Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Last year, I wrote that the Hobbit trilogy ought to be judged as movies, not on how pure it is relation to the book.  In fact, we should look at these films a bit more like we look at fan fiction.  There will be creative embellishments, for sure, and our evaluation shouldn’t be “oh the book didn’t have it like that!” but rather “these changes and additions kept to the spirit of the original work.”

That said, here are my thoughts.

Bilbo and the Ring

Obviously, the One Ring is a major plot device in the Lord of the Rings.  We know its evil corrupting power, and why it must be destroyed.  This is a major theme in Lord of the Rings.  That’s Lord of the Rings, not The Hobbit.

The ring was insidious because of how perfectly innocuous it appeared in the Hobbit.  In the Hobbit, the ring is nothing more than a lucky find that turns Biblo invisible, which is a subtle nod to the kind of life that Hobbits want.  However, in this adaptation Biblo doesn’t use the ring we would really expect  him to:  Such as keeping it on when he’s fighting the spiders.  Or keeping it on when he’s having a chat with Smaug.  There were too many scenes where Biblo was supposed to hide but didn’t in this film.  I am actually afraid that he’s going to suit up to join the battle of the five armies.

Speaking of Smaug, in the film Smaug senses the ring’s presence when Bilbo is around.  He mentions that knows Bilbo has it, but of course he can’t quite tell what it is.  Now think carefully about this: what would a treasure obsessed maniac think if he knew that one other person had the one unique piece of treasure that he doesn’t have?  Smaug’s mention of the ring not only overly foreshadows it, but actually betrays his character when he doesn’t try to possess it.

Action Adventure on the Barrels

The barrel scene, in the book, is a subtly comical.  The overly proud dwarves are obviously hapless.  They’d have been eaten by spiders, trolls, and worse were it not for the burgler they hired.  In the movie, the barrel escape scene served the same purpose as the Goblin King scene in the first movie.  That is, an fun little advert for the upcoming video game.

Now I hated the goblin escape scene in the first movie, but enjoyed the barrel ride in this movie.  Why?  For two simple reasons: a dwarf -Kili iirc- was severally wounded and there was unexpected closed gate on their way out.  These simple little additions turned an annoying, lucasesque, CGI fest into a fun to watch scene where I cared about the outcome of what was happening.  The orcs too were a nice addition here.  Their conflict with the wood elves foreshadowed a threat that we expect to come in the Lord of the Rings, without compromising the spirit of the book.

Additionally, I also enjoyed the negotiation preceding the barrel run.  At one point, the king of the wood elves offers Thorin a deal.  Thorin throws the deal back in his face because he can’t trust elves.  He can’t trust elves, because he still remembers their broken promise.  This is a beautiful character flaw that made me like Thorin more.

Pre-revolutionary Lake Town

After the the romp through the barrels, Biblo and company arrive at the Lake Town. There, they meet Jean Valjean, Monsieur Defrange, Robertspierre… wait what?

When it comes to themes of Tolkien’s work, we have to remember that we’re reading pre-modern fantasy literature.  It was, after all, meant to be on par with the epic tales of Beowulf and similar ballads and legends.  So why do we encounter a lake town like this?  Why are dealing with thematic questions of economic oppression and talk of elections?  It is not that these themes aren’t themes worth exploring, but its that these themes belong to a different era.  This embellishment was so thematically jarring that it became hard for me to take this seriously.  It got worse when they added a “everyone is being watched” feel to lake town.  What, so we’re adding a theme that usually only found in sci-fi and dystopias?

Lake town is not supposed to be Paris, France circa 1785.  Yet, that is what this entire subplot, complete with a despot revealing in his own vain opulence, made me think of.  They even threw in a few shots of “sort of like slaves, but totally not” Africans in for further sympathy.  Everything about Lake Town was wrong.  Themes about elections, economic oppression, and leaders spying on you do not work in Tolkein’s literary world, because these themes and questions belong in other genres.

Thorin Confronts Smaug

If there is one thing that Jackson did that maybe Tolkien never showed us it was: well what does Thorin think about Smaug?  Well let’s see it.

There were two especially poignant scenes here.  The first, was when Thorin and the Dwarves first enter their home through the secret entrance.  It was clear as Thorin and company walked, and lovingly touched the walls, that this quest is about a lot more than gold for them.  Yes, the dwarves are greedy, but their also deeply wounded.  Furthermore, when they fled the dragon they found a cave full of the charred bodies of the last dwarves who tried to escape.  Here, we’re allowed to experience a little bit more of Thorin’s world, and how terrible Smaug really is.

Sadly, I felt that these scenes were eclipsed by the action adventure aspect of the film.  Thorin too quickly returns to stoic, composed leader (which we’ve already seen), so that we can have a romp around the ruins, climaxing in an elaborate trap that the dungeon master set up.  Why did we not see a greater emotional reaction from Thorin here?  Honestly, after leaving a room full of charred bodies, I would’ve expected Thorin to either become raging mad or have some other serious emotional breakdown.  It’s strange when that scene affects the audience more than the characters in the film.  I might be the only one who feels that way.

The transition to the final scene turned into a somewhat interesting, overtly symbolic, testing of Smaug’s invincibility.  Yeah, whatever.

Did it all work

Was this a bad movie?  No it was not a bad movie.  However, I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this film.  The embellishments kept yanking me out of Tolkien’s world and into something Peter Jackson probably thought would be good mass appeal.

So, by all means, go watch this movie.  But you know what else you should do?  Watch the 1970s animated version on Netflix too.  After that, get yourself a nice leather bound copy of the original work, curl up by a fire, and read it out loud to your kids.


With much thanks to sister’s boyfriend, I am now fully exposed to the strange world of commercial screen writing.  What is the first step to writing a script?  Write a log line.  Basically, the log line tells people what the movie is in about thirty seconds.  Apparently, you write this line before you write anything else about the story.

A good log line must have several ingredients.  It must have Irony.  It must tell the target audience.  It must inspire a mental image.  It must give an idea to the cost.  Script writers use this to sell their work.  Ever wondered why many Hollywood movies feel formulaic (Black Cop meets white cop movies, anyone?) yet somehow still sell millions?  Now you know why.  Here are some examples Log Lines that could become scripts someday.  Read through them and then add your own silly, but perhaps still profitable, Log Lines.

“After losing his job, agnostic Mark Guyer is forced to follow his peers to an Evangelical Christian college.” -Wise as a Serpent

“A Marine officer is sucked into a magical quest to rescued a mystical unicorn and a POW” -Operation Sparkle Hoof

“Former meth dealer escapes the FBI with identity among the old order Amish.” -Churning Crystal

“An ambitious journalist goes undercover into the world of Montata Militia Surivivalists” -Pressing Liberty

“After witnessing her roommates murder, a college sophomore escapes witness protection and joins a biker gang for revenge.” -The Pink Rider

“Daughter of vanquished vampire lord trash talks the vampire slayer on social networks for revenge.” -Tweet of the Damned

“An army ranger, a PETA activist, and a conspiracy theorist crash land in the wilderness and must survive.” -Shut up or Shiver

A good log line is ironic.  It communicates the target audience.  It gives a compelling mental picture.  It lets a producer know how much it will cost.

So why not try it?  What’s your Log Line?  Add some comments below.

Prepare for nerd rage?

That is how many people feel about Peter Jackson’s the Hobbit: nerd rage.  Personally, I felt the movie was generally enjoyable.  It was not a train wreck or a disaster.  But then again, I might have gone into it with different expectations.  Without further introduction, here’s my take on the film.

What did you expect?

Before going further, let’s remember a fundamental premise: books are always better than movies.  This seems intuitive, but it is especially true with Tolkien’s work.  JRRT did not just write fantasy.  JRRT created the platonic archetype of fantasy.  He is to fantasy literature what the the Beatles are to pop music.  So if there is any disappointment in the film adaptation, it is because we measure against a standard of perfection.  Any adaptation of JRRT is going to look a bit tarnished.

So this raises another question, what about Jackson’s embellishments of the story?  I know that there is nerd ragers out there that anathematizes this outright.  I am not one of them.  Let’s go ahead just admit this: you can’t really get something as good as the hobbit “right” when you put it on film.  Therefore, I prefer to judge the embellishments by effectiveness in the film, not whether or not they are factually true to the book.

The Dwarves

Let’s start with a favorite of mine: the dwarves.  Thorin Oakenshield was ambitious, embittered, and peppered with a little bit of greediness.  In the prologue, we a saw a dwarf prince humbly black smithing away for human masters.  We got a feel for how he felt about the Elves and why.  They did not lift a finger when his people needed him most.  We got a chance to see the rage he felt when he saw his father killed by the white Orc.  You also got an impression of what kind of leader he was.  Someone who asked for loyalty while keeping his emotions close to his chest.

The opening scene with the unexpected party was very effective too.  The dwarves were rowdy, crude, and foolhardy brave.  Then, they shifted into a somber, baritone-ranged, song of their lost homeland.  It was dark music for dark businesses.  Furthermore, throughout the movie, I got the impression that the dwarves weren’t just foolhardy, gold-lusting adventurers.  They were also homeless and exiled.  Jackson did a good job in drawing this scene in Biblo’s conversation in the goblin caves.

One commenter complained that the dwarves were a bit too much warrior adventurers instead of the hapless, trouble prone, group that Tolkien originally portrayed.  While there is some truth to this (keep reading), I don’t feel like the added fight scenes ruined the books’ vision.  We still got to see the dwarves tied up and roasted by trolls.  We still saw them nearly pee their pants before the stone giants.  Were they a bit more “warrior” than in the book?  Yes they were.  Did it work effectively in the movie?  Mostly.

The Goblin King Boss fight

If I had to pick one thing that was very wrong, it is the entire sequence of the Goblin King’s caves.  It started off okay.  The poor dwarves all fall into a trap, and then are scurried away to certain enslavement or worse.  I was even convinced by the Goblin King’s sudden from overconfidence to sheer terror when he saw Goblin Cleaver.   Sadly, that’s about all that can be said about this scene.

At some point in this scene, every dwarf transformed from a fantasy character to a video game avatars.  They ran the gauntlet of the goblins minions, killing each with their special abilities.  Eventually, Gandalf faces off into a boss fight.  The troupe then falls to their apparent doom, before breaking into the next level.

This sequence had no sense of danger.  No feeling of mortal peril.  No tension at all.  In fact, the 1977’s animated version was scarier than Peter Jackson’s version and did it less time.  I hate to say it, but it looks like Jackson drank the George Lucas kool-aid on this one.  Brilliant CGI and special effects don’t make a scene exciting or tense.  The excess turns a movie sequence into some else’s video game.  Nothing is more dull than that.

The Infamous Albino Orc

The most notable embellishment was the infamous albino orc.  He did have an evil sounding name, but I’m just going to call him whitie.  Thorin cut off his forearm in that epic, Boris Vallejo, worthy battle ages ago.  Now, whitie has been out to get him ever since.  In this film, he played the role of a sub-plot antagonist.  He was Thorin’s shadow.  The white orc after the black bearded dwarf.  Not a bad concept.  He certainly was nowhere in the book, though.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with this additional character in itself.  The problem was with the execution.  Whitie the orc is a pitifully written character.  He throws henchmen off cliffs.  He snarls and barks.  The prologue ruined any surprise.  What we have is cliched, generic, nasty villain that actually reminds you that your seeing a movie, thus taking you out of the story.  How so?  The entire “slay the henchmen” thing is overdone.  It doesn’t really make the villain nastier.  It makes him less believable.  How long before a subordinate decides he’d rather fill your shoes?  Whitie the orc belonged in a comic book.

I reiterate that I don’t have a problem with this added character.  The problems was not the idea.  I think it was possible to give Thorin and the party an intermediate enemy.  Problem is, whoever wrote this character didn’t put much work into him.

Riddles in the Dark

There is one last scene that deserves some serious praise.  The famous scene of Gollum, Biblo, and the riddles could not have been better done.  Amazing props to the Martin Freeman.  His amateurish, panicked sword swinging had me completely convinced that there actually was Gollum there.  Props too, to Andy Serkis. Remember when Gollum cheerfully sang while bashing an orc to death?  Only Andy Serkis could’ve made that darkly comical.

Equally good, was the scene in which Biblo spares Gollum instead of killing him.  In fact, I’d say that riddles of the dark sequence really outweighs the bad parts of this movie.

So for those of who are on the fence between seeing the movie and clinging to that $10, I’d say this.  Grab a friend or two, and go see it.  This is not a perfect rendition of Tolkien’s vision, but it is a fun, enjoyable, and exciting movie.  For those of you nerd ragers who are upset, go grab a hardback copy of the Hobbit and re read it.  We all know that books are better than movies.  Even if you think Peter Jackson’s version fell short thematically, it is not as if there are not enough good scenes to make the movie still enjoyable.

Let’s begin with a story shall we?

I can remember exactly where I was in summer of 2005. I braved LA traffic to arrive at a westwood theater and watch Star Wars Episode III. The actual title escapes me. Why I did I go? To laugh mostly.  To enjoy the camaraderie with my fellow APU students, and at least two full generations of Star Wars fans. At this point, the Star Wars fan zeitgeist was like a jilted lover. However, we had already gone through the sadness of betrayal, the seething anger, and the foolish desire to return.

No, at this point we were like the ex raising our heads high. It is the kind of ex that chuckles at the failures of the significant other who dumped you. Maybe they finally got fat. Maybe they got pregnant. Maybe their dating profile is so sad and desperate that you’re a bit glad that they never appreciated you.

That’s right. We paid for Episode III to laugh at it. Even if that laughter was a bit masochistic.

What I illustrate here is that there actually is entertainment value in the prequels.  It all depends on how you frame it.

So how are we actually going to react to the news that Disney is taking over Star Wars.

There’s already been quite a bit buzz about this since Lucas’s announcement.  We’re all not sure how to react to new Star Wars movies.  The Memes have exploded.  Here though is my personal reaction.

The first thing to remember is this: can Disney make Star Wars any worse?  Yes, I am being a bit tongue and cheek here, but the point the is serious.  Everything about the prequels was such a train wreck of plot holes, poor characters, lack of plot, adhd special effects that it has provided nothing but fodder for people like red letter media and countless other satire sites.  Disney can’t make it worse right?  Think about that question.

Another think to consider is what Disney has done in the last ten years.  How have you felt about Pixar and the Avengers?  Pixar hasn’t really failed.  We can remember the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie too.  That movie was the first successful pirate movie in decades.  Yes, that particular franchise went down hill quickly, yet despite that it still had its bright spots.  For instance, who was the scarier villian?  Was it this guy:

…Or this guy?

So can Disney improve on the story?  Can it give the fans final three movies that the fans deserve?  The answer depends on what “creative consultant” means.  If creative consultant means that George Lucas can have a hand in Star Wars, but never the final say it could work.  We know he is no writer without a proper editor.  So what we can hope for is that anything he suggests is never the final word as it was in Episode I.  Let’s hope that someone like this will be there to either keep Lucas in check.  If “creative consultant” means that Lucas is going to be drafting scripts again, than we’re in for three more plot and character nightmares.  Considering that Lucas does not want to face fan ire again, I somehow think he’s going to have a serious hand in this.

Personally, I think when we compare Lucas’ track record to Disney, we probably have a little reason to be cautiously optimistic.  We should probably actually be happy that creative direction of Star Wars is out of Lucas’ exclusive control.  We should probably recognize that Disney -despites its shameless comercial nature- knows how to tell a good story.  That’s why I am sanguine about star wars.

Yes, I am posing this as a question for everyone here to contribute.  However, please understand this is a question of whether Christians debate over Harry Potter, but at this point the question is why?!

We all know what the debate is.  When Harry Potter first became popular concerned parents started wondering if it was the devil’s work because their kids enjoyed it, but did not get it from the Bible book store.  This is a common recurrence.  It is the same semi-fundie to completely fundie mentality that raised issues over things like He-man, Pokemon, The Smurfs (the Smurfs?!), and Dungeons and Dragons.

Is Harry Potter the Devil’s work?  Well, no quite the opposite.  Harry Potter is Christian literature in the same tradition as Tolkien and Lewis, which the concerned parents typically praise!  The debate really should end with this quote from the Christian Post:

J.K. Rowling wrapped up the final book in the seven-volume series, and finally spoke openly in several interviews about her Christian faith.

She went so far as to say she had hesitated to talk about her faith previously because it would have made the series’ conclusion too obvious to discerning readers.

We know the authors intentions now.  That should close things right?  John Granger has also written a few papers on the Christian themes of the Harry Potter series.

In fact, many of the themes are fairly obvious.  A friend of mine once said that if people simply read the books, they’d see the Christian themes in them.  Perhaps though, prejudice and lack of aesthetic sense prevents people from doing so.

Nonetheless, this blog is for readers of Harry Potter who did notice Christians themes in the book.  Share what you saw in the books that were Christian themes.  Re-post it on facebook.  Share with everyone example after example of Christianity in the Harry Potter series because only when the opposition looks silly enough to be silent.  Let everybody know that this debate needs to be closed.  Be as specific as possible, and cite the books if you have them.

One example comes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  While in the forest, Harry Potter sees a figure suck blood from the body of a slain unicorn.  It is one of the first truly scary scenes in the book.  A centaur, Firenze, comes upon the scene after the dark figure has escaped.  Firenze shares this insight with Harry Potter:

“It is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,” said Firenze.  “only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime.  The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.  You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” -Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Immediately after reading this, the first thing that came to my mind was a passage from 1 Corinthians:

Therefore whoever east the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.  But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the World. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NASB

This association is reinforced by John Granger’s observation that a unicorn symbolized Christ in medieval artwork.  This was a remarkably subtle connection to the Bible and a passage that is very important to many Christians in high church traditions.

So what did you notice in Harry Potter that struck you as distinctly Christian?  What in the book looked like symbol for Christ or anything else from scripture?  What symbols did Rowling use that the Bible also uses?  The longer conversatinos like this get, the better the position will be.  Please comment as much as you like, and remember to subscribe for future comments and discussion.

>This blog is on the curtails of Glenn Peoples’ Berreta Cast. In one pod cast (“stop being a Christian, and starting being a person”), Glenn the wise criticized “Christian Ghetto” thinking. People who love the Christian Ghetto believe that a work of entertainment, scholarship, or literature is better because it is labeled “Christian” and produced by Christians and sold to you by your local temple money changer …umm… I mean Christian bookstore.

I need not repeat what Glenn has already said about the Christian Ghetto thinking. His podcast speaks for itself. Instead, I will point out a few great movies that have strong Christian themes, believable Christian characters, and –dare I say it- and presentation of the Christian message. How do these compare to the movies produced by the Christian Ghetto? Who cares! This is a positive case of where God is seen in film, whether or not it was produced by the approved sub-culture. After this I’ll ask some random questions about the Christian Ghetto.

Saved!. In Saved Jena Malone plays Mary Cummings, a perfect Christian girl at a perfect Christian high school with perfect Christian friends. There is a minority of heathens at the school, who Mary knows to steer clear from. The conflict takes off when Mary, in an effort to help her boyfriend overcome homosexuality, has sex with him. Then she gets pregnant.

I have already written a blog for this movie elsewhere in this blog. To summarize, this movie chastises evangelicalism like Jesus chastised the Levites and Pharisees in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Dramatically, this movie further shows how much evangelicalism has failed in the area of sexuality. The party policy fails in all its degrees: from silly neuroticisms to blatant judgmental hypocrisy. This movie is self-criticism for Evangelicals, if we can take the medicine.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose This movie begins with the death of Emily Rose, played by Jennifer Carpenter. She is dead from malnutrition and physical trauma. The priest, who was charged with her care, is arrested and charged with negligent homicide. The majority of the movie takes place in a courtroom. The important question is not whether the priest is guilty or innocent, but whether or not Emily was possessed by a demon or suffered from some psychiatric disorder.

The Christian themes of the movie are pretty obvious, and it is hard for me to expound on them without ruining the story, so I won’t. The themes can be listed at least. This movie presents what it might mean to imitate Christ in his death, very vividly and rather literally. It also addresses political issues, such as the role religion is p;ays in the public square. The courtroom setting also dramatizes the philosophical debate between religious reasoning and secular reasoning. It’s the enlightenment versus the middle ages all over again!

Finally, this movie is important for the same reason the Dexter series is. Jennifer Carpenter is hot.

The Mission I have only recently seen this movie, but it is my current favorite of the Christian movies not made by Christians. The film is set in 18th century South America. Jeremy Irons (who makes any movie better) plays Father Gabriel, a Jesuit priest. Robert De Niro plays the swashbuckling Rodrigo who joins the Jesuits to assuage a guilty conscience. The two work peacefully in a Mission to make Christians of the natives, but the empires of Spain and Portugal are at odds with the Church over territory, as well as access to abundant and affordable labor.

As things grow worse and worse for the mission, the movie asks “where is God?” The empires of Spain and Portugal eventually descend upon the peaceful mission. The church’s representative from Rome did nothing to stop this, even after visiting the mission. Throughout the siege, Father Gabriel confidently leads a mass and which ends with him carrying the monstrance. His brown-skinned flock follows him into a hail a musket fire. What is happening here is more than symbolic. The Eurcharist, inside the monstrance, is the presence of God for Father Gabriel and his flock.

“Where is God?” The answer is the same as the Gospel: among those who are abused by the empires and neglected by an indifferent and corrupt religious hierarchy. Like Jesus and the disciples in the first century, Father Gabriel and the native converts choose to die with Christ. Such is the only choice for them when the Kingdom of the World decides that the Kingdom of God has gotten in the way.

All three of these movies show something about Jesus. They all have believable Christian characters, many of whom are believably flawed. The themes of this movie, especially the Mission, present the facets of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.

Yet, none of these movies where produced or written by the Christian Ghetto. None of them are likely found at the Christian bookstores. In fact, I think the Christian Ghetto may not like these movies, most of all, Saved.

But do we really need the Christian Ghetto when it comes to movies? What exactly is the purpose of the Christian film industry? Has it produced anything on par with movies listed here? Is there something that “Christian Movies” do for Christianity that these movies do not?

Thanks for Thinking.

>This saturday, I went and did something that was the most completely “Los Angeles” thing that I have done in my four and half years of living in southern California.

I attended an independent film festival.

The film festival was put on by Mosiac. It was all themed around Erwin’s latest book

. I hadn’t been to such an event since the festival at my undergraduate, and I loved those too.

This event, took place at “the Mayan,” a themed-out downtown club in LA. There was a red carpet. There were people posing behind large frame -a kind of “living artwork”- as per the themes of the festival. There were two guys playing guitar and singing, that way we all knew it was an evangelical thing.

The energy of the place was exciting. I was there with my roommate who is working on the next spider man movie. We got our picture taken on the carpet. I got a nice bottle of “metro water” and drank it without embarrassment. There was popcorn and even Korean Tacos available for purchase. There were a few big wig hollywood people there.

The movies? Well they were all great. My favorite was a short film entitled Marbles with Thoreau. It was simple yet profound. One of those rare movies that is thought provoking in a way that children can understand. It had everything it would need to be a full length film, and it will be.

I left feeling quite happy. It was a great event and I am glad to know my church community there.

I just I hope I haven’t turned into a complete Los Angeles native in doing so.


>Are You in Space Horror?

Posted: 26/09/2009 in Movies

>Netflix steals my time, and it has stolen my time in the form of a few movies of the space horror genre, such as Event Horizon and the animated Dead Space. I’ve seen aspects of space horror in other things as well. Even Firefly had a space horror episode.

I have decided to write a blog to the people of the distant future. Hopefully, this blog will still be around in a few decades/centuries in to help those who spacefarers know the signs of space horror and how to avoid common mistakes in responding to them.

That’s right people of the future: pay close attention to this blog. If you do, you won’t have to be the last surviving crew member, desperately repairing the distress beacon as the space demons close in, in the darkest corner of your once proud ship, which now drifts aimlessly through the black, vast, uncaring void of space.

Signs that you are in Space Horror!

You are on a gritty, dimly lit, and coldly metallic space vessel. Hey, I don’t judge why you signed on. Maybe there’s a lot of work found in mining asteroids. Maybe you got posted on a new military vessel. You might even make a living hauling cargo around in a used junker. It could even be the future has a completely different view of aesthetics than we do.

Nonetheless, ships like this are magnets for the space demons. I would suggest avoiding ships like this at nearly any cost. Maybe you should give up spacefaring and become a doctor like your father wanted. Who knows? Try to get aboard ships that look like they’d be a place you’d want to live. Look for sleek, brightly light interior designs and spacious cabins. The space demons never bother with those.

In fact, the only time you should get on a gritty, dimly lit, and junker-type space vessel is if it is crewed by an unlikely gang of adventurers who sail under the guidance of a gruff, but caring, space-captain. Ships like that are usually pretty safe, but avoid snooping around for cargo compartments.

Your ship finds a large, mysterious, and seemingly inanimate object someplace. Perhaps it is a giant monument covered with mysterious runes. It may be a beacon left by an ancient civilization. It may even be experimental technology from your own government. Nonetheless, you look to the obelisk with fear and trepidation.

But whatever it is leave it alone. Things like this are likely not inanimate. They could very well hold evil toxins or something similar that will turn you and crew into space demons/zombies/mutants or whatever. Go ahead and just note in your log and sail on by. You might even consider reburying it if you unearthed it. Don’t listen to the token science guy on the ship when he insists “we must stay here and study this for blah blah blah.”

You have found a crazy person or a crew member has gone crazy. Now here is something we’ve all seen. The doctor’s got some poor guy sedated, but he keeps needing more medicine. When he wakes up, he babbles incoherently. He might be saying, “they’re going to eat our bones” or “don’t open the gate! Don’t open the gate!!” He might even be trying to cut himself or attempt to escape via an empty air lock in a panic.

Chances are, this guy is probably about the most reasonable person on the entire ship right now. If he is saying things like “must escape, must escape” or the even more ominous “they’re coming back. Don’t let them come back” he –though crazy- is giving you very good advice. If he was a stranded survivor, leave wherever it was that you found him immediately. If he is your own crew member, leave whatever area he first started going crazy in. Don’t forget to quarantine him and run a thorough scan of your ship for toxins, viruses, or little tiny robots.

You have an annoying, science officer on your ship. This character believes that he is the voice of reason in any crisis. He is always the first to say “there must be a scientific explanation of all this” or maybe “now is not the time to panic.” As I alluded to earlier, he is the guy who insists that the mysterious objects or anything else must be studying or that we must wait for more data before doing anything.

Ignore this character. His role in the space horror is to remind everyone of the hubris of science against either superior science or the supernatural. Unless carefully reined in, this character will guide you and your ship to disaster. Be happy that he is often one of the first people the space demons will go for, but of course when the space demons are already eating major characters it might already be too late.

So there it is people of the future! Avoid space horror by following these steps and many others. I wish you the best in your space faring future. Now boldly go, and don’t do anything stupid!

>At the risk (certainty) of aging myself a bit, I say that one of my favorite generational movies is Hackers. It came out in 1995, when the information age was in its nascent stages and the Internet was only understood by a cunning few. The movie presented a (then) present/near future world of computers, hipster technophiles, and computer viruses scandals. It turns out the movie is now a bit of fossil (a really cool fossil, but still a fossil), as the future is not like Hackers. Here are some examples I can think off.

Technology Ages Quickly. Technology indexes the computer age. It is hard to suppress a chuckle when I see characters in the movie get excited about “RISC architecture” or a “28.8 BPS modem.” The low resolution of many of the computers also shocks modern day computer users. Those screens back then could fit into about two square inches of most monitors today –which are now all flat panel, LCD, or plasma or anything but a CRT.

Oh, and the movie had floppy discs. What the fuck?

Nobody goes to arcades. In the beginning of the movie, the characters go to some raverish establishment where they eat greasy food, play arcade games, and discuss how “1337” (leet) they are. While the greasy food and self-gratification remain intimate parts of techie culture, nobody goes to arcades to play videogames.

Instead, people set up their desktops with the latest glowly equipment in their dark apartments/relative’s basements and hook up to the internet to play World of Warcraft. Alternately, they might have several friends over to play Wii, Xbox, or similar console. These are also played on anything other than a CRT.

If arcades do exist, and they are very rare if they do, they exist as internet cafes. They are nothing like what is portrayed in Hackers.

Shows like “Hack the Planet” are not on cable-access TV. At one point in the movie, the characters sit around a couch and watch “Hack the Planet” with metro-sexual hosts Razor and Blade. While I am certain that such shows exist, I am pretty sure they are on youtube. In fact, as far as techie culture goes, I think the television is more or less a dead medium. The most tech savvy people I know only have cable if it bundles with their internet access. When they do watch TV, it is probably Netflix, downloaded movies, or TiVo. The thought of actually scheduling a time to sit down and watch Cable access is unheard of.

Pay phones do not exist. Throughout the movie, pay phones are used not only to make calls, but to dial into the internet at remote locations to do nifty works of hacking. Now, it is quite apparent that pay phones are dead. There is no need to use a tape recorder to hack yourself some long distance calls if you have skype. There is no need to dial into the internet when every third café has wireless internet. There’s no need use them to make calls if you have cell phone –which everybody does.

I suppose if you’re the kind of hacker that knows how to hack a payphone, you have some serious street credibility with hacker culture. Outside of that; who cares?

Hackers do not courageously crusade against evil corporations and government agencies, who attempt to victimize them. The situation has changed over the years. These days, hackers are working for the evil corporations and government agencies.

Thanks for reading.

>One of my favorite movies, surely and older movie by now, is the teen satire Saved! which I watched for the first time back in College. I realized then, and I still think now, that movie is not some “anti-Christian” movie. I think of it more like modern day parable of the good Samaritan. If the movie offends you, you should think carefully why.

The Parable

Let’s start with the Gospel of Luke. A lawyer asks Jesus a question, and Jesus answers with the parable.

25And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 28And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” 29But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Notice how this parable is set up. The Lawyer has an idea of what it is he is supposed to do, but in the fashion of lawyers, he is attempting to be as specific with the letter of the law so he can minimally fulfill the law. The question “who is my neighbor” is only half-way sincere.

Jesus answers:

30Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31″And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32″Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33″But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35″On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36″Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”


There are two things that we need to realize about this parable. First, is how that lawyer viewed the Pharisees and the Levites. Secondly, how that lawyer viewed the Samaritans.

As good Christians, we all know that a Pharisees and Levites were bad people, but that is our perspective. That little lawyer probably had quite the opposite view. In his day, a Pharisee or a Levite was someone who was revered in the same way we revere successful ministers, missionaries, authors and any other type of clergy are today. The Samaritan, as viewed by the Jewish community at the time, were decidedly outside the fold of the approved, morally-upright, and spiritually approved group. They were derided for the ethnicity and for not worship God in the way approved by the Pharisees and Levites. The Samaritans were considered so dirty, that the Lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say “the Samaritan” at the end of this exchange.

This is why this parable is so particularly penetrating. Jesus is using this surprise and this scandal to gently push through the lawyer’s half-sincere question about ethics. Jesus is saying quite a bit here. First, goodness is not automatic when you are part of the approved community. On the flipside, doing good is not the domain of a group. Jesus tells the lawyer, who is well aware that he belongs to approved group, to be like that outcast who is doing the right thing. If you know what’s right, stop asking questions and do what is right.

Saved! (?)

If you haven’t seen “Saved!”, I recommend simply scrolling down to the bottom of this review, buying it, and then watching it. Don’t read the spoilers that are about to come.

The story of saved is set up in a similar way that the parable is. The main protagonist is Mary, who is clearly in the approved group of the conservative, fundamentalist, Christians. She is part of the “Christian Jewels” a singing group at her school. Her mom is on every church board meeting and participates in every activity. She knows Pastor Skip, the school youth minister. She has a wonderful pair of Christian friends namely Hilary and Veronica. Those who are outside the approved group are Hilary’s brother Roland and the rebel Jewish girl Cassandra.
The plot takes off when Mary has sex with her boyfriend in order to restore him to heterosexuality. She finds out that she is pregnant and decides to keep both her shame and her pregnancy to herself. Throughout the story, she becomes increasingly withdrawn from her friends and eventually experiences a crisis of faith. It is summed up best when she stares at cross at her school and utters several curse words ending with, “God Damn.”

It is here that we begin to see the failures of the modern day Pharisees and Levites. Hilary reacts to Mary’s despondency out of spite and pride –even outcasting Mary from the Christian Jewels. There are hints of Veronica own sexual misconduct at church camps. Pastor Skip, though not living with his wife, is in a sham of marriage that is blindingly apparent to his own son, Patrick. Her mother shows her lack of openness and lack of assurances towards Mary when Mary begins to reach out. When Mary’s pregnancy is finally revealed, her mom intends to send her away to a “Mercy House.” Additionally, the mother’s own repressed sexuality reveals her ulterior motives for her church involvement. Everyone is quick to judge and slow to understand. The entire Christian cast displays acts of spite, hypocrisy, and shallowness.

Not so with the movie’s two (maybe three?) Samaritans. Cassandra, the rule-defying rebel, is the first to realize that Mary is pregnant. She gently, but persistently, presses Mary on the issue until Mary relents. She and Rolond help Mary go shopping for pregnancy clothes. The group eventually becomes friends. They are later framed by Hilary and others and kicked out of school. On prom night, these two plan an escape for Mary and buy her a prom dress. Patrick, Skip’s son, becomes Mary’s date and is the third person to accept Mary -pregnancy and all.

Who was Mary’s neighbor? It is quite clear in the movie who. Those cynical outcasts show greater mercy and understanding towards Mary than any of the “spiritually approved” group. Like the Pharisees and the Levites, the spiritually upright demonstrate little more than a desire to avoid the issue of the person in need, but going a step further in actually harming Mary.

Regarding the Christians who disliked this movie, I think a call for concern is in order. Such a movie can be dismissed easily as anti-Christian, but this would be missing the point. If Christians feel offended by such a depiction of Christians, then maybe it is time to think about why those depictions exist. Why get upset about such a film or give it a superficial examination about its message? Why not instead see who truly acts as the neighbor and then go and do likewise.?

Thanks for reading.