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Category Archives: Movies
The Last Ride is the debut of Bill Gaither’s son Benjy as a film producer. Though he neither directed the movie nor wrote the script for it, he is credited as “executive producer, producer” on IMDB and wrote all the original music for the film, including several new songs. The movie is a fictionalized look at the last days of country music superstar Hank Williams, who died tragically at age 29 from substance abuse and health issues related to the birth defect of spina bifida. After becoming a country music legend in an amazingly short time, Williams let both his personal life and his career disintegrate. In 1952, he attempted to stage two back-to-back comeback shows scheduled over New Years’ in West Virginia and Ohio. A heavy ice storm ruled out flight, so Williams hired a college student to drive him. This also failed because of the ice storm. While some details of Williams’ road trip remain a mystery, we know that he died some time on News Years’ Day, 1953.
This film imaginatively fleshes out those details, but viewers should be aware that much of it is simply made up, and unfortunately some of the fiction collides with the fact we do know. Nevertheless, I was moved by this film and would recommend it to viewers looking for a compelling human story. Here is my full review. Continue reading
I’m starting a new “top 5″ series for movies. Eventually I hope to do so for songs as well. In both cases, I’ll break it down by genre.
Finding good movies can be difficult. I’m here to offer some of the best picks from my own experience as a passionate cinephile who’s also not ashamed to suggest that there are some movies no Christian should watch, at the risk of being called a fundamentalist. To start off, here are my top five family movies.
A great family movie must…
1. Have only negligible content issues, if any.
2. Be well-made (of course this applies to all, but family movies certainly aren’t exempt!)
3. Be fun.
4. Be something even small kids could appreciate (this is why I chose to leave off movies like The Princess Bride, because a 3-year-old won’t really “get” a lot of the fun in the movie).
5. Have a happy ending.
So without further ado, I present….
The List Continue reading
Oscars night has come and gone, and the nominees for Best Picture were, from a family perspective, relatively slim pickings. Most of them ranged from spiritually muddled at best (Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild) to profane, violent and/or morally offensive at worst (roughly half the nominees). The picture which came out on top in the end, historical hostage thriller Argo, was actually one of the better choices. I agree with Focus on the Family’s Plugged In (whose Oscar roundtable podcast you can check out here), that it was a fun, exciting, well-made film which could easily have been appropriate for young teens on up were it not for its bad language. A candidate for ClearPlay, perhaps.
However, my favorite film of the year wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. In fact, my favorite film of the year was barely nominated for anything and came home empty-handed. Continue reading
To love another person is to see the face of God. — Victor Hugo
If there were ever a story that’s stood the test of time, it’s Les Miserables. It’s the story of how one act of mercy can change a soul forever. It’s the story of love’s power to redeem, reclaim and restore. It’s the story of one man, and it is the story of every man who has found this grace, this mercy, this love. Perhaps that is why it has endured for so long. For the journey of Jean Valjean is our journey as well.
The novel was an instant popular success when it was first published in the 1830s. The 20th century saw it go through multiple adaptations, on the screen and on the stage. I was first exposed to the story through Focus on the Family’s outstanding radio drama. (It is still, in my opinion, the best adaptation out there. Pick up your own copy here and I think you’ll agree.) However, the most popular adaptation is unquestionably the 1985 musical. Originally an unsuccessful French language production, its libretto was translated into English by Herbert Kretzmer, and the new production launched a global phenomenon. It went on to become the second-longest-running musical of all time. But 2012 marked the first year that it was brought to the big screen.
Before seeing the film, I had never heard the musical before, aside from a couple of its most famous selections. I knew it was sung-through, like an opera, so I wasn’t sure how well I would like it going in. I came away more impressed than I had expected to be, but still preferring that radio drama. I think the musical format is a mixed blessing, hence its status as a Pro-Con in this review. Since seeing the film, I got the chance to see the musical on stage and enjoyed comparing the two. In my opinion, the screen adaptation is quite good (with a couple important caveats that are to some extent intertwined with the original musical, to be detailed in the “Cons” section). It left me more than a little misty-eyed more than once. But I confess that I almost enjoyed the behind-the-scenes featurettes about its production even more. I think anyone interested in music, singing, or sound mixing will be fascinated by these details, particularly the ground-breaking decision to sing live. I will link to the best of these clips in the course of this review. Continue reading
Click here if you missed yesterday’s Part I, in which I discuss clear pros and cons of the film, Today we’re exploring pro-cons, important elements of the film that are worth talking about and not altogether good or bad. I’ll also offer some closing comments and look ahead to what we can expect in film two, The Desolation of Smaug. Enjoy, and if you still haven’t read the book, we’ll wait right here. It’s okay.
1. The Necromancer thread
Here I must confess that I misjudged Peter Jackson. I wasn’t sufficiently familiar with Tolkien’s appendices and hence didn’t realize that there is some key behind-the-scenes action involving the Necromancer, the White Council, and Dol Guldur. Clearly I needed to do a little homework. Continue reading
So I went to see The Hobbit the other day. Be honest now, you’re going to see it too (if you haven’t already). I mean who isn’t, if only just to see the glorious, sprawling landscape of Middle Earth on the big screen one more time? And if you’re a homeschooler, or used to be homeschooled… well then.
Okay, so we already knew it would look fantastic. The question is, what about, y’know, the movie? Is it any good?
I was curious, so I went to see for myself. I’m pleased to say that while it definitely has its drawbacks, the answer is… yes. So without further eloquence, here is the scoop in the form of Pros, Cons, and Pro-Cons (a movie’s bigger than a music album, so sometimes you need a category for things you’re ambivalent on). In the spirit of the new movies, it seemed fitting to split what maybe could have been a one-post review into two posts (ahem). The pro-cons and final thoughts in particular ended up a bit long. So here is Part One. Come back tomorrow for Part Two. Today we’ll discuss pros and cons, tomorrow the pro-cons and final thoughts. Enjoy, and please do feel free to chime in with your own thoughts if you’ve got them. Comments are nice, precious.
[Note: On the off-chance that you're reading this and have NOT read the book... go read it before reading another word of this post.]
Right, so let’s start with…
1. Martin Freeman as Bilbo
2. Martin Freeman as Bilbo
3. Martin Freeman as Bilbo
4. But seriously… MARTIN FREEMAN AS BILBO!
All right, I’ll explain. Continue reading
This weekend, Peter Jackson’s first installment of The Hobbit is opening in theaters worldwide. It’s sure to be a huge box-office draw. Truth be told, I’ll probably be going to see it myself. I respect what Jackson did with the LOTR trilogy even though it had some significant flaws, and I expect some good performances from Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Richard Armitage as Thorin, and of course the returning Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis (Gandalf and Gollum).
Having said that, I’ve been thinking about what’s happened to Middle-Earth as its stories have become, essentially, a franchise through these movies. If you look at a Nerd Pinterest you’re sure to see funny LOTR posters and pics rubbing shoulders with Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and all the comic book franchises. The characters as portrayed in the LOTR movies have inspired numerous fan fics. Frodo and Sam’s friendship has become just another “epic bromance” (please don’t get me started on the ugliness of that word, even though I think it’s supposed to refer to a non-sexual male friendship). And of course, there are the video games, and the hobbit slippers, and the Halloween costumes, and the Pez candies, and…
At a certain point I want to just stop and say “Is this what these stories were meant for?” Continue reading
Since yesterday’s post was devoted to Steve McQueen, I thought today I would revisit some classic comic moments from one of his most enjoyable films, The Great Escape. Featuring the same director, several of the same actors, and even the same composer who made The Magnificent Seven, it too was an ensemble smash—just on an even bigger scale than that film. (Seven memorable characters? Raise you almost as many more and still leave you remembering every one of them months later.) There weren’t many critical awards for the film, but it’s widely considered the most fun war movie ever made and certainly has a devoted fan following to this day. That said, it’s a credit to the scope of the film that it mingles its fun with legitimately heavy drama, particularly during the sad closing hour or so. The same film that had you in stitches with the first half will move you to tears by the time it’s over. As in “No, not THAT guy! *uncontrollable bawling*” kind of tears.
But today, we’re just enjoying the fun parts, and someone has thoughtfully created a 10-minute montage of some of the best. Seriously, who can forget Steve McQueen’s baseball, or James Coburn’s laughably bad Australian accent, or that first sip of home-brewed potato liquor? I realize not everyone is a classic film geek like me and so none of this makes any sense to some of you, but if you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this movie, well, I think I see several full-length versions in related vids (hint-hint). Meanwhile, these highlights should whet your appetite. Oh, and there’s a bit of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” involved in one of the last gags, so it’s even appropriate coming up to Christmas. Aren’t I clever?
(P.S. This is one of those rare and glorious war movies with NO LOVE INTEREST WHATSOEVER.)
“Are all American officers so ill-mannered?”
“Mmmmm, ’bout 99 percent.”
They said he could act with the back of his head. No dialogue or frills required—his mere presence loomed larger than life in every shot. Put him next to some of the finest actors in the business, and he would undercut every one of them simply by being in the frame. His piercingly distinctive blue eyes were set in a rough-hewn, unconventionally handsome face that rarely betrayed strong emotion. His smallest physical gesture was precisely calculated and gracefully executed. You couldn’t best him, you couldn’t buy him, you couldn’t touch him. He was the King of Cool. He was Steve McQueen.