Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie Review: ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’

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We watched this on Amazon Prime yesterday, where you can rent it: Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018). It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Beautifully filmed and acted, this tells the story of Paul’s life, in flashbacks, against the grim background of Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome. James Faulker, who played Herod Agrippa in I, Claudius, plays Paul–in a Roman prison, awaiting execution. Jim Caviezel is Luke, writing the Book of Acts under Paul’s guidance. Joanne Whalley and John Lynch are Priscilla and Aquila, trying to hold together the city’s Christian community.

There are in the world today places where Christians are brutally persecuted, as they were in Nero’s Rome. And yet those are the places where faith in Christ is growing.

I’m not going to write a long review here, Paul is well worth seeing for yourselves. I just want to note that, as someone who has lived his whole life in a place where, by the providence of God, neither war nor civil strife has touched for centuries, such scenes are strange and terrifying to me. I have never seen anyone beaten on the streets, publicly hanged, herded off to a gulag. I know these things have happened many times in history. I know they happen now.

But on an emotional level, I don’t want to believe that persecution, of the kind that Paul and Luke knew, can be a fact of life. I don’t want to believe it. I don’t want the world to be like that, even though I know it is. God help us peace-loving American Christians, if we ever have to confront anything worse than snarky comments and hate-contorted faces.

For thy sake, Lord, we are slaughtered like sheep…

And yet by you we are more than conquerors.

That’s what Paul said (Romans 8:36-37).

And he taught himself, and us, that only love, filled by God’s grace and the love of Jesus Christ, can survive a fallen world.

Movie Classic (1974): ‘Death Wish’

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I haven’t seen Death Wish since it was in the theaters, but we watched it today.

Charles Bronson plays a civilized, peace-loving architect whose wife and daughter are savaged, and the wife killed, by muggers who break into their apartment. Bronson acquires a gun and walks around New York by night, offering himself as bait. When the bad guys try to rob him, he shoots them. In the resulting media storm, the city’s crime rate goes way down.

I just want to tell you something that every political scientist knows: in fact, it’s not political science at all. It’s common sense.

A government that cannot or will not protect its citizens from those who would do them harm has no reason for existing. Sooner or later the people will replace that government with one that can and will protect them.

Death Wish hits hard on the resignation and hopelessness of “civilized” people who don’t understand self-defense and just sort of hang around waiting to be victims. But eventually a spark comes along that ignites them–and then watch out.

American history is full of lawless towns, cities, and territories that were cleaned up and pacified by governments willing to shoulder the burden. By governments I mean individuals who did the job, sometimes at the cost of their lives. Elfego Baca and Judge Parker spring to mind; and Woodes Rogers, in the lawless Caribbean of the early 18th century. Parker and Rogers employed the same crime-reduction formula: hang the bad guys.

It can be done. It doesn’t have to be done by vigilantes.

But it sure as shootin’ won’t be done by liberals.

She Could Play Ellayne (Ya Think?)

Remember Arianna Richards, from the original Jurassic Park? I kept trying to get a clip of one of her ear-piercing screams, but had to settle for this one instead.

Anyway, last night I thought of her to play Ellayne in the $150 million Bell Mountain movie that is in the process of not being made. If you’ve read No. 4, The Last Banquet, you know when and where a really piercing scream is necessary.

Yes, the movie contest didn’t fly… but that doesn’t mean you can’t go on playing it.

Memory Lane: ‘Elfego Baca’

I was delighted to find some of these episodes available on Youtube: The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca. I’ll try to get Patty to watch these with me, this weekend.

This series, starring Robert Loggia, came out in 1958 on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” Remember that? It must have been good, because I’ve remembered the theme song for 60 years. This is the kind of great stuff Disney productions turned out while Walt was still running the place. He wouldn’t be happy with what they’re doing now: heads would roll.

In real life, Baca, then a deputy sheriff in New Mexico, won his reputation for “nine lives” when he was surrounded by a gang of bad guys after taking shelter in a rather small adobe building reminiscent of the old Stelton Hotel here in the heart of Jersey. They couldn’t persuade him to come out and get shot, and whenever they tried to rush the building, he made them pay for it. So they hunkered down and fired 4,000 rounds (!) at the place (yes, somebody actually counted the bullet holes), and not one of them hit Elfego Baca. That’s why someone counted the holes–the man’s survival seemed a miracle.

And I like miracles!

Anyway, here’s the theme song–and I don’t know who these performers were, but they were pretty good.

Here We Go Again! Jurassic World 2

Suddenly the supermarket’s full of Jurassic World 2 tie-ins to Cheetos and Doritos, which means the movie’s coming out, and here’s the trailer.

I am a total sucker for Jurassic Park movies. I shrug off the cliches. I tolerate the illusion of dinosaurs as big as Liechtenstein. And is that Carcharodon megalodon moving in on all those surfers? You’d think a couple of humans would be only the equivalent of two or three Doritos, to a shark that makes “Jaws” look like a guppy. Sheesh, “You’re gonna need a bigger ocean…”

At the very least, these movies provide escape, take my mind off things. They might even give me an idea or two that I can use in my books. Inspiration, of a kind. So of course I’ll want to see it! And eventually I will. But I just can’t be going to a movie theater, dropping $25 just to see a movie, and sitting through a dozen previews and several commercials before anything good happens.

That’s Entertainment? ‘Brain-Controlled Movie’

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Remember this, from “A Clockwork Orange”? Are we tuning up for this?

The sages at the University of Nottingham have developed a special movie that can change its story line as you’re watching it, depending on how you feel (–sort of like you can change your gender from day to day, I guess.

They hook you up to an EEG machine that monitors your brain waves or something and changes the story in response to your readings. Y’mean, like, I’m watching Picnic at Hanging Rock and it’s boring the tar out of me because they keep throwing these little mysteries at you but never solve or explain them, and all the characters are just talking through their hats–the EEG will read this, and into the story, suddenly, comes the Blind Samurai who’s gonna stop the Velociraptors from eating everybody? Or better yet, they all do get eaten?

Well, no, it can’t go quite that far. They’ve made an experimental movie with three different story lines and the machine can go from one to another and back again, etc., depending on how the viewer’s brain responds.

The movie is called The Moment, and it’s a dystopian scary movie about a “brain-controlled society” and–gasp!–the “rise of far-right ideologies.” Hooo, boys ‘n’ girls, that’s Scary with a capital S! What will the machine do if some leftid commits suicide while watching this film? Maybe they ought to hand out free duct tape with the electrodes, in case the viewer’s head explodes. Damn that social media–giving a voice to people who are not liberals! Government should never have allowed that!

I wonder how much more they can charge for a movie ticket.

When Statues Attack, Part II

As long as we’re on the subject of statues coming to life, here is the all-time boss statue-coming-to-life scene ever, created by special effects genius Ray Harryhausen for Jason and the Argonauts (1963). My cats seem to enjoy it when I imitate Talos, although I must say it never helped me during job interviews.

Is This a Pedophilia Movie?

(Thanks to Linda for the news tip)

Show Dogs is a PG-rated “family comedy” which has a lot of people calling it a kind of promo for pedophilia. It’s one of those movies starring nobody I ever heard of, or particularly want to hear of, with the voice of rap star “Ludicris” plugged into a Rottweiler. The Rottweiler is an undercover K-9 cop, and he and his human handler have to infiltrate a dog show so they can bust an animal smuggling ring. All the dogs and other critters are given human voice-overs. If you care for that sort of thing.

The trouble is with a scene in which the Rottweiler must submit to the dog show judges fondling his genitals: we are told this is standard practice in dog shows. Max the Rottweiler doesn’t enjoy this. His human handler tells him to relax and enjoy it. Some viewers see in this a kind of commercial for pedophilia, pitched at children in the audience.

I posted the trailer because it shows another attempt by movie-makers to get a laugh: a scene of Max farting in his bath. Bubble, bubble. To me this suggests that the film relies on the sort of  bathroom humor that we all hope our children will grow out of. Let me be charitable, and put the fondling scene down to heartfelt stupidity rather than to any sinister intent. It seems to be what makes this movie tick, if you call this ticking.

If they’re not trying “to groom children” for pedophiles, they are certainly trying (and succeeding) to celebrate real brainlessness.

Walk a mile out of your way to avoid this one.

Godzilla, Come Back!

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No, they’re not looking up at Godzilla. If only they were!

I shoulda known, I shoulda known… Serious Mainstream Litterature makes lousy movies.

We spent our afternoon watching Picnic at Hanging Rock, a movie by Peter Weir, based on a novel that’s this big cultural icon in Australia and therefore can’t be changed. It’s fiction done up as non-fiction. The author said she wrote it in two weeks. I believe it.

It’s about a girls’ school where they go on a picnic at this spooky place called Hanging Rock (a real place, actually), and three of the girls, plus one of the teachers, mysteriously disappear. One of them turns up later, but has no memory of what happened. That’s because it’s a movie in which nothing happens.

The author said she based it on a dream. Well, fine: I’ve used stuff from my dreams in some of my books. But no one sleeps long enough to dream up a whole novel!

That’s why this blamed thing isn’t a whole novel. It’s a story with a beginning, but no middle and certainly no end. It runs out of gas after the first 30 minutes and then fumfers around. We never find out why the girls disappeared, why the teacher disappeared too, why their watches stopped at noon, why one of the girls mysteriously reappeared. We never find out anything.

We could have watched Godzilla vs. Megalon! Say what you want about a Japanese monster movie: but at least it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It doesn’t just strut around saying “I are Serious Mainstream Litterature!” and give you a big, loud raspberry for watching it.

I say this tarted-up pretense of a movie would have been infinitely better with a monster in it. I’ll go with Godzilla but I’d settle for Mothra. In fact, it would’ve been better with Abbot and Costello in it.

But they were too wise ever to get trapped in Serious Mainstream Cinematic Artsy-Fartsy poppycock.

‘Jurassic Park or Laurel and Hardy?’ (2013)

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Yeah, I know I reposted this last year, but I think it bears repeating. The dinosaurs are still getting loose and eating people, and Laurel and Hardy are still trying to lug the piano up the stairs.

I admit that one of my difficulties is that, after the last ten years or so, I do find it very hard to believe that good things happen, too. It will take a long time to recover from the Obama presidency.

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