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Posts Tagged ‘james harleman’

December brings a whole host of DVD releases as Hollywood tries to get as many into stores as possible prior to Christmas. Check out my thoughts on the movies I’ve seen or had reliable recommendations on. Again, if you want to know how I evaluate movies and media, check my Film & TV Mini-Manifesto.

Eclipse (Dec 4)


Twihards and TwilightMOMs will be stoked for this release in the battle of Team Jacob vs Team Edward with a nice battle tossed in at the end for the dudes including some dismembering and decapitation of various unnamed vampires. Definitely the best film of the series (yes, I’ve seen all 3) and probably the most fast-paced and least painful for bros. You know my thoughts on Twilight overall from “The Edwardian Conflict” and The Gospel According to Twilight” and, again, the movies can barely do the books justice. Look for the picture of glorified divinity in the good vampires and the concept of the eternal family. Ultimately, Team Jacob can only offer a finite relationship while Team Edward represents eternity and glory. Let’s move on.

Inception (Dec 7)


This is easily the best movie I’ve seen all year in a year of some really good ones (Shutter Island, Get Low, Crazy Heart). It’s a tour de force that you’ll have to watch multiple times. Nolan is simply phenomenal in how he doesn’t settle for some action flick with an original concept but pushes into the heart of man. I can’t speak highly enough of this film and how I see the gospel woven into the very framework. My post on the father themes in this movie is the most popular post by far of my blog (1/3 of the total hits in November!). Read it here. Read here for a fuller preview prior to viewing.

24: Season 8 (Dec 7)


I had to call this release out. Is this Jack’s last hurrah? Is it just a prequel for a big release movie? Season 8 became fascinating to me once I connected the dots that this was the final season of the series. No one is safe. No line is too far for Jack Bauer. I hated how it finished but I really loved it once I had a chance to think about it. Jack Bauer represents who we want to be while at the same time manifesting the darkness inside of us that we all know is there. My reflection on the series and finale are here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Salt (Dec 7)


I have not seen this film but felt like I should plug it simply because I have not heard a bad thing about it. The previews only show scenes from the first half of the movie and it looks like the previews way overplay the sex – from what I can tell it’s a very clean movie but for language. Watch James Harleman’s thoughts on the film below. I look forward to seeing this movie.

Other releases include the final installment (hopefully) of the Shrek saga (Dec 7), the highly rated (97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) war documentary Restrepo (Dec 7), the looks-disappointing A-Team (Dec 14), the heavily recommended
Despicable Me (Dec 14), and Wall Street 2: Greed Again? (Dec 21. The original was one of my dad’s favorite flicks).

UPDATE (1/3/11)

Salt: My wife and I enjoyed this film. By the middle of the film, I had no idea what to expect. I loved the husband and his humble confidence as well as his relentless pursuit after her to win her.  I loved how everything wasn’t necessarily tidied up at the end.

Restrepo: Simply incredible documentary that will enthrall you and break you. It follows a platoon of soldiers deployed in the insanely intense Korengal Valley of Afghanistan for a year. The scene in which one soldier is killed (off camera) and seeing the response of the other soldiers will change how you think about war. This is a must see documentary, very well done, very objective, and will increase your respect and honor for what our soldiers endure. Beware of the language if you’re sensitive to that, I’m not sure if I’ve heard more f-words in any movie (even Tarantino’s films) ever. This film is worth watching though, I highly recommend it.

Update (1/28/11)

Despicable Me: I enjoyed and laughed frequently in this movie. Steve Carell is so funny as Gru and Jason Segel is so over the top as Vector I laughed whenever he came on screen. The end is predictable and I appreciate how they don’t even try to explain the origin of the minions.

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If you’ve been reading this blog then you just had to know this post was coming. Here are my criteria:

  1. Rewatchability
  2. Gospel and redemption themes
  3. Quality of acting and characterization

Here there are, purely in alphabetical order, these are my personal top 9 films.

Chariots of Fire (1981)


This movie can feel slow at times but I don’t care, I love the contrast of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrams. Eric runs for God and finished his life as a missionary to China. Abrams runs almost purely for himself, to prove himself to all others. The movie is so well done though that you find yourself rooting for both of them. It’s also a rare movie that has a Christian figure so winsomely portrayed and speaking the Bible. Plus, you can’t forget about the classic opening and closing sequence with the Vangelis theme song. The movie has an 86% rating at Rotten Tomatoes

Cinderella Man (2005)


Cinderella Man is one of the most rewatchable movies we own. That may just be me, but I have watched this movie a bunch of times simply because I don’t get tired of it. I love the story of Jim Braddock, his relationship with his family and his wife. I love the set up and the final fight against Max Baer. Redemption, suffering, and good marriage themes are all in this one along with the boxing. It is at an 80% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

City by the Sea (2002)


City by the Sea is a relatively obscure movie; I rarely meet a person who has actually seen it. Rotten Tomatoes and critics likely didn’t help as it only has a 48% rating! But I love the father son dynamic and issues in this movie. I practically weep at the movie climax. The bitter sweetness of the ending is so good. A demonstration of our inability to outrun our sin just adds to it all.

The Dark Knight (2008)


You knew this would end up on my list after I wrote this. This is one of two Christopher Nolan flicks on my list and I’ll give you 0 guesses as to what the second is. The Dark Knight is a gut punch. I have no other way to describe what you will likely feel the first time you see it. It is dark. Evil is overwhelming. Can good win? Can a city overcome its dark side? Can a hero even survive without becoming a villain? Just watch it. It currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s only the second highest on my list! I highly recommend listening to the short message given by James Harleman (of Mars Hill) on this film.

Inception (2010)


I have already written 2 blog posts (“Must See Film” and “The Idea that Changes Everything”) on this movie and it’s not even on DVD yet. Inception is a great concept and story with piercing father/son themes, interesting characters, and is a movie with just so many figurative and literal levels. It is currently at an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Les miserables (1998)


Les miserables is based on the powerful and highly praised musical of the same name which is based on the book by Victor Hugo. This movie is all about 1 question: What is grace? From the priest to Valjean (Liam Neeson) to Javert (Geoffrey Rush), the question is what is more powerful and effective: grace or the law? When I first saw this movie, I was just stunned. My friend and I were literally speechless until halfway through our car ride home when finally he simply belted out “WOW! THAT IS GRACE!!!” I can still vividly remember that evening and moment as if it happened yesterday. This great film is at a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Natural (1984)


Part of why I appreciate this movie surrounds the memories I have of watching it many times with my dad. I still have faint memories of seeing it in the theater with him when it first came out. The redemption story of this movie grows on me every time I watch. I love how it ends (not merely on the famous home run scene!). The last time I watched it was probably my favorite. It’s also a classic baseball movie. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 81% rating.

Rocky II (1979)


This is another one that I have fond memories of watching with my dad. Honestly, Rocky II moves so painfully slow. But it all comes down to one moment. You see this one moment and you’re all in and you’re fired up. If you come across this movie on cable, you’ll wait or keep checking back just for this moment on forward. Yeah, it’s over the top but can you, men, say this scene (with Eye of the Tiger playing in the background) does nothing for you? It’s at a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Star Trek (2009)


This one probably surprised you. It surprised you unless you’ve seen it, that is. JJ Abrams did such a fantastic job with this movie. Sacrifice, fathers, friendship, and redemption are all mixed in to one great story to reboot this franchise. I love how Pike and Spock’s dad are pivotal for Kirk and Spock and how we get to see the growth of Spock and Kirk from boys to guys to men. The parallel characterization of these 2 men is super well done. It’s an extremely entertaining and rewatchable movie. It’s all about family with a mission. One more likely surprise: this is the highest rated film at Rotten Tomatoes on my list, now at 94%. James Harleman also discusses this movie here.

Honorable Mentions: Shutter Island (2010), Empire Strikes Back (1980), Hoosiers (1989), Glory (1989), Taken (2008), Shawshank Redemption (1994), Gattaca (1997).

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In my previous post, I more or less introduced the Twilight series and tried to give a decent overview for you, including some foreshadowing of some Gospel themes. In this post, I’d like to dig into some Gospel themes and engage spiritually with this series.

Let’s get one issue straight first. I am primarily discussing the books, not the movies. The movies are what they are; the themes are there but, as with any movie, they don’t have the depth or the emotional engagement of the book. The movies are pretty harmless, a little scary, but extremely cheesy and watered down.

A key reference for my thoughts is a talk given by James Harleman, a pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Download or listen to his talk on Twilight, as part of their Film and Theology series: here.

The Gospel of Twilight?

I alluded to a few things in my first post. The vampire motif is turned on its head by Stephanie Meyer. In the past, vampirism has been used as a picture of our sinful nature and slavery to it. See Louis in “Interview with a Vampire” or Morbius in the Spiderman comics and you understand the”Why do I do what I don’t want to do?” picture of vampirism.  It’s a curse with seemingly no way out. The vampire, whether they like it or not, is a danger to those around them and literally sucks the life out of them. Their very core is broken and cursed – just like our sinful nature.  You see some of that in this series, but it’s not the intent. Meyer’s intent seems to be to use vampirism as a picture of divinity.  Edward and his family have an ideal Bella wants–divinity and eternity added to her love for Edward so their love will not end. Some from the Cullen family wrestle with their vampirism, wondering what will happen if they die (they can be killed) and if it’s a curse. Edward wonders if you lose your soul. Carlisle has confidence and optimism in their goodness. However, in all this wrestling, the end reveals Meyer’s intent: the vampire is a picture of divinity and eternity and is the key to eternal happiness. Once Bella is changed, everything goes well and she is ultimately satisfied (once they’re safe and free at least). This is where Meyer’s Mormonism can be seen.  God is a side note, with little relevance in the story. The ultimate ending is a divine family, living happily ever after for all of eternity. For the Cullens, eternity is not complete without their daughter–eternal divine family is the satisfaction.

The Key: Viewpoint of the Story

So where is the Gospel of the Bible? The true attractiveness of the story lies in the narration of the story. Outside of a small portion of Breaking Dawn, we are given a first person account of Bella and Edward’s love story as it is told from Bella’s perspective.  Is Bella missing something before she meets Edward? Yes. Is she lost? Yes. Is she satisfied? No. Is she divine and eternal? No. Each storyline is threaded with her need for Edward. Part of the danger of this series is that Bella and Edward’s relationship is not simply codependent, it’s necessary and glorified! Their codependency is elevated beyond the codependency itself. Once she gives her heart to him, she needs him and is sold out, given only to him. But he is dangerous to her unless she is changed and until they are united in a covenant relationship. Bella is transformed into her glorious vampire body and they fully experience their love for one another for eternity.

Do you see something there? This is beyond a typical love story. There are plenty of love stories out there but why does this one tend to grip women’s hearts so much? Because it is otherworldly and because only Jesus can play the part of Edward! Why do guys hate this series?  Because they’ll never be the noble, perfectly handsome, infinitely strong, wise Edward of the book. Women get sucked in because there is nothing like this in the world. Or is there? We as Christians know there is. This story is Christ and the Church. Jesus loves us like this. Jesus will one day give us glorified bodies in heaven. Jesus is God – He never tires, never sleeps, never forgets, never changes in his love for us. Jesus in TRUTH has an otherworldly love for us.

But Jesus has at least one major difference from Edward. Jesus suffered for relationship with us. Jesus chose to yield his divine nature, become human to get us, to pursue us, and ultimately to pay the price for our transformation. Unlike Edward, Jesus doesn’t need us. Jesus is fulfilled within the love of the Trinity. However, His love overflowed toward us. He was willing to die for us and did it joyfully.  He chose the worst way ever devised to die and to demonstrate His love for us, so we would never doubt his love ever again.

Do you want love like what Bella and Edward share, a passionate, otherworldly, divine, eternal love? Don’t despair or try to escape into a world of fantasy like Twilight. Truthfully there is a love like that for you–in Jesus.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

As Harleman says at the end of his message about Twilight: Forget Team Jacob or Team Edward. How about Team Jesus?

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