Starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey
The Dark Tower novels were a favourite of mine as a teenager. I picked up my first Stephen King novel when I was 12 and ravenously turned the pages of what ever book of his I could get my hand on. But there was something about The Dark Tower. Something about the last gunslinger and his Moby Dick like obsession for the Man in Black and that ominous Dark Tower. Here was this epic fantasy story that somehow combined Clint Eastwood Westerns with wizards and portals into 20th century New York and giant cyborg bears. And it worked. And I loved it. I’ve always regretted not finishing the series when the wait between books grew too long and I found it harder and harder to make time to read books without pictures. But I never stopped being fascinated by that mysterious tower that stood in the centre of all things.
Adapting The Dark Tower is an ambitious project. I don’t believe a straight up retelling would work on the big screen. So I’m glad director Nikolaj Arcel didn’t even try. This is not the movie I was expecting. It’s not the movie I visualised in my head as I followed Roland’s journey to the tower. It’s different. And as I write this on my way home from the cinema, I think I like it.
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
X-Men Apocalypse is the closest representative of an 80’s X-Men comic we’ve ever seen on the big screen. And that’s a good and a bad thing. In the 1980’s, the X-Men were by far the biggest thing in comics. The X-Men were big and loud and exciting, with complex characters that had powers and abilities that made sure every panel was something phenomenal. While the X-Men movies have tried to capture this feeling, they have largely fallen short, usually because of budget, technology, or fear of spandex. And now we have X-Men Apocalypse, which has given me the comic book movie I never knew I wanted and now eagerly want more of.
It’s 1983 and things are looking up for mutants – people born with extraordinary abilities. While they are still hated and feared by the world around them, they are no longer living in the shadows, and some mutants are even seen as heroes. But because it would be a pretty boring movie if it was just 2 hours of mutants sitting on the grass having a picnic, a major crisis is about to hit. The ancient and powerful mutant Apocalypse has woken up and he is not a fan of the status quo. He believes in survival of the strongest and is planning an extinction level event to kill the weak and promote the strong. Of course, it’s up to the X-Men to save the day.
The star of this movie is Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. Over three movies, she has taken a character already filled with depth and complexity and taken her in a new and exciting direction. Mystique as a reluctant folk hero is something we haven’t seen before and is something I want to see more of. I really hope that if there’s another X-Men movie that we get to see her develop the character more. Most of the characters we see on screen are given moments to shine, though given the enormous cast, some are going to fall through the cracks (I’m looking at you Jubilee, you big tease).
This big cast is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, it means that there stacks of opportunities to show off those cool looking powers used in innovative ways. If you liked the Quicksilver scene in Days of Future Past, you’ll love how he’s used here. On the negative side, if you didn’t watch Days of Future Past, you’re never really introduced to him. I’d have to watch the movie again to check, but I didn’t hear the character given a name until the movie was almost over. Storm, who is one of Apocalypse’s generals, I’m not even sure she’s named at all (neither real name or superhero name). I feel like unless you’ve invested effort into knowing these characters before watching this film, you’re going to be lost.
Finding the themes in a CGI heavy block-buster punch ‘em can be a bit like reading a Where’s Wally book – they are there but can be hiding somewhere behind an explosion or two. The villain Apocalypse follows a very Nietzsche style philosophy – the strong will rise and the weak should get out of the way. In the movie he is challenged by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), leader of the X-Men, who asserts that it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak. From a Christian world view, we are not Apocalypse. We are not even the X-Men. Because we are not the strong. We are the weak. We are powerless in the face of sin in this world and we are unable to overcome this great adversary. If we were to follow Apocalypse’s world view, we wouldn’t stand a chance. We’d be lost. But Xavier is on to something. It’s up to the strong to protect the weak. And the strong is Jesus. We need Jesus. He, not the X-Men, is the saviour of the weak.
This movie has flaws, no denying it. But it also has a man with metal wings fighting a blue skinned teleporter. If you’re after a movie full of superheroes using their powers and not being all grim and gritty and serious where it’s always night time and raining, then check out X-Men Apocalypse. It’s my favourite superhero movie of the year so far.
Starring Ryan Reynolds
This is not an easy review to write. I enjoyed this movie. A lot. But I can not recommend it. In fact, if you are a Christian, I recommend that you avoid this movie. Especially if you are under 18. Now, I know in Australia you can legally see this movie if you are 15 or over. Younger if you see it with your parents. But let me explain why I think this is a bad idea.
The Master List is one of the most popular features of Pop Culture Christ. It’s a list of a whole bunch of popular songs that mention God, Jesus, or Biblical themes. One of my aims for 2016 is to fix up the list, add new songs, as well as write about more of the songs on the list.
This week, The AV Club published a list of 22 Songs That Are Great Despite Being Pro-Jesus. It’s a good list, with a couple of those songs already being on the Master List. You can be sure that these songs from the AV Club will be among the first added to the Master List in 2016.
At our church, we’re encouraging everyone to pick up their Bibles and read a small passage of Scripture each day. To help with this, we’re doing two things. Firstly, in the service sheet each week is a checklist with 5 Bible passages, one for each weekday. For example, in the first week of 2016 we’ll be starting with the book of Acts: Monday – Acts 1:1-11, Tuesday – Acts 1:12-26, Wednesday – Acts 2:1-13, Thursday – Acts 2:14-42, Friday – Acts 2:43-47.
Secondly, we’ve produced these bookmarks for our congregations to help them to find the passage and to read the passage. Something like this may be helpful for you or for your ministry.
In the first season of South Park, the town is going all kinds of crazy in their efforts to make sure everything is politically correct during “the holiday season”. To the extent that they forget what the true meaning of Christmas is. Which leads to one of my all time favourite Christmas scenes after the credits have rolled.
Jesus Christ, all alone, singing happy birthday to himself. Classic.
Don’t forget to sing happy birthday to Jesus this Christmas.