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Nota bene: this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen Interstellar proceed at your own risk.

My wife watched Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar last weekend. I’ve been pondering it ever since. The film presents a rather bleak (or dystopian) view of the future, showing a world where most crops are dying due to an unstoppable blight. Corn is shown to be the hardiest, but it too is showing signs of falling to the blight. Moreover, due to the dying plants, oxygen levels are dropping.

Mankind, of course, can’t live without breathable air.

What happens next is something which appears to be supernatural–numinous–by which the film takes great pains to explain scientifically. Murphy, the daughter of the film’s protagonist, Cooper, seems to be receiving communications from her bookshelf. Some force, or entity, is using Morse code and/or gravity to leave her a message. This message contains coordinates, which lead to a secret government facility.

And thus the plot of the film is kicked into gear. The secret facility, it turns out, is the last NASA facility left, where they are working on a plan to save humanity. It seems that a wormhole has been opened near Jupiter, which is seen as a chance to find colonizable planets. Other missions have gone, by have not returned. Cooper, now a farmer, was once NASA’s best pilot, and is seen as this last mission’s best hope for success. He of course agrees, leaving his children to be raised by his father-in-law.

What follows are thrilling scenes of space travel, alien landscapes, intrigue, danger, betrayal, and salvation. It is this last of which I’m going to write.

Cooper, it turns out, becomes the means of mankind’s salvation by becoming a conduit through which ascended human beings communicate to his daughter, Murphy (who grows up to become a scientist while her dad is gone), who completes a formula to move mankind off of Earth.

As a lifelong fan of sci-fi, this didn’t bother me, namely the idea that our hope lies amongst the stars. That’s a trope as old as time. Philosophically, however, Interstellar is firmly grounded in materialism and humanism. All that exists is only what we see, and somehow we evolve to save ourselves. Becoming somehow so transcendent that we can’t communicate except by leading a man to the farthest reaches of space, and then dropping him into a singularity. My biggest beef (if you will) with the film is this: future humans are so transcendent we can make wormholes, and indeed black holes, but can’t, you know, speak.

Now there were aspects of the film I appreciated, particularly the notion that love transcends time, space, gravity, and death. But in the end I’m glad it’s fiction, and that our hope lays not within ourselves, but in God.

The God Who became one of us, spoke to us, showed us the way. Because the Gospel according to Interstellar is a bleak one.

What do you think? Did you see the movie?

To cap off our anniversary trip, my wife and I watched Dumb and Dumber To. And boy was it ever. Dumb, that is. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments (this depends, of course, upon your tolerance for toilet humor), but in my opinion it fell far short of the original. Which is not very far to fall at all, I guess.

Either that, or I’ve grown since the original came out twenty years ago (hint: I was twenty-five then, and I guess what I think is funny has changed). Don’t get me wrong: being a guy, fart jokes can still be funny, but a lot of what was passed off as humor in this movie was cringe-inducing. For instance, the name (spoiler warning) of Kathleen Turner’s character is Frida.

Frida Felcher <--warning unless you know, don't look that up on Urban Dictionary. Trust me on this.Beyond that, the story was by-and-large a retread of the original:Road trip? Check.Homicidal companion? Check.Girl in peril? Check?I could go on.Point being this: unless you're feeling uber nostalgic for the original, don't bother. There aren't even any memorable lines like "So you're saying there's a chance?" here.Dumb and Dumber To is rated PG-13 for crude humor and language. In my view, it’s time for Harry and Lloyd to fade into the sunset.

Folks, if you’ve seen one Liam Neeson movie you’ve seen them all. Seriously. They’re all Taken. If you remember that film, Neeson’s character, Brian Mills, had a particular set of skills. He will find you, and he will kill you.

We get it.

I mean going all the way back to one of his first big screen appearances in Excalibur, it’s clear Neeson was Taken With Arthur. In the Dead Pool, someone has Taken His Life. Darkman? They’ve Taken Mah Face. Rob Roy? Taken My Honor. Schindler’s List? He was Taken With the Jews. Stars Wars, Episode 1: the Phantom Menace? Taken By Maul. Non-Stop? Taken On A Plane.

I could go on, but as you can see: everything Neeson has done is Taken.

Your turn.

This post was occasioned by the Crash Synchroblog.

Apparently, I have been impacted by the death of beloved celebrities long before I knew what a celebrity was. You see, as a toddler I’m told I watched Bonanza with my parents. I wasn’t yet three years old when Dan Blocker (“Hoss”) died, and I’m told I cried. Many artists, actors, writers, performers have died since that day in May, 1973; I can’t say that I’ve again reacted with open weeping.

But I have felt profound sadness, even melancholy. When someone with whom I had spent many happy hours leaves this life behind I’m not untouched. The late Douglas Adams, with his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, made me laugh. Made me think. When he died–after a workout at the age of forty-nine, thirteen years ago this past May–it touched me more deeply than I would have supposed. I suppose it’s because I knew his work, had as I said above, spent many a happy hour reading of Arthur Dent’s galaxy-spanning adventures, busting a gut all the while.

Adams’s light had gone out.

I felt the same when I heard Robert Jordan had succumbed to cardiac amyloidosis in September of 2007. I had spent hours, days, months reading his Wheel of Time books. Though I didn’t know the man, it felt like an old friend had passed beyond mortal realms and into the undiscovered country (from whose borne no traveler returns).

I felt it again yesterday upon hearing the news of Robin Williams’s passing. I grew up watching Mork and Mindy, saw The World According to Garp in the theater, enjoyed Mrs. Doubtfire (“It was a run-by fruiting!”). Essentially, I had grown up with him. He was with me from childhood to marriage to childrearing. I was able to share his work with my children: Toys, Jumanji, the Night at the Museum movies.

Now his light, after a lifelong struggle with depression, has gone out of the world. I’m not going to disparage his struggles, but neither will I romanticize his death: suicide is never the answer, folks. Life is a gift, and is worth holding onto even thought it may appear all light has gone out of it. Because, even as dark as things may seem, there is at least the promise of dawn. Maybe I don’t understand at all clinical depression, and have never personally been deep down that dark rabbit hole. That’s as may be. I guess what I’m saying is: why now? After beating back his demons for 63 years, what made the man decide not to fight on (having slain those dragons before). What made him despair of living?

Maybe we’ll never know.

What I do know is that his legacy will live on through his work, and that he is being widely memorialized with words, and scenes, from his best know roles: Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, and Good Morning Vietnam. As iconic as those are, I’d like to leave you with this scene from 1984’s Moscow on the Hudson:

Good night, Robin Williams. When you said, in Bloomingdale’s, that you “vant to defecht” none of us knew that it would be this soon.

noah giveaway_1

As you may, or may not, know, the Noah movie has been released on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital. This movie generated quite a bit of dialogue both before, and during, it’s theatrical release. While we as Christians may not agree with the artistic license Darren Aronofsky employed in making the film, I think we can all agree that he had that right. Before we get into a debate about the movie’s artistic merits, or lack thereof, we would do well do remember that written works (such as the Bible is) and films are very different artistic mediums. What works well on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen. And the account of Noah as recorded in Scripture is very short. It is also completely without conflict. What I’m saying is that Mr. Aronofsky had scripted, and filmed, his movie with slavish adherence to the text it wouldn’t be a movie worth seeing: it would be woefully short, and without conflict.

Conflict is what drives stories. At their most basic, stories are about a character who wants something, and undergoes conflict to get it. In an industry dominated by the almighty dollar, name me a studio that would finance a wide theatrical release films which clocks in about twenty minutes. Who would pay to see that? (I wouldn’t. Movies are frightfully expensive these days. I’m not plunking down my hard-earned scratch on something unless it tells a compelling story. It has to be worth my time). There isn’t one. Added to that is that fact that Hollywood, by and large, isn’t in the business of catering to Christians. Why should we expect them to do so? Is that reasonable? In Celebrate Recovery, they have a maxim that goes: “Accepting this sinful world, as Jesus did, as it is, and not as I would have it to be.” Which is to say that, as people of faith, we would do well to moderate our expectations of the entertainment product coming of the movie industry. They, being very being very much interested in the bottom line, have to make a product which appeals to the broadest audience possible. That said, I have no compunction about avoiding most of the films, T.V. shows, what have which originate there. I know very well what the Scripture says about the love of money being a root of all kinds of evil.

That’s a given.

In this particular case, that of Noah, yes, Aronofsky used both the Bible, and extra-biblical sources (midrash, etc). We may not agree with that. We may not like all of his choices, or the way Noah is depicted on screen. However, let’s not forget the one, singular truth here: a director has been given the greenlight to make a big budget film about Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption. Again, we may not agree with everything that takes place on screen. Nevertheless, the fact that this film was made gives us a giant opportunity to talk about: Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, and redemption. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. The good news is that the Bible has been brought back into the multiplex in a big way (this December, director Ridley Scott’s Exodus Gods and Kings will bow).

My opinion? When God hands us an opportunity this large we best use it. People that aren’t normally open to discussing the Bible will be open, will have questions.

And we need to be there… with the Good News.

And there’s more good news for anyone reading this post: in conjunction with Grace Hill Media, I’m giving away a special edition box set of Noah. Just follow the instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway