CGB Review of Ex_Machina

“To be human is to be ‘a’ human, a specific person with a life history and idiosyncrasy and point of view; artificial intelligence suggest that the line between intelligent machines and people blurs most when a puree is made of that identity.”
–Brian Christian, The Most Human Human

This is my review of Ex_Machina!


When a young coder named Caleb (Domhall Gleeson) wins at raffle because–potatoes!–at the Google-esque company where he works, he gets to spend one week with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the eccentric CEO of the company.   Nathan reveals to Caleb his latest creation: A humanoid cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander).  Nathan assigns Caleb to conduct a series of interviews with Ava and apply the Turing Test; to put it simply, he has to measure Ava’s ability to persuade him that she is human even though she is actually AI (Artificial Intelligence).

So I watched this movie on my lunch break and was almost late getting back to work because this is an intelligent and engrossing film.

The Hits
Move over, Fantastic Chore–I mean Bore–I mean Four; THIS is the sci-fi film of the year!
I can’t wait to see Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because he is fantastic as Nathan.  He brings to life a secluded genius who feels a need to mentor and guide others as a way to overcompensate for the fact that he fails to connect with others on a daily basis.
Alicia Vikander gives one of the best performances as a robotic protagonist I’ve seen in a while.  Her voice is low-key and slightly monotone, hence reminding us that she is a cyborg, but her movements, facial expressions and careful changing of voice pitch makes her a convincing human.
Caleb starts out as a blank slate, but slowly evolves into a distrusting man who ends up questioning his own humanity in one particular scene where [SPOILER] he cuts himself with a razor to see if he is all wires or water and bone.  Self-injury is tough to do in cinema without looking exploitive, but this scene was well handled and served a purpose to his character development.
I want the soundtrack for this movie because the music matches the cool, low-lit atmosphere of Nathan’s research facility.   The eerie soundtrack has that “someone is watching you from a dark corner” kind of vibe that a clausterphobic sci-fi film needs.
A while ago, Father Robert Barron posted a video called “Planned Parenthood and the Loss of Human Dignity.”  In it, he mentioned how when the value of human life is not determined by God, but rather by who society says has the right to life, the loss of human dignity is sure to follow.
Anyway, I bring this up because there are quite a few times where I felt that some pro-life thinking worked its way into the script.
Here’s a quick example: One of my favorite scenes is when Caleb and Ava are conversing and then this happens:
AVA: “What will happen to me if I don’t pass?  What if I don’t function like I’m supposed to?”
CALEB: “Ava, I don’t know…”
AVA: “Do you have people who switch you off?”
CALEB: “No–”
AVA: “If you can’t be switched off, then why can I?”
Father Barron said that there is dangers to letting sentimentality (our feelings towards others) or productivity (someone’s usefulness in society) be a determining factor in who is deserving of human dignity and who is not.

The Misses
I didn’t feel that Nathan’s assignment to Caleb was explained very well.  By that, I mean Nathan explains it with too much techno-babble instead of keeping the explanation plain and simple.
There are a few times where the dialogue audio is drowned out by the musical score.  It’s not “God forbid a character turns their head from the camera” bad like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland; more like “God forbid a character mumbles” bad.  It’s not a constant problem, but I don’t like having to turn my volume up at 60 just to hear Nathan say, “I’m hung over.”
Any time you write a story that is essentially a think-piece, you run the risk of the ideas trying to be the story instead of the story having ideas.  Old Fashioned had this problem, and Ex_Machina faces this roadblock, as well.  Honestly I don’t think there’s a perfect solution for this issue in think-piece stories, but being aware of it would be helpful to aspiring filmmakers who want to make their audience ponder new ideas.

Overall Ex_Machina is a top-notch film from a first-time director.   An engaging script with thoughtful performances and great musical score make this worth all the praise and accolades it has received.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

I Volunteer as Tribute: Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe

As a Catholic fan of the Hunger Games, I can’t help but wonder if author Suzanne Collins was inspired by Saint Maximilian Kolbe to have Katniss take her sister Prim’s place in the 74th Games.
Well, Suzanne Collins is Roman Catholic…
Anything is possible, I suppose.

This is the story of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe!


There once was a boy named Raymund, who was born in Zduńska Wola, Poland with his father Julius, his mother Maria and four brothers.  Not long after he was born, Raymund and his family moved to another town called Pabianice.
Raymund was an aimless boy; he went to school, helped out around the house, walked around town, etc.  He didn’t seem to have any particular talents that would make him famous or important by the world’s standards.

Then in 1906, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in an apparition that would change the course of his life forever.

“That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr.  I said that I would accept them both.”

Raymund joined the Conventual Franciscan minor seminary with his older brother Francis one year later.
Then in 1910, Raymund Kolbe entered the novitiate with a new name: Maximilian.

Now Maximilian and the Virgin Mary were BFFs.  After all, she saved him from a dull life as a directionless country boy by revealing his purpose in life.   Naturally whenever someone impacts your life in a positive way, you feel a desire to repay them and show your gratitude.
In Maximilian’s case, he felt so much love and respect for the Blessed Mother that he not only added “Maria” to his full name (Maximilian Maria Kolbe), not only did he openly promote the veneration of Mary, but he even started the Militia Immaculata (MI) in her honor.  The purpose of MI is to evangelize to the world and convert hearts by relying on Mary’s intercession.  In fact, to become a member of MI, you have to make a personal act of consecration to Mama Mary.
Yep, that’s the sexist Catholic Church; we’re so misogynistic that we canonized a guy who was inspired by a woman to change his life and then started an organization where members consecrate themselves to that same woman.
Just let that sink in for a moment.

Maximilian’s missionary work took him all over the world; China, Japan, and eventually to India.  For reasons unknown, he couldn’t gather a following in China, but he did get a lot of work done in Japan.  He build a monastery on the outskirts of Nagasaki.
Interesting trivia: The atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki obliterated everything in its path…except for the monastery that Maximilian had built.  In the midst of death and destruction, the monastery was still standing.
Even when tuberculosis forced him to end his travels and return to Poland, Maximilian remained active by starting a radio station in–(do not ask me how to pronounce this) Niepokalanow.
I’ll bet you Satan got ticked with Maximilian; “you have freaking tuberculosis; how are you still moving?  These Mary-loving types are always the hardest to axe off.”

Then everything changed when the Fire Nation–I mean–the Nazis attacked.  In addition to slaughtering innocent Jews, the Third Reich had a particular hatred of the Catholic Church and anyone associated with her (I say “her” because the Church is the bride of Christ).  Maximilian and four other priests were arrested on Feburary 17th, 1941.  When Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz, he was given another new name: Prisoner #16670.

One of the twisted policies of Auschwitz was that if a prisoner escaped, ten prisoners would pay with their lives.  So when three prisoners fled Auschwitz, ten men were randomly selected to spend their days in an underground bunker, where they would left to die from starvation and dehydration.
One of the chosen was Prisoner #26273, also known as Franciszek Gajowniczek.  In a panic, Franciszek cried out, “My wife!  My children!”  Haunted by the fear of leaving his wife to fend for herself with two fatherless child, he begged for mercy.  The Gestapo officers held their batons, ready to strike him to end his pleading.

A man with glasses and a long white beard stepped up and faced the Gestapo.
“I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”
The switch was made and Franciszek was sent back in line to live another day.  Wiping off the sweat from his face, he turned to get a look at his rescuer, Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe.
During his final days, Maximilian kept his fellow prisoners in high spirits with prayer and fasting.  He evangelized to the men, giving them hope by telling them of Jesus and His mother Mary and praying with them.
Two weeks later, the guards entered the bunker to collect the bodies.  They froze when Maximilian Kolbe looked up at them, still alive.
A calm Maximilian lifted his left arm and received a deadly injection of carbolic acid.  His body was cremated on August 15th, the feast day of the Assumption of his beloved friend, Mary.

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, pray for us.

CGB Review of Gone Girl (2014)

There is a major spoiler about one of the characters in this review, so SPOILER AHEAD.

This is my review of Gone Girl!


I love Gillian Flynn’s novel “Gone Girl,” which this movie was based on.  I’ve read that book so many times and I’m sure I’ll be reading it again real soon.  Before I ramble on and on about how awesome the book is, let’s talk about the movie.
On the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s 5th wedding anniversary, Nick discovers that Amy has disappeared.  From there, a nationwide search for her is launched and Nick must deal with Detective Rhonda Boney and Detective Jim Gilpin, who begin to suspect that he [Nick] murdered his wife [Amy].  While that’s going on, we get to look into Amy’s diary, where the Dunnes’ troubled marriage is chronicled.

As a fan of the book, I am happy to say that this is one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations that I have seen in a while.

The Hits
David Fincher’s use of a cool color palate, an eerie musical score that sounds like someone is just around the corner, waiting to get you (we have Atticus Ross to thank for that), and smooth camera pans fit this movie like a glove.  In the writing category, I have great respect for Gillian Flynn, who wrote the screenplay for the film.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy deciding which things to cut and which story elements to keep, but I can tell that she put the time and effort to making sure that the film matches her vision as accurately as possible.  There’s an old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Rosamund Pike was born to play Amy Elliott Dunne, the most disturbing femme fatale in recent memory.   This icy Hitchcockian blond with a haunting voice that would make anybody look over their shoulder if they heard her speak is calculating, methodical and armed with 20/20 foresight.  She thinks of everything and spares no one in her path; Satan asks her for advice.  She will ruin you and then reassemble you to fit her vision.  She doesn’t need to point a gun to hurt you; all she has to do is know you.   That is how she begins to destroy you.
Ben Affleck not only understands Nick Dunne, but he even does a better job at representing Nick than the book.  He exceeded all expectation with his portrayal of a lazy, pathetic, country-boy adulterer who avoids any and all conflict, even if it’s staring him right in the face.
Tyler Perry gives a surprisingly stellar performance as the cocky slimeball Tanner Bolt, Carrie Coon is grounded and down-to-earth as Margo “Go” Dunne, and although he seems a bit miscast, Neil Patrick Harris does a good job as the creepy Desi Collings.

A Word of Caution
Are you discerning married life?  Is your own marriage in a rough patch?   Are you unsure or even suspicious of the institution of marriage?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this movie might get under your skin.  Both the movie and especially the book lean towards an anti-marriage point of view.  In both versions, married characters are either miserable or idiotic, Amy Dunne makes plenty of “don’t-get-married” statements, and the Dunnes’ marriage freefalls from passionate to insufferable.
That all being said, do keep in mind that this is a work of fiction, and Gillian Flynn herself is a married woman.  She even gives her husband a glowing acknowledgment at the end of the book.

Overall Gone Girl is one of the best thrillers in recent years that will quite literally keep you guessing until its gut-wrenching conclusion.

Christian Movie Reviews: Do You Believe?

My Fant4stic Four review was written at 1 o’clock in the morning and despite being very tired, I pushed myself to talk about a movie that couldn’t care less about its own existence.
Now it is 11am, I am well rested and ready to review a risk-taking, gut-wrenching Christian film called Do You Believe?


Do You Believe?, which was created by the same people who made God’s Not Dead, tells the story of twelve desperate characters whose lives will inevitably intertwine as they come to see the power of the Cross.
I have no idea why this movie wasn’t a hit like God’s Not Dead because this is another genre-saving movie that Christian filmmakers need to imitate.

How many Christian films do you see take on homelessness, self-mutilation, gang violence, PTSD, familial abandonment, loss of a child, teenage pregnancy and other heavy topics in just two hours?  Now while they never get R-rated graphic with the self-cutting or the gang violence, just having those elements in a Christian film is pretty bold.
All of the performances are excellent with every single actor being fully invested in their roles.  There’s a sense that the director and screenwriters (two people wrote this movie) know that this film isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but they’re willing to take that chance so that they can passionately tell the story that they want to tell.  Quite frankly, I can’t help but admire everyone involved with this project.
I was biting my nails because telling multiple storylines is a difficult formula and it has more failures than successes.  However I am delighted to announce that this is a brilliant multiple-character study.   Each storyline is well-developed and the pacing–hallelujah!–the pacing is smooth sailing.  There is never a dull moment because every scene has a rhyme and reason for existing.   The film transitions very well because each story arch ties into another story arch, woven like a quilt of cinematic competence.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for a Christian film that FINALLY tackles “faith without works is dead.”  That is shockingly rare in Christian movies, so for a film in this genre to acknowledge that belief in Jesus requires action is a much needed breath of fresh air.

Okay, now I’ve praised the film to death, there are some things I have to address.  Like Amelie, this is a niche film.  Atheists will not like this movie because the non-believing characters range from militant jerks (Sean Astin’s doctor character) to vaguely defined semi-atheists (Andrea Logan-White’s lawyer character).  The agnostic characters are more like sort-of agnostic-ish who just need the kindness of a Christian friend in order to convert.  Also some of the dialogue can get preachy and one of the storylines ends with a miracle that kind of comes out of left field.

I remember one of the teens at my LifeTeen youth group telling me that she saw this film in theaters and was blown away by it.  Having watched it, I can see why.  Passion and talent permeate every frame of this film.  Unlike the people who slogged through Fant4stic Four, everyone put their all into this movie and that’s really all I could ask for.

The movie challenges viewers with the question: “If you believe in the power of the Cross, then the question is…what are you gonna do about it?”
Your move; what’s your answer?

CGB Review of The Fantastic Chore–I mean–Four

Pushing open the double doors, I looked up at the ceiling.  “Dear sweet Virgin Mary, Mother of God, please tell me: What in the wide world of heck did I just sit through?” I asked aloud as I stumbled out of Theater 10, tossing my now-empty soda cup into the trash.
The Blessed Mother didn’t answer, but if she had, she probably would’ve answered in a gentle voice, “A very crummy movie, my dear.”

This is my review of the Fantastic Four!


The Fantastic Four tells the story of four young adults who are brilliant in the field of science.  Now I’m aware that this movie is based on the…(looks at info sheet)…the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book, which debuted in 2004.   In previous incarnations of the “First Family of Comics,” as they are called, the Fantastic Four get their powers via space travel.  However in this version, it is inter-dimensional travel that graces them with their supernatural abilities.

So it’s exactly 1:16 am and I’m very tired.  However I’m not going to be like the makers of this corporately-mandated movie and give you a half-baked review; I’m going to use the last of my energy to tell you that this is one of the most passionless movies I have ever seen.  Just like Aloha, Pup, Christian Mingle the Movie, Last Ounce of Courage and Bad Teacher, I have absolutely nothing good to say about Fant4stic Four.
Here is everything wrong with The Fant4stic Four!

What the heck is up with the stiff and wooden line-delivery in this film?  If you were telling someone about a project that you’ve spent years of your life working on, you wouldn’t say it in a flat voice and with no emotion, but that’s exactly what happens in this film.  The biggest offenders are the kid who plays young Reed Richards, Reg. E Cathey (Dr. Franklin Storm), Miles Teller, and Kate Mara.
Okay, I’m going to give Ms. Mara a break because I know that she was verbally abused by director Josh Trank, which could explain her drained and tired performance as Sue Storm.  That being said, an explanation is not an excuse for her detached acting.
Miles Teller, who was the only entertaining part in The Divergent Series: Insurgent, is completely neutered as Reed Richards.  He sounds totally bored every time he speaks.  When he does try to inject some life into his character, it comes off as forced and awkward.
Reg. E Cathey annoyed me.  He’s got a cool gravely voice, but man, he is a drag to listen to.  He does have one good scene with Michael B. Jordan where he actually makes a sincere effort to act, but for the rest of the movie, he is devoid of emotion and is practically sleepwalking his way to a paycheck.
The only actors who are even trying are Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell, but even they become victims of the movie’s biggest problems.
Fant4stic Four has a major character development issue.  Personalities of characters will literally switch in a matter of minutes.  Jamie Bell will be the cautious one and Michael B. Jordan is the risk-taker, but then in another scene, Jordan is all, “No way, let’s not do that” and Bell is the one walking into a risky situation.  One minute, Kebbell is looking out for himself and Teller is the moral one, and then in the next minute, Teller is the self-serving opportunist while Kebbell is pulling back.
We’re supposed to believe that Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny are this family unit who would go through hell and back for each other.  If that’s the case, then this movie does nothing to prove it.  Reed and Ben feel more like acquaintances instead of childhood friends, the “romance” between Reed and Sue is contrived as all heck, Sue being the adoptive daughter of Dr. Franklin Storm is slapped-on and has no presence within the character and her relationship with her half-brother Johnny (Franklin’s biological son) is nonexistent.  Because little thought was put into developing the characters as people, their decisions feel like demands of the script and not organic choices that they would willingly make and their relationship with each other lacks authenticity and heart.
One more thing: Yes, the rumors are true.  The first act is drunk on tolerably bland build-up.  The second/third act of this movie is insufferable and a half-hearted final battle with Dr. Doom is the nail in the coffin.

Overall I tried to keep an open mind with this movie and my brain fell out as a result.  It is now 2 am and I wish you all good night…until my next review.  🙂

“If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
–1 Corinthians 13:13

Update: Check out this video on the troubled production of this film, which is actually more interesting than the film itself.

CGB Review of The Interview (2014)

Before the climactic interview, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) gives Dave Skylark (James Franco) the most ADORABLE Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a gift and Skylark almost caves in to the dictator’s charms.
To be fair, if a crazed dictator handed me a sweet puppy with a melting expression, I’d probably cave, too.
Why do I bring this up?  Because honest to God, I just wanted an excuse to show a picture of the dog from the movie.
You may now commence your “oohs” and “awwws.”

This is my review of The Interview!

In Franco and Rogen we trust.
In Franco and Rogen we trust.

This is the movie that North Korea had a major freakout about last year.  The Interview tells the story of TV host Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapoport.  Together they run a tabloid show where they cover stories like Rob Lowe being bald or Eminem coming out as gay, etc.  When they learned that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a huge fan of Skylark’s work, the two men set out to interview him.  However things get complicated when the CIA gets involves and wants Skylark and Rapoport to assassinate Kim Jong-un and used the interview as a cover to do so.

Before I start this review, let’s talk about the controversy behind it.
In June of 2014, North Korea flipped out over the premise of this film; two journalists being sent to assassinate Kim Jong-un while using an interview as a cover.  North Korea was so furious that they threatened to take action against the United States if Sony Pictures released the flick.  To prevent a third world war, the film was delayed from its October release to a slot in December and it was re-edited so that North Korea wouldn’t nuke us.  Then the Sony hacking thing happened, and The Interview ended up online and in limited release.

So is this raunchy comedy worth almost getting nuked?
Hmm…sort of.
By the way, I want you to remember that this film was re-edited.  It’ll be important later.

The Hits
The opening scene is hilarious!  Dave Skylark is interviewing Eminem and, literally out of nowhere, Eminem comes out as gay.  The reveal itself lacks the build-up needed for this kind of scene, but what had me laughing was how Eminem keeps a stoic expression on his face the whole time while Dave Skylark overacts.  “I’ve been leaving a gay trail of breadcrumbs,” Eminem says in the most nonchalant way.   The hilarity of the scene stems from the fact that Eminem is robotically calm while everyone else in the studio freaks out.  Characters’ reactions or even lack of reaction can be funny when it’s set up correctly.
James Franco and Seth Rogen’s believable chemistry carries the film.  I like how Seth Rogen is the calm and collected straight-man to James Franco’s whacky egotistical arch.
[A BIT OF A SPOILER] So Franco’s character spends the day with Kim Jong-un, who turns out to be a nerd who likes Katy Perry and margaritas.  I gotta say that I admire the decision to dilute Kim Jong-un’s character.  Even though I have…a variety of issues with portraying a DICTATOR as a hapless puppy-dog of a man, I give credit to anyone who is willing to make a risky move.
Also, extra brownie points for that precious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!

The Misses
Why did I want you to remember that this film was re-edited?  Because when it shows, it REALLY shows.  It’s not so much in the scene transitions, but in plot points.   For one, they make it clear that James Franco’s character is successful beyond his wildest dreams, so why would he agree so readily and without much of a fight to switch from doing entertainment news to taking on the dangerous task of interviewing a dictator?  The brief argument between Rogen and Franco over taking on the task is so rushed and has no build-up to what’s at stake that it lacks emotional investment.  [ANOTHER SPOILER] When we do find out that Kim Jong-un is batshiz insane, the reveal is so abrupt that even though I knew it was coming, the gravity of the revelation just wasn’t there.  More time was put into making him look innocent than it was on giving the audience a sense of unease about his character.   I have a feeling that when they were re-editing, some key scenes that could have fixed these problems ended up on the chopping block.
Speaking of which, this movie has a major build-up problem.  When the CIA approaches our main protagonists and explains what they [CIA] want them [Franco and Rogen] to do, the weight of the situation is nonexistent because it’s treated too light-heartedly.  Even Horrible Bosses understood how to keep the seriousness of attempting to kill their bosses while remaining a comedy.

Overall I can sort of see why North Korea didn’t want this movie to be released, mainly because of the premise and the portrayal of their ruler.  However The Interview should’ve been written as a dark comedy instead of a slapstick comedy.  That way, it would’ve been a serious situation with comedic reactions instead of a film with a mishandled tone.

CGB Review of Amelie/Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001)

The irony of this review is that a movie about a young woman with short dark hair is being reviewed by a young woman with short dark hair.  (Plays Inception music in the background)
I’d be weirded out if Amelie was also a blogger.

This is my review of Amelie/Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain!


After having lived through a quirky childhood with her eccentric, neurotic parents, Amelie Poulain grows up to be a shy, self-isolating waitress whose life changes when she stumbles upon a memorabilia that belongs to a man who lived in her apartment in the 1950’s.  After she returns it to him, she makes it her mission to help others by finding their lost stuff and giving it back to them, all while coping with her own inability to form connections with others.

Guys and gals, this is going to be a tough review.  A lot of people really like this movie, or at the very least respect it.  I’m going to review this with as much charity to the fans of Amelie as possible, but at the end of the day, I have to be honest.  This film is definitely an acquired taste and I tried really hard to get sucked into the whacky and whimsical world of Amelie, but I had some issues with it.  As always, though, I’ll start with the positive.

What I Liked
As a character study, Amelie succeeds.  This movie is gung-ho about making sure that you know Amelie Poulain as intimately as the filmmakers do.  Thanks to competent writing, everything about her is well-established; I know her past, her likes and dislikes, her successes and failures, and most importantly, what motivates her.  I really appreciate learning the smaller details about her, like how she likes feeling the smooth texture of market lima beans underneath her fingertips or how because her father only interacted with her during her monthly checkups, his hand on her shoulder made her heart skip aflutter (this was when she was a child).  Little details like that can endear the character to the audience.
Audrey Tatou is enchanting as Amelie.  Innocent without being childish, aimless but still hardworking, Amelie’s desire to help others is the closest she can come to human connections without endangering her own inner walls.  Interestingly, the movie makes Amelie unaware of these inner walls until she begins her humanitarian quest.  Oblivious to just how lonely she is, she discovers herself with each new person she helps.  The movie presents the topic of loneliness in a light-hearted, yet respectful manner.

What I Didn’t Like
The narrator…ugh!  I get that he has to spoon-feed us exposition about Raphael and Amandine Poulain (Ma and Pa), but when the story stops so that Mr. Narrator can summarize the backstory of every single character, whether they’re major or minor, it gets a little annoying.  It’d be like going to check the mail and then the mailman stops you, a total stranger, so that he can spend an hour and a half telling you the story of how his great-grandfather owned a potato factory in Ireland which had to be closed down during the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852!
This movie is OBSESSED with having yellow be the main color palate!  It’s not so bad during the nighttime scenes, but when Amelie is walking around at work and the walls emanate an incessant yellow glow or when the yellow daylight casts down on Amelie as she heads for the market, it got pretty repetitive.
As original as the story was, it felt a little too episodic.  Amelie finds a box in a hole in her wall because–potatoes–then she returns it to Dominique Bretodeau.  End of 1st story arch.  Then Amelie comes across a blind guy because–banana–and escorts him to the Metro station while narrating the journey.  She leaves him at the station and takes off.  End of 2nd story arch.  The story structure of Amelie could’ve used a little more polishing so that it could feel less like a charming television show and more like a feature length with a three-act structure.

Overall, I think I would have liked this movie more if the narrator would’ve “zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket” and if the story wasn’t quite episodic.  However I definitely understand why a lot of people like this movie.  It has the charm and self-awareness that a modern-day fairy tale needs.  If this movie is to you what Pan’s Labyrinth is to me (and by that, I mean it’s a movie that changes your outlook on storytelling and greatly inspires you every time you watch it), then kudos to you!   If this is your cup of tea, then it’s fine by me.

Christian Movie Reviews: Old Fashioned (2015)

Love is patient, love is kind, but film criticism is none of these things.

This is my review of Old Fashioned!old-fashioned-01

CGB follower “G.S.” asked me to review this movie when it came out in February, so now I am following through on that request.
Old Fashioned, which came out on the same day as Fifty Shades of Grey (remember this detail; it will be important later), tells the story of a rigid, introverted man named Clay who owns his aunt’s antique shop.  When an innocent, free-spirited woman named Amber becomes a tenant above the antique shop, the two develop an odd friendship that slowly but surely works its way into a chaste courtship in contemporary America.

Clay is a guy who gets in his own way with his strict theories on love and romance…and so does this movie.

The Hits
There are some gems to be found in this film.  For one, the color palate is something to be admired.  Because Old Fashioned embraces the simplisticity of its premise, the backgrounds are colored with earth tones with the lighting scheme of a late-afternoon sunset.  This color palate gives the film a cozy, little-town feel that I greatly appreciated.  In fact, one shot of a sun rising was so gorgeous that I actually took a picture of it on my phone.  I will post the picture on the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ Facebook page.
The two leads, Clay and Amber, have genuine chemistry.  Their interactions are believeable and their archs are well-defined.  Amber is just a delight.  She’s written less as a shallow modernist and more as a go-with-the-flow optimistic nomad who chases happiness and adventure.  She’s like Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat Pray Love; seeking new life after a doomed relationship.
Something else I really liked is that this Christian film attempts to show the two extremes of faith.  A loose faith leads to inconsistency and aimlessness.  A rigid faith leads to stagnation and resentment.  This is a rare and noble message that needs to be showcased more in Christian films.
The story itself is unique on paper; an age-old courtship in modern society can make for a great story when done right.  But when executed poorly…(sighs) well, here are my points of frustration with this film.

The Misses
Some of the editing choices are just off-putting.  This movie likes to have Clay and Amber talking, and then show a separate scene with Clay running on a track field because–potatoes!–or have Amber walk across a bridge because–banana!–and these odd transitions are going on WHILE Clay and Amber are in the middle of a conversation in the present day.  That kind of editing is great for the trailer, but it gets so distracting in the final product.
Speaking of Clay….oh, boy.  I’m sure the actor playing Clay is giving it his all, but his line delivery is so stilted.  It seriously felt like he was just reading off cue cards. Where Amber feels like a fleshed-out character who could exist in real life, Clay has the vibe of a character who was created to promote an agenda.  The rigid, introverted traditionalist arch can work, but because his dialogue consists of pro-courtship slogans and the delivery of those lines is borderline robotic, I could not for the life of me connect with Clay’s character.
Why did I bring up that this movie came out on the exact same day as that cinematic cancer we humans call “Fifty Shades of Grey?”  Because it’s quite obvious that this movie exists as a counter to Fifty Shades.  I recently wrote an op-ed titled “Putting a Hashtag on Human Life,” in which I talked about the animosity between the #BlackLivesMatter camp and the #AllLivesMatter camp.  One of the things I said was, “#AllLivesMatter is tainted by its own inception: It was created for the sole purpose of opposing #BlackLivesMatter and had no further vision.”  Old Fashioned has this exact same problem.  This movie exists because Fifty Shades exists.  As a result, it feels as though the ideas are trying to be the story, not the story trying to have ideas.

Overall Old Fashioned is a well-intentioned, even innovative film that falls short because of its inception.  Despite its shortcomings, it is a good start to the depiction of courtship in cinema.