Category Archives: Movies

“Unbroken” Doesn’t Deserve Petty Christian Sniping

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This afternoon, Pam and I saw “Unbroken.” We loved it. And we were impressed, and grateful, for the great extent to which faith was woven throughout the movie. In fact, faith plays far more of a role in the movie than it does in the book, at least over the same period of time which the book covers (ending with Zamperini’s return from the war).

Across the internet, Christians have been griping for weeks (even before seeing the movie) about how the movie doesn’t include Zamperini’s conversion at a Billy Graham crusade years after the war. They cite it as further proof of Hollywood’s anti-Christian bent. I had read some of that spiritual grumbling (there’s a good “b” word which would apply, IMHO). The fact is, though God’s sovereignty was undoubtedly involved in getting Zamperini through the war, his survival had nothing to do with his personal faith–because there was NO personal faith. He was not a religious guy. Far from it. It was largely his own grit and toughness that got him through.

To include the Billy Graham conversion, the movie would have had to continue his life after the war–his marriage, his descent into alcoholism, his consuming hatred, the near destruction of his marriage. That would have been a whole different movie…and a very long one. Angelina Jolie, as director, had 2.5 hours to work with, and even then, she left out a lot of great stuff from the war. If you want the whole story, read the book.

The movie tells the heart of Zamperini’s story–what he endured during WW2–and it ended where it needed to end. And it ended on a triumphant note. But Angelina Jolie, as director, chose to include notes about what followed in Zamperini’s life, especially pertaining to his faith. I thought that was the perfect way to do it. Let’s applaud her for that, not criticize her. Zamperini himself, having seen the movie before his death, said he thought the movie did a good job of not forcing religion down people’s throats.

Come on, fellow Christians. We constantly moan and groan about how society is out to get us. We nurse a persecution complex even though we live in a country more dominated by Christianity than any other country on the planet. When Hollywood puts out a movie which does make serious nods to Christian faith, but we still whine, it just makes us look like idiots. Like people who can never be satisfied. And I guess, actually, that’s what we are. We refuse be satisfied, and we’re very reluctant to praise others for making room for our faith…as this movie does.

Nobody, after hearing our petty bellyaching, decides, “You know, I’d like to be a Christian, too.”

I LOVED “Unbroken,” and I thank Angelia Jolie, Universal, Legendary Pictures, and everyone else involved with bringing this story to the big screen.

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Movie: The Expendables 3

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This afternoon Pam and I saw “The Expendables 3” movie. It was a subtly nuanced, thought-provoking film which touched my soul in deep places, prompting self-examination on my purpose amidst the beauty/chaos dichotomy of the universe, and no small amount of reflection on the existential essence of the human condition. Or else it was just mindless, unrepentant mayhem.

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Movie: August: Osage County

August Osage County 4

Last night, Pam and I watched “August: Osage County,” with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (among other stars). Yes, superb performances. However, absolutely nothing redeeming about the movie.

No major characters worth admiring.

No positive changes in anyone’s behavior or thinking.

No indication that anything at all changes for the better from the beginning to the end of the movie.

Just a totally dysfunctional family going through their dysfunctional motions.

All it did was made me pray, “Lord, thank you that I don’t belong to a family like that.”

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Batkid Scrubbed from Oscars

batkid

The Make-a-Wish Batkid from San Francisco got cut from the Oscars. They flew him and his family to LA for the Oscars, and he was to appear at the end of a segment about superheroes. But they cut him. I guess they were too busy serving pizza to the crowd. The Academy paid to send him to Disneyland instead. Hey, he’s just a 5-year-old kid with leukemia. He’ll get over it.

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Five Movies Worth Seeing

We watched five movies in theaters over the holidays. All good ones. Finished with “47 Ronin”  (it was the weakest of the five, yet still enjoyable). Here’s the full list, in the order we saw them.

  1. Thor: the Dark World. The second Thor movie (or third, if you count the Avengers movie). Marvel is doing a very good job with their superhero franchises–except for the Hulk movies.
  2. Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The second of four movies (derived from a book trilogy).
  3. Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. The second of three movies (derived from a single book). Added a number of things not in the book (“The Hobbit”), but I’m not a purist. They were good additions. They got pretty much to the end of “The Hobbit.” Not a whole lot left for the third movie.
  4. Saving Mr. Banks. An original screenplay, based on a true story–about the woman who created the Mary Poppins character, and Walt Disney’s efforts to get her approval for the movie. She was a VERY difficult person. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks were superb as the main characters. Great acting all around.
  5. 47 Ronin. A Keanu Reeves movie, based on a Japanese legend. “Ronin” are masterless Samaria. It’s a love story and an action movie.
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Some Enduring Choices

Lawrence-of-Arabia

Thinking of the late Peter O’Toole, I was wondering about the movies “Lawrence of Arabia” beat for the Best Picture Oscar. So I looked it up.

Other films from 1962: “The Longest Day,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Music Man,” “The Miracle Worker,” “Birdman of Alcatraz,” “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane,” “The Manchurian Candidate.”

And not a sequel, or a superhero, among them! Oh, to have a selection of movies like that today!

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Christmas Cheer in the Nakatomi Tower

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As Christmas approaches, it’s appropriate to recall my favorite Christmas feel-good movie: “Die Hard.”

In the original “Die Hard” movie, Bruce Willis was the sixth choice for John McClane. It went through Arnold Schwarzenegger (it would have been a sequel to “Commando,” if you can imagine that), Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson before ending up with Bruce. I can’t really see Arnold crawling through ductwork.

The movie occurs on Christmas Eve. The head terrorist is Hans Gruber, a German. “Silent Night” was written by Franz Gruber, an Austrian.

In dubbing the movie for German audiences, the terrorists were turned into Brits. You know, Heil Churchhill!

The book was based on another book, which was also made into a movie in the 1960s. The star of that movie was Frank Sinatra. He had contractual rights to play the McClane role in the sequel, but turned it down. The movie then languished for many years.

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Tears in Rain

bladerunner

One of my alltime favorite movie scenes comes at the end of “Blade Runner,” when replicant Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, makes this speech just before dying:

“I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears… in… rain. Time… to die.”

The night before filming, Hauer rewrote the scripted speech and added the “tears in rain” part. Here’s what it was before he took a knife to it:

“I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Offworld and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion…I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!”

Hauer described this as “opera talk” and “hi-tech speech.” While I actually kind of like the original speech, it’s unquestionable that Hauer’s more concise version–coupled with his amazing interpretation of it–is far better.

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Hollywood in a “Trash the White House” Frenzy

Olympus-has-fallen-vs-White-House-Down

This afternoon we saw “White House Down.” So I’m obviously comparing it to “Olympus has Fallen,” which we saw in May. Both involved trashing the White House and DC in general (a theme which apparently appeals to Hollywood shot-callers right now). Both were very good movies–lots of action, the whole “Die Hard in the White House” concept.

I think I liked Gerard Butler in the hero role better than Channing Tatum, but Tatum was good. Aaron Eckhart vs. Jamie Fox as president: definitely Fox. “Olympus” had the presidential Morgan Freeman, but WHD had James Woods. Overall, a better cast in “Olympus” I think. And yet….

Both flicks had a daughter to save. I generally despise “child in peril” plots, which force the hero to surrender lest a child be hurt. In Olympus, they dispensed with that idea very early, and I appreciated it. Not so in WHD, which played that card strong. And yet…the daughter was a really good part of the movie in WHD.

In both movies, the Secret Service were a bunch of incompetents, easily mowed down on their own turf, pure canon fodder. Somehow I think the real Secret Service would be more effective.

The motive for the mayhem was more straightforward in Olympus. Also, one of the last lines in White House Down was a silly “Peace will reign throughout the world” kind of thing. Totally unnecessary, and laughable.

So anyway–I recommend seeing both movies. I loved them both, and they each had their own merits. But yeah, if I had to choose one it would be “Olympus has Fallen.”

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About the Barrel

Freddy_Got_Fingered

The late and incomparable Robert Ebert on the movie “Freddy Got Fingered”: “This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.”

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