Film · Movie Review · Movie Trailers · Movies · The Hunger Games · Uncategorized

The 602 Club 7: At Least They Put A Bird On It

TSC007-Thumbnail-SquareMockingjay Part 1.

Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games series took the world by storm in 2008 and has continued to do so through the film adaptations. 

Host Matthew Rushing is join by Andi VanderKolk in The 602 Club to discuss the first part of the finale Mockingjay Part 1. Together they dive into the first two films, the decision to split the final book into two movies, while dissecting the themes and topical nature of the series and rounding out the discussion with the validity of female lead films.

Film · Movie Review · Movies · The Hunger Games · Uncategorized

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Review

hunger_games_catching_fire_poster_embedThe Hunger Games came out in 2012 to decent reviews and created a breakout star in Jennifer Lawrence. Yet the movie missed the mark in production and with the heart of the source material. Fast forward to November of 2013 and Catching Fire looks to succeed, where it’s predecessor failed. Armed with a new director, bigger budget and a fantastic second book, I am delighted to say that Catching Fire is everything I had hoped The Hunger Games would be and more.

One of my main criticisms of the first film was its lack of depth in dealing with the issues Suzanne Collins so deftly portrays in her gritty series. There are no such problems here in Catching Fire. Francis Lawrence directs with precision and captures the core of the series. He embraces the darkly disturbing world that Collins created, showing the fallout the first hunger games has had on Katniss and Peeta as well as the fear it has instilled in President Snow. Katniss, now a symbol of hope for the rebellion must be discredited and eliminated in Snow’s mind. Thrust again into the hunger games, Katniss and Peeta must figure out who they can trust as well as try to survive.

The acting is superb. In The Hunger Games, Peeta felt miscast and off. Here in Catching Fire, Josh Hutcherson comes alive as Peeta. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss, continuing to embody the role with ease. Each of the other characters feels spot on. This is a fantastic movie that will leave everyone clamoring for Mockingjay.

(A quick aside. Covergirl makeup is selling makeup inspired by the Capitol’s flamboyant fashion. It saddens me to see a celebration of the opulence that Collins writes against being accepted in the real world. Strangely enough, our society may have more in common with Panem’s Capitol than we’d care to admit.)

Book Reviews · Books · Christianity · Faith · Government · mbird.com · Suffering · Tullian Tchividjian

Owl Post 11-6-12

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Principles for Voting:

In Acts 14, Luke sets forth for us the events that took place on Paul’s first missionary journey, a journey on which Barnabas accompanied him. We’ve seen this pattern emerge over and over again. The apostles would come into the synagogue or the public square known as the agora. They would proclaim the gospel openly. And there would always be some people who responded in faith by the power of the Holy Ghost while others in attendance would stand up in outright hostility and oppose them. Indeed, it was through great tribulation that the gospel bore fruit in places like Antioch and Iconium. And everyday Paul and Barnabas were subjected to threats, insults, hostility and even physical danger. We can see how things degenerated to such a degree here in the latter part of chapter fourteen: the Jewish leadership actually convenes a kangaroo court and imposes the death penalty upon Paul! A rioting mob is gathered and begins to throw stones at Paul with deadly force. Paul is knocked down by the repeated blows to the face, arms, torso, and head. His would-be executors then drag him out of the city, leaving him for dead.

Truth, Voyeurism, and Beauty: Why Everyone Loves The Hunger Games:

Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games is easily dismissed as a bad book, the type of junk-thriller that captivates audiences with mere sensationalism and little else. Nonetheless, its internal logic clearly captivates millions of readers and viewers, and that alone demands an account of the book’s resonances, its movement, something that philosopher D.Z. Phillips called “possibilities of sense”, a shorthand for what it is about a work or idea that so enthralls its devotees. With many pulp bestsellers, simple appeals to violence, clichéd romance, or tense but tired plotlines fuel the mass appeal. Collins both plays into these bestseller stereotypes while simultaneously protesting them, and the juxtaposition of violence and classical virtue is an enveloping conflict of the book.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood-Book Review-Kathy Keller:

Rachel Held Evans had at least two stated goals for writing A Year of Biblical Womanhood, according to the promotional material accompanying my advance review copy. Under “Why She Wrote the Book,” Evans says:

I’ve long been frustrated by the inconsistencies with which “biblical womanhood” is taught and applied in my evangelical Christian community. So . . . I set out to follow all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year to show that no woman, no matter how devout, is actually practicing biblical womanhood all the way. My hope is that the book will generate some laughs, as well as a fresh, honest dialogue about . . . biblical interpretation. (emphasis mine)

Evans wants to show that everyone who tries to follow biblical norms does so selectively—“cherry picking” some parts and passing over others. She also says she wants to open a fresh, honest dialogue about biblical interpretation, that is, how to do it rightly and well. Rachel, I tried twice to get in touch with you when you were in New York City on the talk shows but wasn’t able to connect. So here’s what I would have said if we could have gotten the chance to open that dialogue.

Simultaneously Righteous And A Sinner?

My good friend Jono Linebaugh (New Testament Professor at Knox Theological Seminary and content manager for LIBERATE) wrote a thoughtful post on Martin Luther’s famous phrase Simul iustus et peccator–simultaneously justified and a sinner (you can read it here). One reader questioned whether “sinner” is an appropriate term to describe Christian identity. This is an important question. After all, Paul writes to sinful Christians and calls them “saints.” Once God saves us, aren’t we new creatures?

Five Things Worth Celebrating on Election Day (Plus One More):

Well, here we are: Election Day. Some of you have followed the ins and outs of the campaign for months, if not years. Today is more exciting than the Super Bowl and March Madness and college rivalry week all rolled into one. For others, the excitement of the Summer Olympics every four years is only matched by the tedium of the presidential race in those same years. At this point you’d rather get habanero eye drops, sit next to a starving baby on the plane, and go the dentist every day for a month than be subject to any more campaign ads. Whether we’ve been engaged in the process since Ames or disconnected until today, we are all ready for this thing to be over.

C.S. Lewis · Christianity · Government · Politics · Superheroes · The Avengers · Tim Challies

Owl Post 5-24-2012

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Two perspectives on The Hunger Games:

Why Hunger Games is Flawed to Its Core:

Almost everywhere I go, I’m asked about The Hunger Games (book, not film). The questions used to fly about Twilight and Potter, but Katniss and dystopic death-matches have taken over.

Amusing Ourselves at Their Deaths:

Neil Postman begins his ground-breaking – and still controversial – Amusing Ourselves to Death by famously pitting the dystopian vision of George Orwell’s 1984 against that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In summary, he noted that Orwell’s great anxiety was that the world would be controlled by fear and the suppression of truth, whereas Huxley suggested it would be manipulated through hedonism and distraction from truth. Big Brother inflicts pain, whereas the World State inflicts pleasure. Part 1, Part 2

Seven Key Ideas from C. S. Lewis:

I have heard it said that many well-known thinkers have only two or three key ideas that they develop from various angles throughout their lives. It might be asked: What are C.S. Lewis’s key ideas? I have chosen seven to summarize in this essay.

Joss Whedon on Comic Books, Abusing Language and the Joys of Genre:

Geeks love Joss Whedon. In his TV shows and movies — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Serenity, Firefly — he gives them not necessarily what they want, but definitely what they need.

His characters are smart and self-aware. He’s steeped in pop culture and has a clever way with the twists and turns of science fiction tropes. And he infuses the potential clichés of genre writing with emotion and heart. Plus, he writes female characters who kick ass, which makes him so rare as to besui generis in Hollywood.

The Age of Innocence:

The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.

U.S. Craft Beer Brewers Thrive, Despite Small Share Of The Market:

It’s a good time to brew beer in America. According to beer expert Julia Herz, U.S. brewing isn’t just on the upswing, it’s on top. “We’re now the No. 1 destination for beer, based on diversity and amount of beers,” she says.

The Ledger:

Near the center of every religion is a ledger. Every religion acknowledges, on one level or another, that people do good things and bad things and every religion then maintains a tally, supposing that one day there will come a reckoning. Every religion hopes that on the day of accounting, the day of the audit, the good will outnumber or outweigh the bad. There is hope for those who come to that day with a surplus and no hope for those who come with a deficit.

Marvel Movie Infograph:

Books · Mad Men · mbird.com · Movies · Politics · The Gospel Coalition · Uncategorized

Owl Post 3-30-2012

 

There is a lot out there to share, so I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

Hunger Games Roundup:

Let the Hunger Games Begin – Relevant Magazine 

The Hunger Games is not the first young adult book series to spawn a film and a frenzied fanbase. It isn’t the first to provide a compelling love triangle or to lure readers into the late hours of the night with its fast-pace and simple phrasing. It isn’t the first to inspire costumes, tattoos and curious fan fiction. But it is the first in a long time to rely not on magic or handsome vampires to captivate its readers; rather, when they escape into Katniss’ head, they aren’t escaping much at all. They are being confronted by the harsh realities of a not-so-unbelievable future, and the responsibilities that it entails.

Movie Review: The Slick Hunger GamesPurges All the Horror – Vulture 

The audience at Monday’s packed preview of The Hunger Games came out juiced and happy, ready to spread the good word, while all I could think was, They’ve just seen a movie in which twenty-plus kids are murdered. Why aren’t they devastated? If the filmmakers had done their job with any courage, the audience would have been both juiced and devastated.

Mad Men Roundup:

Mad Men Returns – The Gospel Coalition 

One of television’s most celebrated series returns to the air on Sunday. Mad Men is set in 1960s, revolving around the lives of Madison Avenue advertising executives, their families, their mistresses, and their secrets. Powerful screenwriting and acting has made it a darling of critics, a perennial award-season favorite, and a deeply loved show by its raving fan base.

The Peculiar Allure of Mad Men – Relevant Magazine 

Last night, Mad Men returned with its long-awaited fifth season premiere. It’s been 17 months since fans spent time with the faces of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and they’ve been clamoring to know the status of the marriages, children, advertising deals and various misbehaviors of the team. Whether or not you tune in to the AMC drama, there is no question the show is a success: it’s inspired clothing lines, launched careers and garnered 15 Emmy awards thus far, including four for Outstanding Drama. But the stories, motives and characters that drive Mad Men are as questionable as they come. Why does the show demand such devotion?

‘A Universe From Nothing,’ by Lawrence M. Krauss:

Lawrence M. Krauss, a well-known cosmologist and prolific popular-science writer, apparently means to announce to the world, in this new book, that the laws of quantum mechanics have in them the makings of a thoroughly scientific and adamantly secular explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Period. Case closed. End of story. I kid you not. Link

Student-Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion:

The amount Americans owe on student loans is far higher than earlier estimates and could lead some consumers to postpone buying homes, potentially slowing the housing recovery, U.S. officials said Wednesday. Link

A Slow-Books Manifesto:

I don’t personally like all that this article says, but I think it is a very interesting discussion. What do you think? “Everywhere you look these days, there’s a new “slow” movement. Since 1989, when the activists behind the Slow Food manifesto began calling on us to change the way we eat—arguing that meals that take time to prepare are better for our health, our world, and our happiness than faster foods—their ideas have steadily gained power.” Link

Tebow in Babylon:

THE Prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh. St. Paul was sent to Athens, Macedonia, Rome. And now Tim Tebow has been sent to New York City. Link

Righteous Minds, Moral Matrices, and the Real (Non-)Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives:

Are our brains fundamentally wired to experience and filter reality according to standards of moral righteousness? And if so, what’s the emotional and relational cost? We know how the Apostle Paul would respond, and we now know how cutting-edge UVA social psychologist Jonathan Haidt would. Link and a follow-up Link

Books · Movies · Uncategorized

Hunger Games: a critical movie review

I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story  came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story. Suzanne Collins 

I was thinking about this interview the whole time I was sitting in the movie. It hung over me as I watched  the adaptation of Collin’s first book in the Hunger Games series. The book series does a masterful job of giving us a world where children are taken from their homes and put in gladiatorial games to keep the “peace”. But the movie left me wanting. There seems to be something lost in the translation. The message that one gets from reading the Hunger Games is the horror of a world where violence for children is a way of life. The kids in District 1 are even trained till the age of 18 to be killing machines. It is not hard to see how Collins is showing a generation, who has grown up on video game violence and reality-TV idiots, that life is not fake. Relevant magazine sums it up  well,

For those unfamiliar with the story, The Hunger Games is an annual event that recruits children for a public fight-to-the-death in order to win a year’s supply of food from the wealthy Capitol for their district. Though this concept is a new level of savage, even the series’ most adolescent fans can see the links between the dystopian world of Panem and our own. The book makes no secret of the fact that its Capitol and 12 (or 13) districts represent the deteriorating remains of today’s United States. It depicts an exaggerated version of the country’s wealth gap, society’s celebration of vanity and indifference to violence, the poorer classes’ growing unrest and distrust, even reality TV’s perverse and inescapable obsession with watching people destroy themselves and each other. In a time when social causes can become trends and Occupy protests can dominate headlines for months, it is no wonder America was ready for a Katniss Everdeen to step forward.

This was so timely in the book and yet watching the movie this was lost on me. This message seemed to get lost in the medium of film. There, on the screen, is the same violence that every movie, video game and TV show has and it did not seem different. Collins does such a good job in the book of making each one of the characters in the arena come alive before the games start. You know them better, so that as the teens turn on each other, you can feel the weight of their deaths. In the movie there is not time for this, we don’t get to spend time with the characters and so as they are killed there is not emotion, no connection. The horror of what has just happened is not felt because I don’t know them enough to care. This is the biggest fault of the film and its greatest failing of the source material. The message is definitely watered down and almost lost unless you have read the books.

The editing of the movie was so frantic at times that I was at a loss as to what was happening. In important scenes I could not get the full effect of what was happening because the cuts were too quick. In may ways this hurt most of the death scenes. You could not focus long enough on one scene to have what just happened sink in. This again hurts the message of the material since the reality of what is happening just flies by and it has no real impact on those watching.

The other thing that really struck me was the jarring difference in the movie between the gritty reality of the districts and the CGI Capitol. The capitol looks fake. It has no reality to it at all. I always expected the Capitol to look like a smaller version of Coruscant from the Star Wars films, but what we got was something that looked like a city from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Now this does work to the advantage of the film by reinforcing the inauthenticity of the Capital and it’s way of life.

Suzanne Collins presents a land literally dying to move beyond the limitations of district, of class and of gender. Though the Capitol has lumped them together—just another dead body in the arena, just another worker down in the mines, just another little girl picking in the orchard—Collins subtly shows the reader that each person has potential, and is deserving of the chance to exercise it. Her choice of protagonist—a young female from a poor district—is evidence of this message. Even the wealthy, superficial stylists, game makers and Capitol representatives evoke sympathy from the reader—eventually, we recognize all of them have become pawns in an elaborate game that neutralizes the power of personhood.

In the end, the movie is a good adaptation of a book, but not great. The film on its own does nothing to really impress me. The female casting is spot on, but the male casting left a lot to be desired. They are not given enough to do and it is sad since they do have an integral part to play in the story as it continues. This is most clear in Peeta.

Perhaps the most righteous character we find in this story is the beloved “boy with the bread.” Peeta Mellark is kind to a fault. He is giving. He is slow to anger, but quick to defend others. When we first meet him, he’s risking a beating to provide bread for Katniss’ family, wanting nothing in return. While even our heroine at times relies on her powers of manipulation or allows despair and anger to direct her actions (and her bow), Peeta is a glowing example of counter-cultural authenticity and radical love. In Peeta’s famous monologue the night before the tributes are sent to battle in the arena, he expresses his intent to maintain “his purity of self,” even though behaving otherwise could be easier, even safer for him. “I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only … I want to die as myself … I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.”

The problem in the film is that this is lacking. He is never given a moment to truly shine because there simply is not enough time and he lacked the screen presence to really pull it off. He and Gale are mere window dressings for young girls to gawk at.

President Snow talks about hope in the movie, he says, “Hope; it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it.” Unfortunately the film constrains any real sense of hope by watering down the message and leaving us wanting more in all the wrong ways.

Church · Mad Men · Movies

Owl Post 3-21-2012

A few links, sorry there are not more; just got back from Italy.

Hungry for Love: Dystopia, Genesis 4, and The Hunger Games:

Will I be at the midnight showing of The Hunger Games this Thursday? I hope so! Back in 2009, Mockingjay- er, Mockingbird- contributor JDK wrote a fantastic piece onGeorge Orwell and Law/Gospel, noting an important link between dystopian literature and life after the fall. The genre has proven to be a fairly bankable one in Hollywood (from Total Recall and The Matrix to I Am Legend and The Walking Dead and everywhere in between), a trend which shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. Indeed, the latest high-profile dystopian fantasy to hit the silver screen is the most hyped movie of the year thus far. I am talking, of course, about The Hunger Games, the adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins’ young adult trilogy, and heir to Twilight/Harry Potter teen sensation throne. With the first book devoured in one sleepless night, and parts two and three on order from Amazon, I thought it might be timely to revisit the dystopia genre in relation to the gospel. Link

Unseen Titanic: New images of wreck reveal entire ship for first time:

If you are a Titanic enthusiast like me then check this out. “New images of the wreck of the RMS Titanic reveal for the first time ever the full stretch of the “unsinkable” boat — sprawled silently 12,500 feet beneath the Atlantic Ocean.” Link

The Christian Movie Establishment vs. Blue Like Jazz:

This is a great look at the politics of “Christian” films and a sad reflection of how Christians can be their own worst enemies. “The website BoxOfficeMojo.com is full of useless statistics that I check regularly. One of its most fascinating and terrifying features happens when you click on ‘Genres.'” Link

The Foreign Language of ‘Mad Men’:

With Mad Men’s return on Sunday comes the return of the paeans to the show’s attention to period detail. By various reports, Matthew Weiner devours half-century old letters, dresses actors in period undergarments, and even throws out suspiciously attractive fruit to ensure that nothing dispels the perfect illusion of the 1960s. Link

When the Good Do Bad:

It’s always interesting to read the quotations of people who knew a mass murderer before he killed. They usually express complete bafflement that a person who seemed so kind and normal could do something so horrific. Link

A Call to Humility for Megachurch Pastors:

It is an amazing privilege to lead a large and growing community of faith. We love the church, have given our lives to its expansion, and now find ourselves in one of the vanguards of its expression. Link