Age of Ultron and Fury (My Birthday Movies) (SPOILERS)

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It’s been a long standing family tradition to go see a movie of my choice around my birthday. Thankfully there is usually something out that I’m very interested in seeing about mid-May.

This year it was Age of Ultron directed by none other than Joss Whedon who is one of my all-time favorite story tellers. I tried to keep my expectations low, but who am I kidding? This is the man who created Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and so many more shows. This is the man I would pick to direct anything I’ve written because he always has the right mix of heart, snark, cheese, and greatness. And, he’s not afraid to kill of characters you love.

But we, me and my husband, aren’t comic book people. Neither of us grew up reading them and we aren’t real fans of the movies. There have been a few that were fun—looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy—but overall neither of us like the Ironman movies, or the Thor movies, or the Captain America movies all that much.

So, what did we think, my man and I? We loved it. We loved it. We loved it. I should, at this point in time, tell you that there are some major spoilers here, so be warned.

First, the movie was fun. It had an excellent balance between character building and action. It had just the right amount of down time and just the right amount of butt-kicking. I was impressed with the growth of each of the Avengers. Whedon didn’t leave them where they were at the end of the last Avengers movie. He took the time to grow each of them. He gave them depth. He wasn’t afraid to showcase how easy it would be for Stark to be a bad guy, how lost Captain America is at times, and how broken Bruce Banner is. He took all these different characters in stride and made sure everyone developed into something richer and deeper.

Second, there have been some raging online by the feminist about the women in this movie. (Lol. Classic case of biting the hand that feeds you. FYI Joss Whedon is generally applauded by feminist for his strong female characters.) After watching the movie, I know why. Joss’ gift with female characters is to make them strong without losing their femininity and staying to true to the female psyche. He never tries to make women men. He always has a good balance of men and women. He always lets them both be strong and weak in different ways which complement each other. I have always loved how he handles women.

This movie is no different. Black Widow is her normal amazing assassin self and yet we get to see such a gentle side of her when she’s helping the Hulk. This mighty warrior woman is beautiful because she is the Hulk’s perfect helper. She doesn’t just tramp around hating on men—though she has some really great lines about picking up after the boys. She is the only one able to calm the Hulk down and she doesn’t belittle that gift or see it as beneath her to be his helper in that way.

The second great female in the movie is (AND PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE) Hawkeye’s wife. This is a woman who lives out on her own with a husband gone much of the time and in danger raising two kids and expecting a third. If she’s not a strong woman, I don’t know who is. She also gives a subconscious kudos to the amazing wives of men in the military and law enforcement. What I love about her is she doesn’t tell Hawkeye to stop fighting. I hate nothing more than women who tell their men to stop fighting when there’s a war going on. She tells him that they need him and he needs to go. She is what Hawkeye is fighting for, what they’re all fighting for. She is the safe house. Do you know how much strength it takes as a women to be a safe house? Many thanks to Whedon for not forgetting the rest of the women out there who don’t get to be Black Widow, who just get to be a wife and mother. Thank you for honoring that and showing it as amazing.

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Third, the movie brought back the idea of super heroes fighting for the everyman. Many of the most recent superhero movies seem to have forgotten the idea of rescuing the little old lady’s cat out of the tree while in the middle of fighting crime. They’ve forgotten the idea of the superheroes being good guys who fight for the little guys. In most of the movies, everyday people were expendable for the sake of bigger effects. My husband said that watching Ultron was the first time he’s seen Superheroes rescue people since the original Superman movies.

Being Joss Whedon, this was done with a wonderful mirroring technic. The end battle is all about rescuing everyone. It’s about the Avengers proving they aren’t monsters by rescuing families, women, and kids even while they’re dealing with the bigger problem of Ultron’s droids. Captain America leads the charge in being unwilling to sacrifice the life of the innocent to save the world. That’s what makes super heroes awesome. They can actually do that. They can save the world and find the lost child, and keep people from falling off bridges. That’s why we love their stories.

The mirroring occurs when we see that the Twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, are bad guys because their parents were killed in a war. No one watched out for the innocent families and so their parents died. This led them down a path which ultimately made them villains. When the Avengers come to save the world, they make sure there are no casualties that will create more villains. They make sure the people are safe.

The second way it’s mirrored is when the Hulk and Ironman duke it out. They destroy a city without caring one wit about the people who live there. Ironman sees this as collateral damage, but it eats Bruce Banner alive. He doesn’t want to kill innocent people because of his powers. He wants to help them. These mirroring elements are excellent character building and storytelling technics.

For the first time in a long time, I watched a movie that did what fantasy does best. It raises the stakes in everyday life to something world changing while not losing the everyman. Hawkeye was given a great role in being the person we could all connect to who had to fight without powers, but still fight. Every morning when our husbands go to work and when moms take care of their children and we live our lives, however that has played out, we can see ourselves as being these superheroes who willingly fight for their homes, families and way of life against a bigger and mightier foe.

Warriors don’t fight to just kill enemies, they kill enemies to save their friends and family. That’s what makes a warrior: the reason they fight. That’s what made this movie great.

There are some wonderful scenes in this movie. (Looking at you Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch) There is some wonderful storytelling in this movie, but ultimately it’s about people who are unbelievably powerful stooping to take care of the smallest and weakest of us. Yes, I am looking at this through Christian colored glasses, but doing so let’s me see the Christianity that pervades all of life, for what better echo could you have than someone mighty reaching out a hand to someone low.

Favorite Quotes: “You get hurt, hurt ‘em back. You get killed, walk it off.”


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Fury

After Age of Ultron, we rented Fury. It’s my second time to see this movie and I’m going to try to put into words how much I love this film.

I didn’t expect to like it. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. The previews made it look like a bad historical fiction with tanks sneaking around behind enemy lines. It’s not that at all. It is good historical fiction. It is about a tank crew asked to hold the line at the end of the war to defend some cooks and doctors from a group of SS soldiers. The tank crew heads to the crossroads but encounters a tiger tank on the way reducing them from four tanks to one. This one tank must decide to hold the line or run away leaving their weaker brothers exposed to attack. They stand.

The movie is dark, gritty, gross, violent, crude and not for the weak of stomach. It doesn’t really pull any punches about being at the end of WW2 in a tank crew. It shows what sort of barbarianism is required in war. But, it also shows a sergeant doing his best to prepare a boy for war. It shows how hard it was for recruits to come in and replace soldiers who had died. It shows how eaten alive these men were by what they had to do.

The first act of the movie is so tense it’s hard to watch. You wonder if this movie has any redeeming value. What’s the point of watching a bunch of men bully each other and kill each other? What’s the point? The value is hinted at in the two times War Daddy (based on the real War Daddy and Audie Murphy—both Texans) steps away from his men to regain his self-control. He loves his men and will do anything, even very hard things, to keep them alive.

Again, warriors don’t fight to just kill enemies, they kill enemies to save their friends and family. That’s what makes a warrior: the reason they fight. That’s what made this movie great.

This movies turning point of grace is when the four men on War Daddy’s tank crew decide to stick with him and fight even though they know they can’t win and they will die. From this point on, the movie is nothing but a tear-jerker as the men spend their final moments bonding, fighting, and dying together.

I can’t say enough how amazing this movie is. I loved the character Bible who loved the sinners around him. I love War Daddy who taught a kid to be a man so he could save his life even when the kid hated him for it. I loved the men bonding around the boy and accepting him as one of their own. I loved the bully who proved himself a friend.

Looking at this through the lenses of Christianity, we are reminded that war, even spiritual warfare, or maybe especially spiritual warfare is dark and gritty. We should also be reminded that those over us, our elders, may seem tough/harsh but they have our wellbeing in mind and they carry their own scars. We would do well to heed them because they love us.

There is nothing about this dirty, rough, gross, beautiful and amazing film that I didn’t love. This movies is why I love war movies the best. And Fury is probably up there with Lone Survivor, Band of Brothers, and We Were Soldiers for me.

“Best job I ever had.”

 

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November Book and Movie Thoughts

 

I’m going to share a few thoughts on the books and movies I’ve enjoyed this last month. Due to some down time in my husband’s teaching schedule, he had some time to play video games, which means I had time to read.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0756403871/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0756403871&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=Z5CTFDNJD6OM4LZH

Blood Price and Blood Trail by Tanya Huff: I did not enjoy these two books as much as The Silvered, which was excellent. Huff is fun to read and I stay engaged in her books, but I get tired of the belief that sleeping around doesn’t affect your soul, and it had a now standard vampire-love-triangle. The two clever points that gave me a fit of giggles was the vampire who writes romance novels and is good at it, and the werewolf colony mistaken for a nudist family. Very funny. These are what I would consider a weekend read: they didn’t really grow me or feed my soul, but they were entertaining. One point, as a writer, drove me up the wall. She could not stay in her character’s Point of View and constantly switched in mid-paragraph leaving me scrambling to figure out who was thinking about whom.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1495266699/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1495266699&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=QQVJDMJNC7KL5ILT

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: I have loved Peter Pan from afar for most of my life. I loved the Disney cartoon, the short-lived TV cartoon, and Hook. I always felt like my own childhood slipped too quickly through my fingers giving me a strong emotional connection with always being a child and never growing up. The book was beautiful, sweet, tragic, scary, and melancholy. It truly captured the magic of being a child and the edge of selfishness children have. Barrie never painted Peter Pan as safe, for he is much too self-focused to be safe. This is a book I plan on enjoying again!

Rated: G (Just don’t read about Barrie’s life in general. You have been warned.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374530637/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0374530637&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=UHJ5VK7NVZBXMUXG

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Conner: I’m going to admit that this is the type of book that’s lost on me—too intellectual. It’s supposed to be a spiritual comic, but I never laughed once and found it disturbing. My Dad asked me if I thought it more King or Koontz, and by far King. Koontz always has a happy ending. Because of the cleverness of O’Conner, I had to go read some articles about the point of the story which did help. I recommend reading them before you read the book. You do need to know she is a Roman Catholic and she considers the ending redemptive, which creeps me out even more. It was a good read, just not enjoyable.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0875525210/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0875525210&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=VUK2TF4D7P2SZ7WK

The Shorter Catechism for Study Classes, Vol. 1 by G.I. Williamson: A very easy to read, straight-forward explanation of the questions and answers in the Catechism. It is Presbyterian, so Baptist will need to do a little bit of filtering. The short article presentation is useful for personal or family study.

Rated: G

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060515236/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060515236&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=T35PIUDMKL3HGWRQ

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: This is a collection of short stories from the mind of Neil Gaiman. All of them are clever and interesting, though I did find that he tended to be less ‘clean’ in his short stories than he is in his full-length novel. He had one very disturbing story dealing with the problem of Susan not returning to Narnia. It was so awful. I almost wished I hadn’t read it, but after giving it some thought, I realized that Susan doesn’t ring true to many people. For me, it’s that once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia. For Gaiman, as a non-Christian, it’s Aslan and the White Witch trapping the children so they could eat them. It’s always interesting to get a peek at what an unbeliever thinks about something Christian. I just wish it’d been a cleaner peek.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802406203/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802406203&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=LKOEGZTPR33YJIGJ

Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner: One of the best books I’ve read for women, Fierce Women is about a woman who destroyed her marriage. The Lord broke her down and showed her she was unsubmissive and fierce in a bad way. This is a must read for any woman on how to be a soft warrior. It is very pointed. Wagner doesn’t pull any punches. A strong woman can tear their husband down, or use their strength to build him up. This is an honest, real, and helpful book. Wagner doesn’t only give a list of things strong women do that are wrong, she shows how we can exchange those traits with the fruit of the Spirit.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0882643495/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0882643495&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=PW72MJULY7K7PKKC

The Pastor’s Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand: What a book! While I don’t agree doctrinally with everything in this book, it was still an amazing story about Christ preserving and using his people in the worst of circumstances. This would be a great book to read in high school while studying the rise of communism. She is honest about how full of lies that form of government becomes when it gains a foothold. Through all their trials in Romania, they kept waiting for America to come rescue them, while most Americans didn’t know anything about what was going on. It made me wish we had gone and rescued them, but then I remember that it is about how Christ is moving, not the might of this nation.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005LAIHY0/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B005LAIHY0&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=CJ4TCHSUD3DC6T6I

Prometheus: We finally got around to watching this movie. It was good, but not great. They had never obviously watched an Alien movie because they kept doing stupid things. It made me want to watch Aliens again, which I did. The God element—searching for their creature without losing faith in God—makes for interesting dinner conversation.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JNN0SM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000JNN0SM&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=2FBAFQAVA6Z6G45D

Terminator 1 & 2: I had an exhausted day and needed a break, so I plugged in these two old favorites and wasn’t disappointed. Other than a few cheesy 80’s elements, these are still great movies. The story is clever and unique, the characters are great—yes, I love Sarah Conner. When I watch them, I see the effect they’ve had on my storytelling over the years. I think this might be where I got my love of generational stories.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004RE29PO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B004RE29PO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=SAN3JL53F7UYAKSF

Aliens: This is one of my top favorite cheesy action flicks. I have happy and silly family memories wrapped around it and have seen it more times than I can count. What struck me this watching was how great Ripley and Hicks are. Ripley is a strong women but not unfeminine. Her strength isn’t forced by surrounding her with weak and stupid men. They didn’t have to down play the men in the movie to make Ripley seem stronger. I love that. I love that Ripley and Hicks can stand shoulder to shoulder. I love that it is her maternal instinct that gives her the power she needs to take out the aliens. Great flick.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CFA222M/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00CFA222M&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=2N4XT7DWKVXXNARN

Jack the Giant Slayer: This movie was surprisingly cute, fun, and enjoyable. It’s along the same lines as many fantasy movies which graced the silver screen in the 80’s and 90’s like The Neverending Story and Krul. We both enjoyed it very much. A great kid’s movie and family movie. I did love the part when the Princess says being a princess is such a useless thing, and Jack reminds her that she has the chance and power to change the world. This is perfect for helping your daughters see that being a woman isn’t a useless thing: the hand that rocks the cradles rules the world.

Rated: PG-13 (I think this rating is for some epic deaths by giants and squashings.)

 

Lots of good books and movies here with a few duds thrown in on the side. I hope it’s been helpful. Feel free to ask any questions about the ratings. Have you read, watched, or played any of these? What did you think?

Reading, Watching, Opinions

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I6JODGO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00I6JODGO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=3OJZSWEMSP7UNLK3

Winter’s Tale

This movie. This movie was achingly beautiful, perfect, subtly fantastical, wonderful, well done, and in the end infuriating.

It tells of a world where demons and angels battle over the souls of man, and where everyone has one miracle they can use with only one other person. When we die, our souls are given wings, if we were good, and we fly up to the heavens to become stars and live out eternity with those we love best.

It tells of a man headed down the wrong path until he met a girl. This very special girl is about to die but isn’t bitter. Demons gather around him thinking his miracle must be to save the girl’s life, and tip the balance in favor of the angels. The demons are wrong. In a heart-breaking scene, the girl dies. The man who loved her didn’t. 100 years later, he is still walking around NY City but with no memory of who he is or who he loved. The only thing he knows is he must save a red-haired woman.

When everything is said and done, they were drawn together because it was her miracle to save him even as she died, and that miracle gave him long life so he, in turn, could save a little girl from dying of cancer. The demons are destroyed with the help of a beautiful white horse who then transports the man to his place in the stars with the woman he loved.

It was a really beautiful movie. Until the end. At the end, the voiceover narration, which started the story, explains how maybe the universe is on our side and is willing to move heaven and earth to save one life. At first, I thought this idea worked for the movie, but in a world where we abort so many of our children it falls flat. There was a deeper issue with this movie, too. This movie had demons, angels, and even Lucifer, but no Christ. God is mentioned in passing but only by the demon and only as an observation that he must be as blood-thirsty as the rest of us.

What I came away with is something I think you see a lot of in our world. We will gladly have angels and demons. We will gladly have faith, hope, and love. We will even accept Lucifer. But, we will never never never accept God and Christ. We will believe in a Universe that is like God, but not God himself.

It sickened me.

How rebellious are we as a people? Anthropomorphically, how frustrating must it be for creation to have the creatures given dominion over it, given an image of God in their being, turn around and declare that the universe, just another part of creation, must be our god?

Not only do we throw that in God’s face, but we also cast out his Son. We take the Son—who God loves, who came to earth a willing sacrifice—and we spit on the idea of salvation. We don’t want it to be about God. We want it to be about us. We want to save ourselves by our own light, our own hope, our love, and our goodness. We think we can overcome demons on our own. We think that if we just hope in hope, love love, and have faith in faith, we can save this world.

That is a lie and Lucifer is still chuckling.

We can’t have truth without God and his Word. We can’t have real Hope, Faith, and Love without knowing what we hope in, where our faith is anchored and who loves us with a worth-dying-for love.

So, while part of me really wanted to love this movie, the other part of me thought it was so humanistic as to turn my stomach. I’d rather go watch something like Stardust which doesn’t try to get so theological, because at least I don’t spend all day arguing with a movie.

Have you seen this? I think it’s worth at least one viewing. It is a very pretty movie with a moving story and it can spark interesting conversation afterwards. Let me know what you thought! I do plan on reading the book and seeing if it is any better.

Rated PG-13

Other Recently Watched Movies and Read Books:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HLTD49C/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HLTD49C&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=DQXXGHJNQKQBLFVN

Non-Stop: This thriller takes place on a plane and stars Liam Neeson as a burned out US Marshall. Someone threatens the lives on the plane. When Neeson starts to investigate, he is framed for the crime. I went into it thinking it would be more of an action flick, but it’s definitely a thriller. Lots of fun and well done, it won’t win any Oscars but is a good weekend watch.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M263SFE/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00M263SFE&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=M3QSQJQMGK7R5EWV

Hercules: Normally, I’m a pretty solid Rock fan. (ha!) I like most movies Dwayne Johnson makes. This one isn’t going to be high on the list. It was fun, but not anything great. The best way I can sum it up is this: If I was eight and my parents had taped it off TV (thus, eliminating the one or two bad words and inappropriate and totally pointless scenes), I would have loved it. I would have watched it over and over. As an adult, it seemed to lack a little . . .something. I did not like the overall message of the movie: you’re a hero if you think you are. Really? You can think you’re a hero all day long, but until you act like one, sorry, you’re not.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MB6IYHW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00MB6IYHW&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=JDBIXM66I7OK2I3Q

Guardians of the Galaxy: From what I’ve heard, this summer movie season isn’t going very well, except for this movie. Guardians is a lot of fun, cute, touching, silly, and quote-able. It is the story of five misfits coming together over a shared enemy and the need for the Galaxy to be saved. Out of all the comic book movies, excluding the Avengers, it feels the least comic-book-y. This is one I might even add to my movie collection, and I can’t wait to see it again.

Rated: PG-13

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TMNT: Not much to say here: The Turtles were really well done. I loved them. Megan Fox didn’t drive me up the wall and had an awesome yellow jacket, as well she should. The plot was full of very big holes. Ultimately, it was fun, but forgettable. Again, the Turtles themselves rocked.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MRAJHCI/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00MRAJHCI&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=THX7QH6ZQLBQHI4X

Expendables 3: This was my most anticipated movie of the summer. I know, I’m really strange when it comes to movies. The plot was great. It was all about how old guys are afraid they don’t have anything to bring to the table anymore. I loved the idea. The problem was in the execution. The middle dragged because we all knew where it was going and we were just waiting for it to get there. I also thought the end rescue seemed a little too predictable and tactically didn’t make sense. Why would they approach the city walking right down the middle in a canyon of fallen buildings? Does this scream “Trap!” to anyone else? Mel Gibson was great. I wish Antonio Banderas had been smooth and cool, instead of silly, but he still did a great job. The moment the team reunites is epically perfect. I’ll probably buy it just so my collection is complete, but Expendables 1 is still my favorite. They tried to be less catch phrase and more serious, which I like, but the editing just seemed off. I will say this, Stallone and Stathem are really good together. I wish they’d make an off-shoot of them in an action flick.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GQQ75QO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00GQQ75QO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=BFPPNAJPORW4KVV7

Divergent: Boring. That is all I have to say. I spent most of this movie bored and I don’t get bored easily in movies. If they had made the overarching political plot more obvious so that there was something going on that you cared about, and if they shortened her training down to a montage. It would be like watching Harry Potter going to school without knowing anything about Voldemort until the end and with no trips to the Forest or any other crazy things like Trolls going on. In other words: boring.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0899571700/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0899571700&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=KQBSLF65UIJG4DUK

Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis: I had a hard time with this book and I also liked it. I can see why young people from 12-16 would like it. I would have loved it at that age too. Raising Dragons strikes me as the kind of young adult fiction that is young adult not so much because it centers around children, but because the characters aren’t deep enough to ring true with adults. The Christianity in the book doesn’t add depth but an odd sense of doctrinal untruth. Ultimately, it was a fun book, but due to the lack of real suffering, I didn’t find myself deeply hooked.

Rated: PG

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060515198/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060515198&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=CGGZ2PO7WTS2WZI2

Anansi Boys: Neil Gaiman has a fascination with gods. He’s not focused so much on the true Christian God, but all the other man-made, little ones. This story is about a very normal man who has very un-normal things happen to him when his father dies. This leads him to discover he is the son of a god and he has a brother. Anansi Boys is very well written, beautiful, and funny. The relationship between the two brothers is the heart of the story along with a determined but confused cop, a ghost, a psychopath, and a group of old ladies who are really witches. I would highly recommend this book.

Rated: PG-13

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Good Omens: One of Neil Gaiman’s most popular books and written with Terry Pratchett, this story covers the last few years and days of the Apocalypse as an angel and demon who are having too much fun here on earth fight to stop it from happening. Again, you can’t get better writing. The use of language alone keeps you glued to every page. Doctrinally, it’s a mess. I think that might be its draw. People suppress the truth and they enjoy seeing it made fun of. It was a little hard not to argue with the book at some points, but most of the time it was so off point that it didn’t bother me one bit. It was clever and funny. The ending wasn’t as tidy as I wanted. There were vague references to British things that made it a bit confusing. Other than that, a great read, but I don’t think I’m going to re-read it thousands of times like some of its other fans.

Rated: PG-13

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Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell: I can’t stress enough how much I love Bernard Cornwell’s writing. His stories capture you from the beginning and hold you until the very end. His characters are memorable, and his historical settings are rich and well-developed. I’ve read only one other of the Sharpe’s novels and this one, neither disappointed. I can’t wait to get the rest of them.

Rated: PG -13

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Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2) by Scott Lynch: Reading this book in 30 minute intervals while I worked out didn’t really do it justice. Trying not to cry while you work out is also not the best of ideas. All the Gentleman Bastard books have been amazing. The plot keeps you going. The twists and turns keep you on the edge of your bicycle seat, and the loyalty between the two main characters keeps you cheering them on. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. The world building is excellent and even my brother would have approved of the high-seas shenanigans. This book series is rich and well-developed.

Rated: R

Well, that’s what I’ve been reading and watching. I hope you enjoy!

In Conclusion: Or Why I love the Rambo Series

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Going against my normal blogging schedule, I spent last week reviewing the Rambo series. Let me sum up.

First, I’ll admit that some of my love is due to my proclivity for melancholy movies. I don’t need a movie to be completely happy to enjoy it. In fact, I like movies and stories that leave you feeling resolved but a bit haunted. I blame this on too much Tolkien as a child. One of the reasons I enjoy a good war movie—amongst many other things—is the sweet sense of the long battle’s end mixed with the bitter taste of those who didn’t make it. Why? Cause this is life, and this is the Christian life.

Rambo deals with a more subtle and subconscious concept of those who don’t make it. Some heroes make it off the battlefield but not out of the war. I enjoyed this aspect of the storytelling. We can all think of scars we bear that haven’t healed. Some of us, some of those around us, are still fighting battles we can’t see. The Rambo series takes this concept, gives it a body, form, and setting, and then sits back and lets the sparks fly.

Second, I like the conclusion. First Blood introduces a broken hero and doesn’t heal him. First Blood II shows him harnessing his broken-ness for the sake of others like himself, but again, due to betrayal Rambo is left without the salvation he brought to them. It’s not until Rambo (4), when he fights for American citizens, when he fights for the weak, when he uses his warrior-ness to protect, defend, and save, when he comes full circle and is acknowledged by the people he saves as having a place in society, that he heals.

Third, though it may sound trite, we need to deal with and not forget Vietnam as a nation. It’s important that we understand how it was to fight in that war and come home to rejection. If we forget what happened we might do it again. Don’t look at the Rambo movies as us fighting the war over so we can win this time. Look at it as an exaggeration of what the warriors endured. They fought and left brothers on the battlefield. They came home and were rejected. They were left behind and abandoned by their government over and over. They felt dirty and wrong for what they were. Rambo shows all of this in a riveting fashion. Don’t miss it for the bits of cheese. (Again, I’m ignoring Rambo III.)

Fourth, they show the common struggle of many young men in our own generation. Women have it easy right now. We know who we are, what we’re good at, how we can use that, and we have options. We can be anything we want right now. We are living in the post-feminist era. In our rush to get women out to the front, we’ve unbalanced our society. Instead of men and women standing shoulder to shoulder sharing strength and mitigating weaknesses, we have become a very feminine society. What does that mean? We are more concerned about feelings and safety than is healthy. It’s like little boys raised without fathers by overly protective mothers. See, women want to make sure everyone is happy and at peace, but sometimes peace and happiness aren’t what’s most important. Sometimes hard and uncomfortable work needs to be done. Kids are going to get hurt and protecting them from everything may not be in their best interest.

Rambo shows, again in an exaggerated form, a man struggling to come to grips with who and what he is within a society that has rejected him, called him dangerous, and attempted to deal with him in a violent manner. In a more subtle way, I think many men can relate to this. Instead of being disciplined, trained, and taught, we medicate them, belittle them, and tell them everything about them is wrong. We tell men that they are only worthwhile when they’re as much like women as possible. We’ve neutered our own society. Rambo does what all good stories do. It showcases a common human element without preaching.

Now, I know that the original writers and actors probably never had any of this in mind, but my husband—a man—tells me this is what’s appealing to him about the Rambo story. And I see it too. I’m a homemaker in a day and age where that is the most underappreciated job. I can watch Rambo and see myself. I can feel his frustration with being something that is no longer valued. I think any person has experienced this at one time or another in their life. It is a common human experience.

Granted, I’m watching these movies through some fairly conservative moral sunglasses. But, we all bring what we believe to the table when we watch movies and read books. That’s life.

Finally, the last thing about my love for Rambo is spiritual. We are often described in the Bible as soldiers in the great Spiritual War. Most analogies and illustrations break down when examined closely. This one does not. Meaning, I know we are in the middle of a real spiritual war, but we don’t wear specific metal pieces of armor. We do have spiritual armor. The idea of being like a soldier training, standing, battling is a good illustration because it is true, and because it doesn’t break down. The more I learn about war, battle, and soldiers, the deeper the idea becomes. For me, warriors are like our pastors. The men who dedicate everything they are to defend us and feed us are like warriors who repeatedly return to combat. Warriors give up on everything ‘normal’ about this life and so do pastors. Pastors make other people uncomfortable. They pass on careers. They pass on high paying jobs. They give up on so much of life to do what? Study the Bible and preach? Don’t let the commonality of pastors and churches in our country make you take what they do for granted. They are our warriors. And like Rambo, they often face rejection, hatred, disrespect, and abuse. Pray that your pastors will not cave, but stand. Pray they will have confidence not in themselves but in the Lord who gave them gifts and set their feet on this course.

These are the reasons behind my love for the Rambo movies.

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Movie Series Review: Rambo (4)

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Rambo 4 is not only my favorite Rambo movie, it’s my favorite movie all together. Why? Lots of reasons. 🙂

Despite the overall lack of cheese in First Blood, and even in First Blood II, Rambo has become synonymous with the epitome of cheesy movies. I’m not immune to this idea, or I wasn’t when I went to see Rambo (4) in the theater with my husband, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I looked forward to this movie and watched a fair amount of previews for it. Settling in, I readied myself for a fun evening.

Within the first oh, three seconds, any thoughts of cheese were dispelled. Everyone, myself included, was stunned. At one point, I glanced at my extra sister to see how she reacted to the film. Both her hands were pressed to the sides of her face in shock. Funny, I was doing the same thing.

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I left the movie sick to my stomach.

This was not a cheesy action flick. This was not the kind of movie, like Die Hard, that you left jazzed up. This is a Rambo movie, and so like the other Rambo movies, (excluding Rambo III) it left you feeling haunted, broken, beaten down. At the time, I told my husband I hated it.

We went and saw it again after talking about it for Valentine’s. Yes, my pick. See, I love warrior movies, and after getting over the initial shock of the violence and story, I realized this was a great movie. Walking into the theater for the second go around, it appalled and shocked me that so many little kids where there. I expected a lot of guys and a few gals who didn’t have dates, but I didn’t expect so many kids. Everyone, except my husband and I, was laughing and joking around. We weren’t. We knew what trials we were about to endure watching this film again. The previews came on. Everyone continued to laugh and joke like they were about to enjoy Terminator. The movie opens. The theater went silent in under three seconds. Parents quickly started removing their children. Why?

This movie is violent.

It is violent on a visceral level.

It’s violent on a level that still shocks me even after I’ve seen it multiple times.

Why is the violence so shocking?

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Two reasons: 1) Stallone—who wrote and directed the film—wanted it that way. He needed the violence to tell the story. 2) The violence is enacted on Christians.

See, about the time Stallone made this movie, Burma—you know, where Adoniram Judson went—was in the middle of genocide. The world sat silent about the horrors going on just like they sit silent about the sex trafficking, and the Christians persecuted by Muslims all over the Middle East and Africa. The Burmese government was murdering Christians. Watching this movie, Stallone makes it very clear from the beginning that the people under attack are Christians. He leaves no doubt in your mind that this is what is happening. Knowing my history, the history of the church, and the martyrdom faced by so many of my fellow believers made this movie hard to watch.

Stallone specifically said he left the movie violent so that we could see and know what was happening. We need to know, not be sheltered. And the sad part? This was the toned-down version. What was really happening to those people was the much much worse.

So, Rambo (4) takes place twenty years after Rambo III. Rambo is now in his early sixties. The Vietnam War has been over for decades and Rambo has settled in Thailand along the Burmese boarder. He never went home. At this point, he is filled with bitterness. He cares about no one and nothing. And why should he? At every point, the people who should be backing him have betrayed him. They’ve made it clear he’s expendable, and that what he is is wrong even while they use him like a tool. (Sound familiar to what every man in our day and age is facing?) Rambo has failed to “Come full circle” and accept that being a warrior is part of who he is, not just what he was made.

A group of missionaries asks him to take them to Burma. He refuses knowing Burma is a dangerous war zone. Sarah, one of the missionaries, reaches out to him in friendship and convinces him to take them up river. Once there, the missionaries are captured by Burmese soldiers and tortured. Their sending church hires a group of mercenaries to free them. Rambo takes these mercenaries up river to the same spot he left the missionaries. They refuse his offer of help, but Rambo follows anyway. By the end of the movie, only two out of the six missionaries survive and only three out of the five mercenaries. But, in the end, Rambo comes full circle and the story closes with him coming home.

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There are three reasons I love this film:

1) Justification of Violence: Violence is justified in two ways in this film. First, it’s used to tell the story, not to glorify itself. It’s not wasted, but used to create the necessary horror of the situation. The violence is visceral, but not indulgent. There is a time and place for violent stories. Second, Rambo doesn’t shy away from the proper place of self-defense and the defense of the helpless. It combats head on the notion that guns cause violence. Rambo asks the missionaries if they’re bringing any guns with them. They are shocked by the idea. Rambo tells them that if they aren’t bringing in guns, they’re changing nothing. One of the missionaries chews Rambo out for killing some pirates even though the pirates wanted to rape his fiancé. “Nothing justifies killing,” is his comment. By the end of the movie, that same missionary kills to defend the life of a mercenary who had sacrificed everything for him. He realized that killing can be justified. The Bible doesn’t say Thou Shall not Kill, it says thou shall not murder. Murder is wrong. Not killing. Killing to save a life, to defend a life, is not wrong. This movie makes a strong case for the idea that there are things worth fighting for.

2) Full Circle: Rambo realizes he was made for defending, and defending with violence if necessary. He is a warrior. He has all the mental and physical fortitude needed to make him an effective killing machine. Accept it. But what does he do with that? As an old man he finally realizes, “live for nothing, or die for something.” It’s time to sacrifice his life for those weaker than himself and in need. It’s time to take up his bow and defend life from those who would violently take it from the defenseless. Interesting note, Schoolboy, one of the mercenaries, seems to have a grasp on this concept at a much younger age than Rambo. Sarah challenges Rambo to sacrifice his life. Rambo takes up his .50 cal machine gun to do just that. Only after he gives himself, uses what he is for others, can he make peace with himself and go home. I think this is a huge way our overly feminine society hurts men. We don’t let them be who they are and direct them to use that strength for others. We drug them and tell them to be quiet. We don’t like manly men. We don’t like warriors. But, we need them. We need them as computer programmers, teachers, and pastors. We need men who know who they are, what they can do, and then to do it for the sake of others. Rambo is an exaggerated story that teaches this point.

3) The main thing I love about this movie is the way Stallone used Rambo to bring to light what was happening to Christians in other countries. It’s easy for us to think persecution is in the past. We believe we’re somehow more evolved and enlightened than the Romans. We think persecution was something faced by Christians during the Inquisition. We don’t believe it’s something Christians face today. But it is. Christians face as much or more persecution today than the past. I’m so very thankful God uses a man like Stallone, whose personal beliefs I’m unsure of, to showcase what was happening. I’m thankful there are men who are man enough to make this violent film. This world is a violent place. There are wars, and rumors of war. We can’t escape that. We can’t somehow, by just loving everyone enough, escape the violence. Sometimes Violence must be met with violence. A gun, rock, or stick must be picked up and used to protect the young, the weak, and the innocence from them that would murder.

I’m thankful for warriors.

And I’m thankful for spiritual warriors. I’m thankful for saints, who day in and day out, look to Christ, because they are dependent. I’m thankful for men who faithfully lead their families, lead in their churches by sacrificing everything that they are or could have: fun, more money, more respect, more prestige. They sacrifice the world for a kingdom not of this earth. They stand shoulder to shoulder and I’m grateful to stand with them.

If the Lord ever blesses me with a son, I want to raise him to understand his strength, not view it as distasteful. I want him to harness it, and hone it like a weapon, not try to batter it down. I want him to be like Schoolboy and come full circle at an earlier age, not like Rambo who didn’t accept who he was until he was an old man. This is going to make me counter culture. We live in a day and age that tells boys to be like girls. It tells girls to be like boys. It disrespects everything that God designed. Women are told to be fierce but not how. Boys are told to be in touch with their feelings, but not how to respect their ability to box things up in a way that women can’t and shouldn’t.

I’m thankful for the Rambo series, probably in a way the writers never expected, because it is the tale of a broken man, lost and alone, who finally comes to terms with who he is, is given the opportunity to use that to help others, and thus saves himself by losing himself.

If you haven’t seen the Rambo series, I highly recommend watching it.

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Movie Series Review: Rambo III

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This is my least favorite of all the Rambo movies. When you take all four of them as a whole, this one sticks out like a sore thumb. Not only does it step away from dealing with Rambo’s Vietnam history, it adds so much cheese that it’s like watching a different story entirely. I mean, shockingly Rambo has a sense of humor in this movie, which isn’t even close to appropriate in the other films.

First Blood I and II and Rambo (4) all have this overarching sense of sorrow to them. They’re the story of a broken man trying to sort his life out. First Blood I and II show his struggle with his history and other people. In Rambo (4) he finds healing and peace with himself. Rambo III is supposed to be the part of the story where Rambo realizes that the war is not out there but within. They hint at this in the opening of the movie when Trautman tells him he needs to come full circle. The Army didn’t make a warrior. Rambo is a warrior. The Army just honed his skills.

Until he accepts his own warrior-ness the war inside him won’t stop. If only they ran with this idea in the movie instead of sending him to Afghanistan. In fact, Rambo (4) does this so effectively it makes Rambo III unnecessary. The haunted tone that lifts First Blood I and 4 above the normal cheesy action flick, and even First Blood II, fades into the distance as Rambo goes to save Trautman from the Russians.

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In a post 9/11 environment, I approached this story with great distrust and questions. I have no problem fighting Russians. (I did grow up in the 80’s after all.) But, I had a hard time working up an emotional connection with the brave Afghan people. I need to do a little more research. These might be the same people who helped Marcus Luttrell escape the Taliban, but I still view them with a hint of suspicion. If I understand my history right, these are the same people who later attacked us. I am also struck, yet again, by how much of the earth’s history has been caught up in fighting over the sand of the Middle East. We’ve been over there so many times, Not as Americans, but just as human beings. And it’s not just invading white colonists. When we’re not fighting over there, they fight themselves. And they’re doing it again.

Anyway, how’s that for a rabbit trail?

The cheese level of Rambo III is up there with some of the most cheesy movies of all time, like Commando. In First Blood II, the cheesiest part of the movie is the idiotic sound effect they use every time Rambo shoots his bow. They have this whip cracking noise go off and it’s distracting and annoying. Bows don’t sound like that, and Rambo uses it because it’s silent. In Rambo III, you can enjoy cheesy lines, humor, and if your DVD tries to supply you with Russian subtitles, you can giggle at the completely stupid conversations going on in the background. I don’t think the Russian was ever supposed to be translated . . . or maybe whoever did the subtitles did a really bad job. It is awful. I got to a point where I had to stop reading them altogether. Russian soldiers greet one another with questions about dinner only to get answers about the dogs, or guard duty. At one point, they yell “Charge, charge, charge” in a scene where charging made no sense and no one was charging. You can tell that the director just wants Russian background chatter and never intends (or, shouldn’t have intended) for anyone to actually know what the Russian soldiers talk about.

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There are some themes in Rambo III that echo in Rambo (4) just as there are echoes of First Blood II in Rambo (4). We see the concept of a rebel uprising against an abusive tyrant in both III and 4, but Rambo (4) uses this idea to much greater effect.

In many ways, this is the movie that could have been left out. The only application that can be made from it is no man left behind, even if that means going in alone. But that’s just an outflow of self-sacrifice. If I may make a suggestion? Skip this movie. They had plenty of room to show us Rambo’s inner battle and set the stage for Rambo (4) but this gets lost. What could have been another powerful film in this saga, turns into a cheese fest worthy of Mystery Science and the Riff-trax.

Next up . . . my favorite movie, not just of the Rambo series, but of all time: Rambo 4. The story, and Rambo, come full circle.

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I swear Rambo is almost smiling. Rambo doesn’t smile.

 

Movie Series Review: Rambo First Blood II

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Trautman: John, where are you going?

Rambo: I don’t know.

Trautman: You’ll get a second medal of honor for this.

(Rambo looks over at the rescued POWs)

Rambo: You should give it to them. They deserve it more.

Trautman: You don’t belong here, why don’t you come back with me?

Rambo: Back to what? My friends died here, and a piece of me did too.

Trautman: The war, the whole conflict may have been wrong, but damn it, don’t hate your country for it.

Rambo: Hate? I’d die for it.

Trautman: Then what is it you want?

Rambo: I want what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us as much as we love it! That’s what I want!

——

We left Rambo arrested and responsible for injuring a small town sheriff who pushed him too hard. This violence poured out of Rambo after he found out the last man in his unit besides himself had died. The cold shoulder Rambo got from the country he bled for, the country they died for, aggravated and irritated his war-damaged psyche.

Rambo II is the start of the Cheese of this series. Rambo II and Rambo III leave behind the true drama of First Blood and become a set of cheesy action flicks. Enjoyable? Yes! As strong as First Blood and Rambo (4)? No. But even in the middle of the cheese, we see the continuation of the idea of the silent war going on in America that couldn’t be won. The government drafted young men and sent them to die. The ones that made it home faced rejection by their country. The soldiers couldn’t win this war because they couldn’t even fight it. They knew about blood and guts. They didn’t know how to combat the hatred they faced from their fellow Americans.

In a way, as much as First Blood shows us what the men faced, First Blood II is almost an apology from the people. It’s the war in microcosm with a chance for the warrior to have his say at the end. I was always told that Rambo was made so that we could feel like we’d won the war in Vietnam, but I don’t think it was. Granted, Rambo “wins” in that he defies the politicians and gets the POWs home, but he didn’t really win. He was still betrayed and he still had no home to return to. The government still didn’t respect they warrior they had made leaving Rambo still viewing himself as a societal misfit. First Blood shows how we lost that war, and First Blood II shows what we left behind. It shows that the men we trained are more at home on the battlefield than in the city. “What you call hell, he calls home.” It makes Rambo the spoke person for POWs and for all soldiers who were spit on and insulted by their country.

The interesting thing about this movie is that in a way it mirrors the entire Vietnam War. Rambo is sent on a mission. Granted he doesn’t just take pictures, he goes into the camp to investigate, but once a mission gets started it’s really in the hands of the man carrying it out. Rambo discovers American POWs and tries to rescue at least one of them. At this point, he’s betrayed by his own government and left to die. In reality, we never fought the Vietnam War to win. We got involved in it, but due to politics and the confusion of Communism, we never won that war. We could have, but we didn’t. We never went all out. Soldiers took a hill and gave it up, took a hill and gave it up. They fought in hot stinking jungles for land we then retreated from. So, in a way, I guess First Blood 2 is us repeating the war, but this time Rambo saves the men and returns home to confront the politician that left him there to die. It is a bit cathartic, but I don’t think the movie is entirely there to make us feel better. It’s more there to let us get a taste of the betrayal and frustration experienced by our soldiers. It’s there to remind us that it is us who betrayed them, not the other way around. The lasting effects of the Vietnam War, for Americans, is not so much the War as it is us forever haunted by the men we betrayed.

With this concept, I think First Blood II can be a very important cultural film. It’s important to be challenged to think not just about whether you agree or disagree with the Vietnam War, or if you agree or disagree with how it was handled, but to remember that men, boys, battled, bled and died there. Did they do it for nothing? We need to remember, even in this slightly cheesy small way, that at every turn our soldiers were betrayed by politicians, and then hated by citizens. This was a dark point in America’s history and one I pray that we never repeat.

Rambo is in his late thirties by the time he gets sent to rescue POW’s in Vietnam. These men had been left to die by their country. Of course, Rambo wants to get them out. In many ways, they’re analogous to how Rambo felt when he came home. He made it home but he was left to die like a tool no one needed. His friends, the ones who made it back, died because of the chemicals used by the government. In every way, Rambo is still a POW. I think on a certain level, in rescuing them, he rescues himself, just not completely. His healing doesn’t come until the fourth movie. But, he is pardoned and allowed to go his own way.

First Blood II is the only Rambo movie where he kisses a girl. Another woman appears in Rambo 4, but there is no romantic involvement. I think this is part of the reason he doesn’t return home. The only woman he loved lived and died in Vietnam. Again, “What you call hell, he calls home.”

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Stallone might be mocked or called a bad actor for his portrayal of Rambo. He spends most of the movie just staring a people and has maybe 12 lines total with most of them coming in the last few minutes of the movie. I don’t think this is due to bad acting, but purposeful directing. Rambo isn’t a typical man. He is a hardened warrior trained to do one thing: kill. Trained and discarded by a government who didn’t want to deal with what it had made doesn’t lend to excessive communication. I think the “mile-long stare” of Stallone is perfect for this character. I also think it showed how uncomfortable Rambo is on base contrasted with his easy and comfort in the jungle. My only problem was my surprise to learn that by First Blood II Rambo is almost 40. Stallone looks younger than a man in his late 30’s, but a little research proved that Stallone was born the same year as his fictional character, so once again, Stallone was the perfect choice for Rambo.

I think, finally, that the cheese level of this movie is important because it keeps the story simple. In keeping it simple, the message isn’t mixed up with lots of other themes, it’s…well…simple: We just want our country to love us like we love it. We want them to love us enough not to leave us behind, and not to waste our lives.

This movie doesn’t so much let Americans feel like they won the war, as it uses Rambo to reminded us of what it felt like to fight in a war where the government betrayed its soldiers. At the mid-point of the movie, Rambo and one POW are surrounded by enemies and the American chopper is not 10 feet over their heads. It can save them. It still has time. But for political purposes, it’s ordered to leave them there. That is the moment where you realize that Rambo has been betrayed again by the very government he’s willingly bleeding for. They left him in Vietnam, again. Even with a certain level of cheese, there is no denying the powerful theme in this movie.

I recommend not watching it as just silly Rambo cheese, but as a simple and clear invitation to emotionally and visually put yourself in the shoes of the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War.

Watching this movie with my ‘Christian-colored’ glasses on and thinking of our pastors as warriors—those front line men who sacrifice much in this life that we call normal—I came away with two thoughts:

One, we are reminded of Christ’s great power and beauty. He is the King who will never leave us behind. He will never betray us. He will win the war against Satan. In contrast to the hopelessness we see in Rambo’s story, we are never without hope.

Two, we need to pray for our pastors. They wage war, wade into battle to rescue those in need, and stand scarred and broken. The very people they seek to protect can betray them. Pray that your pastors wouldn’t trust in men, their popularity, or level of acceptance, but that they would have courage to preach the truth and grace to trust Christ.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II

On a side note, this is the movie where Stallone calls himself Expendable. I wonder if that gave him the idea for the Expendables movies?

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Movie Series Review: Rambo: First Blood

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I’m going to do a four part series on the Rambo movies. This may seem like an odd thing for a blogger who titles herself a gentle and quiet spirit, but I think women play a significant role as memory holders. I think it’s important for all of us to remember. And, I think it’s important for women to have a heart for warriors because we’re the ones who raise them. Women can make or break the children they have. Many of our best officers will tell you their mothers influenced them the most, and serial killers will say the same thing. Thus, I think it’s important to study these things. Even though I don’t have sons, I do have nephews. On the other side of my love for warriors is the Bible’s teaching about spiritual warfare. We’re at war, as Christians, and it doesn’t do to forget that—whether we’re pastors on the front line or housewives. These are purely the thoughts of an amateur theologian and amateur modern military historian. If any pastors or soldiers would like to weigh in, please feel free.

I found a love for action flicks in the mid-to late ’90s as a teen. I regularly watched Terminator 2 and Predator. For years I disregarded anything and everything Stallone ever made. I constantly thought of him as the Arnold wannabe. For a few years in my early-married life, I moved away from action flicks thinking I should watch deeper and more artistic films. Jason Stathem’s Transporter movies reignited my love of cheesy action flicks, and warrior stories. There’s been no going back since. Once my husband and I started watching action flicks again, he suggested we watch Rambo. I made my usual snide remarks about Stallone being an Arnold wannabe and dismissed the idea. He kept pressing, sighting it as a necessary point of Action Flick Education. Finally, I caved and we got our hands on First Blood.

I was in for a big surprise.

First Blood is not a cheesy action flick.

First Blood is a true and real drama.

It has real people with confused and mixed up morals. It raises interesting questions. It tracks the life of a man abandoned by his country and pushed to the breaking point. First Blood isn’t about big explosions, big guns, or body count. It’s about a part of our society which wasn’t popular than and isn’t popular now.

I’m not talking about soldiers.

We live, thankfully, in a day and age when it’s very in vogue to support the troops. It only took Vietnam for us to realize how much these men and women need civilian support. It only took that war to make us realize how sick a country is that spits on its soldiers. To this day, it nauseates me to think about what our boys—and I say boys because most soldiers are boys—went through in Vietnam and what they went through when they came home. I’m very thankful we live in a society that goes out of its way to show support for our troops.

But I’m not talking about our everyday soldiers.

I’m talking about warriors.

I’m talking about the men who give up everything that seems normal and safe to do all the hard things none of the rest of us want to do. Many of the everyday citizens must appreciate these people or shows like 24, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, and action flicks wouldn’t be popular. I think it’s our media and our elite academia who don’t appreciate these people. How can I say this?

Try reading a novel called Lone Survivor and you’ll see why we lost four of our warriors due to their fear of the liberal media. There I said it. Done soap boxing. Back to Rambo.

So, what happens to a society that pats itself on the back for supporting its troops, but doesn’t understand the blood and guts on its warriors’ hands? What happens when a man is trained to do one thing, wired to excel at that one thing, used to do that one thing, and then told what he did and what he does and what he’s good at is wrong?

What happens to a society when we start doing this at the earliest stages of boyhood? When we teach boys to be gentle to the point of emasculating them? I’m all for teaching boys to control their strength, but I still want boys to be boys. Instead of understanding that boys are uniquely different from girls in the area of physical and mental strength in a way that allows them to go and fight wars, evil, and meet violence with violence, we teach boys that they need to be medicated. We teach them that they need to be safe. Oh safety, you dangerous dangerous thing.

Do we do this only to our men? Nope. We do this to women too. Women are taught that the one thing we do in an amazing and only female way is valueless, or just not that important. Hello! Women have children. We create life in our bodies. We nurture. We sacrifice the ‘best’ years of our lives to raise up the next generation. Could we have a higher calling? Even I, a woman without children, count herself blessed to aid and help women who do. I still believe I’m strongest in my ability to support my husband, cherish life, nurture, and instruct. Just because I haven’t created a life in my own body yet, doesn’t mean I don’t have intrinsic female uniqueness. Same for a man, you may not get called to creep through jungles or fight in the sands of the Middle East, but you are still called to defend. You are still called to use your strength for truth and justice.

Now, back to Rambo First Blood.

John Rambo comes home after fighting in Vietnam. The movie opens with him finding out that the last man in his elite unit has died. Vietnam killed him too. He may have made it home, but he couldn’t escape the long dark reach of war. This information demoralizes Rambo. He hoped to find one of his brothers. Instead, he found he was truly and finally alone.

The sheriff picks Rambo up on the side of the road and encourages him to stay out of his town. Sheriff Will Tease is not a completely evil character. Imagine the whirlwind of emotion he struggles with as he does what he thinks is right for his quiet little town only to have it blow up in his face. Repeatedly, he gives into his own pride even at the cost of his men, but he does try to do the right thing. He tries to keep his men under control so Rambo isn’t killed. He tries to patch things up with Colonel Trautman. The Sheriff tries multiple times to do the right thing. He’s not a flat character. This movie could easily be told from his POV with him as the underdog hero instead of Rambo.

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Rambo gets pushed by Sheriff Tease and he pushes back, but it’s the moment he’s arrested that clicks Rambo’s training into high gear. In a way, Rambo looks for this fight. He could have avoided it. He could have kept walking and just shrugged the Sheriff off. But without hope, he goes back to the only thing he knows: fighting. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s men don’t realize who they’re dealing until they’ve already shed first blood. They’ve already fired the first shot. If the Sheriff had kept his men in control, done a little research on the drifter they picked up, and had a little less pride on the line, Rambo could have been defused easily. Blinded by their arrogance, and the spirit of the day and age that hated both hippies and soldiers, Rambo’s training is switched on. The treatment Rambo experiences in the county jail makes him flash on his time as a POW. Escape becomes paramount in his mind.

The situation escalates. Rambo tries at one point to diffuse it after the first civilian dies. The Sheriff’s men open fire on him settling in his mind that he is at war.

The tension continues to build with the civilians bumbling around, Trautman trying to explain that it is the Sheriff and his men who are in danger not Rambo, and Rambo doing exactly what he was trained to do: fight.

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Then you reach the end. This is the moment you realize this movie isn’t an action flick but a real drama. When Rambo’s about to kill the Sheriff, Trautman finally stops him. Rambo yells at him, “It’s never over.” And then, surprise of surprises, this great warrior breaks down in tears.

Why?

He’s alone. Rambo’s terribly and horribly alone. None of his friends made it out of the war. The nation he sacrificed so much of his humanity for does things like throw him in jail, rough him up, deny him food and work, shoot at him, and tries to kill him. They don’t honor, respect, or even care what he did. (Christian-colored Glasses: Many pastors face the same thing. They battle. They fight. They seek to defend their churches. And many times they aren’t respected, loved, or supported.)

I think this is why we see so many soldiers in our special forces go back. They go back to where they’re respected. It may be hell on earth, but for them it’s where their families are. It’s where their skills are used. It’s where they can do what they were made to do.

The question posed by Rambo, that I think we’re still asking ourselves today, is what do you do with the warriors when the war is over? Where do you put them? How do you utilize their skills so that they’re respected and honored?

What do we do with our warriors?

I found this video very interesting. Every mother, especially if you have sons, should watch this: Why do Veterans Miss War? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGZMSmcuiXM

This video asks a similar question to Rambo First Blood. I don’t believe, as a Christian, that by understanding war can we eradicate it. War is a result of sin. We can help our warriors, or soldiers, return to civilian life in a healthy way, giving them a chance to use their skills instead of telling them that what they do is unimportant or downright bad, if we understand that they were made to do this and that part of them loves doing it.

Watch First Blood. It is a well-done and amazing movie.

It made me finally place Stallone over Arnold. I’ll take a Stallone movie any day! Join me tomorrow for my thoughts on Rambo 2.

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Movie Quotes:

Trautman: Company leader to identify Baker Team – Rambo, Messner, Ortega, Coletta, Jurgensen, Berry, Krakauer confirm! This is Colonel Trautman. Talk to me, Johnny.

Rambo: They’re all gone Sir.

Trautman: Rambo! Are you all right?

Rambo: Baker Team. They’re all dead, sir.

Trautman: Not Delmar Berry, he made it.

Rambo: Berry’s gone too Sir.

Trautman: How?

Rambo: Got himself killed in ‘Nam, didn’t even know it. Cancer ate him down to the bone.

Trautman: I’m sorry, I didn’t know.

Rambo: I’m the last one Sir.

______________

(Language warning!)

Rambo: We were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says “Shine, please, shine!” I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said “Yeah.” And I went to get a couple of beers, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, f–king blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s f–king screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just…

[Takes off his bandolier]

Rambo: like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s f–kin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” He keeps calling my name! “I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!” I said “With what? I can’t find your f–kin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!”

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0004Z33EG/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0004Z33EG&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=GLCNQKHVIK4CUUIC

Books, Movies, Thoughts

Since I decided to change this to a once a month feature instead of twice a month, different formats have come to mind. I could write one review about one movie or book I really enjoyed, or I could do mini reviews of everything that I’ve been reading and watching. For now, this seems more appealing. Enjoy:

Books

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060542993/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060542993&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=XHCHVLP3GKGH2AYO

 

The Lost, a Search for Six in Six Million

By Daniel Mendelsohn

This book was one of those captivating non-fiction reads that reads more like a novel than a true store. Daniel takes you with him on his search for his uncle, aunt, and four cousins murdered in the Holocaust. He travels the world desperately trying to speak with someone who knew them before the last few Jews from their small town pass away taking their history with them. The book was riveting. Two side notes: 1) I’ve never read anyone since John Owen with so many run on sentences. As a fast reader, I could not read this book fast. Some of his sentences where the length of the whole paragraph with so many clauses I had to reread them multiple times to sort through what he was talking about. I was able to read faster after I grew accustom to his style. 2) This book gave me very clear insight, for the first time in my life, about where the Jews and the Christians separate on theology in the Old Testament. The level of humanism brought to their theology surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have. Over all, an amazing book.

Rated R: Due to the difficult nature of what was done to the Jews during the Holocaust.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1577483421/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1577483421&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=5GFODELJE2Q57ORY

Stepping Heavenward

By Elizabeth Prentiss

I read this for my personal devotional this last spring. At the beginning, I found it very hard to stay interested in. Reading the thoughts of a self-focused teen, even one from back in the 1800’s, isn’t high on my list of fun things to do. Push through. If you will read to the end you will find the story of a girl who becomes a woman, a sinner who becomes a saint. Watching her go from whining about everything to loving all those who are difficult in her life was very encouraging. The two things I noted about this book: 1) While the overall book was very encouraging spiritually, I did find in interesting to see the seeds of Christian American Individualism. The focus very often is on the personal prayer and bible study while the church is rarely mentioned. 2)I found it very convicting, upon one scene in the book, to realize I didn’t bring my daily tasks before the Lord in prayer and ask for his wisdom in managing them and that he be glorified in them. This is something I now try to do every morning. This is a good book for women of all ages.

Rated PG: Due to the lack of focus on the church and the high focus on emotionalism, so parents may wish to guide their children more closely.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0756408067/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0756408067&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=WLAPPHFJ2544L6X2

The Silvered

By Tanya Huff

Given to me by a dear friend, The Silvered had me glued from about ten pages in to the very end. The Silvered is a steam-punk-esque fantasy with werewolves, mages, technology, torture, kidnapping, and lots of other fun things. The story switches through the point of views of several main characters giving the reader a full-orbed sense of what is going on. This was a very fun read with a well-paced plot, fun characters, and just enough spine-tingling horror, to keep me sneaking a page here and a page there throughout my day. I even managed to make me feel like I was walking in two different worlds for a time: this one, and the oh-my-what’s-going-on-with-my-pack! one. I like it when a book does that. I enjoyed the very sensible nature of the female characters. They were a good balance of emotion and mind. I enjoyed the way Huff handled werewolves far more than most fantasies I’ve read. Most of all, I loved how you realize as you go along that the lead female is important. It’s very nicely played as opposed to shoved in your face. My only two minor issues were her well, obvious homosexual leanings, which where overall minor, and I wish Huff had given us just a little more description about the world.

Rated R: While the book does a very good job of keeping objectionable things mostly behind closed doors, there is one very dark scene and a few sexual inferences.

Movies

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Prisoners

Now this was a film. Switching from my normal fare of cheesy action flicks that are perfect for a tired Saturday date night, I rented Prisoners. This movie had me on the edge of my seat from the opening moments. The acting was brilliant. Jake Gyllenhaal was amazing. Everything seemed accurate from what I could tell on the police work side, with the police not painted as idiots for once. The story is about two little girls who are kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day, but the real story is how their fathers react to their kidnapping and how the detective in charge, Gyllenhaal, reacts to them while still trying to save their daughters. Even with an unexpected twist the solving of the case doesn’t ruin the re-watchability of the film. In fact, as soon as you realize what is going on you want to start the movie over and see what clues you missed the first time through. While this isn’t a relaxing film, it is a great film. This is a movie I would buy.

Rated R: for child abuse, kidnapping, torture, language, violence.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KQFXODY/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00KQFXODY&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=3RHYCJGZET6TLJIR

Robocop

To be honest, I’m pretty burned out on remakes. I wish directors would make their own cool movies instead of digging back through my childhood and teen years to steal ideas. Overall Robocop wasn’t bad. It was less violent and gory than the first Robocop, but it also lacked something. My husband really enjoyed it, but we both agreed on two things: 1) Too much story for one movie. Robocop had three main plots that didn’t all weave together perfectly creating a lack of focus and a false ending which was ultimately unfulfilling. 2) Due to too much story for one movie, the ultimate story—man vs. machine—lacked struggle. Oh, Robocop struggled, yes. But not in a way that gripped the viewer. It just lacked heart.

Rated PG-13: Violence, language, intense scenes.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JA3RVG4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00JA3RVG4&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=DN6OOOY6TC363RE2

3 Days to Kill

Now, back to the cheesy action flicks. 3 Days to Kill takes us along for the last ride of a retiring CIA agent as he finishes his last case while trying to reconnect with his wife and daughter. The movie was fun, well executed, and a great daddy-daughter type movie. Kevin Costner does a great job as the CIA agent/struggling father. Because they were able to secure some decent actors, like Costner, the movie retained a ring of realism and heart without just being cheese with a little cheese on the side. Overall there’s not much to say about this film other than it was fun, touching, and cute: the perfect movie after a long week. If you enjoyed Transporter, you’ll probably enjoy this film.

Rated PG 13: other than the violence, a few mild torture scenes, some language, there is only one inappropriate scene.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F1BFRA6/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00F1BFRA6&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=XBXTG3UTF4N3QCCB

Downton Abbey (Season 4)

I was really not sure about watching anymore Downton after they killed Matthew off in Season 3. I just couldn’t imagine the house, the characters, and the story without him. But, my sister told me I should give it a try, and here we are. I loved it. It was a slower moving season with less over the top drama and more subtle drama. I felt like they gave Matthew’s death his due without wallowing in it. Mary and Isobel do a wonderful job showing the effects of losing a husband and son. My favorite point in the show is when Mary, Branson, and Isobel are in the nursery together sharing what they’ve lost. Laughing and crying at the same time. Anna and Bates are put through some very trying times. Bates is such a good man. When the curtain closed on this season, I found myself excited for what next season will bring. Mrs. Hughes is still one of my favorite characters alongside Maggie Smith of course.

Rated PG 13: Lots of fun topics for parents to discuss! 😉

This has been my life in stories for the last few weeks. If you’ve read or watched any of these books or movies, I’d love to know what you think! You can also follow me on Good Reads

Bullet to the Head, Homefront, and Escape Plan

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Bullet to the Head

I wasn’t going to even dignify Bullet to the Head with a review, but sometimes it’s just as helpful to think about what I didn’t like as what I loved.

Bullet to the Head is an action flick featuring my favorite, Sylvester Stallone. Many of you might be tempted to think this movie is bad due to bad acting, but I’ve watched enough of Stallone to know he does just fine with his action flicks and he can play even deeper characters, which I think is evident in Rambo First Blood, Rambo (4), and Rocky. Sure, he’s not as diverse as Bruce Willis, but that doesn’t make everything he does bad. I think what we had here was just plain, old, terrible story telling.

The first problem this movie had was its inability to decided if it wanted to be a dark serious movie or a cheesy action flick. Because it couldn’t make up its mind, it was neither. It failed to deliver the cheesy lines with any sort of cheese making them feel stilted and odd. The action wasn’t over the top or continuous–both hallmarks of a good cheesy action flick. At the same time it acted like it had a complicated plot more along the lines of an intense thriller. If it had been an intense thriller it could have thrown out the cheesy lines and played up it’s dark, realistic feel. If it had been a cheesy action flick it would have been way more fun and enjoyable. Instead, it tries to walk between the two and comes across as a bit strange all the way through.

It’s first few opening minutes are very confusing as you have cops undercover acting like drug dealers and you have hit men dressed up like cops only to find out they’re not along with the introduction of several characters without any explanation leaving the viewer to pull out their hair as they try to keep up with who’s who and why they care.

The dialogue was just bad. At one point Stallone’s character accuses his partner of being annoying when he wasn’t being annoying at all. This happened regularly. Lines were delivered with no story to back up their intensity.

The basic plot of the movie is similar to Tango and Cash. But, instead of two cops with opposite personalities forced to work together, you have a hitman and a cop. Great idea! Get Stallone in there and this movie looks like it could be so much fun. It’s not. Tango and Cash was fun because two men who hated each other had to learn to work together and in the end they became friends. This movie forces two actors with zero chemistry together and never resolves them. The hitman and cop never become friends. They save each others skin several times but they never respect each other. They don’t change. Neither man grows through this experience. Stallone doesn’t become a better person and the cop doesn’t become a better cop. They both remain stagnant throughout the movie.

Which brings me to the reason I hated this movie the most: no heroes. Action flicks are an exaggerated form of storytelling that focus on heroes. They’re kinda like more realistic or down to earth superhero movies. Think about Die Hard, Predator, Rambo, Commando, Terminator 1 & 2, Aliens 2. All these movies are about fairly everyday guys doing amazing things for the good and right. They are protecting their wives, their children, their men, and the future. They’re heroes. Exaggerated? Yes. But, that’s the point. That’s what makes them fun. Bullet to the Head had no heroes. Stallone’s character was a hardened criminal with no redeeming qualities and the cop was just really bland. Neither character inspired me or made me cheer. They both left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, if you were thinking about watching Bullet to the Head, don’t. It will only leave you wishing you could get back that 1 hour and 45 minutes.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HEPC0TS/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HEPC0TS&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=HHUHB4GMWXRRVKMX

Homefront

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for this movie and it stars Jason Stathem. Now for those of you thinking Expendables 2 off the bat, please remember that the Expendables series is designed to be as silly and cheesy as humanly possible. It is not to be taken seriously in any way. Stallone is a half-way decent storyteller who tells great warrior stories.

Homefront is about a DEA agent trying to settle down out in the country and raise his daughter after his wife dies, but his past comes back to haunt him and he is forced to violently protect his family.

This movie is less of a cheesy action flick and more of a good hero/warrior story. Don’t go into it expecting lots of Jason Stathem moves like Transporter. Oh, he does have a few good fights, but this movie is more about developing his character, his relationship with his daughter, and the dark underside of the small town where he lives.

If you know that going into it, the movie is a lot more fun. It reminded me of the first time I saw Rambo First Blood.  I totally expected to see a movie more like Rambo 2. Rambo First Blood is a serious piece of drama, not a cheesy action flick. While Homefront isn’t really serious drama, it was a good film. Also, Kate Bosworth does an amazing acting job.

This movie does center around the drug industry and has one completely useless and inappropriate scene. Other than that, there is just the normal intense violence and some language and obviously drug use. Homefront did a much better job than Bullet to the Head of balancing the action of the movie with the dark/thriller/realism of its subject. It also supplied the viewer with a hero.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HB937SU/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HB937SU&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=V6TBH4MAB6I6OS6Z

 

Escape Plan

And now for complete cheese. Arnold and Stallone play two men trying to escape from a prison. One is innocent and the other isn’t so innocent, but they work together to escape from an inescapable prison. This movie is nothing but cheese and was pretty fun for what it was. If you go into it expecting nothing, you’ll probably like it. I enjoyed it just because it was exactly what it was: old man Stallone and old man Arnold in a movie together.