War for the Planet of the Apes: Cultural Appropriation and the Battle for the Social Narrative

In this fourth installment of the Planet of the Apes series we watch the next episode in how earth humans became overcome and enslaved by intelligent speaking apes.

This is a perfectly crafted well told epic that focuses on the personal journey of revenge for the leader of apekind, Caesar, played with understated brilliance by Andy Serkis. It is a moving and complex portrait of a leader who seeks peace, is pushed to revenge, but discovers mercy when he faces his own hatred. It’s what makes epics so… well, epic. War has ape characters that you can do nothing but root for, which makes you think twice, since they represent the creatures who will ultimately overthrow humanity on earth.

Are our enemies more like us than we would like to admit? Not always. But is it moral relativism to humanize the enemy? Not always.

Steven Zahn plays a comic relief chimpanzee who almost upstages Serkis with his lovably selfish personality (I’m telling you, Zahn rivals Serkis’ “good” Gollum paws down). The apes who join Caesar are loyal men—whoops—I mean apes of honor. The “humanization” of the apes is smartly captured by having Caesar’s band of assassins end up caring for a little mute human girl who steals your heart with every gesture she makes.

The visual effects are stupendous. Not one moment in the entire film did I ever think I was watching CGI. That is a compliment not only to the quality of the technology, but to the acting. War exemplifies the best of Hollywood visual effects, not in drawing attention to it, but in making it invisible. Bravo!

Unfortunately, War for the Planet of the Apes is also another example of bigoted Christophobia that seems to spill from the talented yet depraved souls of many Hollywood storytellers.

(Though, thank God, not all of them)

Human Exceptionalism: The Image of God

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Wonder Woman: Women Can Be Warriors, as Long as They are Sexy

Wonder Woman is like most first-in-a-series comic book fantasy movies, pretty cool action, great ironic humor, with some depth of character and a big silly battle of gods at the end. The sequel will of course be crap. But at least we’ll have WW1.

In the run up to its release, this movie became a lightning rod of feminist hope for transforming the superhero genre, and a weapon of feminist hatred against men. It proves to be neither.

It’s just another good fantasy comic book movie. With the emphasis on fantasy.

It works precisely because the notion of women warriors is an odd rarity and a biological anomaly. It’s a fantasy that does not fit reality, and that is why it is entertaining. Yes, I know Ronda Rousey could kick my butt. That is why I wrote “anomaly.” Butt the biological fact of the matter is that military reality proves that most women cannot meet the standards of warriors. It is basically not in their nature or their biology.

Third wave feminists and their leftist useful idiots believe that if they can change the narrative and promote their ideology agenda of univocal male and female identity in culture, that it will magically change reality. But it won’t. It will turn some men into emasculated geldings that they will then use and discard from dissatisfaction, but it won’t change scientific reality. And that is why they are using law to force this diabolical social engineering in our own military as well as society. They know the military is the ultimate expression of masculinity in a culture, so that is why they want to fundamentally transform it.

Wonder Woman carries a sense of originality that makes it stand out from other comic book movies precisely because of its irony… Continue reading

Alien Covenant: Ridley Scott’s Christophobic Atheism

Alien: Covenant views like an atheist version of a bad Christian movie.

Look, I was a fan of the original Alien, as one of the best sci-fi horror films of all time. Although I can no longer watch it because it’s gimmick of slow build suspense doesn’t work any more. It’s no longer scary, it’s just boring. One dinner scene remains emblazoned on film history, I won’t deny that. But the film no longer stands up for me.

Not so with Aliens. Aliens is the only one that still works in the series. It is the classic that surpasses the original. But of course, it isn’t Ridley Scott, it’s James Cameron, a superior storyteller. But I digress.

The Devolution of Atheist Storytelling

It seems as Scott gets older, his hatred of God burns brighter. Which is not a wise thing, considering how close he is in age to his own demise. And the worse his films seem to get as well. It’s almost as if Scott’s filmmaking is an argument for the existence of God. The more you apply atheism to your storytelling, the more irrational and the less satisfying your storytelling is for the human spirit.

Gladiator (2000) was quite simply a masterpiece of filmmaking. But it was pagan. Okay, a pagan masterpiece. An inversion of the gladiator movies of the past from their Judeo-Christian context into a celebration of pagan “transcendence.” Not because Scott (or his atheist screenwriter, David Franzoni) believes in such silly things, of course, but simply as a mythical embrace of anything other than Christianity. All the persecution of Christians in that era was quite literally cut out of the story.

Hannibal (2001) was a mocking subversion of the Christ story that transformed the cannibalistic serial killer into a Christ figure and the “real villain” was a caricature of a fundamentalist Christian. Satan as hero, worthy of the Scorsese award for antichrist filmmaking. And just a stupid movie.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005), was a humanistic reduction of all religion as morally equivalent and reduced to conquest. Wait. No. Actually, it was the denigration of Christianity to Islam, since the Crusades were depicted without their context of defense against imperialist jihad, and since the Muslims were portrayed as being more noble in their culture than the Christians. The story is about a Christian knight after all, who loses his faith in the face of multicultural experience of the other. (once again, any enemy of Christianity seems to be this director’s friend, even if that enemy hates him and wants to enslave the world) The problem is that this movie is an epic that lacks transcendence, even the pagan transcendence of Gladiator, and therefore becomes uninspiring and forgettable.

Prometheus (2012) (another pagan myth) was the mind-numbingly boring attempt to make the ancient aliens theory look aesthetically acceptable. But it’s still just the ridiculous atheist fairy tale that the gods of religion come from aliens. And they laugh at Christians claiming we believe in ridiculous made-up myths! Oh, and don’t forget, in this one, Jesus Christ was an alien. Gotta love that shot of the artwork of an alien in a crucifixion pose. Just give us some aliens vs. humans, damn you!

The Counsellor (2013) an uninspiring piece of nihilistic trash. When you argue that there is no meaning or purpose in reality, is it any wonder, your stories become meaningless and without purpose?

The abominable Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) displayed Scott’s apex of vile anger and contempt for the God of the Bible by reducing him to a tamper tantrum-throwing child, a figment of delusion—more a projection of Scott’s hypocritical atheist moralizing (since atheism claims there are no moral absolutes) than a nuanced understanding of complex deity and ancient sacred storytelling. They say your view of God is often a reflection of how you see your father. Well, I can only hope Scott will one day see beyond his own self-righteous hatred of daddy to find the grace that would actually give his hopeless life and absurd universe some meaning and purpose.

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

Now, Alien: Covenant carries on Scott’s legacy of Christophobic atheism. Continue reading

Patriots Day: This is What Makes America Great

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I saw an advance screening of Patriots Day, the dramatization of the Boston Marathon Bombing and the hunt for the young Islamic terrorists who perpetrated it. I must say that this is a movie that ALL Americans need to see when it is released. Put it on your calendars and keep an eye out for opening weekend December 21.

You Need to See Patriots Day.

With Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and now Patriots Day, Peter Berg is fast becoming the official great all-American movie director in my book, along with Mark Wahlberg as the great All-American actor. Berg seems to understand the courage, sacrifice, and exceptionalism of American heroism, and he is unafraid to tackle the most important villain on the earth today: Islamism.

(We must forgive him for Battleship, as that was a studio monstrosity that I am sure he only did to be able to make the movies he really wants to.)

The movie’s first act introduces us to some of the lives of the victims and heroes of that fateful day, and gives us a taste of their desires, their loves, their hopes for life. We are made to care for these everyday people and first responders before we see them go through the horrendous attack and aftermath. Wives, families, parents and lovers, all, with dreams and plans. The emotional power in this story is thick and human and deeply moving.

He even gives us a glimpse into the Tsarnaev brothers “everyday life” that leads up to their Islamic everyday terror. Though not with the kind of typical Hollywood “terrorists are people too” moral equivalency.

Mark Wahlberg plays a character who represents a composite of a couple different homicide detectives for narrative flow. But the attention to accuracy and detail outside of the necessary creative license is strong. This movie is true to the facts, but more importantly to the spirit of this important historical event.

And that spirit is the American spirit of banding together, something we desperately need right now in our country. Continue reading

To End All Wars Voted One of 29 Best WWII Movies on IMDB

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See the Wrap’s list of 29 WWII Films with a 7/10 rating on IMDB.

Woo Hoo! After all these years, it’s become a classic. Check it out. It’s 5th on the page list.

To End All Wars was my first feature film that I wrote that got produced.

It stars Kiefer Sutherland in one of his best roles ever, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you can on Amazon Video here.

ONLY $1.99 to Rent. What are you waiting for?

Makes a nice compliment to the awesome Hacksaw Ridge out in theaters now.

 

Hacksaw Ridge: Intense Podcast Discussion of Its Worldview

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This is one of my favorite podcast interviews I’ve done.

The guys at A Clear Lens talked with me about the movie Hacksaw Ridge.

We discussed everything: The themes, Christian faith, persecution, worldview, politics and acting and casting!

You will love this one. It’s deep.

Click here to listen.

I may start a podcast about movies with a friend of mine, Mark Tapson. What do you think?

Doctor Strange: Strangely Boring Magic

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The latest Marvel offering about a doctor of medicine who, because of a horrible accident, seeks to replace his lost fame and power as a successful surgeon, but discovers the power of eastern occultism to transcend himself and fight the dark forces of evil seeking to take over the world.

Special Effects as Boring

This is the least of all Marvel movies, or TV shows for that matter. I have grown so weary of these superheroes as substitute gods, and special effects obsession with big vast environments of CGI with tiny little people in them running around avoiding mass destruction. It’s all quite boring and lacks humanity. It’s shallow spectacle over dramatic depth.

Don’t get me wrong, in general I like some of the Marvel universe. Captain America deals with some pretty transcendent values. The TV shows, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are intensely human and personal with powerful themes that resonate. So it can be done right sometimes.

But Dr. Strange is unfortunately not one of those times.

I know that movies are visual and so they are the place for some real visual feasting to occur. But if that visual exploration is not accompanied by deep human meaning, it is like junk food or entertainment masturbation; empty thrills without satisfaction. Christopher Nolan sometimes does it right. Dr. Strange tries to mimic some of Inception’s mind-bending visuals, but without much interest beyond derivative homage. Chases and fight scenes occur in an endless litany of ever-changing Escher-like environmental metamorphosis with little purpose.

To be fair, writer-director Scott Derrickson does try to make this story about something bigger, about the recognition of spiritual reality and the purpose of life found in something bigger than ones’ self. Dr. Strange begins a narcissistic individual but ends up giving himself to a cause greater than himself. He begins a selfish glory hound, and ends up a guard dog for the world.

The problem is that the story’s well-intended meaning becomes a shallow generic self-righteousness that ends up drowning in an irrational and unbiblical occultic worldview.

Here’s how… Continue reading

Hacksaw Ridge: An Epic of Christian Faith and Heroism

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I just saw Hacksaw Ridge again. I posted about an early screening, and I am reposting that with expansions here.

It’s the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist Christian who joined the US military in WWII, but refused to carry a weapon and never fired a bullet. He became a medic who “saved lives instead of taking lives.” He suffered persecution within the system and from his fellow soldiers, but ended up saving 75 of his company’s men in the brutal bloodbath of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa.

This is the best war movie about Christianity in a time of war since To End All Wars (Go ahead, mock me, accuse me of self-promotion, but it’s true, regardless of who wrote it. And it was a true story too).

Mel Gibson’s Redemption

He’s done it again. Mel Gibson has crafted one of the most inspiring movies for this generation.

If you want to see Christianity respected in a movie, then you will definitely want to see Hacksaw Ridge.

If you want to see Christianity lived out in grace and sacrifice, then you will definitely want to see Hacksaw Ridge.

If you want to be inspired to be a better person, then you will definitely want to see Hacksaw Ridge. Continue reading

Deepwater Horizon: Explosive Portrait of Heroism and Survival

The true disaster story of the 2010 explosion and destruction of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, that became the largest man-made disaster in history.

Watching the first third of Deepwater Horizon was like watching The Big Short or Wall Street. After a brief introduction to the protagonist, Mike Williams, played by Mark Wahlberg, and one other female character, we are plunged into the politics aboard the semi-submersible oil rig, famous for its safety awards, but now facing the mounting pressure of corporate executives trying to skirt safety regulations on a delayed project versus the safety concerns of rig chief, Jimmy Williams, played by Kurt Russell.

Insider lingo and tech talk fills the screen in such a way that the viewer cannot quite understand, making him feel immersed in an authentic environment, but not so detached as to be unable to interpret the emotions and tense human drama that are occurring.

Tension mounts with rising concern under the direction of Peter Berg, a fine visual director of past films like the phenomenal Lone Survivor.

When the series of explosions begin that will utterly destroy the rig and ultimately kill eleven of the workers onboard, the movie becomes a non-stop, white-knuckle ride of terrifying real life disaster, accompanied by acts of heroism, as Mike and other workers pull together to save as many people as possible.

I’ll admit it, I am a sucker for true stories of heroism because they move me, they inspire me, and they give me hope that men and women can pull together in crisis for the better part of our humanity. That’s the second best kind of transcendence in a story that makes it worthy.

So I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and the human will to survive. We need more of these movies to counter the nihilism and cynicism that permeates our culture.

Godawa’s Quibble Corner

What did not inspire me was the very thin development of character, not merely of the protagonist, but of all of the characters. There were no significant personal internal journeys that would have created a much more human interest story. It amounted to an explosively well-filmed disaster survival documentary with two dimensional characters. I longed for the kind of transcendence that movies like these can attain, if they only seek the deeper meaning that is waiting to be discovered embodied in the event.

One particular moment at the end of the film was like a loud backfire of missed opportunity. After most of the men are aboard the rescue ship, and the proper villain is shamed, all the men kneel down and pray the Lord’s Prayer together. But there is nothing prior in the movie that would set up for this otherwise moving scene. What a powerful spiritual potential to a story that was never set-up to be released with real impact. Patronizing instead of inspirational as it could have been.

Well, counter that with the pleasant surprise that the end credits did not blame the big bad oil companies involved with causing global warming, and my respect for Berg just rose several notches. It’s gotta be difficult to keep insane Hollywood politics out of your movie, and that’s about as heroic as you can get in my book.

Ben Hur: An Epic Movie of Christian Forgiveness in an Empire of Hate

Ben Hur

Adaptation of a famous fictional novel by Lew Wallace about a first century wealthy Jew, Judah Ben-Hur, and his pursuit of revenge against an adopted Roman brother who betrays his family.

Chances are, you have heard of the classic movie of Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston in the lead role. But if you’re young, you probably haven’t seen it. Look, for those of us who have seen the “original,” it’s pretty hard to live up to the grandness of it because Heston was so legendary. But the truth is, when I watched the old one again some years ago, the actual quality of filmmaking and acting, even the famous chariot race, was not as good as my memory of it. Modern filmmaking is simply more sophisticated on many levels.

Enter, the modern reboot

Judah and his family live in Jerusalem, but his adopted Roman brother, Masala, never feels welcome with his pagan ideas and desire to make his own name in life. So Masala goes to Rome and becomes a highly placed military leader, who ends up at Jerusalem aiding Pontius Pilate at the time of Christ.

Judah begins the story as a Jew who scorns the extremes of both the Zealots, who seek to rise up against Rome, and of the way of love that he sees a young carpenter preaching to his followers. Judah seeks to protect his family and stay out of trouble. Self-preservation. And isn’t that really the desire of most of us, if we are honest? (Zealots were kind of like ancient “Social Justice Warriors” or terrorists)

The problem is that the family gets falsely accused of a Zealot crime, and is punished accordingly. Rather than execute Judah, Rome prefers to enjoy him dying slowly by putting him as a slave on a Roman galley ship. I have to say, this part of the movie was the most excellent surprise of the experience. I remember that part of the Heston movie as being a bit boring: guys rowing in dirty sweaty grunge with the quartermaster pounding the drum and the slaves getting whipped and yelled at.

But in this version, the experience of the sea battle by the oarsman from their perspective was a powerful action sequence. It captured the experience of what it might feel like to be there, helpless in those cramped quarters being bashed and battered around and sinking during a battle. And only being able to see what is going on through cracks and oar windows as they row. It reminded me of the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan, how it made you feel like the first time you ever really got a true sense of real battle in a movie from the individual’s perspective.

More Bread and Circuses!…

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