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9 sounded incredibly interesting to me. An animated movie created for adults and not kids set in a post-apocalyptic world? Yes please. Not to mention it had a killer cast, I was pretty stoked about seeing it.

I’ll start off with the positives. It looked really really good. The visuals astounded me. It is easily some of the best animation I’ve seen. Some of the character design was genius. Well that about does it for the positives.

The story was cliche. Basically a mix of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Terminator, and The Matrix, except not good (not that The Day the Earth Stood Still was good, but the other two were). The voice acting was decent, but not that great.

The philosophical musings on the soul were…well…they left something to be desired. Something about breaking up your soul into 9 parts and putting them in ragdolls to save the world? Oh and if your soul is captured by a big mean machine there’s a ceremony that will cause the captured and “dead” pieces to ascend into the atmosphere and bring about new life on earth. I think it was like 5/9 of a soul = new life.

This may be the shortest review so far. Which fits with the movie which barely clocked in at over an hour. Don’t waste your time, 9 is not worth it.

Overall rating: 3/10

brand-new-daisy-artwork

I love Brand New. The past two albums that they have released rank among some of my favorite albums of all time, and The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me is by far my favorite album they have released. I went into listening to Daisy with incredibly high hopes and I was not let down.

The style really took me by surprise. Brand New has been changing their style from album to album throughout their entire career starting off as a pop-punk band on Your Favorite Weapon and eventually evolving into a much more mellow indie type style on The Devil and God. So I was incredibly surprised when the opening track of Daisy started with a one and a half minute intro of a sound clip of a Gospel song then busts into a heavy song that is almost entirely screaming. On tracks two and three, Bed and At the Bottom, they slip more into the style that was present on The Devil and God. At the Bottom is ranked among my favorite Brand New songs. The rest of the tracks on the album mesh the heavier screaming sound present in the opening track with the more familiar sound from the Devil and God. Overall I really enjoy the blending of styles and I’m happy to count this among the rest of the Brand New library.

The lyrical content is exactly what you expect from Jesse Lacey who I still say is one of the most talented songwriters currently putting out music. It’s been incredibly interesting to follow his spiritual growth from the beginning. On their original release there was no philosophical or theological content, and on the second release there was very little musing about God. But on the last two albums it is obvious that he is wrestling with the idea of Christianity. I know a lot of his thinking was strongly influenced by Aaron Weiss, singer of mewithoutYou, while they were on tour together and Aaron spent a good amount of time telling Jesse about the Gospel. This album isn’t as overtly theological as The Devil and God was, but there are still religious overtones, and you can tell that Jesse is definitely putting a lot of thought into these issues. He tends to quote the Bible in songs better than most “Christian” artists that I’ve heard.

I really do love this album, and Brand New remains one of my favorite bands of all time with yet another solid release. Go pick it up now, and pick up The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me and Déjà Entendu while you’re at it.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Wicked Novel

Wicked was my last fun read of the summer. I wanted something I would be able to sit down and enjoy without thinking too much before I went back to the halls of academia to read and think critically for the next 4 months. Sadly, I chose the wrong “for fun” book. I guess I should have caught on to the fact that Wicked was going to be a philosophical novel when the back of the book told me that it would challenge all my preconceived notions on the nature of Good and Evil. This is quite the tall order when it comes to me, my notions of Good and Evil are pretty deep seated, and the question of whether or not one is born wicked is one that I have spent a lot of time and lost a lot of sleep thinking about. Did Wicked challenge all my preconceived notions? Not quite, but it was a fun read.

For those of you who don’t know much about the worlds of fiction and broadway, Wicked is a novel turned musical about the Wicked Witch of the West before that pesky Dorothy showed up in Oz and melted her. The book is incredibly political and philosophical, and it changes quite a bit of the Oz mythology and canon. Most of the time this really bugs me, I hate it when people mess with established canon (see the new film version of G.I. Joe and most comic book movies) but the novel was so enjoyable that I didn’t mind it as much. I did have to keep telling myself, “This isn’t really Baum’s Oz, it’s another Oz, an alternate universe Oz.” And once I did that I fell in love with the book.

The main character is the Wicked Witch of the West, here called Elphaba. Elphaba is a very passionate young woman in college, a political activist after college, and a hermit “witch” in the later years of her life. Honestly, Elphaba has become one of my favorite characters in literature. She has more depth than a lot of characters I’ve met in books, and she’s more likeable than most “good guys” I’ve read about. Maybe she’s not so evil, right? Along with Elphaba is Galinda, “With a guh”, later turned Glinda the Good Witch of the North, and a host of other characters including a Winkie prince named Fiyero and a likeable college guy named Boq. There’s not really a character that I didn’t like, all of them were unique and likeable in their own ways.

The story was well written, and the plot was wonderful. The writing style wasn’t incredibly heady so most anyone can pick up the novel and enjoy it, but it also wasn’t overly simplistic and bad a la Dan Brown. Not everyone will read this and pick up on the philosophical musings like I did, there will definitely be some people who pick it up and just read it and enjoy it as nothing more than a fun story, Maguire is a skilled writer in that he can write to please both the philosophical and the leisurely readers.

I did have a few problems. One was the constantly nagging voice telling me this was an abomination to the pre-established Oz canon. Another was what Maguire did with the Wizard’s character. I have problems with Maguire feeling that he needed to “redeem the Wicked Witch for our times.” It’s like he’s uncomfortable with moral absolutes, he’s uncomfortable with the fact that evil really does exist. It seems as if he subscribes to the “Everyone is a good person deep down” philosophy. My convictions happen to lie elsewhere. We are, by nature, children of wrath who are full of sin and it’s only by Christ that we can be redeemed and made any semblence of “good.” But this isn’t the blog for theological and philosophical ranting so I’ll leave it at that.

I loved Wicked. I picked it up because I love the musical and I’m glad to say I also love the book. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fun read with plenty of philosophical undertones.

Overall rating: 8/10

gone baby gone

I apologize for the lack of reviews lately, with school starting back I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and read for fun or watch movies, but Labor Day weekend has provided me with an opportunity to enjoy being lazy once again. I’ve had Gone Baby Gone from Netflix for about 2 weeks now and finally got around to watching it today. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that Netflix told me I’d like it.

The film starts off with Casey Affleck musing about how the city is what shapes a person, how who we are is determined by where we live, what city, what neighborhood, and how that identity becomes such a major part of ourselves that we are unable to shake it off for the rest of our lives. The entire time this monologue is happening, the film is showing shots of various people in a rough Boston neighborhood, demonstrating that these people are who they are because they live in a rough neighborhood in Boston. This pretty much tipped me off right off the bat that this film wasn’t going to be a happy movie but that it was going to be a gritty ride. I was right. This isn’t the film for you if you’re looking for something clean and happy.

There’s a ton of cussing as can be expected in any film about crime set in Boston, and there’s plenty of violence as well. But it all has a point. The cussing is almost necessary if we’re to believe that the film is set in Boston, a gritty crime drama set in Boston with no cussing is about as believable as pro wrestling.

The film is about a little girl who is kidnapped and a private eye who is hired to find her. Casey Affleck plays the lead role as the private investigator and does a phenomenal job. I thought all of the acting in this film was great. Morgan Freeman did a great job as always, and the characters were all incredibly real.

I don’t want to ruin anything about the film for you but trust me when I say it’s full of twists. This is one of the few times I didn’t see the twist coming, and one of the very few times I’ve been morally stumped in a movie. I have no idea what the right thing to do would have been, and I don’t have any idea what I would do if put in the situation presented at the end of Gone Baby Gone. The moral dilemma presented is definitely one that I will be milling around in my head for the days to come.

Overall, I loved Gone Baby Gone. It dragged on sometimes, and I wondered where it was going, but the ending was more than satisfying, and the twists blew me away. If you love movies like The Departed or any gritty crime drama, Gone Baby Gone is the movie for you.

Overall rating: 9/10

gi_joe_poster

Oh man, I don’t even know where to start. I promised myself I wouldn’t see G.I. Joe but I had a free movie ticket so I figured why not. My three favorite things growing up were Power Rangers, Transformers, and G.I. Joe, in that order. I watched Transformers go down in flames earlier this summer when I saw Revenge of the Fallen, I was terrified that the same thing would happen with G.I. Joe. Then I saw the first preview which confirmed my fears. Then I actually saw the movie and realized that my fears didn’t even come close to how bad the movie actually was.

I guess we’ll start with the story. It’s okay. The word that springs into my mind is generic. A terrorist has a dangerous bio-weapon and he wants to use it to take down the worlds governments and take over the world and rule over it himself. How groundbreaking.

On to the acting. Channing Tatum was annoying. Marlon Wayans was annoying. That’s not good since they are both the main characters. Dennis Quaid did a good job playing General Hawk. Ray Park was awesome as Snake Eyes though I can’t say I was surprised, Ray Park is always awesome, even in Star Wars episode I which will forever be on my worst movies list. Snake Eyes was the only redeeming part of the movie for me. Snake Eyes was every bit as awesome as he was in the cartoon and his costume was great. It’s like the creators decided that after they got one character perfect that was enough to satisfy the fans and they could move on to making the movie they wanted to make. The rest of the characters costumes weren’t so great, instead of having the unique costumes that the characters were known for the creators instead opted to go with the generic semi-futuristic action hero look. Speaking of generic semi-futuristic crap, accelerator suits. What!? Possibly the most useless part of an incredibly useless movie.

Oh, and Hollywood, stop giving away major plot points in trailers please. It’s really hard for me to wonder whether or not the good guys are going to stop the biological weapon from destroying the Eiffel Tower when I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower being destroyed in the trailer for months. And no, this doesn’t happen at the beginning of the movie, it happens about an hour and a half in, and it’s a huge 30 minute ordeal. I couldn’t get excited about it, it didn’t suck me in since I already knew what was going to happen. Way to ruin that one.

A huge pet-peeve of mine is when the “good guys” kill hundreds of innocent civilians trying to stop the “bad guys” who are trying to kill hundreds of innocent civilians. I feel like after you’ve caused millions of dollars in property damage and killed hundreds of innocent bystanders, you have lost your “good guy” standing and can now be considered just as bad as the “bad guys” you’re trying to stop. Maybe that’s just me.

G.I. Joe was so unique, the characters were awesome, they had specialties, they had unique costumes, they had unique personalities. There was nothing unique about G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Even if this wasn’t a G.I. Joe film, I still would have hated it and found it generic and boring so don’t use the “Stop being a fanboy and see the movie as just that, a movie” argument that people love to pull out. This is a bad film regardless of whether or not it completely ignored the source material.

So now you know that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is not worth seeing, and knowing is half the battle.

Overall Rating: 1.5/10

Fingerlicking New Julie  Julia Poster

So I found out about this movie while watching one of my favorite shows on Food Network, The Next Food Network Star. I secretly (I guess not-so-secretly now) want to be a chef. I love to cook, I love to experiment in the kitchen, I love watching the Food Network and I would absolutely love to go on The Next Food Network Star one day. Julie and Julia is a chick flick that centers around two chefs, well, one chef and a blogger who decides to imitate that chef. I absolutely loved it.

The acting in the film absolutely blew my mind. Meryl Streep could not have done a better job portraying Julia Child. She nailed her voice, her mannerisms, everything about her. My mom went with me to see the movie and had no idea what it was about. The movie opens with Julia talking in a car, you can’t even see her yet. My mom looked at me and said “That’s Julia Child! I didn’t know that’s who this movie was about!” That’s always a good sign. I can’t say that the acting for Julie was as accurate since I didn’t know anything about her before seeing the movie. I can say that after reading her newer blog (not the one the film is based on), I like the movie Julie more.

The movie is based on two memoirs, one of which was a blog. This is the first film to be based on a blog which I think is neat. One half of the movie is based on Julia Child’s memoir about her days in Paris and writing her cook book, the other half is based on a blog/memoir by Julie Powell. The two parts of the movie are interwoven together to show the parallels between Julie and Julia’s life. It can get confusing at times, but I liked the way it was executed.

There was nothing really theological or philosophical to think about, but sometimes I like just enjoying a movie. One thing I did absolutely love about this film was the pro-marriage message carried in it. Both Julie and Julia had wonderful husbands who were supportive and encouraging throughout the whole ordeal. Neither marriage was perfect and the film showed the fights, but they always reconciled, and the love was evident.

Julie and Julia is not ground-breaking, it isn’t going to change cinema as we know it. But it was a fun movie for a guy who loves to cook and fantasizes about being a chef. Not to mention, I like to fantasize about publishers and movie makers running across one of my blogs and deciding it’s worthy of a book and movie. This movie fed both of those fantasies for me. It’s a fun movie, not quite a chick-flick but close enough to be called one, and it has some killer acting. If you’re looking for a fun movie to see, a movie that will make you laugh and walk away feeling encouraged, this is the movie for you.
Overall Rating: 8/10

Brian_McLaren_Generous_Orthodoxy

I have to admit my bias. I am not emergent. I do not think the emergent way of thinking is the right way of thinking. I do not think that emergent theology is orthodox. Now we’ve got that out of the way. I read A Generous Orthodoxy because I find the emergent “conversation” to be incredibly interesting. At one point in my life I identified myself with the emergent movement because I became so turned off by the Church. This has been called McLaren’s most theological work and is essentially his systematic theology (albeit he would hate it being called that and it’s far too small to ever be a real systematic). My aim for this post is to be grace filled and constructive and not just tear him down, even though it’d be much easier to do the latter.

We’ll start off with the writing style. I know I’m not the best writer, but I also don’t have 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of grad work in English like McLaren does yet I know not to use parentheses in every sentence I write. I didn’t enjoy reading this book. The sentences were overly complicated and McLaren made a lot of rookie mistakes.

The title is a bit misleading. McLaren’s idea of a generous orthodoxy is one that includes everyone yet remains orthodox, at least by his terms of orthodoxy. The book is neither generous nor orthodox. In the name of being generous he ridicules, belittles, pokes fun at, and excludes those who hold to the traditional conservative Christian faith. He is generous to those who agree with him, not so generous to those like me who disagree with him.

McLaren is dodgy quite a bit throughout the book, but he is known for this. He never comes out and says he’s a Universalist, but he does hint at it throughout the entire book. He says that he doesn’t want to make Christians, he wants to make disciples of Jesus, he wants people who are Hindus to love Jesus yet stay Hindu, just sort of incorporate Jesus into their religion. This idea is called pluralism and is simply not Biblical.

McLaren wants us to be a little bit of everything. He wants us to be Calvinists yet redefine the 5 points of Calvinism and believe in free will, which means he doesn’t want us to be Calvinists. He wants us to be fundamentilists but not take things so seriously and hold to fundamentals, so he doesn’t want us to be fundamentalists. He loves to throw around words with “post” in front of them: postliberal, postconservative, postmodern, postChristian, postsecular, etc. He wants us to be absolutists and relativists, terms I’m not sure he fully understands. He wants us to take a little bit of every denomination, a little bit of Islam, a little bit of Buddhism, and a little bit of Hinduism, mix it all up, and call it our Christian faith.

Probably the most frustrating thing to me was McLaren’s complete misrepresentations of the Anglican and Anabaptist traditions. I used to be a part of the Anglican Communion and I highly respect the Anabaptist tradition so I know quite a bit about both. McLaren makes up their histories and theology so that he can use them to justify his beliefs. The final few chapters of the books also made me incredibly mad starting with “Why I Am Green.” McLaren says that when Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves he did not just mean humans, that neighbors also include nature, animals, insects, etc. This is pantheism at best, worship of creation rather than Creator.

McLaren also tells he is not a relativist, just a post-modern thinker. He can call it what he wants, but he is a relativist. He says “…while we are not for pluralistic relativism, we do see it as a kind of needed chemotherapy.” So he isn’t a relativist, but he sees relativism as a cure? Am I the only one confused by this?

Was there anything redeeming about this book? Not really. While his celebration of the different traditions of Christianity is admirable, it’s usually a straw man of those traditions and they always come with underhanded jabs.

This book is dangerous. People are reading it, finding it more than acceptable and thinking that we should all live by it. Phyllis Tickle even calls McLaren the next Martin Luther in the foreword to the book.

This is just an overview of the things in this book I found disturbing, it would take literally a book in order for me to point out and adequately refute all of the things I found wrong in A Generous Orthodoxy.

Overall Rating: 2/10