I HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE TO experience a different religious service from mine, during one of the holidays. Entering into the cavernous building, I was immediately taken by the decorations that were hanging down every column and window. Golden gauze like fabric was gently swaying on the currents of air from the open windows. There was an elderly gentleman standing in the aisle that led to the seats. He was passing out ribbons that were attached to the top of wooden sticks, sort of like mini flags. Each of us were handed one; I asked my companion what we were supposed to do with these ribbons. They were to be used during certain passages of the service, where we are to wave them in the air. Okay that was different for me. But then there was another person standing behind the elderly man and she was handing out yellowish colored foam sticks, for lack of a better word; I swear they looked like large french fries! Each one was embossed with the word “HALLELUJAH.” Looking at my friend he was as perplexed as me. After everyone was seated a religious leader came out to explain what to do with the 2 items we were given. No disrespect but it felt like I was attending a sporting event; would we be doing the “wave” next? THE SERVICE BEGAN AFTER THE organ player, who was perched up in the balcony, finished their song. What struck me rather quickly was the amount of songs being performed throughout the service. I could not remember ever hearing so much music at any religious service I attended previously. Being a people watcher I periodically scanned the people around me. Some of them were really into the music, waving their ribbons back and forth in the air; others were jabbing their foam sticks up and down in the air. If everyone had been sitting in bleachers you would have thought they were at a football game; it was surreal for me. At one point in the service the leader walked out into the crowd dribbling a basketball; I knew it, this was a game! No seriously he gave a speech about inclusion, touching on some of the hot topics currently in the news. I have to tell you it felt genuine to me; this individual was asking us to look at something in a different light. Though this was not the religion I was raised with I learned something new. I can say the same for this historical drama. EACH TIME BEING FEARFUL FOR HIS life Luke, played by Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Frequency), persisted in visiting imprisoned apostle Paul, played by James Faulkner (Atomic Blonde, Game of Thrones-TV). Luke wanted to keep a journal of everything Paul was telling him. Set in Rome during the reign of Nero this film also starred Olivier Martinez (The Physician, Unfaithful) as Mauritius, Joanne Whalley (Willow, The Man Who Knew too Little) as Priscilla and John Lynch (The Secret Garden, Black Death) as Aquila. The first thing I appreciated about this movie was the script was written to tell a story. I do not know how much of it was true but I found it interesting since I have a general curiosity about different religions. However the script did not go far enough; it caused the actors to pale in their roles. I simply found them to be dull and wooden with their acting. Gratefully there was no heavy handed preaching to the viewers, but I would have preferred seeing more story and especially more historical background to the story.
At the time no one had heard the term politically correct. I grew to dislike team sports from my physical education classes in elementary and high school. Those classes had nothing to do with health I discovered once I was in college. Except for twice a year where we were tested to see how many sit-ups and chin-ups we could do, the majority of the time was spent being picked for a team and being told we had to try and crush the other team. There were a couple of gym teachers who could have been on the “before” posters regarding the benefits of exercising. One in particular always had the stench of cigarette smoke wafting out of his pores. He was the most inappropriate person to be a teacher. When teams were formed he would give us a pep talk, telling us we had to slaughter and beat our opponents. There could only be one winner and one loser; he would verbally abuse the players during the game. I did not want to be a part of those classes, so I focused on individual sports activities outside of school. COMPLETELY opposite from my high school instructor was the teacher in this dramatic sports film inspired by a true story. Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) played the inspirational teacher and football coach Bob Ladouceur. Working with his team, the De La Salle High School Spartons, Coach Ladouceur along with his assistant Coach Terry Eidson, played by Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four franchise, The Shield-TV), led the players to an unheard of record-breaking streak of 151 wins. This movie had the perfect story to tell for both the sports and non-sports minded viewer. For someone who does not follow football, I knew their winning streak was unheard of with any professional sports team. The game scenes were actually exciting throughout the film. What was a total disservice to the story was the horrible script; it was dull, lifeless and filled with cliches that were meant to move the viewer. The cast which also included Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, The Master) as Bev Ladouceur, Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games, Lone Survivor) as Chris Ryan and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Trooper) as Chris Ryan all did a decent job of acting with their characters. How the writers took what was an incredible story and put out this poor version was beyond me; especially when they showed clips of the actual people at the end of the film. Even I wanted to be part of that team, not the one depicted in this film.
1 3/4 stars
I hope when the time comes I will be honest with myself and realize I need to step back. Having been a group fitness, yoga and cycle instructor for many years; I can see how my intensity levels have diminished with age. There is no way I can match the energy of a 20 year old instructor; it is just a fact of life. One thing that has not dulled through the years has been my passion. I feel such joy when I see participants enjoying themselves; whether from a sense of personal accomplishment or laughing at something I mentioned, there is a bond that forms between all of us. As the members and I grow older, we will adjust to the reality of it. I have told my classes that one of my goals in teaching fitness has always been that all of us can still get out of a chair by ourselves when we are 90 years old. The acceptance of aging is something I feel the main stars in this action thriller may need to address sooner than later. Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head, The Expendables franchise) played Ray Breslin, an expert in prison designs. Due to a double cross, Ray found himself locked up in an unknown maximum security facility that was based on one of his designs. If he wanted to get out alive he would not only have to rely on everything he had learned from breaking out of prisons, but on the help of fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, True Lies). The main attraction of this movie was seeing the two former action heroes starring in a film together for the first time. Both actors stayed with what worked for them in the past; Sylvester delivered his grumbled lines with his sarcastic sneer while Arnold brought his brawn and comedic lines. It was obvious these two actors were trying to recapture their glory days and I did not have a problem with it. However, with that being the case; I was annoyed with the poor editing job throughout this movie. The illusion of being an action star failed due to seeing the stunt doubles in many of the scenes. The only performance I enjoyed was from Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) as Warden Hobbes. With older actors trying to retain their youth, an odd script and a poor ending; there was nothing very satisfying in this film except that the good guys win and the bad guys lose. An observation, the audience was 95% male. There were a couple of scenes that had blood in them.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
After I was done watching this movie I sat and wondered if this story would have ever gotten out if the French journalist’s car had not broken down. The movie, based on a true story, stunned and horrified me. The idea that everything was in place for this tragic event to become public, only reaffirmed my belief that there were no accidents, there was a reason for everything. The year was 1986 in a small town in Iran. Journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, played by Jim Caviezel (Deja Vu, The Thin Red Line) met Zahra, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand, The Lake House), while waiting for his car to be fixed. She wanted to tell him the story about her niece Soraya, played by Mozhan Marno (Traitor, Charlie Wilson’s War). However, the town had eyes on this outsider. Despite being told by some townsmen that Zahra was crazy, Fredidoune managed to meet and listen to Zahra’s story. Told in flashback, the story was about Soraya and her husband Ali, played by Navid Negahban (Brothers, Charlie Wilson’s War). When Soraya refused Navid’s wish for a divorce so he could marry a 14 year old girl, Navid came up with a plan that would use Sharia law to solve his problem. Though I prefer to give as little information as possible in reviewing a movie, there is no getting around the fact that Soraya was to be stoned. Watching the scene was brutal for me. And just as horrific was the idea that this could still be happening to women in this day and age. I understood it was more dramatic to have a narrator tell the story in flashback; however, I had this constant feeling of dread, knowing the outcome. With all the men of the town being portrayed as evil, the story seemed a little heavy handed to me. Irregardless, I do hope you get the opportunity to see this film and hear Soraya’s story. Persian with English subtitles.
3 1/3 stars — DVD