Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End

With the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End on this Memorial Day weekend, we have what some may say is the continuation of the Holy Trinity of Summer movies. We had the third film of an incredibly popular movie franchise this season. It started off, at least for this one reviewer with a bang with Spiderman 3, and then kind of flattened a little with Shrek the Third, and for some finishes with the third installment of the third film, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. One could say it is the Trinity, except we will see more non originality with additional sequels this summer and some of them the third in their franchise.

I have to admit, the concept of Trinity, a religious term to be used with this particular film is somewhat misleading, as there was really not much Holy about the film. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go the same route of no originality that many do, in fact, I like the return of quality characters. The last James Bond movie was among the best. I liked the last Spiderman, and I could name others. I wanted the same thing from POTC: At Worlds End as I attended the showing with 4 others. Instead of a religious experience though, one I could fully enjoy and be entertained by, I at times was bored to the point of almost falling asleep. POTC: At Worlds End, may simply put, be the biggest disappointment of the summer season. I can’t say that for certain yet as the season is just underway, but it is hard to imagine a larger disappointment.

There are many things about an action movie I enjoy, I enjoy the action, but I also enjoy a great story being told by great craftsman, whether they are a Director of Production, or a quality actor. I have found that with a great story, that some of the things I look for in a film can be lacking as long as the story flows and I get something out of it. POTC: At Worlds End falls flat in a number of areas.

Johnny Depp is back, and you have to realize, Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors on the planet. I actually commented in my first review of Pirates of the Caribbean way back when that Johnny Depp portrayed every pirate I ever imagined as a child. Imagine how impressed I was when I found out that Johnny Depp’s web site used that quote. Again, I love Johnny Depp. That being said, of all of the portrayals of Captain Jack Sparrow, this is the most flat, and non entertaining of all. The dialog is not nearly up to par with the other films. I could easily say that about virtually every other character of this movie in regards to the acting we see, the direction provided, and the script itself. The only area I was very pleased with was with the Special Effects. There is one final battle scene where we see an officer walking down the stairs of his command onto the deck of his ship as it is being blown to smithereens. I have to say, the effects of this scene alone, almost makes the movie worth the price of admission. It is one of the most beautiful scenes of destruction I have ever seen in a movie. In fact virtually all of the special effects are up to par and beyond what one would expect from a Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Another disappointing aspect of POTC: At Worlds End is that we have a lot of untold story between the last film and this one. True this is something films of this nature suffer from, it is possible for one to see continuity of story without getting lost. I and the others with me, always good to have along as an impartial judge, found ourselves lost at times trying to figure everything out. We simply couldn’t follow the script of the story. It was one of the things that added to the boredom of the movie for each person in my group. The story jumps from one character to another, with so much dialog that it is simply impossible to follow along. Those we have seen as friends and lovers in the past, we become confused as to their role because of the mixed messages we see portrayed on screen. Those who were ghosts now seem to be human, and those who were human now appear as ghosts, and to complicate things, some characters flow back and forth between human and ghost with the viewer never having any idea as to what is going to happen. Simply put, there is so much character involvement, not development but involvement from the numerous cast members and characters that the story simply doesn’t flow.

There are aspects of the film that we can see some value in. There is the continuation of love between the characters played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. There is much that can be said here, and the relationship between these two, plus the added role involvement by Geoffrey Rush make this movie worth watching. While we see the importance of love, with the characters Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, we also see the ability of change and acceptance by the character of Barbossa. I would have personally liked to have seen more depth given to Geoffrey Rush’s character but to watch Geoffrey Rush act is a real pleasure, and we see more of him here than any other POTC movie. I will also say, one can’t fully understand, or appreciate the love story between Turner and Swan unless they stay through to the end of the credits and see the hepiloguej. More on that later though.

Not only do we see the aspects of change for the better as with the character Barbossa, and love as with Turner and Swan, we see the aspect of what occurs when one is not willing to change and when one is not willing to let go of pride. The unwillingness to change behavior, actions and to hold on to pride is concepts that one can quickly see leads to destruction. As is the case in most aspects, it is ultimately love that conquers all, love whether from a man, a woman, or even a friend. Those themes we see carried on in POTC: At Worlds End just as in the other films. These are reminders to all of us of the power of love, and of the fact that it is ultimately love that is one of the only things that is worth fighting for.

There was a lot about POTC: At Worlds End, that even though it has positive attributes I didn’t care for. The fact that it was simply boring is something I have to comment on. With the exception of the last 30 minutes of the film, it was primarily story that was hard to follow and was so bad at times; you could literally hear people snoring from falling asleep around the theater. Not a good sign when going to an early matinee. There is the return of characters I love, and appreciate, and even at their worse, are still better than many characters you see in movies today. While Depp falls flat, he still has his moments, how can he not? While the story is flat and boring, there are still some of the best special effects you will see in a movie, done so well they almost carry this movie.

There is a lot more I could say, but for almost 15 people, the only 15 who stayed until the end of the credits, only we got to see the entire movie, and leave with a positive feeling. You see the movie that ended just prior to the credits had several people wondering and somewhat disappointed. That is a shame because anyone who has read my reviews knows of the coining of the term hepiloguej that I coined with the first POTC movie and have used numerous times since for other movies. A hepiloguej is an addition at the end of the movie credits that add to the story itself. This is a short clip that shows additional important scenes. It is not an out take reel, but an added ingredient to the movie. As per tradition, POTC: At Worlds End has a hepiloguej. In fact the scene at the end of the credits may be the most important hepiloguej ever included in a movie. It is a lengthy clip in fact that really gives a great deal of detail and information to the movie. It continues the story, and opens the door in a wide way for the continuation of this series. If it doesn’t continue, it will certainly give a worthy conclusion that answers many questions that the viewer would want to have answered. Now to also follow my tradition when making comment of a hepiloguej, I won’t give any answers. If you want answers, learn to stay until the end of the credits, when the movie truly ends. Otherwise, leaving early could result in you not knowing the true ending of a movie, as is the case with POTC: At Worlds End

On a scale of 1 – 10 for the five friend who went with me, a disappointing 5
Click on the following link to see the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: At Wolrds End. If seeing the video, click directly on the video.


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shrek The Third

In 2001 I reviewed and was pleasantly surprised with the first installment of Shrek. I have to admit, over the years it has been kind of nice to see that review in all kinds of languages as it was picked up by various world-wide Medias. I enjoyed it enough to give it 7 out of 10. In 2004 I went to see and review Shrek 2. I also enjoyed it, and later on gave comment on the DVD, and 3-D special feature that came with the Shrek 2 DVD. I enjoyed Shrek 2 as well as the first and gave it a 7 out of 10. Not great reviews, but one that showed I really enjoyed the two movies. Shucks I even purchased the DVD’s of both features. It was obvious I would be there opening day to see Shrek the Third and sure enough, I was.

Truth is, while not giving what I would call great reviews of the Shrek series, it is a series I have enjoyed, and appreciated for all kinds of reason. There were the characters, the two sided humor, some things for kids, some for adults with subtle tendencies, and so much more. I was looking forward to this new installment where I had heard some “pro” reviewers stating it was the best Shrek of the three movies. With comments like that, what else would I consider doing on a Friday morning of release day?

It didn’t take long for me to come to my conclusion of Shrek 3, while some of the great messages were still there, things like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, true love conquers all, realizing your full potential and more, there just seemed to be something missing. Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly scenes in the movie that was hilarious, one in particular I loved was seeing Snow White getting ready to go to battle with the tunes of Led Zeppelin and Heart in the background. There were other things like seeing Donkey loving on his babies, but there just didn’t seem to be the heart I felt in the first two films. Not only was the script poor, the animation had a lot to be desired. When it came to comparisons between the first two films, there was little of value.

I was talking to some friends about the movie and believe one of the reasons many won’t like it as much is the lack of new character development. I know this is something that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, especially when looking at an animated film, but I believe this to be the greatest draw back to Shrek the Third. Sure we see more detailed roles for some of the previous characters, but all new characters, with the exceptions of babies, are predominantly all human. For me at least, I found this a drawback.

The story itself is noble enough in its attempt. We see the potential for an individual to come out of their shell, to see themselves as more valuable than they initially thought. Shrek, Donkey, and Puss N Boots are there to help young Prince Artie see his potential. We see people, even those at the bottom of the bottom have potential and possibility, but the the journey along the way to that discovery is boring, and not very entertaining with the exception of a few moments.

I wish I could say more positive about this movie; I really do as I long for and desire quality family movies, and am a special lover of quality animation. That being said, I can recommend seeing this movie, but not enough to pay full price. I would also say, don’t go expecting a great movie, and I certainly wouldn’t compare it to the first two because it isn’t nearly as entertaining. It is worth seeing though, if for no other reason the music and the ability to incorporate moments of comedy. There are a few great scenes featuring Puss N Boots as well as some of the female characters of the film. Unfortunately there is not enough of those as a large portion of the film focuses on Prince Charming, a character I just don’t like much. Maybe that was just me though, I don’t know, you can see for yourself but don’t complain if you aren’t crazy about the movie. You can focus on the potential to help others, and of the potential to see more in yourself than what you realize. Whether that help comes from others or comes from God, there are lessons we can all learn. If not for those lessons, this movie would have been a wait and see on the DVD recommendation, but because those lessons are there, because they are things we can learn from, it makes this movie worth seeing, just not for full price.

Philippians 4:13 - Christ gives me the strength to face anything.

On a scale of 1-10, if you take Shrek 1, Shrek 2 and Shrek 3, add them all up, you will have Shrek with a 6, and that is the score I give this one, a 6 out of 10.

For the following video, click on the link if the video don't show. If the video does show, click on the video.

Shrek Featurette
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03DaBSc4t68


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Saturday, May 12, 2007

28 Weeks Later

It was back in 2003 that I first reviewed the film 28 Days Later. I gave the film the rating of a 7, appreciating it for the good story and some scary moments. 28 Weeks Later is a follow up to the story, albeit with differing characters and a differing thrust of thought. One of the things much different is the direction of the film. In 28 Days Later Danny Boyle did an incredible job at addressing spiritual themes as well as incorporating a new type of “Zombie” I say new type because one thing I have become aware of over the last few years is the debate among Zombie enthusiasts as to what actually is a Zombie. There are many purists who don’t consider the virus infected creatures of 28 Weeks Later as a Zombie. For the desire to not get too far off on a tangent here, for the sake of argument we will refer to the creatures as Zombies.

Boyle used the church and faith as a significant part of the back drop in 28 Days Later but new director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo attacks something different in the underlying theme of the movie. While some will say he stays away from any spiritual parallels I will disagree. I will say they are different but he certainly gets on track with the original intent of many of the writers of the Zombie Genera. He understands the political environment and makes a movie that addresses that environment in a way that hopefully too many don’t loose sight of.

In the movie, the Rage Virus has had an impact primarily on England. The fact that England is an island has kept the virus isolated as far as we know. The first film concludes with the virus still intact and playing havoc on the island. The movie 28 Weeks Later starts up, well 28 weeks later. In this film, soon after a reminder of the Rage Virus and the horror it produces, we see the character Don, apparently passionately in love with his wife. We also see him at a place where he has fears that are greater than love. It shows the power and potential of what can happen when fear is allowed to rule. After an escape from an attack from the Zombies he makes it to London. We then see, some weeks later, the Rage Virus has apparently died out. It seems as if the Zombies have died from starvation.

Here is where the political commentary enters the story. Some would say the commentary is not spiritual, but I challenge if thinking about the messages the film, then we will certainly come to not only a question of morality, but a question of spirituality. It is this question that current director, Fresnadillo and the writers of the film do a brilliant job.

It seems as if a country torn apart by evil and destruction is occupied by The United States Armed Services who are attempting to police and bring about order to England. We see soldiers placed in positions of power where they don’t question orders and see only their objective and mission ahead of them. The country has been torn a part, and in obvious need of leadership from the outside, thus comes in the good ol’ USA. It isn’t that all of the troops like their mission, some in fact find out they can’t carry out the mission that may entail them in not only killing hostiles, but innocents. In this process we see high ranking individuals who care more about protocol than they do about finding appropriate answers and solutions to the problems, even when those solutions are presented to them.

This is especially evident and frustrating when we see the higher ranking officials of the USA not having an ability to understand appropriate solutions to the Rage Virus once it returns and sticks up its ugly head. They are more concerned about doing what they know best, killing and destruction, than solving the problem. It becomes clear, quickly, this movie is in many ways a commentary on war, and in particular, to some extent, the Iraq war. Many will not see that, many will not understand that, but that is what the movie addresses at least for me.

Now don’t get me or the movie wrong, the movie does a good job at casting some military men in positive roles, but they are the ones who work for a solution to the problem. They find ways to protect those who would bring about solutions. These individuals struggle for this right, and some will pay a high price for their willingness to stand for what is right.

Now with the political commentary, don’t get me wrong, there is enough blood and guts to keep the Zombie and Horror fan quite happy. There is one innovative massacre scene involving a rescue mission and a helicopter that is like none I have seen before. There are certainly plenty of scares, head turners, and thought provoking commentary to keep one entertained, if you can call this entertainment, and some certainly will.

There are also plenty of questions the film addresses. Is society solution focused or do we force our views and actions on others? How often do we overlook solutions to our problems? Is the fear in our lives more powerful than the love in our lives? How far are we willing to go to show others love? Are we willing to lay down our lives for others? How do we come about the greater good, as opposed to the popular tendencies? There are more questions offered, but these are a start. I especially appreciated the film’s willingness to let the viewer come to their own conclusions without offering too many answers, outside of their obvious view of the United States when it comes to military action. Even there though, those serving in the military will likely appreciate the direction the film takes as it recognizes the moral integrity of many of those serving.

28 Weeks Later hasn’t forgotten what many consider one of the greatest attributes of horror, and especially the Zombie Genera. It is a shame that many can’t see beyond the gore of something like this to see the film for the things it has to say. It is a shame because there aren’t movies that often make the commentary and provides the questions movies like this do.

Now on a technical perspective; I was certainly impressed with the dark tendencies of the film regarding the cinematography. The direction and editing were also quite nice. I was a little disappointed in the script and would have liked to have seen the story tie in together a little more than it did. There were too many unanswered questions and the ending is certainly confusing at best. That said it is far from a perfect movie, it is a good movie, one worth seeing, but not great.

On a scale of 1 – 10, while not better than the first film in the series, certainly as good as an original. For that I will give a 7 for the good time and the price of an admission ticket, $7.

The following is the Official UK Movie Trailer. If you don't see the video click on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V13hS8oyK8M


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300

I can't think of a movie I have anticipated seeing as much as 300 in quite some time. I was hopeful, and anxious that 300 would present the important historical truth of this infamous battle. The battle of Thermopylae with Greek Spartan King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors alongside various other Greek city state warriors against the great Persian army led by King Xerxes is considered by many historians as quite possibly the most important battle ever fought. Without it the future of Western Civilization would likely have never existed. The true story is an incredible story that needs little or no exaggeration. Before the Alamo there was Thermopylae and this battle inspired Spartans and Greeks to unite and had an influence that changed history as we know it. Happening some 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ many have said that the teachings of Jesus and others would not have been possible without this battle. In fact, some say it was obvious that in the great plan of civilization, that even God was with King Leonidas as to bring about the downfall of the Persian empire, and the birth of free thought.

As much as I anticipated this movie, I left the theater feeling betrayed. While many critics are hailing this picture for its unique method of film making, I couldn't help but be disappointed in the lack of story, and the revision of actual events. The sad truth is the actual story of the battle of Thermopylae and King Leonidas would have made a grand story and film experience. I would go so far as to say that if the film would have stayed closer to the historical event, including the naval battles that supported the land battle this wouldn't have just been a film using new techniques it would have been a modern epic that would have lasted for years and considered a film classic. While 300 touches on some of the actual events that occurred, there is little explanation, and unless a student of history it is easy to get lost. This is sad especially when having an understanding of the actual importance of some of the characters in the story including oracles and King Leonidas response to the oracles and individuals who served in the same efforts. In fact when it comes to the story of the oracles and how the Spartans were called into the battle the fictional accounting in the movie is totally off base and not nearly as thrilling and exciting as the real story.

I wish I could say better things about this movie, but unfortunately I felt like I just wasted 2 hours of my time watching a blood bath on screen along with glimpses of sex and nudity that had little if any bearing to the real story. I don't recall ever seeing so many blood splatters and decapitations in a film. Realize I make this comment as a fan of the horror genera but even the splattering of blood on almost every frame was not realistic. I don't know why I would expect this though as the movie also incorporated grotesque creatures and characters that resembled fantasy as opposed to reality. I have no problem with this if creating a fantasy film, but when presenting the movie as if it were the way the actual events happened I have issue, especially when the story is so choppy, and flows so poorly leaving the viewer as a simple spectator to the violence we see acted out on screen. At this point, the film doesn't try to sell anything other than the violence we see. I had just finished watching the documentary This Film Not Yet Rated, and I have to tell you, I would personally like to know why this film did not receive a NC-17 Rating. It was that bad!

The story of 300 and the battle of the Greeks and Persians needs to be told because of the importance to Western Civilization. Unlike Troy, or even others that touch on this era, 300 left me bored and disappointed. Virtually every patron in the movie left the theater immediately as the credits started to role. While few people seldom stay, I was shocked that for the first time at a movie, no one stayed. There are great cinematic aspects to the movie, but when spending that much money on special effects, it seems as if it would be easy to insist on a better script.

There are elements to this story we all need to appreciate. The incredible sacrifice of these men to stand up for their country, their ideals and principles, despite how selfish they may have been is worth being told. The strategy of warfare, and the lessons learned from this battle as has been studied my military personnel for centuries would help many understand battles and effort many in the military put on the battles they are engaged in. There are also historical aspects of Western Civilization that could have been discussed, such as the early Greeks, especially the Spartans approach to the individual need to serve society, as opposed to society serving the individual. The illustrations and discussions could have come about by investigating the mindset of those who created methods of thought that influenced the world.

I could go on about 300 but as much as I hate to admit it, I would encourage those wanting to see it to wait until it comes out on DVD. Why? Simply put, I say this not to see the movie, but to see the History Channel feature on the battle that will likely be on the special features section. Now this story, this history is fascinating and educational. It is also entertaining. I would recommend, if you want to get something out of 300, to understand any of the deeper concepts of the era to at least watch the History Channel documentary before spending your money on a theater ticket. If it wasn't for some of my own knowledge of the era, and my own viewing of the documentary before seeing the movie, my final rating would be much worse. That may be hard to accept, especially when understanding:

On a scale of 1 - 10, for the price of admission, $7, minus the 3 for 300 I give a very disappointing 4.


Official Trailer for the Movie 300


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Black Snake Moan

Okay, sit back, get ready, here goes: Not since The Apostle has a more spiritual mainstream movie been released than Black Snake Moan. What we have is a movie depicting the need for forgiveness and change so realistically that it will certainly offend many church goers, and yet, at the same time, cause many who has issues with Christianity respecting the real life, honest to goodness struggles of those living out their faith on the screen before them.

While many will not realize the significant symbolism of Black Snake Moan, there is so much spiritual significance to the story one might consider the story syrupy if they didn't know better. Instead, we are served one delicious cup of java that not only has the taste of delight but the aroma of a wonderful heavenly experience. While there will be some who don't like coffee, some who might even be offended at the intake of caffeine, this highly charged, captivating story will certainly delight those who want examples of living out their faith, and the power of God in his ability to change lives. Not in a overtly religious way, but in a realistic presentation that left at least this one reviewer captivated enough that he could hardly get the movie off his mind over the weekend.

Black Snake Moan is the story of change, the story of resurrection. That is evidenced when we realize the primary character Samuel L. Jackson plays is the part of a farmer in the Deep South. His name is Lazarus and the story of Lazarus in the Bible is a story that represents the resurrection of a man Jesus deeply loved. A man who lived among the people, had heartaches, hopes and dreams just like everyone else but at some point found death. While the death Lazarus experiences in the movie isn’t a physical death, it isn't far from it. He has lost his wife to his brother, has left his dreams of playing music and for all practical purposes is living a life of spiritual death, and has no vision or hope.

Lazarus, just when he thought his life had no purpose finds the abandoned body of Rae, played by Christina Ricci on the side of the road at the end of his driveway. Rae has just seen her one love, Ronnie, played by Justin Timberlake go off to prepare for the Iraq war. She doesn’t expect to see him again for some time, and Rae is a young lady who, how can one say it, suffers from, "the sickness deep down inside," that causes her to desire and engage in sexual activity with virtually anyone she can find. She is known across the community and is not hesitant about who she sleeps with. Note here, this movie is rated 'R' for good reason, from the very opening scenes we see the lifestyle and the desires of Rae. Beaten, abused, and unconscious, Lazarus decides to take her into his home to "cure her," of the evil that exists within her.

Black Snake Moan is so well layered that there are ample story lines one could approach in looking at the symbolism in this story. From the need to find your own dreams, to the chains that hold us into our sin. There are examples of how to love, how to accept, how to succeed, and how to overcome. I was genuinely impressed with the story presented.

There are certainly scenes in the movie that are riveting in the dialog, especially scenes which involve the characters sharing their faith. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie has to do with Rae speaking to Reverend R.L. played wonderfully by John Cothran Jr. In this scene, Rae asks directly and specifically about salvation and asking Jesus into her heart to change her life. She asks about the future and Heaven. Reverend R.L. answers the question in a loving, caring, yet, non judgmental way. He answers the question specifically, but also in a way that will have individuals outside of the Christian faith respecting him for his obvious love and honest answer.

It would be easy for one to focus only on the relationship of Rae and her boyfriend Ronnie. The movie is much more than that, in fact, it is as much about the resurrection of Lazarus as it is the resurrection and new birth of Rae. One of the hopes is that those watching the movie will think and apply that message to their own life.

On the technical merits of the movie, I found everything almost flawless. While there were some weak moments in the acting, I found the more the characters developed the more appropriate the actors were to the roles they played. I know many will have a great deal of issues with the sexuality, and the role of Ricci. There are characters we see painted with the darkest of brushes, but they are also characters we see change and transform. They give credibility to the message that is presented by Lazarus and the Reverend, and the ability of that message to change lives. I was also impressed with the musical score, very important when looking at southern Blues

I consider Black Snake Moan to be one of the best stories to come about in a long time. It is a story not much different than the parables Jesus taught, or other stories in the Bible where we see individuals go through change. Black Snake Moan is a reminder that God still changes lives. We may not like the story as presented, but the story presents real life, thus giving us reason to believe in real change. For those who like great stories, incorporation of real faith, I couldn't recommend Black Snake Moan high enough, especially for teens and adults. It is as much a sermon presented on screen as anything I have heard in church in a long time. If not liking getting preached to by uppity ups, or holier than thous, Black Snake Moan is a movie that can cause you to think, and think even deeper about the power of God to change lives.

On a scale of 1 - 10 for a near perfect movie I am going to give a near perfect rating of one that looks like a snake ready to strike, a thought provoking, incredible 9

Movie Trailer


7 Clips From The Movie

Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are numerous postings, and you will have to go into the archives to see the 100 plus postings over the last months.

Now I also want to remind you that you can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ and on the front page scroll down to the left hand side of the page where you sill see our store. Your purchases through our Amazon store provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something on the page to buy, you can click on the search engine for the store, (do not put anything in the search box at this time) and you will then be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew and/or at the very least shop our store. The items on the store page are highly recommended.

Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.

The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217

Or you van give on line via Pay Pal at: http://www.furches.org/donations/index.html

To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: http://virtualpewsermon.blogspot.com/ where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can also subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ or see the newsletter on line at http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can also sign up for the free newsletter from The Virtual Pew by visiting the main page for The Virtual Pew, or you can see the newsletters online by visiting this web site: http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can contact me via email at mike@furches.org or mike@thevirtualpew.com For those interested in knowing more about my own story, contact me for a free e-copy of my book The Keystone Kid in pre-edit form.

The Astronaut Farmer

One of my favorite poems of all time is the poem Dreams by Langston Hughes. It is a poem that challenges individuals to hold fast to their dreams, to not let them die. When considering the time Hughes wrote the poem, early 1900's during a time African Americans in particular were oppressed one can understand the value of the challenge to hold fast to dreams. In a recent interview I did with Billy Bob Thornton, star of the new movie The Astronaut Farmer, the concept of having dreams and going after them was not lost in our conversation. When asking Billy Bob about his dreams, he told me that he was living his out. He also stated that the character Charles Farmer was as close to his real life as any character he had ever played.

Farmer is a character who grew up in a small town, living in a community of faith, with a focus on family, he also lost his father as a young man, all things familiar to Billy Bob Thornton as those things were a part of his own life. Maybe that is why we see Billy Bob Thornton in a way we haven't seen him in some time. Farmer is a simple man, simply living out his dreams while at the same time having the ability to challenge his wife and children to dream. It is a point taken into consideration by the character of Hal, played beautifully by long time actor Bruce Dern. Hal, Charles father-in-law, reminds him in one scene of how Farmer has succeeded as a father. He not only has the ability to have his family sit down at the dinner table to share a meal, he has encouraged in them the desire to dream for their future.

Throughout Astronaut Farmer we see family coming together in tough times. From Farmers lovely wife Audrey Farmer played intelligently by Virginia Madsen to his two lovely daughters and his 15-year-old son, the Farmers are a family made in small town America, a family who hasn't lost the value of church, love, and support. It is a family we all need to remind us of the importance of these things.

While many will see The Astronaut Farmer as a fun, easy going drama, it is much more than that. It is so serious that there are few laughs and the Polish brothers, (directors and writers) do something many film makers have forgotten about, they tell a story where the characters drive what we see on screen. We find ourselves caring about the Farmers and all they go through. We find ourselves reflecting on our own willingness to go after dreams, or letting others dictate to us what we do. It is in that drama, in that experience, I found myself enjoying The Astronaut Farmer more and more as the story went on. While the initial scenes and story drag for the first 15-minutes, character development takes place that ends up having the viewer on a roller coaster ride. Even in the closing credits, we see glimpses of what happens, we see hope that even with crazy dreams, it is important for individuals to be individuals.

I was deeply moved by this movie. I was moved because unfortunately we live in a world where others either dictate dreams, or the dreams are stolen by a society that seems to place more emphasis on the group than it does the individual. This is a sad place, and Astronaut Farmer illustrates this. It is in allowing an individual to go after the things in life they desire that we can inspire others. It is also as we place emphasis on the individual that we can truly understand and appreciate the value of the group. As children, young people, even those older, as we see someone going after their dreams we are often inspired to go after our dreams.

A number of years ago I was amazed at some research done with elderly people. When asked what their greatest regret in life was, they responded, "We never went after our dreams." It was in that moment I personally learned the importance of going after my own dreams, and thus embarked on a career of writing, speaking, and ministry. I was challenged; I would make the effort to go after my dreams, despite the sacrifices I would encounter. The Astronaut Farmer mirrors that journey for me, and I suspect it will for many others, hopefully they will be challenged to go after their own dreams.

In concluding my interview with Billy Bob I asked him if he thought movies could make a difference in the lives of the viewer, if movies could challenge people to go after their dreams. He responded, "I absolutely think they do influence people in that way. I know that as a kid I saw plenty of movies that made me hope and dream for things. I think movies can have a positive influence on people and they can also have a negative influence on people; but at the end of the day you're still responsible for yourself so you shouldn't let seeing a movie influence you in a negative way."

Billy Bob couldn't be more on target and the Polish brothers couldn't have been more on tract than illustrating that point in this movie. For that I am grateful, and this will be a movie I will see again before the weekend is over. We see a portrait of reality, in a dramatic way that challenges us, not only challenges us to dream, but to love, not only to love, but to forgive, not only to forgive, but to understand, but beyond that, it challenges us, when knocked down, get back up, not just to survive, but to dream, and dream again.

On a scale of 1 - 10, while not perfect, a very important movie for those needing inspiration to dream, I’ll give a very grateful 8


Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are numerous postings, and you will have to go into the archives to see the 100 plus postings over the last months.



The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.


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Music and Lyrics

The other day I got an email from an internet friend John asking me if I had seen the movie Music and Lyrics. I responded I hadn’t and after him telling me some about the movie, I thought, what the heck! I think I’ll give it a try and go check it out. I had normally had a few chats with John on several message boards, but I have to tell you, after seeing this movie, I personally hope he contacts me in the future with more recommendations because with this one, he threw me a winner and an evening I really enjoyed.

Music and Lyrics is intended to be a little off beaten romantic comedy featuring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. I have to admit, while I have been a fan of Drew Barrymore, I haven’t been that impressed with Hugh Grant in the past. I knew I would have to overcome some obstacles in this movie but I have to say, right from the start, the very opening scenes. I knew I was going to be okay with this little film.

The premise of Music and Lyrics is that former pop sensation of the group Pop, a fictional but well written 80’s band has broken up. We see the current life of Alex Fletcher, (Hugh Grant) living a life of shopping malls, motels, and various other minor venues playing his old songs and entertaining the older female fans of his past. His manager, Chris Riley, played wonderfully by Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame discovers a contest where current pop artist Cora Corman played by Haley Bennett is looking for a new song. Corman is more along the lines of a Britney Spears than she is the style of Alex Fletcher, but Alex knows that getting one of his songs into her repertoire can go a long ways towards reestablishing his own career. While working in his lush New York Apartment alongside his manager Riley in comes a new maid of types whose responsibility it is to care for the plants in the apartment. This young lady, Sophie Fisher, played wonderfully by Drew Barrymore soon shows an ability to throw verses together as she works in the background while listening to the efforts of Alex Fletcher. What transpires is a romantic relationship where we not only see the importance of not giving up and sticking to your guns, but also one that gives us some insight to the music business and all along the way a film that has fun with itself and thus allows the audience to have a fun time.


I have to admit, going into this film, I wasn’t expecting much, I really wasn’t. Maybe that lack of expectation is what it was that allowed me to have a good time, and enjoy this movie. I was surprised at a lot of things regarding this movie and pleasantly surprised at that.

As many know I often try to find spiritual insight into movies when I review them, part of that is my responsibility and desire from writing for Hollywood Jesus and The Virtual Pew. I also know that one can search so deeply they forget about what the most important theme in a movie, book, or song may be. I am glad that at least in this case I didn’t do that. In fact, while there are themes of the movie that are of great value. The greatest value of the movie wasn’t lost on me. That value was the value of entertainment and enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, the value of the themes such as don’t give up, stick to your convictions, learning to be a team as opposed to an individual, all of those things have value, and thankfully all are laced throughout this film. We even see the character of Cora Corman caught up in Eastern Religion, specifically Hindu concepts. Yet despite her overt desire to be involved in the spiritual search she is on, she obviously has not found the answers for herself, and isn’t in any position to give answers to anyone else. It is in fact the love between two characters that would normally never come together that allows her to eventually see the need to respect the integrity of the effort placed before her in the song that is written by Fletcher and Fisher.

Yes all of those things are important, but the most important component to the film for me, and one that is also spiritual, is that I as a viewer was able to have a good time, escape from the difficulties around me, and have a few laughs and leave the theater feeling good. There are times each of us need a measure of escape, for me at least, this movie did that, at a time I needed it. While this isn’t a great movie, it is a fun movie and one that accomplishes its purpose. If needing a good laugh, a touch of romanticism and a toe tapping good time, I would recommend that you check out Music and Lyrics.

On a scale of 1 – 10 minus the three letters of the band Pop, I’ll give it a heartwarming and enjoyable 7.

Video Pop Goes My Heart






Video Trailer of the Movie






Fan Video of Way Back Into Love






Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are numerous postings, and you will have to go into the archives to see the 100 plus postings over the last months.

Now I also want to remind you that you can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ and on the front page scroll down to the left hand side of the page where you sill see our store. Your purchases through our Amazon store provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something on the page to buy, you can click on the search engine for the store, (do not put anything in the search box at this time) and you will then be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew and/or at the very least shop our store. The items on the store page are highly recommended.

Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.
The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217
Or you van give on line via Pay Pal at: http://www.furches.org/donations/index.html
To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: http://virtualpewsermon.blogspot.com/ where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can also subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ or see the newsletter on line at http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can also sign up for the free newsletter from The Virtual Pew by visiting the main page for The Virtual Pew, or you can see the newsletters online by visiting this web site: http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can contact me via email at mike@furches.org or mike@thevirtualpew.com For those interested in knowing more about my own story, contact me for a free e-copy of my book The Keystone Kid in pre-edit form.

Hannibal Rising

Right from the start, let me admit, I have seen all of the Hannibal movies including the original Manhunter. I know, call me messed up, call me whatever. I guess part of it comes from my days where I was studying and fascinated with Abnormal Psychology. Another part of my interest may have been my appreciation of Tom Harris, and the fascinating character study he has written. Thankfully he is back and it is his story that we see on screen.

Hannibal Rising is the prequel to the Hannibal Lecter character. The movie starts out with the early youth of young Hannibal Lecter. Growing up in Lithuania in the Lecter castle we see a loving and fun young Hannibal, alongside his little sister and loving parents. The story starts in the early days of World War 2 and the events of that war lead to what will ultimately become a villainous character for the ages.

In recent movies featuring the character Hannibal Lecter, there was much that was lacking. In the original Silence of the Lambs we see an interesting character study and adventure that lets us into the mind of Hannibal Lecter. Even though this was the case there was always that ongoing confusion and interest as to why Hannibal was the way he was. This movie answers those questions.

Hannibal Rising is a character study into the concept of evil and where evil comes from. The series has always been laced with Spiritual imagery. There has been visual imagery as well as contextual imagery in the stories. While there is minimal visual imagery here, the overall theme comes in the exploration of evil, and is in reality more of a plot issue for this movie.

From Biblical times there has been the exploration of evil. From Genesis to Revelation, almost every book of the Bible explores evil, its consequences, origins, and realities. Those concepts relating to evil, the concept especially of every person being born with the potential of evil is driven home by Tom Harris in this story. It is here we see, understand, and can almost accept the evil that exists within Hannibal Lecter. That is not to excuse the evil, but to simply understand Hannibal from a new perspective. We see a perspective where we can look at ourselves and ask the question, what if it had been me.

We see in the life of Hannibal Lecter evil birthed by evil. From this one can relate better to a Biblical concept presented in the book of Romans chapter 12, verse 21 where the reader is told not to repay evil with evil. There are consequences of such actions and this movie present those which can come about when one repays evil with evil.

This is not an exceptional movie. It is one of the better Hannibal movies of recent, and it presents a fascinating character study. One more character driven than it is on the themes of surprise, suspense, or even terror. For many Hannibal fans it will disappoint. For those fascinated with the Hannibal character, there will be plenty of answers and plenty of things to appreciate.

What I would hope many get out of the movie is the concept of understanding evil, and the dangers and consequences that exist when one repays evil. In the capacity for revenge or vengeance, we all run the risk of becoming like Hannibal. We likely won't become this in the methods and ways he does, but with the emotional struggles and inner conflicts we face. The reality is far more harm can come from the tendency to seek vengeance, than can come from the effort to forgive. To strive and dwell on revenge can turn each of us into monsters.

On a technical perspective, the movie was interesting, well filmed, and a wonderful character study of Hannibal. I will admit I felt the movie was long and got a little boring. There was confusion as to the intent of the direction of the movie. It is not a movie I will likely see again, but am glad I saw it at least once. The characters were well acted but I don’t think we can expect any great roles to come about because of this movie. As a fan, you may or may not like it. On its own though, without an interest in the character, I just don’t think there would be much interest for Hannibal Rising.

On a scale of 1 - 10 for the 4 movies made with this character, deducting them from 10, I come up with an okay 6

Movie Trailer

Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are numerous postings, and you will have to go into the archives to see the 100 plus postings over the last months.

Now I also want to remind you that you can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ and on the front page scroll down to the left hand side of the page where you sill see our store. Your purchases through our Amazon store provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something on the page to buy, you can click on the search engine for the store, (do not put anything in the search box at this time) and you will then be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew and/or at the very least shop our store. The items on the store page are highly recommended.

Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.

The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217

Or you van give on line via Pay Pal at: http://www.furches.org/donations/index.html

To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: http://virtualpewsermon.blogspot.com/ where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can also subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ or see the newsletter on line at http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can also sign up for the free newsletter from The Virtual Pew by visiting the main page for The Virtual Pew, or you can see the newsletters online by visiting this web site: http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can contact me via email at mike@furches.org or mike@thevirtualpew.com For those interested in knowing more about my own story, contact me for a free e-copy of my book The Keystone Kid in pre-edit form.

Mooooved at the Barnyard

I started seeing spiritual insights in movies over 30 years ago. It was approximately 10 years ago that I started commenting on those insights at Hollywood Jesus at www.hollywoodjesus.com. I am amazed at how movies at various times in ones life can have messages that touch not only the viewer but the situations surrounding the life of the viewer. It has been a long time since I commented on a DVD but I just finished watching Barnyard, and I have to tell you, a movie has once again touched my life for the better. I couldn't help but think of the numerous messages in this movie as I watched the DVD.

Barnyard is a movie written and directed by Steve Oedekerk and put out by Nickelodeon, a television network I have admittedly had some problems with over the years because of what I perceive as efforts to devalue family. I have to admit, it was one of the reasons I was reluctant to see Barnyard upon its release, and I have to confess further, I couldn't have been more mistaken about the premise than I was with this movie.

Barnyard right off the bat impressed me because of the all-star cast featuring as its lead, Kevin James who plays the part of Otis the Cow. Otis is a party animal to the fullest and while he is an adopted son of Ben the Cow, voiced wonderfully by one of my favorite character actors, Sam Elliott we see him loved as much as any son could be loved. Ben wants the same things for his son that virtually every father wants for their sons. He wants him happy, successful and able to accomplish something out of his life. A great line in the movie is "Otis, a strong man stands up for himself; a stronger man stands up for others." The concept of a willingness to recognize the value of standing up for others highly resembles of the Biblical concept that there is no greater love that we can show anyone than our own willingness to lay down our lives for them. This premise and the journey of Otis to get there is the entire premise of this movie. Love others enough to be willing to lay down your life and be willing to serve them, even at great sacrifice. This concept and the concept of a love between a father and a son is something I haven't seen in a movie in some time. To see it portrayed so well here was a joy that I was needing at the time I watched the movie.

I think the reality is this movie touched me because of those types of issues I am going through in my own life. The relationship between my son and I, despite mistakes that have been made, the desires to see my son accomplish his dreams and take into consideration the lives of others, plus his willingness to serve with great sacrifice out of love is a tremendous message that touched me in this film. The truth is, virtually every family struggles with issues like this to some extent. How do parents parent? How do kids listen? How do we find balance between love and responsibility? How do we grow from the mistakes we have made? How do we find our own place in our own way in life? These issues and more are addressed in this wonderful animated film.

There is beautiful respect seen between all of the characters. Respect and love despite differences are one of the wonderful sub plots of the film. Don't get me wrong, there are some very nice moments from an incredible sound track to some wonderfully hilarious moments that had our entire family laughing. This film just about had it all and has messages that will touch virtually every viewer if they watch with an open mind and think about the story.

Barnyard had a way of touching my life in a way I needed it, at a time I needed it. How many of us can say we have experienced things like that in life? I honestly believe movies can do that if we allow them. Of course there are the terrible movies that won't do this as they don't address anything of value, but this isn't one of those movies, instead, it is one wonderfully written and directed with wonderful CGI and a powerful story, a story told in a way that gets people to listen if they will open up their ears and hear what the movie has to say.

Yea, I realize I should have seen Barnyard some time ago. My son really wanted to see it as did my wife and I refused to see it at the theater. That was a mistake on my part; it was a mistake because maybe those lessons in the movie could have helped prevent some of the mistakes as of recent in our family. I could dwell on that, I could mope on that, but I choose to learn from my mistakes, then move on making the effort to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Movies, a modern form of storytelling can do those types of things if we let them. I know because I have experienced what I am speaking of. Hopefully those reading the comments today can experience the same type of things. If you have a family and haven't seen Barnyard, get the DVD, sit down, turn out the lights, turn on the surround sound and enjoy a wonderful movie experience, not just from the perspective of the film, but from the perspective of the message the film presents.

On a scale of 1 – 10 for an incredible Moooooooooooving experience I give a wonderful and delightful 8.



Trailer from the movie Barnyard



Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are numerous postings, and you will have to go into the archives to see the 100 plus postings over the last months.

Now I also want to remind you that you can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ and on the front page scroll down to the left hand side of the page where you sill see our store. Your purchases through our Amazon store provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something on the page to buy, you can click on the search engine for the store, (do not put anything in the search box at this time) and you will then be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew and/or at the very least shop our store. The items on the store page are highly recommended.

Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.


The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217


Or you van give on line via Pay Pal at: http://www.furches.org/donations/index.html


To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: http://virtualpewsermon.blogspot.com/ where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can also subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ or see the newsletter on line at http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can also sign up for the free newsletter from The Virtual Pew by visiting the main page for The Virtual Pew, or you can see the newsletters online by visiting this web site: http://thevirtualpewnews.blogspot.com/ You can contact me via email at mike@furches.org or mike@thevirtualpew.com For those interested in knowing more about my own story, contact me for a free e-copy of my book The Keystone Kid in pre-edit form.

Interview with Billy Bob Thornton

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I recently got the honor of spending some time with Billy Bob Thornton, 1:1 in a telephone interview. While we were getting heavy snow in Wichita, Billy Bob was in Boston getting ready for lunch. I was honored to do this particular interview because I have so much respect for Billy Bob Thornton. I have always appreciated him because he is known as an actor for the common man. Shunning the star status and the higher echelon of society, he has remained true to his roots which had him doing everything from working in factories, to working in restaurants as a youngster. He grew up in the hills of Arkansas and comes from a deeply devoted family. We spoke about a lot of things, from his growing up in church in Arkansas, to his tattoos. We even had a little time to talk music and wrestling. Sit back, pull up an easy chair, and enjoy the intimate interview with one of my favorites, Billy Bob Thornton.

Billy Bob Thornton (BBT): Hello Michael

Mike Furches (MF): Hey Billy Bob how are you doing?

BBT: Not too bad, yourself?

MF: Pretty Good, have you had lunch yet?

BBT: I’m about to. Here in a few minutes I’m going to have a little piece of salmon, sliced bananas with grapefruit.

MF: You’re eating light then?

BBT: Yea a little bit.

MF: Well, we’re not having a Ice Harvest in Wichita but we are having a snow blizzard.

BBT: Oh do you really.

www.thevirtualpew.comMF (with some laughter): I don’t know if you caught the little pun or not but…

BBT: You’re in Wichita? My band and I played in Wichita, I guess it’s been about 2 ½ or 3 years ago.

MF: Where did you play? Was it at the Cotillion?

BBT: Maybe that was it, it was a pretty big place. I can’t remember the name of it but it was down the road from the college.

MF: Okay, I don’t know for sure where that would be at. There are a number of places it could be. I’ve lived in Tennessee, Tulsa for a long time I loved Tulsa for the music.

BBT: Oh yea, Tulsa is great.

MF: Tulsa is a great town.

BBT: We played in Tulsa at a big out door event somewhere. But do you know where we played in Tulsa the last time we was in Tulsa was at Cain’s Ballroom.

MF: That’s a room I’ve dreamed of, well I’m a musician as well.

BBT: Okay

MF: I’ve dreamed of playing that room my whole life.

BBT: I’ll tell you it was something else. We were the last band in there before they changed it. You know they renovated it?

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MF: Yea

BBT: So we were the last ones to play in the old place.

MF: So you got to see and be a part of the history of the room?

BBT: Exactly, it was really great.

MF: It’s a pleasure to get to interview you because I am a fan. I’m not a writer per say although I do write. One of the things that’s a little bit different about what I do is that I am someone who tends to relate to regular folks.

BBT: Right.

MF: I know you have that kind of history. I’m also a musician. I used to own the old Allman Brothers touring truck and I know you are an Allman Brothers fan.

BBT: Yea.

Steve Morse with the Dixie Dregs and I did a lot of shows together and Steve used to call me Twiggs Jr.

BBT: Is that right? I’ll be darned.

MF: Twiggs managed The Allman Brothers and Dregs

BBT: Sure, I remember Twiggs when he was with them, sure.
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MF: It is an honor to get to talk to you.

BBT: Well thanks man.

MF: I’ve seen 8 out of your last 10 movies, 21 of them in total.

BBT: Wow!

MF: I have been impressed with a lot of things about the characters you have played. You play a lot of different types of characters, which of the characters have you played, that is most like the real Billy Bob Thornton?

BBT: Well the one in Astronaut Farmer is not too far off. I was raised down there with that kind of life style, family and everything was pretty close to it plus I was a dreamer growing up, I still am really.

MF: I’ve got some questions about the dreamer and stuff coming up a little later on.

BBT: Also kind of bucking the system. I’ve always kind of had a little trouble with the rules and regulations of the suits you know? (laughing)

MF: Yea!

BBT: So I related to that part of it, (Astronaut Farmer). This might sound funny, but I played a character in A Simple Plan and that was a pretty heavy movie. It involved taking some money and the moral question of what to do about something like that. I played this character who at the end of the day didn’t want to live in a world where people close to him were capable of what they did. I always related to that character quite a bit.

MF: It was a good movie and a good role. What is it about Billy Bob Thornton that causes what I call everyday, regular, ordinary, every day folk to like you? You’re probably one of the most well liked actors among the populist. Not the Hollywood Elite, not the white color types but regular folk. What is it about you that causes that type of person to be a fan of yours?

BBT: Well I guess maybe part of it is I have never really been into being a celebrity much. I will go out which is pretty rare. I stay home most of the time, especially with a 2 ½ year old daughter I stay home a whole lot. But, I guess a lot of it is I will stand and sign autographs all day long and talk with people. I’m not a whole lot different than I was when I was 18 years old. I guess maybe another part of it is as opposed to trying to become somebody else, loose my accent or try to do more maybe high brow roles that I wouldn’t be suited for as a vanity thing. I’ve tried to stick with what I know and when I make a Southern movie or play a Southern character I try to bring some kind of dignity to the character. You know how the South is portrayed?


www.mosaicwichita.comMF: Yea. If you can’t tell by my accent. (laughter from both of us)

BBT: The thing is, that most movies, up until recent years about the South were made by people who weren’t from there. So whenever a movie was made about the South it was always a racist kind of thing or a Mississippi Burning or things like that. After awhile you think these are the only kind of movies they make about this place well that must be it. I’ve tried to bring some kind of realism and dignity to that kind of thing.

MF: That is important because growing up in Arkansas you saw the racism and those types of things. To make an additional statement of what the South is like is probably important to you then?

BBT: Absolutely.

MF: Being a Southerner I can relate to that. Tell us a little about what it was like to grow up in Arkansas, the home of Bill Clinton? (laughter)

BBT: Yea, exactly. Well, I had a pretty normal childhood. I actually wouldn’t trade it. I was raised in the middle of the woods up until I was about 9 or so and then we moved into a town of about 10,000 people where I went to school. You’ve seen them, in Oklahoma, Tennessee, or anywhere, you’ve seen these towns they are anywhere from five to ten thousand people and they have a main street and all that which is part of the sadness when I go back home it’s like main street is kind of dying. Everything has moved to the outskirts of town with shopping malls and that kind of thing are kind of taking over. It was a pretty normal kind of childhood. My dad was a high school coach and school teacher so we moved around a little bit. He died, I had just graduated high school when he died.

MF: I know that you had spent a lot of time helping take care of him prior to his death.

BBT: Yea, he died at home and was there for nearly a year. He was in real bad shape so that was pretty eye opening for me and I had to grow up pretty fast. I was the oldest so I took over a lot of stuff.

MF: What were some of the pleasant memories growing up?

BBT: A lot of great memories surrounding the baseball park because I was a baseball player. I think I had my best times in the summer at the ball field. It was a typical type of, well some of it was almost like Tom Sawyer. (laughter)

MF: And you are a Cardinals fan?

BBT: Oh big time. (laughter continues)

MF: So I won’t talk about the Braves or the Cubs. (laughter gets louder from the both of us.)

BBT: (still laughing) It’s okay this year because we won the Series this year.

MF: I know it.

BBT: I could listen to about anything. You know I’ve been doing interviews with people in Boston. We were just talking about their team this Spring and how much money they paid for J.D. Drew. (laughter) I was like, well I don’t know I think he’ll hit about 270 and hit about 21 home runs and be hurt about half of the year myself. You know they pay a lot of money for ball players now.

MF: Yea, they pay a lot, a lot more than acting.

BBT: (Both laughing) Yea they do.

MF: Despite what some people may think. A question kind of out of the norm, you may have never been asked this. I am a sports fan as well. I know that you have two cousins that were professional wrestlers, the Funk boys.

BBT: That’s what I’ve heard.

MF: Do you know anything about that?

BBT: It’s just what I have heard, I really don’t know about that. I mean, maybe so. That’s pretty funny. Somebody said that to me, well I’ve only started hearing this recently.

MF: It’s on your web site.

BBT: Really?

MF: Yea

BBT: Well, see I don’t know.

MF: You may have to talk to your webmaster.

BBT: Yea I guess so. I could also talk to the wrestlers and see what branch of the family they’re from.

(Note on this point after going over my notes I discovered it was not in fact on Billy Bob’s web site, it was instead on Wikipedia. A mistake on my part, not the web master.

MF: I know that Arkansas was not a big wrestling state.

BBT: No

MF: I don’t know if you have followed amateur wrestling or not. I know you’ve done the basketball routine and other sports related films. That seems like a sports media that’s not been touched. With the Billy Bob attitude that we’ve seen in films on occasion, it seems like you would make a great wrestling coach because they are a breed apart from others.

BBT: Oh Yea, they sure are, as a matter of fact the guy that trains me was a wrestler at Southern Illinois University. You know, people don’t understand how skilled those guys are. It’s a real tough sport.

MF: A couple of quotes here actually out of respect to both actors. These are actors that said some things about you. I’m going to tell you what they said, you tell me if you know who it was that said it and something about your relationship with that person. The first quote; "If David Lynch and Horton Foote had a baby, Billy Bob would be the son." Do you know who said that?

BBT: (some silence) Let me think, maybe Robert Duvall?

MF: No, that was a close one, it was John Ritter.
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BBT: Oh John Ritter, I’ll be darned. That sounds like something John would say. That’s great.

MF: I know you were good friends with John.

BBT: Yea.

MF: He was in three or four of your movies.

BBT: Yea.

MF: Just your thoughts about John Ritter?

BBT: John was one of the greatest guys I ever knew. He was one of those people that you couldn’t find a bad word to say about the guy. He was just an amazing guy and also way more talented than people gave him credit for. Sometimes you get pigeonholed he was on Three’s Company for so many years and people thought he was just kind of a goofy comedy actor who tripped over the couch and stuff. That’s why I really wanted to show him off in Sling Blade. I knew what he could do; he was a really terrific actor.

MF: Here is another quote from another actor I really appreciate. He reminds me of a family member. This actor said; “That Billy Bob Thornton is the hillbilly Orson Welles.”

BBT: (laughter) Now that was Robert Duvall. I know that was Duvall.

MF: You are right on. What’re your thoughts of Duvall? He has been in your movies and you have been in his movies.

BBT: That’s right. Duvall has been my mentor. He is the guy that kind of brought me up. I respect him more than any other actor in the business. I think he is the greatest actor around. Maybe the last living, one of the old guard, that’s that kind of quality. He’s the best one of them.

MF: Tell me about the role you played in the movie The Apostle. There’s a powerful salvation scene where you are out in front of the tractor.

www.mosaicwichita.comBBT: That was improvised. After we did Sling Blade he told me he was making his own movie and I read the script and I knew what he would do with that because he is such a powerful actor. I knew that he had that story in his head and he had he had to get it out. There was some dialog written in the script for that and also for the scene beforehand where I come into the church. So we pretty much stuck to what was in the script in the church scene. In the bulldozer scene there wasn’t a lot of dialog to it and he said, ‘Well, how do we get from this point to you being saved right here in front of everybody in that length of time?’ I said, ‘Do you mind if we just say whatever we feel?’ He said, ‘No that would be great.’ I said, ‘Because I’m thinking that this guy is coming to knock the church down but I think a lot of it is because he feels like such an outsider. He actually comes there, wanting to make things explode in order to be saved. I think that’s why he’s coming there but he just doesn’t know how to say it. The only way he knows how to communicate is with violence or whatever’

MF: Yea

BBT: Through that he’s kind of wanting to, that’s really what’s in his mind. So he is not the kind of guy who’s able to communicate very well so that’s why when I’m on my knees there he takes a Bible and everything and is whispering to me I say, ‘I’m embarrassed.’ I whispered that to him, ‘I’m embarrassed.’ Then those ladies that were there, they were a real church congregation.

MF: Huh!

BBT: He just told them to do whatever they felt. It was chilling I’ve got to say. It was almost like you were doing the real thing.

MF: The primary site I write for and will post this on is Hollywood Jesus. It is a movie review site but we address spiritual issues in movies but it is not what I would call blatantly Christian or anything like that. In fact one of the things that might surprise you is if I ever had the chance sit down with you on vocals, me playing bass guitar and Mickey Jones on drums in a bar playing some music while having a beer or two that would be fine with me.

BBT: (both laughing) I hear you.

www.mosaicwichita.comMF: I’ve known Mickey over the years and I know that he has worked with you as well.

BBT: Mickey is great

MF: One of the things I’ve noticed though is that you have a number of tattoos.

BBT: (both laughing) Yea!

MF: I have one myself, I was even a pastor at a church that once hosted a tattoo convention. That tells you something right there. You have a number of religious tattoos with religious overtones. You have a Celtic cross and a few other things. What are your thoughts on religion? You obviously think something about it because of the imagery put on your body.

BBT: Yea, when I was raised, I was raised in the Methodist church. That was my upbringing. You did it because your parents took you to church. When you get to be a teenager or an adult you actually start to think about it. One of the things I tried to do over the years was to be more open to different kinds of religions, but to maintain the fact that at the face of all of them, most religions kind of have the same ideas originally which is kind of the Golden Rule. My religion was always more of a personal thing than it was an organized thing in some ways. As I was raised in the Methodist Church I always tried to study up on a few other things. I kind of resolved the fact that it is more of a spiritual thing than it is a particular group. As a matter of fact, I have one tattoo that really doesn’t have anything to do with religion although it looks like it does. I have an Ohm symbol tattoo.

MF: Yea, some say it is a symbol for God or something like that.

BBT: Yea it is supposed to represent God. The reason I got the tattoo is because I just saw it in a book and liked the way it looked and got it. (laughter) But it really doesn’t have to do with anything else.

MF: Yea, my son has one kind of like that. It is the Gallic symbol for strength, but he liked the way it looked. He’s a wrestler so after he got it he realized how much more he liked it.

I’m changing directions a little bit again because I want to get to the movie that is coming out. But I know you are a musician. What is your favorite band and some of your favorite styles of music.

BBT: Well I’m still a huge fan of all of the Southern Rock bands. I’m a big Allman Brothers fan. I’d have to say my favorite record of all time is The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East.

MF: Yea, a great album. Let’s get to the movie here real quick because I want to get some comment on that. What can you tell us about Astronaut Farmer that’s coming out?

BBT: Well I play this guy Charles Farmer who is in the NASA program to be an astronaut. His father died and he had to come home and take care of the ranch and family and everything. He had to drop out of it, but his dream was to someday go up in space. So, since he knows how to do it, he builds his own rocket with the idea of launching himself into space. Everything is okay until he orders ten thousand pounds of rocket fuel. Then the FBI pays him a visit.

MF: We could talk about some government oppression and things at that point.

BBT: Yea

MF: I have heard you like to talk politics.

www.mosaicwichita.comBBT: (with some hesitancy) Well, to a degree. Yea, but the movie is really the story of a guy who has a dream and has a lot of questions to wrestle with, weather he ought to fulfill that dream or not. At the end of the day, if he doesn’t follow his dream he’s not going to be a happy person. He’ll be living with regrets. So his family is really supportive in it. It’s less a movie about an astronaut it’s more a movie about family and how you try to maintain that and still live your dreams.

MF: I know that time is running short, on the concept of dreams, and people being able to obtain their dreams; do you think that movies can have an influence as far as influencing the people who are in the seats to go after their own dreams? What are your thoughts about that?

BBT: I absolutely think they do influence people in that way. I know that as a kid I saw plenty of movies that made me hope and dream for things. I think movies can have a positive influence on people and they can also have a negative influence on people, but at the end of the day you’re still responsible for yourself so you shouldn’t let seeing a movie influence you in a negative way.

MF: Last question Billy Bob; What dreams, what aspirations are there that Billy Bob Thornton has not yet accomplished?

BBT: You know I’ve been kind of living my dreams out. I want to continue with the same ones really, just keep creating because I believe if you have any kind of talent you ought to use it. I just want to keep doing that. Most of my dreams for the future now have to do with my kids. I just want to see them grow up and be successful and happy. I’m kind of living dreams through them now.

MF: The last thing I will say and we can go from there. I really mean it when I tell you that I think that you have used the gifts that God has given you to the full measure. You are extremely talented. To me, one of the things I really appreciate is that the regular person, the guy that is working for the $9, $10, $11 an hour job, doing that working down at the factory, you’re an actor that they can relate to and appreciate. I’m just telling you as someone who comes from that kind of dirt, you’re doing a good job. I thank you for that. I just wanted you to know that. I have a ton of other questions but I want to respect your time and I thank you for yours.

BBT: I thank you for saying that, it really means a lot.

MF: You have a great day.

BBT: You to Mike.

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