Where the Wild Things Are

Last night Carolyn and I watched Where the Wild Things Are, a movie based on the popular children’s book.

I enjoyed watching it, but only after it was over did I realize how much I like it.  The kid who plays Max, the main character, did an incredible job.  Much of his acting is done without dialogue, using mostly facial expressions.  This is especially well done at the end of the movie.

Whereas most movies go for the happily-ever-after ending, this one goes more for a reality-ever-after ending, which made me appreciate it that much more.  One of the “wild things” in the movie says something like, “Being in a family is hard.”  That seems to be the main theme–something that is barely hinted at it in the book, but is richly explored in the movie.  The film never gives the impression that being part of a family ever gets easier, only that it’s worth it to stick together no matter what, hard as it may be.

The ending is one of my favorite parts.  After having a huge blowout with his mother and then going on a crazy adventure, Max is reunited with his mom.  No words are spoken.  They look at each other, share in a meaningful silence, and simply continue being a family.

While the characters, costumes, and general story line come straight from the book, a good portion of the movie seems to take place between a couple pages in the book.  It’s almost like commentary to help us understand the book.  The land that Max goes to operates on the level of a kid’s thinking.  Since it’s easy for me to instantly transport myself back to the way I thought when I was eight (as I think most men probably can!), I really found myself relating to the society of the wild things.

The more I think about it, the more I like this movie.  The subtlety is one of its greatest strengths.  Definitely worth a second viewing.

After watching the movie, Carolyn and I read the book.  It was then that I was really struck by how accurate the costumes (and CGI/animatronics) in the film are.

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Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm  Comments (2)  

A Christmas Carol Bi-Annual Date

Carolyn and I had our first date in six months yesterday.  The last time we went out was the night before Laura Marie was born.  We saw Night at the Museum 2, then went to dinner at Zia’s.

Yesterday afternoon our good friends Josh and Christi, along with their boys, watched the baby while we went to see A Christmas Carol.  Man, it was good!  Nearly every year we read or watch A Christmas Carol.  It’s one of our Christmas traditions.  So it was really cool to have a new version of it come out.  Not only was it a new version, but it was 3-D in the theater–it was so cool!

We’d never seen a 3-D movie before.  Now I’m hooked on it.  We saw previews for some upcoming 3-D movies.  I want to see them all!  Even without the 3-D, it was a great version of the classic story.  For the most part they stuck very closely to the book.  One of the best parts was their depiction of Victorian London in a snowy December.  I loved it.  They also made the most of the 3-D effects.  Now that I think about it, I’d like to see it again before it leaves theaters!

I figure having one date twice a year is probably a good place to start.

(By the way, if y’all see this, a big THANKS to the Engles for taking care of our baby!!!)

Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Ben Stein’s “Expelled”

Yesterday I watched Ben Stein’s Expelled.  It was pretty interesting, although I have to admit it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped and expected.

There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about the debate between subscribers to Intelligent Design and believers in evolution.  Instead, it was a discussion about the discussion about the debate between subscribers to Intelligent Design and believers in evolution.

Not to knock the film, but the camera work drove me crazy.  It seems like one of the trendy things in cinema these days is to intentionally have shoddy camera work.  I understand that YouTube is in and reality TV is all the rage, but Hollywood, please take note: When we watch a movie, we don’t want to get motion sick.  We expect homemade quality from YouTube.  We expect professional quality when we go to a movie theater.  I think I missed about 15 minutes of Expelled from having to look away from the screen so I wouldn’t puke.

Some of the old movie clips that were spliced in were really well done.  Honestly, though, I think they were thrown in there as much to keep the film from being too boring as much as to create an effect.

The best part of the work, in my opinion, is the part where devout atheist Richard Dawkins suggests that life on earth originated from seeds left here by aliens from outer space.  That was the most entertaining moment.  (At least he doesn’t believe in anything weird, like, for example, God.)  I only wish Stein had asked Dawkins where those aliens came from.  But maybe he’s saving that for the sequel.

Expelled is worth watching, but you’d be just as well off waiting for it to come out on DVD.  It’s different, amusing, and even informative; however, be aware that it’s not about the discussion between proponents of ID and evolution–it’s about the politics of that discussion.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Enchanted

Yesterday Carolyn and I took Pastor Daryl’s daughters (ages 8 and 5) to see the new movie Enchanted.  It was very clever and creative!  It was princessy enough for the girls, but also had enough dialog and subplots geared toward adults to keep me entertained.  Carolyn is already looking forward to it coming out on DVD!  It’ll never make my list of favorite movies, but it’s definitely a good movie worth watching.  (And I’m pretty sure it’s made Carolyn’s list!)

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Facing the Giants”

On Saturday, Carolyn and I watched Facing the Giants.  Yeah, I know–what kind of Christian waits so long to see this movie? Oh well.  If it makes you feel better, I did see part of it back in February.

The movie has a really good storyline and some good dialogue.  Unfortunately, much of the acting wasn’t that great.  But if you approach it with the awareness that the movie was made by a church and not by a Hollywood studio, it’s forgivable–it has enough redeeming qualities to make up for it.

There were five aspects of the movie that really made it worth watching, and even re-watching:

(1) It’s a real Christian movie.  Too often, Christians are guilty of getting all hyper about a movie that’s merely acceptable.   We use words like “wholesome” or “family friendly.”  But that’s like getting excited because the new puppy you got for your kids doesn’t bite their heads off–nevermind that it doesn’t actually play with them.  This film, however, is a legitimate Christian movie.  It doesn’t have a “positive” message–it has a Christian message.  And I love that.  The characters pray, read their Bibles, and actually use Jesus’ name–respectfully.

(2) Some unexpected twists in the plot keep the viewer engaged.  There are at least a couple times when I found myself thinking, “Aw man, I thought it was gonna work out!  I guess they’re just trying to keep it ‘realistic.'”  And then a new twist would come, and it would work out after all.  The ending is somewhat predictable, but how the characters get there is not predictable.

(3) The main character actually grows and changes through the film.  This isn’t a Cinderella story.  It’s not bad-stuff-happens-to-good-guy-but-then-good-stuff-happens-instead.  The guy’s not even likable at the beginning of the movie.  Sure, lots of stuff is going wrong.  But stop being so whiny and grumpy!  As God works on the circumstances, however, He also works on the guy’s character.  By the end of the movie, he’s a real hero you find yourself pulling for.

(4) Inspirational moments.  This is one of the movie’s greatest strengths.  Some films just kind of move along and everything works out at the end, but they never really grab you, never really inspire you to anything.  But Facing the Giants has more than its share of inspirational moments; not just “feel good moments,” but scenes that are actually inspiring.  Watch the scene where Brock drags a kid down the football field and you’ll see what I mean.

(5) The Bible turns out to actually hold the missing key.  So often we mistakenly assume that the Bible has answers for spiritual issues, but for “real life,” we need to look elsewhere.  This movie is about football–what in the world could the Bible possibly have to say about that?  Everything, we find out.  I love the way this movie shows that Scripture really is the key to a fulfilling, God-filled life.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, I’d definitely recommend this film in spite of some less-than-stellar acting.  Not all of the acting is bad, by the way.  And its redeeming elements more than make up for what’s lacking.

Published in: on September 17, 2007 at 1:00 pm  Comments (3)  

Amazing Grace, Amazing Movie

Just got back from watching the new movie Amazing Grace. There are a lot of decent movies out there; there are less that are really good; and there only a few that are powerful. Amazing Grace is a truly powerful movie.

The film tells the story of William Wilberforce, the parliament guy who drove the movement to abolish the slave trade in England a couple centuries ago. The script and the acting were good, but the scenery was even better. It made me feel like I was in late-18th-century England. One of the best things about the movie was that it really gives you a feeling for what life was like in that turmoil-ridden period in world history–there are multiple allusions to the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the mental decline of King George III, and the changing face of the globe. That’s the context of the events in the film. The movie really gives a vivid glimpse into this period that marked the birth of the modern age.

The movie also portrays some of the shocking horrors of slavery. Without relying on gory torture scenes or anything like that, the barbarian cruelty of slavery is well depicted.

One problem I had with the film was that it skips around in time quite a bit, which can be pretty confusing. I couldn’t always tell whether we were looking at the present moment, the past, the future, or what. Next time I see it–and there will definitely be a next time–hopefully I’ll be able to follow it better.

For me the highlight of the movie comes during a conversation between Wilberforce and John Newton, the former slave trader who became a Christian and wrote the classic song “Amazing Grace.” The elderly and blind Newton says to Wilberforce something like, “I know just two things: I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.” Chill bump moment.

Two other chill bump moments came toward the end of the movie. One is when Wilberforce’s bill to abolish the slave trade is passed, and everyone jumps to their feet and cheers while he sits there exhausted, stunned, teary-eyed, and overwhelmed with gratitude. The other one is at the very end when a military marching band (or whatever it’s called) plays “Amazing Grace” (with the bagpipes at the forefront) at Wilberforce’s funeral.

By the way, Wilberforce was buried in Westminster Abbey, an amazing place that Carolyn and I had the privilege of visiting last summer. I’ll write more about that and post some pictures another time.

Two more things about the movie that are among the reasons I highly recommend it: First, the dialogue was witty and edgy without being hokey. Second, it’s inspired me to learn more about the man and the movement. In my book, that’s always the sign of a good movie.

Published in: on March 9, 2007 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

One Night With the King

Last night Carolyn and I watched One Night With the King, the movie that tells the biblical story of Esther.  Good movie!  It wasn’t the best movie ever or anything like that, but I’d still definitely recommend it.

One of the best parts was the scenery.  If you read even just the first chapter of Esther, you’ll notice the detailed account of the luxuriant extravagance in the palace of Susa.  The movie did a great job of showing the magnificence of the palace and the city.  Stunning videography!  The movie would be worth watching for this alone.

Another thing I really appreciated was that the film taught me something I was totally clueless about.  There’s a story in 1 Samuel about how Israel’s King Saul attacked the Amalekites and wiped out nearly all of them.  I had no idea this story had any connection with the story of Esther, which takes place over 500 years later.  But in the movie, the wife of Agag–the slain Amalekite king–escapes and gives birth to a son, who carries on the family line.  Eventually this line (in the movie) leads to Haman, the bad guy in Esther.  After watching the movie, I looked it up in the Bible–and sure enough, it says that Haman was an “Agagite,” that is, descended from King Agag!

So Haman’s mission is to wipe out the people (the Jews) who wiped out his people (the Amalekites).  He has this weird symbol passed on through the generations from Agag’s widow to himself, and interestingly, it looks a whole lot like a swastika.

Whenever a film causes me to pull out my study Bible and do some research, it’s a movie I can appreciate.  If you haven’t seen One Night With the King, I’d encourage you to check it out.

Published in: on February 20, 2007 at 12:18 pm  Comments (2)