Tag Archives: theology

Machine Gun Preacher – Review

25 Aug

There are some stories that are just begging to be adapted into movies, and some of these examples come from real life events. One of these stories is the life and work of a man named Sam Childers, who gave up his life of crime after finding religion and begin working and defending children in the Sudan whose lives have been uprooted by civil war. That sounds like a movie just begging to be made. Well, it was made, titled Machine Gun Preacher, and released back in 2011. With source material like that, nothing could have went wrong. Unfortunately, a lot did go wrong, and while this is a competent movie in some regards, there’s so much tedious and annoying aspects that bring it way down.

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After being released from prison, Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) quickly falls back into a life of drug use and crime. It isn’t until he almost kills a man that he asks his wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan), to help him. This prompts her to expose Sam to religion and the redemption that is has to offer. After being accepted by the faith, Sam learns of the tragedies happening in Sudan and quickly makes the trip to Africa to help in any way he can. After seeing the horrors first hand, Sam, with the help of his newfound friend Deng (Souléymane Sy Savané), opens up an orphanage to help all of the children affected by the violence in the region. This is an almost impossible task with the LRA constantly attacking from all ends, which forces Sam to take up arms and fight the LRA with his own brand of justice.

With real life source material, where could this movie possibly go wrong. This sounded like an amazing story of heroism that was being done by a seemingly normal guy with a seedy past. There are some positive things in this movie that are memorable. For one thing, it shines a glaring light on events happening in Africa that, at the time the movie was getting made, was not getting nearly enough attention. It also has some very well done scenes. One scene in particular shows Sam Childers arriving in a village that has been completely destroyed with all the people murdered. This is a chilling scene that works very well, and it shows some really impressive acting chops from Gerard Butler. Unfortunately, these scenes are really few and far between, with everything else being pretty derivative and, towards the end, angering.

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While the story of this movie is incredible, and the real life Childers is certainly one of a kind, I have to look at the movie as a movie and not as a document of real life. That being said, there have been movies like this made before, but made better. The idea of people from a more well to do area being dropped in another area that is a complete war zone only to have them change by the experience has been explored in multiple movies. One of my favorite examples of this is the highly underrated film, The Bang Bang Club. This is the same kind of story arc with Machine Gun Preacher, and while it does have its own unique elements, a lot of the drama felt like it was ripped from a text book, and devoid of any actual emotion. By the end of the movie, and throughout all the ups and downs, I never really felt like I connected at all with Childers, the people who worked with him, or his family and friends. The only character I felt any kind of emotion towards was Michael Shannon’s character. That may be because I’m a huge fan of Shannon, but I also think his character was used just right and written very well.

Finally, I have to talk about the character of Sam Childers himself. Now, I’m not going to claim I know anything about the guy, other than what I saw in the movie. I didn’t do any research on him, so I can only speak about how he’s portrayed in the film. At first, I was into his character and behind his mission 100%. As the movie went on however, he just got more and more annoying and aggravating. The decisions he was making in Africa mixed with the way he was treating his family just got to be way too much. It’s pretty typical in a movie like this for a character to reach low points, but these low points happened at a really weird time and made the rest of the movie almost unwatchable, just because I hated how over the top they made Childers’ personality change. It’s hard to enjoy a movie when the main character becomes so unlikable.

Machine Gun Preacher had the potential to be a lot better than it actually was. The story of Sam Childers giving up his life of crime to go to Africa and save orphans from the LRA sounds ripe to the taking. Unfortunately, the movie became too clichéd too fast, the drama failed to hit as hard as it should have, and the character of Childers became very unlikable towards the end of the movie. I really wanted to like this movie, but it just really didn’t do it for me.

 

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The Seventh Sign – Review

1 Sep

Movies about the impending apocalypse can be really cool, especially when the story is immersed in literature from all sorts of religions. It’s a cool way of seeing some pretty odd beliefs about what’s to come, but all still really interesting. For Christians, it’s the coming of the Anti-Christ, which has been done very well in films like The Omen. But, hey, we’re not talking about that movie. Not yet, anyway. Today, I’m looking at a movie that I never heard of before a little while ago, The Seventh Sign. While this movie does have a cool premise and is deeply rooted in the beliefs of Christians and Jews to weave an intricate story, it’s just so so so so so boring.

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In the year 1988, signs of the apocalypse foretold thousands of years ago begin happening, like earthquakes, blood moons, and rivers turning into blood. Meanwhile, Abby Quinn (Demi Moore), a mild mannered woman desperately worried about her unborn son’s survival, is trying hard to remain optimistic along with her husband Russell (Michael Biehn). With Russell’s trial of a mentally challenged man convicted of murdering his parents going down the drain and the possibility of a baby on the way, the couple decides to rent out a room to a mysterious traveller (Jürgen Prochnow). The traveller brings a lot of strange occurrences to the Quinns, which lead to more signs of man kind’s impending doom. What Abby doesn’t realize is that her life and her unborn child’s life means a lot more to humanity than she could possibly imagine.

This sounds like it could be a pretty cool movie about the mythology that surrounds passages from different religious texts, and it really should’ve been. In fact, there were some pretty neat scenes in The Seventh Sign. Unfortunately, for every one of those cool scenes, there was three boring ones and at least one obnoxiously ludicrous one to follow. This includes one of the most unbelievably outlandish flashback sequences that nearly ruined the entire movie for me. It’s fine to add some twists, turns, or revelations, but don’t make them quite this stupid.

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But, you know, I can deal with some laughably stupid things in a movie if everything else makes up for it. Like the story for instance? Maybe? Nope. It baffles me how such a cool concept for a movie could be so mind numbingly boring. I stopped this movie several times to do something else, and then had to force myself to continue. The movie is a brisk hour and a half but it feels so much longer since the plot is absolutely devoid of any mystery or suspense. That’s also baffling considering that there’s a huge mystery at the center of the plot. All of the actually cool parts of this movie like the murder trial weaving into the apocalyptic tale would bolster the movie even more if the result was satisfying. Instead, the movie just sort of ends and that’s that.

It almost hurts saying that this is a bad movie, because it was really close. Demi Moore’s performance was very believable and I would’ve really rooted for her to succeed if I felt like the movie was engaging me even a little bit. Michael Biehn and John Taylor were also spot on, but Jürgen Prochnow unfortunately didn’t really do anything despite how important his character is. That is one of the biggest aspects of the film that had potential and was wasted by a screenplay that was trying so hard to be way more complex and mysterious than it actually was.

The Seventh Sign is a movie that has so much wasted potential, it makes me wanna puke. There are a handful of scenes and plot points that are so interesting and unique that are thrown away for a much more generic story that has been done before except a hell of a lot better. The Book of Revelations and the end of the universe is full of things that could make a movie great, but this isn’t one of those movies. This one is a stinker that made me wish I was watching The Seventh Seal or The Omen.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose – Review

9 May

Believe in it or not, the concept of being possessed and needing some sort of holy man drive whatever all fiction has taken hold of your being is a pretty bizarre and terrifying. When The Exorcist was released in 1973, people were blown through the theatre walls and it was called one of, if not, the scariest films ever made. Now, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will see an exorcism movie at least once a year. They have become a dime a dozen. In 2005, when The Exorcism of Emily Rose was released, this wasn’t yet the case, making this movie an original and surprisingly dramatic piece of film making about innocence, morality, and personal beliefs.

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Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is charged with criminal negligence in the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), a nineteen year old girl believed to have been possessed and put under the care of Father Moore. Defending him is a rising star lawyer, Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), who is an agnostic who is only taking the job to get her name on the law firm and establish herself as an accomplished defense lawyer. Through a series of flashbacks and witness recounts, the story of Emily Rose is slowly put together, and Bruner’s beliefs are tested when what she thought was real melts away with this supernatural possibilities taking over her life.

The first thing that really sticks out about The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the depth that this story is willing to go.  The focal point of the story could have easily been the exorcism itself, and filled with really crazy exorcism scenes  which would have helped in selling tickets and surging the audience’s adrenaline. Instead, Scott Derrikson chose to take a more dramatic approach which really forces the audiences to think about their own beliefs and open their minds up to greater possibilities than what they really think is true. The same thing can sort of be said about The Last Exorcism, but that movie got to be so overblown by the end, I wasn’t really doing any introspection.

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Still though, the scenes that did show Emily Rose and her possession were top notch horror. Jennifer Carpenter gives an absolutely outstanding performance both vocally and physically. A lot of the vocals are created in post production with audio layering, but when she contorts her body in all the crazy positions that we see, it’s just her. Even something as simple as a hand gesture is stiffened and gives off this really creepy vibe that is necessary in movies like this. These scenes are also very important in ensuring that the more drama oriented court room scenes have some points of reference and really balance out the movie.

The scenes in the courtroom are also really good, but do suffer from some heavy handed dialogue and some acting that is just a little off from some of the more minor characters. Even some of the main characters like Bruner and Father Moore have some over the top dialogue that wouldn’t have worked if the actors saying them weren’t as serious and into their roles like Linney and Wilkinson. Hearing them sometimes would pull me out of the movie and make me think, “no one would actually say that.” What is cool about these scenes is that they don’t fall into pits of cliches and the proceedings can be pretty unpredictable. The ending is so unpredictable that I still don’t really buy it, and it would have been better for the writers to stick a bit closer to the actual history.

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose wasn’t so much an entertaining movie as it was an intellectually engaging one. That seems sort of odd to say about a movie that is about an exorcism, but again, this was before the time that one was pretty much release every year. It’s more than just a courtroom drama and an exorcism movie. It’s a clever combination of the two that will force the viewer to look inside themselves and see what they actually believe. Any movie that can shake someone up so much has to be good, and that’s what this movie is. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a genuinely good movie.