Two Sisters Review… Rogue One (Part 2 of 2)

Image result for "rogue one" images battle

Is Rogue One really the first Star Wars movie to realize it’s about war? Why is Darth Vader suddenly making bad puns? What’s CGI [SPOILERS] doing in here? Can we talk about Jyssio for just a minute? And the 64k question: Did we NEED Rogue One? Welcome to Part 2 of our deep dive! And, as with Part I, SPOILER WARNING. If you have not yet seen the movie, bookmark this and come back when you have!

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Two Sisters Review…Rogue One (Part 1 of 2)

Well em gee… December sure flew by! As a reminder, for blog-only subscribers, you can follow me on Facebook (and now, on Twitter!) to keep up with my various writings. Despite appearances, I haven’t been wholly inactive this month. You can read my two latest articles for The Stream from my author’s page here. Both of them tie film together with life issues such as abortion and assisted suicide.

Today, we’re back with something lighter: another blockbuster deep dive in two parts with Little Sister, thus expanding the series which I’ve chosen to christen “Two Sisters Review.” WARNING: Thar be SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk.

Today, we cover stand-out new characters, likes and dislikes about character arcs, plot holes, and how we feel about the shades of grey it introduces into Star Wars morality. Tomorrow, we’ll cover Darth Vader (force-chokes! bad puns!), the new villain, more plot holes, Rogue One As War Movie, CGI… characters, and oh yes, shipping. Read on, and stay tuned!

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Two Sisters Review… Dr. Strange (Part 2 of 2)

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Little Sis and I pick up where we left off. We begin by discussing the film’s implicit pacifism, then really go at it over Marvel’s morality of magic and healing. We tackle the question of whether parallels can be drawn from Marvel world to our world, or to the world C. S. Lewis creates in Narnia. Finally, I wrap it up with a little discussion of new Harry Potter universe blockbuster Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, whose sympathetic portrayal of persecuted witches has been explicitly criticized by Catholic critic Steven Greydanus.

Enjoy! (And, as before, apologies for all the places where we say “Mordu” instead of “Mordo.” We forgot, okay?)

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Two Sisters Review… Dr. Strange (Part 1 of 2)

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Courtesy of Thanksgiving Break, Little Sis and I bring you our SPOILERIFIC deep dive into Dr. Strange. We discuss favorite moments and funny bits, as well as how the film handles mind/body dualism, death, and (of course!) magic. It got a little long, as LS observed towards the end, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. In Part II, we will discuss the film’s philosophy of suffering and hash out some differences of opinion on the last Easter Egg and whether we agree with its perspective on magical healing, while expanding on some compare and contrast with C. S. Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew. For now, enjoy Part I, and stay tuned! (Note: I apologize in advance for our erroneous and repeated reference to the character of Mordo as “Mordu.” As you might be able to tell, we’re not exactly die-hard comic book fans, we just watch the movies!)

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Seven Things I Hate About the New Ben-Hur Movie

[Note: If you were genuinely moved by the new Ben-Hur movie, chances are good you’ll be offended by this post. I wish to offend no man needlessly, so if you fit this description, you’ve been warned.]

“Why do they need to re-make Ben-Hur?” My sister asked this question the other day. It’s a good question. I’ll let you decide the answer.

Me, I wasn’t even going to bother seeing if it was as bad as I’d heard. But then, I got this idea that I could sell a free-lance piece including some discussion of the Jesus scenes, which had been very hyped up in the movie’s marketing. Supposedly, this re-make was going to improve on the Heston classic by giving Jesus top billing. That seemed interesting, but then early reviews started coming in. If they were to be trusted, Ben-Hur 2016 Jesus was about as deep as Joel Osteen’s Twitter feed. But, understandably, I couldn’t get paid to write anything about it unless I could say I’d seen the movie.

So, I saw it, only to discover that this new and improved, ostensibly beefed-up Jesus was so over-hyped, every single scene of his had already been put on YouTube or mentioned in the two reviews I saw. There was literally nothing else there. Fortune-cookie Joel Osteen Jesus was it.

But hey, I thought, at least I can have a little fun panning the whole thing for my blog, and that will make me feel like my $6.50 wasn’t entirely wasted. So, herewith, seven things I hated about the new Ben-Hur movie.

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Two Sisters Review… Finding Dory

Little Sister returns, and today we’re here to review Pixar’s latest smash hit, Finding Dory! We got to see what all the fuss was about last week and are pleased to bring you our thoughts on the film’s treatment of adoption and disability, Pixar’s slump into “sequelitis,” and more. And yes, I realize I say “Okay, so…” way too much. Also, #spoilers. You’ve been warned.

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Movie Review: Risen

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth? — Sherlock Holmes

After hearing good things about the new Christian film Risen, I finally got the chance to see it for myself this week. Offering a fresh twist on the Easter story, it walks through the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection from the perspective of a Roman tribune named Clavius. Clavius is tasked by Pilate to find Jesus’ missing corpse and quash pesky resurrection rumors, preferably before Tiberius Caesar arrives for a check-up. The result feels like a 1st century crime procedural, as Clavius examines the scene, collects witness testimony, and weighs multiple explanations of the evidence he gathers. The closer he gets to unraveling the mystery, the more uneasy he becomes.

Before diving into what I thought of Risen, I want to say a few words about Christian movies in general. As the market for Christian films has grown, my attitude towards them has run the gamut from *CRINGE* to “Hey, this is actually okay.” I am reluctant to bash the Christian film industry writ large, because I am reluctant to come off as a snide, self-important critic of Christian culture writ large. (But that’s a topic for another day. I think I’ll call it “How I Somehow Avoided Becoming a Christian Culture Snob.”) I even challenged John Mark Reynolds when he put out a scathing critique of the Kendrick Brothers’ War Room, despite the fact that I didn’t see the film and frankly still don’t have a burning desire to do so. I did it because I want to be fair, and I want to give Christian filmmakers their due.

And yet… I still love movies. And the movie-lover in me can’t deny that too many Christian films are simply not that well put together, by any objective standard of film-making.

So, it gives me great pleasure to report that Risen is not just a good Christian movie. It’s a good movie, full stop.

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My Top 5 Films of 2015

Top 5 Movies, 2015, Collage

In terms of films that had substance, were well-made and were palatable for Christian viewers, 2015 offered sadly slim pickings. Nevertheless, I have worked diligently to prepare a suitable shortlist. So, here now, I give you the most entertaining, the most thoughtful, the most emotionally satisfying, the best films of 2015.

At least, in my opinion. For what it’s worth.

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Two Sisters Review… Star Wars, The Force Awakens

Youngest sister is back! This is the third installment in our little series of movie review/interviews. We go see a movie, then I type up a loose outline of questions, hit record, and transcribe our discussion. Click here for our review of the Christian family film Beyond the Mask, and click here for our review of Pixar’s Inside Out

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Me: Okay, so, I am here with my little sister…

Little Sister: Ahem.

Me: And we are…

LS: I am NOT…

Me: We are here to discuss Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

LS: Yes, they know that.

Me: Shhhhh. And this, take note, this will be a spoiler-free discussion.

LS: I thought you said we were gonna be able to discuss spoilers because most people seeing it will have seen it already.

Me: Well actually, I don’t know about that, there are still a lot of people who still have to see it.

LS: Well then, we won’t be able to discuss much. This will be a rather short interview.

Me: No, that’s not true. There are plenty of interesting questions we can talk about.

LS: Dang it. The spoilers are most interesting!

Me: Well, I’ll tell you what. I have a lot of interesting questions still. And then I’ll sort of ask you a spoilerish question, but we’ll try to dance around it.

LS: That sounds boring. But anyway…

Me: It won’t be boring. Anyway…

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My Top Five Robin Williams Movies, Part II (cross-post)

Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in Awakenings
Robert De Niro (L) and Robin Williams (R) in Awakenings

Here’s the link to the second half of my Robin Williams top five retrospective, guest-posted at Paul Asay’s blog Watching God.  We’re going backwards, so Part II discusses my top two choices. If you missed Part I, click here. I also close out Part II with a video tribute I edited together last year. (Those of you who haven’t seen it already can watch directly on YouTube here.)

In arranging this shortlist, I focused on the films that I thought were best as films, not just Robin Williams performances. To be clear, I don’t recommend all of them for all audiences, and I’m honest about where I think some of them are flawed. Use your own discretion and don’t take this as an unequivocal endorsement of every movie on this list. Still, I chose them because I think they’re all well-made, they all say something true, and they all feature Williams at his best. The final standings, in order, were:

  1. Awakenings
  2. Insomnia
  3. The Fisher King
  4. Good Will Hunting
  5. Dead Poets Society

By chance, both of my top picks feature Williams in supporting roles beside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, two great Hollywood legends. Performances like these prove that Robin Williams the actor was not merely a gimmicky extension of Robin Williams the comic, but a serious talent who could hold his own next to American cinema’s finest.

Paul told me that these would actually be his personal top five as well, but he would rank them this way (though he was then seized with sudden worry about where to put Hook, a worry I confess I didn’t share):

  1. The Fisher King
  2. Dead Poets Society
  3. Insomnia
  4. Good Will Hunting
  5. Awakenings

I’m pleased to say my review of the detective thriller Insomnia impressed him so much that he bumped it up a full notch after previously having it in 4th place. Sadly, I can’t convince him to dislodge Dead Poets Society from second place, but all was made clear when I learned that he was a college literature major when it first came out. Figures. (Just giving you a hard time, Paul!) I also convinced him to give Awakenings another watch, and I hope I can convince you to do the same, because it is a truly great film which is sadly underrated in the Williams canon. Williams gives perhaps his most poignant, self-effacing performance here, in a true story that makes a powerful statement about the human condition and the sanctity of life. The film is devastating and sad, but as I say in my review, it will change you. It changed me. To learn more about the work of Oliver Sacks, who wrote the book on which it’s based, watch this 7 minute video. Be warned: It’s not easy watching, but it is unbearably beautiful: