KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- It's that time of the year when we critique-ers of movies get out our venom-dipped goose quills and take revenge for all those hours stolen by filmmakers who challenged the theory, "Nobody sets out to make a bad movie." And, oh yeah, we also enjoy reminding you of some films that are fine examples of why we love to go to the movies.
Let's look at the motion pictures of 2012 that either uplifted the spirit of man or entertained us so well that we forgave the high ticket prices, and the popcorn poppers who offered us that yellowish motor oil-looking substance that passes for butter. My selections are in no particular order. Please read the entire reviews on my site in order to get the content (the reasons for the ratings).
-- "The Life of Pi" (Rated PG for thematic content and scary action sequences). Profound and spiritual, The Life of Pi is also the most visually stunning film of the year. Like Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," The Life of Pi bedazzles with CGI visuals that add to and support the film's viscerally emotional impact. As with Mr. Malick, filmmaker Ang Lee is unafraid of bringing the subjects of God, faith and the seeking of spiritual fulfillment to the cineplex. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3835
-- "The Impossible" (PG-13 for language and disturbing imagery). This is based on true events surrounding one family who barely survived the 2004 tsunami that struck an unsuspecting coastal area of Thailand. Hollywood's CGI effects at their finest, along with a riveting script and powerful performances from Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and young Tom Holland make this one of the most exciting films of the year. On top of that, it contains uplifting messages about people aiding others in time of need. It shows the compassion of the human spirit that unfortunately often needs a catastrophe to befall before it is awakened. http://moviereporter.com/reviews/display.php?id=2170
-- "Won't Back Down" (PG for thematic elements and language). Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, two mothers (Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal) look to transform their children's failing inner city school. What's this? Hollywood made a film that challenges the teachers' union?! I thought I was in a different universe watching this movie. Congrats to those who participated in this, one of the most courageous films ever produced in Tinseltown. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3822
-- "The Amazing Spider-Man" (PG-13 for language, action and violence). In IMAX and 3D, with a satisfying script that pays homage to Stan Lee's comic book creation, plus a depth of character and all the trappings of this genre done to perfection, it makes for a fun movie-going adventure. This Spider-Man movie has humor, tenderness, life lessons (don't be a bully, don't seek revenge, use your abilities for others) and, of course, lots and lots of cool combat. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3795
-- "Brave" (PG for scary action and rude humor). Disney and Pixar still reign as kings of animation. It isn't just that they have all the loot necessary to bring their stories to vivid screen life; they also have most of the creativity found in Hollywood. Their writers and filmmakers possess a winning combination of whimsy and potent storytelling ability that seems to escape most filmmakers of today, no matter the genre. While so many in the film industry are unable to tell today's stories without crudity and excess, Disney and Pixar, knowing they are aiming at the family, use wit rather than shock value to get our laughs and our involvement. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3791
-- "October Baby" (PG-13 for mature thematic material). A powerful parable about healing, October Baby tenderly reveals the psychological aftermath created by abortion. Perhaps the most effective aspect of the production is how gently Christian philosophy is intertwined within the narrative. No matter their agenda, the filmmakers never preach to the audience. Rather, they astutely import the need for forgiveness. As with the "Pay It Forward" philosophy, which suggests the need to pass on good deeds in order to turn our world from selfish narcissism to one dominated by kindness, the intent here is to propose the need for forgiving others in order to maintain peace within. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3765
-- "Red Tails" (PG-13 for sequences of war violence and language). Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard and Brandon T. Jackson star in this tale of African-American pilots from the experimental Tuskegee training program. Over the years, I've seen quite a few war films that indicated the bravery, compassion and the uniqueness of the American soldier. Sadly, there are few films that spotlight this quality in men of color. There are some, just not that many. Red Tails does. A positive film that ultimately unites us all as Americans, it does contain some language (not much, really), but it also features reverence for God, and a couple of men of faith are depicted and we hear a prayer given. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3748
-- "Unconditional" (PG-13 for some violent content and mature thematic elements). A touching, sensitive, well-constructed drama, Unconditional was a welcomed surprise. Writer/director Brent McCorkle did a fine job with the technical aspects, despite his low budget. He managed to organize a competent team of behind-the-camera folk and was wise to cast Lynn Collins in the lead role. She plays a widow whose whole life was wrapped around her soul mate, but comes to learn that we are not here just to be an attachment to another person, realizing she has purpose and that she isn't really alone. Those who seek to reverence God and acknowledge Christ are never, ever alone. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3823
-- "Les Miserables" (PG-13 for language, suggestive and sexual material, and violence). Les Miserables is an adaptation of the successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel set in 19th-century France, in which an escaped prisoner named Jean Valjean seeks redemption, while the obsessive Inspector Javert hunts him down. In Victor Hugo's 1,200 page novel, the villain, Javert, lives by the letter of the law in hopes of salvation, where Jean Valjean has been transformed by mercy and lives by mercy. Les Miserables is a parable that clearly conveys the difference between the Bible's Old Testament, where man is dependent upon the laws of God in order to find deliverance, and the New Testament's revelation of God's sacrifice that paid our sin debt. Though there is some PG-13 content in the film, it is not there to be exploitive. http://moviereporter.com/reviews/display.php?id=2178
AND THE BAD ...
In fairness to the motion picture industry, there are many folks who desire to nurture the spiritual aspect of man's nature. Many films aim up. Just not these.
-- "The Perfect Family" (PG-13 for mature thematic material and language). We Christians can be a faulty bunch: a fact Hollywood builds quite a few productions upon: "Elmer Gantry," "The Scarlet Letter" and "Easy A." Admittedly, there are some who use religion for other reasons than drawing themselves closer to their Creator. The rest of us sometimes (or often) put His will aside in favor of our own. The Perfect Family perfectly portrays a person caught up in the laws of her church rather than the grace of God. For Believers, this film can be a cautionary tale, one that reminds us to hate the sin, but love the sinner (Jude 1:23). That said, I'm not convinced that aiding Christians in their spiritual walk was the filmmaker's objective. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3776
-- "The Campaign" (R for crude sexual content and language). Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star in this comedy about opposing contenders for the position of their state's congressman. Though there are some laugh-out-loud scenes featuring the stars at their funniest, the humor routinely strays from bizarre burlesque to raucous rudeness. This gained high marks from many a reviewer, most of whom do little to discourage the acceptance of lewdness and religious ridicule as cinematic entertainment. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3804
-- "21 Jump Street" (R for crude and sexual content, and language). Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play two immature high school grads who join the police force. It is based on the TV series from the 1980s, with R-rated risqué material used to update the concept. I fear scatological and anatomical humor have become the main ingredients for movie comedies. And like hip hop music, obnoxious content is evidently here to stay. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3763
-- "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" (R for violence and language). Is this film meant as a metaphor, showing how good men can become evil through conditions beyond their control? Or is 20th Century Fox just hedging its bets, worried that a dramatization of the Great Emancipator might have more box office heft if it co-stars children of the night? Either way, this mixing of genres seems disrespectful to the memory of a man who was taller than most. But here he is, in all his manic-depressive, ax-wielding splendor, dispatching doom to bloodsuckers as if he was a bearded version of the Mighty Thor. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3790
-- "Pitch Perfect" (PG-13 for sexual content and language). And speaking of monsters, under the protective auspices of Universal Studios, Dr. Frankenstein is at it again, this time attempting to create an entertainment subgenre by assembling spare parts left over from other cinematic atrocities. He stitches together the song-singing rivalries of Disney's "High School Musical" and NBC's "Glee" with the mean girl comedy of the "Bring It On" franchise, evidently hoping to form a new Hollywood musical. Crudity and obscenity abound. If we peasants had any sense, we'd grab our torches and storm the Universal castle. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3821
-- "Fun Size" (PG-13 for crude and suggestive material and language). On Halloween night, a high schooler's plans go awry when she's made to babysit her 8-year-old brother, who disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. It's too lame for anyone who has stopped watching Nickelodeon and far too suggestive for those who tune in daily to Sponge Bob. Did I say suggestive? That doesn't cover it, for this is the crudest teen comedy I've seen since, well, the last teen comedy. http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3829
Arguably, there are worst films than those I've spotlighted. The point of this piece is that Hollywood will continue to make films that offend our spiritual nature. And once they get your $10 per ticket, they win. Take a stand. Read a film's content before you hand over that 10 bucks. Continued...