Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Movie Review: Aeon Flux

There's nothing quite so entertaining as a good science fiction movie and Aeon Flux fits the bill -- mostly. A virus has wiped out 85% of humans on earth and those surviving have built a city protected from the 'natural world' and where life is paradisical. But something is not quite right. People disappear suddenly and without trace. Some experience feelings that things are not quite right but can't quite put their finger on the problem. The government is increasingly oppressive under the guise of protecting its citizens. A small group of rebels plot to overthrow the government and liberate the people. Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) is a member of this group, the Monicans, who is sent on a mission to kill the chairman to make way for a coup. But things get very complicated when Aeon discovers that all is not as it seems. I'm not going to reveal the theme of Aeon Flux except to say that it raises some questions and possibilities related to something that scientists are working on right now. The concepts underlying the story are the saving grace of the film -- without them it wouldn't be worth watching. Aeon Flux works on the level of entertainment and has an intriguing premise. The special effects are creative and the action fast-paced. Fortunately, the storyline manages to make up for some very two-dimensional acting and stilted dialogue, although, some friends I was with when I saw the movie suggested that this was to be expected as part of the nature of the characters. Mmmm.... not sure about that. At times, one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe the movie was merely an opportunity to show off the beautiful body of Chalize Theron (whose stint in this film is no where up to her brilliance in Monster or North Country) and the latest fashion. But it is an entertaining 93 minutes with some provocative suggestions about ... well... I'll let you find out. My Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review 'It's all so geekily gorgeous, it hardly matters that the narrative lapses in and out of incoherence and the dialogue is functional at best.' - Jason Anderson/The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Negative Review 'Aeon Flux is by far the year's worst movie, a most dubious achievement.' Lou Lumenick/New York Post Content Warning Sequences of violence and sexual content

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Movie Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

Whatever else might be said about Memoirs of a Geisha it is a beautiful film. It collected 3 Oscars at this year's awards - Best Achievement in Art Direction; Best Achievement in Cinematography; Best Achievement in Costume Design. All are deserved. Memoirs didn't receive much praise from critics but I thought it was an excellent few hours of entertainment. Memoirs has been criticised for using Chinese actors as Japanese women in the film (apparently leading to a furor in Japan). But surely that is no worse than casting Eric Bana as an Israeli or using American actors to play Australians in so many movies. So forget it ... it's trivial. Nitta Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang) lives in a fishing village in Japan and is sold, as a child, to a local geisha house in Kyoto's Gihon district where she is mistreated by the head geisha, Hatsumomo (Li Gong). Sayuri is stunningly beautiful and evokes a deep jealousy and hatred towards her from Hatsumomo. Hatsumomo's rival, Mahema takes her as her mentor and, under her tutelage, Sayuri becomes the most celebrated geisha in all of Japan. As a result, she enters into the world of the rich and famous. But war comes and her life is changed forever. It's a great story superbly filmed with a beautiful cast. So ignore all those negative reviews. Go along to the cinema (a big screen is essential to appreciate the artistry), relax, and enjoy a delightfully old-fashioned story of treachery, courage, and love with delicious music and a visual feast. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'The story is so compelling and the movie is such a pleasure to the eyes and ears.' - William Arnold/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Negative Review 'To its credit, the film's costume design is stunning. But unless you have a kimono fetish, there's no reason to pay a good dollar (or a yen, for that matter) on this junk.' - Phil Hall/Film Threat Content Warning Mature subject matter and some sexual content Related Links

Monday, March 13, 2006

The McPassion

The McPassion is a short satire directed by Benjamin Hershleder and written by Rik Swartzwelder. Rik is a Christian who became very concerned with the way that Christian churches promoted and marketed Mel Gibson's epic crucifixion film, The Passion of the Christ. It runs for about four minutes and he is counting on the viewer being offended! Why? Because he believes that the church is aligning itself too heavily with marketing strategies that commercialise the gospel. Before viewing the short film, you might like to review his comments explaining why he made the film. Click here to go to the website. Links to the film are available from there.

Evasive Language Results in Subotimal Outcomes - Yahoo! News

Check out this interesting article on the way that language can be used to ameliorate and evade reality. Euphemism has been around for as long as language has (I assume) but it seems to be getting worse lately!

Gold Derby by Tom O'Neil - The Envelope

The Los Angeles Times has an in-depth analysis of this year's Oscars. You can read it here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Book Review: C S Lewis's Case for Christ

C S Lewis is one of the most well known apologists for Christianity and millions of Christians (and non-Christians) have gained invaluable help from his writings. In C S Lewis's Case for Christ: Insights from Reason, Imagination and Faith, Art Lindsley has given us a superb summary of Lewis's journey of faith which eventually brought him to the point where he accepted Christianity. The book is structured into 14 chapters, each of which begins with a dialogue between a group of people meeting at a modern bookstore to discuss Lewis's ideas. With brilliant clarity, Lindsley explains Lewis's thinking on such questions as What were Lewis's obstacles to faith? What does a two-thousand-year-old religion have to do with me? How can I believe in God when there is so much evil, pain and suffering in the world? Isn't Christianity just one myth among many? Who needs faith? Isn't faith merely imaginary? Isn't belief in God just a crutch for needy people? and more. All of the questions that Lewis deals with are still relevant in our modern day and he even had things to say about contemporary ideologies such as post-modernism (although it wasn't called that then) and relativism. Lindsley writes with a deep familiarity of Lewis's writings and by the end of the book his respect and appreciation for Lewis shine through. Lewis tackled big questions with a profound simplicity and remarkable clarity and Lindsley brings both of these characteristics to his own writing about Lewis. If you are looking for a book that answers tough questions by bringing C S Lewis "alive" again, then look no further. It portrays an intelligent faith (no, this is not an oxymoron) that is unafraid to question and explore with an open mind. A truly excellent book!

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Movie Review: Match Point

With Match Point Woody Allen has broken out of his usual style of film making about neurosis to direct a movie which will have a much wider appeal. Match Point begins with a narrator explaining the moment when a tennis ball hits the top of the net on a match point, bounces up in the air, and could fall down on either side, changing the outcome of the game. This moment becomes the metaphor for the story we are about to see. Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a moderately successful tennis player who is sick of touring and decides to settle down in London. He becomes involved with Chloe (Emily Mortimer) who has a rich Dad. While getting to know the family, he meets Chloe's brother's fiancee, the sensuous Nola Rice (Scarlett Johanssen) and is deeply attracted to her. As their lives become more entwined, things get very complicated indeed until Chris has to make some very difficult decisions that lead to some unexpected consequences. Match Point is all about the role that luck plays in our lives. Just how much are our circumstances the result of our own actions or chance? With its controversial resolution, Match Point will give you much to think about. Golden Globe Winner: Best Picture Oscar Nomination: Woody Allen - Best Original Screenplay My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review 'To call Match Point Woody Allen's comeback would be an understatement - it's the most vital return to form for any director since Robert Altman made "The Player."' - Owen Gleibermann/Entertainment Weekly Negative Review 'Match Point is a perfectly presentable, entirely unremarkable domestic melodrama parked queasily between opera and realism, two irreconcilable forms if ever there were.' - Ella Taylor/LA Weekly Content Warning some sexuality

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Book Review: Dawkins' God

Richard Dawkins is probably the best-known atheist in the world today. In addition to his writings on science, Dawkins constantly speaks and writes against religion. Alister McGrath's book, Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life, is the first book-length response to Dawkins' ideas. And McGrath is eminently suited to the task. He is a colleague of Dawkins, a world-renowned theologian, and has a PhD in molecular biophysics. Apparently, when McGrath had completed the manuscript of the book, he sent it to Dawkins to check that he had fairly represented Dawkins' ideas. Dawkins, who most certainly would disagree with McGrath's conclusion, gave his approval. In Dawkins' God, McGrath begins with a straightforward survey of Dawkins' view of Darwinism which Dawkins has elevated to a world view -- a metanarrative that, for Dawkins, provides his organising perspective on absolutely everything. McGrath then proceeds with a telling critique of Dawkins' naive, and often distorted, arguments against religion and, in particular, the Judeo-Christian understanding of God. McGrath demonstrates a deep respect for Dawkins when Dawkins sticks to science. But when he moves away from science, he is completely out of his depth and uses rhetorical tricks rather than substantial argument to bolster his fundamentalist atheism. In critiquing Dawkins' arguments, McGrath explains the nature of evidence in science and religion and demonstrates that science cannot come to any conclusion about the existence of God and, therefore, does not inevitably arrive at atheism. Dawkins is just plain wrong in his caricatures of religious belief and faith and argues against points of view that no Christian scholar holds, or ever has held. Dawkins' rhetoric is about point-scoring -- not substantial dialogue and argument. McGrath also shows that Dawkins' concept of the meme is completely unscientific, without any evidence for their existence, based on a flawed analogy with DNA. Dawkins describes belief in God as a virus of the mind. But, as McGrath demonstrates, atheism, which Dawkins believes is the truth, can itself be understood as a virus of the mind in Dawkins' memetic model. Dawkins construes the relationship between science and religion as warfare. But the warfare model has never been widely held by theologians or scientists but, instead, is a particular representation promoted by a minority of individuals, primarily evangelical fundamentalists. So Dawkins is not engaging with the best Christian scholarship available. If he did, he would have little to say! Dawkins' God is a brilliant critique. It is written in plain language and would be understood by anyone, even if they are not familiar with Dawkins' views. Michael Ruse, a philosopher at Florida State University, who favours the theory of evolution, has described Dawkins' God as '[a] wonderful book ... This is scholarship as it should be - informed, feisty, and terrific fun.' And David Livingstone, of Queen's University, Belfast, has praised the book as '[a] devastating critique.' These are apt descriptions of a compelling read. Don't miss reading this excellent, carefully reasoned, critique of Dawkins' superficial, naive attacks against religion. You won't be disappointed. Related Links