Rant by Nate
Unlike my LTBM compatriots, I’m probably at the bottom of the list with the lowest number of new releases watched this year. I don’t mention it in my reviews but I’m in grad school, student teaching at a local high school, working at a hospital, and I lead worship at a home fellowship group. I also have my responsibilities as a husband and father to attend to. So, the point is, I’m stretched pretty thin. However, I was able to sneak out and catch 7 new releases. I’ll discuss them in the order that I saw them.
Her: I remember being excited when it was announced that Spike Jonze had a new movie coming out. I’ve been a fan of his since he directed the Weezer music video Buddy Holly and was floored when Being John Malkovich came out. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a stinker. Even though Joaquin Phoenix turned in a pretty good performance there is almost no redeeming qualities about his character at all. Consequently, who cares what happens to him? Oh well, I’ll give Jonze another shot someday.
God’s Not Dead: I’ll remember 2014 as the year that the God movies came out, one after another. I was excited about this one because of its premise: a philosophy student takes on his professor in an in-class debate on the existence of God? Count me in, please! Ultimately I had mixed feelings because, while the showdown (as I remember calling it) between student and professor are pretty good, and the apologetics arguments presented are pretty strong, the rest of the movie is super cheesy. Sorry Tres.
Transcendence: This movie piqued my curiosity more than anything else. I do like Johnny Depp (when he’s not being a slurring Buster Keaton-style pirate) and the director Wally Pfister has worked with Chris Nolan on the Dark Knight trilogy, but the premise is too unbelievable from the start. That is, it trades on the notion that the soul is a material aspect of the physical universe and therefore can be uploaded into a computer. Hogwash. I did think it could be enjoyed as a popcorn flick, even with the silly ending, as long as no one really falls for this Ray Kurzweil silliness.
The Giver: I have to be honest, I had no interest in seeing this one. It was not on my radar at all. And while I had mixed feelings about the premise (I just thought it was an uninspired rip-off of Orwell and Huxley), there were some great moral issues presented in the film; particularly on the issue of euthanasia and its application to the current abortion debate. While the ending probably made more sense in the book (I didn’t read it), it just happens in the movie with no explanation. Perhaps, they’re setting up for a sequel. Either way, I love movies that can be used as conversation pieces with nonbelievers and this one is definitely useful.
Believe Me: Believe it (pun) or not, this was my favorite movie of the year. Not because it was a big budget, star-studded vehicle (it isn’t). Not because it was entirely perfect as a film (it isn’t). Because of what it achieved and what it represents for Christian story-tellers. If you haven’t seen the movie or read my review, please do! This is a movie that I will be rewatching very soon!
Interstellar: Interstellar was probably my most anticipated movie of 2014. All the elements that usually get my engines running are present: Chris Nolan writing and directing, science fiction, black holes, Michael Caine… just being Michael Caine. The movie was a sight to see (especially in IMAX) but the push and pull between sci-fi epic and family drama didn’t properly find a balance and, consequently, the family drama suffered. I’m such a huge fan of Nolan, though, that I still enjoyed the film and think it’s worth a view.
Exodus: I was very curious to see this movie, especially after Darren Aronofsky’s Noah turned out to be a biblical train wreck. Sadly, Ridley Scott’s Exodus was also a theological stinker. The movie probably should have been retitled Mosesheart, no wait, Gladi-oses. Because Moses definitely led a military incursion of rebel Jews against the Egyptians’ food supply, right? Let me just flip to the page in the Bible where that happened… wait… having trouble… actually… while I’m still trying to find that verse, let me just wrap up this post.
As I mentioned, my favorite movie this year was also the biggest surprise for me. Believe Me came and went with hardly any bluster and no pretense. But it was such an important film in terms of what it accomplished: a genuinely, laugh-out-loud plot with a Christian message palatable to believers and nonbelievers. That is so crucial! Watching Believe Me made me realize that is actually possible to offer something to the secular culture that holds up to its own best. I pray we all one day look back at 2014 and Believe Me as the turning point in the Christian film industry.
Did any of you see these movies? What did you think?