Directed By: Alex Kendrick
Written By: Alex & Stephen Kendrick
Starring: Kirk Cameron / Erin Bethea / Ken Bevel

Fireproof is the latest film from Sherwood Pictures, which brought us Flywheel (2003) and Facing the Giants (2006). The film company is a part of Sherwood Baptist Church, which director Alex Kendrick is currently the pastor of.

Fireproof tells the story of Caleb and Catherine Holt, a couple whose marriage is starting to fall apart. Caleb is captain of the fire department and has his own personal demons to face. Catherine works in public relations at the hospital and has to deal with the flirtatious advances of one of the doctors there. Tensions rise between the couple and escalate into a threatening divorce.

Caleb’s father, played by Harris Malcolm, advises Caleb to try to save his marriage by following the directions of “The Love Dare”, a workbook of sorts in which the reader is assigned one task per day for 40 days.

The Kendrick’s have written a heartfelt story that succeeds as a wonderful look at what it means to love, both between married couples and also in a more personal relationship with God.

While being a film that deals with weighty issues, Fireproof balances the seriousness with a healthy dose of humor. This is largely due to the supporting characters in the film. I especially liked the interactions between Caleb and his next-door neighbor, Mr. Rudolph. It’s a recurring gag that works very well.

There is also a good amount of firefighting scenes that, while reminiscent of other firefighting films, such as Ladder 49, keep Fireproof alive. Between the drama, humor, and action, there is a rhythmic quality to the film.

I haven’t seen Kendrick’s previous films, so I can’t compare Fireproof to them. I have heard from people who have, however, and have remarked that the productions values seem to have increased. The overall quality looks good and the camera is operated well.

At times, though, Fireproof feels more like an after school special than a feature film. There are times when the dialogue feels too forward and rehearsed; one scene in particular that deals with a character’s faith in God comes to mind. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a scene like that, it ends up feeling more like someone reading from a tract, or in this case, a script.

Although the actors were better than I had previously expected, you can tell that it’s a predominately non-professional cast. I understand that they’re working with that they have and that it ends up saving a lot of money, but it definitely shows from time to time.

Aside from some of the issues that I had with Fireproof, it’s a film that I recommend watching. It’s smart, fun, and has a lot to say about love and marriage; something we can all learn more about.

Kirk Cameron as captain Caleb Holt


The Goonies

The Goonies
Directed By: Richard Donner
Starring: Sean Astin / Jeff Cohen / Corey Feldman / Jonathan Ke Quan / Josh Brolin

So I watched The Goonies last night (For the first time) Yes, I had never seen it before. I know, I know, how could I have missed such an instant classic, yada yada yada.

As I was telling a friend earlier, The Goonies grabbed my soul. From the start of the film and throughout their fantastic adventure, I was a Goonie.

I love how many actors in this film will become popular actors in the near future. They go on to such classics as Rudy, Stand By Me, The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and the upcoming W., to name a few.

For a film that I initially thought was going to be a cheesy 80’s cult favorite, it was put together really well. For example, the editing of the opening scene with the Fratelli’s was really good. Not to mention the amazingly moody atmosphere. The Goonies walks a fine line between realism and children’s fantasy and succeeds admirably. It was a very evocative and nostalgic experience for me.

One of the coolest parts of the film for me was when a clip from the beginning of The Sea Hawk was shown, but the music played during the scene was actually from The Adventures of Don Juan, another Errol Flynn film. It was almost as cool as seeing a scene from The Three Musketeers in Singin’ the Rain. So with that rabbit-trail out of the way…

If you haven’t seen The Goonies, rent it, watch it, love it. Regardless of your age you may come away with an awesome experience.

IMDb Review of Wanted

The following is a review of Wanted from IMDb user Jawsphobia, copied in its entirety:

a morally confused lifestyle flick with bullets as bling

What did you do today? Just watching a movie, going to high school, or working at McDonalds or a generic version of Office Space? Are you an impossibly pathetic character whose movie-pretty girlfriend accepts your crappy apartment by the train tracks yet hates you enough to constantly cheat with one of your co-workers? Are you buying condoms for the best chum at work you know is doing your girlfriend? Well don’t worry because all the skills of an assassin are biologically determined! A few punches in the face and some exercise and you will be James Bond perfect because your absentee father was and we all know DNA is much more important than practice or discipline.

This movie gets all of its charm from the conceit that we know it is all part of the Matrix era bullet time slickness of action and the understanding that it all comes from a comic book anyway so if you have to pick someone up all you have to do is skid sideways right into the person at high speed with the door open and scoop ’em up. No danger of breaking his legs at all. And there can never be too many times two evenly matched assassins demonstrate the fact by their bullets crashing into each other harmlessly in mid flight.

Angelina Jolie has said that sure she is carrying guns in this movie but she condones what happens to the characters so she could get behind the movie. However it resolves, though, most of the movie is a loser’s fantasy of having an exciting life. That might very well suit the video game audience under 25 years old. But if you can’t get past the improbable efficiency of the team and the improbable stupidity of the protagonist from scene to scene, the big twist that pats itself on the head for its brilliance will seem to belong in another movie. Had the action not been so cartoonish, maybe we could believe what it purports to say. It still exists in a vacuum-sealed circle of geek-hood one expects from Agent Cody Banks. The only difference is that he is twenty-something.

PDQ Reviews: Round 4

‘Cause I’ve got homework ‘n stuff

Out of Africa: Meryl Streep is awesome. It’s an epic and also down-to-earth.

Bottle Shock:Stay away.

The Warriors: I dug it.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Charming. Not as fluffy as it looked.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986): Campy fun.

Trailer Watch: The Soloist

The Soloist
Release Date: November 21st, 2008
Directed By: Joe Wright
Starring: Robert Downey Jr / Jamie Foxx / Catherine Keener

Oh it’s beginning to feel a lot like Oscars…

(Hat-Tip: In Contention)

Review: Umberto D

Umberto D
Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Carlo Battisti / Maria-Pia Casilio

Last year I watched De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief in my European Cinema class at college, and was fascinated by Italian Neo-Realism. It seemed so fresh and real to me; something that I could think about weeks after watching the film.

Over the Summer I read about Martin Scorsese’s documentary My Voyage to Italy, in which he talks about and shows clips from Italians films that he grew up with and loves. His passion for the films, coupled with some amazing scenes that were shown, prompted me to go on a crash-course in classic Italian film. I started it off with Fellini’s I Vitelloni, which was a fantastic film, and a definite inspiration for George Lucas’ American Graffiti. I then watched Rossellini’s The Flowers of St. Francis, which had some powerful moments. After that I returned to the director who started it all for me, with Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. I’d always seen it near the top of different lists of great films, so I was quite psyched about seeing it.

The film follows Umberto Ferrari, an older man, as he navigates through the latter part of his life. His best friends are his dog and the young maid where he lives. These two characters have a fascinating albeit friendship, albeit strained at times. The comparisons between her flamboyant youth and his reclusive old age cannot be avoided.

Similar in style to The Bicycle Thief, De Sica again takes his story to the street, and casts a no-name actor in the lead role. We’re only shown one portion of Umberto’s life, and while he is a difficult character to like, you still feel certain empathy for him. Carlo Battisti plays the role famously. He tells us everything we need to know through sheer physicality.

In Umberto D., De Sica deals with many social and ethical themes. These range from the way the younger generations deal with the elders in their community, to begging on the streets, and the pride that comes with that. One scene near the end of the film is especially poignant in that area and is masterfully shot.

If you have an interest in Italian Neo-Realism, this is a definite must-see in this viewer’s eyes. Add it to your NetFlix queue and enjoy!

(Also posted at Reel Suave)

Cagefest: Ghost Rider

(Written for CageFest)

Directed By: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Nicholas Cage / Eva Mendes / Peter Fonda

I originally saw Ghost Rider last year during an airplane flight, and immediately hated it. After signing up to review it for Fletch’s CageFest, I was curious if I would find myself enjoying it more the second time around. I believe that many initial reactions for films come from the viewer’s mood at the time and the overall timing of the viewing. The DVD of Ghost Rider was also a director’s cut, so maybe there was something new that I would like more.

I was mistaken. I hate Ghost Rider just as much now as when I first watched it.

Judging from the opening and closing credits, which reminded me of “The Grindhouse Experience”, I wonder what it would have been like Quentin Tarantino had gotten his hands on the project.

In my opinion, Ghost Rider struggled from trying to be two different films: A corny, over-the-top flick and a somewhat realistic approach to the superhero genre. I would have rather seen one or the other, instead of the mismatch that it sadly is.

Nicholas Cage, while not bringing anything new in terms of his acting, played the role fairly well. There were a few scenes in his more ‘demonic’ state that were convincing, though. It seemed to be a glimpse into his earlier acting, which I’m now more interested in seeing.

The main detriment to the film was the villains, sans Peter Fonda as The Devil. Not only were they cliché and lacking in development, but they were just too easily defeated. They could have been killed by a baby using a hammer that he couldn’t lift. For all intents and purposes, they were just there as minor hurdles for our hero to leap over with ease.

Along those same lines, the story was melodramatic and bland to this viewer. The romantic scenes between our main characters at a young age were giggle-worthy. Age didn’t improve it all that much.

That said, the overall themes of the film are worthy brain-food. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t live up to it.