Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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Spider-man 3

May 5, 2007

Spider-man 3 has already broken numerous box office records, both in the United States and abroad.  With little wonder, too.  This third installment to the “greatest comic book series in movie history,” although filled with some of the most spectacular special effects you’ve ever seen, does not go the way of typical summer blockbusters in dazzling audiences’ senses while neglecting their hearts and minds.  While undeniably dazzling, Spider-man 3 also teaches some of the best lessons I’ve seen in a major Hollywood production.

The movie is replete with Christian themes.  The primary storyline (as anyone who has watched the fantastic trailer over and over again will know) centers around Peter Parker’s struggle with his “darker side,” trying to keep his anger and desire for revenge under control.  The movie could have easily gone downhill from there, letting Spider-man become a darker “hero” by embracing his new dark power.  The thing that makes this movie (and the other two Spider-man movies) worthwhile, however, is that Spider-man overcomes his weaknesses.  As World Magazine notes, Spider-man isn’t like Superman (who has a child out of wedlock) or the super sexy X-men; rather, Spider-man (unlike so many modern superheroes) is a real hero.  He’s human and he struggles, but in the end he makes the right choices and is a noble character.  Forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and waiting until one is ready for marriage are just a few of the other important messages that this movie conveys while keeping you splendidly entertained.  It is definitely a rousing finale to this series’ initial trilogy and, I must say, I won’t be disappointed to see future sequels, as long as the series keeps its positive trend.

 And now, I have something of a confession to make.  At times, after watching a really great movie, I tend to be rather down afterwards.  It’s not like I’m depressed or sad about it — oftentimes this happens after the happiest movies.  Some examples would be The Return of the King, Pride and Prejudice, the Love Comes Softly series, and now Spider-man 3.  Initially I put this dull aching that comes after watching these movies down to sundry little reasons — my want for romance (after watching Love Comes Softly) or my desire to go and live an adventure (after watching The Lord of the Rings, of course).  I guess I could also contribute this ache after watching Spider-man to my infantile wish to be a superhero (or my wish that there were superheroes).  But after analyzing it most of today, I think I’ve solved the mystery.  This ache comes from wanting something more in the world — wishing that we could have happy endings like we see in the movies, wishing that there were superheroes, wishing that all would turn out well in the end.  Basically, it’s a longing for Good.  Because that wish can’t really be fulfilled here, the denied want becomes a subtle pain, or one that can even be sharp at times.  I call this “post super good movie syndrome.”  C. S. Lewis called it Joy.  I think that any movie that inspires this Joy in us, as Spider-man 3 did in me, is definitely worth watching.

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Man on Fire

April 26, 2007

In compliance with a recommendation from my older brother, I watched Man on Fire a couple of weekends ago.  Because no one else in my family was really interested in or allowed to watch this movie, I watched it one listless Saturday afternoon by myself.

The movie was definitely entertaining.  I found it quite humorous (in a sad way) that there was so much corruption portrayed in Mexico’s government and authorities because I know that this is true.  But then again, Man on Fire is not light fare.  It deals with the very serious and sad subject of kidnappings and murder.  Man on Fire is the kind of movie that you watch to feel inspired or changed.  It’s a movie that really makes you think.

I’ve been wondering if what Denzel Washington’s character of Creasy did in the story is justifiable or not.  Basically, after the girl he was hired to protect gets kidnapped, Creasy goes on a rampage, killing most of those involved with the kidnapping.  Yes, the girl’s family tried to get her back lawfully at first, but when the man in charge of the operation turned out to be in cahoots with the kidnappers, it is the last straw for Creasy.  As a friend of my brother’s soberly remarked to him, it would almost seem that Mexico City needs a professional assassin to go through the underground and weed out the many evil people involved in murders and kidnappings, for up to this point the government has seemed unable to.

So does the fact that his bloody work is necessary justify what Creasy does?  Probably not.  But then, the Bible does command that kidnappers should be put to death, and if the government (which holds the sword to execute this judgment) is too corrupt to do anything, who will?  It is a question that is really worth pondering. Besides, I think the movie’s themes shows that it is not just mindless entertainment about killings and death.  Ultimately, while it deals a lot with both these subjects, the main themes in Man on Fire are about redemption and life.  The ending to the movie is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Man on Fire isn’t a perfect movie, and it isn’t a lighthearted, fun movie either.  But it’s a movie worth watching because it reminds us that, no matter how dark our past is, there’s always a second chance to be found in love.

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Casino Royale: A Movie for Real Guys

February 20, 2007

I rarely go to see a movie more than once at the theater.  I admit, I did see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe three times, but that was (by far!) an exception.  Casino Royale, however, I saw twice.  True, part of the reason for my watching it twice was because we were on vacation and I didn’t have much to occupy my time, but I still wouldn’t have seen it more than once if I didn’t like it.  No, rather, I wouldn’t have seen it twice if I didn’t like it a lot.  I acknowledge that my liking of the movie may be controversial in conservative circles — I know that PluggedIn certainly didn’t like the movie much, but is that any surprise?  I’m not going to go into an argument trying to justify James Bond’s adultery or fornication, because those are definitely wrong actions that were unfortunately included in the movie.  Rather, I want to explore just why James Bond is such an iconic “macho man.”

Basically, I liked Casino Royale because it shows what real men long for.  As anyone who has watched a James Bond movie knows, it contains two basic elements: action and romance.  (Actually, my best friend, older brother and I modeled a trip we took to Veracruz after James Bond movies, hoping to get both action and romantic adventure.  We weren’t disappointed!)  I think John Eldredge says it best in his great book, Wild at Heart:

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul.  They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be.  I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself.  They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.

All three of those desires are found played out in the life of one James Bond, 007, the almost-mystical incarnation of masculinity in the cinema.  Truthfully, what man would not love to be a James Bond?  He punishes the bad guys, is always on the most adventurous and dangerous of missions, and has many beauties a beauty to rescue.  Those are the core desires in a man’s heart, and that is why I liked Casino Royale so much: it presented those desires being lived out in James Bond.

I admit,  he’s by no means the perfect guy.  As I mentioned earlier, he does a lot of things that are just plain wrong and he suffers the effects of them.  (Bond has a great line about the effect killing has had on his soul, but I have unfortunately been unable to find it at the moment.)  In the end, however, he is a guy who is fighting to save innocent people’s lives and I believe he finally finds true love in this movie.  I’m not going to write any more on that subject, since I have dealt briefly with it in an earlier post and I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  Just remember that James Bond immortalizes the deep desires of men, and that is what makes it a movie for real guys.  I’ll definitely be watching this one again as soon as it comes out on DVD.

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Love’s Inevitable Risk

February 10, 2007

Heartbreak — one of those inevitable disturbances that must happen to everyone as they grow up.  Certainly, it needn’t be heartbreak in a romantic affair: love a dog, and when that dog dies, your heart will break.  Love a gift, a family heirloom, and when you lose that thing you cannot replace, tears will stream down you face (props to Coldplay!).  Actually, I think Coldplay has a lot of wisdom on this subject.  They recognize quite well in their song “What If” that love, by its very nature, is prone to the risk of heartbreak.  Look at what they have to say on the subject (and this is only one verse of the song):

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake.
It could bend or it could break
But that’s the risk that you take.
What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there in your life?
That you don’t want me there by your side?

Coldplay goes on to say that because of this risk, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  In other words, yes, there is a fundamental risk involved in love, but we can’t let that risk keep us from loving.  I think C. S. Lewis makes this point masterfully in The Four Loves (a book that I haven’t read in its entirety yet, but I will the first chance I get!):

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests.  Nor along any other lines.  There is no safe investment.  To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

 Wow, that is a long quote, but Lewis captures the essence of love’s risk so poetically that I had to include the whole thing.  For clarity and profundity, there’s no one that can beat C. S. Lewis!  Before I close this assimilated post of sundry quotes on this topic, I thought I would make one last reference.  I watched Casino Royale a couple of weeks ago and it quickly became one of my favorite movies (thoughts on it are coming soon, I promise!).  One thing in particular impacted me about the movie.  Here is James Bond, agent 007, the nearly-invincible Mr. Macho himself.  Who can hurt him?  Yet, in this movie, Mr. Bond finally finds true love (I’m sure some would debate this claim, but I think this is what the filmmakers wanted to communicate at the end of the film).  How does Bond describe this new love he has found?

I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Sounds a lot like vulnerability, doesn’t it?  Love is the loss of one’s armor, the opening of one’s heart; what could be more dangerous than that?  Closing one’s self off from love to avoid pain.  As Coldplay melodiously says, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  Will it hurt?  Most definitely.  But that’s the way it’s done, and there’s no other alternative but Hell.

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Vacillations on V for Vendetta

February 3, 2007

I recognize that my thoughts on this movie are long overdue — I stated in an earlier post that I would reflect on movies I watched during Christmas break soon and it has been nearly a month since then.  Clearly, my definition of “soon” is not that of the common man.  In truth, however, I must say that the delay in these reviews has been because of homework and other responsibilities mixed in with a good dose of laziness towards posting on this blog.  That has all changed, however, and I am adopting a more responsible attitude towards this blog.  Thus, after that brief explanation, let me now get down to the subject matter of this post.

When my older brother came down from college for Christmas break, he had a list of movies he had seen with college friends that he wanted to share with us; one of these movies was V for Vendetta.  Before my brother’s hearty recommendation, I had no desire whatsoever to see this film.  I trusted World Magazine’s description of the movie as “Vile” (subscription required) and was not interested in being brainwashed from the movie screen.  My brother, however, tends to have very good taste in movies, so I had to see V for Vendetta after he listed it as one of his all-time favorite movies.  After seeing the movie, my feelings were somewhat mixed.

I must admit, this is one of the best movies I have ever seen.  Everything I can remember about it was excellent — the storyline, the acting (a main protagonist who wears a mask throughout the whole movie yet still comes across well is quite a feat of acting!), the music, the action, the score.  This is one of the greatest works of cinematic art that I have seen (not that I’m claiming vast experience or anything).  Yet I resist listing it as one of my favorite movies — it can be one of the best in quality without being one of my personal favorites.

The reason for my rejection of this movie as a favorite in spite of its inherent quality is because of the ideas it presents.  As I expected, the movie is a sort of political statement against right-wing, conservative Christians.  Homosexuals are portrayed as an oppressed minority that (in the not-too-distant future) will be slain en masse as a result of the government’s loathing of these people.  Also, my brother made the keen observation that the symbol of the ruling government in the movie (which he claimed is representative of the Bush administration) is nothing more than a double cross (see image above right).  A coincidence?  I think that doubtful.

In the end, I vacillated over whether I was right or not about V for Vendetta.  I was definitely right in that it is, to some extent, a political movie that tries to get you to see the world through a secular humanistic worldview.  But, I must admit, I was wrong to avoid watching the movie because of that.  True, many of the ideas it presents are anti-Biblical and anti-Christian, but that doesn’t mean we have to hide from it.  I recommend V for Vendetta for Christians who want to understand how secular liberals see us — it’s rather a scary image.  I will also close with an excellent quote from the film’s protagonist, “V” — it is one of the best quotes I have come across in any movie I have seen:

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

It almost sounds like something straight out of John Locke, a modern rendition of the people’s right to dissolve their government.  Perhaps the filmmakers were not that misguided after all — they recognize the importance of freedom and the terrors of tyranny, yet they incorrectly assume that America’s current government and Christians are going to bring about the government portrayed in this movie.  The movie’s premises are good and correct, but its conclusions are ultimately faulty.  Still, it’s a movie worth watching and thinking about.

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Another C. S. Lewis Movie

February 2, 2007

Anyone who is a fan of the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will probably be fully aware that Walden Media and Disney have started work on the next installment to the Narnia series, Prince Caspian.  This is no surprise — the film is set for a 2008 release.  Having said this, a couple of weeks ago I found an interesting website for reading about upcoming movie sequals and one of the headlines they wrote today surprised me quite a bit.

According to IGN.com, Walden has begun work on a film adaptation (set for release next year) of Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters:

C.S. Lewis may be best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series of books, but with the success of the first Narnia film, it seems Hollywood is ready to start adapting the author’s other works as well. First up: a big screen version of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

I must say I laughed quite loud when I read that.  A movie of The Screwtape Letters?  Of all things!  Lewis wrote many other novels besides The Chronicles of Narnia that would be much easier to adapt into a movie than a collection of letters written by an old, uncle devil to his nephew.  They screenwriters of this movie are going to have to invent a storyline for the movie, I’m afraid.  We shall have to see what the finished result is.  At least the fact that Walden Media is behind the effort gives me confidence that they will make a decent and faithful adaptation of the book.  After Prince Caspian and The Screwtape Letters, though, they really must make a movie of Till We Have Faces.  Now that would be a movie worth seeing!