CGB Review of Crimson Peak (2015)

Beware of my review of Crimson Peak!


Crimson Peak is a movie that I have been looking forward to all year.  It tells the story of Edith Cushing, an aspiring writer who is swept off her feet by London aristocrat Thomas Sharpe.  Once she becomes Mrs. Sharpe, Edith moves to London to live in Allerdale Hall with Thomas and his sister Lucille.  However, a house as old and decrepit as Allerdale Hall is bound to be riddled with secrets written in blood.
This is the latest film from Gulliermo del Toro, the creator of my all-time favorite film Pan’s Labyrinth.  Since PL, Del Toro took a step back from creating gothic stories of his own and turned his attention to being a producer of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) and Book of Life (2014), as well as directing the second Hellboy film (2008) and Pacific Rim (2013).
After a few days of prayer and going over my review notes, I have come to the conclusion that Crimson Peak is a visually stunning canvas that highlights Del Toro’s strengths, as well as his two major weaknesses.

The Hits
A few months ago, I learned that Del Toro actually had the mansion built and even used his own salary to keep it from being demolished.  His dedication is on full display. Allerdale Hall is the personification of horrific secrets.  Red clay oozes through the house like a silenced prisoner struggling to break free.  A gaping hole in the ceiling allows leaves and snow to fall to the floor, symbolizing the tears of the past victims of Allerdale.  Creaking staircases, a rickety elevator and a lower level with blood decorating the walls create an atmosphere of death’s final sting. Del Toro’s vision of Allerdale is a nightmare fully alive.
During the second act, there are three sequences where Edith wanders the house to investigate.  The danger here is that the scenes can become repetitive, but luckily the movie doesn’t fall into this trap.  Each exploration scene contains new information on the ghosts that haunt Thomas and Lucille’s home.  Edith discovers something different, making the three sequences feel purposeful.
The assembled cast is excellent.  Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain have a terrifying chemistry as brother and sister, while Mia Wasikowska carries the film with sharp intellect and vulnerability.  During production, Del Toro gave each actor a ten-page biography of their character, and it shows in their performances. Unlike a certain film that I reviewed recently where indecisive directing resulted in confused performances (I’m looking at you, Pan!), everyone knows exactly who they are and how to convey their characters’ motivations to the audience.

The Misses
I mentioned earlier that Del Toro has two major weaknesses that are clear as day in this film.
In my Pan’s Labyrinth review, I pointed out that there is a major continuity error that occurs after Ofelia completes the first task.  It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it does show that Del Toro needs more practice on bridging continuity gaps.
In Crimson Peak, there is one major narrative flaw that is concerning. Edith’s ability to see ghosts is not the reason Thomas marries her, nor is it the reason why [SPOILER] Lucille wants her dead.
This is a problem because Edith’s special gift and her relationship with the Sharpes are the two most important elements of the story.  If these two components have nothing to do with each other, if the story could go on without one of these two plot points (in this case, the ghost-whispering thing), then something is wrong with the story structure. The second narrative weakness is that Del Toro is not good at plot twists.  My friends and I could correctly guess the “twist” long before the third act’s big reveal.  I mean, Guillermo, you made Pan’s Labyrinth HOW long ago (2006) and you still don’t know how to properly connect gaps in your story?

Crimson Peak is a fascinating gothic romance that pays homage to the genre.  At the same time, it also shows eyebrow-raising missteps that would concern any Del Toro fan.  Here’s to the hope that good-ole Guillermo catches his own mistakes and works on improvement for future features.

Bonus Features: Pan’s Labyrinth Callbacks (SPOILERS ahead)
Sometimes directors will use symbols and images in a current film to refer to a previous film that they made.  I figured that Pan’s fans like myself would enjoy these callback trinkets.

  1. Crimson Peak opens with Edith staring into the camera while holding up her bloodied hand, which is similar to Pan’s Labyrinth prologue.
  2. The majority of the nighttime scenes are shot with a turquoise color palate and not the traditional midnight-blue color palate.
  3. Edith’s father uses the exact same razor that Captain Vidal uses during his [Vidal’s] character-defining shaving scene.  Also the mirror he uses is Vidal’s shaving mirror.
  4. The wheelchair that Edith uses towards the end of the first act looks oddly identical to Carmen’s wheelchair in PL.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Walk (2015)

In spite of reports that this film has made people nauseaous from its realisitic capture of vertigo sensation, I am pleased to announce that I did not get sick during this absolutely fantastic film!

This is my review of The Walk!


The Walk is the true story of Phillipe Petit, a Parisian wire-walker who dreams of hanging his wire between the newly constructed Twin Towers of New York City and walking across.  For the record, I say “newly constructed” because this story takes place in 1974.

The Hits
The Walk reminds me of my favorite line from The Screwtape Letters: “The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forewarmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack.”
This film is a love letter to art.  It understands the mind of an artist.  The script demonstrates that for people who are writers, painters, dancers, musicians, actors, chefs, pottery-makers, filmmakers, etc., everything they do is in the name of creating something out of nothing.  When an artist is in his/her element, they bring themselves closer to God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, whether they realize it or not.
While the trailer made Phillipe seem like an impulsive weirdo, the final product explains Phillipe as a performer who is solely motivated by a love for art.  During the first act, after he is arrested for wire-walking across Notre Dame cathedral, he laments that the French, “…do not appreciate art and beauty!” Because of his passion for artistry, his desire to walk between the Two Towers never feels like a death wish, but rather a spiritual exercise.  This character is the eptitome of what it means to live and not just exist.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt disappears into the role of Phillipe Petit.  He embraces the eccentricities of the main character and makes the audience understand his perspective.  His French accent is quite good.  It fits right in with Gordon-Levitt’s enthusiastic performance  Even in his moments of selfishness and arrogance, I could still root for him because it was made clear that his flaws came from a place of passion.
Like The Imitation Game, the script is very intimate with its protagonist.  The musical score sounds like something Phillipe would listen to.  Every shot and frame puts us in Phillipe’s shoes.  Robert Zemeckis clearly did his research and wants us to know this man as well as he does.  Now that I think about that, Phillipe Petit reminded me a lot of Saint Phillip Neri.  To put it simply, if you love the arts and/or Saint Phillip Neri, this might be the movie for you.

The Misses
My only complaint is that the pacing of the movie is a little too fast.  Granted, none of the scenes ever lag, which is great, but at times I felt that the story was moving at a rapid pace.  This could be because Phillipe, a fast-talker, is narrating the story and like any good director, Robert Zemeckis accomodates to his main character by having the film move to the speed of Phillipe’s dialogue.  While this gives the film a very personal feel, it may be off-putting to moviegoers who prefer a slow, steady pace.

Tips on How to Avoid Cybersickness during The Walk
Last night, I decided to do some research after learning that The Walk was causing people to get sick.  What I learned is that according to studies, the reason some people experience sickness during a 3D film is because the 3D imagery is causing the brain to receive mixed messages from the senses.  When 3D visuals command the screen, the eyes signal to the brain that the body is moving.  However, the inner part of the ear does not pick up motion.  This causes the brain to sense that something in the body is poisoned and the result is gastrointestinal, hence causing nausea and disorientation.
Sufferers from vertigo should wait for The Walk to come out on DVD.  However, for those who don’t suffer from vertigo, here are the steps I took to prepare myself.

1. Eat something light and solid.  Crackers, toast, a torilla, anything that is low in acidic substances will help.

2. Drink water.  Buy a water at the theater, bring your own bottle, just give yourself access to water.

3. Sit as far away from the screen as you can.  It has been suggested that holding one hand over one eye will help your body reset itself during dizzying sequences.

Saint Phillip Neri, pray for us.

CGB Review of Pan (2015)

Me before Pan: “Okay, Lord, I’m going to keep an open mind.  Maybe Pan will be an offbeat fairy tale that I end up liking.”

This is my review of Pan…(irritable sigh)


Pan is the prequel to J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan.  In this version, Peter (Levi Miller) starts out as a little boy living in an orphanage who gets snatched away by pirates and ends up in Neverland, where he must go up against Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) after it is discovered that Peter can fly because–chosen one–and from there, Peter teams up with James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) to discover his true destiny as the flying boy who will save the Natives and the fairies from the tyrannical Blackbeard and the pirates.
I just took an Advil because this movie gave me a migraine.  I am legitimately ticked off because the trailer for this movie looked so enchanting.  Sadly, the final product is anything but magical.  This movie has no idea what it wants to be.  It is so tone-deaf that I was never sure when I was supposed to take a scene seriously.
Alas, let’s just get through the very few Hits before I commence into Super Saiyan rant-mode.
By the way, ten brownie points are yours if you know what a “Super Saiyan” is.

The Hits
To be fair, there is a good story somewhere in this bloated mess of a film.  The world creation is certainly not lacking in imagination.  The locations are gorgeous to look at and I really wish that the movie had taken the time to give Neverland its own identity outside of being a pretty generic CGI backdrop.
The idea of establishing Peter Pan and Captain Hook as friends is interesting, and the banter between them did get a few chuckles out of me.
I do like the concept of Peter being the son of a fairy prince and a human woman, and that Tiger Lily has a connection with Peter’s mother.  Also kudos to the screenwriter for making Peter’s mother a pro-fairy warrior.  Deceased mother characters shouldn’t just be dead nice ladies.
The only scenes that had me invested were the scenes between Peter and Blackbeard.  Levi Miller and Hugh Jackman do have a believable dynamic as enemies.  I always appreciate when a hero and a villain are in the same room, conversing with each other.
Levi Miller is the only person who I sympathetized with.  He seems to understand his role and does his very best to be the grounded force of his strange surroundings.  I do hope that he gets more work and ends up in better movies because there is a lot of promise with him.
It is always tragic when incompentent direction buries a potentionally engaging story.

The Misses
All right, the gloves are coming off.  Let’s go.
(Commencing rant mode) This should have been called “Indecision: The Movie.”  It is painfully obvious that director Joe Wright was second guessing every single story decision he made during production.  Except for Levi Miller, the adult actors are evidence of this.
It’s never a good sign when you can tell that an actor is confused about who they’re supposed to be throughout the film.  I think Mr. Wright first told Hugh Jackman to be menancing, but then right before the camera rolled, he said, “On second thought, Mr. Jackman, Blackbeard should be a comedic villain.  Yeah, that’s it.” But THEN Mr. Wright changed his mind again and told Jackman to be a scary dude.  As a result, Hugh Jackman’s Blackbeard switches back and forth from quirky villain to menancing foe every five minutes.  Actually, now that I think about it, Jackman’s performance is inconsistent; he overacts in some scenes and underacts in others.
The secret to writing an offbeat villain is to write he/she as either a scary person who can be funny or as a charming individual with a twisted personality. Attempting to be both sucks away the tension between the villain and the protagonist.   If I’m not afraid of the villain, why should I care about the hero?
The second victim of Joe Wright’s indecision is Garrett Hedlund.  It’s like Mr. Wright couldn’t decide if he wanted James Hook to be a ripoff of Indiana Jones or Hans Solo, so he just said to Hedlund, “Just be both and talk through your teeth a lot because–potatoes!”  The character of James Hook feels so unnatural to the story because he bulges his eyes out, widens his facial expressions and talks through his teeth.  It gets to the point where he is so unrealistic that his appearance in any scene feels shoehorned.  His “romance” with Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) is painful to watch because Hedlund and Mara have zero chemistry.
The action sequences are horrendously edited.  Thanks to a frickton of jumpcuts, I could barely follow what was going on or who was fighting who.   The CGI mermaids and the Neverbirds look embarrassingly fake.  The musical score plays during the wrong sequences.  I rarely say this, but this is the pinnacle of style over substance.
Finally, if you’re a fan of Saint Catherine Laboure or just the religious life in general (or both), you will be ticked at this movie because the nuns who run Peter’s orphanage are Catherine Laboure nuns with no personalities other than being offensive caricatures.  I know that they are Catherine Laboure nuns because of the habits they wear.
This is Catherine, by the way.

Saint Catherine Laboure
Saint Catherine Laboure

It just so happens that Catherine Laboure is my favorite out of all the Saint Catherines, so I was already annoyed within the first five minutes of the movie. Even secular movie critics don’t like the portrayal of the nuns in this flick!

Whenever I’m writing a story or revising an essay before the due date, I’ll run it by my Mother to get a second opinion.  If I propose a last minute change that doesn’t make sense or second guess a key element of my writing project, my Mom will set me straight and advise me to stick with and improve the ideas that are already in place.
Pan is the best example of why film directors should have their mothers on set.  The tone is inconsistent, the actors are confused about who they’re supposed to be, and the visuals overtake character growth and interaction.

Saint Catherine Laboure, you deserve much better treatment.  Also, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Martian (2015)

I should not be up right now.  It’s exactly 10:37 pm and I need to be up at 7 am tomorrow morning to attend the annual Walk for Life hosted by the local Crisis Pregnancy Center.  Also I will be seeing (and reviewing) the movie “Pan” right after the event.  Oh, and then I have LifeTeen.
Anywho, as I announced on the CGB Facebook page, this review is the first of five movie reviews I will be posting this weekend, so here we go.

This is my review of The Martian!


Based on the book by Andy Weir, The Martian tells the story of an astronaut named Mark Watney, who ends up stranded on the planet Mars after a fierce storm interrupts his crew’s routine mission.  Back on Earth, all hope is lost until NASA is contacted by the lost astronaut.  From there, it’s a race against time to bring him home.

The Hits
You NEED to see this movie in 3D because the visuals are fantastic!   The 3D makes the storm sequence in the film’s opening feel realistic, as if you are actually stuck in an interrgalatic storm.  Between this, Interstellar and Gravity, it’s safe to say that Hollywood has come a long way in its portrayal of outer space.  The cinematography captures the vastness of space and the scorched atmospherics of Mars.  The movie makes good use of the red and orange color palate that dominates Mars.
Matt Damon succeeds in carrying a good portion of the film on his own.  He is alone for the majority of the movie, after all, and he commands the audience’s attention with Mark’s optimism and unbreakable spirit.  My favorite moment is when he straight-up says, “I’m not gonna die.”  This moment alone establishes him as an active agent of his own destiny rather than being a passive victim of circumstance.  Also, I really do like how he has to solve his problems using his knowledge of botany.
Yes, it is true; this movie is surprisingly relaxed and even funny.  The comedic moments are brought to us by Matt Damon’s performance.  He never overplays it. He uses humor as a coping mechanism to help relieve the stress of his predicament.  I don’t think I’ve seen this character arch done correctly.  A lot of movies tend to exaggerate a witty character to the point where their banter is their only defining trait.  However, the Martian handles this arch with tact and grace, recognizing that there is more to the survivalistic Mark than his quips.
To put it simply, everything right with The Martian is Mark Watney himself, which is a very good thing since the main character is always the most important ingredient of any story.

The Misses
The NASA scenes are a chore to sit through, mainly because in the second act, we spend a 25 minute period of NASA officials negotiate Mark’s rescue.  This is the only part of the film that had me checking my phone for the time.  To be fair, it’s much better than Fant4stic Four, which had me checking my phone six times. Still, a movie shouldn’t lag.  If a film needs to slow down for story development, character growth or whatever it needs to do, make sure that whatever is happening is engaging.  Believe it or not, watching a group of people in suits chit-chat is not that rivieting.
For me, the biggest flaw is that the film took a sinfully small amount of time to develop the family dynamic of Mark’s crew.  I could hardly connect with the crew that left him behind on Mars.  The scenes with Mark’s crew are few and far between, making it impossible to care for them as three-dimensional characters. When the movie cuts to Earth, we get more scenes of NASA negotiations than of the crew.  I understand that when adapting a book into a movie, the filmmakers have to make some changes and sacrifices, but at the very least make me believe that this crew is motivated not by the script, but by a bond with their lost crewmate to go out and rescue him.

My hands are starting to hurt, but luckily this movie was not painful at all.  In fact, if you love space, NASA and all things science, you will love The Martian.  Matt Damon’s charm and commitment to the role is what brings this movie home.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us.

CGB Review of Sicario/Modern Day Bio of Saint Rita (As Originally Published on The Catholic Response

I really hope screenwriters start turning to the lives of the Saints for film ideas.

This is my review of Sicario, which happens to be a sort-of semi-comparative retelling of Saint Rita’s story.

For the record, I did not make this photo. This was the work of Robert Barbry, the founder of The Catholic Response.

Sicario is the story of Kate Macer, an FBI agent from the Special Weapons and Tactics Team who is recruited for a secretive top mission in Juarez, Mexico.  She is accompanied by the sly Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro, brilliantly portrayed by Benecio del Toro. This is the latest film from director Denis Villeneuve, who brought us the film Prisoners in 2013.  For me personally, Prisoners was so traumatizing that I started saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to help me sleep at night. On the bright side, this made Saint Faustina my BFF.  Nowadays I will never watch a Denis Villeneuve film without my Saint Faustina medal around my neck.
You’re going to need the soothing presence of the merciful Faustina by your side to survive this brilliantly disturbing film.

The Hits
Emily Blunt is a very convincing action heroine.  The movie never dolls her up.  It allows her to have bruises, a black eye and swollen knuckles.  I also like the scene where she’s showering and the blood washes from her hair.  You know how Saint Joseph never speaks in the Bible and how his character is revealed through his actions and reactions?  Emily Blunt’s character has a Saint Joseph-equse feel in which her morality comes from her reactions of shock and bewilderment at the cruelty surrounding her.
I can’t help but wonder if Josh Brolin’s character was somewhat based on Joel Egerton’s character in Black Mass.  Matt Graver is also a sly scumbag who skirts around the truth with careful language and uses questionable methods in the name of a greater good.
Benecio del Toro’s Alejandro undergoes a transformation from sleepy-eyed agent to being downright scary, especially in the third/final act.  The script tells us just enough about him while keeping his backstory in the shadows at the same time.
If you are an aspiring cinematographer, you need to watch this movie because there are some excellent shots of Juarez that enhance the look and feel of the grimey, Hell-on-Earth environment.  Also, the expert cinematography by Roger Diakens does a great job at building tension.  Action sequences begin with lingering camera shots and minimal background music, allowing the intensity to seep into your brain and make you paranoid about what’s coming next.
Between this film and Prisoners, it’s clear that director Denis Villeneuve is very interested in moral ambiguity.  He likes to challenge the notion of “good guys vs. bad guys” because except for Kate and her partner Reggie, every other character is morally bankrupt.  The film neither endorses nor criticizes moral relativism.  It simply shows it for what it is and the impact it has.  Just as Black Mass is a subtle portrayal of Satan, Sicario is a depiction of how moral relativism can poison a situation.
Finally, the ending–holy cow–the ending of this movie is amazing in the most quiet and subtle way.  If you plan on seeing this movie, I want you to think about how gun violence shocks us here in America.  You will need this mindset in order for the ending to have an impact on you.

The Misses/A Word of Caution
Emily Blunt’s character comes close to suffering from what I like to call “Window Character syndrome.”  This is where the main character serves no other purpose than to be the observer of the story.  We learn exposition through them, we are introduced to more interesting characters through them and the actual character is not very interesting.  Kate Macer is treated as a window character for a good chunk of the film.  She is either gathering information for us, the audience, or is kept in the dark by Matt and Alejandro.  You can only have your main character say “I don’t know” so many times before it gets annoying.  To the film’s credit, it is made clear that Kate does have a purpose for being there, which salvages her “window character syndrome.”  However, it does become problematic when Kate is barely present in the film’s climactic showdown.  At that point, it becomes the Alejandro show.  Traditionally, the main character is the one who is most involved in a book/film’s climax.
WORD OF CAUTION: The opening scene has Kate Macer and her team raiding a house and making a disturbing discovery, which may not sit well with queasy moviegoers.

The Catholic Response
During the whole movie, I kept thinking of Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”  Throughout the whole movie, Kate is constantly challenging Matt Graver and Alejandro, who dance around the truth by either mocking her or giving her vague answers.  Matt convinces others to engage in questionable acts in the name of a greater good, a form of consequentialism, which our faith rejects since we are never to act in a morally compromising way so that good might come of it.  The Church rejects the “ends justify the means” attitude of the world.  I doubt it’s conicidence that Alejandro tells Kate, “We’re in the city of wolves now.”  I said to myself, “Aha!  Wolf in sheep’s clothing!”
I just realized that Sicario is a semi-comparative retelling of Saint Rita of Cascia.  Both Kate and Rita are unintended witnesses to a brutality neither had previously imagined.  Rita wanted to be a Augustianian nun, but was persuded by her family to marry Paolo Manchini.  Kate wants to stay with Special Weapons and Tactics Team, but is persuaded by the higher-ups to join Matt Graver and company to capture the men responsible for the horror house in the film’s opening.  Rita gets caught in the ongoing feud between the Manchinis (her in-laws) and the Chiqui family.  Kate is caught in the crossfire of the battle between Matt’s task force and a notorious Mexican drug lord named Manuel Diaz.  It seems that Matt and Alejandro are two personifications of the arrogant and shady Paolo Manchini. Matt is arrogant and rude to Kate/Rita, while Alejandro turns out to be ruthless and immoral.  Kate and Rita act as the moral compass of their stories; Rita urges peace and forgiveness, while Kate challenges authority when justice is not being upheld.  Also during Kate and Alejandro’s final scene together, Alejandro says to her, “You look like a little girl when you’re scared.”  I bring this up because Saint Rita was 12 years old when she gave birth to her first child, making her a little girl.
Sicario was never meant to be a biography of Saint Rita, but it does embody the spirit of her story.  It does chronicle the journey of a moral woman trapped in an impossible circumstance, which just so happens to be Rita’s patronage.  Our cynical world may not recognize Sicario’s parallels to Rita’s saga, but lovers of Saint Rita will appreciate the film as an unintentional tribute to the patroness of the impossible.

Saint Rita of Cascia and Saint Faustina, pray for us.

A Pro-Choice Argument That I Cannot Stand

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I have been pro-life ever since I was ten-years old and my stance on abortion has only gotten stronger with time.  Even as a child, I could never wrap my head around the fact that there is a medical procedure that violently ends the life of an unborn human being.  Children are by no means perfect, but there is nothing they could do to deserve being dismembered or injected with saline to induce cardiac arrest.
However, I live in the magical land of California, which is more blue than a Dodgers baseball uniform.  This means that I have a plethora of pro-choice friends.  I have gotten into civil discussions about abortion with these friends, but it never gets nasty.  If people end a friendship over opposing views, then they were never friends to begin with.
To their credit, my pro-choice friends usually give me intelligent arguments as to why they feel the way they do about abortion.  They give me valid points that I keep in mind when formulating my own arguments.
I do understand that some women are in dire financial straits and cannot afford to care for a child.  I do understand that a pregnant rape victim is already dealing with enough trauma as it is.  I do understand that health complications in pregnancy are possible.  I understand all of these realities without accepting abortion as the lord and savior of women.

All that being said, there is one pro-choice argument that I do not understand. Every time I hear someone spout this argument, it is like nails on a chalkboard to my brain.
That argument is this:

“When does life begin?  I submit the answer depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents.  A powerful feeling – but not science.”
–Melissa Harris-Perry

So in other words, if mom and dad say it’s a baby, then it becomes a baby.  If mom and dad don’t think that it’s a baby, it’s magically not a baby anymore?  Forget prenatal science and embryology; it’s the mighty power of wishful thinking that tells us when life begins.
In what universe does this make any sense?!  Okay, maybe it would make some lick of sense in freaking Asgard (Thor and Loki’s world), but not on planet earth.
If a pregnant woman went in for an ultrasound and then tried to wish away the baby by chanting the words, “I don’t think it’s a baby, I don’t think it’s a baby, I don’t think it’s a baby…” there would still be a baby on the screen/in her womb when she opens her eyes.
What baffles me about this argument is that it’s inapplicable in any other area of life.  In an intellectual debate about a pressing real-life issue, it makes no sense to use insane, out-of-this-world talking points that could not be put into practice in real life.
If I told my boss, “I know you want me to come in a 7 am, but I think my shift doesn’t start until I decide it starts,” my name would be wiped clean off the payroll.
If someone kills an animal and then says, “Well, it’s not an animal until I say it’s an animal,” would the judge say, “You know, he/she didn’t think it was a living, breathing creature, so it’s all cool”?  No!  That person’s keister would still end up in the slammer.  Oh, and PETA would be protesting outside the courthouse.
If someone is pulled over for drinking and driving, do you think the officer is going to let them go if the person says, “Gee, officer, I don’t think I’m inebriated…” even if their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit?  No, they would still be handcuffed and charged.
I’m sure Ms. Melissa Harris-Perry is a nice woman who is loved by the people in her life.  However, why would a grown adult with years of life experience resort to such a childlish argument?
Honestly, I think that this argument is pretty insulting to women.  This argument treats women with kid gloves, painting us as immature people who resort to make-believe as a defense mechanism.  Women deserve better than to be talked down to. Adult issues need to be handled with adult discussion, not talking points that one would expect from a teenager.

So when does life begin?  When the sperm and the egg come together in the Fallopian tube.  When the sperm enters the egg, the zygote is conceived.  The zygote already contains the entire genetic DNA of both mother and father; exactly 46 chromosomes (23 from mom and 23 from dad).
New research has shown that the heartbeat is present just 16 days after conception.
It only takes three weeks after conception/five weeks of pregnancy for the heart, brain and spinal cord to form.
On the seventh week of pregnancy/fifth week after conception, the face and nostrils are already present.
By the twelfth week of pregnancy/tenth week after conception, the unborn baby has fingernails and a fully-formed face.

It takes one man and one woman to create a new human being.  Feelings have no say.


“I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept “unborn child” is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well conceived human baby, one that isn’t going to be critically deformed (or even some that are) will be able to survive outside the womb earlier and earlier, and earlier and I see that date only being pushed back. I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one.  And I say this as someone who has no supernatural belief.”
Christopher Hitchens


This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things/Christian Movie Reviews: No Greater Love (2009)

I absolutely adore the Christian film Grace Unplugged, so when I picked up the No Greater Love DVD, I was delighted to see the label, “From the makers of Grace Unplugged” on the cover.  “What could possibly go wrong?” I said to myself.

One viewing later….


This is my review of No Greater Love!


No Greater Love tells the story of Jeff, a workaholic who is about to propose to his girlfriend Katie, but stops in his tracks when his long-lost ex-wife Heather comes back into the picture.
Now both the trailer and the back of the DVD push the idea that this movie is about Jeff forgiving Heather for abandoning him and their son, as well as Heather forgiving herself.  However…
Well, let’s just get to the Hits and Misses.

The Hits
The actual premise is pretty interesting, especially in our generation where many people have experienced having a parent walk out on the family.  Most movies either villify absent spouses or just have them mentioned in dialogue.  The script is very merciful with Heather.  She is easy to empathize with and she is trying to make amends for walking out ten years ago.  As long as a character who messes up tries to make things right with a sincere heart, I can root for that character.
Jeff and Heather have a belieavable chemistry.  I can buy them as having been a couple at one time.  They also have a good rapport with their son Ethan.
This movie allowed me to root for Heather.  If only I could root for this movie. Why can’t I stand behind this flick?  Well…

The Misses
(Commencing rant mode) The movie is advertised as a journey of two people forgiving each other, but that plot point is resolved in seconds.  In addition to that, this movie is a demonstration of the oversimplification of forgiveness.  In this film’s universe, forgiveness can be achieved by a simple talking-to with some Christian slogans slapped on.
It took Grace Unplugged just fifteen minutes to get to its main conflict.  Jeff and Heather don’t run into each other until the twenty-five minute mark.  After that, scenes are either too long or too short, making it impossible for them to develop properly.  Hey filmmakers, pacing matters.
You know it’s a bad sign when a Christian blogger is calling a Christian film “preachy.”  That said, this movie is so preachy that the faith dialogue becomes a chore to listen to.  I shouldn’t be rolling my eyes when the pastor character says “God is in control” for the hundredth time.  Yes, I do firmly believe that God is running the show and He will never leave us stranded, but the message becomes meaningless when it is shoehorned into conversations where it’s not needed.
However, I could forgive all of these shortcomings if the plot didn’t feel so agenda-driven.  No Greater Love is so hellbent on getting these two ex-spouses back together that it forgets the personal sacrifice and sanctification aspect of marriage. Heather changes her ways for the good of her family, but Jeff–oh, Jeff–is obliviously self-absorbed and the script never has him own up to his selfishness. As you can tell, I really didn’t like Jeff.  Many times throughout the film, he goes from “I want you back, Heather,” to “You go to church, Heather; I’m gonna watch the game” in a matter of minutes.  This is the most halfhearted character I have ever seen, and even his sincere moments feel shady.
I’m a single woman, but even I know that marriage is about two imperfect people rising above their flaws for a Christ-centered marriage.  It’s about sacrificing selfish habits to be the best versions of yourselves.  If one spouse isn’t willing to change their ways, then you’ve got yourself a one-sided relationship.  In fact, the movie actually gives Heather reasons NOT to go back to him.  Not once does Jeff say something to the effect of, “You know, maybe always answering my phone even when I’m having a meaningful conversation with the woman I’m trying to get back together with isn’t such a bright idea.”
Heather, honey, when the man you love answers a work call while you’re showing him that you kept your wedding ring around your neck, that should send up a red flag.
Finally, the movie’s “ending” makes it clear as day that the budget ran out and they just had to wrap things up abruptly.  The film doesn’t end, it just stops.
A European-style ambigious ending would have been a lot more satisfying.

In terms of production quality and premise, No Greater Love is miles better than Christian Mingle: The Movie.  However, if I was a marriage counselor and I had to choose between No Greater Love and Fireproof to give to my client(s), I’d hand them Fireproof in a heartbeat.

Dear Animal Rights Supporter…

Dear Animal Rights Supporter,
I come from the pro-life movement.  You come from the animal rights movement.

I fight for unborn children.

You fight for animals.
We come from two different causes, yet we have more in common than you may realize.
It crushes you to see animals locked in cages so small that they can barely move.
It crushes me to see a dismembered infant tossed into the trash.
Your heart breaks for the abandoned dog on the side of the road.
My heart breaks for the unborn baby who will never live to know his/her mother.
You are outraged when emancipated tigers are forced to perform at the Missouri State Fair.
I am outraged when the latest Planned Parenthood video shows a worker carving open an unborn child’s face to harvest the brain.
You understand that owners often leave their pets behind because they are unable to take care of them.
I understand that women often turn to abortion because they have no one else to help them.
You believe that the disowned cat deserves adoption, not abandonment.
I believe that the unwanted child deserves adoption, not abortion.
Society defines both the animal and the unborn baby as property that can be discarded if they are an inconvenience.
You and I disagree.
Adoption is the loving option.
You and I agree.

Our movements have the power to create a culture of life.  A culture where no human or animal is reduced to a replaceable commodity.  A culture where all lives are valued equally.  A culture where every life is given dignity.

There are differences in our movements, but if the pro-life movement and the animal rights movement were to focus on what unites us, if we were to combine causes, we would be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

Every beating heart matters.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

Henry Cavil, you’re suave and cool, but you ARE allowed to express emotion!

This is my review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E!


The Man from U.N.C.L.E is based on the 1960’s TV show of the same name.  Henry Cavil, who you may remember as Superman from Man of Steel, plays an American agent named Napolean Solo (who is not related to Hans Solo), who must team up with a Russian agent named Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer.  Solo and Kuryakin must protect Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) in order to find her scientist father and prevent a cataclysmic global event.

Halfway through this movie, it occurred to me that the filmmakers were going for an Ant Man/Guardians of the Galaxy spy flick, but those two movies have two major ingredients that are missing from The Man from U.N.C.L.E: A consistent quirkly tone and characters with three-dimensional personalities.  Sometimes Man from U.N.C.L.E wants to be an action comedy and other times it wants to be a spy thriller.

The Hits
This movie really should have been called “Fun Things To Do With A Camera: The Movie.”  There are some very impressive shots and nicely-choreographed action sequences.  I was especially entertained by one scene where Solo and Kuryakin are trying to escape while on a boat.  Also the witty banter between the characters is well-delivered and the funniest scenes were when one character would do something mundane like eat a sandwich while another character fights off danger in the background.  For the most part, the saavy 60’s humor got me to chuckle.
However I happen to be a child of the 90’s watching a 2015 film that tries to recapture the essence of a 60’s TV show.  The end result: I took three short naps during the movie.

The Misses
Why does Hollywood always resort to expositonal dialogue?!  There has got to be a smoother way to deliver information about the characters.  I know that if I walked up to a good friend of mine and said, “Hey such-n-such, who moved here from the great state of blank fifteen years ago!  How are you? Tell me, did you fail that test because you didn’t study or because you’re harboring a dark secret that will factor into the plot later…” my friend would probably ask me if I had lost my marbles, to which I would reply, “Yes, I have lost my marbles after sitting through Man from UNCLE!”  Hey, Hollywood screenwriters, people don’t explain each other’s backstories in real life.
My biggest issue with the movie is that because everyone is trying to imitate James Bond, they all look completely uninvested in what they’re doing. I have no problem with Henry Cavil being a calm and collected, but if he’s not going to show some fear when he’s drugged or act like he’s in some kind of pain when he is being electrocuted, then why should I feel concerned for his survival?  Alicia Vikander looks inconvienced half of the time, as if she got dragged into the movie by her agent.  If the characters never become passionate about what they’re trying to accomplish, then why should the audience?

I wish I had more to say, but honestly, Man from U.N.C.L.E is a functional, passable popcorn flick that you’re not going to remember after the credits roll.  If you enjoy the original 60’s show and can appreciate modern films that attempt to recapture the time period, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie.  As for me, I’d rather just watch Guardians of the Galaxy on Blue-Ray or wait for Ant Man to come out on DVD.

Saint Barbara, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Cobbler (2014)

I would love to step into the shoes of someone who didn’t have to watch this movie.

This is my review of The Cobbler!


The Cobbler tells the story of Max Simkin, a New York cobbler who can quite literally step into the lives of his customers by fixing their shoes with a magical stitching machine and then wearing the shoes.
Have you ever watched a movie that was meant to be a short film, but was then auctioned off to a drunk guy and given the budget for a feature film?  Yeah, that’s this movie.

The Cobbler suffers from the same problem as Fant4stic Four; it’s a story that is given to the wrong director teamed up with the wrong actor and is filmed in the wrong format.  Fant4stic Four shouldn’t have been dark and gritty, and The Cobbler should have been animated and NOT starring Adam Sandler.
Why do I say that The Cobbler should have been animated?  Well, for one, the musical score belongs in an animated flick.  In a live-action movie, the bouncy musical score is obnoxious.  It doesn’t make my ears bleed, but it sure as heck isn’t The Imitation Game soundtrack!  Also, the entire premise would have worked better if done by Pixar or Illumination (the folks behind the Despicable Me franchise).

I get the feeling that this movie is desperate to be “Amelie” without having a proper understanding of the “Amelie” story formula.  Granted, I didn’t like “Amelie,” but I have respect for that film.  Why?  Because it was self-aware.  You see, “Amelie” was structured as a modern-day fairy tale.  Early on, it established itself as a whacky, offbeat universe.  The music, costume and the color palate matched the vibe of the film.  Amelie Poulain had neurotic parents, an odd upbringing and was a little strange herself, so it was easier to go along with the whimsy of her saga.
Meanwhile, The Cobbler takes none of those necessary steps to classify itself as a modern-day fairy tale.  The film’s tone is very indecisive, as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide if The Cobbler should be a quirky comedy or a character study that features a magic stitching machine.

For an Adam Sandler movie, he has very little to do.  All he does is look sad, mention his absent father who walked out because–potatoes–and put on shoes.  That’s pretty much it for his performance.  As for the other actors, they don’t have much to work with.  Here’s an example: Method Man plays a gangster.  In his first scene with Sandler, he’s a chill guy.  However, in the second act, he does a 180 and become unrealistically nasty.  Gangster doesn’t equal automatic hothead.  There’s a way to write the gangster archetype correctly.  Just go watch Black Mass if you want proof of this.

I had this movie playing on Netflix while working on the study guide for my upcoming Sign Language quiz.  The Cobbler is so not engaging that I got more enjoyment out of writing, “17% of people in the United States classify as hard-of-hearing” and “90% of Deaf people are born to hearing parents.”
I envy anyone who never has to hear the uninspired dialogue of The Cobbler.

Saint Zita, pray for us.