- Friday, June 21, 2024

“Jesus” retells the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — all in American Sign Language. “Thelma” has good actors and some winning ideas, but it lacks a bit of grandmother’s common sense. “The Bikeriders” can feel a teensy bit like ‘West Side Story,’ but with a lot less dancing and a lot more swearing.

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Jesus: A Deaf Missions Film – In Theaters

“Jesus” provides a unique depiction of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — one that will hopefully take the gospel to many Deaf people for the first time.

The creation of the film didn’t come without its challenges. When translating the gospels into American Sign Language, Deaf director Joseph Josselyn had to find unique ways to express the same timeless truths found in the Bible — not only in ways that continue to align with Scripture but also in ways that carry the same emotional weight.

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And that weight is shouldered by Josselyn’s Deaf cast, who effectively translate the gospel accounts’ most emotional moments not only with their hands but also with their facial expressions. And if I, someone who isn’t a part of Deaf community, can feel the weight of the emotional undertones in Jesus, I can only imagine the impact it can have on someone who is.

And that impact is the point of the movie’s creation.

“Deaf people, including myself, often watch movies where the actors are speaking and we have to rely on the captions,” Josselyn signed in a YouTube video about the project. “Because of this, we don’t have that same connection with the film that a hearing person would. If the deaf community sees a film that’s done entirely in sign language, they’re captivated, regardless of the topic of the film.”

And when that topic is Jesus, in our eyes, it’s all the better.

[“Jesus” is out in select movie theaters June 20 and 23, 2024.]

Read the rest of the review here. Watch the trailer here.

Thelma – In Theaters

Actress June Squibb has been gracing stage and screen for a good long time. And now she gets her first lead role in a film at the young age of 94. Squibb hits her marks and cues with the seamless poise of a pro and delivers her punchlines with aplomb, but her film … isn’t always so graceful.

Don’t get me wrong, “Thelma” has some very nice, and at times tender, thoughts to share about family, the elderly, and the inevitable changes that come with age. But frankly, the whole doesn’t equal the parts.

Writer/director Josh Margolin attempts to make his protagonist’s get-the-scammers quest into something, uh, cute. But it becomes a silly fantasy adventure pic that tends to clash with June Squibb’s and Richard Roundtree’s earnest characterizations. And then when you lacquer everything with a coating of completely unnecessary crude language (including three f-bombs in a PG-13 movie!) the whole thing feels a bit out of sync.

Maybe it just needed more grandmotherly good sense.

It’s too bad, too. This could have been a film that family audiences would enjoy and mull over instead of one they’ll likely, and wisely avoid.

Read the rest of the review here. Watch the trailer here.

The Bikeriders – In Theaters

The Vandals gang was built on a number of things: chrome and leather and loyalty and such. But it was built on something else, too: paradox.

The Vandals’ members were loners who formed a tight, near-unbreakable family. Kathy notes that they despised any law or rule — until they formed the club. Then they wrote up plenty of rules for themselves, and they increasingly adhered to those rules with the passion of a pharisee. The Vandals loved their freedom. And yet, within the bonds of the gang, many ultimately found themselves virtual prisoners — unable to shake free of its constricting culture, unable to change its trajectory.

Maybe there’s a spiritual lesson in there: When we, in our very human ways, seek freedom outside of Christ, we find ourselves imprisoned by our own human desires and failures. When we submit to Him, we — again paradoxically — find ourselves free.

But “The Bikeriders” doesn’t really go there, so we’ll leave it at that and focus on the movie itself — a movie that can feel a teensy bit like “West Side Story,” but with a lot less dancing and a lot more swearing.

And language isn’t the film’s only problem. The violence can be extreme and is, at times, unremitting. The way women are treated here is often abysmal. And if you’re looking for a film that lauds law-abiding citizens … well, this ain’t it.

“The Bikeriders” takes us into a culture with which few of us are likely personally familiar. But the film doesn’t seem to have much more reason for being than simply that: There are no broader themes in play, nothing to think about afterward.

It is, perhaps, like a ride on the open road on your Harley or Indian in a driving snowstorm. Sure, the trip theoretically has its pleasures. But in reality, it’s kind of a slog.

Read the rest of the review here. Watch the trailer here.

Plugged In is a Focus on the Family publication designed to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving families the essential tools they need to understand, navigate, and impact the culture in which they live. Through our reviews, articles and discussions, we hope to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

Reviews written by Paul Asay, Bob Hoose and Kennedy Unthank.

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