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My Sister’s Keeper
No Weak Crutches Here

If you’re getting the idea that I enjoyed this film, then you’re right on the mark. I did, a great deal. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, though. I thought the final act seemed rushed and was far less satisfying than the opening acts. That quibble aside, My Sister’s Keeper is a powerful film. I think the questions about morality and ethics when trying to save your child, about the struggle to protect a life at all costs, and the timing and approach in transitioning from fighting to live to preparing to die are compelling and thought-provoking. If these issues don’t raise questions in your own mind and pull a few heart-strings then you’re just not paying attention.

Pahappahooey Island: Do It Afraid
Or, Just Say No

Setting sail back to Pahappahooey Island, Ali and the rest of her merry band immediately set aside the scrolls containing the “word of the Creator” and dig into the rest of the great treasure… golden yo-yos. Here endeth the spiritual teaching. I’m probably over-analyzing this simple story; but honestly, there are better choices out there if you want child-friendly programming with a spiritual message. Pahappahooey Island strikes me as more of a shallow effort to wring $15 a DVD out of a captive audience.

As We Forgive
A Tough But Valuable Screening

Regardless of your political or spiritual bias, I think this story of forgiveness and hope after the horrors of the Rwandan genocide are a striking statement about humanity. It is a triumph over fear, an effort that often requires us to look outside ourselves for strength, both to our neighbors and to the divine as well. The case is well made that forgiveness is necessary for both victim and transgressor and is an essential part of the healing process. Especially in a case like this where not only are individual lives affected but also the potential future of an entire nation. It is an extreme case to be sure, and one that perhaps makes petty some of the grudges most of us carry with us in our own lives.

Thou Shalt Laugh 4
Christian? Well, Family-Friendly

In my opinion, the best comedy does challenge us. It’s not just about laughing, but about getting inside our natural defenses and causing us to look at a situation from a new perspective. I’m not sure that watering things down really accomplishes much apart from a few chuckles. But maybe that’s just me. My personal soapbox aside, you’re probably wondering if the comedians on Thou Shalt Laugh 4 are funny. The answer is at least a qualified yes. As I mentioned earlier, comedy is subjective so at best this is a mixed bag. So, despite my grumping about regarding the idea of “Christian comedy” I still found something to like here. If the idea of “salty language free” comedy is something that appeals to you, chances are good you will find some entertainment value here as well.

Straight from the Playbook

Lukewarm acting, recycled characters and plot we’ve all seen before. It doesn’t really add up to a promising result. Clancy isn’t completely painful to watch but you’ll likely spend most of the film anticipating what comes next, and you’ll probably be right most of the time. This is another example of a Christian film that wants to be dramatic and meaningful but doesn’t manage to say anything new. Honestly, the thing I like most is the advertising tagline: “Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional.” But that’s not really news either, is it?

The Apostles of Comedy
Ordained to Chuckle

The performances here are “clean” in one sense—but are still peppered with racial and cultural stereotypes, at times mocking with arrogant posturing. I guess it’s supposed to be okay for “Christian comedy,” though, as long we’re making fun of the secular world or someone else’s denomination. I’m sure that Apostles of Comedy will find its audience, but it’s a little too much “preaching to the choir” for my taste. The individual comedians are talented and funny in their own right and their background stories add a layer of human interest. Unfortunately, I don’t think the humor here is going to challenge a Christian audience to re-evaluate their stereotypes or behaviors, and probably isn’t going to attract much of a non-Christian audience because of the way the DVD is being marketed.

Anytown, USA
Politics On A Local Scale

Welcome to Bogota, New Jersey, circa 2003. As the weather begins to turn crisp, it’s time for citizens to decide who they’re going to vote for in the race for Mayor. Anytown, USA covers the entire campaign, from the early planning all the way to election night—advertising, lining up volunteers, getting out to meet voters, and more. It doesn’t necessarily sound all that exciting, but good filmmaking and surprisingly forthcoming commentary from the candidates keep things interesting. You’ll also find a fair amount of dry humor on tap here. I’m sure the film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you list politics among your interests you really should track this one down. It proves to be entertaining, humorous, and educational at the same time. Not a bad combination in a film that provides an up-close look at local politics.

Good Intentions Gone Bad

I enjoyed the first two thirds of this movie; and if the production team could have brought it home with a fitting final act, I think this would have been halfway decent film. Given how things went in the early going I’m a little puzzled why that didn’t happen. I can only chalk it up to a misplaced philosophy intended to leave the audience feeling positive and upbeat the end of the experience. As a result, instead of a powerful message about belief and sacrifice we get a climactic moment that left the audience I watched with literally laughing out loud. In another movie, that might have been appropriate—but it was completely out of place here. Disappointing, to say the least. In the end, Traitor winds up being a fairly thoughtful look at some of the issues and causes of terrorism backed up by a strong cast. Unfortunately, a lack of thrills and a weak resolution fail to deliver the goods.

Death Race
Cars, Guns, and Explosions... Yeah!

To me, Death Race is a sure bet. It’s hard to imagine anyone watching the trailer and being confused about what they’re going to see when the lights go down and the movie starts. Either you like this kind of action movie and you plan to see it or you don’t. Still—like the story—you don’t watch Death Race for the acting. You might have picked up on this already, but the film is mostly about cars. And guns. And lots of explosions. Say what you will about the rest of the movie, but director Paul W. S. Anderson gets this part right. The action sequences come at you like a runaway freight train. It’s all the sweeter because most of what you see on the screen was filmed the old-fashioned way: using cameras, skilled stunt performers, and actual vehicles.

Henry Poole Is Here
Wilson Does Outstanding Work

With an interesting and quirky story and a top notch cast, does Henry Poole Is Here manage to deliver the goods? The answer I think is decidedly maybe… depending on the individual moviegoer. Issues of religion and faith can be polarizing. Some folks will likely think this film is too religious while others will dislike it because it’s not religious enough. I can’t tell you which end of the spectrum you might fall on. What I can tell you is that this is a film that doesn’t try to preach to you, or at you. It doesn’t try to sell you a particular set of beliefs or tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel. It uses religious themes as a springboard to go deeper and take look at the relationships between people. In the end, it seems to ask the question “Does it matter if it’s really a miracle as long as lives experience positive change?” And to its credit, the film leaves the answer up to you. I liked it; you might like it, too.

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