Category Archives: Movie Reviews

A Lion of a Little Boy

Have you seen Lion? It’s a heart-rending biographical drama adapted from the non-fiction book, A Long Way Home.  Lion premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival, is PG-13, and has an 8.1 IMDb rating.  If you’ve been adopted or have adopted…if you’re a foster parent or have grown up in an orphanage, Lion will break your heart, but it might also help heal some of the pain that haunts most people who’ve grown up without knowing their biological parents.  The story begins back in 1986, where little five-year-old “Saroo,” lives in Khandwa, India with his mother, older brother, and younger sister.  Saroo and his brother steal coal from trains to trade for food, but one night Saroo is so tired that he falls asleep at the train station rather than helping his brother.  Through a series of misadventures, Saroo ends up lost on the streets of Calcutta, many hundreds of miles from home.  In fact, he doesn’t know the name of his hometown…or even his full name!  He survives many frightening episodes before a kindly man helps him get to an orphanage, where he learns some English and is later adopted by a couple in Hobart, Tasmania.  The story picks up again nearly 25 years later, when Saroo, as a young adult, sets out in search of his lost family.  Although I wouldn’t recommend the movie for children (at least until you’ve viewed it first), it is a very moving account that brought out a visceral response in me…I felt the horror of lostness, the fear of strange adults, the hunger, the loneliness, the pain…the relief…the deep, lasting grief. I came away feeling like I’d experienced a tiny taste of what it might be like for the millions of children abroad—and at home—who’ve grown up without the loving support of their parents.  I’ll never meet someone who has been orphaned now without feeling more compassionate toward them. It’s one of those movies that has a lasting impact.

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy
(Psalm 82:3).Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself unspotted from the world
” (James 1:27).

(The photos are a combination of two real pictures of Saroo as shown at the end of the film, plus images from the movie, Lion.)

Hidden Figures Made Public

               If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, I hope you’ll see it soon.  It’s an uplifting and appropriate tribute to the African-American female mathematicians who were an integral (but not fairly integrated) part of NASA’s   (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) “Space Race” back in 1961.  Hidden Figures is a family-friendly, PG-rated biographical docudrama with an IMDb rating of 7.8. It received over 75 nominations and 31 wins, and I thought it was superb!  The movie follows three of the women in particular: Katherine Johnson, a physicist who works as a “computer” (analyzing data before modern computers were available) in the Langley Research Center,  Mary Jackson, a very gifted mathematician who aspires to be an engineer in a day when both women and African-Americans were considered “unfit” to be engineers,  and Dorothy Vaughan, who works hard to be given her fair title as “supervisor,” which is the role she’s successfully fulfilling. Although the movie has received some criticism for time-line issues and credibility in details (the ladies used the restrooms that were available on site even though it was an issue), the movie did an excellent job of highlighting these three remarkable women, who deserve to have their lives brought out of the shadows.  In the movie, the charming romance of Katherine and her future husband, Jim Johnson, is depicted.                  As it turns out, they married and enjoyed 56 years together! In fact, Katherine Johnson won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. In 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot facility at the Langley Research Center was renamed the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor, and she was included in BBC series 100 Women. This lady was not only a brilliant physicist, she sang in her church choir for 50 years!  It was also true that Dorothy Vaughan became the acting supervisor of the West Area Computers in 1949. She was the first African-American woman to supervise a group of staff at the center. Over the course of her career, she taught herself and her staff FORTRAN (computer programming language) so they would be prepared to use the new machine computers that became available in the 1960’s.  Reflecting on her work, she said she felt as if she was on “the cutting edge of something very exciting.” Concerning the prejudice she encountered both for being African-American and for being a woman, she said, “I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”  Thankfully, she was eventually rewarded for being steadfast in good deeds and did receive the title she so richly deserved. An active Christian, Dorothy participated in music and missionary ministries at her church for many years. Mary Jackson did, in fact, became NASA’s first African-American female engineer! Beyond her work and family life, Mary spent many years tirelessly working to help gifted women and other minority peoples advance in their fields. Today, these three fantastic “hidden figures” have passed out of the shadows and into the lime light…here on earth. I suspect they were already stars in heaven before the movie was made. 🙂Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1  Corinthians 15:58).

Would You Like to be Like the Men Who Built America?

After our visit to the Biltmore Estate, I wanted to learn more about the Vanderbilt family, and I discovered a really fascinating (but gut-wrenching) 5-hour historical documentary mini series from 2012 called The Men Who Built America. The series has an 8.7 rating on IMDb, won a lot of awards, and is really worth watching, if for no other reason than to inspire you to avoid oppressing those who are under you, in the work space…or anywhere else, for that matter!The Men Who Built America traces the transformation of America from the post Civil War Era to World War 1, focusing in particular on the lives of four incredibly driven, innovative, and wealthy men: Cornelius Vanderbilt (who connected America via ships and railroads),  Andrew Carnegie (who developed the steel industry, opening the way for bridges, skyscrapers and city scapes not only in America but throughout the world, making him one of the richest men on earth),  John D. Rockerfeller (who founded Standard Oil and holds the record for  being the richest man who’s ever lived, with a net worth of 392 billion [adjusted for inflation], and  John P. Morgan (wizard of corporate finance and industrial consolidation in America).  At the end, the series also touched on the life of Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company who developed the assembly line technique for mass production). I was mesmerized and horrified at the same time. The first four men were innovative geniuses who worked ceaselessly to build industrial empires. Their work did profit America as a whole, but they were also ruthless cut throats who became incomprehensible rich by oppressing the poor laborers who worked for them.  Although they became amazing philanthropists near the end of their lives, I found myself feeling frustrated and outraged by their abuse of power. Why didn’t they share their wealth with the thousands (millions?) who worked for them?  In stark contrast, Henry Ford paid his employees about 2.5 times the going wage, provided safe working conditions, and established the 5-day, 40-hour work week. Ford still became plenty rich, but he was so much better as an employer! As the stories unfolded, it occurred to me that the richest men were so busy competing with each other and oppressing everyone that it didn’t even seem like they were enjoying their lives. Today is no different! If every business owner paid their employees a living wage and shared profits more equitably, they could still be wealthy enough to enjoy an abundant life while providing abundant lives for their employees too. How is it that as a nation we’re so consumed by greed?  Can we change the men who are building America now? Can we do better, one employer at a time??? As a nation, can we vote in legislation that provides a living wage for every employee who works a 40-hour week?

Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity. Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm 62:9-10).

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

Rise Up, My Love (229): Wouldn’t You Like to Have a Perfect Nose?

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.” Damascus was the capital of Syria, and although the Syrians were chronic enemies of Israel, during the zenith of Solomon’s reign the political control of his kingdom not only included Damascus, but extended another three hours north and east to Tadmor, which was half way to the Euphrates River. As Solomon’s kingdom grew, he continually built watch towers along the perimeter to guard his land from enemy attack, so a reference to a defense tower placed in the mountain range of Lebanon facing Damascus (which would have been to guard Israel from enemy troops advancing from the Syrian capital through the mountains toward Jerusalem) indicates that the Song of Solomon was probably written near the beginning of Solomon’s reign.*  This is consistent with the highly romantic but not implausible theory that Shulamith (“Mrs. Solomon”) was indeed Solomon’s first wife, and that perhaps her untimely death at an early age triggered a long and fruitless search for a replacement. (Hence, the three hundred wives and 700 concubines whom he eventually gathered into his harem…and who ruined him spiritually.) As one with the conviction that a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman was God’s design from the creation of Eve to the present, this is the only theory that satisfies my soul, and I cling to it with peaceful tenacity! (See Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 54:5-6 [consider that God Himself only has one wife: Israel, to whom he has been and will be eternally faithful]; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31; I Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6; and Revelation 21:9.)  But, back to our main subject. What did the tower of Lebanon look like? Delitzsch suggested that this comparison conveyed “symmetrical beauty combined with awe-inspiring dignity.”** That seems an apt, well chosen description. Without a doubt the reference to a tower brings to mind prominence and straight lines.Noses can “make or break” the sense of beauty in many faces, and although no one seems to greatly admire huge, prominent noses, straight, well-shaped noses often lend a sense of character to faces, giving them a courageous-appearing countenance, as if strength of line bespeaks strength of character. To describe the wife’s nose as a tower gives the feeling of a nose that descends in a straight line from the brow to the mouth (not broken or crooked)…a “tower” strong and unable to be turned aside. Spiritually, this brings to mind an impregnable fortress against which “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, a nose “which looketh toward Damascus” is a nose placed squarely in the middle of a face like a watch tower supporting two eyes that are circumspectly facing the enemy. The bride of Christ is a woman of character and strength who is watchfully facing the enemy of our souls, Satan, and heeding God’s admonitions.  Although we can’t do anything about the shape or size of our physical noses (apart from plastic surgery), as part of the bride of Christ, we can be spiritually beautiful and strong by heeding God’s admonitions to be watchful:  “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).  Notes:
*Paige Patterson,  Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 106.
** G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 159.

(I took the photos of people while watching First Knight, a 1995 reinterpretation of Camelot with a more virtuous Gwinevere and Lancelot than usual. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know we can’t all look like movie stars, but by God’s grace, we can all be virtuous if we’re willing! I took the photos of the towers in Tunisia, not Lebanon.)

The Horrible Truth about Deep Water Horizon and Deep Waters

Seven years ago, on April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded into a firestorm that could be seen for 40 miles, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig that had successfully drilled the deepest oil well in history (over 10,000 ft. deep) in the Gulf of Mexico just a few months earlier, and           on April 20th, the crew of 126 were hard at work testing the new well               at Macondo Prospect, forty-one miles off the coast of Louisiana. Deepwater Horizon cost almost a million dollars per day to operate with equipment and crew, and although there were issues with safety, the project was over a month behind schedule and overdue at a new site, so the decision makers decided to test the well before they were sure all the work was properly completed and all the concrete had time to cure.  The movie dramatizing this disaster is excellent and rated PG-13, but it is so graphic (and bad language) that I recommend it with caution. As one who’s inexperienced with the technical side of oil drilling, it was somewhat hard to follow what was happening, but the message was crystal clear: Often those who take the risks and make the decisions are not those who suffer the greatest consequences for their greed and irresponsible selfishness. Eleven men died, scores of men suffered, and the responsible companies ended up spending not millions —but billions—of dollars trying to recover and compensate for the damages. As we make important decisions, let’s remember that if we choose selfishly and unwisely, we’re not just going to hurt ourselves, we’re likely to do more damage than we could ever possibly imagine.  But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! (Psalm 81:11-13)

God’s Compass: Have You Found True North?

God’s Compass, a 2016 release from Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts program, is truly outstanding. To my mind, it’s one of the best yet in the Christian film industry, particularly in the areas of acting, pacing, and script. Had I been an actress, it’s a movie I would have been honored to have been in! In fact, it even got a 7.2 rating from IMBd.  The story follows the life of a retiring high school principal, Suzanne Waters, who goes immediately from celebrating her retirement to coping with a series of crises surrounding the birth of her first grandchild, trying to help a juvenile delinquent (and her overly busy surgeon son), solving a mystery, and processing the recent death of her beloved husband.  There is definitely some suspense, and there’s a humorous plot twist,
but there’s also a great lesson to be learned.  By faith, Suzanne perseveres in in making godly, gracious decisions (which appear absurd by human reasoning), and there’s a warm and wonderful happily-ever-after ending
that made me sigh contentedly and lifted my spirit. God’s Compass: Finding Your True North,
affirms the rightness of following God through dark and difficult circumstances and sacrificing for the sake of others, only to find that joy awaits
those who are willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own. And, isn’t that the Truth? It’s certainly been true in my life. Besides all that, there’s no sex, no violence, and no profanity!   🙂I just loved it, and I’m already looking forward to their next release, Extraordinary. Way to go, Stephan Schultze and the Christian film industry!!!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6)