20 Aug 2015

Bullet Points and Worldviews

Late last week, I found myself embroiled in a long online conversation with an acquaintance over my review of the recent film “Straight Outta Compton.” The movie, which charts the rise of controversial rap group N.W.A., is a well-made biographical drama that raises challenging questions. It also, as one might expect given the subject matter, contains a good deal of content that will be off-putting to certain viewers (and is undoubtedly inappropriate for audiences beneath

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12 Aug 2015

The Procreation Problem

A Philosophically Conservative Rejoinder to What Is Marriage? What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, authored by Ryan T. Anderson, Robert George, and Sherif Girgis, is widely recommended as the foremost defense of “one man/one woman” marriage based on natural law principles. The book has undoubtedly been influential, even to the point of being cited by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in his United States v. Windsor dissent. Significantly, the book does not rely

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29 Jul 2015

The Transformative Power of Paradox

As a theologically-minded young catechumen, on the cusp of being confirmed into the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, few doctrines troubled me more than those surrounding the sacrament of communion. How could the Body and Blood of Christ be present “in, with, and under” the sacramental elements? How could the consecration of the elements, an act of human will, result in such a transformation? Years of soul-searching followed, which led me all the way from

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20 Jul 2015

Dogma and the Boy Scouts

I read recently that the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America voted in favor of a resolution allowing openly gay adult leaders, and that the longstanding ban could be repealed as early as July 27. As an Eagle Scout, member of the Order of the Arrow, and a longtime Assistant Scoutmaster, my feelings are (to say the least) complex. Up front, it is worth noting that there is a material difference between the

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06 Jul 2015

Embracing the Aesthetics of the Lab

I often enjoy visiting the various Smithsonian museums, particularly the National Museum of Natural History – and this past weekend, I did just that. Yet this time was different: wandering through the Hall of Mammals and into the Hall of Human Origins, surrounded by old fossils and countless instances of the the “millions and millions of years ago” language criticized by some as Darwinian indoctrination, I was abruptly struck by a hitherto-unfelt realization. The aesthetic

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22 Jun 2015

Inside Out | Movie Review

The latest confoundingly creative masterpiece from veteran Pixar director Pete Docter (“Up”) is a magnificent achievement. It’s by far the best film Pixar has made since “Toy Story 3”: for the sheer scope of its vision and the genius of its execution, “Inside Out” is unmatched in Pixar’s pantheon. Ostensibly centered on 11-year-old girl Riley Anderson’s psychological turmoil after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco, “Inside Out” emphasizes the reciprocal relationships between her anthropomorphized emotions.

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15 Jun 2015

Jurassic World | Movie Review

You can keep your “Avengers” sequels: aside from the forthcoming “Star Wars” reboot, this was far-and-away my most anticipated film of the year. (For reference, I watch the original “Jurassic Park” at least twice a year and saw it in 3D during the 20th anniversary rerelease). That said, it is a truth universally acknowledged that “The Lost World” was a bit of a letdown and that “Jurassic Park III” was an outright debacle. So does

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05 Jun 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road | Movie Review

I have never seen a film quite like this: a hyperkinetic, utterly relentless aural and visual onslaught that somehow never runs out of gas. George Miller’s postapocalyptic action spectacle is a thrilling summer movie if ever there was one, and demands to be viewed on the largest screen possible (if it’s between this and “Age of Ultron,” see “Fury Road”). The aesthetic is almost indescribable: a grungy ultra-saturated color palette coupled with outlandishly stylized dieselpunk

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14 May 2015

Ex Machina | Movie Review

Artificial intelligence is clearly the menace of the cinematic hour. The old menace posed by the Skynet of the “Terminator” franchise has taken on additional credibility in the era of “big data,” which offers the possibility of algorithmic analysis on a heretofore undreamt-of scale. Alex Garland’s recent thriller “Ex Machina,” however, trades guns for words and explosions for psychological turbulence, raising fundamental questions within a deeply intimate context. “Ex Machina” opens as Caleb Smith (Domhnall

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04 May 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron | Movie Review

After living through a decade or so of superhero epics, I’m starting to feel a bit fatigued by the whole thing: Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is done, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series was unceremoniously truncated, and the prospect of additional Wolverine-centric X-Men films is looking a bit dim. That said, last summer marked the release of my favorite Marvel film to date – “Guardians of the Galaxy” – so clearly there’s still some gas in the

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06 Apr 2015

Furious 7 | Movie Review

As “big, dumb movies” go, the last few “Fast and Furious” films are some of the best – they’re solidly character-driven, and generally pack an emotional heft beyond your average superhero flick. “Furious 7” is no exception: it’s a briskly paced, action-drenched adventure that hits a new high point for the franchise. In a nutshell, the “Fast and Furious” series centers on Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), and their team of exceptionally

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11 Feb 2015

Jupiter Ascending | Movie Review

The trailers for “Jupiter Ascending” were works of art. I’ve seen a lot of movie promos, but few have grabbed my attention like the artfully composed teasers for Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest high-dollar project. Despite disappointing reviews, I figured I’d give it a shot – after all, it looked like a nice distraction in the midst of art-movie season (and bitter New England wintertime). Simply put, “Jupiter Ascending” is a hot mess of a

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02 Feb 2015

The Ironic Conservatism of “Transparent”

Most of the reviews I write deal with blockbuster movies, since that’s the type of film I know most readers will be seeing. That said, I also try to make a point of engaging with art that falls outside the domains with which I’m conventionally familiar. Since I happen to already be an Amazon Prime subscriber, I thought I’d give “Transparent” a look (particularly given how much I enjoyed Amazon’s “Mozart In The Jungle,” which

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19 Jan 2015

American Sniper | Movie Review

Clint Eastwood’s biographical study of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle – a sniper credited with over 160 confirmed kills, the most in U.S. military history – will likely be remembered as the “Saving Private Ryan” of the Iraq War. This will undoubtedly seem high praise for a film which just opened in wide release: “American Sniper,” however, not only offers an exceptional character study, but brilliantly captures the conflicted cultural ethos surrounding a war to which

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13 Jan 2015

The Interview | Movie Review

Much talked about, “The Interview” is pretty straightforward: TV host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen), while planning a trip to Pyongyang to interview dictator Kim Jong Un, are recruited for a covert assassination mission by CIA agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan). The resulting chaos involves puppies, Katy Perry’s “Firework”, tank battles, fake grapefruits, basketball games (a satisfying potshot in Dennis Rodman’s direction) and giant Siberian tigers, among other things. John Ehrett offers his review.

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02 Jan 2015

The Imitation Game | Movie Review

Few movie stars are more ubiquitously typecast than Benedict Cumberbatch, whose rise to cultural prominence has been nothing short of meteoric. Cumberbatch is now a go-to star for directors seeking a genius or supervillain, coupling a certain aristocratic British charm with a Sheldon Cooperesque tendency to hold average society in utter contempt. “The Imitation Game,” in which Cumberbatch stars as cryptologist and early computer engineer Alan Turing, capitalizes on these strengths while simultaneously probing deeper.

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