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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on A Plane

Okay it is really quite simple, I know I am going to get it here, but the truth is I have already heard it all. I have heard all of the jokes, all of the commentary, all of the comments on message boards, and all of the hoopla. Virtually everything I have heard is about how bad this movie is going to be. One would suspect that, especially when taking into consideration that the plot and story line came about one night during Happy Hour at a local bar when producer David Berenson, in a joking conversation about the worst movie ideas possible came up with the concept of the movie which was originally called “Venom.”

One of the fun things about this movie is that Berenson decided to make that movie, and in the process found film greats like Samuel Jackson and Juliana Margulies to participate along with the direction of David R. Ellis who has worked on such varied films as, Harriett the Spy, The Jungle Book, The Man Without a Face and other various types of film. Sure most of his work in the past has been in the area as a stunt coordinator but in some ways that assists in his concept of what this movie is all about, fun.

I have to admit, this may be the funniest, laugh out loud, exciting thrill ride of the summer. Ellis understands action and provides it from the opening scenes until the closing credits. As much as I may get ribbed for this, I don’t know when the last time was that I had more fun at a movie. The surprising thing is that the majority of patrons, most of them far older than I at the matinee, which was a huge surprise, were having the same type of fun. What was even more surprising is that as thrilling and fun as the movie is, none of those much older than I didn’t have a heart attack. The movie was so fun, that after awhile I was able to enjoy and not be distracted by the person with turrets sitting in front of me. I am not kidding on this, it was one of the strangest movie experiences ever, but I have to admit that the individual’s partner made a great choice to take his friend to. After awhile, his outbursts just added to the humor of the movie. It was almost like a live action version of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. What made it so fun was that we were all reminded of the fact that we could have fun at the movies, especially a movie like Snakes on A Plane.

The premise, as crazy as it sounds works. A FBI agent, Sam Jackson is transporting back a witness who has witnessed the brutal murder by a evil crime lord. The only way the crime lord can take care of the witness is to have released hundreds of deadly snakes on a plane via timed mechanism on the return from Hawaii to LAX. From that point on, the movie makes fun of, plays with, every concept that has ever come from a B-Movie. It is in fact, its own willingness to not take itself seriously that makes this movie so much fun. Every imaginable way that you can think of a snake killing someone, it does in this movie. While some snakes are obviously CGI, others are real, and the truth is, the viewer just don’t care. There are enough jump out of your seat, prayer making scenes, you know where you yell, “Oh My God!” despite the fact that you are in a theater surrounded by people you don’t know to make one want to see this one again and again.

As I was watching Snakes on A Plane, I thought, “What are the spiritual overtones?” While I had to search, I really didn’t have to search far. The truth is, there is evil all around us, just as it was all around the characters in this movie. That evil represented by a serpent and/or snake in some ways is like the evil of Lucifer/Satan who represented himself as a snake in the Garden and has himself been called a snake. There is even the reminder in the movie The Passion of the Christ with Jesus crushing the head of the serpent. Well you might say that Samuel L. Jackson’s character is the Messiah character in this movie. On a mission to save the passengers on the plane from the certain death they face. There is even the prevailing line through out the movie, “if you listen to me you will live, if you don’t you will die.” Jackson’s character may play more of the Emergent Church Messiah Character than other characters, but he is still a deliverer, a warrior, one who attempts to bring about peace and salvation.

I have seen a couple of surprises this summer, for many kids, at least in my community, school started this week. This will be a great one for all ages that enjoy action and thrills to see, especially the kiddos looking at ways to finish up the summer. From the students who can deal with some of the language and sexual scenes prevalent in virtually all B-Movies, to the language and gore, to the adults who may have some of the same issues, this is a rollicking fun time. We won’t have to worry too much about how people react to all of the negative things that some will point out. I can’t imagine too many people trying to get crazy about doing crazy things with snakes. On a side note, even though I have 4 snakes for pets in my downstairs family room, after seeing this movie, it may be awhile before I get them out and hold them.

On a scale of 1-10 for the great time, enjoyable moments, and nearly perfect good time, I’ll give the number that most looks like a coiled up snake, a freaky good 8

Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.

The Virtual Pew
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To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, To learn more about me visit I am also active on MySpace at: I have another blog at To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can contact me via email at or 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.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

World Trade Center

This last weekend I attended World Trade Center, the new Oliver Stone picture dealing with the tragic events of 9/11/2001. I have to admit, I have not been a huge fan of Oliver Stone. I have found his revisionist approach to history disturbing and while a quality film maker I have felt he takes his responsibility to places that cross the line of responsibility. That said, I wasn’t looking forward to World Trade Center.

As in most areas of life, a few surprises every now and then keep things interesting. It causes one to take chances even on things they may not seemingly be interested in. One of those surprises for me was the quality of work and story telling Oliver Stone presents with World Trade Center. World Trade Center is void of political commentary and is instead the story of the rescue of Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin, two Port Authority Police officers rescued from the rubble of the World Trade Center. This story along with the struggles of their families makes for a compelling, thought provoking movie. It is also in part, the story of Dave Karnes one of the individuals who defied reason in his search for survivors of those trapped.

Stone does a brilliant job at directing this piece of art as we see the struggles and lives of Rookie Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) and Sergeant John McLouglin played by Nicolas Gage. Surprisingly Stone tells more of the story from the words of the actual characters Jimeno and McLouglin and their spouses than I would have imagined. He has used the stories told by these individuals along with rescuer Karnes, (Michael Shannon) for much of the dialog in World Trade Center. Not since Blackhawk Down has the actual words and commentary by the actual characters been used. In the telling of that story, we see the importance of faith in each of the characters.

I have to admit, I was shocked at the amount of spiritual commentary used in the film. From a devout Christian, following what he believes to be God’s calling to leave his job, put on the military uniform, and perform rescue efforts involving Dave Karnes, to the pleading and prayers of Sgt. John McLouglin. We also see the visions of Will Jimeno as he is comforted by Jesus, who offers a drink of water while trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center among other things. There is little doubt, that faith played a critical role in the lives of each of these characters. To read the stories of real life events, one realizes that Stone may have minimized the actual faith aspects of the real life characters. That is not to say it isn’t clear that each of the characters were people of faith, it is obvious they were. Their stories indicate that in real life their faith is given even more important.

While faith according to the characters involved in this story was attributed as part of the reason for their rescue, Stone also provides a glimpse as to what it must have been like for the thousands of others who did not come out of the rubble alive. In fact, only a small number were rescued. For many of us, after seeing and watching the tragedy unfold on television, it is miraculous anyone came out alive.

For some, World Trade Center will be a boring movie. Watching two individuals trapped in rubble for half of the two hour movie can be boring to some. I personally found it fascinating and believe one of the great achievements in the movies direction. We get a glimpse of what it must have been like for these two individuals and others. I don’t think Nicolas Cage or Michael Pena will be given enough credit for the tremendous job of acting. In many ways, their work was done in strenuous and difficult conditions. I would go so far as to say, it may be Gages best job as an actor in film. That is saying a lot for me because I have always admired his abilities.

Yes, in some ways, World Trade Center forces each of us to evaluate what is important in our lives. Is it faith? Is it family? Is it friends? What? We never know when our lives will change, or how it will change. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed all of our lives. For some, we haven’t forgotten what it was that changed on that day, for others, we went on as if everything was the same and just continued being our selves. I for one am appreciative of reminders, I am especially appreciative of reminders that tells the story without tons of political commentary. Oliver Stone has thrown me the biggest curve ball of the year, and had me swinging away. Thankfully I have an appreciation of people who can do that.

I doubt I’ll watch this movie again for a long time. It isn’t that it is bad, it is that it is that good. Is it perfect? No, but it is still pretty good and a movie I recommend individuals see. See it for the faith of 3 men, and the love they had for their country and their families. Then put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself the important questions, and then, well then, live life to the fullest with the most meaning you can as you come to your own answers to the questions you ponder while watching World Trade Center.

On a scale of 1-10 for these two who live and continue to live life to the fullest, I give a strong 8 out of 10.

To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, To learn more about me visit I am also active on MySpace at: I have another blog at To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching. You can contact me via email at or 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.