Rambo in Disguise as Little Orphan Annie

Posted on: 09/7/11 11:44 PM | by Jonathan McKee

After a summer offering several fun movie choices… the theaters have run a little dry of late. So my attention has turned to the DVD/Blu Ray rental scene.

This week a intriguing little film was released, something very creative and original. The film is Hanna.  I think I’d put this in the same category as Bourne Identity or, dare I say, The Transporter (the first one, not the lame sequels). It’s a creative story with a lot of fun action, admittedly more for male audiences than female audiences.

Here’s a snippet from my official review of the film on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page:

No one can accuse this film of being unoriginal.

The film begins literally in the middle of nowhere, where father and daughter live together in an isolated cabin, hunting, reading, working out and practicing martial arts.

Within minutes, we discover that 16 year-old Hanna is training for something big. She’s smart, she’s fast, she’s tough… she’s Rambo in disguise as Little Orphan Annie.

Hanna engages on a mission to assassinate someone, a mission that results in her being tracked and hunted by a ruthless intelligence agent (Blanchett) and her operatives.

I haven’t seen a film of this genre so fresh and original since Luc Besson’s The Professional. Although, unlike Natalie Portman’s child character in that film, Hanna is fully competent to survive on her own.

This film has it all: action that keeps you on the edge of your seat, likeable characters, despicable villains, and creative camerawork that subtly makes the film more interesting than most.

Click here for that review along with the discussion questions I provided, a dialogue about revenge and how God wants to free us from the self-inflicted torture chamber of bitterness.

As I mention in my review, this film probably isn’t for young kids. A little violent at times. But I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my teenagers to the film and discuss it afterwards.

This will have to hold me off until November 23rd… when the new The Muppets movie is released. (Seriously… it’s gonna rock! Trust me!)

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Mixed Messages from Lil Wayne

Posted on: 09/6/11 12:24 PM | by Jonathan McKee

One minute his foul lyrics treat women like objects, and on the same album he cuts a heartfelt song providing an accurate glimpse into the world of a girl who struggles to find love because of her abusive past.

Which is it Lil Wayne? Do you care for them or are they just toys to you?

Lil Wayne has 2 songs on the iTunes Top 10 right now, a total of 14 songs in the top 200 (more by far than any other artist… Adele has 7, Gaga and Perry each have 4).  His soft and sentimental song, How to Love rides at #9 right now on iTunes, and #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The music video is actually really touching.

But then we see the other side of Wayne… a side he doesn’t seem to hide. Look at his song She Will, a song so popular that it appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100 at the number 3 spot (currently #17), his 5th song to debut on the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart, breaking records along the way. The song opens with the line: “I tell her ‘now go on, pop that p**sy for a real nigga.”

Of the 14 songs on iTunes right now, only one isn’t explicit. Want a taste? Just pop onto iTunes yourself and try their free sample of his songs like Two Shots, or How to Hate, or Blunt Blowin.

Are teenagers listening? Literally millions of teenagers watched as Lil Wayne performed the highly publicized and eagerly anticipated closing number at the MTV VMA’s last week (the most watched TV program by viewers age 12-34 this year). The song was so censored, the performance was literally laughable at times, with more censor bleeps than audible lyrics. This isn’t the first time we’ve asked, “How will Lil Wayne affect today’s teenagers?”

So I ask you: What messages are young people really hearing from Lil Wayne?

Which is the real Wayne… the sensitive guy… or the foul mouthed, blunt smoking, gun yielding playa?

Can you be both?

This is the Way; Walk In It

Posted on: 09/1/11 1:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

When’s the last time you saw a secular feature film, Rated G, that opened with a Bible verse? When the lights go down in the theatre this Friday, and the previews finish… these words appear on the screen:

“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” – Isaiah 30:21

The film I’m talking about is the new Robert Duvall and Lucas Black film titled, Seven Days in Utopia, the story of a young pro golfer who finds himself unexpectedly stranded in Utopia, TX and welcomed by an eccentric rancher (Duvall). I happened to catch Duvall on the Today Show earlier this week talking about the film. It looks amazing. Apparently actor Lukas Black is actually a scratch golfer- the first of this caliber to play a golfer in a film like this. (A great little featurette on IMDB here.)

A month ago we had the opportunity to send one of our reviewers to screen this film, and Todd and I knew that we needed to give this review to David R. Smith (co-author of my book MINISTRY BY TEENAGERS, and author of so many of our Youth Culture Window articles), so he attended an early screening near his home in Tampa, FL. You see, David loves golf in every way. He has come to Sacramento several years and helped us raise money for our ministry at our golf tournament… and let me just say that David can hit a ball! Last time I played, David was an 11 handicap. That means while I was hitting balls in the woods, in the sand and in the water, David was hitting long and straight.

David chimes in on our Movie Reviews & Quick Q’s page today about this amazing film hitting theatres tomorrow. Here’s just a snippet:

This isn’t the typical movie you see coming out of Hollywood. First, it’s rated G. (I didn’t think they made those anymore.) Second, it contains a fairly strong Christian message within the story. Finally, it’s absolutely loaded with tons of healthy themes like “having conviction,” “restoring relationships,” “overcoming addictions” and “pursuing a godly romance.”

The plot revolves around a golfer named Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black) who suffers through a horrendous meltdown during his professional debut on the pro circuit. He hastily exits the scene and drives through Texas until he accidentally crashes his car in a little town called Utopia, TX, population 375. There he meets golfer-turned-rancher, Johnny (Robert Duvall) who teaches him that life is far more than a golf score. Through Texas’ version of “wax on, wax off” style instruction, Johnny helps Luke regain his game…and much, much more.

In this movie, Matthew Dean Russell, the renowned visual effects guru behind such films as Live Free or Die Hard, Night at the Museum, and Blade: Trinity, makes his directorial debut. For the most part, he provides great coaching for the relatively unknown actors/actresses as they navigate several compelling scenes; only once or twice do simple lines get delivered in a slightly unconvincing manner.

One really cool feature the film employed was its use of actual golf icons (who aren’t actors). From the PGA Tour, we see appearances by some really big names like Ricky Fowler, Stewart Cink, K. J. Choi, and others; outside the ropes we see and hear from actual analysts on the Golf Channel like Kelly Tilghman, Brandel Chamblee, and Frank Nobilo. These features help add realistic elements to the movie.

Of course, the biggest name on this movie is Robert Duvall, who needed no leading by Russell. He plays the perfectly eccentric rancher, who was formerly a professional golfer, himself, who helps Chisolm regain his confidence and find faith…


I look forward to seeing this one!