“Silence” (2016) is a Deeply Reflective Journey of Contemplation into Faith

“Silence” is filled with moments of contemplation about faith, in scenes big and small.

Take, for example, the scene in which the villagers ask Rodrigues and Garupe whether they may step on the plaque of Jesus if it means saving their lives. “Yes,” Rodrigues exclaims and implores the villagers to do it, yet Garupe has the opposite view and immediately rebukes him. The short scene brilliantly illustrates one of the most fundamental questions about faith: is it enough for the believer to believe in his heart, or must he be willing to do much more?

Or take the underground Christians. When Rodrigues finally meets Ferreira, he discovers that Ferriera has apostatized. Trying to persuade Rodrigues to apostizise as well, Ferreira explains that all of Rodrigues’ efforts are for naught because the Japanese, who idolize the Christian God in the form of a sun, will never come to understand Christianity. This may very well be true, but what of the sufferings the Christian villagers endured for their profession of belief in Jesus Christ? Are they not recognized as Christians because they have misunderstood Christianity?

 

“Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016) is a Whole Lot of Nothing

The premise of “Resurgence” is that the aliens from the original had sent a distress call to its home planet and it took only 20 years for the aliens to get their act together to counter-attack.

In those 20 years, humans have advanced quite a bit. There is no longer inter-country warfare, with humanity united in defending itself against extraterrestrial attack through a global defense program called Earth Space Defense (although somehow, United States president still seems to be in charge of the world). There is a space station on the moon that is the earth’s first line of defense, and people are able to travel from the moon to the earth on spaceships as easily as they travel between continents on planes.

With humanity so much more advanced, the invasion on the scale of the original just wouldn’t have gotten the job done for the aliens. And so it is that aliens in “Resurgence” are twice as unattractive, thrice as big and a hundred times more numerous than in the original.

 

“Finding Dory” (2016), While Falling Short of the Original, Still Delivers

“Finding Dory” does one thing really right, and it’s taking the most memorable character from “Finding Nemo,” the lovable regal blue tang Dory, and giving her the top billing. Ellen DeGeneres, who stole the spotlight in the original, returns as the voice of Dory and brings the same charm and humor. It’s a testament to DeGeneres’ performance that Dory’s quirkiness doesn’t wear thin even as Dory moves into the central role.

 

“Money Monster” (2016) is Amateur Hour

“Money Monster” (2016) is in trouble from the very beginning. It opens with George Clooney sitting on a bathroom stall while Julia Roberts talks to him from the other side of the door. When, only a short time later, Clooney abandons whatever dignity he had left by dancing with cheerleaders while dressing in a magician costume, it becomes pretty clear that the film is never going to achieve even respectability despite all the big names associated with the project.

 

“Everest” (2015) is Quite Thrilling

The film is strong throughout, in writing, acting, directing and cinematography. I do, though, have a complaint about the 3D, which I’ve always felt is an ineffective way of viewing film. 3D may be good at providing a dimension that pops out of the screen, but it’s terrible at providing depth. That’s why 3D is at its worst in close-ups that are meant to illustrate how far something is or in scenes that show something is approaching from afar.

 

The Lackluster “Spectre” (2015) Lacks a Punch

The lesson to be learned from “Spectre” (2015), the first James Bond movie since the stellar “Skyfall” (2012), is that just bringing back the star (Daniel Craig), the director (Sam Mendes) and the screenwriters (John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) from a critically-acclaimed, commercially-successful predecessor is no guarantee that the magic can strike again.

The Bond franchise tried something similar once before with “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) and the dud “Moonraker” (1979). In fairness, “Spectre” is no “Moonraker,” but it certainly fails to meet the high standards filmmakers set for it when they chose to revise the classic villainous organization from the 1960s and name the film after it.

 

The Action and the Villain Highlights “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015)

It’s a little perplexing why the franchise has been so inconsistent. After all, Tom Cruise has produced and starred in every movie, and the formula for success is relatively simple. First, write a story involving a mission with the Impossible Mission Force led by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) that requires some intelligent planning and a lot of luck to pull off. Then follow IMF as it executes the mission as a team, hopping from one scenic location to the next with several preposterous action scenes thrown in along the way.

“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” has all of these elements, particularly the last. The film begins with Ethan Hunt hanging from a plane in mid-air as he tries to steal nerve gas from terrorists in the plane. Paramount Pictures, which is distributing the film, has been relentless in advertising this sequence to the point of over-exposure, although it’s hard to blame Paramount for wanting to show off scene in the trailers and the posters. It’s breathtakingly realistic.

 
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