Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

My wife and I went to our local art house theater today and watched the Mr. Rodgers documentary. It was brilliantly slow and exactly what someone would want in a Mr. Rodgers documentary. Really in our crazy messed up time where everyone seems to be trying to out yell everyone else it is just refreshing to watch a life lived deciding to be quite, a life dedicated to listening to others and to proclaim a message of love.

I think for me the biggest takeaway as someone who works with students and children is to remember to listen to them. To remember that their feelings are valid and important, which of course I knew, but sometimes when you look at things through adult eyes you forget about things from a kid’s perspective.

Anyway, it was a soft, beautiful movie and was something that I felt like I needed in the middle of this crazy summer.

Beastmaster is on Amazon Prime

Beastmaster is on Amazon Prime

So I am watching this movie again and I have a few thoughts:

  1. I watched this a whole bunch as a child. It must have been on HBO or something, but I know I watched it quite a few times
  2. Watching it again I can’t believe I am not warped even more than I am from watching this thing. It is pretty dark.
  3. In the first 3 minutes a witch like sucks the baby out of a woman by magic and makes it go into the belly of a cow, and people keep watching this movie.
  4. How cool would it be to have the little ferret people as friends!
  5. I have to admit I probably cried the first time I saw one of them die (come to think of it, I don’t remember half of the really weird stuff in this movie, but I do remember that the little ferret dying made an impression on me.)
  6. People living in a post Lord of the Rings movie trilogy world don’t understand what it was like for fantasy fans back in the day. Fantasy movies were dark, cheap, and weird.
  7. There are weird bat people in this movie who clean people of everything but their bones in this thing!

I guess that is all of my thoughts for now. If you haven’t seen Beastmaster it is probably best that you avoid it, but if you have seen it take the time to check it out again. You will enjoy remembering how delightfully terrible it really is.

The Song Movie Review

The Song Movie Review

As a pastor from time to time I get emails inviting me to some new faith based (or faith near or want a church audience based) movie preview event. Most of the time they are in other cities, but The Song was playing in my town and it was free movie that I could take my wife to see so I jumped at the chance.

Overview

The best way to explain the movie would be that it is a cross between Walk the Line (the movie about Johnny Cash) and the Biblical story of Solomon. Yeah, I know, but that is really what it is. The idea is that Song of Solomon is this amazing passionate poem that shows some real feeling and yet the same guy wrote “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless” and had hundreds of wives. All of that sort of wrapped up into a modern movie.

What I Thought

The movie really fits with the tone of the trailer (which isn’t always true) so you can get an idea of how the movie feels if you understand. There is some really great music in the movie and some just OK songs too. That was probably my biggest negative about the movie. Sometimes the performance songs are just a little too long causing the movie to seem to drag in the middle. I know that is the formula for these biopic type movies, but when you don’t already know the songs it gets easy to let your mind wander.

But that was really my only negative. The movie was really good, not Christian movie good, but really good. The voice over taken from the writings of Solomon is perfect and fits the mood of the movie well. Ali Faulkner who plays Rose Jordan does a great job (especially later in the film when she gets more to work with) and the chemistry between her at Alan Powell, who plays Solomon (or Jedidiah as his name was pronounced by Nathan the prophet), works very well. The other woman is “Shelby Bale” (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas) does a good job with her role, but in many ways she is just moving the story forward. Her motivations are explained towards the end of the film, but ultimately she is simply the siren luring Jed away.

All in all the acting was solid, the music was fun and moving, and the story was a little on the nose, but still very worth watching.

Spiritual Stuff

The movie points people to God, but doesn’t actually lay out the plan of salvation. I wouldn’t say that is a negative, just pointing it out. I’m also pretty sure they never go to church (I could be wrong about that) but people to talk as if God is a part of their lives, and of course all of the text of the voice-over is scripture, not to mention the story taken from the life of Solomon.

It is the sort of movie I would want to take non-church people to see, not because it would lay out the whole story of Christianity, but because it should open up some doors for conversation. Not only that, this movie isn’t cheesy. This isn’t a Hallmark movie. It is a moving story about one man’s search for meaning wrapped up in a love story and covered in a folksy soundtrack that is somehow both haunting and uplifting.

Easter Eggs for Bible Nerds

One of the things I love about superhero movies is when they put little things in that only the people who are familiar with the comic would understand. They aren’t important to the plot, they are just a little nod to the dedicated reader. (The same thing was in Fellowship of the Rings when they would from time to time say lines that were chapter titles in the book like A shortcut to mushrooms). The Song adds lots of these touches like the very name of the other woman being Bale which is an allusion to the god Baal that you find in the Old Testament. I don’t want to list all of the ones I found (and the ones I missed that the producer pointed out) because finding them as you watch is half the fun.

Conclusion

I am not a big fan of faith based films used as outreach. I think they are great for church folks, but normally they are either too cheesy or too preachy for me to recommend dragging your “I don’t want to go to church with you” friend to see because in the end they feel sort of tricked into getting preached at.

This movie is nothing like that. It is a solid movie on its own merit even if you didn’t know that it was based on the Bible. It is the perfect movie to use to talk about commitment, love, and most especially finding meaning in life.

So make sure that you go see this movie when it is released, take that couple from work that you have been meaning to ask about spiritual stuff and see what sorts of doors this will open for conversation. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

“Easy A” and the failure of evangelism

“Easy A” and the failure of evangelism

Just finished watching “Easy A.” If you haven’t seen it, let me just say that it is a pretty good flick, a throwback to the 80s teenage movies of my youth (and even references them in a fairly witty way). It is worth watching, even though it is somewhat suggestive at time and it earns its PG-13 rating on language alone.

But the witty dialog and absolutely charming lead actress are not why you should see this movie. You should see it for the portrayal of Christians. Most movies portray Christians as either dim witted or hate filled and judgmental. This movie manages to do both. The blatant stereotyping of the Christian characters in this movie would be reasons for boycotts if they were so obvious about any other group in America these days. But you don’t need to see this movie so that you can be indignant about how they portray Christians. You need to see this movie so that your eyes can be opened to how our message is being received.

Evangelism in this country is failing. Movies with Christians that are so blatantly different from the average Christian on the street can only work if no one actually knows an average Christian. It is easy to talk about how Hollywood is attacking Christian values, but that is putting the blame on a bunch of people who don’t know better. As Christians we should know better. We should know the joy and the power that comes from following God and as such we should be telling everyone we meet about it.

But apparently we aren’t. Apparently we are missing the mark when it comes to actually reaching out with the love of Christ.

What breaks my heart about a movie like “Easy A” is that no one who wrote the movie, no one who worked on the movie, no one who screened the movie ever brought up the need to have at least some positive Christian influence in the film. No one assumed that such a thing was even possible. When the lead character goes looking for religion (and someone to explain the Bible to her) she finds a priest who isn’t in his confessional booth and the father of her Christian tormentor (who was also wearing a collar; I honestly would like the stereotype of all ministers wear collars to go away too, but that is down on the list below all Christians are judgmental and close-minded).

Why couldn’t she have found someone who at least wasn’t a total jerk? It could be because the makers of the movie have an ax to grind against Christians. It could also be that they have had very little positive experience with Christians. That is a failure of evangelism, not of the filmmaker.

I honestly don’t have a good answer on how to fix this. Maybe some of us who live in the Bible belt need to get up and move to places where there aren’t Churches on every corner and actually start loving people the way that Jesus did. Maybe if people saw more Christians without picket signs actually treating them like the creation of God that they are then things would be different.

Maybe.

The Last Airbender

You would think that 12 teenage guys who grew up watching the show would be the target audience for this movie. We had a blend of hardcore, seen every episode, fans and people like me who had watched the little arrow head dude fly around on his “luck dragon” and liked it well enough to check out the movie, but The Last Airbender was so bad that by the end the theater was laughing incredulously at the attempts at drama.

After church last night I thought it would be fun to grab some youth and go watch a midnight show. Airbender seemed perfect. It looked like a fun summer movie with visual effects and nothing I would be embarrassed to see with guys from my church. I have to say that as a youth event it was a roaring success. I have never seen a group of students come together in the way they did over the horribleness of this movie. Since we were all in different cars we stood outside in the parking lot reliving some of the worst scenes for nearly 30 minutes.

So what is bad about this movie? Unless you go it is hard to explain. I can’t decide if the acting is weak or if the script is so weak that then can’t do anything with it. I never thought that “I have the high ground” would sound like good writing, but compared to this movie it does. After the first 10 minutes I turn to the guy beside me and ask if I was missing something because the movie just seemed to be wrong somehow, but I am rambling now so here are some bullet points.

  • There is a very pointless voice over narration that tells you things that you are seeing on the screen
  • The dialog sounds like it came from an 80s comic book with characters telling what they are going to do and why multiple times before they do it, even though we understand why you are going to hit that fire guy with water.
  • Then there are places where people just do things for no reason and we get no explanation. (Anyone who has seen the movie have any idea why chick hits the big ice ball in the opening)
  • The acting is rough to say the least
  • The dialog is even worse. There were multiple times when it felt like someone was asking a rhetorical question only to have another person give a detailed answer.
  • It tries to cover too much time and too many different stories. You just can’t get into the emotional story of 7 different character in a two hour movie. Just pick one and go with it.
  • Speaking of that, it doesn’t even end. This is just “book one” so it stops rather abruptly much like the second Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Let’s not even begin to talk about the ethnicity of the characters. The “Southern Water Kingdom” is filled with people who look like Inuits, but everyone who has a line is very white, just like all of the good guys. Of course the bad guys are of Indian or Middle Eastern decent so the racism just keeps on giving.

I could continue, but most of the rest wouldn’t make sense unless you watched the movie. At about the hour mark the theater I was in just gave up and started laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

I am trying to decide what to tell you about this movie. I almost suggest that you go just because of the experience of such a big budget flop. But if you do take a group of people with you and maybe a notebook to keep track of the great lines you will want to quote later.