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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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The announcement by Major League Baseball that the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox will play a regular season game next season on the site in Iowa where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed got me thinking about baseball movies. (By the way, the game will not be played on the actual field. An 8,000 seat temporary stadium will be built next to it by Major League Baseball.)

In general, sports movies are the best movies made, in my opinion. Sports are a ready-made vehicle for telling good stories, and baseball movies just may tell them the best of any. I know people will disagree with that, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here are 5 good baseball movies, in no particular order:

  1. Pride of the Yankees – The story of the rise to stardom with the Yankees of Lou Gehrig, “the Iron Horse,” and his losing battle with ALS, the disease that would come to be named after him.
  2. The Natural – An adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s novel by the same name about a “wonder boy” whose career is derailed, then put back on track.
  3. Field of Dreams – W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe is the basis for this movie about family, dreams, and yes, baseball. If I run across this movie on television, I’ll watch the rest of it if I can. There must be a lot of dust in the air when I watch it, though, because my eyes water a lot.
  4. Eight Men Out – The story of the Chicago White Sox (nicknamed “Black Sox”) scandal. Eight White Sox players agreed to purposely lose the World Series after being paid off by gamblers. All eight were banned from baseball for life. One of them was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who always proclaimed his innocence.
  5. Major League – A comedy built around the Cleveland Indians, whose owner is preparing to move the team and needs ticket sales to go beneath a certain level in order to break the stadium lease. Once they find out about it, the team has other ideas and has one of its best seasons ever. (This isn’t really a kid-friendly movie. It earned its R rating.)

Because there are so many good baseball movies, here are a few more:

A League of Their Own – A women’s professional baseball league existed in the United States for several years shortly after the start of World War II, when a number of Major League players were serving in the military. This movie tells a bit of the story. The cast is very good.

The Rookie – Jim Morris, a promising young pitcher, injured his shoulder early in his career. Teaching and coaching a high school team in Texas, he promises his team he’ll try out for a Major League team if they win their league championship (which is a long shot). I won’t spoil it, but the rest is good.

 

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The hour was dark – very dark for the British Empire and the rest of the world – as Nazi Germany was on a seemingly unstoppable march toward world domination. Winston Churchill, however, shone brightly in contrast.

Darkest Hour tells the story of Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister through the rescue at Dunkirk and his “We shall never surrender” speech to Parliament. With the exception of one scene (Winston riding the Tube in the Underground), the movie is historically accurate. Gary Oldman was fantastic in his portrayal of Churchill. He obviously studied the Prime Minister’s mannerisms and speech patterns. The makeup artists deserve some kind of reward for transforming Oldman into Churchill – unless his name was on the credits, you may not have known it was him.

Darkest Hour presents Churchill’s admirable qualities quite clearly. As an admirer and student of Churchill, I’m well aware of his less than admirable qualities as well (which were seen in the movie, too). He was flawed, just like all of us.

Churchill provided the courage needed to fight against, and ultimately defeat along with the Allies, the Axis powers. Providentially, Churchill was the right man for the right time. Churchill harnessed the power of words to motivate, inspire, and lead the free world in the battle against evil that was World War II. He was a needed counterbalance to Adolf Hitler, who also used words to advance his cause. Viscount Halifax, an opponent of Churchill in many ways, said of Churchill that he “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” Indeed he did.

There are lessons for us to learn from Britain’s experience in World War II. Courage is always needed whatever our time or place, but it is always in short supply. It’s the rarest of virtues. Words are powerful: they turned the tide in World War II; they were used by God to create all things – visible and invisible; they turned the world upside down as the early Christians preached the gospel; and they changed the world in the Reformation as Bible preaching thundered from from pulpit all over Europe.

I highly recommend Darkest Hour. It’s a movie my Dad, who was a “Churchillophile” (if I may coin a word), would have liked.

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Here are some links I found interesting (you might as well).

How to Mortify Sin is a piece written by Sinclair Ferguson which is excellent. Read it here.

Les Miserables: Law, Grace and Redemption is written by L. Michael Morales and is a good introduction to the book and movie for those who aren’t familiar with it (and those who might be, too). Read it here.

A Wretched Critique of Restoring America is an article written by Joel McDurmon. It’s a good reminder to actually quote and try to understand those you disagree with. Regardless of your millennial position, this applies. Read it here. Here’s part two.

Enjoy!

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I haven’t seen any of these movies (yet, in the case of at least one of them), but came across some thoughts about by others. I hope you find them helpful.

Religulous (Bill Maher’s movie) is reviewed by Craig Hazen here.

The Express is reviewed by Ben Witherington here.

Fireproof is reviewed by Plugged In Online here.

Tell me what you think. When I see any of these movies, I’ll tell you what I think.

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Here are two post I found particularly interesting in the last few days:

“Watching Movies to the Glory of God” by Adam Parker. You can read it here.

“The Truth about Christian Bookstores” by Dan Edelen. You can read it here.

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(I wrote this a number of years ago, but it’s still relevant today.)

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, a man had once been saved at a tremendous cost by a number of other men. Private Ryan, the one who had been rescued, heard these words from one of his dying rescuers, “Earn this. Earn it.”

As we move ahead to the end of the film, Ryan – now quite elderly – visits the grave of one of the men who had saved him fifty years earlier. As he’s trying not to cry, he says, “I lived my life the best I could. I hope that was enough.” Then he looked at his wife and said, “Tell me I’m a good man.” As his children and grandchildren looked on, she replied, “You are.”

This scene epitomizes the human view of religion, especially the American view. If you work hard enough, if you do more good deeds than bad, and if you live a good life, then you will go to heaven because you have earned a right standing with God.

That sounds good, but there’s one big problem with it – we never know how much is enough. That’s precisely the question that haunted Private Ryan. “Have I done enough?” There is no possible way to know if we’ve done enough, or been good enough, or worked hard enough, or if we have done enough good deeds.

By far, the largest problem with this false notion is that it is clearly unscriptural. Romans 3:28 says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Ephesian 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” We cannot save ourselves no matter what we do.

The question then arises, “If works don’t save me, then what does?” The answer is found in the gospel.

God created us and therefore we are accountable to Him. We’ll  have to answer to Him for our everything in our life someday.

God demands perfection from us (not just sincerity or a good effort). One hundred percent obedience, one hundred percent of the time.

We don’t obey Him perfectly all of the time. Why? Because we’re sinful by nature, by choice, and by habit. We’re hostile, disobedient, and rebellious to God. Therefore, we’re under His wrath, judgment, and condemnation. We deserve death and separation from Him in hell forever.

Because of our sinful condition and sinful actions, we can’t save ourselves. In other words, we can’t “dig ourselves out of this hole.”

We are hopeless and helpless before God. But God, in His grace and mercy, promises to forgive our sins, to adopt us into His family, to give us new and everlasting life, and to declare us to be right with Him! But how can He do that?

Jesus Christ – who is God in human flesh – lived a sinless life of perfect obedience to His Father in our place. He died a sacrificial death for our sins as our substitute. He victoriously rose again from the dead in our place. Jesus attained the perfection the Father demands through His life. Because He is holy and just, the Father must punish sin. Jesus took our punishment and paid for our sin by His death. The resurrection of Jesus proved that He is who He claims to be and that He accomplished what He set out to – to save His people from their sins.

Our response is to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. We’re to turn form our sin and put our trust in Christ – who He is and what He’s done – to save us and reconcile us to God.

The point is, we can’t “earn this.” Jesus has earned it for us and we accept it as a gift from Him through faith. What a message! What a Savior!

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Last Wednesday, a group of us from school went to see Prince Caspian, and I thought I’d give a review of sorts. I’m not a movie reviewer, although I was the official movie critic for my college newspaper for a semester.

First of all, I enjoyed the movie – really enjoyed it. The scenery was magnificent. The casting choices were good for the most part. The battle scenes were magnificent. The story kept my attention. It was worth the price of admission.

After I read the book, which hasn’t been that long ago, I wondered how it could be made into a movie. Of the five Narnia books I’ve finished, Prince Caspian has been my least favorite. The horn blows. The Pevensie’s are transported to a Narnia they don’t recognize. Trumpkin the dwarf fills in historical holes that consume fifty pages. They go on a long walk. Prince Caspian meets the “Narnian kings and queens of old.” A battle scene. The Pevensie’s leave Narnia, two of them never to return. That’s basically the book.

Joe Carter, from Evangelical Outpost, makes the point that this is a different film than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He writes,

While Wardrobe was a rather literal book-to-film translation, Caspian is a loose adaptation. This is a wholly good and necessary change, for the book, one of the weaker Narnia tales, is structurally flawed and narratively flabby.

To compensate, the movie includes a variety of new elements; some that deepen the story (an extended siege on a castle) and others that serve as minor diversions (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it romance). Overall, though, the liberties taken are what transform the talky, walking-through-the-woods book into an action packed honest to goodness war movie.

Aside from several things I didn’t like that much (Prince Caspian’s accent and the near-comic treatment of Reepicheep), the movie had every element necessary to convey C.S. Lewis’ messages.

Lucy was ever-faithful, constantly on the watch for Aslan and ready to hear his voice. Edmund was the crucial ingredient needed to resist the temptation of the White Witch. Peter and Prince Caspian were reminded on several occasions that they could never accomplish what they planned on their own (“Remember who defeated the White Witch before”). Reepicheep displayed nobility, courage, and dedication above and beyond any of the Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve (although he had a prideful streak). Trumpkin is the picture of a conversion. Narnia wasn’t a “superstition that we modern people don’t believe anymore” was it?

I saved the best for last – Aslan. Contrary to what some have thought, I don’t think Aslan was absent from the movie at all. He was everywhere! Narnia is his creation (he sung it into existence in The Magician’s Nephew). He sustains it, rules it, and reigns in it even if he can’t be seen all the time by everyone. Aslan is present, but don’t expect him to be at your beck-and-call. He comes and goes on his timetable, not anyone else’s. I don’t think any other character in fiction has captured my attention like Lewis’ Aslan. I still get goose bumps and a cold chill down my spine when I hear the line from Wardrobe, “Aslan is on the move.”

In short, I loved the movie and, with a caveat or two, would enthusiastically recommend it. (The caveat is that the battle scenes are not gory or graphic, but intense.)

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