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Monday, March 19, 2018

The Frisco Kid



I don't buy a lot of movies anymore, but this one I had to add to my collection. The critics didn't much like it. They complained that the humor was too "ethnic". It was Jewish humor which treated Jewish culture kindly so, of course, Hollywood's leftists wouldn't like it. There wasn't much cursing in it. There weren't any major gay characters and it treated religion with respect.

If you've never seen it, it's my favorite Gene Wilder film and a gem of a Harrison Ford performance that makes him one of my favorite actors. The movie is gently funny. There's nothing harsh about it. Wilder plays a young Jewish rabbi from Poland crossing pre-Civil War America to get to his new synagogue in San Francisco. A trusting soul, he falls in with thieves who take his money and abandon him along the road. He runs into a string of kindly characters, Amish farmers, wild Indians, railroad workers of various nationalities, a nice horsie, some overly friendly raccoons and a prairie chicken who is quite reluctant to stay for dinner. He teaches Native Americans how Jews dance and disrupts the silence of a Catholic monastery. When he finally meets a kindly bank robber (Ford) who helps him find his way to San Francisco. Along the way he inadvertently robs a bank. At the next town he sends the money back to the bank to Ford's immense frustration.

Wilder's tenacity is irresistible.   The movie has a happy and very satisfying ending. Wilder's simple goodness will make you tear up in places and plays a perfect counterpoint to Ford's impatient, if confused cowboy. It's one of those movies you're glad you spent some time with. It's not on any of the major streaming services, but you can rent it on Youtube and Amazon.

If you're like me, you need a gentle couple of hours with some likeable people once in a while. This movie gives you that. I give this movie my highest rating - three pineapples.

Tom King

© 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

"A Wrinkle in Time" Falls Flat on Oprah's Face



The Disney movie version of one of my favorite childhood books "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L' Engle debuted this weekend.
It was given the Disney treatment (not the Walt Disney, but the post Uncle Walt version). Then Oprah got hold of it. When they were done, all the Bible verses and Christian themes were stripped out of it so that it's barely recognizable as the original book. They had to wait 10 years after L' Engle's death to butcher her masterpiece, but they managed to do it.

It made less than half what they hoped over the weekend. And after the critics gave it less than enthusiastic reviews and word got around the Christian community about the heart being cut out of it, they'll be lucky to break even on it.

Disney's AWIT gets a raspberry for cutting the
beating heart out of L'Engle's book.
The screenwriter argues that Madeleine L'Engle wanted to express all the ideas in the film but couldn't do it in the book way back in those ancient and unenlightened days, so she chose to use Christian themes. She assures us that this is how the author would have done it if she'd been more progressively enlightened and less dependent on religion.
L'Engle could not be reached for comment. Disney and Oprah waited till she was safely dead and could no longer object to the brutalization of her lovely little Newberry Award winning book.

© 2018 by Tom King

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hobson's Choice

Filmed in an ethereal crisp black and white by David Lean, Hobson’s Choice is a beautiful little gem of a movie. A Hobson's Choice refers to a choice that's not really a choice. The film stars Charles Laughton as the pompous Henry Horatio Hobson, the often inebriated owner of a bootshop in late Victorian norther England. Brenda De Banzie, an English stage actress, plays Hobson's proto-feminist daughter, Maggie, a feisty and independent woman of nearly 30, who already runs Henry's shop in place of her late mother.

When Hobson in a fit of stinginess refuses to pay settlements so his younger daughters can marry, elder daughter Maggie decides to find her own husband and make her own future with Hobson's best bootsmith, Will Mossop (played by John Mills).  Oh it's a head to head battle of wills alright between the crusty old patriarch and his bumptious daughter and you can guess who wins. The film weaves a delightful tale in which the blustery Hobson gets his comeuppance in fine fashion as Maggie proves her worth and Will Mossop rises up on his haunches and becomes his own man. It's a beautiful piece of story-telling by David Lean and one of my top ten favorite movies. It's also one of Prunella Scales first film roles as younger sister Vicki. You may remember Prunella from her turn as Mrs. Basil Fawlty in the British TV series Fawlty Towers.

This is a lovely little move, a gentle comedy that softly pokes fun at the British class system. The wedding night scene is absolutely the sweetest thing you'll ever see. I watch this film once every year. It makes me happy.

Three pineapples to this wonderful bit of film-making.

Tom King © 2018


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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Oddball




This pleasant little Aussie movie is based on a true story about an eccentric chicken farmer, who owns an unruly hound named Oddball. The movie is based on a true story. Foxes have begun swimming over to a small island penguin sanctuary and killing off the penguins. Oddball is such a wild child that he's banned from even going into the town. But our chicken farmer and his granddaughter discover that Oddball has a thing for penguins and with a little training they teach him to protect his penguin friends from the foxes.

It's a lovely story and even more heart-warming because it's a true story. Dog lovers will definitely love this movie. There's no cursing, no nudity and no gratuitous sex or violence. It's one of those movies that's just downright pleasant. 

Also Alan Tudyk who played Wash on Firefly makes an appearance in the movie. It's good to see him playing a nice guy again.

This one gets three pineapples from me for a very pleasant couple of hours and because I'm a bit of an oddball myself and like the title!


It's available free right now on Amazon Prime.

Tom King  © 2018

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis




  • "I hope no reader will suppose that "mere" Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall, I have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable."  - CS Lewis
CS Lewis was arguably the most powerful Christian apologist of the twentieth century. For those not familiar with what an apologist does, please don't be confused. Lewis' work didn't do for Christianity what Barak Obama did for US foreign policy. Lewis did not apologize for Christianity, for what it was or for what it has done. Unlike Obama's abject apologies for America and its success, Lewis fiercely defended the cause of Christ against all comers.


CS Lewis, an unimposing Oxford don and teacher of English literature was an unlikely defender of the Christian faith. Irish-born Lewis, embittered by the loss of his mother at an early age and years in the increasingly agnostic English boarding schools of his early education, Lewis did a stint in the Army during the First World War. He spent time in a hospital after he was gassed by the Germans and treated to the full horrors of trench warfare. On recovery, he went back to school and finished his transition to confirmed atheism. He even published a book of poetry expressing his skeptical atheism and his unhappiness with Christianity as a system of thought.

Later, in part due to his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic and later author of The Lord of The Rings, and fellow Inkling and firm Christian, Hugo Dyson, Lewis became a Christian. He had come to see that what he had earlier dismissed as plagiarism by Christianity was, in fact, convincing evidence that the Christian myth might actually be the truth after all. Lewis called himself "the most reluctant convert in all Christendom", but when he did convert, he came with all his heart and with all his not inconsiderable mind.

Mere Christianity is not a theological treatise. It conceives of Christianity as a whole as a great hall into which all are invited. He sets aside the problem of the multiple denominations into which Christianity is fractured as equivalent to rooms off the main hall. His purpose, he declares, is to bring you into the hall.

Inclusive brands of Christianity find much to applaud in Lewis' powerful arguments in favor of Christianity. Exclusivist Christian sects will no doubt condemn him in any place they can find him unorthodox. Lewis believed in Christ, not in sets of iron-clad doctrines. Like me, Lewis believed God to be powerful enough to find and save any honestly seeking Christian. While Lewis used magic as a metaphor for truth-seeking in his novels and books, he was not into mysticism as a shortcut to truth.

Lewis sought the truth in his Christian walk and where he was fuzzy on specifics, he sought to express the truth in metaphor and symbols. His clarity of reasoning where he is certain on a point, is stunning. I found myself reading his books and going, "Yes!" Exactly, what I thought. I just couldn't put it into the words I was looking for. Lewis' writing is dense, but not in the academic sense. He, rather, has the ability to thoroughly cover an idea in a comparatively short paragraph what many Christian writers spend chapters explaining not half so well.

Lewis is one of the most widely quoted Christian authors of the age. This is because his sentences convey such rich meaning in such a clear and succinct way. When you read Mere Christianity, Try to remember you are entering the great hall. Save having others for your theological lunch for the rooms "...where there fires and chairs and meals."

Highest marks for this ground-breaking book.

© 2017 by Tom King
© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, October 27, 2017

Haunted Honeymoon



The critics hated this movie, calling it "unfunny" and saying even Dom Deluise couldn't rescue it. Well, of course the critics didn't like it. There is no nudity in "Haunted Honeymoon". There are no grisly murders, no zombies, no vampires, and not once does someone use the "f-word" as an adjective.  It's a sweet silly romp with Gene Wilder, his irrepressible wife, Gilda Radner, and Dom Deluise. It's a story within a story possibly within a story and it's one of our favorites.

My wife and I simply love this movie and we watch it every Halloween along with a couple of other great old movies that I'll be reviewing later in the days leading up to the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the chapel door (October 31) and gave the Catholic Church the heebie geebies for the next half a millenium. We are not fans of slasher films and avoid them at all cost. Unfortunately, at Halloween there's hardly anything else, so we watch the same three films every year with three of the funniest people ever - Bob Hope, Abbott & Costello, and Dom Deluise. Who needs to be deliberately frightened? Not this little black duck!

If you're a person who likes your movies clean and fun, this one is for you. It is guilt-free. You don't have to put a bag over your kids' heads even once during the movie. My favorite bit is the dance number with Gilda Radner and Dom Deluise in drag doing a wild version of Ballin' the Jack. The humor is not raunchy or mean and if you can bring yourself to laugh at screwball comedy without the aid of obscenities and bare behinds, you'll enjoy it.

It's a Halloween tradition with the Missus and me. It gets three pineapples from me. I don't care what the critics think!

© 2017 by Tom King


Monday, October 23, 2017

The Dark Tower by CS Lewis

Jack Lewis, Maureen Moore and the infamous Mrs. Janie Moore


Okay, by way of full disclosure, I'm a huge fan of CS Lewis.
So when I saw The Dark Tower,  a collection of unpublished short stories of his on Kindle, I snapped the book up. I was all set to enjoy the book. These stories, only a couple of which are complete, were saved from the burn pile by a friend of the family. After Lewis' death, his brother Warnie was cleaning out their home and busily burning papers in the backyard. Fortunately, several friends were helping him and managed to save some of Jack's papers including these stories.

That Jack, himself didn't seek to publish these stories tells you something. In reading these, I found myself looking at the kind of thing a graduate student would dive into while writing a doctoral thesis about some literary figure.

The stories are interesting. They impress me as a kind of personal unburdening by the highly logical and deliberate writer/professor/theologian he was. I understand why he didn't release these stories. I think they reflect a side of Lewis that he wasn't really happy with. Many of them were abandoned after his brief marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham and afterward, I don't think Jack felt quite the same way about women that he did before.

Joy Davidman Lewis and CS Lewis
His female characters in this story do not come out well. Some of them are truly horrific and the males in the stories seem put upon by the females in their lives. Given the situation in most of his home life, the stories seem to be a way for Lewis to valve off his resentment at Mrs. Moore, his housekeeper/dungeon master who made Lewis' life something of a misery by all accounts.

Lewis had promised a friend and fellow soldier that should he not return, Jack would "take care" of his mother. Jack did so until she died in 1951. He refused to talk bad about Mrs. Moore directly, even with his brother Warnie who describes her as a bully and generally unpleasant woman. It appears that the only complaint Lewis ever made about the domineering virago who made his home a kind of torture chamber for him was to cast terrible women as characters in his books and short stories. Mrs. Moore appears vividly in The Screwtape Letters as the woman about whom Screwtape says, “She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression.”

In almost every one of these unpublished stories, Lewis makes women out to be relatively shallow and unpleasant characters. In one it gets so bad that crew members abandon two of them on Mars to escape their attentions. I suspect Lewis knew he was perhaps being unfair to women in general. Lewis' tendency to self-examination may have prevented him from finishing or publishing these stories. I suspect he'd rather have had them left on the burn pile.

Not everything a writer writes is meant to be published. It's interesting to look at Lewis as he struggles with the concept of time and space, no doubt a subject of much discussion among Lewis and his fellow Inklings - a kind of men's club and refuge from Mrs. Moore that Lewis belonged to with JRR Tolkein and other notable scholars in his circle.

It's interesting to note that while Lewis was always a strong advocate and admirer of a kind of idealized traditional womanhood, he really didn't write much about romantic spousal love relationships in his work until he fell in love with Joy Davidman near the end of his life. The book is a nosey kind of peek into Jack Lewis' maturation as a writer complete with echoes of his personal life throughout. Graduate students desperate for a thesis subject may find this book illuminating. The comments by the books editors will be helpful. One thing, however, can be gained from this volume. If you're a well-known writer, there are some things you should probably go ahead and burn before you die.

I've decided to reread Lewis' other published works and kind of flush out this one. I feel like I've rifled through Lewis' desk drawers and dug around in his private journals. I've always been uncomfortable doing that.

© 2017 by Tom King