Movie: All Saints
Sometimes we set out to accomplish something we think we should do, only to learn that God has a different plan entirely. All Saints is a film based on the true story of Michael Spurlock, a recently ordained minister assigned to the arduous task of closing the dying All Saints Church, despite the objection of its small elderly congregation. When confronted with an influx of Burmese refugees in dire need of help, he feels called by God to start a farm, in hopes of saving both the church and the refugees. The film was a good watch, however with the recent rise of quality amidst Christian movies, I found All Saints to be a little subpar. To be fair, the story was compelling and coherent, even managing to surprise me by the end credits, but some of the scenes felt overacted and at times the soundtrack didn’t quite fit the film.
Movie: Birth of the Dragon
Birth of the Dragon is the (very) fictional take on the real-life confrontation between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man. This film has been met with quite a bit of criticism since its release. Mainly for the under usage and portrayal of the main character. For a Bruce Lee biopic, he’s barely in the movie (being almost completely absent from the second act); and he is presented as a vain and arrogant man, only wanting to use Kung Fu to become a star. If nothing else, this movie would have been better served if it was advertised as a movie about Wong Jack Man, as most of the film shows his point of view. I thought that the movie was fun, with entertaining Kung Fu choreography and great performances by Philip Ng and Yu Xia. The fictional narrative was silly at times, but that didn’t ruin the film for me.
Movie: Captain Underpants
Behold, a hero nobly promoting only the lowest form of comedy: potty humor. Captain Underpants, a character created by George and Harold, comes to life after they hypnotize their cruel principal Mr. Krupp. I’ll be honest, I never really read the Captain Underpants books as a kid. However, the trailers convinced me to watch the “First Epic Movie,” and surprisingly, it was better than I expected. Many of the jokes were actually funny, and the comedic portrayal of the elementary school experience provided both nostalgia and entertainment. The movie is also very touching and emotional, especially regarding the two main characters. George and Harold’s friendship felt very real, and many of their fears, such as being put in separate classes, were relatable (I couldn’t help but think about my own best friend in grade school). Older viewers might be turned off by the immature style, but rest assured, this film is fun.
Movie: Dark Tower
The Man in Black: a handsome and mysterious magician devoted to releasing all evil. Roland: an experienced gunslinger bent on avenging his fallen father. Between the two men stands Jake, a young boy with the power to tip the balance in either side’s favor. Stephen King’s critically acclaimed Dark Tower series is adapted and continued on the big screen with 2017’s The Dark Tower. Having never read the series, I enjoyed the film despite its fast escalation and use of the frankly overused “Special Child” motif. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey were the highlights for me; Elba made the stoic, disillusioned gunslinger feel compelling, and McConaughey’s sly charm made for an entertaining and threatening villain. Much of King’s signature horror element was missing, which may disappoint longtime fans of the author and his work, but the film should satisfy anyone in need of a two-hour vacation away from reality.
Movie: Despicable Me 3
Gru and the minions are back, this time with the ex-villain’s secret and extravagant twin brother Dru. Together, the team will be facing-off against the failed-child-actor-turned-super-villain Balthazar Bratt, and his array of weaponized ’80s paraphernalia. Being the third entry in the Despicable Me series (fourth overall counting Minions), much of the humor is consistent with the previous films; and while it’s still funny, it has definitely lost some of its charm. Bratt is a good example of why who we worship is just as—if not more—important as how we worship. When we put anything above the Lord in terms of importance and attention, it becomes an idol, taking God’s place in our lives. Jesus Himself reminds us of this when He was tempted by Satan in the desert: “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him” (Luke 4:8).
Dunkirk, a World War II period piece directed by Christopher Nolan, was a movie that I had been excited to see. The movie uses three different narratives—the soldier, the sailor, and the squadron—to tell a unified story of one of the most miraculous wartime rescues in human history. The emotion is tangible, relying on its actor’s performances to sell the scenes without using words in most cases. It’s easy to feel the anxiety as bombs drop and bullets fly, and it’s hard to watch the fear and despair on their faces. It’s easy to become downcast when situations seem hopeless, but Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
(The movie had a four star rating but lost a star due to five instances of intense profanity.)
Movie: Everything, Everything
Maddy is an 18 year old with SCID, a disease that prevents her from leaving her house. When a boy named Olly moves in next door, the two quickly fall in love. While I’m not a fan of romantic films, I figured I’d give Everything, Everything a shot, and objectively—as a film—it’s pretty good. Both young actors played their parts very well, (Amandla Stenberg perfectly portrayed someone who’s never been outside) and the concept, while nothing new, leads to some interesting drama. However, I take issue with the lessons it teaches. Many decisions are flesh-driven, made without any thought of the consequences, and though the world portrays this as romantic, in reality it’s selfish. Also, I cannot agree with the unnecessary sensual scene placed in the film. Everything, Everything is actually a good lesson on what not to do in relationships. (Look up 1 John 2:16).
Movie: Goodbye Christopher Robin
PG: thematic elements, some bullying, war images, and brief language
Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the story of how the beloved Winnie the Pooh stories began, and of their author, A.A. Milne. A few years after the birth of his son, Milne decides to relocate his family to a remote countryside as he tries to recover from his traumatic war experiences. Despite being centered around the creator of one of the happiest books in history, this movie is anything but. Apart from a few key scenes, this film is very somber; it can go from heartwarming and sweet to infuriating and bitter in a snap. I’m glad the creators of the film decided to go with this “no pulled punches” direction, because it allows the audience to feel the complexity of the Milne family dynamic. If you’re a fan of the Winnie the Pooh series, or a fan of tear-jerking films, I definitely recommend Goodbye Christopher Robin.
Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels more like a comedic space opera than a superhero movie. When Peter Quill suddenly runs into a strange man claiming to be his father, the Guardians are given a chance to save the Galaxy once again. The film stands well on its own; I never felt lost even though I skipped the first film. Each character holds their personality consistently while maintaining an element of depth. Star Lord is a displaced 80’s kid, and many of his references reflect that; and Baby Groot is probably the cutest thing to ever come to film. My main complaint for Guardians is the large amount of profanity and the overly crude nature of the jokes. Guardians is a fun movie to watch with its space theme and zany characters, but it was sad to see such a clever and creative film be dragged into cheap innuendo.
Movie: Forever My Girl
PG-13: thematic elements, some bullying, war images, and brief language
Country superstar, Liam Paige, is a man that has everything he ever wanted—except for the only girl he has ever loved. Forever My Girl, based on the novel by Heidi McLaughlin, is a romantic drama that plays out like a country song. Directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf, the plot centers around Liam and his ex-fiancée, Josie, as they come face-to-face for the first time in a decade. The film reveals that for every decision—whether good or bad—unintended consequences may follow. Galatians 6:7 says “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” As Christians, we must be wise in the decisions we make. Whether for better or worse, every action we take impacts our witness for Christ, and affects not only ourselves, but those close to us.
Movie: Murder on the Orient Express
PG-13: violence and thematic elements
After another successful case, Hercule Poirot’s vacation upon the Orient Express is cut short when a fellow passenger winds up dead. The mystery in Murder on the Orient Express is compelling, thanks in part to the various shots and filters used to show what’s important as Poirot sleuths around. The unknown fun doesn’t end there; in addition to the main conundrum, each suspect has their own slew of intriguing secrets, and with an all-star cast containing the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, as well as many other high profile talents, it’s easy to become invested in the characters and their motivations. I’ve been a fan of murder mysteries for a long time, especially those of the British variety, so Murder on the Orient Express was a refreshing break from the overabundance of action/adventure movies. This remake reintroduces the famous and unorthodox Belgian detective, Poirot, from the Agatha Christie novel, and I highly recommend it.
Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean — Dead Men Tell No Tales
The dashing Captain Jack Sparrow has set sail once again, this time in search of the powerful trident of Poseidon. I found this recent installment to the Pirates franchise to be entertaining—albeit unambitious—in its narrative, hitting many of the same beats as the previous films. Jack is as zany as ever, but the interactions between the Captain and co-stars felt flat. This is especially evident with Henry Turner, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. The two characters rarely interact, and when they do it’s mainly exposition. Javier Bardum’s portrayal of Armando Salazar combined with the ghostly submerged effect was one of my favorite things about the film, however the villain is criminally under-used. There are still some instances of inappropriate humor, but they are few and far between. If you are a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean, then you’ll probably enjoy this addition.
Movie: Same Kind of Different As Me
PG-13: thematic elements including some violence and language
How many of us would be willing to reach out to a homeless stranger? Same Kind of Different as Me is a heartwarming movie about friendship and unconditional love that follows Rob and Debbie Ray (a rich but struggling couple), and Denver (a volatile homeless man who wants nothing to do with them). The acting has come a long way for Pure Flix Entertainment; the main cast performed excellently amidst the vast emotional spectrum within this film. What really stood out to me was the narrative; plot points were set up early and addressed in a timely and appeasing progression. The core of this film is the relationship between the Rays and Denver, a relationship that really portrays the command Paul wrote about in Colossians 3:12: “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Movie: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Everyone’s favorite wall-crawler is back for the third time in a decade. Peter Parker, upon returning home after his adventure in Captain America: Civil War, longs for his chance to join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and impress his new-found mentor Tony Stark. When alien weapons begin to surface among New York’s street thugs, Peter believes he has his chance. I found Spider-Man: Homecoming to be enjoyable overall. Spider-Man’s presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe felt natural, and the high school atmosphere is a setting that has been largely unexplored in previous entries. The movie works thanks to Tom Holland’s stellar performance. The young actor presented the awkwardness of Peter and the witty confidence of Spider-Man perfectly, seamlessly switching from scene to scene. As is the trend with current Marvel flicks, the amount of profanity is increasing, which is—especially for a hero aimed at younger audiences—disappointing to say the least.
Television Series: Star Wars Rebels
Star Wars Rebels bridges the gap between Star Wars: Episodes III and IV, with many nods to the entire series spread throughout, rewarding fans both new and old. Now in its fourth and final season, the core team of courageous rebels—consisting of Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Chopper, Zeb, and Captain Rex—continue their efforts against Grand Admiral Thrawn and the cruel Empire, as well as establishing their allies among the Rebel Alliance on Yavin IV. At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of Rebels mainly because of its differing art style from that of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. However, as I’ve watched the show, I’ve had a change of heart. The action is fluid and fun, entertaining for adults, yet tame enough for kids to watch safely; and the diverse range of characters gives every viewer someone they can relate with.
Movie: The Emoji Movie
I’ve never really been a huge fan of emojis. They’ve always been sort of ‘meh’ to me (see what I did there?). The movie bears many similarities to the massively successful Warner Brothers picture The Lego Movie in terms of plot and characters. The movie tells the story of Gene, a ‘meh’ emoji with the ability to display more than one emotion, something that face emojis aren’t supposed to do. Along with his friend, High Five, Gene goes on a journey through the phone’s various apps in order to secure his place in society. The animation, story, and the actors’ voice performances are all pretty standard—nothing exemplary—making it seem like the producers were relying solely on the popularity of emojis to sell the movie. The film, while generic, isn’t as bad as some movie critics have claimed; it’s a safe film that is enjoyable for kids.
Television Series: The Good Place
Elanor, Michael, and the rest are back in the second season of ABC’s supernatural comedy The Good Place. While the show isn’t biblically accurate by any means, there are things to like about this fictional situation. The set design is very well done—a colorful, happy, perfect suburbia, which for those who know the true nature of
The Good Place makes the design that much better. However, the show falls into the dirty comedy section at times. The show is based around the idea of the afterlife, and it reflects much on what society thinks Heaven and hell are like; good people go to Heaven, bad people do not. However, that’s not what the Bible tells us. Accepting Jesus Christ and living for Him is the way to Heaven (John 14:6).Often, defending our faith means confronting the misconceptions of the world, even if they look nice and pleasing on the outside.
Movie: The Lego Ninjago Movie
The brilliant, self-aware humor of WB’s Lego franchise returns with The Lego Ninjago Movie, an adaptation of the popular TV series of the same name. As members of the secret ninja force, Lloyd and his friends face the dangerous threat of Lord Garmadon, an evil warlord who also happens to be Lloyd’s father. The animation quality and voice acting is as good as ever, pulling in talent like Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, and Michael Peña, but much of that talent was criminally underused, almost to the point of unimportance; Peña’s character Kai had very few lines throughout, and the rest of the non-Garmadon characters received similar treatment. The humor isn’t quite up to par with The Lego Movie or The Lego Batman Movie. Garmadon played a carbon copy of Will Arnett’s Batman, and the normally continuous nature of Lego humor was missing, but the film is still entertaining to watch.
Movie: The Mountain Between Us
PG-13: a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language
A neurosurgeon on his way to save a patient, and a photojournalist headed for her wedding are in a private plane as it flies through a storm. When things turn south, they are stranded on top of one of the coldest mountains in the world. At the conclusion of the film, I left with mixed feelings. Idris Elba convincingly plays an emotionally broken, yet logically sound doctor determined to survive, and I constantly found myself rooting for him. Until that is, I realized I had been duped; this is a romance disguised as a battle against nature. The Mountain Between Us is pretty solid for the first quarter of the movie, as the characters come to grips with their situation, but after that the survival element melts away into an awkward emotional negotiation. The romance detracts from the tension of survival, and the movie suffers for it.
Movie: The Mummy
When soldier/treasure hunter Nick Morton unwittingly unleashes the vengeful Princess Ahmanet, the quest to stop her begins. As a reboot, the film avoids many of the elements of the previous franchise, instead opting for a more gritty and frightening version in an effort to start Universal Studios’ Dark Universe. The action never really stops, jumping from one scene to the next, often using many horror elements to heighten the intensity. Many of the scenes are unnecessarily sensualized, but it did make me reflect on the threat of temptation. All of the characters, much like ourselves as Christians, are tempted by something: riches, power, acclaim. But we don’t need to fall. James 4:7 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” God does not leave us without help. With the Holy Spirit within us, we can resist all temptation.
Movie: Thor: Ragnarok
PG: intense sequences of violence, and brief suggestive material
Take the neon of the 80s, Roman gladiators, and the god of thunder, and what would you get? Thor: Ragnarok, that’s what. Marvel’s favorite Norse hero returns for a crazy interplanetary adventure, teaming up with his mischievous brother Loki and fellow avenger, the Hulk, to stop the goddess of death from conquering Asgard. The film is fun and comedy-filled, albeit to the detriment of the plot and a bit self-defeating. There are scarcely any scenes without a joke; about halfway through the film, the jokes become predictable, lessening their effect. It was hard for me to truly grasp any sort of important or serious moment, since it would be immediately smothered by a laugh. That said, the film expands upon Thor’s story and character in meaningful and entertaining ways, which is sure to appeal to both casual viewers and dedicated Marvel fans alike.
Movie: War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes, the third entry in the recently rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, continues the saga started in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. War continues the story of ape-leader Caesar, a chimp gifted with enhanced intelligence due to advances in human technology, as he tries to find a safe home for all apes, while a vicious human colonel meticulously plots their downfall. War came as a pleasant surprise. The story was executed wonderfully; I never felt lost despite having not seen the previous two movies, and even though it is told through the eyes of an ape, many of the themes (family, revenge, forgiveness) were easy to relate to. There is very little profanity and the action, while intense, is never gruesome—easily making War for the Planet of the Apes one of my favorite movies of 2017.
Movie: Wonder Woman
DC Fans may breathe a sigh of relief. This origin story of DC Comics’ leading lady is entertaining and coherent, full of a bright and hopeful tone absent from previous Warner Bros superhero installments. Diana is the bright young Princess of the Amazons. All her life she has dreamed of defending the world—and when a handsome young pilot discovers the secret Paradise Island, bringing news of World War I and its horrors along with him, she gets her chance. The acting in this movie was the highlight for me. Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman, showing a sweet, naive hero one moment, and a no-nonsense, epic warrior the next. Some of the CGI was subpar (notably at the end), but it served its purpose. Overall, I liked the film; however to my disappointment, despite all of the optimism and high-action points, it was soiled by cursing, innuendo, and perverse joking.
Micah Trimmer | Salt Lake City | Intermountain Division