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The Dark Tower (2017)

The-Dark-Tower-New-PosterDark Tower

Rated M

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.

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X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men Apocalypse

Rated M

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.

Why I Think You Shouldn’t See The Deadpool Movie

Deadpool Movie PosterDeadpool

Rated MA15+

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.

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The AV Club Adds to The Master List

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.

Genesis: Jesus He Knows Me

Genesis Jesus He Knows MeWhen this song was released back in 1992, I vaguely remember that I thought this song was pro-Christianity. What a naive little Catholic school boy I was. Jesus He Knows Me is full of biting criticism of the state of Western Christianity in the late 20th century. Unfortunately, a bit over 20 years later and it still cuts a little too close to home.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens-wide-posterStar Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Rated M

Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega

Star Wars is everywhere – social media, TV, shopping centres, bags of fruit – you can’t escape it. For nearly 40 years the Star Wars movies have been part of our pop culture landscape, endlessly quoted, referenced, copied and parodied. Even a poorly received prequel trilogy wasn’t enough to dent the hopes and dreams of Star Wars fans as the latest installment hit the big screen.  With new creators behind the wheel, will Episode VII be a return to greatness?

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Telling the Truthiness: The Gospel According to Stephen Colbert by Richard Braaksma

downloadI don’t think Christians really know what to do with humour. The stereotype that Christians are a bunch of humourless neigh-sayers unfortunately has some truth to it. We can be quick to take offence and slow to laugh at ourselves. And that’s a real shame for two reasons. Firstly, the Bible can be outright hilarious at times (I will never not laugh when read 2 Kings 2:23). Secondly, we may be missing out on learning truths we may otherwise be blind to. And that’s why Telling the Truthiness: The Gospel of Stephen Colbert by Richard Braaksma is worth reading and engaging with.

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The Bibleman Show: Big Big Book (1995)

Big_Big_BookI became a Christian in December 1997 at the age of 18. I didn’t grow up in a church culture, didn’t attend Sunday School and I definitely wasn’t exposed to “Christian Entertainment”. So it’s kind of hard to explain why I’m fascinated by Bibleman. It’s not like I’m looking back on it through a nostalgic lens. I have no cherished Childhood memories that help me overlook the rough edges. I’m not reminiscing of a simpler time.

I’m honestly watching these things and wondering what made the creators of this show think that this was a good idea. And loving every moment in a guilty pleasure kind of way.

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Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories

A San Diego Comic-Con comic book exclusive from Image Comics is Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories. Not sure if it actually has anything to do with the Bible but the creators involved look top-notch. Hopefully it will find its way on to Comixology so I can check it out.

GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES
KICKS DOWN SDCC’S DOOR
An exclusive collector’s edition you won’t want to miss
Edited by Erik Larsen (SAVAGE DRAGON) and Bruce Timm (Batman Adventures: Mad Love)—and just in time to take San Diego Comic-Con by storm—comes GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES, a deluxe limited edition collection featuring the original stories of the world’s greatest cartoonists.This treasury edition format includes seven eye-popping, mind-melting stories from Erik Larsen, Bruce Timm, Adam Warren (Empowered), Tom Scioli (GØDLAND), Ryan Ottley (INVINCIBLE), Andy Kuhn (FIREBREATHER), and Arthur Adams (Uncanny X-Men). A collection years-in-the making, readers won’t want to miss out on this amazing special collector’s issue, an Image Treasury Edition.”Bruce Timm and I love Treasury Editions! Our goal was to create the greatest Treasury Edition in the history of mankind! To do that—we rounded up an all-star cast of killer cartoonists all committed to doing all-new characters and material worthy of the format!” said co-editor Erik Larsen. “The end result was something awesome to behold!”

Coming Soon – Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus Gods and Kings MosesNoah, while totally not a Bible based movie (sure, it had some similarities to what happens in Genesis, but it wasn’t rooted in Scripture) at least got people talking about God and the Bible. Will Exodus: Gods and Kings do the same?

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Coming Soon: Black Jesus

Black JesusYou know Jesus wasn’t a white guy with blonde hair, right? Totally wasn’t. Now I’m not saying he was a black guy either (he was a Middle Eastern Jew after all) but I’m kind of interested in Black Jesus, a new show from Adult Swim.

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Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones?

Game of ThronesGame of Thrones is one of the biggest shows on TV. The epic medieval fantasy show has everyone talking. It’s popular and engaging, with story lines that have people flooding social media with their love of the show.

But is it an appropriate show for Christians to be watching?

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The Leftovers

2014 looks like it might be the year of the Rapture… at least on TV and movie screens. As well as the upcoming Nicholas Cage Left Behind movie, we have The Leftovers.

The Leftovers looks to focus on the lives of people living in a small American town after an event, presumed to be the Rapture, results in 140 million people vanishing. It’s based on a novel by Tom Perrotta and the first season has been set at 10 episodes. It will air on HBO in the US, which probably means it will be shown on Foxtel in Australia.

Here’s the first teaser trailer.

What do you think? Christopher Eccleston appears to be involved, which automatically has me interested.

The Lego Movie (2014)

the-lego-movie-poster-finalThe Lego Movie (2014)
Rated PG
Starring Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell

Everything is awesome. It’s not just the name of the catchy and quirky pop song that plays incessantly during The Lego Movie. It’s an accurate description of the film itself. Everything about this movie is awesome. After watching The Lego Movie I want to pour a huge box full of Lego pieces on the floor and spend hours building stuff.  True,  I want to do that most days. But after watching this movie, I really really want to dive into a big pile of Lego, Scrooge McDuck style.

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My Adam4d.com Top 5!

2013-08-10-fb cropAdam4d.com is one of my favourite webcomics. Even better, it’s a great Christian comic with a sharp satirical edge. I’ve written about the comic before.  A couple of months ago I promised to put up a Top 5 list of my favourite Adam4d.com comics and here it is! It wasn’t easy getting it down to five but I got there eventually. These are presented in no particular order. Is your favourite on the list?

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Noah (2014)

Noah Russell PosterNoah (2014)
Rated M
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

It’s pretty amazing that a movie like Noah even exists. A big budget retelling of a Bible story with big name actors and a special effects budget that would make a film student drool, directed by a guy best known for his quirky, arty films. Surely this is going to be a disaster. The Bible crowd will either love it or hate it and it’s going to be a tough sell to get anyone else even interested.

As an epic fantasy movie with Biblical allusions, Noah is a great film. As a Biblically faithful account of the life of Noah… Well it makes a good fantasy movie.

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Comic of the Week – The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2

2014-02-24 10.28.29The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2

W: Mike Carey

P: Peter Gross

Vertigo put out the kind of comics I love to read. Ever since I started seriously reading comics, I’ve always hunted down that Vertigo label. Even when I don’t enjoy the comic, I know it will be at least different to everything else on the stands. And maybe even expand my mind a little bit.

When The Unwritten began a few years ago, you just knew this was going to be something special. The story started out as a conspiracy tale starring Tom Taylor, a man who had a series of Harry Potter like stories based off him. As the series has progressed, it’s become clearer that this is a story about stories – and the distinction between story and reality has got blurrier with every issue.

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Comic of the Week: Deadpool #23

2014-02-13 18.57.31Deadpool #23

W: Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan

P: Mike Hawthorne

Deadpool can be pretty hit and miss with me. The Joe Kelly run in the late 90s was one of my early favourites when I first started getting into comics (in fact I recently bought the Joe Kelly Deadpool Omnibus, which will make me very happy for a very long time). Since Kelly stopped writing the character, I haven’t really stayed that attached to the Merc With a Mouth. But this current run, which began with Marvel NOW, has really hit that Deadpool sweet spot – funny, dark and very violent.

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Comic Panel of the Week: The Movement #9

2014-02-06 17.35.28The Movement #9

W: Gail Simone

P: Freddie Williams II

The Movement is a superhero team book that’s a bit different to what we usually see from the Big 2. These characters aren’t so much heroes – they’re the super powered members of an underground “movement” in a city full of corruption and inequality. These are broken characters in a broken city, with no clear vision of how to make things right. Which opens it up for all kinds of moral ambiguity and conflicting motives.

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Webcomic Review: Adam4d.com

adam4dAdam4d.com is a Christian comic that has grabbed my attention over the last few months. And judging by my Facebook feed, I’m not the only one. Often laugh-out-loud funny (yes, I’m old and I will not be using the acronym, thank you) and very often insightful, Adam4d is a comic you should be checking out regularly. There are some strips that I have bookmarked for future use, because they’re just asking to be used in a sermon or Scripture class. The creator, Adam Ford, has a way of taking complex ideas and satire and reducing them to punchy sound bites and drawings that I admire. I read a lot of webcomics, but Adam4d.com is one that I know I’ll be a consistently better thinker and preacher after reading it (I’m trying hard to lay it on to thick here guys, but I really love this comic!).

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