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'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close'—A Powerful 9/11 Drama


by Eric Tiansay

I was disappointed when I missed Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close at the cineplex this winter, so I was eager to catch it on DVD.

Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's acclaimed 2006 best-selling novel of the same title, the movie tells the story of a 11-year-old boy Oskar (Thomas Horn) who lost his jeweler father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), during what he calls "The Worst Day"—the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, although it failed to win, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a powerful drama that extols the bond between a father and son, family and forgiveness. A year after his dad died in the World Trade Center, Oskar, who has problems socializing and had been tested for Asperger's Syndrome, is determined to continue his vital connection to the man who playfully pushed him into confronting his wildest fears.

While looking through his father's closet one day, Oskar finds a small envelope marked "Black," with a key in it. Oskar decides the key must belong to someone named Black, and he starts a methodical search for the right person. "If there was a key, there was a lock," Oskar surmises. "If there was a name, there was a person."

His quest is an attempt to maintain his father's memory of his father, and to participate in the sort of mysterious search that his dad sometimes sent Oskar. "If you don't tell me what I'm looking for, then how will I ever be right?" Oskar asks his father. Thomas responds: "Well, another way of looking at it is how will you ever be wrong?" read more

'War Horse'—A Wonderful, Sentimental and Thrilling Ride

by Alan Mowbray

As a movie buff, there are certain films that I consider traditional, yearly family must-sees—age and maturity permitting: Easter (The Passion of The Christ); Christmas (The Nativity Story,The Polar Express, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story); Memorial Day (Glory and North and South); and Veterans Day (Tora! Tora! Tora!, Saving Private Ryan and now I'm adding War Horse to the list).

Based on the Tony award-winning Broadway play and set against the sweeping canvas of World War I, War Horse tells the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and his young trainer, Albert (Jeremy Irvine). When they're forced apart by war, we follow Joey's extraordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets.

Some would say it's a formula movie designed to hold your heart for two-plus hours using every sort of cliche imaginable. Yeah, maybe ... fine. But it's also an fantastic story directed by the master Steven Spielberg and paired with a terrific score by another master himself, John Williams. I say it's a masterpiece that you get to watch with your kids. read more

'Wrath of the Titans': Predictable, Better Than Its Predecessor


by Alan Mowbray

The recipe for Wrath of the Titans: Fire. Stern looks of determination. Destruction.

Add some slimy underworld demons. Mix with an old, somewhat decrepit, dysfunctional family of Greek gods who still haven't figured out their personal differences—let alone the differences of the world. Did I say destruction?

Top it off with some loud roars of anger, more stern looks of determination, and an incredibly, unbelievable amount of computer-generated stones and rocks exploded, crushed and destroyed. Add lava and stir.

This fantasy film is a sequel to the equally destructive and surprisingly successful Clash of the Titans, released in 2010. Better CGI and 3D rendering make this installment easier to watch than the last, which was rebooted from the classic Clash of the Titans, released in 1982. This isn't a flick for those who love snappy dialogue and deep characters, but judging from the audience that loaded up the theater where I was screening, Wrath of the Titans will be a hit with the age 13-24 crowd. read more

'John Carter'—An Out-of-This-World Adventure

by Alan Mowbray

Based on Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic novel A Princess of Mars, which inspired generations of filmmakers and science fiction writers, including George Lucas, James Cameron, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, John Carter—with its sweeping scope and $250-million budget—touches down in more than 3,500 screens this weekend.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, best known for directing the acclaimed and popular Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E, the film comes across as a cinematic epic, seeking to rival movies such as Star Wars and Avatar with its look, feel and storyline.

John Carter tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights), who is an honorable and courageous man. A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he is broken—tired of fighting for the causes of others. His fighting spirit remains strong, but Carter has turned to self-interest, and he is done with war. read more

Green Lantern: All Flash, No Substance


by Eric Tiansay

Green Lantern was part of a crowded superhero line-up at the cineplex last summer along the likes of Captain America, Thor and X-Men: First Class.

After recently catching the movie on DVD, I would have to say it's all flash, but no substance. The 3-D special effects are visually stunning and mesmerizing, but the storyline and premise is convuluted and weak. With a $200 million budget, Green Lantern fizzled at the domestic box office, ending up with only $114 million.

The plot centers on pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who is handed a mysterious ring by an alien whose spacecraft crashed on Earth. Hal soon learns that he has been selected for membership in the group of intergalactic peace officers called Green Lantern Corps, who promote peace, order and justice.

After, Hal recites the Corps' oath: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's light."

Great setup for a good versus evil tale, right? Not quite. The movie's protagonit is Parallax, the ancient enemy of the Green Lanterns who has garnered the corruptive yellow power of fear, threatens all of Earth. So Hal must build up the moral courage to stand up to evil.

While trying to master the Green Lantern ring, Hal has to deal with his feelings of insecurity from his pilot father's fiery death years earlier, affections for fellow pilot, Carol (Blake Lively), and the jealousy of Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a creepy old friend who has basically been possessed by another alien.

Although the story is fairly true to the characters from DC comics, the characters don't seem believable as they might. Extras on the Blu-ray version include the theatrical version as well as an extended cut, several featurettes and a digital comic book.

Content Watch: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, Green Lantern features more than two dozen profanities, several scenes that show people drinking alcohol and an implied night of casual sex. The movie's creepy villains could be very scary for small children. I watched the film on Clearplay, which filters out most of the intense violence and all of the light obscenities. I didn't watch Green Lantern with my three oldest boys, ages 10, 9 and 5. read more

'The Secret World of Arrietty' Offers Big Lessons on Life

by Alan Mowbray

As a father of two, I'm always looking for a teachable moment. If you're smooth about it, your kids won't even know that you're instructing them on life.

Based on a children's book called The Borrowers, a popular title originally published in 1952 by British author Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is one of those covert teachable moments—actually, it features several of them.

The movie was the year's top grossing film when it was released in Japan in 2010, winning the Animation of the Year award. Translated, dubbed by an American cast and distributed stateside by Walt Disney Pictures, The Secret World of Arrietty was made by legendary Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away and Ponyo).

Arrietty (voiced by Disney TV star Bridgit Mendler) is 4 inches tall. She and her family are Borrowers. They live in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper Haru (voiced by Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to "borrow" scrap supplies that their human hosts won't miss.

Arrietty is 14, and the limitation of her 4-inch stature means nothing to the girl. In Arrietty's eyes, the whole world is hers to explore, even if her easily agitated mother, Homily (voiced by Amy Poehler), and her father, Pod (voiced by Will Arnett), say otherwise. "Better be careful," they would warn, relating an oft-repeated story about a long-lost relative eaten by a frog.

One day, a boy arrives at the house. Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) is a sickly 12-year-old with a bad heart who has come to rest at his grandmother's house. He is supposed to have absolutely no excitement in preparation for a heart operation scheduled the following week or so. The first day, he spots Arrietty during one of her unauthorized forays into the real world and attempts to befriend her. Over the next few days, a secret friendship blossoms between the two—putting the lives of Arrietty and her family in danger. read more

Do You Need A Marriage Makeover?

by Dr. Doug Weiss

Genuine intimacy is the cry of our nation. Many individuals search through multiple marriages trying to find the vital connection their souls long for. Still louder shouts the silence of the man or woman who has been married for decades and feels alone in that partnership.

Many feel they have done everything right at home and with their spouses, yet there is little or no intimacy. Far too many partners feel like roommates—as if they are just getting by emotionally. If fulfillment is promised, then why is it that few couples enjoy that impassioned connection?

I don't think this is God's plan for your marriage. He wants you to live the abundant life and to have a marriage full of joy and love—and this is what we're going to accomplish these next thirty days. We are going to make your marriage over into what God has designed for you and your spouse.

I have lived in the laboratory of other people's marriages for many years. In addition, I myself have journeyed from the inability to be intimate to a place of deep intimacy and great fulfillment with my wife, Lisa.

Early in my married life I had the feeling that I was surrounded by walls. I desperately wanted to step out from behind those walls but could not find a way to connect to my wife. God in His graciousness drew me into the field of marriage and family counseling, where I gained much understanding. Still, no one explained, These are the steps to intimacy: The mystery of intimacy and the skills required to build and maintain it continued to elude me—as it does for so many others in my field. read more

When (and Why) ‘The Vow’ Breaks

by Gina Meeks

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a true love story of a couple's Christ-centered commitment winds up shredded by Hollywood's moviemaking machine in this sign-of-our-times "chick flick."

Kim and Krickitt Carpenter's real-life story is one of sadness, true love, and God's grace and protection. The couple—whose inspirational account was first told in their 2000 book, The Vow (B&H Books), and now in a movie by the same name—never gave up on their marriage, despite tremendous obstacles thrown in their way.

After only 10 weeks of marriage, the Carpenters were involved in a life-threatening accident the day before Thanksgiving in 1993. Though Krickitt was given a less-than-1-percent chance to live, she eventually awoke from her coma. But Kim's excitement to have his wife back didn't last long: Krickitt had no memory of meeting him, getting married or going on their honeymoon. Doctors explained that the last year and a half of Krickitt's memory was gone and would possibly never return.

Throughout their struggles to restore the life they'd dreamed of sharing, the Carpenters clung to God and centered their broken relationship on Him. And through His goodness, they were able to save their marriage and push past Krickitt's memory loss and personality changes caused by her severe head trauma.

That's what happened in real life. Onscreen, however, it's a different story—literally.

The major motion picture, which hits theaters 16 years after the Carpenters signed over the rights to their story, is not only a prime example of what happens when a true story goes through Hollywood's fine-tuned moviemaking machine, it's also a tell-tale sign of our culture's modern fixation with antiheroes and not-so-happy endings.

Starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, The Vow had every opportunity to be a heartwarming romance to the likes of The Notebook—a broken man fighting for the woman he loves, no matter the cost. Unfortunately, it hardly measures up to the Carpenter's truly inspirational story.

The film is about Leo, a record studio owner, and Paige, an art student and sculptor. From flashbacks, we see the young couple happy and in love, with Leo constantly wooing his beautiful bride. But after the two suffer a car accident four years into their relationship, Paige wakes up with no memory of her husband. And it's at this point where the movie takes a major detour from the true story.

In fact, Paige has lost five years of her memory and last remembers being engaged to another man, Jeremy (Scott Speedman). She can't recall leaving law school to become an art student, meeting her husband or even that she's been estranged from her family for a number of years.

Although the relationship breaks down after the accident, the couple's fairy-tale romance is depicted in an enjoyable way through a series of flashbacks. The little snippets into their love story pre-accident portray two kindred spirits falling in love and getting married in the beautiful city of Chicago. Leo continues to romance Paige even after they're married, and she is clearly smitten.

But when Paige wakes up, her commitment to Leo has vanished. Although she briefly tries living with the husband she can't remember, the young wife quickly escapes to the comfort of her old life—ex-fiance and all. Leo fights for her, trying to help jog her memory with their wedding video, apartment and her art studio.

His attempts to win her back culminate with him taking Paige on a romantic date. Paige keeps her promise—which she doesn't recall making—to skinny-dip (wearing underwear) with Leo in Lake Michigan, and the couple even share a kiss or two. They really hit it off, and it seems their love story is back on track. But shortly after, Leo gives up on the woman he loves.

With all of the negative elements added to the story—Paige's controlling parents, the man she almost married trying to win her back and Leo's absence of a family—The Vow becomes another case of Hollywood furthering our culture's supposed preference for depressing endings in the name of "reality." Add to this a bedroom scene that features partial nudity, a rear-view shot of Tatum fully naked and an opening sequence graphically reenacting the auto accident, and this PG-13 film clearly proves it's not family friendly.

For all its changes from book to the screen, however, The Vow's most glaring omission is also the most important part of the Carpenters' real-life love story: their faith in God. To this day, Krickitt still can't recall an important segment of her life, yet she continues to remain faithful to the vow she made to her husband as she puts all of her hope and trust in God. She and Kim place their Creator in the center of their relationship and relentlessly work on recovering what they once had.

"We don't have a story without God. And that story really is about commitment—commitment to Him and commitment in marriage," Kim told the Christian Reader.

In a recent interview with The Daily Times (Farmington, N.M.), Krickitt said: "I would love to say that I fell in love with him again because that's what everybody wants to hear. I chose to love him and that was based on obedience to God, not feelings."

Sadly, though not surprisingly, The Vow heavily focuses on the feelings and not at all on their obedience to God. In fact, the movie never even mentions God other than when characters—including the couple—take God's name in vain (along with using profanity).

Most people enjoy a movie more when they haven't read the story in a book. And that's obviously the case with The Vow, which misses out on telling a truly romantic—and yes, just as realistic—story without all the dark elements. Yet even for those who have nothing to compare it to, the movie still lacks the quality of romance (and acting) most chick flicks offer. While it offers plenty of awww moments and is sure to leave its (mostly female) audiences fawning over Leo's sweetness, this Vow ultimately breaks down in depicting a heartbroken husband winning back his wife.

Gina Meeks is an assistant editor for Charisma magazine. read more

I Have a Dream

by Robert Ricciardelli

The last few days I have been waking up thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. I kept hearing his "I Have a Dream" speech as I awoke each of the last few mornings. He is one of my heroes of the faith; a difference-maker, and a catalyst for good and for the generations. I asked the Lord if there was some further meaning to my thoughts about him. He said, "I gave him a dream, and I have given you a dream."

I decided to write out my dream in honor of one of my hero's dreams. Thank you, Lord, for Dr. King, who stood for You, stood for freedom and gave his life for the cause of that freedom. I write this in honor of him and the legacy he left for us all:

"I have a dream that one day the kingdom nation of God will rise up and live out the true meaning of Christ's all-consuming creed that fulfills all laws and prophecies with these words: 'The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and also love your neighbor as yourself. read more

Courageous Dvd Cover

Guys Can Take 'Courageous' Step With Movie's Video Release

Guys who have been touched and challenged by the message of the faith-based police drama, Courageous, to become the godly influence in their home that God intended, have an opportunity to share it with others in a low-key way, starting tomorrow.

The hit movie from the makers of Fireproof releases on DVD, providing a great opportunity for men to host a small group viewing or invite non-Christians friends who may have felt uncomfortable going to see it in the theaters to watch together at home.

The makers at Sherwood Pictures—based at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.—have reported hundreds of testimonies of husbands and fathers who have been inspired to turn their lives over to God in a new way through the movie.

Among those who have written to the producers is Aimee, who told them: "I want to thank you for what you have done to my marriage. My husband is a police officer, so the movie particularly struck close to home. Not only has he stepped up to be what God intended him to be, he has given up addictions and vices that were crippling and shattering our marriage and the relationship he had with our kids." read more

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