Beauty and the Beast – Movie Review

Belle is my favorite princess.  I love that she is inquisitive, odd and that she loves books. I love that she looked past the ugly beast and saw a tender heart. I love that she saw past Gaston’s looks and saw his vanity. I love that she encourages her father. I also love the sacrificial love of the beast towards the end. The dance scene of the animation of 1991 is enchanting.  There is magic, books, learning and unyielding love in this Disney cartoon and it’s heartwarming. I was 10 years old when this animation came out, and as an awkward book nerd that may have enjoyed solitude a bit too much, Belle came along and helped my little weird self.

I say all this because I may have a bias when it comes to the new live action of Beauty and the Beast. First of all I didn’t like the lighting, it looked fake. It was like they were trying to capture the cartoon’s magical essence, but it just seemed forced. They should have gone real. Real trees, real stone, truer colors. The props, especially in the village were a bit gaudy, and frankly looked like props that could be found at any local theater. Secondly, I don’t think Emma Watson was a good fit for Belle. She’s smart and pretty, but a Belle she is not. And she didn’t really act very well either. I think they would have done better with an actress that we didn’t know so well. And lastly, it was too musical! I know it’s a Disney movie but ugh, it just seemed longer than it needed to be. The new songs were okay, but not really as uplifting as the originals. They should have left well enough alone. They also added a bit of back story to Belle and how her mother died and there was this magical map that the Beast had that transported them to any place in the world. It just didn’t seem to flow well with the story, and when her dad was in danger, why didn’t they use the map to help save him? And I hated to have to think about all this because it’s not part of the original story anyway! Also, the ballroom dance scene, didn’t awe me throughout. Yes, it crescendos into a very beautiful scene, but it starts off fairly lusterless. Kinda boring.

What I did like about the movie though was the Beast. He was witty and funny! I am not sure if his voice was altered, but it sounded  perfect for the beast. I had never seen Dan Stevens in any other movie, and his acting really stood out above the rest. Luke Evans’ acting was also okay, but I would have liked a more muscular and taller Gaston.

Recommendations: The movie was okay. Out of 5 stars, I have noticed that it is at a solid 4 from most critics. I would have given it 3 stars if I had a star system. But I know little kids will enjoy the movie. I really don’t think my generation will find it that magical – the cartoon is just way better.

To the Christian: I am not in the dark about the “gay” controversy. I know the homosexual agenda is forcibly being pushed on Christians more than it ever has. They no longer just want us to accept their lifestyle, we must also celebrate it. I get it. The problem I have though is that we Christians seem to single this sin out too much. I haven’t read one article about Lumiere’s obvious pre-marital sexual relationship with Plumette. Is not all sexual sin the same in the eyes of the Lord? Thankfully, there is no actual scene where a man kisses another man. I was worried about that, but nothing of the sort happened. What can be found in the movie is a man who is attacked with ribbons and dresses and walks away happy and that same man ends up dancing with LaFou in the last scene for about 2 seconds. The scene is obviously gay to me. Just like Lumiere is obviously a philanderer. Both are sexual sins, but there was not one peep from my children about it. These scenes have a more silly feel. I felt more uncomfortable when Lumiere aggressively caressed Plumette as she plays hard to get. Also, we have to stop seeing “gay” things everywhere. American men and boys seem to have a problem showing affection amongst themselves because of our incessant fear of them looking gay. David and Jonathan (I Samuel 18); Jesus and John (John 13:23); the Centurion and his servant (Luke 7), Paul calling Ampliatus and Stachys his beloved (Romans 16) and more had healthy platonic relationships with other men. For a great article on this subject click here.

So my dear Christian, let us be consistent in our righteousness. Let us not oust one sin, and overlook another because one is more acceptable in Christian society. All sexual sin violates the beautiful institution and self-sacrifice of marriage . This world isn’t going to exalt the sacred, even secular companies that love children will try to infiltrate their minds and hearts. My children and I live in this world where they will see sinful sexual behavior. It is up to me to guide them with the help of the Holy Spirit, to teach them using God’s Word, to use any opportunity to encourage them in the road of their Salvation, to provide a shoulder when repentance brings them to their knees, and to show grace where grace was shown to me.

In conclusion, I see both sides of the argument. But I think we are giving attention to something that our children really don’t see or get. In Mulan the soldiers cross dressed as concubines, in Princess and the Frog there is a Voodoo godmother, in Brave there are pagan traditions, in Moana there are demi-gods and reincarnation, in Pocahontas there is spiritism, and even in Narnia there are creatures only found in Greek mythology – some even known for their sexual prowess. (And don’t get me started on how dads and men are portrayed as stupid, spineless and useless in countless of kids movies.) My kids saw all of these, and they had no clue! We give these cartoons power by drawing attention to their worldliness.  They are nothing. And if/when questions arise let us use that time to teach and to guide (Proverbs 4, Deuteronomy 6).

Destroying our Nehushtans

So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:9

About 700 years later . . .

He (King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. – 2 Kings 18:4

King Hezekiah was a good king. Verse 5 of the same chapter says this of him: “He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”

I like old things. I love to hear the history of things. An object can seem inanimate until someone tells me the story of how it was made, where it traveled, what it did, and how it got to where it was found. Houses, castles, ships, cottages and cabins all take on a presence when a story is shared about who lived there, who died there, what the walls within “saw”. The same can be said of pictures, especially old pictures. The joy of seeing yourself as a child. The pain of looking at a picture of a loved one long gone. The sigh of a past that didn’t seem so long ago, but really is. Things, bring about in us emotions and feelings and memories that we had forgotten were even there.

God told Moses to make the bronze serpent because like always, the Israelites complained against God and loathed their salvation from Egypt. So God sent fiery serpents to bite them and many died because of this. So the Israelites repented (yet again) and to save them from death all they would have to do is look upon the bronze serpent Moses had made. Later Jesus would refer to this deliverance of death from the snakes, to His own redemptive power over spiritual death (John 3:14)- but that’s another blog.

The name “Nehushtan” wasn’t applied to the bronze serpent until later when it started to be worshiped. When I read 2 Kings and how King Hezekiah destroyed this old relic, I hate to say it, but I felt a bit sad. This inanimate object had a story. It had a 700 year old history. God used it to save His people from death. Moses touched it. It was preserved for centuries. How many people had it saved? How many old mothers and father pointed to this bronze figure and told their children and grandchildren that if it wasn’t for this bronze serpent they wouldn’t be here. This wasn’t just some measly thing to just be destroyed. It was a symbol of something good! And like all my idolatry, it is the good things that God has given me that take His place. Being a good wife, my children, sex, food, wine, money, freedom, social media, tv, music, cell phones, clothes, jewelry, relationships, confidence, my abilities, my looks, knowledge, books, fun, vacations, health, rest – and so much more are all good things God has graciously given; but oh so quickly these and so many more things are what steal my love for God. The Nehushtan was there as a reminder of the grace of God. He rightly was punishing His people, but he showed them grace when they didn’t deserve it.  All the things I have, I do not deserve. They were given to me not because I am good, but because He is good to me. And putting any of those things, no matter how good they are, before God is idolatry – they are my Nehushtans.

So how do we combat and “destroy” our Nehushtans in our lives. First of all, don’t smash anything – including your children – some verses are not meant to be literal. Second, don’t be legalistic and make a list of “don’ts and do’s”. The latter can be a good thing, but for me, I tend to lose those lists and then find loop holes. Jesus summed up 613 laws to two, and I want to do the same.  Love God, and then love others. Love God through what He has given you. Learn and know Him through the access of technology. Skype with lost relatives, feed others and pray together, host strangers and tell them something awesome God is doing in your life, have more sex with your spouse when he least expects it, play a super silly game with your children and tell them about God constantly (Deut. 11:19), make a lot of money and have fun giving to charities you’ve never heard of, assemble the cutest outfit and give it to someone who would look fabulous in it, text everyone on your phone a scripture of encouragement, read a book about who God is and marvel at His majesty, train your spirit and body for a laborious mission trip, listen to music tasting a bit of heaven, message your fb friends with a unique prayer just for them. And the list can go on forever. Bring God into everything  you do (Deut. 6:7, Col. 3:23). Have a good laugh and praise God. Eat a good meal and praise God. Have great sex and praise God. Read a good book and praise God. Have a good conversation and praise God. Sing and praise God. Pray constantly, give thanks constantly, love constantly, praise constantly always remembering that if any of these good things were ever taken away we still have the ultimate good thing – God himself!  And if/when you can’t, my dear Christian, may I suggest that you may be in sin. You may be enjoying something sinful. You may be enjoying  something that you are not meant to enjoy just yet. You may have overindulged and enjoyed something too much. You may committing the sin of idolatry. Pray, seek Scripture and counsel, repent, and live again.

There is so much good God has given us and it is wrong NOT to enjoy them as long as we enjoy God more. And when we do love God more, know God more, and enjoy God more we tend to love people more and better – even our own kids! But something else happens also and that is that all these good things of this world do go strangely dim, in the light of His glory. And I believe the dimmer things get here, the more we yearn for our true home. Which isn’t a bad thing, but yet another good thing.


Kong: Skull Island – Movie Review

First of all, I am grateful that this movie was only 2 hours long. The last King Kong movie I saw directed by Peter Jackson was like 3 and half hours long! Thankfully, not this movie. The CG is phenomenal. The details of the creatures found on Skull Island were almost exquisite. There is a scene of a close up of an ox-like creature that just took my breath away. The fights between monsters was also action packed. The visuals were outstanding.

The movie begins with a serious tone, the team gets on the Island at the cost of many lives. I really liked that Kong was introduced early on in the movie. He is really the protagonist here – as he should be, after all, he is the king. I was a bit annoyed though that the movie then becomes a little silly with the introduction of Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) – a man who was lost on the Island for 28 years. He’s a bit silly and granted – funny, but it really changed the mood of the movie. The movie didn’t feel as suspenseful as it had been the previous hour, and that is when I started noticing everyone’s hair looked perfect! They’re in the jungle, the CG is phenomenal, the Island looks very humid, Kong has never looked so real, the creatures are from my nightmares and then you introduce a loon and everyone’s hair stays styled. It was so irritating! The movie felt real, Skull Island could be out there somewhere, but you ruined it with everyone’s perfect hair, and Marlow’s sense of humor. Also, I really like Samuel L. Jackson. His interviews are funny and he seems like a nice guy. But his angry voice and stance makes me laugh. He really doesn’t do well when he’s on a furious tirade. I found his character annoying. I will say his stare-down with Kong was pretty good though. The overall acting was okay. The most moving scenes came from the CG not the actors themselves.

I took a pack of teenage boys to see this movie and they loved every minute of it. There is blood, monsters, guts, fights, explosions, military weapons, and fires. A teenage boys dream.

Recommendations: I recommend this movie to those who love action movies and great CG. The movie isn’t inspiring, but is great if you want to just eat popcorn and be entertained. Teenage boys and men will really enjoy this movie. The movie is set during the Vietnam War, so those with military backgrounds would also like this movie. (Just FYI – The rank on Lt Colonel Packard (SLJ) is blatantly wrong, even I noticed that!)

To the Christian – This movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language. There is a short scene where some men are at a racy restaurant, but there is no nudity and a woman is dancing and you can see her bra. Other than that, there is no other sexuality. There are cuss words used in the movie, and God’s name is taken in vain.

The movie is violent and gory, but most of it comes from animals that don’t even exist. I had to turn away from one scene because it was a bit gruesome. Some questions to ask would be: What is man’s role in nature? What does God mean when he told man to subdue the earth and all that is in it? Why aren’t there large animals like Kong and the creatures on Skull Island here on earth?

The Pawn – Book Review

On long trips I really enjoy listening to books. I prefer thrillers because they keep me awake, especially during night time driving.

The opening scene of this book gripped me and I found myself a little nauseated. I’m not sure if it was due to the lack of food in my stomach and some motion sickness or if it was the details of what was being read out loud. I think it was a little of both.

This book is dark. Thankfully it is not sexually dark though. The characters are also very well developed. Towards the middle of the book, I thought I had figured everything out, but found that I was way off. I love it when I am wrong in murder mystery thrillers! I really think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had read the book myself instead of listening to it on audio. I didn’t like the voice of the reader and Agent Bowers sounded a little whiny for my taste, but I really think it was the voice of the reader that didn’t help me like this character. The nasally voice given to the villain also didn’t help in making him sound particularly chilling. I think I would have used a better voice for both characters using my own imagination, and probably would have been more scared.

This being said, the twists at the end were great! I actually gasped when it was all figured out! I had no clue! The author, Mr. Steven James, did an excellent job in leading me exactly where he wanted. I usually try to avoid being led when I read a mystery, but rest assured I was led and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Recommendation: I recommend this book to the mystery and thriller readers. If you like series, this would be a good one to start. I read that that there are 7 books in all, and each book has a title of a chess piece. The series ends with the book titled “Checkmate”.

To the Christian: I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this book was written by a professed Christian. I believe that Christians should be good at whatever secular work they do. There is a quote that was attributed to Martin Luther, but may not have been him after all, but either way it is good nonetheless that says:  “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” In other words, whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23). The book does not contain any cuss words and neither is it overtly sexual. There is a lot left to the imagination, and that is what I think makes for a good book or even a good movie. The mind can conjure up so much if it is allowed to. It is an art to lead the reader/watcher through a scene and then turn off the “lights” leaving them to imagine the unimaginable all on their own. Mr. James does this superbly. There is a roughneck character that cusses every other word, but Mr. James does not write down a single word. There are sex scenes, but Mr. James describes not a single one. He writes very well and I believe does not violate his conscience even though he writes about some horrifying villains. Because of the violence, I would only allow my adult children to read this book.

The Reformation – Book Review

The actual title of the book is: The Reformation – How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. The book is only 159 pages long and it includes pictures. It is a very easy and somewhat fun book to read – if fun and church history is your kind of thing. It covers a lot of the basics and some of the branching off in denominations that happened after the Reformation. The book is a little silly at times, but it didn’t take away from the overall mood of the book which was mostly informative. I learned some things about the Mennonites, the Amish, and what really is an Anabaptist.

Something I really enjoyed about the book was that it had a section about the women of the Reformation. I had heard of Queen Jane of England, but I did know of the others who were mentioned in the book. What learners! What passion!  So, I wrote the names down and would like to do some research on all of them. Although, I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t include Anne Askew, the only woman in England tortured and then burned at the stake for her faith; but it does say there were others.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to those who are not familiar with the Reformation and would like a brief history of what was happening during this time in church history. Also, anyone wanting some brief history on the different denominations that stemmed out this movement. I would let any of my children read this. The younger ones would probably be a little bored though. 🙂

To the Christian: Sometimes we forget that we have over 2000 years of church history that we can learn from. There truly isn’t anything new under the sun. Even making kids exercise to promote good health was once a church issue!  It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our journey to Heaven, and that there are others whose shoulders we can stand on because of their fervor and love for truth, knowledge of God and the freedom of salvation.

Gosnell – Book Review

Gosnell – The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer is a book written by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer. Ann and Phelim are journalists and the book is very well written. The book is about Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor who was charged and found guilty of serial murder.  .

I got this book on audio and I was pleasantly surprised that Ms. McElhinney is the reader. It made the book more personal and she does an excellent job. At certain points in the book I was outraged and she mirrored my outrage as she read along. At other moments, I was heartbroken, and I could hear her voice almost crack as she tried not to cry. Towards the end, I was disgusted and she reflected what I was feeling as she read. I really appreciated that about the audio, and I highly recommend getting the book in audio format. Several times as I listened I would stop what I was doing and just concentrated on her voice because I actually felt numb. I couldn’t even move.

I am not unfamiliar with abortion. I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy clinic and am helping to open up another one in my county. I have seen the pictures. I have seen videos and read about the “procedures” done to babies in the womb. I have listened and spoken to women still haunted by memories and regrets. I saw all the videos posted by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with the Center of Medical Progress revealing the gruesome truth of Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the harvesting and selling of dead baby organs and tissue. So, I went into the book semi-prepared to hear about the horrors of abortion, but I wasn’t prepared to to be completely outraged at the resounding silence of the media. I wasn’t prepared for the bigotry against the poor, minorities and immigrants by elitist medical interns and staff. I wasn’t prepared for the selective incompetence of the government’s health departments. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of zealotry from feminists at the unequivocal mistreatment of vulnerable women – minority women to boot. And I wasn’t prepared for the creepy hubris of Kermit Gosnell.

As I finished the book I concluded that unless they could be exploited to fulfill an agenda, no one cared about them – the women seeking abortions and the babies that died. I can’t think of words to describe the hypocrisy of the media, of the health department, of the nurses, and of all these civil right leaders who supposedly care about minorities and women. Where were they!? Where was I?

This book will stir your very soul, but it didn’t leave me in despair, something awakened in me. After the numbness wore off, the book motivated me to be informed about issues that matter to me. In an age of information, we must be careful what we read and see, but we must also be careful to seek out several sources when shaping our opinions. Ms. McElhinney does this. She actually reads from court transcripts, she quotes eye witnesses and gives her first hand account of her meeting with Gosnell. She makes it clear that this isn’t a right or left issue. It’s not even a pro-life or pro-choice issue. Live babies were murdered and the world looked away because no one wants to violate a woman’s right to choose. I am not pro-choice at all, but if a woman is going to have an abortion, it should be safe, clean and provide her with ALL the information available to  her. That is the only way she can truly make any choice! How can anyone not agree with this? Two adult women of color died because of Gosnell’s malpractice and many more were treated in horrendous conditions by untrained staff. Some were minors and taken there against their will. And not one civil rights activist said a word! On the contrary, no one spoke out because they thought that is how abortion clinics must look in poor neighborhoods. What an outrage! They too looked away because no one truly cares about minorities unless it’s profitable to their agenda and/or pockets.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to everyone. It is not a pro-life or pro-choice book. It pro human dignity book.

To the Christian: We believe all humans are made in the image of God. All. Whether white, black, immigrant, poor or rich etc – all, carry with them the imprint of being created by a loving God. People, all people, should be treated with a dignity that is given to them by their Creator.This book is secular, but needs to be read by all Christians. Tim Challies has a great blog about this. With a warning that this book will outrage them, and open their eyes to a very cruel world, I would allow my teenage children to read this. They, most of all, need to know that the main stream media is out for their minds and is hoping to shape their opinions. The book is gory, it is frightening, and it is very heartbreaking, but so is the Holocaust and we don’t hesitate to teach this to our older children. This book sheds light at the depravity of man, but we cannot look away. We cannot hope that by ignoring what happens in these neighborhoods or in these clinics, that somehow they will go away. This happens every day, and we are commanded to go and be a light – no matter how small the light may be – in these dark recesses of human abasement.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. ~ John 12:46 

We cannot hide from this. We cannot ignore. Every night at 10:10 pm I pray for the children that undergo abortion, the mothers who abort them, the doctors who kill, and those who give their time and money to minister to those broken by these atrocities. Why do I pray at 10:10 pm? Because John 10:10 says – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” There’s nothing magical about the number, it’s just an alarm I set at that time to stop what I am doing and pray which pushes  me to not look away and do something.