CGB Collaboration Review of Kubo and the Two Strings With Patheos Blogger Monique Ocampo

If you must blink, do it now, because this is my collaboration review of Kubo and the Two Strings guest-starring Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo/MsOWrites!

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Kubo is a young boy who lives with his sometimes-catatonic mother in a cave by the sea. Every day he walks down to the village and entertains the villagers by telling stories using origami that comes to life when he plays his shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument).  There is a catch to Kubo’s existence: He must never ever stay out after dark. He soon figures out the reason when he stays out past dark and his evil spirit Aunts come to take him to his “grandfather” the Moon King, who intends to take Kubo’s remaining eye.  With the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo must find his deceased father’s armor and defeat the Moon King.
This is basically Pan’s Labyrinth for kids…and I LOVE it!  I’m not alone; my good friend Monique Ocampo, who you might know as MsOWrites from the Suicide Squad review. Don’t worry, we’re not gonna get kidnapped by Amanda Waller again.  As in our Batman v. Superman review, my points will be in blue and MsOWrites’ points will be in purple.

CGB Hits
I absolutely adore how imaginative this film is!  Like the titular character, the world we are introduced to is brimming with creativity.  I have always had a soft spot for Asian culture, so I appreciate that the story takes place in ancient Japan.
The first ten minutes has the best use of “show-don’t-tell” that I’ve seen in a long time.  Yes, there is some opening narration from Kubo himself, but his dialogue is not an exposition spiel; rather the visuals are allowed to do all the talking.  Any time the movie does resort to expositional dialogue, it is kept brief.  Speaking of the visuals, the animation is–holy cow–just breathtaking!  I turned to the friend who accompanied me and said, “Dude, that looks like real water!”  There’s an impressive painting-come-to-life feel with the color palatte and the design of the locations that make the film a beauty to behold.
The story itself is truly inspired!  Granted, the “adventures-of-a-half human-half celestial-child” story has been done before, but having him be a gifted storyteller who can bring origami to life with a musical instrument is quite an impressive twist.  The most admirable quality of the film are the morals.  I really like how Monkey tells Kubo, “Your magic is growing stronger.  You need to learn control.  But when we grow stronger the world grows more dangerous.”  Trust me when I say that her statement holds a lot of truth.
Earlier this year, I reviewed the Jungle Book, in which I pointed out how the film reminded me of something a friend said to me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil.  They know what they’re doing.”  Kubo and the Two Strings also brought those words to mind!   Similarly to how our guardian angels tackle the evil one when he tries to mess with us, any time the hawkish evil spirit aunts come to harrass Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are there to fight them off while Kubo either accomplishes a task or seeks refuge.   It is with their help that Kubo becomes strong enough and fully-equipped to finally take on the Moon King himself.  Also, the climactic confrontation between Kubo and Moon King does come with an Eden-style temptation.  Basically it’s the “join me and you will become like gods” thing, much like how the old serpent told Eve that if she ate the apple, she’d become like God.   Between this and the Jungle Book, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that kids films come with an interest in the mysterious spiritual world.

MsOWrites Hits
It’s so refreshing to find a movie for general audiences that has a completely original premise.  My brother and I were obsessed with Japanese culture since we were kids and we were both looking forward to seeing this movie.  It lived up to the expectations I had and then blew me out of the water.
The animation is stunning, the characters are all enjoyable, and the writing is a breath of fresh air amongst the remakes and reboots out there.  The movie does not play things safe and yet I would totally recommend this movie to basically everyone.
The central themes of this movie are about the importance of family and the power of a good story. Kubo goes on a journey to finish what his father started: to find the armor that will help him defeat the Moon King. Monkey, Beetle, and Little Hanzo all made for excellent travelling companions.
The Sisters were intimidating, frightening villains as well.  I also love all the action sequences because there was a variety of them. The townsfolk play a great role as supporting characters who do more than just act as bystanders.  I love that they accept Kubo’s gift and don’t treat him like an outsider like other movies would.

CGB Misses
The friend who came with me to see this movie had some questions about Kubo’s scary aunts.  “If his grandfather is the Moon King, then are his aunts supposed to be stars or something?”  This is just one of the film’s unanswered questions.
Is it just me or is the danger Kubo faces at the hands of his tyrannical grandfather lacking some weight?  Let me explain: So essentially, if Kubo is caught by the Moon King and the hawk-women, then they will take his remaining eye…and then what?  Are they gonna just leave him blinded on earth?  Is he going to be made into a freaky spirit person like them?   Also, other than being the product of his mother’s disobedience against the Moon King, why is the Moon King threatened by Kubo’s existence?   Does the Moon King believe that Kubo being half-human, half-celestial mean that he [Kubo] will try to overthrow him?  Now, to be fair, in their final confrontation, the Moon King does offer to take Kubo with him and make him an infinite being, but still, I think that if the threat had been written as “the Moon King’s gonna snatch Kubo’s other eye and enslave him,” or something like that, it would’ve helped.
Speaking of the Moon King, here’s my issue: I totally understand why he is a threat to Kubo, but the movie doesn’t make him seem like a threat to anyone else.  The Moon King doesn’t seem to be feared by anyone else in the movie’s universe.  In Harry Potter, Voldemort was a threatening presence regardless of whether or not Harry was around; it just so happened that he had his sights set on The Boy Who Lived and anyone associated with him.  Here, though, it would have helped to see the Moon King burn down a village or require insane sacrifices or something; anything to raise the stakes of his existence.

MsOWrites Misses
While I will say that all the actors did a great job in this movie, I wish that George Takei had more than just a cameo role. I also think that this movie could’ve been even better with Asian actors in the main roles. Matthew McConaughey’s acting is uneven, albeit has its own interesting brand of charm.

Elephant in the Room
Right before we did this collab, one of my Facebook friends sent me an article from a well­regarded Catholic news source that dismissed this movie and said that it promoted “neo­Pagan values.” As somebody who grew up watching Charmed, reads Harry Potter, and still watches Buffy, I think that the themes in this movie are just as Catholic as any Bible­-based movie.  For one thing, the central theme of this movie is the importance of family.  While the main villains are Kubo’s grandfather and aunts, it’s reminiscent of Luke 12:53 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-­in-­law against daughter-­in-­law and daughter-­in-­law against mother-­in-­law.” The Moon King and his daughters are arrogant because they fail to comprehend things such as compassion and selfless love. Without going into spoiler territory, the ending of this movie shows justice and mercy rendered unto the Moon King.
Yes, I did see the article about Kubo promoting the occult and I will tell you that I didn’t see a single ouija board, tarot card, voodoo doll or anything occult-like in this entire movie.  In fact, the villains were reminiscent of demons while Monkey and Beetle were basically Kubo’s guardian angels.  If anything, the story borrows heavily from Greek mythology with hints of Shintoism.  For the record, Shinto is a Japanese religion and given that the story does take place in ancient Japan,  it only makes sense to borrow influence from a Japanese religion.  So fear not, guys and gals, Kubo and the Two Strings is NOT pro-occult propoganda.  Frankly, I don’t think the devil really cares about stop-motion animation and the film’s pro-family message would probably have him tripping over himself as he tries to flee.

Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeously-animated and highly imaginative story that, much like the live-action Jungle Book film, has a lot to say about the spiritual realm without being overt about it.  It’s one of those films that encourages children to create things and use their imaginations.  Kubo and the Two Strings is a well-crafted film that respects the intelligence of children while giving adults a thing or two to think about.

Venerable Takayama Ukon and Saint Paul Miki, pray for us.

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CGB Review of Storks (2016)

So apparently, when a mom and dad love each other very much, they…
…write a letter to the stork company and that letter is put into a literal baby-making machine and viola!  A little bambino is made!

I’d better re-read my embryology book.

This is my review of Storks!

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Long ago, Storks used to deliver babies, but after an incident involving one stork who got too attatched to the kid he was supposed to deliver, Storks now deliver mail, phones and what have you.   Junior is the top salesman–er, I mean–salesbird, I guess, who is about to be promoted as the boss.  His first order of business would be to fire Tulip, the young woman who happens to have been the baby whose stork wanted to keep her, resulting in the end of the Stork baby-delivery gig.  Things go awry when Junior and Tulip come across a pink-haired baby (perhaps this is the origin story of my good friend and fellow blogger Pink-Haired Papist; check out her FB page here https://www.facebook.com/Pink-Haired-Papist-1378637942456144/?fref=ts) and must get her to her family before the higher-ups find out and destroy Junior’s chances of becoming boss.

The Hits
So the same guys who gave us the excellent LEGO Movie (yes, I will be reviewing that at some point in the near future) are behind this flick and it shows.  Just like LEGO Movie, Storks is bizarre and unpredictable in all the right ways!   The bright color palatte matches the bouncy fast pace, while the self-awareness of its ridiculous premise keeps the film from taking itself too seriously and allows the wonky humor to flow seamlessly.
Junior is your typical self-centered-jerk-with-a-soft-spot-character, but the way he is written, his self-centeredness never negatively impacts anyone.  Even when he is told to fire Tulip in order to become boss, he resists doing so out of sympathy for her.  His dialogue makes him sound like a jerk, but his actions speak of his good nature, which makes him easy to root for.  Speaking of Tulip, her character is also somewhat by-the-numbers (a dense and quirky outcast with a heart of gold), but like Derek Zoolander in the first Zoolander film, her character is made believable by having her being good at mechanics and thinking on her feet.  She kind of reminds me of Marty McFly; a singular-minded youth who is able to live in the present moment.  Much like Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, the friendship that forms between Junior and Tulip is fun to watch.  It’s a rocky relationship for sure, but by the end, there is a genuine sense that they care for one another and the baby they are trying to “deliver.”  Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes; the pink-haired baby is ADORABLE!  🙂
The subplot of the film involves a young boy named Nate whose parents are always busy calling clients and selling homes.  I really like the film’s subtle commentary on how our overreliance on technology has made a negative impact on family bonding.  It can be a tad on-the-nose, but for the most part, the subplot is handled nicely and the character arch that Nate and his parents go through is charming to watch.

The Misses
This movie does not transition from scene to scene very well.  There are very few establishing shots, so I found myself utterly confused when we would go from watching Junior, Tulip and the baby in a field to suddenly seeing Nate hammering a nail into some planks.  Granted, it’s better than in Batman v. Superman, a movie that didn’t even bother to have a single establishing shot throughout its two-and-a-half-hour run time, but still, smoother transitions from scene to scene would have helped.
Much like the LEGO Movie, the final climactic battle is visually-stunning…to the point where there was so much going on that I had to close my eyes a couple of times.  Yeah, it’s kind of hard to follow a bunch of birds and a gigantic, heavily-designed machine used by the villain all at the same time.

Overall Storks is a witty, fun adventure that would be rewarding for both kids and adults. The tongue-in-cheek humor brings about many laughs, the rapport between Junior, Tulip and the baby is sweet to watch evolve and the bright animation allows the bouncy movement to flow effortlessly.  Despite a few hiccups, Storks is delightfully strange in all the right ways.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us.

Patroness of the Big Picture

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If you follow the CGB Facebook page, you will notice that the cover photo is of now-Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  You may have also noticed the plethora of Mother Teresa posts on the page in the days leading up to her canonization.  I don’t normally buy magazines, but while I was at Walgreens I came across a Time Magazine special edition dedicated to Mother Teresa.

Yes, I really love Mother Teresa.  What’s not to love?  Her compassion for the poor and forgotten went above and beyond, her simplicity is a breath of fresh air that our materialistic society could benefit from, and she held firm to her faith in God in spite of suffering decades of spiritual darkness.
I do love her for all these reasons, but none of them are the #1 reason I look up to her.
The main reason why Mother Teresa inspires me is because she saw the big picture of God’s plan.

Mother Teresa did not help people with the intent of converting them to Christianity.  She never once said, “I will help you only if you become a Christian.”  Unfortunately, her lack of pushing conversions to Christianity is one of the criticisms launched at her.
Truth be told, Mother Teresa did seek conversions, but in a different way.

“Yes, I convert.  I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist.  And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.”
–Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Reading this quote makes me think of a particular theological principle in the Catholic Church known as “Baptism by Desire.”
Paragraph 1260 of the Catechism explains Baptism by Desire this way: “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.  Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

Applying the passage above, let’s say you have a Buddhist monk who perhaps has heard of Jesus, but through no fault of his own, doesn’t know Jesus in the same way that a Christian does.  Our Buddhist monk friend does not know Jesus, but his life exemplifies Christ through loving kindness, acts of charity towards the poor and suffering, a deep commitment to protecting creation, and other noble attributes.  Perhaps at some point the Buddhist monk finds himself pondering the existence of a creator and spends his life searching for truth.  While our Buddhist monk friend does not profess belief in Jesus explicitly, he does feel the call of God in his heart and is responding to it in the best way he knows how.

Mother Teresa saw this principle very clearly.  She recognized that God’s ultimate plan went beyond the confines of religious labels.  This is why she sought to convert people into better human beings, and she did so by being a living example of the Gospel herself.  Every step she took, every decision she made, every word she spoke gave glory to God.  She saw that any time a person seeks to help others, to improve themselves and to serve humanity in their own little way, they are serving God whether they realize it or not.  She was willing to be a vessel used by God to make an impact in the slums of Calcutta.

In a way, Mother Teresa was a visionary.  She saw with the eyes of her heart and soul that a great number of people who are willing to serve one another can create a society that serves.  A society that serves is a society of God.

“I’ve always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
–Saint Teresa of Calcutta

CGB Review of Miracles from Heaven

Now I’m not a doctor, but I don’t recommend climbing on trees to receive a miraculous healing.
If you’ve seen this movie’s trailer, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This is my review of Miracles from Heaven!

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Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) lives a nice life in Burleson, Texas with her husband Kevin and three daughters, Abbie, Anna and Adelynn (someone really likes the letter “A”). Things are fine and suburban until Anna starts experiencing serious stomach issues, which keeps getting misdiagnosed as acid reflex or lactose intolerance.  As poor Anna’s stomach swells, it is soon discovered that she has what is called Intestinal Pseudoobstruction; it basically means that she can’t digest food and is quite literally starving to death. Against all odds, the determined Christy will stop at nothing to get the proper treatment Anna needs.

The Hits
The people in this movie ACTUALLY act like real people!   You know how in a lot of Christian films like God’s Not Dead 1 & 2 or Christian Mingle the Movie, where you have the jerk atheist characters and the pure-as-pearls Christian characters?  With the exception of one stubborn intern who tries to brush off Christy’s concerns, all of the characters feel like real human beings in a real-life situation.  Nobody goes on expository spiels or launches into Biblical quotation mode; all of the dialogue and interaction are grounded in reality.  Jennifer Garner brings to the film a fierce and genuine performance as Christy.  This is an ordinary woman thrust into the nightmare of not knowing what is making her beloved daughter suffer greatly.  There’s one scene in particular where she’s tearfully describing Anna’s condition to the front-desk secretary at the children’s hospital and Garner’s quivering voice convey the depths of her broken heart.
Jennifer Garner and Kylie Rogers have believable chemistry as mother and daughter.  Not only do they (somewhat) resemble each other, but they play off of one another very well.
Speaking of which, Anna actually acts like a real kid!   Yeah, unfortunately, Hollywood screenwriters have forgotten how to write child characters.  Often times they either write them as mindlessly innocent or painfully obnoxious.  Between this film and The BFG, I’m finding more reasons to have hope in Hollywood’s ability to write children as people, not as caricatures.  Also, kudos to this film for tackling depression in children with so much tact.  There’s one scene where Anna confronts her mother with the very real possibility of her own impending end and it is heartwrenching to watch.
I appreciate how God’s involvement in the characters’ lives is kept in the background, because essentially that is how God Himself operates; behind the scenes in the silence.  By hinting at His handiwork instead of spelling it out, it reinforces that God is a gentleman, not a show-off.  He works not with roaring voices and clamor, but through gentle whispers, calm inspirations and quiet subtlety.  If you’ve ever wondered how the old adage, “The Lord works in mysterious ways” plays out in real life, I think this movie is a good demonstration of the adage.

The Misses
Like the Theory of Everything, this movie can be very hard to watch, primarily the hospital scenes.  One scene shows the doctors sticking a tube in Anna’s nose and her resistant whimpering had me bawling like a baby.  There are quite a few hospital scenes that are so realistic that it can be tough to stomach.  This is one of those movies where if you have or are currently caring for an ill relative, in particular a child, this might hit too close to home for you.  Granted, you may have a different experience watching this movie than I did, but

The Christian film genre could definitely benefit from more films like Miracles from Heaven.   Once Christian filmmakers focus less on bashing atheists and more on showing God’s subtle workings in the modern world, the genre will have better days ahead. Miracles from Heaven treats its characters with humanity, has a stellar and determined performance from Jennifer Garner, and illustrates that God’s miraculous doings come not as lighting or spectacle, but in the form of kindness from strangers and the bond of family during the darkest of times.

Saint Anne, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Letters (2014)

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God.”
–Saint Teresa of Calcutta

This is my review of The Letters!

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After receiving her “call within a call” on a train to Darjeeling, Sister Teresa of the Loreto convent begins her mission to serve the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.  As her movement expands, students from the school where she was the principal join her in her work and eventually the Missionaries of Charity is born.  The world would soon come to know this little nun dressed in a white and blue sari as Mother Teresa.  In the midst of her accomplishments, Mother Teresa suffered six decades of spiritual desolation and the idea that God had abandoned her haunted her.  Despite the spiritual darkness, she continued to serve the One she loved.
I have loved Mother Teresa for as long as I can remember.  Actually, the next CGB editorial will be about Mother Teresa, as was my last editorial “Frightening Hour, Glorious Day.”  I wanted to see this movie on my 24th birthday, but unfortunately, it wasn’t playing in either of my local movie theaters.  So imagine my suprise when I was told that this movie was on Netflix. 🙂

The Hits
Juliet Stevenson–good Lord–she NAILS it as Mother Teresa.  She looks like Mother Teresa, her accent is pitch perfect, she gets the posture right; I truly felt like I was watching Mother Teresa herself.  Juliet Stevenson’s portrayal of Mother Teresa is very respectful, bringing both a tenderness and an iron will to the character.  Stevenson also brings a charisma to Mother Teresa, which explains how the character is able to draw so many people to her cause.  Also kudos to the filmmakers for emphasizing on Mama T’s humility by showing her tell a reporter who wants to interview her,  “I am but a pencil in the hand of God,” and then later,”If you want to write a story, look outside; the poor are everywhere!”  Classic Mother Teresa.  ^_^
I really appreciate an earlier scene where then-Sister Teresa, who starts off teaching at a convent school for privileged girls, sees a hungry family outside her window and brings a basket of fruits and vegetables to them.  This establishes her giving nature and heart for those in need, so when she is called by Jesus to leave the convent and go to the Calcutta slums, her quick acceptance of the “call within the call” is in-character and believable. From then on, this trait continues to be demonstrated via scenes of her teaching village children the alphabet and assisting in the delivery of a newborn whose parents opposed her missionary work.
During Mother Teresa’s ministry, India had just gained its independence.  The impact of this cultural change is mostly kept in the background, but is felt with hostile encounters with some of the locals and, in that scene I mentioned where Mama T gives food to the hungry family, a Hindu man tells her that a Catholic nun shouldn’t be roaming outside where she could get killed by protestors.  Speaking of which, one interesting thing I noticed is how the movie portrays the patriarchal culture of Calcutta.  In the few scenes where Mother Teresa must deal with suspicious villagers, she cannot get a word in until a man comes to her defense.  This is especially apparent when The Home for the Dying is attacked by Hindu protestors and all Mother Teresa and two other nun characters can do is stand there until three men intervene.  It shows that in their culture, women are silenced in the presence of men. The movie doesn’t try to make a feminist statement with this, but rather lets it be so that we, the audience, can come to that conclusion for ourselves. The Letters focuses its efforts on being a commendable character study of the small nun who would rock the boat of our materialistic society with her acts of compassion and humility.

The Misses
I advise against watching this movie on your tablet unless you have earplugs.  The dialogue can be hard to hear at times, to the point where turning the volume up more than once is recommended.
The movie is on a roll up until the third act.  After Mama T establishes the Missionaries of Charity, the film seems to just fast-forward to her Noble Peace Prize speech, which…well, they kind of botch.   It’s too short and all of her words about abortion (which are the best parts of her Nobel Peace Prize speech, by the way) are cut out entirely.
Regarding the spiritual darkness, I don’t think the movie conveys this very well.  I totally understand that Mother Teresa herself never spoke of it except in her letters to her spiritual director Father Celeste van Exem, but one scene of her just saying quietly, “Where are You, my Jesus?” or something like that would’ve solved this problem right away.  Unfortunately her dark night of the soul is only spoken of by other characters and not shown to us.  I’m sorry, guys, but shots of her walking silently by herself with a weary expression on her face isn’t gonna cut it.

The Letters serves as a good introduction to Mother Teresa and her missionary spirit. Despite some questionable story choices in the third act, Juliet Stevenson’s dedicated performance alone is a wonderful homage to the “saint of the darkness” and makes up for the film’s few hiccups.  In terms of being a cinematic in-memorium of a triumphant life, The Letters is definitely worth the watch.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

CGB Review of Hell or High Water

I don’t know about you, but if I was at the bank and Chris Pine came in to rob us, I’d be so focused on those beautiful blue eyes of his that he’d take all my money.

This is my review of Hell or High Water!

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Toby Howard is a divorced father who robs banks with his volitale brother Tanner in order to gather more than enough money to pass on to his [Toby’s] young sons and ex-wife. After the death of their ailing mother, Toby and Tanner  Along the way, the dysfunctional Howard brothers must avoid two Texas rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), who are on their trail.

The Hits
Chris Pine and Ben Foster have incredibly believable chemistry as brothers who both love and hate each other.  Toby’s strong, silent demeanor and Tanner’s violent energy play off one another very well.  I do think the biggest standout has got to be Ben Foster as the loose-cannon Tanner.  A self-serving former inmate with nowhere else to go and no one willing to stand by him, the only unselfish act that Tanner is capable of is helping out his brother and even then, he does so on his own terms and by his own means.
Jeff Bridges is basically playing Jeff Bridges, but by golly, he sure does a good job at it!  Like Pine and Foster, Bridges and Birmingham also have an enjoyable rapport.  Granted, Marcus “bonds” with Alberto via jokes about Native Americans, but they look out for one another and appreciate each other’s company.  In a way, their dynamic resembles Toby and Tanner’s; Marcus is loose and lacks filter, while Alberto is more collected and prudent. I really appreciate how the familial bond between Toby and Tanner and the professional bond between Marcus and Alberto mirror each other.
The script exercises subtley very well.  No one goes on an expositonal spiel, plot points aren’t blatantly spelled out; rather the visuals and the character interactions do the talking.  The writer of last year’s “Sicario” also wrote the script for this film and it’s clear that he knows plenty about rural living, hence he uses that knowledge to great effect here in this movie.  Speaking of which, like “Sicario,” the camerawork here is excellent!  The opening scene is one long tracking shot that builds the suspence perfectly.  One shot I profoundly remember is of Toby and Tanner messing around with each other in the waking hours of dawn; we mostly see their silhouettes against a brightening sky, which illustrates the dark and light aspects of their relationship.

The Misses
If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, they build up the Texas Midland Bank as the main antagonist.  However, in the actual movie, Texas Midland Bank is more of an indirect antagonist than a direct and active one.  We learn that the bank cheated Toby and Tanner’s mother before she died and it’s clear that the Bank is a player in Toby’s financial issues, but these revelations are presented to us after the fact, so the Bank’s presence as an antagonistic force carries little weight.   This would not have been an issue had the trailer focused more on Toby and Tanner’s run from Marcus and Alberto.

Overall, Hell or High Water is an intriguing slow burn, a carefully-crafted character study of both cops and robbers.  Despite that one small hiccup about the fictional bank, Hell or High Water rests on the shoulders of stunning cinematography, nuanced storytelling and the thoughtful performances from its leading men.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.

What Angels See

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On the day of my depature to Europe for World Youth Day the international trailer for the new Disney film “Moana” was released.  This teaser trailer shows the titular character Moana as a toddler playing on the beach when the water suddenly comes to life.  The ocean parts, surrounding her in walls of water.  At one point the ocean wave descends to her and actually interacts with her as if it [the wave] were a person.  The wave reaches down at her slowly.  When it sees that she is friendly and innocent, it fiddles with her hair and then safely carries her back to shore before returning to its natural state.

I had the trailer playing on my tablet as I made sure I had everything I would need for the pilgrimage to Krakow.  As the trailer was playing, I happened to glance up at a framed picture on my bedroom wall that shows a guardian angel watching over a little girl in the forest.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a special place in my heart for angels. My mother even said, “You were always talking to angels.”  I would say the Guardian Angel Prayer every night before I went to bed.  I would draw pictures of angels, and I do remember at one point saying, “Dear God, can I see an angel one day?”
No, I have never seen an angel with my bodily eyes, but I don’t need to see one to know that they are here.

Watching the Moana international trailer and looking closely at how the ocean wave interacts with toddler Moana, I couldn’t help but wonder what do angels see when they look at us humans?   Do they scratch their head at the choices we make?  Are they curious about how we need food and rest to get through the day while they as celestial beings can go an eternity without ever needing those things?

Maybe, just maybe, when angels look at us they see us as children who have much to learn, much to discover, and whenever we lose our way, they are always ready to scoop us up and carry us back to shore.

“The whole air about us is filled with angels.”
–Saint John Chrysostom