Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Do-Gooders | Manna for your Soul

A good friend of mine believes that the path to Heaven is by doing good. 
He is the typical Christian. He tithes, sometimes less but more or less as much as he can to make it 10% and wears Jesus Christ on his sleeves. He believes Christians are beyond reproach and if you aren't a Christian, you are untouchable and hence unlovable. 
In short, if you aren't a Christian, you are dead to him. 

How very unlike Jesus Christ!

But this isn't very far from the truth from the rest of us. I see a lot of non-Christians, living in multi-cultural societies, think as long as they 'do good', they will earn a place in the Heaven that God promised all of us. But then their definition of 'doing good' isn't unconditional. 

While many other religious books talk about love, in the Bible, the greatest of all commandments is 'Love thy neighbour'. 

Many times, we think 'doing good' means 'doing nothing'. We rarely mull over the consequences of our words/actions when we should actually remember that 'Love does no harm to a neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilment of the Law'. (Romans 13:10).

Christ during His time on earth, didn't discriminate. As news of His healing powers spread, people from Asia and beyond visited Him. He never coaxed people of other faith to follow Christianity, but He did preach the Kingdom to them. His parables of mercy and love inspired them. People believed in Him because they found a person who had Godlike wisdom with the talents of a magician living a simple life too fantastic to not believe. Until His crucifixion, His disciples believed that Jesus would one day become an emperor of Israel and appoint them as ministers. The lure of unlimited power on earth was just too much for His followers at that time. 
Alas! How similar we are!
We proclaim our faiths through bumper stickers, yet we are up the wrong creek. We are prejudiced towards religious fanatics who kill and destroy lives, yet we see drivers, and it doesn't matter who your god is, curse and swear at other drivers and pedestrians. We see people in authority abuse their power and to many of us, this is okay, because we are too sensitised to the evil in our times. 

The next time you are faced with a choice of action that will affect the lives of other people, pause and ask yourself 'Does this reflect Christ's concern and love for others? Or am I only concerned about myself?'

Doing good isn't going to take care of your visa to Heaven. And it isn't just loving your neighbour next door, but developing faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness towards that random stranger who may not share your religious beliefs.
Showing how wonderfully Christlike we are, even in times of turmoil and anguish, is the only way we can redeem our spots in Heaven.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Te3n | The corny movie review by Navin

Amitabh Bachchan is a fantastic actor. Fact.
Proof: Te3n

If you've already watched Wazir, you might start yawning about 40 minutes into the movie.

This is a movie about how 3 people's persistence in solving a crime that happened almost a decade ago pays off. 
Amitabh revels as the persistent grandfather living with the guilt of a crime that hasn't been able to wrap his head around. I particularly love the way he portrays the guilt physically. 
Nawazuddin Siddiqui brings an other-worldly intrigue to the entire plot. His mannerisms are down to the wire.

Vidya Balan is mostly frowning, whizzing past or barking out orders. She is an excellent actor and if any of her previous work can testify, it is that she can hold the fort all by herself. Yet, Te3n isn't a Vidya Balan movie. It is an Amitabh Bachchan/Nawazuddin Siddiqui movie. I wish she had a meatier role but that's the way it is.

A remake of the South Korean movie Montage, Te3n is almost exquisite, if it weren't for the pace. 
Upto the half-way mark, Te3n is as gripping as Kahaani and Wazir. Once you are back with a fresh bucket of popcorn, things start plateauing. The intrigue is still there, but I thought Bachchan's gruff low tones was a little too low, Balan looked perpetually pregnant and Siddiqui looked like he was the out of touch detective. How a church pastor can get so much time to solve a crime is a lesson in time management our pastors must learn. 

Would I recommend it?
Hell ya!
This is one of the best whodunnits Indian cinema has and deserves to be watched twice. 
The makers couldn't have chosen a better city and the casting was spot on. 
I won't reveal the plot but Te3n is one of those movies where you will be at the edge of your seat and one where you will kill anyone who causes an interruption during the climax. 
Over the last few movies starting from Piku, Wazir and now Te3n, Amitabh has proven why he is the best grumpy old man Indian Cinema can ever have. Like fine wine that has been aged in the right conditions, Bachchan brings Te3n alive.

My rating: 8

What does the rating mean? 
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV/Theater.
5-7  : Err... the movie is pretty, but it's definitely missing something. A storyline, that is.
8-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 2 hours of movie experience

Friday, June 10, 2016

13 Hours : The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi | The corny movie review by Navin

There are 5 things Americans are really good at -
  1. Cross-continental car chases
  2. Shooting the sh*t out of stuff/people
  3. The All American Cheeseburger
  4. Invading countries, and finally,
  5. Making blockbuster movies about the wars they've fought in the countries they invaded.
Enter '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'
Based on the book by Mitchell Zuckoff's '13 Hours', this is not an average Michael Bay movie. But he has taken a story that had a lot of potential and by playing it too safe, he stripped it of glory.

13 Hours is based on the story of a siege of the American mission by Islamic terrorists and the battle to defend a top secret CIA compound within Libya. 
Michael Bay's movies are always a lot of noise with things flying into you, bullets whizzing past, cars (tanks/random vehicles) exploding, limbs being torn apart, heads being splattered, fire and all-round anarchy.
But 13 Hours failed my expectations out of a Bay movie.
American soldiers, both the official and the covert ones, are perhaps the most ruthless 'killing machines' today. They are unstoppable, and like superswarms can overrun and out-last their enemy and for this reason the American soldier is feared and hated with a vengence.
Over the years, we have seen similar movies getting better with a lot of technical details in place. Many of the movies try and stay close to the truth, but Bay movies tend to do better in India because it resembles a very expensive Bollywood movie. 13 Hours have enough edge of the seat moments to keep you hooked until the very end.

One thing I found extraordinary was how Bay never really developed any of the characters
and for a movie like this, you need to have a 'favorite' guy/gal you can identify and feel sorry for. Any attempts to create a backstory feels sloppy and contrived. 
The movie starts with a lot of promise and you begin to mentally prepare yourself to watch the finest army in the world on celluloid. But the opening scene at the airport and then the standoff at the blockade frittles it all away. I yawned in disappointment. 
I found some technical errors in the movie completely unbelieveable. Like one of the things most people (especially in the armed forces) are taught is to stay close to the ground and to stay together in the event of a fire. Second, I wonder why they chose to 'burn' diesel instead of petrol, which would have been easier to obtain. 
Security teams/units in countries like this are normally accompanied by a translator and are pretty adept at identifying friendlies versus the hostiles. The 'soldiers' in 13 Hours doesn't seem to subscribe to this. 
There are a couple of loose ends and you come away without a closure.

Would I recommend it?
I like Bay's movies for its action and if you do as well, you won't be utterly disappointed. There is plenty to drool over. 
But this isn't going to get the folks at the Academy too excited. This movie doesn't have the soul of a Black Hawk Down (inspite of the reference) and is far from a Hurt Locker. 
I haven't read the book but I doubt if it did justice to it and I don't think it is a movie you'll see in a collector's edition DVD anytime soon.

My rating: 5

What does the rating mean? 
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV/Theater.
5-7  : Err... the movie is pretty, but it's definitely missing something. A storyline, that is.
8-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 2 hours of movie experience

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Holy Singing Liars! | Manna for your soul

Many of the 'New Age Life' churches that I've visited start their 'services' with 45 minutes of 'praise and worship' to get their believer's all pumped up in time for the sermon. In most times,  'believers' are asked to stand, clap, hop and tap their feet to sing and show their undying allegiance to Jesus. Karaoke-style

Many of these 'hymns' are contemporary songs created by gospel artists from the West and are vastly different from the hymns that most Christians would hear at 'plain-vanilla' catholic and protestant churches. 
They have lyrics, that can be understood by someone at a 5th grade (or lower) level of education, set to upbeat tunes. Most of these songs have repetitive chorus lines and words that hymn-writers wouldn't have imagined incorporating until a few decades back. 
A church isn't complete if you don't have 'contemporary hymns' exclaiming with painful repetitions of 'Jesus, You are all I need' 15 times until the 'praise and worship Leader' transcends into tears, breaks into a sober prayer and transitions to the next song. Repeat cycle.

Now I am okay with churches starting their services with praise and worship but why should we be asked to sing a lie? Jesus isn't all I need!
Because even as we are singing this, our minds are going through a shopping list of things we want Jesus to do for us. 
We want more money.
We want to be more attractive.
We want to win the heart of that person.
We want to be able to do all those things we see other people do on facebook.
We want to live glorious, envy-causing, 'Like'-inspiring lives. 

We may sing 'Jesus, You are all I need' 256 times every single Sunday, but you and I know that ain't the truth. And church leaders are okay propagating this lie because that's not what our heart is saying.

Two of my favorite contemporary hymns are 'I surrender all' and 'What a friend we have in Jesus'. Because even though I know I haven't been able to let go of everything I should be letting go off, I know the lyrics of this hymn serve as a gentle reminder that inspires me to let go of things that cause needless pain and anguish. 

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer! 

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms he'll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

I find the slow chorus of both the hymns very soothing and it definitely isn't in the same league as some of the peppy 'numbers' our modern churches play, but the lyrics strike home every single time. 

  • Do you have something that is bothering you today? 
  • Are you constantly 'looking over your shoulder' for what might happen to you tomorrow?
  • Does your pulse quicken everytime you think about the future?
If the answer to any of this is 'Yes', then you need to empty yourself and take it to the Lord in prayer. 
It doesn't matter how you address Him, what matters is you surrender yourself right now, right here. 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Angry Birds: The corny movie review by Navin

Angry Birds
It's a PG-rated movie that is totally inappropriate for kids and is a snooze-fest for their guardians.

Angry Birds is about.. er.. well, if you've played the mobile phone game that was wildly popular eons ago, birds who fling themselves towards the hutments of pigs. 
This movie tells you why the birds are so angry at the pigs. Duh!

There is too much foul language for my liking but I am old-school. And when I was in the darkened theatre watching this movie, there were noisy kids screaming and asking their parents what every 3rd sentence meant. There was this particularly noisy and bratty girl who would scream like a banshee every time the birds were shot through the sling. 

After my last outing at Pixels, I'd promised myself that I would never watch another video game-inspired movie. Blame it on the lack of a better option, Angry Birds: The Movie is a video game that has been stretched to its maximum length. 
The official trailer reveals many of the gags and jokes in the movie and that is a dampener. But there are still enough fart jokes and ridiculous puns to get you cracking up.
There are too many loose untied threads, perhaps left to create the plot of a future sequel. 

Would I recommend it?
The game was addictive for a few reasons. The movie not so much. What is the fun in watching a movie that you can play instead at a tenth of the cost of a ticket?
That said, Angry Birds is an average movie where you can walk in, in the second half of the movie and you wouldn't have missed much. 
Whatever you do, make sure you aren't surrounded by unruly, brats/young adults.

My rating: 5

What does the rating mean? 
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV/Theater.
5-7  : Err... the movie is pretty, but it's definitely missing something. A storyline, that is.
8-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 2 hours of movie experience

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