Tag Archives: media

Blade Runner 2049 Sure to be “High Octane” Action

By Myck Miller

Blade Runner is back! With 2049 just around the corner, Warner Bros. released a full trailer of the new movie which will be starred by Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling. The cries of girls all over the country could be heard as one of Hollywood’s most famous actors, Ryan Gosling along with Harrison Ford take to the big screen together in what is anticipated to be a sure thriller.

In an interview, Gosling stated, “The first film made me question what it meant to be a human being.” Referring to the original movie which was made in 1982. Gosling need not fear to ruin his childhood movie because there is a seasoned veteran who will be joining with him.

blade_runner_2049_ryan_gosling_harrison_ford-2560x1440Harrison Ford, widely recognized as one of those actors who just won’t ride into the sunset. That is of course to the exception to his ever long-lasting desire to get out of the Star Wars movies. Ford was in the first Blade Runner back in 1982 and is very excited to be back on the big screen playing a character that he hasn’t visited in nearly 30 years.

At an event in Los Angeles Ford said, “It’s very interesting visiting a character after some time. It was a very gratifying experience.” This won’t be the first time that Ford has gone back in time to play a character that he hasn’t touched in years. Everyone was ecstatic to see him back with Chewy and the Millennium Falcon in Force Awakens and who can forget his Indiana Jones movies.

What can the audience expect from this Sci-Fi thriller? There is going to be a lot of action and it’s going to be so much different from the first movie made 30 years ago. The technology is going to allow the movie to reach new heights in technological advancements. The movie is set in 2049 so expect to see things that have never been seen before. The movie will take you back in time to the old film and bring a new generation of characters and plots. Here’s a bit of advice though…. If you truly want to enjoy this movie, go back and watch the first. Nothing worse than going to see a movie and not bladerunnercopsknowing the plot, characters, or theme of the movie. The character progression of Harrison Ford’s character will be something to keep an eye out for and will electrify movie theaters all across the country.

Blade Runner will be hitting the theaters on October 6, 2017.

Advertisements

“All the Light We Cannot See,” A Novel for the Pensive Mormon

By Daniel Stout

Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” is in the slow-read category, but not in the monotonous sense of the word. On the contrary it is a lively fascinating book; it just demands a thoughtful pace. This reviewer is drawn to the pensive reading experience where a page-a-day can be immensely satisfying. That is if one adheres to Anna Quindlen’s thoughtful reading concept. Reading is in the mind, and some books let the imagination wander. All the Light is such a book.  Mormons that enjoy perusal of a sentence followed by gazing-out-the-window rumination should enjoy this tale. If you’re lamenting the lost art of thinking, allow Doerr’s artful prose to come to the rescue.

51wG7x-S+0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It is the tale of two teenagers in World War II France: A blind girl and a male member of the Hitler youth. The latter figuratively eyeless. These are disparate worldviews, but their lives eventually converge. The merge of mindsets not only makes a good story, but forces the reader to confront delicious dilemmas avoided in our religious lives. Why don’t we recognize the limitations of authority?  What is it about evil that makes it so difficult to discern?

It’s a novel about life’s ironies.  Happiness is somehow drawn from contradiction, and ultimately there is no happiness, only an arduous journey.  All the Light holds a mirror up to our journeys eliciting reflection of readers’ earthly sojourns. It raises more questions than it answers, but that that’s the goal of the author. It’s a a book to think with.

I had heard that All the Light was a literary achievement, but was unprepared for the elegant use of metaphor and well-crafted writing. Varied sentence length and brevity are but a few of the peruser’s delights. Doerr’s artistic workmanship is present in line after line. Take this sentence, for example. Four words, but a hundred interpretations:

Still night. Still early.

Ultimately, it is a book about the paradoxes of nature, i.e., so nurturing yet so cruel. Doerr schools us on a vital subject.  ________-__-____-2644Life may impair us, but never obstructs our drive to uncover love in its dark recesses.  Read this novel, and don’t be afraid to take a year.

 

In “A Mother’s Reckoning,” Son Dylan Klebold and Columbine Tragedy Examined

by Danny Stout

A long-awaited news story, Diane Sawyer’s interview with Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the teen Columbine murderers yields inevitably new revelations. In 20/20’s “Silence Broken,” Sawyer’s journalism is thorough given the compressed medium of television. Does Klebold’s new book, “A Mother’s Reckoning” reveal after almost two decades how parents could overlook signs that their son was on the verge of one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history? Thirteen were killed and 24 wounded. From the journalism critic’s standpoint, Sawyer’s interview is artful, getting her subject to talk freely, but she also bypasses some key questions.

We see Klebold nervously pacing before the interview, “wondering,” as Sawyer says, “if she’s made a mistake by agreeing to disclose her story.” Klebold explains why she never left Colorado for a different identity somewhere she would be less known. “I can’t run from this,” she responds, “It is hard to live with the fact that your son has killed people and you have to own that.”

Columbine-Killer-Mom-Interview-Diane-Sawyer
via ABC TV

Tearfully, she continues, “I am so sorry for what my son did. Never a day goes by that I don’t think about it.” Sawyer narrates between questions, giving her own interpretation intermittently. One example is when she inquires, “Why do you use the word ‘harm’ instead of ‘kill?” The reply is softly given: “I don’t know.” Then Klebold admits the softer term helps her cope. She is trapped in a contradiction, Sawyer observes, and “all the lessons of her regret are in the book,” which is a sneaky way of saying if I’ve missed something, it’s all in the book anyway.

Sawyer covers a lot of ground, thus a synopsis is difficult. The crux of the story goes like this: Sue Klebold considers herself a good parent; she was involved in Dylan’s life. After listening to recorded conversations between her son and Eric Harris, she admits that parents fool themselves into a sense of normalcy, that things are Okay. Parents must look harder for clues of teen distress. Dylan was clearly depressed, but Eric Harris had deeper psychological problems; he drew pictures of decapitations and swastikas. His personality disorder was a God complex, and perhaps he convinced Dylan to hate the world. “We have guns. I feel more Godlike,” Eric wrote in his journal. Sue Klebold doesn’t blame the Harrises, however, and occasionally converses with them.

She is far from healed. The Klebolds divorced due to differences about how to cope. Her book forced her to turn over every stone in a process of healing and understanding. “She’s gone over her life with a magnifying glass,” Sawyer observes. Klebold asserts, however, that some things cannot be entirely comprehended. Proceeds from the book will be donated to suicide prevention groups.

Sawyer’s historical and cultural context of the tragedy is thin yet provides a helpful, although brief timeline. The first comparable mass murder, according to the journalist, occurred at the University of Texas when Charles Whitman shot and killed 14 and wounded another 32 from a tower on the campus. Columbine, the next crime like it, came 30 years later. Since then, there have been 50 rampage shootings, and 79 foiled plots.

Sawyer relies on statistics related to violence in the media and gun access. Few question the salience of these factors, but she never gets to the heart of the matter which is clearly mental illness, despite the fact that her two expert guests identify this as the root of what happened. Sawyer doesn’t seem to want to talk about psychological issues.

Klebold’s claim that a teenager’s privacy must be protected by not searching their rooms could have been teased out more extensively. Both teens had guns, and explosives were in both homes.

Viewers will be compassionate for a mother’s humble attempt to cope with such sadness. Klebold remains perplexed by the the responsibility question.

ht_klebold_book_float_lb_150723_4x3_992

Admitting on the one hand that she should have been a better listener, she denies that some clues were crystal clear. For example, Dylan wrote a paper for school describing someone looking like himself pulling out a gun and mowing down students. Many take this as a clear indication of something to come. “We didn’t take that paper seriously,” she defends. It’s common for kids to write stuff like that using their wild imaginations.” She hearkens back to her own wild creativity as an art student.  Her description of the Klebold household sounds like a million families across America.  The perception of normalcy with so much going on backstage is much more interesting than Sawyer’s statistics about media violence and gun ownership. Family communication, perhaps, is the subject Sawyer misses. For this reason, all parents should see the interview.

Finally, journalists get an average to poor grade in covering the event.  Dave Cullen’s 2009 book, Columbine argues that reporters did little to broaden knowledge about underlying motives for what happened. Covering the story for various news outlets, Cullen regrets the inaccuracies of the information Sue Klebold had to straighten out herself. For example, the two teens were not bullied to a large extent as was reported. They were not members of the “Trench Coat Mafia;” Dylan just liked the way the coats looked. They didn’t intend to kill jocks nor believers in God specifically as many reporters claimed. The highly circulated story of the victim that said “yes” when asked whether she believed in God, and then was promptly shot has now been discredited. It’s ironic that the most valuable insights about Columbine have just come out in a book by the mother of one of the perpetrators, when public discussion should have been more substantive. And, how can it be when news reporters are so off base?

 

 

“Granite Flats” Falls Flat but Resurrects Commies

by Danny Stout

Metal objects are falling from the skies. Is that a broken carburator over there or part of an alien spaceship? A Russian bomb perhaps? And the bright lights; a UFO? Such questions drive BYUtv’s dramatic series Granite Flats, set in a small Colorado town in the 1960’s. All three seasons are now streamed on Netflix. The show has high production values, is family-oriented, and features reputable actors such as Christopher Lloyd, Cary Elwes and George Newbern. But, is it in the same league as the major studios?  Like in a BYU football game, let’s show the world our best! But this is not football, and on Netflix it’s harder for a dramatic series to score a touchdown.

The underlying theme is the Cold War tension between the U.S. and Russia. Oddly, most main characters have some tie to a foreign spy, the American military, or the Communist Party.  The bad guys are still at work in postwar Granite Flats, and three bright kids, in the spirit of Nancy Drew, solve the puzzle of the falling objects.  Right after the era of bomb shelters, and sirens warning of air attacks, paranoia lingers in a town that’s more consumed with the Commies than watching The Flinstones or Leave it to Beaver after a long day of work or school. No, we’ve got to stop those infiltrating Reds! (i.e., communists)

The kids commence their investigation of the falling objects. These chaps should have met the gang in Stand by Me, the coming-of-age movie about four boys in Oregon. “Holy smokes, back to headquarters!” one of the Granite kids exclaims. While the Stand by Me guys talk like regular kids, such as arguing over the best TV shows and whether Mighty Mouse could beat up Super Man, the Granite youth dialogue is contrived, not colloquial. Perhaps Executive Producer Scott Swofford felt natural talk would somehow lower the credibility of a Church-sponsored production.

image

Granite Flats is a world without malice, real anger, or annoyance. Perfection is quite common: Would someone check whether any of the actors have dirty fingernails?

Madeline Andrews (Malia Tyler) the little girl, speaks like an adult, the kid with the glasses, Timmy Sanders (Charlie Plummer) over-acts and tries so hard to be uptight. A contrasting dialogue in Stand by Me , on the other hand goes like this:

Teddy: “I am acting my age. I’m in the prime of my youth and I’ll only be young once.”

Chris: “Yeah, but you’re gonna be stupid for the rest of your life.

The most exciting lines from the Granite kids are:

“Oh my goodness!”

“The bravest thing you can do is tell the truth.”

“Let’s go get your mother’s good cooking.”

Although the story is klunky at first, and with all dramatic series, it takes time to get to know the characters, Granite never produces enough dramatic tension. Young viewers, regrettably don’t know Cold War history and related espionage. Some characters did bad things for the Russians and might be willing to kill again, but the story flows like an average juvenile novel. With the exception of yelling and skirmishes in key scenes, it’s a world where everyone basically feels great. Army and nurse uniforms look new and pressed. The kids are never sloppy; they don’t even let their shirts hang out of their pants or go with shoes untied. The connection between Church-sponsorship and the depiction is an interesting, and perhaps a good topic for a Master’s thesis.

One exception to the dearth of realism is a scene where one of the kids can’t tie his tie and doesn’t want to go to Church. That’s bad, but also good because he’s real!

Intermittently, the program interjects gospel messages: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but to change the nature of the one who prays,” the boy says. He’s quoting his deceased father in a tender scene with his mom, and child viewers may decode such sacred admonitions, but it seems forced. The line, “I am never going to drink alcohol” also appears.

In the climactic scene, the young detectives uncover the sinister characters and some anemic surprises are attempted. Again, the dramatic tension during the narrative isn’t sufficient to deliver a climax that knocks you off your seat.

exclusive-richard-gunn-talks-byutv-s-granite-flats-mormonism-family-programming

It is curious that the Cold War era fight against Communism is the lit motif. There was a subgroup of Mormons at that time that belonged to anti-Communist groups such as the John Birch Society. Perhaps a strain of that history filters down into Granite Flats in the Cleon Skousen tradition.

My supposition is that audience members will be divided about the entertainment value and the strength of the moral punch here. In this reviewer’s mind, it is an uneven film, but the underlying values in 1960’s Mormon history make the it worth watching.

(As of the date of this post, Netflix viewers give Granite Flats a 4 out of 5 star rating.)

“The Force Awakens”: A Great Public Event, but an Uneven Film with Traces of Inspiration

By Dan Stout

 An episodic blockbuster implores critique at two levels: the celebration that includes boundless audience, public rituals (e.g., costumes, merchandise, enduring memes such as “May the Force be with you,”), and the film itself, which must be considered within a context of a global event. Moviegoers, then, experience Star Wars as both story and spectacle, and a review inevitably analyzes points where the two converge and disconnect. Speaking of the former, the magic of the first film is not recaptured despite sporadic flashes of brilliance and a creative synthesis of digital image and the warmth of 35m film to create worlds yet unseen.

Neither event nor story can be assessed without attention to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures’ investment of $300 billion in the Star Wars franchise beginning with this seventh episode directed by J. J. Abrams. With a trilogy in the making, plus sequels, prequels, spin-offs, merchandise galore and even a possible dramatic TV series, The Force Awakens is the leap from original storyline to whatever the future brings. That bridge was competently accomplished with old and new characters as well as touch points to previous films, thus extending that ever-expanding fabric of the world’s most satisfying sci-fi tale to a global following.

As media event, Star Wars accedes to the level of civil religion. Like holy and patriotic holidays, the movie’s opening day is a global celebration of the Force, the lightside-darkside clash, and hope in the future. A Star Wars Catholic mass was held in Berlin; parishioners donned costumes and priests waved lightsabers to illustrate Biblical tenets. A film clip was played during the service.

3543

A baby born opening day was named “Ryker Jedi” in Texas. Perhaps Star Wars screenings will stand alongside the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving in terms of collective reminders and expressions of core values. When we sit in the theater, we stand together, I mean sit together in support of redemption, parenthood, and commitment to follow the light. “The Force” is deity, and how could LDS audience members resist a salute to truth, justice, and the moral way?

Link: Why Mormons Love Star Wars (Washington Post) 

Star Wars turns out to be the strongest civil religion event emanating from a movie series. Schindler’s List, perhaps the most moral movie ever made, and To Kill A Mockingbird a plea for civil rights, are historically influential, but do not have the enduring top-of-mind awareness that a movie franchise like Star Wars is set to deliver for decades to come.

***Spoiler Alert***

As for the film itself, The Force Awakens is uneven, with a conventional plot and flat characters. The dialogue has a dated feel. Finn (John Boyega), Storm trooper for the First Order, defects to help Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) pilot for the Resistance seeking eventual elimination of the Dark Side. Poe conceals a map inside a droid revealing the location of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last remaining Jedi that villainous First Order leader seeks to destroy. Quirky is the contrast of pending doom with the cute dome-headed droid that rolls on a ball stopping to get adoring pats on the head. Antagonist and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) relentlessly pursues Skywalker despite Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) return to the story. The surprise ending will a stunner for some — and a yawner for others.

TFA_thumb_b1c49964

The movie is best enjoyed as a stroll through a futuristic world with oddities at every turn. Put on your anthropologist hat and survey the terrain. The rusting space ships as the dessert slowly absorbs them back into nature is a magnificent piece of film work in copious shades of browns and yellows evoking the deterioration photography of Julian Kilker that comments on the ultimate demise of technology. Continuing our walk, we see plenty of droids, but none advanced from the early films. Abrams nor Lucas have done their homework on artificial intelligence. Today’s robots are more advanced.

Abrams reprises several scenes such as the Mod Eisley Cantina full of kooky creatures and Maz Kanata who reads the eyes of several characters. “You have eyes that want to run,” she tells Finn disclosing his vacillating commitment, and in terms of the Force, she proclaims, “Truth can only be found looking forward, not behind.” The markets depict ancient economies and currency exchange is inconsistent with other technological advances, especially weaponry and aircraft. Speaking of weaponry, The Force Awakens could easily be an infomercial for the NRA. And, the TIE fighter jets are back zooming everywhere. Zooming too much in fact. Zoom. Zoom.

Link: Utahns are the biggest Star Wars fans (Washington Post)

Perhaps the most compelling scene depicts “terrorism,” when storm troopers massacre a group of the Resistance at Snoke’s order, “Kill all of them,” he commands. Will terrorism endure this far into the future? Abrams seems to suggest so, although this question is barely teased out, and if more fully developed, the idea could have added relevancy to the conflicts depicted.

Audience members love the droids and wax nostalgic for C-3PO and R2-D2 who make cameo appearances. Mild applause ensued where I watched the film, with comments like “Look, there’s C-3PO!” heard throughout the theater. Lastly, John Williams music score displays an uncanny ability to sync action and emotion, deserving highest accolades.

In sum, Star Wars reminds me of my trips to Jersey Shore amusement parks as a kid. The events themselves engaged all my senses, and in a holistic way were unforgettable. The individual attractions, though, have fallen from memory. Was there a roller coaster? The Force Awakens is much the same. It’s the holiday and what it represents that has staying power, not the film itself.

Your thoughts?

“Married at First Sight” — The end of Western civilization?

By Quint Randle
It’s back. The third season of A&E networks’ “Married At First Sight.” If you’re unaware of the premise, the reality show is where four relationship/life experts review and match six applicants — 2,500 this season — to be married sight unseen. With cameras rolling, viewers watch the three couples go through the wedding, the honeymoon, moving in together, etc., — a six week “experiment.” (BTW: The vast majority of couples wait a while before consummating their marriage.)

At the end of the show, the couples decide whether to stay married or divorce. From what I can tell, while some couples from season one remain married all of the couples from last season are now divorced.

With the institution of marriage in such rough shape lately, I don’t know whether to strangle the participants and producers because they are treating a sacred institution so casually, or whether to cheer them on a bit for helping these poor singles who are so clueless they can’t figure out how to find a decent mate – because the dating scene is so bad.

In a New York Post article, Season 3 participant Vanessa Nelson said, “It’s difficult to find a guy who’s somewhere in your age range who’s really ready for a serious relationship.”

Is that an excuse for a show like this? Do we enjoy watching a train wreck that much?

And yes, it is outrageous, but even today, arranged marriage – where the bride and groom are matched by a third party — are common in countries such as Pakistan, Japan, and Israel. Some have even mentioned this as a reason for not being put off by the concept of the show in the first place. One of the participants comes from Indian grandparents who were in an arranged marriage – 53 years. So for him, he was kind of “So what’s the big deal?”

mormons into media _experts-married-first-sight
The four experts who make the matches, including Harvard University Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein, lower left.

And maybe there’s some truth to that. Maybe it’s all about the commitment and not about the magic and romance of it all. And these couples are saying all the dating and romance is an illusion. Maybe they are accepting the fact that it’s about the work?

In an Ensign article, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball said, “’Soul mates’” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.”

Any good man. Any good woman. And I guess in the end that’s the question. Where religiosity is sort of an afterthought, (the show’s religious counselor is a Humanist Chaplain/Rabbi, whatever the heck that is) do these couples have the “goodness,” maturity and attention span to “pay the price.” I think not. Or at least it can’t be done in six weeks.

What do you think? Is a show like this the end of Western civilization, as we know it, or should it be applauded a bit for taking a different approach when dating and romance in the secular world are in such a shambles in the first place?