Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rango - Movie Review - Maybe not for children

Rango is a movie about a suicidal chameleon that gets lost in the desert. He is a pet chameleon that fights boredom in his glass habitat by acting out scenes of chivalry and bravery. He is the director of these "plays" and gives insight to the inanimate objects that surround his abode. The scene changes abruptly when the car he is being transported in, runs into an armadillo and throws the chameleon and his tank into the burning asphalt of a road in the middle of a desert. The sun blazes and we begin hearing the songs of these little Mexican owls that sing throughout the movie speaking of the chameleon's certain death. The chameleon speaks with the armadillo roadkill who points the way to the nearest town. On the way he meets a possum type animal with a western dress and red curly hair. Her name is Beans. He then enters the cantina and decides to use his acting skills to play a tough guy. The chameleon has no name and chooses to call himself Rango when a crowd at the local "cantina" asks for his name. He gets the name from a bottle that says "Durango". The town is going through a drought and water is a precious commodity. Rango is made sheriff by the mayor after he accidentally kills the hawk that has been trying to eat him for a while now. As sheriff he leads a posse to figure out why there is no water. There are several high speed chases, and the animation is incredible. Maybe a bit too incredible. The creatures featured in this movie are very realistic looking and are a bit scary. All the animals look scruffy and dirty and some have very crude manners. Throughout the whole movie I was super thirsty due to how dusty and parched the whole scenery is. I was also a bit concerned with the mention of "cajones" and "huevos" several times. (In case you do not know, these are Spanish slang names for a specific male body part). There is a also very aggressive and violent snake that uses the word "damn" and the word "hell" is used three times by other characters. A desert toad looking thing also says "son of a b-" but the hawk shrieks to block out the ending of that word. There is also some racial stereotypes towards Mexicans and American Indians that are not funny. There is drinking, smoking and chewing of tobacco.

Overall, the animation was incredible and very detailed. The plot was a bit overused and didn't provide anything new and fresh. A neat aspect about the movie is that the actor's who played the voices of the characters not only provided their voices, but also acted out the scenes, including dressing up in western wear.
Rango is rated PG, but I believe due to its innuendos, stereotypes, scary characters, and language it should have a higher rating. This movie was marketed towards children, but I find that a child would be bored due to its lagging dialogs and maybe a bit scared by these "tortured" creatures. Also the foul language is inappropriate.

Running Time: 107 minutes

My Rating: 2 stars out of 10 - I only gave it that high of a rating because of the animation
Rami's Rating: 5 stars out of 10

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The British nation, no. The Chinese nation, no. The Imagination yes!

I can remember clearly in the original movie Miracle on 34th Street when Santa, played by actor Edmund Gwenn, told little Susan "You've heard of the British nation, and the Chinese nation, but have you heard of the Imagination?". What a beautiful movie! Santa then lead little Susan into a whole imagination escapade of dreams, thoughts and using something we as adults forget we can also use. Like in the Polar Express, we cannot hear the bell ring anymore. There have been countless of movies depicting the loss of the imagination, the loss of innocence, and the dwindling of child-like confidence, humility and faith. But what does this mean to the Christian? In the book of Matthew (19:14), Jesus takes special account of the children that seem to be disturbing everyone else. He tells the disciples to let them come to Him and adds that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these or to those that are like children. In the same gospel (18:3-4), Jesus says that no one can enter Heaven unless he or she becomes like a child. Although Paul later talks about not thinking like a child and putting away childish things (I Corinthians 13:11), I believe Jesus is on a different playing field than Paul is in. I believe Paul is talking more about maturing mentally and maybe even allowing our attitude to mature when it comes to rules and restrictions, while Jesus speaks of children and for us to be like them spiritually and in faith. Jesus means we should have faith and awestruck love towards our Father, as a healthy child loves a loving earthly father. I know that many of us did not have that love shown to us by our fathers and that a picture of a loving Father is difficult to draw up in our minds and spirits. One thing all children do have though is an imagination. The imagination is something every child innately carries whether they are abused or loved. We would quickly play pretend with anything in sight. Whether we played with sticks and dirt or with Barbies and GI Joes, our imagination brought to us a world limited only by our minds. Our natural curiosity brought forth adventures on the moon, or in a wolf packed wilderness, or in the wild west. We fought trolls, bears, Ken's new girlfriend and even faced our own fears. Most of the time we were victorious and most of the time, bath time or sleep time came too soon. Like a ravenous thief, sleep became our enemy. Now it seems that sleep is more of my best friend! Unfortunately, sooner or later we utilized our imagination less and less. We may use it to plan an event or to decorate a room, but it isn't that release that it used to be or that bringer of joy. Like Walt Disney quotes "why do we have to grow up?".

With this, I want to bring up something different regarding the imagination. We can easily forget that the imagination is given to us by God. God intentionally gave us the capacity to use our minds to pretend and make things up. Unlike animals, we are created creative beings. Jesus tells us to be like children and one thing a child encompasses is the imagination. Incorporating the imagination while we pray or meditate can sound child like and frankly it is. When we pray for a sick loved one, next time try imagining them lying on their bed and then Jesus coming over and placing His hand on their head praying for him/her. When you pray invite Jesus to sit next to you and imagine Him doing so and praying with you. There is nothing wrong with this because you are utilizing something God gave you in the first place to worship and commune with Him.

As I have been practicing meditation this month I have learned to clear my mind of all my troubles and imagine something that reminds me of Jesus. With the problems in my life, the cross has been the image I have my mind paint. I pray and focus on Jesus suffering for me and showing me how much He loves me. I see his battered body and his silent tears. I see him crucified and from the cross He whispers how much He loves me and He comforts me from there. I then see the cross empty and blood soaked. I look at that empty cross and know that I have a Savior that not only died for me, but who also vanquished any darkness that has enveloped me. And that no matter what I am going through, my God is in control and loves me. All my troubles seem to melt away when I can see Jesus in my mind's eye go through the motions of the crucifixion. I will be alright. The empty cross I imagine is a beacon that comforts me through my turmoil. So many times I have imagined taking my problems off my back and giving them to Jesus. When I pray, I imagine Jesus helping take my "baggage" from me and then having Him deal with it. The weightlessness afterward is almost always tangible. I feel lighter and more free.

I am learning to use my imagination. It is a learning process. Sometimes people or certain scenes come to mind while I pray. Those people that come to my mind I immediately say a prayer for them and then let them know that I am praying for them. Nine times out ten, they needed the prayer and are grateful. Before we were given the go-ahead to leave to Kentucky, I remember meditating and a beautiful picture entered my mind. Before I knew it, I was swinging on the front porch swing at our Kentucky home feeling the warmth of the sun. Where had that image come from? I believe my Lord places that beautiful scene in my mind and that I would have missed it, had I not learned to sit still and use my imagination. It was at that moment that I new God would answer our prayers and we would leave for Kentucky. God utilized my imagination to speak and comfort me.

When I use my imagination in my spiritual life I feel closer to my Savior. I see Him smile at me and I experience resting my head on His chest. I don't just feel Him there, I SEE Him there in my mind. My relationship has grown deeper just because He isn't just some being out there that just spins the world in motion and could care less for us lesser beings. He's real. He's there. He's mine.

Using the word "imagination" might bring a levity that you may not want in a solemn and serious prayer life. But what is in our mind is something that man can never attain or take away. Like when the priest in The Count Of Monte Cristo offered Edmond knowledge in return for his help. Edmond naively says that the Priest offers freedom, but the Priest responds: "Freedom can be taken away. What I offer, cannot be taken away." In the United States we have seen slowly how our rights can be taken away. Our right to pray in school, to say "Merry Christmas", to life. All these rights and much more can be taken away. What better time to utilize what man cannot remove. Our right to know, our right to think, our right to imagine. Even if they say that in school I cannot "pray", they cannot enter my mind. I can pray continuously all day long and they wouldn't know! I can bring Jesus with me in my mind and they wouldn't know. They don't have to know. All that matters to Him is that I know. 

I love living in the American nation. I love the United States and what it truly stands for, but in the Imagination is where I see my Savior.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

At the Cross

This is a drawing my son made when he was about 6 years old. I just can't get over the feeling behind his drawing. It is just a perfect presentation of Jesus crucified. He has placed lightning bolts around the top of Jesus and using his own spelling words writes  "forgive them father" although being only 6 he does misspell some words.

He used colored pencils to make this drawing and he tells me that is what he most remembered from a cartoon on Jesus that we bought him. He remembered that Jesus forgave those that nailed Him to the cross.

This is a close up of his drawing. I just love the representation. You can visibly see the crown of thorns on Jesus' head and the blood on his arms, body, head and feet. The lightning added a whole different perspective. The picture feels more powerful with the lightning surrounding the cross. It feels like it is more towards the end and Jesus is triumphant because He has overcome the pain of thecross.

I am very proud of the young artist my son is turning out to be. And his drawing  has really pulled at my heart strings. As Protestant Christians I think we try really hard not to portray Jesus' death on the cross symbolically. The crosses we wear around our necks usually contain an empty cross. That is all well because the resurrection is the highlight of Christianity. But we must remember that the resurrection is just as important as the crucifixion. I honestly wish we would remember the crucifixion more. Because it is at the cross that we identify more with Jesus as we go through our sufferings. It is at the cross that we see our value and the cost for our salvation. It is at the cross where love is expressed completely. Because it is at the cross that He laid down His life for those He loved.

Gnomeo and Juliet - Movie Review

The movie title Gnomeo and Juliet makes it very obvious what this movie is about.  It is an animated comical version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

In the movie there are the Red Gnomes and the Blue Gnomes that hate each other. They live on opposite sides of a yard and only a picket fence separates these family rivals. The movie opens with a small gnome with a huge hat making fun of the fact that - YES! in fact - this is another re-making of Romeo and Juliet.

The gnomes come to life once their owners look away and that is when they begin fighting each other and sabotaging the other's gardens. There are some very funny characters like a fountain frog and a pink plastic flamingo, but the movie is very predictable. There a couple of funny scenes and some adult humor also. In one scene the frog (which is a girl) asks Juliet how big is it, Juliet then goes "oh his hat". She goes on to elaborate that it's the color blue. Which is the worst thing imaginable because Juliet is a Red.

There is also a half naked little gnome that pops up here and there. He is wearing a thong and his booty cheeks appear to be sunburned. I am not sure what the purpose of him is, if not just for laughs. This little gnome, like the pink flamigo, has a latin accent. The little thong gnome does skip around and sings in Spanish "Tengo un bonito par de coconuts" which translated means "I have a pretty pair of coconuts". Not sure if I was offended by that, but the kids didn't seem to get it, they just laughed because his bottom was exposed.

Another important piece of information is that Elton John is in the musical score. Also, when the frog falls in love with one of the gnomes as it sings to her, she invisions the gnome wearing Elton John attire and wearing Elton John's famous style in sun glasses.

Overall the I give the movie 5 out of 10 stars. SPOILER ALERT: Although the movie doesn't end in the tragedy that Romeo and Juliet is infamous for, it does emphasize that love is worth fighting for. It does touch upon the power of forgiveness and how vengence can lead to destruction. My son Rami gives it an 8 out of 10 stars and my daughter Sofi slept through the whole movie, so I don't think she has an opinion.

By the way - Apparently I have to pay for a children's ticket when I am taking a toddler of 2 1/2. I didn't know that.

I wouldnt go out and spend 20 dollars for the family to watch this movie. I would wait for the movie to come out on DVD or rent it at a RedBox.

Movie is rated: G
Length: 1 hour 24 minutes