Monday, February 27, 2023

Film Flash: Ant-Man and the Wasp - Quantumania


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

Better than the second Ant-Man.  Enjoyable, but middling Marvel film, with a great villain.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Film Review: Tár


 Sexuality/Nudity Mature

Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Mature

Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

There are those who will like the slow-burn and stylized dialogue of Tár.

I am not one of them.

Tár is the story of Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett).  She is a world-renowned conductor whose star is still on the rise.  She is celebrated throughout the world and is about to engage in a great coup in her career by conducting Mahler's Fifth Symphony.  For the first part of the movie, she appears to be in absolute control of her world with her sycophantic assistant (Noemie Meriant), her romantic partner Sharon (Nina Hoss), adoring college Eliot (Mark Strong), and mentor Andris (Julian Glover).  She strides into each situation and conflict with absolute confidence.  But there is something slightly unnerving her when she is contacted by an old acquaintance.  As the story unfolds, Lydia is accused of use her influence to gain romantic favors from those working for her.  This causes a slow and methodical disintegration of her life.

Blanchett has been getting a great deal of accolades for this performance and rightly so.  The success of this movie comes from the command of her performance and the power of her charisma.  Everything she does is fascinating.  This is also a performance that is tightly controlled until it needs to boil over.  She completely embodies this character in a way where she disappears completely into the part.  The supporting cast is also very good.  I particularly like Strong in a role that is different from his usual characters.  His Eliot is so demure and desperate that it took me a second to realize it was strong.

However, writer/director Todd Field has a major flaw that is apparent as the movie progresses: his need to show off.

The movie begins with a LONG interview with Lydia about the area of conducting.  Instead of dumbing down the jargon, Field expects you to keep up and throws you into the deep end.  This actually works incredibly effectively.  You feel like you have been invited to a high-level discussion of the art.  When the scene ended, I turned to my wife and said, "I only understood about 20% of that, but it was so interesting."  

Later, Field writes the best scene of the movie.  Lydia is teaching a class on conducting and one of the students complains that he cannot relate to the music of Bach because Bach is a different race and sexual orientation.  Lydia, who is homosexual, is appaled by this idea and tries to get the student to listen to the beauties and subtlties of Bach.  When the student still refuses to listen, has two of the best lines of the movie:

"Don't be so eager to be offended.  The narcisssim of small differences leads to the most boring kind of conformity."


"The problem with enrolling yourself in an ultrasonic epistemic dissident is that if Bach's talent can be reduced to his gender, birth country
, religion, sexuality, and so on, then so can yours."

These two scenes hooked me into the character, but the rest of the movie never lives up to this first act.

Instead, of getting the story moving at a nice pace, Field keeps diverting his story, especially with long dialogues that keep throwing his knowledge of music in your face.  What at first seemed like a fascinating window into a different world soon becomes an educated person hitting you over the head with $10 dollar words as if to shout to you "I AM SMART ABOUT MUSIC.  LISTEN TO ME!!!"  It almost feels like a test:  if you don't keep up with all of this, then you are not smart enough to appreciate this movie.  While I can imagine that there are those who understand everything and even those who pretend to understand for the sake of appearance, that is not me.  

The glacial pace of the plot also did not help.  Although I am not one that needs to be spoon-fed the information, Tár drags its heals to the point that the half-way point of the film felt like 2-hours had gone by.  As I said, there are those for whom this style of writing will not be an issue and that they will enjoy the subtle shifts in the story.  But I think that the film makers are there to be at the service of the audience and that when it devolves into showing off, then you've lost the thread that holds the audience to you.

To be sure, there are some interesting ideas presented and to its credit, the movie leaves a lot of the moral judgments up to the audience?  Is Lydia a monster or is she being unfairly railroaded?  Is she a jerk or is she merely a genius in pursuit of perfection?  The movie does not put its thumb on the scale, but instead lets you decide.  And there are a lot of flaws in the main character, both large and small, that are open to severest judgment.  But once again, Blanchett's performance humanizes Lydia enough so that you still want her to find some kind of redemption.  There is enough sin presented here to make a Catholic watch this with caution, but almost all of the sin presented results in a bad consequence.

But because the fascination of the first half-hour fades from the film, I cannot recommend it, unless you have an appetite for this style of film.  

Perhaps I am not smart enough or not pretentious enough to truly grasp this film.  I will let you decide. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday 2023


Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.

Memento Mori.

We now begin our Lenten journey, where we die to ourselves to more richly live in Christ.

I recently joined the Hallow App and I am making it part of my Lenten prayer experience.

Today, we began with the Litany of Humility.  The meditation share one of my favorite stories about St. Augustine.  Someone asked him what are the three most important virtues.  He responded: "The three most important virtues in order of importance are: humility, humility, and humility."

Part of Lent is humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord so that He can raise us up.  If we think that we are "good enough," then we are like the Pharisees who did not realize that they needed a savior.  

But we need Jesus.

The reflection on Hallow led us through the Litany of Humility.  I invite all of you to pray this prayer today at the beginning of Lent.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,

Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being loved,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being honored,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being praised,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being approved,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being despised,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected,

Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Monday, February 20, 2023

New Evangelizers Post: The Pillars of Lent



I have a new article up at  

Ash Wednesday is this week, marking the beginning of the holy season of Lent.

One of the reasons we enter into this season each year is that we are in constant need of spiritual renewal. I’ve written before about how Lent is “spiritual bootcamp.” Christ showed us the way to enter into this season through His own 40 days in the desert. And through that, we can see how we are to live out this season through the 3 Pillars of Lent:

Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.

Lent is a time of sacrifice. Most of us remember being children and giving up chocolate. But as we get older, we come to understand that this deprivation has a point. In fasting, we strengthen our wills against our own desires. If our wills are weak, we are more prone to sinful temptations. The more we can assert our will over our wants, we can are more armed when temptations come our way. Fasting also empties us of so many of the things we do not need. St. Francis had the insight that if we could be satisified with very little in this world, we could focus our satisfactions in the Divine.

One of the things I’ve noticed in my life, I find that things like YouTube and social media take up a good portion of my free time. This is time I could be using on my daily duties or (more importantly) on God. This Lent I will be fasting from these types of things. In order to be filled with God, I must now empty myself of the noise that distracts me. In the desert, Christ emptied Himself of his bodily desires so that He could focus everything He was on being satisified by His Father.

Lent is also a time for our prayer life to deepen and mature. A mistake that many people make is to think that more prayer is the same as better prayer. To be sure, many of us need more prayer in our lives. But filling the minutes with prayer only the beginning. Praying for an hour a day would be nice. But God is not impressed simply because of the quantity of prayer, but the quality. Remember His words, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matt 6:7).

I want to be clear that I am not discouraging you from bringing prayer more prominently into your life. You have my full support if you are planning on adding the rosary, adoration, or novenas to your Lenten prayer program. All I am saying is that this is the beginning, not the end. By adding more, the goal is to grow closer in relationship to the Lord. By filling our lives with God in prayer, we may be increasing the chance of that meeting with Him. But if all we’ve done is marked off time with Him, then we have not gone deep enough.

Finally, we have almsgiving. The Bible constantly reminds us of the spiritual benefit of giving to the poor. Jesus even says “Give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.” (Luke 11:41). Giving alms during this time does two things:

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Sunday Best: Superbowl Commercials 2023

 My apologies for the lack of updates this week, my wife and I have been ill.  But I should be getting back to more regular content.

And for today, I would like to look at the 10 best Superbowl commercials from last week's Superbowl.  Over the last few years, I've come to enjoy football, but I've always loved the Superbowl, particularly for the commercials.  I always find in interesting, entertaining, and fascinating to see how these big companies spend their money in order to get us to consume their products.

It also can sometimes be a window into how corporate America looks at the country.  The idea is to make a broad appeal, so there must be some underlying insight into our fellow Americans that they think they have.

In this list, I will NOT include movie trailers, since I think those each deserve their own considerations.

So here are the best Superbowl ads from this year.

1. Pop Corners - Breaking Bad

Being an enormous fan of this show, it was such a kick to see them recreate the characters and moments but for these "pop corners," with the implication that they are senesational, even addictive.  It was a very nice homage to the show.

2. Netflix Electric Vehicles
This is essentially an ad for GM electric vehicles, but it is also a promotion for Netflix.  And while not every joke from Will Ferrell landed, I enjoyed how he entered both Squid Games and Stranger Things.

3.  Tellers Bud Light

This one was very simple and very charming.  Just a man and his wife trying to make a little fun and magic out of the hum-drum and ordinary.  It just felt nice.

4.  The Farmer's Dog

This one was probably the saddest and the one that pulled most at the heart-strings.  It is a reminder of what wonderful companions we have in dogs and how there is a real, life-long emotional bond that we can build with them, full of joy and sadness.

5 and 6. Pepsi Zero Sugar Acting

I will have to admit that I have never been more interested in at least trying a Zero Sugar Pepsi.  It is a funny bit and it throws a challenge at you, the audience member, which makes this ad more interactive than most others.

7.  Busch Beer Animals

The callback to the ubiquitous Sarah McLachlan ads for animal shelters is what really sells this video with some good-natured humor.

8.  T-Mobile, the Coopers

There is something rather sweet about Bradley Cooper making a commercial here with his mom.  I can't tell how much of this is improv and playing around and how much is only meant to look like that.  But I love Cooper's humility to let his mom take a jab at the fact that he has never won a major award.  

9.  T-Mobile, Grease

I know there are those who find this cloying and cringy.  But Grease is so deeply soaked into my bones (whether I want it there or not), that I could not help enjoying seeing John Travolta having silly fun with Braff and Faison.  It just seemed like they were all having a goofy, fun time.

10.  Affleck Dunkin'

I have a lot of affection for Ben Affleck, and I'm always rooting for his success.  I liked this bit he does interacting with customers.  I especially like the moment when the customer does not recognize him.  


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Sunday Best: Top 5 Football Movies (repost)

  In preparation for Superbowl Sunday today, I thought I would take a look at the best football movies I have seen.

Now, two caveats:

1. I have not seen that many football movies.  There are some all-time classics like The Longest Yard and Friday Night Lights, which I haven't seen.  So if your favorite is not on this list, it doesn't mean I don't like it.  It probably means I haven't seen it.

2. I am not the biggest fan of football.  I have only recently gotten into the game on a regular basis, but I still could not tell you the difference between a tailback and a running back.  So if my choices are ones that are least indicative of the actual game of football, then you will know why.

With that said, here is my list.  All you true-blue football fans can have fun taking this list apart.

5. Horse Feathers


As a comedy, this movie is the best one on this list.  As a football movie, the Marx Brothers squeeze every ounce of comedy about a scam running around college football.  My favorite part is when Groucho approaches the huddle as if to say something inspirational or serious and says, "Don't look now boys, but I think I see the chemistry professor in the stands with the janitor's wife."

4. Remember the Titans

Remember the titansposter.jpg

The thing I really like about this movie is that it shows that if you bring people together for a common goal, they can overcome their differences.  I also love Denzel's Washington's performance as Coach Boone explains why he is so hard on all of his players: "Now I may be a mean cuss. But I'm the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field. The world don't give a damn about how sensitive these kids are, especially the young black kids. You ain't doin' these kids a favor by patronizing them. You crippling them; You crippling them for life."

3. The Blind Side

A relatively small blonde women stands beside a large football player, facing away from the viewer.

This movie is less about football and more about the importance of love and family.  It is a movie of wonderful performances and it is an excellent feel-good film, where Sandra Bullock earned her Oscar.

2. American Underdog

A football player prepares to throw the ball.

This one might be higher on my list because it still fresh in my mind.  But I love how Kurt Warner loves the game of football and uses all of that love and passion to make a better life for his family.  Football becomes his gladiator arena where he proves himself as a man in battle, in a true testament to never giving up.

1. Rudy


What makes Rudy such an all-time classic is not that the main character grows into a star player like Kurt Warner.  It isn't even that Rudy makes a significant impact on the one game he plays.  Instead, this is a movie about all of the people that Rudy impacts on his journey.  He makes all of them better people as he strives to his dream.  In that, he creates a community of friends as they all do their best to reach that excellence that we all know is inside us.  Not all of us will be the biggest and the strongest.  But all of us are capable of giving it our all, like Rudy.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Film Flash: Tár


Tár poster.jpg

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

A movie where the screenplay writer screams "Listen to how SMART I am about music!"

Star rating 1.5 of 5.png

Monday, February 6, 2023

New Evangelizers Post: On the New Satanism



I have a new article up at  

At last night’s Grammy Awards, there was an act that was Satanic in the most literal sense, with costumes, makeup, and fire all in a celebration of the Devil.

This is part of a continuing trend giving prominence to Satan. Musicians like Lil Nas X made some waves with his Satanic music video. Groups like the Church of Satan are recently sued the State of Idaho to stop its anti-abortion laws. Heck, there is even a television show called Lucifer that ran for six seasons where Satan was portrayed as the hero.

So what are we to make of this latest crop of Satanism embraced by the pop culture?

First of all, it is important to remember that this embrace of Satan is nothing new. I am not trying to downplay its maliciousness. But it is important to remember that this is not a new problem. Besides actual Satanic worship, people have often looked to Satan as a symbol of rebellion. The Romantic poets like Byron saw Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost as a tragic anti-hero rather than the embodiment of evil. In modern times, heavy rock and roll acts would embrace a Satanic theme in order to seem rebellious and tough. We saw this with Ozzy Osborne, Marilyn Manson and the like.

Another thing to keep in mind is that much of this embrace of Satanism is symbolic. I would imagine that those who performed at the Grammy’s yesterday were not doing so in devotion to their belief in the reality of the fallen angel. Instead, embracing the Devil is a thumb in the eye to Christianity. Since Christianity calls mankind to repentance of sins to embrace God, this new Satanism is a way of saying that traditional morality and God are things to be rejected the Lucifer did.

I remember a few years ago there was a pro-life demonstration where the people were singing amazing grace. One pro-abortion counter protester looked into the camera of the person recording and shouted “Hail Satan!” and the screamed like a lunatic. I cannot know for sure, but my instinct tells me that this person did not have any kind of true devotion to the devil, but instead wanted to shock and offend those on the side of God.

What most of these people want is to remake themselves in their own image. This is the Original Sin from Eden. Notice the dialogue between the woman and the serpent:

Now the snake was the most cunning* of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?”
The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
a it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’”
But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!
God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know* good and evil.” 
(Genesis 2:1-5)

Notice that Satan does not tempt the woman to Devil-worship, but self-worship. He tempts them to replace God with her own ego. I believe this is at the heart of most of this Satanism: a desire to be our own god and decide for ourselves good and evil. After all, we live in a world where the most basic truths about life, marriage, and even our God-given sex are called into question. This seems to be the goal of those who promote Satanic imagery and not actual devotion to the Devil.

Again, do not misunderstand: anything that glorifies Satan is wrong and dangerous. Even if those who engage in this symbolic action don’t actually believe, it does not change the fact that Satan is real and seeks to corrupt us. A child may play with a parent’s loaded gun because he wants to look tough, not thinking that it will actually hurt someone. But that does not change the fact that a loaded gun can still do great harm. Playing with demonic things, whether you believe them to be harmful or not, can lead great harm as well.

So what are we to do about this new Satanism?

This final section is a matter of opinion. Please feel free to use your own wisdom to disagree if you wish.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Sunday Best: Oscar Game 2023

OBJECT: Get the most points!

HOW TO PLAY:  Fill out a score sheet for each category with your choice (who you want to win) and your prediction (who you think WILL win).  



-Best Picture
-Best Director
-Best Actor
-Best Actress
-Best Supporting Actor
-Best Supporting Actress
-Best Original Screenplay
-Best Adapted Screenplay
-Best Original Score
-Best Original Song
-Best Animate Feature

On the night of the Oscars, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.  If you get a prediction wrong, subtract 1 point.  Give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY CHOICE.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY CHOICE.

For example:


-MY CHOICE = Steven Spielberg, "The Fabelmans"
-MY PREDICTION = Todd Field "Tar"


-MY CHOICE =Austin Butler "Elvis"
-MY PREDICTION = Brendan Fraser, "The Whale"


-MY CHOICE = Michelle Yeoh, "Everything Everywhere All At Once"
-MY PREDICTION = Michelle Yeoh, "Everything Everywhere All At Once"

If Todd Field wins Best Director, gain 1 point for a correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS, but no points for an incorrect MY CHOICE  (total points = 1)

If Austin Butler wins Best Actor, gain 1 point, for a correct MY CHOICE, but subtract 1 point for an incorrect MY PREDICTION (total points = 0)

If Michelle Yeoh wins Best Actress, gain 1 points for correct MY CHOICE and 1 correct MY PREDICTION.  (total points =2)

You may NOT make a guess for a MY CHOICE in a category if you have not seen any of the films in the category.  You may, however, make a blind guess for the MY PREDICTION section even if you have not seen any of the nominees.


-Best Editing
-Best Cinematography
-Best Visual Effects
-Best Sound Editing
-Best Sound Mixing
-Best Makeup
-Best Costumes
-Best Production Design

For these, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.   Give yourself 1 points each correct guess in MY CHOICE.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY PREDICTIONS or MY CHOICE.


-Best Documentary Feature
-Best Documentary Short
-Best Animated Short
-Best Live Action Short
-Best International Feature Film

For these, give yourself 1/5th of a point (.2) for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.   Since so few people have seen these, there is no MY CHOICE section.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY PREDICTIONS.


Fill out the below score sheet and send it to me.  I will be the designated score-keeper.  You may change any choice up until the broadcast begins.

The winner will receive bragging rights and recognition on this blog.

Click the link below to fill out the form

Click this link and fill out the form

I will publish my selections before Oscar night so that everything is on the up and up.  Usually I would have done so already, but I am still thinking things through.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Despairing Romance in The Last of Us

 HBO has adapted the hit video game The Last Of Us into a popular TV series.  The most recent episode, its third, has garnered wide-spread critical acclaim.  It was presented as a tragic love story that left audiences deeply saddened.  When my wife and I watched this episode, I was also made to feel horribly sad.

But not for the reason the show intended.


The show centers around Bill (Nick Offerman), a doomsday prepper who hates the government, is a gun-nut and self-sufficient man.  When Fedra comes and empties out his town, he hides in his bunker until they escape.  Now without the burden of people, Bill builds a secure oasis for himself in this tiny hamlet, surrounded by electric fences, booby traps, and containing all the niceties of life like electricity and gas.  Things change for Bill when Frank (Murray Bartlett) falls into one of Bill's traps.  Bill rescues him and feeds him.  Then Bill, who was a closeted gay man, begins a love affair with Frank that lasts for decades.  They remain in their little community, isolated, only occasionally trading with the main character of the show.  Eventually Frank gets a debilitating disease and Bill must care for him.  One morning Frank decides to commit suicide, despite Bill's protestations.  Frank tells them that they are going to get "married," Bill will cook a delicious dinner and then poison him with his pain meds in his wine.  When dinner is over, Bill puts the pain meds into Frank's wine and he drinks.  Seeing this, Bill also poisons himself, not wanting to live without Frank.  The two then go to their bed where they die.

This episode has been overwhelming praise from critics.  And I must be completely fair to their assessments.  The acting is excellent.  Particularly Offerman is superb.  I don't use that praise lightly.  He plays all of this flawed man's contradictions with perfect stoic restraint until his emotional dams all break.  It is one of the finest pieces of acting I've seen in TV all year.  The direction of the show was also top-notch.  The way this episode is filmed, it felt like a mini-movie rather than one episode of a series.

But all of this paints over a horrible darkness.

I am going to leave aside completely the fact that this romance involves a same-sex couple.  The Christian faith is already incredibly clear on the morality of such a union.  Even if this were an opposite-sex couple, there is still a pernicious world-view lurking at the bottom.

First of all, the love between these two is utterly selfish.  Now, I don't mean to say that they don't have genuine affection and care.  But this was a love that was turned inward towards each other and the rest of the world be damned.  This is always a constant temptation of romantic love.  All you do is look at the beloved.  As Tony sings in West Side Story, "I saw you and the world went away."  Everything becomes about feeding this romance.  And it is true that all friendships, romances, and familial bonds run the risk of turning tribal.  In desperate times, it makes sense to close ranks.  But Bill and Frank are not simply scrapping by to survive.  They thrive in their little island of civilization and do nothing to help save anyone else.  How many families could have been saved and lived in relative safety in their community?  Yes, this would have come with great risk, but this was not even a consideration.  The only reason that Frank is allowed to stay originally is because of Bill's attraction to him.  

Frank is particularly self-centered.  Self-murder is always wrong, even though we feel horrible sympathy for him in his seemingly fatal illness.  But there is no sense in him of anything bigger than himself.  He no longer enjoys life, so he decides to end it.  Bill seems perfectly content to take care of Frank until his passing.  But Frank dictates to Bill that he will kill himself.  He gives Bill no real time to come to terms with this decision.  They will only have hours left together and what they do will be dictated by Frank.  He even tells Bill what outfit he will wear and he can't say no.  In fact, for Frank, it would be unloving of Bill to not give into his every whim.  He asks Bill if he loves him.  When Bill says "Yes," Frank responds, "Then love me the way I want you to love me."

"Love me the way I want you to love me."

This is almost the complete inversion of agape, the completely giving, unselfish love that we find in Christ dying for us on the cross.  It is a purely gift love that gives without regard for reward.  Frank instead demands complete subservience from Bill in the name of love.  In Frank's eyes, Bill must bend his knee to his whims.  In Christian marriage, it is true that we serve each other and I do my best to serve my wife as best I can.  But if I really love her, I will not love her the way she wants to be loved.  I will love her in the way that will help her be the best person she can be.  And my wife does the same for me.  She knows that part of her vocation is to help me become a saint instead of devolving into my little cocoon of selfishness.

And even though Bill and Frank had been together for decades, it is only on the day of his death that Frank finally wants to be married.  It reminds me of the tragic death of Robert Fuller.  Fuller was a dying man who chose assisted suicide because of a fatal cancer diagnosis.  Moments before he was killed, he "married" his young romantic partner.  What struck me about this similar detail is the view of marriage from this perspective.

For Frank (and perhaps Fuller, though I am less inclined to speculate about a real-life person), marriage was the capstone to the relationship.  It was the epitaph on the tombstone.  That is such an odd view of what marriage is.  Marriage is not designed to be the final seal of approval to a romantic relationship.  It is meant to be forward-looking.  That is because marriage is the intended means by which we bring children into the world.  A husband and wife form their bond with the intention of raising the next generation.  It is partially about creating a stable and permanent bond, regardless of changing feelings, because that is the foundation on which healthy children can become prosperous adults.  But Frank seems to view marriage as the diploma at the end of the course.

But the worst part about all of this is the utter despair.  When Bill poisons himself, he says to Frank, "I'm old.  I'm satisfied."  Later in a letter from Bill, we understand that Bill's whole identity is caught up in taking care of Frank.  Without Frank, Bill does not see a purpose to his life.  This is something that Frank selfishly ignores with his decision.  But I was struck by Bill's words.  He talks about life as if it is a meal from which you partake until you've had enough.  Once again, life is viewed as something that is pointed primarily towards self-satisfaction instead of something designed to be given away.  Taking care of Frank was a kind thing to do for Bill, but it also was done because it made Bill happy.  But once Bill thought that this happiness would leave, he decided he no longer wanted to live.  He didn't consider using his remaining time to save some people in the relative safety of his village.  He didn't consider doing any other act of kindness (other than letting the main character have access to his stuff).  Bill's life had no meaning beyond his own self-satisfaction.  Life becomes a video game that you quit when you've had enough of this world.

And implicit in all of this is that there is nothing beyond this world.  Bill and Frank end their lives because it is the end of their love.  They never say this explicitly, but it seems obvious that they despair of any kind of afterlife.  They plan to go into the darkness, holding each other as they slip away.  This hopelessness that they share makes it easier to understand why they do what they do.  They want to hold onto this intense feeling as long as they can until they feel nothing at all.  On this view, suicide makes total sense.  Here, life has no meaning beyond what little happiness you can find.  And once that happiness appears to go away, I lose my reason to live.

I can see this despair all over the place.  Because there is no hope for heaven, people live in hell.  I've mention before how one of my friends who I will call Puck, once said to me "If there is no afterlife, then everyone's life is tragic."  And this true.  If there is no afterlife, then we are condemned to lose every love we've ever had.  And we will lose these loves forever.  Even the musical theme from this episode emphasizes this.  It is a song from Linda Ronstadt whose refrain is "I'm gonna love you, for a long, long time."  Notice it is not a promise to love forever, but only for a while.

How differently we view love as Christians.  In Christ, the real loves we have are things we can have for all eternity.  All the love we share, if our goal is the salvation of each other's souls, can be redeemed for all eternity.  I love my wife, my family, and my friends.  But if we really love each other, we will do our best to bring each other to God.  And then when we shuffle off this mortal coil, we will be able to hold onto those bonds of affection, not for "long, long time," but for all of eternity.

For that reason, this episode made me so sad.  Too many people embrace this despair and do not live in hope.  They turn inward towards self-satisfaction and not outward to generosity and charity.  It makes me sad that the love that Jesus shared with us is no longer being embraced as the epitome of love.

But if we hold to this view of love and reject the despair and selfishness of this modern love, then when we pass from this world, it will not be the last of us.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Film Review: You People (Netflix)


 Sexuality/Nudity Mature

Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Mature

Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

This movie is such a waste.  Eddie Murphy is a comedy legend and Jonah Hill can be very funny.  Add Julia Louis-Dreyfus and this should be comedy gold.

Instead we get a boring, preachy, pod-casty movie.

You People is about Ezra (Hill).  He is a broker but a wannabe podcaster.  The fact that the movie opens with Hill and his partner Mo (Sam Jay) doing a podcast should set up the feel for the whole movie.

A brief digression about podcasts: their nature is to have the hosts talk, sometimes extemporaneously and often without much of a roadmap other than the main topic.  From there, they often wander about verbally until they hit a nugget of wit and then they keep on that vein until it is dry.  Podcasts fill the space with verbal noise because that is how we experience them: background noise while we are doing other things.

That is how You People feels.  The plot should lead to a tight and funny story.  Instead, the movie wanders and meanders, taking a 20-second gag and stretching it out over 5 minutes.  The movie's run time is an interminable 2 hours, which quickly feels like a drag.

The main plot involves Ezra who is white and Jewish falling in love with Amira (Lauren London), who is black and Muslim.  Their love is set again the culture clash of Ezra's parents Arnold (David Duchovny) and Shelley (Dreyfus) and Amira's parents Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long).  This should be comedy gold where we can explore the foibles of our different cultures while seeing our common humanity.

Instead, all we get are awkward scenes that drag on beyond the suspension of disbelief.  Don't get me wrong, awkward humor can be done with great effect, but you need a deft hand.  Director Kenya Barris and co-writer Hill do not have that skill.  The relationships never really develop and the movie seems to be spinning its wheels with one unfunny joke after another.

It also is very strange to me that so much focus falls on the differences in religion and yet neither of the young lovers is particularly religious, nor do they seem interested in following their religion's commandments on sexuality.

I couldn't escape the feeling that this film is a microcosm of how people from Los Angeles see the world.  Everything feels so filled with tension and strife.  An interracial relationship is scene as some kind of political or cultural statement.  As the child of an interracial marriage, this has never been my experience.  Outside of Los Angeles, this doesn't seem to be a big deal.  (I read another reviewer who happened to make this same point, so I don't think I'm far off on this).  Even the title seems sharp and accusatory.

If the filmmakers were willing to be brutal to their own movie and cut about 40 minutes out of it, you may have something worth watching. Hill and London have decent chemistry

Murphy has some good parts and so does Dreyfuss, but that cannot keep this ship from sinking under its own weight.  I think Barriss and Hill thought that what they had was so funny or important, that it all had to stay.

But it not something worth your time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Jumping the Gunn: The Plan for the New DCU

 Yesterday, James Gunn announced the plan for the first phase of the new DCU in film and television.  Part of the plan is to bring all the TV and movies into continuity with each other in the same way that the MCU does now.  Any project outside of that like the sequels to The Batman and Joker are going to be part of what will be called "Elseworlds" and not tied into the DCU.

This sounds like the new plan will effectively kill most other DC movies and shows.  SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, The Flash, and Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom, will all go forward, but then the slate is being wiped clean (except for Elseworld projects).  The Flash TV show is ending and I think this will mean that Superman and Lois is also going away.

Below is the plan along with my thoughts.

Creature Commandos: 

Gunn wrote this seven-episode animated series.  It is about classic monsters who were used by the Allies to fight the Nazis.  

This is an interesting, out-of-the-box idea to get the new universe warmed up.  One of the interesting principles behind the new DCU is that there will continuity between the animation and live-action projects.  That means that whoever they cast to voice Frankenstein in this show will also play the part if he appears in a movie.  I am moderately interested in this.


This is a spinoff of Peacemaker.  My major problem with this is that it smacks of favoritism.  Gunn is scrapping much of the Snyderverse, but cherry-picking projects he worked on.  Davis is a fantastic Waller, but I don't know that her character can carry an entire series. 

Superman: Legacy

The thing that has me the most excited for this Superman was described as "the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way. He is kindness in a world that thinks that kindness is old-fashioned.”  This tells me that there is a strong sense of traditional decency and goodness that they see in the character.  What has me worried is that Gunn is writing and may also direct.  If Warner Bros. keeps him in line the way Marvel did for Guardians of the Galaxy, then this could be a fantastic movie.  But if they give him free reign like with The Suicide Squad, it could be a disaster.  How big?  Well have you seen his version of the Superman story in Brightburn?


This will be an HBO Max series starring Hal Jordan and John Stewart.  I am excited to see more of the Green Lantern Corps get involved.  It sounds like this is mostly going to be a detective show set on earth, which feels like a cost-cutting measure.  When I think of Green Lantern, I think of epic, cosmic adventure, which this isn't.  But I am open to seeing how it plays out.

The Authority:



No no no no no no no.

This is a HUGE mistake.

The Authority are an R-Rated, violent and vulgar team that go on R-Rated, violent and vulgar adventures.  This is absolutely NOT something you want in your first chapter of the new DCU nor something to pull in audiences.  I'm not saying that an Authority movie can't be good.  But this is dark stuff with dark characters.  This is a story that families will not want to bring their kids to see.  They should put this one on the WAY backburner until they establish their brand again.

Paradise Lost:  

This has been described as "Game of Thrones-style drama set on the all-female island that is Wonder Woman’s birthplace, Themyscira, filled with political intrigue and scheming between power players."  Again, I don't know that this is good for the brand.  If DC wants to pull in a lot of family-friendly dollars, I don't think this it .  Also, I've never found the non-Wonder Woman aspects of Paradise Island all that interesting.

The Brave and the Bold

This one has real potential.  This movie will recast Batman and will be about him and his son Damian as Robin.  In addition, it sounds like they will be bringing in other members of the Bat family.  If they do this right, it could be a truly fun Batman adventure

Booster Gold

Booster Gold is an underrated DC character.  He is a con man from the future who uses that future tech to become a superhero celebrity.  One of the great things they've done with him over the years is turn him slowly into a true hero.  If they do this right, this could be both hilarious and thrilling.

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow:

There are two words that make me dread this project: Tom King.

Once one of the greatest modern writers, King has devolved into a pretentious hack.  His Supergirl comic famously had the scene of exploding her super-zit in a bathroom, covering it in super-puss.  Let's not forget that King is the writer who ruined Wally West, Adam Strange, and Martian Manhunter.  To be fair to King, I did not read his Supergirl comic, but I've heard nothing that makes me think that out of all the Supergirl stories written that this is the one that should be chosen for a movie.

Swamp Thing: 

This is supposed to be a straight-up horror film.  There is a lot of pressure on the superhero genre to widen its style.  I'm not someone who thinks that this is a good idea.  I thought taking a fun concept like The New Mutants and essentially turning it into a horror movie was a big turn off to audiences.  Swamp Thing has a moderate following, but I'm not sure he should be a foundational addition.  

Overall, I am open to the potential.  I think that perhaps they are biting off more than they can chew.  DC is always trying to run and catch up to Marvel, but they forget that Marvel took a long time.  It was four years and only 5 movies until they had their first Avengers movie.  And they didn't introduce television properties until afterwards.  

I'm also a bit baffled by some of their off-beat choices like The Authority and Swamp Thing.  The MCU did a lot of experimenting in Phase 4 and overall it appears to be a drag on the franchise.  Gunn's tastes tend to go for the over-the-top-disgustingly violent.  Perhaps these properties are meant to be an outlet for him and his vision so he can deliver a much more straightforward film like Superman Legacy.

If I were Gunn, I would focus on the "big guns:" Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and The Martian Manhunter.  You can have some experimentation with side characters like Supergirl, Elongated Man, Nightwing, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and the like.  But you should build your brand on the most popular characters you can while elevating the B-team (although I will grant that most casual viewers do not know who the Martian Manhunter is). 

I am hopeful, but cautious.