Category Archives: Movie review

5 things I loved about Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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By now most everyone has seen the Force Awakens and the inter web is full of reviews, comments and criticisms. Here are the five things I like the most about Star Wars, soon to be followed by the five things that I didn’t like about it.

1. The Return of the Force as a cultural phenomenon.

In an age of political tensions and tribe mentality it is refreshing to have a cultural icon such as Star Wars once again at the center of our national consciousness.  One thing that really made an impression on me was seeing families together, full of excitement and anticipation to see this movie, from little kids with their parents to teens and adult children…

Star Wars like many old folk tales reminds us that there is a constant struggle between good and evil and that there are things worth fighting for…

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2. The worlds inhabited by the characters

The Force Awakes is a brilliant visual statement that captures the texture and feel of the original trilogy. It imbues a perfect balance between stunning visuals and special effects. It is a great coup for JJ Abraham attention to details and respect for its source material.

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3. John Williams Score

Rey theme is just brilliant…what else can be said from a score made by one of the greatest composer of our time?

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4. The return of Han Solo.

Harrison Ford brought back to life one of the most iconic character in modern cinematic universe with gusto. His performance as Solo made everything else work in the film…even its weak parts.

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 15: (L-R) Actors Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong'o, Daisy Ridley, director J.J. Abrams of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios Alan Horn took part today in "Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios" presentation at Disney's D23 EXPO 2015 in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

5. The cast

The cast readily complements the script, which is light on its feet, funny and full of thrills. Oh yeah…BB-8 was brilliant!


 What are your favorite things about the Force Awakens?

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My top 10 Movies for Lent Part II (5 to 1)

As we approach Holy Week here are my top 5 movies for Lent. I really appreciate Debbie recommendations and the reminder that 1) there are great Christian films out there (like Diary of Country Priest, Courageous, For Greater Glory, Unbroken, The Ten Commandments, The Son of God, Fire Proof and Spielberg monumental classic Schindler’s list among many other) and 2) that this is just a humble and insular list of some of my favorites movie with Christian themes.

For my Top 10 (10 to 5) list clear here.

5. Ben Hur

The sheer epic scale of this movie is worth watching considering that it was made in the pre-digital effect era. I really like how this film intertwines the story of Ben Hur (play by Charlton Heston) and the life of Christ. Although not perfect it’s a movie worth watching….

4. A Man for all Seasons

This movie from the 60’s tells the story of the martyrdom St. Thomas More. It has one of the most beautifully crafted screenplays of all time. One of my favorite dialogues is between The Duke of Norfolk and St. Thomas More:

The Duke of Norfolk:

Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!

St. Thomas More:

And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

This is brilliant writing! It not only shows the integrity of St. Thomas More’s moral character but also shows the great reverence that this man of faith had for reason and the importance of following once conscience.

Coincidently Robert Bold, an agnostic, wrote the screenplay for this great Christian movie.

3. Into a Great Silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

This German documentary is a meditation of God’s love reflected in the life of monks and priest of the Carthusian Order. For more than 900 years men and woman have joined this order to dedicate their life to a life of austerity, silence, contemplation and prayer. The introduction to their order website says it all:

(http://www.chartreux.org/en/)

“Whoever you are, whatever led you to this site, welcome. You will not find anything fashionable, not even a concern for being different”.

“The Carthusians consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and seeking God in the secret of their hearts. They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world”.

21 years in the making this documentary welcome people from all walks of life to have a look inside this faith filled monastery and walk right into a great silence.

2. Of Gods and Men

What does it means to give your life for others? What does it means to risk martyrdom in order to give witness of Christ love? Most of us will never have to confront these questions but sadly many Christian around the world know very well the answer to these questions. This powerful movie tells the story of French Trappist monks who were martyred in Algeria by Islamic terrorist for not abandoning their community that they served.

1. The Passion of the Christ

Words are not needed to describe Mel Gibson masterpiece. It is simple the greatest movie ever made.

Look at how salvation was nailed to the Cross… How can you keep from crying?

Top 10 Movies for Lent Part I (10 to 5)

We are entering Lent at full altitude now that we are closely approaching the third Sunday of Lent. One of my pet peeve is to find redemptive Christian qualities around me, especially in movies. So I decided to come up with my Top 10 movies to watch during Lent.

Some of the movies that made my list are not necessarily overtly Christian but that does not mean that they aren’t Christian films. I rather think that what make a film a Christian film is its subject matter and its resolution. The list is not an exhaustive list of movies since is restricted to the limited number of films that I have watched.

10. Gran Torino

This is Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece about redemption that showcase one of the best Christ like figure in modern cinema. I was hesitant to include this movie on this list, since it’s crude language but it is not gratuitous but rather serve the plot of the story.

9. Locke

This is Tom Hardy best role to date. This is an engaging account of a man trying to make things right and the consequence of his past sin in his life. I was mesmerized by the brilliance of its screenplay.

8. Up

This is Pixar’s fantastic movie about marriage, family, and old age. What I love about this movie is its portrayal of love and marriage and its reverence to old age.

7. The Kid with a Bike

This is another gem from the Dardenne brothers. The story centers on a kid who is longing for his absent father. It does a great job at showing the value of fatherhood and the consequences of its absence in the life of a young boy.

6. The Mission

Considered by some to be an anti-religious movie an odd statement given that it made the Vatican top list for religious movies. For a great review at visit: http://www.decentfilms.com/reviews/mission

What do you think…any favorite movie that should be included in the top 5?

My Top 5 Movies of 2014

This is my incomplete list for my favorite movies of 2014…

1.  American Sniper

Rarely a movie makes the clear and necessary distinction between good and evil and the moral responsibility to confront it. Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, American Sniper, do so without any hesitation and brilliantly.

2. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious project to date. It scores hight on its scope and impressive visuals. It also features the best soundtrack of the year by Hans Zimmer.

Do not go gentle into the night…

3. Locke

A gripping drama about a husband, father and worker trying to amend his life and in the process risking everything. A reveating movie about convictions and the consequences of sin.

4. Boyhood

Innovative, enticing, and brutally honest film about a post-christian family.

5. X-man: Days of Future Past

Well…life can be fun and so ought to be movies. Best movie in the X-man Franchise by far.

This list is incomplete because I yet need to see at least the following movies:

Two Days, One Night by the Belgian filmmakers the Dardanne Brothers. Anything they make is bound to be brilliant…yes I am biased.

Whiplash
Imitation Games
Gone Girl
Birdman

About growing up, fading memories of Christianity and Mutants…my review of my favorite movies of the summer.

There is something especially about the broad, open, and moving canvas that a film provides artists to tell their stories. Its ingenuity is that it combines multiple art forms into a unique conveyor of fierce and gentle emotions that is the human experience. In that, a single frame can be a view as a painting, its musical score can be listened as a symphony, and the cries of its characters permanently records the drama of theater. Great films can do that; lesser makes you wonder about the decline of civilization and question your sanity for having spent money on them.

Every summer there is a film that I can hardly wait to see. This past summer was sort of an exception. There wasn’t a movie that I couldn’t wait to see. I was cautiously optimistic about How to Train Your Dragon 2, mildly excited about X-Man: Days of Future Past, curious about Guardian of the Galaxy and indifferent about the rest. Unbeknown to me was that there were movies like “Boyhood” waiting to be discovered.

Boyhood is the passion project of Richard Linklater (Daze and Confused), filmed over 12 years with the same cast. It is a painfully honest and beautiful film about a family living in an ever-increasing secular society. The film is a coup in filmmaking. The high-risk idea of filming a kid grow-up over the span of 12 years immensely pays off. It not only adds such a subtle familiarity with the character, but a deep texture of realism unmatched by any especial effect. It not only adds such a subtle familiarity with the character, but a deep texture of realism unmatched by any especial effect. Its visual and musical cues play a central role in the narrative while the script manages to captivate your attention by portraying ordinary life with simplicity, honesty and wit.

What I found interesting about this film was that although it is obviously narrated from a post Christian point of view its message led the audience, in my opinion, to question the vanity and futility of such world view. This was clear to me towards the end of the film (spoiler alert) when the mom goes through what seems to be a nihilistic crisis after her youngest child Mason and the main character goes off to college:

Mom: This is the worst day of my life. I knew this day would come, except why is it happening now? First, I get married, have kids, end up with two ex-husbands, go back to school, get my degree, get my masters, send both my kids off to college. What’s next? My own fucking funeral?

Mom starts crying.

Mom: I just thought it would have been better.

That last line stroked a nerve. It was brutally honest and painful. On one hand it shows the vulnerability of hard working mom facing an empty nest and a new way of life; on the other hand it exposes a deeper longing for fulfillment. The apparent dissatisfaction reveals a paramount reality of today’s secular world. That is the lack of objective truths. In such world-view the meaning of things and the value of actions are delegated to subjectivism. I think this is why I like this movie so much. It touches on some fundamental questions about the human experience. Is it all worth it? Do all the sufferings and joys of life have any transcendent and objective meaning or are they subjugated to our own capacity to rationalize them? As a Christian I believe so. All I have to do is to look at the Cross.

Every summer there is always a movie that surprises me and turns out to be an unexpected gem. A few summers ago, it was How to Train Your Dragons. I didn’t think much of it as I walked into the movie theater, but a quarter into the film I fell in love with the phenomenal world of Vikings and dragons that it created. This summer the honors went to The Giver, a passion project by Jeff Bridges, who originally wanted his father to play one of the main characters, the giver of memories.

The movie does a fairly good job, in portraying the world that Lois Lowry created in her award winning children’s book “The Giver”. In this dystopian future there are no wars, hunger, diseases, or social unrest. Everyone seems to be contempt and safe living in a technologically advanced society that provides health care, nutrition, and housing for free, but that is devoid of religion, ideology, or even objective morality.

Aptly the landscape of this dystopian future is literally viewed in black and white by its citizens. Differences are only acknowledged once in an individual lifetime. Sameness is the central paradigm of this society. To this end emotions and distinctions are highly regulated through daily injections and precise use of language. Life altering decisions are made for you, like your career or even your “family unit”. Memories of history, cultures and past civilizations are sandboxed to one member of the community called “The Giver”. The movie centers on the transition of these memories from an old man, the giver, to a teenage boy, the receiver.

From the cinematography point of view the movie adaptation didn’t fully exploited its potential but it did a great job in affirming the values of life, liberty and the pursue of happiness. Simply put it, in my opinion, this is one of the best pro-life films that I have seen in recent memory. The film deftly combines its narrative with visual imagery of memories of a world long gone. Sometimes this memory is joyful, others they are painful, but they convey a transcendental truth about our human condition. That is, we were made for love and without the ability to freely choose it there cannot be love.

The movie as well as the book works at least at two levels. First, as a political commentary it warns against the false promise of humanism; that deludes its self in its ambition to create the perfect society. History shows us that such attempts leads to the denigration and the devaluation of human life. National Socialism and Communism being the two prime examples of such grievous ideology. One caused the death of about 12 million people during WWII while the other the death of ~200 million people during the 20th century.

In the world of “The Giver” human life is valued according to its potential to serve society. Ineffective individuals, non-conformists, the elderly and the ill adapted babies are discarded to elsewhere, a euphemism for euthanasia. Political correctness are disguised as politeness. Language is used to manipulate the morals. This is not so different from our own society. We refer to the killing of a baby as a choice and to same sex partnership as marriage.

On another level “The Giver” is introspection on what it means to be human. Can humanity devoid of emotions and free will be truly alive? As the main character Jona awakens to the reality of his world he feels more alive than ever, but at the same time more lonely than ever. He feels alive because his search for truth and found it. More isolated and lonely than ever because he realized that nobody else is seeking truth. This rings so true for Christians. We seek for truth in Christ and found it but find our self so lonely when we realized that most are not even seeking.

Finally the last stand out film of the summer was… if you are still reading. Thank you. Really thank you! It was a toss up between Rise of the Planet of the Apes, extremely well made action packed drama, How to Train Your Dragons 2, which arguably has one of the best family scenes of any recent movie, and X-Men: Days of Future Past (Godzilla did not make the list since there was so little Godzilla in the whole movie and Guardian of the Galaxy was meh). X-Men won. I really love the lack of ambiguity of this movie. There is evil and it has to be stopped. Full stop. The combination of the old and new casts was very well done and exciting to see. The especial effects were great and the one scene with Quick Silver was worth the admission price. I had great fun watching it. After all, movies are supposed to be fun. Right?