New website!!

Hi folks!

Thanks so much for finding Films and Faith we’re so glad you are here!

BUT

We actually have a brand shiny new website which can be found over at http://www.filmsandfaithblog.com

So pop on over there to get all our latest reviews and thought pieces. While you’re there say hello, leave a comment and let’s continue to talk good movies.

Thanks Neil

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Cinematic Justice & Kevin Costner

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Last night I was invited to introduce Cry the Beloved Country at Stormont Presbyterian church as part of their justice month. I’ll blog a little on Cry the Beloved Country later but first here is last night’s introduction  on how the justice we should strive for looks a lot like Kevin Costner.

What does cinematic justice look like?

Dare I suggest it looks like Kevin Costner but first a little bit of Deuteronomy & James. Deuteronomy is not many people’s go to for biblical quotes and inspirations around just but Deuteronomy 27:19 puts it bluntly for us:

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan and the widow of justice”

The biblical imperative is clear long before Jesus of how we are to act.

Some say that faith alone is enough for the Christian. The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus is sufficient and will see us safely into the golden streets of heaven.

I’ve never liked that suggestion.

For me it makes Christianity nothing more than a box ticking exercise. Believe these simple steps and have your ticket punched into the grandest club house of them all.

I can’t believe that.

James 2 14-18 is the antidote to this school of thought an speaks of the value of work and says

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”

One if these works I believe, is the pursuit of justice and that brings me to Kevin Costner.

Costner has never played Jesus on screen but in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves he wasn’t that far away.

Have you ever considered how radical a story Robin Hood is?

King Richard has left for the Crusades and left his brother, John, in charge. John has none of his brother’s good intent and England very quickly descends into a land of greed and corruption with a structure that squeezes its people for all they have.

Taxes up and the value of people down and more scandalous all lords, authority and the church come on board.

One man thought rises up against this.

Robin sets himself in opposition to society, gathers a group of disciples and set about their radical mission. They attempt to redress the balance, taking from the rich giving to the poor, sheltering the infirm and protecting women.

Now you may think I’m stretching parallels and its important to say that I’m not suggesting that seeking justice means taking to the woods with mates, bows and arrows in hand and ambushing people in fancy cars. However when Jesus tell us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick. Robin Hood is no that far away from living this command out.

Ask yourself who is the more Christ like? The outlaw attempting to redress the balance; or the pious priests of the church collecting alms from the poor for the wealthy and refusing to be their advocate?

Robin Hood rises against a society that doesn’t work. Robin Hood takes action against a society that does not protect all of its citizens’ welfare and is no longer fit for purpose.

The question then needs to be asked of us. Are we any further on in 2016?

The Jungle book, remakes and never forgetting the first time

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We had been queuing for what felt like hours to a  six year old.

We’d talked about taking me to the ‘pictures’ for a while and finally it was happening.

I held his hand so tight. I was buzzing with excitement.

I didn’t know what I was walking into. I didn’t know the impact it would have.

Doors opened, tickets were punched and the combined smell of fresh and old popcorn wafted past my nose. We sat down the lights dimmed and it started.

A young boy abandoned, raised by wolves, hunted by a tiger and told all about life’s necessities by a singing bear.

I came out enraptured by what I’d seen and asked him immediately when we could go again.

My Dad took me to my first film at the Strand cinema (now Arts Centre) in East Belfast back in the mid eighties and I’ve loved the cinema experience ever since. I hold that memory closely and dearly.*

This weekend sees the release of Jon Favereau’s interpretation of the Kipling/Disney classic and often remakes of films can be questioned by bloggers/critics like myself.

  • Why do we need this?
  • Why can’t Hollywood give us more original output?
  • A perfectly good jungle book already exists etc.

I’m not against remakes completely for one simple reason.

This weekend somewhere a six year old boy will hold his Dad’s hand and walk into his first cinema experience.

He won’t see the visible pencil lines of those animated Disney classics, just clear, polished, computer enhanced ingenuity.

He probably won’t have to queue outside for long. Online booking and other innovations have solved that ‘problem’.

All being well though he will see something amazing.

Something he remembers for a long time.

Something he falls in love with.

Something that makes him ask ‘when can we go again?’

 

*My Dad has since confessed that our cinema trips were a chance for him to spend time with me but also a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep following night shifts.

 

Review: Spotlight

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Spotlight won’t win the awards it deserves this weekend. Oscar will overlook this film as it looks to The Revenant to wow Hollywood and the world beyond. I’ve written several times about The Revenant already this year and how I have been blown away by it’s achievements but Spotlight may be the better film.

Spotlight does what any film should. It tells a story really well. While Leonardo DiCaprio was eating raw bison liver and using a horse for a sleeping bag this group of fine acting talent were playing the roles of journalists investigating a story that shook the world. Did Leonardo do a great job absolutely, but this group excelled.

The difference in the two films to me is that The Revenant tells a fairly simple revenge tale through the blurred lens of multiplex action and arthouse wonder. Spotlight however tells a multi layered and difficult story in the most simplistic of ways.

Each member of this ensemble (the buzz word of moment among critics)  cast plays their part to perfection from Michael Keaton leading the team in the role of Robby Robinson to Mark Ruffalo’s intrepid Mike Rezendes it is really hard to define who is the lead in the piece. Nobody involved attempts to take centre stage. The real life story of Spotlight was a team effort and the film very much reflects that through its cast.

The Spotlight tale is well documented by now and it is hard to write anything close to a review without getting into ‘spoilers’ on some level. Spotlight is the true story of how the Boston Globe investigative journalist team  uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core is well known to many by now. The uncovering of these horrendous acts spread right across the globe and had an impact far beyond Boston.

While the church is the clearly the culprit the film does not demonise the institution completely. Instead time is taken to acknowledge that all players involved knew the dark truth deep down but looked the other way.

A special mention must be given to Liev Schreiber for his portrayal Marty Baron the outsider who interrupts the Globe’s world with no interest in the Redsox baseball team and due to his Jewish roots no link to the Catholic church. He is the key to the abuse being uncovered as he subtly refuses to let the story go and gently encourages the team to take it on.

This film is also a wonderful nod to a time we have lost memory of in our high spped broadband world. A time piece showing the way journalism used to be just before the internet era exploded and widened all our horizons (for better or worse). These journalists had to work for their story. There were clippings to be read, physical files to lifted from storage units and trollied to recipients, doorsteps to be walked on. True investigative journalism is the hero in this tale. Pre Google and long before the term click bait headline was even conceived this film salutes those who worked harder for their craft than those that walk the same beat today. I as a blogger am proof that anyone can attempt to write but Spotlight shows the value of true journalism.

With the Oscars this weekend to would be lovely to think Spotlight stands a chance.

The Revenant will more than likely prevail but there would be no complaints from me if Spotlight managed to take the limelight for itself.

 

 

Review: The Revenant

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I saw Alejandro Iñårritu’s latest film The Revenant six days ago. I tell you this not to show off but because after nearly a week has passed I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about this film.

I am certain I have seen something profound and yet I would struggle to tell you that this was a film that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

Inspired by true events, The Revenant captures one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a bid to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.

This is a film about the power of the human spirit but it is also a film about suffering and the endurance of pain. Not just the physical pain of the aforementioned bear attack (which is surely one of the most brutal moments in recent cinema) but the suffering caused mental anguish and the consuming desire for revenge.

So the question remains, is it enjoyable to watch a man suffer for slightly under two and  a half hours and watch him strive for vengeance?

My initial reaction was no. However having reflected over the last few days The Revenant has grown on me.

There are some incredible highlights to mention. The wonderful cinematography which elicits memories of Terrence Mallick and his love of nature. The opening sequence of the film where the hunting team is attacked by a native tribe is jaw dropping in it’s simultaneous beauty and brutality.

My favourite thing about this film though is  the performance of Tom Hardy as the wild eyed, manic Fitzgerald. If DiCaprio is to win Best Actor at this year’s Oscars then surely Hardy HAS to be this year’s best supporting actor.

The Revenant is littered with spirituality, the continual resurrection of Glass  regenerating throughout the film to become stronger on his journey home. One memorable scene in a crumbling church is particularly beautiful as Glass gazes on the image of Christ in a way recognising the near death and rebirth parallels of their lives.

The Revenant is a multi layered film that requires a viewer’s maximum concentration. If you invest enough in unpacking the complexities The Revenant is a cinematic wonder. If you are not fully engaged there is the chance that the film could appear pretentious and for art house lovers only.

The Revenant  is not a film to be enjoyed. Much like the vast frontier it plays out in The Revenant is a film to be explored.

The Revenant is on general release from 15th Jan 2016.

Thanks to MovieHouse for advance screening access

Film of the Year 2015: Inside Out

Inside Out

So the time has come to declare my favourite film of 2015 and it may come as little surprise that the nod goes to Inside Out.

Not since Wall-E have I been so charmed and enchanted by a Pixar film. The thought and intelligence, the humour, the emotional toll, the multiple layers of thought. This journey into the emotions in all of us truly is a wonder.

The journey into the mind of a child growing up made me not only think of how my daughters are developing but also how am I doing as a parent to them. Am I doing things right to ensure they are well balanced?

Am I (as someone who is not a risk taker at all) encouraging them to not let fear have control? Am I encouraging them into joy? Am I similar to the Dad whose head is full of anger?

Nothing in 2015  has been as smart as Inside Out and nothing in the cinema has impressed me more. I laughed, I got misty eyed and I will watch it over and over again!

Inside Out will, without question,  win Best Animation Oscar but it SHOULD be a contender if not winner of Best Picture at the Oscars 2016.