Rachelsey at the Movies: Ant-man and The Wasp

Ant-man and The Wasp is another installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that came out early July 2018. We see all the Marvel movies at the theaters, so this one wasn’t an exception.

antman wasp poster

The MCU and the Movies

I’ve heard some complaints about what the MCU has done to the modern movie-going experience. With the universe-building and seemingly never-ending line of “sequels” moviegoers no longer get the benefit of walking away from a complete, single movie. Instead you’re treated to endings that always set up the next installment. And, due to the popularity of these money-making motion pictures, cinemas are chockfull of these over-the-top action adventures year-round.

I get it.

But, as it would seem, we have little control over this superhero phenomenon. And if you do try to exert your control, you have more success cementing your role as a curmudgeon than exacting any real change.

So, I’ve taken the side of curiosity. I’m curious to see where this will all go. Likely, one day the MCU, at least in its current form, will come to a lackluster end as its last several movies pull in lower and lower numbers at the box office. But what I would love to see, as we all deal with the beginnings of superhero fatigue, is for the filmmakers to take some risks and diverge from the formulaic and expected. We’ve already seen this with Thor: Ragnorak, and I think we see it again with Ant-man and The Wasp (from here on out let’s call it ATW).

With the success of these off-the-beaten-path installments, I think we’ll see the MCU continue to take risks, and I’m optimistic about where this will lead.

Ant-man and The Wasp: Go, Wait or Skip?

This edition of Rachelsey at the Movies delivered a unanimous “Go!” from everyone involved (special guests on the show this week!).

The live “studio” audience had me a little nervous, so although I gave a few reasons why anyone should go and see this movie, I wanted to explain a bit more here.

**SPOILERS**

What I Liked

Making regular sized things tiny, and small things giant is funny. It just makes for good comedy. And ATW does this without overdoing it.

The villains! Yes, there’s more than one. First, there’s some white collar gangster types. They’re not necessarily integral to the storyline but it makes for some variety in the story, breaking up the monotony.

The main villain: Ghost. It’s been said the MCU has trouble with its villains, Loki and now Thanos being exceptions, but I think Ghost, otherwise known as Ava, can be added to the shortlist of well done villains.

ghost

Ava is complex and the character invites the audience to empathize. We learn that Ava lost both of her parents in some sort of a quantum explosion that she survives, but with lasting molecular effects that leave her fading in and out of existence. Ava explains that she was drafted by Shield where she was trained and weaponized. We can infer that Ava never processed her childhood trauma and that the Shield training just further traumatized her.

On top of her complexity as a villain, the whole situation is not over-the-top. What I mean is that Ava is not out to destroy all the Avengers, lift a country into the upper atmosphere and drop it, or end of the lives of half of the beings across all the universe. Rather, she was in a tremendous amount of pain, physically and emotionally, and this is driving her to find a solution–no matter the cost.

We see her as a child, losing her parents, and we see her pain as an adult. Although her pain doesn’t give her the right to hurt anyone, we understand as we have all made poor decisions when in pain.

Outside of that, the movie had a lot else to offer. The relationship between Scott and his daughter is great. The family dynamics between Scott, his ex-wife, her husband and his daughter also work well. Scott’s business partners are a genuinely welcome addition to the movie, their characters playing so well against so many of the other characters. And, even though it’s expected, the growing connection between Scott and Hope also works. The pair are a nice onscreen duo with their opposite personalities, Hope hopelessly type A and Scott a little more of a risk-taker and creative, complementing one another. They even save one another from disaster at different times. This is a welcome change of pace from the modern character set of the smart-and-always-right woman alongside a bumbling idiot.

On top of all that, we also got the rescue of Hank’s wife, Janet. I thought for sure this would be an ongoing backstory always trumped by bigger threats in the MCU. But I’m happy to be wrong. Janet is played by the still beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer and, should there be more on the big screen from ATW, I think she’ll be a wonderful balance to Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym.

Then we had the addition of a former associate of Hank Pym, Bill Foster, played by Laurence Fishburne. This brought another layer of complexity to the story as Bill shares a point of view that doesn’t put Hank in a particularly great light. But, as most things in real life, it seems that the whole story has more going on, and that both Bill and Hank have made missteps and assumptions over the years.

I think one of my favorite things about this movie is the complexity of the characters. With the exception of the white collar gangster, no one is fully evil or good, super smart or hopelessly stupid. Rather, all the characters have strengths and weaknesses, have made good and bad decisions. Even the new husband of Scott’s ex and the lead FBI agent aren’t painted in the usual way that invites the audience to dislike or ridicule them. For the writers to take the extra time to develop all the characters is really admirable.

Lastly, we took our nieces and nephew to see this movie, ages 9 to 17, and I have no regrets in doing so. With the exception of one very short scene where Luis recounts a fictional connection between Scott and Hope and we see them vigorously making out, there wasn’t much else inappropriate for children (that I can remember; do your own research). Yet, the movie didn’t come off like a child’s movie. You probably don’t need sex scenes and crude language for adults to enjoy a movie.

What I Didn’t Like

I can’t really think of much. The only critique I have is that some of the jokes fell flat. This movie leaned heavily on dry wit and at times it just didn’t land.

Otherwise, I just think it’s a really good movie for what it is.

Sure, it’s unlikely to stand the test of time, stretch your thoughts and ideas or reach anyone on a particularly deep level. But, as another installment in the MCU, I think ATW stands apart from the rest and made some admirable choices with character development.

So, go see it! Get some friends and family together and have a good time at the movies.

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Rachelsey at the Movies: Hereditary

Hereditary hit theaters early June 2018 with an intriguing trailer. Then came the very high consensus via Rotten Tomatoes’ critic reviews.

That’s all I needed to go out and see this, especially now that I’m armed with Moviepass.

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Why see a horror movie?

Over at Decent Films, an interview with filmmaker Scott Derrickson, of Deliver us from Evil, says it best:

Deacon Greydanus: What does a nice Christian guy like you see in this genre? What does horror at its best offer us?

Derrickson: For me, [horror] is the perfect genre for a person of faith to work in. You can think about good and evil pretty openly. I always talk about it being the genre of non-denial. I like the fact that it’s a genre about confronting evil, confronting what’s frightening in the world.

I agree with that view. I think it’s good to explore all facts of the world around us, including the spiritual. When I see a horror film I want it to be edifying and to make me think about the spiritual world, God and everything.

Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good scare every once in awhile?

Hereditary: Go, Wait or Skip?

For those that watched the Hereditary edition of Rachelsey at the Movies on Youtube, you know my answer: Skip.

I explain in the video, but I wanted to flesh out why just a bit more.

First, let’s discuss what I liked about the movie.

**SPOILERS**

It was really well-made. From the script, to the sets, score, actors, colors…everything. It was just really well done. Toni Collette deserves recognition for her role. The range of emotion she displayed while at the same time the subtleties of switching between loving mom and disturbed woman was nothing short of excellence.

This movie showcased a very dysfunctional family very well. This family had not only been through traumatic events, they were also carrying with them multi-generational dysfunctional behaviors such as codependency and martyrdom. No agendas, the movie just showed a very honest and real look inside a broken family.

The scary stuff was also done well. I thought the movie got the intensity right with the score, the colors of the film were soft and bluish and had quick switches from day to night that were unsettling. And then, of course, the run-of-the-mill horror images were all done very well: ghostly figures appearing, strange noises, weird looks from strangers, figures scurrying across the floor, bugs crawling, seances. On top of that, you had some not-so-run-of-the-mill images like the reoccurring beheadings and the whole closing scene.

A really interesting choice was the death of the character you may have thought was going to be the protagonist throughout the entire film. Charlie, their 13-year-old daughter, is killed in a car accident about a third of the way through the movie. This was shocking. At least to me. I thought the whole movie was centered on this character and then she was gone. So from that point, I really had no idea where the movie was going, which I think made it very intense and kind of exciting.

“But, Rachel, it sounds like you really like the movie. Yet, you said to skip it?”

Yes. Skip it.

Unless, you’re a lover of the horror genre. Then definitely see it. You’ll want to see what this filmmaker does. But if you’re a normal moviegoer open to the horror genre, there’s really no reason to see.

Why? It’s not edifying.

I don’t see horror movies just for the fun of it. For me, that would be like seeing a war movie that didn’t have a purpose. Why would I do that? War is horrible. If I see a war movie it’s because it teaches me something. I want the same from a horror movie.

So, let’s get into why I didn’t like Hereditary.

Three quarters of the way through the movie, I actually thought to myself, “This isn’t edifying.” Up until that point, there was nothing in the movie that was particularly moving in a deep emotional way. None of the characters were even…redeemable? Yeah, let’s go with that word. The mother was very damaged but very self-involved and unable to seek help. The father was passive and very codependent. The son was a pothead and what you might consider a typical teen (although I find teens to be much more dynamic and full of vigor and curiosity). The daughter was very odd and not particularly lovable. These were the four main characters. You couldn’t really root for any of them or empathize with them either.

But, I could have been won over with a good spiritual premise. Did this movie have something to say about spirituality?

Well, not in a way I could get behind.

At the end of the movie, the audience is brought into a special event where they get a front row seat to worshipping a demon.

Yes. Worshipping a demon.

So I left the movie wondering what the point was and annoyed because I felt like I got duped into attending a Satanic ritual.

Let’s talk some more about it.

The entire family is taken in by the cult of this demon. As it turns out, Charlie was possessed by this demon up until her death. The mom is either deeply disturbed and finally breaks at the end or is possessed herself. The dad dies by spontaneous fire. The son jumps out a window and either dies or is just unconscious. Either way this seems to allow the demon that was hosted by Charlie to enter his body.

Then the closing scene was particularly offensive to Christians. The son, after the demon possesses him, enters the treehouse. It is full of many people that we assume are all members of the cult that was discovered earlier in the film by the mother. There is a statue of something that hearkens back to a figure Charlie had constructed with a crown and a staff. It mimics Jesus Christ as portrayed in many Catholic paintings but with the hands inverted the opposite way. The scene has headless figures kneeling down in front of the statue and is meant to recall the Nativity of Jesus Christ. The crown is removed from the statue and put on Peter, the son. The cult members are chanting “Hail ______!” (I have no desire to include the demon’s name) and then make a statement in chorus that includes “We reject the Trinity.”

The scene closes, the title screen appears and the ‘t’ from Hereditary turns red and drops out of the word.

So, yeah, as a devout Christian I was pretty offended. When the cult members chanted they rejected the Trinity, I, sitting in my movie theater recliner, starting making the sign of the cross on different parts of me.

I was not happy when we left the movie. I felt like it was a big waste of my time, and not only that, but I knew I was going to be scared all night. And I was. I lost almost an entire night’s of sleep because of this movie.

Upon further discussion with my husband, there is one small positive thing I can say about this movie. When the mother discovers the cult after going through the grandmother’s albums and books, the audience observes a few important details: the name of the demon, that it prefers a male body, and that it will bring its worshippers riches. We knew the entire focus of the cult was on material things and not on anything good. So, at least there’s that?


Interestingly enough, I did actually have some spiritual growth because of this movie.

Who would have thought?!

I was so deeply affected by it that Kelsey, my husband, was kind of concerned.

I started telling him all about my feelings, and then, seemingly out of the blue and unrelated to anything I was saying, he says to me, “Rachel, you know that you don’t have to do anything for Jesus? Jesus did it all.”

“I feel guilty that I saw this movie. I feel like I should have known better.”

“Rachel, it’s okay that you’re not perfect. Jesus loves you. He wants you to grow and learn. It’s okay if you make mistakes. And I don’t even think this was a mistake. Hold on a sec… Here’s something Jesus told me and I think it’s important for you.”

The crucifixion isn’t a judgment on you.

“Jesus chose to die on the cross to set all of us free. Jesus died on the cross because he loves you. He has conquered sin and death. You are free.”

These are things I’ve heard before, but in this moment I heard them differently. I have always approached the crucifix and tried to feel overwhelming sorrow, but when I thought about it, that wasn’t true. Sorrow was masking something else. I approached the crucifix thinking I was bad.

But I am free.

I just feel like this changes everything for me. I had been struggling for weeks in my relationship with God.

I’m free. I don’t have to be burdened by sin. I can repent and live free!

PSA: Shy Introverts at Mass

One might think Mass is an ideal location for shy introverts. And, for the most part, it absolutely is. I mean, it’s an event where no one is expected to talk  except for the priest, deacon and a few others. Other events perfect for shy introverts include going to the movies, visiting libraries and hanging out at cemeteries.

But at Mass, there’s one part, albeit very short, that is the exact opposite of perfect for shy introverts. In fact, it ranks right up there with attending parties with people you barely know, running into an acquaintance at the grocery store and public speaking.

The Sign of Peace.

Yes. This beautiful part of the liturgy, where we extend peace to our brothers and sisters in Christ before partaking of the Eucharist, is actually quite the minefield for those of us that fall on the more awkward part of the social spectrum.

Below is a short PSA that shows what shy introverts go through at every Mass. EVERY MASS. Yes, you heard that right. This happens every single time. Sure, the shock wears off after the first few Masses. After that it’s just an expected socially awkward occasion where our hearts get the effect of cardio without the exercise. And there’s sweating without the exercise too. Try not to be jealous of the glamour.

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During my research, I came across this hilarious article about the Sign of Peace and the socially awkward by none other than Jennifer Fulwiler. Or as my husband and I refer to her in our household, JFul. It’s the hip hop name we’ve given her. 

Why We Said No to IVF–Before We Were Catholic

“Have you guys every considered IVF?”

Over the last ten years, we’ve been asked this question a number of times. And, since I have a heart for resolving others’ curiosity, I figured I could answer it in a public way.

The short answer: No.

The truth is, we never really got to a point to be able to consider IVF before discovering it was immoral.

Several years ago, I somehow came to be in possession of an issue of the magazine Christianity Today. I don’t know if we got it in the mail as a teaser or if someone gave it to me, but I opened it up and came across an article about IVF. It kind of blew my mind.

But let me take a few steps back.

Even before this article, I was always uncomfortable with the idea of IVF. I wanted to conceive a child with my husband, not with a lab technician. IVF seemed to be stepping outside the normal means to conceive a child as a desperate attempt to get something I wasn’t entitled to having. For me, having our own child by way of artificial reproductive technology (ART) just never outweighed conceiving a child within the unitive act of marriage.

Now–back to the magazine article.

The article laid out the basic process for IVF and I found it shocking. I no longer have the article, but what was detailed went something like this: The woman is given drugs so that several of her eggs mature at the same time. Eggs. Plural. The process is so expensive, that more than one egg has to be fertilized to increase the chances of conception. The eggs are taken from the woman and semen is collected from the man. The eggs and sperm are ultimately joined in a petri dish (in vitro is latin for “in glass”). Conception takes place and the embryos are allowed to develop for several days. And then begins the process of determining which fertilized embryos should be implanted into the woman’s uterus. The “strongest” embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus while the others are destroyed or frozen. The woman is observed to see if the embryos implant. It may be that more than one do. In that case, she and the doctor may decide to to use “selective reduction”. At some point during the early part of the pregnancy, after the embryos become fetuses, the doctor will determine which are the less desirable ones. These are terminated by way of a needle filled with potassium chloride inserted into the fetal heart.

So. For someone that knew the science behind the start of human life, this article was, like I said, mind-blowing. At the time, I had no idea that IVF routinely involved the termination of fertilized eggs. Not that freezing human life seemed like a better idea.

“Why did you bring up being Catholic?”

Right. Why did I make a point to say we ruled out IVF before becoming Catholic? Too many times, people simply think it’s because we’re Catholic that we haven’t used IVF or any other ART. And when I say that, I mean people imply, unintentionally, that we somehow didn’t use our own brains when making this decision. Rather, it’s like they think we would jump at the idea of using IVF if only that curmudgeon of a Catholic Church would just let us.

And, hey, there might be people that feel that way. Which is perfectly reasonable. With something as complicated and deeply profound as the unitive act of marriage, coupled with the intense sorrow of infertility, it can take a lifetime to even start to come close to complete understanding.

But that’s not us. We get it. We’ve done our homework. We know the Church is teaching what is right. We’re sad we’ve been unable to conceive. We’re not sad about not using IVF.

So, that’s it. We will not be using IVF, or any other form of ART, to conceive a child. Children are a gift and we know that we’re not entitled to this gift. We also know that infertility isn’t something actively willed by God. His permissive will may allow it, and we fully trust that He will take our sorrow and work it for good.

…provided we also suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with him

-Romans 8:17

For Friends & Family: We would like to state that this post is not intended as a judgment on anyone who has used IVF. All human life has value and should be cherished, regardless of the means by which it entered the world. We actually are not aware that anyone we know has used any form of ART. 

Sources & Helpful Links

A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology

In Vitro Fertilization

Good Intentions: Why IVF is Wrong

IVF, Custody Rights & Family Law
(the state deciding who’s a parent…because that will end well)

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

How can The Church Deny the Right of Women to use IVF?

The Hardest Teaching of Them All

Pope Francis: Encouraging Others, Challenging Me

The papal visit to the United States is wrapping up today, and any moment I’ve not been watching coverage, I’ve found myself deep in thought.

Pope Francis has given several speeches this week, including a few homilies, and then speaking to Congress and the United Nations, as well as the Bishops more than once, and then speeches at Independence Hall, the Festival of Families and the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.

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photo credit: reuters, dailymail.com

After hearing the Holy Father at all of these events, I’ve found myself encouraged but also challenged.

And isn’t that what a father is supposed to do?

Before the Pope’s arrival, I think many of us were looking forward to the Holy Father coming to our aid in a bold way. “Guess what guys? My dad’s here now and he’s gonna let you know what’s up.” Those of us that are faithful to the Church have found ourselves feeling ridiculed and bullied by our secular culture, led primarily by the media in all its forms. We stand with the Church and her teachings while the culture around us changes in the name of progressivism (progressing towards what I’m not sure). We’re often referred to as being stuck in the past or old-fashioned, or even worse.

Papa arrives, and I’m excited. The visual I have in my head is of myself standing, facing the opposition with my arms crossed, waiting for my Pope to let everybody have it. Instead, Pope Francis opens his arms to everyone and welcomes them.

Fine. I tell myself the Pope will let ’em have it tomorrow at Congress.

But again I find myself a little hurt, and let’s be honest, jealous. “Papa, why are you being so gentle and welcoming? These people turned away from you. They’ve ridiculed God’s Church, and even more, they ridicule me. Tell them they’re wrong!”

Yet again, I find myself in the story of the prodigal son. And, yet again, I’m playing the role of the older son, letting feelings of pride and self-importance run rampant.

 

rembrant-prodigal-son-detail

But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

 

 

 

 

The Challenge

After watching and listening to Pope Francis these few days, I’ve come away with a broader understanding of his mission. When he said “environment” and “climate change” I heard it through the filter of our American politics…how very American of me. But now I hear the Holy Father talking to the masses, calling them to step away from the culture of waste.

The culture of waste starts small. First you’re just tossing out silverware for a shiny new set, then later you find yourself not even grateful for the silverware, old or new. And then this throwaway mentality spreads. People think they have a right to toss out anything unwanted, even the elderly, the terminally ill or the unborn.

Pope Francis is reaching out to the masses, finding common ground, encouraging their desire to take care of our God-given natural resources so that future generations will not only take special care of the environment, but also welcome and care for other living things, like human beings.

And shouldn’t we take care of what God has given us? No parent would allow their child to keep their room in utter disarray, using clothing to mop up spills, all the while saying to their parents, “What’s the big deal? I’m going to grow out of these clothes in a month and you’ll get me new ones.” Rather, parents here on Earth and our Father in Heaven call on their children to show their trust with little things so that they can be trusted with greater things. If we can’t show honor and respect to something like a river given to us by God to provide us with water, how can we show honor and respect for human beings that seem to provide us with nothing except burden?

My challenge specifically? To step away from my pride and petty us vs them constructs. To make love grow.

This means standing for what’s right while simultaneously making people feel welcome. The beautiful Both/And concept the Church teaches.

But what does this look like in practice? Pope Francis warned against getting caught in incessant cycles of explaining of church teachings. I think I could do a little less sharing of articles, blog posts and the like, and do a little more of reaching out to those around me. Calling at least one person on the phone each week. Taking the time to actually comment on social media posts instead of just scrolling by or “liking” it. Finding common ground with those in my life who are opposed to me on various issues. Finding new ways to love my husband in ways he receives love best.

I once heard Fr. Longenecker speak at our parish, and he said something that stayed with me and I think it applies here. He advised to approach all things in life with saying Yes.  At first, this made no sense to me. But then I realized it was the difference between approaching things with a hard heart and a loving heart. The Pharisees led with No. Leading with Yes means truly hearing what is being presented to you, and then making thoughtful decisions instead of being reactionary.

There’s a lot more to be said; I could go on to further explain in detail what I really meant here or when I said this I didn’t mean that. But I think I’ll just let it lay, and end with today’s readings, which I thought were a ideal end to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

Today’s Readings

Numbers 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, ”
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
“Moses, my lord, stop them.”
But Moses answered him,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”

James 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”