Home Video Picks & Passes 03.19.17

Doctor Strange gets a thumbs-up.

(photo: Marvel)

Doctor Strange (2016) — PICK

Moana (2016) — PASS


New on Blu-ray, Doctor Strange — last year’s best blockbuster spectacle — was directed by Christian filmmaker Scott Derrickson, and amid mind-blowing visuals is a moral and even a spiritual thoughtfulness unusual in an action movie.

Many superhero movies indulge in “God talk.” Doctor Strange asks whether materialism explains man or whether he has a spiritual dimension — and definitively endorses the latter. Benedict Cumberbatch plays arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, who believes a human being is “just another momentary speck with an indifferent universe” — but, in time, he realizes that’s the philosophy of mankind’s enemies. That would be an evil sorcerer (Mads Mikkelson) and his followers, whose devotion to a malevolent, primordial “destroyer of worlds” makes them functional Satan worshippers.

Eventually, Strange becomes a sorcerer himself, though, as in Harry Potter, it’s only bad magic that has occult trappings; good magic is semi-demythologized and treated as quasi-scientific, rather than ritual or invocatory.

Also new on Blu-ray, Disney’s Moana combines almost everything I enjoy about contemporary Disney with almost everything I dislike.

Infectious musical numbers, a great heroine who actually has two good and loving parents, sparkling voice work (including Dwayne Johnson as Maui), and a new cultural setting (indigenous Polynesian culture) are undercut by those exhausted family-film tropes, “Junior Knows Best” and “Tradition Is Wrong,” and some muddled religious themes.

Bottom line: Disney animation is getting better at building worlds and creating characters than at telling well-crafted stories in those worlds.


Caveat Spectator: Doctor Strange: Varying degrees of violent imagery, including a suggested decapitation, fleeting impalement and an intense vehicular accident and some medical gore; references to a past sexual relationship; brief bad language. Moana: Animated menace and action; pagan religious themes; a few rude jokes and words.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.