The Dark Tower (2017)
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.
X-Men Apocalypse (2016)
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
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.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
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?
The Bibleman Show: Big Big Book (1995)
I 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.
Coming Soon – Exodus: Gods and Kings
Noah, 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?
The Lego Movie (2014)
The Lego Movie (2014)
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.
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.
47 Ronin (2013)
Starring Keanu Reeves
47 Ronin is the classic Japanese folk story of 47 samurai who are on a mission to seek revenge and restore the honour of their fallen lord… and some random white guy fighting CGI monsters. Somehow Keanu Reeves has got himself involved in this Westernised version of an Eastern story. Now, while I enjoyed this movie and thought it was a good way to spend a couple of hours in a cinema, it never quite manages to overcome to fact that there are two movies here trying to squish themselves into a space reserved for one.
Coming Soon: Noah
When I first heard that there was a movie being made about Noah ( the guy with the big boat in Genesis) my thoughts were some what apathetic and dismissive. My past experiences with the Bible being adapted for either the big or small screen have left me unsatisfied. They seem to fall into one of two camps: really faithful but dull or thought-provoking and engaging but theologically suspect. Sure, that’s my opinion – there are some adaptations that are well loved but do nothing for me. I’m a visual guy and would love to be able to see God’s word on the screen – but it has to be worth the effort.
Then the trailer for Noah came out last week. And i moved from apathy to cautious optimism. Could this movie be worth seeing?
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston
Yeah, I was going to go see this. Never any doubt. I can count on one hand the Marvel movies I haven’t seen in the cinema (I’ll let you guess in the comments which ones they are). But how high were my expectations for Thor: The Dark World? To be honest, not very high. While I enjoyed the initial Thor outing, I thought it was a bit under-done and needed more time to develop its story. And while I love Christopher Eccleston, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire playing the bad guy in G.I.Joe. On top of that, I had successfully managed to avoid seeing a single trailer for this movie, which is a pretty big achievement these days. So I’m sitting in the cinema, very little idea what to expect, just a small flickering flame of hope in my belly. Enough already Joel – tell us what you thought!
I loved it.
I know I probably say this after every Marvel movie, but Thor: The Dark World has got to be one of my favourites so far. The special effects are grand, the action epic, and the dialogue witty. What more can you ask?
Captain Phillips (2013)
Starring Tom Hanks
When I think of pirates I either think of someone downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones or Johnny Depp prancing around with a sword. So when I watch the news and hear stories of Somali pirates, my brain gets a little bit confused. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century pirates are still a problem. But these pirates aren’t colourful vagabonds or digital thieves. They are dangerous men born out of desperation and violence. In Captain Phillips, when warned of pirates in the area, they don’t prepare for a revival of Pirates of Penzance. They are scared for their lives. And they have every right to be. Because Captain Phillips is the true story of a merchant ship that is boarded by pirates. And the reality of this situation makes this one of the most gripping thrillers I’ve seen.
Starring Ashton Kutcher
Maybe you’ve heard of this Steve Jobs guy. One of the founders of Apple Computers. There’s a good chance that you might be reading this review on a device that Steve Jobs had a hand in developing – just like I’m writing this on my Apple produced iPad. Some consider him one of the most influential people of our modern age. Whenever this man got up to speak, whenever he was ready to launch a new product, people listened. Crowds would gather to hear him talk about the new iPhone or iPod. He’d have the audience hanging on his every word and leave them with them giving him a standing ovation.
When he passed away in 2011, he left many people wondering what would happen to Apple without its charismatic front man. The Internet was flooded with words of tribute for this man, of how much he meant to people. But another question was lurking under the surface – what was Steve Jobs really like?
Jobs is the first of the Steve Jobs bio-pics to hit the cinema screen (there’s another one on its way written by Aaron Sorkin, the writer of West Wing and The Social Network). With Ashton Kutcher donning the iconic jeans and black shirt, this film attempts to show us the man behind the Apple logo. However, it feels like the creators of this movie don’t know the answer either – they can’t make up their minds if he’s a visionary creator or a jerk. And it’s this ambiguity that is the downfall of this film.
The Wolverine (2013)
Starring Hugh Jackman
In case you missed the memo that comic book movies were big at the moment, Hugh Jackman returns to the screen as the hairy, bare-chested mutant with the metal claws – Wolverine. This is Jackman’s 5th time on the movie screen playing Wolverine, 6th if you include his cameo in X-Men: First Class (7th if you imagine that Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is actually Wolverine slumming it in 19th century France like I do). And to be honest, I hated X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins. HATED. But I wanted to give this new Wolverine movie a shot. By setting the movie in Japan and downplaying Wolverine’s healing factor, it certainly got my interest raised.
My verdict? I enjoyed The Wolverine. It almost got me to forgive the makers of these films for those last two stinkers. Almost.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013)
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
An Alex Gibney Film
Back in the 90s, one of my favourite “guilty pleasure” movies was a film called Hackers. It’s an early film of Angelina Jolie’s where her and a bunch of outcast friends are hackers, rewriting the rules of the Internet like 21st century wizards. Was this movie an accurate portrayal of the Internet and those who would hack it? Of course not. But I love it none the less. And the world of hackers was no less real just because Angelina Jolie rocked a keyboard like it was nobody’s business.
Perhaps the most well known, and most controversial, name in the hacking world is Julian Assange. To some he is an anarchist hero of the information age. To others he is a cowardly traitor putting lives at risk. Love him or hate him, he is someone you should know about. Because the issues his life brings up will come to define the Internet Age. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks takes a look at the life of Assange and explores the ethical issues his actions have brought up. Alongside Assange’s story is that of Bradley Manning. He may not be as public a figure as Assange, but Manning’s story is just as important.
The Impossible (2012)
A kid who can see dead people. But it’s not The Sixth Sense. The dead rising from their graves to terrorise a small town. But it’s not Night of The Living Dead. A stop-motion feature length film. But it’s not from Aardman. Paranorman is certainly packed full of influences. In telling the story of 10 year old Norman who can see ghosts and is the only one who can save the day from a witches curse, directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell are attempting something ambitious. They’re attempting to take some well known trappings of the horror genre, invert the expectations, change the medium to stop-motion animation, as well as repackage the whole thing for a pre-teen audience. That’s right, it’s a horror movie for kids. The ambition is there, however, the end result is something that left me scratching my head.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Voices by John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer
I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a computer game in my house. I was playing Space Invaders before I was enrolled in pre-school. I engaged in passionate Nintendo vs Sega debates with my friends. I even watched the Super Mario Bros movie in cinemas and lived to tell the tale. As soon as I heard about Wreck-It Ralph, my response was “shut up and take my money”. Sure, me and Disney haven’t always been on the best of terms. We’ve had our differences in the past. But if the animated film Wreck-It Ralph is any indication of where Disney is headed, then all is forgiven. Because this movie hits me in all the right spots and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Les Miserables (2012)
Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crow, Anne Hathaway
Les Misérables is one of those musicals I know a lot about but don’t know really well. About ten years ago my wife dragged me along to a local theater production of the show. But because of the joys of low budget sound systems and amateur performers, I didn’t really understand what was going on. There was a big wall made out of furniture and some guys with guns singing about a revolution. I was a bit lost. So going into the big screen version of Les Misérables, I was after one thing – to take all these songs that I’ve heard a million times on singing based reality TV shows and give me a story that can grab me by the heart and make me care.
Well, at least the singing was good.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
There’s an episode of the cartoon Batman: Brave and the Bold where Batman travels back in time and teams up with Abraham Lincoln to fight a steampunk cyborg John Wilkes Booth. I thought that would be the trippiest pop culture presentation of the former American president I would ever see. But no. I was wrong. And that’s because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had yet to thrust itself into my eyeballs and demand my attention. Armed with a silver plated axe and ridiculous side burns, Abe Lincoln marches onto the screen in this latest action/horror extravaganza.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a bad movie.
And that’s why I loved it.