Movie Review: The Judge

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Family Dysfunction.

In a nutshell, that’s what the Palmer family has felt with for decades. Hank is at the center of it all, ruining his brother’s baseball career… constantly fighting with his father (the Judge- as his sons call him)… and dealing with a crumbling marriage. So, when the big shot lawyer gets a call that his mother passed away, he has to go back to the small town from where he grew up, and meet everyone again. Things go terribly, as anticipated. Just as Hank begins to leave, he gets a call from his brother, saying their dad, the town Judge, is begin accused of murder.

Hank wants to defend his dad, but his father is having none of it. Both are to proud to admit they need each other, and we watch this drama play out in this moving piece. Simply called- “The Judge”.

Things I Liked

Dads are so important in our lives, and especially so to sons. Above anything else, this movie shows us how crucial they are, and how much sons, even if they don’t show it, love their fathers. Everything the Judge does was in the best of interests for his son. But due to his method of always justice and never mercy, Hank feels like his father never approved of him. “I didn’t need juvenile detention!” Hank cries at one point in the film “I needed you!“. When we finally see their relationship resolved, it is a touching thing to behold.

When the Judge is accused of murder, he insists that he stick to the simple truth of his account. Hank on the other hand, being the slick lawyer from New York, insists that they spin it the story to the Judge’s favor. The Judge refuses, and we see the consequences of the choice to remain honest not only just, but also rewarding in the end. Rarely is such respect for truth shown in a movie these days, but this one definitely commended the fact of “The Truth is more important than the consequence.”

Another amazing theme portrayed here is the power of forgiveness between brothers. Ever since the day Hank ruined his brother’s baseball career, their relationship was shattered. Years of bitterness between the two has resulted in the two unable to even carry on a conversation without them bursting into argument and cursing. An event happens though that eliminates that bitterness, and allows for forgiveness, and when that happens we see brothers begin to interact in the way they should.

Pride is the greatest divider in this movie, and every single guy in the Palmer family has a bucketful. We see what power it has to divide, but moreso the power humility has to mend. When each man humbles himself, we not only begin to see relationships begin to heal, but they become to make decisions which are selfless. It is so true “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted”, and it was great to see this message shown.

Things I Didn’t Like

This film’s R rating comes from its proficient use of profanities and strong language. When Hank and his dad get into arguments, filth flies. While it is purposefully, and realistically, used to convey the anger and pain in the family, the easily two dozen uses of the F-Word is flinch worthy regardless the context.

Hank makes out with two women, and each clip is about 5-10 seconds in length. He also kisses the girls many times, even though he is married. There is sexual innuendo regarding both genders. Hank pees on another lawyer in passive aggressive spite. Another time Hank gives his mentally challenged brother his wallet, and he simply states “There’s a naked lady in here.” We don’t see the pic, but Hank says “Yeah, it’s a fun wallet.

Perhaps the saddest message of the movie is Hank’s dying marriage. In all the greatness we see resolved with his family in Indiana, we see him cast his wife by the wayside. In a heartwarming car ride with his young daughter, she speaks a statement that hits us right in the gut. “It happened to Betsy, it happened to Rachel… I guess I never thought it would happen to me.” Even in the clear view of how destructive Divorce is, especially to children, Hank tosses it away because he ultimately believes he can’t be happy with his wife (who did cheat on him) again.

Closing Thoughts

“You, and you alone are responsible for your actions” ~The Judge~

Watching this drama with the greats such as Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duval, one will quickly see this movie is not about a courtroom. This film is about family, and lawyering merely the means to make it interesting. Garnering a rightly deserved “R”, some critics from Rotten Tomatoes are calling it “Cliche”, “Predictable”. and “Old Fashioned”. In some ways, they are right. We are not entreated to any groundbreaking ideas or amazing plot twists. Since when however, did old fashioned become such a bad thing?

Because honestly, old fashioned this tale is. It is an unashamedly raw story about a dad, his son, and the bitterness they’ve carried with them all their life. It deals with real life issues we’ve all faced or seen. It touches on timeless themes of forgiveness, fatherhood, pride, and loss. Masterfully portrayed in a “Mayberry” small town setting, we harken back to the days we consider to have been more simple, more innocent.

We all know though, the real world is not simple, nor innocent. This is what we are reminded of and shown between Hank, his dad, and his family. We see them tear each other apart through words flung mercilessly at each other. We see the pain of what bitterness does to a brother. We see the love of an imperfect father, and the longing of a full grown son to just be accepted my his dad. The family is hurting, crying out for forgiveness, but that reconciliation is stifled because of the pride which they all have.

Until something happens which rocks their entire world. Their mother’s death wasn’t enough, so another act comes along which finally, breaks Hank and humbles his father. Then, and only then, do we begin to see the light which this film contains.  It is often said the night is darkest before the dawn. The saying is certainly true in this movie. Once this light starts to shine though, you just can’t put it out. We are shown the beauty of forgiveness, the power of truth, and the peace of acceptance.

While the film is far from perfect, and obviously so. The immoral content though, is not what the film left me dwelling upon. It left me dwelling first and foremost on how blessed I was to have such an amazing father, but moreso a Christ centered family. I rejoiced in the forgiveness shown, what the decision of a man’s choice to remain honest yielded, and was moved to tears by what a humbled man will do to reconcile a relationship.

The end of this film is not one which leaves you warm and bubbly. Nor is it one which leaves you feeling lost and empty. It is an end which shows that life is painful and relationships hard, while at the same time showing no relationship, even one decades old, is to far gone for reconciliation. Sometimes though- it is a long, painful, and soul shattering journey to get there.

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Movie Review: Left Behind (2014)

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Intro

As many of you I am sure are well acquainted with with Left Behind books, and perhaps even the older movie with Kirk Cameron, I am departing from my original reviewing structure, and giving general thoughts on the film as a whole.

General Thoughts

Funded by an independent Canadian filmmaker, Nicholas Cage returns as Rayford in the classic story of those Left Behind from the theoretical Rapture of Christ. Chloe and Buck Williams return too, dressed up and better acted, this trio takes stage in the beginning of the end of the world.

The premise is pretty much the same in terms of story. Christians are crazy, the Rapture happens, and things fall to pieces. All of this is drawn out as long as possible it seems in this film. And hey, 30 min into the movie and we are still being told how wacko Christians are and how sensible Chloe and Buck are. Unlike the book, which dwelt on this in the first few chapters, the entire film spans just a bit of the book, dramatized to the core with cliche bible shots and awkward conversations about “Believing” (though, never specified as to what to believe.) Overall, I have to say the original film trumps this one when it comes to telling a story. Yes, the acting is painful at times, but at least there is progression of plot.

Content-wise, it is clear hollywood has gotten its fingers in the film. Multiple closeups of a stewardess’s perfect form and legs, Chloe’s midriff baring and cleavage showing clothes, and other shots gratify the apparently obligatory sensualization of the female form. Some minimal innuendo find their place in the film as well.

Even in the midst of the poor dragging plot, perhaps the absolute worst part of this film is the cloudy and watered down message as to what exactly is means “to believe”. Sure, we are told that Christianity isn’t as crazy as it seems, but the movie never really explains what Christianity is. Now, I definitely understand that an “altar call” is not necessary in every Christian film. For one as specific as this though, one would definitely helped clear the waters. Instead of this though, we get passing glimpses of the bible, and no true examples of conversion. Chloe and Buck don’t really seem that phased by the end of the world- boy are they in love though.

All of this to say, the redeeming factor in the movie is the absolute terribleness of the second coming for those not in Christ. Regardless of one’s eschatological views (Fancy word for “View of Christ’s Return”), we can agree that if you aren’t saved when Christ comes back, you’re in trouble. This alone, IMO, did not redeem the film as a whole, but is certainly the main message. Which leads me to my conclusion…

Of all the topics in the world of Christendom, few have gotten more films dedicated to them than that of eschatology. And few more in the world of Eschatology than the “Left Behind” series. In the long line of just badly done films, I have to say this is one of the worst of the Left Behind lot. This 2014 remake is quite simply a better acted, more drawn out, and watered down version of the original- which wasn’t that great by its own right. Left Behind does not come across as a uplifting call to grace, but rather a fear mongering, fire insurance faith which results in a implicit flawed view not only of our trinity, but of the gospel itself.

Movie Review: Maze Runner

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When Thomas wakes up, he is in a cage. With no memory or recollection of the past, he rides up a dark chute with various supplies. The cage stops, a door opens, and a boy jumps in. With no welcome, not greeting, and no smiles he pulls Thomas out and says simply-

“Welcome to the Glade”

Thomas quickly learns that there is only one main objective in the Glade- to get out. The only way out is through a maze. A maze that changes every day and contains creatures therein only found in stuff made of nightmares- Grievers. One day though, the maze stops moving, the Grievers storm the Glade, and now more than ever, Thomas and his companies must find a way out or at least, die trying.

Because those are the only two options they have.

Things I Liked

Thomas joins a group of a couple dozen boys who have somehow established order in the small clearing called the Glade. They don’t know why they are there, only what their names are. In this group they have learned how to get along with each other, and formed a small community where, they may not care about each other, but they do get along. A few boys stand out though, and are good examples of selfless leadership. One sacrifices himself for Thomas, and another acts as the encourager- helping people to continue when things get tough.

Thomas however, is the bravest and most selfless of all. At one point, he dashes into the maze to save another as the maze closes. This means to most boys, certain death, and Thomas knew it. He still ran in, and strove to save another glader he did not know. Over and over Thomas is very lightly portrayed as a “moses” type figure. His actions are almost always selfless, for the purpose of getting the boys out, not necessarily for him to escape.

It was nice to see a film that did not include useless sexual content, and this film was clean in this way.

Things I Didn’t Like

These boys may be younger in age, but have mouths like sailors. Reminiscent of the book, they spout real life profanities about two dozen times in the film ranging from the H word, S word, B—-d, etc… and some made up ones of their own.  God’s name is used in vain twice.

Grievers might as well have been called “Killers” because honestly, that’s all they do in this movie. Huge fatty bulbous masses with metal legs for propulsion, they rip to shreds any unfortunate gladder who might get in their reach. Snatching, impaling, tossing, crushing, and mauling the gladers seems to be their main purpose, and we see glimpses of their handiwork in a fast camera style reminiscent of the hunger games. The boys’ screams perhaps are the worst of those scenes, as their cries of pure pain and terror are things not easily forgotten. Blood and gore are virtually nonexistent though, so if you are looking for a plus… that might be it.

Thomas is also attacked by a glader who has been “Stung”, and he barely survives. Later that glader is banished to the maze, and the banishment is truly heart wrenching. Thomas Stings himself to get clues out of the maze. Another boy is shot saving another. Yet another boy is impaled with a spear, and collapses in dramatic fashion. We also see an old laboratory with dead bodies and blood everywhere.

Perhaps though more than the content of the film, was the lack of real moral good in the film. There is a strong survival of the fittest feel to the movie, where we see the gliders who were slower die, and the ones smarter live. What is right? What is wrong? These boys are treated and expect to behave without a moral guidance, which results in brutality expected in a place with no authority. At the end of the film, they continue in this way, with no change in the status quo, and no growth in the survivors.

Closing Thoughts

“Who we were before doesn’t matter. What does matter is who we are now, and what we do.”
~Newt~

A dark combination of Lost and Lord of the Flies, “Maze Runner” is the latest film to hit the screens in the Young Adult dystopian genre. Based off the novel by James Dashner, which I’ve read, the film follows closely to the characters and their choices but jumps a bit more freely with the progression of the plot. What it retains and executes perfectly is the tense, sinister, and creepy feel that something is always up and nothing is ever right. Spine-tingling at times, this film takes you on an adrenaline pumping ride of “gotchas” and last-minute escapes. All for what? Honestly you don’t find out, or at least, as I’m in the middle of the book series, you have yet to know.

While the book and this film are engrossing (and gross) as a whole, it struck me while watching the film just how little I cared about the characters portrayed. So much time is spent unraveling the mysteries of the maze that the people in it are neglected so that, when some of the boys die, there is not so much a feeling of loss. This is unnerving to me as one would think the people dying would be of more concern than the solution. Sadly, this is not the case. Rather, boys of all ages are crunched, stabbed, and tossed to their deaths by the “Grievers,” and ultimately we just wind up caring whether or not the solution is found.

That could be why, at the end of the film, there is no feeling of success or accomplishment when they do come to the end of the maze. There are no lessons learned, no people changed, and dozens of lives lost. If anything, they are right back where they started, but with a few survivors and again, no purpose. And that, at the core, is the problem. In all of the struggles, the sacrifices, and the sprintings – there is never given a greater reason as to “why.” Granted, this is the first of the series and I am sure they’ll take the films all the way through the books to the end of the story – wherever it leads.

But as a standalone film, “Maze Runner” offers no hope, no growth, and no peace. Just a gladeful of the deaths of young boys, a few glimpses of leadership, and a fast-paced story from beginning to end. It starts you in maze and leaves you in a bigger one. In the words of the boys of the Glade- “It’s pretty much Klunk.”

I’m More Important Than a Lily (Woot!)

This past weekend I moved. Moved for the first time in my life to a brand new city, with no set in stone place to stay. Crazy you might think, but I had three solid apartments to look at and choose from moving up, so figured one would work just fine. Right?

Wrong.

One the drive up, one place was removed before we even arrived at the location. The other ones were eventually declined due to lack of enough financial records… So there I was, ready to move into a new place thanks to an amazing new job with Chick-fil-A and no place to stay.

I was a little stressed. Actually… A lot stressed. See, I don’t like it when my plans don’t go according to plan. I especially don’t like it when a place of residence is involved. I did not handle it well honestly. I was grumpy, shut down, and pretty much had no idea what I was supposed to do. Other places were turning me down because of the same financial status… (No Credit score at all… as I live with cash) So my frustration was mounting. I remember praying frustratedly for wisdom, patience, and peace… but also asking why I was being punished for wise fiscal choices? Per usual, I thought the locations I knew of were best for immediate move in… but clearly, I was wrong.

So I was sleeping on a couch for a few days, and finally decided a few days to go look again. So I called my relator, looked up some places online, and just started driving around to these places I had lined up. The locations we looked at were nice, and great options, but something just told me that I should keep looking. So look we did, all day at a total of four apartments. We decided to turn in an application to one, since I had no other choice. After all of this, I decided to look at one place which said they had a studio right in my budget, but was a few days old… so probably not available anymore. Also, as nice as it looked, they’d probably want a credit check… which meant I wouldn’t be approved.

All this going through my mind, I went in and well… The place was perfect. It was still available, had everything I was looking for, and also right within my budget. It was close to the CFA where I would be working… all of it- perfect. I applied right then and there, and miraculously, I was approved on the spot. After talking to my parents for confirmation in this being a wise decision, I placed a deposit and would be able to move in a month’s time.

Looking back, hindsight is always 20/20. However, I praise the Lord for working His hand in a way which moved me to just the right spot He had for me. I still forget all the time that He’s got me like a Dad has His son’s hand when crossing the street. Like a Shepherd guiding His sheep. All to often we have to be taught over and over lessons we’ve already been shown. God will always provide for His adopted what we need, in His time.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

~Matthew 6~