ReasonForOurHope

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Film Review: Hobbs and Shaw



Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable 
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

For those who thought that the Fast and Furious franchise was too grounded in reality, I give you: Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.

This movie is like they took the Fast and Furious formula and maxed out the over-the-top action and decreased any sense of drama.

The movie picks up after The Fate of the Furious.  Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is enjoying a brief break from being the US Government's best tracker.  Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is getting into all kinds of violent trouble as a sort of underworld James Bond.  However, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is part of a British spy team that has just recovered a deadly virus when they are attacked by Brixton (Idris Elba), or as he calls himself "Black Superman."  Her team is killed and she escapes with the virus to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.  Hobbs and Shaw are called in and will have to put aside their differences in order to save the day (I'll give you three guesses if they do or not).

Director David Leitch is no stranger to the action genre with films like Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde.  It is clear that his action aesthetic tends towards the outrageous.  And there is plenty of that in Hobbs and Shaw.  If you are simply here to watch things go "boom" while muscly men fight, then this is your kind of movie.  And there is nothing wrong with enjoying some mindless, action spectacle.  The movie is smooth and slick, but lacking substance.  This is not the kind of movie that reaches any depth like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon.  Heck, this movie doesn't even get to the depth of the regular Fast and Furious movies.  But to be fair to the movie, it isn't really trying to be anything other than what it is.

A great deal of the film's enjoyment comes from the chemistry between the leads.  Both Johnson and Statham vie for the alpha-male status, which causes them to constantly seek to one-up the other.  Most of the energy of this relationship comes from their internal competition which inadvertently leads to greater respect.  This movie is at least insightful enough to see that men often becomes friends after being adversaries because the struggle reveals in the other qualities that are admired.  Kirby holds her own very well with these two larger-than-life characters.  She brings a strong feminine quality to the story.  The movie does a good job of tapping into the "rescue the princess" story without ever having her feel like a damsel in distress.  Elba is always charismatic, but he is given so little to work with here that it feels like a missed opportunity.

The script by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce feels like it was written around the actors' personalities and finds no way to challenge them.  It also feels like Leitch allowed for a lot of improvisation.  There are some surprisingly pleasant cameos that overstay their welcome because the actors drive the joke into the ground.  The film tries to tap into the classic Fast and Furious theme of family, but to less success.

The greatest flaw in the movie has to do with events from the previous in the franchise.

SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS FAST AND FURIOUS MOVIES BELOW

Shaw was introduced in Furious 7 as the main villain and he has now been rehabilitated in this movie as a full hero.  This wouldn't be as big of a problems except for the fact they never address his greatest act of villainy: he murdered Han.

Han Seul-oh was one of the most charming members of Toretto "family."  He was not accidentally killed or caught in the crossfire.  He was the victim of premeditated murder by Shaw.  This is a fact that was resting at the back of my mind the entire movie.  Whenever he grew closer to Hobbs, all I could think was: "He's a murderer."  It would be one thing if this was addressed and Shaw went through some kind of atonement/redemption.  But no.  Thor: Ragnarok had this same problem in making the mass murderer Loki into a hero.  I feel like Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather walking up his brother-in-law, except I walk up to Shaw and say, "You have to answer for Han Seul-Oh."

END SPOILERS

If you want to spend your money on some big, bold, shoot-em-up (and I often do), then Hobbs and Shaw will work for you


Monday, August 19, 2019

New Evangelizers Post: Reverence and Protest at Mass


I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.  
Very recently at St. Francis Church in Portland, Oregon, a group of parishioners thought it would be a good idea to stage a protest during Holy Mass.

The main issue revolves around Fr. George Kuforiji, a priest who came from Nigeria to take over the parish. In the year he has spent there, Fr. Kuforiji has rolled back a number of liturgical practices. He removed the de-gendered language from mass. He no longer used a number of parish vestments and decorations. He discontinued a community commitment that was recited after the Nicene Creed.

I am not here to praise of criticize Fr. Kuforiji’s choices in this article. There could be much more to the story than initial news services have uncovered. However, the issue at hand are not Fr. Kuforiji’s reforms, but the response of some of the parishioners.

During Holy Mass on June 20th of this year, many parishioners entered holding protest signs. They shouted during the liturgy. They recited the banned community prayer. Someone shouted a lecture from the pews. After Mass, this same person went up to the pulpit and gave another speech while Fr. Kuforiji stood in the back, hands folded in prayer, smiling and waiting to greet his parishioners.

A lot of words have already been written online either in condemnation or support for their position. Regardless, these parishioners are not necessarily in the wrong because they protested the authorities.
They are in the wrong because they protested at Mass.

When I was younger, I used to get bored at Mass all the time. After my conversion experience at 17-years-old, I have never once been bored by the Mass. A fundamental Copernican shift in my soul took place thanks to the Grace of God through Fr. Larry Richards. What happened was that my eyes were opened as to what the Mass truly is: It is the great miracle of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. At Mass space and time fold in on itself and we are transported to the Last Supper, Calvary, and the Empty Tomb. In that time, the Lord makes Himself present in the appearance of bread and wine. And the deepest mystery of all is that I get to become one with Him at Communion.

Lumen Gentium states that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian Life.” (LM 11) It is the source because Christ, the source of our life, is present in a substantial way at the Mass. It is the summit, because our lives are oriented towards union with Christ, which is what happens at Mass.

When we enter the Holy Mass, we enter into the presence of a miracle. That is why I have never been bored since. How can anyone in their right mind find miracles boring?

Have I encountered homilies I don’t like? Of course. Have I witnessed liturgical practices that made me uneasy? Yes. But even the masses where something illicit occurred, it was still valid. Therefore, I could not help but show reverence.

The main problem with the protestors is their irreverence.

CS Lewis, who was not Catholic, understood the necessity for for reverence at Liturgy. He wrote, “The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping… “ (CS Lewis, Letters to Malcolm).

The protestors, as demonstrated by their actions, are taking the focus off of Christ and onto themselves. They become the center of the activity. In all of my research, I could find no one who argued that Christ was not made present at that altar. But instead of helping each other reverence the Lord, they attempted to drown out His voice.

How can we possibly see God when we are only looking at ourselves?


You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Best: Top Ten Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies



Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most unlikely movie stars of all time.  But it is hard to argue that for over a decade he was one of the biggest box office draws in the world.  In that time he made some great movies and some terrible movies.

A friend of mine recently requested that I do a list ranking Schwarzenegger's movies.  Having made around 50 movies, I decided to focus on his top ten movies.  As was suggested, I wouldn't focus on his top ten performances, as some of his greatest movies do not include some of his best acting.


10.  The Running Man
The Running Man (1987) poster.jpg
The concept is better than the execution, but the production design was incredibly creative and the plot is pure action pulp.  Stephen King hated this adaptation, and I understand why.  The movie became a futuristic gladiator film with colorful villains.

9. Conan the Destroyer
Conan the destroyer.jpg
Most people will point to Conan the Barbarian as the superior film, but I disagree.  The first movie is so dark and self-serious and almost feels like being in a nightmare.  Conan the Destroyer is a fun fantasy romp with a rag-tag group of heroes facing unlikely odds.  This movie is so incredibly fun to watch.

8. Kindergarten Cop
Kindergarten Cop film.jpg
I was incredibly skeptical of this movie when my dad took me to the theater to see it.  And yet it works so well to bring his action-movie persona into a family comedy.  At the same time it is actually a decent crime/mystery movie.

7. Twins
Twins Poster.jpg
This was one of Schwarzenegger's biggest risks.  In fact, the story is that the studio had such little faith in it that Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, and Ivan Reitman all had to trade a salary for a percentage of the movie.  It turns out it would be one of the largest pay days for all of the stars.  The movie showed Schwarzenegger's comedic side and allowed him to put on an actual performance.  At the same time, he had heart-felt chemistry.

6. Total Recall
Total recall.jpg
This movie is insane.  I've always said that it is one of the most original films I've ever seen.  Where else could you watch a movie where a midget prostitute is standing on top of bar shooting Martian cops?  The movie is an exercise in extremes while at the same time being a mind-twister as you try to figure out what is real and what isn't.  It is one of his most violent films, but it works incredibly well.


5. Pumping Iron
Pumping Iron movie poster.jpg
I am so glad I didn't see this one until I was older.  If I had seen what a jerk Schwarzenegger was in real life as a body builder I don't think I would have enjoyed his movies as much.  Having said that, this movie is fascinating and insightful into the world of body-building.

4. Commando
Commandoposter.jpg
I cannot explain how much I love this film.  This is the most over-the-top action film Schwarzenegger made.  It should be B-movie schlock, which it is at some level.  But there is something about the ridiculousness that makes you buy into the movie.  It has some of his absolute best one-liners and builds to Arnold killing an entire island of soldiers all by himself.  My friends and I spent a night doing an estimate of how many people he killed and if you average 10 soldiers per building he blows up, Arnold kills 180 people.  It was a good movie night.  And it is a testament to Schwarzenegger that I did not completely tune out when he ripped a pipe off of the wall and throughout it through a man and a boiler.  Instead of rolling my eyes, I cheer each time.

3. The Terminator
Terminator1984movieposter.jpg
This movie is a low-budget genius.  The story is so tight and the action is so raw.  Schwarzenegger uses his lack of range to his advantage here by creating an intimidating and emotionless machine.  The movie plays out like both an action movie and a horror movie, so the fate of the heroes is constantly in question.  The movie is also incredibly fun on rewatch, as you see how James Cameron was able to craft such a visually arresting story.  It also has the first instance of Schwarzenegger's signature catch phrase "I'll be back."  When you watch the context, you can understand why it became so iconic.

2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator2poster.jpg
This movie is amazing for several reasons.  Some movies are better that their predecessors, but that is rarer still when that first movie is a real masterpiece.  T2 expands the story in fascinating ways so that it follows a great deal of the same familiar plot structure of the first while adding new twists.  The directing is incredible.  Most people point to the special effects (which still hold up incredibly well almost 30 years later), but the stunt work is beyond compare.  And the end is always so strangely compelling to me.

1. Predator
Predator Movie.jpg
This might be a perfect movie.  I read that poll in Bride magazine found that 80% of men preferred this movie to a happy marriage.  Everything about this movie works.  The characters are so well-defined in their roles in a way that most action movies do not.  The film does an incredibly flip from pure action film to horror movie.  The score is powerful and manly.  It is actually one of the best man vs. monster films besides Jaws.  At this time in his career, Schwarzenegger was seen as an almost unstoppable action machine.  This placed him in the vulnerable position where we actually worried he wouldn't make it through.  I can put this movie in and watch it from start to finish without being bored once.  In fact... I think I know what I'm doing when I get back from church today.

Thoughts?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Film Flash: Blinded by the Light

Blinded by the Light (2019 film poster).png

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)


Nice film that captures how music can inspire the callowness and exhilaration of youth.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Casting Call: FANTASTIC FOUR



Now that Marvel has purchased Fox, they have stated their intention to bring in the Fantastic Four into the MCU.  While some of the previous movie versions have had their charm, I don't think we've really seen a truly great FF movie (if you don't count The Incredibles).

Casting is always a very important part of this process.  Normally, I would go though and place a separate poll for each part.  But this time I am going to do something a little different.  I'm going to put four potential combinations of the First Family of Marvel, and you will vote on which combo you think is best.  Results will be posted next week.

Group A:

image by Kristen Dos Santos
image by Geoges Biard

File:Ving Rhames 2014-05-29 20-33.jpg
User:Marend93

File:Joe Keery by Gage Skidmore.jpg
image by Gage Skidmore

Mr. Fantastic: John Krasinski
Invisible Woman: Emily Blunt
The Thing: Ving Rhames
The Human Torch: Joe Keery

Krasinski and Blunt have great chemistry as demonstrated by their work together on A Quiet Place, besides the fact that they are married in real life.  Krasinski can do comedy and action.  He also projects intelligence and has the body type for Reed Richards.  Blunt carries with her class and intelligence.  As I am assuming that the Thing will be mostly CGI like the Hulk, the most important thing for me is imagining the phrase "It's clobberin' time" being said with real believability, and I can just hear it so clearly with Rhames.  Keery is the wild card, but his ability to play loose and comedic and charismatic as Steve Harrington on Stranger Things tells me that he is ready for the next level.




Group B:
File:Oscar Isaac by Gage Skidmore.jpg
image by Gage Skidmore
File:Cannes 090 (27830786580).jpg
image by Gabbo T
File:Mark Wahlberg at the Contraband movie premiere in Sydney February 2012.jpg
image by Eva Renaldi

File:Dave Franco LG-Funny or Die (cropped).jpg
image by LG전자




Mr. Fantastic: Oscar Isaac
Invisible Woman: Blake Lively
The Thing: Mark Wahlberg
The Human Torch: Dave Franco

Isaac is one of the best actors in the Star Wars sequels with real charisma and intelligence.  He is definitely leading man material.  Lively has done already done a comic book movie when she played Carol Ferris in Green Lantern, but she has improved incredibly as an actress, showing poise and brains.  Wahlberg can bring a lot of fun to Ben Grimm, bring that strong working-class charm and ethic to the character.  And Franco can pull off the daredevil, cocky youth that is Johnny Storm.

Group C:

File:EwanMcGregorJuly06.jpg
image by Caroline Bonarde Ucci




File:Kristen Bell by Gage Skidmore.jpg
image by Gage Skidmore


image by Gage Skidmore

File:Jack Lowden.jpg
image by Isban73


Mr. Fantastic: Ewan McGregor
Invisible Woman: Kristen Bell
The Thing: David Harbour
The Human Torch: Jack Lowden (not pictured)

McGregor is a seasoned veteran of big franchise films and can easily pull off both the maturity and physicality of Richards.  Bell has been able to command the loyalty of several followers over the years, especially in Veronica Mars where she holds the complex narratives together through her skills as an actress.  Harbour has a sullen weariness that weighs on Ben Grimm that would be very interesting to explore.  Lowden was great in Fighting with My Family.  He could bring both dynamic arrogance and vulnerability to the Human Torch.

Group D:

File:Rami Malek in 2015 (portrait crop).jpg
image by Dominic D







image by Gage Skidmore












File:John Cena May 2016.jpg
File:Solo A Star Wars Story Japan Premiere Red Carpet Alden Ehrenreich (41008143870).jpg
image by Dick Thomas Johnson

























Mr. Fantastic: Rami Malek
Invisible Woman: Emma Stone
The Thing: John Cena
The Human Torch: Aiden Ehrenreich (not pictured)

Malek is a fantastic actor who could bring a very quirky take on Richards to the big screen.  Stone is now a seasoned, Oscar-winning actress who is great at the dramatic and comedic parts of the role.  Cena would be an over-the-top take on Grimm.  It may even be conceivable that they could use prosthetics with Cena rather than CGI.  Ehrenreich got a really tough break when Solo performed below expectations, but he did a decent job as the main character.  I think he deserves another crack at the big time.




I will put the poll up on my blog.

Unfortunately, Blogger discontinued the online poll widget.  So if you want to vote, you will have to hit this link to a google form.

You can vote for one each actor individually, so you can mix and match from each group or add your own suggestion.

I look forward to hearing from all of you!


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Sinestro Year of the Villain #1 - Why Do Comic Books Hate Religion?

Image result for sinestro year of the villain

I am a big fan of the character Sinestro.  He is one of the most interesting villains in the entire DC Universe.  So, naturally I picked up the solo issue released last week.  The plot was simple enough: Sinestro is tasked to fight a race of immortal space conquers who heal themselves.  What he discovers is that they heal themselves because there are microscopic humanoids living in their cells in tiny civilization that make it their lives' work to repair their hosts. 

Sinestro sends projections of himself into these tiny civilizations to try and talk them out of aiding their hosts.  What follows is some truly terrible religious satire. 

The story begins with Sinestro confronting the aliens on a theocratic planet.  The god-ruler is a fraud and his people are portrayed as dumb sheep.  The same holds for the microscopic civilizations.  When Sinestro tries to convince them that their hosts are evil, these tiny people respond with the worst straw man arguments for God.  Sinestro sneers at them, inviting the reader to do so as well.  Eventually his solution is to increase the life-span of the microscopic creatures.  Once they have free time, the begin to question their religious beliefs.  I suppose this is meant to be analogous to how the more technologically advanced and leisurely a society becomes, the less religious they also become.  This could be an interesting commentary about religion and society, if it was not so directly pointed against people of religious faith.

This is not an isolated incident.  Writer Mark Russell also wrote the controversial Second Coming, which satirized Jesus Himself.  I don't know why Russell has a chip on his shoulder about religion, but he is not alone.  Comic books tend to be incredibly hostile towards religious faith.  I will never forget the first page of the 25 cent X-Men special which began with "More people have died in the name of religion than have ever died of cancer.  And we try to cure cancer."

I don't recall much outrage over that.  It seems par for the course in comic books. 

To be fair, there are some writers who do a good job telling stories even from the perspective of the believer.  One of those is Alan Moore.  This might be surprising considering his pagan tendencies and penchant for violence and pornography.  But in his superhero cop series Top Ten, Moore wrote a born again Christian hero named Peregrine.  While he allowed others to criticize her faith, she was presented with respect and dignity.  In one scene, she shared her faith with a dying man to help give him hope and was shown praying after he passed.  When someone else took over the book, she was an intolerant zealot who would do shout things at her coworkers like, "Heretic!  Blasphemer!"  You know, things normal Christians say to their friends.

Geoff Johns also did an excellent job with the origin of the Blue Lantern Saint Walker.  His story was harsh and challenging, but ultimately respectful of the faith that Saint Walker placed in his Higher Power.

As a man of faith I don't expect or demand that comic books cater to my religion or promote any kind of devotion to God.  All I ask is that I don't get punched in the face every time I read a story on religion.

Look, writers and publishers can make whatever kinds of comics they want.  But I don't fancy myself as someone who pays to get punched in the face by a simple super hero story.  All this comic book has done is make me aware of the name Mark Russell and to be on the lookout for books of his so I don't accidentally buy another one.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Film Review: The Lion King (2019)




Sexuality/Nudity No Objection
Violence Acceptable 
Vulgarity No Objection
Anti-Catholic Philosophy No Objection

There is nothing really bad about The Lion King remake.  It's just that everything truly great is directly from the original.

The movie follows the same plot, almost beat-by-beat, as the first Lion King:  Simba (JD McCray/Donald Glover) is born the Lion King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), much to the chagrin of Mufasa's brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor).  For reasons know to anyone who saw the original, Simba flees his home to be raised by the meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and warthog Pumba (Seth Rogen).  But his childhood friend Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph/ Beyonce) comes to rouse him back to the throne.

I have to say that this movie really made me appreciate the original.  I never realize how utterly iconic the movie is, and I mean that literally, not culturally.  The frames from the original are so vivid and burned into my memory that it would be impossible to not recreate them.  Think about all of the other modern Disney remakes.  Many of them may borrow some of the most important shots, but they are, for the most part, the product of the director's vision.  Not so with the new Lion King.  Director Jon Favreau is completely bound by the visuals set forth by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, the directors of the original.  The fortunate thing is that the visuals are so powerful that the lack of originality is forgivable.

There is a process in film called rotoscoping.  In the past, someone would capture a performance on film and then hand draw animated cells on top of the captured images.  This was used very famously in A-Ha's music video "Take On Me."  This movie feels like reverse rotoscoping where they laid down the original animation cells and covered them over with photo-realistic CGI.

The animation is gorgeous.  The creatures and the environments look and feel real, almost as if you could reach out and pet Simba's mane.  But this ultra-realistic approach as two distinct disadvantages.  The first is that it is difficult to distinguish characters, particularly the female lions.  There is a scene where the hyena Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) is about to begin a dramatic face off with a lion and I had no idea if it was Nala or Sarabi.  It was also hard to keep track of which was Simba and Scar in their final confrontation.  The second is that the human face is so incredibly expressive and we are attuned to even the most subtle changes there.  Because all the anthropomorphism is removed from these animals, a great deal of the nuanced emotion that you got in the original is lost.

Watching this movie feels like going to to see a live stage production of a movie you've seen or vice-versa.  It is different, but if the quality is high enough, you don't care.  And the makers of this film did a fine enough job.  All of the voice actors are spot on, especially James Earl Jones who hasn't lost an ounce of the regalness in his voice.

The movie kept intact all of the wonderful themes of responsibility, dignity, and memory.  The movie serves as an important reminder for the role of fathers in shaping the souls of their sons.  The few times Favreau deviates from the original, he attempts to show how in the eyes of a son, the father is a larger-than-life giant, one to whom the son can't imagine living up.  Combining the themes with the timeless Elton John music, makes the time spent in the theater even more enjoyable than this summer's other Disney remake Aladdin.

The Lion King delivers exactly what you would expect and it does it very well.  It has all of the original's beauty and heart and is just different enough to warrant a viewing.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Best: Fast And Furious Films Ranked

Over this past week, my wife and I did a marathon of the Fast and Furious movies.  She had not seen any of them and I had only seen some of them.  This series has been around for almost twenty years and is the 10th highest grossing franchise of all time, but I had never really gotten into it.  So with Hobbs and Shaw out in theaters, we decided to catch up.

My conclusion is that these are all B-movies with increasing budgets.  What makes them work so well is that they know what they are, they know their audience, they never try to be more than they are, and build the franchise on characters that people like.

So here are all the Fast and Furious movies ranked.

9. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

This one is almost universally regarded as the worst of the series.  This is also the one that almost killed the entire franchise.  It is the lowest grossing film of all the Fast and Furious movies.  To give you an idea of how low it is, Furious 7, which is the highest grossing in the franchise, did not make twice as much as Tokyo Drift, not three times, not five times, but... 10 times as much!

Obviously, box office alone is not proof of quality.  But with the exception of Han, all the characters lacked any interesting personality and the racing story felt played out.  Nothing is terribly interesting or exciting in this film.  The drifting is kind of cool at first, but then it looses its flavor very quickly.  It was the failure of this movie that led them to try a reboot with all of the main characters in Fast and Furious.

8.  2 Fast 2 Furious

There is nothing very terrible about this film, it is just that it isn't very good.  It feels like a re-heated version of the first film with nothing terribly new or innovative.  The movie did slightly better than the first, but Paul Walker couldn't quite maintain the franchise on his own.

7.  Hobbs and Shaw
Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw - theatrical poster.jpg
I will have my full review up later, but this movie is so over the top that it plays almost like a live-action cartoon.  There is no pretense on holding to any kind of reality here, but that is okay because the movie is incredibly fun.

6.  The Fate of the Furious

The first in the series without Paul Walker and you can feel his absence.  The series becomes more untethered from reality, but it keeps it grounded by our attachments to the characters in the franchise.  I'm mostly okay with Hobbs hand guiding a torpedo on the ice simply because I enjoy watching these characters interact.  I also found the ending oddly emotional.


5.  The Fast and the Furious
Fast and the furious poster.jpg
This was the one that started it all.  I don't think anyone thought it would spawn a multi-billion dollar franchise.  People have a lot of nostlagia for it, but when re-watching it, you can feel that is one step away from being a low-budget made-for-cable film.  What keeps it from going there are the excellent race scenes and the chemistry between Diesel and Walker so that the last scene between them feels earned and not cheesy.

4.  Fast and Furious

This feels like the most direct sequel to the original and that is why it works.  The movie is all about how the characters have developed and how the dynamic of their relationships have changed and evolved as it puts them into more and more ridiculous situations.  But this is a straight-forward tight revenge plot that delivers on what it promises.

3. Fast & Furious 6

This movie is pure action carnage.  This is the second time around with the what I like to call the "Prime Crew" of characters and their chemistry works fantastically.  Everyone knows their place in the film and how best to implement it.  The airplane fight at the end should have felt over-long and boring, but I was completely invested.  The movie also has, for me, the saddest death in the series.

2.  Furious 7

This is the highest grossing film of the series.  It took the film to new levels of ridiculous.  And yet I couldn't help but find those set pieces exciting, whether it was cars falling from planes, cars jumping from skyscrapers, or that ridiculous bus rescue scene.  On top of that, the final minutes of the movie are so incredibly emotional with giving such a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker.

1.  Fast Five
Fast Five poster.jpg
The whole reason the why the series has maintained all of these years is because of this movie.  It assembled the "Prime Crew" of all of the great characters from the four previous films and assembled them all together Avengers-style.  It also transformed this films completely into full-on heist films.  It cracked the formula for the film's success: exciting action, over-the-top spectacle, focus on family loyalty, and characters that you grow to love.

Thoughts?

Film Flash: Hobbs and Shaw


15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)


Like movie theater popcorn: no substance, but lots of flavor.  Lots of guts.  No brain.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Frustration of Indefinable Words

For the life of me I couldn't figure out why everyone on social media was going on about feral hogs.  For those who don't know, someone asked about what to do about 30-50 feral hogs that come on to his property.  The Internet came back with many wild responses.

It is a such a strange meme that I don't think anyone will understand in a few years.  But when I dug a little further, I found that the origin of the meme was a response to someone who wrote "If you’re on here arguing the definition of 'assault weapon' today you are part of the problem. You know what an assault weapon is, and you know you don’t need one."



I am much less interested in the meme about hogs than I am about the hostility towards definitions.  And I think this is actually very dangerous.

I run my school's Socratic Club, which is our philosophy and debate society.  We don't have formalized forensics that compete.  Instead, we engage in debate the way Socrates did.  And one of the most important thing we do is define our terms.

Socrates went out into the world to find someone who was truly wise.  He would find people who claimed to have wisdom and he would ask them about what they were wise.  They would say they were wise about "justice," or "piety," or "poetry," etc.  But he would always be disappointed because when pressed, they couldn't give a good definition for any of those things.  How can you be wise about something that you cannot define?

In our club, I impress upon the students that often we argue simply because we don't understand how the other person defines their terms.  Take a something like "Gun Control."  People are very passionate about this issue.  The problem is that I don't know that we are always talking about the same thing.  To some, "Gun Control" means the abridgment of my 2nd Amendment rights and confiscation of my weapons.  To others, "Gun Control" means more in-depth background checks to see if anyone has a disqualifying issue.  Very often I've found that most people are not for unrestricted access to all weapons and many people are not for the confiscation of all privately held guns (though I have met more than a few people of this belief).  The problem is that when we talk about "Gun Control," we assume that we all have the same definition in mind before we even begin to debate.

Socrates would not do this.  He would ask the person for the definition.  Afterwards, he would restate this definition in his own words until his opponent was satisfied that Socrates completely understood what was meant.  It was only after this he would begin to attack his opponents position.  Too often we make straw man arguments by using our own definition and not our opponent's.  But there are those who do not want to define terms because it shows immediate problems with their beliefs.

We once had a debate on "gay marriage" where we actually never got around to the question of if homosexuals should be allowed to marry.  We spent the entire time trying to find a definition of marriage itself.  Those who were for changing the traditional definition of marriage to include same-sex couples found that they had a problem: if they changed the definition of marriage to be whatever they wanted, why couldn't they include other types of marriages like polygamy and incest?  And if marriage is anything that we say it is, then it is really nothing.  That is because if it doesn't have a definition, then we don't have any thing in mind.

I understand that there may be things that go beyond definition like "God" and "Being."  But for most of the ideas we encounter, definitions matter.  

For example, I honestly do not know what the word "feminist" means.  I know what "Christian" means very clearly because it is defined by adherence to a specific set of beliefs.  I know what "Marxist" means because it is defined by acceptance of certain political and philosophical points.  But I have never found a commonly accepted definition of feminism.  Perhaps this is an impossible task since it seems to belong to a genre of thought rather than a disciplined ideology.  But this also makes it incredibly difficult to talk about.

If the definition of feminism is "Belief that men and women are equal in dignity and should be treated as such," then I am a feminist.  I was once in a college class and made the point that if this definition is true then Pope John Paul II was a feminist.  My professors balked at this statement.  Their response was to point out that women cannot become priests.  Their definition of feminism was "Belief that men and women are equal, that is, should be treated exactly the same."  But most of my female classmate rejected this idea because they understood that the difference between men and women are real and deep.  However, the problem of the indefinable goes beyond the classroom.

A few years ago there was a nation-wide student walk-out after another school shooting.  One student decided not to walk out.  A class mate became angry and asked why not.

"Because I don't support gun control," he said.

"That's not what this is about.  It's about showing support for the victims," the classmate responded.

"The organizers said it was about gun control," he returned.

"But that's not why I'm doing it.  How can you not support the victims?"

And it went on like this.  Notice, this was a massive nation-wide event and there was no consensus as to what the defined purpose was.  I find this dangerous because in this confusion, someone could claim massive support for a political position that many did not intend to support.  The intent for the March for Life is very clear: ending abortion.  But in the above case, confusion reigned.  But I think the problem is even more malicious than this.

A few years ago I got into a debate with someone on a message board.  I was naive enough to think that this medium would be a place of fruitful discussion.  A person on there kept calling Catholic evil and belief in God as bad.  So, I asked a question: "Catholics define what is good by it's relationship to God and the Natural Law.  How do you define the good?"  His response was, "If you don't know what is good already, then I cannot tell you."

I truly wish to be charitable since I cannot read this person's thoughts.  But if I were to hazard a guess (about which I could be wrong), I would say that he did not have any definition of goodness.  Knowing that this would completely undercut his objection that his objection that Catholicism was not "good."  I once heard Alan Dershowitz say in a debate that no one knows what is right and wrong.  He then later on criticized the morality of his opponent's position saying, "That's wrong!"  It struck me that he painted himself into a corner and he had no moral ground to stand on.  It goes back to this idea that if things mean anything you want, then they mean nothing.

This brings us back to tweet about assault rifles.  Please, I am not wading into a debate about guns.  My point is philosophical.  I am incredibly uncomfortable when people attack an opponent for wanting a definition.  Rational discourse becomes displaced by bullying.  Rather than give a simple definition of "assault weapon," there is an explosion of anger.  Maybe you define "assault weapon" as an automatic machine gun.  Or you may define "assault weapon" as simply any gun.  These are radically different things and we cannot find any common ground discussion, let alone agreement, until we define our terms.  This is especially true in the area of legislation where our laws have to be precise in their language.  But that will never happen if we explode at each other over definitions.

Socrates ran into this problem all the time. He left in his wake a series humiliated and embarrassed men, whose arrogance and foolishness were put on full display by Socrates' questions.  Ultimately, Socrates was killed for being the trouble-maker that he was.

But his legacy is not in vain if we follow his example.  Let us find common definitions together.  We may not always agree on what to do.  But if we can at least see what the other person sees, maybe there will be a little less conflict in this world.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday Comics: If I Ran DC


File:DC Comics logo.svg

A little while ago I saw a tweet that said: "You are now in charge of DC Comics: What do you do?"

I was going to fire off a quick response, but then my brain caught fire with all of the different ways I would overhaul the company.  Now, I am only a consumer and not a professional in the industry.  I fully admit that I speak without the knowledge base of someone who has not worked in comic books.  The following are based on my own insights and opinions simply as a fan of this medium:

1. Pitch to AT&T

AT&T now owns DC Comics and the first thing I would do is make sure that they understand that this is a good investment.  One of the problems that people have made in comics lately is that they have backed projects that served their own creative or political tastes but that did not grow sales.  As a famous commentator has stated several times, this is first and foremost a business. 

I would explain to AT&T that this business can not only be profitable, but it has another incredibly important monetary benefit.  The intellectual properties contained at DC are some of the most famous in the world.  Not only do the merchandizing rights help, but the medium of comic books is an excellent and cost effective proving ground for characters and stories.  For the cost of a few thousand dollars, you can test which storylines resonate with audiences as you look to adapt them to other mediums such as movies, TV, and video games. 

My main goal would not so much to have AT&T subsidize DC, but to allow DC to continue functioning in making stories.

2.  Market Research

Comic book readership has dropped.  This is a problem in general, but one of the things that is causing this has been the pushing away of long-time customers.  I do not know a single long-time customer who is happy about how DC has treated Wally West.  DC cannot afford to have anyone tap out of their comics' lines. 

I would fund intensive market research and hear back from the customers, not fans.  "Fans" can be anyone who has an opinion about something in comics, but that doesn't mean that they are purchasing your product.  I would reach out to local comic book shops and their customer base and find out what they want, specifically what would make them buy more comics.  It does not good to cowtow to Twitter mobs, since I haven't seen that translate into good sales.

3.  Editor in Chief Geoff Johns

My instinct would be to hand over most of the creative control of the entire DCU to Geoff Johns.  I've heard some people complain about his stories being bland, and not edgy.  But Johns understands the brand and the characters like no one else.  He is able to take even the most obscure characters in the pantheon and make them iconic.  His skills as a comic book writer are unparalleled, but his insights into the mythic nature of the universe and his understanding of world-building are top-notch.

The most important thing I see about Johns is that he actually loves the characters.  I don't mean that in the way that someone loves a book or a brand.  Johns treats the characters with the respect of persons.  They are real to him in the way that they are to thousands of fans.

4.  Big Name Comics

If we are going to rebuild, you need to start with your best known properties.  DC relaunched in 2011 with 52 titles, not all of them were good.  Here are the ones that they must start with:
-Justice League (with the big 7 again)
-Action Comics
-Superman
-Detective Comics
-Batman
-Wonder Woman
-Flash
-Green Lantern
-Aquaman
-Hawkman
-SHAZAM
-Catwoman
-Teen Titans

Most of the above sell at least 30,000 comics a month.  We would need to then figure out how to relate the other comics in the lineup to the comics that already sell.

5.  Smart Events.

One of the ways you can turn off consumers is by creating an event comic that has dozens of tie-ins that force you to spend lots of money on stories that ultimately have no bearing on the main event (e.g. House of M).  This can create fatigue and cause customers to give up.

But if you limit the cross-overs, this will help.  Customers are much more likely to take a chance one or two tie-in issues for a book that they don't normally read as opposed to one that covers a dozen.  Take the top selling books and pair them with another lesser-selling book and expose the wider audience to a story they may like.

6.  No More Politics

Politics and political correctness is a problem for comics not because they shouldn't make comment on the world around us, but because agenda seems to trump storytelling.  This is much worse at Marvel than at DC, but we saw this even the Hanna-Barbera cross-overs.  You cannot please everyone, but there is no need to actively turn away potential customers by crapping all over their political beliefs.  Politics has even led to the loss of talent such as Orson Scott Card and Ethan Van Sciver.  If someone can sell a book DC cannot afford to lose them.



7.  Timeless Stories


My general editorial policy would be for writers would be "Write a story that people will still re-read 20 years from now."  I cannot tell you how many times I have re-read Morrison's JLA, Robinson's Starman, Moore's Watchmen, or anything by Johns.  They are not bound to a specific place and time.  They don't feel like they are cutting edge of a bygone era.  Take a look at Heroes in Crisis and Mr. Miracle.  Both feel very much a product of Tom King's envelope-pushing style.  But besides their audacity and their shock, there isn't much else there.  Shock loses its luster after a while.  No one will care about Heroes in Crisis in a few years.  Novelty also loses its flavor.  Will anyone really care about King's Mr. Miracle in a few decades?  And yet people still buy reprints and hunt down the original issues of the stories that mattered to them.  We still talk about "Knightfall," "Doomsday," "Blitz" "Sinestro Corps. War" "For the Man Who Has Everything," "Hush," "Rock of Ages," and the like.  When I read a comic, I want to feel like I am a part of something fun and exciting that will be a part of me for years to come.


Thoughts?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Film Review: Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood





Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Mature 
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

The best compliment I can give Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, is that it is still lingering in my memory weeks after I saw it.  And that is not something that most modern movies can do.

OUATIH takes place over three days in Hollywood in 1969.  During those days, we primarily follow Rick (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff (Brad Pitt).  Rick is a TV actor who is starting to feel like his career is drying up and may have to resort to filming Italian Westerns.  He is emotional, insecure, and explosive.  Cliff is the yin to Rick's yang.  Cliff is Rick's best friend/stunt double.  He is calm, cool, and collected, never rattled are shaken.  He lives in a small trailer with his dog, but seems content to not be in prison for his wife's death (for which he may or may not be guilty).  The third important person to the story is Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).  Unlike Rick and Cliff, who are fictional inventions of Tarantino, Tate was a real person who was an up and coming actress who was brutally murdered by the Manson family in her home in 1969.  For most of the movie, we see Tate as a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine, loving life in the free-wheeling 1960's.  She comes off as a kind of innocent, a human metaphor for how Tarantino sees this era.  These three stories eventually converge to the night of the Tate murders in a way I will not spoil here.

Tarantino has never been a plot-driven writer.  In fact, I would say that for the first two hours, the movie is a plotless character exploration.  The events of the script seem to be there only for Tarantino to linger in this exotic yesteryear.  He wants you to soak in as much of this era's feeling and aesthetic by following around his characters as the walk around this world.  Normally, this would be a complete deal breaker for me since the element of story is the most important for me as a film-lover.  But what keeps this from devolving into a boring mess are the outstanding performances.

I will not be surprised if all three of the actors mentioned end up with Oscar nominations.  DiCaprio's Rick has the most annoying characteristic of actors: self-involved and self-doubting.  And yet DiCaprio makes Rick incredibly likable and vulnerable.  We feel his frustration when he screws up on set and his sadness at being passed over.  I love the way DiCaprio adds this very subtle stutter that is not over-the-top and barely noticeable.  But it opens up a very personal window into how nervous Rick is about everything.  He constantly has a look of confusion in his eyes as the world around him, the world and the industry he thought he knew, is changing around him.  And yet even with all of that, when Rick is able to meet his potential as an actor, we feel pride and elation for him.

Pitt is perhaps the biggest winner from this film.  I've known and enjoyed him as an actor for many years, but this was the first movie where I finally understood the X-factor that Pitt has.  His Cliff is coolness personified.  Men will want to be him and women will want to be with him.  He is capable without being arrogant.  He is overlooked without being resentful.  He is pure masculinity, especially when he stands in contrast to the hippies in Manson's cult who despise him.  Pitt makes everything look so effortless, but you can feel the skill and star-power he harnesses for this part.

Robbie lights up the screen as Tate.  She has to convey so much of her character with very little dialogue.  It would be easy to play her as an empty-headed Hollywood starlet.  But her sweetness comes off as innocence rather than naivete.  Special mention has to be given to Margaret Qualley as Manson family member Pussycat.  She plays her part as with a crazy energy.  She tries to be mature and seductive but in the way someone too young imagines those things to be.  She is a pitiable character who doesn't understand how pitiable she actually is.  Tarantino has a number of lovely small moments with actors like Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Al Pacino, and others.  The only performance I didn't acre for was Mike Moh's Bruce Lee, which felt much more like a caricature than a character.

The look and feel of the film is absolutely gorgeous.  Tarantino completely transports you in a way that feels tactile and not artificial.  He makes the time and place look like a somewhere you would want to visit.  Everything is saturated with the sounds and sights of the era that you feel like you could touch it.

But all of this would have been better served by a movie with more of a plot.  Tarantino lingers too much in his scenes because he imagines his audience is as enthralled as he is with his script.  But it always feels like he is about to lose me.  I am barely hanging on because of the actors.

I do have to say that one of the most pleasant things in the script is the friendship between Rick and Cliff.  Even though Cliff is technically Rick's employee, there is never a problem of power dynamic between them.  Early in the film, Rick asks Cliff to fix the antenna on top of his house.  Normally in a movie of this type, this would be a time to explore Cliff's envy of Rick's success and the resentment he feels at doing his manual labor.  But none of that is present.  Cliff is simply doing is boss/buddy a favor.  When Rick, who lives alone, sheepishly asks Cliff if he wants to come in and watch an episode of FBI that will air with him in it, Cliff happily announces that he brought a six-pack of beer just for the occasion.  There was something so wonderfully refreshing in seeing two men have a simple, straightforward manly friendship without all of the normal movie drama.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.

As I said, I do not intend to spoil the last 45 minutes of the movie.  And I do have to say, that this is the best part of the film.  The final day takes place on the date of the Tate murder.  Knowing this, you can feel the tension of the noose slowly tightening.  In this way, OUATIH is reminiscent of Tarantino's short film in the feature Four Rooms, where the scenes played out long and (frankly) boring until the fast and intense finale.  I will say that the movie has Tarantino's trademark penchant for violence and there is no mistake that it is gratuitous.  Whether you are on board with how he uses it will determine how you feel about the ending.

END POTENTIAL SPOILERS.

Honestly, this is one of Tarantino's best.  Though I say this being not one of his biggest fans.  But he really needs to credit his leading actors with making this movie as good as it is.  Because of them it is watchable, maybe even enjoyable.  But if Tarantino had learned to control his self-indulgent tendencies, this could have been a great movie.

Monday, August 5, 2019

New Evangelizers Post: Observing Grief


I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.  
Like you, my mind and my heart are reeling after this latest round of mass shootings. Confusion, grief, fear, and outrage are all swirling around inside me. On top of that, there are the secondary, ancillary indecencies: people immediately politicize these murders and the prayer shamers lash out at those who offer their spiritual comfort and compassion.

We are all in such a hurry to analyze and make societal conclusions when something like this happens. Perhaps there is a sense of urgency, but it seems to me that we are skipping over an important step: grieving.

Christ said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4) When something terrible happens, it is important to take time to mourn and grieve over it. Too often, we immediately run into some kind of action. “We have to do something!” is the urgent feeling. And perhaps there is a need for some kind of quick action. But quick, radical action guided by intense emotion is very rarely wise. Before we can restore our calm, we need to grieve.

My wife and I prayed for children since the day we were married over 18 years ago. However, as the years passed, it became more and more apparent that conceiving a child was not a part of God’s plan for us. Once we realized this, we immediately entered into the adoption process. During that time, they emphasized to us that we had to take time to grieve over our infertility.

It was an odd thing, that I never really thought about beforehand. I just recognized the problem and wanted to dive headlong into a solution. But they told us that we had to come to terms with our loss. It was a very strange thing to confront, but I realized that I was going to miss having a child that looked like my wife or inherited my father’s eyes or my mother’s laugh. I was able to touch upon that sadness and really feel it. And after I acknowledged it, I was able to let it go.

I am not one to say that constant self-reflection and navel-gazing are the most fruitful ways to go through life. We do need to constantly work on Socrates’ maxim “know thyself,” without turning too inward in vanity and egotism. But moments of great pain need to be acknowledged, otherwise we will still carry their weight.

When I was younger, I did not grieve my parents’ divorce. I may have cried once or twice, but then I tried making the best of it. However, my school work started to suffer and my anxieties were increasing. I was actually surprised when in a sudden outburst to a teacher I started crying over the breakup of my family. I hadn’t let myself mourn. And because of that, that pain was manifesting in very unhealthy ways.

I tried to prepare myself as much as possible when my mom went into the hospital. At some point, we knew she was never going to get better. When we were called to the hospital on the day she died, they asked if we wanted to see her. I was so afraid to see my mother lifeless, but I knew I needed to confront my grief. I am very glad I did. She had been in so much pain in her last few weeks. It was strangely comforting to see her lying peacefully, as though asleep. Even now, think of it, my heart is filled with sorrow. But I was able to embrace her one more time and tell her goodbye.

When I think about my mom, I am still overwhelmed with sadness. And yet I am strangely happy that I still feel sadness over her death. The grief I feel is not a burden. It is a reminder of the large space she takes up in my heart. And I am very grateful that after all these years, that love has not diminished.
Throughout the Scriptures, God instructs the people to engage in mourning. When Moses died, the Hebrews mourned a whole 30 days (Deuteronomy 34:8). Even Christ Himself wept at Lazarus’ grave (John 11:35). It is true that grief shouldn’t consume us completely as if death were the end of the story. But CS Lewis grieved the death of his wife, Joy. He recounts what a friend of his said to him in chapter 2 of A Grief Observed:

“And poor C. quotes to me, ‘Do not mourn like those that have no hope.’ It astonishes me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters. What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.”


You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sunday Best: STEVEN SPIELBERG MOVIES RANKED - #32-#29

#32 - Empire of the Sun (1987)
Against the backdrop of orange sun is the smoke trail of a falling aircraft. In the foreground is the silhouette of a boy jumping for joy. What is fascinating about this film is that it feels like his warm up for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.  Empire of the Sun is the story about Jim (Christian Bale), a young English boy who is separated from his parents in Shanghai just as the Japanese begin to take over.  He goes from living on his own to surviving the POW camps and beyond.  

You can begin to see some of the visual style Spielberg would employ later in his life.  He able to create incredibly dense environments of people while maintaining a strong focus on the main character's emotional story.  Unlike The Color Purple, Spielberg is able to find something visually interesting or even beautiful in the ugliest of moments.  Unfortunately like The Color Purple, the story is cynical and the characters unlikeable.  Jim is pretentious and spoiled at the beginning and while he changes he never seems to grow.  Notice the difference in a character like that as opposed to Oskar Schindler who is also callous and arrogant but is filled with charm and just enough humanity to make us attach to him.  You attach to none of the characters in Empire of the Sun because they lack any real heart.  Again, contrast that with the soldiers in Saving Private Ryan who are jaded by the inhumanity of war, but are still incredibly compelling because of the humanity Spielberg shows us in them despite that.  Empire of the Sun is stunning its breath, but never gets to any real depth.



#31 - Amblin' (1968)
Amblin poster.jpg I'm including this because I think that it is incredibly insightful into Spielberg himself.  It plays out like a short silent movie.  A young man is hitchhiking through the desert, carrying nothing but a bag, a sleeping bag, and a guitar case.  Along the way he meets an attractive female hitchhiker and they begin to travel together and become romantically involved.  He looks like a doe-eyed innocent and she has the bearing of a tough and cool seasoned traveler.  They finally reach the ocean.  The young man enthusiastically runs into the waves.  The woman decides to peer into the guitar case.  She is overcome by disappointment when she sees that there is no guitar and he is not a musician.  The guitar case is simply a makeshift luggage, carrying his clothes, mouthwash, toilet paper, etc.  She decides to leave him on the beach, happily oblivious to her departure.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but I can see Spielberg's own insecurities playing out in this film.  He dreams of making his mark as an artist in the film industry.  But he is terrified of being discovered as a suburban fraud.  He is not an edgy troubadour, but a child-hearted sentimentalist.  He's not hiding some deep, unspeakable trauma.  At his heart is basic, American decency.  

I have seen this play out in Spielberg's life.  Many people in Hollywood do not like him or his movies because of their broad appeal and sentimental traditionalism.  The film industry is populated by those who are always looking for edginess over artistry.  Think about the last few Academy Awards.  Will people really be watching The Shape of Water 30 years from now?  The character in Amblin' makes it out West, but he appears to be Mid-western at heart.  The same is true for Spielberg.

The movie also shows the beginnings of Spielberg's style, with his use of space and closeups.  It is all there, but still in its rough infancy.

#30 - Hook (1991)

This should have been a home run, but it was a strike out for Spielberg.  He has a strong parallel to Peter Pan with his child-like sentiment.  And the movie tackles the idea of selling out and forgetting who you are, without reducing the solution to a return to childishness.  And the first 15 minutes or so are a fantastic set up.

But then it all falls apart.  Nothing in this movie works.  Robin Williams never quite finds the right tone, Dustin Hoffman is never quite what he needs to be, the movie is oddly violent while at the same time being too juvenile.  The only part that really works well are the Lost Boys, but even they are being graded on a curve.  The production design is meant to look like a fairy tale, but instead it looks simply artificial.  

This is a real shame because all of the thematic elements are fantastic.  In addition, you can feel all of the raw materials are present in order for Spielberg to craft a truly magical film.  But something just didn't click and as a result we have a half-baked, over-stuffed mess of a film.

#29 - The Terminal (2004)

If I didn't know this was directed by Steven Spielberg, I never could have called it.  I wrote before that 1941 was completely antithetical to Spielberg's style and type.  The Terminal isn't an inversion of his normal style.  The Terminal is simply devoid of any of Spielberg's style.  It feels completely empty.

Once again, here is a movie with a fascinating concept but a terrible script.  Tom Hanks plays Viktor, a man who arrives at JFK Airport, whose country was becomes no longer recognized by the US mid-flight.  As a result, with a no-longer-valid passport, he cannot return home and he cannot pass customs.  So he is forced to live inside of the airport terminal.  The movie starts with some fascinating sequences of Viktor figuring out how to make money and buy food.  But as the film goes on it becomes more ridiculous, and not in a good way.  

Apart from the beginning, it felt like Spielberg didn't know how to film this movie.  Even Hank's performance feels like a generic good-guy, rather than someone with full depth.  This is another case where I think an awful script ruined the movie, but as the director, Spielberg knew what he was getting in to.  If he didn't have a strong handle on how to make the movie interesting, he should have passed.