Theater educator brings faith, scripture to acting in book

Setting the stage for this post is rather simple. I was beginning my second year of graduate school at, what it was called at the time, Central Missouri State University, in Warrensburg, MO. Along came a new instructor for the theater department….

John Wilson has been an instructor of theater at the University of Central Missouri (formerly known as Central Missouri State University) in Warrensburg, MO, for nearly 20 years.
He began in the fall of 2000, and in 2015 he became chair of what has now expanded to become the Department of Theatre and Dance at the university.
Before coming to the “little ‘ol town of the ‘Burg,” Wilson was an adjunct instructor at Colorado Christian University from 1997-1998. He directed two shows, Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing, while teaching a few classes. “I taught a playwriting class, motivational drama – which studied a lot of motivational speeches in all genres of dramatic literature – and I taught a movement class.” he said.
He did this all while he was still working in a grocery story. “I was just starting to get experience where I could,” Wilson said. “But I was also professionally auditioning and got my equity card through the regional premiere of ‘Visiting Mr. Green‘ by Jeff Barron.”
He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in performance from Arizona State University in 1990. In the early 90s, he attended the National Theatre Conservatory in Colorado, obtaining a Master of Fine Arts in performance in 1993.
The purpose of this post, really, is to highlight Wilson’s book. You see, a few years ago he published his first book that took several years to create the idea, formulate that idea, and time to write the book – The Actor As Fire and Cloud.

In all his years as an educator and theater artist, Wilson was contemplating an idea. This idea was bringing Christian values and faith to the secular life. “It really happened ever since the enlightenment,” he began. “We get this idea you can have your sacred life and then there’s your public life. You can believe whatever you want, just keep it out of my business. Then this growing, silent agreement for the past 300 years that we don’t bring that sacred into certain professions and into certain work places.”
So the idea began forming more than 10 years ago, since about 2005-2006. He said it started as conversation pieces for trips and things with his wife, Jill, but then didn’t really get around to it until 2013. “So in 2013 I would have been in my 14th year of teaching,” Wilson said. “I could look back and realize I got a number of believing students come through the program and ask me all sorts of questions – ‘As a Christian, how do you feel about swear words?’ ‘As a Christian, how do you feel about sex as a topic in a scene?’ There’s a chapter where I kind of cover that. And it came from all those questions that I was fielding for quite a long time from students.”
Therefore, he contemplated further. His thinking – “I am a Christian, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” He thought God has given him gifts and talents, so there must be a way to bring these things together, faith and craft. “I think God purposes us and equips us to do everything that we do. So part of it was looking for connections,” he said. “Being able to go into God’s word and try and find connecting dots and ligaments that help me make connections between faith and acting.”

Businessman looking at faith door

But there was also another connection that had to do with his wife. Through their previous conversations, there was a time when Jill was in graduate school and her professors were having difficulty finding any kind of a textbook that dealt with those two items. “It just didn’t exist. They would be like read this book that’s kind of about this and then just try and translate it the best that you can. Or maybe read this article or what have you,” he said.
Then the real thought process and imagination spurred about writing this type of book about acting. He realized there wasn’t really anything on the market, so through conversations with his wife more ideas and thoughts stirred. Wilson said his wife was really the inspiration for the idea. “We bounced a lot of ideas off of each other,” he said. “I started writing when I was on sabbatical. I got through a show and some commercial work and then it was spring break in the educational calendar and I was like ‘I’m off until August.'”

So he set out to start writing. However, he has never written a book before. The process is somewhat similar to writing a thesis or other educational piece of writing. But with a book, it’s a little more grander in scale as far as content. “I think the writing process is similar. It’s just a matter of volume,” he said. “How much you’re writing when you write a book as opposed to a thesis or a paper. I felt the process was similar to how I would go about writing anything academic. I just needed to be really well organized about it. I needed to collect a lot of my resources. But I don’t think my approach was necessarily different than any other academic writing I’ve done. There’s just so much more to do.”


The idea for writing a book like this needed to actually be in the book. So eventually that material became the first chapter, he said. He set out to work and there would be short days of about eight hours, and his long days would be about 12 hours. He would explore the Bible and then work on a draft, completing a chapter, and then a lot of “prayerful consideration” and other reading as to what the next chapter would be.
“I wrote the majority of it in six weeks,” Wilson said. “And then I spent two years going back and revising, editing and fine tuning and expanding and adding. And it felt really inspired, like it poured out of me. That’s a lot of material to write in six weeks. I was easily done before the spring semester was over. I started in March and was done before commencement.”
As any writer could probably tell you, it’s a process.
But then the more difficult part came in the writing project, editing. Editing is also a process. And as they say writers don’t write, they rewrite. It’s true in a sense. “I had to go back and think about structure and vocabulary and train of thought,” he said. “I worked with one of Jill’s friends, whom I never met.”
Miranda Dunning was attending the same school his wife, Jill, was attending. She was in the MFA program for performance. Dunning was also a lawyer, according to Wilson. She does a lot with law but is also an editor. So Wilson asked her to come on board because she had writing skills and was an MFA actor. So it was a “great, phenomenal, serendipitous opportunity” to send the manuscript to her.
He said they only had phone and email correspondence through the editing process. But it still worked for them. He felt he had something with her when, regardless of any grammatical errors, etc., she would write back and say “conceptually this chapter is kind of blowing my mind.” Sometimes she would say, on the concept level, “I get what you’re saying but I think you could make it clearer,” he said. “So she would be really honest and challenge me.”
He not only brought scripture and faith into this book, he also intertwined his own experiences or Jill’s experience into it as well. Additionally, he included different plays he read. “I kind of felt like my career as an actor and educator just kind of prepared me for this moment,” Wilson said. “I could have been inspired to write this book in 2000. And I would have no clue what the heck I would be writing about. In fact, I think that’s why it took me so long. I think I wrote it at the right time. I don’t think I was the actor or educator or the Christian back in 2005 or 2006 to write this book.”

The final step was to get a publisher. That, for Wilson, also became somewhat of an obstacle. He contemplated self-publishing or going the traditional route. He said if self-publishing would have been more affordable at the time, he would have done that just to get the book out there and complete the project. And by a year or so later, there just didn’t seem to be anyone interested in the book.
Finally, after some thoughtful prayer and consideration, an answer emerged. “I happened to come across a Christian writing conference at Wheaton College, outside of Chicago,” Wilson said. “I thought I got to do this. I got to meet people who know what they’re doing. I need to network. I need to figure this out. I hadn’t spent a lot of money at this point, so I went. I made an investment. That was the game changer.”
He was able to meet several writers and the conference was being hosted by publishers. He signed up for two half-hour pitch sessions. One session was with Bold Vision Books, not quite as big as the other one, but still a good one. “They were both really interested,” he said. “But Bold Vision, at the time, wanted to start developing a new brand and that would focus on the arts. They would do art, music and include theater and they started with this book to launch this new brand,” he said. “I didn’t hear back from them until September or October of 2014. And then we spend another several months editing and then it came out in April or May 2015. Almost two years to the month that I had finished the first draft.”
He was happy and pleased the project was complete. He had much support from his wife and others, but the most important help came from somewhere else. “It was all the Lord,” he began. “I don’t even know where I even started. What I even Googled out of my desperation. But when I found Christian writing conferences, I thought that’s the answer.” With that, he knew that was it. All of the time in prayer and peaceful thought resulted in this discovery. “I felt like once I committed to doing something, then I think the Lord really brought me to it. It made perfect sense. Obviously I found the right one,” Wilson said.

His final thoughts on the project still remain with God. It was such an important part of this whole process for him. “No matter the subject. When your main resource is the bible, then you’re in it every day,” he said. “I found that to be all I needed.”
He spent considerable time in the Bible to connect faith and craft because faith is connected to God’s word. “God was really telling me something in whatever passage or chapter I was reading. Like that was really a tough psalm, or that was a Proverb that pierces.”
Of course, he said there were also some favorite authors, apologists, and theologians he would read to become inspired through the process.
What’s next for Wilson? Of course he’ll continue being an educator.
As for writing… well he might look to another type of challenge.
“I’m still inspired by playwrights today. Probably the next thing I’ll write is a play,” he said.

There’s also an option of creating a second edition from his notes if that opportunity presents itself. “But playwriting and screenwriting are phenomenally more difficult than a book. Coming up with the plot, character, and story is difficult and to me, that’s the next great challenge.”

Renewed Spirit

A couple of weeks ago at my church (of which I have been getting involved with again), there was a mission. It was a three night series and was designed to get back in touch with God. It was a great experience and was led by Fr. Ron Hoye, a Vincentian priest of the Congregation of the Mission. They are based in St. Louis and conduct missions across the country. The Catholic church I attend brought him to lead the mission. And in presenting this post I am not in any way establishing one way to look at things or one thing to believe. If you have differing beliefs or thoughts, that is fine. I am just presenting my thoughts, my beliefs. This, by all accounts, is my journey.

Let me preface this by telling a bit more of myself. I was born and raised Catholic and always have had a belief in God, but not because it was what I was taught, it’s what I believed. But I guess it is, sort of, in a way because of what I was taught. But anyhoo, I always kept that belief and I’ve always had my faith.


I carried that faith with me through my youth, through college, and then adulthood. There have been periods where I have felt I “lost my way,” and was looking for ways to get back in touch with my faith. I went back and forth like this in my early college years, and then in 1995 I transferred to the University of Central Missouri (then Central Missouri State University) in Warrensburg to finish my undergraduate college work, and eventually my masters.
I was able to get back in my faith by going on a retreat about mid-way through the first semester. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I never experienced anything like it before. I attended several of these retreats as staff to help others maybe gain an awesome experience as I did on my first retreat. For a while I stayed true. After college, I went back and forth for several years with my faith and attending mass when I finally stopped again for about another seven years.


This year has been a year of changes for me. I moved out, away from my marriage (4.5 years at that point) and slowly began to find myself again. I have been attending weekly mass again and have changed jobs. I am much happier now than I was during the last half of my marriage. When this mission was announced, I decided to attend.

The Mission
The mission was entertaining, informative, spiritual, and uplifting. It brought me back on the path toward God and having a relationship with Jesus. That’s what the mission was about, developing and maintaining that personal relationship with Jesus.
Fr. Hoye was wonderful as he presented stories about personal experiences that challenged and strengthened his faith. He was personable to his audience and brought a recurring theme to mind when I attended those retreats in college. That theme was “Let go, let God.” Believe that in God, all things are possible.

The Main Thing
Something he did during the three days he spent here was at the end of the first night. He brought along several notepads of sticky notes. He told us to write three things down that we’re thankful or grateful for from the day before going to bed. Then, upon waking up in the morning take the note off and stick on the bathroom mirror (or some place where it would be accessible). Additionally, he said it has to be three different things each time. We can’t double up. It would be for about 25 days, because that is how many sheets of paper were possible in the notepad.
The exercise becomes more difficult to do as each day passes. I am a little more than half way through. It really makes you think and does put your priorities in perspective. In doing this, it also puts my faith in check. It keeps me on the path to do all I can to maintain that personal relationship with Jesus, despite what life brings my way. Even though I may get busy with work or other life issues (as has happened since the mission), I still stay true in my continuing journey with God.
One more thing about Fr. Hoye. He has written a book called “Awake.” It is intended for those who would like to grow more closer to God and have that more personal relationship. The book contains short stories and reflections on faith and following Christ. It is an enlightening and spiritual addition on the journey with Jesus.
For more information on parish missions, visit

Relationship Lost

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, I ended the first (and longest) relationship I have had. I’ve had friends get married, divorce, remarry, and so on. I’ve seen and heard of friends, family, and other people stay together for 10, 20, 30 or more years. So in light of my recent divorce, I thought I would share some thoughts about my relationship, and relationships in general.
I will start with a little bit of background.
Honestly, I have only had a few dates in college and some after, but it never really went anywhere beyond a first date (don’t ask me why).
Several years ago, (a little over 15 years) I moved back to Marshall from Warrensburg, where I went to finish college after transferring from State Fair Community College in Sedalia. I had jobs here and there and then began working at the Habilitation Center here in Marshall, and worked there for six and half years. During the course of my employment, I began a “relationship” with a coworker and only lasted a couple of months or so. We went out a few times. We spent some time together. Then all of sudden she just stopped talking to me. When we were together, the communication wasn’t there anymore. I don’t know what happened. Then, one night we made plans for me to come over to her place and spend some time together. I went and no one was home. Come to find out she went out with some other friends without saying a word to me, and she didn’t even invite me after I found out. So apparently that was that.
A couple of years later I begin another “relationship” at the Hab Center. That lasted just a few weeks. We spent some time together and enjoyed each other’s company, but didn’t want to rush into anything “serious.” So it was casual. We didn’t want to “label” it. But, apparently at one point we discovered that we just weren’t in the same “place.” We went our separate ways and that was that.
I came to the conclusion that relationships at the Hab Center just didn’t work out.
At least for me.
However, a couple of years later (end of summer 2009), I added a friend on my Facebook. I knew her in high school. We had a few classes together over the years and graduated together. As we commented and made posts on each other’s page, I found out she worked at the Hab Center (and has been there for quite some time). She worked in a different unit than I, but we carried on getting to know each other again and sharing high school experiences and memories.
After her divorce, we decided to step up our relationship, and that I would move in with her and her three children from previous marriages. Shortly after, we were talking about marriage and spending the rest of our lives together. So, one day I finally popped the question. We were married about a year and a half later. At this point, I was her third marriage and this was my first. We started off pretty good by spending time together, talking, doing family things with the children, vacations, and so on. She was telling me how much she loved me and posting messages and little “lovey-dovey” memes to my Facebook page. It was all good.
Then nearly two years into the marriage, our communication broke down, she didn’t seem that into me (although she did tell me from time to time she still loved me), we didn’t do a lot things together anymore, and she excluded from things. She spent more and more time away from me. So I got to a point where I didn’t know how to talk to her anymore. The more time she spent away from me, the more I spent time away from her. And the distance grew. At least for me.
This went on for a while, and I was going back and forth if I should leave or stay. Ultimately, I decided to leave. I thought the only way I could do this is if I just did it quick like a band-aid. I know I probably could have handled it differently (and should have), but at the time that’s all I could do. It was causing me stress and I had to look out for me too.


Bottom line was I think we were just too different. So I guess my relationships, which began at the Hab Center, didn’t work out for me.
I knew those differences we had going in, and I could get past them at first. But when the distance between us grew for me, those differences seemed to get amplified and I just could not go on. She apparently still wanted this relationship and still seemed to love me, but her actions were not telling me that. So I moved out.

When+and+Why+Relationships+EndSince I have left, I found myself again. I think the marriage (especially the last couple of years or so) really boxed me in. I became withdrawn in myself. With the help of some coworkers from my last job, I broke free from the shell I was in and became more myself. I could tell a difference a few weeks after I moved out. And there is a huge difference in the way I feel now as opposed to the way I felt then.
After taking time contemplating divorce, I finally filed and received the judgement of divorce. I want her to be happy. I just don’t think I could do that anymore and still be able to be truly happy myself.
And I don’t want to sound like I’m jealous or upset, (maybe a little frustrated), but if it weren’t for the fact that all the things she was doing with me when we were first together, she is doing with him. Posting pictures, etc. on Facebook, giving him compliments, and so on and so on. Maybe if she still seemed that interested in me, we might still be together. But who knows.
I just want to say I’m happy for her. If she is truly happy, and has moved on, that is great. More power to her. I moved on too, a few months after I moved out.
In writing this, I also wanted to explore a little about what makes a good marriage. Or what are the essential “ingredients” for a happy, healthy marriage. You might hear advice from many people and so-called experts, but it is just sifting through everything and applying what you can to your situation or marriage.
The following information is from an article by Jeffrey Drew, Sonya Britt, and Sandra Huston in “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce.”

6 Keys to a Good Marriage
Worship and Pray together

  • To begin with, this was a big difference. She was Wiccan and I am Catholic. A lot of people asked how that would work. Well it seemed fine at first. We didn’t impose each other’s religion on one another, so it seemed to work. I think it became more like a “what’s hers is hers and mine is mine” type of thing. (Which I also think became one of the big problems in the marriage). We didn’t really grow spiritually or have a strong faith foundation upon which to share.


  • As I said, communication began to falter. The more she stopped really communicating with me and excluding me from things, the more I distanced myself from her. As the distance grew, the less I felt a part of the marriage.

Leave and Cleave

  • This has to do with establishing your own home as a married couple, but not forgetting your parents. I think, on the whole, we did that. We still visited or did things with her mom because she lives in Marshall. My parents live in Texas. We still visited them in the summer a couple of times, and all in all, we remained close with them. But our home seemed to be more HER home. I emphasize her because it seemed like she would make all the decisions for the family and it didn’t seem like my input was valuable or necessarily needed.

Date Your Spouse

  • This is something we did kind of frequently early on in the relationship, but then nearly two years into the marriage we sort of stopped. And the few times we did go out together, there was a silence between us. At least I felt it. And if she was fine with not spending time together, not doing things together, not really communicating, then that’s on her. But that’s not how I view a happy, healthy marriage. And like I said, I didn’t really know how to talk to her anymore about these issues, so they were never discussed.


  • This was a big issue. And it really became an even bigger issue as time went on. I go back to the “what’s hers is hers and mine is mine” mentality. That’s how she wanted to view our money and finances. I was fine with this at first. But towards that midway point again it really started to become an issue with me. I tried to talk to her about creating a budget and going through our expenses, but she didn’t seem to want to talk about it so I left it alone again. She still wanted to do these fun things with her kids like go to concerts, or spending what seemed like hundreds of dollars on the kids every Christmas and every birthday, and such, and then complain about not having any money. But again, I left it alone because I didn’t feel I could talk to her about the issue.


  • She used to do this in the beginning for me. I would return the gesture. But like everything else, she stopped doing it or didn’t do it as much. Sometimes it appeared a little forced to me. And as the distance grew, the more I became withdrawn and unhappy so I didn’t necessarily want to compliment her, although, at times I tried.

There are other tips and advice for a successful marriage to be found. Books, articles, blogs, neighbors, family and friends are all sources in which you can get information and advice from, whether voluntarily or not. This was just a small list I found through a newsletter from a local church I thought to be appropriate and accurate in this instance.
And maybe they don’t work for everyone. And this is probably not a complete list, so don’t just think that this is all it takes. There is love and commitment, intimacy, patience and a host of other factors for a happy, successful marriage.

So that is all now. I believe I have rattled on long enough. If your marriage (relationship) is working, then kudos! Keep it up! But if it is failing on any level, and you still have somewhat good communication, talk things through to help save it if you can. But after some work, if it is still not helping the situation, then it may be time to part ways.

War is depicted on a grand scale in ‘Dunkirk’

Rating 4/5

In viewing Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk, (who wrote and directed the film) I am sort of reminded of past films such as Saving Private Ryan, or more recently Lone Survivor. They say war is hell. War can be ugly. War can be  brutal no matter what time period. The action in the film is set in a time where there seems to be no hope and is shot in such a way where the audience is on the front lines the entire time because Nolan drops you there in the beginning and doesn’t let up.

A few days have passed since viewing the film and thinking about it over that period and even now as I am writing, the film has merit and it stands on its own as a cinematic achievement. I first, however, didn’t know what to think about the film. It actually caught me off guard because it time jumps, moves from one sequence to another and then back to a previous sequence and so on. It is non-linear and I just wasn’t expecting that.

The film brings emotion and true character to the story. Although somewhat slow moving in a few places in the second act, it stil stays true to the characters and brings their thoughts and emotions to the screen.

It displays the incredible events of the evacution of British and Allied soldiers, in late May and early June of 1940, who where entrapped in the harbor and beaches of Dunkirk, France by the Germans, who were making a final sweep of the Allied forces. Hoyte van Hoytema, director of cinematography, has  made the backdrops of beaches, sea, air, and land central characters within the frame of the story to provide intriguing locations and interactions among the characters who pass through sequence to sequence. And Hans Zimmer’s score is nearly breathtaking. It adds so much to the characters and story, and it underscores the tension, mood, and action of every scene. I don’t believe there was a moment where there wasn’t musical underscoring. I think that brought me in the film and helped sustain my interest.

This film was an ensemble film with no one character taking the spotlight. Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Jack Lowden portrayed some of the more prominent characters but they were part of the large ensemble who interacted magnificently among the bits and scenes that made up the crafty sequences in the film. And of course, Kenneth Branagh portrayed Commander Bolton, who was leading the evacuation from the port at the beach. You saw the emotion in his eyes and actions as he gave the orders to load the injured on the ships, all the while taking special care to realize the brevity of the situation as enemy planes flew overhead dropping bombs.

It’s not an action packed, exciting adventure film, but it is another depiction of the brutality of war and a true test of the human spirit. It is amazing what humans can do in the eyes of tragedy and harrowing events. With the music and evolving character stories, the film held my attention and allowed me to be immersed in the story. Films that go on and on with a lot of expository information that never seems to really go anywhere, loses me. Dunkirk, despite its somewhat slow character moments at times, was not one of those films.


Fight for survival in ‘War of the Planet of the Apes’

Rating 5/5

The film title says much for this film. However, there wasn’t as much “war” in the film as I (and maybe the audience) was led to believe. But of course, the film did not sway from active fight scenes that culminated into an explosive climax, which I think etched one of the most nostalgic, iconic images in film history.

The script, written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves, weaves a story of vengeance and redemption set in a world of discourse between apes and humans. Reeves seemingly directs this story flawlessly with emotion about how far an ape (or human) would go to protect his family. The cinematography by Michael Seresin reveals a cold, harsh world that one might feel in a time of war. The locations are carefully selected to propel the story and provide a vivid backdrop for the characters to inhabit. The musical score by Michael Giacchino adds to the live action and internal conflict of the characters, and it enhances even the most tender of moments in the film.

The 1968 original Planet of the Apes (written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling) was based off the novel by Pierre Boulle and depicted a world inhabited by intelligent apes and humans were oppressed and enslaved. That film spawned four sequels. And while they were interesting and exciting to watch at the time, I don’t believe they ever really explained how the apes became the dominant species. This new film series that began with 2001’s Planet of the Apes starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton seems to have developed the backstory behind the rise of the apes.

I will more than likely go back and review those films to refresh my memory. So those reviews will come in future posts.

But moving on.

In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released. And the great ape leader was introduced – Caesar (Andy Serkis). It showed how the apes became intelligent and learned how to speak. Three years later, war began to brew in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Now, another three years and Caesar (Serkis) is leading his ape family to a life of peace in the woods. But a formidable enemy known only as the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) has decided to take aim on the apes to rid their kind once and for all. After a battle in the woods, Caesar sends a small group of soldiers back to the Colonel with a message of peace if he does not attempt to pursue the apes any longer. The Colonel does not adhere to the message and attacks Caesar’s group, killing his wife and son. He then vows revenge on the Colonel and sends the rest of his group to find a new home. Caesar separates from the others to take his vengeance upon the Colonel. But some of his tribe cannot let him go alone so they follow him and eventually accompany Caesar on his journey.

War of the Planet of the Apes plays like a war film reminiscent of Platoon or Apocalypse Now. In fact, there is a moment in the beginning of the film where soldiers are searching for Caesar’s location and several soldiers are seen with graffiti on their helmets where one reads – “Ape-pocalypse Now.”

With that being said, the film is very much Caesar-centric. Most of the action of the narrative is focused on him where the audience is very much taken on his journey. We see the turmoil, anger, vengeance, and every human emotion Caesar encounters upon his quest for vengeance against the Colonel. Thus, the film is very much an emotional journey for the audience. From beginning to end, I was drawn into the story with every passing moment and character entanglement. At the final moment when the apes reach their new home, there is a moment where we see Caesar’s face and all the ghosts from the past fade away and we see now he knows they are home and there is hope for them in the future. That moment acts as a catharsis for the audience and for Caesar.

There is action and excitement, sentiment, heart, surprises, and humor to ease some of the tension and excitement. It seems to be a complete form of entertainment and has the makings of a summer blockbuster. And after seeing this film, I do want to go back and review the others in this film series as well as the original film series. War of the Planet of the Apes delivers big fun and an emotional journey for the summer.




The female heroin goes to battle in DC’s ‘Wonder Woman’

Rating 2.5/5

With the release Wonder Woman from DC, one might “wonder” what the purpose is. DC seems to be attempting to build a universe but I don’t think they’re at the level Marvel is with their superhero flicks. I liked this film a little more than Dawn of Justice, but that’s not saying much.

Director Patty Jenkins takes the screenplay from Allan Heinberg and turns it into 141 minutes of underdeveloped characters, a seemingly tired story, and a derivative plot. Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs developed the story.

This is the origin of Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who was seen in last year’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I suppose the film did its job by introducing the character and telling her story, but it just didn’t catch my interest that much. That is to say it didn’t hold my sustaining interest through the film that much.

The film seemed to reflect Captain America where a hero is seen out of time. This character is one where I don’t know much about either. The film begins when Diana is a young girl with an urgent need to train and fight like the other women of the island, but her mother won’t let her. But of course, she ultimately begins to train and Diana learns how to handle herself in battle.

Flash forward a few years when Diana is older. The story advances.

Through an unexplained time warp thing, a pilot crashes in the ocean off the shores of Themyscira. Diana saves him. Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) tells the women of this great war in which Diana believes to be influenced by the god Ares. Determined to stop the God of War she returns with Captain Trevor to put an end to Ares’ reign.

Diana tries to fit in. Steve tries to help her. He finds some help to track down some bad guys. Diana and Steve begin to fall in love. He sacrifices himself to help save the world. Diana realizes her true potential and….

I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine most of you have. And if you have, then you know what happens.

I suppose the fault I find with this film (and all the DC films I’ve seen) is that it just doesn’t sustain my interest. I mean they do have somewhat interesting stories, but the polished delivery is not there for me. I don’t know what it is about these DC films thus far, but that’s how I’ve viewed all of them. They seem to drag in a lot of places and it really messed with the timing and pacing for me to really enjoy.

For the most part, the acting was average. I don’t believe there was anything special. Gadot portrayed the character with a sense of determination and strong will with just enough of a sense of heroism that came across in the film at times, but most of the time her performance seemed quiet and reserved. Pine was decent enough with his character but it was nothing spectacular. Connie Nielsen plays Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, with the love and protection only a mother can give. Diana’s aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright) trains Diana into the strong, determined woman Diana becomes. Rounding out the good guys (and providing much humor and light heartedness in the film) were Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, and Said Taghmaoui.

The villains seemed to be added on in this story. There were some twists to know the identity of the actual evil arch nemesis, the god Ares. General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and a mad scientist Doctor Maru nicknamed Doctor Poison played by Elena Anaya, didn’t really seem to play much of a role in the film as one might be led to believe. Honestly, I thought if these characters weren’t in the film as much as they were or maybe only mentioned, the film could have cut some time off and still told the story it wanted to tell.

I believe the film set up the story and main plot well enough for the characters and the audience to see, but it was the execution of the second and third acts with its slow-moving plot points and character and story development that was somewhat incongruent. That takes me out of a film every time. Every. Time.

Some might have enjoyed this film. Some might have really loved this film. But again, I couldn’t really get on board with this DC film like the ones before. I wanted to like it more. In fact going in, I thought, “maybe this is the DC film I will enjoy.” But not so much. I want to like these DC films. I want to enjoy them. But I just can’t. Maybe Justice League will be better. But I’m not getting my hopes up.



Spidey swings into action in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Rating 3.5/5

Ever since the release of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War last year and the introduction of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, fans and movie goers alike couldn’t wait for the new Spider-Man in his first solo outing within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was fun to see the character within this universe and this film appeared to be more fun, vibrant, and comical than Sam Raimi’s take starting in 2002 and Marc Webb’s reboot in 2012.

And another thing about reboots/remakes, I have heard people say that this is the third reboot of Spider-Man. That’s fine to say, but the truth is it isn’t. The character didn’t come to the big screen until Raimi directed the Tobey Maguire picture in 2002. And of course that spawned two sequels. It wasn’t until 2012 when Webb directed The Amazing Spider-Man (what would then be a reboot). It wasn’t a remake because it was a different story than 2002’s Spider-Man. This installment is of course not a remake, and I don’t consider it a reboot. Although, in a way it is because it is rebooting the character within the MCU, but at the same time it holds it own as a stand-alone Spider-Man film.

Okay. Enough of that.

While Raimi seemed to kill his franchise with Spider-Man 3 and Webb doing the same with the 2014 follow-up The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this film appeared to punch some life into the character. This first solo outing did not disappoint. Director Jon Watts brings much more fun and a new take on the character than we’ve seen in the other five films. I’m not sure why it took six writers to put together this film, but what’s done is done. Watts co-wrote the script with Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. Either way, the filmmakers brought the character back to the beginning. Peter Parker received his powers when he was only a teenager. This film really brought out the angst of a teenager wanting to do more with his powers, and his impatience and eagerness to help along with his sarcastic quips.

And as I have said before, I am not anywhere near a comic book aficionado, but what I do know is this take on the character seems to be more in line with who the character is. It may be correct to assume this was generally a crowd-pleasing success. There are those that would still probably knit-pick on some details here and there, but I believe most would still appreciate the web-slinger in the vast MCU.

The new Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) is Tom Holland. He brings a fresh charisma and charm to the youthful, unlikely hero. He is also younger than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were in their respective outings as the web-head. Additionally, Holland plays a younger Peter Parker than the previous films. His cameo in Captain America: Civil War last year was definitely surprising and seemed to steal the show at that climactic battle.

I will admit this film has a bit of an ambiguous beginning. Or maybe I just missed something. The film takes place within a few months after the events of Civil War, but supposedly begins eight years prior in what was left after Loki released his carnage in New York from 2012’s The Avengers. That timeline doesn’t seem to quite add up but I assume Marvel knows what they’re doing.

I probably won’t go on about plot details here, but just say the story slowly unfolds in the beginning. And I say that because it just moved a little slow for me in a couple of places, but I see that it was for the establishment of plot points and character introduction and development. And overall, the film moved at a decent pace for its length at roughly 133 minutes. I won’t say the performances here were really moving and captivating, but they weren’t bad either. Holland’s performance really stood out though. He looked younger, playing a younger version of Peter Parker than we’ve seen in the other films. Marisa Tomei returns as at Peter’s aunt May where she was first seen in last year’s Civil War. I think she fulfilled the role nicely with the amount of screen time she had. Although, I still somewhat question the casting choice. I mean, again, she was adequate in the role but the look of her character wasn’t what I was expecting. (But that’s okay. I won’t judge). Peter’s love interest Liz (Laura Harrier) was a nice addition. I do know that Peter had romantic interests other than Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. What added to the humor and various comedic moments was the interaction he had with his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Even the appearances of Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau added to the humor and gave their usual energy and humor to Tony Stark and Happy Hogan. I think the film focused on the inner struggles of Peter coming to terms with his powers and his eagerness in wanting to do more.

I suppose that is why there wasn’t much of a villain in the story as I would have liked. And while Michael Keaton’s acting was not to blame here, and not to say he didn’t have a bad performance as Adrian Toomes, but I was kind of hoping for a little more out of his character. That might be the case as the post-credit scene hints. It is nice to see Keaton making some films again. And to go from playing a superhero in Batman to an actor playing a superhero in Birdman to playing a villain in another superhero movie, is something that I don’t think has been done before. Kudos to Keaton!

This was a fun film and a great addition to the MCU. The cinematography was great and the use of colors and locations added to the film. That is something I’ve noticed comparing Marvel and DC. Marvel uses bright colors and is more fun and vibrant and seems to show off more energy. The DC universe just appears to be more dark and gloomy. But at any rate, I was pleasantly surprised with this solo outing from the web-crawler. Of course, it’s Marvel. I don’t think there has been a Marvel film released that I haven’t enjoyed.