Princess Leia, bantering with a Wookiee; or wearing a fedora, carrying a whip, hating snakes and collecting priceless artifacts while being chased by villains or a large boulder.

Playing Rickey may have placed Ford at a different level on the acting sphere. The transition is similar to Sean Connery’s, when the Scotsman collected his 1988 Oscar for his role in The Untouchables. Before playing the street cop-turned mentor for Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness, Connery appeared to be washed up as an action movie actor, but he actually enhanced his acting career playing older roles in movies that followed The Untouchables. Perhaps this is a path Ford may take?

Ford’s Rickey appears to be true to character. Rickey comes across in the movie as a combination of shrewd businessman and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. In real life, he actually was a successful manager who stood tall on social issues of the day and made known his Christian faith, even more than what the film reveals.

To get more details about Rickey, read David Prince’s article “The ‘ferocious Christian gentleman’ behind Jackie Robinson’s famous moment.” After reading this piece, I gained even more respect and appreciation for Rickey.

Prince writes “I fear the moniker, ‘ferocious Christian gentleman’ sounds oxymoronic in contemporary evangelical circles where manhood is often reduced to being a nice guy and God is envisioned as a kind of cosmic smiley face. Where Christian discipleship is cheapened to generic niceness, men pursue comfort and respectability in the place of self-sacrificial ‘great experiments’ that demand ferocious Christian gentlemen.”

Men like Rickey are rare today. Not many businessmen are willing to go against culture and stand on Christian principles. As Prince states, “. . . our churches are in desperate need of some ferocious Christian gentlemen.”

The movie 42 does present the harshness of segregation our country experienced, but thankfully, the film also shows the powerful and humble stand both Robinson and Rickey take.

Movie Review: Home Run

Movie Review: Home Run

Let’s face it.  The Christian film genre has not always had the closest table at the Golden Globes.  As Christians looking for edification or Gospel tools at the theater, we have forgiven cheesy scripts, sub-par acting, and paid our fair share of money to support our tribe.  Thankfully, as of late, Christian filmmakers have invested more time and resources into their projects.

“Home Run” is the latest evidence of great strides in Christian filmmaking.  The story centers around Cory Brand, a major league baseball star and out-of-control bad boy.  His alcoholism has led to stunts on and off the field putting his career in jeopardy.  One such stunt gets him suspended and through a series of related events, Cory finds himself facing life in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, with ghosts from his past.  Cory is forced to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step program, as he faces his past, present, and future as a man struggling with alcohol addiction.

The film wholeheartedly accomplishes its main goal as a Celebrate Recovery vehicle.  The program is shown in a very real and honest manner.  The movie does an excellent job of exposing hurts, habits and hang-ups in many of the characters, showing that we all have struggles in life that need God’s restoration.  The film also exposes the rippling effects of unchecked sin.  There is great hope that Celebrate Recovery groups across the nation will see a fresh harvest of people wanting to bring their hidden and dark struggles to light.

While the direct goal is accomplished, the movie itself accomplishes a leap forward in Christian film.  Lead actor Scott Elrod and actress Dorian Brown give standout performances as the story’s central characters.  There are a few hokey moments in the film, but overall I enjoyed the story as well as the way it was told.

If there is a weakness to the film, it is one that falls with many movies in the Christian genre.  While the movie does focus on God’s power to transform us in our addictions and struggles, there is little about the Gospel or Christ Himself.  Jesus is implied in the film, but there is no real mention of Creator God, our depraved nature, justification by grace through faith, and growth in Christ through the Spirit.  While Christians assume these things, and they may be offered thematically, they are not directly afforded to us in the movie.

This may be too high an expectation for what the filmmakers were hoping to accomplish.  However, we do need to remember that one does not need the gospel to quit drinking, be a more committed father, let go of pornography, or win the football state championship.  While many of those things can come through the transformation of the gospel in Christ, those things are not the gospel or Christ.

This is where the church comes in.  Movies don’t save people.  Jesus saves people.  Home Run is a great way to begin a conversation about Jesus.  I highly recommend it.  There are many individuals who may not walk through church doors, but will gladly sit in a theater with a box of Junior Mints and a five dollar Mr. Pibb.  The job of the church is to take that tool and use it for the gospel.  In making a quality movie with a God-honoring message, the makers of Home Run have put an excellent arrow in the church’s quiver.

* A note regarding the movie’s PG-13 rating:  I would have no qualms about taking a child as young as ten to the movie.  While there are some intense moments, great care is taken to ensure it is honest without being gratuitous.

Admission Review

Admission Review

I would love to say that Admission is a film with extreme and natural character development and a film where Tina Fey dazzles audiences alongside co-star Paul Rudd, but it is a film with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is an admission officer for Princeton University; she lives with her boyfriend of ten years, has no children, and is rather complacent. While speaking to high school students on a tour around the northeast, she visits “Quest School,” directed by John Pressman (Paul Rudd) and meets Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), an unassumingly intelligent student at Quest.

Admission is an adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel Admission. Adapted by Karen Croner (after a 15 year hiatus), this film lacks in the story department. Admission forces character development and prods the story to advance in a way that is unfamiliar with novel adaptations and is clearly carried by the cinematography of Declan Quinn.

Whether it is by encouraging students to change the world through Princeton or teaching students how to create sustainable irrigation at Quest School, a common theme throughout Admission is doing good, though never in conjunction with anything religious. With a few curse words sprinkled throughout the film, the most awkward and unnecessary scene consists of a conversation between Fey and Rudd while they are each taking a shower in separate stalls. The viewer sees only their head and shoulders, but with no advancing dialogue, this uncomfortable scene is pointless.

This film also has an excessive amount of cursing. Christians may feel too uncomfortable with the amount of swear words and it likely is not appropriate for teens. Further, the cohabitation portrayed in the plot sends the wrong message.

Aforementioned, the cinematography makes this film. Beautiful wide shots and deep focus break from the current mold of movies, but the technique used to give the allusion of a student being in the room while being weighed for admission was most clever. Each student appears in the office of Portia Nathan while she is reading their file, though not physically. Instead of Portia reading each student’s file aloud (unnatural), the figments of the students allow them to present themselves to Portia. Later while using this same effect, each student stands silent before the admission officers as they accept or deny admission to Princeton and upon denial, the floor opens and the student falls through.

Throughout Admission, the common theme of doing good is coupled with the fear of rejection. Introduced by students fearing denial to Princeton, the chance of rejection continues by resting on Portia. She fights for a job, is dumped by her boyfriend, gets pushed away by her mother and embodies the impending rejection of Jeremiah to Princeton.

Admission doesn’t try to make the viewer feel good by its conclusion; instead, it presents the idea of compromise and rejection as faced by people in real life, but with the only spiritual element consisting of a reference to Buddhism, the characters are left with only the hope of acceptance and success instead of faith in God.

Admission (Paul Weitz, 2013) PG-13 – 6/10 stars

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