Who says you need to read the book first?

The Harry Potter Series is my favorite book series. I thoroughly enjoy the movies as well. In fact, I can admit without shame that I saw a majority of the movies before finally deciding to read the books.

It seems that most movies hitting theaters today are adaptations of popular novels, stories, and fairy tales. Even Marvel and DC movies come from comic books.

Honestly, I’m not complaining. I think it makes sense to use the popular stories that so many people are captivated by for film. It’s proof that books and reading can never truly go out of style.

If a young adult novel turns into a movie, you can be sure that people will be rushing to stores to buy the book. But you will also have those uninterested in reading the book, who decide that they  just want to see the movie. And here’s why: Seeing a movie is easy and fast. If you hate it, at least you’ve only wasted two hours of your time.

Personally, I don’t like to harp on people to “Read the book first!” Yes, I will often suggest they read the book, but only if I believe that reading the book will be even more enjoyable than watching the movie—which in most circumstances is true. With the Harry Potter books, I discovered them because I loved the movies so much. Once I started the first book, I couldn’t stop. I read them all and was enthralled by the details in the books that weren’t in the movies. Soon enough, I had finished all of the books and was waiting for the newest movie to come out.

Whatever you decide to do (read the book first, see the movie, or both) just enjoy it for what it is: a story to be experienced.


Out of Touch with the Oscars

The Oscars are coming, and I haven’t seen almost any of the movies. As I scrolled through category after category of Oscar nominations only to find a small handful of films I’ve seen, I understood that I’ve been living under a rock for the whole year. In fact, I’ve been under two rocks—the rock of College and the rock of Christianity.

Living on campus without a car is not unlike being a part of the Gilligan’s Island castaways: you have interesting people for company and plenty of bamboo-rigged conveniences, but there’s no escape, and your only connection to the outside world is a radio. I really had planned to see some of these movies, but I was just too busy curled up in my dorm-room cave.

Christianity is a weightier rock, to be sure. As a child growing up in the “Christian bubble” I was rightly sheltered from many films, but parental censorship no longer applies to my life, and I have to figure out for myself how to honor God with my movie-going decisions. There’s no hard and fast rule; but when five of the eight films nominated for best picture are rated R, I’ll usually just give up the task of weighing the merits of each individual film and go see Inside Out for the second or third time.

I may be one of mass of people that are out of touch with the Oscars, and chances are—you are too. But I realize that it’s not always bad to be behind the times with our engagement with popular culture. While we can all celebrate the artistic talent and hard work that is highlighted in the Oscars, the best kind of cultural engagement is dictated by our interests, our time, and our faith.

–Emily D.

Lessons from Click: Don’t Put Your Life on Autoplay

This weekend I watched the movie Click for the first time, and I found myself with a desire to start living my life differently.cXR4a7WITJbzkVbWQJ3UVkoK2sd

Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) is a workaholic who puts his job above his family while pursuing a well-deserved promotion. In an attempt to balance his life, Michael acquires a universal remote from kooky salesman Morty (Christopher Walken). The remote allows Michael to skip or fast-forward through uncomfortable parts of his life. It’s the perfect answer to his dilemma, until the remote takes over and programs Michael’s life for him.

The prevailing theme in Click is to enjoy each day and put family first. The movie is convicting because, even without a remote, we make the same mistakes as Michael.23clic.600

When Michael skips scenes in his life, he goes on autoplay. This means his body is still present, but he gives minimal effort to interacting with others.

We can often do this in our lives. We skip around the boring or hard parts, tuning out instead of investing.

We can see from the movie, that this lifestyle has bitter consequences. So how do we keep ourselves from going on autoplay?

  1. Say, “I love you.” You will never regret being honest with your friends and family about how much they mean to you.
  2. Shut off screens. I love media, but sometimes I need to take a break so I can interact with people. Choose one night a week to be “screen-free” and fill it with quality time spent with people.
  3. Examine your priorities. Michael was so focused on doing well in his job so he could make a better life for his family, he didn’t realize he was neglecting them. Make sure you have the right priorities and pursue them the right way.
  4. Be present in every situation. Unpleasant moments are easier to skip past, but we need to be invested in others no matter how difficult it gets.

Click is a cautionary tale about what happens when we don’t appreciate every moment we have. Stay off autoplay.

– Megan R.

The Questions that made Jurassic Park a Blockbuster Hit

In 1993 the very first Jurassic Park was released. This Steven Spielberg classic trilogy made well over $1 billion in ticket sales and became one of the most popular “man vs. nature” series to ever hit the box office. For some reason, people could not get enough of an entire park created for once extinct dinosaurs.

But what an intrigue this is! The movies incorporate some typical horror elements, certainly to keep you on the edge of your seat, but mostly they are Jurassic thrillers that raise many ethical questions.

I believe it is these questions that made Jurassic Park so popular. When the movie was done and the credits had rolled, people wanted to keep talking about it.

What if we really did possess the technology to bring dinosaurs back? If so, should we? Is it right to keep the dinosaurs locked up? Can man control nature?

These movies pushed people to think deeper about the reality of living in a technologically advancing world—and how far we can use those rights (if they even exist).

About 22 years after Jurassic Park, Jurassic World debuted to an eager audience this past summer. Along with a new director, digital effects, and cast, this movie presented a new audience with new questions. Much like the first trilogy, Jurassic World deals with a loose dinosaur in a park filled with hundreds of innocent vacationers. As if the pure existence of a live dinosaur is not enough, the dinosaur in this movie is genetically modified. It is smarter, faster, and deadlier.

I, along with most Jurassic Park fans, believe seeing the beauty of a once extinct creation alive would be a true wonder. But—is it our right to play God? These movies present the reality of answering that question with “yes.” Jurassic Park takes us on an amazing and exciting adventure, but should also remind us that we have a mighty and sovereign God in good control of everything from a tiny microorganism to gigantic T-Rex.

-Megan W

Finding meaning in ‘Signs.’

I’m not much for thrillers or horror movies. However, when it comes to M. Night Shyamalan’s suspenseful and plot-twisting films, I’m always game.

In light of The 5th Wave’s recent release to theaters, I decided to touch on one of my personal favorite alien movies—and no, it isn’t War of the Worlds.

Shyamalan’s Signs hit theaters in the early 2000s, but it has remained one of my favorite films to date. Although I appreciate many of his other popular (and not so popular) films—The Village, Lady in the Water, The Sixth Sense—Signs has always stuck out to me as being one of his most religious, impactful films.

Mel Gibson stars as former priest, Graham Hess, a man whose life is turned upside down once his wife is killed in a tragic accident. This causes him to lose both his faith and his hope.

After the accident, Graham, with the help of his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), is left to care for his two children, Morgan and Bo.

Throughout the film, the characters discover that the world is being watched and inhabited by extraterrestrial beings. Everything slowly turns to chaos and panic, and Graham and his family prepare for the aliens to invade earth. And for this small-town family, the effects of this turmoil take an even greater toll on their already shaken household.

The heart of this grim film is more than just the power of a loving family and their test of survival. Instead, the concept of ‘signs’ plays a key role—thus the title. At one point, Graham asks his brother,

“See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?”

After his wife’s death, Graham can’t believe that miracles happen. But, for anyone who watches the film, they will find that he is indeed proven wrong. Maybe, just maybe, there really are no coincidences. And maybe God really does give us signs. We just need to look.

-Ruthie F.

The Innocence of Father Brown and An Evangelical Cynic

My professor called me a cynic yesterday. We were talking about Christian books and movies and how disappointing I and my classmates often find them. They mean well but often feel trite.

I’m often cynical about secular media too. To wonder which of these beloved characters’ sudden but inevitable betrayal I’ll be cursing. To predict how many episodes it will take before it’s just too dirty.

Even when you’re looking for beauty, it can be hard to find. Christian media is too easy. Secular media is too dark. If you don’t expect anything from media, it can’t disappoint you.

father brown
Alec Guinness in The Detective (1954)

Good thing Father Brown is as uncynical as they come.

He’s a Catholic priest/Sherlock Holmes who finds mysteries everywhere he goes. The Innocence of Father Brown is a short story about him, but Father Brown isn’t innocent. Not really.

“I assure you, my ‘innocent’ ears encounter every day stories of a horror that would make your sophisticated hair stand on end. Although I wear funny clothes, and have taken certain vows, I live far more in the world than you do.”

But he isn’t jaded. He hasn’t written humanity off.

His experience makes him an ace detective, but he’s more worried about the souls of the criminals than what they steal. His “innocence” is really a heart attentive to good. It makes me a little less jaded.

Father Brown began in a short story collection by G.K. Chesterton. Now it’s several movies, a miniseries, and a BBC TV show. The earnest, sleuthing priest that keeps people coming back.

For me, it’s the reminder that faith and skill don’t have to be separated. Cynicism might protect me from disappointment, but it makes me less kind and less sensitive to beauty and truth.

I want to be more like Father Brown, who sees goodness even the worst of life.

-Josie K.

Brooklyn is Everything a Romantic Movie Should Be

It’s hard to find good romantic movies. Often we are caught between unrealistic sappiness and crude comedy. But Brooklyn rises above those sub-genres. It is cute, romantic, clever, and thoughtful. It shows love through struggling and suffering, but it still warms our hearts, making us hope we can achieve something this beautiful.

BROOKLYN, from left: Emory Cohen, Saoirse Ronan, 2015. ph: Kerry Brown/TM and ©Copyright Fox
Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

­­­­Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is an Irish immigrant who leaves her sister and widowed mother to move to Brooklyn, New York, and make a life for herself. Eilis gets a job in a department store and goes to school to learn bookkeeping.

Eilis begins her journey with reserved anticipation, hopeful for the exciting life she may find in the New York. But she soon finds herself out of place in America, and homesickness settles in.

Then Eilis meets Tony Fiorella (Emory Cohen), a young Italian plumber with just the right amount of confidence and awkwardness. Eilis and Tony fall in love, and he helps her to become comfortable in her new home of Brooklyn.

Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis" in BROOKLYN. Photo by Kerry Brown. © 2
Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

However, unfortunate circumstances lead Eilis back to Ireland. She must decide where her home truly lies. Is it in the past she holds so dearly or her future in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is a love story that reflects real love. None of the characters are perfect, and Eilis makes some big mistakes. The couple goes through these awkward moments and authentic challenges, and it tests whether their love can endure.

The love story in Brooklyn isn’t about magical moments. It is about finding someone who loves who you really are and pushes to be your best and choosing to love them even when it’s difficult.

Brooklyn shows us that love requires work and commitment, but true love gives us a home where we are always safe.

“And one day, the sun will come out you might not even notice straight away—it’ll be that faint. And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize that this is where your life is.”

-Megan R.