Film · Movie Review · Movies · The Hobbit

The 602 Club 11: A Badass Battle Ram

tsc-011-th-SquareThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Peter Jackson has been thinking about and working in Middle Earth since 1995 and finally, at the close of 2014 the defining chapter is here. From it’s beginnings as  two films and a companion piece, all the way to a trilogy of Hobbit films, the process has been anything but smooth. Finally the two trilogies are now complete and so ends the adventures in Jackson’s Middle Earth.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined once again by Alice Baker and Megan Calcote from Educating Geeks as well as Norman Lao to talk though this final Hobbit film. We discuss everything from the 48fps, to the different battles to the themes, even getting a little personal in the analysis. Will you follow us, one last time? Listen Here

Film · Movie Review · Movies

Best Films of 2014

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In all honesty I found it a struggle to come up with this list. This year was lackluster for me in terms of really good movies. Now, the movies on this list I did feel like were the real highlights. Here’s to hoping that 2015 is better in terms of blockbusters and indie films. Some of the films titles will link you to further content, be sure to check it out.


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1. Interstellar

This movie had me thinking and marveling more than any other film of the year. In my original review I said, “Experimental and challenging, Interstellar is beyond, light years beyond anything seen in years. Nolan has made a movie for movie lovers. Inventive, beautiful and something that pushes the boundaries in thought and the craft” and this is still true.

The-Railway-Man-Poster2. The Railway Man

No movie had a better portrayal of grace in the face of unspeakable tragedy and torture than this. Colin Firth and Hiroyuki Sanada play to perfection the horrors of war, the scars it leaves and the forgiveness that is needed to let go and live life to the fullest. It’s an amazing grace at work and the most powerful film of the year.

captain-america-2-imax-poster-610x8913. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Not only was this my favorite superhero movie of the year, but it was the best Marvel movie for me so far. Marvel finally gets serious and gives us a movie with weight and substance. The issues of domestic spying and what we sacrifice in the name of security hit close to home. Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson crackle onscreen together. Comic book movies have rarely been better.

xmen-days4. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise was a welcome one. After the disaster of X3 and the triumph of First Class there seemed to be two different franchises. Singer finds a way to connect all the treads and forge a new path for the series by honoring the past, while creating a new timeline. The Quicksilver scene alone is worth the price of admission.

hr_The_LEGO_Movie_105. The Lego Movie

Not only was it the best animated movie of the year, it was just plain fun. The messages of friendship and what make us truly special, our uniqueness, will make this a delight for children and adults for years to come. This film sets the foundation and the bar for the Lego movies that are coming in the future.

gonegirl26. Gone Girl

Adaptations are difficult, especially to beloved books. Luckily for the film they had author Gillian Flynn as the screen writer and David Fincher as director. The actors are splendidly wicked. Ben Affleck and Rosamond Pike play the despicable characters to perfection and the uneasiness of the ending may leave you breathless. This may be the only time I say reading the book could make the movie less enjoyable for knowing the plot twists beforehand.

mockingjay-katniss-poster7. Mockingjay Part 1

This was the best adaptation of half a book this year. Not only was it a good film it was a timely one. The themes of revolution, civil unrest, propaganda and class warfare make this an important movie, beyond it’s connection to the Hunger Games series. I was surprised to find it was a stand out, especially being only half of the finale to The Hunger Games, but they truly made it work.

The-Hobbit-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-poster-9-691x10248. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

We visit Middle Earth one last time and Peter Jackson does not disappoint. Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman are sublime as Bilbo and Thorin. In the midst of all the spectacle it’s the small character moments that stand out and make this a good movie. Touching on themes of greed, loyalty and true friendship the saga comes to a worthy conclusion.

Disney_BigHero6_Poster_Baymax9. Big Hero 6

One word, Baymax. Honestly this movie is not revolutionary in it’s themes or it’s execution, but is fun. Baymax will have you rolling on the floor laughing with his fist bumps and cat comments and sometimes fun is enough.

 

edge_of_tomorrow_np10. Edge of Tomorrow

I missed this movie in it’s theatrical run and was slightly turned off by the “Cruise factor”, but the good reviews finally won me over and I gave it a shot on blu-ray. Tom Cruise is actually a great casting choice and Emily Blunt was a fantastic in this sci-fi Groundhog Day. The ending may be a little weak but for the surprise this was, it is worthy of the list.  

Honorable Mention:

Ffury_ver6_xxlgury

This movie was good. Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and Logan Lerman are all well cast in David Aryer’s World War II tank film. This is surprisingly one of the most spiritual movies of the year, while at the same time not shying away from the harsh realities of warfare. Worth renting and grappling with.

 

11178319_800What If

This is one of the most honest movies about relationships I’ve seen in a long time. It can be very hard to be just friends, but the reward is also not to be missed. Daniel Radcliffe is astounding and Zoe Kazan will be your new favorite. If you missed this in 2014, see it on 2015

 

Still to see: Wild, Selma, Unbroken, Big Eyes, American Sniper and Boyhood.

Film · Movie Review · Movies · Podcasts · Tolkien · Trek.fm · Uncategorized

The 602 Club 10: They Didn’t Think This Through

downloadThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. 

The middle movie of a trilogy has always been the hardest to do. It relies on the first film, has to set up the last film and try stand up on it’s own. Some movies have done this really well, such as The Empire Strikes Back andThe Two Towers. The Desolation of Smaug also had the distinction of being the film that had the most added to it when the duology became a trilogy. Peter Jackson clearly had his work cut out for him.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined once again by Megan Calcote of Educating Geeks to discuss the second Hobbit film. We dive into the difference in filming time Jackson had and it’s effect on the look of this new trilogy, the new locations we see, Bree, Beorn’s House, Mirkwood, the Woodland Realm, Laketown and Erebor. All this while talking about the new characters and themes from the film. Listen Here

Film · Movie Review · Movies · Podcasts · Tolkien

The 602 Club 9: The Original George Lucas

TSC009-Thumbnail-SquareThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

After the monster success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy thoughts turned to making The Hobbit. After dealing with rights issues and a directorial change, Peter Jackson once again found himself in Middle Earth.

In this episode of The 602 Club, host Matthew Rushing is joined by Alice Baker and Megan Calcote from Educating Geeks to talk about the first film in this new Middle Earth trilogy. Together we discuss Peter Jackson being back as director, making three films out of two, additions from Tolkien’s other works, things we liked and didn’t from both versions of the film and the riddles in the dark. Listen Here

Christianity · Faith · Film · Movies · Politics · Pornography · Tim Challies · Tolkien · War

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Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty‘s Torture Controversy:

zero-dark-thirty-posterPersonally, I’ve never had the federal government wage a highly visible veracity-campaign that led to an official Senate Intelligence Committee review into the CIA’s factual sourcing of my movie — but I can imagine it’s pretty uncomfortable! So hats off to Kathryn Bigelow for the smoothness with which she’s handled the debate over Zero Dark Thirty’s torture scenes: Whether it’s been on late-night TV or at critics’ awards, she’s managed to calmly reiterate her quite-convincing message that “depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices.” In other words: Come on, dudes, you all know some torture went down on the hunt for Bin Laden, and that’s why it’s in ZDT. I’m not saying it was awesome. I’m just saying it happened. (Special Bonus Hats Off to Bigelow for cooly dealing with this whole HUAC situation while also shrugging off her Oscar snub). Now — whether because she felt the conversation just wasn’t going away, or whether she just felt now was the right time to do so — Bigelow has weighed in more expansively, with a piece in the L.A. Times.

Pain of the New:

2012TheHobbit01PR200912New media technologies often cause an allergic reaction when they first appear. We may find them painful before we find them indispensable.

I watched the movie The Hobbit. Twice. First I saw it in its “standard” mode. A day later I returned to see The Hobbit in 3D at a high frame rate of 48 frames per second, called HFR. HFR is a cinematic hi-tech that promises greater realism. It was amazingly real. And disturbing at first.

Because 48 frames per second is just above the threshold that a human eye/brain can detect changes, the projected picture seems startling whole and “smooth,” as if it were uninterrupted reality.

3 Ways to Live With Joy:

Last week I was captivated by a sunrise. I am one of those people who is “early to bed, early to rise” and have watched many sunrises. I love the dawning of a new day because every day is so full of promise and possibility. Every sunrise lays a new day before us and asks, “What will you do with this day? What will this day be?”

Men Like to Look At Naked Girls On The Internet. Here’s Why They Should Stop That.

I had a bit of a personal crisis when I saw this link from The Huffington Post titled, “Research Suggests that All Men Watch Pornography.” My first thought was that they could not have possibly talked to all men. I know this, because I do not watch pornography. This made me suspicious that the link was tied to a pornographic Web site designed to trick me, the last man standing, into accidentally seeing pornography in order to validate their research. (Or, more disturbingly, it could be that I am not actually a man because I do not watch pornography.)

 

Peanuts to make you laugh

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Film · James Bond · Movie Review · Movies · The Dark Knight Rises · Tolkien · Uncategorized

Best Movies of 2012

We are at the end of the year, so I thought I would go back over the list of movies that I have seen and give a quick rundown of my favorites. There is still one from this year that I would like to see and I may not have time to squeeze them in, Zero Dark Thirty. Unfortunately, Zero Dark Thirty is playing in limited release and is not in Dallas, so I will have to wait to see it in January when it goes national.

salmon-fishing-in-the-yemen-poster10. Salmon Fishing in Yemen 

I was won over by the performances in this film. I really enjoyed Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor together. This is one of those movies that is not afraid to have a happy ending and I like that. There is so much to enjoy here so I recommend this; it’s perfect for any weekend.

 

MV5BMzgwODk3ODA1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjU3NjQ0Nw@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_9. Brave

I have been critical of Pixar in the past. I did not enjoy Ratatouille, Cars or Cars 2. Because of this I was extremely pleased with Brave. The animation is gorgeous and being set in Scotland won me over immediately. Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson are perfect as a mother and daughter that just can’t seem to see things from each other’s point of view. There are not a lot of children’s movies about mothers and daughters and Brave finally gives us a film about that dynamic. It is also refreshing to see a movie for kids about a nuclear family, since this is also a rarity. Well done Pixar; this is fun for anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale. For more on Brave go here.

The-Avengers-Movie8. Avengers

Even thought this is on the list at seven, it does not mean that I did not like this film. This is one of the best comic book romps ever. The casting is perfect and it all works, no matter how silly the story might be. This film will leave you excited to see the next time the Avengers assemble. My full review can be found here.

 

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7. Moonrise Kingdom

I enjoy Wes Anderson movies yet I am different than a lot of people in that I do not love The Royal Tenenbaums or Life Aquatic. This year I could not wait to see Moonrise Kingdom because, from the moment I saw the trailer I knew I was going to love it. I did not get to see it in the theaters, but that is the beauty of Netflix. This is a melancholy masterpiece. The story of identity, love and acceptance will leave you in tears if you let it; and as predicted, I loved this movie.

MV5BMTc3MjI0MjM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTYxMTQ1OA@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_6. Argo

Ben Affleck has been making a name for himself as a world-class director over the last few years. First he gave us Gone Baby Gone, then The Town and now he has branched out with his political thriller Argo. Affleck has not only directed but stared in this movie and everything he does works for me here. His casting is perfect and the story could not me more timely. Argo is a wonderful adult film that will leave your heart racing and your mind thinking long after it is over.

The-Hobbit-Part-1-An-Unexpected-Journey-2012-Movie-Poster-e13483392812555. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

There is not a movie that has had greater scrutiny this year than The Hobbit. So many critics gave this movie dismal reviews and yet the public has responded in droves. This movie lives up to it’s predecessors. The moment it starts you are back in Middle Earth. There could have been some editing down and there are a few moments that I did not love (Rock people and the last bit in the cave with the goblins), but over all it is worthy to stand alongside the other Lord of the Rings films. The messages of love holding back evil in the little things that people do every day is a powerful reminder. The Hobbit is fun from start to finish and will leave you longing for part 2 and 3. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on The Hobbit check out, The Observation Lounge episode, Wizards and Dwarves and Hobbits and Orcs and Goblins Oh My!.

220px-Dark_knight_rises_poster4. The Dark Knight Rises

This was the film I was most worried about. Ending a film franchise is one of the hardest things to do. Many have complained about Nolan’s last Batman film, but I am not one of them. I believe this is the best film in the group. This is a film about Bruce Wayne and the coming to terms with the consequences of creating the symbol of Batman. The questions of truth and living a lie come to the forefront, leaving each character grappling with the choices they have made in the previous two films. This was the end that surpassed every expectation I had for Batman’s final chapter. My full review is here.

220px-Silver_Linings_Playbook_Poster3. Silver Linings Playbook

I have just gotten a chance to see this film and everything that I have heard about it is true. This is an amazing film. The acting is superb. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are spot on as people going through intense emotional and psychological issues. I was not sure how I they would work together on screen since he is 15 years her senior, yet she never for a moment lets you believe that she is not his equal.

This movie portrays so well the truth that putting our faith in the wrong thing always leads to heartache and disappointment. The things that we put our faith in need to be secure enough and big enough to withstand that faith. The answer of the film is partially correct, putting our love, trust and faith in the right person. What is missing is that it cannot be a human being. No human can ever fully or completely love another and not disappoint them in some way. There is only one thing that can fully sustain our full trust and faith, the immutable and unchanging God. Only he can full know and love us as the way our hearts desire.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

MV5BMjM1MzMzOTA3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTE3NzA1OA@@._V1._SY317_2. Skyfall

The Craig era of Bond has been the closest we have ever come to seeing the origin story of the most famous spy in the world. Sam Mendes has created one of the best Bond films ever. From the opening shot to the closing credits this film is gorgeous! This is Bond at his best; very few gadgets, spectacularly maniacal villain and supporting characters that truly have a place to shine. Mendes should be praised for giving Dame Judy Dench so much to do, she is truly the Bond girl of this film. Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw are all welcome additions to the cast and will be great assets to the future films. This works not just as Bond movie, but also as a movie that has something to say about our world. It asks tough questions about how we respond to the scary, shadowy world we live in and because of this it deserves to be on every top ten list out there.

lincoln-poster_743x11001. Lincoln

No movie this year was more moving or more timely than this one. Coming out right after the election it was a painful reminder of how far politics has fallen in the United States. Lincoln was not afraid to use the power of the presidency to make this country better for the people, all the people. Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding as Lincoln, showcasing home-spun wisdom while at the same time not being afraid to use ruthless political acumen in passing the 13th amendment, Lewis is perfect. Steven Speilberg has created a American masterpiece. My full review is here.

What where your favorite movies of the year? Leave me comment and let me know so I can make sure to see it!

Batman · Book Reviews · Books · Film · Movies · Parenthood · Uncategorized

Owl Post 12-18-12

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It’s Okay to Shamelessly Enjoy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

gandalf_comes_knockingIt seems that ever since Peter Jackson announced that he was going to splitThe Hobbit into three movies, people have done nothing but predict disaster of epic proportions. Some immediately heralded the dawn of a new George Lucas, while others who had never been pleased with his interpretation of the initial Lord of the Rings trilogy triumphantly crowed, “I told you so!” to anyone within shouting distance.

So I’m awfully pleased to say it—The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is lovely. Please just go and enjoy it.

My Take: Searching for God, settling for sex:

 When a friend alerted me to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy in April, none of us had any idea it would sell in excess of 40 million copies within months, or that sales of whips, chains and other BDSM paraphernalia would skyrocket as a result, or that a European hotel would replace its Gideon’s Bibles with “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Many legitimate possibilities have been offered for the seeming success of “mommy porn.” Women are more sexually liberated than ever before. Couples are longing for ways to spice up their sex lives. Many women have a deep inner longing to be dominated by a man who’s absolutely obsessed with them.

Previously on Parenthood, Pt. 5: Perfect Love & Prodigal Returns:

phd_411_13This is the fifth installment in a look at the theological and pastoral wisdom found in the current season of NBC’s Parenthood, mostly regarding the intersection of unsuspected love in the context of suffering. It has been almost a month since I have written anything, mostly because I felt the program was in the middle of a filler-episode streak, understandably serving to carry on the narratives of its many subplots but not standing out with profound moments of grace in ways earlier episodes have. Don’t get me wrong. There were some touching moments in recent episodes like Adam caring for Kristina while she is retching on their bathroom floor due to chemotherapy, Joel taking Ryan under his wing at the construction site, and Max going to a middle school dance for the sake of his sick mother’s desires. The latest episode, “What My Wondering Eyes See,” despite some hokey elements mostly related to Santa Claus, broke Parenthood‘s recent streak though with some noteworthy moments highlighted here.

The Best Movies of 2012 – The Atlantic:

A few boilerplate caveats: I saw a great many films this year, but by no means all of them. In particular, I missed a few documentaries that might well have made their way onto this list. It was also a very good year for film—the best, perhaps, since 2007—so a number of movies that could have made the list in weaker years (ArgoThe Dark Knight Rises, Life of PiLes MiserablesSkyfall, etc.) have instead been consigned to honorary mentions. Finally, lists such as this one are inevitably silly, idiosyncratic things, and mine is no exception. So have at it. And after (or before!) you’ve gone through the slideshow of the best (ranked from one to 10), don’t neglect the still-more-idiosyncratic-categories below.

Peter Jackson and The Hobbit cast on The Desolation Of Smaug:

 

:Nerdfighter Book Recommendations:

Batman’s Evolution:

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Books · C.S. Lewis · Catching Fire · Christianity · Disney · Doctor Who · Faith · Film · James Bond · Movies · Star Wars · Tolkien

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Director Sam Mendes explains how Casino Royale saved James Bond:

On the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, director Sam Mendes strives to make Bond brand new again — and his new movie,Skyfall, is so self-aware that the clash between old and new is at the center of it. Can an old-school agent like James Bond still exist in today’s world? What’s the point of a Cold War secret service in the 21st century?

Thinking About Aslan and Jesus with C. S. Lewis:

As an English professor, I have spent the last two decades guiding college students through the great books of the Western intellectual tradition. And yet, though I have taught (and loved) the works of Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Dickens, I do not hesitate to assert that Aslan is one of the supreme characters in all of literature. Though many readers assume that Aslan, the lion king of Narnia who dies and rises again, is an allegory for Christ, Lewis himself disagreed.

New ‘Star Wars’ Will Be ‘Biggest Event Movie Ever,’ Says ‘Lost’ Co-Creator:

Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof remembers exactly where he was when he heard that Disney had bought LucasFilm. “I was in a production meeting next to Brad Bird for a movie we’re working on together,” he says. “A bunch of guys at the table started passing notes to each other. Suddenly I’m like the teacher at the front of the class. I was like, ‘Is there something you’d care to share with the rest of the class?’ I grabbed a napkin, and someone had written on it, ‘Disney bought Lucas Film!'”  

Catching Fire: Cruciform Heroes, Unconventional Villains and Breaking the Closed Circle of the Modern Bestseller:

A brief recap: in The Hunger Games piece, we examined a two-level voyeuristic scaffolding built by Suzanne Collins as the book meditates on our attraction to violence and suffering. The Gamemakers create a brutal world into which teenagers are plunged to fight to the death for the amusement of thousands in the fictional dystopia of Panem and, simultaneously, Collins herself is constructing that world as the author for the amusement of, by now, over a million contemporary readers. In our indignation against the Gamemakers for the horrors they perpetrate, we are ultimately drawn into a split between our own enjoyment of and demand for violent literature, on the one hand, and our moral outrage against its interior reflection in Panem, on the other. These sides of our nature clash (Romans 7), producing introspection and godly sorrow (2 Cor). The Hunger Games, at its conclusion, leaves two crucial questions unanswered: (1) why are we humans so attracted to violence and (2) what do we do about it? These set the thematic stage for Collins’s brilliant sequel, Catching Fire.

Doctor Who, Vincent van Gogh, and the Limits of Future Hope:

With the recent wave of BBC programs appearing on PBS (Downton Abbey, The Hour, Mr. Bean) it’s somewhat surprising that the 49 year old mainstay Doctor Who hasn’t enjoyed the same popularity. With time travel, aliens, and revisiting historical events, what’s not to like? Either way, this is a major oversight.

But I digress… a quick summary of the show’s premise and plot. The Doctor is a time traveler who has made it his mission to protect Earth from the multitude of extraterrestrials who threaten humanity, both in the past and future. Helping him in this quest is his the adventurous assistant Amy Pond. In Vincent and the Doctor, the Doctor notices a sinister, alien grimace within one of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. He and Amy set off for 1890 Paris to investigate. What they find is a van Gogh who is the laughing stock of the entire town of Auvers-sur-Oise. Suffering from extreme depression, he has no money, friends, or family, and no one will buy his paintings. On top of all that, van Gogh is “hallucinating” to see a deadly alien lurking around town. Enter the Doctor and Amy to save the day (spoiler!).