Christian Friendly?

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christopherwalkenangelofdeathA few years ago, I received an e-mail from someone who sent it via the “Contact Uncle NecRo” link on my old website, The Padded Cell. The subject line read: “Are You A Christian?” The body of the message was simple:

“Are you sure?”

Pointed, straight forward, no muss no fuss. I like that. As such, I replied back in kind:

“Yep.”

See, I’m a big fan of answering yes or no questions with either yes or no. Don’t want to divulge more information than what was requested. Usually, when more of said info is needed, I’ll be asked further probing questions.

In the case of the e-mail in question, the party who sent me the query to begin with hasn’t to date responded back with further probing questions. Which leads me to assume that my simple response was enough to satisfy their curiosity on the subject of my allegiance to the risen Lord and Saviour. I can picture the guy reading my response, saying “Oh, okay. Cool.” Then skipping along merrily from the computer. Tra-la-la-la-la.

But I digress.

Really, it does not bother me that fellow brethren and sisteren have questions about my faith in Christ Jesus. If it means starting a dialog that’s open and results in the strengthening of each others faith, all the better.

The problem I tend to run into is that, as a born-again, souled out (pun intended) and hardcore (not in the music sense) follower of Jesus Christ, I’m not very “Christian friendly”. Which is where a lot of these questions about my faith comes from.

No, I don’t suppose I’m very “Christian friendly”. I don’t worry about it. Mostly because I haven’t the foggiest as to what “Christian friendly” means, exactly.

My relationships with my friends, family, Christians and non-Christians alike is the same way I approach my relationship with God- raw, unvarnished and honest. He wants me to present myself to Him as I am: a sinner who is washed completely in the blood of Jesus, filthy and flawed and completely dependent on His grace and mercy, clinging to the Holy Spirit for guidance. This is me, warts and all. And I figure, if that’s good enough for God, then it’s good enough for everyone who wishes to get to know ol’ Uncle NecRo.

I feel convicted if and when I water myself down for the sake of being “Christian friendly”. I’ve wasted too much time in the past trying to live up to those Super-Christian standards just to be accepted by others within the church.

I guess I just want everyone reading this to know that, the same Uncle NecRo you see at church is gonna be the same one you see outside or online. I’m not gonna pretend to be one thing to one person, then a totally different person to another. I’m going to be me with you.

And if that means you doubt my being a Christian, that’s fine. Grab some coffee with me, and we’ll talk. Just don’t expect differential treatment.

Or linear thinking, for that matter…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE: War

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Justice_League-WarWarner Premiere
2014
PG-13

“He’s good for a clean-up, at least.”

In Gotham City’s shadows lurks a mysterious figure, a silent guardian known only as the Batman. While battling crime and an ever-growing public distrust, he faces the injustices of the night alone. During a criminal pursuit, the Batman crosses paths with the arrogant intergalactic cop Green Lantern, and the unlikely duo uncovers an impending threat bigger and more deadly than anything the Earth has faced before. For the Earth to have a chance to survive, it will be a race to forge an uneasy alliance of its greatest super powers, including the Kryptonian alien, Superman; the Amazonian envoy, Wonder Woman; and the Scarlet Speedster the Flash. Along with newcomers Cyborg and teen super hero Shazam, this awesome assembly of the world’s finest are prepared to meet evil head-on and offer mankind its only hope, if they don’t self-destruct first!

Ever since DC/Warner Bros. started releasing the direct-to-video animated movies featuring the DC Comics superheroes back in 2007, I’ve been a regular fanboy. Up to now, pretty much everything I’ve watched has been top-notch; even when things weren’t firing on all cylinders, it was still high quality stuff.

Now, I watch the latest offering in the direct-to-video DC Universe movies–Justice League: War–and I find myself thinking that the quality of these movies have finally dropped considerably. A lot of it may have to do with the fact that Justice League: War is the first animated movie to be made after the departure of Bruce Timm. Pure speculation, but it does give me pause to think about that coincidence. But, that’s besides the point.

I do need to point out that, for those of you reading this unfamiliar, Justice League: War is the first video based in the so-called New 52 of the DC Universe. I’m not going to bore you with the details, and my working knowledge of that is very basic, from reading other comic book databases and websites (I stopped reading DC Comics titles about a year or two after the whole post-Infinite Crisis, post-52, post-One Year Later headache, where the continuity flopped around like a dying fish), and to say that the fan base has been split is an understatement. It’s been officially stated by the company that all future DC Universe animated movies will be based on the New 52 universe, and if Justice League: War is any indication of the kind of quality we’re going to get with the future releases, then…yeah, the future looks pretty disappointing.

The main point of contention here is simple: the characters are all wrong. It has nothing to do with the costume tweaks, either; the costume designs are fine (I actually rather like the Superman costume used here). No, by “the characters are all wrong”, I’m talking about their personalities. Superman is a smug, arrogant jerk who seems pretty flippant about collateral damage. Green Lantern is a straight-up douche bag dude-bro jerk, and after the first five minutes after he first appears, you begin to will Batman to punch him hard, fast and continually. Captain Marv…er, I mean Shazam (*groan*) is a mouthy brat. And Wonder Woman…ugh, don’t get me started. Let’s just say this iteration is not going to be much of an inspiration to young girls as a strong female role model. I believe the words “shallow” and “one-note” factor in there. Batman, Cyborg and The Flash were handled well here, but unfortunately they couldn’t really balance things out when it came to the character portrayals. Which means that, when it came to the first big throw-down against Darkseid, I was rooting for Darkseid. Even though even that characterization was completely wrong for the despot ruler of Apokolips. But, lest my fanboy ranting gets out of hand, I digress.

What it boils down to is, Justice League: War is like the Michael Bay movie of the DC Animated Universe. It has some very gorgeous animation, the action scenes were well shot, and things blow up good; but with the mischaracterization of the comic book icons, and voice acting that seems to have been phoned in for the most part, Justice League: War falls woefully short of its potential. Let’s hope that this is just an isolated stumble, and not a harbinger of things to come.

Movie Review: EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS

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EIGHT LEGGED FREAKSWarner Bros. Pictures
2002
PG-13

“Get back you eight legged freaks!”

In a small, dying Arizona town, a bunch of different spiders from a collection grow to ludicrous sizes due to toxic waste, and immediately start to sample the local cuisine (i.e.- humans). Wackiness…and David Arquette…ensue…

Let there be no mistake: Eight Legged Freaks is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the gigantic bug movies of the 1950s. No more, no less. And it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. Like Gremlins and Tremors (but with less scares) before, Eight Legged Freaks has ridiculously large CGI spiders running amuck (Amuck! Amuck! Amuck!), a motley crew of wacky townsfolk (including Doug E. Doug as a radio announcer who gives a freaking hilarious anal probe monologue), some cool Spiders Vs. Humans (and at one point, a cat) action sequences (check out that scene with the kids on the motor bikes), all with winks to the sub genre it’s emulating. I found myself enjoying this…and apparently I was the only one, as I saw people get up and leave the theater during the film. These were probably the same people who don’t get Monty Python, so it’s not really a reflection on the flick…

I do admit, though, that the film seemed to loose steam about halfway through. It was like the filmmakers played everything they had for the first half, and then spent the last half coasting, throwing in concepts that have been played out before. Like, for instance, the obvious People Holed Up In The Mall rip from Dawn Of The Dead. I also would have appreciated the script to go more for the jugular with the material. Other than that, though, Eight Legged Freaks is a great mindless slice of B-movie cheese that revels in its lactose. Go ahead and sample…

Movie Review: ELEKTRA

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ELEKTRA20th Century Fox
2005
PG-13

“You know, I used to be the Treasure and I don’t like being replaced. So let’s keep your death between you and me.”

Taking place some time after the events in Daredevil, Elektra is alive and not-so-well as a stone cold lady assassin who wields a mean sai. After a brief flash of personal conscience, E suddenly finds herself protecting two fugitives marked for death by the even more mystical and deadly Hand, one of which is a young girl that’s called The Treasure…

You know, after this movie came out in theaters, and was relatively ripped to shreds by critics and comic fanboys alike, I wasn’t about to waste money watching the movie. Mind you, I haven’t read up on Elektra comics, either the classic Frank Miller series, or the recent run on the Marvel Knights label. It wasn’t until recently, when my boss (a bigger geek than I am, imagine that) brought his copy for me to watch that I popped it in my DVD player and watched what would ensue.

To tell you the truth, I rather enjoyed this movie. I also enjoyed Daredevil when it seemed everyone else despised it, but that’s another story. Jennifer Garner played the part of the cold and calculating Elektra nicely, I thought, with the entire tone of the movie being somber and taken seriously, instead of going some cheesy route that it could very easily had. Her resurrection was touched on briefly in flashbacks, and wasn’t as over-the-top as most thought it was. The character of Stick was interesting, considering he was more a character for the Daredevil comics than Elektra, but again I digress. Overall, not a bad popcorn action / fantasy flick. Quit yer’ whinin’ and check it out sometime…

Movie Review: EVENT HORIZON

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EVENT HORIZONParamount Pictures
1997
R

“Hell is only a word. The reality is much, much worse.”

After mysteriously disappearing on it’s maiden voyage, the experimental government ship Event Horizon reappeared in Neptune’s orbit after seven years of being MIA. After a rescue and salvage crew boards the ship, they find that the entire crew have vanished mysteriously, leaving only rather disturbing video logs of their first official venture into wormhole travel. The main component to this technology is a gyroscopic doodad that can generate a self-contained black hole, an “event horizon”, if you will, that, in theory, opens up a wormhole through the fabric of space and time, thus making exploration into the far reaches of outer space a possibility. Which, of course, brings up the question: What the hell happened after it entered the wormhole the first time? Where’s the crew? And more importantly, did it reach the other side of space, or did it somehow open up a gateway to a different, much more sinister dimension entirely? Like, say…I don’t know…HELL?!? Big scientific questions aside, the ship’s acting kinda funny. And the rescue team is acting a bit wonky as well, now that I notice it…

About a couple of years ago, I was watching this sci-fi gothic horror flick with a friend of mine, and the hardcore / punk 13-year-old brother of said friend. Once the scene that featured the above quote played, the younger brother proclaimed, rather loudly and obnoxiously, “Hey! These guys just ripped off Zao!” Followed closely by, “Ow! Ow! My head! Watch it!” I wish I could take the honor for that one…

Anyhoo, to be completely honest with everyone, when I first watched Event Horizon (it was right after my sister’s wedding, as a matter of fact, in August of ’98…wasn’t a big fan of dancing and mingling with family), I didn’t like it that much. After repeated viewings over the years, however, I began to appreciate it more and more, and now the movie sits as one of my cult faves.

Going in, the astute horror fiend will notice that Event Horizon borrows freely elements and ideas from genre movies past: Alien, The Shining and Hellraiser immediately come to mind. While the film’s basic ingredients are far from original, and the characters are fairly standard (you got the macho guys, the upstanding lady, and the scientist who eventually turns evil), the film manages to mix ’em all together into one sordid and tasty amalgam. Let me explain a bit…

First off, the biggest star of this movie is definitely the set design. I remember reading an interview with director Paul Anderson where he mentioned designing the interior of the ship based on European gothic cathedrals, and he came through with the effect. The ship itself is dark and spooky, with almond-shaped hallways and the tunnel laden with metal teeth. The CGI effects worked pretty well most of the time, adding to the otherworldly feel. The actors do a good job with the material given, bringing something solid to their respective parts. There are genuine spookiness and suspenseful tension in this movie that, even after repeated viewings, still disturb me (that airlock scene…brrrrrrr….). Nicely done.

I think the biggest qualm that a lot of people may have had with this movie, is the fact that nothing is entirely explained- what was going on with the ship, what happened to the original crew, where’d they go on the maiden voyage, etc. Actually, this lack of explanation is the thing I enjoy most about Event Horizon. Really, it’s like a good Lovecraft tale- where the horror is never really explained, or even seen at times. It works the same here. I think the film is made all that much more darker and scarier when it forces the audience to imagine for themselves what’s going on. I mean, really, if they tried to show and explain exactly what happened when the ship went through the wormhole, it would have come off as crap. Anyone who’s watched The Black Hole (one of the rare instances where I demand the remake of a movie) and have scratched their heads over the ending know what I’m talking about…

About the only qualm I have with Event Horizon is that, it seems to have fallen victim to tinkering in the edit room by the studios. It feels like certain scenes are missing, and there used to be more to the film than just the 90-some minutes. Apparently so, as Paul Anderson was talking three years ago about working on a “special edition” release, where he’ll reinsert deleted scenes back into the film instead of having them as extras. Apparently the film originally ran a little over two hours. Whatever, I’ll gladly sit through a two-hour version, if it means getting more to the story. Maybe it’s already come out, and I’ve been too lazy to scope out that possibility…either way, I urge you to at least give this movie a look see. It’s a solid, engrossing sci-fi gothic horror that can disturb you and make you think…

Movie Review: EVILS OF THE NIGHT

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EVILS OF THE NIGHTMars Productions
1985

You take a premise from the 1960s (vampires from outer space), throw in a 70s dead teenager plot and wrap it up in 80s exploitation, and the result is…

What the hell did I just watch? I mean, seriously…what the HELL did I just watch?!? This thing was just all over the place. Look, I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about this bad-and-not-in-a-good-way schlockfest. Pass this up…

Movie Review: The EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE

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EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSEScreen Gems
2005
PG-13

“Once you’ve looked into the darkness I think you carry it with you for the rest of your life.”

Based on the very sad true story of Anneliese Michel, who went through the ordeal in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the trial of Father Moore, who conducted the exorcism of the titular character, told via flashbacks in a tense courtroom drama…

You read that right. In actuality, the style of The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama (like an extended version of Law And Order: Trial By Jury), with some very deep debates on religion versus science. It’s only during the flashbacks do we see the heavy (and very well executed) supernatural horror side seep in. Basically, because this movie was marketed as a straight-up horror movie, in the same vein as The Exorcist and The Omen (still wondering what that reviewer was thinking when he wrote that), there’s a bit of confusion with most who saw it with me that night. So, keep that in mind walking into the theater…

Moving on, I must say that, all false advertising aside, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose was incredibly engaging. A very smart film, in fact still has me thinking about it (as of this writing, I got out of the theater approximately two hours ago). The material was handled very well, with both sides of the issues bringing very compelling and dissecting arguments. The two lawyers, played very well, played things tight and under-dramatic, making for some entertaining and engaging listening in. I also liked the fact that the priest on trial wasn’t portrayed as some usual crackpot and crazy Christian. Instead, he was very well-kept, strong in his faith despite his circumstances. The scenes where he’s telling his lawyer about the dark spiritual war going on was matter-of-fact, instead of the usual wild-eyed madman rantings. Nicely done, I applaude the writers…

Now, about Emily Rose herself. In a word- amazing. The actress that portrayed her did a fantastic job, working up the possession (or was it epileptic/psychotic?) angle effectively, while at the same time displaying an endearing vulnerability that drew me in completely. I found myself wanting to take her up and comfort her while she was going through her personal hell. Handled by a lesser actress, and that angle would have killed it for me. Here, I was sold on Emily’s plight…

That said, I now want to point out that the horror elements were just as effective and, I gotta say, kicked me in the teeth in various places. Very dark, stylish and often shocking flashbacks, nicely done. While the all-too-brief scenes where she’s flipping out and seeing people turn into demons were the focal point of the television ads, they were still effective (although, I must admit, even the stuff that I didn’t see coming didn’t make me jump…while the entire theater around me did. Mayhaps I’m just jaded at this point, I don’t know). The parts that got to me the most, though, were the full-on manifestations, scenes that made even myself pause and think, “That ain’t right.” I was disturbed. And that says something right there, doesn’t it?

Alas, though, those portions are few and far between, and when you get down to it, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is really a debate on the controversial aspects of religion versus science, based around alleged supernatural events. And while the movie did effectively keep an open mind on both possibilities, the courtroom scenes did seem to drag on longer than what could have been. But don’t let that turn you off from seeing it. Bottom line is, it’s a very thought-provoking movie, with some really disturbing elements. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night, really…

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