Posts filed under Movies

Mark D. Roberts on the DaVinci Code

Filed in Religion, ReviewsTags: Books, Christianity, Movies

With the upcoming theatrical release of the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code has come a whole host of discussion of the book, its merits, and its claims.

I've not really gotten into it. Personally, I enjoyed reading the book; of course, I was taught from a young age to understand the concept of fiction, and the ability to differentiate between fiction and reality. So, I was in no way offended by the book.

However, for those with questions about the truth versus The Code, take a look at this FAQ put together by Mark D. Roberts.

Via Rhett Smith.

Sinner on the End of the Spear

Filed in Religion, ReviewsTags: Christianity, Movies

I went to see End Of The Spear Sunday night. I intend to post a review of the movie, but first I have to get something off of my chest. It is not often that I feel compelled to call fellow Christians on the carpet, but in this case, I must.

The supposed "controversy" - generated by my fellow Christians, no less - regarding actor Chad Allen being a gay rights activist disturbs me to no end. The same people who are beating the anti-Allen drum are at the same time complaining that the actor is getting more publicity than the story itself; I wonder why?

I am absolutely disgusted that anyone would be so hypocritical as to speak ill of a movie telling such a compelling and God-honoring story because one of the lead actors is homosexual. You know, it's a good thing for tax-collector Matthew, prostitute Mary Magdalene, murderer-aldulterer David, and countless others that Jesus took a different view of sinners than we, in our own self-righteousness, do. What was that Jesus said to us, about a speck, and a plank? Sin is sin. ALL men have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. God sees all sin equally, yet God loves all sinners equally. How utterly hypocritical of us Christians to make this an issue. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. If we intend only to see movies starring those without sin, we're going to be waiting a VERY long time...

What a fantastic story - and the story itself exemplifies the gospel. How sad it is that Christians would actively work against this story being told. Who cares if whats-his-name is homosexual, or even a gay-rights activist? He doesn't stand up in the middle of the movie and say, "hey, this is a great story and all, but about that gay marriage thing..." If you can't sit through the movie without being distracted by the sexual preference of the lead actor, then it is your own heart you need to examine before you question the motives of the movie's producers.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one who feels this way...


Fellow One Year Bible blogger Dwayne's World and Christian Carnival blogger Allthings2all have great posts on the issue, as well.

Aslan Is On The Move

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Movies, Pop Culture

Christians love it; liberals hate it

Last week's release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW) has created quite the media buzz, and quite a blogstorm. Blog coverage began long before the movie's release, and reached a crescendo just before release. And even before its release, the vitriol was evident, as pointed out (more on the vitriol later). Several bloggers have weighed in, and collected the thoughts of those that did:

Much great discussion among the God-Bloggers about the movie:

I think nothing sums up the difference of viewpoint than the following:
This oft-quoted section of John Mark Reynold's review:

If you think the wolves in the wood should never be fought, then you will hate this film. If you think evil does not exist, you will be uncomfortable. If you believe forgiveness is cheap and bad behavior has no cost, then this film will make you furious. But if you are like most of us, then this film will make you shout for joy.

Tonight for the first time in a long time I watched a film that made my heart ache with the beauty of the scenes, made me cry, stirred my passions, and made me think. (All those neo-Platonisms! Surrounded as I was by Torrey students all of whom have read the Timaeus, we were the only audience in the world to burst into applause when Aslan asked, "Where is the fourth?")

Compared to this oft-quoted passage from Polly Toynbee's column (itself deserving of a good fisking):

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?

If you look deep enough, contained in these two divergent viewpoints is the entirety of the source of the excitement and agitation generated by Chronicles.

REVIEW: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Filed in ReviewsTags: Movies

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe Movie Poster
Put me in the camp of those who have been fans of The Chronicles of Narnia since childhood, in which time I have read the series several times. Even reading the books as an elementary schooler, I couldn't miss the obvious allegorical thread of Christianity running throughout. As I grew older, I was amazed that such a brilliant writer of this children's book series also penned much weightier Christian classics as Mere Christianity. When I first heard that Narnia would make its way to the silver screen, I was esctatic. Several fan sites followed the filming and production. Once I heard that the film adaptation would stay true to the book, I was even more excited. So off I went to see the film, an adult fan of the works and personhood of C.S. Lewis, yet with the memory of the fantastic journey the Chronicles were as a child.

A side note here: as is well-known, C.S. Lewis was a contemporary and friend of an author of another recently adapted book, The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien. The two men shared their faith as well as their ability to write amazing works of fictional fantasy; however, Lewis' works of fantasy were written with children as the clearly intended audience. Tolkien's was not. Reading Chronicles as an adult, I still enjoy every bit of the fantastic journey, allegory, and imagery; but the series lacks the plot development and character development of adult literature. Anyone expecting the Chronicles books to read with the literary depth and intelligence of Rings is likely to be disappointed; the same is true with the film adaptations of each. Do not expect to find Rings in the Chronicles, and you won't be disappointed when it does not deliver.

The movie begins with a CG opening of WWII-era German airstrikes over London, and Mrs. Pevensie sending the children off to live with Professor Kirke in the English countryside. The opening does a fine job of setting the period and emotion of the story. When originally written, the war themes of the book would have resonated even with children, who lived through the realities of World War II. We are reminded that this story is intended for children, when the war-time emotions are repeated throughout the movie - usually in the form of Peter or Susan reiterating, "mother sent us away to avoid war", "we didn't come to fight in a war", or some similar variant. As an adult, the reiteration seemed to be overkill; I would be curious to discuss the issue with a younger viewer, to ascertain whether or not the war-time emotion theme resonated.

The Lord of the Rings was not the only book-to-movie adaptation of which I was reminded when watching The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW). The train station scene in which Mrs. Pevensie sends off the four children, and the train rolling through the countryside, reminded me of similar opening scenes in the Harry Potter movies. I'm faily certain that the similarities were unintended and completely coincidental, however.

The next scene finds the four children arriving at the Professor's house, and the story takes off from there. I was impressed with how closely the movie followed the book from this point forward. A few things were changed, but nothing terribly detrimental to the telling or underlying intent of the book. For instance, in the book, Lucy first encounters the wardrobe when the siblings are exploring the house to pass the time during a rainy day. The other three leave the spare room while Lucy enters the wardrobe. After her hours of adventure, she emerges from the wardrobe, shouting, "It's okay; I'm back!" only to find the other three outside the door, having just left the room. Lucy encounters Narnia a second time while playing hide-and-seek, and it is during this encounter that Edmund follows her into the wardrobe. However, in the movie, Lucy's first encounter with the wardrobe, and with Narnia, is during a game of hide-and-seek. and she emerges from the wardrobe, shouting, "It's okay; I'm back!" only to find the game right where she left it. Lucy enters Narnia a second time through the wardrobe late at night, while everyone else is asleep; Edmund sees her going upstairs as he is leaving the bathroom, and follows her. I'm not sure why the writers made this change, but it didn't appear to detract from the story.

The only other scene I wish the movie has held more closely to the book was the conversation between the children and the beavers in the Beaver's Dam. Their discussion of Aslan is one of the most compelling in the entire book. The movie maintained the plot points, but lost some of the awe. The exchange in which Mr. Beaver reveals that Aslan is a lion, and the children ask, "Is he safe?" and the Beaver replies, "Safe? Of course he's not safe... but he's good" still sends chills down my spine when I read it. The "no, but he's good" line is maintained at the end of the story in an exchange between Lucy and Mr. Tumnus, but doesn't have quite the same effect.

Otherwise, the movie stays very close with the book. As the plot progresses, one cannot help but be impressed with how visually stunning this movie is. The fantastic CGI blends in well with the live action; the scenery is grandiose; and most importantly, Aslan is every bit as awesome as any Chronicles fan would expect. The "reveal" scene at the Stone Table is perhaps one of the best secenes in the movie.

Refreshingly, the obvious Christian allegory in the book is maintained in the movie. From the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" conversation in the Professor's study, to Aslan's recognition of the "deep magic" that "defines right from wrong and governs all our destinies", the Christian themes remain integral to the story. In fact, whether inadvertently, or as a blatant pander to the largely Christian audience (or somewhere in between), the script even adds the line, "It is finished," spoken by Aslan to Peter at the end of the Last Battle, right after he kills the White Witch. The one point that stood out to me as having missed the intended tone occurs in the scene in which the White Witch comes to Aslan demanding Edmund's traitor blood, and then renounces her claim after her conversation with Aslan. The White Witch asks Aslan, "How can I be sure the promise will be kept?" to which Aslan responds with a ferocious and righteously indignant roar. The crowd laughs when the Queen stumbles in fright at this roar. Aslan's reaction here represents the same righteous anger of Christ should one dare question the integrity of His Word. I liken it to Christ's cleansing of the temple, or the reverent fear each of us will experience at the foot of the Judgement Seat of Christ. In my opinion, a more appropriate response to such a situation would not have been laughter, but reverent fear and awe at the demonstration of raw power and righteous indignation of the King of Kings. Aside from this one disagreement, the movie does a wonderful job of preserving the allegorical thread and Christian undertones of the story.

Most pleasantly surprising, the acting in the film is top-notch. Ten-year-old Georgia Henley is absolutely fantastic in her major-film debut as Lucy Pevensie. In fact, Henley most completely fleshes out her character of any of the four siblings, and superbly portrays the subtleties and spiritual undertones of her character. In the book, Aslan and Lucy have a special relationship; Henley's acting demonstrates the nature and reasons for that relationship. Tilda Swinton (community leader Sal in The Beach, among several roles) embodies the cold and imposing character of the White Witch. Skandar Keynes, also in his movie-debut performance, ably portrays Edmund Pevensie's initial character flaws, as well as his changed, contrite nature.

Overall, I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the Chronicles series, or anyone interested in a very well-done children's movie. (And while the battle scenes are marginally graphic, Disney stays true to its intended audience; no killing is portrayed, including Aslan's death scene. Even Peter's sword - used to kill Maugrim, and again in the battle, remains gleaming and unbloodied.) As well-produced as this installment was, I cannot wait to see what Disney has in store for the rest of the series.

Slashdot Does Narnia?

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Movies, Pop Culture

brightMystery links to a discussion of Disney's upcoming Narnia movie at - of all places - Slashdot. The good professor rightly points out the bizarre nature of such a topic at Slashdot, and then describes first one commentor expressing discomfort that CS Lewis' classic Chronicles of Narnia series "was really Christian propaganda", and second, the reactions of later commentors "basically calling the first one out for expecting a writer not to write from the standpoint of his religious beliefs".

Quite funny, actually. Anyone with an IQ sufficiently high to frequent a site such as Slashdot and who has read the Chronicles of Narnia at any point past the age of, say, twelve should realize that Lewis - much more than just writing "from the standpoing of his religious beliefs" - wrote the series as an allegory of the Bible.

Unfortunately, I agree with the professor's assessment of the eventual outcome of a Disney production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (to be titled Narnia as previously mentioned).

Kingdom of Heaven

Filed in ReviewsTags: Movies

I've heard the radio ads for tomorrow's release Kingdom of Heaven, and wondered if it would be worth seeing. Apparently, the answer is no:

This is not the sort of movie that is going to draw large crowds of conservative Christians. Scott is relentless in his humanistic, anti-religious message, so much so that my friend remarked that it felt like anti-religious "digs" spliced between action sequences (and very violent action sequences, at that--not for the faint of heart). If the message doesn't keep conservative Christians away, the uncaptivating plot and dialogue will. The costumes and sets are lavish, but are not enough to redeem "Kingdom of Heaven."

(Hat Tip: Stones Cry Out)

Movie Review: Hitch

Filed in ReviewsTags: Movies

I saw Hitch over the weekend. I kept hearing good things about it, and usually like Will Smith movies. Here's what had to say:

Hitch asks one question: Just how far can a film coast on Will Smith’s charm and some hilariously bad dance moves? The answer is, pretty far, but not nearly far enough.

Smith plays the titular hero, a guy who’s so smooth he turned it into a career as a “date doctor,” helping a succession of schlubby but good-hearted guys make it into the arms of gorgeous women who otherwise wouldn’t have looked twice at them. But although he’s like a consultant for romance, Hitch doesn’t use his powers to find true love for himself, leaving marriage and lasting relationships for his clients.

Hitch Movie PosterActually, if you read the entire review, the reviewer misses the point of the movie. He recognizes Will Smith as the main character, but oddly thinks the main plot arc and character development revolve around someone else. What he criticizes the filmwriters for as unnecessary distraction from the main story is actually a well-crafted dovetail of sub-plots into the main story - not on the level of say, a Tom Clancy or Frank Peretti novel, but impressively thorough for a romantic comedy. Apparently, the reviewer missed that the entire point of the movie was the development of Will Smith's character, since that very element is the one he dismisses as superfluous.

Generally, the movie follows the Hollywood-standard, "guy meets girl, guy falls for girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl in the end" romantic-comedy formula. Despite being typically formulaic, the movie, fortunately, dispenses with much of the typical stereotyping of the genre.

For the most part, the characters are black-and-white. There is, of course, development, primarily of the principal characters - but not much nuance. The good guys are good, the bad guy is bad - pretty much what one would expect from the genre. I would have liked to see more depth of character development - especially with Amber Valletta, who plays a young heiress and romantic interest of Albert (Kevin James, King of Queens) - but the primary plot arc involves the character development of the title character, Hitch.

Will Smith and Kevin James play well off of each other in this movie. Eva Mendez (Sara, gossip columnist and romantic interest of Will Smith) turned what I first thought would be an imitation of Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner into a decent performance. The flashbacks to Will Smith's character in college reminded me way too much of myself in high school and college - though I can certainly relate to the growth/maturation process with respect to women and relationships.

Overall, the movie is what it is. Though the genre isn't my favorite, the movie is by far better than most romantic comedies. Hitch is a good movie to take your signficant other to see. It will be worth the two-hour investment just for a refreshingly decent movie. You probably won't take away any life-changing new ideas, but the movie just might give you pause to remember to look at people from the inside, and that it's okay to be true to oneself on the outside.