DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES



DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has a very strong emotional ending that makes the movie excellent and covers over a multitude of flaws. It’s the best of the THE PLANET OF THE APES movies since the original Charlton Heston movie in terms of getting away from the simplistic good apes, bad people message of the last few movies. There are good apes and bad apes, and good people and bad people in DAWN. Better, you have to choose to be good. For what it’s worth, the movie is one of the most thoughtful, in terms of exploring moral issues and the character motivations.
That said, the movie starts with a recap of the simian virus that almost destroyed mankind and launched a species of ape, gorillas, orangutans, and other primates who are mentally superior. It is now 10 years later, and the apes are living in the Muir Woods. Caesar and Maurice are speculating that there are no more humans left.
Right on cue, a small band of humans show up in the forest. They are looking for a hydroelectric dam, to get it started and bring power back to San Francisco. When they’re discovered by the apes, one of the humans shoots one of the apes. Caesar shows up with an army of angry apes. One of the humans, Malcolm, reasons with Caesar and convinces Caesar to let him go.
Koba, Caesar’s right-hand man and bodyguard, wants to kill all the humans. He convinces Caesar to go to the human territory in San Francisco and tell the humans never to go back into the forest. Meanwhile, Malcolm, knowing how much the humans need the power supply, takes his adopted son and Ellie, who’s become his wife, along with a couple of others, into the forest to try to convince Caesar to let them start the dam.
Koba, however, is out for revenge. Eventually, he does something beyond evil since apes are not supposed to kill apes and make is appear to be the humans so he can start a war. When he thinks he’s got Caesar out of the way, he leads a war against the humans. His counterpart among the humans is Dreyfus, played by Gary Oldman, who wants to annihilate all the apes. However, the apes are so smart that they seize the armory and start using the human weapons.
Malcolm and Ellie, with some compatriots, search out Caesar to try to bring peace and stop the war. Will they succeed?
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is more than a popcorn movie. It is a thoughtful exploration of moral virtues and the fallenness of men, which in this case, includes the sentient apes. It stresses many moral virtues, from family to compassion to courage to self-sacrifice. Also, Malcolm at least seems to possess all the attributes of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. There is intense evil in the movie, manifested in Koba and to a lesser degree in Dreyfus. Also, some of the battles are way too intense for many people. Regrettably, one of the humans takes Jesus name in vain and uses obscenities that are unnecessary. Most regrettably is the movie could have been much better with some significant cutting. In the beginning, some of the dialogue involves too much exposition to bring the audience up to speed about what’s happened, but exposition makes a movie drag. Also, some of the dialogue and events are on the nose and on cue.
That said, the movie keeps getting better as the story develops, and the ending not only pulls at your heartstrings but also produces satisfactory joy and catharsis. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is certainly much better than many of the action movies so far this year.

Would You Like To See an Elephant Fly?



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Would You Like To See an Elephant Fly?

Disney Orders New Live Action DUMBO

Disney has just announced that a live action film adaptation of the beloved 1941 animated movie DUMBO is in the works.

The classic story entails a baby elephant being dropped off at the circus by the stork. Everyone is surprised when the baby elephant reveals his large ears, but he soon becomes the laughing stock of the circus and gets the demeaning nickname “Dumbo.” It’s a heartwarming tale of family and sacrifice that will soon be brought to a new generation in the live action adaption.

Disney has enlisted Ehren Kruger, writer for the TRANSFORMERS franchise, to write the script and produce the movie. Also set to help produce the movie is Justin Springer, who previously produced TRON:  LEGACY and OBLIVION.

The movie is in the development stages at the moment, with Disney still deciding how to take on the job. Ideas have come to surface to bring DUMBO to a live action adaption by creating a family story that will parallel the original animated story line or use CG technology (used to create the tiger in Life of Pi) to bring a flying elephant to life.

Other recent live action movie adaptations from Disney include the release MALEFICENT, which was released in May 2014, and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which came out in 2010. Other live adaptations in the works are the ALICE IN WONDERLAND sequel, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS set to come out May 2016, THE JUNGLE BOOK set to be released 2015, CINDERELLA set to be released March 2015, and a BEAUTY AND THE BEAST remake with no set release date as of yet.

The Disney live action remakes have been doing well so far, with ALICE IN WONDERLAND bringing in over $1 billion worldwide and MALEFICENT earning $631 million worldwide so far. However, these remakes have taken on a darker tone than Disney is usually known for. Hopefully, this live action adaption will be more family friendly and more true to Disney’s traditional wholesome ways than MALEFICENT or ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

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Destroying the Seed: A Call for Revival



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Destroying the Seed

By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher 

Recently, while watching a war documentary called THE HORNET’S NEST, it became clear, if the future of the country is its children and grandchildren, many of the best and brightest are being removed from the Creation mandate. To put it very simply, for those who believe the Bible, Satan is always attempting to destroy the seed: the future generations.

In THE HORNET’S NEST, it’s clear that some of the best and brightest died fighting for their country in Afghanistan. This raises a lot of issues. Especially considering the current submission to Shariah Law in many areas of society. The Devil’s efforts to destroy the future can also be seen in the millions of babies who’ve been slaughtered through abortion, producing a demographic winter, as well as the fact that many of the best and the brightest are so consumed by the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh that they have been seduced away from the joy of building the future to hedonistic, pagan self-satisfaction. Another area where the Adversary has been working overtime is the abuse, trafficking and exploitation of children. Nor should any forget the turning of women into sex objects and the renunciation of men and women of their wonderful God-created identity. Drugs and alcohol have also taken their toll. More recent is the Leninist flood of social costs out taxing our ability to survive.

Regrettably, as Ann Graham Lotz, the Rev. Billy Graham’s daughter, said recently, “We succumb to the old serpent’s tactics by being. . . too deceived to discern the truth. . . that the Devil is real.”

However, for those with eyes to see, look around America today, and it’s hard to even find a remnant of the great country our Founding Fathers initiated in obedience to God’s Word Written. The moral and spiritual infrastructure is breaking down, and the crowds are no longer civil.

That said, this is an opportunity too. Proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to our neighbor with love cannot only snatch a few from the clutches of the Adversary, but also bring Revival, Reformation, Renewal that will re-energize and reinvigorate the country. The time is short. The future is on the verge of being lost, but God is in charge and the people who know Him need to stand together to make a difference.

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BOYHOOD



BOYHOOD is the stylistically audacious story of an average American boy growing up, but filmed over 12 years with the same actors in an effort to show the boy’s actual maturation realistically. BOYHOOD has a strong Romantic worldview with strong politically correct undertones as well as a mix of Anti-Christian and Christian elements.
The movie follows a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 until 18. Mason lives mostly in Texas with his mom (Patricia Arquette) and his older sister (Lorelai Linklater) after his mom and dad (Ethan Hawke) are already divorced. While he doesn’t see his father for large chunks of time early in his life, his father suddenly returns from Alaska to take a more active role in his children’s lives. Essentially, he’s shown to be a loving and concerned man who is maturing himself throughout the years shown in the movie. He eventually marries a Christian woman (though he scoffs to his kids that he hasn’t become “too religious”).
Mason and his sister and mother are shown moving repeatedly across Texas to new homes and through two stepfathers. Along the way, he deals with new schools, first loves, and good times and bad. At one point, the family has to flee from the mother’s abusive, alcoholic second husband, a college professor.
In high school, Mason becomes a sensitive photographer. He’s also shown using marijuana and drinking. The movie doesn’t endorse any drinking, but it does seem to endorse the marijuana use.
Also, at one point, Mason plans his first sexual encounter with his girlfriend on an overnight trip to visit a college they’re thinking about attending. The two are shown waking up together.
Otherwise, however, Mason is essentially nice, kind boy and a respectful, caring son. Not much else happens in the movie, as it foregoes a traditional main narrative storyline in favor of a series of anecdotal episodes from his life.
The result of all this is that the movie doesn’t hold much emotional impact for viewers, despite its daring, impressive feat of using the same actor for 12 years as he grows up. Anything could have gone wrong in that time, with cast members potentially getting sick or dying, or the boy proving to be a bad actor as he got older. However, the movie manages to succeed on the level of its central idea, even though its weak narrative structure makes the idea feel too much like a gimmick.
In fact, the movie’s stubborn refusal to show the mother, the boy and his sister (and to a slightly lesser extent, the father) holding any serious spiritual beliefs even as they face a void in their lives without it is rather depressing. This is a movie where the characters appear to be trying to live decent lives, but can’t ever figure out why they can’t achieve that or reach any deeper satisfaction.
So, the mother is shown going through three husbands in the course of the movie. This leaves her filled with regret by the end. She has no apparent spiritual life and is shown crying and wondering what the point of life is near the end. Mason’s father remarries with a Christian woman. While his new wife and her parents are shown as sincerely faithful and positive people, and there is a respectful scene where they attend church, the father assures Mason and Samantha that he hasn’t “gone religious.” He laughingly adds that, while he’s going to baptize his new baby, he and their mother never baptized them “because we didn’t care about your souls.” In that sequence, Mason is shown receiving a Bible from the Christian woman’s parents and looking at it awkwardly. At one point, his sister, Samantha, says “Dad, you’re not becoming one of those God people are you?” Mostly, however, the movie shows that these main characters give no thought to God or spiritual matters, yet shows that some of them become miserable and wonder what the point of life is.
BOYHOOD also has a couple of heavy-handed yet pointless scenes in which former President Bush is mocked, the Iraq war is derided, and Barack Obama is praised heavily. In fact, the father takes the children to campaign for Obama and encourages them to steal a pro-John McCain sign from a yard. Meanwhile, in another scene, an anti-Obama man is shown prominently to have a Confederate flag outside his house.
BOYHOOD contains a lot of strong foul language throughout its running time. There are also some sexual references, but, except for a few crude words, nothing extremely explicit. Young boys, however, are shown gazing through some lingerie ads in a magazine in one scene. Another scene implies they’re looking at Internet pornography. Only the audience realizes what’s happened. Nothing further is mentioned about such activity. Other than his one encounter, Mason isn’t promiscuous.
Ultimately, BOYHOOD is a fairly pointless, depressing, episodic exercise unlikely to entertain or engage average moviegoers. The boy’s transformation from age 6 to an older teenager is admittedly striking, but that’s not enough to hang a story or movie upon. In fact, except for a few cases, a lot of the dialogue is fairly innocuous, or doesn’t lead to much of anything. Conflict and jeopardy are also, for the most part, absent. Two of the movie’s best moments come when the boy’s photography teacher gives him a pep talk and when an immigrant tells the boy’s mother that a pep talk she gave him several years ago inspired him to make something more of himself. These moments are more inspiring than the third act, which is anti-climactic. What kind of narrative structure is that?

IVORY TOWER



IVORY TOWER examines the history, current situation and future of higher education in the United States. It predicts a revolution brought about by technology and by students who decide the price of college is higher than the value received.
The documentary begins with Harvard and clearly states that class lectures were much like the sermons preached to those who established the college. Students are shown walking under the engraved motto, “Enter to grow in wisdom.” A black student’s mother thanks God for the opportunity her son received to attend Harvard.
From there, the movie quickly shifts to a very good examination of the costs vs. the value of higher education. The point is well made that college costs have soared even faster than health care because there is competition to be the most luxurious, prestigious school possible. The ability of students to get loans has reduced the competition to provide the most affordable education. The movie declares the trend unsustainable.
The movie also points out that many students choose schools because of their reputations as places to party. Some scenes explaining this show binge drinking, a big fight at a campus pool, and some girls in bikinis. The partying is not condoned. It’s shown as part of the problem.
The movie ventures into some strange alternatives. In one, boys get an education in Hagel, a Pre-Communist German philosopher, while working on a farm. In another, students at Cooper Union, a school in New York City, stage a long sit-in because for the first time the school was about to charge tuition. There was even a non-college in Silicon Valley were young adults worked together to acquire high-level job skills without seeking diplomas.
IVORY TOWER reports that 68 percent of students do not graduate in four years, and 44 percent don’t even graduate in six years. This is true even with sharply reduced academic standards. The longer you go, the larger your loan debt.
Looking to the future, the movie shows the benefits and drawbacks to online education. It explores several ways to mix new technology with traditional education methods. It rightly predicts major change in the near future.
Movieguide® recommends the movie to high school and college students for the importance of the issues raised, but we would have loved the inclusion of some of Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society,” adding, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” Movieguide® does recommend caution because of mild vulgarity, scenes exposing the problems of campus hedonism, and because of some of the philosophies used as examples of education.

LIFE ITSELF



LIFE ITSELF is an interesting documentary depiction of the life of America’s famous movie critic, Roger Ebert. It has a strong Romantic worldview and brief PC comments offset by some strong moral elements.
The movie follows the story of Ebert from a small-town boyhood in Illinois and impassioned love for movies and writing, through his college days as editor of his student newspaper and into his work at the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper as its movie critic. From there, it shows his fascination with lurid filmmaker Russ Meyer, who made movies featuring lots of female upper nudity and who invited Ebert to write the notoriously bad cult movie BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for him. This sequence makes for the movie’s most offensive part as it shows a few clips, but there are also some very funny comments from friends who express bafflement as to why Ebert ever wrote such a thing in the first place.
The movie then focuses on the two biggest relationships in Ebert’s life, with fellow critic Gene Siskel and with his own wife, Chaz. With Siskel, Ebert redefined American movie criticism (for the worst, some would say, including MOVIEGUIDE®) and became a superstar over their long-running weekly TV series. With Chaz, the movie shows an incredibly moving portrait of true marital love in which she cares for him under extremely debilitating circumstances, until he finally asked doctors not to resuscitate him if his body starts to fail in a major way. His wife disagreed with these wishes in that regard but didn’t know about his request until the doctors let him die.
The movie discusses Ebert’s heavy drinking in his early life at length, but it contains stronger segments about the problems that this alcoholism eventually cost him, including a desire to kill himself even as he was on top of the movie journalism world. The movie makes it clear that he successfully kicked the habit. Also, Ebert speaks strongly against excessive alcohol use at other points.
There’s a lengthy depiction of the mean-spirited arguments Ebert and Siskel had throughout much of their career together, although their harsh rancor eventually evolved into a genuine friendship and love for each other. There is also quite a bit of discussion early in the movie about Ebert’s promiscuous early days as a newspaperman in Chicago, but no images are shown and no graphic talk occurs.
LIFE ITSELF contains a brief discussion of Ebert’s moral sense as a critic where, it’s claimed, he would chastise filmmakers he felt crossed the line into truly immoral behavior. The example used is the 1986 movie BLUE VELVET, where Ebert loudly criticized its filmmaker David Lynch for exploiting actress Isabella Rossellini in degrading fashion for graphic nudity and violence against her onscreen, even as most other critics hailed that movie as a classic.
Finally, the movie contains some politically correct discussion of Ebert’s days as the editor of his college newspaper, and his decision to attack the war in Vietnam. There are only a couple of strong, direct comments along those lines in the segment, however. Ebert makes it clear early on that he was raised to be a devout Democrat.
LIFE ITSELF is beautifully shot by acclaimed documentarian Steve James. His early movie HOOP DREAMS became a popular classic thanks to the support of Ebert and Siskel. However, LIFE ITSELF has a slow pace at times. For example, it could have easily been shortened so that lengthy footage of sarcastic fights between Ebert and Siskel could have been reduced and still made their point. Another part that should have been reduced are some unnecessarily lengthy shots of Ebert’s medical treatments, which he apparently bore with grace under pressure.
The movie uses Ebert’s recorded audiobook of his memoir, also titled LIFE ITSELF, of the same name, using that as the primary narration for the movie. It also has numerous interviews with other movie critics and filmmakers who admired his reviews.
Overall, LIFE ITSELF is a well-made look at an enormously influential man’s life and should prove fascinating to anyone who is a movie buff or interested in Ebert’s work. It also provides an admirable portrait of marriage and the healing effect true love can have on a person. Finally, the movie is devoid of any mention of Ebert’s atheism, which isn’t discussed but may have been avoided because of rumors he had re-embraced his lapsed Catholic faith in his final years.
For those who appreciate documentaries and movies, or Ebert himself, LIFE ITSELF is a nice piece of work. However, there are several shots of female nudity, sexual activity and violent gunfire from existing movies. LIFE ITSELF also has some brief, strong foul language and scenes of battling cancer that are hard to watch. So, extreme caution is warranted.

How One Movie Changed A Small Town



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How One Movie Changed A Small Town 

In June of 2014, UPtv premiered LOVE FINDS YOU IN SUGARCREEK, OHIO to tremendous success, a TV movie based on the novel by Serena B. Miller. It’s been a month since the story revolving around Amish community in a small Midwestern town inspired millions. What many don’t know is the impact this small movie has had on the real town of Sugarcreek, Ohio. In a letter to Movieguide®, Serena Miller, the author of the LOVE FINDS YOU IN SUGARCREEK book, shares an uplifting story reminding us of the power of good, uplifting movies. The letter reads:

The Village of Sugarcreek is not perfect, but in reality, it is very nearly as sweet and lovely as it is portrayed in the movie. The people–perhaps because of the predominance of Amish and Mennonite families–are especially decent and kind. When I drove into that town five years ago, trying to research my first published book, I didn’t have a big name as an author. I didn’t have much credibility at all. But much like my movie hero, Joe, the people took me in, taught me about their culture, and encouraged me in spite of the fact that I was a complete stranger to them.

There are a lot of tourism dollars spent in Ohio Amish country, but Sugarcreek was a little off the main path. They didn’t seem to attract the tourists like some of the larger towns and the shop keepers were struggling. The owners of a beautiful little family-run Christian bookstore were very worried. Business had gone downhill for several years in spite of their hard work. They didn’t know if they could continue to stay open if things continued to trend downward. The store had been started by their father and had been in existence for nearly fifty years. They didn’t want to lose it.

And then Mission Pictures moved into town for a few weeks to film a movie, and things started to look up. The actors, director, and crew were astonished at how welcoming and kind the local people were. Mission’s main office was practically next-door to the Gospel Bookstore, and suddenly more people were coming in, mainly to buy the book because they were curious about the movie–but they would also look around while they were in there and buy a couple other books. The proprietors were smiling more than I’d seen them smile in years. They talked excitedly about the day when there would be a DVD to sell, too!

And that brings us up to last night. There was a huge community event here. Sugarcreek Village hired a company to set up a drive-in movie to help them celebrate. The place was packed with cars and people sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets. Children were everywhere. The weather was perfect. It was even free, which everyone appreciated. Few people in this area have the UP network, so it was the first time most had watched it.

For two hours before the movie started, I did a book signing along with the two actors who played Aunt Anna and Aunt Lydia, who have become friends of mine. The book signing was a solid stream of people all excited about the movie. They loved especially getting to meet two of the main actors.

But here’s the best part. Many of the people were local business owners who have already begun to see an uptick in their businesses because of the new surge of tourists. The mayor told me that he’d already had people as far away as Utah come visit because they’d seen the movie, which only aired two weeks ago.

It was no small thing to be getting hugs from so many grateful, decent, hard-working people.

I have to admit, I’ve been one of those people who didn’t pay a lot of attention to what happened on the screen. I seldom went to movies. Our family went without a television in our home for many years because I didn’t like what some of the programs taught my kids. Instead, I read books and wrote.

The first I saw the possibility for the good a movie could do was at the class you taught at ACFW last fall when you looked at all of us and told us, “If your goal is to become best selling authors, you are aiming too low. Your Christian books are fine as long as someone actually picks them up and reads them. But if you want to change the culture, you have to become involved in movies.

Those words were in my head last night as I stood on a hill and marveled over all the cars and people and children and blankets and picnic baskets as they experienced a gorgeous movie that managed to entertain and still honor God–a movie that held everyone’s attention without the use of even one curse word.  I experienced a moment of such sheer, pure joy; it is impossible to describe.

All these children and parents relaxing, talking with neighbors, enjoying a lovely evening together. An entire town experiencing a renewal of hope.

And THAT is what can be accomplished when seasoned Hollywood professionals put their minds to it. Hollywood has such enormous power for good it is absolutely mind boggling.

Serena Miller took part in Movieguide®’s HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) class. For information about this class, please email [email protected]

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Study Links Watching TV to Premature Death



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Study Links Watching TV to Premature Death

By Job Garcia, Contributing Writer

A recent study shows a link between watching a lot of television and premature death.

The study, conducted in Spain, surveyed 13,200 college graduate adults, who were around 37 years of age when the study began. During the eight years the adults were followed, a total of 97 deaths occurred.

The study discovered that adults who watched several hours (three or more) of television daily were twice as likely to become deceased over the study period, compared with those adults who only watched television for an hour or less.

The study also discovered that the total time sitting (which included time spent watching television, using a computer, or driving) of the participants was also connected to an increased risk of death during the study period.

The discoveries of this study remained despite the study’s examiners accounting for other factors that could potentially contribute to a person’s risk of death. These factors included age, sex, smoking behaviors, total daily calorie consumption, snacking patterns, body mass index, degree of physical activity and whether partakers observed a Mediterranean diet, which was connected to longer life span.

On June 25, 2014, the study’s examiners, from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, wrote an article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. They wrote:

“Our findings suggest that not only the promotion of physical activity but also the reduction in sedentary activities (especially television viewing) is a priority for the prevention of premature mortality.”

The study doesn’t conclude that watching television is a direct cause of premature death. It only found a correlation between them. Consequently, one of the researchers said that further examination is needed to elaborate on whether decreasing television consumption can possibly decrease a person’s risk of death.

- Sources:  Live Science, 06/25/14.

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