Greetings dear readers! I hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving. I apologize for the delay in these reviews, but  this past week we moved to a new home (with all the packing, cleaning, and unpacking that that entails) all while taking care of three children and hosting family for the holiday. I finally had some time to check out a few of the new releases: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, the Twilight finale Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and the teens vs. Soviets remake Red Dawn. Have a look, and please help me grow by “liking” me on Facebook, following me on Twitter, and sharing these reviews with your friends. I can't reach every movie-loving Latter-day Saint (and film buffs not of my faith) without your help!


A masterpiece by any standard, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is a triumph of screenwriting, acting, and direction. Focusing on Abraham Lincoln's exhausting quest to simultaneously abolish slavery, end the Civil War, and restore peace to the Union, it's telling that this 2 hour and 40 minute film, that is all talk, debate, and politics (one battle scene aside), has ended up being arguably the year's most intellectually and emotionally rewarding movie. On a technical level it's top notch, but then that's to be expected from Spielberg. Cinematography, music, and editing are excellent and attention to detail in wardrobe, dialogue, and clothing really bring 1860's America to life.

The acting is exemplary. Daniel-Day Lewis succeeds in making a larger-than-life President relatable, allowing for human imperfection while maintaining Lincoln's integrity. Sally Field (Mrs. Doubtfire), David Straithairn (Good Night and Good Luck), James Spader (Stargate), and Joseph-Gordon Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises) are in fine form here, but it's Tommy Lee Jones (Captain America) who threatens to steal the show as a gritty politician who believes in racial equality. Don't be surprised if, after winning Best Supporting Actor for 1993's The Fugitive, Jones takes home another Oscar here. Lincoln is not to be missed.

CONTENT OVERVIEW: Lincoln is rated PG-13. It has one f-word and a fair amount of moderate profanities. The amputated limbs of soldiers cause blood to drip from the wheelbarrow they're stacked in; they are shown being dumped into a ditch. We see hundreds of corpses littered across a battlefield, including one whose stomach has been blown open. A battle scene shows Civil War soldiers being shot, stabbed, and drowned (mostly bloodless).

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Slavery is an offense to God, who condemns it and established the Constitution, in part, to end it (Alma 27:8-9; Doctrine and Covenants 101:79-80). All persons are created equal before the Lord, regardless of skin color, gender, or social status (2 Nephi 26:33).



I've made fun of Twilight in the past (even while giving fans respect), but I have to give credit where it's due: this finale is quite good. I'm as shocked as anybody, because I'm no fan of the series. To me it's been a slow-moving, angst-ridden soap opera with laughable dialogue, stiff performances, an overly-serious tone, and a female protagonist who embodies the worst female stereotypes of author Stephanie Meyer's Mormon culture (weak, submissive, and dependent on a man to take care of her).
Here, however, the story moves along at a steady clip, the dialogue and performances are allowed some genuine warmth, humanity, and humor, and Bella has gone from passive romantic interest to a strong, intelligent, and bold woman who is an equal partner with her husband and will courageously protect her family (which is a more accurate reflection of the women in Meyer's and my shared faith). The story has shifted its focus from a seemingly interminable love triangle to a far-more-engrossing battle to protect one's family and way of life. The special effects are sometimes shoddy and the dialogue is still cheesy at times, but there's an energy, emotion, and sense of fun here that I couldn't help but get sucked into. As an action fan, I must say that the final battle is surprisingly awesome; as a Latter-day Saint, I enjoyed the story's focus on eternal principles that everyone can appreciate (see messages to discuss below). Indeed, knowing now what it's all been building to, I'm seeing the series through new eyes. I may even crack open the books (even if I have to endure my wife's teasing).

CONTENT OVERVIEW: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is rated PG-13. There is no language that I remember (so if there's any, it was very mild). There is a brief love scene between a husband and wife with implied nudity, but it's filmed to show only hands, feet, and kissing from the neck up. A vampire kills a human in the shadows, stating that he “needs to finish his meal.” Many vampires and werewolves are killed in a violent battle scene with heads and limbs being torn off, bodies burned, and individuals falling into a chasm.

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Marriage can last for eternity (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19). Husbands and wives are to cherish and respect each other (Proverbs 5:18, Doctrine and Covenants 25:14; Ephesians 5:33), be faithful to each other (Doctrine and Covenants 42:22) and put each other first (Ephesians 5:25). Motherhood can be a source of great joy (Psalms 113:9). We are commanded to defend our families even, if necessary, to the point of bloodshed (Alma 43:47). “It is the destiny of men and women to join together to make eternal family units. In the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], p. 311; see also 1 Corinthians 7:3-4).


A remake of the 1980's film of the same name, Red Dawn finds American teens joining with Marines to take on invading Soviets (in the original it was Russians, here it's North Koreans) and inspire a conquered U.S.A to fight back. Made several years ago (as evidenced by the younger appearance of its now-more-famous stars), the film flirts with being a total disaster, with one-dimensional characters, eye-rolling melodrama, and an awfully flat performance by lead Josh Peck. It's saved by a fast pace, good performances by future stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), some exciting action sequences, a generous sprinkling of good one-liners, and the single funniest scene of product placement that I can remember. Red Dawn is entertaining while it lasts, but its under-cooked screenplay renders it dramatically impotent and instantly forgettable. In my opinion, it's worth a rental but nothing more.

CONTENT OVERVIEW: Red Dawn is rated PG-13. It has one f-word and some moderate profanity. Other than a brief passionate kiss there is no sexuality. There is plenty of war violence (mostly bloodless) as teens join with Marines to defend the United States from Soviet invaders (who kill civilians, with one point-blank shooting taking place just off-screen). A teen abstains from drinking beer early on, but later when he's a “soldier” he agrees to indulge. Expect shootings, fistfights, and persons dying in numerous explosions.

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Warfare to defend one's home, family, and freedom is noble and acceptable to God; warfare to enslave others is wicked (Alma 43:8-9).


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