Saturday, July 24, 2010

Movie Review: Creation

Released: 2009

Go to IMDb page

Information ©

In the ironically entitled movie Creation we observe the agonising process of Darwin trying to come to terms with the publication of his book Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) has been writing his book The Origin of Species and realises that his theory would be a bombshell to the faith of his deeply committed Christian wife, Emma (Jennifer Connelly). And if it is a bombshell to her, then it would be a bombshell to the wider Christian believers of his day. The problem is that Charles is a man who wants to follow the evidence wherever it leads him. His wife is more interested in protecting the faith she has. The tension between them leads to mental and physical illness for Charles. The only family member who comes anywhere near understanding what Charles is working on is his daughter, Annie (Martha West).

Charles becomes increasingly desperate as his priest pressures him to abandon his project and his friends pressure him to publish his work. Charles and Emma’s relationship goes from bad to worse to worst. Charles is almost destroyed when his daughter, Annie, dies from what may have been scarlet fever or tuberculosis. The spiral down is unrelenting until Charles and Emma come to a resolution and Charles’s book is published — and the world changed forever.

Creation is a stunning movie and should be seen by everyone — especially Christians who take a simplistic view of Darwin and his theory. The movie is not about the theory of evolution itself. It focuses relentlessly on the relationship of Charles and his wife and the way the tension between her faith and his science almost destroys their marriage.

Connelly and Bettany, who are husband and wife off-screen, are brilliant in portraying Charles and Emma. The story, based on Randal Keynes biography of Darwin) is profoundly moving and is iconic of the endless tension between creationists and evolutionists to this day. For Emma, Charles has ‘killed God’ (in the words of Thomas Huxley, one of Darwin’s staunchest defenders. And for many creationists in our modern world, that is what evolution has done for them. Creation drives home the agony that Darwin experienced as he waited for about 20 years to publish his book for fear that his marriage would be destroyed. Emma says, to Darwin, ‘Do you not care that you and I may be separated for all eternity?’ Because his relationship with his wife was so deep, and because his belief in his theory was so deep, it ironically nearly destroys the relationship he values so deeply.

Creation is deeply involving, deeply moving, and deeply provocative. It provides a brilliant insight into the heart and mind of Darwin. This was not a man who was out to destroy people’s faith. All he was doing was acting on what he saw as the facts which led him to an inescapable conclusion. If he was to live with integrity, he need to share with the world what he had discovered. Not to do so was an assault on his conscience. Creation deals with all these issues with depth and sensitivity with a brilliant script (one of the most moving scenes being the death of an orang-utan that Darwin had been working with). The only deviation from the high quality was an overstated last scene. But this was minor when put in the perspective of the whole movie.

Creation is moving and very, very timely. Don’t miss it!!


Positive Review
‘Thoughtful, moving, and Bettany is brilliant. To be reminded of the power of love to redeem and repair, catch Creation.’ – Empire

Negative Review
‘It's impossible to say who's more unhinged: Darwin, caught between faith and reason, or the filmmakers.’ – Wall Street Journal/Joe Morgensern

Content Advice
Some intense thematic material

USA: PG-13

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Interview with Peter Hitchens about 'The Rage Against God'

Did you know that Christopher Hitchens, the outspoken atheist, has a brother, Peter, who became a Christian after being an atheist? Peter has written a book called The Rage Against God: How atheism led me to faith. I haven't read it but it is on my list. Here is a brief video of an interview with Peter Hitchens.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Hedgehog (Le Hérisson)

It must be tough being a hedgehog. I’m sure that, somewhere beneath the prickles is a nice cuddly creature. But getting past those prickles can be difficult. Surely the hedgehog must get frustrated at everyone assuming that what is on the outside is the real creature.

In the same way hedgehogs are primarily related to according to their prickles, so too we tend to relate to other people by what we see on the surface. How often, though, do we get to know someone and realise that we have misjudged them. This human reality is at the heart of Mona Achache’s absolutely delightful film Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog).

Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) is a very bright 11-year old girl living in an apartment block with her rich family. She is older than her years and interested in art and philosophy. Her mother is neurotic and her father is a busy politician and her sister is completely self-absorbed. Palomo decides she is going to kill herself on her 12th birthday. But before she does, she decides to create a video journal of her boring life in the apartment block including the eccentric residents in the building. As she does, she gets to know a number of characters who begin to make her wonder whether she will go ahead with her plan to suicide. She develops friendships with two people in particular — the concierge who is the “hedgehog” of the story’s title; and a  widowed Japanese man.

An 11-year-old contemplating suicide may seem to be a rather depressing premise for a story. But The Hedgehog strikes a superb balance between dark and light to produce a superb comedy/drama about life, death, love, friendship, family, and the beauty of those who, initially, come across as remote and “prickly”.

Guillermic is absolutely brilliant in her role as Paloma and her narration as she makes her video journal are incisive, trenchant, and witty. The rest of the cast support her with wonderfully rich and understated performances.

The Hedgehog is moviemaking at its best — entertaining, meaningful, sophisticated, simple, and a true delight to watch. Don’t miss it!



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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Released: 2010

Go to IMDb page

Information ©

I took myself and family off to see Eclipse, the third instalment of The Twilight Saga, last night and what a disappointment after the first two were so good.

The central narrative of Eclipse has Bella (Kristen Stewart) desperately trying to choose between two men she loves — the vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) — her decision potentially igniting the endless tensions between the vampire and werewolf. The backdrop to this emotional struggle is a series of killings that plague Seattle and Bella’s fast-approaching graduation after which she has decided to decide whether she is going to live the life of a vampire or not.

There is obviously plenty of fodder for a good movie. But Eclipse is plagued by poor performances, insipidly clichéd dialogue, and special effects that don’t quite live up to the action sequences they portray. There are a few moral overtones such as waiting until one is married before losing one’s virginity. But the moments of dialogue that even hint at significant issues are so cheesy they lose their effectiveness.

It’s unfortunate that Chris Weitz, who directed New Moon, felt unable to commit to Eclipse because of his work completing New Moon. And in my view, the current instalment suffers as a result. I thought New Moon was actually better than Twilight and I am disappointed he wasn’t able to follow through on this one.

If you are one of those people who are following the story or are desperate to see Jacob without a shirt, then you will obviously want to go and see this latest offering. But prepare to be disappointed and hope the next one returns to the quality we have come to expect. Of course, if you are addicted to the series, you will easily delete any flaws from your mind. It is interesting to note that, on IMDB, nearly 14,000 voters have rated this one very low indeed. Make of that what you will.

I love Roger Ebert’s summary of this franchise:

The “Twilight” movies are chaste eroticism to fuel adolescent dreams, and are really about Bella being attracted and titillated and aroused and tempted up to the … very … brink! … of surrender, and then, well, no, no, she shouldn’t.

That about says it all…


Positive Review
‘The story, at heart, is earnest and humorless teen romantic glop, but its feelings aren't fake, and the movie is compulsively watchable; it has a passionflower intensity.’ – Owen Gleiberman/Entertainment Weekly

Negative Review
‘You brace for a certain amount of hand-wringing, lip-biting and pinup posing aimed at middle-schoolers; given the way that Eclipse initially suggests a potential for reaching beyond a preteen audience, you just wish the beefcake and cheese didn’t eventually overshadow its better qualities.’ – Time Out New York

Content advice
intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality

USA: PG-13

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Book Review: The Naked Gospel

In traditional Christian theology there has been three uses of “the law”:

1) provoke a sense of sin in a person
2) drive people to the cross of Christ
3) provide the ethical basis for living as a Christian

The so-called “third use of the law” has usually become the focus of living the Christian life. But, as the apostle Paul has pointed out, particularly in his letter to the Romans, the law, while good, actually provokes sin in a person rather than resolving the problem. Focusing on the law as a Christian actually has the opposite of the intended effect — leading to legalism, frustration, oppressiveness, and a loss of the freedom that God intended to come as the result of the work of Jesus Christ on behalf of humanity.

I have spent most of my life living under the law and have experienced all of the negative consequences of doing so. It wasn’t until I came to a deep understanding of the difference between the old Mosaic covenant God made with Israel and the New Testament covenant of grace brought by Christ that I was liberated into the true freedom the apostle Paul celebrates in Galatians 5:1. In this verse, Paul pleads with his Roman Christian readers to live in the new freedom Christ has brought. He writes:

… Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Much Christian teaching directly works against the Christian living in this freedom and nothing more so than the teaching that the New Covenant Christian is still subject to the law. Since I have come to an understanding of the new covenant and the fact that the Christian is no longer under the law but lives by the new way of life in the Spirit, biblical passages I used to have to twist to conform to the old thinking have become refreshingly clear.

There is an urgent need for many Christians to discover the “naked gospel” of the New Testament so that they can be liberated from the imprisonment of the law and live in the brilliant freedom that the New Covenant has brought. And there is, perhaps, no clearer articulation of this new covenant than Andrew Farley’s book The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church.

Farley has written a superbly simple (but profound) book that describes and explains the gospel and which strips away ‘all the religious fakery' (from a comment by Leonard Sweet about the book) that has accrued over the centuries.

Farley begins his book by describing “obsessive-Christianity disorder”. He describes his own experience of works-based Christian living that left him frustrated despite how much he tried to keep the law. For those of us who have tried to genuinely live under law, his story resonates as it portrays the anxiety, guilt, and emotional exhaustion of trying to live up to the law. It is no wonder that, in Farley’s words, ‘Christianity is seen [for many] more as a cancer than a crutch.’

Then, Farley launches into a magnificent articulation of what it truly  means to live under the new covenant. He explains how:

  • noone can live successfully under the old covenant law
  • it is not the “Law of Moses” that is written on the heart of believers
  • some Christians are fixated on the law even though it was a shadow pointing to a reality that has arrived
  • the law has one intended audience — unbelievers; NOT the believer
  • being under the law is like being prison
  • legalism never produces love
  • the law sets us up for failure
  • the law is a poor substitute for the Holy Spirit
  • the law is irrelevant to life in Christ
  • the law breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not
  • Christ has brought us genuine freedom

Of course, all of these assertions (which Farley superbly bases in the Scriptural text) raise many questions: does that mean we can do anything we like? how, then, do we know how to live as a Christian? what does sanctification mean for a Christian? and many more…

Farley deals with each of these issues in a very considered, simple, engaging, way. And finally he explores the way in which the fact of a person in Christ being a new creation brings a radical new liberty to be all we were meant to be.

I cannot exaggerate how good this book is. It’s an absolute pleasure to read. Every Christian would benefit from reading it. In fact, those who have been long-time Christians may find it radically changing the way they view their relationship to God. And if non-believers want to read about the very best, most liberating form of Christianity, then they should take a look at it as well. Go and buy one immediately!

Check out Andrew Farley’s website where you can watch videos and download a free preview of the book.