Iron Man - (Fantastic) I think this will go down as one of the all-time classic superhero movies. Well worth seeing and my 11 & 10 year old boys loved it.
WALL-E (Good) There is little question that this was quite a story-telling / cinematic achievement. Nevertheless, my kids were bored. It moved a bit slow and in some ways seemed geared towards adults. I'm a little weary of the hyper-environmentalism messages out there, but no biggie.
Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian (Good) I didn't come into the movie as a CS Lewis wonk or purist. Frankly, I had forgotten the story of the book, so I didn't view it through that lens. The movie worked well as a sequel and my kids and I liked it.
Kung Fu Panda (Good Enough) I like Jack Black so this movie had a leg up to begin with. The story was fun and moved at a pace that keeps you interested. The kids enjoyed it and it met my expectations.
Indiana Jones and the... blah, blah, whatever (Ok, I guess) Let's put it this way - it was cool to take my kids to a new Indy movie. It brought back memories of being their age - excited just to hear the theme music start. The film was pretty disappointing in several respects, but I kind of figured it would be, so...
Transformers - (Disappointing) I think this is going to be the last time I utter the words, "the special effects were good." Of course they were good, this isn't the Sci-Fi channel or something! The story and the dialogue were as thin and hokey as it gets. My favorite example of this is a scene when the teenage boy-hero has to get an artifact out of his room before the evil robots do it and annihilate the human race. Even though the good robots urge him to hurry for the sake of the human race, the boy is worried about what his parents might do if they hear him rummaging around! When his parents do hear noises and see lights they come and ask him if he has been... self-pleasuring in his room. This isn't what I signed up for with this movie. Instead of being entertained, I was bored, irritated, and inundated with corporate product placement (by the way, is there a new Camaro coming out?). This movie was a huge disappointment and I put it in the category with other flops like The Hulk and The Fantastic Four. Yuck.
Yes, I am one of the many Americans hooked on the TV series, "24," starring Keifer Sutherland. That show has quite literally perfected the suspense-drama cliff-hanger genre. You can't stop watching it - even when you have seen the same plot device used several times (eg. rogue moles at CTU). The premise of averting massive terrorist strikes within a 24-hour time period works amazingly well, and Keifer Sutherland plays his part to a tee.
Unfortunately, I have to rant about something before I lose it... While I have been thoroughly entertained so far, this season is off to a nauseatingly preachy beginning. The writers' tirades against racial profiling and trampling the Constitution for security's sake is anything but opaque. They villainize characters in the system (FBI Agents, Chief of Staff, Cabinet Members, Military Brass, etc.) who have a "do what works right now" attitude, but when it comes to Jack Bauer, anything (anything!) goes. Jack can torture at will on the basis of his instinct and he is a total stud. He can tear someone's jugular out with his teeth instead of waiting for a UN santioned negotiator to intervene on his behalf. But if someone in the administration advocates racial profiling, detainment, or using citizens for recognizance, woe be to that character! They must be evil! Jack is a hero for doing what it takes to "get 'er done," but everyone else with that philosophy sucks! The contradiction between what they are promoting through the hero and demonizing through character monologues disgusts me.
I know, I know. It is a TV show. Let's not get our panties in a bunch. My beef is that the writers are using this show as a platform to spew their thin ideology and pander to popular anti-Bush / Iraq war sentiment. The fact that their spew doesn't square with their main character's basic modus operandi doesn't matter. "Get 'er done," Jack, is the BMOC, but anyone else of that stripe must be corrupt.
Okay, I've said it. Now I can watch in peace... As long as President Palmer's sister shuts her yapper. Leave the preaching to Dr. Boneman.
There's still nothing like the summer movies to get your hopes up... and then dashed to pieces. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment so it doesn't matter! Due to my family schedule I don't get to see them all, but here are the ones I've seen with my very own "bones" rating system (1 bone being low, 10 bones being high).
Over The Hegde
After Disney's, "The Incredibles," no other animated film quite holds up, but I actually enjoyed this film. The familial premise and narrative pacing were fun, and I laughed a good deal during the playful finale. Of course, my kids loved it. 8.5 bones...
I honestly enjoyed "Over The Hedge" slightly more than "Cars," but it was still well worth seeing with the kids. The personifcation of automobiles was brilliantly conceived and the moral of the story was redeeming. Interestingly, my kids were quick to point-out that it was one of the few films they had seen without a "bad guy." The narrative tension was created by the lead character's selfishness - and this made for good conversation with the kids. 8 bones...
(Spoiler alert) - In almost all cases, the third movie in a series has lost its head of steam, but X-Men 3 succeeded in rolling right down the track. It was action-packed with a plot that held my interest to the end. My only major complaints were that certain key characters were killed-off and that a significant cliff-hanger was played after the credits rolled - and I left the theatre! That is bogus, man! I don't know if X-Men 4 is in the plans, but I sure hope it is. 8.5 bones...
The film was big, beautiful, and... boring. Sorry. It was just too long. Ok, I take that back - the pacing of the movie made it feel too long. I thought the actors were effective enough (although it is tough to beat Gene Hackman as Lex and Christopher Reeve as Superman), but the narrative was just slow and laborious. Plot elements that could have been fun to watch develop (eg. Superman & Lane's child) were virtually ignored. I will say this though - if you want to see a popular movie with an intense Christ typology throughout, this movie is a must see. 7 bones...
Mission Impossible 3
I almost forgot that I saw MI3, but Garrett wouldn't let me forget since he bought my ticket. MI3 was completely... forgettable. It was so one-dimensional. Let me tell you something - if I ever, and I mean ever, see another film use the "flesh mask" trick to create narrative tension, I will hurl. I mean enough is enough already. If you have to use a flesh mask to make your movie work, your movie stinks! 3 bones...
If you don't know about St. Anne's Pub, now is the time to get to know them. St. Anne's Pub is an emerging audio ministry that provides great commentary, interviews, and skethces on current culture from a distinctly Christian perspective.
Their latest issue, "New Draught", deals with controversy in the church - specifically the Presbyterian church within America. There are some fantastic sketches and interviews with:
Dr. George Marsden - a leading church historian in the United States.
Mr. David Bahnsen - son of the late Greg Bahnsen.
Dr. Vern Poythress - professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.
Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn - leading expert on history of the Westminster Assembly.
I HEARTILY commend this and all of their editions to your listening.
In preparation for our church study and discussion of Dan Brown's, The Da Vinci Code, I finally read the book a few weeks ago. From the stand-point of pure story telling, Dan Brown spins quite a yarn. Even though I was disturbed and disgusted at many points in the book, it was definitely a page-turner.
Even if you haven't read the book, you have probably heard that it is a de facto attack on Christianity. It is - and even though it is chock-full of misinformation and lies, Dan Brown effectively leaves the church with a black-eye (certainly nothing fatal).
What fascinates me more than Brown's attack is what he subtly proposes as the substitute for Christianity. Instead of the Gospel of the incarante Son of God come to save sinners, he holds forth the gnosis of the so-called "Sacred Feminine." Oooooh - now that sounds so intriguing!
Let me tell you something - Dan Brown is brilliant to repackage what he is really proposing with this language. The Da Vinci Code religion of the "sacred feminine," is nothing more than the ancient "fertility cult" of paganism. Ancient fertility cults conceived of the gods or forces at work in the world in sexual terms. When these masculine and feminine gods / forces came "together" they would stimulate activity in the world. So for example, the way for humans to make sure their crops grew was to have sex rituals to stimulate the gods.
Make no mistake - Dan Brown is not just attacking the Gospel or the church, he is subtly promoting pagan fertility cults / sex rituals as a way to stimulate and experience the gods. How people miss this fact simply amazes me. Instead of embracing the good news of Christ, they flirt with ancient paganism. That's what you get when you imbibe the religion of the, "Sacred Feminine." I'll take a pass.
You ever get dumped by a girl before the big dance? The best revenge isn't going out with the boys instead of going to the dance. The best revenge is taking a hotter girl to the dance. What does that have to do with the Da Vinci Code? Not much, but I thought it would be funny to introduce this blog with that image in your head...
I haven't read the Da Vinci Code, but I understand it wears blasphemy as a "badge of courage." What should Christians do about that? A Christian screenwriter in Hollywood has some thoughts:
Don't ignore it - the box office is a ballot box. We need to vote with our dollars.
Don't protest it - that never works and makes us look like petty free-speech haters.
Don't see it and discuss it - no one is listening.
Go to another movie on 5/19, the opening night of Da Vinci Code. This will get the attention of the media, of the people, and of the studios.
I think this is definitely the path of wisdom in this case. Let's go to the movies, just not to the Da Vinci Code. Don't miss the dance, just go with a hotter date. That's the best way to diss it.
That was my first thought when I heard someone at the Oscar's last night say that the medium of film was not a mirror to reflect culture, but a hammer to shape it. Hollywood was finally going public with their strategy to make America and the world after it's own relativistic image.
On the one hand, Hollywood has always been in the business of shaping culture whether they admitted or not. Art forms are never passive, they always pursue transformation of the observer. Some might say that the admission of taking up the hammer to shape culture is a good thing - it will give Christians an opportunity for a dialogue of antithesis. We no longer have to pretend it is all about neutral "entertainment." Maybe this analysis is correct, but I have some misgivings. I am concerned that Hollywood in general feels comfortable flaunting it's explictly wicked agenda (gay marriage, for example) because it fears no reprisal. They are convinced that the momentum of battle is in their favor, and so they are finally taking their mask of benign-neutrality off. They have thrown down the gauntlet - daring anyone to take it up.
I'm not normally given to Chicken Little thinking, but I thought this statement was profoundly frightening. Art in general and film in particular are very powerful weapons in the war for culture - and Christians wield them very poorly these days. Don't get me wrong, I know there are great Christian artists out there. What I am saying is that as a "culture" - as a "heavenly city," the church of Jesus Christ is not in the game enough right now. We just aren't. Yes, we have Veggie Tales, The Passion, and The Chronicles of Narnia, but... Where is Dostoevsky of this generation? Rembrandt? Michelangelo?
If Christians don't fight for the hammer, we're going to have a broken mirror on our hands - and you know what they say about broken mirrors!