Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Movie Review: Old Fashioned

Title: Old Fashioned
Author: PureFlix
Release Date: 2015
Genre: romance, Christian
My Rating: **
Official Rating: Unrated
Age Group: 18+

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is...
Chivalry makes a comeback.

So the front of the DVD case says. The movie starts with, "Love makes your soul crawl from its hiding place" credited to Zora Neal Hurston.

Amber comes rolling into town, where her car runs out of gas. So, that's where she settles. She rents a place from a guy who owns the antique shop below her little apartment. He's weird, doesn't talk much, and makes her sit on the step whenever he needs to fix any of the appliances in her apartment. Amber, on the other hand, is a free spirit. While Clay might have turned his back on his wild college days completely, Amber likes to have fun, though she's not a party girl, exactly. She just likes to have a good time and not tie herself down.
Really though, she just hasn't found a place she can call home.

Amber and Clay decide they like each other. Ok. So Clay says, "My rules" and Amber says "Sure, as long as you ask me out." He does. And his rules are weird. They get a marriage prep book from the local pastor. Their dates aren't normal, there is no kissing, barely any touching, and they are never to be alone. He says what they're doing isn't dating, because that doesn't lead to good things.
So what are they doing? And why?

Word of Warning
This section is going to be a little strange. Having given my age recommendation, my main concern isn't the content exactly, it's the philosophy. So while I'll briefly list the objectionable content here, I'm also going to share my concerns with the philosophy.
  • Radio. The radio has a lot of awful things to say about women. While there is a person behind the radio, the things said are quite disturbing and very sexist (and I don't usually use that word seriously, but I am here).
    • Mention of seductive ladies ready to win a bachelor; women are stupid, also a mention of "hot stupid women"; mocking of a sweet, faithful, good woman or man; mention of a "luscious body"; mention of a woman getting "knocked up"; the question "what is the point of marriage?" with no answer proposed by the speaker or even the movie
  • A man swipes a picture of a woman. The picture belongs to another man. (goodness, I had to make that two sentences to make it make sense and not sound wrong)
  • Clay apparently made old videos with college girls. We see the girls acting flirty for the camera, and later Amber watches a video and cries, but we don't see the screen. Everything is implied.
  • A friend asks Clay for the "story about the redhead that summer and her ______" (the blank is filled with what is meant to be a suggestive nod)
  • A friend mocks Clay's "I wouldn't do anything to her that I wouldn't want done to me" motto.
  • Quite a few veiled references to sex. It is also mentioned outright a few times, once when Amber claims that "sex takes practice" for one of the reasons one shouldn't wait for marriage.
  • Amber claims to be spiritual, not religious (logical contradiction there), and Clay has stopped going to church because of the hypocrites there.
  • A couple with kids is living together. The woman doesn't see the point in getting married and resists whenever it is mentioned.
  • The ideal honeymoon: not a single distraction from building intimacy with a life-long bride. (which is really sweet, but still something parents should be aware of)
  • When trying to understand why Clay is so weird, Amber's coworkers muse that he's gay, has a disease, or has a "tiny problem"
  • The question "how many sexual partners have you had?" is asked outright. Spoiler: the answer is not one.
  • Clay seems to think dating and the hook up culture are the same (they're not).
  • Careless mention of an extramarital affair.
  • On her honeymoon, a woman says she cried herself to sleep, trying to figure out why her new husband wanted to watch [pause] on TV than touch her.
  • A stripper starts to remove clothes (she gets as far as her scarf and jacket) at a bachelor party.
  • Drinking. Characters get drunk.
  • Interestingly enough, even with all this, characters are for the most part modestly dressed.
  • Divorce.
Amber's stove won't work. She calls Clay. He comes up to fix it, but tells her she needs to sit on the step while he does so. They can't be in the same house alone, he says. So she sits out there, wrapped in a blanket, and waits for him to fix her stove.
This is just one of Clay's many rules. Don't get me wrong, the rules aren't bad. It's just what he uses them for. Clay uses the rules to avoid facing any difficulties, to hide. No, I am not saying one should put oneself in a dangerous situation for the purpose of facing difficulty, nor that one shouldn't try to avoid it. I am saying Clay is using these rules to protect himself emotionally as well. Rules are good, so long as their purpose is kept in mind, and they are not followed blindly. Clay says no sex before marriage. Right on. He also says no kissing before marriage (fun fact: the Catholic Church, aside from warning against arousal, doesn't have any objections to a chaste kiss). Nothing good happens after 11pm, Clay declares. He's probably right.

But he's also wrong. He uses the rules to shut things out. This is not courting in the traditional sense (like the movie implies). It's dating, something Clay claims to be determined to avoid. But dating is not inherently evil, though the movie tries to convince you that it is. It tries to tell you that you're better than that, that you deserve more than dating. Clay says dating teaches you to be witty, charming, and romantic--and somehow these are negative things. But are they really inherently bad? No, they're not.
And, he uses his set of rules (a "theory" he calls them) to claim that it's not our job to seek a romantic partner, they just come to us and we do what we should with them. A soulmate, he explains. Fun fact #2: the Catholic Church doesn't teach that either. And it doesn't say there is anything wrong with looking. So long as it is done properly and for the right reasons and in the right way.

The basic idea of respecting women is wonderful. Thumbs up for that! But the way that idea is carried out is unsatisfying, and there's a reason for that: rules only work when they're based on something and when they can be looked at for their meaning. They must have a heart. Take the Ten Commandments. Suppose I decided to doubt them. You could go through and explain why they should still be upheld, even if I wasn't a religious person. This movie is like Josh Harris's I Kissed Dating Goodbye book. It's a nice idea, but without any grounding, and it's not really clear how to do the idea either. The beauty of the Catholic Church is that it has reasons for what it teaches, it can stand on something.
But Clay can't. He has ideas about how the world works, and for the most part he's right. Then he sets up rules based on the ideas, and these result in the very thing he set out to avoid: causing suffering to a woman he loves. For some reason, this is glorified.
It's not right. It's incredibly frustrating.

Rules are good. But they need a heart, a reason, a why that matches up with the rule. The rule should produce the result the why was pointing at. Clay's don't.

My Thoughts

"Life isn't all warm fuzzies."
"It's not all rules either."

But Amber's "warm fuzzies" don't really win out in the end. In fact, she's shown as the one doing the pursuing in the entire relationship. Clay's rules win. The movie tries to propose that there was a compromise, but if you look closely at the philosophy of it, there wasn't. Not really. Those fuzzies were squashed.
I don't disagree with the rules or the value of rules, particularly in a delicate situation like this. I do disagree with their approach to dating (see this article for a very interesting write up on courting).
Think of flowers as a rule. On Valentines day, that's when and how they're properly used. Now think of flowers on any other day of the year and how nice it is to get them out of the blue, because of what they mean.

But Clay's rules drive his girlfriend to seek drunken comfort in the arms of a man she has never met. They are the reason she begs, "Send me flowers. Bring me chocolate. Tell me I'm the most beautiful woman you have ever met, even if that's not true. I need to know that you want me!"
Clay has denied her something she desperately needs, and deserves. And we're supposed to believe one candlelit evening in a grocery store at the end of the movie means he's willing to bend?
No. Because he's not. He's hurting her.

It's weird. I'm struggling to explain it. By doing everything right, more so than necessary, he's doing everything wrong. The movie was slow, boring, but sort of sweet.
Mostly though, it was frustrating. Most of my notes are arguing with the movie's philosophy, not notes on the content.
That shouldn't be the problem with this kind of movie.

Allow me to end with this. John Henry Newman, the great Anglican convert to Catholicism, spends an entire book titled An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (a 445 page "essay") reasoning through how Christianity could get to where it was in his time after what it looked like to begin with. Basically, to put 445 pages in a nutshell (and that's quite daunting task, considering the work at hand), his aim is this: using "tests", he sets out to prove that the Catholic Church is indeed what it is claiming to be, the Church of Acts (and the Gospels, and the bible, and everything else).
But in the end, even as an Anglican, and later as a Catholic, he admits that these tests (read: rules) will only get him so far. And they can't be applied blindly, or you end up with the debacle the Vincentian method lands the Anglicans in (read: a hypocritical mess).
Sometimes, you need a little faith.
Sometimes, you need to send a girl flowers when it's not Valentine's day. Give her chocolate. Tell her she's the most beautiful woman you've ever met.

Because sometimes...sometimes application of rules, tests, and the Vincentian method land you in a more confusing and unfulfilling place than when you started.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Movie Review: Unbranded

Title: Unbranded
Author: N/A
Release Date: 2015
Genre: animals, wild west, friendship, travel, true story
My Rating: ** (not because it wasn't any good, but because it barely kept my interest)
Official Rating: PG-13
Age Group: 12+

Just out of college, four buddies sharing a passion for horses, decide to do something crazy to make a point. Mustangs are great horses, they insisted. So they decided to prove it by taking sixteen mustangs (and a donkey, to spice up the unit's appearance) from border to border. That's right, Mexico to Canada. Just four guys and their wild horses. All the way across the country.

Word of Warning
  •  Swearing. At least a few uses of f*** and s***, as well as others I did not write down.
  • Horses get hurt. Nothing graphic. A few get leg injuries. One tumbles down a hill, getting a few scrapes.
  • A dead horse is shown. They guys look in its mouth, can't find the cause of death, and cut off the tail. It's disturbing to know this isn't staged, it's a real dead horse.
  • The guys fight. No blows, but lots of angry shouting and plenty of swearing.
  • Guys talk about getting drunk.
  • Mention of suffering and starving horses eating dead horses, foul trying to nurse from a dead mother.
  • This isn't really a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of. To break up the traveling, experts from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) discusses the measures being taken to keep wild mustangs populations under control. They do give screen time to people who disagree with the BLM, but using arguments they basically paint those in disagreement as wrong.

My Thoughts
I watched it because a rather skilled horseback rider told me it was a good movie and she enjoyed it. And I figured that if she liked it, experiencing what she's experienced, knowing what she knows, then it had to be realistic and good.
And it was. I think. I don't know enough in the area to be sure if it was, but it sure looked like it. I learned a lot. It was interesting.

So why the two stars? Because it was boring. Because it took me three days, not consecutive days, to finish this movie, and the last hour was finished after a long exhausting day. Also because one of the guys on the trip really annoyed me for some reason, and he was the leader. He controlled everything and lost it when others wanted to throw a little something into the journey. He had these goals he was determined to meet, but unfortunately the goals required the others to do exactly what he had planned for them to do, and when they didn't, it didn't go over well.
And as pathetic as it sounds, that, added to the lack of hook, made it hard to enjoy the movie more than two stars.

It's not a bad movie. It just wasn't a super good movie. It was an ok movie.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Super excited to welcome a new student author, reviewing, of all things, a contemporary movie which came out less than a week ago. For the future, if we do not have a review of something you're looking for, you can usually find something at Plugged In.

Title: Captain America: Civil War
Author: Marvel
Release Date: 2016
Genre: Action/Adventure, Superhero, Sci Fi, Fantasy, drama
My Rating: 4.5 Stars!!! (****)
Official Rating: PG-13
Age Group: 13&older

Helmut Zemo’s family was killed by one of the Avenger’s exploits, making him vengeful.  To try to get even, he devises a plan to tear the team from the inside, which would prove much more effective than trying to kill them himself.  When certain events happen resulting in deaths of innocent people (including the king of Wakanda), the world starts seeing Superheroes as more of a threat than a safety.  In an attempt to make things right, the United Nation’s government makes the Avengers decide between letting them govern their actions or to retire as a superhero.  The team divides themselves, with one side for the idea of the government judging whether an emergency is important enough for them to save people, and the other against.  After multiple epic battle scenes, Tony Stark finds evidence that the Avengers were framed just so they would fight each other.  Though there were multiple plots and countless twists, the Avengers managed to resolve it all without killing each other.

Word of Warning:
Swearing: Actually, not much swearing considering this is a Marvel movie.  Compared to most others, this one is pretty clean in this aspect.
Blood:  Lots of blood and gore. 
Violence:  Considering most of the movie is fighting, lots of violence.

My Thoughts:
Man.  This was a great movie.  I’d heard good things, I’d heard bad things, but nothing that prepared me to what I saw in the theater.  Sure, there was some questionable scenes where I was like, um, what just happened, but overall it was just a really good movie!  It had everything I wanted: Action, adventure, comedy, even some feels!  The fight from the inside had me on the edge of my seat, and although I was on Cap’s side, there was a couple times during the movie where I second guessed myself and thought that Iron Man had some pretty valid points with his argument.  Like any Marvel movie though, the pace was too fast and multiple times during the movie I was left with that feeling where you go, what the heck just happened, and then just forget it because the next scene is playing.  I loved how there were a lot of super heroes, ranging from Ant-Man to Spider Man to even Black Panther!  And as always, Marvel never fails to impress me with it multiple plotlines and how everything ties together at the end even though you have no idea what is going on in the middle.  This movie was really good, much better than I thought it would be.

Author Bio:
Hello!  I am a decent author, with a number of literature and writing classes under my belt.  In my free time, I like to experiment with my awesome tree power and my sweet Super Ninja Monkey Magical Dragon skills.  I have Master’s degrees in weirdness and eating sugar from the U of Me, and hopefully at least a minor in awesomeness.  Don’t know for sure about that one though.  You can find me fishing, hanging out with friends, being weird, eating sugar, practicing how to be awesome (have to take lessons), and perfecting my Super Ninja Monkey Magical Dragon.  My newest accomplishment is granting wishes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Book/Play Review: Magic

Hello all! Super excited to offer another publication by one of my students on another of our texts. The bracketed information was added by me. As you can see, she's a good concise writer. She's actually the same author as the other review I posted before. I'm glad to have her back again! Any comments will be passed along to her, so feel free to send something her way.

Title: Magic – A Fantastical Comedy
Author: G. K Chesterton
Publication Date: 1914
Genre: Play
My Rating: 4 Stars ****
Age Group: I think you should be older than 13 years old to read this. I encourage this age because some of the parts are very deep and confusing. There is also some romance and minor swearing.

The famous author G.K. Chesterton writes his first play in Magic. This entertaining story is about a magician, called the Conjurer. A woman, Patricia Carleon, finds him doing magic tricks in her garden and calls him a fairy. All of her family thinks she has gone mad. The characters in the play find out that he is actually a magician and want to know why he tricked, Patricia. You will have a thrilling ride with this play. The entertaining characters include a magician, a beautiful woman, a crazy American, a Duke and his secretary, an unreligious priest, and a philosophical doctor. 

Word of Warning:
  • Romance [nothing inappropriate]
  • Minor swearing [d***, a**]
  • Magic tricks
  • [Spoiler: a character made a pact with the devil in the past, which allowed him to use dark magic, and not just the tricks we are used to today. The character does regret this deal.]

My Thoughts:
I think that Magic is a very creative and entertaining play to read. Chesterton gives numerous views on many things while the readers or the audience are having a good laugh. I thoroughly enjoy reading and performing this play with my G.K. Chesterton Literature class.

Author Biography:
Hey! I am a budding writer that has taken numerous writing and literature classes throughout my life. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, playing chess and card games, diving, swimming, skiing, acting in plays, and hanging out with friends. When I grow older, I want to be an actor or an airplane pilot! Thank you for reading my Text Review on Magic!