The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) is a guide at a pencil museum. Her husband, Jim (Joel Edgerton), is a manager at the small midwestern town’s key industry: a pencil factory. They meet with adoption counselors to express why they would make good parents.

When Cindy and Jim learn that their efforts to have a child fail, they are crushed. To heal, they write the characteristics of their dream child on small pieces of paper, place them in a box, and bury it in the garden. Now they can move on. But during a thunderstorm that very night, a young boy appears covered in mud. His name is Timothy (played by CJ Adams), and he has green leaves growing from his legs.

Cindy and Jim are astonished and accept Timothy as a gift, despite the challenges of explaining his origins and the green leaves to family and friends. Kids bully Timothy, but he makes friends with Joni (Odeya Rush), who is also different. Timothy loves nature and thrives in the sunlight.

The film, written and directed by Peter Hedges, is a charming fantasy parable about life, adoption, and care for the earth. It is crafted with gentle humor, love for humanity, respect for creation, and parenting—all rich themes for catechesis.

Not yet rated, PG ■ Thematic elements.

The Dark Knight Rises

After eight years, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has finally rid Gotham of its criminal element, but he conspired to cover up deceased District Attorney Harvey Dent’s crimes and implicated Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in his murder. Bruce has spent these years as a recluse at Wayne Manor. Now, Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked mercenary, has come to rid Gotham of the dominance of Wayne Enterprises and replace the city’s new civic order with anarchy.

Bane targets a nuclear reactor that Fox (Morgan Freeman) has been keeping for a peace project along with other weapons to prevent them from ill use. Against the wishes of his faithful butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), Bruce returns to Wayne Enterprises. But when he is voted off the board, he asks Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a humanitarian, to take his place. Meanwhile Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), makes a pact with Bane to obtain information she needs.

Director/writer Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is one of the most dramatic renditions in the comic book-into-movie genre. He fills each moment of the almost three-hour film, but the emphasis is on action over the drama that we have come to expect. There is no real character development.

The shooting last July at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, has marred the experience of this film for many. The film employs violence to resolve conflict—albeit bloodless.

This continual failure to show the consequences of violence—even in a fantasy genre, whether on film, TV, or in video games—may prevent vulnerable audiences from seeking other ways to solve problems and to realize their actions can hurt people.

A-III, PG-13 ■ Action violence, peril, mature themes.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) grows up with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) because his parents disappeared when he was a baby. When Peter comes across his father’s briefcase, he learns of his scientific work to crossbreed species. Peter contacts his dad’s old partner, the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), head of the research company Oscorp Industries.

A lab spider bites Peter and this begins his transformation into Spider-Man. He and a fellow student, Gwen (Emma Stone), share an interest in science, but her dad, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), does not approve. When Dr. Connors decides to cross his genes with a lizard to regenerate his arm, the scene is set for Spider-Man to emerge.

This most recent Spider-Man movie is a coming of age story. Peter struggles with adult issues, such as taking responsibility for his own actions and choosing to act to solve crimes and protect the city’s people. His changing body stands in for the many changes adolescents go through as they strive to define themselves.

The emphasis on character, so well developed in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (2004), continues in this latest installment. I liked the story, and the performances were solid. I was disappointed in the ending, but we can expect a sequel or two that may offset that final scene.

A-III, PG-13 ■ Action violence and peril; mature themes.