Posts Tagged ‘russell crowe’

My wife and I had to chance to finally sit down and watch “The Next 3 Days,” the latest film (now on DVD) starring Russell Crowe with Elizabeth Banks. The premise: happily married with a young son, Lara (Banks) is arrested for the murder of her boss. She appears innocent but the evidence is too much and she sent to prison. John, a community college professor, then does everything he can to clear her but when appeals fail, he puts in motion a plan to break her out of jail. Sounds pretty good, right? A husband strives to fight for and rescue his wife? The movie is intense but falls short a bit. But there is one amazing truth about our culture that this movie exposes. Beware, from this point forward, there will be many spoilers.

Does it Matter if She’s Innocent?

Throughout the entire movie, her innocence is in question. John is convinced. Lara claims innocence and acts innocent. But the evidence against her is overwhelming. Is she really innocent? I was in doubt for most of the movie and she seems to confess her guilt during one critical scene. Of course, after they have escaped all safe and sound, the end gives a big reveal of what really happened. The writer shows that she truly was innocent and in the wrong place at the wrong time. But this reveal is purely for our sake. Why? Why does it matter? It matters because we want love and justice. We want John to rescue her out of his love for her and to win the day. But we also want justice. It would indeed matter to us if she killed her boss and then got away with it. We would respect her husband’s efforts but we would rage that a crime was not paid for.

The writer and director knows that this matters to us. That’s why the end scenes are in there. Do you realize how profound that is? If she wasn’t innocent, her husband’s love would not be enough, especially on top of the compromises he has to make in his own path of wreckage to break her out. Love is not enough in our worldly perspective. We want love but we don’t want hell. We thirst for justice but we want second chances for ourselves and those we care about. The Next 3 Days just emphasizes how we cannot fathom how you can actually satisfy both.

Only Jesus Satisfies Both Love and Justice

This is the truth that this film indirectly revealed fresh to me: Jesus satisfied both love and justice. In The Next 3 Days, John’s love leads to her rescue but he has to break the law to do it. It’s merely the lesser of the two evils: her escape over a few drug dealers’ lives. Even then it only feels right because we find out she truly was innocent.

This is not how Jesus redeems us. Jesus broke us out of jail by paying for it himself. He demonstrates his love for going to all measures to get us but even more so because we were not innocent. We are guilty of capital sin against God. There is no doubt. We are not convicted purely out of circumstantial evidence but the evidence is as good as video and multiple witnesses all telling the exact same story. Justice needs to be satisfied for our sin and Jesus fulfills it himself. He took the guilt and suffering of hell on himself.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

Do we realize how much better this is than getting illegally busted out of prison for a crime we didn’t commit and then living free but on the run the rest of your life, like Lara and John, always looking behind, waiting for that one day when you’re found out? There’s no looking back in Christ. Your sin is paid for. You’re never going back to prison. There are no authorities looking for you. You’re clear and your record has been wiped clean forever. Jesus is the only one who satisfied the justice that sin demanded and yet loved us so much He took it on Himself and restored our relationship with the Father.

Read Full Post »

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).

Read Full Post »

My wife and I saw the new movie Robin Hood with Russell Crowe last week. Most of what I had heard about it was just so-so. Ebert thought it was too realistic and not fun. Someone else said it was too predictable. The previews with Russell Crowe rising out of the water made me laugh and think it should have been called “Gladiator 2”. On top of that, it was another Robin Hood movie.  How many predictable Robin Hood movies do we need? We had the disney cartoon, Men in Tights, Kevin Costner, and more old school Robin Hood movies I haven’t seen. Well, I think this one was worth it, especially because Russell Crowe absolutely destroys Costner in terms of acting chops and machismo. Crowe is the main reason I wanted to see this one; I knew that he would play the role well. As much as the guy is hard to like in real life, I have a hard time not appreciating his skills as an actor (even if it is the same role! See: Gladiator, Cinderella Man, Robin Hood). (Spoiler Alert!! for rest of this post)

But this movie, to me, is not really about Robin Hood. He’s just a part player who has a cool story – the fatherless wayward man who gets adopted into a family and then restored his true legacy to his true father who he never knew. It’s awesome how the true Lochsley son gets killed and Robin gets “grafted” in in his place.  He then takes on that identity, wins the heart of the lady, and is a key catalyst in defending England from invasion. Robin then becomes an outlaw because of his politic views (about half a century too early…) that he inherited from his father and because his leadership is a threat to the king. That’s a good story. But Robin Hood was not the key to the bigger plot of this movie:  a devious plan to destroy England. Who is the key? A man named Marshall played by William Hurt.

Marshall is the key advisor to the king, Richard the Lionheart and was adviser to Richard’s father as well. King Richard is killed and his brother John becomes king. The storyline is straight out of 1 Kings. John is young and foolish, and immediately kicks Marshall out and make the lying snake Godfrey his adviser. Godfrey then hatches the plot to help France invade. What would you expect Marshall to do next? Fade into the background, go off to pasture for sure. Nope. Marshall stays loyal to the king and to the big picture of protecting the country and keeps an eye on Godfrey. Marshall discovers the plot to invade, wisely figures out the best way to tell the king, and does his best to unify the country as Godfrey turns everyone against the king. Even in the midst of this, when King John learns of France’s invasion, he still balks at Marshall’s counsel. What is Marshall’s attitude? He still fights for him, works for the king’s best, and subjects himself to the king, who gets more prideful and foolish as the film goes on.

Marshall is such a good character. He is a man who seems to seek no glory for himself. Even at the end when all is settled, he gives all the glory to Robin. All Robin does is make one good speech and lead the men to battle, a battle that is pretty much settled once England unites. Marshall then becomes the official adviser to King John once again. This man pretty saves the country by discovering the deception and helping avoid civil war to then defeat an invasion and he just steps back into his old role that the young king embarrassed him in previously. Does he whine, complain, or seek recognition? Nope. Does he slander the king, a terrible and prideful leader? Nope. Does the king deserve to be followed like this? No way.

Though Marshall is an older character with no route to kingship, the way he supports the king and fights for the kingdom reminds me of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and best friend to David (see 1 Samuel). King John reminds me of Rehoboam, the foolish son of Solomon (look it up in 1 Kings 12). Jonathan is the rightful heir to the throne but seeks not his own glory but the best for David, whom he knows is destined to be king. At times, Jonathan is ust as much of a warrior with heart for God as David is. You could argue that Jonathan would make a better king than David even – Jonathan walks in integrity, leads men by word and example, trusts God to enable to do what it takes, and is loyal and self-sacrificing. In all this, Jonathan walks in utter humility and deference of power to be a friend to David and to see God glorified not himself. This is Marshall. Except Marshall is a friend to the king and kingdom with no reward and no return. He essentially helps a king who practically acts like an enemy. The character of Marshall makes Robin Hood a really good movie.

Read Full Post »