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David and Goliath (2015)
This is an absolutely terrible film. As a Christian, I give a lot of allowances to faith-based films, but no amount of allowances can redeem a film that is simply not excellent in any way.
The acting is poor, the script is entirely unprofessional, and the filming technique is poorer than a student film-level effort.
That is not even mentioning the horrendous cultural inaccuracies of white Americans playing Israeli and Philistine characters and the offensive anachronism of Saul's daughter walking around freely in a camp of soldiers. This film was made with no respect or regard for the historical context of the story or the cultural heritage of the characters.
There is no reason to see this or take anyone to see it. Scripture itself is very powerful, and the story of David and Goliath is incredible. Read it for yourself and be blessed. Don't waste money on a film that should never have been made.
Wolf Hall (2015)
A loving and faithful screen rendering of one of the most remarkable novels published in recent memory, Wolf Hall brings to life the gripping story of Thomas Cromwell, whose story unfolds in front of the backdrop of Tudor England with its mercurial personalities and ever-changing political fortunes.
There's nothing artificially showy about this drama. It's pure excellence, a production that unites an unparalleled cast with an exquisitely intelligent script. As a fan of the book, I'm not sure how this will strike those who haven't read Mantel's work, but those who have will be more than satisfied.
Spy is so insanely underrated as a show that it's not even funny (at least in the United States). Thankfully, that's the only thing that isn't funny because the show itself is absolutely hilarious. The first series introduces the hapless but well-meaning Tim, his scheming best friend, his idiosyncratic MI5 coworkers, his ex and her besotted boyfriend, and his precocious son Marcus. The second series deepens and broadens the characters and turns some early misconceptions on their heads.
One of the most entertaining things about Spy is that it manages to be both an excellent spy spoof, in the manner of the also-underrated "Chuck," and an unexpectedly touching domestic sitcom. As with other British shows in a similar vein, it's obvious that Spy's stars are not phoning in their performances at all. In particular, Darren Boyd gives a performance absolutely deserving of his Bafta win, and Jude Wright strikes exactly the right tone as his genius son.
Spy is witty, intelligent, funny, and consistently engaging. No show is perfect, but there's so much to love that it might as well be.
I ordered this on Netflix for the fun of it and definitely had a good time. It's intended for kids/tweens, but still entertaining for Holmes fans in general. Jonathan Pryce is an interesting older Holmes, and I loved Bill Paterson's Watson getting to know a sort of re-imagined Mary Morstan. Anna Chancellor made me wish she was in a different adaptation. I think her Irene deserved a more serious outlet. The story's concentration on the irregulars themselves is fun, since Conan Doyle's details about them were sketchy.
The story has some plot holes, Holmes isn't 100% canon, and it's definitely not a classic adaptation, but I'd recommend it as a fun thing to watch for an evening if you like seeing different versions. If you have kids, it's family-friendly.
Added Note: This movie is rife with Holmes tropes. Beware of stepping on them, as they sort of litter the floor with their inescapable presence.
Some Good Things but Lacking
I was prepared to be totally charmed by this film, but my overall feeling is that it lacked something vital that I can't exactly put my finger on. The acting was marvelous, as is expected from the likes of David Tennant and Jessica Hynes, but I didn't feel like the movie reached the peak of either humor or emotion that it could have reached. That's not to say there were no excellent moments. Some scenes were very humorous, and it definitely proved that bad driving is amusing to watch. Ultimately, I think a main problem with the film was its length. At 90 or so minutes, it did not have adequate time to develop all of the characters and subplots properly. I think if it had been a full two hours it could have been much better. Overall, I found it mostly light and fun with few memorable moments.
Doctor Who: Human Nature (2007)
This episode tells the first half of a story from a book written about the Doctor back in the '90s that was rated by readers as the best DW story ever.
To me, it was very unsettling, less because of the villains than because of what occurs with the Doctor himself.
The acting is excellent as always, the story is well paced, and a real sense of danger is established.
The second half hasn't aired yet, but I'll be excited to see exactly how the Doctor pulls out of this one.
Overall, this episode is brilliant in two ways: it has very brave character development along with chilling villains in true Who style. Nothing to complain about; I just can't wait for the ending.
When I went to Pirates 3, I expected to have fun, but I didn't think this one would be as good as the other two, especially since I thought 2 was inferior to 1. However, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The acting was as excellent as always, but the script was stunning. It definitely exceeded the second film and equaled the first in cleverness and humor. The score, always a strong element of the franchise, was complementary without being distracting.
While long, the movie doesn't lag. The large cast of major characters makes it necessary for the story to have a very wide scope; it does so capably and satisfactorily.
The only possible criticism I can think of is that it's a little bit difficult to tell what is going on at times. The action flits from one perspective to another extremely rapidly. However, it didn't impair my enjoyment at all and will, I am sure, be clearer after seeing the film again.
Traffic Warden (2004)
There is nothing like a good short film.
This one contains almost no dialogue, but is clever, touching, and funny. The acting is very good, especially considering the constraints of time and scope.
David Tennant especially shines as the Traffic Warden who might make you think twice about saying mean things next time you get a parking ticket.
The music, setting, and characters unite to create a piece of art that is harmonious and a treat for the eyes and ears. Extra little touches add a layer of clever creativity that elevates it from good to great.
I highly recommend this short. It is one of the best I have ever seen.
Glory Road (2006)
Worth a Cheer
After seeing the trailer for "Glory Road," I started calling it "Hoosiers 10" as a joke. Now that I have seen it, I take that back.
The story is a thought-provoking one. I come from a generation that cannot fathom a time when basketball was an all white sport. This film accurately recreates that atmosphere, without doing so in a gratuitous or inappropriate manner.
The coach's determination to play his players no matter their color seems like a normal thing today, but the movie shows how unusual and groundbreaking it was for the game of basketball. The movie doesn't try to make this a huge national metaphor, but wisely keeps the diversity issue within the confines of the story's events. In so doing, it makes the issue seem even more important somehow, as if one game of basketball became part of the deluge that would soon begin to sweep away the racist status quo.
The acting is commendable as well. Josh Lucas excels in the sparse dialog, creating a physical presence that makes his character seem like living granite at times. Emily Deschanel has few scenes and lines, but she still creates a beautiful character for the coach's wife. The players were very funny. It was easy to distinguish between them because they were each unique.
"Glory Road" contains few sentimental scenes and very little romance. The coach is allowed to be a man, and the script does not force him to become a guru or a mother to his players. The bonds between players and coach are intense but not overly dramatic. It is refreshing to see men allowed to act like men, not weepy copies of themselves.
The beauty of this film does not lie in guessing the ending, for we all know where it leads. The beauty lies in celebrating the heart and the work that got an ordinary group of men through an extraordinary story. "Glory Road" makes us want to cheer, without manipulating us to do so. It reminds us that sometimes a big change starts with a single courageous choice-like starting five black players in an NCAA championship.
This film is so many things that it is difficult to put them all into words. The story of a little girl who goes to a magic land has delighted readers for fifty years now, but never before have filmmakers had the technology to convincingly create the things C.S. Lewis imagined with such clarity. The special effects and creatures are marvelous.
The acting is also laudable. The children deliver obviously heartfelt performances, particularly commendable because the story requires them to display so many different emotions.
The score contributes to the beauty of the film, adding a subtle layer of mood that never overpowers the action.
The story is well told, fast-paced and moving. As huge fan of the book, I am not disappointed.
Finally, I believe there is something transcendent about this movie. It moves beyond the realm of most children's films, even good ones, and explores themes of loss, courage, death, fear, weakness, and ultimate sacrifice.
I leave every viewer to find out for himself or herself what it all means.
What I believe you'll be sure of is that it definitely means something, and it just might take your breath away.