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#MovieReview A Good Day to Die Hard

At the outset let me just say that I’m glad I didn’t pay good money to see A Good Day to Die Hard in theatres. Yes, I know it came out a year ago. I just had a free preview weekend of HBO courtesy of DirecTV, and it was on.

So I queued up the DVR to record it. Thinking, “You know, Live Free or Die Hard was cheesy, but I kinda liked it. How bad can this one be?”

The answer is so, so bad. Clichés, deus ex machina, etc. Near as I can figure the plot had something to do with bad blood between Evil Papa Smurf and Russian Alec Baldwin (his Russian doppelganger). Throw in a surly kid named Jack–who don’t know jack–and Bruce Willis acting like he wishes he were in a Geritol commercial with Wilford Brimley, and you’ve got the movie. Seriously, Willis looked like he needed a healthy dose of prune juice.

Don’t get me started on the ridiculous set pieces. Like a car chase involving a conveniently placed trailer? Whither credibility? At least with say James Bond there’s a willing suspension of disbelief (especially the Blonde Bond films). But here? They only thing that could’ve made this film worse is Shia LeBouef. Or maybe that’s better? MAYBE THEN WE’D KNOW NOT TO, YOU KNOW, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.

Yes, that I think–other than the absurdities (quick car ride to Chernobyl from Moscow, anyone? It’s 12 hours away!)–was the film’s greatest sin:

It took itself too seriously. It wasn’t fun. The one liners fell flat. And there wasn’t one single “Yippee-kai-ai!” in the whole sordid mess.

And that, my friends, is just one McClane too far.

Not Your Grandpappy’s Flannelgraph ‘Noah’

I saw the new Noah film with my wife yesterday. It ain’t your grandpappy’s flannelgraph Noah. Sure, there’s an ark; there’s just no “arky, arky” here. This is no cutesy kid-friendly Sunday school lesson (complete with crafts).

Before I continue, please go grab your Bible, and read the story of Noah as it appears there.

Done already? That was fast.

The savvy among you will know where I’m going with this: the account of Noah as it appears in canon can be read in 5-10 minutes. While the specifics are indeed there, it’s as notable for what it leaves our as for what it includes. What did people eat on the ark? We don’t know. Did they get tired of one another?  Bored? What provisions did Noah and his family bring for the animals? What did they do with all the dung? (I’m not the latest movie answers these questions, per se).

The point is: Scripture doesn’t tell us. So the filmmakers turned to extrabiblical sources to fill in those gaps. The film’s director, and co-writer, Darren Aronofsky, calls the movie a midrash. Midrash is a time-honored rabbinical tradition of filling in the gaps in a text. It’s a very Jewish thing. And it’s both surprising, and sad, that my fellow Christians don’t understand this. That we–collectively–don’t grok the Jewish roots of our faith. It’s like we’re ashamed of the imaginations God gave us…

So the movie is midrash, and incorporates material from such sources as the Book of Enoch. A deuterocanonical book, it is nevertheless quoted in the New Testament (the Book of Jude ring any bells?)–demonstrating that the very men God used to compose canon were familiar enough with this work to quote from it. Put another way, they considered at least portions of it to be authoritative enough to include in their epistles.

Again, because of our lack of familiarity with Judaism, and other works, there’s a hue and cry about what the filmmakers have done to Noah. While the fact is they’ve done nothing to him. He just the same as he’s ever been. If don’t care for this particular cinematic interpretation, which includes much wrestling with:

Sin

Justice,  and

Mercy

I’d recommend they go dust off that leather-bound tome on their bookshelves, exercise their rights as Bereans, and discover for themselves that nothing has changed in those pages.

There’s nothing to get upset over, folks. It’s a tempest in a teapot:

Scripture has not, and cannot be, changed.

If you don’t like it, don’t see it. As for myself, I thought it was a worthy effort. Still, it ain’t your grandpappy’s flannelgraph Noah. If you can deal with that, good; if not, read the book (don’t wait for the movie).

Thanks for reading!

Have something to say? The contents 5 are open below.

The Post About Me & Dean Koontz Hanging Out

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 11.20.12 PM This is Dean Koontz. You may have heard of him. ;-) He is one of the biggest bestselling novelists in the world. After starting as a science fiction writer, he broadened the scope of his work to encompass multiple genres: thrillers, mystery, horror, humor, etc. He is now more of a cross-genre writer, as his work encompasses all of these elements–and all within the pages of a single book!

He can take us to the darkest depths, make us weep with despair, and then raise us to the highest heights. For no matter how dark his stories skew, there is always a ray of sunshine. Hope somehow not only survives, but thrives. As in our own lives, this doesn’t happen without cost. There are sacrifices to be made, lives are lost on the way.

But the journey! The icy shock of confronting the blackest of evils, the good guys–misunderstood, and on the run. Koontz’s books are like literary crack! One wants to put them down, but cannot! There is always the next page, chapter… until the final one is turned, and stumbles to bed, bleary-eyed, at three A.M., fallen into a fitful sleep.

Like all the best writers, Koontz often writes himself (and his characters) into a corner, and one just keeps reading to see how he is going to get himself (and them) out whatever outrageous pickle he has imagined. For my money, the best writing does this: posits impossible scenarios–creates problems–and then finds a plausible way out.

Koontz does it time and time again.

I share my exuberance for his work here because I would be honored if you would join the on Thursday, January 23rd at 5:00 P.M. EST. Dean will be chatting with his publicist, a Vice President of Random House publishers, and three lucky fans. Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 11.36.39 PM

I’m inviting you, my readers, to this event because, out of all of the people that applied for one of those three spots, I was chosen.

It feels a little like winning the lottery. It felt a little clandestine: there were emails, sample questions, and a phone call from New York to “triple confirm” my availability. I was like, Are you kidding me? Of course I’m there!

This is where you come in. Not only can you watch me blubber like an idiot (if you like), it’s also your chance to be heard! It may be my face being seen, and the sound of my voice being heard, during the hangout, but it could also be yours. In addition to, of course, taking questions via chat during the hangout, I would like for you ask any questions you may have for Mr. Koontz here in response to this post.

If you have questions about writing, about research, about the creative process, please ask them below, and I will do my best to get them answered on air during the hangout.

Thanks much for your support! I couldn’t do what I do here without you.

–Chad

Oblivious: Starring Tom Cruise: A Movie Review

[SPOILER WARNING. SERIOUSLY. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN OBLIVIOUS, ER, OBLIVION, STARRING THOMAS CRUISE MAPOTHER III BACK AWAY FROM THE INTERNET NOW. Thank-you.]

I know, I know. Oblivious… I’m sorry, Oblivion came out almost a year ago. But it’s new to me. As in I’ve only just seen it. The reasons for this are many, but come down to: $. And my movie $ were spent elsewhere last year. (And I didn’t even think of seeing M. Night Shyamalamdingdong’s After Birth).

I’m not saying Oblivious, I’m sorry–Oblivion–is bad. It’s… entertaining. To a point. It’s entertaining in the ways the most Hollywood “high concept” pictures are entertaining these days.
In fact, I imagine the pitch going something like this:

Studio flunky #1: “We’ve got this great piece. High concept. Dystopian future. Like Hunger Games.  Only not.”

Studio Exec: “Tell me more. What do you mean like “Hunger Games?”

Studio flunky #2: “Well, it’s like Hunger Games in that it’s set in a Dystopian future. That’s what’s like. But you know what? Think more in terms of alien invasion. But not.”

Studio Exec looks perplexed, but give his best “Temba, his arms open” look and gesture: “Tell me more.”

Studio flunky #1: “Yeah, it’s dystopian like Hunger Games, but if you think more like Independence Day meets Michael Bay’s The Island you’d be closer to the mark.”

Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, that’s totally it! It’s Independence Day meets The Island! Cause we’ve got an alien invasion and clones!”

Studio Exec: “Clones? Where do the clones come in? And who’s it got? Who’s attached to star?”

Studio flunky #1: “Well, you know how ID4 had Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum? We think we need to mix it up like that, too…”

Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, instead of those guys, we’ll have Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise!”

Studio flunkies #1 and #2 in unison: “And it’s a total misdirection! We start in media res, and make the audience think one thing–when it’s totally something else! Tom Cruise is a clone!”

Studio Exec: “Tell me something I didn’t know.”

Studio flunkies exchange a bemused look.

Studio flunky #1: “There’s of course a love interest, a resistance group on earth, and cool special effects. And a happy ending!”

Studio flunky #2: “We think it’s got legs. It’ll do boffo box office.”

Studio Exec: “Where do I sign?”

————–

I call the film Oblivious, because, #1 the studio heads have to be completely clueless when such hackneyed tropes get used over an over again; and #2, they count on us, the movie going populace, to be completely oblivious when they do so. The story really does borrow heavily from both The Island and ID4. There is an invasion, but it happens before the movie’s beginning. We think (are in fact told) that humanity won the war, but ruined the planet (when the the truth is we did not). This is totally telegraphed, and by the time the big twist drops, we know. I knew what was coming: Tom Cruise is a clone. Not only that, but like Bay’s before: there is no Island (in this case, Triton). We’ve seen it all before. We’ve seen it done better…

I wanted to like Oblivion. I really did. But the ending? Ugh. Total Hollywood! Not only do they blatantly steal the “blow up the alien mother ship” sequence from ID4, they take the sacrifice the Tom Cruise character makes, and take a dump all over it with a tacked-on, schmaltzy happy ending. A sacrifice is a sacrifice precisely because it costs somebody something.

But not, I guess, in Hollywood.

Where far too many folks are, you guessed it, oblivious. Or maybe I’m just cynical and jaded.

Nah.

Who’s Your #TwitterTwin?

Just as cognates are words which appear similar, but have different meanings, so, too, there are Twitter cognates.

Twitter Twins.

Your Twitter Twin is another person bearing your name, but with (obvioisly) a different face. Like cognates, you sound the same, but look different.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to search Twitter for your name, find an account with photos, and RT one with the following:

“I found my #TwitterTwin. Who’s yours?”

Let’s make this fun, people. :-)

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