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'Laggies' Entertains, but Fails to Make a Grand Statement

LaggiesLaggies” is a romantic comedy masquerading as a larger statement about millennials who don’t want to grow up. The idea is that a “laggie” is someone lagging behind in life, a common enough accusation made against this generation. Studies do indicate that a majority of us “lag” behind on marriage, having children, moving out of our parents’ houses, and/or getting a career.

Our heroine, Megan (Keira Knightley), actually lags even further behind the rest of the millennials, as her peers are all starting to get married, have children, or move up in their careers. Megan, a young woman “in my 20s,” still hangs out with the same friends and has the same boyfriend she had in high school, dropped out of graduate school because she couldn’t “relate” to the people she worked with, and now twirls a sign on the street for the business owned by her overindulgent dad. Somehow she still finds the late-night activities of teenagers fun, so through a series of only-in-a-movie events, she ends up hanging out with a group of high schoolers after meeting them in a store parking lot (where they persuaded her to buy them alcohol).
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'The Theory of Everything' Asks How to Experience a Miracle While Rejecting God

x900Recently opening in limited release, “The Theory of Everything” brings the story of Stephen Hawking to life In a stunning display of great acting, cinematography, and emotional pacing. Unfortunately, the film ends up undercutting its own message of human hope.

Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS or “motor-neuron disease” in the film, and given 2 years to live in 1963, Hawking earned his Ph.D. in cosmology, became a bestselling author, and is still alive today. This feat is due, in no small measure, to the love and dedication of his wife Jane, whose struggles and successes the film portrays with grace and deep emotion.
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In 'Big Hero 6,' Compassion Guides the Hero's Journey

fe836dc0-1cfc-11e4-af0a-676dfa5a2eed_2014-BigHero6Disney’s new film “Big Hero 6” combines the prestige that comes with the history and brand of the Disney Animated Classics series, with the appeal of one of contemporary film’s biggest and most successful box office juggernauts: Marvel Comics. “Big Hero 6” takes its inspiration from the Marvel superhero team of the same name, first introduced in a 1998 comic release.

The concept is perfect fodder for Marvel’s first foray into animated film, as at the team’s center is a teenage robotics genius. Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a teenage prodigy with an affinity for robot tech, living with his older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), and their aunt and guardian, Cass (Maya Rudolph), in San Fransokyo. For a teenager smarter than most of his peers and teachers, illegal betting on bot matches is a temptation too great to deny. Having breezed through school and graduated at 13, Hiro sees no need to limit himself by pursuing further education and thus being confined by its attendant rules. Hiro has all the success he could possibly want within his grasp, the danger merely adding to the allure of the fights.
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'Interstellar,' Science, and Human Limitation

Hamilton-Khaki-Interstellar-watches-2Interstellar” is a film by Christopher Nolan—written and directed by him and his brother Jonathan, rather than just produced by him—so it was never going to be anything but awesome. My recommendation: Go see it. Now. Maybe I’ll come watch it with you.

Just in case you want to know a little something about the story before you go:

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) was a pilot, and is now a farmer in a dystopian near-future of our Earth. The population has decreased dramatically because of war, disease, and finally starvation. All the animals, as far as one can tell, are extinct, and crops are dying from blight. By the time the story has begun, the world is plagued by sandstorms, and the only crop still extant is corn. The blight that is killing the crops depletes the oxygen in the world so that “the last people to starve will be the first people to suffocate.”
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The Films of 1939, Part 11

1236191925-largeA few years ago, my Great-Aunt Marilyn and I had a very exciting sleepover: We watched three film adaptations of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" back to back. (No, really, it was exciting!) That was the first time I ever saw the 1939 version of John's Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," produced by Hal Roach and directed by Lewis Milestone.

George Milton (Burgess Meredith) and Lennie Small (Lon Chaney, Jr.) are migrant workers who have just found a job on a ranch outside of Soledad, California. Lennie is a huge and almost superhumanly strong man with the mind of a child. He follows George like a dog, and George protects and cares for him. They have a dream, one that Lennie makes George recite repeatedly: to buy a little farm where they can live on their own terms and (most importantly to Lennie) raise rabbits. Their dream is very similar to the dream of every person they meet, but they have one thing no other character in the story has: each other. They are the only people in the story who are not alone.
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Dealing with Same-Sex Attraction Isn’t about ‘Recovery,’ It’s about Healing

ID-10044091I am a ___________. Some say it's my parents’ fault. Some say I was born this way. Others say it’s sinful and I need to stop. I was conflicted for quite some time. Once I went to a church group that offered healing from it. I was really excited; I thought this would be the end of that awful feeling I got from doing the things I didn’t want to do. After a while, though, I came to see that these people didn't have it all together either. Some of them were downright annoying. I missed a few meetings, and I found my urges and behaviors returning. Long story short, I am still a ____________. Those people couldn’t change me. In fact, maybe I wasn’t meant to be changed. I stand here to tell you that I’m proud of how God made me. And I’ve concluded that this Christianity nonsense is entirely false.

Fill in the blanks above (using the same word for both blanks) and see what happens. Shoplifter? Overeater? Compulsive liar? Alcoholic? Rage-a-holic? Work-a-holic?

Anyone who’s ever been to an AA meeting will dismiss this reasoning. If you want to make excuses, you can—and you’ll go right back to the habits that were hurting yourself and others. If you want to succumb to your addiction . . . you will.
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Recent News from Canada Reminds Us of the Limitations of Words

Cirillo.jpgIt’s been a busy few weeks on my side of the border. Last week I watched the aftermath of a senseless murder. Corporal Nathan Cirillo, standing guard unarmed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, was shot and killed.

The next week, Toronto, Canada’s largest city, underwent an important mayoral election that saw the removal of controversial leader (and butt of many late-night talk show jokes) Rob Ford from mayoral power and prevented his candidate brother, Doug, from suceeding him.

Finally, scandal arose with the unexpected termination of one Canada’s most prominent radio voices, Jian Ghomeshi, who was accused of sexual violence and misconduct.
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Beliefs and Consequences

2_raisingoflazarus-giotto_1304Standing in the grocery store aisle, I was arrested by the cover of People Magazine featuring an attractive young woman and the words, “My Decision to Die.” The juxtaposition was unsettling: youth, a fresh complexion, a slight smile—and the choice to die.

Brittany Maynard, age 29, is tragically suffering from terminal brain cancer and may end her life on November 1. (Just recently, she said that she’s rethinking the idea.) The reason she gave: “I’m choosing to suffer less, to put myself through less physical and emotional pain and my family as well.” Having moved to Oregon with her husband and parents in order to be able to end her life legally, Maynard has become the new face of the “Right to Die” movement.
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A Review of Thomas Kidd's 'George Whitefield'

WhitefieldWhen did “evangelicalism” begin? Ask this question of any number of self-identified evangelicals, and you’re likely to get as many different answers.

Some people might answer “with Billy Graham,” others might trace the movement back to the Reformation, and a few bold souls might even say “with Jesus and the apostles.” A more accurate origin, one that most historians offer, lies in the pietistic reaction against the “dead orthodoxy” of European and colonial American state churches from c. 1675 to c. 1750, beginning in central Europe and working its way west. Proto-evangelicals emphasized personal piety and the new birth as markers of authentic Christian experience. This movement culminated in the Anglo-American “Great Awakening” of the 1730s and 1740s.

The most important figure in the early Anglo-American evangelical movement, Thomas S. Kidd argues in a new book, was the English evangelist George Whitefield. (Full disclosure: Kidd is a former professor of mine.) In “George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father” (Yale, 2014), Kidd gives us a scholarly biography of Whitefield that uses the minister’s life to illuminate early evangelicalism as a whole.
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C. S. Lewis' First Sermon, 75 Years Later

216898_5_The average person is familiar with C. S. Lewis as the creator of the land of Narnia. BreakPoint readers are probably acquainted as well with “Mere Christianity,” his most famous non-fiction work, and also with “The Screwtape Letters,” which made him a household name in the U.S.

But did you know that Lewis also preached at least a dozen times during his lifetime? Seventy-five years ago today, on October 22, 1939, he gave his debut sermon. Do you know the name of it? Or can you name any of his sermons?
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'The Book of Life' Gets Its Messages Mixed

book-of-life-3-guillermo-s-latest-how-del-toro-will-the-book-of-life-beJorge Gutierrez’s “The Book of Life” is dazzling, funny, and well-made, but it bites off more than it can chew. Vibrant and colorful, the film gives a modern twist to an ancient tradition, but it falls short of a true classic due to one fundamental flaw: It cannot decide what it is.

Some directors see genres as dead typologies, constraining themes that deny originality and stifle new ideas. They create new kinds of classics by breaking the rules. Disney’s “Frozen” took the idea of a classic romance musical and flipped it on its head. Pixar’s “The Incredibles” transformed the solitary, secret superhero narrative into a heartwarming family movie. Each of these films had a very specific goal, and blew audiences away.
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Looking Deeper into the Troubling Practice of Surrogacy

ID-100253040This August, a sensational story broke. An Australian couple, David and Wendy Farnell, contracted with a Thai woman to be a surrogate for their children. However, the Farnells took only one of the twins back home, a healthy girl. Left behind was the son they no longer wanted, Gammy, who was born with Down syndrome. Attempting to defend himself to a shocked world, Mr. Farnell said, “No parent wants a son with a disability.”

John Stonestreet offered a great BreakPoint commentary on the case, focusing on the malevolent consistency of a consumerist culture. We can have everything else “our way right away,” so why not children, too?

But I have a sense that most people don’t really grasp the profound social and moral implications of surrogacy. One reason is that we rarely hear about surrogacy apart from fantastic stories in the media, which are far removed from our everyday lives. Another is that we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture, and many celebrities have embraced surrogacy. These celebrities then become fabulous guests on far-too-influential talk shows.

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‘The Judge’ Falls Short because of Its Stale Message about Morality

tumblr_ncbdonE4Lx1tl88e9o1_1280The new film “The Judge” is like the sentimental version of last year’s scathing family drama “August: Osage County.” The story opens when Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.), a defense attorney in Chicago, for whom everything is going right except his marriage, goes back to his home in Carlinville, Indiana. His mother has died, and he loved her enough to return, even though he hates his father, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall).

The family dynamics get even more complicated when we meet his two brothers, Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) the failed baseball star, and Dale (Jeremy Strong) the mentally handicapped man with a possibly significant old video camera. (Spoiler Alert: The significance is repeatedly implied but never realized.) Their father has been a judge in their middle-of-nowhere town all their lives. None of them call him “Dad”; he is “Judge.” Even so, only Hank seems to hate him.

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'My Old Lady's' Surprising Take on Sin, Consequences, and Healing

A031_A031_C013_1010S2_0005-560x315It is a rare and wonderful thing to be truly surprised by a film, yet that’s what happened to me when I saw Maggie Smith’s latest, “My Old Lady.”

Going into the movie, I had no knowledge of the story save the trailer, which led me to expect a quirky, humorous, character-driven piece. But what I received was so much more. I’ll attempt to discuss the impact of this film without spoiling its every plot twist, since the surprise is an experience worth savoring. There’s humor, yes, but it is colored with the tragedy of decades-old pain, finally given vent and the chance to be laid to rest at last. But resurrecting past secrets doesn’t come without a cost—and in that respect, this film is an unexpected call to courage, compassion, and forgiveness.
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'Gone Girl' Is a Terrifying Tale of Marriage Gone Wrong

GoneGirlFincerSpecialShoot(Note: This review contains spoilers.)

Recently married? You might want to avoid “Gone Girl,” director David Fincher’s intense and incredible portrait of the darkest possible outcome of a human relationship.

The movie opens with narration that encapsulates the unknowable questions between two people who are meant to be as close as two people can be: “What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other?”

If you have a significant other, you might recognize those questions. By the end of the movie, you’ll wish you didn’t.
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