Posted 1/19/15 at 2:08 PM | Thomas Reed
“Blackhat” (2015) stars Chris Hemsworth as an uber tough, uber genius (uber handsome) computer hacker freed from prison to help a Chinese Army-FBI joint task force track down a “blackhat” bad-guy hacker. Directed by Michael Mann, justly famous for “Miami Vice” (TV and movie), “Manhunter,” “Heat,” and “Collateral,” among others, it possesses all the visual lushness and style for which he is known and none of the narrative power of those named above. It is a nicely diverting couple of hours at best. It supposes to be topical but offers no real characterization or answers for all its topicality. It supposes to be sophisticatedly cynical but this is window dressing for its Hollywood clotheshorses and their sock-puppet emotions. It has some nice moments, which the requisite rushed Hollywood romance of superlatively beautiful people and the globe-trotting plot points overwhelm. Not to say I’m against a comforting romance between movie stars. The movie’s time line encompasses 3-4 days (at most). Within this time our lovers (1) meet for the first time, (2) have sex, (3) decide to go on the lam together. This only works if the plot tension is sufficient to divert attention from the timeline ... it ain’t. Close, but no cigars. It’s as good as the worst of “Miami Vice” (TV) and a bit better than “Miami Vice” (the movie; which, as a fan of the TV show, I roundly despised) but ... save your money. There’s nothing here compelling enough to justify $10 – wait for it on Redbox and take it home for a buck-and-a-quarter, assuming a more substantial movie isn’t available.
Posted 1/14/15 at 4:58 PM | Christian Post
Film festivals with dates to be announced: FULL POST
Posted 1/14/15 at 1:25 PM | Phil Cooke
I’m taking a risk here, since I received so much criticism for recommending Christians see the movie Noah. But as Hollywood attempts more movies based on the Bible, we need to do more than just complain when they miss the mark Biblically. The truth is, some of these movies will be hit and others miss. Hollywood isn’t a Christian institution so for us to expect Biblical fidelity in all their movies is simply not realistic. Just to complain about it doesn’t help change the situation. Instead, here’s what I’d recommend:
1. Absolutely let’s preview films and tell Christians (especially families with kids) what’s in these movies. I’m all for reviews and recommendations that let people know what’s there so they can decide for themselves whether to see it or not.
2. We need to actually see the movie before we criticize. I’m a firm believer that to criticize a movie, book, TV program or other endeavor without actually seeing it is intellectually dishonest. Christian leaders do it all the time and I believe it really hurts our credibility outside the Christian bubble. If those leaders were honest, they’d admit they’re mostly doing it to stir up the faithful to help fundraising, but when it comes to making an impact in the culture, it’s not helping. If you hear negative things about a movie or TV program and want to avoid it personally, that’s fine. But before you mount a public petition drive, boycott, or campaign against it, you need to know what you’re talking about. FULL POST
Posted 1/14/15 at 5:19 AM | Prince Chakanyuka
Zimbabwe's top gospel musician Tatenda Mahachi’s has completed a collaboration with an award winning South African Gospel Artist Sifiso
Tatenda who was in South Africa recently recorded the song which promises to be a favorite hit amongst the gospel lovers in Zimbabwe.
Sifiso made history in his home country South Africa by winning the prestigious Record Of the Year Award at the 19th MTN South African Music Awards . Kulungile Baba, by Sifiso Ncwane, scooped the prestigious Record of the Year award.And for Tatenda to partner with an artist like Sifiso means Zimbabwabwean music has gone international now.
The album will be launched at a local Venue in Harare,Zimbabwe on the 27th march 2015.>
Posted 1/12/15 at 8:32 AM | Karen Kramer
Parents expecting after-school programming on Discovery Channel to be educational and enlightening should be advised that Naked And Afraid has been moved to a 4:00 PM timeslot. A naked couple can now entertain students after school before their parents get home from work.
The premise for Naked And Afraid is that one male and one female—who don’t know each other, are left in the jungle without food, shelter—or clothes. Frontal nudity is blurred out, but total backsides are exposed throughout the show. Cold temperatures at night require them to survive by using body heat. Viewers observe the couple pressed next to one another to keep warm.
Depicting bare backsides qualifies as soft porn and having this show air in the afternoon will attract young viewers. To make matters worse, on Wednesday January 14, Discovery Channel is featuring a Naked And Afraid five-hour marathon. That’s a lot of nudity. One Million Moms has an action plan. Click here to send an email directly to the show’s sponsors. FULL POST
Posted 1/9/15 at 2:15 PM | Audra Jennings
Fans of Adventures in Odyssey are wishing the Odyssey Adventure Club a happy birthday as the team commemorates their first year delivering this beloved radio drama digitally to subscribers. Offering 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey episodes, the club is a safe, fun environment where children can explore, create and imagine, all while developing their faith and learning biblical truth.
“For more than 25 years, Adventures in Odyssey has been fostering spiritual and character growth in listeners. Many parents have come to trust us for solid lessons brought to life by fun characters,” says Focus on the Family Resource Marketing Director Christi Lynn. FOTF regularly receives stories of families impacted by the Club: FULL POST
Posted 1/9/15 at 11:43 AM | Barry Bowen
Last year a Nielsen TV ratings report revealed that the average TV household in America watches 141 hours of TV each month.
Daily TV viewing is a habit for millions of Christians. TV could become a platform for discipleship and missions if more Christians intentionally viewed Christ-honoring movies, documentaries and TV shows — and shared them with their friends.
Recently I started a new project: the 2015 Christian Entertainment Challenge. The objective is to challenge Christians to watch at least one Christian movie, or spiritually challenging documentary or TV show each month.
Throughout the year I will be posting reviews of Christian movies as well as TV shows and documentaries that will help Christians to grow in our faith and equip us for ministry. The reviews will be available here at the Christian Post and at Storyflix.
Posted 1/5/15 at 2:51 PM | Mark Ellis
By Mark Ellis
Donna Douglas, the curly blonde bumpkin actress who played Elly May Clampett with infectious Southern charm on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” has passed to her reward. She was 81.
She graduated to heaven surrounded by friends and family following a battle with pancreatic cancer, according to news sources.
“The Beverly Hillbillies,” a comedy about a backwoods family who moved to Beverly Hills after striking it rich from their Ozarks oil well became an immediate hit when it first aired on CBS in 1962.
The series starred Buddy Ebsen as patriarch Jed, Irene Ryan as Granny, Max Baer Jr. as Jethro and Douglas as Elly May, a backwoods bombshell with pigtails, and tight jeans usually cinched with a rope belt.
“She had a heart for the Lord,” says Sandy Barnett, who heard her speak and share her Christian testimony a few months ago at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Henderson, Kentucky. “She is walking through those pearly gates right now.”
Prior to the show’s start in the early ‘60s, Douglas had very little acting experience and had never traveled very far from her home, which was outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana. FULL POST
Posted 12/28/14 at 1:00 AM | Thomas Reed
SPOILER!! He is abused. He doesn’t break. He doesn’t die (until this year at 97). “Unbroken” (2014), directed by Angelina Jolie, tells the very remarkable and very true story of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was well on his way to becoming a pre-teen professional hooligan when his brother got him into running. Within a few short years, he was the fastest high school runner in the country and on his way to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. This was supposed to be a warm-up for the next Olympics in Japan but instead, he became a bombardier in the Pacific theater of WW2. This is where the movie picks up the story. In fact, the movie covers only his war years. It gives a few key childhood incidents and one Olympic moment in flashback. The rest is flying, crashing, surviving on the ocean (47 days) and c. 2 years in the sort of captivity that we now have laws against. It is a “true-hero” genre movie. “Unbroken” is not a great movie. It is an adequate or even good movie—of a GREAT story. This is the second real-life-hero story Jolie has done (after “A Mighty Heart”), and the first she’s directed. It is a remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable freshman effort from someone showing real talent (in spite of Sony Corp snark). “Enjoyable” here, I hasten to add, has nothing to do with “pleasant,” even though Jolie has not attempted the heights of verisimilitude in Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ. It’s hard to know if she intended to contrast the almost magical beauty of the different natural backgrounds with the surely demonic evil of the human foregrounds. She makes nothing of it, so it might just be novice naivete. Thankfully, the suffering and abuse receives a similar sort of Cover Girl make-over as the ocean and jungles, as if it’s all been photo-shopped just a bit. Jolie, like Drew Barrymore, has survived her wicked-wild-child years to become a stable, capable, woman, able to give her considerable talent greater and greater rein to flow. Also like Barrymore, she’s choosing projects that reflect her sense of redemption. This is not just true of the hero-story, “Unbroken,” but the genuinely inspiring redemption story, “Maleficent.” I confess, I wanted to see this movie but it was not my first choice. However, I’m very glad I did. My real interest in it was to see if Zamperini’s quite outspoken faith found any foothold there. I was not disappointed. Zamperini was a self-made man curious about the Catholic devotion of his pilot and best buddy (Domnhall Gleeson’s “Phil” Philips) and not shy about bargaining with God while lost at sea. The movie ends with him kissing the tarmac at the Long Island Municipal Airport and looking up to see his family in the crowd. It’s a clichéd moment, as the whole movie is a cliché. But this entirely true story is why we have such clichés and why they are effective. If you don’t tear up over this, you may need to check yourself into managed care (and keep taking those happy pills!). If the movie had ended there, as it easily could have done; then Jolie would have perpetrated as great a fraud on Zamperini as was done to C. S. Lewis by the makers of “Shadowlands.” Jolie, whether from regard for the man, whom she took as a father-figure, or some other sense of integrity, again does not disappoint. She refers to the main events of his long life afterwards with real photos of the people. He married, stayed friends with Philips and ran in the Olympics in Japan ... at 80 years of age as a torch-bearer. Best of all, Jolie informs us he fulfilled his ocean-voyage bargain to devote his life to God, which he said “saved his life.” He returned to Japan to meet with and forgive many of his former captors. She also tells us about The Bird, the chief sadistic guard, who refused to meet with Zamperini. Louie lived his message that forgiveness is better than revenge. Though bland and the tiniest bit preachy, it’s pretty, stinkin’, dog-gone good for Jolie and precisely the meaning Zamperini gives to his own life. This is not a movie to see more than once. It is, however, worth seeing and talking about at length. It purports to illustrate “the triumph of the human spirit” in our central heroic figure. It does so, however, not merely in contrast to nature but in contrast to anti-immigrant prejudice in the US and to sadistic hatred from an enemy in Japan. Ain’t no one here but us humans, and we all have the potential for the one as well as the other. Whether Jolie intended it or not, she has raised a mirror to us all and asked us to go beyond, “who’s the fairest of us all?” The answer is obvious, and somewhat tedious, if that’s all there is. The story she’s told is, instead, a prelude to the much more important question, “how do I become so fair?” Here is where Zamperini tells a much better story than Jolie, because she points at him, and he points at Jesus.
Posted 12/20/14 at 12:09 AM | Thomas Reed
“The Giver” (2014) stars Jeff Bridges in the title role (in fact, he was one of the main movers behind the film for some years) and Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder. Of course, in young adult lit, as in the movies made from them, adult roles rarely take center stage but function as either momentary mentors or antagonists. That is less true here, and is one of this movie’s many strengths. The story belongs to the three “friends forever,” the hero, Jonas (Brendan Thwaite), the love interest, Fiona (Odeya Rush), and Asher (Cameron Monaghan), of whom we see little. He was clearly significant to the characters, if only appearing at certain critical plot junctures. In the economy of cast-lists, it sucks to be the third-wheel.
Like so many YA stories, a teenager discovers he/she is a “chosen one” critical to the future of a dystopic society. There, logical order (standing in for Enlightenment rationality, if not Christian conservativism) suppresses passionate disorder (standing in for Hollywood’s favorite artistic political expression, the Romanticist critique), and “freedom” is the answer. In the ritual of adulthood at 18, Jonas is revealed to be the next “receiver of memories,” also indicated by a mark on his wrist. He reports for training to Jeff Bridges, the previous “receiver” who is now the “giver.” As in a few others, e.g., Pleasantville, black-and-white visuals indicate the typical, anesthisized, non-emotional world view. The shift to color indicates Jonas’ growth in training, as well as his increasing refusal to take his daily “dose” of govt approved, emotion-control medication. Receivers have the ability to share memories. Jonas is so shaken by these, first the lushly glowing, wonderful ones of love and family and celebration, then even more by those of cruelty and war, that he reaches out for support from his childhood friends ... well, OK, Fiona (naturally, she’s a hot chick and he’s off his meds ...). At the same time, his father, a “nurturer” as the nursery brings home an underweight child, also a “receiver.” The “unit” (not a “family”) names the child Gabriel and Jonas forms a close bond with him.
The more memories Jonas receives, the more he realizes his entire society is built on carefully constructed lies. Denial and suppression of emotions and the careful control of thought through “language precision” remove any reason for anyone ever to disagree about anything (because, that’s what leads to war ...). One of those lies is “being released to elsewhere,” a ritual for infants who don’t meet the standards and adults too old to work. He realizes “release” means euthanasia and that he loves Gabriel. The Giver, whom it turns out has had this intention since the release of his previous failed student (Rosemary, played by Taylor Swift ... yes, that Taylor Swift), tells Jonas what he must do to restore all memories to the entire community. Fiona is caught helping Jonas escape and she joins the Giver in prison to await “release.” Asher also helps but is not caught, though he will be eventually. Jonas must cross a certain line in the wilderness to set off the reaction that will restore their memories. Jonas makes the journey, on foot, across multiple ecologies of South Africa (mountains, snow, desert, forests, etc) in the day or so needed to decide Fiona’s ‘release’. Yeah, that’s miraculous, but the timing is perfect: he crosses the magic threshold just as the needle approaches Fiona’s arm. The faces begin streaming tears. We see the memories come flooding in. We see the memories themselves and they are winsome, warm and full of life. Color returns to their faces and to everything else.
Here, the critics are right. Wikipedia reports from Rotten Tomatoes, "Phillip Noyce directs The Giver with visual grace, but the movie doesn't dig deep enough into the classic source material's thought-provoking ideas." This is entirely true. The debate between fear and love, between the Chief Elder and the Giver, as the needle descends could’ve been a little more substantive (though not passionate ...). This is, however, an action adventure with a time-limit not a university round-table discussion of these very critical ideas.
Now comes the most interesting tidbit, which received the least cinematic attention. When Jonas gets to the end of his journey with baby Gabriel, he discovers his very first vision was, in fact, a reality. This was not the first miracle he experienced on his journey. He follows this vision to the house to find it is Christmas and the house is filled with families singing “Silent Night.” The young man who sacrificed all to save a child, and his entire world, approaches a community celebrating the birth of the young man who would sacrifice himself to save the entire world.
Now we reconsider the story. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus just as The Giver did for Jonas. Jesus’ struggle with the Pharisees compares to Jonas and the elder’s rules (none of which were bad in themselves). Both societies suffered the effects of false-saviors and the struggle over the claims of a new Way. Jesus offers redemption unto new life under a new Lord and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jonas forced “new life” on his community; one filled with passions named love, joy, peace, etc, but with all the evils and goods of unbounded moral choice. The elders may see Jonas as the serpent in their Garden but he offers them a true Garden where they may choose something better than what they have. The parallels are strong but the gospel goes so much further. Jesus offers new and eternal resurrection life, in which it is possible to choose good rather than evil, to have responsibility and to use it responsibly. The Giver planned to stay behind to help people with their newly colorful world, while Jonas had to leave to make it happen (shades of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, and second coming?). Where The Giver would very likely not put the community back under his or any other “law,” this seems to be the norm for Christians. The re-Pharisization of the church is a sad and satanic reality, but not an excuse for a sequel. The first story, ending with the Holy Spirit, is truth enough, when taken seriously.
“The Giver,” though an entirely secular view, apparently even in its source book, offers a surprisingly neutral, classic liberal vision. George Orwell would’ve recognized it immediately. There was no freedom in the passionless, black-and-white existence. It was secular but not specifically right or left. Religion especially was deemed dangerous, much less any other kind of love. But the first free community Jonas finds is celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Savior.
The final voice-over continues from the beginning. The story ends well enough but I would loved to have seen his return to his now colorful community, to his family and to Fiona. Well, OK, I’m a romantic. But even more, I would loved to have seen him take the story of the “holy infant” back to them as well.
“The Giver, though mild and a bit shallow, is worth some time and reflection. It offers a variety of avenues into thoughtful and spiritual conversations that can go much deeper than it did. While it may not be truly red-meat for adults, it’s offers useful moral grist for its intended YA audience.