Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Ghostbusters" (1984): Share Your Stories

Winston: Hey Ray. Do you believe in God?
Ray: Never met him.
Winston: Yeah, well, I do. And I love Jesus' style, you know… Hey Ray. Do you remember something in the bible about the last days when the dead would rise from the grave?
Ray: I remember Revelations 7:12...?And I looked, and he opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake. And the sun became as black as sack cloth, and the moon became as blood."
Winston: "And the seas boiled and the skies fell."
Ray: Judgment day.
Winston: Judgment day.
Ray: Every ancient religion has its own myth about the end of the world.
Winston: Myth? Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we've been so busy lately is 'cause the dead HAVE been rising from the grave?
Ray: [Pause ] How 'bout a little music?
Winston: Yeah.

I love this brief conversation in “Ghostbusters.” Of course, for nostalgic reasons I like a lot about this movie. It is a mostly harmless comedy/horror about a world where supernatural events start taking place. This conversation has no real impact on the plot. It survived the final cut when a lot of more pertinent scenes were cut for pacing purposes. It isn’t even the kind of joke this movie has been going for, so who knows how it ended up in this film.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Hotel Transylvania" (2012)

I must say I was disappointed in this film. It wasn’t terrible. Technically it was fine, and the story was well told. It is just nothing like what I was hoping it would be. It did not live up to its potential.

First, you have such a rich concept to play with, and all you can do is tell a story about a father having to let go and let his kid live? We have seen that story before, often, and done masterfully. Why would you want to retread that story? Especially when some of the best children’s stories throughout history—the ones that stand the test of time and become classics—are often scary and dangerous. When you have the chance to tell an animated feature involving some of the great monsters from literature and cinema, you should go the creepy route. Then you add insult to injury and bring in the naïve but popular lie that all evil in the world is merely perceived. (Yes, far too much conflict in the world is simply misunderstanding based, but come on… there are bad people in the world too.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Quantum of Solace" (2008)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Continuing the themes and story from the last film, this is the first true sequel in the Bond series. Unfortunately two things make this film a lesser effort.

First is the challenge that this film was effectively filmed without a script. The story and dialogue here make this fact more than evident, but at the same time, the story is less important than the overall character story-arch. One hopes the evolution of this new Bond will continue in “Skyfall.” Here, Bond goes from disillusioned cynic out for revenge, back to a man with a purpose that has learned to trust select people.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Timothy Outline

This is a "post in progress." As I work through 1 and 2 Timothy it will change and grow:

1. I Timothy 1:1,2 Greeting

I. Discussion of the charge to Timothy post

2. I Timothy 1:3-7 The Charge: Stand Against False Teachers

3. I Timothy 1:8-11 The Proper Perspective on the Law

4. I Timothy 1:12-17 Paul’s Example: Christ Came to Give Mercy post

5. I Timothy 1:18-20 The Charge Restated: Stand Against False Teachers

II. True Gospel Centered Life and Ministry

6. I Timothy 2:1-7 Roles of Preacher and Apostle post1 post2

7. I Timothy 2:8-15 Role of Women post

8. I Timothy 3:1-7 Qualifications of Elders

9. I Timothy 3:8-13 Qualifications of Deacons post

10. I Timothy 3:14-16 Mystery of Godliness post

III. How to Identify False Teaching

11. I Timothy 4:1-5 post

IV. Be Shaped By the Gospel

12. I Timothy 4:6-10 Timothy post

13. I Timothy 4:11-16 Timothy post

14. I Timothy 5:1-2 Other Groups post

15. I Timothy 5:3-8 Widows

16. I Timothy 5:9-16 Widows  post

17. I Timothy 5:17-25 Elders post

18. I Timothy 6:1,2a Masters post

V. Confronting False Teachers

19. I Timothy 6:2b-10 post

20. I Timothy 6:11-16 post

21. I Timothy 6:17-19 post

22. I Timothy 6:20,21 post

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Horror in the Oughts (Top 13)

There was a lot to hate about horror in the first decade of this century: the remakes, the torture porn and senseless gore, the fact that the stories were neither scary nor thought provoking. Ah, but that last point is not entirely true. There were some stories worth hearing and some of those “lesser” efforts were actually an insightful window on the times, and that may be the most disturbing thing of all. Interesting note: what is with all the Spanish filmmakers on this list?

13. “El Espinazo del Diablo” (2001) Guillermo del Torro

Creepy, Spanish, magic realism. It is also the sort of creepy horror that has something to say about horrific things in the real world.

12. “The Others” (2001) Alejandro Amenabar

Another ghost story and it is truly chilling. The exploration of spiritual reality here is flawed, but opens the door to conversations about belief.

11. “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon” (2006) Scott Glosserman

A disturbing, “meta” exploration of the serial killer genre and the fandom surrounding it.

10. “Frailty” (2001) Bill Paxton

This film asks us to question our presuppositions about good and evil.

9. “El Orfanato” (2007) Juan Antonio Bayona

Another classic ghost story that makes the list for its effectiveness in delivering chills.

8. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) Edgar Wright

One of the more savvy commentaries on current culture in film of the past 20 years.

7. “Shadow of the Vampire” (2000) E. Elias Merhige

What if the old 1922 film, “Nosferatu” had used a real vampire? This film explores the art making process and the lengths we are willing to go to to achieve our desires.

6. “The Ring” (2002) Gore Verbinski

Before creating some of the more entertaining films of the past decade, Verbinski started out remaking (and even perhaps improving) one of the more terrifying stories of the past couple.

5. “The Ninth Gate” (2000) Roman Polanski

This is the very definition of “guilty pleasure.” “Chinatown” meets “Rosemary’s Baby.”

4. “Coraline” (2009) Henry Selick

The best children stories are the scary ones. This one manages to chill as well as teach.

3. “The Village” (2004) M. Night Shyamalon

It seems M. Night has really lost his touch, but don’t let anyone tell you that this is evidence of that. This is a great story.

2. “Signs” (2002) M. Night Shyamalon

Another rich story that thrills and forces reflection at the same time. This may be his best.

1. “El Laberinto del Fauno” (2006) Guillermo del Torro

This film has all the ingredients I look for: magic realism, unique visual creativity, kids in peril, ideas about the real world hidden in fantasy, and good vs. evil.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Dark Shadows" (2012)

Generally speaking, an American Soap Opera is an extremely slow paced wallow in human weaknesses. They sound like the epitome of boredom. In the late sixties, Dan Curtis decided to create one that didn’t just delve into extramarital affairs, jealousy and murder. He decided to create a plot involving all of that and the supernatural. In the end it was still a soap, but it offered the promise of potentially interesting things like vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Casino Royale" (2006)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

It may be due to the fact that this film is being seen and reviewed right in the middle of the time when its style is still all the rage, but this is a newer, better, Bond. In the oughts, films like “Batman Begins” and “The Bourne Identity” completely changed the way action films are made. (Unfortunately, “The Bourne Supremacy” did too, but that is a topic for the next Bond film.) The Bond series took that into consideration, along with the fact that their character had pretty much become the punch line of a joke, and started their series over from scratch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1983)

This is certainly a flawed film. Disney apparently butchered the original vision following test audience screenings and some scenes were filmed up to a year later. (As is clearly apparent as the young actors had gone through puberty in that year.) That being said, this film has a high degree of charm, message and effective nostalgia, making it well worth a viewing.

It is one of the best Americana stories of good vs. evil where evil uses desire to trap its victims. It is a study of temptation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

“28 Days Later” (2002) & “28 Weeks Later” (2007)

With all of the genre praise this pair of films have gotten, and a 2 DVD pack for pocket change, I finally checked these out. It is a mistake to call these horror films. The first is more of an intensely depressing drama while the later is a bit of a philosophical action flick. They are horror in the traditional sense of being disturbing and making us reflect on some of our dearly held presuppositions. They aren’t scary, even in the current shocking sense of the word. The highly stylized camera work that Danny Boyle is famous for seems to add a layer of artificiality that allows the viewer a detached, impartial viewing. We don’t care enough about the characters to be really sad about what we are seeing and we can’t make sense enough of what is going on to really be startled.

Monday, October 22, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Die Another Day" (2002)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

“Die Another Day” was the 20th Bond film, released 40 years after the first one. Less of a story in its own right, it is more of an (over) elaborate homage and collection of references to the previous films. It certainly benefits from such an approach. If one were simply to review this film on its own merits it would not come out well. Even so, it is not one of the better efforts. If Bond is all about exotic locations and spectacular stunts, this film is an artificial effort on both accounts. The filming locations are all stand-ins for the places they are supposed to be going (but don’t) and the action set pieces were all very noticeably animated in a computer.

Perhaps this is the best time to look back on the series as a whole, since the following film will effectively begin again.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Don't Go Fighting (Titus 3:9-11)

"But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned." (Titus 3:9-11 ESV)

This is not the first time Paul calls out people for being divisive. The Bible does not really like sectarianism. It is not that you should not believe a certain way or stay true to your convictions; it is just that more often than not you don’t need to fight about it. Do your best to hear from God. Try to follow and obey what you have heard. Be open about how you believe when there is a reason to talk about it. But don’t assume that everything God has instructed you to follow is also His instruction for everyone. Or better still, even if it is, don’t presume that you are His anointed voice to be followed.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Horror in the Nineties (Top 13)

The Eighties may have had more fun with horror, but the Nineties used the genre to say things, even if in an often dour way. Oh, there was silly fun to be had too. This was the decade we got “It” and “Arachnophobia.” But the stand outs this time around mostly stand out due to the ideas they were exploring:

13. “The X Files” (1998) Rob Bowman

One of the best TV series ever tried its luck on the big screen. This film is not really as good as it should be to make this list. (Certainly the second theatrical installment drags this one ever further dawn.) However, the goodwill earned and the ideas explored on the better episodes of the series raise this into my top horror (or at least tension) of the decade.

12. “Candyman” (1992) Bernard Rose

One of the earlier philosophical postmodern horror films. It does its job better than the likes of “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” but not as well as some films from the end of the decade.

11. “Flatliners” (1990) Joel Schumacher

As with all Schumacher, this is almost too stylish to be scary, but the horror here is the best sort: the kind that makes you think about life and what really matters.

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Signs and Wonders"

Tolerance is the one key virtue held up today in our culture. It is the one thing you must be to be considered a good person. Everything from politics to religion is affected by this view. Politicians are not allowed to say anything negative about the opponent’s position. How can they differentiate themselves to voters? Religions are not allowed to say that their view of the truth is the only right one. How can there be any truth if it is not exclusive? In fact there is only one thing in our culture that is open to criticism: intolerance. Intolerance is not tolerated, it is considered evil.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "The World is Not Enough" (1999)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Some rank this as the worst of all the Bonds. That is overkill. For all of its shortcomings, none are much worse than many of the other ridiculous entries in the series save perhaps Denise Richards. And, in comparison to all of the other “stinkers” that are ranked with this one near the bottom of the list, this has got to be the most watchable and fun.

The most interesting thing about this entry is (once again) the cultural attitudes it reflects towards women.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Kiss of the Vampire" (1963)

“Kiss of the Vampire” opens in impressive style. A funeral procession marches through a stark graveyard. The ceremony is interrupted when a foreboding man attacks the coffin with a shovel. The body in the coffin screams and blood begins to flow out copiously. The entire congregation runs away in fear.

Then we get the age-old set up. A honeymooning couple breaks down in the middle of some European backwoods where the villagers are all overcome with grief and fear. There is a castle nearby, occupied by pleasant, sociable and important people. The honeymooners are asked to visit, but during said visit the wife disappears. The husband can convince no one that she ever even existed.

The only man willing to help is the one who attacked the funeral in the opener. His daughter faced much the same fate as the missing wife. She was enticed and led astray by the evil people in the castle. It turns out that they are a cult of vampires.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How About a Spanish, Found Footage, Demonic Virus, Zombie Horror?

Back before the found footage horror phenomenon became the overused cliché that it is, Jaime Balaguero and Paco Plaza created what is perhaps the genre’s best example: [Rec] (2007).

The premise begins simply.

A reporter and a camera man from a documentary style news program are shadowing a fire crew. They hope for some action that will make for good television. In the middle of the night they get their wish. They are called out to assist at a building where an elderly women has either gotten sick or been injured and is trapped in her apartment, but details are unclear. Once there, they are met by the buildings occupants who are all downstairs a little scared by the sound that the woman was making. The police and fire crew break down the door and find her, but they are violently attacked by the woman. When they try to leave for help, they discover that the building is locked down and in quarantine.

Monday, October 15, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Of the three movies Bond appeared in during the Nineties, this one has to be my favorite. It tends to be universally panned by critics and fans, so that makes me question my own judgment. Sure, it is more of a return to the silliness and playfulness of the Moore era, but with a flair that the seventies and eighties couldn’t quite pull off. Brosnan seems more capable swinging from serious action to disarming humor than Moore ever was. Maybe it is the way that the action hero of the past 20 years has used wit as a standard weapon in an earnest way. Back in Moore’s day it felt more like the filmmakers were embarrassed with their action and violence and tried to dismiss the whole thing as silly.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Harsh Hypothetical?

Imagine for a minute that there was an amazing politician. One that in today’s opinion was as great as some of the leaders from history that we have filtered in such a way as to only see the good stuff about them. A modern day Lincoln; a JFK without the extramarital weakness. Now imagine that one day you receive a letter from this person inviting you to be their friend. They want to hang out with you, have access to regular conversations with you. They want you to help them change the world for the better. What would your response be?

Many people, most probably, would doubt the whole thing. Who would believe that someone that important would want anything to do with me? Who would believe anything from a politician anyway? They are probably just looking for votes or contributions. Into the trash with the rest of the junk mail it goes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Horror in the Eighties (Top Ten)

The Eighties were a great decade for horror. Anything resembling torture-porn was either underground or years away. Creativity was high and, even though endless sequels were churned out, new ideas were everywhere. Remakes were seldom seen. Here is one offering at a top ten list for the decade in the genre:

10. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Wes Craven (1984) 

Before the studio turned it into one of the dumbest horror franchises, this property was a highly philosophical, highly creepy, and highly original movie. Maybe even the best of the decade in all three of those categories.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Tucker and Dale vs. Evil" (2010)

It is perhaps unfortunate that such a good example of the way the horror genre can be used to communicate important ideas is also an example of the gorier end of the genre. There are some important messages here about fear of the “other,” discrimination, intolerance and the self-fulfilling nature of prejudice. It is a timely story for the culture of the war on terror, but it is unlikely that the people who most need to understand these ideas will ever see a film like this one. People who hate immigrants and support violence against suspected terrorists as always justified are not generally the type to watch gory horror violence for entertainment, nor should they start.

So, here is this film in a nutshell. A group of privileged, self-absorbed, college kids head out to the woods for a week-end of debauchery—eh, camping. Along the way they encounter some hillbilly types who scare them a bit, but they carry on with their plans. So far, we have a basic horror formula.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Goldeneye" (1995)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Welcome to the nineties. A new decade (Bond’s fourth), a new Bond, and a new world political reality along with the longest wait between films the series had ever or would ever experience all led to huge anticipation for Pierce Brosnan’s first film. Many fans had actually been waiting for his take on the character since the early eighties. The result did not disappoint with a solid screenplay and arguably the best director of the series at the helm.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Cry_Wolf" (2005)

Imagine a story about a bunch of prep-school kids who play a game of deception. They use a real local murder to create an imaginary serial killer and get the whole school to believe their story is real; that they are all in danger. Then imagine that the story appears to be true and someone is hunting them down in the form of the killer they created. Did their story impact reality? Did someone manipulate the group even better than they manipulated the school? When does a story cease to be make-believe?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Tales from the Crypt" (1972)

At 40 years old, “Tales from the Crypt” is still one of the best horror anthologies out there. A collection of five stories assembled around the tour of an historic crypt, done in the classic horror-as-morality-play fashion. As with most anthologies, there is a variety of quality. The first three here are really well done.

Monday, October 8, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "License to Kill" (1989)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Revisiting this film in context and in its rightful place in Bond history, it is not as bad as I remember it being. Sure, it is hard to remember that this is a Bond film at times, especially in the ridiculous opening, but it is also a continuation of the much needed reimagining of the character. The major complaint on that front is that they might have taken things too far.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An Extended Look at "Braveheart" (1995)

(This is a long, far too long for NonModern formats, review I did several years ago. It cam e to mind again as I am attending a screening of the film tomorrow where its Christian themes will be addressed.)

Braveheart tells the story of Scotland’s fight for independence, and a Scottish freedom fighter, William Wallace. Wallace is a historical figure who lived at the end of the thirteenth century, during the reign of Edward I of England. The movie, however, plays fast and loose with the historical facts. This is done in typical Hollywood fashion, in an effort to create plot elements that increase the tension and add to the story.

The movie begins with panoramic vistas of the Scottish countryside and a narration overdub from one of the main characters: Robert the Bruce. He sets the stage by telling the viewers that he is going to relay to them the story of William Wallace. Perhaps in an effort to justify the historical failings of the film, he reminds us that the story up till now has been told by the English, as the victorious parties tell all history. He claims that he will tell what really happened.

In a prologue of sorts, we get a glimpse into Wallace’s childhood. Edward I “Longshanks” of England has betrayed the Scottish nobles who have been suddenly left kingless. He lures them into a truce talk, weaponless, and has them all abruptly hung. When William, his father, and brother discover the betrayal, the two elder Wallaces set out to repay Longshanks with a band of fellow clansmen. They are both killed in the attack. Wallace is adopted by a wise old uncle, and taken away from his homeland to be educated.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"The Cabin in the Woods" (2012)

Often the best works of a genre are the first example that realizes its full potential, and then the satire that exposes its problems. In between there is usually a descending scale of quality, imagination and commentary or truth. In some cases both examples are to be found in a single entry, as “Don Quixote” did for the pulpy genre of chivalric fiction. For a certain brand of Horror—the one where a bunch of rebellious, hedonistic teens go out into the woods for a weekend of debauchery and meet an unfortunate death—there have been a couple of good examples lately.

The latest of these is “The Cabin in the Woods,” a high concept, philosophical take on the subject. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard conceived it as fans of the genre that hate the direction it has taken lately. It is, in part, their critique of “torture-porn.” But it also serves as an examination of the whole genre, its purpose, its popularity, and what all of that says about our culture.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "The Living Daylights" (1987)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

This was the second Bond film that I had to watch rather than REwatch this time around. I had caught the other Dalton entry on television years ago, and, though that review will come next week, I was not in a hurry to see more of Dalton’s Bond. However, I was pleasantly surprised!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Killer Klowns from Outer Space" (1988)

Some movies are bad, but there are lots of sorts of bad. There’s incompetent bad, incomprehensible bad, disturbing bad… but then there is the rare gem of bad: so-stupid-its-entertaining bad. “Killer Klowns” is one of the later, not poorly made or incompetent, just stupid.

The story is as follows: aliens from outer space arrive in a small college town to harvest humans for food. They fly a ship that resembles a big top tent, they bundle people up in something resembling cotton candy, and—they look like clowns.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The One Where Doctor Who Nearly Makes Me Cry...

Steven Moffat’s “Blink” might go down in TV history as the most imaginative and creepy short form fiction ever made. It certainly introduced some of the scariest creatures to science fiction. While the Weeping Angels have appeared again since then, it was not until “The Angels Take Manhattan” that they appeared in a story that came close to matching the creative storytelling device of their first appearance. There we experienced a video interview across decades of time, here it was characters read about the story they are actually living. Very trippy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "A View to a Kill" (1985)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

As the last Moore Bond, filmed a couple installments after he was reported to have (and probably should have) retired from the role, this should be the worst of the lot. Moore is noticeably absent a lot of the time that his character is onscreen, and this may be the most annoying Bond Girl we have encountered so far. The Henchman this time around is memorable, but in a disturbing sort of way. And yet, in spite of it all, this has always been one of the more watchable of Moore’s films for me.
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