Posts Tagged ‘Ian McKellen’

Flushed Away

December 20, 2009

What Is It?

This is the first computer animated outing for the Aardman Animations, the English animation group, who have been doing Claymation for years, including Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. Headman Nick Park was not involved (though he does the voice a slug) in this American made film. It was instead, overseen by his partner Peter Lord.

Flushed Away is the story of a well-to-do mouse (Hugh Jackman) who is flushed right out of his plush lifestyle and into the buzzing dirty metropolis of sewer rat existence. (It is all very “Bug’s life” “Flintstones”.) He then has a run in with the Frog Mob Boss (Ian McKellen) running the town…. adventure and antics ensue.

How Was It?

This was fun. It was the same kind of English humor you are used to from Aardman Animations but with the American pacing your used to from every other* kids movie. (*At least the well done films, like those from Pixar.)

Odd Note: I think this is the first Aardman Animations film where some one eats meat.

Was It Good For Kids?

For the most part it is fine, though they will probably pick up on lines like “the booty is in the booty” and that could become annoying. Two characters are on a “zip line”, with the girl grabs holding line and the boy holding on to her pants, that expectedly give way. Still nothing is “Sexy” it’s just silly and is followed by the line, “that’s something else I didn’t want to see.” There is also a Tom Jones parody where a grandma screams with delight and then “Tom” is hit in the face with a large pair of underwear.

For a break down of everything on the screen look at Screenit.com.

What about Spiritual Issues?

This film does have some solid Christian tie-ins (Which made it even more odd to me to find out that Nick Park was not really involved.) There is a “Doom’s Day Prophet”  (Sam Fell) letting people know that the flood is coming. It is played for laughs. (Slight Spoiler) Though he looks silly, he turns out to be exactly right. (Big Spoiler) At the end he prophesied that help would come, in a way that points out Roddy’s (Hugh Jackman) self sacrifice. This points to Jesus. (Roddy is a freedom bringer.)

What Is Your Recommendation?

This is more fun with less problems than most kids films. Add a connection to Christ and you have the value of your rental and some great conversations about family, “stuff” vs relationships and self sacrifice.

Flushed Away

His Dark Materials Trilogy: The Golden Compass / The Subtle Knife / The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

December 15, 2009

 

What Is It?

This is the very popular, yet still somewhat underground book trilogy about a little girl named Lyra Belacqua. In a world that seems to be antique modern with magical properties, s he finds out that her estranged father is on some bizarre quest, thinking he knows the meaning of Dust and the locations of parallel worlds. Lyra decides she needs to intercede and take on her own quest.

She has the aid of Pantalaimon : her dæmon. The dæmon is the creature that each person has as a personal companion. They are usually animals of the opposite gender and have a spiritual link to the owners. (Only witches can go any significant distance from there dæmon.)

She also has the Alethiometer or the golden compass. This is a device that can tell you information about truth and what to do next. For some reason Lyra is able to use and read the device with an amazing intuition.

Furthermore the adventure makes constant reference to the Bible and the Church which looks very similar to the same entities in our world.

How Was It?

This is a first class fantasy adventure. The characters are deep, well written and fascinating. The worlds are very intricate and exciting. With books like this floating around, it makes me wonder why we have time for boy wizards who look more than second rate compared to this modern fairy tale.

This reminds me of Tolkien where it’s not that they find a monster because we needed a monster here. Instead the world is so “real” and such a true work of “sub creation” that it seems like that monster just existed and they had to deal with it the same way someone would have to deal with a fierce reptile should they fall into the water while running through the Florida E verglades.

Is it Good for Children?

They are long books , but they would keep their attention. There are some scary / abusive situations, but they are handled well. There will be a lot for you to talk about, especially when you ask…

What About Spiritual Issues?

This is a major plot point.

One of the things that gives these stories such depth is that, to solve the mystery, to know what’s going on , is to know the way the spiritual world works. So, knowing that this is the key to the story, let’s move to the SPOILERS –

Through their adventures they meet everyone, from the harpies that guard the afterlife , to the angels and Enoch (now head of the angels). They even meet God himself.

What you find out is that every world has a story where there was something that a snake told them to partake in. This was the thing that would help people become everything they are. The church would then go in and teach the people that the snake was lying and the object of their fulfillment is actually a sin. So we must go with our passions. This becomes more complete when she travels to the afterlife. There everyone is stuck until Lyra convinces them to stop torturing people and lead them out to where they can become one with the universes. The creatures agree as long as people have good stories of their life to tell them in exchange for their guiding.

When people from our world come to theirs , they find that their soul is an animal and the opposite gender. They also learn that what they had always been told was evil ( namely, dæmons) are is actually your true self guiding you.

All of this sounds like the gospel according to Neitchze but then, how does God fit in? Turns out he’s just the oldest angel, so everyone thought he created everything. Now he’s a feeble old man being kept ceremoniously alive – what to do? Euthanasia!

What Is Your Recommendation?

This is wonderfully written and phenomenally entertaining. This is also a well crafted explanation of a philosophy. In a way that is understandable and lasting, we learn that we just need to do everything we feel, and anyone telling you that you shouldn’t is lying to you so they can have power over you. It also explains that the most blatant offender calls themselves the church. Those who say the serpent lied, are liers themselves.

Thus this book series is a well crafted gun aimed at the ideals of your children. Like the idols in the book of Jeremiah, the fact that it is well crafted by skilled men should not blind us to the fact that it is evil.

This book series may have gained the popularity the writing deserves when the first movie came out, but the movie just fizeled. It is put out by New Line Cinema and the first adds for it use “the one ring” from Lord of the Rings to try to connect the two series. These films will appeal to kids who liked the others (LotR, Narnia, Harry Potter), but they are not the same.

The Golden Compass will provide another reiteration of a sad philosophy that can only hurt. Oddly enough, despite the humanistic philosophy (and the mercy killing of God) , I have had many Christians recommend this book as Christian Fiction. We need to take this for what it is, good literature with bad theology. If people you know are into this book, it is well worth lots of discussion. If you kids are not yet into this book, it is well worth preparing now to shield them from the forth coming advertising onslaught.

The Golden Compass

December 15, 2009

What Is It?

Philip Pullman‘s well written Neo-Nietzschean fantasy trilogy is swept up into production, as New Line Cinema hopes to find the next Lord of the Rings style film, and income.

The series begins with Lyra, (Dakota Blue Richards) a 12 year old orphan girl living at a prestigious boarding school in a parallel universe to ours, where architecture and fashion are a mix of sci-fi and the 40’s. In this world, a person’s sole does not live in them, but stays near them in an animal form called a daemon. Lyra’s daemon can change it’s form because she is still a child and her soul has not settled, but an adult daemon is constant.

How Was It?

It was a well crafted story, but the presentation suffered in comparison to almost everything it begs to be compared too. This is not as good as the book. Much of the mystery is gone when an added opening monologue reveals that we are in a parallel universe, and many other things that are not explained right away in the book. The universe concept is not fully revealed until the second book. The opening Monologue is also done by a woman with a deep voice and English accent. This reveals that the links to Lord of the Rings run deeper than the ad campaign. There were a few parts where they used film short hand that was taught to us in Lord of the Rings. Instead of developing the witches they are just a race like Middle Earth’s elves. The talking animals hearken to Narnia, but not the special effects. Outside of the Bears, most animals are off screen or looking the other way when they talk. I’m sure this was because the few times we are allowed to see it, their mouths do not totally line up. The little girl at the center will also bring thoughts of Lucy of Narnia and Harmonie of Harry Potter. This comparison puts them in good with Narnia, and for all it’s faults, unlike the Potter films, this is not long and dull.

This story was compelling and made you want to know what was next. When I read the book, the idea of a little girl riding an armored polar bear (ice bear) was thrilling to me. To see it, despite occasionally looking like a Coke commercial, was just as thrilling. The bear, voiced by Gandalf/Magneto actor Ian McKellen, is the best part of this film.

Is it good for Kids?

It was made for kids. The PG-13 rating is well deserved, but mature children could handle the action. There are a lot of children in peril, but the only truly disturbing shot (spoiler) is when one Armored Ice Bear slaps the others jaw off and into the camera. Still even this is done so fast, and covered so quickly, that it’s more about the disturbing idea than the visual. If they could handle Spider man 3 or Narnia, this will not be a problem. Happily, despite the posters, We do not get revealing shots of the two prominent women in the film.

You can check Screenit.com for a break down of everything on the screen.

The actual issue here, as with many of these films, is…

What About Spiritual Issues?

This movie is based on a trilogy entitled “His Dark Materials.” The name comes from a line about Satan in the book “Paradise Lost” by Milton. There are many references in the book to Milton and even quotes from him at the beginning of most chapters. This is to point out author Philip Pullman‘s opposite Thesis. Milton wrote to explain to men why they should follow the rule of God. Pullman wrote to teach children why they should not.

All these references and more were removed when New Line Cinema required that all references to God and Religion be kept out of the movie. They thought it would alienate a great part of their audience. Unfortunately, with that cunning move, and all the hype about how anti-Christian this film is, many people will watch it and leave thinking “That was a good movie, what was the big deal.”

The problem is that all the arguments against following God and the Church are still in the film. They have discussions about not following rules. We are taught that agency’s that say they want to teach you how to act are actually misguided megalomaniacs who want to literally cut the souls out of children. This would be like having a movie where only the evil people ate food, only the evil people were fat, and we learn that you can never be too skinny and should take any action possible to achieve that goal and then saying, “It’s OK, we took out all references to Anorexia.”

(Spoiler) We also have a weird look at sexuality. Most of the characters and world views are paralleled, as in this example; We learn that Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) is Lyra’s mother. She was not married to the father, so it was against the rules to keep her own baby. Here we have the evil system destroying lives in the name of family values. In contrast to this, we have a witch, Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green) pointing out to Lyra that the head of the Gyptian’s had been her lover. She then explains that witches age much slower, so they were an item back when he was “young and beautiful.” (Of course, if a man had said this about a woman it would be shocking and horrible, but this way it comes off romantic.)

What Is Your Recommendation?

As a film, this movie is watchable and as morality, this movie is damnable. Still without the direct connections to the church made for us, the message is identical to the “rules are not for me” messages of the Harry Potter films.

There are worse films out there, but if you, or your kids miss this one, you are not missing much. Save your $7.50 and stay home with Narnia. It has all the same fantasy elements but on a higher scale of excellence, with a message you will want to endorse.

X-Men III (and a bit of I and II)

December 31, 2008

What Is It?

This is the third installment of the comic book movie series that revived the comic book genre in theaters. The X-men are people who have the Mutant X gene and thus have varying ranges of powers (oddly akin to Greek gods and heroes). An overly-conservative society has labeled these scary people a threat. With the world against them, two factions build up. The first is lead by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) – an actor who will never get the respect he deserves because he pours his talent into Sci-Fi.) Professor X believes that the people of the earth are to co-exist and take care of each other. He runs a school for the “gifted” where he teaches mutants how to use their power wisely and be productive members of the world. The other faction is lead by Magneto (Shakespearean actor Ian McKellen), a mutant who has survived a Nazi concentration camp. Seeing current mutant opposition as the next wave of racial cleansing, he rebels in the other direction, planning to unite mutants to take over and crush the humans.

The first movie opened the story with Logan ( Hugh Jackman), nicknamed Wolverine, one of the most popular comic book characters greatly in part to his bad attitude and retractable blade claws. The plot revolves around his discovery of the school for mutants and his own place in the mutant community – a place without the option of neutrality. In the second installment, X-Men United, legislation is brought about to stop the mutants while a small military faction comes up with a plausible plan to destroy them all. This leaves both factions with the choice to work together or die apart.

Here, in number three, society is starting to accept mutant-kind. But a research firm has come up with a “cure” for the Mutant X gene. When the military decides to use it as a weapon to defend themselves against mutants, Magneto finds the fodder for propaganda. Translating the horrors of Nazi Germany into the current situation, he rallies the disfranchised mutants to destroy the less desirable sub-species so that they can live in peace and their evolution can continue.

How Was It?

It was big, bad, brutal, and entertaining. With all that, it was also the worst of the series. This seems to be a transitional movie, with the importance resting on realigning the factions and killing off (or radically changing) characters. (I am usually impressed by stories gutsy enough to kill off major characters, but in a comic book world where everyone can come back… who cares?)

The other films were deeper and more fun. Here you get Wolverine mowing down hundreds of random mutants, and though that’s kind of cool, it’s not as fascinating as watching him square off again Sabertooth or Mystique. I really wanted to see a good one-on-one battle between two bizarre people with weird powers. In a nutshell – Body Count: Way Up; Action Excitement: Down.

The other problem with the film was that you really didn’t get to know anyone. Reportedly Halle Berry , who plays Storm, wanted to leave because her character didn’t progress. Here they keep her by saying “We can’t give you a raise, but we can give you a title!” Kelsey Grammer was a brilliant choice to play the Beast, but instead of developing him, they just tell you it’s a Kelsey Grammer character (refined taste, suits, high brow job) who happens to be a big blue mutant. Wolverine is still learning the same lesson about team work vs. vigilantism that he had to learn in the last two films, and it’s starting to seem like a ritual formality.

Furthermore more there are no plans that I know of for an X-men 4, but Hugh Jackman’s production company (who did this film) has managed to hire Hugh Jackman for the upcoming film “Wolverine“. (There is also a “Magneto” movie in the works for next year, thus moving the movies the way of the comic books and giving the team their own individual stories.)

I think this movie will be liked by fans and acquire new ones. Despite that, though, it reminded me of the gifted child who gets a B+ on a project. Sure, it’s not bad, but it’s definitely not living up to its potential.

Is It Good For Kids?

This movie is very violent, even compared to the others. There are also 3 cuss words are said as insults to others and were “cool” because they were cuss words. In other words, I think it would encourage kids to say them. Then there was the almost sex scene between Wolverine and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). and (spoiler) when Mystique ( Rebecca Romijn) is shot with the “mutant cure.” She WAS a naked blue lady with scales for a bikini. After being cured she is lying naked and human on the floor with just enough of the fetal position to prevent an R rating. Amy said that it went on for far longer then necessary to get the point across.

I also saw something good for kids that I haven’t seen in the other two (or any other film for that matter). As Wolverine and Jean started at each other, a mom with two boys (under 4th grade is my guess) left the theater, and didn’t come back. If you know the woman who took her boys to see the beginning of X-men in Concord , pass along my congratulations.

You can check Screenit.com so you know if you would want to leave before you go.

-or before you rent X-men or X2

What About Spiritual Issues?

The first movie had the conservative uptight congressman saying that God hated the perversion of mutants and Magneto explaining that God is love, and thus couldn’t hate anything.

The second included a Catholic character that apparently missed the day they discussed Jesus sacrifice on the cross in CCD, because he gave himself tattoo/branding marks every time he sinned to make amends for it.

And in each installment, especially this one, evolution is the key to it all. The people are mutating or evolving (depending on your view of it). In this film Magneto reaffirms that we are evolving into gods. This is a common evolutionally idea, that homo-sapiens are the “transitional species” between monkeys and gods.

The other issue is homosexuality. (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) There are no openly gay characters in the X-men movies. Still, it has been a popular comic book of people who believe they were born different and society should just accept it.

In the second movie they had a scene where Ice Man (Shawn Ashmore ) has to “come out of the closet” to his parents… about being a mutant. There is nothing as blatant in this film, but there is a lot of rhetoric for the homosexual community to hang their hat on. The unfortunate thing about this link is two fold. One, the fictional mutations shown in the x-Men movies are always helpful to the mutated (though in nature mutations always debilitate) where homosexuality is forbidden by God because it will hurt you and your loved ones, regardless of the world’s acceptance of you. Secondly, it reinforces that anyone who thinks its “bad” is a bigot who hates you. It does not leave any room for the biblical model of love – wanting to help people who are in destructive sinful lifestyles because it will hurt them. Once again we miss the point of Jesus sacrifice on the cross. He thought your sin (including homosexuality) was hell worthy; therefore, out of love for you, he died on the cross to pay for your sins so you could have a relationship with him. It’s so sad to see this struggle for acceptance at the cost of perfect love.

What is your Recommendation?

If you are thinking about it for your kids, as with all the modern comic  book movies, I would be very careful. They are designed for adults knowing the kids are locked in anyway.

Outside of that, it is what it is. The X-men are there, you get to meet new mutants and be hit with their philosophies

If you do go, stay for the credits and remember Professor X’s class. Also, Look for X-Men creator Stan Lee, he does cameo’s in all the movies based on his characters. (See what he looks like here.)

I think the irony of all this was that many churches were thrilled to see this movie push the DaVinci Code out of the top spot, while this series has philosophies equally destructive to faith – but is presented in a way that will not get peoples guard up.