Movie Review: The Last Jedi

I usually don’t write up movie reviews, though I watch so many that perhaps I should. I think most reviewers try to hard to find mistakes so they can be the most prolific basher of a film. I always factor in entertainment. I think there are “bad” movies out there that are highly entertaining. There are also “good” movies that bore me to tears. There are movies that I would never recommend for someone to watch that I find incredibly fun and have seen dozens of times. This film, is both “good” and entertaining.

I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi over the weekend. I went into the film without reading or watching any reviews whatsoever. I avoided all trailers after the first one. I did not look up the cast on imdb, or watch any interviews with the cast. I took no part in any promotional material since October.

First of all, here are my general criteria for a film review: entertainment, acting, visual appeal, and storytelling. Since this is a Star Wars film, I will also include a contribution to the overall story arch.

  1. Entertainment: The Last Jedi is incredibly entertaining. It is a fun bit of escapism for 2 and a half hours.
  2. Acting: I thought the performances were all great, but Adam Driver as Kylo Ren once again dominates his time on the screen. I really felt the actors’ emotions throughout the film and it really drew me in.
  3. Visual appeal: This is a beautiful film full of rich scenery, top notch special effects, amazing CGI and motion capture. The directing is fantastic.
  4. Storytelling: Save for one idiotic twenty-minute span halfway through the film, I like the path that the story took. There were essentially three main plot threads, and two of the three were quite strong. There were a few character arcs that had great payoffs. There were others that seem like they will pay off in the next episode, which brings me to. . .
  5. Overall story arch: This film builds and expands greatly on the characters and story built in The Force Awakens. The relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren is fleshed out more, the First Order is still hunting the Resistance/Rebels, and we find out more about what happened between Luke and Kylo. There are aspects of the force that are drawn from the original trilogy, and some new facets are included. I also think this film did a great job in diverging from some of the tropes we have come to expect. This apparently angers some fans, but I think it’s a brilliant stroke.

Overall, I think it is a great entry into the franchise. The criticisms that I have seen are misunderstandings of narratives and fans with unrealistic expectations not having their theories validated. Furthermore, I think many of the criticisms are unfair. We never judged the original trilogy this way.

There were dozens of plot holes and lack of backstory in the original films. We just didn’t care. Episode IV is vastly overrated, as it has been saved by the other two films. Episode V is long and tedious, but we give it a pass because of one of the greatest endings and legendary film moments in movie history. Episode VI has its flaws, but it finishes the story in a satisfactory way, thus closing the loop. We still knew NOTHING of the Emperor, very little of Darth Vader, Han Solo, Leia, and Boba Fett. Yet all of these characters were endearing.

Compare that to a much more fleshed out villain in Kylo Ren, an equally compelling hero in Rey, and the development of Snoke and Phasma in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are just as enigmatic as the Emperor and Boba Fett.

So get over it. I’ll wait for the epic finale to make any big decisions on “plot holes” (which, at the moment, are more lack of revelation than plot hole).

Immediately after viewing the film, I had it as my fifth favorite. Now that I’ve reflected for a day, I think it might be a top three Star Wars film. I like these first two entries of this trilogy more than the originals, and I understand that puts me in a minority. I take into consideration that the special effects are much better, and they are able to hire more seasoned actors. I also consider that nostalgia makes the original films seem better than they actually are. It is unfair to “compare” these movies to the originals. By capturing the spirit of the original films, they seem too much like them. By deviating from the original story, they seem too different. Either way appears to upset huge segments of the fanbase.

I, however, appreciate the new characters, story arcs, and bold choices in the deviation from what we expect, while also incorporating elements from the original story. The Last Jedi does not reinvent the franchise, but it does expand it.

It’s worth seeing in the theater. I’d suggest IMAX 3D if available in your area. The Last Jedi is an excellent film.

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The Bully Dilemma

This story about young Keaton Jones, a boy who poured his heart out as his mother filmed his teary-eyed confession and posted it on social media, is heartbreaking. No innocent person deserves to be treated with such disrespect. That being said, the response to this video has me concerned with the profound lack of understanding when it comes to bullying.

I used to be a bully.

My friends and I once made a book of fat jokes that landed us in trouble with the school and incentivized a female classmate to leave in the middle of the school year. We were 11.

The armchair psychologists who plague social media with their uninformed yet equally passionate responses would blame my parents for not showing me how to respect other kids. In the case of Keaton Jones, an armada of celebrities would call for some sort of new measures to stop me from ever doing such a heinous thing again.

The truth is that my parents taught me well, and I knew what I was doing was wrong. However, there is something truly primal that happens when you exert power over another person. When the girl I teased left school, I wore it as a badge of honor. I was mean and nasty. I could dominate another person into total submission. I felt powerful.

I used to be a victim of bullying.

I grew up as the only white kid in an all-black neighborhood. Since I was different, my “friends” used to try to get me to do stupid things all the time. I went along because I was desperate to fit in. One time, they coaxed me into a fight with a kid from another street. We did not know each other, but somehow were convinced that we should fight. I had never punched another person, and the “fight” did not go well for me. I was 8.

School was not much better for me. I rode the bus with mostly black students, one of which seemed to make it his life mission to mock me for being poor. He threatened to fight me almost every day, and I cowered in fear awaiting the time he would strike. My previous experience dictated that I would not fare well. Almost 30 years later, and I still see his face. When someone said his name when informing me that his father died, I immediately got angry.

You see, I gave my power to these people. I knew that I shouldn’t, but fear drove me to act against my will.

A Complex Issue

Bullying is not just a result of faulty parenting or “bad” kids. In most situations, I was a good kid – just as I am a good man now. However, I am not impervious to doing bad things. In fact, I have a talent for doing or saying awful things to other people. If I am not careful, I can destroy someone’s day in an instant. It’s reflexive.

My parents taught me better. My wife and kids teach me to be better every day, but it is a struggle. You see, my penchant to bully others comes from the desire to show others how powerful I am. Having given my power to other people as a childhood victim of bullying, or in certain adult relationships, I learned to put up a wall. I learned how to re-direct that power.

Sometimes I can do amazing things with it. I pour my emotions into playing drums or I furiously research a contentious topic. Sometimes I escape into solidarity and pray. Sometimes, I lash out to show others that they cannot hurt me, but I can hurt them.

You see, not all bullies are always bullies. Not all have parents who ignore them. Not all of them come from broken or abusive homes. This stereotyping lynch mob mentality of our society has forgotten that applying the perceived traits of a group to an individual is an unacceptable outcome. #NotAllBullies

People Can Change

I have been a bully and victim, but now I am neither. In fact, the thought of someone getting bullied infuriates me. However, I believe that the victim mentality is one of the most dangerous trends growing in America.

The response to the Keaton Jones story is troubling to me. His video is a great conversation starter. We can discuss bullying with our friends and our children using his words as a catalyst. But what will he learn from this?

Sean Hannity is leading a charge to raise thousands of dollars. Glenn Beck is inviting Keaton to his radio studio. Dana White wants to bring him to a UFC event. Others are calling for additional fundraising and starting up new and improved anti-bullying campaigns. This kid will have tens of thousands of dollars given to him by the very same people who complain about entitled “snowflakes” who cannot withstand opposing arguments.

His bullies are about to be socially ostracized. If the community does not already know their identities, they will figure it out soon. What will the negative sanctions be? A phone call to children’s services? Public shaming? The potential for bullying the bullies without understanding WHY they say what they say is an awful precedent.

None of the children involved will have a chance at natural change. Most kids grow out of bullying by the time they reach college. Most victims learn to develop thicker skin. The power imbalance that we see in instances like this often ends up equalizing.

A massive scale public interaction disrupts potential learning opportunities for these children. Society is robbing them of a healthy growth experience. This is the impact of social media. It can lead to great things, with both positive and negative ramifications.

Let’s not overreact.

What Worked for Me

I was born a sinner. I still am. That is why I find satisfaction in the pain of others. It is natural instinct for me. Thankfully, God has forgiven me for my sins. I need not dwell on my past, which allows me to learn from it. I can take an objective look at bullying because I have lived on both sides of the issue, allowing me to step back and analyze it properly.

There will be victims if there are bullies. There will be bullying so long as there is sin. Like it or not, all societies have suffered from one form of social inequality or another. Human nature is to exert our power over another, but we can overcome human nature.

Rather than giving or taking my power to/from other people, I give it to God. I let Him deal with my problems. When someone harasses me, I pray and ask for God to handle it, so I do not have to. I have learned to hold back and not hold on to anger. The solution is not raising money or new social programs. The solution is found in the Bible.

Matt 7:12 says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

This is also known as “the golden rule.” Every sinful child must learn this principle. It is not innate. Some can grasp it more quickly than others. I pray that the bullies who are cruel to Keaton Jones learn this lesson soon, because others are about to do some not nice things to them and their families.

Rightly Dividing the Word: The Psalms Multiple-Timeline Effect

Psalms really is an incredible book. There are passages that move seamlessly between references to ancient Israel under the reign of David to the millennial reign of Christ, full of references to the second advent and Antichrist.
 
You can read the book literally as writings of David, his servants, and others that are talking about things happening directly to them, but there are references to events that did not occur at that time or in the time before. Prophecy is intertwined with the present.
 
The only way to understand the complexity of these passages is to literally “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
 
Someone who has not studied the Word of God would miss all of the subtle references. They would not be able to rightly divide the word of truth.
 
It’s also a fascinating glimpse at how I believe God perceives time. Human beings are capable of distinguishing four dimensions (The combination of any three from – length, width, height, depth, breadth; and time). God is not confined by these four dimensions as we are.
 
Anyone familiar with super-string theory understands that there are dozens (or more) dimensions operating simultaneously. I believe God is outside of, yet encompasses, all possible known and unknown dimensions. Thus, His concept of time is infinitely more complex than what we could ever understand.
 
The interweaving time periods found in the book of Psalms is but a micro-fraction of a perception of time that sees past, present, and future simultaneously. So when God, as the true author of Psalms, speaks as he does in Psalms 79 of multiple applications to multiple time periods, a person who has not studied may miss the references.
 
For instance: verse 1 says “O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.” This had not happened during the time of David. However, this happened in 70 AD, and again during the Crusades, and will again happen during the Tribulation.
 
In fact, nothing written in the verses 1-4 occurred during the period that Asaph wrote Psalms 79, though they are written in present tense. Verses 4-5 describe the Jews during the Church Age (right now), and verses 6-7 are in reverse chronological order (7 is the Tribulation, and 6 is the Second Advent).
 
There are examples of this time period switching all throughout the Psalms. You can cross reference almost all of the prophetic verses to other prophetic passages in both Old and New Testaments. It really is remarkable.

The Satanic Era

In the first episode of Mindhunter, the Netflix show about how the FBI serial killer program began, an interesting proposition was presented. The gist is that prior to the 1970s, crime had motive. In the contemporary era, however, motive was no longer a factor. Serial killers may have a modus operandi, and even a purpose, but they essentially kill indiscriminately. Random people become targets. Of course, this is a fictional story, but does that make the point any less relevant?

We may understand a killer has a motive, such as creating fear or terror, but there is no motive for target selection. Consider the most recent case of the Las Vegas shooting. As of this writing, a full month has passed and no one knows what motivated Stephen Paddock to shoot 500 people. Many terror attacks are on large groups of people, but none involve a personal motive.

Gone are the days of organized crime when gangsters wanted to “send a message” by killing a rival or snitch. No longer must a woman die because she was cheating on her husband. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is as dangerous as infidelity in today’s world. When did this change?

I will once again point my finger at what I have termed “the Satanic Era” of the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s, the majority of mass killings were familicide. Since the 1960s, mass killings have been in public places against innocent bystanders. The deadliest decade prior to 1960 was the 30s, with 9 mass shootings. The 1960s had 6, the 70s had 13, there were 32 in the 1980s, and over 40 in the 1990s. The number since then as only increased.

Again, low numbers of mass shootings which primarily were targeted at family members prior to the 60s. Much higher frequency of shootings with a major increase in bystander fatalities since the 1960s.

How about serial killers, the focus of Mindhunter? According to one site, there were only a dozen or so serial killers in the United States in the decades leading up to the 1960s. There were 19 in the 1960s, 119 in the 70s, 200 in the 80s, and 141 in the 1990s. The number has since dropped to 60 or less in the twenty-first century, but the line drawn through the Satanic Era is still worth noting.

It does appear that this notion of random killing has increased since the 1960s.

17,000 women were forcibly raped in 1960. By the end of the decade, the number of victims had more than doubled. By 1992, the number peaked at over 109,000.

Recreational drug and alcohol use, though prevalent regardless of drug laws, has exploded since the 1960s.

Increases in violence against strangers, depictions of violence and sex in film and television, sexual assault, drug use, alcoholism, the opioid crisis, teen pregnancies, deviant sexual behaviors, homosexuality, transgenderism, mass murder, and serial killings are directly correlated with the decline in major religion and distrust of major media and government institutions.

In every single one of these categories – religious decline (secularization), increases in crime and deviance, the birth of new religious movements and serial killers – you can draw a line before and after the Satanic Era of the 1960s and see that there has been a seismic social shift in the United States.

One cannot help but notice that many of the same issues of the 1960s are manifest today. Civil unrest, shouts of racism, segregation, unending protest, free love, excessive drug use, sensitivity toward anything deemed “offensive”, attacks on free speech and the Constitution, militarized police, political corruption, calls for revolution, Marxism, and the list goes on and on.

I am a child of the 80s, but I would love to hear from those who were alive during the 60s. Does your lived experience mirror my theory? Has the shift been noticeable? Do you think there has actually been a shift? Please, I want to hear from you.

Less “Reform”, More Revival

In the aftermath of last weekend’s Las Vegas massacre, Democrats came out almost immediately and called for new gun control regulations. Republicans came out and defended the Second Amendment, and back and forth we went.

When a maniac in a Dodge Charger drove into a crowd in Charlottesville, we began fighting over what statues were now deemed too racist to stand. The media blamed Trump for bringing racism back to America, and the GOP reflexively started defending the First Amendment.

These types of reactions and counter-reactions make up the political dance we’ve become accustomed to. Allegations and arguments are becoming so tired and shallow that it takes only a new voice, rather than new idea, to seemingly supercharge political partisan hacks.

Rather than rally for gun control, healthcare reform, or ending racism, why are there no calls for revival?

We live in a nation that, as of last year, claims to be 77% Christian, though only about 20% seem to take it seriously enough to go to church once a week. Yet when a sadistic mass murderer spends $50,000 on weapons and ammo so that he could spray bullets into a crowd of innocent concert goers, not one talking head called for people to get saved. Some on CNN and Fox News called for A savior, but no one called for THE Savior.

Did the evangelical political hero, President Donald J. Trump, mention one word about turning to God? Where was Osteen? He tweeted out a general platitude, like most Christians, saying to trust in the Lord. Other politicians sent “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families. This is a lovely gesture, and as a resident Las Vegan, I appreciate prayers. Prayers work. However, prayer is not salvation. While everyone has been concerned with the physical health and safety of all in Las Vegas, it seems like few, if any, have been concerned with our souls.

In a “Christian” nation, millions of people should have been out in the streets witnessing for Christ and sending out invitations to church. Instead, we hit Twitter and started arguing about gun rights with complete strangers.

Jimmy Kimmel, a devout practicing Catholic, used his powerful platform to demonize the NRA and legal firearm owners rather than conduct an altar call and preach the gospel. Many others followed this pattern.

There is no more relevant time to witness to the unsaved than after a national tragedy. It’s never “too soon”, but it is often too late to do so.

You never know when an armed gunman will strike where you are.

You never know when a bomb will destroy the building you’re in.

You never know if you’re on a plane with someone who wants to crash it.

You never know when a drunk driver will come from out of nowhere and take your life.

Last Sunday night’s events were a reminder of our fleeting mortality. Life can end when you least expect it. Are you confident in your beliefs on the afterlife? Are you sure you are just going to become worm food? Are you positive that you will be reincarnated until you reach Nirvana?

I am 100% positive that I will be in Heaven with God and Jesus Christ when I die. I will not waver from that belief.

If you are questioning, at all, what happens when you die, talk to me. Yes, I am being an opportunist. I am taking advantage of fear and tragedy. That’s because I want you all to be as sure as I am that your eternity is secure.

Debate Should Not Lead to Death

I have been in my fair share of arguments. I have debated on Facebook, among friends, and in classrooms full of people. When the situation isn’t resolved, I generally leave the conversation feeling awful. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot convince the other side that I am right. I do not want innocent babies ripped apart in the womb. I do not want speech, no matter how hate filled, to be banned. I do not want anyone to go to hell when they die. I do not want my Constitutional rights taken away.

I do not like being wrong. I come in to every argument with as much knowledge as I can muster. I approach every debate with the mindset that empiricism trumps emotion. I want to be able to point to statistics and use my Sociological training to raise awareness and debunk irrational arguments. When I fail, I take it personally. After all, if I cannot convince an atheist that my religious beliefs are correct, then I’ve just my shot at seeing them saved by God’s grace. If I cannot convince a liberal that abortion is murder, then they will continue to advocate for the slaughter of innocents. If I cannot convince the Left that I have the RIGHT to bear arms, then my family may be in danger one day and I will be weaponless.

These are important arguments to me.

However, there are an increasing number of times when I feel rage from my opposition. Whereas I am saddened by my failure in disagreement, the other person HATES me. When I am disappointed, they want me silenced. They want me to lose my reputation and job. If I were to take social media seriously, I’d think they want me…dead (as a member of the NRA, there have been dozens of calls for my murder).

After this most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, irrationality has become the norm. I know people who were there. I know others who lost someone. I drive past Mandalay Bay several times a week on my way to UNLV. I can see it from school. I can see it from the highway. I can see it when I drive to my home from grocery shopping. No one has to tell me the impact and devastation caused by the actions of an evil mass murderer. I am reminded of it several times a day, and most likely will continue to be so long as I live in Vegas.

Although I am shaken, sullen, and uneasy, I cannot and will not use this tragedy as justification to rid my city or country of firearms. As a matter of fact, I want MORE freedom and LESS restriction on firearms. Rather than feel weakened by the event, I feel my resolve strengthened. When I feel unsafe, I want to increase my own stockpile of weapons. I want to freely exercise my Second Amendment (that is, GOD-GIVEN) right to protect myself and family by any means necessary.

No counter-argument can change my mind. I see the statistics that show the correlation between INCREASED gun ownership and DECREASED crime rates. I understand the scenarios where a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. I know personal instances where having a firearm stopped robberies and sexual assaults from happening. I know that if someone were to come into my home in an attempt to violate the safety of my family, they will be met with lethal force.

More guns save lives than take them, not matter how many mass shootings occur; it’s just not sexy to report them on the news. It’s difficult to know the actual number, as gun saves are not often reported to the police or FBI.

We can disagree on this matter. You can push for gun control, and I will work tirelessly to resist your effort. I can promise you this, while I may be disappointed in our disagreement, I will never wish you dead. I would never want you to lose your job over it. I would never want you to lose your life. I just hope you feel the same.

Notes on Joshua 1-4

Moses is dead, and it is up to Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. God tells Joshua that “The book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8).

Oh, Christian. How prosperous would our lives be if we observed and abided by all the words of The Bible?

Chapter 2 is the story of the two spies who entered Jericho and met Rahab, the harlot. Rahab is an interesting figure because 1) she is a female hero of the Bible, which, we are told, is a completely misogynistic book; and 2) Rahab is taught by many churches (including more than one of mine) to be in the line of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5). However, the Rachab in Matthew 1:5 is not mentioned as “the harlot” as Rahab is in both Old AND New Testaments. Yes, there are differences between Greek and Hebrew versions of names, but the Rahab the harlot is named such in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25; so why would she not be the same in Matt. 1:5? Because she is probably not the same person. Sorry!

If we go back to the Greek (because that’s what all Bible “scholars” like to do), Rahab is Rhaab and Rhachab is Rachab. Yet the modern perversions of God’s Word translate them both as Rahab, thus, wrongly inserting “the harlot” into the line of Christ.

Rahab tells the spies in Josh. 2:11 of stories of the Exodus from Egypt and conquering of the Amorites, “as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man.” Ironically, the Israelites were scared to conquer a city of men who feared the power of the LORD God of Israel.

As we know, Rahab and her family would be spared during the destruction of Jericho because of her faith in helping the spies.

Another miraculous water crossing occurs in chapter 3, as the Israelites walked across a “heap” of dry land as the priests carrying the ark of the LORD stepped into the Jordan river (v. 13). Here, again, is another supernatural miracle experienced by the Israelites that makes their impending worship of idols so stupefying.