CGB Review of The LEGO Movie (2014)

There’s no other way to begin this review except by saying…

EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!¬† ūüėÄ

This is my review of The LEGO Movie!

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Emmet (Chris Pratt)¬†is just your average, ordinary…LEGO person or piece or whatever you call him.¬† Anyway, Emmet lives a pretty unremarkable life as a construction worker amidst a sea of yellow faces.¬† When a strange piece called “the piece of resistance” gets stuck on Emmet’s back, he is whisked away by oddball characters such as a pretty tough gal named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks)¬†and the prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman)¬†on a mission to stop the evil Lord Business from freezing the entire LEGO world using the Kragle.

This plot is so ridiculous and nonsensical, which is why I love it so much!

The Hits
This movie is so gosh darn creative!  I was laughing so hard when I saw that the lava in the opening scene is made of red LEGOS!  I love how even the water is made of blue LEGOS.  The animation is truly something to behold.  Rich colors, smooth movements, excellent camerawork, the level of detail is astonishing and you can tell that a lot of thought and precision went into making everything just right.
For being a boring everyman…LEGO…being thingamajig, Emmet is a pretty endearing character.¬† They don’t make him clumsy or any other everyman (or everywoman) character trope, but they don’t give him special powers or any quality that would make him stand out.¬† He’s just¬†a bland, likable¬†guy with a kind heart (and a face of yellow)¬†who ends up truly being the hero that¬†the city needs.¬† Wyldstyle is pretty funny and with Vitruvius, you can tell that Morgan Freeman is trying so hard not to laugh with each line of dialogue he says.¬† Also Will Arnett’s Batman had me rolling on the floor laughing.¬† Batman¬†sure does¬†bruit a lot, doesn’t he?¬† I know that’s¬†one of his signature qualities, but seen in a satirical¬†form really does put perspective on it.
This is the kind of movie that should not have worked, but makes itself work with awesome results.¬† What makes this ridiculous concept work is its self-awareness.¬† The script knows that it is a laughable idea and, instead of trying to make itself more epic than it actually is, it embraces the nonsense and comedic possibilities. ¬†Self-important prophecies, the chosen one narrative and pop culture are satirized to great effect.¬†¬†The voice actors do a great job at taking things seriously when it is needed, but they aren’t like characters in a Christopher Nolan film where EVERY. SINGLE. LINE. OF. DIALOGUE is treated as the most important thing ever said.¬† The tongue-in-cheek quality is why this movie is so hilarious and¬†a real blast to watch!

The Misses
The action is so fast-paced that it is hard to see at times.  Viewers with sensitive eyes or who are prone to getting headaches from watching fast motion with neon colors might want to close their eyes during the action sequences.

Everything is awesome with the LEGO Movie!¬† This surprise hit from 2014 is a brilliantly animated gem that both kids and adults can enjoy.¬† Top-notch animation, an impressive cast, charming characters, and a clever use of satire and cheeky humor all culminates to the LEGO Movie being…just so darn…AWESOME!¬† ūüėÄ

Saint Isidore the Farmer, pray for us.

CGB Review of Silence (2016)

The “war on Christmas” is not persecution; being burned alive if you don’t spit on a crucifix is.

This is my review of Silence!

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Father Cristóvão Ferreira has committed an act of apostasy, i.e., he has renounced faith in Jesus and is now living as a Japanese Buddhist.
Sebasti√£o Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) are former students of Ferreira and cannot believe what they are hearing, which is understandable.¬† It would be like if I suddenly¬†announced, “I’m no longer Catholic Girl¬†Bloggin’!¬† I’m now Rastafarian Girl Ranting, so y’all are just gonna have to deal with it!”
Anyway, the two shocked Jesuits decide to go to Japan, which is a very risky move since the gruesome persecution of Japanese Christians is going on.  As they search for their mentor, Rodrigues and Garrpe find themselves serving the embattled Christian villagers who must practice their faith in secret or risk the penalty of death.

This movie made me anxious.¬† It made me cry.¬† It made me angry.¬† I was reeling right up until the end credits…
…And I loved every minute of it.¬† Why?¬† Because Silence does what movies are supposed to do: Forces you to feel and confront¬†emotions you would rather not visit.¬† This movie is cathartic in the most beautiful¬†way.

The Hits
Andrew Garfield continues to impress me.¬† He made me admire Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge and he made me weep for the embattled Father Sebasti√£o Rodrigues.¬†¬† Similarly to Hacksaw Ridge, Father Rodrigues is a Christian character written correctly: Faithful yet struggling, clinging to Christ while wrestling with growing doubt, this is a character untouched by Pure Flix, so he’s not an unrealistically righteous wonder bread.¬†¬†The heart faith of Father Rodrigues both clashes and compliments the head faith of Father¬†Garrpe.¬†¬†Garrpe starts out only focusing on what’s in front of him, while Rodrigues keeps his eyes on¬†what’s¬†to come, but as the film progresses, they experience¬†a reverse of perspective, with Garrpe¬†evolving into the big picture guy and Rodrigues clinging to what is in his face at the present¬†moment.
The real stars of the film are the Japanese villagers.  Their unshakable faith and hunger for God brought me to tears.  The way they greet Rodrigues and Garrpe with sheer delight, how they fold their hands in prayer under straw huts, the light in their eyes as they receive the Eucharist; their commitment to Catholicism was refreshing to see on the big screen.  In addition, their dedication made their martyrdom all the more powerful and gut-wrenching to behold.
In one of the reviews I had read before seeing the film, it was mentioned that Scorsese’s use of sound design makes particular scenes anxiety-riddling.¬†¬†As¬†a person who struggles with anxiety myself,¬†it occurred to me to take into consideration whether moviegoers who suffer from anxiety issues would be able to watch the film.¬† Having seen it, I can say that the use of sound is well handled.¬† Silent pauses in the film serve as a¬†subtle¬†yet¬†urgent¬†warning, allowing the audience to brace themselves for¬†upcoming¬†martyrdom.¬† The sounds you¬†are allowed to hear are of burning wood, crashing waves, breaking bones and¬†human misery.¬†¬† Yes, this movie makes¬†you anxious for the characters, but it works¬†within the context of the film.¬† It’s the kind of anxiety that¬†you can recover from once the film ends, though what you’ve witnessed will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Finally, I’d like to add more brownie points for the Japanese convert character¬†who took the name “Monica” as her baptismal name; “like the mother of the great Saint Augustine,” Father Rodrigues says.¬† Any mention of my Confirmation saint (Monica)¬†always brings a smile to my face.¬† ūüôā

The Misses
Much like Arrival, I honestly can’t think of any glaring flaws.¬†¬†If you’re looking for something with more action and a¬†fast-paced plot,¬†you’re not going to find it here.¬†¬†I guess going back to my concern for moviegoers with anxiety problems, if you are really worried, I do recommend looking at this film’s IMDB page, primarily the parental guide.¬† Also check out Matt Zoller Seitz’s review of Silence on the late¬†Roger Ebert’s website.¬† In¬†his review, Zoller-Seitz goes over Scorsese’s use of sound editing: ¬†http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/silence-2016

About That Ending…[MAJOR SPOILER WARNING]
Okay, time to address the elephant in the room: The ending.
Throughout the film, Japanese Christians are forced by government officials to trample on the fumie, a crudely carved image of Jesus.¬† Those who refuse are brutally put to death.¬† In the film’s climax, Father Rodrigues comes face to face with the fumie and, apparently, hears the “voice of Jesus” say to him, “Come ahead now. It‚Äôs all right. Step on Me. I understand your pain. I was born into this world to share men‚Äôs pain. I carried this cross for your pain. Step.”¬† This is a paraphrased version of what “Jesus” said to Father Rodrigues in the 1966 novel, “You may trample. You may trample. I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. You may trample. It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”
First: No, I don’t think it was Jesus who said that to him.
Second: The phrase “test the spirits” automatically came to mind.¬†Basically it means that not every interior voice or vision comes from God; I’ve mentioned before that there is a spiritual world where both angels of light and¬†fallen¬†angels of¬†darkness¬†reside. ¬†I looked¬†up the phrase “test the spirits”¬†and came across¬†1 John 4:1,¬†“Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
If anything, I think the ending of Silence is a cautionary word¬†of what happens when proper discernment has not taken place.¬†¬†¬†A friend of mine once told me, “Remember that a¬†bad spirit will never give you God-centered advice and a good spirit will never give you advice that moves you away from God.”
Let’s face it: Discernment of spirits isn’t exactly a popular subject, but by God, it is an important one.¬† If there is any time for the subject to be brought to the mainstream, that time would be now.

Overall, Silence is a work of genius, quite possibly Martin Scorsese’s best cinematic achievement.¬† It is a grueling,¬†atmospheric meditation on when our Lord¬†provides no response¬†in the midst of chaos and how to deal with divine¬†quiet.¬† Carried by the performances of Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, as well as the tasteful handling of bloody¬†martyrdom, Silence is worth being watched, studied, pondered and discussed for years to come.
May we American Christians appreciate the religious freedoms we enjoy here in the United States.  May we thank God for allowing us to worship freely without the fear of death.  When I got home from seeing the movie, I hit my knees and thanked God for placing me in a country where I can wear a cross or a saint medal in public without having to fear a knife to my throat for doing so.

Holy martyrs of Japan, pray for us and for the conversion of Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver.