THE BEST MOVIES THIS CRITIC EVER SAW!!
Dramas

42 (2013)
Chadwick Boseman stars as Jackie Robinson in this powerful indictment against prejudice and bigotry. 42 also exemplifies courage, faith in the ultimate good of man, and reminds us that one man, backed by another, can turn our world around. 42 is an engaging film, and despite the reenactment of injustice and the evil of bigotry, it is a film that offers hope and goodwill. (PG-13) - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

ALL IS LOST (2013)
After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor (Robert Redford) finds himself staring his mortality in the face. I only find one fault with the film. At no point does the protagonist call out to God. Even if you’re not a religious person, if the end seems eminent, don’t you, out of desperation, cry out to a Higher Power? Yet, neither God nor the sailor’s place in the afterlife are ever considered by the film’s protagonist. (PG-13). Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

AMISH GRACE (2010)
This made-for-television drama stars Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride Parts I and II) as Ida Graber, an Amish woman dealing with the tragic loss of her daughter after the shooting by a crazed outsider who swore vengeance on God after his own baby girl died. The true story is about the aftermath of the 2006 schoolhouse shooting in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. The book’s title best summarizes the production’s theme – Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. Riveting, emotionally stirring, a powerful TV experience. TV-PG. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)
This heist caper gone wrong is as much a character study as a suspense adventure. Intense, with realistic situations and dialogue, yet it contains absolutely no obscenity.

BECKET (1964)
Flawless acting and a sharp-edged script highlight this tale of the tumultuous friendship between the Archbishop of Canterbury (Richard Burton) and Henry II (Peter O'Toole). As the story unfolds, Becket becomes more serious about his faith and more concerned with Henry's defiance of it.

THE BLING RING (2013)
The Bling Ring made my list because while deserving attention for its artistic achievements, it is also a film that makes several powerful statements about today’s youth and how they view their role in society. This film reminds us that the culture that molds and influences our youth is straying further and further from the spiritual element that completes the mental and physical components of our makeup. Writer/director Sophia Coppola’s characters are manipulative and as quick with a lie as a good comedian is with a quip. Their social nature comes across as disturbingly aloof, suggesting a psychopathic tendency and as cold and bleak as a starless night. (Good Teens: don’t take offense to that statement; there are plenty of you out there, but there are far too many of your generation self-absorbed within their own electronic gizmo-dominated universe.) Whether or not the director is attempting to suggest we need to turn to biblical principles when raising children, for me, that’s the lesson learned via her amusing and frightful exposé.(R) - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
This true story of a freighter hijacked by Somali pirates gives Tom Hanks his best role in years. Its central theme, much like Gravity’s, revolves around man’s instinct for survival. And like Gravity, as well as Robert Redford’s All is Lost, Captain Phillips’ reflective moments concerning the preciousness of life give spiritual dimension to its storyline. (PG-13) - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

DEAD MAN WALKING (1995)
Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn. Surprisingly open to all sides of the capital punishment debate, the gut-wrenching plight of victims of crime is never overshadowed by the fate of the perpetrator. Although Ms. Sarandon and director Tim Robbins are known for their extreme political and social ideals, here they seem tempered by an openness to every point of view. We see people dealing with terror, loss, guilt and forgiveness. R - Use TVG. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

DOWN IN THE DELTA (1998)
A Christian mother sends her substance-abusing daughter to relatives down South. There, she learns about responsibility and the importance of family. Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman, Jr., Wesley Snipes, Loretta Devine. PREVIEW REVIEW

A GREATER YES (2009)
Amy Newhouse lives a blessed life. Sixteen-years-old, her popularity is unmatched. She has a loving family and a handsome boyfriend. She is pretty with an infectious personality. Her prayers are always answered and she prays for Pampa High School every night. Amy travels to Africa for missionary work and comes back more determined than ever. No longer will she back down. Everything must come second, including her boyfriend and family, to leading a revival of spirit in the beaten town. In the process, she alienates her loved ones. She no longer devotes time to her friends. She is more likely to confront someone and back him or her into a corner. Her popularity wanes. She is challenged to consider what matters most. Digging in, she decides to carry on with her crusade. But just as she begins to see progress, she receives tragic news. The doctor tells her she has cancer. It has a low budget, a few clunky performances, and not the best of technical aspects (the recording of dialogue for the outdoor sequences seems like it was dubbed in someone’s basement), but soon these inadequacies are dwarfed by the filmmaker’s storytelling abilities and Ms. Underwood’s perceptive performance. Suddenly we are caught up in the drama and begin to care about the three-dimensional characters. How rare to find a drama that avoids cynicism while showing respect for the intelligence of its intended audience – teens. It’s even rarer to find a dramatic production that holds the attention of older viewers as well as that of the intended audience. But what truly holds us to the story is the treatment of its theme – God’s ways are not our own. What seems logical to us is not always the manifesto for God’s will. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says to His Father, “Thy will be done.” That should indicate that a “yes” to our most desired requests may not always be our Creator’s answer. That said, we can always be assured that He has a larger good, a greater yes in store. Not Rated. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

THE GUYS (2003)
In this powerfully moving and unexpectedly humorous film, a New York City journalist (Sigourney Weaver) is called upon to help a fire captain (Anthony LaPaglia) write a series of eulogies for the men he lost in the twin towers on 9/11. You may find flashier performances, but more sensitive or thought-provoking acting jobs will be difficult to find. I have always been impressed with Sigourney Weaver’s acting choices throughout the years. There’s always a little extra dimension given to her roles. But I can’t remember seeing her, or anyone else, present a more real person on screen. I couldn’t spot one false move, look or intonation in her delivery. It really is a quite remarkable performance. Ditto, Mr. LaPaglia. PG - Use TVG. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

I’M IN LOVE WITH A CHURCH GIRL (2013)
A PG-rated drama about an ex-drug trafficker who still hangs with his homeboys and is under the watchful eye of committed DEA agents? Well, it has been made for followers of faith-based entertainment, so there’s no raw language, no graphic sexual situations, no crude jokes, and the violence would be considered tame even for network TV. It’s sad to think that there are those given this info who would pass on the film. They have come to expect more unfriendly content with their movie-going fare, especially in this genre. It’s even sadder because should they not view it, they’ll miss a well-made film, one that honestly deals with matters of faith, second chances and a spiritual conversion. There’s a truth to the production, with things of the spirit being handled unabashedly, yet with a delicate cinematic touch. Aided by sensitive and convincing performances and well-paced direction, the production satisfies both as a movie and as a reminder that it’s never too late to change. PG. PREVIEW REVIEW

I AM DAVID (2004)

This powerful film adaptation of Anne Holm’s internationally acclaimed novel North to Freedom concerns a 12-year-old boy who escapes a communist labor camp possessing little more than a compass, an inherent distrust of people, and a sealed letter. Most powerful scene: young David walking into a church, hearing a choir rehearsing music that exalts God and revealing a tender side of mankind. As he stands there, a policeman also enters the sanctuary. At first, David is fearful, as the constable takes a place next to the youngster. Government officials have always been people David had to fear. Suddenly, a calm comes over him, as the policeman smiles. David is changing. His world is changing. So much is being said, without words. It’s really quite a remarkable tableau. Come to think of it, there’s an even more powerful scene to come. But I’ll leave that for you to discover for yourselves. PG. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)
Tells the true story of a Spanish couple, played by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and their three children as their idyllic vacation is interrupted on the morning of December 26, 2004, when a devastating tsunami destroys the coastal zone, separating the family and triggering a frantic search. Wow, what a movie. Hollywood’s CGI at its best, 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 that year. PG-13 - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

IN AMERICA (2003)
An Irish couple and their two adolescent daughters begin a new life in the U.S. To 11-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) and her younger sister (real-life sibling Emma), America is a place of magic where anything is possible. To their parents, it represents a place to begin anew. Caution: it is rated PG-13 for two obscenities and four minor expletives, but I caught no misuse of God’s name. One violent scene has a junkie pulling a knife on a main character; though disturbing, it does not end tragically. We see the parents in a sexual situation, undressing, her bare back is seen, and the two wind up in bed, making love. This scene is not graphic and it portrays a husband and wife expressing their love. Though casual sex is frequently used in movies in an attempt to be erotic, here it expresses a part of married life, showing that sex between married people is good and part of God’s plan. The subject matter of this film is too adult for little kids as it deals with the death of a child, the possible death of a mother during childbirth and the loss of a dear family friend, but I believe mature teens and older will find the honest portrayal of a family’s ability to endure life’s struggles both touching and insightful. PG-13 - Use TVG. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS (2000)
For nine months prior to the outbreak of WWII, Britain mercifully opened its doors to over 10,000 endangered children whose lives had been thrown into chaos following the rise of Adolph Hitler. The film addresses the extraordinary rescue effort and its dramatic impact on the children who were saved. Erudite, perceptive, horrifying, and ultimately uplifting, this moving documentary features several survivors who detail their experiences and realize that their lives have had meaning. - Use TVG

JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961)
A U.S. judge presides over wartime criminal trials. Outstanding performances from all-star cast, including Spencer Tracy, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Cliff. Oscars went to Schell and screen writer Abby Mann. Well-crafted by director Stanley Kramer.

THE LIFE OF PI (2012)
Profound and spiritual, Life of Pi is also the most visually stunning film of that year. Like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, 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. PG. PREVIEW REVIEW

LINCOLN (2012)
Steven Spielberg directs two-time Academy Award® winner Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, a revealing drama that focuses on the 16th President’s tumultuous final months in office. Erudite, but a bit verbose, the production is more stage like, with most of the action represented via intelligent, witty and often profound dialogue. This Lincoln stresses the Great Emancipator’s savvy political agility, at times causing us to forget that this is a film by Steven Spielberg, not telestorian Ken Burns. The only fly in the ointment for me is the 12 uses of God’s name followed by a curse, two by the lead character. PG-13 - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

THE LOST AND FOUND FAMILY (2009)
Ester Hobbes (Ellen Bry) lives a high society life until her husband dies in an accident and she is left with nothing except a house in rural Georgia that is being used as a foster home. She moves in with the intention of selling the house, but from the unexpected kindness of the foster parents, she ends up helping to take care of the rebellious teenagers (Till and Luza) and three other young children who have issues of their own. Through her faith and prayers, she finds new meaning and a purpose for her life. The first 20 minutes or so were painful – not due to incompetence from the filmmakers, but from having to sit through yet again another dysfunctional group propelled by teen angst and adult financial woes. Don’t we all have enough money worries? Is that what we want to see in a movie? But, I stuck with it and hope you will as well. PG. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (2012)
In an effort to tap into his original talent, a wheelchair-bound author (Morgan Freeman) moves to a rural town, where he befriends a single mother and her three daughters who help reignite his passion for writing. Not quite in the same league as To Kill a Mockingbird, still the picture contains a sort of father/daughter relationship, a nurturing one that leaves us uplifted and with a reminder to cherish those we sometimes take for granted. PREVIEW REVIEW

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966)
Paul Scofield stars in this conflict between Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII over the king's desire to break with the Church of Rome so he can divorce his wife and marry another. “You’re a constant regret to me, Thomas. If you could just see facts flat on without that horrible moral squint.”

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955)
Frank Sinatra plays a convincing junkie and we sense the dark hole a drug addict lives in. It is a horrifying examination of addiction. Possibly Sinatra’s best screen performance.

PLACES IN THE HEART (1984)
A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the '30s Depression. Contains perhaps the greatest ending to a film this buff has ever seen. A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven, when his wife, moved by the pastor's sermon, takes her husband's hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ's love. Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs. I won't give that one away. Trust me, it's powerful! Rated PG (some language, implied adulterous affair – but it furthers the story and it is not explicit). - Use TVG

THE ROOKIE (2002)
Based on the true story of an aging ball player who came to astound scouts with successive 98-mph fast balls, this is the best baseball film I have ever seen. Involving storytelling, tight direction, witty dialogue, an outstanding lead performance, beautiful cinematography, and a toe-tapping score – it’s all there. Top that off with the subtle implication that the main character is a person of faith (in real life, Jim Morris is a dedicated Christian), and Disney scores with a film that not only entertains, but nourishes as well. First-time director John Lee Hancock (producer of MY DOG SKIP) hits a home run by including an element found in the works of past masters like Ford and Capra – the awareness that movies are not just about showing what we are, but also about what we can become. A stirring G-rated film for the whole family. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

STARS IN MY CROWN (1950)
Joel McCrea. Uplifting drama. After the Civil War, a minister attempts to tame a western town. Heartwarming.

THE SCARLETT AND THE BLACK (1983)
Made-for-TV true story of a priest (Gregory Peck) who harbored allied POW escapees and the Nazi official (Christopher Plummer) who tries to catch him. The film is long (155 min.) but the message contained at the end of the picture should not be missed. A true example of Jesus’ compassion will help remind each of us to love our enemies.

SOUNDER (1972)
Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson, Kevin Hooks. Rated G. Stirring story of a black sharecropper's family during the Depression. Nominated for Best Picture that year along with the lead actors. Truly marvelous.

SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
True story of a war profiteer affected by the mistreatment of the Jews during the Holocaust. Not only the best picture of that year, but perhaps of the past decade. Besides the historical value of this piece, it presents a great example of redemption and contains one of the most spiritually uplifting endings I have ever seen at the movies. Caution: it is rated R for language, brutality and sex, including nudity, and adultery. Now before you get mad at me or think I've sold out, I abhor those offenses and believe the same film could have been made, and just as affectively without the explicitness. I am not recommending you view this film because of the R-rated material, but because I believe the film contains scenes that represent God's intervention and His power to heal relationships. - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

TENDER MERCIES (1983)
Robert Duvall as a country singer on the skids who turns his life around, with the help of a religious widow and her son. PG (A few profanities are heard from the male lead in an opening scene, but a Christian woman has an effect on his life and it is revealed that he becomes a Christian. He stops drinking and swearing and becomes a more contemplative and compassionate person). The small role of a country minister is depicted with a genuineness seldom seen in the movies. I make very few exceptions concerning the misuse of God’s name in a film, even one bent on showing the difference in a man’s life, once he decides to follow biblical teachings. Tender Mercies is full of positive examples of the Christian lifestyle. That said, it can be argued that the filmmaker could have fulfilled his goal by other means than having the lead profane the Creator’s name. I suppose I have defended this film because with the use of profanity, it is made clear that the lead is at war with God. After he becomes a Christian, his life is new, his old lifestyle defeated. He’s still having to deal with life’s struggles, but he is at peace with God. - Use TVG.

THIS IS MARTIN BONNER (2013)
An absorbing drama about a newly released prison inmate searching for peace and purpose, and his social worker who after a time of misplaced faith is also finding his way back, it stars Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette. Now, this film is rated R- perhaps not surprisingly given that it deals with some harsh realities. But there’s a slightly edited alternate version available on DVD from Christian Book Distributors – that you can purchase if you want to see this high quality film without a couple of objectionable elements that earned it an R rating. - Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
Horton Foote's winning screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl. A beautifully photographed black-and-white movie with a haunting score by Elmer Bernstein. Gregory Peck was never better.

THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)
Director Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World) offers up his fifth film, a thought provoking hymn to life. It’s an impressionistic story of a Midwestern family coping with a death, embittered relationships, and haunting questions concerning God and the afterlife. In an era of “reality” entertainment that often limelight’s insipid subjects such as the plight of the Kardasians squeezing oversized bottoms into undersized briefs, Terrance Malick has used a free-form art-house film to suggest the omniscient stature of God. PG-13. PREVIEW REVIEW

THE ULTIMATE LIFE (2013)
The Ultimate Life is a solid parable, handled by a filmmaker with a definitive style. Proficient and prolific, director Michael Landon, Jr. has been successful in delivering homespun optimism within his films. And what a pleasure to view a theatrical release that focuses on story and character while avoiding the crude and the profane. (PG). PREVIEW REVIEW

UNANSWERED PRAYERS (2011)
Based on the popular Garth Brooks song, the film explores the themes of marriage, family, community and second chances with love, asking “Did I let the one I loved get away or is she right in front of me?” It is the story of a married father living the American dream. When the woman of his high school fantasies returns home, he has to face his past and will be presented with a choice that could change his future forever. Unrated. MOVIE REPORTER REVIEW

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