The Man of Steel, Easter & Destroying Structures

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Tonight I’m off to a Batman v Superman preview screening. I’m a bit excited to be honest. While superhero fatigue is at an all time high for many, this film in particular has excited me. The man vs god angle depicted in the various trailers grabs my attention. Now I’m aware that trailers can lie but I’m intrigued by the premise.

Superman has always had a god like quality. In fact for much of Man of Steel director Zack Snyder does a not so subtle job of reinforcing this. For example in one sequence having a praying Clark Kent in front of a stained glass window where his and the pose of Jesus are practically identical. I liked this aspect of the film of course (that’s my gimmick here) but it could have been a lot more delicately done. Snyder though is not a director known for subtlety.

The films loses its way in the final third and becomes one big CGI brawl that goes on for FAR too long. At one point our hero saves some people from falling debris and they exclaim their gratitude. At the time I laughed as I thought, yes to be saved is great but your city has been destroyed so good look getting a pint of milk when this is all over.

However this perhaps the most Jesus like moment.

Saviour yes but also also the destroyer of structures around us.

Easter is days away. Holy week is at the mid point and as Christians we await Good Friday and the East Sunday celebrations that follow. I’ve wrestled with Easter this year. I’m uncomfortable with it.

I’ve come to the point where if I’m not prepared to fully get behind the Easter story there really is no point. To believe what I do and believe in the person of Christ means that the structures that contain the message need to fall.

One of the first things to go on Good Friday is the temple curtain. This barrier to the holy of holies, the area where God lived only accessible to temple priests  is gone. The reveal of nothing being behind there says a lot. The man made concept of where God abides is gone.

To fully believe in Easter. To fully believe in the person of Christ means not only believing in the one who saves it’s also about believing in the structure breaker.

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2016: Plenty to look forward to

2016 is almost here and I’ve picked out several films that have already got me excited for the New Year.

Thanks to all who have read, shared and interacted with posts from the blog over 2015 I really do appreciate it.

Happy New Year!

The Martian, Psalms and Wonder

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“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” – Psalm 8 v 3-4 NIV

Last Monday night I saw Ridley Scott’s The Martian and if I’m honest it has stayed with me all week.

I loved the film and reviewed it in my previous post. I’ve spent the week contemplating scenes and remembering jokes from it as well as the disco soundtrack.

On Sunday I went to church and the verses above were read and I remembered The Martian again.

Space is the unknown and there is something in all of us (whether you have a faith or not) that wants to know more. Why is everything so perfectly laid out? The large distances involved in travel, the emptiness and yet at the same time a place filled with stars, planets and moons. Can it be coincidence that we have been given life on a planet the perfect distance from the sun to allow air, water & oxygen to help us survive? It baffles me and simultaneously fills me with awe.

How quickly and how regularly we forget. I’m grateful that The Martian helped me remember.

The Psalmist helps us to feel this wonder too. Psalm 8 is written by someone pondering their place amidst the vastness of the universe and at the same time pondering the care and concern of the create who made them. Which leads me to Sunday.

What am I here for? What is my vocation? How do I live that out in the world and show my faith? How do I live life in all it’s fulness?

I’ve been blogging for a little while now but Sunday made me realise how much I want to pursue this. I find so many strands of faith in the films I watch and I want to share that to hopefully help those ‘stumblers’ like me who don’t have all the answers.

This is a passion and it’s time to move up a gear. Already this week I’ve pushed a couple of doors and pleased to say they have not slammed in my face. It’s exciting and its scary.

I’m ready for the next step wherever the journey goes with this.

I hope that many of you will come with me.

Steve Stockman’s blog from Sunday on vocation is here. I hope it inspires you as it has me.

Review: The Martian

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The summer of 2015 will not live long in the memory (film wise). However as the leaves begin to turn and the nights draw in, those responsible for the release date scehduling have already given us a cinematic gem in the early days of Autumn.

The Martian (dir. Ridley Scott) is the tale of Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stranded on Mars and presumed dead following a storm and the evacuation of his crew mates. This story of the human survival instinct combines the great elements of Castaway (dir. Robert Zemeckis) and Moon (dir. Duncan Jones) to bring what will surely be seen as a return to form for director Ridley Scott.

Matt Damon is brilliant as Watney. Charming, funny, heart wrenching he really is the total package.

The film is also very self-aware in its tone with what could be considered moments of ‘nudge wink’ dialogue that almost adds a B-movie quality to proceedings in a very endearing manner.

This is probably where the Martian excels when inevitably compared with the recent space epic, Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan).

One of the problems with Interstellar was that it always felt as if it took itself too seriously. The Martian avoids this trope. While the science is always present, it often takes a back seat to the humanity of the story, and to its credit the science is never too confusing or off-putting. The rescue mission, while ridiculous in part, is never completely unbelievable. This is the charm of The Martian there are no glaring distractions you simply enjoy the ride from start to finish.

The key to The Martian is the heartfelt desire to see Watney make it home against all odds. We route for his character from minute one until the film ends. We laugh, we feel his pain (emotional and physical) and we want to see him beat the odds.

The Martian is not a science fiction tale it is a tale of the strength of determination that happens to take place on Mars.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed The Martian and will have no hesitation in returning to Mars to do it all over again.

The Martian is released UK wide tomorrow (30th September).

Thanks to MovieHouse for the advance screening access. 

Ant- Man, Fantastic Four and the onset of fatigue

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Ant-Man. If ever there was a hero that I didn’t deem necessary, from the Marvel canon, to see on-screen it was Ant-Man. Never a big fan of the comics and finding the entire premise a bit dull I wasn’t overly excited going in.

I shouldn’t have worried though Marvel have again pulled a fairly decent movie out of the hat and they should be applauded. The cinematic juggernaut that is Marvel continues to roll out decent viewing from its massive universe of characters. Paul Rudd gives a decent performance in the lead role and brings his on-screen likeability and humour to it. It suffers from the normal Marvel problems (lack of decent villain primarily) but is a decent and enjoyable watch.

The setups for the next films are there to be spotted,  a great cameo sequence and the obligatory post credit sequence are all there.

These films are the cinematic equivalent of a bingo card, redemption of character <tick> , underused villain <tick> , set piece battle at end <tick>.  Let me be very clear however, they are not bad films, they are highly enjoyable with lots of great sequences that as a comic book reader you would only dream to be possible. My frustration is at myself for my lack of excitement before the film starts.

I really enjoyed Ant-Man. I really enjoy Marvel movies. I’m a comic reading  cinema attending regular these, more than any other genre, should be my cinema going highlight. Why then the lack of enthusiasm?

I have a theory.

I suffer from hype fatigue.

You see I’ve known about Ant-Man for a couple of years. I’ve read the possible casting stories. I’ve read the articles telling us the problems with the shoot. The loss of the original director (Edgar Wright), the exclusive screen shots, the teaser trailer, the official trailer teaser trailer, the ACTUAL trailer, the article breaking down all the things we my have missed in the trailer and the list goes on.

The Fantastic Four is released this weekend (6th Aug to be precise) and in the last couple of days the final trailer has been released. This time however the trailer for an (as yet) unreleased film has a teaser at the end (I’ll not spoil that if you haven’t seen it). We are now at the stage of trailers with post trailer teasers!

I therefore understand now my lack of enthusiasm.

Even the trailers are beginning to link to the next coming attraction.

When the Marvel juggernaut started its journey all those years ago the films felt more like events. You didn’t know what was coming you didn’t know what to expect. Now we seem to know most of what we need to know before the first crunch of popcorn.

To avoid this information in 2015 is difficult. The social media frenzy when trailers are released can be unavoidable.

I can however make choices. I can choose not to engage with the links to click bait journalism.

I could decrease my use of social media to avoid these things.

I suffer from hype fatigue.

I must do whatever I can to ensure that my cinematic excitement returns.

Review: Mad Max Fury Road

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The trailer had me. I was stunned by the visual, lured by the return to Max’s world. I should have left it there!

To be honest Mad Max: Fury Road is not a terrible film. It is however not worthy of the outpouring of praise & critical fervour that it has stirred up. This mantra of the ‘return of the great action film’  is something which is over used and over hyped.

An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There’s Max (Tom Hardy), a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos and Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.

This is a two hour car chase punctuated with occasional dialogue. The problem for me is the unexplainable nature of certain elements. Why is Max captured at the start of the film other than to start the chase? Max’s flashbacks to a young girl which  I presume he could not save from some unexplained horror. It is never explained who she is or what happened to her.

This may seem petty criticism but these elements were distractions for me and took me out of the film.

As for the much lauded strong female character lines I fail to see them. Yes the women involved are removed form their old world roles of breeders and feeders but they never reach the dizzy heights that many seem to think they do. In effect they are pretty anonymous. Theron is might as Furiosa but to claim this is a victory for women in film is strong given that she is nothing more than ‘Ripley light’ driving fast and shooting a gun.

As I said Mad Max is not terrible but it may be the biggest cinematic disappointment I experience this year!

Jurassic Park : Could vs. Should

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Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if the should – Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum)

Jurassic World is released in cinemas this weekend and I have to say I’m excited. I remember clearly the experience of being 13/14 sitting with my popcorn and hearing the roar of the T-Rex for the first time and watching the chaos unfold on-screen. I’m looking forward to re-entering that world again and I’m hopeful that I will enjoy this new outing as much as I did first time round.

Watching Jurassic Park with older eyes though you do see a different story. Yes the thrills, the chases, the suspense of the kitchen sequence still exhilarate and entertain but this is only part of the story.

The creation of an attraction for our entertainment without full consideration to the consequences is a cautionary tale. This 90’s block buster warns that the creation of entertainment must walk hand in hand with consideration of the ethics. Moments of awe can not be designed without a duty of care being granted to those lost in wonder. The pre occupation of could without the consideration of should.

The argument for could vs. should is still a valid one, particularly in our social media heavy world, today.

Social media has become a place for Christians to engage in theological discussion without consideration of feeling, context or tone of those they engage with. Vitriol and accusations of heresy flow freely and then we wonder why people lose interest in what churches stand for / should stand for. At times it is vicious, brutal and dare I suggest light years away from what our faith should really represent.

Within the church we COULD spend time debating issues on social media with those we differ. We probably SHOULD be more willing to accept difference of opinion rather than desperately seeking the black and white answers.

We COULD argue online generating opinions from the noise of keyboard keys. We SHOULD get together and engage face to face where we can the persons intended tone.

We COULD continue to argue incessantly. We SHOULD come prepared to listen and discuss.

We COULD continue to exclude others based on our differences. We SHOULD break bread and drink wine in communion with each other despite them.

We COULD not rest until we achieve uniformity. We SHOULD be content to accept those elements of our faith that unite.