Voyeurism and Violence: A Reflection on The Hunger Games

It’s not often that I find a film to be better than the book, but The Hunger Games is such a one.  It’s an effective and engaging film in its own right, well worth seeing - and it confronts the viewer with important issues about our complex relationship with violence, voyeurism, and entertainment.

The Hunger Games, based on the book by Suzanne Collins, is set in a dystopian future in which North America is divided into twelve Districts under the control of the Capitol. Each year, every District must send two Tributes, a randomly chosen boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games as a reminder of the Capitol’s power and a warning against rebellion. The story follows a girl named Katniss, who volunteers to be one of District 12’s Tributes in place of her younger sister.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Review

On paper, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” has every ingredient to be a movie I’d love.  The screenplay comes from Simon Beaufoy, who gave us amazing collaborations with Danny Boyle in “127 Hours” and “Slumdog Millionare” (for which he won an Oscar).  It is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, a Swedish filmmaker who is very adept at filmmaking as evidenced by films like “Chocolat,” "My Life As A Dog" and “The Hoax” (which I really enjoyed).  To top it off, the film has a wonderfully quirky sensibility and stars 3 very likeable and talented actors.  Still, as much as I enjoyed many pieces of the film, it left me sour on the whole.  This is a well-crafted movie that has great satire and perfect pitch humor that unfortunately gets sabotaged with a hard to believe love story, thin concept of faith, and an extremely frustrating moral resolution.

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Ewan MacGregor, Emily Blunt, and Simon Beaufoy Talk With Us About Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty) just broke one of his personal screenwriting rules: He wrote with an actor in mind. “It’s the only time in my life I’ve actually written for somebody. I learned early on in my life if you write this for ‘Robert DeNiro,’ guess what? He’s busy and he doesn’t want to come to Yorkshire for 3 weeks on no money.” But thankfully, Kristin Scott Thomas was game. In her hilarious turn in the film “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (coming out in limited release tomorrow) she plays a hard edged British press spinster on behalf of the government who is looking for a good will story in the middle east that still involves the Brits.

The film finds her pursuing this goal when she learns of a rich Sheik who wants to hire the right people to help him transport non-native fish to the desert so he can share his passion for fly-fishing.  No bombs, no threats, just rods, nylon wire and plenty of salmon.  Aiding in the Sheik’s quest is Harriet (Emily Blunt), a personal financial consultant to the Sheik, who befriends a fisheries expert by the name of Dr. Alfred Jones (Played wonderfully by an atypically straight laced Ewan McGregor).

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The Way Movie Review and DVD Giveaway!

I have always appreciated that God gave us metaphor.  If we only had literal, non-poetic interpretations of the deeds of the soul, we would lose sight of the beauty of grief, forgiveness, and little graces.  “The Way” aims to give us those little graces in its story, and for the most part it succeeds.  In the film, Martin Sheen plays the role of Tom, a man who learns early in the film that his son Daniel (played by his real life son Emilio Estevez, who also produced, wrote and directed the film) died tragically while walking the Camino Del Santiago.  The Camino Del Santiago is a pilgrimage that takes a couple months to complete by foot, and is experienced by many travelers for a variety of reasons. 

Tom walks to grieve the loss of his son Daniel, whom the film alludes to as being a man whom Tom has difficulty understanding.  While Tom attempts to walk the road in some solitude, he meets 3 additional travelers from around the world who eventually join him on his pilgrimage.  Their interactions along the journey comprise the bulk of the film as each deal with pain, artistic droughts, and addiction.

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Coming to Theaters...October Baby

Mark your calendars for March 23. That's when a new movie, October Baby, will hit movie screens.  I was able to preview the film last week and suggest you go see this one in the theater.  I'll be up front, it is a strong pro-life movie dealing head-on with abortion.  But it was powerful and compelling, without being preachy.  The message comes through loud and clear, but in a way that stirred my soul (yes, yes...I cried like 4 times -- it was intense).  And ultimately, the message is hopeful.  

It's exactly the kind of thing the pro-life movement needs more of to make a compelling argument in the broader culture.  It raises important questions like: 

  • Are there morally significant differences between an unborn baby and a newborn child?
  • Are there significant consequences for the mother who aborts her baby?
  • Is there hope and redemption for women who have had abortions?
  • How can adoption assist our pro-life efforts? 
But it raises these questions naturally, in the context of the movie's narrative, and suggests answers in the same way.  
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Act Of Valor Preview

A lot of films have been made about the military ranging from artful and thought provoking, to pure entertainment and spectacle.  Enter "Act of Valor," a film which features unheard of cooperation from active-duty Navy Seals. 

To see behind the scenes footage, click here

To see more about the involvement of the Navy Seals, click here 

Below is a synopsis on the film:

"An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, ACT OF VALOR stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a film like no other in Hollywood’s history. A fictionalized account of real life Navy SEAL operations, ACT OF VALOR features a gripping story that depicts the courage and sacrifice undertaken by these men as they protect our country from a terrorist threat. The movie takes audiences on an adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-their-seat journey."

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"The Vow" Movie Review

Imagine waking up tomorrow in a hospital bed, unsure of how you got there.  As you look up around the room, you notice several unfamiliar faces that are looking empathetically at you.  In the midst of your aching head and confusion, one of those persons says they're your spouse.  But you don’t recognize them, and you have no idea how you got there.  You just want to go back to your life as you know it and wake up from this bizarre dream.

Suppose in that old familiar life you were already engaged or even married to someone else.  Suppose you had a career in law but in your newly awoken life you were a renowned visual artist.  The amount of disorientation – a rebirth and change in your life that was unforeseen and now unrecognizable – would be staggering.  Yet, it would be true.

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Review: The Grey

Joe Carnahan’s The Grey is the first truly great 2012 release. Which is surprising. I didn’t expect all that much from it, thinking it might just be a typical “angry Liam Neeson” action film. But wow is it more than that.

Ostensibly a “been there done that” narrative (survivors of a plane crash in the harsh environs of remote Alaska try to stay alive), The Grey adds impressive layers of depth to what might otherwise just be a serviceable action thriller.

Neeson leads a band of seven survivors when a plane full of oil drillers crashes in the wintry, impossible wilderness of Alaska. From there, the movie could essentially be called Man vs. Wild. Or, more appropriately: Man vs. Wolves. There are wolves everywhere, and they are territorial and hungry. They like killing humans. And, one by one, they savagely pick off the band of plane crash survivors, stalking them mercilessly with those big, bad, glow-in-the-dark eyes.

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The Cast and Filmmakers of "The Vow" Talk With Conversant Life!

When a Hollywood studio options the rights of a book to make into a movie, fans of said book get nervous. And rightly so – how many adaptations have we seen in the past where things go from grand and glorious, to botched and reworked?

So, when I had the chance to learn more about the film “The Vow” (due out this Friday), I learned that fans of couple Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, whose lives and book inspired the film, will be in for a potentially unpleasant surprise: Screenwriters Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn have never read the book. They just got some ambiguous direction. “They (the studio) really said ‘a couple, they’re married, a crash, she doesn’t remember him.’” So naturally, we are in for rough waters, right?

But for “The Vow,” the filmmakers were intent on making a compelling narrative inspired by true events, not based on true events. Said Kohn, “I’d prefer that. It leaves us free to create whatever we think would make the most of that dramatic situation. Whatever characters we want to create, whatever past we want to have for them, we can invent. I think that left us free to create something that we felt best served that.” After all, there are some book adaptations that are so faithful that they lose sight of the possibilities given the medium of film.

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The Vision of Literary Apologetics

Why is apologetics, the defense of the Christian faith, important?

In one sense, Christianity needs no defense. God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, does not depend for His existence on our belief. However, many people who do not know the living God are separated from Him in part by intellectual obstacles. Removing those obstacles by showing that Christianity indeed makes sense on a rational level is an act of love and care for our neighbor. Defending the faith also builds up a strong foundation for believers. A securely built house has a solid, well-built foundation, so that the vagaries of wind and weather don’t damage it or cause distress to the inhabitants. It’s natural to have questions and doubts - think of the disciples, asking Jesus “increase our faith!” or the man who cries out “Lord, I believe: help my unbelief!” Apologetics helps strengthen the foundations by providing answers to questions and doubts, so that the Christian can grow stronger in his or her faith.

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