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Best Films of 2013

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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.

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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!

Christianity · Faith · Family · Film · Movie Review · Movie Trailers · Movies

Frozen – Review (One I did not write)

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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!