2011 Summer Movie Guide

In the sweltering heat of a typical summer day in South Florida, nothing quite beckons like the cool comfort of the local movie theatre. Ice cold mega-sized soda in hand and vat of buttered popcorn at the ready; we wait in the darkness with eager anticipation to be swept away into an engaging escape. Whether the genre is action, adventure or a quirky romantic comedy, movies enlighten, entertain and give temporary respite from the troubles of the day. As Christians, it is important to be discerning about what we put before our eyes. Hollywood rarely releases a movie that doesn’t have questionable moral content. Nevertheless, we need not live in a Christian bubble. Movies can provide an interesting commentary on our present day culture and can become a catalyst to introspection and thoughtful discussion. Every movie, for better or worse, has a message to convey. Here are ten movies to consider; they are listed under ten different categories.

The Family Flick:
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
(Released June 10) Rated PG
Based on the beloved, bestselling book series by Megan McDonald, this delightful romp tells the story of imaginative third grader, Judy Moody, and her big plans for the “best most way un-boring summer ever”. Her plans get thwarted when two of her best friends leave town for amazing adventures of their own. Judy is left at home with her pesky little brother Stink, who is obsessed with Big Foot, and her timid, second-best friend Frank Pearl.

Her summer prospects seem even worse when her parents give her News that they are leaving town to care for Judy’s ailing grandpa and that she will be left with her Aunt Opal – someone she has never met. Free-spirited and creative Aunt Opal, however, is anything but boring. The summer adventure begins with Judy challenging her best friends in the “Judy Moody Mega-Rare NOT Bummer Summer Dare.” For each dare they complete – such as surfing a big wave, riding an elephant or braving the Scream Monster roller coaster – they’ll collect 10 thrill points. Will Judy and her team win the most thrill points or will they learn that the journey and who you spend it with is the true reward of the adventure? Judy Moody harkens back to a time decades ago when summer was more of a time of wonder that wasn’t scheduled or consumed by Culture media.

Triumph Over Adversity:
(Released June 17) Rated PG
A winner at the Sundance Film Festival, Buck is a documentary about a true American cowboy, Buck Brannaman, who travels the country nine months out of the year to help horses with people problems. “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes you will,” says the real-life “horse-whisperer”. Having survived an abusive and violent childhood, Buck taps into a certain sensitivity and wisdom that helps teach owners how to lead and communicate with their horses with compassion, not punishment. His amazing abilities transform not only the horses he helps but the people themselves. Buck is a story about an ordinary man who turns adversity into a tremendous gift. As the last audible quote on the movie trailer proclaims, “God had him in mind when he made a cowboy.”

The Big Star Draw:
Larry Crowne
(Release date: July 1) Rated PG-13
Two of the most popular stars, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, reunite in this dramatic comedy about a man who undergoes personal reinvention after becoming a victim of corporate downsizing in today’s recession. Larry Crowne was a superstar team leader at a big-box company where he worked most of his adult life. When he is let go because of the fact that he lacks a college diploma, he is left to ponder what to do with all of his free time. Enrolling in a public speaking course at a local college, Larry bonds with a group of outcasts who are also looking for a way to pursue a better future. Teaching the class is the hard-drinking Mercedes Tainot, played by Roberts. Larry develops a crush on her from the start even though she has lost her passion for teaching, her husband and her life. At its heart, Larry Crowne is a story about a simple man who discovers a reason to live after he believes everything worth having has passed him by. Co-written, directed and produced by Hanks himself, it will be interesting to see what “enlightenment” will dawn on the character of Larry Crowne at the film’s end.

The Anticipated Mega-Blockbuster:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
(Release date: July 15) Unrated
Broaching the subject of this upcoming film to a group of teenagers over dinner recently, it became apparent to me that the controversy of the Harry Potter series among Christians is alive and well. Without question, J.K. Rowling’s masterful storytelling has cast its spell across generations of world wide fans with book, film and merchandise totaling in the billions. This is the last in the series of the orphan boy who becomes a wizard at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The good and evil forces of the wizarding world escalate into a final and climactic showdown with Lord Voldemort. Fans that deem Harry Potter harmless fantasy will no doubt come out in droves and catapult it to the summer’s biggest blockbuster. Those who oppose Harry will continue to point to Deuteronomy 18:10-14 in which God warns us not to have anything to do with witchcraft and sorcery. As Christians we should always be searching for wisdom and discernment in all films and ask ourselves questions. Are we compromising for the sake of Culture? Is Culture always harmless? How do we reconcile Isaiah 5:2, which states, “woe to those that call evil good, and good evil?” Is it acceptable to portray white magic verses the dark arts understanding that, in God’s view, both come from the same source? What do children take away from making a witch a heroic literary figure? Has its incredible popularity opened the door to a fascination and/or desensitization to the occult as man feared? Those in favor of Harry will walk out of the theatre thrilled but lamenting the end of an era. Those against Harry will be thrilled for another reason humming the words to a tune from a movie long ago, “Ding dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead!”

The Movie That Defines Our Time:
Life In A Day
(Release date: July 24) Rated PG-13
Last summer tens of thousands of people from around the world uploaded videos to YouTube to take part in this great cinematic experiment of an average day on planet Earth, specifically July 24, 2010. Produced by Ridley Scott and led by Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald, the editors chose over 80,000 clips and turned it into this 90 minute movie that serves as an interesting time capsule on humanity. It is a montage of life. From its joys and sorrows, to the mundane and profound, it is a testimony of our similarity as people and our need to connect to one another and be a part of something larger than ourselves. The trailer alone is worth watching.

The Guy Flick:
Cowboys and Aliens
(Release date: July 29) Unrated
On the surface, Cowboys and Aliens seems an almost laughable plot. With Steven Spielberg at its helm and Jon Favreau directing a headlining cast featuring Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell, however, it has become one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. Set in Arizona Territory in 1873, a stranger (Craig) devoid of memory and wearing a mysterious shackle on his wrist enters the unwelcoming desert town of Absolution. When a battle between the cowboys and the indigenous Apache Tribe is interrupted by a destructive alien spaceship, the former enemies join together for an epic showdown. As his memory begins to return, the mysterious stranger realizes he holds the key to the survival of mankind.

The Romantic Comedy:
One Day
(Release date: July 19) Rated PG-13
With the demise of the romantic comedy in recent years, it is hard to come by a fresh and sweet story that doesn’t disappoint or lend a vulgar element to the topic of finding one’s “soul mate”. One Day could be the exception this summer. Based on the bestselling novel, the movie stars actors Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess (as Emma and Dexter). The two meet on the night of their college graduation from the University of Edinburgh on July 15, 1988. What makes the story intriguing is how the film revisits the two friends on that same day every year for the next twenty years to see where they are at in their lives. Polar opposites in personality, Emma and Dexter never seem to get together even though they know, deep down in their hearts, they are meant for each other. Could this be the next “When Harry Met Sally?”

The Political Thriller:
The Whistleblower
(Release date: August 5) Rated R
How far would you go to defend justice and speak out on crimes against children? Would you risk your job or your life? Based on a true story, American police officer Kathryn Bolkovac was faced with that very question when she worked as a human rights investigator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. When she is promoted to the U.N.’s Gender Office, which deals with sexual assault investigations, she uncovers a widespread sex-trafficking operation that she traces back to her fellow peacekeepers at the U.N. A word of caution, the film contains sequences that are very violent and difficult to watch. In the film’s defense, however, reviewers have commented that the scenes serve a clear purpose and, although brutal, are authentic to the reality of the sex trafficking industry.

The “Chick” Flick:
The Help
(Release date : August 12) Rated PG- 13
From the runway bestselling book, Kathryn Strockett’s story takes place in 1962 Mississippi as the civil rights movement is beginning to take shape. Skeeter, a southern society girl played by Emma Stone, is a 22-year-old graduate of Ole Miss and an aspiring writer. Upon her return home she embarks on a clandestine writing project about the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families in her community. Her best friend’s housekeeper, Aibileen, played by Viola Davis, is the first to be interviewed. Soon more women step forward to share their stories and an unlikely sisterhood begins to form. The Help is the story of courageous women who choose to transcend the line of unspoken rules that govern the conventions of the day.

The Christian Movie:
(Release date: September 30) PG-13
Hitting theatres after the summer break, but certainly worth mentioning, Courageous is the fourth film from Sherwood Pictures, the movie-making ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church that brought us Facing the Giants, Flywheel and Fireproof. It is the story of four police officers sworn to serve and protect. At the end of the day, however, their toughest challenge is that of fatherhood. When tragedy strikes, the men are tested in their faith and what it means to live up to their calling of fatherhood and be the kind of dad that makes an impact on the lives of their children. Protecting the streets is second nature to these men. Raising their children in a God-honoring way? That’s courageous. Along with the film, Sherwood has made available a resource website with Bible studies and practical books to help equip fathers in their leadership roles.

We want to know what movies you are dying to see this summer. Comment and let us know so we can tell our readers!

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