Movie Reviews

Review of: The Martian, by Andy Weir

Posted on December 6, 2015. Filed under: Book Reviews, Movie Reviews, Science Fiction |

The Martian, by Andy Weir. Broadway Books: BROADWAYBOOKS.COM 2014 (387pp.) My son Jeremy ordered this book for me as we were walking out of the theater after watching the movie version, The Martian, starring Matt Damon. The movie and the book will be in my all time favorites list, probably top 10. This book was difficult as it is filled with scientific data and formulas, gear and technical terms. But that is absolutely what makes this book as powerful as it is! This is a modern day Robinson Crusoe…on Mars! Yeah, I love me some space opera and military sci fi with lots of aliens and space battles, but the best sci fi is believable and near enough to our time to make it seem achievable. In twenty years from today, 2015, the things written by Weir may be happening! While the book is laced with profanity and presents pretty much an atheistic worldview, the story is a good, positive, can do, pro-America, pro-NASA story of human suffering, ingenuity, and overcoming all obstacles with heroic efforts from a huge cast of supporting characters, including the communist Chinese. This book is simply outstanding! I highly Recommend.

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Memorial Day Favorite War Movies

Posted on May 25, 2009. Filed under: Movie Reviews |

Memorial Day, for a lot of Americans, has become trivialized. For many it is just a day off to go to the lake or enjoy a backyard barbecue. But for those of us who are true patriots, for those of us whose loved ones have fought in a war, for those of us who have served in the military and fought in a war, Memorial Day is a special day.

One way to remember the price paid by those who have fought to preserve our liberty is to watch a good military/war movie. For some, watching a war movie may trivialize the real sacrifices of those who gave their lives, limbs and blood in battle. That is not my intent here at all. I am a veteran myself. I served as an Infantryman during the Cold War. My grandfather was in the signal corps and came back from WW1 with a Purple Heart. My father was a Scout in an armored battalion in WW2 and fought in the Battle for Leipzig. My youngest son is a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne serving in Baghdad. So when I do a movie list for Memorial Day, I am doing it respectfully as one who has served and as one whose family has served for at least 4 generations.

Art is supposed to move us deeply, reveal the truths and problems of our human existence. War is a fundamental part of the fallen human race. War brings about incredible pain and suffering, wastage, and yet also brings out the best in humanity- honor, valor, courage, compassion. Yes it is all too easy to watch a war movie simply for the entertainment thrill of it all. We experience war vicariously through the actors who are but acting roles assigned to them. Not many actors were for real war veterans or heroes. Audie Murphy was one of the best. Jimmy Stewart another.

After Viet Nam, Hollywood turned against the American military for the most part, against America even. That hasn’t changed even after 9/11. But even some of the movies that are “anti-war”, “anti-military” raise good questions and deserve to be viewed intelligently.

In the partial list that I will give below, and in my survey questions, I will list my favorite war movies and discuss them briefly. I am not a good movie critic,  but I will point out what I liked and disliked about the movie and why it is important. If you join me in this discussion I would ask you to do the same.

BEST WAR MOVIES OF ALL TIME:

1) We Were Soldiers Once, and Young- Mel Gibson is a rare guy in Hollywood, in that he has some conservative ideas that are rooted in reality; I am a huge fan. But this movie ranks as my favorite war movie of all time, not just because I like Mel Gibson, but because he got the historical situation right and he presented the facts with a high degree of art and reliability. Based upon the book by General Hal Moore and reporter Joey Galloway, the movie tells of the formation of the 1st Cav Division, their deployment to Viet Nam in 1965 and the first big battle between an American unit and the North Vietnamese. This movie about the Battle of LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang valley at Ap Bia basically tells you everything about the war from start to finish. From its French roots to the technology and tactics of both sides to the almost inevitable outcome, the whole war can be seen in this first battle. Including the cost on the home front. One of the best parts of the movie is the juxtaposing of the scenes back home at Fort Benning with the wives and the men half a world away in the battle. That hard bit of reality reaches and grabs you and twists. When the yellow telegrams start showing up at the door it is very hard to not weep with those who weep.

I read the book before watching the movie as I usually try to do. Gibson did a GREAT job of keeping to the book. Even some of the conversations were the same. Gibson also included some of the racial issues of the day in the movie that were true to the times. And he even used some humor to do it. (The laundramat question with the ladies).

Every American ought to buy the book, read it, then buy this movie and watch it. For this reviewer, this is the best war movie of all time. Here is a link to the movie:

www.imdb.com/title/tt0277434/

And here is the book:

www.amazon.com/We-Were-Soldiers-Once-Young/dp/034547581X

Here is a website about the battle:

www.lzxray.com/

2) All Quiet on the Western Front(1930 edition)- placing this movie as second on the list was hard because the art of movie making was in its infancy when it was made and the modern movies are so much better technically. But the movie sticks closely to the original novel by Erich Maria Remarque and the book is the most important and best war novel of all time. The only reason I rated Gibson’s work above this film is that We Were Soldiers is about the American experience and the Viet Nam War changed us as a country in some fundamental ways. But WW1 changed the world. Every evil that is current in our world came about due to WW1. The Middle East problems, communism, the declining population of Europe, you name it, WW1 started it. All Quiet on the Western Front is a classic that will forever be around because it shows war from the High School classroom to the death in the trenches. When I was teaching High School Western Civ I required my honors students to read the book and write a report on it because in 2007 we were heavily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. The horrors of war must never be forgotten and this movie will forever do that.

The movie shows the brutality of war, the waste of war, the hardening and coarsening that goes on in society with war and it shows the randomness of war. The ONE SCENE that makes the movie, is the scene of the machine guns firing continuously. That one scene shows the difference between WW1 and all the other wars fought prior. War is now mechanized, technology has wrought great devastation.

The 1930 movie is linked below:

www.imdb.com/title/tt0020629/

The 1979 version is good too, but I much prefer the 1930 edition.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0078753/

And of course here is the link to the classic novel:

www.amazon.com/Quiet-Western-Front-Erich-Remarque/dp/0449213943

3) Blackhawk Down- Why would I choose a movie about a very small action in a thirdworld country that we were not at war with, that on the scale of things like the D-Day invasion or Iwo Jima is virtually insignificant? Because it is the new reality of our post modern way of war. Small actions, third world countries, petty dictators and terrorists, politicians who do not understand a thing about the use of force , the military or warfare.This 1993 battle, the 1999 book by Mark Bowden and the 2001 movie by the great Ridley Scott depicts the perplexities and complexities of modern warfare.

In what started as a confused and misguided use of the US Military by Pres. George HW Bush to feed the hungry people of the failed state of Somalia, to the even more confused plan of Pres. Bill Clinton to try to snatch some Somali warlord only to pull back when the “surprising” cost of war became evident, this story shows the price paid by our finest soldiers to carry out policies of politicians who do not have a clue. Thinking that our army can be used piecemeal to help out starving third world people and build nations here and there without causing unintended consequences and mission creep is exposed in this book and movie.

The movie does an excellent job of portraying third world warlords for what they are, exposing what a failed state is, but also showing how professional and devastating our Rangers are. But it also shows how we can spend our soldiers’ blood in vain. Ultimately their battle was for naught as Clinton did not give them the support they needed and he pulled them out. Unfortunately, I think that perhaps our Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be Blackhawk Down on a much larger scale. Again, the movie and book are a must for every American. Here is the movie link:

www.imdb.com/title/tt0265086/

Here is a link to the book:

www.amazon.com/Black-Hawk-Down-Story-Modern/dp/0871137380

Here is the whole story online:

inquirer.philly.com/packages/somalia/sitemap.asp

Those are my top three War movies of all time. I will expand this list gradually to include up to, at least the top 10. But these will begin the discussion. In the comments section below, throw in your top 3 war movies of all time and discuss why they are your favorites.

Equality 7-2521

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Angels & Demons, Another Anti-Catholic, Offensive Story

Posted on May 4, 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews, Culture Matters, Movie Reviews |

Dan Brown and Ron Howard have teamed up with Tom Hanks to make yet another anti-Catholic movie that will make lots of money while promoting an anti-intellectual view of history and an anti-Christian view of religion.

Rarely will I ever write a review of a movie or book that I have not read or watched or even intend to read or watch. This is one of those times. I did read DAn Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code and I watched the movie as well. The book was a fun, quick read. But what the book promotes is awful. From everything I have read, Angels&Demons is of the same ilk. See the story of the Angels & Demons controversy here:

www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/5262555/Catholics-attack-Dan-Brown-film-Angels-and-Demons.html

news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090504/ap_on_en_mo/eu_italy_angels___demons

Notice that the title of the article is, “Catholics Attack Dan Brown Film” and not Ron Howard’s Film Attacks Catholics. WE HAVE ISLAM TAKING OVER EUROPE AND FOMENTING TERROR ALL AROUND THE GLOBE BUT HAVE NO MOVIES ABOUT THE ANTI-INTELLECTUAL BARBARIC MUSLIMS, BUT WE GET ANTI-CATHOLIC MOVIES LIKE THIS ?

Although Ron Howard defends his film and states that he thinks Catholics will enjoy it as an exciting  mystery, the story absolutely paints a picture of the Catholic Church as being anti-intellectual, power hungry and murderous. All of which are true in a limited extent historically, but the story is outlandish and draws an evil caricature of the Church.

My biggest problems with Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code is that the book, though fiction, actually purports to be based upon some facts. When the book came out I ignored it because I do very little reading in that genre, but so many people asked me to read it, so many people came to me with theological and historical questions about the book, that I had to read it. Then, when th emovie came out my Youth Minister and I got the youth watching an excellent video curriculum that defended the faith and exposed the lies of the book. We then took the group of youth and young adults to watch the movie and discuss it later. That was very profitable. the older generation at the church didn’t think much of it, even though the view of history DAn Brown promotes is related to the Masonic Lodge view of history directly and most of that church’s older crowd were Masons.

The view of history promoted by Dan Brown and his books/movies is rooted in some Masonic ideas about hidden, secret (esoteric) knowledge of ancient mysteries that came from the Egyptians to the Jews and is passed down in a secret society from generation to generation. It includes such wonderful organizations as the Templars, Illuminati, Jesuits, Opus Dei and such. The story line is that Jesus really secretly married Mary Magdalene and had children by her and the Catholic Church was covering that up. Even a very respected secular historian, Bart Ehrman, tore up the Da Vinci code’s idea of history.

Without reading Angels & Demons I can safely assume the book and movie have a similar fantastic plot that takes gross liberties with history and denigrates the Catholic Church.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no defender of the Catholic Church. As a Baptist of the Reformed variety, I view much of Catholic teaching as heresy. That is a strong word and I used it intentionally. I still believe that many Catholics are born again Christians and expect to see quite a few of my Catholic friends in heaven. But as a student of history I absolutely disagree with how Brown and Howard are portraying the Catholics.

Get a life preacher, its just a novel and just a movie, don’t take it so seriously. Normally, I would treat this as just entertainment. But, when the book was making the rounds I cannot tell you how many people came to me with SERIOUS questions about the church and history and theology, based on the book. This tells me that people were taking the book seriously. When I read the book I saw that Brown was deliberately blurring the line between fiction and history.

I will not read Angels & Demons, nor see the movie in the theater. I might watch it on DVD or when it comes on TV, BUT I CANNOT RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE BECAUSE OF THE FALSE WORLDVIEW ESPOUSED BY BROWN/HOWARD.

Here is some updated information with links as of 05/15/09:

blog.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/05/httpamericamagazineorgblogentr.html

And here are two  excellent reviews by Baptist Press:

www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=30529

www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=30530

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Alien, Aliens, a Review of the Movies and Book

Posted on December 20, 2008. Filed under: Movie Reviews, Science Fiction |

“In space no one can hear you scream.”

“I’m not afraid of the dark I know. It’s the dark I don’t know that terrifies me. Especially when it’s filled with noises like that distress call.” (Lambert to Kane in the book Alien (1979, Twentieth Century Fox, p. 44) by Alan Dean Foster.

There is evil out there, and its sole purpose is to kill you, consume you, and use you for its vile and unholy purposes. You cannot tame it, negotiate with it, bribe it, nor use it for your purposes. Either you kill it, or it kills you. That is the theme of Ridley Scott’s Alien.

1Peter5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Revelation 20:1-3 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Summary:

Alien, 1979, is one of the top ten Science Fiction movies of all time, probably in the top 5. It is a fairly simple movie, with not many characters and only 1 subplot. It has one of the best monsters of all time in cinema and the tension, the drama and suspense, the terror rivals anything Hitchcock ever did. It is a mix of SF, film noir, and horror all in one.

Directed by Ridley Scott, screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, Tom Skerritt as Dallas, the Captain, Veronica Cartwright as Lambert, Harry Dean Stanton as Bret, John Hurt as Kane, Ian Holm as Ash, and Yaphett Kotto as Parker.

The commercial mining vessel, Nostromo, is pulled off course and the crew awakened from their frozen sleep for the interstellar distances, due to an apparent distress signal coming from a small planet off the beaten path. Due to the Company’s orders, they are required to investigate. The crew separates their tug from the 20 billion ton ore carrier/refinery and lands on the unknown planet, experiencing some maintenance trouble on the way down, due to the strong dust storm.

Some critique the movie for moving slow at the beginning as the first 20 minutes or so is taken up with primarily routine shipboard material. For the hard core SF fan this is a bonus because it does show what driving an ore hauler would be like. This is a touch of realism that I require in good SF stories. It makes it believable, not to mention that the routine aspects set you up for what comes next.

Upon investigating the source of the signal, the ground party composed of Cpt. Dallas, Lambert and Kane discover a giant alien space ship. Inside they find the skeleton of a giant (12-15 feet tall?) humanoid still in a command chair, but with evidence of his ribs having been broken from the inside, like a small explosion.

Kane is lowered into a hole and descends close to 100′ when he comes into a room filled with what appear to be leathery vases that contain what is discovered to be eggs. As he touches one of the eggs it comes to life and in the first “gotcha’ scene in the movie it erupts with  a creature that looks like a cross between an octopus and a hand that lands on his helmet face plate. The creature melts through the spacesuit faceplate and wraps itself around the face of Kane.

Dallas and Lambert drag Kane back to the ship and Ripley, the ship commander in the absence of Dallas, follows protocol and refuses entry to the ship by the threesome because they have an alien attached to Kane and need to be quarantined. Here is where the sublpot begins. Ash, the science officer, disobeys Ripley and obeys Capt. Dallas, breaking ships orders and science protocol both, by opening the airlock and admitting Kane, Dallas and Lambert in so that he can take care of Kane and study the alien life form.

This is the undoing of the ship’s crew as the alien eventually kills Kane in the most gruesome scene in the movie, hides, grows and kills the remainder of the crew one by one. The movie and the book both do a great job of communicating the obscene nature of the Alien. It is described by science officer Ash as the perfect organism, adapting to any environment, taking over its host as a parasite, being almost impossible to kill with a highly corrosive, acidic blood and being very intelligent. Lambert calls out Ash for admiring the alien.

The great subplot is that Ripley begins to suspect Ash for having an agenda that favors the Alien. First he failed to accurately interpret the SOS call- Ripley translated the call and found it to be a warning, not a call for help. Second, he allowed the ground party to board the ship with an alien life form, thus endangering the entire crew. In the book, there was an extra scene where Ripley and Parker almost had the Alien out of the lock into space, but Ash sounded the alarm prior to openning the dock door, thus warning the Alien. Finally, Ripley goes to Mother, the super computer, and finds out about Ash’s secret orders, and confronts him. In the ensuing fight, the second most gruesome scene in the movie, Ash’s head is cut off and it is revealed that he is not human, but a robot. He had orders from “The Company” to bring back the alien at all costs.

The Company knew about the Alien all along and had purposely misled the crew, used the crew, to do something unsafe, illegal, and unethical, just so the Company could make a profit. Imagine that.

The Alien kills off everyone except for Ripley and the cat, Jonesy. Ripley sets the ship for self destruct and flees on the shuttle with the cat in the nick of time. The ship explodes in a huge nuclear fireball. Just when you think she is home free, a large, slimy, dark green hand appears. The Alien was on board the shuttle. Ripley hides in a locker and puts on a spacesuit, draws the monster out of its hiding place and opens the shuttle airlock. The Alien is cast into the outer darkness.

The movie ends with Ripley and Jones the cat inside one of the cryogenic sleep machines, alone in the dark, supposedly heading for home.

Aliens, 1986, directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver again with O’Bannon and Shussett as the writers, and Carrie Henn as Newt,  Lance Henricsen as the android- or “synthetic” Bishop, and Michael Biehn and Cpl. Hicks, continues the story in a very good sequal.

Ripley is rescued from the shuttle of the Nostromo, after 57 years of hibernating. She is shocked upon being awakened at how long she was out in the darkness. She is shocked even more to learn that the company not only does not believe her story, but has colonised the planet LV-426. She tries to warn them of the evil that is there, but they seemingly, seemingly, do not listen to her. Ripley is practically blamed for the loss of the Nostromo and is given a low level job as a cargo handler at the space station.

The company representative, Ripley’s “handler” tries to persuade her to go back to the planet LV-426 because they have lost contact with the colonists. She eventually agrees to go with the Marines back to investigate the colony along with Burke, her Company handler.

Upon their arrival they only find one live colonist, Newt, a girl about the age of 8-9. Very quickly the Marines, Burke, Ripley and Newt are hunted down by the Aliens, and few survive. Burke is shown for being on a mission by the Company to, again, retrieve an Alien for a profit. Thankfully, Burke is eaten.

Ripley, Newt, a wounded Cpl. Hicks and the “synthetic” Bishop are the only survivors to escape the planet before the nuclear plant blows. Of course, like in the first movie, one alien makes it back on board the ship. Ripley dons her loading dock mechanical suit and does battle with the Queen Alien, ultimately shoving her out the dock. The movie ends like the first, with Ripley in a cryogenic sleep locker.

Analysis:

The overwhelming theme is that Evil exists and it is relentless in its pursuit of vicitms. No amount of adolescent wishing it away will work. No compromise is possible. It is human verses alien, to the death. There is no shade of grey in this battle, no middle ground, no sympathetic view of the poor, under-privileged alien who was hatched on a cold windy, deserted world.

The sub-plot is that Ash, and later Burke, wanted to take the alien back to “The Company” for a profit. Both violated multiple rules to get their way and both met their fates for thinking they could control the evil they had unleashed.

The heroine, Ripley, early on suspects things are not right, suspects Ash and later Burke and the Company. She leads the fight against the evil and exhibits tremendous courage throughout the ordeal, yet shows an incredible tenderness with young Newt in the sequel. She pays a price for her fight against evil in that she was in deep sleep for 57 years and has the nightmares.

Yet, when others are endangered, she volunteers to return, realizing that she must confront the evil to overcome her own wounds. When the Marine unit breaks down, it is Ripley who takes charge.

There is an undertow of anti-business in the movies and book as the greed of the Company overrules morals, ethics, and common sense. This shows that there are always those who are willing to sell their souls to the devil, and sell out those closest to them, for a profit, fame or power. This is always the case with sinful man.

What these movies and book say to us: Evil is out there and we must learn to stay away from it. When unavoidable confronted with evil, it must be resisted and fought. We must fight to the death because evil would have our souls. We will always be tempted to profit materially from evil or to try to use it. but in the end evil will eat those who play with it.

I believe in a real, personal devil, Satan, Lucifer who was created by God as an angel of light, yet chose to rebel against God and has now been cast down from heaven. He is the Evil One, who was a liar and murderer from the beginning. There is a spiritual war that is being waged around us and many are already captured in the cocoon woven by the Evil One, slowly being consumed, awaiting death and hell.

Just as the evil embryo grows unseen in the host/victim only to break out eventually and kill its host, so too does sin grow in the hearts of fallen man and ultimately break out, does its damage and eventually kills its host.

Jesus Christ is the only One who has conquered Evil and he provides the salvation that we need.

A contemporary application: while there is much evil in the world today, I must say that the current fight with Islam is the main battle. It is almost impossible today to name the evil that we are fighting, and euphemisms, like the “war on terror” are failing. I do not say that individual muslims are the enemy, though clearly some are, the “radicals and terrorists”. But it is islam itself that is the great spiritual darkness of our day. And those in the West who would seek compromise with Islam, or who say that all religion is the problem, they are evil as much as Burke and the rest of the Company were.

Recommendation: these movies are rated R and deservedly so. The intensity of the drama, the violence and gore, and the language (several profanities with the Lord’s name used in vain many times; several obscenities with multiple uses of the F-word). So why should a Christian watch something like this? To remind you that there is Evil out there, and many fail to recognize it. To spur you on to do battle against the evil and to not fall prey to those who would deceive you and seek to use you for their profit.

The only great weakness in the movies is in Aliens, with the Marine unit poorly depicted. Cameron really did a disservice to the USMC on that one. When will Hollywood hire a military consultant? That is majorly irritating. From their attitudes to their uniforms to their leadership (that LT was such a remarkable wuss) and their tactics Cameron got it all wrong.

I highly recommend the movie, though it is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some reviews but I could not find any review that discussed the deeper aspects of the story, the reality of evil and what to do with it.

www.filmblather.com/review.php?n=alien

www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/reviews.php?id=5122

filmfreakcentral.net/dvdreviews/alienlegacy.htm

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