Archive for the ‘M. Night Shyamalan’ Category

Happy Birthday Alfred Hitchcock

August 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Alfred Hitchcock. (1899–1980)
For thous of you unfamiliar with this genius, Hitchcock had no morals, he did not believe in them. Still he loved drama and he loved story and though that they did not work with out morals. (To paraphrase) he said that to create drama, you draw a clear moral line and then have a character obviously cross it (in an entertaining fashion). Now, when there is a moral law and you break it, there must be a consequence. You are now waiting for the consequence and that creates drama. It’s funny how, as a creator he mirrored his CREATOR much more than he did as a creation. Still, not all of his films end up on the moral high ground, but he did make some of the best films ever and many of them at least land on the right foot. I suggest you start with films like Vertigo, Rear Window, Notorious and Rope. I would avoid films like “The Trouble With Harry” that were supposed to be funny because he didn’t include the “moral line.” All he accomplishes here is to prove that yes, he needed the moral line to create great film.
If you want to go modern, I would not bother with the remakes but check out M. Knight Shamalon’s “Signs” From the opening music you can tell this is a tribute to Mr. Hitchcock and from the raw genius and strong moral lines, it is a fitting one.

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M Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender

July 20, 2010

What is it?

Based on a very inventive and fun cartoon from Nickelodeon, The Last Air Bender is an adventure in another world. This world is made up of four nations, Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. Some members of each nation can “Bend” or move their element through space. Though there may be plenty of other applications, It’s mostly used as a marshal art to fight others with.

Balance is thrown off when the Fire Nation attacks the other three, in an attempt to rule the word. In the midst of this conflict, To Teens, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone) Discover the last living Air Bender, 12 year old Aang (Noah Ringer). Aang is not only the last of his people, he is “The Avatar.” A special warrior who has the ability to master all four elements, Bridge the Physical and Spiritual world, Bring balance and understanding, as well as kick major butt with his awesome power.

How was it?
The scope and magnitude of the film raises the level of the film in such a way that the failure of the movie to do anything worth while is simply magnified to a level that begs comparisons to Ed Wood. Right away the acting is on par with a well done Christmas play over at your local jr. high. Unfortunate the dialog complements the acting perfectly. Then there is the story line, it played like a ten year old explains season one of the tv show ( and then this happened, and then that happened..) as a studio exec’s secretary took dictation. The special effects were good but the actual “fighting” was boring and confusing. Where most the fighting was done with element bending, what you see is elongated ti-Che looking dancing with stuff swirling around them. As impressive as the dancing and effects were, I often thought “oh just punch him!”
This is the problem if you only watch the movie, but if you are a fan of the show (or like me, and watched it because you were excited about the movie) you will be even more disappointed. The show is for kids and has goofy humor, but is a lot o fun. Not only is the story very well thought out, the characters are dimensional and interesting. The result is that you care about the characters (even the “bad guys”) and are very interested in the story. All the humor is gone as well as the heart. Aang himself no longer fears being the avatar because he will have to sacrifice his own child hood for the good of the world. (A pain that makes him a real character who you can feel for as well as allowing him to be a fun character.) In the film Aang does not want this duty because the avatar can never have a family. Not only is he a twelve year old boy hoping to grow up to be a family man, its even more ridiculous when you realize he was raised by monks in an all male temple! The result on the movie is it suffers more by comparison. (thus you suffer more as well.)
Just to top everything off, the last image on the screen are the words “written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shamalon. This is killer. This man is the genus behind “Signs.” intact, of his 9 films, one I have not seen, one was silly, six were nothing short of amazing films that rival the films of Alfred Hitchcock, then, the ninth is this atrocity afflicted on film and unleaded on sad audiences with overpriced tickets trying to comfort themselves with thoughts like “maybe he will fix it in the sequel” or “at least I wasn’t watching the new Twilight.” but then you remember that Mr Shamalon had the nerve to include a twilight vampire in the cast, the hurt and sorrow return like flowing water that bends into tears as you just move on to the next question.

Was it worth the extra $3 for 3D?
I think the $3 for 3D was much better spent than the rest of the ticket. The effects were the best part of the film and they looked cool in 3D. I did think the effect was not as flat as Alice in wonderland but not as good as the preview for Voyage o the Dawn treader. There was something weird going on when they has fur hoods on and it got blurry when they panned (which they did a  lot). Maybe if the movie was better, the slight defects in the 3D would detract from the story telling, but with no real storytelling in sight – the 3D helps you focus on the effects.

Is it good for children?
There are some things that may scare small children. Armies are hunting down a 12 year old. But mostly kids will be confused, and fans of the show will be disappointed that “Saka’s not funny and Aang is boring.”

Was it racist?
The tv show has all the characters oriental, though each people group is a different sub set where the group all look like each other but do not look like the other nations or tribes. So, though they are all oriental, you can tell what people group they belong to by there racial features. This seems to me to be a nightmare for casting. So what M. Night has done in this film was to make each nation a fully different race. This is not racist but racial. (If you are unsure of the difference, ask Rhett and link.) Still some point out that the water tribe are heroes and are white while the fire nation are villeins and they are dark. First, the fire nation is is a little more complex that. (That comes through despite the shallow nature of the film.) Further more, the fire nation is Indian! The same nationality as the director / writer / producer. So why would he cast his own race as the fire nation? I do think all the races he picked fit well with the look of the show but the choice was probably just so he could give himself a cameo as a fire nation soldier.

What about spiritual issues?
The show for season one uses Hindu symbolism but in season two starts to get into Hindu/buddhist philosophy as well. Though in the season finally of one, princess Yue is given Christ symbolism when the moon god is killed and she gives her life for his resurrection and the physical salvation Of her people. In the movie the scene is so rushed that the beauty and pain of sacrifice is just laborious. All the buildup that points out the symbolism is reduced to the princess putting her arms out while in close up. Aang himself is a savior of a fictional world with many links to Jesus. In the finally of the second season Aang himself is killed and redirected and along the way strikes a Michelangelo influenced Jesus pose.

 Like Yue, Aang’s symbolism is boiled down to a modification of his back tattoo.
So, even spiritually the show is complex and interesting, and the movie is confusing chunky and unsatisfactory.

What is your recommendation?
This could have been M. Night Shamalon’s “Lord of the Rings,” but ended up his “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” this is a dull trip through cartoon cliff notes is not worth it on any level. Still if you are going to bring your kids to this film or the show you will want to talk about the fantasy world’s philosophy and it’s links to the our worlds philosophies, the truth and the lies.
My real recommendation… Start at M. Night’s “Wide Awake” and keep going until you get to “Lady in the Water.” Just stop before you get to “The Happening” and you will never have to bother with “The Last Airbender.”
(I’ll get back to you after I finish season three and yes I will go to the other two sequels.)

Christopher’s Top Picks of the Decade (1/1/2000-1/1/2010)

January 28, 2010

It took all month but here are

Christopher’s Top 20 Picks (with 3 “Ties and an Honorable Mention) of the Decade

(1/1/2000-1/1/2010)

  1. Lord Of The Rings (1 movie in 3 parts)
  2. The Passion of the Christ
  3. Unbreakable
  4. tie – DISTRICT 9 Pride and Prejudice 
  5. The Exorcism of Emily Rose  
  6.  Signs
  7. To End All Wars
  8. The Village
  9. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe 
  10. Lars and the Real Girl 
  11. Luther 
  12. B000JLTR8QM. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water
  13. Napoleon Dynamite
  14. In The Bedroom
    Note: “The Bedroom” in the title refers to a compartment of a Lobster Trap
  15. Man On Fire
  16. I Am Legend
  17. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
  18. Phone Booth
  19. tie Nanny McPhee Up
  20. tie Danielson a Family Movie (or, Make A Joyful Noise HERE) Food Inc

Honorable Mention

Bella theatrical one sheet

Bella

Fireproof

This film was not the best done, or the most moving. Several films not on this list were better films. (The Spider Man films, Inglorious B——-s, Juno, Iron Man and even  Twilight, were all better films.) Still, a church got together and made a good film with a great message, and I think that should be applauded.

A Look at Horror, Monster and Scary Movies

October 11, 2008

It’s beginning to look a lot like….

 

We are in an odd season. Here we are celebrating things that “go bump in the night”. TV and movies have joined the festivities. So, with little hope of finding “Harvest Party the Movie”, what is a Christian to do?  

If we look in the Bible, what do we see in regards to evil and monsters?

From Cain and Abel to the martyring of the two witnesses in the book of Revelation, we see all manner of evil acts by all manner of people. The prophet Daniel sees a vision of monsters attacking the world, John sees a great dragon chase a woman to devour her baby.  Even the living creators that encircle the throne of God have a monstrous edge to them. So if the Bible does not shy away from evil, and even monsters like demons, dragons and Satan himself, what do we do with modern depictions of them?
 

First, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:11 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”   As Christians, it is not only our duty to avoid participation in evil, but to show evil for what it truly is.

Film writer/director Scott Derrickson told World Magazine “Horror is the genre with the most sensitive moral compass. No other genre defines good and evil better. No other genre allows for spiritual and religious  ntent more than horror…The danger of the genre is that it can easily cross over into exploitation”   So what is being shown to us in the movies?

In “The Screwtape Letters” CScott Derrickson.S. Lewis said that demons (the teachers of evil ideas 1 Timothy 4:1) either want us to believe that they do not exist or be obsessed with them. We see this in film today. Most movies that include monsters and images of evil are either harmless because we do not believe in “real” evil. Movies like Scary Movie” and “Casper” just use these images as something to laugh or cue at. Or, in “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas“, darkness is just there for goth teens to say “cool” under their breath. Then there is the other side, focused too much. Movies like “Freddie vs. Jason” and “Scream” present killings and evil in a pornographic manner for us to revel in.  

So do we ever see anyone get it right?

Movies that present evil as something hideous and terrible, and at the same time, not something to revel in? J.R.R. Tolkien said that the best “fairy” stories are not primarily concerned with the fairies themselves, but he people in the stories. The magical element helps us to see a bit of the human condition. The same is true of the best monster movies. It turns out that monsters of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s  were just that. The idea of many was that turning from God and His natural order produces monsters.

Dracula  was a parody of Jesus, an anti-Jesus who was stopped by the power of Christ. It was a graphic llustration of the biblical fact that those who are living in their sins are dead, though they live. (1 Timothy 5:6) Frankenstein was trying to take the place of God and create a person in his own image. Dr. Jekyll was trying to separate himself from his evil side without God. Instead he created and fed a monster who was a personification of his “fleshly lusts” (thus the name “Hyde”). Movies made about these characters don’t allways stick to the source material, and thus the original symbolism. (While the 1940’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde expanded on the Biblical symbolism, “Mary Riley” is  Jekyll and Hyde story that tones down the human nature – sin stuff.) Some just take the monsters and use them for cheap thrills with no real meaning (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Van Helsing”).  

 

You can see a biblical use of monster symbolism in the vampire flick “The Addiction.” Here being a vampire is only the full realization of your sin nature. A philosophy student (played by Lili Taylor) deals with the problem of evil in the world as she fights her longing for blood now that she is a vampire. She goes through every philosophy of dealing with her sin nature from Buddhism (with Christopher Walken) to Hedonism
(one of the grossest scenes in the film). Finally (Spoiler) with quotes from “R.C. Sprol” she takes communion and Jesus Christ is the answer to vampirism and our sin nature.  

 

In “Deceived” a group of scientists, clergy, and military men are trying to contact aliens. Here they are trying to use these communications from the aliens as a source of salvation outside of God (though the more they interact with the alien’s messages, the more they are driven to horrible and sinful acts from greed/lust to
murder).  (Spoiler) The source of the transmissions is demons and Biblical salvation is the only way to protect yourself from its influence.  

 

In M. Night Shyamalan‘s “The Village” the people are surrounded by woods where horrible creatures live, but  he movie is really an experiment in human nature. It explores the question: “Is society the cause of evil, or is man inherently sinful?”.

 

In his earlier film, “Signs“, the monsters are aliens in the sky. As Mel Gibson and the rest of the cast worry and wonder about the creatures’ existence, M. Night’s movie asks the question: “If there is something evil coming to you, is God there to take care of you?”.  

 

Aforementioned filmmaker Scott Derrickson invites the audience to consider if it’s possible that a spiritual world could exist in the courtroom drama/demonic thriller “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”.  

 

Then, on the other end of the scale, there is the Frank Perettie adaptation of “The Hang Man’s Curse“. A highly trained Christian family takes on a school that is plagued by cult activities and its curse. The feel is on a par with “Buffy/Angel” style production and speaks to the issues of suicide and the sanctity of life.

Also from Perettie, The Visitation is a “direct to video” horror… e r… creepy film. A Midwest town is put on the map when miraculous signs start invading their benign existence. From supernatural healings to the likeness of Jesus’ face in the stained tile of the bathroom wall, everyone is touched by the accompanying message : “He Is Coming.” Revival meetings start. One pastor (Randy Travis) believes this may be demonic. One former pastor (Martin Donovan) believes this may be linked to the ritualistic murder of his wife. One mom  (Kelly Lynch) is fearful her son (Noah Segan) is in danger and the son, along with most the town, believes that a messiah has come for them… and maybe he has.

 

You could go back a couple more years to “Bless the Child.” Here a little girl is anointed by God to lead many to Him. Thus a demonically powered cult (with a “new age” cover) tries to destroy the girl. It’s a b movie with
it’s heart in the right place. The problem with this one is that it is not clear if the girl is a “type” of Christ Biblically pointing to Him with similarities) or a “new Christ” (blasphemously replacing Him).

 

Finaly, we have “Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl”. Here we get a ghost story with pirates, and Johny Depp… how cool is that. Once again, going against God creates monsters. There are plenty of refernces to Biblical Christianity to say we are going with that world view. The Pirates have stolen gold from heathen gods, and now, they have wealth and power, but no pleasure. The greed for wealth has poisoned everything else, creating creatures that are not dead, but they are not really living. There is also
a great conversation that goes in very well with Matthew 6:21.

What is Your Recommendation?

Maybe this October 31, you will want to have a little “truth about evil” film festival while you and your friends enjoy popcorn and snacks, as you hand out full-sized candy bars (with invitations to your church youth group and “Do You Want To Know God Personally” books strapped to them) to any spooks that happen to interrupt, as they pass by. Who knows, a “Hey, whatcha watchin’?” may turn into one of the most important conversations of their life.