MOVIE BUFF-ET: “Going in Style” leaves much to be desired

“Going in Style” / Warner Bros. Pictures

“Going in Style”

If growing old gracefully is the goal, then Joe (Michael Cain), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Al (Alan Arkin) missed the mark in “Going in Style.”

However, if the goal is a pleasant time at the movies with actors we know so well they seem like old friends, well, this remake of the 1979 original is just that, pleasant.

New In Local Theaters

  • “The Fate of the Furious” (PG-13) 2 hr. 17 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • “T2 Trainspotting” (R) 1 hr. 57 min.
    (Malco Razorback)
    » Watch trailer

Cain, Freeman, and Arkin are, no doubt, old friends to film fans of the last 50 years, and all three are solid in the movie, directed by Zach Braff from a screenplay by Theodore Melfi based on the Martin Brest’a original. And the likes of Matt Dillon as a FBI agent, Ann-Margret as Arkin’s love interest, and Christopher Lloyd as a whacky lodge buddy only enhances the familiar flavor.

The central message of the movie is that you have to be tough to get old, no matter your personal situation, and that is a reality we are all moving toward whether we like it or not.

When the three friends’ pensions are liquidated after the company they worked for is bought out, Joe, who witnessed a recent bank robbery, suggests that the three should hold up the bank that absorbed their pensions in the acquisition of their company. And that bank just happens to be the one that Joe saw robbed.

The second and third acts feature the trio training and prepping for the robbery, and then their attempt at pulling off the job.

Cain, Freeman, and Arkin have great chemistry together. The movie does have some charm and funny bits traced mostly back to the key trio. However, the film hit left of center for me.

While I enjoyed spending some time with those guys, the humor didn’t bite hard enough, and the movie never achieved the emotional impact it was going for in detailing the lives of its elderly characters.

The movie was pleasantly average, but with that cast, I wanted more.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 37 min.
Grade: C

“The Case For Christ” & “The Shack”

“The Case for Christ” / Pure Flix

Of the two faith-based films in theaters this Easter season, I personally prefer the procedural-based “The Case for Christ” that dramatizes the true journey of atheist journalist Lee Strobel to becoming a Christian to the allegorical fantasy of “The Shack,” which is a touching and emotional tale about a father coming to grips with his faith and the fact that God allows evil in the world.

Both are professionally made movies rising above the more sloppily made attempts at faith-based entertainment that have made their way into cineplexes in recent years.

However, “The Shack” deals with conjecture springing from biblically based teachings as the father meets and is tutored by the Holy Trinity one weekend in the woods near a shack where his young daughter was murdered.

“The Case for Christ” is built on facts as a father seeks to disprove the burgeoning faith of his wife and child by exploring the existing historical evidence of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

“The Shack” does pack more star power with Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer as Papa, the Father aspect of the Trinity, and Sam Worthington as the lead character Mack Phillips.

However, an almost unrecognizable Mike Vogel, decked with early 1980s hair and mustache, offers a much stronger performance as Strobel, who is not only confused but also frustrated and angered by his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen) acceptance of the Christian faith.

The award-winning “Chicago Tribune” legal editor uses all his tenacity and skill and the paper’s resources to investigate the resurrection of Christ in order to attack the veracity of his wife’s beliefs head on. He seeks to prove that the resurrection is an irrational fantasy with no factual basis.

As he delves into the historical facts with the guidance of both theological and scientific experts, Strobel comes to believe that the more rational response to the evidence is to believe rather than doubt.

Though the movies have their flaws, I liked both. “The Case for Christ” just fits my tastes a bit better. Again, it deals with facts, while “The Shack” is an allegory that deals in conjecture that may not be exactly theologically sound.

“The Case for Christ” (PG) 1 hr. 52 min. / “The Shack” (PG-13) 2 hr. 12 min.
Grade: As pieces of entertainment and considering their budgets, I’d give both a B.

Classic Corner

“The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus”

Between television and film, there have been many movies that tell the story of Jesus. All have their relative strengths and weakness. For my time, money and taste, “The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus” is my favorite.

The film, directed by Derek W. Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov in 2000, combines traditional cell animation with the stop-motion animated puppetry to tell a fairly biblically accurate rendition of the story of Christ.

It is an adaptation, and it takes some creative liberties like all the other productions about Jesus. It is a condensed account drawing from the Gospels of Mathew, Luke, and Mark, told through the eyes of the daughter of Jarius, a young girl whom Jesus raises from the dead. She is not named in the New Testament, but is given the name of Tamar in the movie.

The movie also contains material linking Judas to zealots as partial motivation for his betrayal of Jesus, which is found in many films but is not included in the Bible.

Some will see the animation as a weakness, but I’ve doted on animation since I was a child and see it as an absolute strength, particularly the stop-motion animation.

The Moscow-based Christmas Company produced the stop-motion animation in the film using highly detailed and realistic puppets from the Russian tradition. This animation and puppetry are a truly fantastic example of what can be accomplished in the medium, and it tells the main plot of the story.

Stylistic hand-drawn cell animation is used to detail flashbacks, parables, and spiritual encounters in the film, such as Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and when Jesus drives out seven demons from Mary Magdalene.

The film includes a strong cast of voice actors, including Ralph Fiennes as Jesus, William Hurt as Jarius, Miranda Richardson as Mary Magdalene, Julie Christie as Rachel, Richard E. Grant as John the Baptist, Ian Holm as Pilate, David Thewlis as Judas, Dougray Scott as John, Alfred Molina as Simon, Rebecca Callard as Tamar among others.
If a movie about the life of Christ is something you are considering this weekend or any time, I recommend “The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus” as a compelling option.