Category Archives: Film reviews

Guts and Glory: Profiles in Courage from TV and Film

Jessica Pearson has reached a crossroads, one that she hasn’t seen coming.

Standing in a courtroom, the high-energy attorney featured on the hit TV series “Suits” must decide if she will stay and defend a man who is on trial for his life, or leave for an emergency meeting to save her New York law firm.  In the past, her choice would have been a no-brainer.

Jessica is the founder and managing partner of her firm. She has already shown that she will do anything to maintain its position and her power.

The attorney has aided and abetted the fraud perpetrated by Mike Ross, an employee who has posed as a brilliant attorney for the firm, but in fact did not attend law school. Jessica has also chosen her job over her lover Jeff Malone.

(SPOILER ALERT)

But now she has found her soul. As she defends Leonard Bailey, a man who is to be executed for murder but has been given a new trial, Jessica recalls why she became an attorney. She remembers that she went to law school over the objections of her father in order to help people.

As a result of this epiphany, Jessica tells her other desperate partners, hovering in the courtroom to drag her to the meeting, to take a hike. She goes on to perform an astounding cross examination of a key witness that causes the judge to free Bailey.

When Jessica walks into the hall, a rival lawyer who has witnessed her defense tells her how amazing the cross was. She replies that she believes it is the pinnacle of her career.

Ironically, this admiring attorney had earlier attempted to poach Jessica from her firm, expecting it to crash. Jessica turned him down.

At the end of the episode, she announces to her partners that she is leaving the firm. She knocks on Jeff’s door that night to tell him that she wants to leave with him for Chicago, where he intends to begin a new job.

Walking away from a career with lots of power and money to pursue your true calling and the love of your life is not easy as it might seem.  It carries a big risk.

Sonny Weaver learned that being true to yourself and your convictions can put you in jeopardy. In his case, he is under threat of losing his job as general manager of the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 film “Draft Day”.

Like Jessica, he has people hounding him at crucial times as he tries to make decisions about what players to pick during the NFL draft.  The biggest problem, though, is that his aging playboy owner wants him to “make a big splash” in order to put buns in the stadium seats. Defying him means obvious curtains for Sonny.

Furthermore, the team’s new coach, a Super Bowl winner for another team, carps at his general manager as Sonny wheels and deals during the draft. They appear to have major philosophical differences as to how construct the team.

In addition, current and aspiring players are lobbying Sonny during the day. Brian Drew, the Browns’ quarterback, trashes his office when he learns that his general manager has paid a king’s ransom to Seattle in order to gain the number 1 draft pick.

It is assumed that the Browns will pick a star college quarterback with the choice. That’s certainly what Sonny’s owner expects him to do. When that happens, Drew figures he is toast.

The coach hates this idea of a rookie quarterback taking over the reigns of the team, too. He believes Drew will run his offense better.

On top of his on-the-job issues, Sonny also must fend off his loved ones who want his time and attention during this critical period. His girlfriend, who is also the financial whiz for the Browns, announces that she is pregnant.

Sonny and her keep meeting in a closet to discuss their relationship during draft day. When he asks his girlfriend what she really wants, she says “I don’t want to be a secret.”

Furthermore Sonny’s mother Barb picks draft day to discuss the provisions of his father’s will. His Dad, a legend for the Browns, decided that he wanted his ashes placed at the 50 yard line of the practice field which is named after him.

Barb wants to do the ceremony then and there. Sonny is adamant that he won’t participate. This doesn’t stop Barb. She leads team personnel onto the field to distribute the ashes without her son.

Clearly it is complete chaos at Browns headquarters. In the midst of it all, Sonny keeps his head.

He does this because it is His dream to pick the players HE wants and to build the team HIS way. As he dickers with other team’s general managers he works toward that goal.

When the first pick is announced, Sonny has picked a linebacker whom he loves. He believes the hyped quarterback will be a bust, but that his choice will be a star.

The angry owner hops a plane from the draft site to go to Cleveland and fire him. Not only does he arrive at headquarters and say to Sonny “you’re a dead man”, but the coach also tells Sonny that he quits.

“I can’t coach a team that has no future,” the coach says. Sonny asks him to hold on.

He also tells his owner to give him five minutes. If he doesn’t like what he sees after that, then he can fire him.

Sonny then amazes everyone. He not only gets back all the picks he traded to move up to number 1, but also gets a star punt returner and drafts a stud running back, which pleases the coach.

The owner tells him, “Congratulations. You have some balls.”

At the end of the day everyone is happy. Sonny and his girlfriend have weathered their storm. His mother is pleased when she hears that she will have a grandchild.

The fictional stories of Jessica and Sonny tell me writer, this real life person, that if he is to imperil himself his confidence had better not be of the false kind. I had better have a clear foundation of beliefs that will help me to withstand the opposition to my choices.

In my next post I will explain what that firm ground is for me.

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America has made a deal with the devil. Perhaps it’s not too late.

There is some thought that we are in the midst of a civil war in America. If we are, it’s not like the first one that occurred over a century and a half ago.

In 1861 there was a clear geographical demarcation in the War Between the States: the northern states were on one side and the southern states were on the other. There were some border states with mixed loyalties that officially stayed in the Union.

The nature of the war is different now. The conflict is between masses of individuals spread throughout the country in blue {“liberal”) states and  red “”conservative”” ones. A few are purple, meaning they could go either way during an election.

I  suppose there COULD be a geographical split, but I doubt any states that secede would join a confederation.  These states most likely would blue ones located on different coasts.

There are some similarities between the 19th century contest and our own. Both wars concerned political, ideological and cultural differences.  But the mixing of those who hold disparate views is so great now that it would be virtually impossible to have organized hostilities involving armies.

What is very different today is the spiritual nature of the struggle. Back in the 1860s Americans generally accepted that Christianity was the prevailing faith. Both folks in the north and their counterparts in the south accepted that our country was “Christian”.

This didn’t mean that everyone was a believer. It just meant that our national values leaned heavily on Biblical teaching and many Americans sought to live their lives by them. It was also generally agreed that violating Christian instruction regarding social mores was anathema.

This way of thinking is obviously not the case in the second decade of the 21st century. The Christian faith is still prevalent, but not as much as in the past. Furthermore, since the 1960s the nation has descended into what can best be termed a post-Christian era. In fact, we are probably way beyond such a period.

The end result is that every man does what is right in his own eyes.  This could very well mean that Americans wittingly or unwittingly are making a deal with the polar opposite of Jesus, i.e. the evil being known as Satan, or the devil.

Oh, the accord with the angel of darkness may not be cut in stone in the human’s mind, but it is still an understanding. This compromise is similar in kind to my sports rooting.

Since none of my team’s win, I generally cheer from the negative. I pull for my teams’ rivals to lose.

Some unbelievers behave in the same fashion. They see Christianity as a losing proposition for them. They may not be that enthused about or even believe in the devil, but they get involved with his dark devices anyway by default. The resulting values and actions are not exactly “Christian” in tone.

Other people who are not followers of Jesus are in a worse fix. They have fallen hook, line and sinker into the abyss with Satan. They are making a clear and conscious choice to ignore and disobey God and walk with the devil.

This predicament can be detected in the America of today by observing the onslaught of lying in the media.Politicians and other leaders lie to our faces on TV, radio and the Internet. In addition, the purveyors of news are not only willing accomplices, but avid participants in the deception.

The source of this systemic falsehood is made known in the Scriptures. Satan has many names, but one of his monikers in the Bible is “The Father of Lies.” He’s the king prevaricator.

Such a decline as we see now  was perhaps possible in the 19th century, but not probable. Americans still had not thrown caution to the wind. Truth still mattered. Evil was at bay.

Soldiers

CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS FROM NORTH AND SOUTH AT A REUNION. A COMMON SET OF SPIRITUAL VALUES MADE RECONCILIATION POSSIBLE.

Because of our current beguiling, I was amazed to see the Christian faith of the time depicted on my television last night. Unfortunately, the show was one made almost 60 years ago, not recently.

One of my favorite Netflix pastimes is to watch old episodes of the science fiction/fantasy series “The Twilight Zone.” The one I saw last night involved a Confederate soldier who stumbles upon a bizarre scene in a Virginia town.

This Rebel scout found Union frozen in place in the streets of the place. They appeared as if they were people in a still photo, some in the middle of an action.

The Confederate, a man named Sergeant Paradine, at first thought the men were asleep. But he soon tossed that idea. He couldn’t wake them up, even though he shouted in their faces.

As he walked Paradine came upon an old man named Teague who claimed to have cast a spell on the Union soldiers. He showed the Confederate his book of witchcraft.

When Paradine didn’t believe him,the warlock froze him in place, too. However, the sorcerer left him with the ability to comprehend what was happening around him.

After releasing Paradine from the effects of the incantation, the old man told the sergeant that he could cast a spell on the entire Union army, but he wouldn’t because he knew he was to die that day. He gave the book to Paradine so the Confederate could do so himself.

Before reporting back to his commanding officer, Paradine froze some Union defenders in place on a ridge in the region. The state of these soldiers was confirmed by the attacking Confederate officer when the rebels were all together that night.

Paradine

PARADINE

What ensued was a debate over whether or not Paradine should go on and paralyze the entire US Army. He hesitated at first because while he was with Teague the sergeant felt the use of the book was unclean. The warlock also confirmed that the person conducting the witchcraft was in league with the devil. All this made Paradine uneasy.

At first Paradine’s commanding officer resisted the casting of spells, also. “It’s of the devil,” he said.

But Paradine regrouped and tried to convince his superior to let him use the book of witchcraft. “I don’t know much about Satan, he said, “but this cause of ours is dying right in front of our eyes.”

The officer then concurred and told Paradine to read from the book. However, when he did so he came across a passage that made him stop dead in his tracks.

“He calls upon us to revoke the name of God,” said Paradine. Despite exhortations from the others the sergeant couldn’t go on.

“What do we call em? Damn Yankees, don’t we, lieutenant?,” said Paradine. “If I read aloud from the book it is the Confederacy that will be damned.

“It’s the book or it’s the end,” he went on. “Then let it be the end. If it must come, let it come.

“If this cause is to be buried let it be put in hallowed ground. Let it be put in hallowed ground.”

The book of witchcraft was immediately burned in the campfire.

Would that men and women in America take the same stance against Satan instead of colaboring with him. The only way that will happen if we see the error of our ways as Paradine did. If we do, then perhaps we will have a spiritual revival in our nation.

Even if a large segment of our populace continues to make a deal with the devil, the people of God can still take a stand. They can actively oppose Satan’s playbook. This courageous activity may not save our country, but such a stance will at least please God and make our burial ground noble in His eyes.

In the long run of eternity, this is more important. Siding with Satan is never right.

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, culture, culture war, Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson, Desmond Doss, Jesus Christ, Media, politics, religion, Revival, Spiritual Warfare, spirituality, Temper of the Times, Truth, Uncategorized, United States, War

Film Review: LA LA Land is at heart the story of us all

Many feel called but few are chosen in the chase for stardom. For most of American history, Los Angeles has been the place where people flock to achieve their dreams of fame and fortune in the entertainment industry. Some make it and others experience heartbreak. Two such people are Sebastian Wilder and Mia Dolan, two lovers in the film “LA LA Land.”

This acclaimed movie is a throwback to the classic musicals of the 30s and 40s, where boy meets girl and tell of their love story in song. Sebastian is a penny ante club pianist with a dream of opening a jazz club. Mia works as a barista and auditions for film roles in between dishing out coffee at a studio lot to those who have already made it.

“LA LA Land” is like watching two people who are riding in separate cars on different roller coasters. Occasionally their tracks meet up, sometimes with positive and at other times with negative results. You’re pulling for them in their professional and romantic lives, but you can’t help but wonder if the two will crash and burn, especially when they meet up. Some people ride roller coasters for the amusement. After all, they’re located in amusement parks.  However, LA LA Land is primarily not a fun film.  There are too many emotional ups and downs.

Mia is young, enthusiastic and rebellious. The young lady, played by Emma Stone, is a no nonsense type. Stone’s face and personality conjure up images of a sharp talking Bette Davis. Like Davis, Stone is not a stunner, but she captures the screen.

Mia seems  to be quite sure she is going to get cast somewhere. She is the quintessential actor described by Dionne Warwick in “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” In a week maybe two she thinks they’ll make her a star.  The  coffee shop gig is clearly not very important to Mia. It’s just a short stop on the way to the mountain top.

Sebastian , portrayed by Millennial heart throb Ryan Gosling, shares many of Mia’s traits, except he has made resistance an art form. He is unhappy with the state of modern jazz and resents having to pound out a prescribed playlist at his club gigs. What makes it difficult for him is that he is  not silent about it. While Mia is sweet to the public, Sebastian doesn’t care how he treats people. His initial encounters with her reflect this and foreshadow the  future of their relationship.

As the story unfolds, both Sebastian and Mia get off their roller coaster rides altogether and opt for a less threatening yet unsatisfying journey in the kiddie area. Mia begins to think like Warwick in longing for the peace and quiet of home while Sebastian begins to sell out musically. But when each of them experiences these setbacks and begins to believe that they are fantasizing about making it big (thus living in LA LA Land), their partner draws them back into their dream. In this respect, the couple are made for each other. It’s nice to have someone who loves you and knows you better than you know yourself. The rub is whether or not the aspiring celebrities can climb the thrill ride of success together.

Having lived in Los Angeles, I appreciated the occasional glimpses of the city’s culture the movie provides. In fact, if anyone knows anything about the town, it is what Warwick sang of: it’s a great big freeway. The movie opens with a humorous song and dance right in the middle of a traffic jam. I also grew nostalgic while Mia and Sebastian stood on a spot overlooking Los Angeles and its mountains at night. While the couple, in the midst of the early bumps in their romance,  did not appreciate the view, I did. As I spent my time in LA as a student or mainly unemployed, I also liked experiencing some of the other night life I could not afford while living there: the indoor clubbing and the eateries.

As a huge fan of Turner Classic Movies, I was somewhat disappointed by the music and dancing in “LA LA Land”.  Stone and Gosling are nothing special as hoofers and only have passable voices.. They’re not exactly Eleanor Powell or Fred Astaire. Having said that, Stone’s simple performance of “Audition (Here’s to the Fools that Dream)” was quite moving. The song’s lyrics sum up the lives of the two lovers and also our own. We can all relate.

“Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish as they may seem.  Here’s to the hearts that ache.  Here’s to the mess we make.”

To Gosling’s credit, he did an amazing job on the piano, especially since he did not even play the instrument prior to his training for the film.

Going in, I thought that perhaps LA LA Land was over-hyped by Hollyood celebs for Oscar glory because it is somewhat biographical for them.  The Academy is nothing if not self congratulatory. Thus,  my expectations were low despite all the ballyhoo. I pretty much had decided that I would be pulling for “Manchester by the Sea” for Best Picture.  But I now think it’s a tie and I am surprised I think that way.

LA LA Land, lacks the old time song and dance inspirational religion of the classic movies, but the story is superb. It’s a tale of heartbreak mixed with love and ambition.  LA LA Land is every man and woman’s saga. Who could ask for more from a film?

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Film Review: Manchester by the Sea Asks if Redemption is Possible

Looking at his wife in the film “Manchester by the Sea”, Lee Chandler points to his chest and says,”There is nothing there.”

If this film provides an image of anything else, it is what happens to a man when  as author Gertrude Stein said  “there is no there there”. Lee is an empty vessel.

The vibrancy in Lee leaves him early in the tale after he makes a huge mistake. Thereafter, he is a shell.

Lee’s persona is fine as long as he can keep to himself. Indeed, he seems to prefer it.

When we are introduced to him, he is a custodian at an apartment complex in the Boston area. Lee is a good janitor, but he is not exactly a person who wins friends and influences people. When he encounters a crabby woman who has a water leak in her apartment, he curses at her, and gets himself into trouble with his boss.

The only reason Lee’s boss relents from disciplining him is that he convinces the man how good he is at taking care of the four buildings in the complex. The janitor is a jerk, but at least he is good at his job.

“Manchester by the Sea” uses a series of flashbacks to fill in the reasons as to why Lee has become the man he is and the effects of his massive mistake on him and others. I am no psychiatrist,  but it seems that like a lot of men Lee takes refuge in his work to escape from himself and the anguish bubbling inside of him.

Casey Affleck is masterful as Lee’s, reflecting his internal angst in his facial expressions. In general, he is a curmudgeon before his time and almost completely uncommunicative. Lee only talks when he has to.

However, an event occurs which forces him out of his isolated existence. Lee’s brother Joe (played by the wonderful Kyle Chandler) dies, which is not totally unexpected since in one of the flashbacks we are told that he only has a life expectancy of a few years.

For Lee, though, what IS unexpected is that Joe has made him the guardian of his 16-year old son Patrick. Out of the blue he has to be responsible for someone besides himself and a bunch of flats. In addition, he has to return to the town where he is a pariah because of his terrible blunder.

The best aspect of “Manchester by the Sea” is the acting of Affleck as suggested above. He offers a portrayal of Lee that shows the changeable parts of the character’s personality.

The flashbacks show that Lee was not always a sullen jackass. Before his massive error, he could laugh, party with his  friends and play with the younger Patrick with gusto.  Affleck manages the difficult task of depicting the influence of his character’s personal disaster on his personality with great talent.

The tragic story is a good one, but its telling is hindered by what seems to be a hurried attempt to tell it. The audience is led quickly from flashback, to scenic views of the town Manchester-by- the-Sea  to point of view shots of Lee driving through town. At times I felt like I was viewing my grandfather’s Super 8 home movies.

Furthermore, I had difficulty identifying the roles of the characters. The film does not have too many characters, but I still had trouble discerning who was who during its initial section, partly because of the hurried pace. In this respect, “Manchester by the Sea” goes to the extreme in attempting to correctly show us the story instead of telling us. Key details are unclear.

As a believer I also was unhappy with the tired old mechanism of portraying Christians as people who belong in an institution.  Despite my personal distaste for his task, Matthew Broderick as Jeffrey, the new man of Joe’s unbalanced wife, pulls off  the part of the creepy Christian quite well. Patrick’s meeting with him leads to a brief but humorous discussion of who is a Christian with Lee on the drive home.

Despite these drawbacks, Affleck’s performance carries the film and makes it worth seeing. If he is not nominated for an Oscar for best actor, then there is no justice.

As for the story itself, it is not uplifting, but it does deal with an important issue. The difficult question “Manchester by the Sea” poses is if a man who has done something awful can experience redemption. What the film and Affleck reveal is that it takes not only a village for that to occur, but also the man himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just One More

(SPOILER ALERT! The following is based on the Gibson film “Hacksaw Ridge”, a depiction of the true story of Desmond Doss. Thus, if you have not seen he film and intend to, I suggest you not read this until you do.) 

Desmond Doss stood at the top of a cliff on Okinawa.

Below him was relative safety among his fellow American soldiers. Behind him was pure carnage.  Doss and his unit had just been through pure hell, spending the day battling Japanese troops seeking to hold on to Hacksaw Ridge.

Like many of the battalions before him, his unit and two others had been chopped to bits during the fight. Except for the wounded laying among the debris and fog of war, and Japanese infantry wandering the battlefield looking for American men to send to their ancestors, Doss was the only living soul around. The other Americans had retreated off the ridge.

A look of confusion passed Desmond’s face. He had volunteered to join a combat union when the United States opened hostilities with Japan during World War 2, but only as a medic. His values, informed by his Christian faith, prevented from touching a weapon.

But Doss was just as offended as other Americans at the Japanese surprise attack of Pearl Harbor. He wanted to serve his country. But Desmond had determined that he would seek to save lives, not take them.

“God, I don’t understand,” he said. Desmond had done his duty during the battle, but his overall purpose seemed to elude him. Then he heard the cries of his men from the fog.

“Ok,” he said. At that point Doss knew why he was there. He faced the battlefield and moved out to save his comrades.

Desmond’s had already demonstrated enough courage for most men. He had battled the U.S. Army for the right to even be a medic. His commanding officers labeled him a conscientious objector and even a coward.

Doss preferred to think of himself as a “conscientious participator.” Even so, his leaders had sought to court martial him and drum him out of the service and he had even endured physical and emotional abuse from the other men in his unit because of his stance.

During the night and into the next day Desmond went from man to man, comforting them physically and emotionally. He carried American soldiers one by one to the edge of the cliff and lowered them down in an ingenious makeshift rope contraption.

Desmond’s mantra throughout his ordeal was “God, just one more. Help me to save one more.” After lowering one, he would go back to find another.

At one point, caught below ground in the Japanese caves as he evaded the enemy, he once ran into a wounded opponent. Instead of killing him, Doss patched him up. In fact, he managed to lower two hurt Japanese soldiers off the cliff.

The commanding officers and doctors back at the American encampment were amazed at the number of survivors from the battlefield. When asked how they had gotten there, they pointed to the work of Doss.

In one last trip to and from the battlefield, Desmond escaped down the rope climb with himself and another soldier in tow. Japanese soldiers fired at him from the top while American soldiers protected Doss and his “package” from below.

As Desmond was carried away, soldier after soldier looked at him with respect. Later his commanding officer asked Doss’s forgiveness, and told him that the men had to go back the next day, but that they wouldn’t go without him.

Desmond continued his heroics during the ensuing victory and was again carried wounded from the battlefield, this time wounded.  On the stretcher he called for his Bible. In it were the source of his values and his inspiration, a picture his wife.

For his work on Hacksaw Ridge Desmond Doss became the first conscientious objector to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I have seen many inspirational movies, but this one ranks at the the top. I was quite moved at  Desmond’s life and heroism. Afterwards, I stayed behind in an empty theater as the credits rolled. I bowed my head prayed, dedicating myself to God and his work again.

It is my desire to carry out my own personal mission to mankind from now until I enter eternity. I don’t know yet exactly how this desire is to be carried out, but as God showed Desmond the need of each man around him at the top of Hacksaw Ridge, I am sure he will reveal his task for me in serving them, also.

I do know prayer from here on out will be the same as Desmond’s: “Just one more. God, give me just one more.”

 

 

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Movie Review: shots at “American Sniper” are way off target

“In the world there are people who take a power drill to a kid. Thank God there are people like Chris Kyle up on a roof who blow the guy with the power drill’s head off.”

This is comedian and commentator Dennis Miller’s reply to Fox News star Bill O’Reilly when the latter asked him about complaint’s from some that the film “American Sniper” is pro-war propaganda.

O’Reilly noted prior to  Miller’s comment that he was annoyed at the attack on “American Sniper” because he felt that director Clint Eastwood had gone out of his way to show the suffering endured by Kyle and his wife from the Iraq War.

I would agree with both men’s assessment of this film, a unique work that is creating quite a stir at the box office and in American culture at the moment.

I knew little of Kyle’s story before I went to see “American Sniper” last week, but a close friend and my brother-in-law were highly complimentary of the flick. Therefore, I had high expectations for it. I was not disappointed.

The storyline generally follows Kyle’s four tours (yes, four!) of Iraq where he protected American Marines from concealed places with his adept shooting skill.

It was the culture shock Kyle experienced in going back and forth from the normality of the US to the chaos of war that moved me the most.

Kyle, played by a beefed-up Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”, “American Hustle”), sees himself as a man on a mission to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Much of the conflict in himself and with his wife comes from the guilt he endures when he is not in Iraq carrying out it out.

American Sniper Movie (1)

                                  Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper filming “American Sniper”

Credited with the most “kills” by a sniper in American history, Kyle has been quoted as saying that it was not the shootings that troubled him most.

It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.

Cooper reflects this attitude in the film. He did something for me that I feel an actor should always do. His performance made me forget that the person on the screen was not an actor. As far as I was concerned, as I got lost in the film, I saw Cooper as Chris Kyle.

While I would agree with O’Reilly that the violence is downplayed, it is there. Yes, there is blood in the movie, but as I told a friend today, it is a “tempered gore”. There is enough of it to show the tragedy of death under such circumstances.

The person who enters the cinema expecting to see a war movie will be disappointed. Like the 1955 film “Battle Cry”, the film is not so much about combat as it is about the sad effects of it on people’s lives.  (In fact, I like to tell my friends the former flick is more “cry” than “battle”.)

Indeed, it was not the deaths of the people in Kyle’s sights in “American Sniper”that bothered me the most. It was his senseless killing back in the States at the hands of a veteran that he was trying to help.

I mistakenly entered the theatre too early and saw his funeral procession as the credits ran. I quickly hurried out of the room, but even at that point thinking about his ultimate demise was a very emotional experience.

Why? Because as Miller and others have said, I knew that Chris Kyle is an American hero before entering the theater. The movie just confirmed it.

Unfortunately, for him to survive multiple visits to a horrible battlefield and end up dying violently in his own land speaks volumes about our culture today.

However, given what one headline writer called the “rampage” at the box office to see “American Sniper”, I believe there is hope for our society. Most people value the contribution Kyle made “over there.”

To echo Dennis Miller, thank God for such men.

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People line up to see “American Sniper” as I exit the theatre

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Movie Review: “Birdman” Makes the Imagination Soar

I had to go see a movie called “Birdman.” I figured the main character had to be a brother from another mother given his name and my surname. Birds of a feather flock together.

I was looking for something decent, too. I skimmed (I don’t ‘read’ for fear of prejudicing my own opinion) a couple of reviews mainly to see if there were any superlatives. It turns out this  flick I had never heard of is something of a ‘sleeper’.  One major review said it very could well be the best movie made all year.

The flick opens with a backside view of a man sitting in his underwear staring out of a window and musing on his crummy state.. Not having the greatest eyesight, I had to focus to notice that he was in fact sitting on air, i.e. levitating.

This is indeed the Birdman, whose real name is Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton). Sitting in a dumpy room reminiscent of pictures of Adolph Hitler’s abode during his early house arrest, Riggan is conversing with an unseen voice. At this point, as a Christian person, I was beginning to have some concerns about the potential spiritualist bent of “Birdman.”

However, the film, i.e., “Birdman”, begins to fly, especially photographically right after this opening scene

The camera follows Riggan around. The filming technique is unique. especially at the beginning. Internet sites focusing on the cinematography note the movie was filmed as if it was all done in one take. The cinematography is the work of Emmanuel Lubezki, the man who also worked his wonders on the space thriller “Gravity”, a movie I had high praise for.

Riggan has sunk all his money into producing a Broadway play based on the work of an author whose book is 60 years old. When one of the key actors experiences an unfortunate accident while rehearsing, the play seems doomed. However, RIggan is glad the man is gone because he was a terrible actor.

One of the other actors, a woman named Lesley (Naomi Watts), uses her relationship with well known Broadway star Mike Shiner (Ed Norton) to convince him to join the play. Initially elated, Riggan begins to regret Mike’s presence when it is clear the actor is a first-class jerk and is taking over the play. This relationship serves as the major character conflict in “Birdman”, Also providing pain to Riggan is his former druggie daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who is his personal assistant.

The “voice” is also a source of conflict. It continually makes its presence known to Riggan, and what he has to say is not particularly encouraging, especially when it comes to the former Birdman’s efforts to be a success on Broadway. The film portrays Riggan as a man trying to attempt a feat he apparently doesn’t have the chops for.

The frustrations experienced by Riggan”s battles with the other characters tend to produce F-bombs at times. I note this only for the sake of my fellow believers whose sensibiities might bothered by watching a film with this kind of language.

Typically, as with many men, Riggan is encouraged by the women in his life, including his ex-wife and girlfriend, an actor in the play. Lawyer friend and producer Jake (Zack Galifianakis) also more vociferously pushes Riggan to carry on, especially since he is privy to their financial straits.

Keaton is Jack Nicholson-esque in his portrayal of the aging, fading actor trying to turn his life around. Norton and Stone also provide fine performances as flawed people seeking to make their way in New York City. Wasn’t it Sinatra who used to sing that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.

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RIGGAN THOMSON HAS AN EPIPHANY DURING “BIRDMAN”

“Birdman” is definitely a special movie, in a strange sort of way. It is difficult to separate truth from reality in this film, especially when it comes to RIggan’s musings. But isn’t that what the cinema is for–to spark our imaginations?

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