Faith & Family Media Blog

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Feb 3, 2020

'Avengers,' 'Breakthrough,' 'Toy Story 4' and More: Surveying at the Best of the Rest in 2019

 

In an earlier post, FTP producer-at-large, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 USC film-school grad, looked at the Academy Awards nominees. Here, he reviews some of the other movies that he didn't get to write about last year.

Avengers: Endgame

Based on the previous films and characters created by Stan Lee. The movie provided an adequate ending for this saga. I’ve done some reading on the Spanish influenza of 1919 and thought this final Avengers film paralleled that calamity: there are some things humans can’t escape (mass death) but only endure and persevere, whether one is a superhero or not.

Breakthrough

Based on the book The Impossible by Joyce Smith; nominated for Best Original Song. I thought this film ranked among the best of the faith-based films. While the story can’t resist both literal and figurative “altar call” scenes, there’s something left to the mystery of miracles. The book and the film believe in the miracle of praying to God in restoring a drowned boy to life, while leaving unanswered the specific “why him and why now?” question.

Frozen 2

Based on the previous film; nominated for Best Original Song. Remember the name of the Oscar-nominated song from the original film? I’m sure you do and can probably sing a few of the lines from Frozen’s “Let it Go". Remember the name of the Oscar-nominated song from the sequel? …  didn’t think so. The song, “Into the Unknown” fittingly describes the forgettable nature of Frozen 2.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Based on the previous two films; nominated for Best Animated Feature. My favorite animated trilogy and animated series (Dragons: Race to the Edge) came to a satisfying ending. Unlike some other tentpole franchises, this third film felt like the conclusion of an epic and not a set-up for something more.

Les Miserables (France)

Based on the short film of the same title; nominated for Best International Film. As the short film, Les Miserables worked better as a proof of concept for the Oscar-nominated feature film; the feature film, too, works better as a pilot for a potential French television series.

The Lighthouse

Inspired by the writings of Sarah Orne Jewett; nominated for Best Cinematography. Much gets made of the cinematography from this film, but I thought the attention to dialogue, and Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson’s delivery of period New England-speak, was spot on. Writer-director Robert Eggers researched the harsh poetic speak of the time through a short-story writer of the time, Sarah Orne Jewett.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Based on the previous film; nominated for Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Nuanced characters are usually welcome in films. In Disney films such as the Maleficent movies, it seems out of place. I’m puzzled as to whom I should be rooting for. Disney amps up the cuteness factor, however. Tiny animated characters populate the story, one of which reminded me of the Troll dolls; another bore resemblance to Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Based on the previous eight films and characters created by George Lucas; nominated for Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects. I thought Disney did a fine job of tweaking the Star Wars story for new audiences, while retaining the core message intact. While not intending to, it shows the challenge every Christian minister faces: dynamic preaching to new generations while respecting the orthodoxy of the Gospel message.

Toy Story 4

Based on the previous three films; nominated for Best Original Song and Best Animated Feature. Pixar’s latest in the Toy Story series also turned out to be its most disappointing. For the first time in the franchise, the storytelling felt lazy, merely repackaging familiar themes and sending the characters out on a road trip. As I’ve mentioned before, I think examining the man-child phenomenon, that is, grown men purchasing toys from their youth secondhand, would make for a more compelling story.

Image: Disney/Marvel; 20th Century Fox; Pixar

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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