Tag Archives: movie reviews

Hope and Joy (Review: “Light of Love”)

acnm_imaginesisters

I love sisters. I have one actual, biological sister, and I love her. I also have an ever-growing number of female friends who have entered consecrated religious life, though, and I love them, too. For the record, I also love my friends who have become priests. I tend to hang out with people who follow Jesus pretty seriously, sometimes even into vows with him and his Church.

One of my nun friends, Sr. Dede (who I knew first as a nun, but who became a friend) said once, in a reflection on her vocation, that she sought to “be the stained glass window through which the light of Christ may shine.” I took that to heart, and I offer that phrase in my prayers to this day. It is in that spirit of shining with the light of Christ that I approached Light of Love, a hour-long film by Imagine Sisters. The organization is dedicated to making Jesus loved “by introducing the world to religious sisters in love with Christ through media.” In the film, I got a lamp-lit view of what it means to follow Christ with your whole heart and your whole life. Sisters are a great example of how to love Jesus.


Read the rest of my review at Austin Catholic New Media.

7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 177

— 1 —

I am going to volunteer with Pure Fashion in Austin this coming school year! I’m not into modeling, but i am into character education and spreading the positive message of modesty, and this seems like a great way to do it. Don’t tell any of my former students, but I kind of miss working with high schoolers.

On a vaguely related note, Ive been seeing the ad for Trendy Top all the time lately, and I kind of want one. It seems like a great solution to the low-rise waistline, and it doesn’t encourage you to switch back to immodest like the Cami Secret.

— 2 —

Can I please have this tote bag? We’ve already got “Baby Got Back” adapted for the Bible-lover (“Baby Got Book”), so why not for book lovers in general?

— 3 —

Did you catch the USCCB’s announcement of a new online-adapted Catechism of the Catholic Church? It’s pretty sweet. I love the look, and I especially like that the footnotes and cross-references are pop-ups so they don’t take you away from the section you’re on. Who says the Church can’t get with the times (when appropriate, because some things are timeless)?

— 4 —

I started a new Bible study program this week. When I was in college, I started a Bible study on salvation history. Our leader left at the end of the school year, leading me to decry (as a joke) that I’d never know how it ended. I’ve been looking for a good opportunity to join another salvation history study then, and I stumbled across The Great Adventure Quick Journey Through the Bible just in time to register (3 days before it started). It’s at a church one town away, so my commute is super long, but I’m very excited for this study, and at least driving is a productive way to spend those thirty minutes.

— 5 —

This 7QT is posted late because Sarah is visiting me, and Getting Things Done before her arrival was much more important that typing this. But now it’s Saturday morning, which sounded like a good designated computer time to me.

— 6 —

I stumbled across a National Catholic Register article lamenting the transfer of the Ascension to Sunday across the U.S. I have been complaining about that since I started paying attention to it. The Pentecost Novena is still the only official one in the Church, and it starts on Thursday. Thursday is supposed to be the Ascension so it makes sense to start praying that day! It’s not even like asking people to go to Mass two days in a row (which will actually happen with the Immaculate Conception in 2012; that day never gets transferred or loses its obligation). Can we be that surprised that people don’t know what a novena is or when Church holidays are if we don’t even do them on the correct day? </end rant>

— 7 —

In other NCR news, Steven Greydanus cautions against reading any reviews of Brave. I tend not to read reviews precisely because they are spoilery (and I tend not to loathe what reviewers often do). I had such a tough time with my ACNM series on the Hunger Games books because I wanted to preview each book without revealing too much, but I’d read all three before I started writing. This leads into a bigger discussion of media discernment (again! It’s important!), but I’m glad I got the warning. I knew Mandy Moore’s character was going to marry Shane West’s in A Walk to Remember, but I didn’t know she was going to die, so perhaps that’s why I still love that movie. Among other reasons.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Life Can Be Beautiful (Review: “October Baby”)

Last month, I went to see October Baby when its distribution expanded to Austin. Although I am a Christian, I do not feel automatically compelled to like Christian films. Holy people still sin; Christian films can still be terrible. I’ve never actually seen any of Sherwood Pictures’s movies (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, or Courageous), but I haven’t intentionally avoided them. I hear the acting is bad. An over-reliance on volunteers has plagued many a church endeavor.

I will admit, though, that I saw October Baby in a theater (on a Friday!) partly so that films of its nature will continue being made. It’s not that I want more material for critics to pan: I want the industry to improve. It’s hard to start making better Christian movies if you stop making them altogether. Think about how popular superhero films are right now, or how many dozens of paranormal teen romance novels you can find. When one works, more get made.

A few years ago, I went with the youth group I helped chaperone to see To Save a Life. I’m admittedly a sucker for stories about teenagers with problems, but I thought it was a good movie overall. The acting seemed okay, although it wasn’t phenomenal. The story did not end perfectly, and it was compelling and realistic without being too preachy (though not without being preachy at all, of course). I enjoyed it so much that I bought it on DVD. I knew it would be worth re-watching and contemplating. (It deserves its own review one of these days. Stay posted.)

photo by Martina Thompson, licensed CC BY-NC-SA

I’m not sure that I can say quite the same about October Baby, but I definitely enjoyed it. The movie tells the story of college freshman Rachel, who collapses on stage at her first major theatrical performance. Her suddenly worsened illness is linked to her lifelong health problems, which began with her difficult birth. Eventually, Rachel’s parents reveal that they adopted her after she was born during an attempted abortion. (Many pro-lifers will recognize this as the story of Gianna Jessen.) Torn over this new facet of her identity, Rachel sets out with her best friend Jason to find her roots and figure out who she’s going to become.

Without giving away too much of the story, I found it reasonably realistic. Some of the secondary characters were either too heavy-handed with the comic relief or entirely useless, though, which annoyed me. There’s a line between a background character and a flat secondary character, and it must be respected. Having lived in the areas where the film takes place, I can attest to the general behavior of those locals, as strange as it may seem. Sometimes people really are too nice to believe. Despite those odd characterizations, the acting left me with no complaints. When I learned that Jasmine Guy and John Schneider were featured, I knew this movie would be different. Hiring recognized actors brings so much credibility to a film such as this!

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was that Rachel and Jason demonstrated a beautiful and healthy relationship. He treated her with respect and protected her without being controlling at all, and she accepted his affection without losing herself in him. She was still independent, but he helped lift her up. They had a long history that contributed toward their future, and I believed that they had a genuine and Christlike love for each other. I can’t say that about every movie pair.

October Baby is clearly a message film. Its tagline, “Every life is beautiful,” suggests a kind of hope that many people have lost these days. Whether you find hope in God or in the balancing power of “the universe,” October Baby will help remind you that there is goodness inherent within people. The future may not be dazzling, but it can still be bright.

Movies Recently Seen, Vol. 4

In addition to my bad habit of tucking away blogging ideas without actually blogging about them, I have a habit of watching movies and saying I’ll review them but never doing that, either. It’s a sickness.

Just this moment, however, I have finished watching Leap Year, starring Amy Adams. I was reminded of a recent round of trivia titled “Eight Adorable Clips of Amy Adams,” during which I managed to pick out Catch Me If You Can, which she did before she got all famous like now. She was no less adorable in Leap Year than in any of those clips, and I was no less delighted.

At its core, it’s just another rom-com. It does have the benefits of a male lead with a fantastic Irish accent, just the right amount of comedy balanced with the romance, and the irresistible sweetness of Amy Adams. I found myself enjoying even the formulaic moments, and being delighted when it squeaked just far enough out of the formula to be unique. It also had the benefit of being remarkably clean for a romantic comedy. You could safely offer this as a slumber party or church movie without feeling embarrassed. How many movies can you say that about these days?

I also caught The Voyage of the Dawn Treader during HBO’s free preview weekend over Thanksgiving. I had to DVR it because it aired at an awkward time, but I watch everything on DVR these days. I haven’t read the Narnia books since middle school, so I didn’t have the story fresh in my memory, but I managed to follow along. Maybe this installment just isn’t as compelling a story, but I wasn’t drawn into it the same way I was even by Prince Caspian. (This one still had the very attractive Prince Caspian in it, so that’s not it.) It seemed like it ran much faster than the previous films. Narnia doesn’t have the same immediate and obsessive following that Harry Potter did, so perhaps its best to treat this series like the sole A Series of Unfortunate Events film and just be content with what was made without demanding completion.

I have also recently seen The Rite and October Baby, but those deserve their own posts.

More Movie Reviews (Vol. 3.5?)

Here are the reviews I promised last time. They’re more recent, which is a nice change in my general viewing habits.

The King’s Speech: I like period pieces. Something about looking into the past and comparing it to the present is comforting, because some things really do never change. I had never heard about George V’s stutter before, but I found that comfort I mentioned in knowing that famous people had perfectly ordinary problems back in the day. That’s a whole lot better than 72-day marriages and TV teen moms. All of the actors were brilliant, of course, and the pacing was just right to keep it realistic and in motion at the same time. All the accolades were well deserved. That is what historical films should be like.

The Rite: I had been hesitant about seeing this. When you are a Catholic and work for the Catholic Church, you’re automatically more sensitive about the depictions of Catholicism in popular media. I am no exception. Any movie that says it’s “inspired by true events” is probably about 50% fiction and 50% fact, and the facts will only be the boring parts. That said, I liked The Rite. I liked the uncertainty over whether the priest on which the movie was based would actually be ordained. (Most of that suspense was because I just plain forgot the storyteller was a priest, so he’d necessarily have to make it to ordination.) I liked that he started as a skeptic and was met by a skeptic who showed him that truth is often tougher to believe than fiction. The particular means by which the priest triumphed over the devil was perfect. I was rooting for him, and I loved that he didn’t get the girl in the end. I’d recommend taking it with a grain of salt, but it’s a more modern take on exorcism than The Exorcist. (It even references it! So meta.)

Serenity: I discovered Firefly in college, when my friend Andrew insisted we watch the first few episodes. I saw a few more in grad school, but I finally finished them after I got my iPhone because I could rent each episode for 99 cents and kill time on planes quite handily. On my most recent flight, I rented and watched Serenity, the conclusion movie clamored for and won by rabid fans. It was fantastic! I loved how it clearly picked up missing threads from the series but also built out new storylines. The inside jokes still made me laugh. Firefly was definitely one of the most under-appreciated series on television. If you haven’t seen it, please do! I know “sci-fi Western” sounds too strange to even be passable, but give the pilot a chance, and prepare to be delighted.

There’s a nice batch of recent releases to help fill your time off from work. You’re welcome.

Movies Recently Seen, Vol. 3

A friend of mine hosted a movie night, AT&T U-verse offered premium movie channels for free over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve had unusual amounts of downtime recently. All of this has added up to my watching a ton of movies recently. I will attempt to review them all very briefly here. Nothing is very recent, so if you’re looking for much that was playing in theaters even this year, you will be largely disappointed.

Mona Lisa Smile: I saw this one at a girls’ night at my friend Sabrina’s apartment. We watched it on VHS because one of the other guests had scored a bunch of tapes from the recently closed Blockbuster near campus. I had heard of the movie in passing but never seen it. I liked the theme of Wellesley‘s East Coast socialites versus Julia Roberts’s character’s West Coast liberalism. The time period lent itself to that kind of story. After we finished watching, the other girls watching noted that the story seems to suggest Julia Stiles’s character committed a huge sin by choosing to get married instead of going to law school. If feminism is really about letting women make their own choices, why does it always seem that being a wife and mother is not an acceptable choice?

photo by Digital Nomad

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Thanks for the free movie, AT&T! I even managed to catch the beginning, so I didn’t have to DVR it. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of suspension of disbelief. This movie definitely did that. Laying such a ridiculous foundation seemed to give the story more heart, though. I wanted to see Scott defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes not just for their video game-style actions and their explosions into showers of gold coins. I appreciated the subtle humor as well as the all-out hilarity. I can’t say I came away with any deep thoughts about life, but it was definitely fun and worth my time to watch.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: I inherited an Audrey Hepburn collection a few years ago when a relative died, so I decided it was time to finally start watching them. I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, unfortunately. I understood that George Peppard’s character was a kept man, but I didn’t get that Holly was supposed to be a call girl, too. I suppose the early morning taxi drop-off should have been an indicator, but that came too early in the movie for me to get it. Despite playing a call girl, Audrey was still beautiful, graceful, and charming. Maybe some of the other Audrey films I have will have better stories.

WALL-E: I love Disney/Pixar films. (I haven’t seen Cars 2, though; not sure if I will.) I’d managed to miss WALL-E, though, despite seeing the WALL-E short “BURN-E” on ABC Family a couple of times. I’m so sad my life lacked WALL-E for so long! Lacking human speech for most of the movie was a really great storytelling technique. (It worked for Cast Away.) I felt emotion from robots that didn’t really have faces! That’s skill. I also enjoyed the storyline of the humans, John and Mary. I can, unfortunately, imagine a world where people are so plugged in that they don’t even touch another person for years. How they manage to make babies in that scenario is a bit too scary to imagine. I also loved the drawings and music over the end credits (spoiler alert, obviously). Pixar never leaves me wanting.

More reviews will be coming tomorrow.

Rewind (Review: “Vantage Point”)

I don’t go to the movies very often (which is good for my wallet), but the beauty of DVR has let me catch several movies that I wanted to see but never got around to. Juno was the last one I saw that way. Today, I finally managed to watch a movie I recorded in May, Vantage Point.

Imagine the plot of the movie walking along one "side" of this mobius strip, and you get the idea.

Only half the premise of Vantage Point drew me in. I can usually handle political action thrillers if they have something else to pique my interest. In this movie, it was the storytelling technique. The plot is that the president of the United States is giving a speech to begin an antiterrorism summit in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain. He is suddenly shot while news cameras, all the people filling the plaza, and various important characters watch. An ordinary film would follow a single action hero struggling to thwart the bad guys. In this case, the story is retold from the beginning several times from the points of view (the “vantage points”) of several people. Just when you think you know what’s going on, even from two different angles, it turns out that something else is up and your vantage point changes.

I loved it. I have a soft spot for this dramatic technique, which has been used in everything from Groundhog Day (the movie) to episodes of Xena, Dawson’s Creek, and Buffy. I was surprised at the number and particular combination of well-known actors: from Sigourney Weaver, Forrest Whitaker, and Dennis Quaid to Matthew Fox and Zoe Saldana. Their acting was great, and the effects were fantastic, especially the big chase scene. Although the plot was nothing special, the technique took it over the top. Vantage Point is definitely an “oldie but goodie”.

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