MOVIE BUFF-ET: Doldrums sweeping through theaters this spring

New In Local Theaters

  • The Boss (R) 1 hr., 39 mins.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • Demolition (R) 1 hr., 40 mins.
    (Malco Razorback)
    » Watch trailer
  • Hardcore Henry (R) 1 hr., 35 mins.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Hardcore Henry (R) 1 hr., 35 mins.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Divergent Series: Allegiant (112 Drive Inn) (PG-13) 2 hrs., 1 min.
    8 p.m. Friday-Sunday
    » Watch trailer
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (112 Drive Inn) (PG-13) 1 hr., 45 mins.
    10:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday
    » Watch trailer

A lull has hit local theaters the past couple of weeks, which isn’t that unusual in the spring. It’s a time traditionally reserved by studios to release films that aren’t quite sturdy enough to withstand the competition that summer brings.

In fact it’s odd that Warner Bros. released a movie as big as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in late March. Generally such large movies are reserved for the summer or holiday seasons when folks are more prone to visit theaters. The movie had originally been set to open the first weekend of May, but when Marvel Studios also selected that weekend to release Captain America: Civil War, Warner Bros. wisely backed away from the more established cinematic super-hero universe.

It seems most who wanted to see that film caught it during the first week it opened, unfortunately other studios expected as much and gave the super-hero battle a wide berth.

Movie patrons in larger cities have enjoyed the limited releases of movies like Richard Linklater’s college baseball film Everybody Wants Some, which harkens back to his cult hit Dazed and Confused, and Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, a sci-fi film about the government and a group of religious extremists racing to find a young boy who possesses special powers. Both are receiving fine reviews from those who have had a chance to watch them. I’m guessing both will make it to local theaters before summer.

Disney’s The Jungle Book is the next big movie in the pipeline, opening April 15. Jon Favreau (Iron Man and Elf) directed the adaption of the classic Rudyard Kipling children’s story. The movie features the voices of Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and others as the anthropomorphic yet realistic-looking jungle animals. The only live creature in the film, according to Favreau, is Neel Sethi, who portrays Mowgli the boy raised by. The rest of the characters are CGI. It’s getting wonderful reviews.

So evidently there are good things coming for those of us who must wait.

God’s Not Dead 2

(PG) 2 hrs., 1 min.


God’s Not Dead 2 is a movie made by Christians for Christians, and really it should be judged that way.

The easy joke is to say critics are crucifying the movie, but that’s to be expected about a movie whose producers believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and portray that in no uncertain terms on film. Christians will like at least aspects of the movie. Others probably won’t.

Pure Flix Entertainment, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that produces, acquires and markets family-friendly movies aimed at a Christian audience, made the film. The company also offers a streaming service similar to Netflix featuring products of the same nature.

The film’s plot revolves around a teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) who is sued by the parents of a pupil (Hayley Orrantia), who asked a question in an advanced placement history class about the similarities in the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Jesus.

Hart answers the question and recites scripture while doing so. Hart’s character Grace is quickly called into question by her principal (Robin Givens) and the school board, who ask her to apologize. When she refuses, the student’s parents sue. ACLU lawyers represent the parents, while a young yet ambitious lawyer (Jesse Metcalfe) represents Hart’s character on a pro bono basis. He’s not a believer, but he wants to win.

The movie isn’t really a direct sequel to God’s Not Dead, but it does return a few characters the most interesting of which is Paul Kwo as Martin Yip, a Chinese student studying in the U.S., who recently converted to Christianity. If another sequel is made, focusing on Yip as a Christian missionary in China could make for a very compelling story. There are cameo appearances by Fred Thompson in final role, Mike Huckabee, and authors Lee Strobel and Warner Wallace. Parts of the movie were shot in Little Rock.

The movie’s production values are on par with what you might find in a high-end TV production, and its sympathies squarely fall on the side of Christianity. Hart’s opposition in the film is vilified and stereotyped much like Christians are in some secular films.

While the movie does offer a view of Christian apologetics in defense of Hart, it unfortunately comes off a little shallow. A more serious examination and discussion about the Establishment Clause and Christianity might have made for a very interesting film.

Recent films like Risen and The War Room proved that faith-based movies could be entertaining and uplifting experiences without compromising the Christian faith or ostracizing nonbelievers. God’s Not Dead 2 lost the same opportunity by stacking its deck too neatly.

Grade: C-

Classics Corner

Inherit the Wind probably loosely if not directly inspired God’s Not Dead 2, even though the two films would no doubt sit on very opposite ends of a pew.

The 1960 film directed by Stanley Kramer is based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial when Tennessee substitute teacher John Scopes was accused of violating The Butler Act that prohibited the teaching of human evolution in public schools. The trial pitted Clarence Darrow, who defended Scopes, against William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate and note prosecutor.

The film changes the names of the characters with Spencer Tracy playing Henry Drummond, a Darrow-type, and Frederic March playing Matthew Harrison Brady, a Bryan-type, and it takes liberties here and there with the facts.

March and Tracy, who each won two Oscars for previous roles, give outstanding performances. Gene Kelly, Dick York (Bewitched), Harry Morgan (Dragnet and MASH) and Claude Akins (B.J. and the Bear) provide them with excellent support.

Anatomy of a Murder is one of the finest if not the finest courtroom dramas ever put on film. The 1959 movie, directed by Otto Preminger, finds lawyer Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) defending Army Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazara) for murder charges in a tricky case that keeps the viewer guessing throughout the movie.

Manion killed a local innkeeper after his wife Laura (Lee Remick) said that he had raped her. The couple’s stormy relationship, and Laura’s reputation as a party girl make the case more complicated than it would have seemed and provides plenty of ammunition for prosecutors played by George C. Scott and Brooks West.

The movie frankly and graphically addresses rape and sex, which was uncommon in Hollywood films of the day. It contains masterful performances by Stewart and Scott, but Remick steals the show in probably her finest performance.

Based on an actual 1952 murder case that was the subject of a novel by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker, Anatomy of a Murder is not to be missed by fans of Stewart or those who appreciate a courtroom dramas.