King's Speech, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for language. (edited version); Originally Rated R for some language.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: B+,A/D,A,A+=A
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Budget: $15 million
Box Office: $401 million (138 U.S., 263 Intl.)

Written by: David Seidler (The King and I, Quest for Camelot, Tucker, and a lot of TV)
Directed by: Tom Hooper (John Adams TV miniseries)
Starring: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush
With: Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, and Timothy Spall

Second in line to succeed his tyrannical father, Prince Albert suffers from a debilitating stutter until he encounters a rare and effective speech therapist who helps him in every area of his deliberately isolated life.

Entertainment Value: B+
When a film is nominated for 12 Academy Awards and wins 4, only giving it a B+ for entertainment value needs an explanation. In this case, though I loved the movie, I have to admit I was a bit bored by it at times. Just bored enough that I couldn’t give it an A. Also, since music blaring in his ears made him speak so flawlessly, I was annoyed the movie never made anything more of the possible value of this particular therapy. Nevertheless, these are only the most minor of failings, and the movie certainly deserved at least the Best Picture nomination (I haven’t yet seen enough of the other contenders to affirm the victory) and Colin Firth’s performance as the chronically stuttering Prince Albert is stunningly good.

Superficial Content: A/D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence A, Language D
I must be honest. I find this particular category frustrating. First, the movie is almost squeaky clean for 117 minutes. There is smoking and implied sexuality way, way, way off screen. There is no violence at all. So why is it R (or PG-13 on some versions)? Because part of the story involves the Prince swearing since it’s one of the few times he doesn’t stutter. This swearing is heavy and obvious but supremely brief the few times it shows up. If you can’t endure kids hearing pretty much all swears, then they shouldn’t watch this. But that’s all there is. Also, since I suspect (and hope) this was essential to the real story , it’s probably not right to ask them to remove it from this movie version, I think.

Significant Content: A
This is a completely different sort of heroic teacher movie because it’s not set in a school. But in a very obvious way, it shows how a teacher who knows what he’s doing can have impact on not just a person, but even the course of history perhaps. The pressure to be normal and to appear normal can drive people (and parents) to do horribly cruel things to themselves (or their children). People in power far more deeply than others realize need people who will not defer to them and will dignify them by treating them as peers instead. And a loving wife certainly does not hurt your chances of becoming the man you should be.

Artistic/Thought Value: A+
This is an artistic masterpiece, in large part because it chooses ever-so-carefully to reveal its themes and implications to us for us to grasp rather than feeding them to us in any obvious way. The main lessons and insights this movie contains are screaming through the narrative without ever being even whispered out loud. That’s great art alone. Rush and Firth are fantastic, and Michael Gambon’s King George V is a terrifying portrait of disturbed parenting, and it compares poignantly with the egalitarianism of Rush’s own.

Discussion Questions:
~What motivated Albert’s father to do all the things he did to him? What effect did this have on Albert? What is Albert most terrified of? What is neglect? When is “try harder” actually counterproductive advice?
~This movie is sometimes slow and even silent. Why is this so important to what it is trying to accomplish?
~How does this movie influence your view of royalty or the English royals?
~What is the source of Albert’s stutter? Why is revealing some of his history so vital to improving his speech? What distinction is being drawn here between superficial tactics to fix a problem and substantial psychological or character healing to fix the source of that problem?
~How do you react to people who stammer badly? Does it irritate you, arouse pity in you, or something else? What do you think it would be like to feel thwarted by your own body in trying to communicate with others? What other diseases have a similar sort of frustrating effect on people?
~Why is Albert’s ability to utter only profanity clearly so symbolic?
~Does Logue pity Albert? Do you? What’s the difference between pity and love?
~Why is it so important to be loved for who you are including your flaws?
~Why is equality and refusing to defer to his royalty such an important element of the therapy? Which is more dignifying: being treated as a superior or being treated as an equal?
~Compare the parenting of George V and Logue. What aspects of either influence how you think about your own parenting?
~Why does Albert choose to become King George VI? What does this say about him in regard to his father?
~Are you the sort of person who evaluates other people by the way they speak, whether pronunciation, grammar, or anything else? Does this movie affect the way you think of this habit of judgment?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The opening speech.
~Albert describing his father’s treatment of his various disorders.
~Albert watching film of Hitler speaking so forcefully. This scene alone is easily my favorite of the film for the contrast and implications it draws without ever stating.
~Logue defending himself. Why is there such an issue over credentials in spite of such obvious success? What deeper issues about royalty and commoners is this aspect of the story driving at?
~The final speech. What consequences hung on the success of this particular speech? What sort of impact did Logue wind up having on history?

Overall Grade: A
This is about as good as films can be. It’s a fantastic character study and biography, with rich psychological undertones. Despite some historical adjustments, it’s very, very good.

Chronicles of Narnia 3: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Rated: PG for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action.
Length: 113 minutes
Grade: B,B+,B,B=B
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Budget: $155 million
Box Office: $422 million (104 U.S., 310 Intl., 18 DVD)

Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Narnia 1-2, You Kill Me, and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) and Michael Petroni (Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and Queen of the Damned), based on the novel by C.S. Lewis
Directed by: Michael Apted (Amazing Grace, Enough, Enigma, The World is Not Enough, Extreme Measures, Nell, Blink, Thunderheart, Class Action, Gorillas in the Mist, Gorky Park, Continental Divide, and Coal Miner’s Daughter)
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, and Will Poulter
With the voices of: Liam Neeson and Simon Pegg

Separated from Peter and Susan during the War, Edmund and Lucy share quarters with their insufferable cousin, Eustace. When they find themselves yet again suddenly drawn into Narnia, they join Prince Caspian in searching for the magical lost swords that will defeat the mysterious green mist and put everything right again in the magical land.

Entertainment Value: B
Like all the other Narnia films, this is fine and good enough. It’s solid, clean family entertainment that kids of all ages will enjoy. The plot feels a bit mashed together (probably to fit into a single movie), and book loyalists have complained that the ending is butchered. The sequence of events or quest-style narrative is fine and moves along not to badly with the aid of Reepicheep’s fun and Eustace’s conversion.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B+, Language A
The only real issue here is going to be violence, which is mostly the low end of fantasy action. This is PG-any-age, and I would probably have rated it G if it were up to me.

Significant Content: B
The two big themes introduced here are quite good, but they feel like add-ons to the plot rather than essentials due to scant treatment. The first is that evil tempts us by preying on our secret desire to be other than we are. Lucy secretly envies her older and more comely sister, Susan, while Edmund seeks the respect and admiration which naturally comes to his older brother, Peter. The other is that irritating and brash people are sometimes just cowards underneath who have been neglected by others. Thus all they really need is the chance to behave courageously and for someone with courage to help them and believe in them. This is they dynamic seen between Eustace and Reepicheep.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
The FX are quite captivating, especially the map sequence. If watched a handful of times, there’s certainly enough here to have some good conversations with the kids.

Discussion Questions:
~Why does the beauty spell appeal to Lucy? Why does the pond of gold and the sword appeal to Edmund? What secret insecurity of yours might Satan use to tempt you? How does Jesus propose to meet that need Himself?
~What ultimately unites Eustace with Edmund and Lucy? How does a common quest or project tend to draw people together? Is this why God allows problems in this world?
~Do you think that Eustace needed to experience being a powerful dragon before he could ever believe he might be brave as a mere human? How did Reepicheep’s befriending him help transform him? Why are Christians called to so actively seek out and cherish the people who others don’t want to be around?
~In this movie, evil has the power to tempt people with what they seem to really want. Why is it so important to know the difference between our sincere but evil wishes and our real, God-given desires? How can you know which of your desires come from God and which come from somewhere else? What does Aslan mean when he says that Lucy betrayed herself by trying to wish herself away?
~When Caspian is presented with the opportunity to leave Narnia and reunite with his beloved father, why does he refrain? Why would the Christian want to leave Earth? Why must the Christian seek to stay and do the work of Christ here? If Jesus came from heaven to save this world, why would it be a rejection of the Gospel to try to leave this world and go to heaven prematurely?
~What does Aslan do in returning Eustace to his human form? What Christian themes are being explained here?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The beauty spell.
~The pond of gold.
~Dragon undone.
~Reepicheep’s request.

Overall Grade: B
A decent effort and a fairly good movie, but it feels a bit hackneyed and Lewis purists haven’t been loving the tinkering these movies do with what they came to love in print.

Rio (2011)

Rated: PG for mild off color humor.
Length: 96 minutes
Grade: C,B+,D,D=C
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Budget: $90 million
Box Office: $296 million so far (84 U.S., 212 Intl.)

Written and Directed by: Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age 1-3 and Robots)
Also Written by: Earl Richey Jones & Todd Jones (Johnson Family Vacation, and In Living Colour), Don Rhymer (Big Momma’s House 1-3, Surf’s Up, Honeymooners, Santa Clause 2, and Cody Banks 2), Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey entimilia (Yogi Bear, Tooth Fairy, and 70’s Show), and Sam Harper (Cheaper by the Dozen 1-2, Just Married, and Rookie of the Year)

Starring the voices of: Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg
With the voices of: Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Wanda Sykes, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, and Will I Am

Blu is a flightless blue macaw who is living a domesticated life in Minnesota when a Brazilian ornithologist comes to his owner and proposes bringing them to Rio so he can mate with the last known female blue macaw. The development of their unlikely romance leads through the party of Carnivale and involves smugglers, monkeys, and a disillusioned bully cockatoo.

Entertainment Value: C
It’s pretty and relatively entertaining to watch. Our boys enjoyed it, but not enough to rave about. I didn’t quite know what to say about this movie until I read the writing credits, and then it became obvious. This is a problem of too many cooks with all the strangest backgrounds. All I can say is that somehow or other, when you add up all their writing credits listed above, it seems to fit perfectly with what this movie wound up being.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence A-, Language A-
This is just barely PG, and is probably safe for almost any kid. The issues are odd, skimpy, and sometimes cross-gender attire for carnivale, threats of danger and some fighting, and extremely mild insults. Our four boys (7, 4, 2) watched it and I never felt the need to cover their eyes or ears.

Significant Content: D
Differences attract. The key to love is sacrifice for someone else. Freedom is important, but giving up freedom for love is even better. Species should be preserved. Carnivale is cool.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
I think this movie wants to be more substantial than it is, and the one neatest little thing in it is the repeated (I counted at least 6 times) showing of the massive statue of Christ in Rio. But mostly it’s just a zany adventure that doesn’t ask or answer many serious questions.

Discussion Questions:
~Why does Fernando help the smugglers? How is poverty related to crime?
~What explanation is given for the meanness of Nigel? When someone bases their identity on fame, popularity, and other vanities, what happens when they are shoved aside for someone else? Have you ever wanted to make someone else suffer because you had been hurt or criticized?
~Why is it considered important to protect rare species of animals? Should Christians be protecting species as a way of honoring God’s making of them? How valuable are rare species compared to other concerns like human welfare?
~Why do you think the film’s makers so repeatedly showed the Christ statue? Was this just showing the location or was it intended to emphasize Christianity somehow?
~What do you think of Carnivale? Does it seem to fit with the idea of a city in the shadow of Christ?
~What attracts Blu to Jewel initially and then eventually? What alienates Jewel from Blu? What changes her mind?
~What image of marriage and family is conveyed by Rafael the Toucan?

Overall Grade: C
This is a film, like many in recent years, that really shows how Hollywood is intent on making most of its profit in foreign markets (Brazil, anyone?) with little regard for how a movie fares in the States. If I said it was fluffy like a pet bird, would you hold it against me? Well, it’s fluffy, like Froot Loops. Lots of color and fun to eat one time maybe, but not much food there, really. If anything, this comparison is an injustice to Froot Loops. Sorry, Sam.

Next Three Days, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements.
122 minutes


Rotten Tomatoes:

$30 million

Box Office:
$65 million (21 U.S., 39 Intl., 5 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Paul Hagis (Wrote/Directed In the Valley of Elah and Crash, wrote Quantum of Solace, letters from Iwo Jima, Casino Royale, Flags of our Fathers, and Million Dollar Baby), based on the French screenplay “Pour elle” by Fred Cavaye and Guillaume Lemans
Starring: Russel Crowe
With: Elizabeth Banks and Liam Neeson

A devoted husband is convinced his wife is innocent of the murder of her boss and when her final appeal fails, he concocts a plan to break her out of prison so they and their young son Luke can flee to a foreign country and live out their lives.

Entertainment Value: B
As you would expect from the guy who wrote Crash and the new Bond films, this is both intricate and action-packed. As a suspence/action/thriller, it’s quite good, and the final implementation of the plan doesn’t disappoint. But I really hated what it made me think about in terms of unjust incarceration and the idea of losing access to my wife (or my own family if it happened to me). Also, as my wife noted, the entire premise of “let’s risk everything to be together in spite of the even greater risk that our child will be raised by foster parents because we get killed or both wind up in jail” is hard to take seriously.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence C, Language C
Several drug dealers are in the film, but no drugs are used. No real sexuality to mention. Language and violence are the big issues, including people being beaten up and some being shot and killed. Language is isn’t that heavy, but does certainly qualify for the PG-13 rating.

Significant Content: D
The basic idea of this film is that true devotion means doing whatever it takes to rescue the damsel in the distress of jail. Also, from the literature professor who teaches Don Quixote (a hopeless but inspirational idealism), we learn that the notion of being rational is a prison and that any life not of our own making is by definition not free. It’s also got a hefty anti-capital punishment message since she’s innocent but convicted. But where this films goes so tragically wrong, as I mentioned before is the vigilante nature of the solution and the immense (and likely) risk that the child will wind up losing both parents rather than just one.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Some of the questions raised about loyalty and rationality are interesting, in addition to the issue of what to do about a societal injustice and the finality of the death penalty. But mostly, this is a thriller, not a thinker. However, I did like several of the plausibility failures built into the plot to show that this isn’t just a superhero type vigilante movie, but a real person taking these risks.

Discussion Questions:
~Liam Neeson asks Crowe to carefully consider whether he’s really willing to do whatever it will take to succeed in this endeavor. Why is it important to count the cost before we undertake a project like this?
~Do you think Crowe makes the right choice regarding his wife and his son? What would you want your spouse to do?
~What things does this movie do to make you want him to succeed? Does it do anything to make you not want to? Is it virtuous to hope he succeeds? What do you think is the Biblical advice to someone in his situation?
~What insight, if any, does this movie give you about the validity of the death penalty?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The lawyer being grilled about his faith in the wife’s innocence.
~Getting beat up by the scam artists.
~The decision moment to leave without the kid or not.

Overall Grade: C
A decent suspense thriller based on a pretty flimsy premise. If you love this concept of devotion to the woman, a far better version is the wonderful “Priceless” or the somewhat older “Timecop.”

Runaways, The (2010)

Rated: R for language, drug use and sexual content - all involving teens.
Length: 106 minutes
Grade: D,F,F,D=D
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Budget: $10 million
Box Office: $9 million (4 U.S., 1 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Floria Sigismondi (Only film), based on the book by Cherie Currie
Starring: Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning
With: Michael Shannon

This is the story of the pioneering all-girl teenage rock band, The Runaways, which included Joan Jett and Lita Ford.

When I wasn’t irritated or nauseated by this movie, I was bored with it. It’s a terribly vulgar (though I suspect roughly accurate) portrayal of the filthy underside of rock and roll then and (probably) now. It shows the exploitation of it, the sex and drug culture, and the rebellion at the heart of rock’s history. All this, in a way, makes me almost want to give it a better grade, perhaps even a high one, for just the sake of being honest. The rock industry chews people up and spits them out, especially those with fragile backgrounds, and with their own (dubiously capable) consent. Fun and interesting this isn’t. Disturbing and dark without any hint of an apology this is. I specifically wrote this review so you wouldn't make the mistake of thinking this is just another lighthearted teen band movie.

Overall Grade: D
If someone hated rock and roll for all the right reasons, they couldn’t have made a better, more scathing critique of it than this movie.

Tron Legacy (2010)

Rated: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.
Length: 125 minutes
Grade: B+BCD=B
Budget: $170 million
Box Office: $398 million (172 U.S., 226 Intl.)

Written by: Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz (TV series Lost) , Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal (First script), based on characters created by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski (First film, but known for CGI effects work)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garret Hedlund, and Olivia Wilde
With: Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Anis Cheurfa, and Michael Sheen

In this (finally!) sequel to the original 1982 cult movie Tron, Flynn has disappeared and in trying to find him, his now adult son Sam but winds up being taken into the completely unknown virtual world his father created years ago, fighting for his life against a program created in his father’s image.

Entertainment Value: A-
Alright. I obviously have no idea how enjoyable this film might be for people who didn’t grow up LOVING the original Tron. But for me, this was thoroughly satisfying. The plot is weak. The writing is weak. But the effects, the homages, and the overall fun of it all made the whole thing highly enjoyable. For those of us who have been waiting almost three decades for an even cooler version of an originally super-cool and campy film, this was it. Aside from the impressive effects, the use of music is (no pun intended) pitch perfect.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence B, Language B+
There is one very minor suggestive scene and a handful of extremely mild profanities (as in the original). The main concern will be violence, which involves dangerous driving, fighting, and programs which seem like people being killed.

Significant Content: C
Corporations are evil. Artist/hippie/visionaries are good. The goods humanity creates (like the Internet) should be as free as possible.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Some movies are meant to be fun. This is fun. There is very little thought value necessary or invited here. Sadly, I think this movie could have been much more interesting a la The Matrix if it had tried to be, but that’s okay. Also, there’s lots of goofy conceptual flaws such as how Flynn could have created this sophisticated of a computing landscape back in 1989 and why Clu couldn’t have flown to find Flynn with his light-planes. Nevertheless, the point is fun, and it was fun.

Discussion Questions:
~What parallels do you see between the Tron world of this movie (Flynn as creator, Clu as his vice-regent of sorts, rebellion, etc.) and the story of humanity as contained in the Bible? Is Flynn like God? What is the connection with Sam as his son and the end scene?
~Do you think that programs or computer constructs (like game characters) have existential value or deserve moral consideration? Apart from what it does to our character in this “real” world, is there any case to be made that “killing” a virtual person is wrong because that’s a person in some morally meaningful sense?
~What do you make of the discussion of ISOs? If you can make any sense of it, what sort of ideas about life and creation are being offered here? Is this movie implying that humans, like ISOs were a blessed error of some sort?
~How many homages or references to the original Tron can you spot?
~One of the driving ideas of the hippie ideal is that everything ought to be free of control or ownership. Do you think this is a practically viable idea? Does Christianity seem to be in favor of this sort of free gift society or more in favor of one with controls and limits?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Light cycles, updated.
~Light planes.
~Sam “stealing” the new operating system and putting it on the web.

Overall Grade: B
This is really just the original movie with some very minor plot adjustments retold with modern effects and music. I do not object. It was very, very, very fun. My only real regret here is that there was no counterpart to the highly entertaining “byte” character in the original.

Love and Other Drugs (2010)

Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material.
112 minutes


$30 million

Box Office:
$107 million (32 U.S., 64 Intl., 11 DVD)

Written by:
Charles Randolph (Interpreter, Life of David Gale), Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz (TV and Last Samurai), based on the book “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy.

Directed by:
Edward Zwick (Defiance, Blood Diamond, Last Samurai, Siege, Courage Under Fire, Legends of the Fall, Glory, and About Last Night)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway

Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, and Josh Gad.

A self-serving philanderer become pharmaceutical sales rep discovers more than he bargains for when he falls in love with an equally commitmentphobic young woman who suffers from early Parkinson’s.

Entertainment Value: B
I really disliked this movie from the very beginning. It felt overwritten, there was wayyyyy too much skin for anyone but a pornographer’s sensibilities, and it just seemed contrived. Nevertheless, it sort of grew on me over time, and when I saw where the plot was going, I was tremendously intrigued.

Superficial Content: H
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity H, Violence C, Language H
People use drugs, including marijuana and various pharmaceuticals. There is a fistfight and a variety of moderate violence elements. None of that will compare, however with the overwhelming smut and language issues. This is NC-17 for sure. Not for kids of any age, and probably not really for adults who have any issues with lust either.

Significant Content: A+
The tragedy, if that’s the right word, is that such a horribly unwatchable movie would have such fantastic messages to share. The lunacy of pharmaceutical sales is exposed (freebies to doctors, absurd competition among reps, etc.) But the real story here is selfishness and using one another for sex which then becomes real love based on mutual acceptance of flaws and a willingness to sacrifice for each other. In a very real sense, this movie is selling Christian marital devotion as the thing people are looking for in all their empty or less-committed relationships.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Part of the beauty of this movie (despite its superficial ugliness) is the way it reveals it’s purpose. First, we of course see the transformation that takes place as the selfish lust of Jamie is gradually transformed into a selfish love and eventually a real love for Maggie, which is just as discomforting to her as it is for him. But the subtle genius is that the real messages of this movie are carried in the gem lines delivered by Josh Gad (Jamie’s brother, Josh). His voice here is way too insightful to be anything other than the moral narrator, leading and adding insight to the plot proceedings. Yes, stylistically this feels a bit like Up in the Air, but that’s pretty good company to be in.

Discussion Questions:
~Could this movie have been made with so little content that it would have been PG? PG-13? Would it have missed its mark by doing so? How much of the vulgarity in this movie is useful and how much of it is simply there to be there?
~How realistic a portrait of drug sales reps and doctors behavior do you think this movie portrays? In what ways does the career behavior of Jamie fit with his relationship behavior? When one changes, why do you think the other might change, too?
~One of the big plot elements is Maggie’s Parkinson’s. When Jamie finally falls for her, why does he become so obsessive about finding a cure for her? What does this ultimately say about his love for her? Can someone be selfish in trying to do good for others? Why does she find his behavior in this regard to be a problem/flaw?
~What is it about Maggie that appeals to Jamie? Her physical appeal? Sex? Her rejection of him? Her ability to not be manipulated by any of his normal devices? His ability to fix her?
~Our culture (and the characters in this movie) seem to think that sex without intimacy or commitment is not only an acceptable thing, it’s actually a good thing because it rescues you from the dangers of being vulnerable and rejected for your flaws. Why is such mutually agreed upon exploitation so wrong? Why is it so contrary to real love? What do you think real love means? How does the love of Jesus compare with these notions? What do we all really want?
~Is it fair to say that real love is what happens with you want to be with and serve a person more than you want sex and whatever else they can give to you? How is the awareness of flaws and the acceptance of the person despite them crucial to real love?
~What are some of the defense mechanisms Maggie has constructed to protect her from being betrayed or rejected?
~Why does Jake have such low self-esteem, even though he seems to be the life of the party?
~Between Jake and Maggie, who hates themselves more?
~Would it be fair to describe their relationship as the anti-marriage? If marriage is the supremely Christian institute and symbol, would it be fair to say that a culture endorsing such relationships is thoroughly anti-Christian?
~Josh says that the most obvious thing about Jamie’s treatment of women is that he must hate them or he wouldn’t have sex with so many of them. What do you think of this?
~Josh also says that it’s one of the greatest insights of his life to discover how totally meaningless and empty sex with a stranger is compared to a marriage. What do you think about this comment?
~If you’ve seen it, compare this movie with Up in the Air?
~What is the point of comparing love to a drug? Is love the drug or is sex the drug?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Chasing down the bus.
~The break-up scene.
~Driving to the hospital from the party.
~I think I love you.
~The panic attack.
~The long-time married man at the Parkinson’s conference. Do you think he really believes the advice he gives? What does his advice say about the wisdom of marriage? What sorts of things does marriage draw out of us for our good even if we don’t want it to? Is he preaching by contrast, given the ultimate way the movie develops?

Overall Grade: B+
A totally smutty comedy romance smuggling an anti-pharmaceutical company message with some fantastic insights about real love and relationships.

Hereafter (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.
129 minutes
$50 million
Box Office:
$108 million (33 U.S., 71 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen, and The Last King of Scotland)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (Invictus, Gran Torino, Changeling, Flags of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby, Blood Work, Space Cowboys, True Crime, Absolute Power, Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven, Rookie, Heartbreak Ridge, Pale Rider, Firefox, Sudden Impact, The Gauntlet, Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Eiger Sanction)
Starring: Matt Damon
With: Cecile de France, Jay Mohr, and Frankie and George McLaren

Three stories of loss and pain coincide in this metaphysical drama based on a man who can actually communicate messages from dead people to their loved ones after touching them.

Entertainment Value: D+
Despite having Matt Damon (whose acting I generally like), this was tedious. And when it wasn’t, it was unpleasant. For instance, one of the major plot threads involves a young boy being killed when a car hits him. This scene was long enough for the anticipation to become really uncomfortable for anyone with kids, like me. I don’t need to see that. Perhaps I was overly optimistic about a Clint Eastwood movie, but Clint is really hit and miss lately. Gran Torino was fantastic, but Invictus was just okay. One thing I noticed was that the music was far too noticeable, jarring almost in a way that became a running observation joke with my wife.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C+, Language C
A mother is shown drunk and her heroin and pill use is implied. There’s one absolutely inexplicable scene of a woman in her underwear and an implied sexual assault against a young girl years ago. Violence includes the aforementioned death of a boy, the impact from a tsunami and the deaths resulting from it, and some scenes of hospice care. Language alone puts it at PG-13 for (again) inexplicable use of F and S profanity just occasionally.

Significant Content: C
Clint Eastwood is so ripe for evangelism it makes me want to scream. He clearly has loads of pre-Christian ideas and I think the problem is that his misunderstanding of the Gospel keeps him from considering Jesus seriously. The basic idea here is that people want the closure of one last connection with their dead loved ones, for which they will do almost anything. The afterlife is real (that’s good to see represented), but it’s a kind of semi-happy universalism where everyone is gathered on the shore waiting for us. God is not present at all, and is even briefly mocked as another con along with fake psychics. Some abilities seem like blessings but can feel like curses. Everything happens for a reason. We resist being defined by our gifts, perhaps wrongly.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
It may just be my Christian biases here, but there was very little in this movie that made me really want to discuss it with anything. If it’s not unfair to say so, I thought Eastwood was beating me over the head with his peculiar vision of eternity, spirituality, and life. Everyone is a fraud except this one guy (and the movie we’ve made to show him to you)?

Discussion Questions:
~Do you think the ability to communicate like George can would be a blessing or a curse? Would you be inclined to sell your services? Given the eagerness of all the fakes to do so and George’s reluctance, does “monetizing” spiritual services seem like a good indicator of falsehood? Why does George’s brother have such a hard time understanding his reluctance to profit on it? What does the Bible say about selling God or His blessings?
~George resists the tendency to be defined by his gift. Do you think he’s right for this? How do our gifts relate to our identities?
~Why does George not want to bless others through his ability? Are his reasons decent? If someone had this ability, would it be wrong to keep it from helping people ? If his ability made it impossible to have a romantic relationship, would you say his life was ruined or fulfilled by giving himself to others?
~One of the great appealing aspects of George is his reluctance. What can we learn about this with regards to our own evangelistic approaches?
~The former atheist researcher implies that challenging the secular humanism of our modern world will be costly. Do you think this is true?
~What does the Bible say about communicating with the dead? Why do you think God made it to work that way?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
The tsunami.
The boy being killed.
The date at George’s house. Why does he resist doing a reading for her? Are his concerns legitimate? Do you think knowing people too well too quickly is a barrier to intimacy or relationship? Is it the quickness or the asymmetry of it (she doesn’t also know him so well) that ruins things here?

Overall Grade: C-
A heavy-handed and mostly uninspired presentation of universalism and the ability to connect with dead people.