Reign Over Me

Reign Over Me

Few things throughout human history (as far as I can tell from my limited vantage point) have been the focal point of as much writing, painting, singing, acting, and philosophizing as the twin subjects of Love and Death—and the perilous relationship that exists between the two. The ancient Greeks, for example, once told the story of a man named Orpheus, so grief-stricken by the tragic and sudden death of his wife Eurydice, that he journeyed into the underworld to confront Hades and rescue his beloved from death. Spoiler alert… It didn’t end too well for him… or her. The lesson that the Greeks were apparently attempting to convey was that, no matter how strong the love between two people may be, death is stronger.

In any case, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice has given birth to many other legends and tales that have re-told this Greek tragedy in various ways across time and in many cultures; at times even lightening the load for children’s consumption. Sleeping Beauty, for instance, is a medieval riff on the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, as are other fairytales that involve a prince or warrior facing dragons and other forms of certain doom to rescue a princess from captivity. Many video games use this same fairytale pattern as well—think The Legend of Zelda as a prime example. There are numerous versions of the myth, told in many art forms—some with happy endings (these are usually the ones with Judeo-Christian influence), and some with conclusions that are more faithful to the original Greek myth that concludes with the despondency of Orpheus who spends the rest of his miserable life doing nothing but singing poetically about the love he has lost—that is, of course, until he dies violently at the claws of demon possessed witches who tear him limb from limb… those Greeks didn’t mess around with their tragic stories.

Witches, demons, and claws aside… the 2007 film Reign Over Me is an exploration into these themes of love, death, connection, and separation.

Reign Over Me slowly introduces us to the character of Charlie Fineman as played by Adam Sandler. It is, by no means, a typical Adam Sandler movie. This is one of the few very serious roles that Sandler has played throughout his extensive filmography—and he does a great job at it—aside from the couple of times he raises his voice to shouting level and Happy Gilmore accidentally slips out. But we can let that slide because there’s nothing funny about the man he’s portraying—an utterly broken soul who is caught in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of losing his wife, three young daughters, and the family dog in one of the airplanes that was flown into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The film doesn’t hit us over the head with this fact. We find it out very slowly throughout the course of the film as we are invited into the world of pain and sorrow that Fineman inhabits–a world that he navigates very carefully via motor scooter, headphones, video games, Chinese food, Mel Brooks marathons, alcohol, comic books, and habitual kitchen remodeling–all ways in which he creates interference to dampen the pain of reality. We meet Fineman and experience his life through the lens of Don Cheadle’s character Alan Johnson who knew him in college when the two were roommates. When they first run into each other at the beginning of the film, Fineman is, mentally speaking, so far removed from reality that he initially doesn’t even recognize that Johnson is the old friend he once shared a room with. Much of the meat of the film involves the two friends re-connecting with each other. Alan, through many hazardous missteps, is eventually able to do what no one else has been able to—that is, to breach the walls of noise, isolation, fantasy, distraction, and guilt that Charlie has built around himself for protection. If you can watch the scene where Charlie breaks down and tells Johnson all about his family, and how he lost them, and you don’t shed a few tears (or over-exert your facial muscles from attempting to hold them back) then you are most likely a diagnosable sociopath without a soul.

Charlie Fineman is, to a reasonable degree, the embodiment of Orpheus in this movie. That which he loved the most was stolen from him tragically and unexpectedly by hatred and death. And each day, he enters into the Forbidden Land atop his black mustang Agro in an attempt to slay the sixteen giants who guard the soul of his lost love. As the viewer, we only witness this quest by seeing him play an old PS2 video game called Shadow of the Colossus—one of the most beautifully rendered and unique games ever produced. For Charlie, however, it’s not just a video game, but a temporary catharsis and escape from the pain of the real world that he can hardly bear.

Whatever forms the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice may have taken over the centuries of human history, including this one told in Reign Over Me, they all find their orbit around that common theme—that love and death are related to each other, that they cannot be separated from one another, and that they are locked together in a perpetual conflict that is so enormous and so powerful that it has touched the lives of every human being who has ever lived. This is what makes the story archetypal; the idea that it’s an abstraction of a truth that all humans in all cultures of every age have had to face in some way. That’s why the story has been retold so many times, and how it continues to endure, regardless of whatever disguise it happens to be wearing. Love is the ultimate binding force in the universe—it’s how we connect to each other. Death, on the other hand, is the ultimate force of separation in the universe—it’s the one thing that has the definitive power to rip us away from those we love the most. The Apostles of the early Church, well acquainted with Greek culture, religion, language, and philosophy understood this connection—though they didn’t share the conclusion that death was the end of love, but rather that love was the end of death.

One of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien was a master at taking the myths from the old world and ‘baptizing’ them in the waters of Christianity to give them new meaning, and to infuse them with hope. In The Fellowship of the Ring, for instance, one of the characters in the book, pontificating on the evil and destruction that is overtaking the realm, laments poetically that, “the world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.

Reign Over Me, in spite of the melancholy it immerses us in, reflects this same small ray of light and hope. At the end of the film, we see the very fragile first indications that Charlie’s broken heart has been truly seen and recognized by someone else, that empathy is the response to his pain, and that love may, perhaps, find its way back from death once more. The title of the movie, and the song at the end—Pete Townshend’s epic track from Quadrophenia (as sung by Pearl Jam)—provide the necessary bookends for this new telling of a very old story. They echo the desperate howling cry for love to be victorious over all else. May love, indeed, reign o’er all of us.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre… and Beowulf.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre… and Beowulf.

Well, it has been awhile since I’ve felt the appropriate amount of brain propulsion to take some time and write out my thoughts concerning my movie watching activities. But, I’ve found some thinking space to do so today, and here we are. Professor Lunsford lent me his copy of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre a couple of months ago, so it’s been slowly percolating in my neurons for quite long enough I suppose.

When the Professor first mentioned this movie I was immediately interested, as I had first heard about it many years ago. I can’t remember the exact context of how I became aware of the film, but I know it had something to do with either Spielberg or Lucas sharing their various inspirations for Indiana Jones. Since that day, whenever it was, I’ve had some existential space reserved for actually finding it, watching it, and ascertaining how it made such an impact on the two notorious directors.

However… while in the midst of my two-months of pondering the themes in this classic film, a friend from church gathered a handful of us together for a Saturday night viewing of Beowulf. Just to avoid confusion, this was the 2007 version of Beowulf directed by Robert Zemeckis. More on that in a bit. At any rate, after watching the modern cinematic “re-telling” of this ancient Old English poem, I realized that I had waited too long to gather my thoughts concerning The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, because the two films share some similar themes, and writing about both of them separately would have me mining too much gold from the same excavation site as it were. So… in my own way, and in the style of the Starship Enterprise, I have decided to boldly go where none of my reviews have thus gone before, and combine these two reviews into one. Some might call this laziness, but I prefer to think of it as cleverness.

Now, the average connoisseur of the Arts and Humanities would most likely scoff at the thought of these two stories having anything to do with one another, and I myself would have scoffed as well had I not accidentally found myself in this unlikely, circumstantial confluence of the two films which served to blend them together in my mind. But the similarities are none-the-less real, and they can be modestly distilled into an essence defined as simply as “the danger of human greed.” The two stories have many differences as well, to be sure, but even though they are separated by a thousand years of cultural context, they share this parable about greed in the core of their bones.

At this point I should probably back up a little. I need to clarify something. The two stories aren’t, technically speaking, separated by a thousand years, because this version of the Beowulf myth bares very little resemblance to the original epic. This Beowulf was released in 2007, and it is not the Beowulf that we had to read about in high school English class. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t totally sure how much of the film borrowed from the original poem of Beowulf and how much was created by Neil Gaiman for the screenplay… I guess I should have read the old story more carefully in English class. As it turns out, Gaiman and Zemeckis infused the epic poem with quite a bit of additional material. In this version of the story, the hero accomplishes the same general “feats of strength,”—killing the monstrosity known as Grendel and so forth— but instead of killing Grendel’s mother, he is seduced by her. As it turns out, the former King Hrothgar (as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins) had also slept with Grendel’s mother when he was a young warrior, which is where Grendel came from. Beowulf’s lust gives birth to a son that can take the form of a golden dragon—a distorted version of the dragon that Beowulf sacrifices his life to defeat in the original story. This is quite a departure from the epic of Beowulf that J.R.R. Tolkien translated in 1926 from Old English. I give Zemeckis and Gaiman props for creating a much more interesting story that uses the names and locations of the original poem, but at the same time, I lament the fact that they’ve robbed the old story of its intended meaning. It takes a tremendous amount of hubris to do that with a piece of ancient literature, but where there’s a dollar to be made, nothing is sacred I suppose. The main difference is that they’ve reduced the hero, who originally stood as an early example of Christianity infusing its way into the Germanic traditions of Scandinavia, into an anti-hero driven by his own selfishness, greed, and lust rather than by a desire to protect the community entrusted to him at all costs. This version of Beowulf wants more, and he wants it all to himself.

Don’t get me wrong, this modern re-telling of Beowulf, with its unique visual style, superb voice acting, and additional layers of meaning are still worthy of examination and analysis. It just needs to be absorbed and digested on its own merit, with the understanding that this shouldn’t be confused with the classic literary version of the story. Ironically, however, it is this severe alteration of the original source material that has allowed me to make the connection between this film and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point…

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was released in 1948. It’s the adaptation of a book that was written by the enigmatic novelist B. Traven in 1927. It tells the story of two hard-working Americans (or two losers depending on your point of view) following an aging and well-seasoned prospector into the Mexican desert in order to find gold. Once they find the right spot, they set up camp, dig a mine, and gradually accumulate more gold than they will ever need. At this point, one of the men begins to suffer from a gradual and increasingly hostile paranoia –not unlike the kind that Scrooge McDuck used to suffer from back during his days as the Kingpin of Duckburg. He believes the other two men are plotting against him, and that the gold he has is simply not enough. He wants more, and he wants it all to himself. The aforementioned old prospector named Howard (portrayed by Walter Huston) was the most interesting character, in my opinion, even though Humphrey Bogart gives an absolutely mesmerizing performance as Fred Dobbs – the guy losing his mind to greed. But Howard is the moral compass of the story, infusing wisdom into the impending madness at hand by uttering lines such as, “I know what gold does to men’s souls.” Indeed sir, you did know.

There’s lots of moral quandaries flying around throughout both of these movies, but when we examine the characters of Fred Dobbs and Beowulf under the same magnifying lens, the similarities between these two stories begin to emerge. Both characters show us what happens when greed poisons a man into believing that, no matter how much wealth he has attained, it’s not enough. I suppose they do manifest their greed sickness in different forms – Dobbs allows his greed to rob him of his sanity, while Beowulf allows it to rob him of his Kingdom, but both men lose their humanity, both men lose their integrity, and both men lose their lives as a consequence of giving themselves over to their desire for MORE. Dobbs, in his greed, produces a confrontation that results in his death, while Beowulf in his greed, produces a dragon that results in his. Beowulf’s shortcomings are portrayed to a much greater extreme than Dobbs, being swept away by lust and power as well, but that’s because, in the context of his story, he exemplifies what happens to a greedy man that has the ability to seek out greater vices. Unlike Dobbs, he has the agency to give himself over more completely to his debauchery. Dobbs is a poor man without an entire kingdom at his disposal, and simply has no way to do as much damage to others. But if he had the ability to do as Beowulf does, he mostly definitely would. Their disease is the same.

I’m tempted to give away the endings of the stories, which are different, but I will refrain, in case anyone wants to see for themselves. But, in brief, I will say that Beowulf leaves us, the viewers, with ambiguity—Beowulf himself does reach some measure of personal atonement, realizing his past mistakes, and owning up to the consequences… but we are left to wonder how the story will progress. Will the next King Wiglaf fall prey to the same sins as the two kings who came before him? Will he resist and establish a kingdom that is secure and virtuous? We don’t know. We don’t know enough about Wiglaf’s character to ascertain whether or not he has learned from the men he has served and gone into battle with. If he has learned the right lessons, we don’t know if they are powerful enough to keep him from falling. The ending of the film is intended to make us think about this.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, on the other hand, leaves us with a rather poignant reality to ponder in regards to the wealth of this world, and seeking after riches. Dobbs does not find redemption or atonement for his sins. He is tragically consumed and destroyed by them in a way that should make us all shudder.

The moral of these two films remains stunningly similar, however. Simply put, by a wise king long ago, who knew the full excesses of wealth, power, and lust that human beings can achieve on this earth, and who, in the twilight of his own life brought disaster on his kingdom:  “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces… I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure… yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…” –from Ecclesiastes 2:8, 10-11



Somewhere back in the early part of the 20th century, three Jewish brothers from Rhode Island put their heads together and opened a textile company. The Hassenfeld brothers had no idea what their entrepreneurial endeavors would produce, nor would they live to see the global, multi-billion dollar behemoth that their baby company would grow up to become nearly 100 years later. Unbeknownst to them, they had set in motion a chain of events that would re-shape the childhoods of millions of kids in the distant future of 1984. For it was in that year, that the Hassenfeld Brothers’ company, now known by its more popular moniker – Hasbro – would cut a deal with a Japanese toy company known as Takara, and a comic book company in the U.S. known as Marvel, to produce exactly three things aimed directly at the still developing hearts and minds of boys like little Adam Coffman. These three things were a comic book, a cartoon, and a toy line. The purpose of the comic book was to create a mythology, and the purpose of the cartoon was to spin that mythology into 30-minute advertising spots that could be used to market the toy line – a toy line that was comprised of the main characters in the mythology. The result of this inspirational stroke of genius (or diabolical scheme depending on your perspective) was something that the entire globe now knows simply as The Transformers.

What Hasbro hadn’t counted on, was how deeply the mythology of the transforming robots from outer space would burrow into the hearts of its intended target audience. The toys themselves were quite expensive by early 80s standards, and there were many families (like mine) that just couldn’t afford them. But the cartoon, on the other hand, was accessible to everyone, and the stories and characters it introduced into our young lives were so captivating that it ensured a seemingly perpetual longevity to The Transformers mythos, a limitless recycling of products based on them, and a legacy that has now spilled over into the lives of every generation of kids since then.

In the late summer of 1986, just two years after the launch of the brand, The Transformers made their feature film debut in theaters all across America. And within weeks of the film’s premiere, the cries and lamentations of young boys could be heard from sea to shining sea. Hasbro, in an attempt to refresh its line of toy products had introduced plenty of new characters in the $6 million dollar animated film – and it doubled down on its commitment to these new characters by subjecting us all to the on-screen violent murders of the most beloved characters in the franchise, including our hero Optimus Prime. This was the right move from a marketing perspective, I suppose… but for all the 9 and 10 year olds clamoring out of bed extra early on school mornings, and sacrificing our personal hygiene in order to catch a few more glimpses of the Autobots going toe to toe with the Decepticons before the school bus arrived – it was devastating. And we’ve never fully recovered. It left us all with a hollow feeling in the pit of our souls that we’re still trying to fill to this very day.

In 2007, for a brief moment, we gasped a collective sigh of relief as the first live action Transformers movie hit theaters. Nearing our 30s at the time, and sufficiently ready to curate the two decades worth of Transformers material that had sprouted a dense forest of sequels, reboots, and restructured characters – we entered movie theaters with all our hopes and dreams in tow alongside us. And when Peter Cullen, the original voice of our beloved Optimus Prime spoke again after decades of silence… we shed tears. I did anyway. Hearing Prime speak again, after thinking him dead for so long, after hearing only rumors that he had survived the assault on our childhoods, and after having grown into adults with our own battles to fight—it was all too much emotional overload to contain. As Jesus had wept at the tomb of Lazarus before calling him forth into resurrection, so we had wept at the tomb of Optimus Prime before seeing him called back to life by Michael Bay.

Sorry for the crude analogy. I know it’s not as dramatic as all that. And I’m not comparing Michael Bay to Jesus mind you… I’m only calling attention to the sentiment of death and resurrection portrayed for us, even in fictional stories. For our western society which is built on Judeo-Christian ethics and archetypes, this story-telling device is a good way to find traction with our heart-strings.

If we want to get literal, then Michael Bay would be more like the antichrist. Because he brought Prime back, along with the other original generation of Transformers, only to twist them into monstrous parodies of themselves in a series of four sequels that stripped them of any dignity they once held and shackled them within the chains of box office viability for the masses of teenagers today who have no idea what The Transformers are supposed to be.

While the first of Bay’s movies wasn’t too bad (because Steven Spielberg had his hands on the reigns as Executive Producer), and hit pretty close to the mark in terms of conjuring the original mythology, the sequels he made became progressively worse as he was let off the leash by Spielberg and quadrupled down on multi-million dollar special effects, slow motion explosions that last for hours, poop jokes, sex jokes, and close-up shots of boobs, butts, and guns – all at the expense of the only thing that truly matters; the only thing that ever mattered to those of us caught up in this spectacle to begin with: STORY.

Thankfully, and quite unexpectedly, the powers that be – Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks, and Hasbro – came to their collective senses last year, actually listened to all the 40 year olds still looking for our old friends to be given their proper due on the big screen, and pulled Bay out of the Director’s chair – effectively ending his ability to continue dropping steaming piles of manure on the remnants of our childhood imaginations.

In his place, Travis Knight and Christina Hodson have written and directed a sixth Transformers film called Bumblebee, completely rebooting the entire series. And they’ve done a masterful job of it.

This new film is a much smaller, much more humble endeavor. It takes us back to the roots. It’s set in the 1980s, as it should be, and it tells the story of one character – B 127 – the small, loveable, loyal sidekick of Optimus Prime as he crashes on Earth. Pursued by two evil Decepticon lieutenants, alone on an alien world, injured from battle, unable to speak, and without any memory of who he is and where he’s come from, he is forced to go into hiding by taking on the appearance of a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. Eventually, B-127 is found by a teenage girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) who befriends the beleaguered outcast, renames him Bumblebee, teaches him about human culture, and helps him to recover his memories as their adventures unfold in a way that is unique to the Transformers mythology, and yet also pleasantly reminiscent of something like E.T. the Extraterrestrial.

The story of Bumblebee manages to capture the elements of the original stories that struck so deeply into our hearts as kids in a way that the previous films never have. To us, these stories were never about fast cars, supersonic jets, and sexy paint jobs… they were about heroes; heroes who were the underdogs, driven into exile by unjust oppressors, forced to adapt to a new way of life in a foreign land, befriended by those who saw the good in them, and consumed with a desire to protect, encourage, and inspire their friends.

For a generation of young kids growing up in the 1980s, at the dawn of the digital age, we were the first generation to have a personal relationship with the microchips that were consuming the world around us. Our imaginations were shaped by this, and our minds were mesmerized by it. And they still are. This is the root of our fascination with The Transformers. It’s why they’ve been able to continue appealing to kids (and adults) today. We place so much of our lives into the hands of our technology – we rely on it, and we care for our phones, computers, gaming systems, and cars like they are our friends. At the same time, we’re not naïve about the dangers of technology as well; we know how the things we use for good can also be used to bring about great evil. We’ve walked in both worlds, and The Transformers reflect this same duality.

Fictional stories about technology that can reciprocate our desire for connection and friendship have always made sense to us. Bumblebee succeeds as a film because relationship between human and machine is at the heart of its story – as is the choice between whether we use our connection with technology for good, or for evil.


The Theology of Pulp Fiction

The Theology of Pulp Fiction

One of the good things about getting older is being able to look back and see things from the past with a little more clarity than I did the first time around. I think this is often how we learn things in life. I suppose it’s similar to the difference between walking around in the middle of a city, and then driving away from it and being able to see the whole place from a distance, even as it fades into the rearview. That’s one of the reasons I like to re-watch movies I’ve seen several times before—especially those that I first saw a long time ago. The passage of time seems to create enough distance for me to see the same films with a completely different perspective.

In regards to the movies that I’ve enjoyed the most over the years, this change in my perspective is most notable in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 classic, Pulp Fiction. It won an Oscar for best screenplay the following year, launched Tarantino out of relative obscurity, and made him one of the best-known directors in Hollywood. I didn’t know any of this at the time, nor did I care in the least bit. I’ve made mention before of all the great movies that came out of 1994—The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, Speed, Reality Bites, Dumb and Dumber, and many others—but Pulp Fiction didn’t ping my radar that year. I saw it for the first time a few years later, just around the time I graduated from high school, and even then, I can’t say that I was particularly blown away by it.

That’s not to say it wasn’t mesmerizing in a strange sort of way. The dialogue between the characters in Pulp Fiction was without parallel when it came out. I had never heard anything like it in a movie before, and I don’t believe I have heard conversations done that way in any other film since. Tarantino himself, though landing closer to the mark than any other screenwriter, still hasn’t managed to completely reproduce the same kind of discourse to the same degree in his subsequent films (this is only my opinion of course). It’s the kind of language that is extremely mundane, disgustingly appalling at times, intentionally offensive, and still a masterful work of unparalleled artistic genius—all at the same time. I picked up on this a little bit as a teenager, but I lacked the perspective needed at the time to really appreciate it for what it was.

Along with the aforementioned dialogue, I should probably say something as well about the unusual sequencing of the film. Pulp Fiction has four separate stories that are interwoven with one another, and yet it’s cut and edited in a way that presents these stories to the viewer out of chronological order. What’s more, is that there is nothing overtly obvious within the film itself to let us know that the chronology has been doctored in such a way. Each section of the movie presents a title card before it commences, but there is nothing on any of them to denote what order we’re watching them in. You have to pick up on this entirely from the context of the story itself. The first time I saw it I wasn’t even aware of this cinematic jigsaw puzzle until halfway through the movie, and even then, it took a few more viewings until I was able to piece all of it together properly.

Anyway, I suppose I’m not writing about Pulp Fiction now because of the intriguing dialogue and unusual sequencing… those were obvious innovations in filmmaking that I noticed back in the day. Even then, I appreciated the conversations about the serious nature of foot massages, McDonalds restaurants in Europe, and captured American pilots in Vietnamese prison camps hiding precious family heirlooms inside their anal cavities to avoid confiscation. Nope… I’m writing about Pulp Fiction now, because somehow, in the middle of all that other stuff, I managed to miss the central message of the film entirely.

Pulp Fiction is one of the most theologically engaging spectacles I have ever seen. It took me 20 years (and a MA degree in Theology) to realize this, mostly because it’s not anywhere near the type of movie in which you might remotely expect to find an intense examination of theological concepts—but there it is: a glaring discourse about God—sitting squarely at its center, amidst a maze of vignettes, characters, and language that would turn away anyone who might naturally be looking for this type of thing in a Hollywood film. I’ve been in the Church my whole life, and I can say with an unrestrained amount of certainty, that most of the Church folks I’ve known would never watch this film all the way through. Which is perfectly ok… it’s just a movie after all and I completely understand that sentiment. I think many Christians, even after making it past the R-rating, would be immediately turned off by the first exchange of dialogue and the dozen or so F-bombs that would be waiting eagerly to greet them within the first 10 minutes. But this is the great paradox of Pulp Fiction—that in the middle of all the nastiness and human depravity on full, unapologetic display—it has something to say about God, forgiveness, redemption, and divine judgment, that is profoundly Christian to its very core.

Among the four separate stories being portrayed in Pulp Fiction, there is one situated at the theological center of the movie—this is the story about the two hitmen—Vincent played by John Travolta, and Jules played by Samuel L. Jackson. These two guys are brutal, violent, loathsome individuals. It’s obvious from the opening sequence of the movie that they have been murdering people for a living long enough to be completely numb to what they’re doing, and that they perhaps even enjoy it. None-the-less, these guys are professionals through and through. They have business to conduct, and they do it ruthlessly, without the slightest bit of hesitation or remorse.

Near the beginning of the film Jules and Vincent experience something that sets up the theological debate that we see them engaging in as the story progresses. We’re not supposed to like these kinds of people at all, and yet, this experience they share, and their conflicting interpretations of what it means, makes us extremely interested in what happens to them afterwards.

The dialogue between Jules and Vincent, from that point forward, is a debate about the significance of what they’ve experienced together. Jules interprets the experience as a miraculous, direct intervention from God himself. Vincent, on the other hand, interprets it as a random freak occurrence. The two of them eventually part ways over the incident, because Jules decides that he has experienced God’s grace so thoroughly that it demands a response from him. And his response is to leave behind his life as a vile hitman and follow a different path. At the end of the film we see actual proof that Jules has decided to lead a different kind of life—that his encounter with God is genuine. He knows that God has given him a way out of the path of destruction he’s been on for so long. And he proves that he has accepted God’s grace by, in turn, extending grace to the couple in the diner who try to rob him. After successfully disarming the man and getting the woman to surrender, he gives them all the money he has anyway. Then he lets them go in peace. This is the beginning of his life lived in a state of redemption. His story goes on to places and people we don’t see. We don’t know what exactly happens to him after that.

Vincent, however, is a completely different story. We know exactly what happens to Vincent, because the film, in its out-of-sequence order has already shown us his fate. He concludes that nothing about his life needs to change. He sees no evidence of God, and thus, no need to repent of his life of murder and drug addiction. He goes right on living the same life as if nothing happened. Moreover, and in perfect harmony with the overall theme of grace, after he makes this decision he goes on to witness a similar thing happen to someone else in the character of Mia Wallace (played by Uma Thurman)—who is miraculously delivered from the jaws of certain death when Vincent plunges a syringe full of adrenaline into her heart to save her from a drug overdose. Yet even this second experience is not enough to wake him up. He will go on being a hitman, and this fateful decision will eventually lead him directly to his own death. Sorry for the spoilers.

I don’t really feel like going into as much detail concerning Bruce Willis’s character Butch, but the vignette involving him is an additional example of how grace is a powerful antidote to hatred and contempt, even among bitter enemies. When faced with the opportunity to leave the man trying to kill him in the midst of torture and death, he instead chooses to go back and save him. This act of grace provides him with the chance at a completely new life, just as it did with Jules.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this old classic from Tarantino. The director has never, to my knowledge, made mention of any personal faith that he may or may not have, and in the 25 years since its release, I’ve never heard anyone else talk about this aspect of Pulp Fiction, but it’s obvious that this was the intended message of the film. Grace, when experienced, demands a response, and our choice of response, whether to extend grace to others, or to recoil further into our natural state of moral filthiness, determines the kind of life we will live, and what we leave behind us as we go.

This, my friends, is an echo of the message that Jesus left us. Christ has provided and demonstrated a stunning act of divine forgiveness and grace for all human beings. The only question is how we respond to it.

Hammering this theme home is the final (chronologically last) shot of the film which literally spells it out for us:


A Star was Born

A Star was Born

This past December wasn’t a very good month for me. I’ll spare you the details, and just say that, generally speaking, I spent the Christmas season cultivating a pretty good forest of melancholy, depression, and uncertainty about the future. However, I’ve learned over the years that it’s normal to feel these things sometimes; it’s a natural part of life. You can’t feel the ups of life, if you don’t feel the downs. It’s not natural to always be walking around in a perpetual state of bliss and contentment. And it’s so easy to forget this when you plug into the matrix every day and are greeted by hundreds of smiling happy faces that are always on vacation, or falling in love, or having babies, or eating in the best restaurants on earth. I’m all for those things, and maybe these are, after all, the best things to share with each other in the public square type of environment that we have online. But, we all know of course, that in reality there’s just as many moments full of sadness and loss and failure and heartbreak. And sometimes the only real medicine is just feeling the pain, letting it wash over you, and giving it some time to pass. Anyway that’s what my December was like. It seems like ages ago now, but somewhere, back in the middle of it, I watched A Star Is Born.

I didn’t feel like writing about it at the time. It’s pretty heavy subject matter. And of course I’ve seen a handful of other movies since then, but this one has stuck to my insides in a way the others have not. I didn’t know what this movie was about beforehand. I was drawn to it mainly because I think Bradley Cooper is a great actor and I wanted to see how he did with his directorial debut. If I had read a plot synopsis ahead of time I might have avoided it. I’m not sure it’s the best kind of movie to watch if you’re feeling down.

It’s good storytelling though — dramatic, intense, cathartic, tragic — all the stuff you need for a film to be entertaining, emotionally engaging, and still relatable to those of us who aren’t out saving the world with Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, and Will Smith. I like those kinds of movies too, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that this film made me FEEL something in the midst of its realness and grittiness.

I think stories that portray self sacrifice (even in such a brutally heartbreaking way as this one) tend to generally have this effect. But when the sacrifice is unexpected, painfully explored, and woven together with love, it hits the heart strings with a hammer. That’s what this movie did to me anyway. That’s why I’m still thinking about it three months later. Correction: That’s why I’m still feeling it.

A Star Is Born is not a new story. It’s been done before. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have retold a story that Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson retold back in ‘76, which was a story that Judy Garland and James Mason starred in before them in ‘54, which was one that was previously portrayed by Fredric March and Janet Gaynor in 1937… I haven’t seen any of those, and I don’t know how well they all line up with each other, or how much they reflect this most recent iteration. But none of these are the original story anyway. There’s a much older one…

The one where God descends from Heaven to mingle among the common folks here on Earth. Then he claims a Church for himself, gives her a new life, makes her his Bride, shows her that she is loved, tells her to speak the truth, tells her to be real, and then gives himself up for her—because it was the only way—the only way for her to shine as brightly as possible.

A Star Is Born is proof that the best stories are still the oldest ones – even when they’re wrapped inside new garments.

Even when they reveal themselves inside the unlikely framework of a Hollywood film in 2019.

The music is good too.



Well, in an effort to make my movie reviews somewhat relevant to current box office trends (not that I’m overly concerned with this) I’ve decided to jot down some reflections on an old childhood favorite that has continued to inspire periodic sequels from time to time – the most recent of which was just released into theaters this weekend.

Full disclosure: I did rewatch the original Predator a few weeks ago, mostly because I was just in the mood – and maybe also because Arnold was 39 when he filmed it, and I’m 39 now… and I needed the abstract motivation of watching a 39 year-old man at the top of his game.

At any rate, this is one of those movies that’s heavily steeped in nostalgia for me personally – and probably a lot of other dudes who saw it as a kid. And listen, I’m not sexist at all, but this is definitely a dude film. It’s unashamedly packed with bros, huge bicep close ups, magnificent explosions, guns that almost never seem to run out of ammo, blood, guts, cigars, Jesse Ventura, and profuse sweating — all elegantly wrapped in a fine veneer of exaggerated grunts, yells, and other various ape sounds. What can I say? It’s a product of its time, it’s pure 80s Schwarzenegger, and you can literally smell the testosterone on the DVD cover.

I have very vivid childhood memories surrounding this movie. But lest you gasp with inward incredulousness, don’t worry — my dad wouldn’t let me watch Predator until it came out on TV – edited of course. And he had actually provided a second layer of censorship by recording it from the TV onto a blank VHS tape so he could edit out the parts that were too gory for me. I was utterly dismayed by this due to the fact that Dad took my older brother Chad to see it when it first came out in 1987. I had never waited so long to see a movie that had been out for three years. And I made up for it by binge re-watching that VHS tape until it fell apart, disintegrated into tiny pieces of plastic, and was absorbed by the earth. It captured my imagination so completely that I would go into the woods near our house with my squirt guns and pretend I was one of the commandos in the movie. But don’t worry, I finally quit doing that a couple of years ago. Everyone has to grow up eventually.

It’s interesting to watch this movie now, and to think about it on the level of analysis. I really wasn’t watching it this time around with the expectation that it held anything deeper in its story, but it actually does, and I was surprised by this fact.

On the surface Predator is exactly what you’d expect it to be – a typical 80s action film. It’s about an elite special forces unit traipsing through the deep central American rainforest in search of political hostages. They’re led by Schwarzenegger and Apollo Creed – old friends who find themselves at odds over the ethical dilemmas of combat. Schwarzenegger’s character, named Dutch (probably a subtle nod to his accent which was still thickly European at the time) is struggling with his identity throughout the film. He is, essentially, the perfect hunter leading a group of other hunters in an effort to find and extinguish the lives of his enemies. We know from carefully placed exposition that he’s been doing this for a long time, and that, along the way, he’s developed a sense of righteous justification to provide a moral anchor for what he does. Dillon (Carl Weathers) gives personification to Dutch’s conscience, reminding him that his self-righteousness is only a flimsy illusion, and that underneath it all, he’s nothing more than a professional killer.

The backbone of the plot involves Dutch being slowly and methodically stripped of his illusions and forced to embrace his true identity completely. In this regard, the alien monster who hunts and destroys all the other men is only a mirror reflection of Schwarzenegger’s character. The Predator is doing the same thing that Dutch and his men are doing – only for different reasons, and with greater ability. We see this theme most clearly displayed near the end when Dutch asks the creature what he is – and the creature only responds with the same question. They’re both the same thing.

Now, I’m sure there’s probably some deep psychological meaning to all this, and it’s probably ripe with Jungian archetypal imagery and what not… but what I take away from it is the idea that all of us have a dark side, we all have a monster on the inside – it’s something we usually hide and cover up with layers upon layers of protection and armor. But if we are willing to be honest about it, calling it what it is – then we’ve taken the first step toward confronting it. And confronting monsters is what heroes do.

I think that’s what the movie is saying. I could be wrong, but I’m going to go with this interpretation… because it’s my movie review.

And remember folks, if all else fails, just take Arnold’s advice and, “get to da choppah!”

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men

This film review is brought to you by the number twelve.

A very long time ago, before I was born, and probably before you were born too… someone decided that twelve was the number of roses it takes for a man to show a woman how much he really loves her—or to get out of the doghouse—whichever the case may be.

And a very long time before that, someone decided that Christmas should consist of twelve days. They wrote a song about that, but I’m not sure why because I’ve never seen a twelve day-long Christmas in my life.

But way back, even before that, someone decided that clocks should measure the progression of twelve hour intervals. The plot thickens…

And still further back than that, someone decided that a year should consist of twelve months.

Now, since we’re talking about the number twelve, and because Bible nerding is what I do for a living, it would be remiss of me if I failed to mention that twelve is a very important number in the Bible. In about the middle of Genesis, for instance, God decides that a man named Jacob should have twelve sons, and that their descendants should be divided into twelve tribes. And much later on, a guy named Jesus who was descended from one of those twelve tribes came along, and he picked twelve men to begin the process of changing the entire world. And eventually, at the end of the Bible, you can read about the Heavenly City with its twelve foundations of precious stones, twelve gates going in and out, and twelve angels guarding the gates. The Bible doesn’t joke around with the number twelve.

And, of course, we also have a dozen eggs, a dozen donuts, a dime a dozen, the dirty dozen, and six and one half dozen of the other (which by my calculations is still twelve… I think.)

However! Somewhere back in the depths of history, in the middle of all this twelve business, some king in medieval England began using something called a jury, at times consisting of twelve men, to decide whether or not a person was guilty of a crime. He wasn’t the first person to have this idea, which according to some sources finds its origins in ancient Greece. But whatever its true beginnings may be, the idea caught on, and it was eventually adopted into English law, and from there it was passed on to the legal system in America. And then in 1957 Reginald Rose and Sidney Lumet made a movie about it called 12 Angry Men.

I’ve known about this film for many years, but this was my first time to watch the enduring classic that keeps resurfacing into contemporary culture from time to time—a testament to the ageless nature of what it explores and displays in regards to human nature. And despite my opening reflections on the number twelve, this movie has little to do with the number of “angry men” in the picture, and more specifically about what these men are doing, and what is making them angry. If I could boil it down to the simplest of terms—they’re trying to make a decision. They’re trying to decide if the 18-year-old kid on trial really did stab his father to death. If he did, he will most certainly be given the death penalty. And for an added layer of tension, the kid in question is from an un-specified (non-white) ethnicity, and he hails from a likewise un-named slum in New York City. In 1957 America, this kid is the lowest of the low.

A preliminary vote by the jury members results in 11 guilty votes and only one for not-guilty. And herein lies the drama. It takes a unanimous 12 votes to convict or acquit, so this one guy (played masterfully by Henry Fonda) is the only thing keeping the other 11 guys from quickly escaping the confines of the sweltering back room in the courthouse—and speedily condemning a young man to the execution that would follow. On this basis alone, Henry Fonda appeals to the rest of them saying, “It’s not easy to raise my hand, and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.

And so they talk. If you want to find out where they end up after the lengthy, heated, discussion that follows—go watch the film.

There are several different themes orbiting around the central discussion taking place in 12 Angry Men, including leadership, conformity, group dynamics, racism, class inequality, and personal prejudice. Each of these themes is personified by at least one or two of the jurors, but my favorite of these themes is the leadership exemplified in Fonda’s Juror Number 8, as he stands alone against the rest of the group, humbly beseeching them to carefully consider the gravity of their decision, and exhorting them to engage in honest dialogue with each other. Throughout the course of the film he takes the most punishment from the rest of the group, and still remains steadfast in his conviction despite their incessant criticism.

And it’s this theme of leadership that has continued to resonate in my thoughts over the last few weeks, as I’ve pondered the real meaning of a movie like this—not only what it meant when it was made some 62 years ago, but what it means today.

What is real leadership? Does this movie show us an example of what real leadership looks like?

Yes, I believe it does.

First off, real leadership seeks to reconcile opposing groups of people (if possible), rather than push them further apart. Henry Fonda, though standing alone against the rest of the group, never says or does anything to intentionally insult them. His goal is reconciliation between their decision and his, and he knows that this cannot be accomplished by alienating them. There are moments when he speaks sternly to them, and moments when he risks pushing them too far, but he does this only to keep them focused on the problem at hand. Bad leaders don’t know how to reconcile opposing groups or opinions. Bad leaders only know how to create more dissonance, confusion, and fracturing among people. The problem that these men in the movie are attempting to solve will not go away unless they can come together in some kind of agreement, one way or the other. Keeping them at the table, keeping them talking, encouraging them to dig down and really think together—this is the main task that Fonda’s character engages in from the beginning—and it makes him a good leader.

Second, real leadership is humble and kind. Fonda’s character never assumes a position of dominance over the other men. He doesn’t try to be the leader. But we the audience (like the other characters in the movie) recognize him as the leader by what he does, and how he does it. He meets arrogance with kindness, he counters emotional outbursts with the calm delineation of salient details, and he arrests pre-judgment with simple rationalism. His goal is not to make the other men agree with him, or force them into a decision they’re not comfortable with—his goal is to examine the issue as thoroughly as possible, and come to the best possible conclusion—together.

Third, and I’ll close with this point—real leadership doesn’t lie. The entire purpose of Fonda’s character engaging in an opposing dialogue with the rest of the men in the group is to find the truth. Moreover, he admits to them near the beginning of their discussion that he simply “doesn’t know” whether the kid is guilty or not, and that this is why they need to talk about it further—so they can be sure of what the truth actually is. We can see the doubt in his eyes at times, and we can see that he isn’t completely confident about his position, but he never tries to hide this from the other men. He doesn’t create a false persona of exuberance, or phony confidence to convince them that he’s right and they’re wrong. Bad leaders don’t care about this. Bad leaders just want to please the majority so they can go on being the boss.

As I said earlier, there are many other themes floating through the narrative of 12 Angry Men, not the least of which is how easy it is to make conclusions about anything without actually thinking. It’s much easier, for all of us, to formulate conclusions based on our emotions, or based on our past experiences, or to simply go along with whatever the closest crowd to us is doing… it’s much more difficult, on the other hand, to apply focused reasoning and critical thinking to our collective issues and problems. It takes time, it takes energy, and it takes a willingness to be ok with the fact that we could, possibly, be wrong. And it’s always difficult to do this with people who think differently, and who easily draw conclusions that are completely opposite to our own. But that’s how problems actually get solved.

We might all be able to learn a thing or two from this old movie.

The Road

The Road

~~Originally posted on September 23, 2017~~

Last weekend our Summer Movie Nights came to an end with Jordan Brower drafting The Road into our lineup as the grand finale. Of the 10 movies we watched, five of them centered around road trips or journeys of some kind, including The Road of course. This was my second time seeing this film. The first time I saw it was in Ohio around the time it was first released in 2009. I wasn’t sure what to make of it then, but the last eight years have given me some perspective – in particular, in the area of grasping onto whatever hope is available when circumstances seem to offer nothing but hopelessness. And this is what The Road is about. It’s a really simple story about a father and son traveling south through a post-apocalyptic America that is very very gray. It’s like, a million shades of gray. Sorry, bad joke. But seriously, the colors gray and brown should have gotten Oscar nods for their supporting roles. Even though the setting is post-apocalyptic/dystopian, this is not a science fiction story. We’re never given an explanation as to how the world went dark – we just know that the lights went out and never came back on. The Boy was born shortly after the apocalypse began, and he appears to be around 9 or 10 years old, so the characters are very accustomed to this world. Those who have survived have adapted to it, mostly in very horrible ways. The Man, played by Aragorn, is on a mission to protect “the fire,” which burns very brightly through the innocence, goodness, and kindness of his son, but which is slowly burning out in his own heart. Through a series of vignettes and encounters with other people along the journey (including a house full of cannibals, a group of red neck marauders, and a lovable and lonely Robert Duvall), we see the push and pull that occurs between the father and son as they struggle to survive and keep moving. The Boy has such a pure heart that he doesn’t understand the concept of evil, and isn’t instinctively aware of the danger that exists all around him. The father knows this, and he struggles to keep his son’s innocence intact as much as possible, while still preparing him to face the world without him when he’s gone. It’s a very grim notion to ponder – how far can we go in the protection of innocence before our actions bring about the corruption we’re seeking to avoid? If you really think about it, it’s not a simple question to answer. And even though the plot of The Road is simple, as I said, it still manages to produce these very complex moral questions. In other words, it really makes you think. And for all its grayness, hopelessness, and general mood of depression, there does exist, under all the layers of dirt and grime, a small ray of light – the hope that the boy carries and embodies. We see it in the way he enjoys a Coca-cola for the first time, in the way he pleads with his dad to share their food with a stranger, in the desire to show mercy to a thief, and in the way he heartbrokenly asks the question, “Are we still the good guys?” That’s a question we should all pause and ask ourselves from time to time. Thankfully, this movie doesn’t leave us without that bit of hope at the end. As Aragorn himself once said during the battle of Helms Deep – “there is always hope.”

I give The Road 4 Cofftomic Particles 4 Cofflames  3 Cans of Coffgoods 3 Emotional Coffcoasters, 1 Coffcartand 2 Full Moons 🌕🌕.

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli

This is one of my top 5 favorite films of all time.

~~Originally posted on August 6, 2017~~

Sometimes, really good movies aren’t just something you watch – they’re something that happens to you. The first time I saw this past week’s movie it was quite an experience – mostly because it was a spontaneous decision, and I had no clue what it was about as I walked into the theater. It was a cold night in February of 2010, and I had gone to the movies to escape the rest of my life for a couple of hours. I used to do that more often when I lived around a lot of people. I couldn’t explain why, but sometimes I would just feel a need to get away, to be alone, to not have to talk to anyone, to rest and think. I’ve since learned that this is normal introvert behavior. That particular night my house had filled up with so many people that I couldn’t move. I was standing in the kitchen, watching as wave after wave of college students began devouring the meal I had spent half the day preparing. I was glad for my part in feeding them, and felt a deep satisfaction in my soul – and also an intense urge to quietly exit through the backdoor that I had been slowly pushed up against. So I did. And 10 minutes later I was sitting in an almost empty theater waiting to see what in the world The Book of Eli was about.

The movie pulled me in really slowly as it introduced me to Denzel Washington’s character (Eli) – a man walking alone through a post apocalyptic wasteland, bedding down for the night in some old shack as he carefully stokes to life the remaining juice in a scratched and scarred generation one iPod. He’s listening to Al Green’s – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, and it contains the first words you hear in the movie, providing the background chorus to the drama about to unfold on the screen. It tells us what is going on inside this strange character we’re being introduced to – it’s a very sad lament – the honest prayer of a man who has had his heart ripped out, and is desperately crying out for a reason to keep going. The song reflects the scarred over wounds we see on Eli’s body as he changes his shirt and settles in for the night.

Eventually you learn that Eli has been carrying something of great value for the past 30 years – the last remaining Bible to exist in North America. There had been some kind of war in the past that ended with the victors destroying all the rest of them. Conflict ensues when Eli encounters the villain of the story, a crafty warlord named Carnegie – played by Gary Oldman – who just so happens to be in search of a Bible. Every day he sends out raiding parties to scour the surrounding wastelands in the hope of finding one. When these two characters meet each other, all Hell literally breaks loose.

I won’t venture into much more detail about the plot, but at the core of this film is the examination of something that Christianity has had to wrestle with since the 4th century when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and something it’s still dealing with today – the clash between genuine religious experience and the perversion of it by political entities that seek to use religion as a tool of manipulation to gain or maintain power over people. At the time, I was getting my Master’s Degree in Church History (which is also an examination between these two opposing forces), and I found it very impressive that the history of Christianity was so elegantly captured and personified through the drama unfolding between these two movie characters.

Carnegie’s christianity is political. Eli’s is personal. Carnegie wants to use the Bible to gain more power over people. Eli wants to find a place where people have the freedom to discover the Bible on their own terms. Carnegie wants to use it like a weapon to manipulate the masses. Eli wants to preserve its integrity as a beacon of hope. In the middle of this conflict is Solara – the adopted daughter and slave of Carnegie. It’s her character that brings hope and brightness into the story as she escapes the abusive confines of her home to follow after Eli and eventually latch onto the same almighty power that drives him.

When the credits rolled I couldn’t believe what I had seen. I think it’s very very difficult for filmmakers to make a religious-themed movie that is not only well done, but that doesn’t come across as cheesy, or that doesn’t entirely miss the point of what faith is even about. I shudder inside when I think of all the bad – and I mean terrible – Christian movies that elevate mediocrity and overall suckiness to an art form. And thankfully, the twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes made one that rises above that kind of canned nonsense.

I didn’t just watch their film that night all those years ago – I felt it.

And that is why I give The Book of Eli 5 Coffstars , 4 Coff-buds , 2 Coff-tickets , 2 hallelujah amens , and 1 cat-kabob




~~Originally posted on August 11, 2017~~

Karlie Crouch’s pick for our group’s Thursday Night Film Time this week was Southpaw. I had not yet seen this one, but Antoine Fuqua has been one of my favorite directors since Training Day back in 2001, and his follow up – Tears of the Sun in 2003. His most defining characteristic is being able to deftly genre-jump his way from project to project, each time applying his craft to an entirely different category of film. He’s dropped a few stinkers along the way for sure (2004’s King Arthur with Clive Owen for instance), but Southpaw isn’t one of them. Released in 2015, it’s a recent entry into his catalogue, and with the writing chops of Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), he’s brought all of his accumulated film experience into the boxing genre.

Of course, when it comes to making a boxing film, any director and screenwriter has to, at some point in their process, honestly contend with the fact that they’re treading on sacred ground that was long ago bought and paid for with Stallone’s blood, sweat, and tears. Sutter seems to have made a career out of trampling on holy ground, but in this case he’s much more careful with his screenplay. He doesn’t completely abandon the classic elements that made the Rocky saga great, but pays subtle homage to them while also injecting his own brand of tragic realism into the genre–and Sutter’s realism is very dark. Combined with Fuqua’s vision, the result is an experience that drags you down down down into a pit of despair as you watch the main character spiral into a black hole. But it doesn’t leave you there! (Manchester By The Sea, I’m looking at you – 😫)

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, the reigning boxing champ who is on top of the world. Without giving anything away, something happens to him about 20 minutes into the story that is the sitting-comfortably-in-your-home equivalent of receiving an unexpected uppercut to the jaw. It’s in that moment when you realize, ‘Oh, this isn’t Rocky.’ Thankfully, the story doesn’t end at this point, and you get to watch as this damaged character is slowly dismantled, re-arranged, healed, and put back together – mostly by Forrest Whitaker – the aging trainer/mentor figure. Whitaker (Tick Wills) is at his finest as he ambles from quiet discourse to energetic pep talk to loud bustling exclamations of woe and regret – all punctuated by an array of facial expressions that say more than his actual words. The meat of the story is the process by which Tick steadily hammers away at Billy’s hard outer shell in order to fully reveal the chaotic mess that’s inside him. Once this happens, Billy Hope is able to piece together a redemption story that can only really begin with his full acceptance of his own mistakes. He has to learn how to embrace responsibility for his own downfall, his own weaknesses, and how he has played a role in hurting those closest to him. The enemy he fights in the ring is a reflection of the enemy he fights inside his own heart and mind. Both fights are brutal, both fights are desperate, and both fights are metaphors for the kinds of battles that we all, as human beings on this planet, must face every day, in our own ways.

I give Southpaw 4 Coff-stars , 3 Coff-curls , 6 bowls of Coff-corn🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿, and 1 knockout 💥