5 Amazing Things About The Dark Tower (2017)

  1. The length. So many fantasy films are very long, to the point your bladder is ready to burst before the climax comes. The Dark Tower is a sweet 95 minutes (and that includes credits!).
  2. The story is set up during the first 20 minutes of the film and Nikolaj Arcel directs the heck out of it. The introductory events in Jake’s story come punch after punch. This is an exciting ride that gets the audience ready for the rest of the story.
  3. Evil is painted with a dark brush. This is no sympathetic enemy. The Man in Black and his minions are pure evil, thus their appearances are frightening and tense at times. Matthew McConaughey is a very scary villain, but he comes across in a natural way, as if he is used to doing his wicked deeds through the centuries.
  4. There is a really cool moment where Roland (Idris Elba) shoots a baddie from a great distance. I loved this, and I think you will too.
  5. The Dark Tower contains a suitable level of sentimentality and noble hope. Jake is old enough to be independent and certain about his keen insight, but young enough to hope for the best outcome and the greatest in people.

 

The finest moments of The Horse and His Boy (a Narnia Chronicle)

C.S. Lewis weaves a vivid and strong story in the Chronicle of Narnia that spends the least amount of time in the actual land of Narnia (that is, besides The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where no time is spent in Narnia at all!).

Take the separated twins of The Prince and the Pauper, add a pint of swashbuckling action, tender drama and some hilarious Narnian magic and you have The Horse and His Boy, served in hardcover.

Alright, and paperback!

The Horse and His Boy might be a lesser known Chronicle, but it is not lacking in quality. A young escapee Shasta meets up with two Talking Horses of Narnia, and a new friend from the southern desert land of Calormen. They aim for Narnia and the North, where hope and freedom are guaranteed. Narnia is a land where Talking Beasts live their lives in freedom and joy. But Bree and Hwin have been slaves their whole lives. What culture shock awaits them on their return to their land of origin? Setting their sights before them, they ride purposefully to the North, but their pace becomes desperate when they discover a top-secret plot to attack the nations of the North – including Narnia herself!

In my reading of this novel I was often enthralled by vivid visual descriptions – particularly of the sparkling city of Tashbaan, with its ornate Arabian-inspired architecture and riverside gardens. And I loved the cameos of Queen Lucy, King Edmund, Queen Susan and the Lion Aslan, who we all grew to love while reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Anytime the characters met another creature during this tale, the meaning is priceless (don’t know what I mean? Get the book here.) And when they meet the Great Lion, his beauty, wildness and light enchants me and encourages me.

A really cool thing about this book is the brief mention of other Narnian stories. We read of a daring boxing match with a wild Talking Bear, a two-headed goliath and his dastardly fate, and of the High King Peter defeating the Northern Giants. It makes me feel like I’ve read a dozen tales, not just one.

Today I read the final three chapters of The Horse and His Boy, and I was laughing out loud, feeling pangs of longing and of joy. And on its completion, I feel like Shasta and Aravis are soon to be my friends – someone I have heard so much about, and hope to meet one day soon.

To Narnia and the North!

 

Joseph: King of Dreams – Flashback Review

I remember going to the movies in Istanbul, Turkey and seeing The Prince of Egypt for the first time. A friend told me the week before that this was the best animation he had ever seen. It is safe to say that the animation in the Dreamworks adaptation of Moses’ story was brilliant and high quality, although I cannot say for certain that it was the best animation ever, up to that point in history. I suspect The Lion King just beats it, and perhaps Pocahontas too.

When the direct-to-DVD prequel about the story of Joseph was released, it would inevitably prompt comparisons between the two films. I remember watching it and thinking that the only good song in it was “You Know Better Than I.” On a more recent viewing, I agree that the songs in Joseph: King of Dreams are not as consistently high quality as in The Prince of Egypt, however now I realise there are two or three songs that stand out: “You Know Better Than I”, “More Than You Take” and “Bloom: Reprise” are the best songs in the film. The other songs seem to be not well-paced and are weakly sung, including “Bloom” which, in contrast to its reprise, is not well performed.

Of course, this film is an adaptation of the true story from the book of Genesis in the Bible. The adaptation of the story is quite close to the Biblical history, except that a few scenes are truncated or dramatized and there are a couple changes. For example, the film suggests that Potiphar knew that his wife was lying as he sent Joseph to jail. This is fictional but is very dramatic! Potiphar also shows up in a few scenes later in the movie during the times of plenty and famine in Egypt. I guess the filmmakers thought it best to have more recurring characters than Joseph and his wife during this section of the movie. It is also nice to see Potiphar get more time in the story, since he is s likeable and a good-hearted character in this adaptation.

On the mature themes from the Bible, Joseph: King of Dreams deals with the proposition from Potiphar’s wife in a G-rated way, though not shying away from this part of the story. (If the concept of adultery can be taught to elementary school kids in Sunday School when covering the ten commandments, it makes sense it can be included in a movie for children.) The film also touches on the fact that Rachel is not the mother of most of Joseph’s brothers, but does not explain that Jacob had two wives. I believe most viewers will think that Jacob’s first wife died and then Rachel was a second wife after the fact. This is a screenwriter’s sleight of hand, here done quite sneakily.

The animation is not as high a quality as that of the Prince of Egypt. This follows the Disney tradition of producing low-budget direct-to-video sequels, however the animation in Dreamworks’ Joseph: King of Dreams is somewhere in between the expensive lush visuals of The Prince of Egypt and the deplorable state of some Disney sequels.

The score seems inspired by some of the music’s tone colour in The Prince of Egypt, while otherwise being less memorable.

It is nice to hear some familiar voices in the cast such as Ben Affleck, Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid, Toy Story 2) and Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame. It is a shame that the film was not given a release in theatres, since this had the potential to be the second in a series of well-produced serious animated films based on the Bible. I would rate this film 3 out of 5 stars – very enjoyable but not a classic.

10 Amazing Things I Liked About The Big Sick (2017)

In no particular order:

1) The humour, as shown in both the stand -up of Kumail but also in his personal life. I got the idea that he started out as just a funny guy with a sharp sense of humour, and so decided to use that in stand-up. He even tells jokes during the dark times in the hospital.

2) The cinematography. It seemed tightly planned and filmed. I liked the edgy feeling some of the vision gave me during some of the intense moments in the film.

3) The gentle but satirical portrayal of an immigrant family trying to live in a new nation. The question is asked – why come to another country just to stay the same and not become American?

4) The realistic portrayal of a flawed marriage. Emily’s parents struggle to respect each other, but are still striving to be committed to each other.

5) Something I did not like – but that I admired – was the way some heartbreaking and sorrowful moments are executed in such a way that it is hilarious. It is a testament to the writing and acting that some audience members were cracking up during scenes of anguish. I found this disquieting, but I respect Michael Showalter (the director) for this achievement.

6) The characterizations are wonderful. The characters a likeable, but their complexity is introduced is simple ways. You feel for these characters while they are being broken desperate people. I felt this even when they are making mistakes.

7) The power struggles between racist people and other people who are fiercely protective of their friends.

8) The noble heart that Kumail shows on more than one occasion.

9) The simplicity of the ending

10) The fact that I found out right at the end, that this film is based on a true story. This made me glad! To know that this couple is real and their story is now being used to make people happy while they watch it – this makes me glad too.

The Bishop and the Robin

What do a French priest and a Narnian robin have in common?

In the epic story of Les Miserables, a priest shows mercy to the main character by sparing him punishment of his theft, and then generosity. The priest gives Jean Valjean an expensive item of silverware, which enables him to set up a stable  life for himself. How kind.

Without the priest in Les Miserables, our hero Jean Valjean would never become mayor of a town, where he grew in respect and influence.

Without the French bishop, our hero Valjean would never grow to love Marius like a son.Were it not for the gift of the valuable silverware, Valjean would never have met the fragile prostitute Fantine and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help her in her dying days.

Without the devout man of God, Jean Valjean would never meet Cosette, his adopted daughter.

Without the robin in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the four children would never have met Mr and Mrs Beaver. The robin leads the kids, silently, to the friendly ambassadors of Narnia.

Without the silent bright red bird’s courage to be seen in the wood (even some of the trees are on her side!), the kids would not have met Aslan, the mighty lion.

Without the brave bird, the Pevensies would not have come to their place as the king and queens (and high king) of Narnia and the Lone Islands.

Edmund would remain a bully, Tumnus trapped in stone, and Narnia a dangerous, scary place.

The robin appears on three pages of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Three pages out of two hundred.

The Bishop of Digne appears in only 1 song out of 30 in Les Mis.

Who are you a bishop for? It does not matter that you are only in one scene. You have made a difference.

For whom can you be a Narnian robin? A guide in the right direction. A bearer of truth and provider of help.

Don’t underestimate your encouraging word, your small kind gesture and the opportunity to do so.

Home – an essay

Growing up in two countries made the word “home” an unsettled concept for me. Was home Istanbul, where I went to school, made friends and enjoyed family holidays? Or was it Australia, where kids at school jested in the now familiar Aussie “put-down” humour, leading me to believe that Aussie kids were unkind?

That last idea was my thought in the year 2000 when I was twelve, and I was beginning my journey to enjoy living in Australia, which at that time was unfamiliar to me. I now like living here, especially as I become increasingly familiar with the streets of my local area of Melbourne, which I drive around in my little car.

But where is home? What place now gives me that sense of ultimate belonging, stability and family?

To be honest, I feel like my home is not in Turkey, Australia, or anywhere else on this planet. I feel in my heart that my home is in Heaven.

Heaven is where I will meet my dearest king Jesus face to face and hang out with him, lying on the grass together like I imagined as a teenager. I will have a new “forever body” and be free of the weight of my past and present mistakes, which so easily entangle. The mechanics of Heaven have many unknowns for me, but they are mostly irrelevant, because my heart yearns for the day when the tears and the pain happen no longer, and I am who I truly am.

I came up with the following concept of years ago. Imagine where I will be in one year from now: hopefully in the same job, with maybe some new friends, and showing a little more grey hair. Where will I be in 20 years from now? Hopefully I will have a couple of children, and all our needs met, doing things that satisfy my purpose in life.

But where will I be in 200 years from now? Unless medical treatments and technology advance at a super rate in my lifetime, I will be dead…

… But alive! More alive than I have ever been. Experiencing and giving true love with my creator and my Christian family.

That moment is real. Heaven will be my daily reality. Just as I am sitting here now, at this kitchen table, with my glass of water next to me, and the heater on, in 200 years from now (and 10,000, as John Newton reminds us in Amazing Grace), Heaven with Jesus will be the reality.

I hope some of you have read this far, and I would like to thank you for that. Another of my heart’s longings is for other people to also connect with Jesus Christ, what he has done for every person, and then gently grow to know his enormous, unconditional love, quiet companionship and loving, flawed but forgiven family. Have a think, even for a minute – or a month. Because if I will be dead in 200 years, so will you, and that day could be tomorrow. The Bible is a historical document and can be verified and trusted. I hope you can experience the wonders of Heaven with me.

Where is home for you?