Movies

Owl Post 4-18-14

Owl Post

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If All Religions Are True, Then God Is Cruel:

world-religionsThe short film Most made its way onto the big screen more than 10 years ago. A brilliantly moving piece of cinema, the film tells the story of a single father who lives with his son in the Czech Republic. The pair share simple yet content lives together. The father works as a bridge engineer—he is responsible for raising and lowering a massive draw-bridge that allows ships and trains to pass at scheduled times. One day, the boy happened to be at the bridge with his father. As he’s playing outside, he notices a train rapidly approaching the station.

Why How I Met Your Mother’s Marshall and Lily Were TV’s Best Sitcom Couple:

tumblr_l7vaf65RMu1qdsisgo1_500For many casual fans of How I Met Your Mother, the treacly plot of Ted seeking out “the Mother” grew unbearably manipulative, right up through the twists and turns of last night’s final episode. And yet, our nostalgic flame will burn on for many aspects of HIMYM, among them the awesomeness of Lily and Marshall. The married college sweethearts, played by comedy heavyweights Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan, provided a model for happy but rarely boring coupledom, even as the show’s other characters fumbled romantically. For every obnoxious rom-com gesture that Ted attempted, Lily and Marshall were there to point out that the real thing is as messy as it is sweet.

Hollywood tries to win Christians’ faith:

1Randall Wallace didn’t expect a rock-star reception when he went on the road to promote his faith-based drama “Heaven Is for Real” ahead of its Easter-weekend release.

Yet at the First Assembly of God Church in Phoenix, 9,000 congregants greeted the filmmaker with a standing ovation. A few days later, 11,000 boisterous students packed a convocation in the sports arena at Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, Va., where Wallace, best known for writing the 1995 battle biopic “Braveheart” and directing the equestrian drama “Secretariat,” spoke about “Heaven Is for Real.”

Literary City, Bookstore Desert:

storewindownight_0When Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in Lower Manhattan, set out to open a second location, she went to a neighborhood with a sterling literary reputation, the home turf of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Nora Ephron: the Upper West Side.

She was stopped by the skyscraper-high rents.

The Underrated, Universal Appeal of Science Fiction:

science-fictionWhen I’m introduced to someone as a writer, a now familiar pattern of events often follows.

“Oh, really! How interesting!” the someone—let’s call her Jane—says, sounding quite enthusiastic. “What do you write?”

“Science fiction,” I say.

Jane instantly glazes over. “I’m afraid I never read science fiction.”

 

Noah – Review

noah-movie-poster-castNoah is the new movie loosely based on the biblical narrative found in Genesis from director Darren Aronofsky. This movie has faced controversy since even before it’s release, with Christians worried about how a proclaimed atheist would portray something they take seriously. As a film it has great acting, fantastic effects and a story that might be more interesting if it was not based on something so many see as sacred.

The Good:

There are a few things that Aronofsky does well in this film. One, he shows clearly the reasons why “The Creator” (What God is called all throughout the movie) wants to destroy humanity. The depravity seen is rampant and disturbing. People are shown trading teenage girls for food, there is murder, chaos and misuse of creation in every way possible. This is humanity at is basest, with it’s evil core completely exposed. Sin has infected everyone. Secondly, the idea of sin in all people is reenforced when Noah himself realizes that he and his family are not righteous. There is a clear representation of the biblical refrain, “none is righteous, no not one”.  These are powerful reminders of the impact that sin has had on the world since Adam and Eve took life into their own hands and chose themselves over God.

The Bad:

A friend of mine said about Noah, “Even in the truth, it is twisted somehow”. There are quite a few examples of this. Tubal Cain, a descendant of Cain and the main antagonist in the film, uses the truth of God’s command to Adam and Eve,  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” and yet twists it for his own advantage. He uses it for justification to curse “The Creator” and do as he damn well pleases (a paraphrase of his own words). He subjugates people as well as strip mines the earth, caring for nothing but himself; a pattern that all the peoples of the earth follow except for line of Seth (Which Noah is the last of). Tubal Cain also uses the fact that man is made in God’s image to his benefit. To him, it gives man the place of God on earth and therefore he can rule and reign as he sees fit.

Each of these things has a part of the truth in them. Man was called, by God to subdue the earth, to be his representation and care for all that God had created. This meant respect for all God had created, beast, environment and people. God also had created only man in his image and therefore set them apart from all other created things. Again this great power came with immense responsibility. We were not indented to destroy this world and others for our benefit, but to nurture creation, caring for it as our very own as well as following God by creating ourselves. Sadly Aronofsky so misrepresents the truth that it becomes unrecognizable and seen as evil.

Perhaps the biggest misrepresentation in the film comes from the silence of “The Creator”. Noah is left much to his own devices because the visions and dreams that he gets from “The Creator” are sufficiently vague to leave him in the dark as to want he is suppose to do. He gets enough to know that he should build an ark and that the animals will be saved through this vessel. What is not explained to him is that God is also saving his family. Noah comes to believe that because of his inherent wickedness as well as his family’s, that they should be the last humans. The earth will be left to care for itself. He has absolutely no understanding of being made in God’s image and that, that makes humanity something God would want to save. All the drama in the film comes from ignoring the source material. In the movie God might be vague, but in Scripture, God could not be clearer.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:11-22 ESV)

God is so clear to Noah, not only is he told to why the flood is coming, he is told exactly how to build the boat as well as why he and his family will be saved. It is not from Noah’s righteousness, it is because God is making a covenant with him.

It is amazing the difference between a God who speaks and one who is mostly silent. In the movie, Noah is left to try interpret God’s wishes. Noah is told that God chose him and gave him the decision as to whether humanity continued or not. In the end, the movie is about a vengeful God’s wrath and the mercy of a human. When in reality, the true story was about God and his grace towards Noah, because even in Noah’s obedience, the same sin courses through his very being. Francis Schaeffer said about God, he is there and he is not silent. Thank God we do not live in a world like that portrayed by Aronofsky, with a god who speaks in vague generalities leaving us to our own devises. Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said…”. He has spoken, the question is, do we want to listen to what he has to say or make our own way. It is the same choice Adam and Eve had; what will you choose? 

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STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS’ FINAL SEASON, “THE LOST MISSIONS,” TO HIT NETFLIX ON MARCH 7:

Exclusive Licensing Agreement with The Disney/ABC Television Group Brings Star Wars Content to Netflix Streaming Members for the First Time

The Galactic Republic, Disney/ABC Television Group, Lucasfilm, and Netflix Inc. today announced the highly anticipated debut of the sixth and final season of the Emmy(r) Award-winning series Star Wars: The Clone Wars exclusively to Netflix members in the US and Canada on Friday, March 7. Accompanying the 13-episode new season dubbed “The Lost Missions” will be the entire Star Wars: The Clone Wars saga, which includes several director’s cut episodes never seen on TV as well as the feature film. This multi-year agreement also makes Netflix the exclusive subscription service for the entire Star Wars: The Clone Wars series.

The Economics of Sex:

One of the most interesting and thought provoking videos I have seen in a long time.

Everything Is Awesome: Grace in The LEGO Movie:

hr_The_LEGO_Movie_10I would write a review of this movie, but this says it so much better that I ever could.

Some thoughts on grace and the new LEGO movie come from Michael Belote, author of the wonderful reboot:Christianity blog and author of Rise of the Time Lords, doubtless the best (review here) geeky intro to Christian doctrine available.

Something weird is happening in Hollywood. Just four months ago, the world was introduced to Frozen, a children’s movie chock-full of theological nuance. As I wrote at the time, I felt like this was the best theological movie in years, and figured it would be quite a while until I saw something similar.

Boy was I wrong.

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Motivate Your Son to Use Pornography:

unhappy-wifeBefore I get into five sure-fire ways to motivate your son to use pornography, let me establish two important points. First, no parents want their child to become involved in porn. We all can agree. The problem for many of us is we don’t understand the insidious allurement of pornography and how our behavior, though unintentional, can help shape a child to crave something that can lead him into a lifetime of slavery.

Pascal’s Method for Presenting the Christian Faith:

blaise-pascalMen despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th-century French mathematician and physicist who had a dramatic Christian conversion experience and thereafter devoted much of his thought to Christianity and philosophy. He began to assemble notes and fragments he hoped would be woven into a book called The Defense of the Christian Religion, but he died just two months after his 39th birthday and it was never written. Those fragments, however, were published as Pensees (“Thoughts”), and it has become one of the most famous Christian books in history.

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The Decline of the American Book Lover:

354750466_1383346651The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

Why Classic Movies Have Terrible Trailers:

imgpulp20fiction1Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, originally released in 1994, has aged gorgeously. It’s one of those rare films that can be watched and re-watched for 20 years and remain as shocking, vivid, and irresistible as the year it was released.

The 1994 trailer, however, now seems corny and dated by comparison.

Porn and Future Marriage:

Indulgence in pornography is not a problem that only young, unmarried boys face. It’s an epidemic that stretches into the realm of men who are married and women of all kinds (young or old, married or not). However, this post is aimed particularly toward young, unmarried men. The reason I am speaking to this particular group is because I know from firsthand experience the complications that this addiction causes for young men and their future marriage.

On TV: BBC’s Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse”:

673acbad-274c-42fe-96c5-83aabb26bf5e_sherlock-season-3BBC’s Sherlock has become one of my favorite shows on television, and it was immensely fun having some new material and quelling the peremptory curiosity left by the end of last season. It was genuinely enjoyable seeing Holmes back on the screen, even though, last night, Sherlock’s self-absorbed callousness was especially in-your-face – sort of making me wonder why I like BBC’s Holmes at all. All of his flaws were on high display, and they were made all the more irritating by his inability to apologize. And yet he remains compelling, not just immensely likeable, but even lovable, an obsession for some viewers (myself included) which the showrunners not-so-subtly parodied with The Empty Hearse Fan Club. And Sherlock’s disdain for them parallels Moffat’s condescension to the his viewers, opening the episode with a wild bungee jump and James Bond-esque kiss of Molly, followed by a breezy departure. Certainly some viewers would enjoy such action-hero panache, but we’re made to understand, early on, that this conventional smoothness isn’t, at all, who Sherlock is.

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Why C.S. Lewis Never Goes Out of Style:

IMG_0145Last month marked the 50th anniversary of a bizarre day in history. Three men of significant importance each died on November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy, author Aldous Huxley, and author and scholar C.S. Lewis.

On that day, the developed world (appropriately) halted at the news of the assassination of the United States’ 35th president. The front page of The New York Times on Saturday morning, the day after the tragic shooting, read, “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as he Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn in on Plane,” and virtually every other news service around the world ran similar coverage and developed these stories for days and weeks following.

16 Books To Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year:

91o13sPo7VLEvery year there are more and more movies based on books being released. Here are 16 books that have been turned into films that you should read, the books are always better than the movie.

Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck:

game-of-thrones-posterI grew up in a fundamentalist environment. The church I was baptized in believed it was inappropriate for Christians to go to a movie theater. To this day, my grandparents maintain this standard as a bulwark against worldliness.

The library at my Christian school had a variety of books for children, sanitized for Christian consumption. Encyclopedia Brown made the cut, but all the “goshes” and “gee whizzes” were marked out with a heavy black pen. No second-hand cursing allowed.

Strength = Good, Weakness = Bad:

1122777918_the_dramatic_decline_of_the_modern_man_460x307_xlargeI like to be strong. At least I like to appear strong. You do too, I think. Most of us value strength and look down on weakness. We honor those who have their lives together and regard with suspicion those who do not.

Strength = good, weakness = bad. That is our functional formula. But it is not the Lord’s. 2 Corinthians 12 says it very differently: “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you,” said the Lord, “ ‘for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

6 Deadly Enemies of Marriage:

religion-300x336Marriage is under attack. Marriage has always been under attack. The world, the flesh and the devil are all adamantly opposed to marriage, and especially to marriages that are distinctly Christian. Marriage, after all, is given by God to strengthen his people and to glorify himself; little wonder, then, that it is constantly a great battleground.

Her – Review

MV5BMjA1Nzk0OTM2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU2NjEwMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Her is one of the most unique films in years. The story is simple enough, a man who is going through a divorce buys a new operating system that is completely intuitive and cognizant and falls in love with the it. On the surface Her seems like one of the strangest and most outlandish ideas for a movie and yet it proves to be one of the most human. This is an exploration of what it means to be, to be human and in relationship with others. Her is a great movie, that does have some scenes I cannot endorse, so use caution when going to see it.

The Struggle:

Theodore buys an operating system, never thinking that it will turn his life upside down. He is a man who is on the brink of divorce. He hides himself emotionally, longing for connection, to be know and loved and yet fears the rejection that comes with the risk inherent in all relationships. When Samantha (the name of the OS, which she gives to herself) downloads it’s way into Theodore’s life he finds a friend. Samantha is there to listen and comfort him by making him feel known as well as cared for. Since Samantha is a fully intuitive system, she can learn, grow, change and feel just like any human, creating a connection between them that is “real”.

her-1The relationship quickly progresses from one of friendship to romance. Samantha experiences feelings of desire and wanting for the first time, every moment becoming more “alive”. Unlike a human, she is not limited to a physical form, so as she grows she begins to transcend her need for the human connection she has with Theodore, he is just too slow to be on her level.

Her has a lot to say about humanity and relationships. Humans are made for connection, it is the one thing that we cannot live without. In almost every romantic relationship we enter into it believing that the person we have come to know can fill us and “complete” us. We set them up as idols and put the weight of our souls, our happiness on their shoulders. Inevitably they crumble, disappointing us because no one has the strength to truly complete another. The satiation of our deepest desires goes unfulfilled, leaving us to look for “greener pastures”. This is beautifully played out in couples scenes throughout the movie. The most poignant is when Theodore writes a letter to his ex-wife confessing that he had asked too much of her, basically he had made her god and it was not her fault that she could not live up to such a standard. 

The Fear:

Theodore is life is rife with fear. He fears being alone. He also fears being rejected. He fears allowing someone to truly know him because there is the chance that they might cast him aside, not liking what they know. Humans have an intense hunger to be known and loved unconditionally, but experience has taught us time and again that it’s almost impossible to find. C.S. Lewis said,

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

We are made for relationship but in a fallen world, no human will ever be able to fill the needs we have fully. Only God can supply for all our needs. When we place a human being as ultimate in our lives, allocating all of our hope for joy in them we will be forever unsatisfied. Only when God is ultimate and supreme in our lives can we experience the pleasure in human relationships the way they were made to be.

Conclusion:

Movies like Her are few and far between. I found myself, the whole time, being challenged with the ideas of relationships, what it means to be human and to love another. Joaquin Phoenix gives a heartfelt performance that you immediately empathize with, drawing you into his melancholy and joy in every scene. It must be said that the relationship between Theodore and Samantha only works because of the fantastic voice acting of Scarlett Johansson. The entire time you buy that someone could fall in love with an OS if it had a voice like hers. This will not be a movie for everyone, but I must say, I will be thinking about it for a long time.

Saving Mr. Banks – Review

movies_saving-mr-banks-posterSaving Mr. Banks is the story of Walt Disney’s wooing P.L. Travers (Helen Lyndon Goff), author of Mary Poppins, for the film rights to the book; in an effort to keep a 20 year promise to his daughters. Yet in the end is is so much more that this simple premise. The movie takes us through the life of Travers to help explain her extreme reluctance to hand over her creations to someone else, along the way fashioning a gripping and poignant film. Tom Hanks as Disney is wistful and Emma Thompson as Travers is prickly and yet sympathetic. The movie truly is one of the best of the year and is not to be missed.

Rewriting Time:

movies-saving-mr-banks-colin-farrellTravers is shackled to her past. Her childhood in Australia was anything but easy. Her father was an alcoholic who could never hold down a job. He did his best to be a good father to his children. Helen was his favorite. He encouraged her to use her imagination and think of this world as illusion, using the ideas of eastern mysticism to try and alleviate her daily hurts or fears. She watches as her father’s drinking continues to bring devastation to the family’s life, yet she wants nothing more than to be like her whimsical, day-dreaming father. When he contracts influenza, Helen’s aunt sweeps in, much like Mary Poppins, and promises to fix everything. Unfortunately Helen’s father dies at the early age of 43, leaving his family destitute.

This childhood haunts Travers. She cannot let go of the pain the world has caused her. Her only outlet has been her characters in Mary Poppins. They have become her family and escape from the real world. It is why she stubbornly clings to them a makes Disney work so tirelessly for the film rights.

The most moving scene in film is when Disney shows up in London at Travers’ door. She has stormed out of L.A. after discovering that there will be an animated sequence in the movie; an idea which she detests. Throughout the whole story, Disney has been trying to figure out what it is that makes Travers so reluctant to give up her characters. As they talk in her living room he shares with her that he has come to understand why, the story of Mary Poppins, is not about a person coming to save the children, it is about saving Mr. Banks or more personally, saving little Helen Goff’s father.

Through this conversation Disney is able to help her see that she can let go of her past by creating, in the movie version of Mary Poppins, the redemption of Mr. Banks. She can, in a small way, rewrite time for herself and be free of the fetters that she has warn all her life. It illustrates beautifully the need we all have for someone to rewrite our own time streams.

Many of us have a history that we would like to change and it takes someone, entering into our lives and helping us see our pasts from a new perspective to rewrite time.The only one that can do this fully is God. His redemption of us is complete, not just our present and future but the past as well. Through his salvation we can see our lives differently, his hand involved where before we would have missed it. Time, for all intense and purposes has been rewritten as we see our past in a whole new light.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sinwho knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, ESV)

Conclusion:

Go see Saving Mr. Banks!

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Review

secretlifeofwaltermitty-poster-mountai85995There is always a flood of movies that come out on Christmas Day and if the theater that I was at was any indication, an evening film after the post-presents and gluttony is the cure. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was one of five films to be released on Christmas Day and my choice. It is the ideal movie for this time of year as people beginning to look back and forward all at the same time. Ben Stiller’s direction is superb in a movie that could have come off as schmaltzy and trite. Instead it shines like a Christmas star. This movie does for Stiller what Stranger Than Fiction did for Will Ferrell, presenting us with a whole different side to his acting repertoire. His understated performance captures your attention and carries this film beautifully. The movie is artistically shot and crafted adding to the heart and message perfectly. This is a movie that Hollywood use to be able to make with ease, before cynicism and dark heroes ruled the screen and it is the antidote that has sorely been needed.

Fathers Are Missed:

There has been a theme of fatherhood running through many of the films that I have reviewed this year and Walter Mitty is no exception. Walter lost his father at the age of sixteen and it impacted him enormously. Before his father died he was carefree and full of life. Sporting a mohawk and and a skateboard Walter was very close to his father. He was free to be himself and find his full potential, knowing that his father was behind him every step of the way. When his father dies, the family finds themselves in financial trouble and the very next day Walter gets a hair cut and a job, vowing never to be insecure financially again. As Walter grows up he looses a part of himself. He plays life safe and his only escape are his daydreams.

It is beautiful to see a movie showing how important fathers are to young boys as they become men. Walter has someone to show him what it means to be a man as well as come into his own, until his father dies. This loss takes away his mentor and security, causing Walter to withdraw and lose his ability to risk in life. It takes life being turned upside down for Walter to understand how important risk and human connection are truly are.

Adventure and the Great Unknown:

To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, to draw closer, to see and be amazed.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYMitty lives in a world where it is easy to hide. The internet age has made it so easy to put up a digital facade and never really interact with a real person. The movie humorously portrays this in his online dating profile. Walter can’t think of anything worthy of putting on his profile and because of this is unable to leave a “wink” on a coworkers page. When he calls the support line for the site the customer service rep asks him why he doesn’t just talk to her in real life. As fate would have it, they are thrown together as Walter must search for a missing photo that is meant to be the cover of Life magazines final issue. Through his connection with Cheryl and the support of Sean O’Connell (the photographer who’s picture Walter cannot find), Walter discovers the courage to live a life he has only envisioned in his daydreams.

The motto for Life magazine above is a perfect representation of the movies main theme; life is not meant to be lived in a cocoon but meant to be experienced in all it’s brilliantly messy glory. So often we do as Walter, neglecting connections with people and burry ourselves in self-protecting isolation. Unwilling to take risks, we miss the best parts of our existence. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty reminds us to seize life as it comes by drawing closer to others and being amazed at the grandeur that is in every single moment.

Best Films of 2013

MV5BMTQwMDU4MDI3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU1NDgyOQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_42 :

This was a fantastic movie about the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. There are very few films these days that tell an important story that you could also let your kids watch; not only is this a great movie for the family, but it is a good way to introduce the theme of courage in the face of persecution. Harrison Ford shines as Branch Rickey making this my 11th pick for 2013.

ANSIN-MANOFSTEEL-R-PRESSMan of Steel:

You seemed to either love this movie or hate it, there was not a lot of middle ground with fans or the general public. I loved it. This was the first movie that I felt got Superman, especially for the 21st century. Giving us not only his origin story but his growth into the character we all know. This is Superman’s first day on the job, using is powers to their fullest and having to make choices no one ever dreams they’ll have to make. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, this has done one thing no one can take away from it; it has gotten people talking about the grand daddy of superheroes again.

FROZN_014M_G_ENG-GB_70x100.inddFrozen:

When I first saw the preview for this film I was wary, with a talking snowman and no really explanation of the story in the trailer I did not have a lot of hope. I have never been so glad to be mistaken. Frozen is a beautifully animated movie with true heart. Not only is it fun but the themes of true love and sacrifice have rarely been portrayed better in a children’s movie. Classic Disney that is sure to endure alongside it’s best animated films.

american_hustle_ver6_xlgAmerican Hustle:

The movie can be a little inconsistent but the acting carries you through. Each of the actors is in fine form and no one should be surprised to see their names come up during Oscar season. Not as good as Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was last year, it is still one of the best movies of 2013. This movie is all about our desire to be known and loved as well as the ways we lie to ourselves and to others to make it through life. These themes alone make it worth watching. (It may also make you glad that for the most part 70′s fashion has stayed there).

hunger_games_catching_fire_poster_embedCatching Fire:

There is nothing harder than tying to bring a book to life on film and satisfy the fans; Catching Fire was able to do just that. With a lackluster first film, new director Francis Lawrence captured the gritty reality of Suzanne Collin’s creation with disturbing perfection. Jennifer Lawrence was once again brilliant as Katniss, yet is was Josh Hutcherson’s much improved performance as Peeta that really made this a much better film than the first. This is a strong movie that deserves to be on any top 2013 list.

MV5BMTA1ODUzMDA3NzFeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDgxMTYxNTk@._V1_About Time:

Not just another romantic comedy, but an exploration of the love between a father and son. Using time travel as a way of exploring choices and their impact on our lives, Richard Curtis has created a movie that is just as good as his classics Notting Hill and Love Actually. Unabashedly sentimental and heartfelt, this is not to be missed.

SONY-BDOS-01_Onesheet4.16.13_Layout 1Before Midnight

Continuing the story that began in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Before Midnight is the conclusion to Jesse and Celine’s story. Set nine years after they ran into each other in Paris, they now have two girls and are on vacation in Greece. It is a very real film, pulling no punches in it’s portrayal of the trials of married life. Deply and Hawke are incredible and will sure to be nominated come award season.

short-term-twelveShort Term 12:

This is the story of Grace, a social worker in an at-risk home for teens. It is a heartbreakingly moving film about the need we all have for community and acceptance. Brie Larson gives an Oscar worthy performance and is a break-out star of 2013 as she appears in The Spectacular Now as well. You may have missed this in it’s theater run so seek it out in it’s home release, you won’t be disappointed.

the-way-way-back-poster1The Way Way Back:

I have been trying to give new thoughts on this list so far, but I think I said it best in my review of the movie earlier in the year. “This coming of age story about a boy trying to traverse the canyon between boyhood and manhood will leave you moved and thankful for quitter summer films. This movie is not to be missed.” You can find the movie now, so go rent it and enjoy.

gravity-movie-posterGravity:

An amazing theater experience that will leave you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Sandra Bullock is perfect and George Clooney is in his usual fine form. Alfonzo Cuarón is sure to win best director. The special effects are beyond brilliant and the 3D leaves you feeling as if you are floating in the heavens with the characters. As close as many of us will ever get to being on a space walk.

spectacular-now-final-posterThe Spectacular Now:

No film of 2013 had a greater personal impact than this. I cannot say it better than I did in my review; “This is a powerful film. The performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley will leave you in tears as you feel every single emotion of the characters. This is the kind of movie that makes you thankful for the art of cinema. I cannot recommend this film more.”

Honorable Mentions:

The Hobbit: the Desolation of SmaugWarm BodiesStar Trek Into DarknessDrinking Buddies

Movies I Still Want to See:

Blue Jasmine, Lone Survivor, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, Her, August: Osage County, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis, Philomena and Dallas Buyers Club

Worst Movie of the Year:

Pacific Rim

“Just when you thought summer movies couldn’t get any dumber, they go and do something like this…… and prove us wrong.”

Comment and tell me what I missed or what you think!

Frozen – Review (One I did not write)

Frozen-New-Banner-disney-frozen-35651497-1024-320

I was going to write a review of Disney’s new animated film Frozen until I came across this review at reboot:Christianity. The review said everything that I wanted too and I’ll humbly admit, much more eloquently than I could. I hope you enjoy the review and if you have not seen Frozen then please do. It’s brilliant and deserves your support in the theater; thereby encouraging more films of this quality to be produced.

The best theological movie in years

Every year on Black Friday, my wife goes shopping and the boys and I go to my parents’ house. We watch some football, eat some leftovers, play some video games, and (usually) go to a movie. This year we went and saw the best theological movie in years.

Seriously, this movie was amazing. It was poignant, subtle, brilliantly directed and acted, and written so well that everyone from a child to an adult can understand the theology.

What was this great movie?

Frozen.

Yes, Disney’s Frozen, the kid’s movie.

This movie is a must-see for all Christians, in my mind, both adults and children. It was funny, appropriate for any age, and there is a lot more depth to this than your typical Disney-princess movie. So let’s go into that now, shall we?

Plot Synopsis (Spoiler alert! I will skip at least one significant twist, and the movie is wholly enjoyable even if you know the below, but still, spoiler alert!)

Frozen centers around the lives of two princesses, Elsa and Anna. Elsa, the elder sister, has a blessing/curse of magic–she is capable through willpower and emotion to create anything cold, from snow to ice to storms. Anna, the younger sister, is a precocious, clumsy, and yet sincerely adorable girl.

When the two are children playing together, Elsa accidentally freezes a part of Anna’s mind. The local trolls are able to save her, but in the process of extracting the effects of magic they also extract the memories of seeing her sister perform magic. Fearful of a relapse of Anna’s brain-freeze condition, Elsa and her parents agree to keep her magic hidden and secret from Anna as well as everyone else.

As Elsa grows up, she becomes less and less able to control her gift/curse. Her parents repeat the mantra, “Conceal it, don’t feel it,” and she spends her life as an act of willpower to keep her abilities from being known. Her fear of hurting her sister and her attempt to keep her gift/curse hidden lead her to live a life of isolation. She spends her life in her room, hidden from the outside world, gates to the castle closed: and, more significantly, the gates to her sister’s heart closed.

However, her attempts at controlling her powers, ultimately, fail. Every time she becomes emotional or stressed out, her “curse” comes back out again. Eventually this results in an embarrassing public show which gets her branded a monstrous sorceress, and she flees into the mountains. In the process, the storm inside of her translates literally to the world around, locking the kingdom in an everlasting winter.

The rest of the plot is about Anna trying to reunite with Elsa and convince her to end the eternal winter. In the process, Elsa accidentally gives Anna a frozen heart.

Now a frozen heart, we are told, is much different than a frozen head–and much harder to cure. Only an act of True Love can cure it.

The characters assume–as do we–that the act of true love is a kiss. Anna (who is being pursued by two suitors) rushes around trying to find True Love’s Kiss to break the curse.

And that is when the movie gets EXCELLENT, and theologically very relevant.

The Theology

Theology Point 1:  The Law

Through the entire movie, I could not help but notice (and empathize with) the plot of Elsa. She was attempting to control her gift/curse through willpower. She tried harder and harder and harder to invent ways to protect her sin from showing, to control something which is undeniably part of her nature. She failed, however.

We do the same, of course: the Law (i.e., acts of work and control) has no power to save, only to condemn. The harder Elsa tried to keep the curse in, the more the curse came out: works of the Law are primarily successful only in demonstrating our inability to keep the law.

When Elsa fled to the mountaintop she thought that there she could finally be free–free of expectation, free of trying to hide her true self. But then she found out that her curse had actually grown in power and even more people were affected.

The lesson from Elsa’s life is clear:  the sin-curse that we have cannot be controlled through works of the Law, and it cannot be controlled through isolation.

Theology Point 2:  The Grace

Even if Frozen had stopped there, it still would have been a valuable lesson on the Law. And that is where I expected it to end, as Anna raced home to get her True Love’s Kiss, which would be the act of love needed to set her free.

Or so I thought. In an ordinary movie, “True Love’s Kiss” would indeed be what broke the curse.

This is no ordinary kid’s movie.

Anna stood, near frozen to death, as her true love approached for the final kiss. She thoroughly believed that this was the only thing that could save her. Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw her sister Elsa–about to be killed by an enemy with a sword. Elsa, the woman who was basically alien to Anna. Elsa, the woman whose actions endangered Anna and everyone else. Elsa, who refused to help with Anna asked her to.

What did Anna do? She turned away from her “true love’s kiss” and ran to save her sister. Anna placed herself between the sword and her cursed sister, giving her life for her sister’s. She willingly died in order to save the cursed one, who had done nothing to deserve such an act.

Sound familiar? John 15:13:  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” In this story, Anna serves as an archetype of Jesus: she gave up her own life, truly dying to save someone who was basically a stranger and who had done nothing to earn her love. Why did she do so? As we find out later, it was because she loved Elsa–a love which was unearned, and imputed to her by Anna simply because Anna chose to love her.

Olaf the snowman defines love for Anna earlier in the film, and it is not the romantic eros love typically taught in Disney films. He defines love as “putting someone else’s needs before your own”–and illustrates that himself, being willing to melt to save Anna. This is of course a pretty dead-on description of what the Bible calls agape love…self-sacrificial, unearned, unconditional love.

But of course, Anna’s story doesn’t end there, just as Jesus’ didn’t. It was the very act of sacrificial love which melted Anna’s heart and brought her back to life, again fulfilling the Jesus archetype.

Theology Point 3:  The Redemption of the Curse

But STILL this movie isn’t done. Elsa’s actions act as an illustration of the inadequacy of the Law to free us from sin (as she says, “I can never be free…”).  Anna’s actions act as an archetype of the Christ, laying His life down in love, the act of True Love serving to break the curse and save us.

But that was not all. Now the movie goes even further, and shows us the curse being redeemed.

When the risen-Anna explains that it was love–not works or isolation–which unfroze her, something clicks in Elsa. Never before had she heard that. Never had she tried that. She had spent a lifetime trying to “earn” her goodness (“Be the good girl you always have to be,” is a repeated part of her monologue song.) Now, she stopped trying to earn it and reveled in the unearned-love that her sister had shown her. And something amazing happens…all of a sudden, Elsa is actually able to control the curse. No, there is more than that:  not only is she able to control/eliminate the “sin” of the curse (having been freed by the act of true love), but indeed the curse is now redeemed. Now she is able to use her gift for the enjoyment of her kingdom, instead of having to keep it quiet and controlled.

Conclusion/Summary

I left the movie amazed, and went and saw it a second time with my wife this weekend (after her Black Friday shopping concluded). It is not only fun and enjoyable (as most Disney films are), but the thing sounds like it was written by a very theologically-devout Christian who really gets it.

This amazing movie manages not only to be one of the most charming children’s films in years, but it serves up the concepts of law, grace, and redemption on a silver platter–either for you to have a way to explain it to your kids, or simply for your own enjoyment and edification.

I can’t recommend it highly enough: this movie gets an A+ from me!