Archive for the ‘>Reviews’ Category

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Avatar >Review

January 21, 2010

I got the chance to see my first movie in almost a year, and I chose Avatar to see what all the fuss was about. What I found was that it was a great movie experience, but not a great movie.

For the three of you who are yet to see it, the film is set on the alien moon Pandora. Corporal Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is brought there to control an ‘avatar’, a body of the native Na’vi people, to try and persuade the natives to move out of the way for a mine.

My favourite parts were where Sully learned the way of the Na’vi. To get an insight into this fictitious native culture was a fascinating experience, with absorbing colours, customs and panoramas. It was my first non-IMAX documentary 3D film. I didn’t find the 3D all that amazing, but maybe that’s the point. It certainly added the sense of depth that James Cameron was aiming for. However, much of the film’s storyline was clichéd. The characters lacked complexity, the acting (apart from Worthington) was predictable and the storyline lacked originality. There is also a distinct lack of subtlety in dealing with themes of economic exploitation, the environment and even the war on terror. This is certainly a groundbreaking film in terms of the special effects and technology, but little else.

However, what was interesting was seeing Cameron’s view of god on Pandora. The Divine for the Na’vi people was wrapped up in Pandora itself. It is the spirit of the land which controls the life on the moon. But when Sully calls on this god to help in their time of need Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) states that, “Our great Mother doesn’t take sides. She protects only the balance of life”. How different is this from the God of the Bible? That god is not personal with whom you can relate to. That god is not loving, only coldly concerned for the balance of life, i.e. the environment. It is also a limited god as she is only located on Pandora, otherwise she would have saved earth along time ago. In contrast, the God of the Bible is personal, willing to know and relate to us by his word. He is not limited in that the whole universe is his. And he is loving, demonstrating his love in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He has taken our side, the side of those who trust in him for forgiveness. As much as I am all for caring for the environment, I would not want to swap the God who knows and loves me for the Mother of Pandora.

See this review on Ferver.net

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Bodies – Robbie Williams >Review

October 9, 2009

Well, Robbie is back. Just when you’d thought he’d gave in and rejoin Take That he has released a new record. In true Robbie style he has blended strings, electro/synth, a wide vocal range and even Gregorian chants (didn’t they already make a comeback in the 90s?) together to produce Bodies. However, if you’re looking for cohesion or even some hint of a steady stream of consciousness this single is not for you. The lyrics are all over the place with no overarching theme or smooth flow of ideas. This is complimented by an unrelated video clip where Robbie is riding through a desert and standing on abandoned aeroplanes. While the musical elements combine well and the chorus is strong, nothing else makes sense! I’m thinking it’s got something to do with the centrality of the way our body looks in life.

What is interesting is the numerous Christian references made throughout the track. God, prayer and even the rapture get a mention. But it’s the last thirty seconds which intrigues me. Robbie (and backing choir) proclaim that ‘Jesus didn’t die for you; what are you on?’ It leads me to ask, why do all these non-religious people keep mentioning things about God? They are so obsessed with Christian things. Robbie is obviously painting idea that Jesus’ death for humanity is ridiculous. But, if he’s not looking to Jesus, what is he looking to? Our bodies? Is all there is in life the desire to ‘look good naked’ and achieve perfection in body? I’m not sure I’m up for Robbie’s alternative. Maybe Robbie should click here.

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Battlefield – Jordin Sparks >Review

July 3, 2009

Jordin Sparks could have continued in her ways of groovy R&B (see One Step at a Time) or catchy pop (see Tattoo); but instead she has chosen epic ballad for the first single off her new album.

The songs starts off slow and reflective (the clip starts off plain boring – the expensive car doesn’t even move!), but when the bridge comes one gets a taste of what’s to come. The song builds to a chorus dominated by Jordin’s vocal prowess. It is written by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (he also wrote Bleeding Love and Halo), and while the verses and lyrics are nothing to write home about and the concept is an old one (for those under 25 google ‘Pat Benatar’) the song is well crafted. The song peaks at the ‘better go and get your armour’ bit – love it! By now the clip has warmed up to one worthy of the track.

But what of its theme? Jordin sings of the common experience of what love seems to be like. What is hard for her to grasp is if love is meant to be lovely, why does it seem like war? This question can’t be answered without the Christian worldview that human relationships are fallen as we have rejected God and are inherently self-seeking. With this perspective, love goes against our nature and hence is like a battlefield (or a least a battle). Jordin’s solution that ‘you better go and get your armour’ is in fact the opposite of what love requires. Love needs the laying down of armour and being mutually vulnerable and selfless. This is the love that is modeled on and modeled by God who laid down his life to love us.

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Change – Daniel Merriweather >Review

June 12, 2009

One of my favourite songs from 2007 was Stop Me by Mark Ronson, featuring Australian born Daniel Merriweather. Now, he’s gone solo and Change is his first offering.

This is another song to add to the soul revival that’s on the airwaves but it’s a good one. With the marks of his mentor all over it – smooth, solid bass and drums and old-school horns – Change is a blend of all that I like in a track: fun to listen to, quality vocals (he sounds a little like Terrence Trent D’Arby), interesting instrumentation (I love the piano line), good to sing along to and semi-meaningful lyrics.

Daniel is singing about how it’s foolish to think that the world will change. Problems with violence, the environment, one’s own apathy all get a mention as endless factors in our lives. Daniel doesn’t leave us in despair but sees the solution as to ‘start asking who’s in charge’. That’s an interesting question to pose. I guess if we seem helpless to change the world we need to look to who’s running it. Wouldn’t it be great if we had hope that there might be change in the world? Wouldn’t it be great if something had been done to turn our problems around? Wouldn’t it be great if even ourselves were changed from the inside so that we can live in accord with a better world? Maybe we should ask the One in charge?

NB – For the original clip see here.

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Paparazzi – Lady Gaga >Review

June 10, 2009

Time to return to the bread a butter of this blog and review something.

The song in question is not one that I love, but as it’s just debuted at #27 on the ARIA charts, many people do.

After 3 killer dance tracks (Just Dance, Poker Face and Lovegame), Lady Gaga slows down to the more reflective Paparazzi. This trend for dance acts to delve into slow songs is nothing new and it’s these songs that are often longer lasting; remember Aqua – they had hits with Barbie Girl and Dr Jones, but their non-dance track Turn Back Time was their stand out record. I don’t think Paparazzi will have the same status, but time may prove me wrong.

Most songs about the paparazzi are merely a vehicle for the singer/celebrity to whinge about them (cf. Piece of Me by Britney or Whatchulookinat by Whitney). Instead this songs is a vehicle for her short-film video clip where her paparazzi boyfriend nearly kills her and so, between dance numbers, she takes her revenge, all to the delight of the media. The problem is, as a track  it’s not dancy enough to be dance, it’s not snappy enough to be pop and not edgy enough to be interesting. It just goes through the motions of a more relaxed track, but with a slightly creepy stalker subtext. I think she’s trying to pull of a bit of a Gwen Stefani, who she sounds like in the bridge; however, she doesn’t have the vocal quality to pull it off – especially in the chorus. And what is going on with the lyrics? But it’s really all about the video (which is far from G-rated so use your discretion in viewing it). But watching the video makes me thing – who would want to live in that world of stardom (particularly if you end up like on the of the dead models in the clip)? It’s portrayed as a flippant, relationally empty and even dangerous world. Why do we seek after that when we know true life and ultimate meaning can be found in the person, Jesus?

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The Chaser > Review

May 28, 2009

Just watched the first episode of The Chaser on the web and it reminded me why I never really liked the show. For me, it often goes a little over the top, which kills the humour. The attempt to repeat law suits was an example of this. Christians were Chaser fodder as well with a spoof of the ‘footprints’ poem. I’m impressed that they think enough people have come into contact with the poem for the joke to work.

The ChaserHowever, it did make me reflect on Aussie culture. We love any opportunity to pull people (especially rich or successful people) down to size. The Chaser has this down to an art form. It’s ironic, though, that even though it’s part of our culture to cut down tall poppies, we seem to all want to be a tall poppy and strive for it. Strange. Maybe if Aussies got to know Jesus better, they’d appreciate him more – him that although rich, became poor to death on a cross so that we can be rich toward God.

But, the Chaser has its place, and there is usually at least one stunt that works (e.g. the G8 summit). This episode it involved my old school. Somalians in boaters – classic!

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas >Review

April 6, 2009

We scored free tickets to see this film, but its impact was long-lasting.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a story of Nazi Germany seen through the eyes of eight year old, Bruno. He and his family move from his luxurious home in Berlin to a country estate after his father is promoted in the army. From his bedroom window he can see what looks like a farm but is a concentration camp with his father at its helm. Bruno meets a boy of the same age on the other side of the camp’s fence and the two develop a friendship.

In the film, we are presented with the horror of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, seen chiefly in the father’s actions and attitudes. Bruno slowly develops an understanding of the prejudice towards and the harsh treatment of the Jews.

The story juxtaposes Bruno to his elder sister. She is swept up with the Nazi cause; swooning over soldiers, hanging on every word of her history tutor and holding to her father’s beliefs that the Jews were the enemy and subhuman. Bruno on the other hand is too young to let the propaganda sway him away from the reality of the humanity he sees.

The film is short and uncomplicatedly shot, yet the innocence of Bruno is stark compared to the actions of his father and the suffering of the Jews. This is aided by the brilliant acting of Asa Butterfield as his character goes through the journey from innocence to awareness.

Apart from the terror of the Nazi regime, the thing that struck me was the normality of much of life in Nazi Germany. People were still holding parties and children were playing and going to school. Whenever I get a glimpse into life in Nazi Germany I sometimes ponder if I would have recognised the evil that I was in, or would I have been a patriot and supported the cause. The film certainly shows how ‘natural’ evil can be and how good can sometimes not be recognised. It strengthens my trust that I only see the true good that God is the work of his Spirit and by God’s grace. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas left me saddened by the injustice in the world but all the more longing for the day of justice to come with the return of Christ.