Luther

Luther begins with a tortured young man pleading with God for forgiveness. He enters a monastery, probably for the wrong reasons. But he studies and learns and knows heresy when he sees it.

I liked this telling of Luther’s life, especially because in its two-hour life span it brought in Luther’s personality and character, the Catholic Church at that time – almost 500 years ago, and how the “princes” played into Luther’s calling the truth as he saw it.

This could be a valuable film for anyone seeking to know more about the Protestant Reformation. It would be interesting to watch this side by side with A Man For All Seasons. Seems to me, a film like this can lead to greater understanding and dialgoue between Protestant and Catholic Christians.

Freaky Friday

This film about a mother and daughter who exchange bodies/identites for twenty-four hours was a lot of fun. It’s always a good thing to walk in another person’s shoes and see life from adifferent perspective, especially a loved one. Rather than a preachy family movie, it reinforced the idea and value of family. What a difference a day makes.

S.W.A.T.

And the plot was about… studly LAPD characters doing the action thing. Even with a Latina as a token female lead, there was not enough there to impress me. I imagine there will be a sequel.

Why?

Bonhoeffer

This feature-length documentary is opening this weekend in Los Angeles, and I must say, I liked it very much. Bonhoeffer’s story is fascinating on its own merits. This documentary adds photos, context, theology, history – and ecclesiolgy to his life (1906-1945) that ended when he was executed by the Nazi’s for participating in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

His decision to take an active role (however quiet) in the conspiracy was rooted in his contemplation of the Sermon on the Mount.

I hope that Bonhoeffer’s contribution to theology and life, how he integrates it, can someday be studied side by side with Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II – the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

There is more that unites than divides Christians.

The movie introduced me into a whole new way of being a follower of Christ in fidelity and relevance. I hope you get to see it.

Open Range

I wish someone could explain to me why this film did so well. I saw it on an August afternoon soon after it opened in suburban Sacramento and I was the youngest person in the theater (+50). Three people rode in sitting in wheel chairs and a couple walked with canes. There were only white people in a theater almost 3/4 full. They clapped at the end.

Aside from the forced, deliberate cinematography and Annette Bening really playing her age, I was not impressed. Two old-ish guys fight off a whole town? The violence as intense as the rest of mainstream action flicks? No realistic social situation to call for such a disproportionate unbelievable response… I didn’t “like” the Duvall and Costner characters…

If this was an attempt at some kind of movie nostalgia, it didn’t work for me. No subtlety. Bland and boring.

What?

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Robert Rodriguez’ sequel to El Mariachi and Desperado is more of a witness to something than a story anyone can repeat. Johnny Depp is back in another 2003 film, loopy and dangerous, as a CIA operative trying to manipulate Mexican politics. “El” (Antonio Banderas) is out to avenge the murders of his wife and daughter who represent his country, Mexico. It’s hard to believe that the creator of the family-friendly Spy Kids franchise could produce a trilogy so violent it repels as it fascinates. But Rodriguez has a theme: family and culture.

Unlike Quentin Tarantino whose ideology seems to be to give back the entertainment he consumed as a kid (taken up a few notches), Rodriguez is always about – family and culture.

The All Souls Day motif in Once Upon a Time in Mexico provides the metaphor: masks. They hide all manner of reality and sins. But to cover up truth also can mean not to see the truth. When Johnny Depp loses his eye, the irony is not lost on us. The film is about pain coming deep from the heart – personal and national.

Judging Amy

Fine drama, fine acting, fine story-lines… I am always surprised that the hour has gone by so quickly.

Amy is now a criminal court judge in Hartford, CT. I did like her when she was on the bench in juvenile court, so we’ll have to see how adult crime fares in her courtroom. Juvenile court was just as often about the crimes perpetrated against children as it was them doing wrong. Tyne Daly is a marvel. This is serious television done fine, just the right amount of serious issues, family-relationship soap, quips and pathos. Always lands in my moral comfort zone, even when I disapprove of some of the choices the characters make – but that’s drama. Bruce is like this one-man Greek chorus, and I can never forget the one episode where he brought in Bonhoeffer’s doctrine of “cheap grace.”

Judging Amy won a Catholics in Media Award in 2002 and Tyne Daly an Emmy. Barbara Hall and her sister Karen Hall as well as CBS are to be congratulated for knowing what makes good television.