Doctor Strange – Movie Review

This past weekend I went to see Doctor Strange in the movie theater with my family.  We are admittedly Marvel movie fans.  So we all piled into the car after school on Friday and, with popcorn in hand, found our perfect seats to watch this much anticipated film.

I won’t share any spoilers for you, but I would like to delve into some of the themes of this film.  If you know the marvel comics at all, you will know that they are setting the stage for the infinity war.  Doctor Strange deals primarily with the metaphysical and dimensional space…thus you will inevitably have a very mind-bending kind of film = I was not disappointed!  strange

The special effects reminded me of Inception on steroids, in that a lot of city scenes are folded as reality is bent and even broken.  It’s a very trippy experience that some non-marvel fans who are going to just see a movie might not like.
I loved the humor and the comedic timing of this film, as well as the traditional Stan Lee cameo and teasers (2 of them) at the end of the film.

Underlying Spiritual Themes: 
There was a pivotal moment in the film that had me kind of cheering in my seat.  There’s a scene (not really a spoiler) where Doctor Strange, who has been injured and has irreparable damage to his hands seeks out a mystical healer in Nepal.  As he tries to comprehend how this healer is able to break new ground in medicine, it becomes apparent that it is something so much more.  This mystical healer, who is actually “the ancient one” tells Doctor Strange that somethings cannot be explained by medicine and science, and that there is so much more to the universe.

I have to stop right there and say, I loved that spiritual illustration…this man had spent his entire fortune seeking out a scientific breakthrough to help fix his damaged hands and could not find a solution – and what this Ancient One offered could not be explained in the physical realm.  As a Pondering Pastor, I have to say that this is how faith works…when reasoning fails and when science cannot explain – there comes a point that we must admit that we do not know all of the mysteries of the universe and all of the infinite possibilities of God.  strange3

…and here is where our philosophies diverge.  
The cure for Doctor Strange isn’t found in the physical realm, but instead it is found in the metaphysical – and in his own mind.  What he had perceived to be impossible is possible in this other realm, and he must call upon Eastern meditation, mysticism and astral projection to get there.  If I were only paying attention to this underlying theme of the film, I would have had a hard time accepting it.  I don’t necessarily embrace that philosophy of teaching in my life…but as whole film, and action packed as it is, I recognized this to be a movie – fiction and a really good one at that!  I hope others see it that way too!

Benedict Cumberbatch does an excellent job, in my opinion, in the role of Dr. Stephen Strange.  His character is egotistical at the on set of the movie, but you journey with him to his lowest point.  You begin to sympathize with him, and then cheer for him as he discovers his powers.

I look forward to a second installment of Doctor Strange as well as his cameos in other upcoming Marvel films.  He is an intriguing character and takes the word “trippy” to a whole new plain.

So, should you see this film?  Yes!  Go watch it, take some popcorn, and enjoy another great Marvel movie.

I give this film  two-thumbs

Something more to Ponder today!

The BFG Movie Review

Every once in a while a film comes along that reignites the child in us all.
I remember having this book read to us as children, and I read this book to my children…and now we went as a family to see it on the silver screen.

About The Author: 
Roald Dahl is a fascinating writer who is best known for such books as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, and Matilda.  Roald Dahl also wrote several short stories which Alfred Hitchcock turned into episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock presents”.   Thus some of his plots and language within these “children’s” novels have a dark side to them.  This, in my opinion makes the story even more likable and remarkable.

On screen, Steven Spielberg brings to life one of my all time favorite children’s stories, and he does it in a very “Spielbergesque” way.  The cinematography is gorgeous, and the actress who was casted to play Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) does a remarkable job!  The CGI is not perfect for character of the BFG (Big Friendly Giant), but it is close and not noticeable once you become completely immersed into the story line.

The movie follows the book very closely, and I caught myself saying out loud “that’s how I envisioned it!” Spielberg has done it again, walking through my (our) childhood, recapturing the mystery, magic and awe!    I recommend you take the whole family!  You will laugh, you will cry and most of all you will have a “hopscotchy” good time!  Remember to drink all of your “Delumptious fizzy frobscottle”…you’ll find out what that means!

Go see if for yourself, I won’t give away the plot, but if you go as the child you once were even if you pay the adult ticket price, you will enjoy it!  I’m calling this my hands-down favorite Family Friendly favorite movie of this summer!

Every once in a while a film comes along that reignites the child in us all, this was one of those movies for me!

I give this movie

Caution – Deadpool Is Not For Kids!

Deadpool trailer
This past weekend Deadpool opened at the box office, and quickly became a smash hit as well.
As a superhero fan boy, I have enjoyed all of the Marvel movies…minus a few critiques of Thor 2 and Ironman 2, but I digress.

I enjoy Marvel movies because:
1  – They have heroes, we all love hero stories right?!
2 – There are villains that push the heroes into doing extraordinary things.
3 – There is usually a cameo appearance by Stan Lee
4 – The comedic humor is always timed and appreciated!
5 – Easter Eggs – Not only are there clues and tributes hiding in the film, but at the end of the film there is usually a teaser for something coming in the Marvel Universe.

These are just a few of the reasons I enjoy Marvel movies, I’m sure that you have others as well.

it’s not your typical 20th Century Fox Studios release by Marvel film.
This is a rated – R risk.
This is an adult geared film.
There is even full frontal nudity.
The language and violence is not intended for children.
Parents do not take your kids to see this movie – even Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) warned parents not to bring the kids.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that this superhero film, that no one initially wanted to make, has smashed weekend box offices around the world beating out all of the “Xmen” movies as well as “Ironman 2” and “Man of Steel”.

The irony, as Ben Fritz of TWSJ says is, : “Deadpool,” a spin-off character in Marvel’s X-Men comic book universe, was made only after much trepidation and years of stalled development. That’s because the loud-mouthed, ultra-violent character required a film with an R-rating, a very high death count, and an insulting sense of humor about his own genre. Executives were concerned the movie would turn off most fans of PG-13 rated fare such as “The Avengers” and appeal only to the Comic-Con crowd.

The Washington Post reports that “Deadpool is not okay for kids, but might be just what your teens need”???  (As a parent, I’m personally saying no to that!)

Others have been very critical of the movie, like one such movie goer who said this on social media over the weekend; “All I can say is that I am embarrassed for Stan Lee. I can safely say that was one of the worst super hero movies I have ever seen. The entire movie tries too hard to be cutting edge and funny. The humor is at the level of a hormonal teenage boy who is trying to sneak a peak at a playboy magazine he just found in a trash can.

Long story short, if you’re a young adult and you want to see this film, go and watch it, but be mindful of the sophomoric humor and gratuitous violence and nudity.  Also the language and even story line (or lack there of)  has been criticized rather harshly.   If you have teens who want to see this film, I (and many other parents) would advise against it.

I have seen every Marvel film, but I’m afraid I might have to skip this one…but that’s just me.  I’ll just have to wait for Captain America Civil War to hit theaters in May.

Something for the family to ponder today.

Movie Preview: “The Peanuts Movie”

peanuts2The iconic creations from Charles Schulz’s – “Peanuts” is back!  
This coming Friday, November 6th,  “The Peanuts Movie” will hit theaters across the country!
If you’re anything like me, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Pigpen and the rest of the gang have been members of my home since I was a child.  This year, the comic strip gets another edition on the silver screen, and I can’t wait to see it!

What The Critics Might Say: 
Some might bemoan the fact that Peanuts is being revived, while inwardly they’re hoping and praying that the Peanuts writers never  sell out and go the way of other childhood iconic figures *cough, cough*  like Jim Hensen’s “The Muppets” which has since incorporated edgier adult humor and consequently ruined childhoods everywhere.

Others might watch the movie trailer and attempt to compare the new glossy high definition images to that of the old iconic childhood films that were grainy, aged and represented a seemingly bygone era of family neighborhoods.
These same critics are probably  of the mindset that you just don’t attempt to recreate a classic.

There will be the cynics out there that will undoubtedly paint the new Peanuts movie as just another way for the film companies to make money by cashing in on Schulz’s creations.

Here’s What I Think: 
peanuts3I can’t wait to see this movie!
I don’t care what the cynical critics might say, this comic strip is not only sentimental and a window into my childhood, but has always engaged in realistic discussion of life, love and hope.  Charles Schulz always had a way to teach us something new about ourselves while we watched his films or read his comic strip in the newspaper.

Another reason that I am excited for the new Peanuts Movie is that it will be 100% family friendly!
There will not be adult humor slipped into a children’s movie unlike other “children’s movies” who have sold out.

My Recommendation:  
Go and take your kids to see Charlie Brown in the new Peanuts movie!
Go and relive your childhood!
Go share the simplicities of the Peanuts universe with your children or your grandchildren!
My hat is off to Director Steve Martino and Writers Bryan & Craig Schulz (Charles Schulz’s sons) for giving new life to the Peanuts universe once more!   From every kid who is now a grown adult who loved Peanuts (and still does) I say Thank you!

Pondering Movie Review – The Martian

This past week, I had the opportunity to see “The Martian” with my wife and a group of friends.
Here is a Pastorsponderings Movie review of this film:

Author Andy Weir
Author Andy Weir

I remember hearing Andy Weir on Adam Savage’s (Yes, that crazy hyperactive ginger  from Mythbusters) Still Untitled Adam Savage Project podcasts.  Andy is a science geek, and he has this insatiable, inquisitive nature about all things science and space exploration.  His book “the Martian” was actually self-published after he had blogged it chapter by chapter.  Often times, others would offer suggestions and/or check his math within specific components of astrophysics and other complex formulas.  His process, to me, was astounding and although there is an element of fiction within his “fiction novel” the science is already available for such an amazing feat of humanity ingenuity.

                                                                             The Movie: 
movieMatt Damon plays the lead character astronaut – Mark Watney who is accidentally left for dead on Mars following a horrible storm.  His crew believes he was swept away and killed,  so they make a rapid launch and plot the long course for earth.   The only problem?  Watney is of course not dead, he is alive and now marooned on an inhospitable planet with only a NASA designed artificial habitat pod to survive in.   “Will he survive?”  This was the question that I was asking myself over and over again during the film.  It truly was “edge of your seat” with many tense scenarios where almost everything that could go wrong – did go wrong.

I really enjoyed this movie!  Damon does a great job making Watney come to life in a very authentic and organic way.  The science behind the plot makes it plausible and is not too far fetched to be unbelievable.  I loved the conflict that the leaders of NASA had to weigh – do they tell the public that Watney is alive or do they maintain the story of a lost hero and space explorer?

A few parental suggestions – 
There is some language in the movie and one naked butt scene, so parents be mindful of this adult content.

My Recommendation –
I found Ridley Scott’s depiction of Mars to be mind blowing and visually pleasing – I thought to myself while watching , “this is what I think of when I think of Mars and its crazy violent red surface!”  Everything seemed to be was captured so well on film for us to all imagine what it would be like to be stranded on a violent uninviting rock such as Mars.  I loved the survival story of Watney, I wont tell you if he survives or not, you’ll have to see it for yourself to find out!  It truly is like, as writer Andy Weir describes it,  Apollo 13 collides with Cast Away.  My recommendation to you – go see it for yourself, experience the edge of your seat, nail biting intensity that is the Martian!

As A Christian –
I watched this movie and was able to marvel at the ingenious complexity of God’s creation of the Universe! Watney (Damon’s character) even prays out loud to God in a moment of utter frustration and hopelessness.  The Martian is an existential tale that brings life and death, the fight to survive, hope vs hopelessness all back into focus.  I was also reminded of just how creative we humans were created to be, especially in times of crisis and survival as depicted in The Martian.

I give the Martian – thumbscheck it out for yourself and tell us what YOU think!

Something more to ponder today!

Into The Woods…more than a Fairy Tale (in a bad way)


***Spoiler Alert****
If you don’t want to know about this movie before you see it, then stop reading.

“And they lived happily ever after”…oh wait they don’t.
That’s right, Jack (the bean stalk Jack) is orphaned.
Little Red Riding hood is too.
The Baker is a widower.
The Baker’s wife cheats on her husband then dies.
Have I forgotten anything else?  Oh, yeah the witch commits suicide.
And fairy tale endings now suck.

This is my impression of the recent Disney release of musical made for movie film – “Into the Woods”.
I didn’t watch any stage productions of this before watching the film…maybe I should have.
I can’t but help feel jipped somehow.  I feel like this movie was portrayed to be some sort of Kids movie in the advertising only to find out that it wasn’t…it really wasn’t.  In a way I feel like I’ve been taken by a snake-oil salesman.
Sure, there were some funny moments in the film.
There were some intriguing scenes.

Here come the “Buts”…
But perhaps the writer(s) real life experiences spilled over into this script…
but the plot was thin.
but the actors were a little stiff.
but the message was cynical at best and dark at worst.

I feel like I just watched the movie “Hugo” all over again.
Do you remember that film?  It was also portrayed to be some sort of kids movie with mystery and awe…but it just turned out to be an adult homage to a long retired film maker.

Perhaps you’ll disagree with me…that’s fine.
We all have our opinions and this is just mine.
Perhaps you have more sense of this movie than I do, and you actually saw the musical on stage.
I didn’t like it.
I felt cheated out of two hours of my life.
shrekI went to the movies expecting this to be a funny Shrek-like film when what we got was a Fable-turned Shakespearean tragedy full of “life sucks” themes.
My kids were unimpressed.
I just can’t buy into this philosophy.
Who knows…maybe this film just wasn’t for me…but advertisers: could you have just been honest with us?

“Left Behind” Great Fiction But Horrible Theology…*Sigh

The reboot of “Left Behind” is set to hit theaters today (October 3rd, 2014) starring Nicolas Cage.  I won’t be seeing this film in the theaters…if ever.  It’s not that I don’t like Nic Cage, in fact I’ve always been a fan.  It’s that I just can’t support a movie that wields such a horrendous, unbiblical view about eschatology.

sharkHow I Could Watch “Left Behind”:  
Have you ever played the “what if” game?  It’s a kind of game that allows you consider the “what if’s” in life.  For instance, what if I watched this movie?  Well, if I were to watch this movie (which I probably wont, I’ll just wait for the next National Treasure movie to get my Nic Cage fix) I would wait for the dvd release, curl up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and watch this movie in conjunction with any other sci-fi genre movies that I enjoy watching.  I might even possibly watch this movie on “cheesy movie night” a designated family movie night where we gather around the living room and watch movies that have absolutely no bearing on reality.  This one, (Left Behind) quite possibly would be right after Sharknado and that other academy award winning (sarcastic cough),  awesomely bad/awesomely cheesy second installment Sharknado 2.  What an awesome cheesy movie night that would be!

The Real Problem With Left Behind:
Some are using this apocalyptic movie as some sort of credible means to evangelistically scare the literal hell out of people, cue up the childhood memories of watching A Thief In The Night. a thief I am all for loving people into the kingdom and for everyone to be introduced to Christ…but this, in my opinion, is NOT the way to go about it.  People shouldn’t be coerced into finding Christ through fictional-theatrical ploys such as this.  Real relationships with real people = real evangelistic opportunities to know Him.  Not some marketing campaign in which the writer of this fictional story makes a killing even in a mediocre movie release.

I love movies.  I am a sci-fi geek, I openly admit this.  I also love reading and understanding God’s Word and digging deeper to better understand what it says; but I just can’t mash these two things together in THIS movie and come away feeling the truth and even “End Times” truths have been accurately represented in this work of fiction.   This is horrible theology.

popcornIF you go to see this film in the theaters (and I hope you don’t)…
Don’t go to see this film if you want to know more about God.
Don’t go spend your $10 plus dollars on a movie ticket and then a $100 dollars on movie priced snacks (seriously who pays $30 for a bag of soggy popcorn and a soda?) and enter the theater thinking you’re going to uncover the truths of Revelation and how it’ll all “go down”.   Please show me anywhere in scripture where the depictions of Left Behind are in anyway accurate!?
Don’t drink the Left Behind cool-aide and then begin chanting in “Kirk Cameron we trust“, oh wait he isn’t in this one.  I’m sorry if this come off as cynical.  I’m just sort of sensitive when scripture gets misrepresented and then attempts to become a big money maker…it sort of grinds on me that way.  It’s fiction, take it for what it is.  Don’t use it as some sort of evangelistic campaign.  It just comes off as disingenuous.

Who knows, maybe six months from now I might be curled up on the couch eating my popcorn as the credits roll on Sharknado 2 and think “what the heck, let’s watch another cheesy sci-fi movie” and then Left Behind starring Nic Cage might come to mind.  Who knows, maybe then I’ll watch it and roll my eyes…it could happen.

-Just a thought, and a rather opinionated (more than usual) blog post.

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