Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast, rated PG
***

Despite some well-publicized content concerns, Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast is a treat overall.
Following the success of their recent animation to live action remakes of some of their classic films – Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), Disney returns with a new version of Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated version received five Oscar nominations, winning two. The new film is directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), and written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It had an estimated budget of $160 million, but is expected to earn that back and more, with a projected worldwide opening this weekend of $215-245 million. The film features an outstanding cast and is visually stunning.
The film is set in the town of Villeneuve in France. Belle, played by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) is a happy, independent, book-loving inventor who loves her father Maurice, played by Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda). Throughout the film Belle is pursued constantly by Gaston (Luke Evans, The Girl on the Train), who wants to marry her, but Belle has no interest in him. The one who does have interest in Gaston is the homosexual character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Disney’s Frozen.  The song “Gaston” has new lyrics that were written by the late Howard Ashman, but did not make it into the 1991 film as they were not considered appropriate for a children’s film.
As Maurice leaves on a trip, he promises to bring Belle back a rose. The rose he tries to bring her is growing on the land of the Beast, played by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey). Maurice is then captured and put in a jail cell in the castle of the Beast. If you are familiar with the story, the Beast must find someone to love him before the final petal of a red rose kept under glass falls off. If he doesn’t, he is doomed to remain a beast forever, and the members of his household will remain clocks, cups, etc. forever.
As I mentioned, the film features a strong cast. In addition to Watson and Kline, Ewan McGregor portrays the candlestick Lumiere, two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen plays the mantle clock Cogsworth, two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility and Howard’s End) plays the teapot Mrs. Potts, and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci plays Maestro Cadenza.
Alan Menken, who wrote the music for the 1991 film, returns to do the music for this film, which includes new recordings of his original songs such as “Be Our Guest”, along with new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (The Lion King, Aladdin, and Evita).  I loved the music and the costumes in the film. The computer generated imagery (CGI) – the castle, wolves, the face of the Beast, etc. were all well done.    My wife thought that the “Be Our Guest” scene was almost over done – maybe they were trying to have it be like a scene from Fantasia?
We attended the film on opening night; the theatre was filled with very small children. However, unlike the animated version, this is not a children’s film. It is dark and the scenes with wolves may well be too frightening for small children.
Leading up to the film there was controversy when the director made news in speaking about the film’s “exclusively gay moment”, which takes place near the end of the film. However, we saw LaFou’s homosexuality played out throughout the film, along with other things thrown in to make this film, as Condon has stated, as diverse as possible. He stated that “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural…” Chances are, small children will not even notice what Condon and Disney have put in this film, but discerning Christians will and they will find it in conflict with the Scripture (Romans 1:26-27). It’s not enough, in my opinion, to keep you from seeing the film, but it did impact our enjoyment and our overall rating of the film.  On the flip side, sacrificial love is portrayed well.


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Why I Would Recommend You Don’t Go See the Movie “The Shack”

the-shackKnowing that I enjoy going to the movies, I’ve already had many friends ask me if I was planning to see the upcoming film adaptation of William P. Young’s best-selling 2007 novel The Shack. When I tell them that I’m not going due to serious theological issues in the book, they usually respond that they don’t know or care too much about theological issues, they just loved the book.

Several years ago, when it seemed like everyone I talked to was reading the book (the book has sold an incredible 22 million copies to date), I decided to read it myself. I wanted to see why it was resonating with so many people, even some of my friends who didn’t regularly attend church. And while the book can speak to those who have experienced a tragedy or lost a loved one, I had serious concerns about the way the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were portrayed.

To help you be discerning as you consider whether or not to watch the film or read the book (as interest in the book has been rekindled with the release of the film), I offer the below perspectives from three respected Christians teachers.

  1. Tim Keller. In this article Tim Keller writes “But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.”
  2. Tim Challies. In this article (which also links to his lengthy review of the book), Tim Challies writes “The Shack presents God in human flesh. It makes the infinite finite, the invisible visible, the omnipotent impotent, the all-present local, the spiritual material. In its visual portrayal of God it diminishes, it obfuscates, it blasphemes, it lies. Even though I would watch the film to help others interpret it and to bring correction to error, I would still be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it.”
  3. Randy Alcorn. Randy Alcorn writes “Unfortunately, increasingly few people these days are well grounded in the Word and have both the knowledge and the discernment to filter out the bad while embracing the good. That means that some people, perhaps many, will fail to recognize the book’s theological weaknesses, and therefore be vulnerable to embracing them, even if unconsciously. Sadly, I personally know some who have been led down a path of universalism through their understanding of the book and what they have heard the author say, either publicly or privately.”

I know these comments won’t be popular with many. Please seriously consider them when making your decision about whether you will see this film. And if you disagree with what is written here, please let me know and why.  Also, if you need good materials that address the topics in the movie such as “Where was God when I lost my loved one?” I would be glad to give you some recommendations.

Blessings!


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My Review of the Movie ‘Paterson’

patersonPaterson, rated R
*** ½

Paterson is low-key, well-acted film that follows bus driver and poet Paterson and his creative wife Laura through a week of their lives.
The film is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who wrote a version of the film twenty years ago. The film follows Paterson (Adam Driver, who was excellent as Father Francisco Garrpe in the recent Silence), a bus driver and poet, his creative wife Laura (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani) and their English Bulldog Marvin, through one week of their life in the rather depressed city of Paterson, New Jersey.  Driver actually went to bus driving school to prepare for this role, and got his license one week before filming began.
Paterson, who was named after the town he lives in, follows pretty much the same routine each day. He wakes up without an alarm at about 6:15am, picks up his folded clothes from a chair near the bed, eats Cheerios for breakfast and walks to the bus station. He doesn’t have a smartphone, thinking it would be like a leash. He drives his bus through the heart of Paterson where he overhears the conversations of his passengers, enjoys lunch surprises made by Laura as he writes poetry in the park near a beautiful waterfall, its beauty contrasting with the rest of the town we see. He walks home and grabs the mail out of the tilted mailbox post in front of his and Laura’s small home. After dinner, he walks Marvin, and stops at a neighborhood bar (where we get to know the regulars), to have one beer before heading back home to bed. His life is not unlike ours, in which we go through our routines each day.
Although Paterson’s job is as a bus driver, and he is dutiful in that job, his passion is writing poetry. We often see him inspired to write down lines of poetry in his secret notebook, and the lines of his poetry creatively appear on the screen. His favorite poet was William Carlos Williams, also from Paterson. Laura is constantly asking him to make copies of his poems, which he promises to do.
In many ways, Paterson and Laura, who are very much in love, are also very different. While Paterson’s life is relatively routine and predictable, Laura is just the opposite. She is obsessed with black and white patterns – in her painting (clothes, home decorating), in the cupcakes she bakes, etc. Paterson supports her in everything she does and wants to do, which includes wanting to order an expensive guitar so that she could be a country music singer like Tammy Wynette or Patsy Cline.
The acting from Driver and Farahani is excellent. They have wonderful chemistry on film.  Paterson is an introvert and doesn’t really share his emotions with others, while Laura is just the opposite, full of life, energy and dreams.  They support each other in their passions – Paterson’s poetry and Laura’s painting, guitar playing and baking.
There is not a lot going on in this film. It’s definitely slow moving, and may feel overly long at nearly two hours. While it will not appeal to everyone, I really enjoyed it. None of the characters we meet (Paterson, Laura, those on the bus, or in the bar), give us any indication of God being in their lives, so there is a feeling that they do not really live with purpose.
There is a good use of humor sprinkled throughout the film and after Laura tells him of a dream about twins early in the film, Paterson sees twins around town the rest of the film. Still, I came away enjoying the week I spent with Paterson, Laura, Marvin and Paterson’s friends in the bar.    The juxtaposition of the mundane and ordinary with the beautiful and passionate was an ongoing theme in this movie.  My wife thought Marvin should win best actor in this film.  : )
The film is rated “R” for a relatively small amount of adult language. It also includes a few abuses of God’s name. However, this does not seem like an “R- rated” film. Without the sparse language mentioned above this film could easily be rated “PG”, like the recent film Hidden Figures.