The movie about the song

Movie trailer review, I Can Only Imagine (2018). In the early 1990’s I consumed heaps of contemporary Christian music, but 2018’s “Christian music” film is about a song I can’t say I like. I didn’t expect Mercy Me’s I Can Only Imagine, to have become the biggest song in contemporary Christian music history. But they made a movie about it.

It makes commercial sense to make a movie about this song. It’s popular, it made money, so many people love it.

Although a smaller song can resonate, there is more to this film than making a commercially viable film about a commercially successful song though. The trailer to I Can Only Imagine tells us there is a heartbreaking story behind the song.

In the trailer, the thrust of this story is the song writer’s pain in growing up with a solo Dad who was unkind to him. Mom had left home, but as a young man he turns his pain into song.

The father (played by Dennis Quaid) may learn to see his son differently, not in terms of making a hit song, but in terms of making a song that resonates with his father (as well as others).

Personally, I’m open to this film, but a little unconvinced I will be inspired or uplifted.

The trailer prepares us for an inspirational movie, though, a trailer that’s showing us the movie is potentially feel good and uplifting.


Ultimately striking one at the heart, of the gentleness and care of its central feature, Little Dorrit.

Little Dorrit (1987) ***** Starring: Derek Jacobi, Sarah Pickering, Alec Guinness, Roshan Seth. Writer/Director: Christine Edzard. Running time: About six hours.

Based on Charles Dickens reportedly satirical novel about being rich or poor in Victorian society.

Part one—the three hour It’s Nobody’s Fault—is seen through the eyes of Arthur Clennam (Derek Jacobi), who becomes involved with the business of William Dorrit (Alec Guinness) and William’s daughter, Little Dorrit (Sarah Pickering), who is the seamstress of Clennam’s mother.

The Doritt’s are in a debtor’s prison—meaning they must pay back what they owe before they can be free. But Clennam aims to help them get out, by doing some investigating, with the help of a lawyer.

Part two is Little Dorrit’s Story, much the same storyline as part one, but told through the ‘eyes’ of Little Dorrit (or Amy).

Scene after scene is framed to see the second half through the perspective of Little Dorrit (who is called Amy under different circumstances in a significant shift of setting).

One finds respect for her, her kindness, genuineness, good manners and even temperament standing out, which made quite an impression.

The actual logistics of undertaking a film told from two character’s perspectives would be painstaking to produce, but effective in the end.

I loved the cast and characters. With a sprawling cast, Little Dorrit is filled with good performances and interesting characters.

As Clennam, Derek Jacobi exudes a youthful air. Clennam’s fineness and reserve is the surface but he is secretly in love. Clennam’s also impeccably generous which reveals nobility.

As Cleenam’s mother, Joan Greenwood is frightfully straightforward. Her reading of the Bible is of a punitive passage in the book of the prophets at exactly eight o’clock and no bible context is given.

Alec Guinness plays the gentlemanly head of the debtor’s prison. He sweeps those up in his conversation and is the object of adoration of Little Dorrit.

One has a certain amount of sympathy for William Dorrit, as he is someone the story sides with, especially evident in the final scenes which by the way are breathtakingly good.

With her bubbly personality and effervescence in a reserved society, Miriam Margolyes as Flora Finching stands out in the sense that she seems out of place, but in a good way.

Roshan Seth’s exuberance is catching, his cockney accent a change of pace from his refinement in Gandhi and a villain’s off-colour charm in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The dialogue and interactions are sophisticated, more or less; may require one’s full concentration. Little Dorrit is more literate than most. An impressive production in the scale of storytelling despite the setting limitations, and ultimately striking one at the heart, of the gentleness and care of its central feature, Little Dorrit.

There is authentic production design, mostly indoors, which may be too wooden for some tastes, and there are timely costumes (the 1800’s), with the occasional flare for cinematic storytelling.


From “family friendly” to non-stop action

Movie trailer review, Tomb Raider (2018): a reboot, remake, or whatever it is supposed to be (not that it really matters to me that much). All the same, the 15 years between Tomb Raider films is why the new film is probably more of a reboot boasting a new lead actress.

Tomb Raider was apparently based on a video game when it came to the screen in 2001. I didn’t watch the film, but I did take note of its box office, which was very good. In 2003, a sequel was released, and from that point no other films were made.

Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in the original films and Alicia Vikander takes over the mantle of Croft.

Croft is an adventurer from Britain—she must have a day job like Indiana Jones does, not that it matters much, as action is the focus more than not. However, not at all violent, is that she is searching for her father who has disappeared.

At the start of the trailer, her identity is wrapped up in the search for her father. She needs to find him for what may be emotional and psychological reasons although the fact that he’s missing seems to be the only reason she needs.

From searching for her father, the trailer takes us down another track. She winds up getting a computer message from him in the jungle—she is warned that an organization is attempting genocide and she must stop it in its tracks.

(The organization’s name is Trinity. It befuddles me why they come up with religious sounding names for the bad guys. In terms of theology, the trinity is the godhead in Christianity, three-in-one. If they are going to use religious terms, they should call the bad guys the Devil’s Triangle instead or something sounding vicariously like a real organization.)

The trailer goes from kind of “family-friendly” to the non-stop action read: violent mode with Trinity and Croft going berserk, but one thinks this kind of death and destruction isn’t adventure.

The reference to death not being an adventure is quite apt here—this trailer of action violence and death and destruction isn’t much of an adventure here.


Practical reasons for behavior makes better sense than ‘faith in self’

“Faith in yourself” is believed to help someone move from one state in life to another. It’s believed to help someone make progress.

Yet one is already moving along in life. One doesn’t need to have faith in self. One just goes and does.

What about in other circumstances? It’s the same. If someone is searching for something in life, that search already has inner momentum. One is already impelled because one is needy and dry.

But in everyday terms, life just keeps on going.

If someone is severely limited or debilitated it may take extra effort, however. Does believing in yourself work then? I think if someone needs to, they will move out of their predicament. It’s more inspiration and the need to rather than empowerment to. The need will drive one out.

What if someone is getting on with their life but there are obstacles or road blocks in one’s way? Wouldn’t faith in self empower over and above the obstacles?

One just doesn’t know how much they are already moving along. Obstacles just become part of the everyday hazards that have to be dealt with. Faith in self has nothing to do with it.

What about moving into a career or new vocation? Wouldn’t one need faith then, to believe one can achieve it, to get through the hard yards of achieving it?

Again, one will fight for what they want, but quite a few of the things we do have practical origins and faith in self does not figure consciously.

Saying to have faith in self is so overused.

Feel-good trailer

Movie trailer review, A Wrinkle in Time (2018). The premise of A Wrinkle in Time seems quite “unrealistic”—in perhaps simplifying issues young people face of missing parents who may or may not turn up. But in a sense, it may be a theme worth it’s while.

The trailer of A Wrinkle in Time features a young black woman (Storm Reid) whose father has disappeared. He’s a scientist who has perfected instantaneous time travel, but his disappearance has caused a hole in her heart.

Something’s missing in her life that hasn’t been filled. However, Meg’s given the opportunity to find her father with the help of angelic-like beings (guardian angels perhaps)—most notably played by Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey in the trailer.

Another time and place is replete with danger and the fantastical (read: big budget). There’s a popular song running through this trailer that adds to a feel-good, optimistic feel.

May be this trailer is saying to young woman to not give up on finding what’s missing. Perseverance in finding one’s long lost family is surely a worthwhile endeavour.

Some of us may agree and others won’t. I guess it depends on who you are.

Meg’s told to have faith in herself as she searches for her Dad through deathly obstacles. It seems faith in herself will help her overcome these obstacles. The idea may be a bit New Age in that respect.

The trailer’s okay, its palette of colour stands out, but does not convince me to believe in the idea and come on board.

Star Wars music today–is it any good?

In 1977, the Star Wars theme music cemented unmistakably in pop culture. Everyone or almost everyone knows it although the others are in denial or have never seen the film.

The Star Wars main theme is not the only remarkable, memorable moment of Star Wars music.

The entire film scoring of the original Star Wars—which includes every section of music in the film—was brilliant.

To add to its unanimous two thumbs up in the popular consciousness, it was voted the American Film Institute’s top film score in 2005 and won the Oscar.

In 1980 and 1983, Star Wars continued its resonance in popular culture.

“The Imperial March”, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, is resounding and powerful…utterly memorable. The Imperial March is now an iconic part of popular culture.

“The Asteroid Field” is palpitatingly good, the music accompaniment to the asteroid field scene in The Empire Strikes Back.

There were many other resonate moments. Return of the Jedi boasted “Into the Trap”, “The Emperor”, “Return of the Jedi” and “The Forest Battle”, and more.

John Williams’ musical soundtrack to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens starts off like the old days. It’s compelling as the Main Title and “The Attack on Jakku Village” recalls the old days of the smooth transition between opening music and what follows.

These transitions are delightful in all the original Star Wars films as the booming main title smooths subtly into the evocative tones of the first scenes.

Unfortunately, the rest of the musical soundtrack to The Force Awakens made me think about the good old days when Star Wars music was original, lively, and resonant. Or it was unshakably memorable, music you wouldn’t forget–The Force Awakens has little that compels or resonates in that vein. It seems rather lackadaisical and repetitive.

All this soundtrack does is sit in my CD rack as a necessary addition to my collection, but not a very liked one. It’s hard to recapture a little of the old magic of. Done once, but not again. Perhaps watch the film instead.

How do we maintain our dignity in the face of cruelty and injustice?

Published Anglican Taonga, 2014. 12 Years a Slave (2013) ***** Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti. Screenplay by John Ridley. Director Steve McQueen. Warnings—contains graphic violence and sexual violence.

I expected 12 Years a Slave to be handsomely mounted and richly literate, reminiscent of films in the 1980s. But now that I’ve seen it I realize it’s already a classic.

For much of two hours, it shows the painful plight of African American slaves in a few white-owned plantations in the South before the American Civil War and the success of the abolition movement.

The film starts by telling us this is a true story.

The buying and selling slaves is then shown as business-as-usual.

Paul Giamatti has a small but prominent role as a seller, costumed finely like many other Southern men in the 1840s.

The dubious economics of the endeavor are revealed as the story unfolds, while the class system is starkly depicted along with the slave owners’ depravity.

All the cruelty occurs in the context of Solomon Northup’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) descent from a comfortable life in New York state where he lived as a free black man.

Sold into slavery and passing from master to master, he at first wants revenge. This turns to helplessness, then the urge to survive even when facing indignities and institutional savagery.

Powerful scenes will sober and stir any viewer.

Of course, we are not meant to enjoy such brutality, but it has a way of highlighting the unfairness of slavery.

The rape of a slave is not about sex. It’s more about control, power and hate.

And if it weren’t for Brad Pitt’s small but important role, the story would be bleak and incomplete.

Central to a string of powerful performances is Michael Fassbender – a Bible mis-quoting, proud, senseless, shameless, and ruthless master of Northup.

And when his cotton crops fail, he blames his slaves for bringing God’s punishment.

We expect something better to happen, but we don’t know how when the odds are heavily stacked against it.

Perhaps the central question of 12 Years a Slave is how do we maintain our dignity in the face of cruelty and injustice?

Northup plays games, fights back, and faces getting killed.

Slavery has almost broken his will to live, and yet he remains human.

This is a powerful film, a must-see, but it is grim and not for every taste.