All posts from “May 2009”

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May 30, 2009

Glass doors and the loneliness of Kirk

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The first two Star Trek movies are very different from one another, in many ways. But despite these differences, they do have some interesting parallels.

For example, both films depict Kirk not as a captain -- at least not at first -- but as an admiral who takes command of the Enterprise when a crisis arises; and in both cases, the captain who relinquishes command of the ship is dead or "missing" by the end of the movie, due to an act of self-sacrifice.

But watching the two films back-to-back last night, I was struck by one other thing they have in common: namely, their use of glass doors to symbolize the loneliness of Kirk. You can see it, for example, in the shot above, from The Motion Picture.

Continue reading Glass doors and the loneliness of Kirk...

May 30, 2009

Newsbites: The hiding-in-Canada edition!

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1. Vancouver-based artist Stan Douglas is developing a film based on Raymond Chandler's Playback; it will take place in the 1950s and concern "an American woman who crosses into Canada to escape imprisonment for a murder she didn't commit, only to find herself in the same situation - prime suspect in a murder - in Vancouver." Douglas plans to shoot against a green screen and fill in the backgrounds -- including the downtown Granville Street strip -- with computer-generated locations based on archival photographs. -- Hollywood North Report, Globe and Mail

2. Paul Gross is starring in Gunless, a comedy Western in which he'll play "a notorious American gunslinger who turns up in a rural British Columbia town" that has "no working weapons" and is "populated by sundry eccentrics." The film is currently being shot in Osoyoos, B.C. -- Hollywood Reporter, Globe and Mail

May 29, 2009

A Childhood Reimagined

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Hollywood would be hard pressed to deny it is in a creative slump. For every original film that hits your theater, half a dozen clones of past films wait in the wings.

Hollywood has always stolen from itself to keep the masses entertained. Remaking popular films is hardly new. The idea is that if it was a hot property once, it might be so again. In the early days of cinema, films like Ben-Hur were rolled over again and again.

But it seems that lately they’ve gone overboard. Or maybe it’s just that they’ve finally begun mucking about on my sacred ground.

Continue reading A Childhood Reimagined...

May 29, 2009

Paul Verhoeven to direct a Christian thriller?

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Paul Verhoeven is known for many things. Gory sci-fi movies like RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers (1997). Trashy oversexed thrillers like Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995). And trashy, gory, oversexed sci-fi thrillers like Hollow Man (2000).

But an interest in Christian fiction isn't one of them.

Oh, sure, he has long wanted to make a movie about the "historical Jesus", and he has often discussed how the imagery in his films makes critical or subversive use of religious themes. And who can forget that pious member of the Dutch Resistance in Black Book (2006) who is reluctant to use his gun ... until he hears someone take the Lord's name in vain?

But nothing in Verhoeven's oeuvre would necessarily lead you to think that he'd be interested in directing an adaptation of a Christian novel, under the supervision of a Christian producer.

Continue reading Paul Verhoeven to direct a Christian thriller?...

May 29, 2009

Nine does not always equal 9

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Similar titles. Similar posters. (As far as Apple's movie trailer page is concerned, at any rate.) Similar release dates. (Well, they both open in the fall, at any rate.) But two very different movies. Nine is a live-action musical about moviemaking directed by Rob Marshall, while 9 is an animated post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick directed by Shane Acker. Fortunately, these movies are scheduled to open two months apart, so there shouldn't be any opening-weekend confusion, at least; but keeping them straight when they go to the second-run theatres, to say nothing of video, could be interesting. Hat tip to Sara Stewart of the New York Post.

May 27, 2009

Another Post-Apocalypse Flick . . .

USA Today grants a "first look" at Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli

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With one post-apocalyptic thriller on the big screen, another is in the works.

The Book of Eli, set in America after the apocalypse, stars Denzel Washington as a man with a mysterious book that might hold the key to man's salvation. USA Today brings us a first look at the film, with five images.

Co-director Allen Hughes told the newspaper, "This is the first time I can remember where it feels like America is, at its core, vulnerable. We're mortal. After 9/11, the reaction showed how thin that line is between order and chaos. It feels like we're at a boiling point. That's why these themes of redemption and salvation are so powerful now."

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The description and images remind me of The Road, the film adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy book of the same title which was supposed to release late last year before being shelved indefinitely. USA Today also gave us a first look at that film last summer. IMDb says The Road is now slated for an Oct. 16, 2009 release, but the official website still says "Coming Soon."

May 27, 2009

'Dogma,' 'Life of Brian': Best Movies for Christians!

At least that's what one online list would have you believe

If you were making a list titled "100 All-Time Best Movies for Christians," where would you start?

Probably not with the blasphemous Dogma, in which one character, a woman working at an abortion clinic, is allegedly the last living descendant of Christ. And probably not with the scathingly satirical (some would say heretical) Life of Brian.

And yet ChristianColleges.com has posted a list with those two films--and many more head-scratchers--at its site. The posting goes on to say that its list includes movies that "are a great way to affirm faith," going so far as to call the films in its list "Christian movies."

Huh? Dead Poet's Society, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Last Temptation of Christ are "Christian movies"? Yowza.

Check out the whole list here.

May 21, 2009

A Newt, a Pope, and a Doc

Gingrich making a documentary about Pope John Paul II's role in bringing down Soviet Union

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Former House speaker and Newt Gingrich is shooting a documentary about Pope John Paul II's 1979 trip to Poland and how it helped to lay the groundwork for bringing down the Soviet Union, writes Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News & World Report on his God & Country blog.

Nine Days That Changed the World will release this fall under Gingrich Productions. Gingrich also discussed his conversion to Christianity with Gilgoff, saying the influence of popes JPII and Benedict affected him deeply.

May 18, 2009

How Sarah Connor made the war worse.

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I watched The Terminator (1984) from start to finish for the first time in years last night, and I was amused by the opening title card's declaration that this film would show us "the final battle" in the war between humans and machines. "The final battle"? Tell that to the sequel-makers.

But what really struck me were the deleted scenes, which I don't believe I had watched since I first got the DVD in 2001. And why did they strike me? Because they make it fairly clear that, on some level at least, Sarah Connor is responsible for the war.

That's right, Sarah Connor is responsible for the war.

How can this be, you say?

Continue reading How Sarah Connor made the war worse....

May 17, 2009

Newsbites: The classic tales reimagined edition!

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1. Kings, the TV series that puts a quasi-modernized spin on the biblical story of Saul and David, has definitely been cancelled, according to producer Bradford Winters. Only five of the show's dozen-or-so episodes have been aired so far, but the DVD containing all of them is already listed at Amazon.com, albeit without a release date. -- Image, Bible Films Blog

2. Jim Caviezel (pictured) will star in William Tell: The Legend, which promises to be a "fact-based" film that shows how Tell "challenged the Hapsburg monarch Hermann Gessler" and thereby "ignited an uprising against the Austrian government which led to the formation of Switzerland." It is not clear whether this is the same movie that was announced six months ago, under the title Ironbow: The Legend of William Tell, or a different movie altogether. -- Hollywood Reporter

3. Speaking of possibly rival productions, two different films based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were announced in the last couple weeks. One, simply titled Jekyll, will star Keanu Reeves. The other, called Jekyll and Hyde, will star Forest Whitaker and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and will be directed by Abel Ferrara. But wait, there's more! Universal, the studio behind the Keanu Reeves movie, is also developing another version of the story with Guillermo Del Toro -- but he'll be so busy with The Hobbit and various other projects for the next few years, these other films will almost certainly be out of his way by the time he finally gets around to putting his own spin on this tale. -- Hollywood Reporter, Variety

Continue reading Newsbites: The classic tales reimagined edition!...

May 15, 2009

Passion producer making 'religion-inflected' Rwanda movie

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Stephen McEveety, who may be best-known for producing a number of films with Mel Gibson including The Passion of the Christ, is developing a movie about the Rwandan genocide, says the Hollywood Reporter. McEveety's production company, Mpower, has
acquired Immaculee Ilibagiza's religion-inflected autobiography, titled "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust," that tells of the author's return to spend Easter with her Catholic family in 1994 when the Tutsi massacre took place.

The author witnessed a number of her family members killed. She survived by hiding in the bathroom of a Hutu pastor for three months, and attributes her survival during that brutal time to her faith.

The film will join a growing list of movies that have dealt with the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath over the last few years, including Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs (released in the United States as Beyond the Gates), Sometimes in April, A Sunday in Kigali, Shake Hands with the Devil and Munyurangabo -- the last of which was produced by a YWAM team and was released this month on DVD to Film Movement subscribers.

May 12, 2009

Rating Woes

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I have a friend, a young film critic, who is incensed that the upcoming Terminator: Salvation has been given a PG-13 rating. And he's not the only one. I understand where he and others like him are coming from, yet I cannot identify with their anger, nor my friend's assumption that the more family-friendly rating is an automatic reflection of the film's assumed poor quality.

Doubtless the rating decision is a marketing move - the film will take in far more money the wider an audience it can attract. That's basic economics. Playing to those economics, at the expense of artistry and the creative process is, unequivocally, shameful. But is that what's going on here?

Director McG has stated that he cut very little to bring Terminator: Salvation within the PG-13 guidelines - one scene of violence and another of nudity. Losing both scenes, he said, in no way impinged on the holistic, structural integrity of the story. If that is indeed the case - and what more do we have to go on right now than his word - the gratuity he describes won't be missed by anyone other than those who go to movies seeking little more than titillation.

Condemning all R-rated films simply because they are R-rated is misguided. Some stories, in pursuit of the truth of their narrative, naturally incur an R-rating. Would The Passion of the Christ have been nearly as effective had Christ's torture and crucifixion been sanitized? Tragically, we do not live in a G or even PG world. Ours is a fallen world and, struggle as we might to bring the light, we harm our witness and make a mockery of the truth if we claim otherwise. When a film reflects the world as it truly is, oftentimes an R-rating is inevitable. (I am in no way implying that Terminator: Salvation throbs with a message of Christian redemption, no matter what the title may imply.)

In the same way, we cannot decry films that mange to relay this truth (or simply entertain) without gratuitous sex and violence as a necessary prime mover for their plot. Good drama (or comedy for that matter) is hardly beholden to body counts and bare breasts. As another, older critic friend recently said, "Wantonness doesn't equal quality."

May 12, 2009

Ben-Hur, Jesus, and water bottles

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Simon Vaughan, one of the producers of the upcoming Ben-Hur mini-series, has created a blog devoted to the production; most of the entries there so far consist of pictures from the Morocco set. (Hat tip to Matt Page.)

Today Vaughan posted this picture of a crew member lighting the actors who play Judah Ben-Hur and Jesus. I don't recognize the actor playing Jesus, but I wonder if this version of the story will show his face, or if it will merely show the back of his head, like the films made in 1925 and 1959 did.

Note also that the actor playing Jesus is holding a water bottle. That's kind of funny, since it looks like the scene they are working on is the one in which Jesus gives Judah a drink of water -- but presumably out of a gourd or some similar vessel, and not a plastic bottle!

Although, come to think of it, this wouldn't be the first film to show Jesus offering someone a water bottle ...

May 12, 2009

Weisz to play Lamarr -- and maybe Delilah too?

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The Hollywood Reporter says Rachel Weisz has been tapped to play Hollywood legend -- and noted scientist! -- Hedy Lamarr in Face Value, an indie film to be directed by Amy Redford, daughter of Robert. The Reporter also notes that Lamarr was "most famous" for co-starring in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949), the first of the post-war Bible epics. (Samson was played by Victor Mature.) Will the new film depict the making of DeMille's film in any way, shape or form? Will Weisz have to wear a Philistine costume? Obsessive Bible-movie buffs need to know.

May 12, 2009

Star Trek -- at the box office, on the charts

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There were ten Star Trek films before the reboot. Two of them made over $90 million, two of them made less than $60 million, and the rest all made between $70 million and $80 million, roughly speaking.

As of Sunday night, the reboot had grossed $79.2 million in its first weekend alone -- which is better than all but three of the previous films did during their entire theatrical runs. But of course, they've been making these films for 30 years now, and ticket prices have gone up, up, up.

Perhaps, instead of looking at the raw, unadjusted dollar figures, we can get a sense of how well these films have done -- or haven't done, as the case may be -- by comparing the grosses for each film to those of other films that were released in the same year.

Continue reading Star Trek -- at the box office, on the charts...

May 10, 2009

Newsbites: The ancient characters edition!

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1. The international trailer for Year One is now online, and it gives us our first glimpse of Abraham and Isaac (at the 1:19 mark). -- YouTube

2. Movies often seem to come in twos: two volcano-based disaster movies, two asteroid- or comet-based disaster movies, two Truman Capote movies, etc. And now ... two John Milton movies? Scott Derrickson has been developing a big-screen version of Paradise Lost for the past few years already, but now comes word that Martin Poll will produce an "indie version" of the Milton poem based on an otherwise-unfilmed screenplay that was published in book form in 1973. Two "unknown young actors" named David Dunham and Patricia Li Bryan have been hired to play Adam and Eve "as part of a multiethnic cast." -- Hollywood Reporter

3. The TV mini-series version of Ben-Hur now has a cast: Joseph Morgan -- no stranger to sword-and-sandals flicks, having played Philotas in Oliver Stone's Alexander (2004) -- will play the title character, while Kristen Kruek will play his sister, Emily VanCamp will play his girlfriend Esther, Ray Winstone will play his adoptive father, and Stephen Campbell Moore will play his treacherous former best friend Messala. Hugh Bonneville is also on board to play Pontius Pilate. -- Hollywood Reporter

Continue reading Newsbites: The ancient characters edition!...

May 10, 2009

Newsbites: The imaginary friends edition!

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1. Jim Carrey may star in The Beaver, an "offbeat comedy" that "centers on the relationship between a man and a beaver puppet he wears on his arm, which he talks to and treats as a companion." Those who have read Kyle Killen's script are comparing it to Being John Malkovich (1999) and Lars and the Real Girl (2007). -- Hollywood Reporter

2. Russell Brand is set to star in a remake of Drop Dead Fred (1991). The original film "starred Phoebe Cates as a wallflower who loses her job and husband during the course of a lunch hour. Forced to live back home, she's reunited with her childhood imaginary friend (Brit actor Rik Mayall), who promises to help but causes more havoc." -- Hollywood Reporter

3. Leah Meyerhoff is writing and directing Unicorns, an "indie drama" about "an awkward teenage girl who escapes to a fantasy world when her first romantic relationship turns increasingly abusive." For the moment, I am assuming, based on this synopsis, that the "fantasy world" in question exists only in the character's head and has no objective Narnia-like reality. -- Hollywood Reporter

May 7, 2009

Vatican Newspaper: 'Angels & Demons' Harmless

L'Osservatore Romano calls upcoming film 'harmless entertainment'

It's not quite an endorsement from The Vatican itself, but Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano says Angels & Demons, which releases next week, is inaccurate in areas but otherwise "harmless" and not a danger to the church.

The movie, which had its world premiere in Rome on Monday, offers "more than two hours of harmless entertainment, which hardly affects the genius and mystery of Christianity," L'Osservatore's reviewer wrote. It's "a videogame that first of all sparks curiosity and is also, maybe, a bit of fun."

In a reference to Dan Brown's books, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, the L'Osservatore writer continued, "The theme is always the same in both novels: a sect versus the church, even though the parts of the good and the bad are distributed differently. This time, with 'Angels & Demons,' the church is on the side of the good guys."

A Hollywood publicist working the film to the religious press sent an e-mail Thursday noting the differences between some Christian responses to the film and what the Vatican paper is saying now. Here's the entire body of that publicist's e-mail:

Ted Baehr of Movieguide in a fundraising letter on Angels & Demons: "A clear anti-Christian message that not only are Christians evil and murderers but also that science has proven faith in Jesus Christ to be outdated! In the end, it is the highest echelon of the Catholic Church who is the villain!"

The official Vatican newspaper review of Angels & Demons:
"Two hours of harmless entertainment, which hardly affects the genius and mystery of Christianity."

There's an old Irish saying, "when everyone tells you you're drunk, you better sit down."

I'm not familiar with that Irish saying, or even exactly sure what it means, but I'll simply reiterate what's been said by many: Angels & Demons is fiction -- no more true than Wolverine or Star Trek or Terminator Salvation, the other big fiction flicks releasing this month -- and as Christians, there's really no need to join the angry mob and yell that it's a "smear" campaign or that Tom Hanks is a "pawn of Satan." Nobody's forcing anybody to watch the movie, or even believe anything that's being portrayed. If it's not your thing, skip it. If it is, then enjoy it for what the Vatican's newspaper is calling it: "harmless entertainment."

Jesus is still standing strong. The Rock ain't gonna budge.

May 5, 2009

Angels & Demons & Prelates, Oh My!

Controversy escalates over the upcoming prequel to 'The Da Vinci Code'

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The news surrounding the upcoming release of Angels & Demons is beginning to feel more like a bunch of children yapping at each other at recess on a grade-school playground. I'm beginning to wonder when somebody's going to stick out their tongue and say, "Neener nonner nooner!"

We've already had plenty of lively banter between Ron Howard and Bill Donohue. Then we had some shmoe calling Tom Hanks a "pawn of Satan."

Now the Vatican has joined the fray, ironically without commenting.

Howard is saying that Vatican officials obstructed his efforts to shoot the film in Rome, saying he couldn't shoot scenes anywhere in the city with churches in the background.

"Was I surprised? No. Am I a little frustrated at times? Sure," said Howard.

A Vatican spokesman wouldn't comment, but apparently said enough to imply that Howard was just spouting off to "drum up publicity," according to the AP. That's a pretty feisty "no comment."

CNN would disagree, noting that the film is not drawing the Vatican's "ire," while quoting an Opus Dei priest as saying, "I don't think that anyone at the Vatican is paying much attention to the premier of 'Angels & Demons.' . . . I think the church's attitude has been, from the beginning, 'hands off.'"

Meanwhile, Tom "I'm Not the Pawn of Satan" Hanks told the German publication Bild, "I am a very spiritual guy. I do believe in God. We go to Church. My children are baptised. But I don’t know a lot about the condom ban. I have been happily married for 21 years!" Of Angels & Demons, he said, "It’s fiction but has amusing facts."

In India, Christian protests have resulted in a decision to show the film only after certain parts have been deleted, according to the Hindu News Update: "The Censor Board has assured them of deletion of some of the portions before release of the movie, which will also have a disclaimer saying that it is a work of fiction."

A work of fiction. Good to remember that, and not get too worked up about it. Eh?

May 4, 2009

Doug TenNapel + Hugh Jackman = Ghostopolis

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Doug TenNapel -- animator, graphic novelist, video-game designer and occasional collaborator with one of my favorite musicians of all time, Terry Scott Taylor -- continues to rack up the movie deals. The Hollywood Reporter says his newest graphic novel, Ghostopolis, has been picked up by Disney -- and Wolverine star Hugh Jackman is set to produce and star in the film version:
The story centers on a man who works for the government's Supernatural Immigration Task Force. His job is to send ghosts who have escaped into our world back to Ghostopolis. When a living boy accidentally is sent to the other side, the agent must team with a female ghost (and former flame) to bring him back.
This would be at least the fourth movie deal that TenNapel has made in the last few years -- Paramount has Monster Zoo, New Regency has Creature Tech and Universal has Tommysaurus Rex -- but this marks the first time that an actor has been attached to one of them, as far as I can recall.

Continue reading Doug TenNapel + Hugh Jackman = Ghostopolis...

May 4, 2009

Year One -- the set-visit reports begin

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The "biblical comedy" Year One comes out next month, and at least two websites posted new stories last week describing their visits to the set last year; one of them also posted several interviews with the director and members of the cast.

The main report at ComingSoon.net focuses on costumes, production design and the like -- though it also notes, without quite saying so, that the film seems to have shuffled the chronology and geography of the Book of Genesis somewhat. Describing what they saw in the city of Sodom, they note that the set included something that was "meant to represent the Tower of Babel," with scaffolding and extras playing slaves who are working on the tower's construction.

The individual interviews bring up some interesting subjects, too. For example, co-stars Jack Black and Michael Cera talk about how their improvising has been affected by the fact that they aren't allowed to use certain words and expressions that might sound too "modern", like "textbook" and "bathroom" and "dodged a bullet".

Continue reading Year One -- the set-visit reports begin...

May 1, 2009

Movie Hatch--New Social Site for Filmmakers

MovieHatch is a new website with a great pedigree. Billing itself as a social network for film people--professional and aspiring--you can upload your work and vote on other people's work. There are blogs and contests, pitching tips and news stories. Partners and judges come from Hollywood and Indiewood alike.

Sign up and let us know what you think in the comments below--does Hollywood need its very own Facebook?

May 1, 2009

Newsbites: The Marvel Comics edition!

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1. Just as comic books sometimes come out with multiple covers, to take advantage of the collectors who absolutely must buy each and every version, so too there are at least two different versions of X-Men Origins: Wolverine out there, each with a different "Easter egg" at the end that will "push the storyline forward." Fans who want to see both versions will have to pay to see the movie twice -- or they could wait for YouTube, I guess. Expect to see the studio's lawyers playing whack-a-mole with that and other online video sites over the weekend. -- Patrick Goldstein (x2), FirstShowing.net, David Poland

2. But what does this reference to "pushing the storyline forward" mean? Will Wolverine lay the groundwork for X-Men: First Class? We already know that Wolverine features new actor Tim Pocock as a younger version of Cyclops, the laser-eyed character who was played by James Marsden in the original trilogy -- and in a recent interview, producer Lauren Shuler Donner said young Cyclops would be featured in First Class, along with young Jean Grey and young Beast: "It is the first class of Xavier's school, way back when . . . hopefully First Class will become its own franchise and we can follow them as they grow up." -- Comics Continuum

Continue reading Newsbites: The Marvel Comics edition!...

May 1, 2009

Human vs. machine = spirit vs. body?

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John Connor has an interesting line in the newest TV spot for Terminator Salvation:
Victory lies in the soul of the human spirit, not in the hands of the machines.
A phrase like "the soul of the human spirit" sounds a little redundant at first, but when you hear it contrasted with "the hands of the machines", it sounds more emphatic than anything else -- and its meaning seems clear enough. As far as John Connor is concerned, machines are defined entirely by their physicality, their material qualities, their bodies, but humans are defined by something more invisible, something more intangible, something more spiritual.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time John Connor has referred to the "hands" of his opponents. In a trailer that was released late last year, John Connor remarks, "The devil's hands have been busy," and then proceeds to say some not-very-friendly things to a man who may or may not be a Terminator.

Continue reading Human vs. machine = spirit vs. body?...

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