Home Video Picks & Passes 12.28.14
Calvary (2014) — PICK
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — PICK
When the Game Stands Tall (2014) — PASS
The latest home-video releases include an excruciating but riveting religious drama, an earnest but tepid faith-inflected sports film and a raucous popcorn action-comedy. Of the two religious dramas, Calvary is guaranteed to offend and disturb viewers, yet I find Brendan Gleeson’s Father James Lavelle, a heroic priest in a punishingly difficult pastoral milieu, one of the most impressive and appealing movie priests I’ve ever seen. When the Game Stands Tall, by contrast, has little to trouble anyone, but Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of a legendary real-life high-school football coach is less inspirational to me than the filmmakers mean him to be.
I’m sure many people will prefer Game, with its morally earnest themes of character, commitment and brotherhood. Caviezel plays Bob Ladouceur, who coached in the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., during an unparalleled winning streak. Both films are full of rather flat characters, but Calvary has a richly complex human figure at its center: one who refuses to speak in platitudes, who listens attentively to everyone around him and whose answers cut to the heart of the matter. And at least Calvary allows its protagonist to be unapologetically Catholic; Ladouceur could be teaching at a Baptist school. Search at NCRegister.com or DecentFilms.com for my full reviews.
If neither of those is your cup of tea, you might enjoy the year’s top blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. Amid so many dark, grim Hollywood tentpoles, Guardians is a welcome relief: a lighthearted romp set in a colorfully weird sci-fi universe that’s part Star Wars and part Pirates of the Caribbean. If its characters are rough around the edges and the ribald humor is occasionally a bit much, there’s a refreshing sincerity: Good people get saved from bad people, and the good people are grateful. There’s a couple of movingly heroic moments. And, you know, it’s fun.
Caveat Spectator: Calvary: Graphic obscene dialogue; some graphic violent imagery; a depiction of cocaine use. Discretion advised. Guardians of the Galaxy: Much intense sci-fi action violence; some crude and sexually themed language and humor. Teens and up. When the Game Stands Tall: Lots of punishing sports violence; a fatal shooting; some drug references; brief innuendo and crude language. Teens and up.
- Dec. 28, 2014-Jan. 10, 2015