Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Saturday, October 03, 2015
I took a gander at The Martian for Aleteia this week and, like most reviewers out there, I enjoyed it. One thing I didn’t bring up in my piece, though, was the soundtrack which, if you’ve read the book you already know, is comprised entirely of disco music from the 1970s. Yeah, I know, but the playlist does allow for a pretty clever joke as the credits begin to roll, so it’s worth it. But even so, I think they missed an opportunity to include another tune from the early 70s that would have been just perfect…
Alas, it seems more and more unlikely that there were ever any nine-eyed Martian cuties on the surface of the red planet. Thanks to NASA’s recent announcement regarding evidence that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars, however, there is the real possibility that at least some form of microbial life might exist out there somewhere.
Addressing NASA’s discovery in an interview with Vatican Radio, the director of the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno, mused, “We have no idea whether life is so rare that it never occurs anywhere, or so common that it occurs everywhere, and that’s why we have to look at places life could be to see just how rare or how common it actually is… The important thing is to recognize that the universe is created by God, and however God did it tells us something about God’s personality. If God chose to make a universe where we are the only creatures, that is interesting, that tells us something about God and us. If God creates a universe where life is everywhere, that gives us a different picture of God, but either way, we learn more about who the creator is.”
Personally, it wouldn’t bother me at all if we found out God had created a universe with a nine-eyed Martian cutie in it. At the very least it would mean we shared the same sense of humor.
Friday, October 02, 2015
(NOTE: I had originally prepared this review for Aleteia, but then some guy from out of town named Francis showed up in America and hogged all the attention, so it never got published. As fate would have it, though, this week’s Sunday readings are all about marriage, so I’m recycling the review for this site. I hear that Francis guy approves of such frugal use of resources.)
“Hotel owner Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) is concerned that his half-human grandson Dennis isn't embracing his vampire heritage. He and his fellow ghouls put Dennis through a "monster-in-training" boot camp, but their efforts are complicated by the arrival of Dracula's dad, a traditionalist vampire named Vlad (Mel Brooks). Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Dana Carvey, and Rob Riggle also lend their voices to this animated sequel.” ~ AllMovie Guide
“Blah, blah, blah!” No, that’s not the sound Dracula makes as he’s about to drink your blood. If there’s one thing Adam Sandler’s Count Dracula has made absolutely clear, it’s that he doesn’t say, “Blah, blah, blah!” So if you’re hearing “Blah, blah, blah!” that’s probably just the sound of my fellow movie critics still expressing their opinion of the first Hotel Transylvania movie. I myself found it to be average family fare, but most of my peers pretty much hated it. Audiences, on the other hand, enjoyed the film to the tune of $148 million domestic, so the inevitable sequel is finally here.
Things have changed a bit since the last time we visited the Hotel Transylvania. Dracula’s daughter Mavis and her slacker human heartthrob, Jonathan, are now married and the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy named Dennis. Well, okay, he doesn’t really bounce. Or turn into a bat or drink blood or go “Blah, blah, blah!” for that matter. Much to granddaddy Dracula’s consternation, his grandson doesn’t appear to be a vampire at all.
Worse, in Dracula’s opinion, is the fact that the insanely overprotective Mavis (like father, like daughter it seems) feels that a hotel full of monsters is far too dangerous a place to raise a human child in and has decided to move the family to Jonathan’s hometown in sunny California. In a last ditch effort to keep the family from leaving, Drac and his pack of pals attempt to jumpstart Dennis’ (hopefully) latent vampirism while Mavis and Jonathan are off in the States looking for a place to live. Hilarity ensues.
Well, as long as you thought the first movie was funny, anyway. Me, I was one of those “monster kids” who grew up with stacks of Famous Monsters and Fangoria lying around my room, meaning I could watch werewolves and mummies and blobs do slapstick all day long. So when a notoriously fire-shy Frankenstein’s Monster gets set ablaze and burns down a whole summer camp before he can be calmed down and dowsed, yeah, I tend to laugh. That’s really about as deep as the humor in Hotel Transylvania 2 gets, though. Those wanting their heartstrings tugged or their intellects tweaked would probably do better skipping this one and waiting for the next Pixar film to come out.
Of course, folks looking for such things really have no business walking into an Adam Sandler movie in the first place. With a couple of notable exceptions, it’s not like the man’s oeuvre reeks of films with complex themes. If you want in-depth explorations of human emotions, go see Inside Out a second time, but if you find it funny listening to a middle-aged Jewish guy kvetch about social media and modern-day helicopter parenting, then Hotel Transylvania 2 is right up your alley.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t try to throw in a little lesson along the way, as most animated features tend to do. A lot of the more humorous moments in the story come from Jonathan’s parents and their over-the-top attempts to prove they’re accepting of their son’s vampire wife. Particularly funny are the guest room decorated with merchandise from the Halloween store and the human-monster mixer thrown by Jonathan’s mother which includes a hairy hipster she’s mistaken for a werewolf. For adults paying attention, the allusions to interracial marriage are pretty hard to miss.
You know, I have to confess I wasn’t aware there was still that much of a stigma attached to interracial marriages in this country, not so much of one that somebody would feel compelled to address the issue in an animated movie. Maybe that’s because I’m Catholic, though. Back in the early 2000s, researchers from Baylor University found that Catholics were almost twice as likely as everybody else to be in an interracial marriage, with Catholics who regularly attended mass even more so. I guess we’re not kidding when we say Catholic means universal, huh? As for the Church herself, the only mixed marriages she’s overly concerned with are those between spouses with different religious beliefs due to the conflicts which can arise. Even then, such marriages are not forbidden, but only advised to be approached with caution and a commitment to “placing in common what [the spouses] have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ.”
Not that Hotel Transylvania 2 delves that deep into the discussion, mind you. As is befitting a movie featuring the Frankenstein Monster, the film’s subtext goes no further than “intermarriage good, discrimination bad.” Not very eloquent, but not offensive either. Which, come to think of it, is probably the nicest thing anyone has said about an Adam Sandler movie recently.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Saturday, September 26, 2015
By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen images from the Get Peanutized! website popping up everywhere in celebration of the upcoming Peanuts Movie. Well, since I’m a movie kind of guy, I thought I would give it a spin…
I don’t know, something’s missing. Maybe it’s the mustache. After all, I started growing the thing when I was fourteen and I’ve only shaved it off once in my life at the request of a girlfriend (something she immediately regretted, naturally). So, let’s try adding that in…
Not bad, but still not quite there. I just can’t put my finger on what it could be. Oh wait! Now I know…
Hey, it’s like the old Delphic Maxim said, “Know thyself.” Of course, since that was just two words inscribed on a temple wall, the maxim wasn’t exactly long on explaining why such self-knowledge is important.
For the Catechism, self awareness is a necessary part of being able to properly live a holy life. “It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection: Return to your conscience, question it… Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.”
So, go forth and Peanutize thyself. Just, you know, keep it honest.
Friday, September 25, 2015
This is one I drew back in March 2013 when Pope Francis was first elected. The tendency of the networks at that time to concentrate their coverage on a handful of protestors while ignoring the throngs of happy thousands gathered in St. Peters Square was painfully transparent. Equally obvious was just how miserable those pitiful protestors seemed in comparison to the joyous Christians they were railing against. I’ve actually experienced this dichotomy firsthand during the various Walks For Life I’ve participated in. One year, during which two sad middle-aged women dressed in vagina costumes stood on the sidewalk screaming obscenities as we marched by, is particularly etched in my mind.
The tactics have changed for Pope Francis’ visit to the States, though. Instead of concentrating on the protestors, the networks are instead working overtime to spin the Pontiff’s words to support their desired narrative. And I suppose I have to grudgingly admit that to some degree they’re succeeding. Still, it’s taking some creative editing on their part, as the Pontiff I’m hearing is doing his best to deny the political gain anyone hopes to make out of his words. Take his speech to Congress, for example, which was a master class in deflating the sails of the political class.
POPE: We must address the problem of climate change for the good of the family.
POPE: An institution, by the way, which your policies are destroying.
DEMOCRATS: (befuddled silence)
POPE: We must also recognize the sanctity of human life at all stages of development.
POPE: Which includes, by the way, the lives of every rat bastard on death row.
REPUBLICANS: (sounds of crickets chirping)
Okay, so I’m paraphrasing.
The point is that the paltry platforms of political parties pale in comparison to the moral demands of religion. As the Catechism states, “The diversity of political regimes is legitimate, provided they contribute to the good of the community… The common good consists of three essential elements: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person; prosperity, or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; the peace and security of the group and of its members.” Let’s be honest, none of the Frankenstein patchwork of “values” put forth by either party comes close to meeting all of those requirements, so it was kind of amusing to see His Holiness, however gently, call them on it. Naturally, the news selectively edited his comments later for their highlight reels, but still, it was fun while it lasted. Of course, I’m a Christian, so I can always find some reason to smile.