Movies I Still Can’t Help but Love Part II

As promised, here’s the rest of the list of movies I still can’t help but love. Like last week, I tried to steer clear of the obvious choices like HookE.T., Dumb and Dumber, etc. Hopefully you’ve never seen a few of these and decide to give them a chance. You can check out Part I of this list here.

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon series (1987-1998) – Sgt. Murtaugh and Sgt. Riggs, played by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson are both vet-turned cops who keep getting themselves into high-stakes trouble. It’s one of the series where I really can’t choose one as my favorite, though they do get funnier as they progress. Typical for early-90’s buddy/cop films there’s lots of cursing and shooting throughout. Not at all recommended for kids (though the third and fourth ones could be PG-13 if not for the constant use of the F-word). Why watch it? Mel Gibson plays a suicidal maniac cop. What’s not to like about that?? Next to Ransom, it’s his best acting.

Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Sarabeth hates this movie because Richard Dreyfuss’s character is flirting with one of his students throughout the third act. But in the end, he makes the right decision, so I think it’s redemptive. Why watch it? For the groovy soundtrack, man!

My Life

My Life (1993) – Last week I mentioned the movie The Cure, and how it’s one of the most emotional movies ever. Here’s the runner-up. Michael Keaton plays a young husband and soon-to-be father who is battling cancer and decides to make a home movie to leave behind for his unborn kid. Why watch it? If you feel you need to let the floodgates open. This’ll certainly do it.

Radio Flyer

Radio Flyer (1992) – The story about two brothers whose mom marries an abusive alcoholic who targets the youngest of the brothers (the kid from Jurassic Park). The older brother (a very young Elijah Wood), vows to get him out of that situation any way he can. His means of doing so? The little red wagon – the Radio Flyer! Why watch it? 1) Tom Hanks makes a cameo, and 2) there’s a giant buffalo that sticks his head in the kid’s room and talks to him. And (spoiler alert) the wagon flies!

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The River Wild (1994) – They seriously don’t make movies like this anymore. Kevin Bacon plays a complete creep who’s obsessed with tackling the most dangerous part of the river just for bragging rights. There’s guns, there’s white water rafting, there’s dogs, there’s white-knuckle suspense. There’s just a lot of fun waiting for you in this movie. Think Speed, but in the mountains. On a river. In a raft. Why watch it? To see John C. Reilly play a bad guy. And because it really is a thousand times better than Speed 2. 

Rocketeer

The Rocketeer (1991) – Want to know the weird thing about this movie? Cliff only puts the rocket on twice in the entire film. And I never noticed (or cared) as a kid that this movie is based on kicking the Nazi’s butts. That makes me appreciate it even more as an adult. Why watch it? It’s 90’s Disney at its finest.

rocketman

RocketMan (1997) – Like Good Burger, which I mentioned last week, this movie is just as stupid and corny, but there’s no way in the world anyone can not laugh at it. It’s a genuinely funny movie, but keep in mind, I warned you that it’s really corny. Why watch it? You can learn the song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” in many different languages.

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Swing Kids (1993) – Set in Nazi Germany, these kids are like the Dead Poet’s Society, except instead of read poetry, they listen to Jazz music – and they love it. But obviously their Nazi-influenced parents and neighbors have a problem with it. So each kid has to decide if he’s going to continue rebelling against the growing Nazi movement or give in. There’s a young Christian Bale in it, and I won’t tell you what he decides. Why watch it? Two words: Swing Heil!

ThatThingYouDo

That Thing You Do (1996) – Tom Hanks stars and directs this groovy, feel-good movie, that you just can’t help but sing along to. It’s funny, it’s catchy, and it’s based on a real band (the Oneders), who just didn’t quite make it to the status of The Beatles (personally, I think they could have). Lots of laughs and great songs. Be careful though, there’s an unrated or PG-13 rated version floating around out there – get the PG one and you can watch it with all the kids. Why watch it? Tom Hanks as star. Tom Hanks as director. (But he doesn’t sing.)

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White Fang (1991) – I’m sure you’ve seen this as a kid, or read the book. But you’d be surprised how well it holds up even now. It’s just as intense, just as emotional, and just as Disney-esk as you’d hope it would be. Probably the best sled-dog movie I’ve ever seen. And definitely in my top 20 favorite movies. Why watch it? Just the music and the scenery alone is stunning. (Have I mentioned Balto in this list? Hmmm…. I should.)

White Squall

White Squall (1996) – Ridley Scott directs this film where Jeff Bridges is at his best. It’s the true story of a group of boys who are chosen to continue their schooling abroad aboard (see what I did there?) the Albatross under the command of Captain Christopher “Skipper” Sheldon (Bridges). Think Dead Poet’s Society on a boat. And if you happen to really love dolphins, I would strongly suggest you keep far away from this movie. Why watch it? If you can’t stand everything leading up to the sinking in Titanic, this can be your replacement.

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Cult # 3: New Age – Nothing New Under the Sun

Plumbing was on the list of top priorities of things to do last night in the Toy home. I’m not handy by any stretch of the imagination, as evidenced by my sloppy and incomplete tool closet and many half-finished projects around the house. After an hour or two I finally plied the drain covering off the sink only to find out that a piece still needs to be unscrewed from the bottom. No problem. Well, we didn’t have the proper tools, but being a tightwad mixed with a little bit of determination to prove myself, I went about trying to unscrew the darn thing by my own means.

All the while, Sarabeth is telling me that I’m attempting to unscrew the right piece, but I’m seeing the whole apparatus wrong, therefore I can’t possibly get the proper grip in order to unscrew it successfully. I insisted that parts A and B were connected just below the sink. She insisted that part B was just a ring attached to part A. The way these parts were assembled made all the difference between dinner at 9 pm or dinner for breakfast. As I’m staring at the blasted sink between breaths, I finally see that Sarabeth was right the whole time. Part A was not inserted into part B. Part A was just a ring that screwed around Part B. I was seeing the whole thing wrong. But I could have sworn on everything that I was for once, in the right.

New Age is one of the hardest religions to define. It is a worldview whereas once people view the world through it, everything makes sense (or, if it doesn’t, that’s okay!). Very little amount of reasoning and debate will likely sway New Agers and persuade them of the truth. Like me and the sink, it’s very hard reason with New Age thinking. It is a worldview that offers a new way of thinking, yet it is explicitly based off of a lie that was birthed from the beginning of time. “If you eat this fruit, you will be like God…” Yes, the roots of New Age mysticism – as new and exciting as it looks – stretches all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It is indeed the Serpent’s old lie in an updated package. Like Pepsi’s slogan: “New look, same great taste.”

In New Age circles there is no formal structure or organization. Millions of New Age activists hope to transform society by bringing about a reawakening that will emphasize self-discovery, spiritualism, growth and enlightment.

New Age concepts find their roots in the Garden of Eden. It borrows from Hinduism, Buddhism, Babylonian mystery rituals (which are supposed to elevate humans to a godlike status) nature worship, occult practices and reincarnation. Like Hinduism, it teaches concepts like monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is god). It borrows form Taoism, a Chinese philosophy that teaches that all things are constantly changing (yin and yang), therefore nothing is absolute, all is relative, including morals and ethics.

New Age adapts esoteric knowledge from Gnoticism. It ignites a divine spark and power within, therefore negates the need for Christ’s atoning death. New Age thinking is a hybrid or blend of all of the above, plus several other ideas and phenomenon of modern origin: UFO’s, extraterrestrial intelligence and psychokinesis.

Some New Agers buy into one portion of New Age thinking while others accept other portions. New Agism has even caught many Christians in its web. I’ll never forget when a Christian I know was really excited to read Oprah’s book recommendation, The Secret, thinking that it contained great spiritual truths. Not everyone may like the story of Avatar, but it’s the concepts and monistic worldviews – not the nonexistent plot – that skyrocketed the expensive and disastrous film into Box Office history. Take a look at other ways New Age has been influenced by or has influenced modern pop culture:

The 60’s became a springboard for the generation gap, anti-establishment thinking and psychedic expression through LSD and other drugs. This is when the Beatles helped introduce transcendental meditation. The musical Hair introduced Eastern ideas – “Age of Aquarius,” the theme song of NAM with direct references to astrology (mentions moon being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars, Peace guiding the planets and love steering the stars). Many celebrities, including Shirley MacLaine, champion New Age thinking, who ebulliently states, “You are unlimited, you just don’t realize it.”

And a side note for my eschatologist friends and political followers , the Age of Aquarius, according to New Agers, will usher in a new world order with three ideals in one world government, one world leader, and one world religion.

In New Age thinking, God is more of an “it” rather than a “He.” Creation is a myth because there is no Creator. All that is here was always here. How? That is no one’s concern (a good reason to skip out of Science class). Salvation is found within themselves. Instead of saving one’s soul from being fallen and sinful, you should achieve a new “awareness” of your divinity and oneness with all things. (I wish I could have been one with the sink last night so I could undo myself.) Christ is demoted from second Person of the trinity to one of many “cosmic Christs,” including Buddah, Moses, Elijah and Mohammed.

Check out the New Age admonition – “Create your own reality.” All New Agers agree on one central dogma: All truth is relative, there are no absolutes, and you find “God” within yourself.

New Age dabbles quite heavily in Occultism, channeling, paranormal experiences, spiritualism, and a host of other dangerous practices placing individuals in the midst of a very real and dangerous spiritual world unguarded by Christ. The Bible cannot be more clear on this. One verse sums it up: “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Leviticus 20:6.

I realize this doesn’t being to cover the tip of the ice burg on the topic of New Age mysticism, but I hope it give you an idea of the powerful influence it’s having on our nation and our world.

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“Stop Nagging Me, Dreams!”

I am sure many of you have seen the Disney movie The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. If not, stop reading this post, get on over to Netflix and order it. After you watch it, you really ought to read the book, because it tells the story of Jimmy Morris’s life preceding the events in the movie (read a post about the movie here). He wasn’t always as gentle as Quaid portrays him, though he does a great job reenacting his personality and easy-going demeanor. And it wasn’t as easy to get to play in the big leagues as only a two hour film can fit. The movie only hints at the fact that Jimmy Morris had wanted to play baseball since he was a kid – try three years old! It took him thirty-two years to accomplish his dream and pitch in the major leagues before thousands of people.

I’ve only heard of few stories where the dream achieved was an easy road. Are you on that road? Is it bumpier than you expected it to be? Has it taken many detours and wound more mountains that you thought existed? If so, you’re in good company – planet earth! The world is filled with dreamers and wannabe achievers. We’re all trying to accomplish goals in our lives. Some of us are just trying to make it through the next work week without getting fired (or giving up), and others are trying to pluck away at the childhood dream we’ve had since we were kids that just won’t let us alone no matter how hard we try to ignore it.

I’m one of those people. Ever since I was old enough to breathe on my own, I have wanted to tell stories. If I had any possible way of telling a story, I would. I used to sit in my room for hours and record myself on a cassette player narrating, voice-acting, and even humming the music to my stories. I must have filled up dozens of tapes with silly ramblings and disjointed plots that only a nine-year old could come up with. Then I decided I liked to draw, so I would constantly be making comic books for my friends to read, about forest animals getting into all sorts of adventures (one of them was up to 300 pages long). When my friends grew out of reading comics, I then started making movies, and including them in the fun. I’d spend days plotting out a new story for us to act out in front of the camera, and I’d revel in putting together premier nights at our church for people to gather and watch our newest movies.

After school I drifted from all of that, and decided that was all just a dream – wanting to be a movie director or a famous cartoonist… but as I wound my way through life, I found out that I couldn’t stop writing. I would write stories and plays and little devotionals (yes, I’ve even tried my hand out in poetry for a brief stint). At the heart of who I am, what I want to be, is a storyteller. So much so that it’s gotten me in trouble, as I have been prone to excessive lying or exaggerating, something that I’m still trying to overcome.

I’m constantly studying moving films and popular fiction to find out what makes those stories come to life. My poor wife patiently endures my ramblings after we watch a movie together as I dissect its contents, pondering aloud how and why I was so moved, or what made it come to life.

Jimmy Morris, the author of his autobiography, hardly ever thought about anything else but baseball, even when he tried not to think about it. What is your dream? What is that one thing that has followed you from childhood that just keeps nagging you, nagging you, nagging you? Maybe it’s nagging you for a reason. Maybe you should give it a shot, and go for it. Small steps to start off with, of course, you know, just get your toes wet and see what happens.

Three years ago I dipped my foot in the uncertain waters of dreams and I ended up writing my first novel. I didn’t even have a guarantee that it would be published. Yet, now it is going to be, and it should be released by the end of this year. Another dream of mine (and Sarabeth’s) is that we have wanted to adopt a child for quite a while. This is another place where we are just testing the waters, but know we need to jump in and trust God to watch over us (and our prospective kid). We’re hoping that some of the proceeds of my book will go toward our adoption. I’m writing my second novel right now, in case this one falls through. But hopefully it won’t.

If you like biographical dramas, read and watch The Rookie. It will inspire you to go after your dreams, as foolish as it may sound. If you like pulse-pounding, adrenaline-pumping adventure, follow my book, The Man in the Box, on facebook, and watch for updates. I’ve been posting segments online for those who might be interested in purchasing it when it comes out.

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A Very Good Date Movie

“Chick flicks” are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Not only because of the goofball characters, shallow dialogue and lack of substance, but because everyone assumes that the couple lives happily ever after just because the girl finally agrees to go on a date with the guy who’d been begging for the past 90 minutes. I think it can only be considered a true happy ending if the couple actually seals their vows under the alter at the end of the movie. I used to call that a complete love story.

And then I got married.

Now I know that wooing the beautiful girl was just the easy part – the prologue, if you will. But it’s marriage that really bears the weight of true “happily ever” love. And most of the time, it doesn’t hold it. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are wanting out of their marriage, or are doubting the stability of their love for one another. Our pastor preached a wonderful sermon on marriage last Sunday at Ninth and O Church, and you can listen to it here, called, “When Marital Dreams Turn to Matrimonial Nightmares.”

I consider the movie Sweet Home Alabama one of the best love stories to come out of the recent Hollywood vault. (The biggest reason is because there’s no sexuality. Some dialogue and projected world views might be unsuitable for children.) I’m sure there are others out there that are better, but like I mentioned, I don’t go out hunting for these types of movies. I consider it one of the best because it’s a movie about a fight for a broken marriage hanging on the balance between a second chance and divorce. What’s wonderful about it, is that the featured couple really never work things out between themselves, but they still give their marriage another go – they don’t wait till everything’s “perfect.” There are a couple of silly scenes, but all in all, I recommend it for spouses who need a boost of marital inspiration.

We live in a society that proclaims, if you’re not happy, then you’re free to go. That is the biggest piece of garbage that this country has swallowed. You divorce your spouse to hunt for another escapade, repeat the honeymoon, get married, have a bunch of fights … then what? You will never be fully happy with the person (or people) you married, but you will find the most joy in looking back at a lifelong commitment, unbroken by temptations and strife from within and outside the marriage. (Check out the movie Up for the best picture of marriage I’ve ever seen outside of real life). There’s joy. There’s happiness. Looking at your partner of so many years knowing that nothing has torn you two apart, as wild as a roller coaster you’ve been on, even when all things seemed hopeless.

If you’re stuck in a rut in your marriage, or if you just want out, or if you can’t stand just one more fight, I challenge you to get on your knees this very moment and beg the Creator of marriage to give you just a little bit more strength, a little bit more wisdom. Women and sisters in Christ, ask for a gentle and quite spirit which can prove to be more seductive than lipstick and perfume. Men and brothers, ask for the desire for integrity and dignity to stick with your marriage, through thick and thin, spurring every outside lust and temptation, and focus your attention back on your wife.

Couples, listen to the sermon, send the kids to bed early and have a date night and watch Sweet Home Alabama, and enjoy this excerpt from my upcoming novel The Man in the BoxRobbie Lake has been wanting out of his marriage due to the mundane nature of family life. So he finds a secret world hidden in a cardboard box which he returns to over and over again, fighting monsters and being hailed as a god – the complete opposite of home life. And one day his dad, noticing his family suffering the consequences of his absence, confronts him:

“I know I didn’t teach you much even when your mom was alive. But I had always hoped that you’d learned at least a little something from us while you could. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my marriage and I’m sure you have too, but the important thing is that you still get through them all. I don’t care if your kids rebel and run out on you, I don’t care if you lose all your money and you end up on the street, just as long as you end up on the street together. I pulled a lot of crap with your mother, but I never walked out on her.”

“You were let off easy because she died.”

“No. I still think about her. I still miss her. I wish we had more time together. Her dying only proved that had I left her when I wanted, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life. But you and your issues that you’ve got with someone else or your work or whatever… you’ve got to deal with it if you’re at all serious about staying with Rosalynn to the end. The world’s out to tear you apart. Are you going to let it?”

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This is a repost from earlier in the week. I’ll be giving out electronic advanced readers to a select few who join the facebook page.

A Sneak Peek at The Man in the Box

As most of you know, I’ve written a novel called, The Man in the Box. If all goes according to schedule, it should be released by the end of the year. I have been quite secretive with the plot, until now.

I am looking for a dozen or so people to review my book in order to help generate hype. Who doesn’t like recommending great books to friends and family members? If, after reading the brief synopsis, you are interested in reading an electronic advanced copy, please join The Man in the Box facebook page for your chance to win.

What would you give up to be a god?

Weary of the mundane day-to-day life as a husband and father of two, Robbie Lake longs to get away from it all. Being fired from his job of eleven years shakes him up and through a set of circumstances he inadvertently climbs inside a cardboard box, which mentally transports him to his childhood fantasy world long since evolving into something darker in his absence, waiting for him to return. Some want to worship him, and others want to kill him. 

Both the adoration and the thrill keeps him going back inside the box for more, but at the expense of his family. At a time when his wife needs him most, Robbie chooses to live a double life. But soon, murderous creatures follow Robbie home from the box and threaten his loved ones. They will continue to be terrorized until he decides to remain in the world that turns out to be filled with his deepest horrors.

Follow The Man in the Box on Facebook for updates and contests to increase your chances of winning a free advanced copy.

Not recommended for children under 13. Contains prolonged sequences of fantasy terror and violence.

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A “Brave” New Movie *Spoiler free*

First off, I get to call bragging rights. Pixar fans: I saw the Pizza Planet truck for the first time in the theaters. Yes, it is in Brave, believe it or not.

So the wait is over, and the weekend was a good one. Sarabeth and I saw Brave and loved it. It was worth every penny. The critics are being hard on it because it’s not as somber as Toy Story 3 or as “inventive” as Wall-E. Well, I did get choked up a couple of times, and you know what? It was actually refreshing to spend an hour and a half in the familiar territory of a good old fashioned Disney fairytale. So the only reason one would be disappointed with Brave is if one is expecting the edginess of The Incredibles or the sophistication of Ratatouille. Brave is a brand new fairytale; nothing less, nothing more. Go into it expecting that, and you will be more than pleased.

So let’s address some issues about the themes in the movie. If I weren’t familiar with Pixar and I were a parent, I would be quite hesitant bringing my child to see Brave. The trailers make it look like Merida, the main character, defies her parents and gets away with it. True, she does defy her parents, but she suffers great consequences for it. Parents need not be concerned. This isn’t The Little Mermaid where the princess disobeys her naïve and racist father and lives happily ever after with prince charming. As far as themes and lessons go, I prefer my kids watching Brave any day.

Now let’s talk about the feminist issues in the movie. There are none. Who started the rumor that this was going to be all about feminism? And who planted the idea in people’s minds that all Disney movies are feministic? The only gender-switching I see comes from the Shrek franchise over at Dreamworks and I don’t see people complaining about that. In fact, Pixar has gotten sued multiple times by feminist groups because they don’t meet their agenda or taste preferences. Brave is not a retaliatory response in compliance with the feminist movement. It’s simply a story about a young woman who would rather see the world and explore it before settling down and getting married. She is all girl, and – I think – a great role model for the love-sick vampire-craving adolescents today. Brave shows that you don’t have to have prince charming in your life in order to be content.

If anything, Brave is more about the relationship between mother and daughter than anything else. And there’s enough action and suspense that young boys will embrace it, regardless. Even for a fairytale, it comes at the right time. Merida’s mother, though good intentioned, does not listen to her daughter, or even hear her out. I think she’s a perfect representation of today’s media-saturated mother, who ignores her kids by keeping her nose in her i-pad or talking more on Facebook than to her kids. If that’s you, then let this movie hit home for you. Let it open up your eyes to what your missing in your child’s life, and let it teach you how your child needs you to listen and be apart of their life.

I can go on and on about Brave. As soon as we walked out of the theater I told Sarabeth that I want to go back and see it again right then. It was just so satisfying as a movie. As soon as we got home I made sure that there was room in my Pixar collection for Brave. It will be a very fine addition, which I look forward to revisiting many times. And the soundtrack? As usual with Pixar scores, it’s breathtaking. And even the new songs by Julie Fowlis (and Mumford and Sons) are a perfect mix of Celtic lore and contemporary pop.

I only had two complaints about Brave. The first one is kind of petty. I just wished they would have shown more of the bear Mor’du. He was awesome and ferocious, like the cave troll in The Lord of the Rings. But, being an animated movie (primarily) geared toward kids, I can understand why his screen time was limited. The second complaint is best summed up from this review I read here:

Still, while Brave is admirable for dazzling visuals, excellent voice work, and honorable themes, some scenes work better than others. There’s a surprisingly implausible sequence in which Merida must create a diversion so somebody can sneak into her family’s castle — funny, but poorly executed. On matters of love and freedom, the movie turns downright preachy, failing the “show, don’t tell” test.

When die-hard Pixar fans come to this scene, they will realize a particular truth about Pixar: They preach, but never with words. This is the first time Pixar has broken that rule, and it is a bit disheartening. But really, it’s a three to four minute sequence, of little consequence to the film as a whole.

See Brave. Take your kids (not suggested for four or younger, as some scenes even had me on the edge of my seat, and Sarabeth jumped at least once). It’s a great movie for the family in which every member can walk away having been taught a valuable lesson unique to each family role. And the cool thing abut it is, when it’s over, you’ll feel like you really were running through a Scottish forest and were given an extensive and intimate tour of a real-life castle (don’t be surprised if you sniff your fingers to see if you can smell the granite from the stone walls). The animation is that dazzling and life-like.

Disclaimer: There is some rude humor, but I wouldn’t deem it as inappropriate or offensive. Let’s just say a lot of guys lose their kilts and are running away from the screen.

Like to review books? Follow my suspense/fantasy novel to be released late 2012, The Man in the Box

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