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Spider-Man 3

Do you know that curious and confused tilting-of-the-head expression that puppy dogs do so well? A few of my Christian friends looked at me that way when I told them Spider-Man 3 is a deeply spiritual film with obvious biblical messages. Of course, they had not seen it yet. Now I'm not quite sure the makers of Spider-Man 3 intended to speak so profoundly about the spiritual realm, but they did nonetheless. When Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) allows anger and revenge to take root in his heart, Spider-Man is confronted with a new villain—his inner man—and faces the fiercest battle of his life.
• Genre: Action; Adventure
• DVD Release: October 30, 2007
• Film Release: May 4, 2007
• Rated: PG-13
• Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
• Director: Sam Raimi
• Cast: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marko/Sandman), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock/Venom), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), James Cromwell (Captain Stacy), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson)
• Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent
• Producers: Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad and Grant Curtis

In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker has finally reached a level of success. At last he can enjoy the devotion of the woman he loves, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), and still maintain his duties as a superhero. But success starts to go to his head and then suddenly a change occurs. His Spider-Man suit turns jet-black and his super powers become even stronger and more thrilling. Under the influence of the suit, Peter transforms into a prideful and overconfident man, yet still a nerd. He begins to hurt the people he loves. As always, terrible villains must be faced, like Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace), but Peter's fiercest battle is the one he faces within himself.

Valuable Elements:
When Peter finds out who killed his uncle, he's filled with anger. He is already weary and his defenses are low. Then Peter's anger gives way to revenge and he seems to enjoy the destructive emotions. In a spiritual sense, Peter gives himself over to sin, allowing a foothold for the enemy of his soul to come in and capture him. The demon-like possession of the new black suit is a wonderful illustration of the carnal nature. When we nurture it, we give ourselves over to its control. Peter is enticed by the enhanced powers of the new suit. He likes how it feels, but then he becomes imprisoned by the dark nature. He can't see how it controls him and is destroying the compassionate character that makes him a hero.

Viewers see a vivid picture of the choice we all have between serving God and serving Satan—choosing sin or rejecting it. Peter chooses wrongly each time he selects the black suit. When he finally sees the evil of the suit and the blackness of his own heart, Spider-Man cannot free himself. He must turn to God. This "turning to God" is shown as Spider-Man spends a repentant time alone outside the church. Then he fights and wrestles with all his might to remove the suit, but fails. Finally in the high tower of the church as the bells clang loudly, spent and weak, Spider-Man can do nothing but kneel and pray. At last, the chains of sin are broken and the ugly, black tentacles give up their hold. What a powerful illustration of repentance from sin!
Peter and M.J.'s relationship has all the elements of your typical man and woman in love. They are very real people we can all identify with. He's a superhero, brilliant, but a bumbling nerd as well. She's beautiful and talented, but insecure too. They are both young and learning about love. Through their journey of sacrifice and forgiveness, these verses in Ephesians chapter 5 are repeatedly taught in the love story of Spider-Man 3: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ... each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
Negative Elements:
Spider-Man begins to enjoy the notoriety and positive attention he is receiving. At an awards ceremony he encourages the pretty woman presenting the honors to give him a kiss, as a publicity stunt. But M.J. is watching and is hurt by the public betrayal. Later M.J., feeling rejected and alone, turns to a friend for comfort. She kisses him, privately betraying Peter.

Spider-Man/Peter Parker puts down religion, shows cruelty, acts like a playboy (a very nerdy one at best), dances sensually, drinks a martini, taunts maliciously and even punches M.J. in the face, but all these things happen under the influence of the black suit.
Sexual Content:
There is no nudity in the film. In one scene, Spider-Man and M.J. are kissing and embracing. In another Harry Osborn (James Franco) is dressed only in tight fitting underwear. There are plenty of low cut tops exposing cleavage. In one scene a waiter with a French accent butchers Peter's last name, pronouncing it "pecker." Peter and his date perform a sensual dance in a piano bar.
The many battles in Spider-Man 3 are played out with intense violence. Police are seen shooting guns. Piercing screams from scared-to-death women abound in this film. Villains and heroes alike deliver impossible acts of aggression that no human could survive. All of the force and fury, however, results in very little blood shed. The destructive power in emotions like hatred, anger and revenge are revealed, yet similarly, the redeeming qualities of forgiveness, compassion and kindness are the forces that heal and overcome.
While given over to the dark side of his nature, Peter Parker's long-endured patience with his dilapidated apartment door ends in cursing. Shocking his landlord, Peter blurts out, "d**n door!" The only other language in the film is the phrase, "what the h**l," and the use of the word "a**."
Drug and Alcohol:
In a few scenes, characters are either making or drinking martinis. Champagne is served at a restaurant. Harry Osborn drinks straight from a decanter of whiskey.

Source: http://christianity.about.com/od/christianmovies/fr/spiderman3revie.htm

No Country for Old Men

Review by Jeffrey Overstreet
Genre:Crime, Thriller
Theater release: Limited release November 9, 2007 by Miramax Films
Directed by: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Runtime: 122 minutes
Tommy Lee Jones (Ed Tom Bell), Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh), Josh Brolin (Llewelyn Moss), Woody Harrelson (Carson Wells), Kelly Macdonald (Carla Jean Moss), Garret Dillahunt (Wendell)

As Sheriff Ed Tom Bell stares out at the barren Texas landscape, wondering how to catch a crazed killer, we sense that he's losing all hope of bringing any justice to the situation.

But we can feel something deeper disintegrating too. Nostalgic for days when a lawman could make a difference, Bell is losing any hope he has for humankind. He scowls and says, "I always thought when I got older that God would sort of come into my life in some way. He didn't."

You too may find yourself hoping that God will save the day while you watch this riveting adaptation of the bestselling novel No Country for Old Men. You may wait and wait, hoping that justice will be done, that grace will come to these characters.
[Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh]
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh

But those familiar with the author of this story will probably guess that God is not among this cast of characters. Foolish, greedy men. Heartless killers. Doomed innocents. Welcome to the World According to Cormac McCarthy.

McCarthy's stories paint dispiriting pictures, but they're bestsellers nevertheless. His celebrated line of novels includes Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and the recent Oprah-selection The Road. (Soon we'll see a big-screen version of The Road, directed by John Hillcoat, who brought us another nightmare called The Proposition last year.)

No Country for Old Men, published in 2005, was bound to become a movie. It has elements of classic crime thrillers, film noir, gunslinger shootouts, and thrilling chase sequences. And it features a villain as distinct and malevolent as Hannibal Lecter.

The story—which gets its title from William Butler Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium"—is a story about a Vietnam vet named Llewellyn Moss who finds $2 million at the scene of a drug deal gone wrong. Like an idiot, Moss takes the money and runs. But he can't hide from the killer that the dealers have sent after him. Anton Chigurh is a ruthless predator who really enjoys his work. He's so bad, in fact, that even his employers are frantic to stop him when they realize the trouble they've set in motion.
[Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell]
Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell

There's something very familiar about the madness that ensues in McCarthy's page-turner. It all sounds suspiciously like the work of the Coen Brothers, who brought us violent crime capers like Blood Simple and Fargo. In fact, reading the book, this reviewer could not help but laugh at how conversations between the foolish thief and his oblivious wife resembled the bone-headed banter between Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in the Coens' comedy Raising Arizona.

So it's almost too good to be true that the Coen Brothers have, in fact, adapted McCarthy's novel and brought it to the screen. It's as if this was part of McCarthy's plan all along.

Sweetening the deal, Tommy Lee Jones has been cast as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The Coens' greatest strength has always been their flair for comical dialogue and exaggerated dialects. Their language comes as naturally to Jones as riding a horse. He savors and spits his lines as if they were chewing tobacco. He has the gaze of a lifelong farmer who hasn't seen a drop of rain in a decade, and his face is as rugged as the Texas landscape. He captures the book's portrayal of Bell—a man caught in the quicksand of despair—perfectly. Jones has played a lot of troubled trackers in his career, and chased a lot of fugitives. But his work here is second only to his performance in last year's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.
[Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss]
Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss

Josh Brolin, enjoying a remarkable year of breakthrough performances (Grindhouse, In the Valley of Elah, American Gangster), has the biggest role of his career playing Moss. He's fantastic. Maintaining a caveman's stupefied expression, he makes us wonder if Moss might be related to The Big Lebowski's "Dude."

The rest of the cast, with one exception, is note-perfect. Kelly Macdonald, known for her fragile beauty and Scottish accent, is startling as a trailer-bound housewife with a Southern drawl thick as molasses. Woody Harrelson plays a boastful hitman named Bell to perfection, just two steps up the ladder of idiocy from Moss. Only Beth Grant seems out of place, overplaying Moss's mother-in-law as if she was acting in a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

But everybody will leave the theater raving about Javier Bardem, who plays the sinister slaughterer. There's a wild light in Chigurh's eyes and even a hint of a smile as he torments his soon-to-be-victims. Looking like the worst descendant of the Addams Family, he's a fearsome freak, as unstoppable as those black thunderstorms we see sweeping across the desert.

Chigurh marches from target to target, knocking off his victims one by one with a tank of compressed air and a hose—a weapon that is almost silent and definitely deadly. His view of the world is frightfully mechanical: He carries out his rituals without any exceptions, and the only chance he gives his targets depends on the flip of a coin. Mercy? Compassion? Forgiveness? Those concepts don't exist in his vocabulary. He loves to watch his victims squirm. (Even crumpled candy wrappers twitch and writhe in his presence.)

The scenes in which Chigurh stalks Moss are as suspenseful as anything the Coens have ever staged. And that has as much to do with what we hear as what we see. No Country for Old Men lacks a traditional soundtrack, but don't say it doesn't have music. The blip-blip-blip of a transponder becomes as frightening as the famous theme from Jaws. The sound of footsteps on the hardwood floors of a hotel hallway are as ominous as the drums of war. When the leather of a briefcase squeaks against the metal of a ventilation shaft, you'll cringe, and the distant echo of a telephone ringing in a hotel lobby will jangle your nerves.
[Filmmakers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen on set]
Filmmakers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen on set

In spite of masterful sound design, and brilliant cinematography by Roger Deakins (who also shot The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), it's what we don't hear or see that makes No Country so haunting. Love, hope, and Almighty God—they seem to be missing in action.

The silence of God may, in fact, have been the mystery foremost on McCarthy's mind. Following Chigurh on his rampage through the desert, the author offers only a few possible conclusions:

* God might be so disgusted with humankind that he's decided to keep his distance and let us destroy each other;

* God might be trying to reach into the world through fleeting gestures of human benevolence—like Carla's steadfast love for her stupid husband, or a young boy's kindness in offering his shirt to a bleeding victim; or,

* God just might not exist at all.

Powerfully faithful to the McCarthy's text, the Coens have given us their bleakest work to date. At first it feels like familiar territory, with numerous references to their previous works. Like Raising Arizona's "Lone Biker of the Apocalypse," Chigurh happily blasts small animals with a shotgun as he roars down the highway. The guilty and the innocent try to talk their way out of execution, just as they did in Miller's Crossing. Stephen Root (TV's Newsradio), who made the Soggy Bottom Boys a recording sensation in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, plays the everpresent Coen Brothers caricature: The Man Behind the Big Desk. And Sheriff Bell, world-weary as he is, might be related to Fargo's Marge Gunderson.

And yet, in spite of these similarities, we've never seen the Coens descend so far into the abyss of human depravity. Their primary endeavor—from Blood Simple to Miller's Crossing, from O Brother Where Art Thou? to The Big Lebowski—has always been to ask if the human heart might discover grace in a world spoiled by greed, murder, and folly. Mining the brittle stone of McCarthy's nihilistic narrative, the Coens can't find any trace of hope.

"You can't stop what's coming," a prophetic old man tells Sheriff Bell. And Bell, so proud of his heritage of lawmen, is miserable at his insufficiency. "It ain't all waitin' on you," the old man cautions him. "That's vanity." And we're left facing questions that haunt so many great works of art: Who is the world waiting on? If God exists, why doesn't he intervene to prevent such apocalyptic violence? Whatever the answers might be, No Country for Old Men suggests that truth, justice, and the American way are not enough to save us from the dark and deadly winds of change.

Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/reviews/2007/nocountryforoldmen.html
Reviewed by: Taran Gingery

Featuring: Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Alison Lohman
Director: Susanne Bier
Producer: Pippa Harris, Barbara Kelly, Jeremy Kramer, Allan Loeb, Sam Mendes, Sam Mercer, Mark Sourian
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

“Hope comes with letting go.”

The Burkes are a strong family. Sure, they have had their times of trial, but Steven Burke (David Duchovny) and his wife Audrey (Halle Berry) have always pulled the family through together. Indeed, it seems the only dark spot in their relationship is Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), Steven’s best friend, who happens to be a recovering heroin addict who can’t escape relapses. Audrey strongly disapproves of him, but Steven staunchly refused to give up on him.

Then one night, tragedy strikes and the Burkes are left without a husband and father. Lonely and torn by grief, Audrey invites Jerry to rent the refurbished garage, partly in order to make ends meet, but mostly because of Steven’s friendship with him. However, as the two cope with their losses and grow as people, they learn to understand and even help one another become better people.

There are so many positive messages in this film, it is hard to know where to start. Steven Burke is a kind, loving father and husband who has his faults, but his compassion for his friend and refusal to abandon him cannot be more emphasized. Indeed, it is because of his strong sense of right and wrong that he loses his life helping perfect strangers. The importance of the presence of a father and spending time with your children is stressed, as well as helping them overcome their fears. The value of human life is emphasized over material things.

Audrey Burke also loves her family very much, but is at first skeptical of Jerry and does not understand her husband’s loyalty to him. Later, as she comes to terms with Steven’s death, she becomes angry and even jealous of Jerry, when she perceives that he is assuming the father’s role in her children’s lives, but eventually she opens her heart and accepts him, while doing everything in her power to point him in the right direction.

Jerry is a kind, patient man whose several scenes with each of the children stand out the most to me, showing him to have a large heart and a strong understanding of people. His heroin addiction cannot be taken lightly, but neither is it shown as a positive thing. Jerry shows a strong need to lose his addiction, but finds he cannot do it on his strength alone. Only with Audrey’s help can he beat it back, a strong metaphor for how we cannot beat temptation without Christ’s help. Jerry describes the experience of using heroin as ‘touching the face of God’ (ironically and unfortunately, almost the only mention of God in the film) and says he still dreams about doing it, even when he is clean. Still, he must be noted for his strengths as well as his weaknesses.

Regarding language, several characters utter the f-word 9 or 10 times (most of them sexually) and the s-word that many or more, plus several milder profanities and misuse of God’s name. Steven and Audrey start to make out while standing (passionate kissing and groping), but are interrupted. I am most pleased to say that Audrey and Jerry do not sleep together, although they have many opportunities and a couple of scenes do have strong sensual tension, but nothing comes of it.

Jerry’s heroin use is seen in full and in an extremely powerful and moving series of scenes, Audrey finds him completely stoned, supports and half–carries him down a dirty street filled with other heroin addicts, and later is with him all the way through one of the most heart and gut-wrenching portrayals of going cold turkey that I have ever seen. As for violence, Steven is shot and killed by a man who was beating his wife ruthlessly while trying to rescue the woman, but no blood is scene.

That said, this is possibly the most moving and strongest movie I’ve seen so far this year. Everything about it is strong, from the script to the music. Berry shows what she can do when given the right material, Del Toro is powerfully and profoundly effective and Duchovny impresses in his short-lived role. Special mention should go to Alison Lohman as a fellow recovering heroin addict, Alexis Llewellyn as daughter Harper and Micah Berry as son Dory, all of whom shine in their roles. The R-rating should be taken seriously due to drug and language content, and the lack of complete redemption for the characters may leave some with an empty feeling, but I still recommend this film to discerning adults, for the positive messages and strong characters don’t all go up in smoke in “Things We Lost in the Fire.”

Source: www.christiananswers.net

Lions for Lambs

Reviewed by: Rachelle Smotherman

Featuring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Pena, Derek Luke
Director: Robert Redford
Producer: Andrew Hauptman, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tracy Falco
Distributor: United Artists

“If If you don't STAND for something, you might FALL for anything”

Producer’s Synopsis: “Two determined students at a West Coast University, Arian and Ernest, follow the inspiration of their idealistic professor, Dr. Malley, and attempt to do something important with their lives. But when the two make the bold decision to join the battle in Afghanistan, Malley is both moved and distraught. Now, as Arian and Ernest fight for survival in the field, they become the string that binds together two disparate stories on opposite sides of America. In California, an anguished Dr. Malley attempts to reach a privileged but disaffected student, who is the very opposite of Arian and Ernest. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. the charismatic Presidential hopeful, Senator Jasper Irving, is about to give a bombshell story to a probing TV journalist that may affect Arian and Ernest's fates. As arguments, memories and bullets fly, the three stories are woven ever more tightly together, revealing how each of these Americans has a profound impact on each other—and the world.”

If you’re looking for a liberal, political drama (strictly drama, very little action) with some great actors, then “Lions for Lambs” will fit the bill.

This film, with a big name cast (Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise) is a kaleidoscope of settings and characters that move back and forth throughout the film. Redford plays Dr. Malley, a college professor who is mentoring a promising young student, Todd (Andrew Garfield), challenging him to fight complacency and get involved in his government. He speaks highly of two former students, Ernest and Arian (played by Michael Pena and Derek Luke) who left school to join the military. While Malley doesn’t agree with their decision to join the army, he admires their courage and dedication and encourages Todd to reignite the passion he once held. All the while, Todd spouts mockery of the U.S. government and contends that it’s all smoke and mirrors that doesn’t effect lasting change, so he sees no reason to become involved.

What part should morality play in politics? Answer

Does character matter in political leaders? Answer

Should Christians seek political power or should we only focus on evangelism? Answer

Cruise is Senator Irving, a right wing politician who is implementing a new strategy to “win the war on terror” with Janinie Roth (Streep) as the journalist he enlists to write the news breaking story. Though Roth has supported Irving in the past, she feels it was done more out of duty than conviction and now challenges his ideals.

The new military strategy is launched with Irving’s authority and doesn’t go as planned. Ernest and Arian, now in the special forces unit assigned to this strategy, are left stranded and wounded while the army does its best to rescue them.

The message that came through loud and clear in this movie is that our government and military are misguided at best, deceptive and deluded at worst. Having seen the trailer, I was expecting there to be more resolution to “Lions for Lambs” and was disappointed in the ending, with its obvious Hollywood bias toward U.S. government and insinuation that our men in uniform are wasting their talent and their lives.

On the plus side, there was a rock solid friendship in Ernest and Arian and a dedication to follow their ideals that should be admirable to anyone. The selflessness shown by these two characters should inspire us to be more like Christ in our everyday lives.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
Source: www.christiananswers.net

Fred Claus (2007)

Featuring: Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti (Santa Claus), Kevin Spacey, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks
Director: David Dobkin
Producer: Paul Hitchcock, Jessie Nelson, David Dobkin
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

“Everybody has that one relative can't help but cause problems over the holidays. Even Santa.”

When Nick Claus is born, his older brother Fred appears to love having a brother. As the two grow up, it becomes apparent that Fred is living in his saintly brother’s shadow. The final straw for Fred is when Nick chops down Fred’s favorite tree to use for Christmas. Fred’s animosity is fueled by his mother’s (played by Kathy Bates) constant comments about how perfect Nick is.

Nick (Paul Giamatti) grows up to be Santa Claus and lives at the North Pole. Fred (Vince Vaughn) is living in Chicago, has an on-again, off-again relationship with Wanda (Rachel Weisz), and is a repo-man always waiting to make his big business break. After not seeing his brother for years, Fred is arrested, and he finally calls on Nick to bail him out. Nick agrees, but with one condition. Fred must come to the North Pole and work for his brother. Meanwhile, Clyde (Kevin Spacey), an efficiency expert, has warned Santa that he is 3 strikes away from being shut down. Predictably, with Fred working at the North Pole, those three strikes pit the 2 brothers against each other.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL: There is plenty of objectionable content in this movie. The movie begins with a Kathy Bates in labor giving birth to Nick. There are several times a-s-s is used, plenty of sexual innuendos, and constant fighting between Fred and elves, Fred and Santa, Fred and his girlfriend, and… the list is endless.

Fred makes a comment about a girl’s swim team, and he hopes that they are naughty. When Nick is born, his mother says “good lord.” There is a comment about an elf who has attached himself to Fred’s leg—“acting like an untrained dog”. The song “Beast of Burden” is played—“all I want is for you to make love to me.” Fred makes plenty of sexual references—getting the “sleigh off the ground,” etc.

“Hell” is used. Fred calls Nick fat boy several times. There are various other crude comments made, and comments that you don’t want your children repeating.

VIOLENCE: While there are plenty of movies that show worse violence, I sat in this movie and cringed. I certainly don’t want my 2 little boys believing that it is okay to ever repeat any of the scenes in this movie. A little girl kicks Fred. There is a chase involving Fred and Salvation Army Santas with it ending with all the Santa’s piled on top of Fred. Fred is jumped by Santa’s guards (elves in black). Fred gets in a physical fight with D.J. (the disc jockey elf). D.J. punches Fred, and Fred picks up D.J. and puts him in a cabinet. Fred tosses an elf and then jumps onto a group of elves. Fred and Santa fight. Santa kicks Fred. Fred and Nick have a snowball fight which turns physical. I could continue listing other instances, but I would take a full page to list them all.

There is no nudity, but Charlene (Santa’s assistant) wears low-cut tops and short skirts throughout the movie. In one scene, Fred and Willie, Santa’s head elf played by John Michael Higgins, are standing at urinals talking while they go.

There are other various scenes that may bother you, which include, but are not limited to: Clyde shredding letters to Santa from boys and girls, a boy steals Santa’s wallet, Santa gets fired, Fred says he is moving in with his girlfriend, Charlene and Willie kiss, and Wanda and Fred kiss. Fred sets up a kettle and rings a bell for his charity People Helping People. There are sumo wrestlers fighting in a background scene.

However, there are also some nicer scenes. Fred does realize that he has messed up and tries to right his wrongs, and he also forgives Nick. Fred makes the statement that there are no bad children, just children that are hurt, and confused. This causes Santa to rethink how he treats people. We know that Christmas is a time of celebration and hope, but ultimately it is a time of forgiveness. Without Jesus birth, we would not have had His death and resurrection to ultimately pay for our sins. Without that payment for our sins, we could not be forgiven.

Did my 5 year old laugh at this movie? Yes. Would he want to see it again? Yes. Did it have some redeeming qualities? Yes. Would I recommend this movie? NO. It is over the top and cheesy, but the continued kicking, punching, fighting and verbal insults were more than I would want to witness again. This is one Christmas movie we won’t repeat.

Source: http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2007/fredclaus2007.html

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