Thanksgiving week brings multitude of gratitude in theaters as the reformation of content and renaissance of artistry continues in top movies. The top pick movie for Thanksgiving week, the fourth week of November, is The Star. This delightful movie is appropriate for the whole family and tells the story of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the animals in the story, especially that of the underdog little donkey Bo, who develops as a hero.
With excellent, charming animation, the voices are entertaining and engaging. As it tells the story of the birth of our Savior, it conveys valuable lessons of persistence, friendship, and true purpose. It demonstrates the truth that good overcomes evil, even through underdogs. It is a lovely movie that portrays the story of the greatest Christmas gift of all!
Another top pick is Wonder that shot to number two at the box office right out of the gate. Based on the New York Times bestseller by the same title, it tells the inspiring, hopeful, and heartwarming story of August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), who has facial deformities. In the movie, he enters the fifth grade to attend an elementary school for the first time, after homeschooling with his mother, played by Oscar Award-winning actress Julia Roberts.
The movie follows Auggie’s first year in school from his perspective and that of those around him. While it discourages bullying, the movie encourages seeing others beyond external appearances, having quality friendships, and showing compassion. It is a family movie but there is some brief, mostly light, foul language.
It is a delightful, entertaining, uplifting movie that is suitable for older children through adults. Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson (Auggie’s father), Izabela Vidovic (Auggie’s sister, Via), Mandy Patinkin (Auggie’s school principal), and Jacob Tremblay (Auggie) give endearing performances. Pictures
Another top pick movie coming to theaters November 22 is The Man Who Invented Christmas. It is an engaging, enthralling, entertaining that tells the story of Charles Dickens creating the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol. Movieguide says that it ”… is an instant holiday classic, with a marvelous performance by Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens, who delightfully interacts with the characters from his story. It’s one of the best Christmas movies ever made, filled with good will toward men.” Dan Stevens gives a fine performance in this comedic movie, along with Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce and others.
Playing out in the hardhearted world of the Los Angeles criminal court system that was sorely lacking in moral convictions, Roman J. Israel, Esq., is a thought-provoking top pick for older teens and adults. It is a PG-13 movie due to content and some language. (For example, our Lord’s name is taken in vain to the face of Roman Israel, who ironically is in part a type of Christ figure.)
This uniquely told story is now in theaters and stars Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a character whose “moral compass always points north,” says producer, Todd Black. “When you go to a courthouse or a prison, you see people struggling to prove their worth, to prove their story – not even necessarily their innocence; they just want their story to be heard,” says Black. Of many lawyers, he says, “They’re cut and dry – does it fit the law or doesn’t it fit the law? – and they put zero moral value on right or wrong.”
As Roman J. Israel, Esq, Washington performs an idealistic, misfit, savant defense lawyer, Roman J. Israel, who is driven by conviction, courage, and compassion. The Esq. attached to his name refers to his being “a little above gentleman” and “a little lower than knight.”
Roman’s life is upended when his mentor, a civil rights icon, dies. Israel is recruited to join a firm led by one of the legendary man’s former students, George Pierce (Colin Farrell), who is initially an ambitious and self-serving lawyer. Roman Israel is also pursued as a mentor by Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo), who is a young champion of equal rights. Carmen Ejogo says that Roman ignites the embers in her character and that her character stands on his shoulders. A turbulent series of events tests Roman’s career and convictions, as well as of those around him.
I enjoyed a profound discussion of this multi-faceted, substantive movie in L.A. with Denzel Washington and director Dan Gilroy. You can hear excerpts from this discussion. One of the most profound insights from this discussion was that the movie is not just about Roman. The idea of one’s legacy is gripping in this movie.
Like Roman Israel, Dan Gilroy and Denzel Washington are men of strong convictions. Denzel revealed that while shooting Roman J. Israel, Esq. that he and Dan prayed and read the Bible regularly. “Dan and I have been prayer partners in this whole collaboration…We were on the same page from day one. We know Who we work for, and we’re just trying to do our best work,” he said. Read and hear more about Dan Gilroy’s and Denzel Washington’s faith and convictions. Pictures
Dan Gilroy wrote the film on spec specifically for two-time Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington because he felt that Denzel is the only actor who could bring the character to life. “I wrote this movie for Denzel because of his talent and because Denzel is a man who believes in human dignity and the human spirit. Knowing who Denzel is in real life, he brings that part of himself to this character.”
Dan Gilroy is well-known for Hollywood spectacles like The Bourne Legacy. Gilroy says, “I can write spectacle-driven, entertaining films, but what I learned…is that audiences love to watch something character-based…Audiences are hungry for a story that resonates in real life, that’s relevant.”
The hope of redemption continues to shine into our hurting, dark world in other top pick movies for the third week of week of November. Let There Be Light, about an alcoholic atheist, tells the story of Sol Harkins who is mourning the death of his son. Because he is bitter and angry with God, Sol enjoys writing books that mock belief in God, especially Christian belief.
However, at a party for his new book, Sol becomes very drunk. As he drives his fancy car home, he crashes and has a near-death experience in which he sees his son alive and happy. His son repeatedly says to him, “Let there be light.” This experience challenges Sol to reconsider his beliefs and actions. This engaging, inspiring movie is directed by Kevin Sorbo and produced by Sean Hannity. Kevin and his wife, Sam, who is also a writer, are lead actors for this captivating film.
Among other top picks remaining in theaters is Dunkirk. This riveting movie inspires courage and compassion with its true story of sacrifice and grit as individuals risk their own lives in water rescues manned by volunteers and professionals to save others in harm’s way. This has been a top pick movie at the box office for adults since its release the third week of July.
Personal and corporate courage and compassion as people serve, sacrifice, and save strangers and communities, revealing the best in people in the worst of times, is a recurring and inspiring theme in the true stories in top pick movies, as it is today in our real lives.
Dunkirk immerses audiences in the harrowing, heroic, amazing events of 1940, when Germany trapped Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Under skilled air and ground cover from British and French forces, British crews and boats, including civilian, courageously, carefully, and safely evacuated 330,000 French, British, Belgian, and Dutch soldiers from the beaches.
This powerful, thrilling movie (rated PG-13) is most suited for adults due to intense war violence, although there is little that is gratuitous or inappropriate in terms of language or behavior. The courage, sacrifice, and camaraderie of soldiers and civilians is deeply inspirational.
The acting and cinematography is outstanding. Although the dialogue is often difficult to understand, the action speaks for itself. In this movie, everyman and everywoman role models and heroes are significant in their positive potential influence on viewers. Research provides evidence that those who observe and identify with role models are significantly influenced by the role models for good. Those who role model compassion, sacrifice, and courage can inspire it in others, as we are seeing played out in real life currently in flood rescues.
Although not depicted in the movie, it is also noteworthy that a National Day of Prayer that was declared on May 26 for the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk. People from all walks of life came to British churches to pray. It was this call to prayer that compelled many civilians to bring their boats to Dunkirk to help save the courageous. A unifying National Day of Prayer was also declared on September 3, 2017 for the rescue and recovery work in the Houston, Texas region.
There were miraculous answers to prayer for Dunkirk. First, Hitler stopped the advance of his armored columns at the very point when they could have proceeded to annihilate the British army. Second, a huge storm over Flanders on May 28 grounded the German Luftwaffe squadrons and enabled the British army formations eight to twelve miles from Dunkirk, to move up on foot to the coast in the dark and rain of storm. Third, the English Channel was amazingly calm as the vast armada of little ships, big ships, and warships rescued the stranded soldiers.
The British were so grateful for the great deliverance at Dunkirk that June 9 was appointed as a Day of National Thanksgiving. The Daily Telegraph published C. B. Mortlock’s article in which he stated, “…the prayers of the nation were answered…the God of hosts himself had supported the valiant men of the British Expeditionary Force.”
Another movie based on a true British story that is at the top of the box office is Good-Bye Christopher Robin (PG). This film provides a behind-the-scenes look at the historical and family context of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The audience observes the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin. Christopher’s toys inspire the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. As Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the book, the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War.
A movie for kids, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, remains in theaters. This PG-rated, animated, action-adventure movie is the third movie in the LEGO movie series. It’s based on the LEGO Ninjago sets and also features characters from the LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu TV program.
The story is about Lloyd (James Franco), a teen misfit who suffers at school because his absentee father – who is the evil warlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) – constantly threatens his home, Ninjago City. However, Lloyd’s secret is that he is the Green Ninja. Lloyd and his friends, who are also secret ninja, constantly save the city from Garmadon. However, during a battle, a terrible monster is unleashed on the city. Led by Master Wu (Jackie Chan), Lloyd, and his friends embark on a perilous journey and learn to trust their power.
The LEGO “Ninjago” franchise has some Eastern mysticism and occult elements in its TV and toys versions; but the comical, new animated movie is basically free of such problematic, objectionable content. The plot of the movie has a strong, family, moral premise about reconciliation of a son with his father and reunion with the boy’s mother and father. It is a movie with a lot of heart, fun action, and comedy.
Kids who have liked the previous The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, who have watched LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, or who have played with any of the toys, will like this movie. Adults will like references to the 1980’s. The young ninjas are warriors by night and ordinary teens by day. This movie is appropriate for older children through adults.
Further remaining at the top of the box office, Despicable Me 3, which is PG-rated, has some light crude elements and lots of cartoon violence, but is moral and redemptive as it celebrates faith and family amid action-packed adventures. It has no foul language. Gru, wife Lucy, and their three adorable daughters (Margo, Edith, and Agnes) along with the Minions and Gru’s twin brother, Dru (both twins are skillfully voiced by Steve Carrell), are involved with fast-paced adventures filled with heart and satirical humor for all ages. Despicable Me 3 (PG-13) is suitable for older children through adults.
It takes effort and research to find good movies with worthwhile values through good reviews from trustworthy, wise sources. Uniquely, each week Sonoma Christian Home not only provides reviews and thoughtful, substantive interviews for worthwhile family movies; but it also publishes the top picks in movies in theaters for all ages that are not only entertaining but redemptive, of good quality, and inspirational.
The top pick movies for the fourth week of November include the following: The Star (PG) for all ages; Wonder (PG) for older children through adults; The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG) for older children through adults; Roman Israel, Esq. (PG-13) for older teens through adults; Let There Be Light (PG-13) that is suitable for older children through adults; Good-Bye Christopher Robin (PG) that is suitable for older children and adults; and Dunkirk (PG-13) which is suitable for older teens and adults. Other movies for families are Despicable Me 3 (PG-13), which is appropriate for older children through adults, and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which is suitable for older children through adults.
Although release dates can change, this what we know about the promising movies yet to in December: Ferdinand, December 15; The Bolshoi Ballet’s, The Nutcracker, December 17; and The Greatest Showman, December 25.
Remember to research movies before you see them. Hold out for the best. What we see in movies affects our personal lives, our families, and our culture. Support in every way you can, the best of family and redemptive movies, so that more like them will be made. Choose and support the best that will affect us all positively for eternal good.
To learn more about this author, please visit Dr. Diane Howard