Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

January 16, 2010

What Is It?

The sequel to the very popular supernatural swashbuckler featuring the power house heart throb duo of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. The first film was fairly entertaining pushed over the edge to very entertaining by the over the top avant-garde performance of Depp.

Here Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) have there wedding postponed when both are arrested for there helping Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) escape in end of the last film. Through a bunch of odd events, the three are re-united running from Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman. Thus, inviting you to strap yourself in for another amusement park ride of a summer movie.

How Was It?

It’s fun. Not as good as the original, but why? The story is not as well developed as the original. The character development is not there, you know the characters and there is nothing different from the first. But there biggest cinematic sin; not just putting the camera on Johnny Depp and letting him go. Here he’s more of a garnish than the main flavoring, as he was in the first one. (Did no one read the 8 billion reviews saying “Depp made the movie”?) Here the special effects are more prominent. Anytime Johnny begins to get going, they move on to monsters.

Is it good for Kids?

There are a couple of things to watch out for. First there are a couple of dresses that are a bit to low cut. However, the big problem is the gross monster factor. The beasties here are not as cool as the skeletons from the first film, but they are much more monsters. I would be careful showing this to your child even if they were ok with the first film.

You can check Screenit.com for a complete breakdown of what’s on the screen.

You may want to also look for some images of the monsters as well.

What About Spiritual Issues?

This is the nice part of it all. In the first film there were references to God being sovereign over the weirdo spirituality of the story. The pirates had been cursed by the heathen gods and it’s commented that they will fight until the final judgment. The pirates curse itself even went well with the Bible. They had gold and power, but the pleasures of there ill-gotten gain were unattainable. There are also lines from Captain Jack Sparrow that go perfectly along with the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34.

Here the story itself does not lend as well to any meaning. Still there are even more explicit references to God. One of the pirates from the last film is now looking into the Bible because now that they are not immortal they need to think about there mortal souls. Then there is service on the Flying Dutchman. Davie Jones offers people to serve on his ship for 100 years to postpone God’s judgment and punishment of your deeds. (As Bono says, art about “running from God” puts God at the center.) While making this offer one sailor who is praying and clutching a crucifix thinks it’s better to take his chances with God.

There is also some plot points with Jack’s compass that move back to the earlier mentioned Bible passages.

What is your recommendation?

If you are going, realize it’s not going to be as good as the first one. Plan to stay through the credits. Talk to your kids about the afore mentioned “Treasure” and the good and bad actions of the characters, as well as, the idea of trying to escape from God, at best, only postpones the inevitable.

Have fun, and some good conversation.

ps

Stay for the end of the credits.

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The Polar Express

December 22, 2009

What Is It?

The movie is based on a children’s book about a doubting boy who travels on a magical train and finds that, if he believes, that there really is a Santa. The story is stretched over an hour and utilizes a new computer animation technique. Actors have little sensors put all over there face and body. Then their performances are digitally entered into a computer and rendered as the computer characters. This allows Tom Hanks to play 5 characters including the child we follow throughout the film.

How Was It?

The animation was well done, but a little creepy. The people are almost real, but just plastic enough to be strange ( not to mention that they never blink). There are several scenes where things just degenerate into first person roller coaster effects. I found out that it was originally presented in IMAX 3D , which would make this repetitive effect a little less pointless.

The plot feels very contrived. There are several other kids added who each have “life lessons” of their own. Songs are trite and pointless. There is a moment with the train conductors looking for some part of the train (that causes another roller coaster screen) that is almost genuine cartoon fun. For the most part though, this is just numbing animation that tries to be deep, but mostly becomes confusing and contrived.

On top of it all, the charming “Classic Christmas” motif was nice until they shattered it with a weird cameo by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler as a rock singing elf.

Tom Hanks is a good actor, but the others….

Was It Good For Kids?

There is nothing particularly vulgar about the film.

You can check Screenit.com to see what exactly happens on the screen.

I have had kids tell me they liked it, but not have a lot to say about why. The issues here may be much more in the dizzying spiritual ideas that make as little sense as the rest of the poorly contrived plot. So without further ado ….

What About Spiritual Issues?

This film seems to have a lot about “belief” in it, not “believe in anything” but ” belief” for the sake of “belief” itself. The child does not believe in Santa, so he is whisked off to learn the power of “Belief.” At the end (spoiler) there is a bell that only those who “Believe” can hear. The boy learns to hear it and as he gets older, though most can no longer hear the bell , our hero can for his entire life.

The idea that belief is a power that needs to be applied for no reason, is not one that goes with the Bible. Our God is a specific being that gives proofs from the logic of the Bible to the wonder of creation. Our faith is not blind but educated. We can know God is there and our belief grows out of trust. Although some of the statements from the movie, if taken out of context, are true, it is still offer s you a “belief” in nothing.

The only time that the there is an object to of the belief is when a homeless man asks if the hero boy believes in ghosts. Though the boy says “NO”, he learns to believe in them as he is talk s to one who gives him aid throughout the rest of the film.

Still this is just Belief as the idea that you know something is real. Not belief in the sense that you have put your trust and hope in it.

What Is Your Recommendation?

This is just the slow moving, overly analysed and specialized humanism that Writer/Director Robert Zemeckis brought us in Forest Gump. There are a lot of good holiday films. This is not one of them. Though your children may be willing to be quiet for the time that the film is running, there are much better options for kids’ films. People will continue to say that they find “Christian Themes  in this film, but that is because they are not paying attention. They heard a word they knew and instead of seeing how the film was defining it, they inflicted there own definition on the movie. I can not see how this can be healthy or worth while.

Twilight Saga: New Moon extras Question Entertainment Christian Movie Review

November 30, 2009

 

(Why You Should Go See) DISTRICT 9 – Question Entertainment Christian Movie REVIEW (spoilers)

September 28, 2009

 

district9_poster-689x1024

District 9 

Signs

The Boy vs. The Cynic

John Reuben

Did you see the District 9 Tribute over at “Lunch Bag Art“?

C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian Q&E Review Show

January 20, 2009

Also, you can read the full review/analysis of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe

November 13, 2008

chronicles_of_narnia_the_lion_the_witch_and_the_wardrobeWhat Is It?

Do you need this part this time?

C.S. Lewis – One of the greatest Christian writers of all time. The Chronicles of Narnia – His critically acclaimed and beloved fantasy series for children. Now the first of seven is a movie. If you are not breathless by now, you have missed something.

How Was It?

This is a fantasy kid’s film, but in the words of C.S. Lewis “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. ..”

This is not Lord of the Rings” in the intensity of battles or hard edge, though it is reminiscent in it’s meticulous eye for detail, it’s seamless special effects and it’s creation of a beautiful work of art that is
a credit to the work it’s derived from. Tilda Swinton as the White Witch was just an amazing thing.

Didn’t C.S. Lewis Say That He Did Not Want This Movie Made?

Both Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien hoped that their stories would never be turned into movies. The reason was not, as some would hold to, that they wanted to egotistically hold to the power of ownership, or the sanctity of books. It is my understanding that they both saw theater and movies as unable to be realistic enough to capture people into their worlds. The fantasy effects they saw were so unable to make you believe that what you see is real that it only offered a constant reminder that this is not real. This would just keep the audience from actually entering the world the way they could when reading it and seeing it in there mind. (If you don’t believe me, try watching the BBC / Wonder Works version of Narnia from the 1980’s)

Here we have a photo realistic lion that talks. You do not giggle at the riggings but gaze in awe at the illusion so well preformed it allows you to forget that it is an illusion. My opinion is that neither Lewis nor Tolkien would look at the recreations of there worlds and raise any objections based on their original fear of their books blossoming into film.

Was It Good For Kids?

There is some violence and some brutal looking monsters. (Spoiler) The execution of Aslan is very creepy, though instead of showing us the knife marry into his flesh, we get a more intimate and emotional shot of the great lion’s eyes widening and then shutting in defeat.

You can get a complete breakdown of what is on the screen at Screenit.com.

If your child is at the maturity level where this film would be entertaining and not disturbing, then it’s not only good for kids, it’s an excellent introduction to fantasy. The fantasy world in this film, is not our reality
with the hidden magic revealed, but rather, a separate world that the children enter into, out of our own. In Narnia they find a sort of who’s who of the fantasy of man. From witches and elves to the collective creatures of Greek mythology, they are all represented among the ranks of this land.

Entering through the wardrobe becomes very much like opening a book. You can see all of time’s collective imagination within the pages. You can live a life time in another county, but only be gone a few hours from our own. You can see and experience things you have not or could not experience here.

Still, like any great fantasy, it comes down to “what can you bring out of that world into our own?” This question is artfully heightened by the idea of the magical land being something we travel to and from with it’s own time and nature. We can see within the scope of the story that talking animals, harpies, minotaurs and magic do not exist in our world. The children exit Narnia looking much the same as when they first entered.
What do they have that they didn’t before; the thrill of the fantastic and the life lessons of the story. They come back looking the same, but acting very different. This is a healthy view of Fantasy. It connects with us on a level of longing, but brings to us lessons about the real world. This will not only aid in the enjoyment of these alternate realities, but it will help people to get more out of the stories with positive messages and protect themselves from the ones with negative ideals.

C.S. Lewis has Aslan himself explain this concept to the children in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” This book end’s with Lucy being sad that she has to go back to her own world and no longer see Aslan:

“But you shall meet me, dear one” said Aslan.

“Are—are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me
better there.”

What About Spiritual Issues?

This world offers us many spiritual lessons. The first (that Lucy will need to learn over again in future adventures) is that we must stick to what we know is true even when others refuse to believe. She has been to the other world, had an experience with Narnia, but is tormented by those who just think it’s too wonderful to be true. Then there is the lesson of authority. Most of our theaters are populated by celluloid children whose adventures teach them that rebelling against the adults and authorities will bring victory. Here we have a refreshing contrast. Not only are we shown the value of authority and doing what is asked of you, we see the contrast of incorrect authority. We do not have the rebellion, but we do not have the equally evil opposite of blind obedience to whoever is around. We find a great leader in Aslan, worthy of allegiance. We also see an abuse of power and authority for control and personal gain within the White Witch.

Rising even higher, we come to the idea of (spoiler) self sacrifice. These scenes, where the just is given up for the unjust, are telling and emotional. Few films achieve an alliance between the message and the feelings. This also leads us to the character of Aslan. Not only did C.S. Lewis mean him to be a type of Christ, the film seems to use visuals and dialog to support this idea even more.

(Spoiler) After Aslan’s resurrection, the lines are changed from the book. Where the book we find out that there was other magic that the witch didn’t know about, in the movie we find out that her evil was blinding her to the deeper meaning of the magic that she knows about. There are many spiritual themes illustrated here. They all seem to be done well.

What Is Your Recommendation?

As a great fantasy adventure, as a moral tale, as an intro to understanding fantasy, as a spiritual parable, this film is more than worth watching. The fact that it is able to do all of the above, effortlessly, while sucking us into a world beyond our own but echoing of our own, makes this one of the best films. I hope you get to share this with your family and that it sparks many discussions on all the levels that it addresses.

All this and KIDS that can ACT!

(If you would like to learn more about the nature of Fairy Stories, I suggest the “On Fairy Stories” by J.R.R. Tolkien. You can find it in the Tolkien Reader.

C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian Q&E Review Show

B00005JPH2 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

B000HC2LVM The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

0061231657 The Chronicles of Narnia Book Set

0066238501 The Chronicles of Narnia in one volume