Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pictures from March

Pictures by my sister and myself. All those without my RM on them she took- she got some good ones, methinks!



Now some shots from our photo walk:




















Monday, March 28, 2011

REVIEW: Bolt

I'm going to start off by saying that this is not a film about a dog. This is a film about a man, and it's honestly probably in my top 15 favorite films.

What do I mean it's not about a dog? No dog talks. No dog has the depth and range of emotions that humans have. Bolt does. Bolt is a man stuck in a dog's body, and the film is a story of a man's devotion to his woman.

So. The Film.

Bolt, by Disney animation, is overall a remarkable and well-done film. The animation is good- I wouldn't call it great. Not a rivalry to Pixar, and certainly a far cry from that in The Owls of Ga'Hoole. The story is one of the strong points- with a twist at the outset of the film and plenty of tension points thrown in for good measure, as well as some of the most hilarious and clean humor I've seen. There are some moments of distinctive cheese, but overall it is both hilarious and touching. I was choked up more than once.

The score is excellent. John Powell ranges from mickey-mousing (musical mimicry of the on-screen action) and comic parody/location scoring, to action packed, driving music similar to his work on the Bourne films, to heartbreaking and lonely piano themes, to a simply gorgeous, heroic, triumphant and adventurous orchestral motif that emerges a few times- all touched by a kind of homey feel that keeps the whole thing in perspective as really a story, not of some invincible super-hero, but of simply a good man.

It's Mr. Powell's fault that I got choked up so often.

The Worldview


Surprisingly good. There is 1 clear crude joke, and a few other possibilities.

The girl, Penny, is

*SPOILERS*

an actress, who apparently has no father and who disrespects her agent- a jerk. Which makes it all the easier for us to think that she was right to disrespect him. Not so.

We see plenty of working women, one of which is especially manly and feministic. Disgusting.

We also have very short-term vision in the family. The family consists of a single mother, a daughter, and their pets. A widow and an orphan, who act satisfied in their lives because of a few animals that they own. Sad, and bad modeling.

Fortunately, Penny, her mother, her agent, and most of the humans in the film play a small part in Bolt. The film mainly centers around the journeys of three animals.

The dog- Bolt. From him we learn a number of things. We learn that one doesn't need to have superpowers- one just needs to do the right thing. We learn that love and devotion and loyalty are good things. And while Bolt sadly has no concept of The God that claims his ultimate allegiance (remember, this is really a man in a dog's body), he still has a firm grasp of his duty to protect his family- his woman.

The cat- Mittens. Careful with this feline, as from her especially we receive a few insidious slide-ins about bad humans. Now, truly, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," but I shudder at anything that even sniffs (har har) of environmentalism. "The cat has feelings too... in fact, cats are people too, you know." No, they aren't. Beware the "people are evil" messages in these talking animal films...

That said, good owners are shown as a good thing, and so they should be! Mittens also goes on a character journey from a tyrannical Guido to a submissive and respectful helper to our hero.

The hamster- Rhino. I love this guy. From Rhino we learn some great things about manliness. He's also hilarious. I love the vigorous spirit about him, the desire to do great things, the "It's a good day to die!"-ness that lets him do what needs done regardless of consequences to himself- and, indeed, realizing that said consequences, however violent, are glorious, for he did what was right whatever the cost.

Of course, he certainly shouldn't spend so much time watching TV, or worshiping movie stars- he leaves much depth to be desired. Nevertheless, he is a source of clean humor and some great inspiration towards manly behavior.

There was a montage in the middle and sketchy, pop-songed credits. Again.

The moral? You don't have to be a superhero. You just need to do what's right.

I really like this film. Highly recommended on a number of levels. 4/5

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pictures from Prayer Advance

This past month Dad and I, along with some other men from our church, met with brothers from a sister congregation for a time of teaching and prayer in a beautiful desert location. Praise God for men of faith! The instruction revolved around "The Plan"- God's plan for the family, for the state, and so on.

Here are the two pictures that I liked best. Thanks for suggesting the second one, David.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MUSIC - A New Adventure

A New Adventure

This is one of my latest works. I'd love to hear from you- what story does it tell?

I'm visualizing the end of a film, where the hero and his friends must part ways and go on to their destinations. It ends with the hero shouting "I'll be back!", right before the final chord.

What do you think?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Brave New World


Today I finished Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

It's not a long book, but it's full of theology.

The Good

Mr. Huxley brings out a significant problem with a utopian state, namely that when everything is safe, perfect, and pre-arranged by man, there is no room for innovation, for danger, for heroism, for accomplishment. Now I, as a Christian, may take this and say- of course! Great point! God has created man to take dominion. To go places. To do things. To make his mark on eternity. To, ultimately, advance The Kingdom of God with his life. "Man's chief end is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The degree to which a man does this is, to a large extent, correlated to his satisfaction with life. Mr. Huxley doesn't have this as his basis for his observations, but nevertheless what he says is true.

The Bad

Mr. Huxley associates Christianity with savagery. This is not only a false association, but, honestly, a rather ignorant one. Beginning with Scripture and ending with the visible effects of Christendom on the life and culture of any nation, it is quite obvious that Christianity pulls mankind out of savagery.

The Ugly

(Sorry, couldn't resist)

The book contains a good deal of erotic content, which, while not as detailed as that in, say, Atlas Shrugged, is more pervasive- Mr. Huxley is using it to make a point. If the book were translated literally to screen, it would be rated R or beyond- let's put it that way.

That said, the book as a general rule stays away from detailed description, and, as it is both a famous and influential piece of cultural literature and a good story, I would recommend it for mature readers who like to think.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

VIDEO and MUSIC - Blood Duel

Jeffrey Griffith is an excellent young Christian stuntman whom I have been privileged to work with multiple times in the past. One of our recent projects was this video (which does contain some violence):

Blood Duel

I really appreciate how Jeffrey connoted, with minimal physical affection, that the film isn't about some flippant romance, but rather about the relationship between a husband and wife, as well as the true depth of character displayed by victory that goes deeper than that of fists.

I also went back over this score recently and made a few changes. Those interested may hear it below:

Dying Breath

You may say "what about all this blood and death in these titles? What worldview is this connoting?"

To which I reply- for a Christian, there are some things which I value so highly that I would for them sacrifice my life and my fortune, because of my sacred honor. Blood and death and gore- no, I don't love them. But I love the nobility, the courage, the fire-heartedness of a man who can press through the blood and death and gore and, if necessary, give his dying breaths to the cause of The Kingdom.

Maybe it's philosophical warfare. Maybe, as in the cases of William Wallace and George Washington, it's physical. Let us be ready, and wholly committed to serve Christ with all that we are!

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death." --Thomas Paine

"And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."

The Son of God goes forth to war...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

REVIEW: The Prestige


I'm going to begin this review with the most concrete content issues, because if you haven't seen the film and plan to see it, watch it before you read my review. The twist in this film is crucial to the impact thereof. I'll list the content issues first, so that you can decide if you wouldn't want to see it anyway. It is definitely not a family (with little kids) film.

- a few shots of a man without a shirt
- multiple appearances of women who are not decently clothed- mostly in the form of magicians' assistants, also one or two nightgown shots. This consists of low cleavage and high skirts... I spent a lot of these shots using peripheral vision or simply watching our back door.
- semi-graphic violence- bloody fingers, screams, a shooting, etc.
- people drowning/drowned in glass boxes- very disturbing, and reoccurring through flashbacks, and through happenings, a few times, though it isn't something that we see the whole film long.
- somebody is buried alive- he doesn't die, he's rescued, but it's a scary thought...
- a woman hangs herself
- probably more stuff too...

For a more detailed review, see here: http://www.kids-in-mind.com/p/prestige.htm
Also, for our family policy on questionable films, please see here: http://allauthority.blogspot.com/2011/02/questionable-films.html

If you might still be interested in seeing the film- watch it first! Then read my review. I'll be spoiling the end, and it's a big spoil in this film.

That said, on to the review.

The Film
The Prestige is a fascinating, mind-bending, and disturbing film. The plot centers around two professional magicians, each attempting to be better than the other. Note- by magicians, I mean illusionists, not wizards. No, they aren't dabbling in the supernatural.

It was an excellently done film. Very well mood-controlled, great directing by Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception), great acting by Christian Bale, and all together simply a well done film.

The score was great for the film, though it wasn't anything special on its own.

The story is what really makes The Prestige worth watching. Chris Nolan's non-linear (not- well, not in a line. Showing things out of order.) storytelling style makes it tough sometimes to understand what's happening. That said, the non-linearity in Prestige was, in my opinion, much better handled than that in Inception, which I thought was a little forced. In fact, the whole story in this film seemed more solidly handled than that in Inception- but I digress.

At the end of the film we learn that (I didn't get this the first time) one magician was actually two men all along- two twins. What a wowing moment for the viewer! Then comes the next twist, made all the eerier by Michael Caine's excellent and monotonous narration- the other magician had been scientifically duplicating himself to create the ultimate magic trick- and then murdering the duplicates.

Other than the pop song in the credits (WHY?), this film was very well done, and from a filmmaking standpoint definitely ranks very high.

The one other thing that bugs me is- why didn't Michael Caine's character just open the trick lock when the girl was drowning, instead of smashing through the case?

The Worldview

The twist at the end has huge implications for the worldview of the film.

Overall, the film is pretty miserable. Neither of the magicians, the whole film long, are really very nice characters. And for that we may be grateful- the film tells a story, but we don't really have someone to cheer for. We like Christian Bale's character a bit more, but only at the very end do we realize that we can actually justify doing so.

When we find out that, all along, "Freddie" was actually two men, we realize that one man was the hot-tempered and violent one, and the other was the cool-headed one who didn't want to prolong the troubles. We find out that, all along, while Freddie's wife thought he was committing adultery (as did the woman he was committing adultery with), it was actually the two twins- one man loving one woman, and the other man another. We see here the consequences of deception and the consequences of a man working with a woman who is not his wife as his helper, though by the end we see that the real husband did stay faithful. (Kinda- but if they're both playing both roles... that presents a problem.)

We also have the issue of- if a man duplicates his body, would his soul be duplicated as well? I don't think so... ultimately, God gives life to every person. Mess with atoms all that it may, science cannot give life.

So, it's a fascinating film to ponder morally...

A very potent, and perhaps the most obvious moral of the film is that obsession brings only misery.

So in summary of the worldview- it was pretty bad, but wasn't really modeled as a good thing that it was bad. We don't really find ourselves cheering for either magician wholeheartedly (at least I didn't) until we discover at the end that the one brother, faulted though he be, is truly noble-hearted. The other two got their just desserts.

Another thing I like about the two Nolan films I've seen- in both, family is treasured! What a great thing!

Recommended for mature viewers, especially those who want to study storytelling. 4/5

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pictures from February

My beloved sister Moriah and I have recently joined a photography group taught by a very skilled photographer who attends our church. As I take pictures for homework, I plan to post them here- perhaps add some color to my blog. :-D

This month we learned about refraction and the pinhole camera- studying the behavior of light. God's creation is awesome.
















There's a story in this one somewhere:
















If you look closely in the second one, you can actually see the front end of one vehicle, the top of a house, and the back end of another vehicle, upside-down in the drop.

("Are you watching closely?" Oh, wait, that's from a film I'm planning to review soon...)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

A WWII film set in Middle-Earth featuring owls and with a Chronicles of Narnia flavor to it.

89442_ab.jpg

Yeah. Whoa.

I was pleasantly surprised with this film. I went into it with low expectations- the trailer reeked of cheese. And the film delivered some cheese, I must admit. I can appreciate a story about talking animals, that’s OK, but the film often takes itself too seriously and makes the main owl too awesome a few times. The slo-mo and epic music were a bit much. LOL (But, the slo-mo might have looked amazing in 3-D. I dunno. And I also know that some people really liked it... oh well. It took me out of the story.)

There was also some magic in the film.

That said, Owls had surprisingly, refreshingly original character arcs, and a remarkably good overall worldview. The story took me by surprise when what I thought would be the main goal of the film actually was more of a catalyst to the real challenge.

I thought their journey to get to the guardians would be the meat of the film, but it only took a very short amount of time, surprisingly. It wasn’t a boring film, either.

I'll break this review down into two parts- my thoughts on the film as such, and my thoughts on the worldview behind the film:

The Film

Legend had some of the most amazing animation that I have ever seen. I was amazed by the realism and the downright gorgeousness of this film. The detail in the eyes, the suppleness of the feathers, the ability to make the main character’s features memorable when they’re all owls- I was very impressed.

The sound-design and music were OK. It seemed a little rough to me- perhaps at a few parts the levels could have been tweaked better. The score was not one of my favorites, especially with the over-the-top wailing in some parts. It had some neat dulcimer, though.

The story was the big weakness of the film. This could have really been an excellent film if they had spent more time developing character and simply letting the audience take in the story. A lot of it happened too fast and/or too randomly. I could feel that something just wasn't that great when I first saw the film- many thanks to friend and fellow filmmaker Aubrey for unpacking a lot of the why behind what I felt. Maybe I'll be able to pinpoint it better next time. But, to analyze this in-depth is not the purpose of this review- suffice it to say that the story could have used more work.

The credits- another pop song. WHY? WHY OH WHY? *grrrr*

This is a pet peeve of mine. Of all the things to NOT let the composer score, why would you withhold from him this chance to rhapsodize on the themes from the film? And why would you want to leave the audience with a pop song? Give them something grand and deep to walk out of the theater to.

The Worldview

The worldview of this film, though imperfect, was very refreshing.

The brother who honors the father and his stories is the good guy, the one who dishonors his father is a bad guy and ?dies? in the end- or at least almost dies.

Family is portrayed as good. The legacy of the forefathers is portrayed as good (pointed glance at Fiddler on the Roof). Good big brother loves and protects his little sister- bad big brother doesn’t. Good big brother respects mom and dad, bad one doesn’t. Good big brother treasures the tales of the past, bad big brother doesn’t. Good big brother honors the heroes of days gone by. It does bother me that he didn't go home after being lost and talk to his parents, though. Maybe we can say he had no choice? Or perhaps he knew that that was what his father would want him to do.

The two brothers disobey their parents once- a very overused tactic for getting kids into places they shouldn't be- and good big brother also disobeys orders twice later at the revelation of new information. That said, good big brother obeys, on the whole, even when he doesn't want to- he's not the young guy who ignores the older warrior's exhortation to remain home.

One owl in the film talks about how there is no glory to war (where I disagree with him), but the refreshing part about it was that, instead of doing the trendy “war is bad” sermon, the wise old owl continues by explaining that we fight because it is right, not because it is glorious. That amazed me- I loved it.

There is a severely underdeveloped romance between two owls in the film.

The jokes were, overall, very clean. The word “hell” was used to describe war.

The “pure ones” (bad guys) were a stark parallel to the Nazi regime- powerful stuff.

Altogether, I’d definitely recommend this film, especially on a worldview basis. 3/5

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MUSIC - The Story Machine

On a more light-hearted note (har har) than some recent posts...

A semi-recent composition by yours truly for a promotional video filmed by a fellow Christian Filmmaker:

The Story Machine