10. We’re so fiercely independent that the only thing we need to be happy… is a man.
Post-second wave feminist romantic comedies rely on the Sheryl Sandberg boilerplate: upper-middle class, successful career woman with an impossibly huge apartment in big city stuffed with everything she could ever want. (See: Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven.) The genre gives the image one slight twist: our heroine is secretly one step away from cultivating her very own cat collection. (See: Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.) True to Hollywood fashion, who better than the big, strong male superhero to fly in to save the day?
The much-anticipated movie ‘Heaven is for Real’ is set to open in movie theaters on Wednesday. The book tells the story of Colton Burpo, a little boy who claimed he visited heaven during a near-death experience.
“Heaven tourism” books have proliferated Christian best-seller lists in recent years, but are the accounts authentic, fictional, based on hallucinations, or something else? Moreover, do they comport with the Bible’s descriptions of heaven and the afterlife?
Pastor and author David Platt says no.
He describes ’Heaven is for Real’ as “A fanciful account of a four-year-old boy who talks about how he went to heaven and got a halo and wings, but he didn’t like them because they were too small. He claims that he sat on Jesus’ lap while angels sang to him,” Platt said. “He even met the Holy Spirit, whom he describes as ‘kind of blue.’
Platt said that “There is money to be made in peddling fiction about the afterlife as non-fiction in the Christian publishing world today” and “The whole premise behind every single one of these books is contrary to everything God’s word says about heaven,” including their “relentless self-focus.”
According to Platt, “Scripture definitely says that people do not go to heaven and come back. ‘Who has ascended to heaven and come down?’ (Proverbs 30:4). Answer: ‘No one has ascended into heaven except he who has descended from heaven — the Son of Man’” (John 3:13).
“Four biblical authors had visions about heaven and wrote about what they saw: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul and John,” Platt said. “All of them were prophetic visions, not near-death experiences. Not one person raised from dead in the Old Testament or the New Testament ever wrote down what he or she experienced in heaven, including Lazarus, who had a lot of time in a grave — four days.”
But all of the biblical authors agree perfectly: “Their visions are all fixated on the glory of God which defines heaven and illuminates everything there. They are overwhelmed, chagrined, petrified, and put to silence by the sheer majesty of God’s holiness.” Platt said that notably missing from all the biblical accounts are “the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominate every account of heaven currently on the bestseller list.”
He said we need to “minimize the thoughts of man and magnify, trust — let’s bank our lives and our understanding of the future on — the truth of God.” He said that rather than relying on traditions, we should depend on the word of God. “There’s too much at stake in our lives and others’ lives for that.”
Disney’s animated hit Frozen has turned into quite the phenomenon. The film, starring the voice talents of Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, recently passed the billion dollar mark in worldwide box office. It has become the highest grossing animated movie of all time and entered the top ten among films overall.
The Walt Disney Studios’ seventh billion-dollar release, “Frozen” has earned an estimated $398.4 million at the domestic box office and $674 million internationally.
“Frozen” is the first billion-dollar film for Walt Disney Animation Studios and its first film to receive the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature. “Frozen” opened wide domestically on November 27, 2013, posting the #1 all-time Thanksgiving debut ($93.6M five-day, $67.4M three-day) and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ biggest opening ever. It remained in the top 10 films at the domestic box office for 16 consecutive weeks, the longest run by any film since 2002.
Other records that Frozen has claimed include:
- The biggest Thanksgiving debut weekend.
- The biggest debut weekend for a Disney film.
- The highest grossing Disney or Pixar film in 27 countries, including Russia, China, and Brazil.
- The highest grossing foreign film in South Korea.
- The highest grossing animated film in Venezuela and Denmark.
- The fastest selling home video in digital format.
In its first day, Frozen sold 3.2 million DVDs and Blu-Rays. Additionally, the soundtrack has topped the Billboard 200 charts for seven nonconsecutive weeks, selling 1.6 million copies along with 5 million individual track downloads. The soundtrack has also approaching 110 million streams worldwide on Spotify. The movie’s hit song “Let It Go” won an Oscar for writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Menzel’s version of the song has reached #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 as of last week, selling 2.6 million copies and besting by far the “pop” version by Demi Lovato, which only reached #38. The video of the song’s sequence from the film has garnered over 166 million views on YouTube.
What other records are left to break? With a track record like this in just a few months, we can safely bet that Frozen will join the pantheon of Disney classics.
Darren Aronofsky’s take on the classic tale of Noah is the Jewish guy’s Bible movie. The narrative, which does remain true to the textual account of Genesis, is crafted in the style akin to a scholarly drash. In another lifetime you might imagine this story to have been generated by a minyan of Talmud scholars poring over the story in their classes. Perhaps that is why the Christian audience has reacted so poorly to the film; it is not, in the words of Walter Hudson, told “from a Christian theological standpoint.” The audience is treated to a wrestling, not recounting, of the text for two very good reasons: A four-chapter story would make for a very short film and Aronofsky, for however religious he may or may not be at the moment, is most definitely 100% a Jew.
Aronofsky’s Noah remains, first and foremost, a story of redemption as it was interpreted thousands of years ago when paired with Haftarah portions in Isaiah (42-43 and 54-55) for the weekly Torah reading. Like the patriarch Jacob, Noah wrestles with God: the battle is a question of original sin and free will. Redemption, Aronofsky illustrates, is a choice entered into by covenant with God. It is not simply a no-strings-attached gift granted to perfectly bad people by a perfectly good looking guy who tests well with focus groups.
Contrary to most Bible epics, a faceless, voiceless God communicates His redemptive plan to Noah through the Biblically prophetic device of a metaphoric dream. “You must trust that He speaks to you in a way you understand,” Noah’s grandfather Methuselah advises. Reminiscent of the Tanakh prophecy “your old men will see visions, your young men will dream dreams,” Aronofsky engages Noah with his aged, wise grandfather, who advises him of Enoch’s prophecy that God would, one day, annihilate the world by fire.
Mega spoiler alert regarding the new Liam Neeson flick Non-Stop via Breitbart. Stop reading now if you’d like to be surprised when you go to the theater to see Lady Mary on the big screen.
The hero of the movie about a plane being hijacked is an observant Muslim.
Wait, it gets better.
The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.
It gets worse…
After 9/11, this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.
The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.
It gets worse…
The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.
It gets worse…
The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.
Screw you, Hollywood.
Wikipedia’s summary of the film had a kinder, gentler, more bureaucratic approach to the biased plotline:
…as soldiers who were appalled by the lack of security at U.S. airports before 9/11, they hoped that framing [Neeson] as a terrorist will lead to drastically increased security.
Great. A propaganda film that uses the American military to advocate for the increased empowerment of the TSA. What next? A film featuring American soldiers deployed on the edge of the communist world spending their precious time dressing up in drag, defending gay rights on base? (Cue musical number Springtime for Obama.)
As bizarre as it may seem, the plotline of Non Stop shouldn’t come as a surprise. Liam Neeson, the film’s star, has been contemplating converting to Islam since filming Taken 2 in Istanbul in 2012:
Movie star Liam Neeson has admitted he’s afraid to convert to Islam because of how locals in his home town would take it.
The Northern Irish actor thinks Islam “is the answer” after experiencing the Muslim call to prayer while filming Taken 2 in Istanbul.
But the 61-year-old doesn’t want to go all the way because people in Ballymena, Co Antrim, may be annoyed with his decision.
…“It wouldn’t go down very well in Ballymena.
“They would say to me, ‘You’re a Muslim? Are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim?’ ”
Perhaps he’ll be able to answer that question in Non Stop 2. Having edged out Son of God for top rating at the box office this weekend, it doesn’t look like the blatantly anti-American tone will disappear anytime soon, despite the lackluster ratings. Casting suggestion for the sequel: Katy Perry as the flight attendant demonstrating an appropriate use of a Muslim pendant as a non-blasphemous work-wardrobe accessory. It’d be nice to see her cover up for a change.
In his review of Inside Llewyn Davis, Andrew Klavan asks, “What did I miss?” It is a question I fear many in my generation will be asking as they approach the new Coen Brothers film about a folksinger from Greenwich Village. Inside Llewyn Davis lacks the clever plot twists of early hits like Miller’s Crossing, the dark psyche of Barton Fink, and the enjoyable supporting characters of The Big Lebowski. But, no two Coen Brothers movies are ever alike; in fact, to appreciate them as auteurs one must have a predilection for the unique versus the familiar.
This is probably why the few folk singers who remain from those early Village days sound off like cranky seniors in a nursing home, demanding that the Coens’ film knows nothing about the way things really were, contrary to the first-hand memory of T. Bone Burnett who was consulted in the recreation of the infamous Manhattan neighborhood circa 1961. But, everyone’s memory is different, as are their motivations. Jim Glover, half of the real-life folk duo Jim and Jean, used local newspaper coverage to snort at the film before diving into various half-baked conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination, the NSA, and the insistence that the F.B.I. kept him under surveillance in the 1950s because his father was a “fellow traveler” (code term for Communist sympathizer).
While leftist politics were a definite influence on the Greenwich scene, folks looking for Reds on the big screen will be as disappointed as those believing the film to be nothing but a glorified biopic of “Mayor of MacDougal Street” Dave Van Ronk and his cohorts. Tongue-in-cheek commentary on the leftist class structure typical to the folk music scene does more to motivate plot and character development than dig into the movement’s intellectual and political underpinnings. In fact, it is Llewyn’s struggle with culture that feeds his musical genius; he is neither uptown intellectual nor downtown middle class. While he’s willing to thumb his way from New York to Chicago to meet an agent, he is unwilling to compromise his artistic vision for commercial success.
Matt Damon recently sat down with The Guardian to promote his sci-fi social justice thriller Elysium. The article notes that Damon “has been a passionate public supporter of Barack Obama and is confident that his healthcare reforms will rescue America from the iniquities Elysium dramatises.”
But at the time of the interview, Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations had just emerged and Damon experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance as he tried to absorb the fact that his beloved liberal president was spying on American citizens and perhaps infringing on civil liberties. ”It just seems to have taken this weird, Orwellian turn. It’s surreal. I don’t know where we are now.” Damon is probably a bit edgy about the NSA sniffing around his phone records.
Trying to reconcile the competing narratives of Obama as hero and villain, Damon offered a possible explanation:
“I think it’s tough for guys who weren’t in the military,” he says. “One, their manhood is kind of challenged on some level, I imagine, and they allow themselves to get bullied. And two, they’re just politically afraid of either looking soft or looking incompetent, so they overcompensate.”
Damon might be onto something with his overcompensation theory. A Cornell researcher actually did find that men overcompensate when their masculinity is threatened. He found that “ if you made men more insecure about their masculinity, they displayed more homophobic attitudes, tended to support the Iraq war more and would be more willing to purchase an SUV over another type of vehicle.” The study also discovered that ”masculinity-threatened men also reported feeling more ashamed, guilty, upset and hostile than did masculinity-confirmed men.”
Fast and the Furious 6 just came out — and, according to the Wall Street Journal, it made a “record holiday haul” with $316m in sales. Part six of the series broke all prior Memorial Day weekend box-office records. I applaud Fast and its success — especially since it revolves around a topic that some people, WSJ included, consider a “niche topic,” and not necessarily interesting to a large swath of the population. I disagree. I like to believe that Americans are still car-lovers and that automotive movies are not “niche topics.” For starters, look at the box-office record for Memorial Day that a car moviejust shattered and, second, take a peek at some of our favorites from the silver screen. Many of the “classics” involve cars. Still a niche topic? Here are some of the best car movies out there, proving the critics wrong.
Note: they are in no particular order and I didn’t put anything on the list that I had not seen — even if I knew it was a classic. Add your favorites if they were not included. We all love a good car movie on a Sunday night.
As a general rule, it’s all fine and good for a comedian to be funny-looking. Zach Galifianakis is not only funny-looking, he’s hilarious-looking: He could be the lonely love child of Chewbacca and Rosie O’Donnell. But Zach G’s big problem is that, after four years in the spotlight as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after comedy stars, he still has nothing else going for him but the way he looks.
Here are five reasons it’s time to stick a fork in this meatball of an actor.
1) He Keeps Doing the Same Shtick.
Galifianakis is forever playing the same strange, foolhardy egomaniac whether in the three Hangover movies, Due Date,or The Campaign. In the completely unnecessary sequel The Hangover Part III he takes over starring duties as Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms step aside. But a little of Zach goes a long way.
Among his big moments are the one where the dudes are looking at a doll house modeled after the real house they’re about to break into to steal $20 million worth of gold and Galifianakis says, “We’re not gonna break into this house, right? This house is too small.” No one is that stupid, sorry.
Baz Luhrmann’s splashy, extravagant, highly watchable 3-D remake of The Great Gatsby is certainly a vast improvement on the lackluster 1974 Robert Redford movie, but those hoping for a classic adaptation worthy of the Great American Novel are going to be disappointed. Here are five ways Luhrmann’s Gatsby could have been great.
5. A Better Lead Actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t an accomplished performer and his screen magnetism was largely linked to his boyish appeal. Now that’s gone, and nothing more interesting has come along to take its place. DiCaprio can’t convincingly play anguish, nor can he seem physically threatening (a scene in which he nearly comes to blows with Joel Edgerton, who plays his romantic rival Tom Buchanan, is almost laughable; Edgerton could flatten DiCaprio without even trying).
A better choice would have been Johnny Depp, who, like Gatsby, came from nowhere (Kentucky in the case of the actor, North Dakota in the case of the screen character) or Christian Bale, who has already showcased his ability to play the charming playboy in the Batman movies. It would have been a natural fit: Batman is basically Gatsby with a cape.
The fifth and final Twilight movie opened to an outstanding $141.3 million this weekend, though that wasn’t quite enough to set a new record for the popular franchise. Meanwhile, Skyfall had another strong weekend and Lincoln over-performed in its nationwide debut; as a result, the Top 12 earned around $237 million, which makes this the sixth-highest-grossing weekend ever.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2′s estimated $141.3 million ranks eighth all-time and fourth in 2012 behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. Among Twilight movies, it wound up slightly ahead of predecessor Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138.1 million), but a tad below New Moon’s franchise-best $142.8 million. This makes Twilight the first franchise ever to have three movies earn over $130 million in their first three days.
While this is undeniably a fantastic debut, there’s a nagging feeling it should have done slightly better given the movie’s finale status; past franchise finales like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge of the Sith easily had the best debuts for their series. At least Twilight didn’t see much, if any, audience attrition, which is a rare thing for most franchises.
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