Category Archives: Family

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Review

guardians_of_the_galaxy_vol_two_new_poster3Don’t miss The 602 Club episode!

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Marvel is a machine. It’s been pumping out hits (with the occasional miss) since Iron Man in 2008. This summer is no exception as the ever popular Guardians of the Galaxy are back in Vol. 2. The first movie was cotton candy, summer fun, so the question is, can this second film find more depth than the first? Luckily, it does.

Family 

Guardians of the Galaxy was about a group of misfits finding family together and Volume 2 is a continuation of that theme. The concept of the the Guardians as family is challenged in this movie as both Peter and Gamora have to deal with prior or blood relatives. Peter finally comes face to face with his father and as Luke found out in The Empire Strikes Back, knowing who your father is, is not always the best thing. Peter’s story mirrors much of Luke’s as he must choose between ruling the galaxy with his father or saving it as a Guardian. He also finds that he may always have had what he was looking for right in front of him.

Peter’s dad is a Celestial, basically a god, who has lived for millions of years and in that time learned to create worlds. Being alone for so long, he found a way to create a physical form and travel the stars, looking for companionship and love. This is how he met Peter’s mother. Ego, the name of Peter’s dad, decides to turn his back on love and embrace a “higher” calling, to expand the universe, remaking worlds in his image.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2-kurt-russell-chris-prattEgo has spent millennia trying to create progeny that can assist him in his quest to remake the galaxy and Peter is the first child to share his abilities. He’s no longer alone, but it’s not truly family that he is after, it’s just power. He’s come to see himself as above all other life, since he’s immortal, at least as long as his essence is kept alive at the core of the planet he’s constructed. He has divorced himself from the family of beings in the galaxy, placing himself on a higher plane because of his immortality, which enables him to rationalize exterminating whomever and whatever, since comparatively they are inferior. It’s a reminder that the moment people being to see themselves as better than others, it usually leads to marginalization or at it’s worst, extermination.

Gamora and Nebula finally get something to do in this film! They get the opportunity to deal with what has driven them apart and left them at each others throats for so long. They come to terms with the ways in which Thanos drove a wedge between them, used them and realize that they are actually on the same side. Forgiveness is given and it’s a beautiful scene in the movie. It was great to see them really give these actors a storyline to dig into.

The Movie

This movie is not as slickly put together as the first, it does not seem to flow quite as well as the original, but it has more depth and that makes up for it. It’s nice to have the characters go deeper into themselves. It’s still a little cliche, but it feels stronger and more resonant as a film. Because of these things it’s rated 4 out of 5 Baby Groot dances.

PS

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The Hollars – Review

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Life is so unpredictable and the choices we make are made with so little information, yet they can lead to the most unexpected things. The Hollars, John Krazinski’s new film, is all about life in its messy, glorious joys and sorrows. The story revolves around John Hollar, who is recalled home when his mother is diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is quickly dragged back into his utterly flawed family, a pursuant ex-girlfriend and the need to juggle the pregnant girlfriend he left back in New York. What follows is a poignant reminder of just how important living life to the fullest can be.

The Struggle of Manhood

I really like the way the movie deals with the issue of manhood and how hard it is to live up to society’s expectations as well as our own. John Hollar is in a job he’s not proud of, with a dream of being a graphic novelist, yet he feels inadequate for the task of completing his book. On top of that, he’s left feeling like he’s a failure in the eyes of his girlfriend. She comes from a wealthy family and he knows he can never provide the kind of life she’s accustomed to.

Don Hollar is John’s dad. He’s spent his life running a plumbing business that is now falling apart. The pain for him, as his life’s work crumbles and the love of his life is in the hospital, threatens to crush what’s left of this sensitive soul.

Ron Hollar, John’s brother, is by all accounts the black sheep of the family. Divorced and forced to live in his parents’ basement because he’s out of work, he’s wrestling with the consequences of his life decisions. It was he that wanted the divorce a few years ago, but now he’s realizing the mistake he made and how much he wishes he could go back.

Each one of these men portrays a different aspect of manhood and just how hard it can be to navigate. Feelings of inadequacy drive men to do many things–pull away from those they love, search for greener pastures or just give up. Each Hollar man in the movie has to find the courage to move forward in the choices he’s made. John finds a way to fully commit to his girlfriend Rebecca, Ron must face the consequences of breaking up his family and Don must find the strength to deal with his business and his wife’s illness. In each situation true manhood shines when responsibility is taken for where their decisions have led them but also when they realize that manhood does not require you to walk though life alone.

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A Few Quick Things 

As a quick aside, the marriage of Don and Sally Hollar is just beautiful. Both young when they married, they might have gone on to do other things, yet they honor one another in the commitment they made to each other. And they show true sacrificial love towards the other, being the rock each other needs in the worst of times. They are far from perfect in their marriage, but they are inspirational.

Another quick aside. Ron’s ex-wife Stacey is seeing the new youth pastor at the church. Now, many times the “Christian” character in the film is there to be the butt of jokes, but here, he’s actually everything you’d want him to be. He’s kind to Ron, looking to actually help him. He steps in after Ron has been arrested in the movie and “rescues” him from the police. He does not force his beliefs on Ron, but gives him a sounding board and helping hand. It’s always a pleasant surprise when Christians in movies are portrayed in a positive light.

Conclusion

The Hollars is one of those rare films that comes along, in the midst of towering blockbusters, to remind you of the power of a well-told story. I recommend you go seek this one out and enjoy the simple pleasures of explosion-free cinema.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Review

911Xmhn9+rLWhen J.K. Rowling entered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of the most contested parts was the ending that took place nineteen years later with the gang and their families at platform 9 3/4. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where the new book, the script of the play just released in London’s West End, begins. The story introduces us fully to Albus, Harry’s middle son and his struggle growing up in the shadow of the world’s savior. The story is poignant and had me choking back tears as I found myself in love with the world of Harry Potter all over again.

Past Suffering

Rowling has never downplayed the struggle of life or it’s unfairness. In direct opposition to so much of popular entertainment, the Harry Potter books have always embraced the ideas of suffer and death as natural. It’s echoed beautifully in the script when Dumbledore’s portrait tells Harry,

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

It’s a powerful reminder to us all that life is not fair and that suffering is part of all our experiences. Suffering cannot be avoided, therefore you can only control how you let it affect you, mold you and teach you.

Suffering can often lead to the desire to change the past or into destructively obsessing over it, leaving us stuck. The Cursed Child‘s plot is a clear picture of what happens when we mess with time in such ways. Our past, our suffering, our experience make us who we are and the only thing that can change is the future. Harry points this out to Draco in the latter half of part two,

“Love blinds. We have both tried to give our sons, not what they needed, what what we needed. We’ve been so busy trying to rewrite our own pasts, we’ve blighted their present.”

Albus is struggling with all of these things plus the thought that he should have done better. This feeling drives him to do something that puts the entire world in extreme peril. So often we as humans are so hard on ourselves, willing to give grace to everyone else but us. Harry lovingly reminds Albus that both of the men that he’s named after were great, but also deeply flawed, we all are. We can do better and the future is wide open for us to, not though self flagellation but though using the lessons of the past change our future.

Conclusion

There are so many continuing Rowling themes in The Cursed Child, family, friendship, the power of love and the nature of life itself; I am honestly still mulling them over. What I can say for certain, this is a worthy addition to the Harry Potter story. Rowling has said that this will be the final story for Harry and if so it’s wonderful to know, all is well. The Cursed Child is rated 4.5 out of 5 wands.

Star Trek Beyond – Review

international-posterIn 2009 J.J. Abrams introduced the world to what is now known as the “Kelvin Timeline” in Star Trek giving us a whole new way to look at and experience the iconic characters from The Original Series. In this third movie Justin Lin has taken over the dictatorial reins and given us a film worth of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary.

Purpose and Identity 

Star Trek Beyond finds the Enterprise 3 years into it’s 5 year mission exploring deep space and Kirk is beginning to have questions. “Why are we out here?” What is my purpose?” “Do I really want to be doing this?” Each one of these has been plaguing him as they chart unknown. The vastness of space as left Kirk feeling directionless and without purpose. Kirk even says in the movie, “It’s hard to feel grounded when even the gravity is artificial”. He has gotten so lost in the routine of life, that perspective has become skewed. It brings to mind the struggles of Kirk from The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, yet this time, Kirk is thinking of becoming an Admiral. It’s something we have only seen in books, the thought process that would lead Starfleet’s best captain to take a desk job.

Krall, the villain of the film is a mirror for Kirk in the movie. He’s a man who was so beholden to one thing in life that when life required him to grow, learn and move forward he found it impossible. As Kirk begins to learn more about his adversary he begins to find his own sense of purpose again, he’s out in space to help protect as many lives as he can, because all lives matter. Kirk is in space to learn, grow and help humanity do the same.

Both Kirk and Spock in the film are also facing the question of identity. Kirk has spent his time in Starfleet trying to be his father and live up to that legacy. McCoy tells him, “You spent all this time trying to be your father, now you’re wondering just what it means to be you.” Whereas Spock is struggling with his identity as a Vulcan and therefore his responsibility to them as they rebuild, which is heightened in light of Ambassador Spock’s death. Each one of these men must found out what it means to be themselves, to escape the shadow of father’s and mentors and chart their own course. What is beautiful about the movie is that they both find their identity and purpose in helping the other become the best versions of themselves and in protecting others.

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How We Grow

The idea of being able to grow as a person and society is a huge theme in the film. Krall has found himself unable to move from the past. He sees struggle, war and strife as the only true ways for a race to test themselves. Kirk reminds him that if all we do is continually wage war on the battles of yesterday, then we will be stuck in the past. It brings to mind John F. Kennedy’s words that inspired a whole generation,

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Adversity though war and infighting is not the only way to grow, choosing to do the impossible, with only hope as your guide is a powerful force for change. Humanity grows best when it learns from the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them again. Unity in mission and purpose, serving something greater than yourself is the best way to do that.

It’s the strength of the Federation to have unity, bringing together many different people for a common purpose and goal. In the film, this is also reflected on a smaller scale in the crew of the Enterprise. It is their commitment to each other, their working together in concert, each using their gifts to the best of their ability that help them solve the problems they face. It is a nice mirror for what Paul says in 1 Corinthians about the body of Christ, each working together through their God given gifts for the betterment of the other and in service to something much greater than the individual.

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The Movie

There are a couple things I don’t like about the film. One, I am not crazy about the action editing which often leaves the viewer wondering what just happened. It is so fast and cut so quick that it is sometimes hard to see or understand what transpired. I also have to say there were no surprises about the story, I leaned over to my wife a few times and called all the “reveals” or plot points well in advance.

What the movie does do well are the characters. The way in which we see them interact and grow is spot on and the introduction to Jaylah is a joy. Here’s to hoping that this is not the last time we see her in Star Trek. On top of all of this, Michael Giacchino has crafted a beautiful score that harkens back to The Motion Picture in some places as well as the best from every Trek movie since.

Star Trek Beyond is a fantastic way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and with the announcement of a 4th film coming in the “Kelvin Timeline”, the future is bright. The film is rated 4 out of 5 detached saucer sections.

Pan – Review

New-pan-posterThere have been numerous adaptations of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan since his original play in 1904 and novel in 1911. From silent film, to animation, to live action with a real boy, the story of Peter has captivated and enthralled people for generations. Now, Joe Wright, director of Pride & Prejudice as well as Atonement has joined with producer Greg Berlanti to bring us the prequel to Peter Pan, a time when Pan learns who he is and Hook is a friend.

Greed Destroys Neverland

One of the clearest themes of Pan is the way in which greed and obsessive love destroys the things we hold dear. Blackbeard is determined to hold on to his love Mary and to live forever. This leads him to hold Mary as a prisoner on his ship while at the same time destroying the faerie kingdom in search of their pixum (fossilized pixel dust)  which has the ability to rejuvenate one’s life, enabling them to live as long as they are supplied with pixum. This madness leads him to stealing young boys from the WWII era world and bringing them to Neverland to mine for the pixum he is so desperate for. Not only is the faerie kingdom his victim but Neverland itself, as it is slowly being mined into extinction for one man’s greed.

Blackbeard, like Anakin in Star Wars is so obsessively holding on to Mary that it drives her away from him. She’s saved by the faerie prince and their love creates a son, Peter, who is prophesied to bring an end to the terror of Blackbeard. It is Blackbeard’s greed that leads him to hold on so tightly to Mary and his life yet brings utter ruin instead.

pan_teaser_ship_poster_horzLove is Sacrifice   

It is a beautiful thing to see represented on the screen the idea of sacrificial love. Mary, sacrifices herself to protect her son and the faerie kingdom. Hook is willing to sacrifice himself for Tiger Lilley and Peter while Peter realizes that it’s not about being “the chosen one”, it’s about being willing to fight and die for something bigger than himself. In the end Peter will get most everything that Blackbeard is fighting so perilously for, life of eternal youth and the love of Mary. Neither of which come though greed but though true love, sacrificial love. A powerful message indeed.

Conclusion

panPan is a good movie that never transcends to great. The beginning in the orphanage with the evil nuns is an overplayed trope that I find annoying. Also, the scenes at the mine don’t work as well for me, but once the film moves out into Neverland I’m hooked. One of my criteria’s for a good Peter Pan film is that Neverland feel timeless and for the most part Wright’s Neverland has that feeling. Bright, imaginative and yet tethered to yesteryear in a comforting fashion. On top of all this, Levi Miller is absolutely astounding as Peter. The most difficult thing to do is cast young talent who can truly carry a film and he has charisma in spades. The surrounding cast is great, with Adeel Akhtar’s Smee frequently stealing scenes with his delivery. In the end Pan is no where near as dismal as it’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 21%, it’s exactly what I expected, fun and enjoyable yet with surprising themes. Pan is rated 3 and a half mermaids out of 5.

The 602 Club Review

The Intern – Review

The_Intern_PosterThe Intern is the new movie by writer and director Nancy Meyers. It follows widower Ben Whittaker, played by Robert De Niro, who finds that retirement is just not fulfilling without some sense of purpose or feeling needed. So he applies for a senior intern program at a local internet company run by Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway, who created the company just a year before and is now a sensation. The movie is charming and full of poignant themes.

The Purpose of Age

Sadly in America, those of retirement age are seen as past their prime in more ways than one. It’s as though you reach 65 and you’re no longer of use to the rest of the world. The Intern wonderfully shows just how beneficial age is, for with it come experience and wisdom that cannot be replicated without the request years.  The retired generation have spent their lives working, supporting families, running companies and gaining knowledge that should be respected, tapped into and revered for the treasure it truly is. Ben’s hard work and years of maturity begin to show their quality and rub off on those around him. It’s a reminder to young and old that retirement does not equal pointlessness or purposelessness, it’s just an opportunity to affect others with the time you have left.

Purpose is something that every human being needs to feel they have, no matter what part of life they find themselves in. Ben struggles with the futility of his activities in retirement and lack of connection with others. Life is meant to be lived with purpose and in community with others and Ben is able to find that in the internship program. He integrates himself into the culture, impacting it for the better thought being himself sharing his worldly sophistication. The sage wisdom he is able to offer those around him is invaluable, making him indispensable personally and professionally.

The Art of Manhood

Look and learn, boys, because this is what cool is. How in one generation have men gone from guys like Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford to…? -Jules Ostin

One of the biggest themes in the movie is the lamentation over the loss of manhood in boys today. Jules asks if maybe when girls were taking part of “Take your daughter to work” days and being encouraged to be they’re best, if boys got forgotten. Now obviously, girls being encouraged to be all they can be is important, but it does seem that boys have been lost in the shuffle. Boys, like girls, need to be nurtured and encouraged to grow and excel. We live in a world where boys don’t seem to become men, they just become larger boys, who now have to worry about shaving. Obsessed with Xbox achievements and porn, the art of manhood is slowly dying.

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It shouldn’t be surprising. With so many boys growing up without a strong male role model in their life, they are left to trying to discern for themselves what it means to be a man. As boys look around, there is not much help in the media or popular culture. Long gone are the days of John Wayne and Ronald Reagan where men acted like men and treated others with respect. Now we are awash in narcissistic man/boys who promote the thug life or slackerism. Boys need men to help show them the way to manhood, to model for them what it looks like and the ways to effectively live it out.

This is the beauty of The Intern. Ben shows though is actions the legitimacy of manhood in the world today and the reason it’s needed. And on top of that, he clearly illustrates that chivalry and respect for women are not only compatible but something desperately needed. It’s a call to arms for men everywhere to act like men, respect women and be their for others. Not only are older men needed, they are essential in passing on what it means to be a man to the next generation.

Conclusion

The Intern is not a perfect movie, the ending is a bit abrupt but the themes in the movie are too important to miss. It’s well worth your time, so find a friend, see it with your grandparents or parents and be reminded of the importance of all generations.

Help for the Helpless

unborn-baby-imageThe single greatest travesty of our time is that people think there is something more important than protecting the most helpless among us, the unborn. If you do not star there, you cannot say you respect life. All life has to be respected from beginning to end. If someone is willing to sacrifice the most helpless among us on the alter of convenience, what else will they be able to sacrifice. David in Psalms reminds us why we protect the unborn, because it is not some parasite or collection of cells it is God own creation,

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

And we reflect His image.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:26 ESV)

How you deal with the most helpless among us shows where your character lies and what your moral standard is built on. Ours is build on the author of all creation. Jesus calls us to take care of the needy,

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 ESV)

There is none that is more in need than the unborn. Now this means we, the family of God, have a responsibility to care for the mothers who find themselves in this position. We need to be the ones they know they can run to for help because our arms are open to all that are in need. Love has to be our heart and what guides our actions. We should not be judging them but loving them, they need someone to walk beside them and help them make the most difficult decisions of their life knowing that they will be supported throughout the entire pregnancy as well as in raising their child if they decide to not give it up for adoption.

Christ’s words also call us to care for those in need, whoever they are. We are called to generosity and open arms. We must care for people from birth to death, physically, mentally, spiritually, in a word, holistically.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17 ESV)

Here is our call believers, here is our mission, to support those in need from the unborn to the elderly and everyone in between. Forgive me Lord for failing at this for so long and give me the strength to take up the work you’ve left for us to do. Fight the good fight, run the race remembering,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)