Tag Archives: Movies

The 602 Club 44: West Side Story for Spies

tsc-044-th-square-1440The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The original television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ran for four seasons from 1964 to 1968 and was conceived of as James Bond on TV. It found a loyal following of fans and because of this had been in development for a feature film for over 20 years, finally finding it’s way to the silver screen in 2015.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by super spies Alice Baker of Educating Geeks, John Champion of Mission Log and Norman Lao of Warp 5 to talk about Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. We discuss the history of the show and development of the movie, the spy, period spies today, coming together and give our ratings.

Owl Post 8-11-15

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

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The Coddling of the American Mind:

image6087947xSomething strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Educationdescribing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.

From Gamergate to Cecil the lion: internet mob justice is out of control:

In this animated image created by Matt Groening and released by Twentieth Century Fox, the entire town of Springfield is transformed into an angry mob, in a scene from When an American dentist named Walter Palmer killed a beloved lion named Cecil, the social media platforms that allowed outraged web users to spread the story also enabled them to do more than just fume. It gave them the power to act on their anger, to reach into Palmer’s life and punish him for what he’d done, without having to wait for the wheels of more formal justice to turn. Web users uncovered Palmer’s personal information, including about his family, and published it online. They went after his business, a private dental practice, posting thousands of negative reviews on Yelp and other sites. The practice has since shut down. Users also went after professional websites that host his profile, leading the sites to remove his information. On Twitter and on his practice’s public Facebook page, people made threats of physical violence.

Go Set a Watchman: Why Harper Lee’s new book is so controversial:

20150326140533US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanTo Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best-known books in America. It’s an inspiring story about standing up to injustice even if doing so is difficult and unpopular; an accessible coming-of-age tale; and a convenient way to teach high school English students about the Jim Crow South. It’s also the only novel that its author, Harper Lee, had ever published — until a sudden announcement in February 2015 heralded the publication of Go Set a Watchman, a new Lee work featuring the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird.

A lot of people are suspicious about the discovery of the new manuscript. There are questions about whether Lee actually wanted it to be published, or whether she even wrote it at all — and if so, when. These questions have only become more urgent since the book’s release on July 14, due to its “reveal” that Atticus Finch, the anti-racist hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, is a virulent racist in Watchman.

How Kerry Conran saw Hollywood’s future – then got left behind:

skyangelina-xlargeShortly after completing their first movie, in 2004, Kerry and Kevin Conran received an invitation from George Lucas. The Star Wars mastermind would be hosting a summit at Skywalker Ranch, his production facility-cum-small town in San Francisco, gathering some of the most forward-thinking people in the movie business to discuss the future of film.

James Cameron was there, as were Robert Zemeckis and Brad Bird. The brothers were newcomers, but that day they were treated as peers; each of their fellow directors told the Conrans how impressed they were with what they’d accomplished. Their work, they were told, was way ahead of its time.

Planned Parenthood: 4 Ways to Respond:

PlannedParenthoodsignWe have come to a singularly important moment in the battle against abortion (which is to say, the battle for life). The stunning undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress have taken us right to the heart of the abortion industry. They have shown that Planned Parenthood is enriching themselves with the bodies of murdered babies. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood is willingly increasing the risk to the women they serve in order to enrich themselves—altering the abortion procedures to deliver intact bodies. Planned Parenthood is a business, a government-supported business, that buys and sells death.

Carly Fiorina at the Reagan Library:

How Culture Disciples Us:

i-mass-media-inducono-alla-violenza-L-kysDzCWe hold a misconception about discipleship: that it’s a merely Christian idea, only taking place at weekend worship services, on weeknights in groups and in the mornings or evenings when we “spend time with the Lord.” On the contrary, discipleship is taking place all around us and in us every day. Whether we realize it or not, we are being shaped and formed by the movies and TV shows we watch, the music, podcasts and radio stations we listen to, the books and magazines that we read, the social media feeds that we skim, and the trips we take to the mall. Our cultural practices and habits are discipling us either for good or for ill.

Ant-Man Review

BF_Payoff_1-Sht_v8_Lg-1309x1940Ant-Man is the next film in the ever expanding cavalcade of characters in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. The film tells the story of white collar convict Scott Lang as he tries to get his life back on track so that he can be the man his daughter thinks he is. Little does he realize that his cat-burgling ways will be the very thing he’ll need to help Hank Pym save the world.

The Second Time Around

One of the strongest things about Ant-Man is the idea of redemption. Scott wants to change, but like so many of us, when our backs are against the wall we retreat to the things that we know instead of doing the hard work to change. So often we are unaware of how our unwillingness to evolve affects those around us. It’s a symbiotic relationship, our actions have an impact on the world and the people around us. Hank Pym remains Scott of this vividly when he says, Second chances don’t come around all that often. I suggest you take a really close look at it. This is your chance to earn that look in your daughter’s eyes, to become the hero that she already thinks you are.” It’s a brilliant reminder that our lives are not lived in a vacuum, our misbehavior will resonate through our sphere of influence in ways seen and unforeseen.

The path to change is difficult and for so many of us, we become so entrenched in our waywardness that we begin to believe we’ll never escape the black hole we’ve created. Again the movie here reminds us that redemption is not a lone ranger sport. Hank believes in Scott and supports him. “Scott, I’ve been watching you for a while, now.” he says, “You’re different. Now, don’t let anyone tell you that you have nothing to offer.” For change to happen we need and advocate, a champion, someone to remind us who we can be. Hebrews speaks directly to this when it says,

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

There is someone out there who understands us completely, redemption is not through work but though rest in the work of someone greater.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

BF-09314_R2.0Hank again reminds Scott of another important truth about making the world a better place when he says, “It’s not about saving our world. It’s about saving theirs.” There is a good reason for us to do hard things now, to make difficult choices, for ourselves and for the world; because what we do or don’t do will affect the world we leave our children. What will their environment be like? What will their economy, schools and society at large be like? We cannot live egomaniacal lives and expect the next generation not to suffer. We must be willing to sacrifice monetary pleasure for a more sustainable future. It’s about what we leave behind.

Conclusion

Ant-Man is a lot of fun. There is noting revolutionary in it, it will probably not blow you away but it is saved by the great performances of Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilley. Each one makes you care about the character they play and bring you into a story that otherwise is par for the Marvel course. This film is rate 3 and a half mini sheep.

Check out The 602 Club discussion.

Inside Out – Review

inside-out-5492d0c4e3912There are times when a movie comes along and grabs you right away, and in less than five minutes you find moisture welling up at the side of your eyes. Pixar seems to understand this effect well. They did it with the movie Up and have found a way to improve upon it with their latest masterpiece, Inside Out. The film follows Riley Anderson and her emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust as the Anderson family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco. As Riley tries to acclimate to her new surroundings, her emotions try to keep up with the new experiences as well as the general task of growing up. What follows is one of the best and most poignant films ever made about growing up.

The Problem of Evil 

One of the most surprising themes of the movie is how sadness, disappointment and bad things actually have their place in our lives. Riley’s emotions are lead by their fearless leader Joy, who is the true operator in this young girl’s life. Oh Fear, Anger and Disgust have their place, but it is Joy that they all look to. Joy is so much at the forefront that Sadness often feels left out, unimportant and seen as a nuisance to the other emotions. It is here that the themes blossom. So much of our lives are driven by the desire to avoid sadness and experience nothing but happiness and joy. We don’t see the use of sadness, disappointment or heartbreak, doing all we can to minimize them. This is played to perfection in the movie as Joy constantly tries to do exactly that, basically putting Sadness in the corner to keep her from messing everything up.

The situation escalates as Sadness and Joy find themselves lost in long-term memory with Riley’s core memories, the ones that make up who she is. As they journey back to the control center they learn the importance of Sadness to Riley’s existence. The revelation is truly the best explanation for the problem of pain that I’ve ever seen. Joy learns how it is Sadness that leads to the fullest extent of joy in a persons life. It is only when we have known deep despair or troubles that joy can be felt to the maximum. As Charles Kingsley said, “Pain is no evil, unless it conquers us.” Pain often brings us closer to others, as it does for Riley and her parents, and is often God’s way of drawing us closer to his side. So much of the time happiness allows us to think that we do not really need God, but it’s through suffering that we realize how helpless we truly are. Psalms reminds us, The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Inside Out powerfully and emotionally helps illuminate for everyone the ways in which the worst things in our lives can actually become the best, sadness and joy going hand in hand. It’s here that complex emotions are born; things are never simple but a jumble of joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust.

Conclusion

Pixar continues to create brilliant original movies. Inside Out may be their best work because it’s not only good for children but adults and everyone in between. It’s a movie that will have you tearing up the whole time as you remember those moments that defined your life and changed the way you viewed the world. With themes that resonate like this, let’s hope that Pixar continues to pursue original works. Go see this film, it’s a five out of five emotions.

Jurassic World – Review

Jurassic-World-Poster-Official

Jurassic Park was the highest grossing movie of 1993 meaning it was inevitable that the film would spawn sequels. The Lost World bought Spielberg and Crichton back together to create not just a movie but also a follow-up to the book and four years later Joe Johnston would finally get his wish by directing Jurassic Park III. It has been 14 years since dinosaurs roamed cinema screens and now the park is open once again with Jurassic World.

“No one’s impressed by dinosaurs anymore.”

From the very beginning of the movie Jurassic World reminds you that it has been over 20 years since the last good Jurassic Park movie. In that time audiences have been inundated by CGI monsters, planets, aliens and anything else that a filmmaker can conceive. One of the main characters is shown playing with his cell phone while an incredible demonstration of a mosasaur eating a shark off a line, further accentuating the fact that dinosaurs are a dime a dozen now.

jurassic-world-super-bowl-trailer-1The movie does the best thing that it can for the series and reminds us that these animals are scary and wild. Even though they have been engineered, they still have instincts to kill and kill they do. Jurassic Wold has the highest body count of any of the films to date. Like the first movie, the dinosaurs are used to great effect. We don’t have many shots where we just spend a lot of time on the creatures. There are many more flashes of quick action which ratchets up the tension and when we so see them in full view, the CGI here is good. For the first time since the original, these animals feel more real and definitely more scary.

Bigger More Teeth

Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire runs Jurassic World. At the beginning of the movie she is taking a group of investors from Verizon around the park trying to reel in their support. She promises them that the new Indominus Rex will be bigger, have more teeth and scare kids and parents alike. Every few years, like all theme parks, Jurassic World must get the world’s attention again, yet instead of a new ride, it needs a new dinosaur. Since no one is impressed with them anymore the park’s genetics team, run by familiar scientist BD Wong has gene spliced up a new attraction. In the name of profit, Frankenstein has created a monster.

Jurassic World perfectly picks up on the themes of Jurassic Park and contemporizes them. This is science and human kind at their most dangerous, driven by greed. There is no more awe and wonder for Claire, there is only the bottom line. This leaves the scientists unchecked to create in their lab something that should never have existed. They are playing God and no one cares, at least until people die and even then their only worry is saving their research and embryos.

-1_8And if that was not bad enough, the Ingen security devision wants to take the raptors that Chris Pratt’s Owen has formed a bond with since hatching and turn them into living weapons. It is human hubris at it’s peak. Jurassic World vividly reminds us that human kind is it’s own worst enemy. Without respect for what we create or what we steward, everything is just a commodity in attempt to satiate our greed. As humans we are suppose to be civilized and evolved, yet the instincts on display in remind us of just how far we have to go. Apparently we are still not above creating the next frankenstein.

The park owner has a wonderful reminder for Claire during a helicopter ride around the park. He says that he finds that life is best when he remembers that he’s never truly in control. It’s one of the consistent messages in the Jurassic films that humanity has a place in this world yet we don’t control it and never truly can. It is when we forget this that we forget our place and make ourselves our own gods and by playing God, wreck havoc over the earth.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalms 115:3

Conclusion

Jurassic World is fun. I’ve been a dinosaur fan since I was young and I love having them back in a movie that is good. There are moments that the movie does make you feel awe again, just as the original did. While at the same time reminding you just how scary these animals would be. I liked Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt. A lot has been made of whether or not Claire is feminist enough and I think if her character had been a guy, no one would complain about the characterization, so I have no issues with her. Jurassic World is a great popcorn movie with timely reminders of the dangers that not dinosaurs, but humanity are to ourselves and to the world when we forget our place.

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.