Monday, August 29, 2016

The Jungle Book (2016) The Destructive Path of Revenge

Luke 6:37-38 says “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven."

The Jungle Book is an unbelievable live-action remake of the 1967 animated film about an Indian child named Mowgli. He is abandoned in the jungle as an infant, adopted and raised by wolves, and eventually reunited with humans after an dangerous tiger drives him out of the jungle. It is a bittersweet adventure the whole way, but the remake takes the story to a whole new level.

Though the dangers of the jungle remain, Mowgli also struggles with his own identity. He is an individualistic and inventive human raised in a family that demands unified thinking and teamwork. This discourages and alienates him from the family he loves. He struggles for a way to win his family's acceptance for his approach to living life.

That opportunity comes in the form a tiger called Shere Khan and the most feared animal in the jungle. Shere Khan hates humans, because of a vicious injury that leaves his face scarred. It drives his mind into prejudice. Upon his discovery of Mowgli, his bitterness and rage drives him to destroy the innocent child. If one human is guilty, then all humans are guilty.

He could not be more wrong about Mowgli, because Mowgli is an intelligent, kind, love, and self sacrificing child. Even when his family faces the decision

In his efforts to destroy Mowgli, he becomes a worse monster than the human he claims to despise. He murders the head of Mowgli's family and takes control of the wolf pack. He attacks Mowgli's savior and best friend, Bagheera. Worst of all, he attempts to turn Mowgli's family and friends against him by imposing his prejudice on them. He attempts to spread his hate like a cancer.

Psalms37:8 says "Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm."

Fortunately, he gravely underestimates the unconditional love Mowgli's friends and family give him. They accept him. They value him. They cherish him. They forgive his mistakes. They consider him family. Not because he is human, but because he has a kind heart. They know he has a kind heart.

Meanwhile, Shere Khan's desire for revenge drives him directly into his inevitable downfall. He is so blinded by anger, he fails to see the trap constructed by Mowgli. Instead of heeding his survival instincts and leaping into his own destruction.

The Jungle Book is a terrific story about the fruits of one's attitude. Mowgli has a kind and giving heart. Therefore, he is blessed with love from friends and family. He also earns the respect of the most revered animals in the jungle. Shere Khan is bitter, violent, and unforgiving. Therefore, he lives a unproductive, lonely life which leads to his own destruction.

I urge you, friends, to heed this lesson. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016) Rebellion vs. Redemption.

Titus 2:7 says, "And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching." (NLT)

Let me begin by saying that it is impossible to properly introduce nine characters in 123 minutes. It simply cannot be done.  It seems that the DC universe is trying so hard to catch up to Marvel's firmly established timeline that they're sprinted over many needed origin stories. Too many necessary scenes were written out or cut in favor of saving time.

Suicide Squad has been severely criticized for this very problem. Granted, this DC franchise intends to keep focus on the heroes of the Justice League, so how much focus can we expect on these anti-heroes? However, that should not suggest that Suicide Squad lacked in excitement, humor, and a firm lesson.

Suicide Squad is an illustration of the difference between two extreme ways to treat "bad people," and the two extreme results that follow. Abuse yields rebellion while respect yields redemption.

Government worker Amanda Waller recruits seven of the worst criminals in her custody to form a special task force. They would work for her in exchange for a sentence reduction. The concept bears potential to give them a chance of redemption. She claims, "getting people to act against their own self-interest is what I do for a living."

However, her approach is threatening, forceful, selfish, and unproductive. Their first mission in itself is an insult. When a super-natural force threatens to take over the world, they are recruited to extract Amanda. There are no plans to end the threat. These seven anti-villains are threatened, beaten, abused, verbally discouraged, and undermined. They go to work only because death is the alternative.

Philippians 2:3 says, "Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves." (NLT)

Of course, the mission proves to be an impossible task that leads to failure and chaos driving everyone into an equal state of humility. In that moment, the squad faces the OPPORTUNITY to face the evil force and save the world from annihilation. This time, they make a free choice to save the world, and it is a selfless choice. Only then do they become an equal team. A whole team. A true team.

Granted, their actions cannot and do not grant them redemption, because redemption cannot be earned. However, in their selfless decision to save the world, they take the first step into redemption. The squad begins with seven angry and rebellious souls and ends with a variety of decisions ranging from no lesson learned to self-sacrifice and everything in between.

That is indeed a worth while lesson, despite any technical flaws with the film.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Scream: Season 1 (2016) Purging Guilt

The second season of MTV's Scream: The TV Series is less than a week from concluding where Piper's partner will reveal him/herself. I am ashamed to admit I am stumped. Season 2 has veered far from the infamous Scream formula. Unfortunately, the only time a suspect is eliminated is when he/she is literally eliminated.

The new killer could still be ANYBODY, though marketing campaigns heavily imply the killer is one of the six survivors from Season 1 aka the Lakewood Six. The second season of MTV's Scream: The TV Series is less than a week from concluding where Piper's partner will reveal him/herself. I am ashamed to admit I am stumped. Season 2 has veered far from the infamous Scream formula. Unfortunately, the only time a suspect is eliminated is when he/she is literally eliminated.

The new killer could still be ANYBODY. It could be any of the minor characters including Emma's father, Emma's mother, or Brandon James. It could be Gustavo, the Sheriff's son who is fixated on the Piper's survivors. It could be Audrey while setting up a brilliant alibi. It's even possible that Emma's psychological break could lead to obsession or homicidal tendencies.

The lack of clues that would typically narrow the suspect list is proving itself to be very frustrating. This mystery is neglected to make room for a focus on the psychological effects that the first round of murders have on the Lakewood Six. 

Jake is immediately murdered.

Brooke's story is rather pathetic while she primarily mopes over her missing boyfriend and daddy issues (both conveniently deceased). She is so absorbed with her own petty teenage problems to be a supportive presence to her fellow survivors. She is suspiciously absent during much of the main plot.

Brooke Maddox is my main suspect.
Kieran though still alive becomes a plot casualty. His struggles drown in the drama of his fellow survivors, including his failed relationship with Emma. After losing his father, he gets stuck with his irresponsible and opportunistic aunt, who appears more suspicious that he. However, I cannot disregard his absences as anything less that convenient for a serial killer.

Emma's PTSD drives her into a mental facility over the summer, but her PTSD remains past her return. She is so haunted by her experiences that she has reoccurring nightmares. She pulls away from her mother feeling betrayed by her secrets. There are far too many people showing interest in her, including Piper's mysterious “partner”.

Noah on the other hand takes extreme advantage of the experience by starting his own radio show he cryptically titles “The Morgue.” He obsessed over the murders, Piper, and the identity of the new killer. Even after losing a second lady near to his heart, he cannot fight the urge to continue the show and his investigation. He is truly obsessed.

Meanwhile, Audrey becomes the favorite toy of Piper's real partner. She is driven to the point of exhaustion by her own guilt as well as the killer's persistent taunts. Of everyone in the Lakewood Six, she suffers the most. She suffers from both internal and external guilt over a terrible secret. No one knows she intentionally brings Piper to town. Except Piper's partner. She feels responsible for the murders. All of the murders. The only way she can purge the guilt is through confession. She confesses her actions but also her feelings. Only then is she free from the dark figure's hold on her, and with Emma's reluctant forgiveness, she can rebuild her relationships.

Proverbs 28:13, "People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (NLT)

The question remains: Whodunnit? Who is Piper's partner?

I have my theory, but it could still be any one of them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Intelligence vs. Brute Force

Proverbs 24:6 says, "So don't go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers." (NLT)

An incredible sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, to the twenty year-old Sci-Fi hit, Independence Day. premiered June 24.

It's remarkable the number of characters that returned for the sequel:

Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson.

Brent Spiner returns as Dr. Okun. 

Judd Hirsch returns as Julius Levinson. 

Vivica A. Fox returns as Jasmine Dubrow. 

Bill Pullman returns as former President Whitmore.

The most frightening characters that return are the alien invaders, and they return with a vengeance. Despite twenty years of preparation, global peace and technological advances, humanity finds itself woefully underprepared when round 2 begins. The invaders come with bigger ships, bigger weapons, bigger armies, better technology, and a giant queen. Physically, Earth's chances of a successful defense are slim.

Earth once again unites in the common interest of survival.

Yet, what is humanity's saving grace?

Answer: Intelligence. Same as before.

The survivors of the first war share their experiences from their primary victory. Each one of the survivors find a way to contribute their knowledge into defending Earth or providing aid to refugees. More importantly, find they bare a psychic link into the invader's communication.

Through their insight, they find a key to their salvation. A ray of hope that freely presents itself to Earth.

Another alien life form in the form of artificial intelligence and former victim of the invaders arrives in an attempt to aid and Intel. She is kind. She is giving. She is generous. She is selfless. She also brings information about the invaders and the refugees they left behind. With twenty years of preparation, the insight of the 1996 veterans, and the aid of the peaceful alien visitor, Earth stands a chance to remain victors over the hostile alien invaders. 

Independence Day: Resurgence brilliantly and excitingly illustrates the consequences of brute force in warfare. The alien invaders use brute force twice against Earth, while humanity uses intelligence to defend itself. Both times, intelligence prevails.