Movie Review: God’s Not Dead

The spine was staring at me at the library. I had heard reviews from both sides, mostly negative. On the other hand, my brother had said it was a decent film. I uttered those five words that spell certain doom: what could possibly go wrong?

A Christian college student has to prove to his atheist professor that God is not dead.

Before I get around to reviewing it, I need to explain the circumstances that led to this wasted evening. I was born and bred Catholic and went to a Catholic school my entire life. I was into the youth group and retreat scene when I was in high school. Where I stand now, I’m not going to say. My youngest brother saw this during it’s theatrical run with his apologetic club at school, meaning he paid money to watch it; I didn’t.

So, I put the disc in and I wanted to skip to the main menu. I hit the menu button and get the illegal operation symbol. OK, nothing I haven’t encountered before. I hit the skip button: illegal operation. I tried to fast forward through the previews. Again, illegal operation. This was not a good sign.

Before I talk about the religious aspects, there are several other things that need to be discussed. There is not one likable character in the entire film. Every single person is a stereotype. What little character depth is presented, it’s muddled by the multiple subplots that aren’t really resolved. The film tries to emulate Magnolia with having all these storylines come together but it fails on several accounts. A good chunk of the plots served to demonstrate the terrible events that happened to the non-Christians.

The pacing is so slow. Really slow. The Ten Commandments was fast-paced and that was a three-hour film. It didn’t help that I rewatched Bringing Up Baby the night before and that left me exhausted. Here, I was reenacting God from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and said “GET ON WITH IT!” Again, it’s because of the multiple subplots.

The presentations that Josh Wheaton (a name that sounds too similar to the one and only Joss Whedon) has when he is given his allotted twenty minutes to defend his position are too elaborate. Given the amount of time he has to prep for his lecture, there’s no way that he can create animations like that. There’s no template to my knowledge that’s as detailed as the ones shown, unless you have cash.

Getting into the religious parts, there are terrible implications. First, every non-Christian character has terrible things happen to them. Sure, Josh has bad stuff happen as well but it only goes so far as to have his girlfriend dump him. The atheist professor dies from a car crash, predictably. The liberal girl gets breast cancer and the doctor who tells her the news sets it up so that audience members can quote The Room. The Muslim girl is disowned. The list goes on.

Second, the professor is unethical. Why bother teaching philosophy if you’re demanding that every student subscribe to one view? There are multiple views that should be analyzed and discussed. In my “Faiths in Dialogue” class, we had Catholics, Christians, a Mormon, and a Wiccan. We all got along well and we didn’t need to need to defend our faith. If there was something we didn’t know, we said we didn’t know and that would be fine. This professor would be and should be fired.

Third, the Duck Dynasty cameos. I’ve seen some episodes in the past and I really didn’t care for it. I know that one of the members had been in the news for blasting atheism. I kept this in mind as one of the Duck Commanders graced the screen toward the end at the concert, which happened at the same time that the atheist died. If it wasn’t clear before, I stopped caring and wanted the film to be done.

I noticed that this was one of the few films that I had my arms crossed for most of the time. I don’t do that, ever. I keep my arms open to show that I am open to ideas. Here, I was fed up with the film as a whole, just like with There’s Something About Mary. After the illegible credits rolled, any family member that happened to be in the room with me said it was a great film. I sat in silence and left.

I talked to an atheist friend online. He said that it’s what you believe that will lead to what you think of the film. That’s really the best way to sum up the film. Personally, I cannot recommend this film on any level, regardless of what you believe. I read that it was given the MST3K treatment at an atheist convention; that would make this a lot more tolerable.


Movie Review: Odd Thomas

I’m not odd. Sure, I’m strange but I’ve never been called “odd”. Oh, you’re talking about a different Thomas. OK then…

A man with supernatural powers tries to solve a murder and save the town from the forces of evil.

First of all, I haven’t read the series. I should be thankful that Odd was able to give us some narration throughout the entire film. Otherwise, I would be more lost than I was during the viewing in understanding how the world works.

After spending some time with Odd, it becomes apparent that he will straddle the line between emulating Buffy’s quips (one of the people I was with during the viewing referenced the Hellmouth) and trying to be suave, all at once. I couldn’t get a firm grasp on his personality or his dynamic between him and Stormy.

The use of CGI was mixed. The animation of the bodachs was very smooth and composited well. However, the green screen in the belfry was obvious, complete with a green halo around Stormy’s hair. If you look closely when Odd is doing his job, the cucumber slices are CG.

The plot does manage to get some surprises in, even if you called the climax in the second act. I hesitate to mention how there are some devices that are borrowed from another supernatural thriller, especially since Odd handwaves one quote from said film. I didn’t mind much.

Towards the end, one guy pointed out something about the bodachs that escaped the film’s established logic. Within the film, these creatures seemingly cannot be harmed anything within the physical world. And yet, the leader bodach (I guess, judging by the number of limbs) is destroyed in a fire. We talked about it and couldn’t figure out where or how it was justified, aside from a large explosion.

In the end, the film is an uneven blend of elements. It’s one that can keep your interest through the running time but in the end, it’s not one I’d watch again any time soon.


Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending

I knew only part of what I was getting myself into when a mutual friend and I made plans for Valentine’s Day to see this movie. We both admitted that we wanted to see it because of how allegedly bad it was. The best way to describe is Jupiter Ascending; interest plummeting.

A cleaning woman finds out that she’s some sort of space princess who has to save the Earth from being destroyed.

I admit that my interest had piqued when I saw the trailer; however, the level of interest rested at “I’ll catch it on DVD when my library gets it”. When the reviews came out, panning the Wachowski’s latest film, I had misguided hope that maybe the critics were wrong. If worse came to worse, it would be a fun popcorn movie that would keep the patrons out from the cold for two hours.

I’m down for a film that has a great adventure and some fantastic world-building, but I shouldn’t need to ask for the characters to wear nametags (yes, it was one of those films). It reminded me of when I watched Dune for the first time, except that this is an original property. I’m sure the actors had some idea of how this universe worked but if the script was really as long as is reported (600 pages), I would’ve been lost. It’s clear that some scenes were left on the cutting room floor, if only to keep a reasonable runtime, but they probably had some explanatory elements.

Visually speaking, it’s a mixed bag. The sets are spectacular and immersive but there’s no consistency in style. There was a lot of care in the modeling of the ships and visual effects, that much is certain. The make-up at times was a cross between How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Rat King from The Nutcracker in 3D. The lighting is an uninspired teal and orange combination that has run rampant on movie posters in particular as of late (see for yourself).

The acting is okay, I guess. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum tried their best but they look uninterested in what’s going on. Now that I think about it, Mila Kunis didn’t look happy at any point in the film. Eddie Redmayne’s performance is more about the chewing the scenery; at first you don’t believe it but then it persists.

There are some unintentionally laughable moments because of what is on the screen. Sure, the roller-blade motion of the gravity boots is cool but when you do it in the middle of a corn field, it’s ridiculous. Same goes for the bees. I leaned over and quoted the remake of Wicker Man (among other things throughout the film) as it happened because of how it looked. It’s one thing to utilize visual elements for aesthetic reasons with reasoning to back it up. It’s another when they fail to work together as a whole.

It’s set up to be a franchise but there’s no need. If it does indeed continue, I hope that there are more people on hand to monitor the writing. When I rewatch the film in a year or so, you’ll know there’ll be an alternate soundtrack. Save yourself the trouble and wait for it come on DVD, if you do plan to see it.


Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

It’s that time of year again; romance is in the air and you’re in the mood to watch something fitting. Paris is lovely at night (and I can vouch for it), so why not see it from the comfort of your own home?

A screenwriter reflects on his life by taking magical midnight walks through Paris.

I can’t say I’m well-versed in Woody Allen’s work. I’ve only seen Annie Hall before this and that was some time ago; Manhattan is sitting on my shelf. My film club had scheduled this for the Valentine’s Day movie. I caught this with a mutual friend on Blu-ray and the format alone makes a big difference in how it’s viewed.

The thing with this film that I found was that it took its time to get you invested. I had read the description on the case and, after seeing the film, discovered that it was very vague and withheld one of the film’s major plot devices: time travel. Yeah, I didn’t realize that this was something until the first encounter with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. My friend and I thought it was just a strange occurrence after a night of drinking.

It was clear from early on that Gil’s company was not exactly the best kind of company to keep. I choked on their dialogue at parts because it was on the border of being pretentious. I’m not against having intellectual conversations but I enjoy them every now and then.

The cinematography is beautiful. Just looking at the color palette, there’s a nice warm feeling from the lights. Seeing it on Blu-ray has a better range of values and enhances the whole mood of film.

This was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to The Artist. From the nominees I’ve seen in that category, this was one of the better films. However, it seems like this was long shot and was used to fill in the rest.

At the end of the film, I tried to figure out who I would show this to in the future. I don’t know at this point. I’ll keep it in mind if and when the opportunity arises. I’d like to have some more of his films under my belt before I can recommend this. At least the trip to the Moulin Rouge isn’t as frenzied as the Baz Luhrmann version.

If you ever get the chance, go see Paris for yourself; it’s very lovely. This film is probably the next best thing.


Movie Review: The Royal Tenenbaums


This year was the year for me to familiarize myself with Wes Anderson’s filmography. I started the year with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, revisited Moonrise Kingdom, stayed at The Grand Budapest Hotel, and met one quote-unquote Fantastic Mr. Fox. I saw this film over the summer and didn’t get around to reviewing it until now.

Three gifted siblings reunite after several years and deal with family issues.

I want to live in the Tenenbaum house, not necessarily with them. I’ve always liked really large houses since I was a kid. The floor plan that was included with the Criterion Collection print was very detailed, as usual with any Anderson work.

I know this sounds strange but I think there’s too much quirkiness in this film. Granted, each character has their own distinct traits but it doesn’t create a cohesive whole. Then again, the entire family isn’t really together in the traditional sense.

It was at a little more than an hour into the film that it started to lose steam. Then came Margot’s montage and the bathroom sequence. These are the two best sequences of the film in terms of telling a story. On the one hand, you have rock music playing over a series of life events (something that doesn’t come to mind when I think of Wes Anderson) and the other has mellow music with a serious course of action, coupled with some brief flashes of life.

Somehow, this is only one of two Wes Anderson films listed in the 1001 Movies series (the other being Rushmore which I have yet to see). I can’t say which is the better of the two listed but I will in the Rushmore review, whenever that will be. I think this was put on the list early on as a way to get some representation of his work. I expect that The Grand Budapest Hotel will be added to the list in time.

While it is considered one of the more popular films of Wes Anderson, it’s not one of mine.


1001 MYMSBYD selection