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Review of OVERCOMER (Blu-ray combo)

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Grade: B-/C+
Entire family: Yes
Christian sports drama
2019, 119 min., Color
Sony Pictures
Rated PG for some thematic elements
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital
Trailer
Amazon link

Overcomer is the latest inspirational Christian film from brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, with Alex serving once again as director and also starring. Like the others before it—Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), Courageous (2011), and War Room (2015)—there’s frequent mention of God and prayer. Unlike the others, there are quite a few come-to-Jesus moments rather than a single pivotal one. That’s not a criticism, mind you. It’s a fact. If you’re put off by preachy films (“You were created to know and worship Him”), then you won’t want to buy or stream this one.

But it’s also a fact that the Kendrick brothers keep improving. The writing is a little more polished, the camerawork has grown stronger, and there are more sophisticated shots—some, in this film, using drones. The overall production values are far superior as well, the result of a $5 million budget (compared to the $20,000 budget the Kendricks had to work with for their first film). While the brothers’ early films mostly cast members of their Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia (where Kendrick was an associate pastor), they’ve graduated to using more professional actors . . . and that also help to elevate the overall quality. This time there’s also a killer soundtrack, with the highlight a song (“You Say”) by Grammy- and American Music Awards-winner Lauren Daigle. More

Review of THE SIMPSONS: SEASON 19 (DVD)

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Grade: A-
Entire family: No
2007-08, 440 min. (20 episodes), Color
Animation
Not rated (would be PG for some drinking, smoking, and adult situations)
20th Century Fox
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: B
Includes: 4 discs, booklet
Intro sample
Amazon Link

It’s almost unfathomable to think that a TV series that first aired in 1989 would still be on the air, but The Simpsons keeps chugging happily along and shows no signs of slowing down. With the 31st season in progress, it’s the longest running TV sitcom and also the longest running scripted primetime TV show.

Cartoonist Matt Groening struck gold with this series about a nuclear power plant worker who’s so dumb you’d swear there’s a leak at the plant. Then again, there might be something to that. In Springfield, where nuclear power is the big employer in town, the stream has multi-headed fish and everyone and everything in town is just a little strange—whether it’s hyper-Christian Ned Flanders, dumb-as-a-baton Chief Wiggum, Marge Simpson’s blue hair, or the Simpsons’ deep yellow pallor that tip you off.

Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is part Archie Bunker, part Al Bundy, and part Rain Man, and his clueless but try-anything demeanor gets him into all sorts of escapades, sometimes with his über-delinquent son Bart (Nancy Cartwright). Marge (Julie Kavner) is Homer’s long-suffering wife, while daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith) somehow managed to beat the family’s gene pool to be born brainy and ambitious. Cartoon families are fun because no one ever ages, and the baby Maggie keeps sucking on her pacifier year after year. Bartender Moe (Hank Azaria) also never ages, nor does Flanders (Harry Shearer), Wiggum (Azaria), Kwik-E-Mart proprietor Apu (Azaria), Principal Skinner (Shearer), bully Nelson Muntz (Cartwright), teacher Edna Krabappel (Marcia Wallace), or Bart’s friend Milhouse (Pamela Hayden).

The animated show’s success can be attributed to three things: engaging characters, sharp writing, and a steady diet of topical humor and pop culture allusions that keep the writing (and the writers) fresh. In fact, The Simpsons itself is such a cultural phenomenon that celebrities have eagerly been a part of various episodes. This season falls into what many consider the Simpsons’ golden era before the style of animation changed. And the titles alone tell you how much fun the writers had with pop culture this season. More