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Superhero movie mania! Marvel, DC announce multi-movie plans

29 Oct

black-panther-concept-artWhen the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was announced, I too made an announcement: I would refuse to watch in the theaters. It just seemed like a dumb movie. The trailer didn’t impress me. Nor was I familiar with the characters, and apparently many other people weren’t familiar with them either.

Familiarity didn’t matter. The movie finished as the highest grossing film of 2014, and the only film of the year to finish with over $300 million in domestic gross. It also was the third-highest grossing Marvel Studios film, behind The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

At this point, Marvel Studios could make a movie about Howard the Duck and make millions. Heck, they could make a movie about you and people would flock to the theaters. They have the Midas touch and they know it.

Two days ago, Marvel Studios stole the Apple script by renting out the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood to make public product announcements. They announced that, as part of its “Phase 3” schedule, they have eight films in the pipeline with firm release dates. For those unfamiliar (like I was prior to their announcement), here are the Phase 1 and Phase 2 list of films:

Phase 1 (six films):

  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Avengers

Phase 2 (also six films):

  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015)
  • Ant-Man (Jul 17, 2015)

Phase 3 is eight films (Marvel counts the two parts of Avengers 3 as one film):

  • Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)
  • Doctor Strange (Nov 4, 2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (Jul 28, 2017)
  • Black Panther (Nov 3 2017)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 (May 4, 2018)
  • Captain Marvel (the female version) (Jul 6, 2018)
  • Inhumans (Nov 2, 2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 (May 3, 2019)

age of ultronMarvel has a clear road map of how all the characters will interconnect in their movies. For example, people at the Marvel Studios event saw a clip from Avengers: Age of Ultron that showed serious tension between Cap and Tony Stark, which—along with the nation in ruins after the super-fighting of Avengers 1 & 2—feeds easily into the Civil War storyline in Captain America 3. Though the title of the film is Captain America: Civil War, there will be a lot of Iron Man in the film too, as Robert Downey Jr. confirmed his casting. [Incidentally, for The Winter Soldier, CinemaSins listed the multiple references to Iron Man during the movie but lack of any actual Iron Man appearances—despite the destruction of a big swath of Washington D.C.—as sinful.]

Also, Black Panther will make an appearance the Civil War movie before his solo movie and is rumored to play the “which side will I choose” role that Spider-Man played in the comics version of the storyline (since Marvel Studios doesn’t own the rights to Spider-Man). Also rumored is that the Avengers will team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to fight Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.

Meanwhile, Sony announced one confirmed Marvel movie of its own: Sinister Six, set to release Nov 11, 2016 (featuring Dr. Octopus, Vulture, Green Goblin, Rhino, Kraven the Hunter, and Mysterio). Apparently, these villains will team up with a re-cast Spider-Man to fight an unknown larger threat. Meanwhile, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which was originally scheduled for Jun 10, 2016, has been pushed back to an unspecified date in 2018 after the lackluster box office for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Incidentally, I had been a vocal critic of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 while actors were still being cast, saying it would likely fail due to having too much going on. After watching the film, critics criticized it, saying (surprise, surprise) it had too much going on.

Recent rumors that Sony may sell the rights to Spidey back to Marvel Studios. Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios head, did not debunk the rumors, saying rather vaguely that it “is either not true at all or still rumor until it’s worked out.” The fact that Feige did not stop at the former but also added the latter has the internet somewhat abuzz about the possibility of the iconic character joining the studio with the Midas touch. Feige did say in 2012 that “clearly we would prefer everything (in this case, Spider-Man) be at home, so to speak,” and admitted there is “no doubt that Spider-Man is the most well-known (Marvel character),” so the comment about things being “worked out” could be a sign that Marvel Studios and Sony are in some sort of negotiations. Back in 2013, Ain’t It Cool News reported that Sony co-chair Amy Pascal said she would “never ever ever” let go of the Spider-Man franchise. And even though Amazing Spider-Man 2 underwhelmed at the domestic box office, it still earned a very healthy $709 million worldwide, So before Spidey fans get excited at the possibility of Marvel Studios getting its hands on the web-slinger, Marvel Studios would have to fork over a lot of money before Sony is willing to let go of such a lucrative film franchise.

Finally in Marvel news, Warner Bros is reporting five Marvel-related movies to come:

  • Fantastic Four – Jun 19, 2015
  • X-Men: Apocalypse – May 18, 2016
  • Wolverine 3 – Mar 3, 2017
  • Fantastic Four 2 – Jul 14, 2017
  • unknown – Jul 13, 2018

I’m staying far, far away from the Fantastic Four reboot—like ebola. I won’t even watch the movie when it comes out on DVD. Casting the white Johnny Storm character with a black actor is sacrilege. Or worse, stupid sacrilege. It’s a MUCH bigger deal than changing Nick Fury to a black character because Nick Fury is a minor character in the Marvel universe. The Human Torch, however, is one of the most familiar comics characters of all time. You don’t change the identity of such a major character. I’m not alone on this minor insight either. Commenter mongoose wrote: “I can only hope that the FF reboot falls on its face so hard, FF2 will be scrapped in lieu of something else (ANYTHING else).” It’s like Marvel letting a woman become Thor—stupid.

Oh, by the way, Fox announced a Deadpool movie expected Feb 12, 2016.

As for DC, two weeks ago, DC announced a slate of 11 movies through 2020 (not including future stand-alone Batman & Superman movies):

  • Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Justice League, Part 1 (2017)
  • The Flash (2018)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Shazam (2019)
  • Justice League, Part 2 (2018)
  • Cyborg (2019)
  • Green Lantern (2020)

However, unlike Marvel, DC reportedly does not have a concrete plan for building a cohesive universe through all its various planned movies.

Last but not least, Lego Batman gets his own star turn in “The Lego Batman Movie” in 2017, followed by presumably another cameo in “The Lego Movie 2” in 2018.

Superhero movie infographic

Superhero movie infographic

Whew! That’s a lot of superhero movies in the next 5 years…about 29 if you count the animated Big Hero 6 from Disney! There’s already speculation about superhero fatigue, superhero overload, comic book bubble, etc. but as long as the movies tell good stories, I don’t think superhero movies will become a bust anytime soon.

I do hope, however, that these movies won’t fuzz the line between good and evil. What makes superheroes so attractive among any generation of children (and yes, adults) is the draw that bad things get their just reward and good will prevail. It brings out hope. There’s enough despair in the real world that we don’t need to see despair in our entertainment. Superhero movies are escapist forms of entertainment. Talk of superheroes dying in future movies is cause for concern. The superhero bubble will burst if the good guys don’t win in the end. If they do win in the end, then bring on all 29 superhero movies!

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Movie Review: ‘Pompeii’ fantastic in 3D but is no ‘Titanic’

21 Feb

ImageBefore I start, let me say that I am not your typical movie critic who loves bashing movies. I actually am less critical than most people. Maybe I have lower standards. Maybe I’m too forgiving. Or maybe everyone else is just too picky.

So when I say Pompeii is a below-average movie, it must be genuinely below average.

The Sony press release describes the movie this way: “Set in 79 A.D., Pompeii tells the epic story of Milo (Kit Harington), a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.”

Some critics likened Pompeii to Titanic in that (1) both films are disaster epics, with the volcano in Pompeii standing in for the iceberg in Titanic, and (2) both films features a poor young man who wins the heart of a rich girl who is engaged to a bad guy.

That’s where the similarities end, though.

The positives

  • The 3D is gorgeous. Many scenes were shot in 3D and such scenes are a feast for the eyes.
  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is fantastic as Atticus, a warrior trying to win his freedom who ends up befriending Milo.
  • The visuals in general are grand, from the coliseum to the city of Pompeii to the special effects when Vesuvius blows its top.
  • Emily Browning does a fair enough job as the heroine Cassia.
  • Although there is some sexualization of teens in this movie (as Cassia sometimes bares cleavage, and also is forcibly betrothed to Corvus—who is old enough to be her father), the engagement relationship of the older Corvus and young Cassia is shown in a negative light.
  • According to scientists, the catastrophe parts are historically accurate except for the lava bombs and titanic tsunami.

The negatives

  • The movie starts by showing how the evil Corvus slaughtered a little kid’s family and town. I guess I’m dense but I thought the kid was a girl because of the little child’s long hair. This was confusing later b/c I couldn’t figure out what happened to that little girl…I actually wondered if she become Cassia. Well, turns out the “girl” was really a young Milo. The filmmakers should have followed the visual cue from 300, another gladiator pic, where young boys had short hair so there is no misunderstanding.
  • Kit Harington does a poor job with Milo. His buff body would give Gerard Butler in 300 a run for his money, but Harington’s acting is terrible. He appears to only have one expression the entire movie, whether he’s sad, pensive, in love or angry.
  • A highly predictable yet unbelievable scene shows a lifeless Corvus after the coliseum collapses from a volcanic tremor, yet when Cassia’s father attempts to kill him, Corvus suddenly is awake and super-strong, preventing Cassia’s father from killing him. I know it’s a movie, but you can’t go from unmoving (after a coliseum roof falls on you) to awake and mighty in the blink of an eye. I am happy to suspend my disbelief for these types of movies, but come on now.
  • Character development took a big backseat in the movie. Do we know anything about Milo besides the fact he wants revenge for his family’s slaughter, and that he can fight? And how did Milo get to be so good at fighting? Does he have a plan to escape? Atticus tells us his plan for freedom, but we get nary an idea what’s running through Milo’s mind. And do we know anything about Cassia besides the fact she visited Rome and was glad to leave there?
  • The love relationship between Milo and Cassia is superficial at best. Yes, Milo proves to be a horse whisperer of sorts, but nevertheless, their attraction to each other is purely based on each other’s looks. Cassia knows nothing about—nor seems to care to investigate—Milo’s past or his general character before falling in love. And Cassia is from the same nation (Italy) that killed Milo’s family in Britannia—yet we are not told why Milo apparently overlooks that fact, despite being in revenge mode.
  • But by far, the biggest problem with this movie is that (warning: spoiler alert… skip this paragraph if you intend to watch the movie…last warning) …yes, easily the biggest problem with this movie is that everyone dies. Milo and Cassia handcuff Corvus in their final battle and let him get burned to death by the oncoming lava/firestorm, yet Milo and Cassia suffer the same fate of being burned up as the bad guys did. The official press release trumpets Milo’s attempt to save his beloved, which seems to imply that he will save her…that he and Cassia are the only ones to make it out alive. But despite their repeated evasions of death, eventually they still die the same way all the evil people did. Since this film is clearly historical fiction (like Titanic), a more hopeful and endearing movie would have had at least one (or both) of them survive, as the fictional Rose did in Titanic. In the end, you ask yourself, what was the point of following these characters and hoping they make it? Records indicate that many people did in fact escape…so why not the hero and/or heroine? That’s just plain dumb.

I love, love, love disaster movies, dating back to when I saw Twister on the big screen. On the big screen and in 3D, disaster movies are SO cool to me. I guess it reminds me of the book of Revelation, how fragile man’s life is, how full-scale disaster is coming, and how awesome God is since He controls disasters. But this movie, while grandly showing the scale of the disaster of historical Pompeii, also grandly flops in its storytelling attempt of the human element of the film.

Bottom line: ** (that’s two stars out of four)

‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ all dressed up and…ready to fail?

5 Feb
Cover of "Spider-Man 3 (Widescreen Editio...

Spider-Man 3

Like most, I was a fan of the first two Spider-Man movies by director Sam Raimi. The CGI seemed a bit obvious at times when Spider-Man was jumping and swinging on occasion, but overall was acceptable. The story had some heart along with the action.

But before the release of Spider-Man 3, I predicted the movie would fail. Not necessarily from a monetary standpoint, but as a movie.

Spider-Man 3 had way too much going on. Gwen Stacy (Peter Parker’s first true love), Harry Osborn as the New Goblin, the Sandman, Venom, Parker’s ego struggle as a result of the new black suit, his attempt to propose to Mary Jane…that’s enough for at least five movies!

Any film student will tell you that the more elements you add to a story, the more difficult it is to get much depth of any of them. A “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of thing.

Sure enough, fans and critics alike loathed the movie. On Rotten Tomatoes, only 63% of critics liked Spider-Man 3 and even fewer moviegoers (54%) liked it—a steep drop from the 93% critic and 81% audience rating for Spider-Man 2.

I didn’t like it either, despite making the effort to see it in the theater rather than wait for the DVD.

The dislike for the film was so strong that fans actually demanded an apology from Raimi—even two years after Spider-Man 3 came out in theaters! And Raimi, to his credit, did admit it was too much crammed into the movie.

“I think having so many villains detracted from the experience. I would agree with the criticism… I think I’ve learned about the importance of getting to the point and the importance of having limitations.”

But in an interesting interview before Spider-Man 3 was released, Raimi revealed that the original Spider-Man 3 story was just to have the Sandman as the villain.

“I had worked on the story with my brother Ivan, and primarily it was a story that featured the Sandman. It was really about Peter, Mary Jane, Harry, and that new character.”

Turns out the former president of Marvel, Avi Arad, pressured Raimi into adding Venom and Gwen Stacy. Raimi read up on Venom and didn’t find the character to be very interesting. Arad insisted that Raimi include Venom, arguing that all Spider-Man fans love Venom. So Raimi tried to fit Venom and Gwen Stacy into the movie to “maybe incorporate this villain to make some of the real diehard fans of Spider-Man finally happy.”

That would explain why Venom and Gwen Stacy are minor characters in the film. Gwen Stacy could have been substituted with any female character since her role as Peter Parker’s first real love interest isn’t on display in the film. And Venom is more of a sidekick to the Sandman (restraining Spider-Man while the Sandman delivers the blows), rather than a lead villain character.

History repeats itself?

The Amazing Spider-man movie still

The Amazing Spider-man movie still (Photo credit: marvelousRoland)

I’ve recently found out that Amazing Spider-Man 2 is following the same tragic movie formula as Spider-Man 3.

ASM2 will introduce Mary Jane Watson (in a minor role) and Harry Osborn, with Electro and (supposedly) Rhino as villains.

[Side note: Electro will not be in his familiar green-and-yellow suit; actor Jamie Foxx, who will play the villain, said Electro’s suit will be black and won’t wear the infamous yellow electricity mask.]

So let’s see: both Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 will have some sort of love triangle, an Osborn, and two villains.

Sigh.

Maybe ASM2 director Marc Webb, who is reportedly going to start production this month, should get his apology ready beforehand.

Gattaca DVD review: 4 stars

20 Oct

No, the year is not 1997 right now. That is when Gattaca was released. For some reason, I never considered watching Gattaca at the time it was released in theaters, and apparently I wasn’t alone. The movie bombed at the box office, making only $4.3 million in its opening weekend and $12.5 million total (the movie’s budget was $36 million).

But I discovered the premise of this sci-fi film recently and thought it would be interesting to watch, so I picked up the DVD. It’s unique among sci-fi flicks in that it does not involve aliens, floating spaceships or explosions. It’s more like Minority Report than Star Wars.

The story

In Gattaca, Vincent  (Ethan Hawke) lives in a world where scientists are able to genetically engineer babies with the parents’ most ideal genes. Such babies grow up in a privileged society and are labeled “valid”. Couples can make babies the “old-fashioned” way, by making love. The resulting children are called “faith babies”, or more derogatorily as “in-valids”, and are oppressively relegated to insignificant roles like janitors. Vincent is an “in-valid”, born with a heart problem that makes him due to die around 30 years old. His brother Anton is a “valid”, superior to Vincent in every way as the two boys grow up. But Vincent has big dreams. He wants to be an astronaut someday. Unfortunately because of his genetic makeup, Vincent’s father tells him that the only way Vincent will be in a spaceship is if he’s cleaning it.

”]Cover of "Gattaca [Blu-ray]"

Vincent doesn’t accept his fate. He agrees to illegally switch identities with a highly superior valid named Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) who was paralyzed in his legs from an car accident. The very complicated scheme works. Soon, Vincent is training to go on a mission to one of Saturn’s moons under the identity of Jerome. But the space center facility has many checks to make sure its trainees are valids, and Vincent must be extremely careful at all times. For example, he rubs his body with a pumice stone to remove any loose skin cells that might implicate him. After all, when the government has everyone’s DNA records, a single eyelash that falls out, saliva on your drinking glass, or even a single shed skin cell could betray him as not being Jerome, but Vincent has been successful so far in escaping unnoticed by doing his daily scrub-downs and by providing Jerome’s genetic samples at every checkpoint.

But with just a week before the mission and with Vincent becoming a finalist for the mission, the mission director is found dead and police are all over the space center trying to find the culprit. Will Vincent’s fake identity be found out?

Positive elements

Gattaca‘s very first frame is a quote from Ecclesiastes about how people should not try to alter what God has made. Clearly, the movie is against genetic engineering (what we now call “GMO”, or genetically modified organism). And what’s scary about this movie is the possibility that such genetic engineering of babies could one day become reality. What if kids could be engineered to be 50 IQ points smarter, or have a natural resistance to cancer? Will people reject it as unethical, or embrace it as useful? It’s a legitimate concern, and Gattaca takes a clear position against it.

For example, Vincent, though labeled an “in-valid”, has dreams bigger than genetically superior Jerome. He also has greater determination than his genetically superior brother Anton, in fact saving his brother’s life during a childhood swimming contest. Neither of these are traits that can be genetically engineered.

Among the genetic choices that parents could make, Gattaca did not list homosexuality as one of them. Certainly, the movie could have subtly implied that homosexuality is genetic, but it didn’t.

Vincent begins a relationship with a valid named Irene (Uma Thurman). She eventually discovers that he is an in-valid but still chooses to love him.

Negative elements

Violence: There are a couple shots of the murdered mission director, one of which shows his head in a pool of blood. We don’t see how he died since it’s irrelevant to the film, and the shots aren’t very graphic, but younger kids probably won’t enjoy seeing that. There is also one scene of someone being punched until unconscious, although none of the punches are shown on-screen.

Sex: There is a scene of Vincent and Irene kissing, as well as a scene of the two in bed together (clothed). We see Irene’s bare back in bed after they have had sex. We see Vincent’s nude body (private parts obscured) in a non-sexual scene where he is scrubbing his body.

Language: I don’t recall exactly, but I think there are two f-words uttered.

Other: There are a couple scenes of smoking and drinking. An attempted suicide is mentioned and an actual suicide is implied. Vincent must lie and cheat about his invalid status repeatedly to become an astronaut finalist. Vincent’s parents must choose one of four fertilized but genetically engineered eggs, thus in effect aborting the three others.

What went well

The suspense surrounding the potential discovery of Vincent’s true identity is well-done throughout the movie, particularly as the detective and police start targeting the real Vincent. This aspect makes Gattaca more like a thriller.

Gattaca  is highly thought-provoking. As mentioned, the ethical issues of GMOs are at the forefront. But other questions are raised. Would you cheat and lie to achieve your dreams? What if “the system” would condemn you to a life of worthlessness if you didn’t cheat and lie (in one scene, the area where in-valids hang out looks like a prison)? Do high expectations of a person (in the movie, inherently borne from genetically making something perfect) create unrealistic expectations? And more importantly, do high expectations of a person cause more traumatic disappointments if those expectations are not met? Do we discriminate against supposedly less capable people in our own lives? In addition, how concerned are you about privacy issues when the government has everyone’s DNA and uses that to confirm identities? Is anything sacred?

But some more minor thought-provoking concepts are also raised. Would you blindly cross a furiously fast expressway for your true love? Would you love someone who is not your equal or even inferior to you in some way? Would you as a parent conclude that your child is destined not to amount to much because that’s what people tell you about your child…or even if you believed it yourself?

There are a couple plot twists along the way, which add to the interesting complexity of the movie.

What could have been better

Vincent and Irene are not married but engage in premarital sex. The swearing was also completely unnecessary.

A scene involving a 12-fingered pianist concludes with the line, “That piece could only have been played with 6 fingers (on each hand).” While Vincent thinks 6 fingers isn’t necessary to play well on the piano, that last line seems to imply that perhaps unusual genetic engineering might be acceptable (to some people, at least).

The ending is unsatisfactory (explained in the Conclusion).

Can kids watch it?

While some Christian user reviews think it’s definitely not a movie for kids, I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dry. It may be ok for teens, depending on their age and maturity.

The most obvious factors in whether a movie is appropriate for kids (sex and violence) are muted in Gattaca, as previously discussed. If you discuss the suicide scene and premarital sex with your child(ren), I don’t think those would be issues. But there’s the issue of the f-words that are uttered, as well as the smoking and drinking. And the issues surrounding genetic engineering would be too deep for most kids under 13.

So overall, I’d say ‘definitely not’ for kids under 11, and ‘probably not’ for kids 11 and 12. ‘Maybe’ for kids 13-17.

Conclusion: recommended

A smart, thoughtful sci-fi movie, Gattaca is definitely worth watching. The main message is consistent with a Christian worldview: a child knitted together by God is ultimately seen as better than a child knitted together by man. A more subtle message is sent in how sterile the world appears in the halls of Gattaca, which is brimming with valids: sterile environment, and sterile personalities. It takes a “faith-child” in Vincent to draw life and personality out of Irene.

The only reason I didn’t give Gattaca a higher rating is because the ending was not entirely satisfactory. [Spoiler alert: skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know some parts of the ending. Final warning…] Irene is no longer relevant to Vincent; I would have liked it better if Vincent decided not to go on the mission and instead stayed on earth to marry Irene. Vincent makes a statement about having “a hard time leaving” the world…not sure what that meant. Why would he have a hard time leaving it when that’s been his dream all along? And the meaning of Jerome’s gift to Vincent is a mystery (to many other viewers apparently…google it).

However, this movie, which flopped at the box office (people expecting aliens and explosions, maybe?), is in my mind a sci-fi classic…in my sci-fi Top 10. And from what I’ve read, it is visually beautiful on Blu-ray.

Your turn

Have you seen Gattaca? If so, what are your thoughts on the movie?

Courageous movie review: 4.5 stars

17 Oct

This past weekend, I went to see the new film Courageous. The movie focuses on four police officers who also happen to be fathers, and after tragedy strikes, it tracks how each family fares.

The main character in Courageous is Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay), a father of two. Adam is an excellent police officer but is a middling father. Though he provides and protects for his family, he is not really involved with either his teenage son or his 9-year-old daughter. The other officers we meet include Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), married with three children, including a teen daughter interested in dating. Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes) is divorced but has a young son. And rookie David Thomson (Ben Davies) is a baby-faced bachelor. One important non-police officer character is Javier Martinez (Robert Amaya), who is struggling to make ends meet for his wife and two young children.

Positive elements

Far and away, the most positive aspect of the movie emphasized how important being a committed father is. We see the repercussions of not doing so, and the regret involved. This theme struck me so much that I wasn’t just tearing up, I was flat out crying. Incredibly moving.

Scene from the movie "Courageous"

Scene from the movie "Courageous"

Courageous also effectively portrays an example of how a father can handle a boy’s (David Howze) request to date his daughter. In fact, the film’s view of dating almost exactly mirrors mine, in that kids should not date unless they’re ready to get married.

Homeschooling is also mentioned in the movie, subtly explaining very well why one would choose to homeschool.

Courageous repeatedly emphasizes that “good enough” is not good enough when it comes to fatherhood.

There are also several contemplative scenes where the men sit around in a backyard and just talk, implying that men need the fellowship of other men.

Explaining the gospel and handling questions from people who don’t believe the same as you are also depicted very naturally in Courageous.

The five main characters make a “Resolution” to be a committed father, and they take it seriously, from cash-strapped Javier buying a pricey suit for the occasion, to each father publicly making their vows in front of their family and friends during a Resolution ceremony conducted by a pastor.

David, the “rookie” police officer, shows his stripes by movie’s end, not just in the final action scene but also when he is shown presenting a gift to a person who is both a stranger to him and close to him at the same time.

The last scene is an impassioned call to action for fathers, made by Adam.

Violence

The opening scene grabs us immediately with its action and suspense, and grabs us at the end of the opening scene with a surprise revelation, subtly asking the question of whether or not we would have done the same thing. The film has several action scenes, which is the reason for its PG-13 rating.

A gang provides some of the tension in the film (besides the internal tension of whether the fathers will be faithful in their Resolution), with the gang leader (former NFL running back Tony Stallings) insinuating early in the film that he plans to kill the police officers. [Spoiler alert… skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens to the police officers] In the end, no one gets seriously hurt.

What went well

While Adam can be considered the main character, the other characters (Nathan and Javier in particular) are also closely tracked in Courageous, and the movie does a good job of doing so without losing focus.

The tragedy makes an impact on the audience but Courageous does a great job of continuing to draw emotions from the tragedy long after the incident has already happened.

The men’s job and exploits as policemen served as a good backdrop, providing some needed tension to the film.

As in all Sherwood Pictures movies, there are comedic scenes, and the ones in Courageous are arguably the best ones of them all. These scenes don’t just elicit a smile; they actually make you laugh out loud. My favorites involved the use of the phrase “I love you.”

The movie is terrifically edited and would be a good study by homeschoolers or other kids interested in studying videography or film production.

What could have been better

The emotional scenes are mixed with the previously-mentioned effective comedic scenes. But sometimes I felt that the comedic scenes come too quickly after a reflective scene. I would be teary-eyed one moment and then laughing out loud the next, but I feel like there should’ve been more time allowed for the audience to take in a tear-jerker scene.

Also, when the tragedy strikes, the event itself is not shown on screen, but just mentioned from one person to another. This is a touchy subject but personally, I think it might have had even more impact if the tragedy was shown (without blood, of course). I know some will say it was better not to show it, but that’s my opinion. I just feel that the tragic event didn’t seem quite as real since we as the audience never saw it happen.

One scene between Javier and his wife Carmen (Angelita Nelson) didn’t seem particularly well-acted, although it could’ve just been me. Overall, though, the acting was credible and believable.

Can kids watch it?

Courageous contains no sex scenes, no nudity, and no profanity. The only cause for concern regarding kids is the violence. You can have your kid(s) watch the opening scene from the movie at the Courageous web site and see how they react. If your child(ren) can handle that scene, then they probably can handle the movie. Ultimately, parents will have to decide on their own, as each kid is different. I take my entire family to see it (3-year-old, 5-five-year-old, 8-year-old, 11-year-old and 13-year-old) and the only one who felt squeamish was, oddly, my 11-year-old.

Conclusion: highly recommended

Unlike other Sherwood Pictures movies, not everything ends up rosy in Courageous. And that is the point: in fatherhood, not everything ends up rosy, particularly when the father is doing “good enough” or when the father is not committed to his heavenly Father. Real stats are mentioned in the film that proclaim the supreme importance of committed, godly fathers. This is the call I have been sounding in my church for at least five years, only being somewhat heeded this past year. I am extremely pleased that the movement is gaining traction nationwide!

Well-written, warm, heart-breaking, funny, thought-provoking, beautifully shot and theologically sound in all areas it touches, Courageous is an outstanding movie that I recommend to anyone who is either currently a parent or desires to become one. It’s not just a movie for men. It’s also worthwhile for women and kids 7 and up. Even though I watched it in the theater, I plan to buy it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray. It’s a keeper. It’s that good.

Your turn

What did you think? If you saw Courageous, how would you rate the movie?