Category Archives: movies

noah

5 reasons to cheer on Noah

1.  It’s an opportunity for conversation

Imagine the scene:

Friend ” I have been thinking a lot about God lately.”
You “Which god is that? Is it the God as revealed in the Bible?”
Friend “I’m not sure. I just can’t get the story of Noah out of my head.”
You “Well if your thinking doesn’t match that of Genesis 6:9 and the following verses then you have strayed from God’s revelation.”
Friend “Oh I thought you’d be happy I was thinking about God.”

When an Oscar nominated filmmaker decides to make a movie about a key biblical narrative you can either criticise him or start a conversation. I’m always of the mindset that a conversation is a great place to start. (Damaris have once again provided some great resources to help that conversation along).

2. It will help people engage with scripture

I spoke with a 14 year old English boy today and I asked him what he knew about the Noah story and  he told me nothing. I gave him a few hints…

– its a story that involves a lot of water …
– there’s a boat in it…
– animals…

I drew a complete blank. He had never heard of the story at all. With an increasingly biblically illiterate culture, having a mainstream film  engage with a major Bible story is a real opportunity to help a new generation engage with scripture.

3. Fresh riff on a biblical story

I have read a lot of people arguing that Noah is least biblical biblical film ever. Having seen the film I understand a little where they are coming from. Yes there are things in the film that are not in the Bible – for one thing Noah speaks; which he doesn’t do in the biblical narrative. If you are going to make a 2 hour hollywood movie about this story you are going to give your lead character something to say.

Aronofsky has made a film inspired by the Noah story. He has taken artistic license; just as every film adaptation of every piece of literature does he has introduced new elements and rearranged some parts of the story for dramatic effect.  My 15 year son and I read the whole story of Noah together before watching the film last night and it was great to have a discussion on the way home about which bits we thought were true to the text, which bits made us rethink how we had understood the story before and which bits we would like to politely disagree with Aronofksy’s interpretation. To be honest my son does (and should ask ) the same questions of the sermons he hears – even / especially my ones :)

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4. There are some profound theological questions being asked

If you can get past the Nephilim being portrayed as a cross between Bionicles and Transformers. If you can look beyond the weirdness about using a snake skin as a spiritual relic. If you can get over a slightly strange reliance on magic in the anti-dilluvian world. If you can get over the Abraham meets The Shining moments in the film then  I found some fascinating theological questions being asked by the film.

- What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

There’s an interesting conflict of interpretation coming from Noah verses Tubal Cain one arguing for a Green-stewardship model the other for a Wayne-Grudem-dominion model.

- How did Noah cope with the ethical dilemma of surviving a genocide?

- How do we reconcile a gracious and loving God with a God of Judgement? 

An area I devote a couple of chapters to in my new book Paradoxology- why christianity was never meant to be simple. Particularly the whole area of genocide and grace.

 5. There are moments of genius and beauty

There were some excellent parts of this film.

I loved the God’s eye view of the flood you are provided half way through the movie.

I loved the clever way Aronofsky allows the animals to co-exist on the ark.

I really enjoyed the retelling of the creation narrative in a way that would either get young and old earth creationists both cheering or booing.

The fall of humanity is told in a powerful way that helps us understand our current world situation.

Some of the special effects were brilliantly done.

When was the last time that you saw a major hollywood director face up to the judgement and grace of God in a $130 million budget movie?

Conclusion

Imagine if Jay Z did a remix of the Joshua Tree (which is one of my favourite albums of all time by the way). I would listen to that remix with some fear as for me there’s nothing anyone could add to Lanois and Eno’s production. But I would be excited that someone could help the album be heard by a new audience, I would be excited that someone valued the original so much they wanted to do an homage to it. I am sure bits of the album would be astounding and bits would be  things I was interested to hear the first time but wouldn’t want to listen to again. I guess coming out of watching Noah last night that is how I felt. I want to encourage everyone to go and see it and then check out the original in scripture.

Just this morning standing on the touchline watching my foster son play football Noah provided the opportunity for a conversation with another dad about the grace of God.  Noah provides  an amazing opportunity that is too good to miss.

Noah goes on general release on Thursday and is certificate 12a. It does have some disturbing scenes so this is definitely not a film for younger viewers.

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Recognising the gravity of your situation.

I have just watched the multi award winning film Gravity. I can see why it picked up so many golden globe and bafta accolades and has now walked away with 7 oscars including best director. I watched it; ironically on a plane to Los Angeles- there is something disconcerting watching someone else facing disaster on a flight. With the amount of turbulence on our transatlantic flight it felt like the pilot was going the extra mile to make sure we had the full multisensory experience!

 

I am very pleased Gravity won so many awards because its central message is one worth pondering. (I will try not to give away any spoilers that watching the trailer wouldn’t have given you anyway.)

Sandra Bullock plays Dr Ryan a woman on a journey who encounters loss, tragedy and adversity even before she steps onboard the Space Shuttle. Her job is  to install a new module into the Hubble Space Telescope that will help human beings to peer deeper into the universe by utilising a technology that was aimed to help us look deeper inside a person. This ironic mission is a little insight into the thrust of the movie. Its going to take a disaster hundreds of miles above the earth on the edge of infinity for Dr Ryan to be able to face her internal demons.

Sandra Bullock; who’s big break in cinema came in the movie Speed – the story of a runaway bus that cannot be allowed to stop or a bomb will kill all of its passenger, is in once again in for “one hell of a ride.” As the central character in a film that showcases groundbreaking technical effects to the extent that in most scenes the only non CGI thing on the screen is Bullock’s face in a computer generated visor. In their Bafta winning acceptance speech the producers talk about “Sandy” making the film human and they are right on the money. Bullock is the only human element in the film. Clooney comes across as a kind of Buzz Lightyear figurine – too full of great oneliners , stories and heroism to be taken very seriously. Even when there is a crucial game changing decision he makes it’s hard to get too attached to him.

But Bullock is a broken, human character in need of redemption. In the split second decisions she has to make we see how life is completely in the balance, we are tiny fragile human beings teetering on the edge of infinity. One slip, one lost handhold and its all over we go spiralling away into the abyss. It is in the middle of tragedy and with her life hanging in the balance, surrounded by the best of human technology that Bullock reaches out to God. She wants to pray but no one has ever taught her how and so she cries out into the intercom hoping that someone might hear her. It shouldn’t take a tragedy for people to reach out to God. God has left evidence in history and in the wonders of the universe for us to see him and seek him. But the Christian God is a humble God, he is not too proud to receive us even if it is only coming to the  edge of death that makes us realise us the gravity of our situation without him.

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Why Everything is not awesome

As it’s been half term it’s been great to have more time to hang out with my children.  We are big into movies in our house so over the week we went to see the Lego Movie and rented Cloudy with  a chance of meatballs 2. ( I have been watching a lot of movies lately – see here for my spoiler free Gravity review)

Both films are brilliantly animated and feature some A-list voice over celebrities. Both films tick the box for family appeal with enough jokes for adults to enjoy and visuals that younger children will love.

At one level both films are simply great business propositions. A sequel and a shameless product based movie. We shouldn’t expect much but the talent on display with the brilliant visuals and some very witty dialogue make these films more than just about cash flow. For example The Lego Movie had some very funny moments thanks to a portrayal of Batman borrowed from the Super Hero Cafe youtube sensation.

Strangely both films are very anti business with the villains being corporate America and big business. The irony of a film that is one 90 minute long product placement being anti business is pretty thick.

For me both films were weak on plot amounting to little more than a series of sometimes very funny set-piece  gags:

Flint Lockwood- “There’s a leek in my boat”

Batman: Relax, everybody. I’m here.
Emmet: Batman? Awesome! Could you make one of these in orange?
Batman: I only work in black. And sometimes, very, very dark gray.

Because stories are foundational to shaping character and worldview the lack of a compelling narrative says something to me about the movie industry.  Cinema at its best us a storytelling media but what happens when the stories run out?

The bottom line for both films was another push for self esteem.

“You are the special – if you believe you are…”

As someone who works with children from vulnerable backgrounds I do understand that there is a need to help some children grasp a better self image. But I am not sure that need for more self esteem is the challenge facing every child in the world at the moment. Helping a child understand that they are not the centre of the universe is a gift. If a child believes they are the centre of the universe they are going to be pretty disappointed by life. One of the things parents get to do for children is to help them give themselves to something (or if you are a Christian someone) that is bigger than them.  As poles reveal children in the west to be some of the unhappiest in the world – perhaps it is time to revise the diet of self esteem promotion the movies are feeding our kids.

Perhaps I am asking too much of children’s films? But we have  been spoilt by films like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia which have presented a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the human psyche and have extolled the virtues of living for others, for a cause greater than personal fulfilment. Even the decision to unnecessarily prolong the Hobbit series we are seeing complexities of personhood that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and the Lego movie don’t come anywhere near. Its time we invested more effort into the scripts not just the effects.

 

Michael Bay and the art of public speaking

So not everyone is wired to be an awesome public speaker, but everyone can get better.
Here are 5 ways Michael Bay can get better after this car crash of a public speaking engagement.

1. Don’t rely on Technology

I know this is ironic not just because Michael Bay’s movies all rely on tech rather than substance and because I love technology and am very happy to use Keynote or video or Prezzi to speak from. It is also ironic because this was a Samsung launch event so the Tech should have been pretty safe.

But nevertheless if in doubt for a short presentation don’t use any technology so you are covered if things go wrong as they often do.

2. Never walk off the stage

It basically says to your audience that you don’t value their time, that you are more worried about your embarrassment than them. So stay on stage, you can blame the technology apologise. People will forgive you for looking amateurish – walking off makes you look like a Prima Donna.

3. Know your subject

Michael Bay’s main subject was going to be himself so this should have been easy.

4. Work as a team

This was an interview so he could have let the interviewee help him out of the problem he was having. Take a breath, don’t panic.

5. Use stories 

We would be cheering Michael Bay on if he had a nice disarming story about working with Transformers or why Megan Fox thought he was like Hitler. Seriously, tell us an anecdote from your life as a producer.
Tell us about your boyhood black and white TV and how you and your parents used to bond watching classic movies at Christmas.
Tell us about why TV’s are a window to another world?
How TV’s can unite a nation – we all remember where we were when the Moonlanding was televised or the Royal Wedding…

Strangely the whole episode was a sad reflection on Bay’s more recent movies – over reliance on technology and very little storytelling or substance. Friends don’t let our communication come to the same sorry end.

 

Short Term 12

I got to see an advance preview of this film and I loved it.

Short Term 12 is a residential care home for young adults. It is staffed by a team of twenty somethings who act as security guards, drug inspectors, counsellors and friends to the young people from troubled backgrounds. The film centres around the relationships of two of the staff: Grace and Mason and two of the young residents of the Short Term 12: Jayden and Marcus. It is Nate’s first dayt working as a carer at the centre. The film opens with Mason telling a story to Nate about his first day on the job when one of the young people managed to escape from the premises. Just then the alarm goes off and Sammy one of the teenagers at the centre screams at the top of his voice and makes a run for the gate… ( I have written a fuller piece for Damaris film blog – I will let you know when it is posted but in the mean time check out the great back catalogue.)

With the Home for Good campaign in full swing we thought this film would be a great way to engage a wider audience. If you are someone passionate about helping vulnerable children, you enjoy edgy films and you want to help us make some media noise about this film I have some free tickets for a special screening. Contact me on the blog if you are interested and tell us why you would like to be invited.

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Long Walk

Must admit I am looking forward to watching Idris Elba play Nelson Mandella in the “Long Walk To Freedom” biopic. After “The Wire” and “Luther” it’s about time he got a good meaty role to play. He got such a lame role in Thor it’s good to get to see him land such a huge role. Love the look of this movie and of course a new U2 song “Ordinary love” to go with it is a coo. But looking at the trailer I do have a couple of questions:

1. What do my South African buddies think of the portrayal of the Afrikaaners?

From the trailer it looks like we are going to get another cartoonish portrayal of unremittingly evil white people and irrepressibly good black people. I understand why we do this in light of the horrific injustice that was perpetrated.But this is an oversimplification and is in fact a form of racism in itself.

2. Wondering what the will do with Winnie Mandella
Although she was the one who kept the ANC going when Mandella was in prison she ended up doing some pretty horrific things with her gang of thugs too.

“she was convicted of the 1988 kidnapping of a 14-year-old boy subsequently murdered by the “coach” of her Mandela United football club. Her marriage to Mandela was also on the rocks – they divorced in 1996 – and she would later be convicted of more than 40 charges of fraud. Cast into the political wilderness, a rise to the top echelons of the ANC was out of the question. And as an MP, she has been criticised for rarely attending parliament.”

Guardian UK.

3. What do we make of Idris Elba’s accent?

4. Really looking forward to see how they handle Nelson’s shift in thinking re violence to reconciliation to me that has got to be the heart of the film.

Wondering how that will play out in a Hollywood movie – where the audience are geared up for a final show down where evil doers get wiped out.

5. I wonder if Mandella was consulted in the making of the movie?

6. Have U2 made the whole soundtrack?

Skyfall - Official Movie Site

Skyfall and Adele

The Bond marketting machine is in full overdrive now.

Must admit I thought it was a clever move having Adele do the theme. What do you make of this?
Does it show Adele to have a voice that is pale imitation of Shirley Bassey – it doesn’t grab me as a Goldfinger replacement as the most memorable Bond theme ever. Growing up A view to a Kill was my favourite – what is yours?

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5 Things to enjoy about the Dark Knight Rises

 

Just come home from watching the Dark Knight Rises and really enjoyed it. The story line is gritty, the baddies are so brutally powerful making Batman look so weak and feeble. Its a 12A that’s probably right – it seemed less violent in one sense than Dark Knight – no pencil in the eyeball kind of moment that I can remember. I took my 13 and 12 year old boys to see it and they really enoyed it. i think they could have handled it from age 10 and up. ( But parents you know how different children are sensitive to different things). Here are things you can enjoy – hopefully spoiler free. By the way this film makes Avengers look like a kids movie…

1. Major focus on Orphans

OK if you know me, you could probably guess I would pick this out – but there are a lot of orphans in the movie. How we care for orphans is raised a lot as a question. The different life outcomes orphans have in this movie is very interesting too. There is a major cultural fascination with orphans – but a lovely reference back to the first filim takes place when Batman explains to Commissioner Gordon “The Batman Even if that means wrapping a coat around a boy whose parents were murdered, and telling him that it’s going to be alright. The idea that we all have a role to play in making life better for children who have lost or been deprived of their parents is a strong one.

2. Twisty Turny Plot

There are some nice plot revelations that happen throughout the film, Nolan keeps you guessing for a lot of the film – some of the resolutions and reveals are telegraphed a bit too obviously – but they are still enjoyable when they happen

3. There’s more to you than that…

For a film that majors so much on whether a troubled or a privileged background determines how you turn out as a person – there’s a great redemption narrative from the Catwoman character – the argument seems to be – if you trust someone enough, even if they don’t deserve it – good will come out.
There’s a clever bit of mirroring going on in the two love interests in the movie – around hidden identities and how people respond to being trusted – so enjoy that.

 

4. Nolan loves working with a core of very talented actors.

Marion Cottilard, Tom Hardy and ofcourse Christian Bale, Michael Caine have turned up in a lot of his movies lately. They do a great job here.

5. Classic Nolan reveal

I won’t give much a way but Christopher Nolan knows how to bring everything together with a collapsing montage and deep driving musical score. There’s lots to link with the way things ended in Inception with the multilayered plot collapsing together at the end. Things are neatly finished off – with the option of a spin off movie franchise if you want it.

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Hunger Games Review


Following a recent trend in teen fiction the Hunger Games is a dark and dystopian view of the future. Based on the first of a trilogy of novels the film tells the story of Katniss Everdeen’s quest for survival in a state sponsored televised, gladiatorial fight to the death between 24 teenagers. The film draws on a number of other films but somehow manages to be greater than the sum of its parts.

A Battle Royale (2000)

A japanese film about a class of 9th grade children who are kidnapped by the government and forced to fight to the death. This is the closest parallel to the Hunger games with the same levels of brutal violence. Battle Royal was an 18 certificate but Hunger Games is only a 12a. The political and romantic elements of the Hunger Games make it somehow a more adult film with a lower age certificate.

Truman Show (1998)

The story of a man who has lived his whole life on television as part of a complex soap opera. He is on the air but unaware and every detail of his life is controlled by the Director Kristoff. Although the participants of the Hunger Games are fully aware they are on television and in fact that is one of the brilliant themes of the film that you never know whether the participants are being “honest” or just playing to the camera to win support from their sponsors who can send food or medicine to support their favourites. But the directorial role of the game designer who controls every aspect of the game is very similar to the Truman show and leads to a rising sense of injustice that this is not a fair fight.

1984

The oppressive power of the government to use a brutal game to prop up the injustice of a very wealthy capital population with the poverty and food scarcity of the outlying districts is a very important theme in the movie. Although this is a parallel of our current global injustice where a wealthy west still oppresses a hungry rest of the planet the film makes this point powerfully by making those who are poorest white. The absolute control and surveillance of the government reminded me of 1984’s dark picture of the world – but equally could be paralleled in V for Vendetta, Children of Men etc.

Romeo and Julliet (1996)

Two supposed enemies finding love in impossible circumstances and it all going wrong with poison – (not to give too much away don’t worry). Shakespeare’s themes are toyed with on purpose but the extravagant costumes and style has a lot in common with bad luhrman’s amazing musical adaptation.

This is a significant film – you probably don’t want to see it with young children because of the violence but older teens and adults will find a compelling, beautifully show and powerful film. Tearfund have drawn on the themes of the film to produce some really helpful resources to explore global poverty well worth checking out.