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
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
When I was eighteen years old I purchased the film Waking Life, by director Richard Linklater. Its premise, plot, and production epitomize our postmodern moment. Linklater develops a story about dreams within dreams, in which a character travels seamlessly through surreal worlds while witnessing a plethora of philosophical conversations about life and death. The tagline reads, “Are we sleepwalking through our waking state, or wake-walking through our dreams?” Utilizing stunning visual effects,1 a haunting score,
“If we ask ourselves whether there are a significant number of people today without true friends, or whether our modern society is one in which friendship plays a diminishing role, I think the answers are yes”1 In our current cultural climate, there is a growing sense that we are more connected than ever, yet we lack intimacy. We have hundreds of social media friends and followers, access to world and local news whenever we want
Pope Francis, head of the world’s largest church, is easily the most influential Christian in the world. Though non-Catholic, I have been thoroughly impressed and inspired by Pope Francis’s dedication to living the gospel. From rejecting the lavish papal residence to sneaking out of the Vatican at night to help the poor, the current pontiff seems to follow the example of Christ closer than any other Christian figure today. It is with this admiration that
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
In The Grand Paradox, aptly subtitled “The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith,” Ken Wytsma discusses the struggles that all of us endure as we journey through life. As the author repeats many times throughout his work, “life is messy and God is mysterious” and trust in God is a necessity. No matter how strange or complicated life becomes, we will persevere as long as we place God at
There are few times in history so important and yet so obscure as the years following the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, when the movement bearing his name transformed from a band of several dozen followers hiding in terror into an international community that would shape the subsequent history of the world. Despite the paucity of evidence from this period, historians and theologians alike continually return to the earliest years of the Jesus
This past Sunday, as America commemorated the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I decided to take my 10-year-old daughter to see the film Selma. I am so glad I did. It was one of the most important and powerful films I have ever seen. I was brought to tears during the opening scenes of the film. Selma opens
If you’re an even somewhat aware follower of Jesus in today’s post-Christian culture, then you’ve all but certainly encountered bizarre caricatures of God and Christianity hurled like spears at the faith by critics and detractors. Well-known English actor Stephen Fry recently went on a tirade against God in a now-viral television interview. Ricky Gervais’ 2009 comedy The Invention of Lying interprets religious belief as an emotional panacea, an outlandish lie we tell each other and
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
The Christian church is facing a crisis. It is losing face, hemorrhaging influence in the public sphere of Western civilization, churches decline in membership, and increasing swaths of people are not longer interested in what Christianity has to offer. This apparent decline is not a new trend to be sure—and stems, at least in part, from the ecclesiastical shift which began during the Protestant Reformation—but it is no less concerning. In order to address these
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
Baptism. Until you’ve looked into the issue, it might seem like one of those odd topics that some people love to discuss, but in the end the answer you land on isn’t super important. At least that’s what I had thought. Recently though, I decided that Baptism was a topic that deserved a closer look. Towards that end, I borrowed a couple books and got to reading. The first of these books was Alan Conner’s
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
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.
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.
I am always looking for good books to help teach my daughters the beauty of the Christian message. This Christmas season my daughters received several new Christian-themed children’s books. In this post I would like to review three of them, two of which I obtained free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and one that I purchased for my girls as a Christmas gift. Let There Be Light by Desmond Tutu
Theology after Vedanta: An Experiment in Comparative Theology offers an important step forward in comparative studies, laying a foundation for a fruitful (re)reading and (re)working of theological conceptions in our pluralistic context.
As a PhD student, I read a lot. I read for work, school, and fun—hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages each week. Very rarely, however, do I encounter a book that is uproariously funny. Even rarer are books which are simultaneously hilarious and theologically sound. C. T. Casberg’s Genesis of the Dead: A Zombie Comedy of Biblical Proportions, however, fits this bill perfectly. A joy to read, Genesis of the Dead is both side-splittingly-funny and theologically