Movie Review: Jurassic World

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Jurassic World is a luxury resort where, over the past years, people have come to see real life dinosaurs. Sure, they were once extinct, but, thanks to a little genetic DNA manipulation, scientists can whip up any dino they please. People are getting bored now of regular dinosaurs- as is the case of humanity. So, in order to keep attendance up, a new dinosaur is bred.

This dinosaur is the “stuff of nightmares” as the owner calls it. So we are introduced to some characters we are supposed to care about, a park where everything is going great, and a Indominus Rex that is smarter than everyone else.

Thankfully, it is in a cage. Until it gets out and starts killing stuff. Surprise surprise… I mean, seriously, what did you expect to happen?

Moral Messages

Two brothers/nephews are introduced in this movie, and they are the typical set. The hyper excited younger and the the girl chasing/depressed older. While their relationship is, at best, tolerable of each other, the various events with dinosaurs escaping bring them closer together and result in them sharing real, personal fears with the other. Likewise, Claire gets a wakeup call in the horrendous events of the Indominus Rex escape. She realizes her nephews and family are so much more important, that once they are reunited, she doesn’t let them out of her sight. The pain of divorce is touched on as well, giving this film a minor, yet solid approach on family values.

“Assets” are the parks main priority. As well they should be, as these assets are the dinosaurs people come to see. What appears to be forgotten, is these assets are living, breathing, and thinking creatures. Claire disregards this point that Owen brings up, saying “extinct animals have no rights.” Later on though, it is made clear through a dire scene that these animals may not have a human soul, they certainly have life, and should be cared for as such. Many relationships of man and beast in this movie asked excellent questions about the dominion of nature vs. being submissive to it. Ultimately, a well struck balance was found and was lacking in the typical progressive agenda which we find in other films.

How do you live a happy life? Claire is asked this question in the midst of her business speech. A man simply states “The key to a happy life is to accept you are never in control.” A quote like that should not be forgotten, especially in a movie like this. How true it is that man has no control over anything, and this is emphasized in Jurassic World. The people who try to hold onto everything and manipulate every situation often wind up unhappy (or dead), while those who live Hakuna Matata style wind up with that Disney happy ending.

Content Cautions

What would a Jurassic movie be without the carnivorous violence? A dinosaur zoo- that’s what. While I personally think that kind of movie would be awesome (Please Pixar?), apparently Hollywood disagrees. In the couple of hours we sit through this movie, all kinds of voracious violence ensues. The Indominus Rex kills her share of humans. We see several munched up off the ground waist up, others are clawed and impaled, some are crushed with her tail, and yet others are simply squished by her huge feet. She picks up a tourist filled glass ball with people inside and attempts to break it open. The death count by her savagery is easily exceeds three dozen, most of whom are military personnel who signed up to stop escaped assets such as herself.

But it doesn’t stop there. The aviary is broken open by a crashing helicopter (all men die in said copter), and the Pterodactyls wreck havoc upon the civilians trying to escape the park. Many are grabbed and dropped in the air. Others are pecked to death. Some even are impaled by beaks of Pterodactyls who have been shot down by the park security. Unfortunately, one woman in particular is not only hoisted in the air by the flying beasts, but fought over by two of the dinos… only for the Pterodactyl and the woman to be eaten whole by a huge Mosasaur (Whale-type Dino).

Let’s not forget the Raptors. Those wolf-type creatures who are way too smart for their own good. This results in messy blood spattering deaths in not only the woods, but also in the lab where the raptors track the last of survivors down. In one particularly gruesome scene, a man’s arm is bitten in half, then the rest of him attacked.

Finally, in case the CGI Dinosaurs eating people wasn’t enough, we are treated to a full our monster mash of dinosaurs battling and beating the complete life out of each other. It is a terribly spectacular fest which leaves you in awe of not only what we can do with technology, but also what it might have looked like thousands of years ago had these beasts met.

Expletives are proficient with about a dozen S and D words, A man is called an A, another mention of a B word. God’s name is used in vain seven times.

There is one extra-marital kiss, and a crude reference of mating with another.

Closing Thoughts

It truly is remarkable how a single movie can alter the course of the film industry. Jurassic Park did that in 1993. This long awaited sequel by the fans of the original is nothing short of a beautiful and well told CGI spectacle teasing back and tipping the hat to the “glory days” of the first movie. This film delivers on all fronts when it comes to a telling a quaint and simple story, while feeding the masses’ bloodlust for more bone crunching, more explosions, and more dino action.

While there is so much more to be dug up in Jurassic World, that is where the flick leaves us. Instead of exploring greater into the depths of some pretty heavy themes that are merely touched upon… We are given humans being juggled and torn apart by pterodactyls. The same old themes in the old movie are resurrected, and once again, trampled.

While themes of family bonds are showed to us by the two brothers, nothing lasting is established. Claire and Owen wind up together, against all odds of complete clashing of persons throughout the entire film (spoiler alert). The film isn’t such a “clever girl” to be honest, while it could have been. All the musings about life control and the state of nature disregarded as the Indominus Rex takes the screen.

But while we are being honest, no one going this movie wanted a discourse on the morality of genetics now did they? Who is going to go see a movie where everything goes right in an abusive dinosaur zoo? No one in this generation, that’s for sure. So, if you want to see more things going wrong, more humans turning into snack food, and a really cool scene where raptors team up with Chris Pratt riding an old motorcycle… Yeah, this movie is for you.

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Movie Review: The Imitation Game

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Secrets are heavy burdens, and no one knows better than Alan Turing. A Brilliant Mathematician, Turing applies to the British state during WWII so that he can help crack the German “Enigma” building a machine which thinks like a human.

Problem is, most people don’t believe a machine like that could even exist, nor do his teammates like him. At all. As time passes however, Turing succeeds, and in that success he gathers more secrets. Finds out more lies…

And it is only a matter of time before the truth is exposed.

Things I Liked

Perhaps the noblest thing found in this film is the result of cracking the German code. Instead of using this knowledge to benefit the team in personal ways. They painfully disregard this desire and instead use Enigma to break the Germans down piece by piece. It was shown that historians estimate over 14 million lives were saved by the use of the broken code as basic intel.

Turing is shown as a flawed man with a huge difficulty to function in social settings. He cares not for people, but for puzzles. This was presented neither as good, nor bad, but rather just who he was. We see this personality solve the puzzle which ended the war, but also damage the relationships around him. I enjoyed seeing a man shown not in a heroic or unheroic light, but rather one who simply lived in this way, allowing you to judge for yourself what was right.

Don’t burn me at stake for this, but I also enjoyed seeing the fact that just because a person has a perverted sin- that is in this case, homosexuality, it does not mean the person doesn’t have feelings or should be cast out as one without a soul. Because of the hateful treatment Alan Turing receives due to his sin, it ultimately destroys him. Not to detract responsibility for his own life, but there is something to say also about the lack of love shown towards Turing and the effect it has upon him.

This film is masterfully acted in every sense of the word. Cumberbatch takes the screen with a riveting performance which is remarkably unforgettable.

Things I Didn’t Like

Perhaps the greatest thing which I disliked in the film is the not-so-subtle pokes at society and their treatment of people who are homosexual. This film does not preach, but rather profess through story, that we need to accept people “wired” in this way just like any other normal human being. While in one sense we should love them just like any other person Christ calls us to love, we cannot support a lifestyle of sin such as this- just like we cannot support a lifestyle of alcoholism, gambling, etc.

With this content being brought up so much in the movie. Innuendo is proficient throughout the film. Male parts are especially dwelt upon in bar conversations. While in other instances flirtatious “come-ons” are implied through various forms of communication.

We see flashbacks of ships blown to pieces and other war related scenes. People are punched, slapped, and kicked a few times in the heat of frustration. A boy is trapped in the floor by bullies and not released until a friend finds him.

Profanities of the D, A, and B words are used a couple times. God’s and Christ’s name are taken in vain a half dozen times.

Closing Thoughts

Now you decide; Am I a machine, am I a human, am I a war hero,or am I a criminal?
~Alan Turing~

This is the question Turing asks a detective who has put him on trial. One we ultimately are asked as well in this film. While this movie may be a war drama regarding the development of the machine that breaks the german code, it is more about the life Turing lived and the decisions he made.

To watch him live a life completely and utterly alone is one which is heart wrenching. Joan tells him in less than ladylike terms that, after he solves Enigma, it won’t fill the hole in his heart. How sadly true this is. Turing was a brilliant mathematician. Yet, with all of his intellectual capacity, all of his accomplishments, he lived rejected by the world due to his sinful sexual desires and obsessively selfish state.

In his gross ineptitude for relationships however, We get to know and care for Turing in the film. Rarely does a work so masterfully capture and portray a man’s life such as “The Imitation Game” does. We want Turing to be happy. So badly do we want to see a happy ending. But it isn’t, because Turing missed that one thing which would fill his heart. Love. Not a twisted temporary worldly love, as the movie suggests. But a real, genuine, Christlike love which only belief could offer to him. Where there opportunities in Turing’s life to find this? I don’t know. What I do know is Alan Turing’s life ended as depressingly as it was lived. That as the things of history and earth pass away, as his works are eventually forgotten.

I couldn’t help thinking as I left the theater “What a tragic, heartbreaking waste.” What a waste of a machine, who put his gifts before everything else. What a waste of a human, who never found the love of Christ. What a waste of a war hero, who spent two years of his life solving a puzzle which saved millions of lives. What a waste of a Criminal, who had sins like the rest of us, but punished more harshly because of the society in which he lived.

What is not a waste however, is the application we can learn from this movie. That is, no matter the intelligence of the person, the situation, the past, or the sin. There is a person living an empty life. And we have the key to fill it. Let’s not waste that opportunity, and leave the person to have the same fate of Alan Turing. Because that, is a losing game.

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

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Brotherhood. Moses and Ramses know all about that. They should- they grew up together, have fought together, and have ruled together under the pharaoh. The time has come though for a new pharaoh to rise to the throne, and Ramses does so in a manner of his father and his father’s father… the list goes on. In this new transition, Moses is shown and told some disturbing things. How he is not truly Egyptian. How he is not royalty.

Taken aback at these claims and the way Ramses treats him under such, he has no option but to flee in the desert, where he meets his wife, starts a family, and meets a bush on fire, yet does not burn. He has been Told to free his people, the Hebrews, from Egypt. Who told him this?

God.

Things I Liked

While Moses departs from the standard Exodus representation of his character. He remains true to the essence of person. For the most part. Early on, instead of rebelling at the bush and calling, he rebels later in assembling his own little army and strike force. God appears later, after the failures of such a force. In more eloquent words He essentially asks “How’s that working for you?”. Moses eventually learns the lesson of submission and humility, and begins a walk with God which is excellent to behold.

The Hebrews as a whole, are shown to have an unwavering faith in God until the Red Sea, like shown in Exodus. Throughout the beatings, the plagues, and freedom they continue to hold fast to the prophecies told to them, and share them with Moses who is their deliverer. Even after the wonders of the plagues though, we see them begin to squabble amongst themselves and question Moses’s decision. I was glad they left both parts of this in the film.

The plagues portrayed in this movie are by far the best ever shown or captured. They even reference how each plague smacked the face of an Egyptian god. What is also laughable, is how the Egyptian priests attempted to explain away the plagues with science, to no avail. Much like what some scientists do today.

The cinematography and costumes in this piece stood out like none other. It is indeed a beautiful work to behold and seeing what Egypt could have looked like at the height of power…. Stunning. To say the least.

Things I Didn’t Like

In the beginning of the film, Moses and Ramses attack a Hittite war camp. People are stabbed, crushed, and cut down as the attack ravages the Hittite camp. In a similar a violent scale, Moses and his band lead attacks on the Egyptians to little success. Moses murders two Slavemaster Egyptians.

The Hebrew slaves in Egypt are shown to have little care and much brutality forced upon them. Families are hanged as public warnings. Dead slaves are left to rot in the sun. Countless slaves are beaten. We see scarred backs and broken spirits at times that make us wince in the inhumanity of it all.

While Just wrath of God is shown marvelously through the Plagues. The suffering which ensues is by no means enjoyable to behold. Perhaps the greatest difficulty is seeing the last plague take Ramses’ son’s life. It is a powerful and painful moment that was captured with the greatest of precision and tastefulness. Even in knowing that Ramses fully deserved the punishment given him, the pain which we see result from his disobedience against God still hurts. Like it should.

Closing Thoughts

“We must kill the firstborn lamb, so we may be passed over. If I am wrong, pity the lamb. If I am right, we will praise Him for all eternity.”
~Moses~

Director Ridley Scott has returned with yet another blockbuster film that has turned heads and gotten people talking. One of the most well known bible stories of all time, Moses has been the subject of many a film. From the classic four hour Charlton Heston version, to the animated dreamwork edition… This new dramatic piece adds to an ever growing list. While Scott takes many artistic liberties in this film, there are a few core natures that the biblical account contains that must, in my opinion, be retained to preserve the essence and purpose of the story. and in these natures… This film really does come together in a roundabout kind of way.

Stunning visual presentation aside, looking at the core themes of the Moses story, the majority are preserved in this unique and sometimes uncomfortable approach. We see when Moses takes things into his own hands, things fall apart. However, when God steps in, things go according to His plan. We see an excellent interpretation of the passover. We see a God who is vengeful throughout the liberation of his people, and in the end, we are shown as the comforter and caring God that he is of His people.

Many have expressed a profound distaste for the fact God was shown as a boy, and the attitude the boy has. In some ways I agree with the choice. But more is the outcry against His personality shown, rather than the boy himself. Sometimes we forget that God indeed does have just wrath and does not have to be accountable to anyone. What Ridley does in this movie is capture that- perhaps to an extreme. I did appreciate that in the end, we see a kind and loving side of God walking with His people.

While by no means perfect, this film has much to offer to Christians, and to the people who do not know him. To often I think we Christians expect a perfect replication of the biblical story, and anything less than that is blasphemous. What is unmistakable and undeniable though, that films like this spark public interest in the Bible itself, like an earlier film called “Noah“… and that one wasn’t even that great. And honestly, call me weird. But any film that gets people into the legit word of God is one worth recommending. For we all know that the Word of God is far stronger and more potent than an film Hollywood can put out. So here’s to more biblical adaptations- even when they may not be as biblical as they could be.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)

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Ever since Katniss shot that arrow in the arena, the world of Panem and the districts was changed. No longer will people tolerate the mass injustice of the government, nor will they accept the rule of a man who is a heartless and ruthless deceiver. A rebellion has sparked, and it needs fuel to bring it to full blaze.

The Mockingjay, is that fuel. Who better to be the Mockingjay than our very own Katniss? While the ideal object for propaganda amongst the rebellion and against the capitol, Miss Everdeen herself is not as open to the idea. She hates the leaders of the rebellion for not keeping their promise made to her before the quarter quell, and before she agrees to anything, she has some terms of her own.

Agreements are made, propaganda is released, and people all over the districts begin to rally to the cause of liberation. The games are over.

War, has begun.

Things I liked

This film is full of people seeming to grow up in the face of absolute necessity. Katniss remains petty about Peeta due to her obsession (dare I call it Love?) with protecting him, but when push comes to shove, will do anything to save those she deems worth protecting. This is especially true of her friends, family, and civilians caught up in this rebellion. Her loyalty and faith in Peeta is undying, though everyone else has said he is lost. Katniss is not a hero in any way. She is a person caught in a war she doesn’t want, and just wants to get out of it alive and well with those she loves.

Other characters come to the plate and hit home runs of their own. Prime learns about her vanity and selfishness, then strives to overcome it. Gale surprises all by putting his life on the line for people whom he doesn’t even like. Finnick painfully reveals truths to the world about what the capitol did to him that are humiliating, ditching the arrogant persona about him. Even Peeta, residing in the capitol, makes an effort to protect the rebels.

The theme of hope continues in this film moving from Katniss, to the rebels. The hope and believe in something more. To be free from unjust and merciless rule. This hope turns common folk into self-sacrificing soldiers who stop at nothing, even death at gunpoint, to further the ideal of freedom they all seek.

The power of propaganda shines through Katniss and the films the rebels shoot for public broadcast. We are shown the way media has the strength to shape the opinions and minds of the people viewing these messages. A warning to some and opportunity to others is most applicable in the current society in which we live today.

There is no profanity or crude language in the movie at all. Even a war movie too. Props to the script writers for keeping it clean, yet keeping the dialogue powerful without such unnecessary coarse language.

Things I didn’t like

With Civil war, comes death, destruction, and pain. We see all of this shown in a personal way through the eyes of people, rather than a documentary type feel. Men and women are gunned down by the Peacekeepers many times. Bombers level buildings with people inside. The rebels eventually retaliate with bombs and explosions of their own crude making. Perhaps the most gut wrenching scene is when we are shown a roadway bombed to bits, with hundreds of charred bodies in various forms of death, all who were clearly fleeing the city which was destroyed. Blood is kept to a minium.

Gale and Katniss kiss, again. Finnick kisses Annie as well. It is implied that Finnick’s body was “sold” to ladies in the capitol to do with as they please. This greatly affected Finnick and we see that come to light when he begins to tell his story.

Closing Thoughts

Remember Katniss, the things you love most, will destroy you. Remember it was I who told you that.
~President Snow~ 

Mockingjay (Part 1) begins the final chapter of the hunger games saga. With one last film left to go, the end of this deadly drama is near. We started in an arena where kids are made to kill each other by the government. In this vile place we learned that this government is indeed worth rebelling against, and that point has been further emphasized as the plot has progressed. In the Second film, we are show through Katniss’ actions that Panem is not only vile, but corrupt in not even keeping its own law. Here at the end, we learn a final thing about this government which is being rebelled against. That it is is not only unjust, but also merciless.

With this true Panem revealed, we watch Katniss begin to work with the rebels as a propagandist symbol. That is, only after her immature and selfish terms are met. This symbol, the Mockingjay, inspires people throughout all the districts to no longer stand for the injustice and cruelty they have endured. They rise up, and Panem begins to try to quell the rebellion the only way they know how- brute force.

This reveals some ponderous themes in a film which I was told, “only gets worse as you go on“. Over and over Hope and sacrifice is shown to be one of the strongest of virtues. Katniss disregards her orders to “stay safe” and risks her life without thinking to try and save civilians. We see common workers, motivated by something more that just survival, act in ways that sacrifices themselves, but strikes at the heart of the capitol.

If you follow this series because you like Katniss, I’ll admit, you are going to be disappointed in her. She acts immature 90% of the time and things only of herself and Peeta. Widen your gaze though, and start to look at the uprising occurring against murder, corruption, injustice, and the lot. You’ll begin to see a new light breaking in between the cracks of the districts into something truly great.

President Snow told Katniss the thing you love most is what will ultimately destroy you. This is perhaps the most poignant quote of the movie. It is also, quite true for anyone. Anywhere. What we love is what we will suffer for. What we will sacrifice for. What we will die for. Misplace that love, and you misplace your life. Ultimately we see in this film people living according to their loves. Whether it is an ideal, a person, or power. What will be interesting in the last, is to see what Love the author has chosen as right to pursue, and how that is adapted into film.

Mockingjay Part 1 continues the positive slope of these films, and whether it continues or not in the last, demonstrates beautifully the terror of civil war, the power of hope, and the destruction (good or bad) love brings to one’s life. I eagerly await the finale, hopeful myself, it does not destroy itself.

Movie Review: Interstellar

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The world used to be a great place. Full of life, vegetation, and advancement. Then the blight came, and wiped out everything. Except corn and the human race. With that devastating disease, technology became useless, internet and the like was cast to the wayside, and farming became the world’s main focus, for without food, everyone starves.

Most are content to live with the way things are, but some, refuse to accept life as it is. Cooper is one who dreams of something better. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” He declares to his father disappointedly, wishing that mankind would embrace that spirit of exploration once more.

Then, something happens that leads him to a place where they will be sending out one more expedition. An expedition through a wormhole to find a new planet and place where humans could again thrive. A new world full of opportunity and new life. He takes the offer, and begins a trip across galaxies to find something better for his family and for mankind.

Things I Liked

Cooper is the star of this film, and is an awesome dad. We see him interact with his kids in a loving, intelligent, caring ways. Before he lifts off into space, the moments he shared with his daughter and son are simple, yet powerful. Instantly you can tell that everything he does, he does for his kids. When he leaves them, he knows he is making the ultimate sacrifice in knowing he very well may never see them again. Something he is willing to do, because it is best for humanity, not considering himself.

There was no inappropriate sexual content. Thank you, Mr. Nolan, for sticking to the story and not superfluous sexual promiscuity.

Things I Didn’t Like

Flight members lie, and eventually kill, to ensure their survival or to do what they consider best. One crew member is swept away in a wave (we see him facedown in the water later), another dies in an explosion, another dies being sucked out to space. There are some fistfights where a crew guy gets his helmet cracked and begins to suffocate.

Profanity makes its appearance a few times. The f-word is dropped once. Other words such as a–, b—–, and d— are used maybe once or twice. God’s and Jesus’ name is taken in vain three times.

Closing Thoughts

And now these three remain. Faith. Hope. Love. The greatest of these… is Love.

Interstellar touches on virtually every aspect of humanity. The good, the bad, the truth, the deceit, the love, the fear… Everything. It is fascinating to watch how some men justify decisions, how some heroes we find are not that heroic, and how the power of love drives a man to do anything for his kids. It is an exploration of man just as much and exploration of the universe. Probably moreso, because the exploring of the universe stopped off at “Wormhole” and got left in the station of “Theoretical (more like maybekindasorta) physics”.

This film tries to be brilliant in the world of science fiction, it really does, but using theoretical physics, which is quite honestly ridiculous, to explain key points in story progression distracted from the actual plot itself. That, and also tossing every known fact about black holes into the wastebasket made for a plot with great characters and messages, but a delivery that was illogical and almost laughable at times. While Nolan may be a master at mental thrillers and crafting puzzles, it is clear from this film, that science fiction is not his genre of strength when choosing a setting and context.

While some I have talked to about this film said the characters were absorbing, I found myself like a few others- detached and not truly feeling for those exploring the farest reaches of the galaxy. The shallowness of the characters was something which truly disappointed me, because there was so much potential for more. Everyone seems to be emotionally constipated with often clunky dialogue about love, past choices, and more. The only relationship truly engaging and convincing is with Cooper and his daughter Murph, they desire more than anything to see each other again, and we do feel that, and identify with it.

I consider myself to be a Nolan fan, or at least, have enjoyed immensely the work he did in the Prestige or the Dark Knight Trilogy. Here it seems though, he bit off a little more than he could chew. This film ultimately lifts off with grand and glorious aspirations of faith, hope, and love. It then sadly though, gets lost in the space of plot holes and black holes. It is like the movie could not decide what it wanted to focus on. At times it felt rushed, like Cooper leaving earth so suddenly, and other when it dragged on in the oh so forced monologues in space.

I’m not saying this is a terrible movie, nor am I saying it is engaging. Interstellar starts to show us a majestic, and beautiful approach to the universe and the humanity in it. Sadly though, winds up leading us nowhere in particular with the focus shifting in nebulous ways without ever settling on any one thing in particular. Or even settling in general.

Where God is lacking, humanity makes up for it in every way in this film. This truly boggles my mind, as the whole film has this reverent feel to it as soon as space it entered. It like the film knows that space is something to point to worship, they just wind up pointing at the wrong thing- human intellect, rather than give credit to a Divine Supernatural entity. This approach of trying to explain everything through flawed scientific principles is perhaps what deflates the work more than anything.

Interstellar is truly an ambitious work, while not entirely original. It may contain astounding cinematography, quite a few “stars”, and some sound messages on faith, hope, and love… I found this film to be more about how amazingly brilliant man is, can evolve to be, and is a mockery to the genre of science fiction in general. Those two main devices, like a black hole, sucked the remaining light from the film to where the only thing surviving was a remembrance that man doesn’t need anyone but man, and that given enough gravity, anything can and will happen.

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.

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.”

Movie Review: The Edge of Tommorow

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Living a life as a media focused Officer has it’s perks for Mr. Cage. He can talk about all the glory of war, without ever having to set foot on a battlefield. Happy in this safe and affluent place, he balks when the Commanding General tells him that he will be leading the troops on the final invasion. Cage refuses, again and again, and so he is declared a deserter, by the general of course.

Stripped of rank, title, and dignity, former Officer Cage wakes up to an Officer’s screams “Get up Maggot!” And is promptly escorted to the barracks where he will prepare with other well trained soliders to make a last stand. A stand against an alien invasion force that has all but wiped out Europe. One problem- Cage has never seen combat in his life, much less active in the mech suits everyone has to wear to even stand a chance against these alien creatures.

The invasion starts, and all before it begins, it fails. Miserably. Cage’s Transport is shot down and somehow, his crew makes it to land. Shortly thereafter, they are all killed. Without mercy or even much of a fight. Cage manages to blow one up, before he too falls to the monster’s tentacles…

Cage wakes up to an Officer’s screams “Get up Maggot!”

Live. Die. Repeat.

“Get up Maggot!”

Live. Die. Repeat.

“Get up Maggot!”

Live. Die. Repeat.

Over and over… until one day in battle he has learned to survive long enough to meet Rita, the only officer to successfully defeat an army of these beings. She looks in awed recognition of Cage eliminating almost every enemy without even looking. “Come find me when you wake up.” She says…

“Get up Maggot!”

And the cycle begins anew, this time, with a woman to find, who just might have the answers to his apparent immortality.

Live. Die. Repeat.

Things I Liked

This movie is ultimately about the personal development of Private Cage. In the beginning, he lives a life which is a selfish lie. Once demoted and sent to the barracks, he quickly learns what it means to live the life which he had been advertising for years and years. His initial reaction, he tries to get out of it. But once he gains the ability to die, then live, he finds a cause bigger than himself. He grows in a way where his actions grow less and less selfish, and more and more brave. So by the end of the film, the man who was, is no more. He is changed into a true solider- one of honor, courage, and selflessness.

Perhaps the greatest trait dwelt upon in this film is perseverance of the unimaginable kind. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to experience the feeling of death over, and over and over… That moment of pure and abject fear of the dark, then waking up- knowing you’re going to have to do it again. And again. And again… Watch the people you’ve come to care for die again. And again. And again… We watch Cage suffer from this, yet continue to pursue the answer which will win the war for the world.

Soldiers of all kinds willingly put themselves in harms way for others. Cage also, out of concern for Rita, does not tell her how certain things end.

Things I Didn’t Like

There are two passing remarks in regards to sexual innuendo, which is immediately shut down and not allowed to go anywhere. We also hear about one solider going in his birthday suit to battle, with the mech suit covering up the more private areas. We do see a good glimpse of his backside though.

Cursing is found a plenty on the battle field- about a dozen profanities in all, and Rita is called a full metal B——, God’s name and Christs name is used in vain six times.

Violence in the film was something perplexing in some ways, as you watch soldiers die over and over, then watch them again live again and again, the loss or value was quite a bit diminished. Even in the end, one wonders if in the last battle if the soldiers did really die. Or if everything was reset once again. Regardless, we do see those “deaths” happen over and over. While this film does lack (thankfully) in gore or blood, it makes up for in intensity. The shots and deaths are blurred, close up, and fast. Men are “killed” every kind of way in the battlefield- blown up, impaled, crushed… the list goes on. We don’t see many of these, due to the fact the camera is so jumpy and barely stays in one place.

Cage is killed by aliens numerous times, blown up several times, and even shot by Rita to restart the day and begin anew after he is injured. He also kisses Rita.

Closing Thoughts

Battle is the Great Redeemer. It is the fiery crucible in which true heroes are forged. The one place where all men truly share the same rank, regardless of what kind of parasitic scum they were going in.
~Sergent Farell~

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt take the stage in this futuristic, sic-fi, action thriller. What was advertised as a time traveling and war filled flick actually has a remarkably fresh story with some solid character development to boot. While this is certainly no deep film, there are a few rounds here and there worth firing off and watching them hit their mark.

Gotta say though, the backside of a solider and smatterings of coarse and crude languages was quite distracting and degraded the film quite a bit. It distracted from the story of a fearful campaigner turning into a servant hearted solider, and was not appreciated. Honestly “The Edge Of Tomorrow” sits on the edge of greatness. The characters  and story are compelling, the messages sound, but there isn’t enough there to take it from that edge.

So while Cage did indeed Live. Die. Repeat…

While I Live, I don’t see myself Repeating this one before I Die. Not even Tomorrow.

Movie Review: The Giver

the-giver-wallpaperIn the community, rules dictate life. Everything you do, say, and eat is monitored by the elders for the purpose of peace…. And it works. Devoid of emotion, color, or change life continues in the same way day after day after day… Until at the ceremony of graduation, a boy named Jonas is chosen. Chosen to be the next “Receiver of Knowledge” because of his ability to “See Beyond”. To be the only one in the community to experience such things as colors, emotion, and faith. A burden to bear for the good of all.

Jonas soon finds however, that these new feelings are not only beautiful, but to live without them is meaningless. With that knowledge, he decides it is time for a change. A change which will destroy the community, but enlighten those living within it. But first, he must complete his teachings from the former Receiver of Knowledge. Known only as “The Giver”.

Things I Liked

When Jonas begins to experience life as it originally was created to be, with emotions and a release from his vulcan mindset, he begins to experience the three greatest qualities found in mankind. That is- faith, hope, and love. Through the film these three qualities, or, essences of human nature are delved into through past memories and present circumstances. We are shown that love is the most powerful of all. Love is what drives The Giver to help Jonas. Love is what drives Jonas to risk his life so that the community may experience life as it was meant to be. Faith gives him the hope that things could be better, and then, we see him rewarded for those efforts.

Jonas also, because he has been given memories of faith hope and love, commits himself to serving his community in making a way so they may experience what he has experienced. He, in essence, sacrifices his social life, and risks his physical life for the ultimate freedom of the community. He is a character with courage, integrity, and to be applauded for the risks he takes. Jonas’ friends also, even though under the drugs of emotion suppressant, aid Jonas in his task. Loyal to the end, we see some things drugs just cannot remove.

When we are introduced to the community, it is dull, unexciting, and bland. We are shown that emotions are, in fact, things which make humans have humanity. Even in the fallen state in which we live, the gift of emotions help us to live in a manner which is  more natural and beneficial. To remove this, while it would create an temporary artificial state of cooperation. It is by no means something to be pursued.

It was said by one of the Elders “We can’t let people choose, for when humans choose- they always choose wrong.” I think this is one of the best quotes found in the movie. The elders recognize man’s fallen and erroneous state completely. No one in the film is claiming they are good, or perfect. Rather, we see leaders making decisions, albeit flawed, to suppress mankind’s nature through chemicals so that they might make choices which are better for the community, and not selfish.

Things I Didn’t Like

Jonas and a girl named Fiona kiss secretly, because to do so is against the community rules.

Some of the memories The Giver provides Jonas are painful an violent. We are shown poachers slaughtering elephants, and later we are snapped into a violent war where we see men shooting each other up, and then we, with Jonas, watch a man die as the light leaves his eyes.

Jonas punches one of his friends.

At one point, we see people “released” which is another word for euthanasia, or allowed murder. It is a terrible and gut wrenching thing to watch, made even worse by the fact it is mindlessly celebrated by the community.

Closing Thoughts

“The ability to see beyond is Faith.”
~The Giver~

This movie is based on a book written by “Louis Lowry”. Enjoying the book immensely, I’d been looking forward to the release of this film as the story was so good. The trailers concerned me however, because it set the feel as an intense action thriller, rather then a reflective pondering on humanity. I can say with relief though, that the movie captures the essence and feel of the book about as perfectly as an adaptation can. Everything of importance is included, and some extra character development of Jonas’ friends are thrown in too. Take confidence, if you loved the book, you’ll enjoy the sameness found in the movie.

Rarely does a film these days show up with such messages and themes that make you sit through the whole credits thinking… Wow. The Giver is a movie such as this. Capturing essential  and hard questions about humanity, and then giving solid answers which will make you think and dwell upon. Things like the power and necessity of Faith, Hope, and Love- then showing the greatest of these is indeed Love. Exposing the true nature of humanity, yet also capturing the beauty of our condition.

We see simply, when man tries to suppress God given gifts in order to live in perfection, the result is a dull and lifeless survival. Void of anything worth living for. The Giver takes this “ideal society” and through a young man named Jonas, shows the flaws in a clean, original, and memorable way. Full of humor, suspense, and ponderings,  This movie is by far the best of 2014 in my opinion. One worthy of commendation and praise, as it gives far more than memories.

How about you? Have you seen this film? What did you think? Let me know!