Mad Max: Fury Road – Review

159083939_a5289fNo movie in the last decade has been a better representation of the total depravity of the human race than Mad Max: Fury Road. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, caused by its hubris, humankind has returned to the dust, scrounging like the animal it believes itself to be. What is left is ruled by a demonic sadist with a proclivity for a heavy metal inspired wardrobe. This is survival of the fittest at it’s most extreme. This is a movie that shows in the bleakest of ways that humanity left on it’s own is truly it own worst enemy.

Stewardship

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “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 God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:28-31 ESV)

We were given a calling, from the very beginning of time to care for the creation that had been entrusted to us. Yet today, it the furthest thing for most minds. We are told, it’s all an accident; life, the universe and everything else, while Maroon 5 constantly reminds us we are nothing more than animals on the prowl. This is the world we inhabit. With no belief in a mandate from a creator we feel no compulsion to treat the earth, let alone people as anything more than a commodity. Mad Max displays this world in all it’s visceral glory. This is the result of a philosophy that places no value on life of any kind. The beauty of the movie is that it leaves us knowing innately that, that cannot be the truth, there has to be something better than consumption and death. We’ve been called to more, there is a purpose behind it all, yet if we deny that we will be lost to the dust.

Creation is our home, we are meant to take care of it and be a good steward. Are we doing that? All it takes is looking out of a car window and seeing the trash on the side of the road to know we are not. How we use this earth reflects on us and what we believe about our place in it. We were not given it to destroy it, but to cultivate it as a gardener does, with tender care.

Redemption  

Throughout the film both Max and Furiosa (Charlize Theron’s character) are both looking for a way to redeem themselves. Guilty of untold sins, some we do get brief glimpses of from Max who is haunted by his past, they long to find hope in atonement. It’s one of the most powerful scenes in the movie as Max infuses Furiosa with his blood and through this act brings hope back to the people.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

Hope springs eternal. Instinctively we know that we are meant for more and the world is broken. It’s only through the lens of faith in Christ that we have the true motivation to be good stewards of earth and people, who are not animals, but image-bearers of the King of Creation. It makes one long for the day when as John writes,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5 ESV)

Conclusion

This movie is an amazing achievement in practical film-making. Much as been made of this film because a majority of it happened without reliance on CGI. It is a stunning reminder that movies can be made, for real. What is wonderful is that the action informs the story. It adds to the desperate nature of the mission Furiosa is on as well as what is at stake, the survival of the human race.

This movie will not be for everyone. The aesthetic will turn some people off completely. That said, this is the pinnacle action movies with themes that resonate to the heart of humanity itself. Rating-  Four out of five Fury Road trips.

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The 602 Club S4: Stupid Geek-boy Grin

SupergirlMain3Supergirl/Legends of Tomorrow Trailers.

We are gathered again in The 602 Club to discuss the Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow trailers. We start off with Supergirl and talk about our first impressions, the look and feel, the cast, Superman’s role, the different universes of DC Comics, Legends of Tomorrow, the possibilities of the show and the importance of geek positivity.

Supergirl Trailer 

Legends of Tomorrow Trailer

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-HR-3In 2012 Marvel did something with it’s heroes that had not yet been seen from either of the two major comic companies, it put its biggest superhero team on screen, together. It had one of the biggest opening weekends in box office history and is now considered a classic. The question became, “Can you ever top this?” The Age of Ultron is now upon us and as the sequel to The Avengers, it has very big shoes to fill. Luckily it does have some intriguing themes.

Mad Scientists

There is an interesting conversation that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have about being mad scientists. Tony is already responsible for creating the Ultron program that has run amuck after he tried to bring it to artificial life. Tony believes that merging the construct that Ultron was creating for himself with Jarvis, he will be able to create Ultron’s doom.

It raises some very interesting questions. As Tony and Bruce work, they are meddling in things they don’t completely understand, their motive is pure but their methods are flawed. They are taking terrible risks. The alien technology they are trying to use has barely been studied and the consequences of their actions has already created one “Murder-bot”. You’d think they would have seen The Terminator and Skynet and learned something. Tony willing does not tell the rest of the team about his creative activities feeling there is no time to discuss it in committee. He also does not want to be told yet again that he should not be meddling in things he doesn’t understand. Tony and Bruce have not seemed to consider that just because one can do a thing does not mean one should.

These men want peace. They want to proactively protect the world. Captain America reminds Stark that every single time someone has acted preemptively, innocent people have ended up in the crosshairs. There must be responsibly in creation and Tony cannot see the line of how his will to protect could actually create the world’s greatest weapon. There is often a good chance that one will become the thing they hate if they are not careful. Ultron is very much a mirror for Iron Man, it is one of the strongest themes in the film, the hubris of thinking you can control everything through technological creation. History shows us that humanity is it’s own worst enemy, creating it’s own doom from which we desperately need salvation.

Why We Fight

This is really well done in the movie. The ideas of why these heroes do what they do. They are on the side of life and will do whatever it takes to protect it. That means that they do fight to kill and take out the threat. Vision reminds the heroes that even though Ultron is a unique creature, its aim is total annihilation of the world, therefore there is only one choice. Honestly it’s the best reason I’ve seen in a comic book movie for taking out the villain for good. As a hero you are protecting life by making sure the destruction planned by the bad guys can never happen again. Now of course there are people the heroes will go up against where these measures will not be needed, but something like Ultron or Zod, these are treats that have to be eliminated.

The Movie 

GDgeek_2015-May-03While the movie has some good themes, it feels extremely busy with not enough narrative focus. It is as if it’s trying to serve too many masters. the film is trying to finish the second phase of the Marvel franchise, set up the third phase, as well as tell a compelling story. There is so little explanation for the things happening on screen and if you blink you’ll miss the small amount that was there. From the enhanced twins, to Thor’s sight bath, so much is glossed over and never fully fleshed out; partly because it’s feels like it’s just set up for the next action scene. The action is good and there is a moment near the end of the movie that looks like splash pages from Avengers comics which is a lot of fun. Yet, it’s nothing revolutionary and it might just be because theirs so much action to digest that it begins to wash over you like a raging waterfall.

There are new characters in the movie, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision. Vision and Scarlet Witch are the two most interesting, with Vision stealing some scenes from the likes of Thor. Quicksilver, who’s character was seen in Days of Future Past (albeit with a different actor) and who’s scene was the stand out in that film gets nothing like that here. It’s as if they realized there was not topping that so why bother trying.

The rest of the main characters play off each other with ease. It’s a well oiled machine at this point. Unfortunately there are some things that get short shrift, like the romance between The Hulk and Black Widow. This really deserves it’s own movie as does Black Widow herself. The humor and banter, a Joss Whedon trademark are well represented with Captain America’s line about Iron Man watching his language getting huge laughs. It was also nice to see Hawkeye get something more to do than be mind-controlled. Renner gives some of the best lines in the film, bringing a humanity and levity to the craziness. He seems to be speaking as much to the audience as Scarlet Witch when he talks about a flying city, evil robots and he’s got a bow and arrow and how none of this makes any sense. It’s a nice wink to us in the seats.

Conclusion

This is a competent Marvel movie. All the actors and action are good, it’s the story that bogs down the film with the weight of all that’s it’s trying to accomplish that left me underwhelmed. It feels formulaic, as the plot is much the same as the original Avengers – team ends up fighting amongst itself, gets beat down, gets a pep talk from Fury, saves the day. One of the pitfalls of Marvel’s cinematic universe is that there is not always enough distinction between the films. I one of the things that made Winter Solider so good, it continued on the Captain America story while feeling fresh and new. Here’s hoping that Anthony and Joe Russo can bring that same sensibility from their work with Cap to Avengers: Infinity War part one and two. Age of Ultron is rated 3 out of 5 Captain America shields.

The 602 Club 28: A Kryptonite Shank

Superman Returns.tsc-028-th-square

It had been 28 years since Superman had last appeared on screen and it had not been the best send-off for the original superhero. Languishing in development hell, year after year, it came down to Bryan Singer and his story of Superman returning from five years away from earth to bring the Man of Steel back to theaters.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is join by John Mills and Norman Lao to talk about Superman Returns. We open the show discussing the new Batman V Superman trailer, then talk about our initial response to Singer’s Superman film. being back in the Donnerverse, if this movie needs Superman II, the expectations of the audience, the story, 9/11’s effect, our favorite scenes, the ending, the big shoes the actors had to fill, music, production value and our ratings.

 

Lords of the Sith – Review

Lords_of_the_SithIt has been a tough start for the new Star Wars book line. A New Daw began things perfectly by telling a story that introduced us to Kanan and Hera of Star Wars Rebels. It chronicled their first meeting, giving us our first canon book as well as our first taste of these new characters. Tarkin followed and unfortunately felt like little more that filler which is more than can be said about the dismal Heir to the Jedi.  A seemingly promising start has been watered down to stories with little impact on the saga, ranking with some of the worst in the old Expanded Universe. Can Lords of the Sith turn things around?

This is the book you are looking for

Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith is exactly the book I was hoping it would be. It has weight to its story and adds depth to the characters in the tradition of the best tie-in fiction. The story follows  Cham Syndulla, Hera’s father, as he uses all of his resources to take down Vader and the Emperor who are traveling to Ryloth on their own mission to root out traitors in Orn Free Ta’s delegation.

Kemp is able to add so much to our understand of Vader, his growth as a Sith as well as his relationship with Palpatine. It’s the thing many readers have expected from this new line of books, that they would add something legitimate to the characters, as well as deepening our understand of what drives them. Lords of the Sith has this in spades, in it’s story of the Sith and the Rebels. By telling this story of Cham Syndulla we not only have a greater insight into a character first seen in The Clone Wars, but his daughter who is the star of Rebels. Both stories have the impact you’d hope for.

There is so much that is worth talking about in this book but that would lead to spoilers that are best left to discovery while reading. So pick up Lords of the Sith and enjoy how the Star Wars new canon books should feel every time you read one, significant. Rated 4 out of 5 Sith Lords.

Disclosure: This book was provided by Del Ray as an early review and in no way affects the thoughts or feelings of the reviewer.

Dead McDreams: The Hubris of Television

greys-openerThere is a quote from The Patriot that has been rolling around in my head for a while now, Mel Gibson’s character says at the start of the movie, “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.” You may wonder, “Why is he thinking about this?” I have been thinking about it in terms of television shows and so the quote, in my mind is altered slightly; ” I have long feared that the number of seasons would return to haunt me and the cost is than I can bear.”

Television shows start out with an idea, characters and a vision for how they should evolve as the show progresses. If you are a good creative, you may have an outline that stretches quite far into your character’s future and hopefully you have some ideas where they land in the end. On American television there is an inherent difficulty involved because our television seasons tend to last 23 to 24 episodes. As writers, you are required to fill these episodes, so you create drama through problems between the characters and from outside them to drive story lines, while hopefully creating something people want to actually watch. It’s never easy.

As a show grows and becomes successful, it becomes a balancing act to keep it all together. How does the story keep going strong and at the same time remain true to the premise and arc for each character and not just devolve into another stat for the rule of diminishing returns? This is the struggle. For every show that has been a hit for 7-10 seasons there are a plethora of others that have just fizzed out, the fire died and therefore they did as well. There are some prime examples of shows that stayed beyond their time, ER and The X-Files are two of the most prominent. Each one wore out it’s welcome and failed to end satisfactorily for it’s fans; so much so that The X-Files is about to be brought back after 13 years for a short stint. They both failed to economically tell their stories so that characters arcs and show mythologies had a clear beginning and ending.

This happens a lot, creatives have a successful show, that should only have 4-5 seasons, yet because of it’s popularity they stretch it out. Like Bilbo with the ring in Lord of the Rings, the story lines become like too little butter on too much toast. On top of that, outside influences begin to affect the story being told. Instead of doing things for creative reasons, the real world intrudes on the make-believe and dictates terms. Actors want to move on to other things, actors die, creatives get famous and create other shows and the original show begins to suffer. It’s no longer driven by the story of the characters and where they need to go it’s driven by the quota of the season and who’s still left in the cast to tell it. It is the hubris of continuing to extend television shows past their true story potential,

For a show to be popular and to last in the in maelstrom of Hollywood, it must connect with people. The characters and story must reach them on a fundamental level. If they don’t, people will just not watch. If a show does make it and succeed, it takes the commitment of the fans to keep it on the air. As we watch we get invested in the characters and what happens to them. It might not be real, but it does have an impact. After watching a show for ten or more years, it’s a part of you, there is an investment there, you care what happens. Television is also the place we go to escape. When it comes down to it, we want the happy ending because we know that real life isn’t like that. The problem becomes that when you continue to make show for so many seasons you begin to loose the ability to end on the right terms. Characters die that shouldn’t and story lines don’t conclude to anyone’s satisfaction because the resources to do so aren’t around anymore.

6d9fb990-cc4e-0132-45c3-0ebc4eccb42fThis is what has happened to Grey’s Anatomy. It has lost the ability to give us the happy ending and the resolution we all want because it’s outlived it’s actors. Seriously, this show starts with two people, Meredith and Derek. From the first seconds of the show we can tell that no matter what other stories they tell, this is the important one, it’s the beating heart of the show. With all that they went through, there was one constant, we knew they would be together. Callie Torres said it best in a recent episode, “…Look, you and Derek are living proof that love exists, that it works, that there is hope. You guys are a freaking romance novel. And I, for one, am rooting for you two. Team MerDer!”.

Because Grey’s is in it’s 11th season there has always been a looming danger that each successive season would ruin the previous more that help the whole. This is possibly the biggest danger of having a show endure past it’s optimum end, that it will taint the previously loved story lines. I believe this is what has happened to Grey’s. Now the entire show will forever be altered because of the knowledge that there is no happy ending for the first two people we see on screen. In fact, Meredith’s story is a tragedy of epic Greek proportions. The amount of death that surrounds her is astounding. Someone on Facebook posted, “Grey’s Anatomy, this is not what I signed up for”, and I can’t help but agree. I don’t need this show to remind me that life is not fair or that bad things happen. What I did want was there to be a good payoff to my years of investment in the characters.

What gives it that bitterness is that there have been great exists on this show, none more celebrated than Sandra Oh. She had a whole season to celebrate her character and it was deserved. She had been such a major part of the story from the beginning. What is most frustrating in this loss of Derek Shepherd is that there was no celebration of this character. He spend most of the season away from the show, fighting with Meredith, had a heart-warming realization of what was important in life and came home finally, only to be killed unceremoniously. In fact his death and the way it happened is so similar to George O’Malley that his loss stings all the more. Seriously, this is the second character we see on screen in the pilot (well his butt is) and this is the best we can do sending him off?

In the end, it is just a show and life will go on. It’s unfortunate that a show I’ve enjoyed for ten years has irrevocably been changed for the worse, all because it forged ahead when it should have found resolution a long time ago. Ferry boats crash and so do our McDreams of a happy ending. derek-meredith-bar-pg

I’m on The Seriously Grey’s Podcast discussing the episode as well.

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The Force Awakens and Batman V Superman Trailers

Both of these films will be monster hits and both of them will have their haters. For me, I am just as excited for each one. Star Wars looks to be capturing the entire saga’s weight and carrying it forward, BvS looks to challenge us with all the right questions and differentiate itself from what came before, boldly going where no superhero movie has gone before. It is a great time to be a geek! Look for upcoming discussions of both trailers in The 602 Club, coming soon.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice