Monday, November 28, 2016

Fantastic Beasts - Movie Review

I first picked up a Harry Potter book when I was a married woman and already had my first kid. I didn't grow up with these books like many others have, and I am kinda sad for that. Either way, I learned of Harry Potter when The Goblet of Fire was playing on a friend's TV while we chatted. The kids had finished watching the movie and the DVD was on the menu screen and the little shrunken human heads hanging from the bus driver's window kept warning the watcher to "mind ya head" in his little Caribbean accent. 

Once I began reading Harry Potter, I read all the books one right after the other and watched and anxiously waited for the movies to come out. My family loves Harry Potter!

This year I also read the screen play "The Cursed Child", a sequel to the Harry Potter anthology. It was a great book and now as I write, I am wondering why I didn't write a review on it. Hmm, that's odd. But I totally recommend it to the Harry Potter fan.

Anyway . . .

I say all this because I watched the Harry Potter movies with a lot of knowledge of the characters, their magical world, and the jargon used that I got from the books. Harry, Ron and Harmoine were already known to me because I had spent long moments getting to know them in the book series, so when the movie came along, it was "nice to meet you again". And of course! the books were far better than the movies, but the movies were also fun to watch, and frankly still are for me.

With "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", I didn't know the characters before hand so I felt a little lost during some of the movie, and I don't believe the director did a good job in developing the characters as we journeyed throughout the escapade of finding the "little" beasts that escaped from Mr. Scamander's well-traveled luggage/portal. I really like Eddie Redmayne (Newt) as an actor, but I had trouble understanding him in some instances. I am guessing his character is to be shy, but I had trouble hearing him (maybe it was the movie theater). I also felt that a lot of the movie was not in the magical world, so the magic that was done, felt awkward and so did the underground gangster goblins . We learned about the magic world with Harry, and I wanted to learn along with Newt Scamander and get to know him. I wanted to know more of the history of the beasts, but I was left wanting. I wanted to know more. More!

And there does seem to be more that is coming. Besides checking out IMDb - which does provide information of a second Fantastic Beasts coming in 2018. The movie did hint at a continuation of the series by showing us a bit of a relationship-gone-wrong between Newt and a "Leta Lestrange". According to IMDb, Leta is played by Zoe Kravitz, and I doubt they're going to cast someone like her, just to then not use her in the second movie. And I know it is not the end of Grindelwald, why use Johnny Depp for 15 seconds and not use him some more in the second movie. So, I am hoping that the second Fantastic Beasts will tell us more about all these characters and give us some more background and depth to them.

The beasts where great. I really loved the little shiny-loving platypus (I forget what they are called). He was so funny and cute. And the blue, feathered snakes that filled in the spaces and the four winged griffin were beautiful. 

The evil manifested and known as an Obscurial was also a very interesting take on the wicked characters Ms. Rowling is so good at conjuring. It is also a sad character due to the self-hatred one must endure in order to even produce an obscurial. An Obscurial is a dark phenomenon created by an abuse on one's magical ability. The witch/wizard suppresses their unwanted magic so much that the obscurial they create can actually kill him/her. I will not say more on this as to not spoil the movie.

I recently found a Harry Potter wiki page that helped a lot in regards to knowing the characters better. 

 I recommend this movie to the Harry Potter fan and to those who like magic and fantasy movies. 

To the Christian: I was afraid  when I saw "The New Salem Philanthropic Society" that they were going to really lay it on thick on Christians, but thankfully they didn't. Although, maybe the name is enough to oust us as jerks. There was also a subtle tinge of maybe the obscurial could be someone suppressing"who they are" (i.e. their gender) and that having an adverse affect by producing an obscurial. All of this plus the abuse given by the head mistress of the New Salem Philanthropic Society created the darkest obscurial ever known. So tying these things together, one could draw a conclusion to the church's abuse on those "different" from them. But, I really didn't take too much out of it. Maybe later we will know more from J.K. Rowling what exactly she was trying to express - like finding out way later on that Dumbledore was gay. Other than that, there are no bad words or anything too frightening. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Moana - Movie Review

I didn't really want to see Moana, but I have an 8 year old daughter who has been wanting to see it for about 2 months now. She even marked the calendar, so there was no hoping she would forget. 

Moana is the newest Disney princess. It is a story of a young woman who will soon be chief of her tribe. But she is drawn to the ocean and was chosen by the ocean to return the heart of Tafiti that was taken by the demigod Maui. Maui is a narcissist anti-hero who thinks only about getting back his fishhook, and predictably he ends up being a good guy in the end. It is his fault that the islands surrounding Moana's are dying. We find out through Moana's grandmother that Moana needs to have Maui (who has been exiled to a deserted island for 1000 years) return the heart to Tafiti, but in order to get there, they must journey through very dangerous territory. Their last foe is the most scary and the CG on the volcanic Te Ka is outstanding. There is a twist at the end story when Te Ka is defeated that I didn't expect and that I won't share in order not to spoil the movie. 

This movie was not stirring at all. The plot was bland and the "villains" didn't really personify evil or hate like other Disney villains have so perfectly done before. Also, it really frustrates me the lack of strong male roles these princess movies have been producing. I get it that she's independent. I get it that the only wisdom in the movie comes from a grandma. I get it that her father is irrational and risks starving his people. I get it that Moana's mother and not her father encourages her to "seek out her heart". I get it that the other leading character Maui is a self-absorbed demigod male. And the ending (which I won't spoil, but I want to) just confirms my thoughts: men aren't needed and just ruin everything. No clear line between good and evil. No love between male and female partnership.

In the end, my daughter and her friends loved the movie. The chicken and the little pig were pretty funny. And the animation was great. I can't get over how real their hair looks. The music was not that inspiring, but like all Disney movies, the princess' voice and ability to hit super high notes was admiring.

I recommend this movie to little girls. Also, if it isn't obvious, Moana is Polynesian. So there is a lot about their culture that was nice to know. Although, I don't think they had female chiefs, but I may be wrong.

To the Christian: There is really nothing wrong with the movie. Disney is not proactively bashing strong males, they just seem to not think they're that important to make them co-heros.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Doctrine of Repentance - Audio Book Review

This book was published in 1668 and written by Thomas Watson. When reading older books, I am always a bit hesitant in reading them because I am fearful that I will not understand some of the details because of the older English vernacular. Thankfully, this wasn't the case in this edition. 

It never ceases to amaze me just how much we still have in common with people throughout the generations. The spiritual struggles Christians had in the 1600's are the same ones that we have today. As an "old soul" I tend to think that people were nicer in previous generations, but I have found that people are people and there is nothing new under the sun. 

In this book, Mr. Watson is very organized. He makes out different lists on how to identify an unrepentant spirit, or how to apply repentance daily and even how to combat sin.  He also uses every day life to help the reader understand the point he is trying to make, and his word usage to compare and contrast is quote worthy. 

I also appreciated all the Bible citations he gave after many of his sentences. He made his case for what he was saying by going back to the Bible. The opinions and advise he gave were founded not on his own wisdom, but on Scripture. Many times, I remembered a citation and went back to read it and it was as he had said.

Because of so many citations and so many quote worthy sentences, I do not recommend this book to be listened to as an audio book. This book is meant to be read and highlighted. Maybe, from now on, I will only use Audible for fiction. Thankfully there is a "bookmark" link on Audible where if I hear something I like, I can "bookmark" it and then go back to it later.

Here are some of those compare and contrast quotes I was talking about:
The more regret we have first at our conversion, the less we'll feel afterwards.

Speaking about the Apostle Paul: He had persecuted saints to death before, now he preached sinners to life. 

Someone who can believe without doubting should suspect his faith, and someone who can repent without sorrowing should suspect his repentance.

On temptation: Is he not a fool who would believe a temptation and not a promise.

So as God has two places where He dwells - Heaven and a humble heart. So does Satan have two places where he dwells - Hell and a hard heart.

And here is a quote that explains repentance with word pictures:
Blessed repentance that has so much sugar at the bottom of the bitter cup!

 The key to personal awakening and revival is repentance and the elation of forgiveness. Believe it or not it is also the key to joy. For when I am truly repentant because I have offended God, I find joy in His forgiveness. When I am repentant I can't judge hypocritically, for I too am a sinner. I can't hate what is done to me, for I have done far worse to the most Holy One. I can't sit idly by and do nothing for my neighbor, for He has done so much for me to be able to grant me forgiveness. I can't hate, for I am loved. I can't complain, for I am grateful.

Thomas Watson
So much in my Christian walk would change if I would just practice repentance daily. This book has helped me to see that. Mr. Watson has so many illustrations and breaks down what he is trying to say so well. His examples of how to apply this and why we should apply repentance are so helpful and clear. He just makes logical sense throughout the whole book. I remember several times just being astounded when he made a point and then clarified it with a reasoned analogy. 

The book is actually about 128 pages, so it could be read in one day. And as I researched more I found he wrote several other small books about different topics.  If you would like a list of the books he has written click here.  

I recommend that every Christian read at least one book by Thomas Watson. This was a beautifully written book. His grasp on the English language and his thoughtfulness in regards to Scripture is profound. 

As I read more on him, I found out that he died suddenly while in private prayer. What a way to die! A thought that came to mind when I read that was that I don't even pray that much to be caught dead doing it. What are the odds of that for me, much less than Mr. Watson's or many other strong Christians?

The book is available free here Or you may also buy it here


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Church Lady vs Mechanical Bull

For a while now, I have had on my bucket list: ride a mechanical bull. Unfortunately, the only place I could think of riding one was at bars - probably the kind of bar that solely played country music. Being somewhat close to Nashville, I knew I could easily find a bar or an event where I could unleash my desire to ride one of these things; but the thought of riding a bull, with my top heavy self, in a bar with men, as a 3rd grade Sunday school teacher, just didn't sit quiet right with me. So I looked elsewhere. 

My bright idea was to rent one for our annual church women's Christmas party. I felt I could "let loose" a little more, not having to worry about being a stumbling block to any males because there is a sensuousness to riding a bull. After being a bit disappointed at the super expensive quotes I got, I finally found a reasonable one. (If you live in the Western Kentucky area, I highly recommend them! They were great and super friendly and accommodated all my theatrical whims. Click here for their website.) I told the owner my plight and whispered - because that is what church ladies do - "I need a bull for women. Because - you know- men." He chuckled at my modesty and affirmed me he had actually done a couple of events at some churches and he completely understood since he's also a pastor! I gasped! He gasped! But I knew he would turn his eyes the other way if things got a little too sexy on the bull, up at the church lady's Christmas party! So he e-mailed me the contract, I signed and returned it with a check. The date was scheduled, but as fate would have it, it rained the day of our event and rain and mechanical bull don't mix well. I would have to wait to check off "mechanical bull riding" off of my bucket list. We rescheduled for my daughter's birthday party, but alas, it rained again. I was discouraged. Distraught. It was as if this would never happen. But it did!

A tough little guy.
Every year our church has a fall festival INSIDE a large convention center and we have all kinds of games, prizes, food, hay rides and even a petting zoo. I called up Ethan (bull guy) again and re-rescheduled him one more time. I told him that this event is indoors and even if did rain, it wouldn't matter. So again, we set up a date.

The only problem though, was that I face paint at our fall festival, and I face paint A LOT of little cute faces. And I don't take a break from face painting because I just don't have the heart to tell an adorable little bumble bee to wait while I make a fool of myself on a mechanical bull. So I just painted along. We had hundreds of visitors come to our festival, and a lot of people enjoyed the mechanical bull. I guess I would just have to sacrifice my whimsical bucket list item, for the kingdom of God. And in reality, it really wasn't that difficult.

But, as our event was ending and there were no more faces to paint, I went up to Aaron (the bull guy's helper) and gave him permission to end the bull riding. (Going over our allotted time would cost me more money, and I didn't want to go over!) He asked me if I wanted to get on. I looked around and there was mostly just church people there! "Oh yes please!"

I got on the inflatable and raised my leg to mount the bull. But I couldn't get on! You know when your mind thinks it can do something, but your body just doesn't respond? That is what was happening here. Oh no! I tried by putting both hands on the bull and hoisting myself up! As if I had that kind of upper body strength! Finally, Aaron told me he could help me. Thankfully he's a pretty tough guy, but how was he going to help me? What if I killed him? Thankfully, I am sure of it, Aaron has dealt with bigger women trying to mount a mechanical bull at a church event. He got on a knee and told me to use his other knee as a stool to get up on the bull. I huffed, I heaved and I got on.

What happened next was the most anti-climatic thing that has ever happened to me. I got on the bull ready for him to buck me off. Ready to prevail in the battle between woman and machine! Ready for my hair to fling one way and then another! I was ready! So I clutched the rope, steeled my back and then the mechanical bull moved ever so slightly and I remembered that I have no core muscles. None. I quickly then bear-hugged the hunk of bull and slowly, every so very slowly melted off the bull. Have you ever baked bread? You know when you knead the dough, form it into a ball and then set it in a greased bowl to let it rise? And then you punch said dough and "pour" it onto a floured surface for shaping. That is how it looked like. The pouring part of the dough. And that is kinda how I felt. A turned over, punched, ball of dough ready for shaping. I laid there in my shame realizing that my mind is so much more fun than my reality. I log rolled a little away from my victorious foe and got out of the inflatable arena. Two more deacons went after me and I just walked to my face painting table flushed and defeated. No, deflated would be a better word to describe myself.  

Some of the church ladies wedding dress shopping.
I checked off "mechanical bull riding" off of my bucket list. But it wasn't an assertive check, but in the end that really didn't matter. I did have fun laughing, mostly at my lack of athletic ability. A lot of people did have fun and like we always do at these events, we shared the Gospel and God's love to the people in our community. 

I don't think I will ever have the opportunity to ride on a mechanical bull again, but it's okay. After all, life is made up of memories, not fantasies.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Magnificent 7 - Movie Review

This movie was good. It had tons of  flying bullets, great cinematography, well developed characters, and a satisfying ending. It was a stereo-typical good guys versus bad guys Western,but it wasn't at all banal. And the ending was explosive! The only problem that I did have with the plot though is that the villain identifies himself as a capitalist. It is only one small line at the beginning of the movie, so it really wasn't that big of a deal, but I was a bit on the defensive for about 10 minutes. Thankfully, the movie gets going. And just to clarify, the villain wasn't a capitalist, he was a tyrant, him saying he's a capitalist is very misleading. 

So the villain takes over a mining town, abuses and kills a bunch of the villagers and takes away their guns! I wanted a little bit of a "right wing" agenda there, but I never go it! I wanted Mr. Chisolm (Denzel) to tell them that they should never let anyone take away their guns. Actually, one of the first things the Magnificent 7 does for the townspeople is arm them to help them defeat their oppressors!  

I was grateful for the lack of sexual exploitation of women that tends to be the norm in Westerns. There were prostitutes, but they just floated around in the background and were not in many of the screen shots. The female lead, Mrs. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennet) is fresh and a natural beauty. She doesn't woo over any of the Magnificent 7 nor gives a forced faux-tough-girl-anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better perception. She's real and I enjoyed cheering for her throughout the movie. 

The movie ended well. I was a bit shocked about who died and who didn't die. There is some depth to the movie that wasn't obvious at first and I was glad for that surprise.  

I did expect the movie to be funny and it didn't let me down. The writers did a great job with the witty jokes and comebacks. The Mexican in the Mag 7 gang saying "cabron" all the time did get a little old for me. My mother is Mexican, and neither I or she speak like that - well maybe my uncle does. Either way, it was just over used. It was funny the first 10 times, but after that I was like, "I get it! You're Mexican!" Thankfully he wasn't portrayed as a stereotypical drunken, womanizer Mexican , oh wait, never mind. It was funny though! 

The acting was great. Ethan Hawke did a marvelous job portraying Goodnight Robicheaux, a Civil War hero suffering with PTSD.  

To the Christian: There were a couple of swear words and the name of the Lord was used in vain. The movie is violent, but not gory. People are killed with guns, explosives and arrows. There are some dirty jokes towards the end of the movie. The church plays as an undertone in the movie - both the opening scene that sets the plot, and the tragic ending of the movie take place in the church. And the preacher is portrayed to have respect among his parishoners. 

Recommendations: I recommend this movie to the Western lover and to those who prefer tragedies. Also any Denzel fans, the man still looks great - he's 61 years old! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nothing bad to say

I still do not know who I will vote for in this coming election. I still think when I am at the voting booth with my daughter (I usually take her with me) I will pray and make my decision then. I have family and friends who all have given me their opinion and I truly believe all of them have made valid arguments for their choice for president. One thing I have done less of though is worry. As Christians, anxiety is a sin. Jesus advises us not to be anxious (Matthew 6:25-34). We must remember that this is not our home (Hebrews 13:14) and we look forward to the day God returns (2 Peter 3:12-13). 

When all my favorite primary candidates lost, I really felt like all hope was gone. That hope dwindled more as we were left with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate. And it practically died when I saw how many Christians defended Mr. Trump's way of living. I may pull the lever for Mr. Trump come November 8th, but something I will never do is minimize what an awful human being he is. But this post really isn't about the election, it is more about a snippet I heard on the radio about a news show called "Morning Joe". I first want to admit that I honestly almost live in a cave when it comes to "normal TV". We have Netflix, Amazon and DVD's. That's about it when it comes to TV. The "news" I get usually comes from a podcast, the radio or a youtube channel. If I want local news I get that from the ladies who sit in my church pew or the police scanner. Don't get me wrong, I have tried fox news, msnbc, and other places, but the agendas they push are so blatant sometimes that I can't help but wonder how "fair and balanced" they really are. And occasionally I really think they believe I do not have a brain of my own and could never rationally come to my own conclusion, so they must insert their opinions because I could not possibly have any of my own. But back to worrying. I refuse to worry about this election. I am anti-worry. Because when I worry, even slightly, I have diminished the colossal, absolute and total power that God has over His creation. I trust Him, and I lie that I trust Him when I worry. The kingdom of God is eternal (Matt. 16:18, Heb. 1:8). His church will prevail (Matt. 16:18). And God is just, compassionate, long-suffering, loving, good, all-knowing, all-powerful, almighty, etc (the whole Bible)! So my dear brothers and sisters, let us rest in those promises, do what the Holy Spirit has prompt you to do regarding your vote, and continue with your active faith of loving God and loving others. Let Him deal with the consequences. (Please don't get me wrong when I say I am anti-worry. I am not advocating fatalism or unproductive passivity)

Being a conservative who leans libertarian, I recognize that I have my own set of biases and stereo-types. I believe that Christians tend to lean to the right of center and I am surprisingly almost always shocked when I meet a Christian democrat. I know! I know! I know there are Christian democrats who truly love the Lord, but I am always slightly shocked by it okay! I'm trying to be honest here! Saying this, I also have my biases on msnbc and shows like Morning Joe where I know they are left leaning. But, I want to give credit where credit is due. On yesterday's "Morning Joe", Mika Brzezinski said some things that were very noble of her. So I looked her up some more and, needless to say, she and I have almost nothing in common when it comes to our views on politics and government, but what she said yesterday regarding Hillary Clinton's latest FBI investigation and Mika's own media peers was vitalizing. I have provided the video below so  you can see it for yourself.

Wasn't that just awesome of her and Joe to say that? I know some Christian Trump supporters who aren't as honest as they were just there! She admitted to her own hypocrisy. Something very difficult to see in ourselves. Something Christians on "my side" refuse to see in themselves. 

I believe that all of us have been made in the image of God. That we are more precious than the plants or the animals. That we are even more special than the angels because nothing else carries with them the image of God. Nothing. During presidential election years, we tend to forget that sometimes. We fail to see the personhood of an individual because we do not agree with their politics, their religion, or their ideas. Their humanity is stripped away because of their voting tendencies or frankly because of the sin in their life. Just because someone acts out in their flesh, doesn't make them any less an image bearer. And just because someone doesn't agree with me, doesn't make them any less a human created by God. I must remember this when someone comes along with an idea that I believe to be wrong even if they are wrong because God says they're wrong. There is a way to converse with people and if the conversation leads to nothing, we are still called to love and serve each other, in humility, not thinking anyone is better than the other (Phil. 2:3). Even if we have the truth, there is a way to speak the truth. Obviously, we cannot make everyone happy. Obviously some people will become upset. Obviously, some people will hate us, but let them have to try really hard to do so. 

I leave you with this verse found in Titus 2:7-8:
In everything, show yourself to be an example by doing good works. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and wholesome speech that is above reproach, so that anyone who opposes us will be ashamed to have nothing bad to say about us.