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John Adams: A Must See

June 14th, 2008 4 comments

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I finished watching the HBO special series John Adams, produced by Tom Hanks, based on David McCullough's book. It is, simply put, spectacular. It brings the history of the tumultuous days of the beginning of the United States to life in a way that is simply unparalleled. It conveys the sense of outrage and injustice that moved America's founding fathers to throw off the yoke of Great Britain's oppressive rule. The writing, acting, filming and authenticity is truly breathtaking. This is definitely not a series to show young children, there are some scenes of things that we would not wish the little ones to see. If you are a fan of the book, and by all means, you must read it if you have not, then you will simply love this movie. It captures the depth and warmth of John and Abigail's relationship, and shows Adams, warts and all, through his triumphs and tragedies. The episode, Part II, where the Declaration of Independence is debated and adopted is a particular treasure. And, as a real treat and bonus, there is a thirty minute documentary on David McCullough that is a feast for anyone who has anything to do with writing.

Categories: Film

Nacho Libre: It’s Fantastic!

July 8th, 2006 1 comment

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I really enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite and, despite myself, I really enjoy Jack Black’s comedic performances. So, when I heard that Black was the star of the next movie being made by the same guys who made Dynamite I thought, "Hmmm…this could be fun." And, yup, it is.

It is interesting to read the reviews of Nacho Libre. Basically either people enjoy it or they don’t get it, at all. I love the understated quality that the Hess brothers have brought now to their two movies, though "understated" is not how Jack Black gives his performance as Brother Ignacio, an orphan taken in by the monks and now serving as a Friar and cook in the orphanage. This is the story of his dreams to become a Mexican wrestler, a Luciador. It’s ridiculous. It’s goofy. It is corny. But, in my opinion, it is very well done. There is such a gleeful abandon and joyful silliness to the entire movie that I could not help but smile and laugh through the whole movie.

Jack Black plays his part as Ignacio in such an over-the-top absurd manner. I mean, come now, we must admire any man brave enough to pull on stretchy pants like Black did for this movie. He revels in the absudity. He plays his role with such giddy abandon that you can’t help but be pulled into the silliness and the joy of it.

What I liked most about the movie is that it has a heart. It has a point. Ignacio longs for something "more" to life, but in the end rediscovers the value of service, compassion and sacrifice for something larger than himself. It has a sweet quality that I really enjoyed. Ignacio’s kindness and compassion win out over his dreams of becoming a famous wrestler. The movie is respectful of religion and the humor is respectful and gentle. Sister Encarnacion is the moral compass in the movie who resolutely guides Nacho to understand proper priorities.

It is a fun movie, with a big heart, and I’m looking forward to watching it again when it comes out on DVD. Here is how Ignacio describes his life as a monk:

Nacho:
…but my life is good. Really good! I get to wake up every morning at
5am and make some soup. Its the best! I love it! I get to lay in a bed
by myself all of my life. Its fantastic!

A conversation between Nacho and Incarnacion:

Sister EncarnaciĆ³n:
Well, my favorite color is light tan. My favourite animal is puppies. I like serving the lord. Hiking, play volleyball…

Nacho:
You gotta be kidding me. Everything you just said, is MY favourite thing to do, every day!

Like I said, you either get it, or you don’t. Viva Nacho Libre!

Categories: Film

The Greatest Cover-up in Human History?

April 1st, 2006 1 comment

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The first trailer from the movie "The Da Vinci Code" is now available. I’m a big fan of both Tom Hanks, who stars in this movie, and Ron Howard, the director, and I’m probably going to see the movie. Ron Howard has indicated publicly that he understands this movie to be fiction, but …. how many people watching this move will be persuaded to consider that, just possibly, there may be truth to the claim that in fact there are secret codes that reveal that the story of Christ that the Church has proclaimed for nearly 2,000 years is in fact a lie and that the real truth reveals something quite a bit different? In recent years there have been a spate of books capitalizing on people’s gullibility, making much of the Gnostic Gospels [which read like they were written under the influence of LSD] and the complexities of the textual variants between various manuscript copies of the New Testament [no variant changes even one single doctrine]. And so, the Church will here have the opportunity to do what the Church has been given to do by her Lord: teach! You may find useful a downloadable study on the Da Vinci Code prepared by Concordia Publishing House.

Categories: Film

Gore is Good: On the New Horror Movies

March 29th, 2006 1 comment

Coming home from work today, I found the latest issue of NEWSWEEK waiting for me [April 3, 2006]. A story in the magazine discusses the new style of horror movies that are all the rage at the box office, and most often among the under 25 set. They are incredibly and sadistically gory and gruesome, described by one New York Times critic as "torture porn." One young man is quoted as complaining after viewing one of them that it was not bloody enough for him. The article reminded me, in a striking way, of Tertullian’s writing De Spectaculis, "On the Spectacles" — a work in which this Early Church Father wrote against Christians viewing the spectacles of the gladiatorial sports that were so common-place in his days, and the theater of his time that featured absolute filth and raunch, live on the stage. Consider how he answers a protest he commonly heard to the concerns expressed about Christians filling their eyes with the "torture porn" of their days:

"Everyone is quick to argue that since all things were created by God and given to man to use, they must be good, since they are all from a good source. We see many good things in the public shows: the horse, the lion, bodily strength, and musical voice. So, since these things all exist by God’s creative will, they can’t be foreign or hostile to Him. And if they are not opposed to Him, they can’t be considered harmful to those who worship Him, since these things are not foreign to them." [Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Ch. 2]

Some things never change, do they?

Tertullian concludes his magnificent work on this issue, one we do well to ponder today, by offering an alternative to the public shows and spectacles:

"What are the things which eye has not
seen, ear has not heard, and which have not so much as dimly dawned
upon the human heart? Whatever they are, they are nobler, I believe,
than circus, and both theatres, and every race-course."

Much to think about, don’t you think?

Categories: Film