Film Review: Finding Normal — 2 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBJajC-crsQ

ONE WORD REVIEW: Sappy

SUMMARY: A big city doctor is required to perform community service in the small country town of Normal… and of course, she’ll fall in love and stay.

DETAILS: Big city doctor Lisa Leland (Candace Cameron Bure) is caught speeding through a small country town of Normal on her way to meet her boyfriend in the Hamptons. Due to her abundance of unpaid parking tickets she is arrested and ushered before the small town’s Judge/Doctor/Pastor (Lou Beatty, Jr.) for a hearing. She has no cash to pay her fines, they don’t take credit, so the only option is community service where she must take care of the town’s patients. Along the way we learn that the Judge has been praying for a replacement doctor and he hopes Lisa will be the one… and of course there’s a handsome single man in town (Trevor St. John) that catches her eye and eventually her heart. If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. In 1991 Michael J. Fox made this film (though not the “christian” version) which was called Doc Hollywood. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Doc Hollywood, but I definitely remember liking it more than I liked this film. There were plenty of good moments in Finding Normal (I liked Lou Beatty’s character), and it’s not “too Christian” for a broad audience, but in the end I just couldn’t get over it’s sappiness. To me it ended up being a lower quality, sap-filled, “Christian ripoff” of a big Hollywood film… but like I said, it has it’s moments, so you might want to check it out… especially if you’re not familiar with the Michael J. Fox version of the story.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 2.0 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR

Film Review: The Way, Way Back — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qoaVUdbWMs

TWO WORD REVIEW: Growing Up

SUMMARY: Duncan is a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. At least that’s what his Mom’s new boyfriend thinks, but that’s before Duncan spends the summer discovering who he really is.

DETAILS: Duncan’s Mom has a new boyfriend (Steve Carell) who owns a house at the beach and Duncan (Liam James) will unwillingly spend the summer there… and in the process he will become himself. The beach community is “like Spring Break for adults” where the parents party every night and Duncan and his neighbor Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) are left to while the summer away. Soon Duncan sneaks off to Water Wizz, the local water park where he finds purpose and a father figure (Sam Rockwell) who cares for him and helps him realize he has value and self-worth. The Way, Way Back is a fun, funny, and painful reminder of those awkward years transitioning from childhood to adulthood. The film has a great vibe and the cast does a fantastic job telling this story of a boy coming of age.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: PG-13

Film Review: Living On One Dollar — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze72rpWp_Dg

ONE WORD REVIEW: Empathy

SUMMARY: Four college friends spend their summer living on a dollar a day in rural Guatemala in an attempt to see what it takes to live like 1 Billion other people on the planet.

DETAILS: What would it take to live on $1 per day? Four college friends are about to find out by spending there summer in rural Guatemala in an attempt to see what it takes to live like 1 Billion other people on the planet. How do you make your rice and beans more nutritious? What can you grow to help supplement your meager income? What do you do when you are sick and can’t work? Can you rely on your neighbors? Imagine deciding between feeding your child or paying for their schooling. How can you afford a stove? Do micro loans make a difference? All of these issues are addressed in this powerful documentary that stares poverty in the face… and helps the viewer empathize with those living in these conditions. I really enjoyed this short documentary, but would’ve appreciated it even more if 10 to 15 minutes would have been added allowing us to really get to know our main characters better. Even so, it’s definitely worthy of an hour of your time.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

Film Review: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) — 3.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Beautiful

SUMMARY: An aging socialite realizes that the social scene he rules leaves him wanting a greater beauty.

DETAILS: Winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, La Grande Bellezza tells the story of Jep Gambardella (wonderfully played by Toni Servillo). Jep is an aging socialite who rules the night life in Rome, but when he turns 65 he begins to realize that there is much more to life than the social scene he helped build. He discovers that his first love from his youth has died. She had married and spent her life with another man but, unbeknownst to anyone but her diary, she secretly longed for Jep. This begins Jep search for a greater beauty in this wonderful world. Beautifully shot on Italian locations, La Grande Bellezza contains subtle echoes of the book of Ecclesiastes… simple hints that “all is vanity”. There is a good bit of female nudity throughout this 2 hour and 20 minute production, but the film is enjoyable and one that even though I didn’t feel like I “got it”, I didn’t want the credits to roll. I was enjoying my time in Jep’s world and I was captivated by Toni Servillo’s performance. I will definitely track him down in other films.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR
FOREIGN
ACADEMY AWARD: Best Foreign Language Film

Film Review: The Railway Man — 4 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Forgiveness

SUMMARY: A British prisoner of war is forced to help build the Thai-Burma Railway and is nearly tortured to death. Decades later he confronts his captor and extends the only gift that will set them both free… forgiveness.

DETAILS: Based on the true story of Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), a British Army Officer who is captured during World War II by the Japanese and forced to help contstruct the Thai-Burma Railway. The film cuts back and forth between 1980’s England where Lomax and his new wife (Nicole Kidman) struggle to overcome his horrific war memories and the POW environment of the 1940’s where he was tortured beyond imagination. Along the way he realizes there may only be two ways out of his pain – suicide or revenge, so he sets out to find the one who played a key role in his torture and enact his retribution. In the process he realizes that his captor has been tortured by the wartime memories as well and that perhaps there is a third option that may lead to freedom for both of their tortured souls… forgiveness.

 

SCORE: 4 out of 5

RELEASE: 2013
RATING: R

August: Osage County — 3.5 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Dysfunction

SUMMARY: A depressing look at a depressing family… which makes What’s Eating Gilbert Grape look like happy, fun-filled, roll-on-the-floor comedy.

DETAILS: Dysfunction does not adequately describe the family in this film. A star-studded cast with great performers tell the story of a family brought back together around the suicide of the father, but nothing is strong enough to keep these people together. By the end of the film everyone will have left and the crazy, prescription-addicted mom will be all that’s remains in Osage County Oklahoma.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

RELEASE: 2013
RATING: R

Beyond the Farthest Star — 3.5 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Complicated
SUMMARY: A family and their hidden secrets shake up a small Texas town.

DETAILS: Complicated…. This is probably one of the best “Christian” films I’ve seen. It’s gut-wrenching honest dealings with issues of hidden pasts, parenting difficulties, and troubled relationships are sure to hinder the profitability in the traditional “Christian Market” for this film, but hopefully it will help it find a much broader audience who are hungry for this style of honest filmmaking. A pastor and his family move to a small town to start afresh. The pastor was once sold as the “next Billy Graham” but something has obviously changed. His daughter is dark and into cutting and burning herself, his wife hides deep secrets of their past, and his story is about to thrust into the national spotlight due to a civil liberties case. The denouement of this film is way too long, but almost necessary to unravel all the threads that make up this complicated, yet compelling storyline. Look for it next Spring in select theatres. My good friend (and editor of two of my own films) James Burgess did the editing on this film and it’s definitely worth a watch.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

RELEASE: 2013 – Not Yet Released
RATING: PG-13

Tiny: A Story About Living Small — 3 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Downsized

SUMMARY: This movie will make you consider downsizing your current way of life

DETAILS: A young man who is turning thirty searches for the meaning of “home” when he embarks on a mission to build a tiny house. What begins as a summer project takes over a year of his life as he struggles to complete his undertaking. I love the ideas presented in this film of living less cluttered and more simply. I wish the film would have dug deeper into the relationship between the main guy and his girlfriend who was helping build the house. In essence, that’s the deeper, real, more human story taking place. Will their relationship survive? Will they live happily ever after in this tiny house? Those are the lines I wanted to see explored and unfortunately it was more about building their house, than building their lives.

SCORE: 3 out of 5

RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY