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REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ

March 24, 2016 Leave a comment
Passion of the Christ, TheDirected by: Mel Gibson
Produced by: Bruce Davey, Mel Gibson, Stephen McEveety, Enzo Sisti
Screenplay by: Mel Gibson, Benedict Fitzgerald, William Fulco (translation)
Edited by: John Wright
Cinematography by: Caleb Deschanel
Music by: John Debney
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Hristo Zhivkov, Francesco De Vito, Luca Lionello, Hristo Shopov, Rosalinda Celentano, Claudia Gerini, Fabio Sartor, Luca De Dominicis, Mattia Sbragia, Chokri Ben Zagden, Toni Bertorelli, Jarreth Merz, Sergio Rubini, Sabrina Impacciatore
Year: 2004

 

It’s been 12 years since Mel Gibson’s adaptation of the gospels’ account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, which would go on to divide audiences over its theology, brutal violence, and even accusations of racism (which were later vindicated when the director’s own demons made their very public appearance soon after the film’s release). Each Easter since I’ve started this blog, I have thought about doing a review of this film, and each time I held back because I simply was not in the mood, nor did I think I had the stamina, to endure this film again. This year, I don’t really know what’s changed – perhaps it’s the political climate and the fact that so many people are willing to marry their faith to their political stances, and I’m feeling particularly opinionated, perhaps it’s the Tyler Perry modern day musical retelling on TV, or perhaps it’s simply to get this annual inner debate in my head over with already – but, yeah, I decided that now was time to review one of the most famous and infamous Christian-targeting films of all time. Read more…

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GRUDGE MATCH REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey vs. Old Fashioned

July 2, 2015 1 comment
Fifty Shades of Grey vs. Old FashionedFIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Unrated)
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Produced by: Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti, E.L. James
Screenplay by: Kelly Marcel
Edited by: Anne V. Coates, Lisa Gunning, Debra Neil-Fisher
Cinematography by: Seamus McGarvey
Music by: Danny Elfman
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Max Martini, Callum Keith Rennie, Andrew Airlie, Dylan Neal, Anthony Konechny, Emily Fonda, Rachel Skarsten
Based on the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Year: 2015

 

OLD FASHIONED
Directed by: Rik Swartzwelder
Produced by: Nathan Nazario, Dave DeBorde, Nini Hadjis, Rik Swartzwelder
Written by: Rik Swartzwelder
Edited by: Jonathan Olive, Phillips Sherwood, Robin Katz
Cinematography by: David George
Music by: Kazimir Boyle
Starring: Elizabeth Ann Roberts, Rik Swartzwelder, LeJon Woods, Tyler Hollinger, Nini Hadjis, Maryann Nagel, Lindsay Heath, Joseph Bonamico, Dorothy Silver, Ange’le Perez, Anne Marie Nestor
Year: 2015

 

This review contains spoilers, including the movies’ endings.

 

Alright, everyone, listen up! Things are about to get ugly in here! I’m going to be fanning the flames of a culture war, and it’s bound to make some people kind of angry!

In one corner, we have the inexplicably popular, smutty to a fault movie adaptation of a book that was itself originally an online Twilight fan fiction, written by someone who didn’t seem to catch on to that franchise’s coded abstinence message: Fifty Shades of Grey! In the other corner, we have that film’s chaste, Christian-targeting, message-laden morality tale counterpart, meant to provide a more wholesome alternative for anyone who proudly proclaims that they’ve kissed dating goodbye: Old Fashioned!

… Okay, I can’t keep up that boxing announcer façade. …

Anyway, I’m reviving a very old (and once-used) feature on this blog that I really didn’t enjoy doing the first time around but recently figured would be kind of interesting to try again. (It’s something I’d been meaning to try for a while, anyway, back when I thought about doing it for the original King Kong and its remakes.) The concept behind this grudge match review works pretty much like you’d expect. There will be a series of rounds in which I compare the two movies to one another, and there will be a winner for each round based on which movie succeeds more in that area. What will make this a bit more interesting, however, is the fact these two films aren’t remakes or adaptations of the same source material, but rather polar opposites! The marketing for Old Fashioned proclaimed “Chivalry makes a comeback,” while the BDSM-themed, sex-and-nudity laden Fifty Shades demanded audiences “Lose Control.” As if its obvious opposition weren’t enough, the films were only released one week apart, with Old Fashioned beating Fifty Shades to the punch in an effort to overtake it and likely to encourage people to not give in to the smut.

I’m of the opinion, however, that too often Christian films try to take on too much of a counterculture stance, to the point where they’re not even willing to study the very thing they’re opposed to or portray it in a fair light. As I’ve pointed out countless times before, I am a Christian, and yet I am more often than not finding myself at odds with the image the Christian pop culture industry and the people who consume it propagate for themselves, and flaunting it in non-Christians’ faces (and even the faces of Christians they disagree with), prideful in their willful ignorance. So, I am trying to do something different and see it from all sides in comparing the two movies. It’s actually kind of funny how they actually have some things in common! To be quite honest, though, I’m also trying to have a bit of fun at their expense, too. I mean… neither one of these movies is really any good, so I’m really not going to take this too seriously. I’m also just here to let you know which one is better than the other, too – or, in this case, which one is the least bad.

Read more…

2013 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year

February 16, 2014 1 comment

Rush - Chris Hemsworth

FINALLY! The moment I’ve been building up to for far too long! It’s been a busy month… and a half… for me, but I’m finally done, and this is my last of my 2013 in Review articles! (Consequently, while none of these are exactly final reviews, many of them may as well be and portions of what is stated here may show up in a future review. For the sake of my sanity and my time, however, I’ve decided to present what I felt the need to write without very many edits!)

The format I’ve chosen for my annual Year in Review articles is a bit insane, I know, but while it’s time consuming, its also quite fun, and it’s just as much about sharing all the films released in the last year (or at least most, as I probably missed some in the sections where I went over films I didn’t get around to seeing) as it is about me locating films that you and I have both overlooked, which is also why a lot of the films I didn’t see this year made repeat appearances, as I couldn’t resist the urge to watch them, and it’s not like I’d be able to do another year in review for them, too, you know? This year, one of those movies I didn’t see at first but did during my writing these articles even made it onto this list, My Top Films of the Year!

The Wolf of Wall Street - Jonah Hill, Marching Band

So why don’t I call it “The Best Films of the Year”? It’s simple, really – it’s subjective, yes, but it’s also because even I switch around the order at times. I guarantee you that at some point in the past and future, I might have ordered these films differently. It took some time and thought, and this is ultimately what I felt comfortable enough with to publish, but I’ll tell you that this was a hard process, particularly in the top 10.

All of this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominees are on this list. Seriously – I’ve even decided to mark the Oscar nominations this year. They were all very good and justifiably nominated, and while I might have my preferences as to who should win, they’re all remarkable, worthwhile films if you should ever consider watching them. Some of the other movies on this list, however, are also quite awesome, some of which I like better than the films that were nominated, and one of which I’m still very annoyed didn’t at least get the tenth vacant slot in their nominees list, just out of principle for how awesome it was. (I’m just going to tell you now, that movie is Inside Llewyn Davis.) How annoying!

The World's End - Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan - beer

So what of the rankings? Lists like these tend to demand them, so I include them, and I do think they are helpful in making priorities in our very busy lives as to what to see first and give preference to. Since the rankings are so subjective and sometimes even arbitrary, my main rule is to go with my gut on these things. Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a mixture of favoritism, enjoyment, entertainment, and, yes, the actual skill behind the scenes and within them. As such, films that were without a doubt brilliant masterpieces that will go on to receive tons of accolades and be remembered forever may be outranked by flash-in-the-pan popcorn films that have very little to say except, “Hey, look at this awesome thing we did!” but were also very skilled at doing so and are films that I will revisit time and time again whenever I want to be entertained. It’s hard to rank films of these sorts against one another, and if I felt that I could be that much more objective about these things and take out the entertainment factor, I would probably top load this list with all the heavyweight dramas and such. But I don’t think I can, so I don’t put up any airs of being able to do so.

But, you know, I think that’s alright. Variety is the spice of life, you know, and to say that dramas should be exalted at all times above the comedies and action films is, I think, false doctrine when it comes to film criticism and lessens the true value of joy and wonderment that isn’t always found in those serious dramas – so long as that joy and wonderment is done very well, of course.

So, with that all in mind, I feel I’ve prepared you for this eclectic list of my picks for not just the best films of the year, but also the ones that are my favorites, the ones I find most enjoyable, and the ones that blew me away with their spectacle. Read more…

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REVIEW: Chariots of Fire

September 25, 2013 2 comments
Chariots of FireDirected by: Hugh Hudson
Produced by: David Puttnam
Written by: Colin Welland
Edited by: Terry Rawlings
Cinematography by: David Watkin
Music by: Vangelis
Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige, Ian Holm, Nicholas Farrell, Henry Stallard
Based on a true story
Year: 1981

 

I have a bit of a weird relationship with Chariots of Fire. The first two times I saw this movie were each divided across multiple classes in two different Christian schools – once in 8th grade, and again in 10th. Each time, I found the movie ridiculously boring and overlong, little more than an excuse to tune out and passively watch the screen as the time ran out, making sure to at least get as much in as possible so that I could turn in a respectable enough paper that was assigned both times. Both times, we were expected to reflect upon the Christian themes, primarily related to Eric Liddell, whose religious beliefs put him at odds with his passion and talent for running at one pivotal point in the film. Read more…

Review: “Billy Elliot”

August 19, 2013 2 comments
Billy ElliotDirected by: Stephen Daldry
Produced by: Greg Brenman, Jonathan Finn
Written by: Lee Hall
Edited by: John Wilson
Cinematography by: Brian Tufano
Music by: Stephen Warbeck (original score)
Starring: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Nicola Blackwell, Adam Cooper
Year: 2000

 

I’ve never been the manliest guy around. Just the other night, I watched E.T. and, yes, I totally cried at the end. I’ve never been super aggressive, and I’ve never been interested in being an aggressive person apart from feigning it for my own amusement – because I think it’s a little bit ridiculous, you see. Growing up in a super-conservative household and around super-conservative people, however, my not playing sports was somewhat of a point of contention for a lot of people. Contention was actually pretty frequent. Most of the time, people just drooled over my size and asked me why I wasn’t playing football, then acting like I was crazy when I said I wasn’t interested. (I was always fairly big for my age, and, at nearly 27, I am probably only 1 ½ inches taller now than I was in 7th grade.) Other times, it could get a bit nastier, with various names being lobbed my way. (Some kids and even some adults are just jerks.) Read more…

Review: “Dirty Dancing”

May 9, 2013 3 comments
Dirty DancingDirected by: Emile Ardolino
Produced by: Linda Gottlieb
Written by: Eleanor Bergstein
Edited by: Peter C. Frank
Cinematography by: Jeffrey Jur
Music by: John Morris, Erich Bulling
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Kelly Bishop, Jane Brucker, Jack Weston, Max Cantor, Lonny Price
Year: 1987

 

It speaks to a film’s popularity when a single song can instantly remind you of the film, even if you haven’t seen it. For this movie, the song that most people think of is the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes duet “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” the declaration of love in the form of a cheesy 80s pop ballad that inexplicably serves as the catalyst for the film’s final dance number, despite the film being set in the early 1960s. Oddly enough, this wasn’t the song that reminded me of this film’s existence and necessitated its inclusion into Girly Movie Month. The credit for that goes to yet another 80s pop song, “Hungry Eyes,” which similarly finds its way into the film as one of many anachronisms that likely served to make the film more palatable to the 80s teen audience the film was aiming for at the time of its release. Read more…

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