Historical fiction, horse racing and gladiator movies get a thumbs-up this week.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) — PICK
Seabiscuit (2003) — PICK
Spartacus (1960) — PICK
New on Blu-ray, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus is Jewish producer and star Kirk Douglas’s contribution to the sword-and-sandal genre that, until then, has been synonymous with biblical or triumph-of-Christ spectacle. Inspired by a true story, the pre-Christian epic provides historical context for the Gospel story in intriguing ways, most obviously the bold climax. On Hulu is Peter Weir’s brilliant Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany in a rousing, intelligent adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s nautical historical fiction. Among many strong points is the matter-of-factly Christian historical setting. New Netflix offerings include Gary Ross’ crowd-pleasing Seabiscuit, starring Tobey Maguire in a fact-based story of a race horse whose unexpected comeback inspired Depression-era America. Some unfortunate language and an entirely unnecessary brothel scene mar what could have been a family-friendly film.
CAVEAT SPECTATOR: Master and Commander: Bloody battle violence and field surgery; a suicide; some profane language, rude humor and brief obscenity. Might be fine for mature teens. Seabiscuit: Comic lewd behavior and a bedroom scene (nothing explicit); remarriage after divorce; implied induced vomiting for weight loss; crude language and profanity; sports-related roughness. Adults. Spartacus: Rough gladiatorial and battlefield violence; moderate sexual frankness, including veiled homosexual innuendo. Teens and up.