Bolts from the Blue
“Bolt”:  With the huge contemporary interest in superheroes, superpowers, magical ability, supreme athletic prowess, and even vampire strength, it's refreshing to find an animated feature that explicitly moves past that obsession. "Bolt" is about a dog (voice of John Travolta) featured on a television series, who always saves his "Human," a young teenage girl (voice of Miley Cyrus), because he can run through walls, bark up an earthquake, and heat metal just by staring at it.  Bolt is so into his part that he really thinks he possesses these extraordinary abilities, not realizing that he lives in a trailer on a studio set.  But he really does love his "Human," and when he gets accidentally separated, and shipped to New York City, he has to begin his long odyssey back to Hollywood as a mere mortal, er, ordinary dog.   Along the way, he makes friends, gets hurt, find out that he bleeds, learns to rely on his instincts and wits, and actually becomes a "real" dog.  Then, when he finally reunites with his "Human," the relationship is even better than before, because it's based in reality, not fantasy.  Yes, a parable for our times; but endearingly done, and worth wearing the 3-D glasses for a couple of hours, even if you don't bring small children with you.
Slumdog Millionaire,” British Director Danny Boyle’s foray into Mumbai (formerly Bombay ) produces one of this year’s surprisingly high-impact films.  The plot line sure doesn’t grab the attention of the American viewer:  a kid from the slums of Mumbai finds himself on the Indian version “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”?  Who would want to watch that?  But Boyle expertly crafts together a heart-grabbing story, about a kid from the slums who somehow manages not only to survive, but to gain experience along his rocky path that would end up helping him answer the unique, obscure questions of the game show, despite the incredible obstacles and the obvious unlikelihood.  The cacophony of modern Mumbai, and the incredible, unpredictable fabric of the life of the little boy they called “Slumdog,” will affect you beyond anything you would expect.
“Twilight” is guaranteed to have an effect, at least in the box office:  the wildly popular book series by Stephenie Meyer about teenage vampires promises a loyal following for the film among American teenage girls and young adult women (and their reluctant dates), because it’s so, romantic.  But there’s more flesh to the story than just a bare-bones horror flick.  Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to the gloomy Pacific Northwest during high school because her Mom in sunny Arizona has just re-married, and because Bella hasn’t spent that much time with her Dad, a small-town police chief.  As the new kid in school, she finds a fairly welcoming group of local students, who tell her to avoid a clique-ish family of Cullens who are weird and keep to themselves.  Of course, that’s what attracts her, especially Edward (Robert Pattison), a strangely handsome lad who is different from anyone she’s ever met.  So, fast-forward through several awkward exchanges and hesitant personal revelations, and at last we get to it:  he’s a vampire.  And he doesn’t melt in the sunlight, he sparkles.  He never sleeps, and his “family” (they’re bonded by blood, sort of) is the civilized type:  they feed on animal blood instead of human.  But, explains Edward, that’s just like a normal human deciding to live on tofu, and they have to corral their basic instinct, and yes, he desires her in t hat way, as well.  But she intrigues him because he can’t read her mind like he can the others.  Really, what he craves is a little mystery, because immortality has kind of spoiled that for him.  She’s in love with the danger, of course, and is thrilled with his super-senses, but there’s something almost theological here, as well:  Is she ready to give up who she is in order to be in his world with him?  Is she ready to sacrifice herself to save someone she loves?  And is he willing to risk his safety, and those around him, in order to be vulnerable to love?  And can he control himself enough to have a reciprocal relationship with her, rather than just wanting to devour her?  Yes, the sexuality is repressed, and the whole vampire bloodsucking thing is carefully understated.  This isn’t just your parents’ vampire movie.
Questions for Discussion:
1)      What would you do for love?  What would you not do for love?
2)      How hard is it to overcome a brutal, loveless childhood in order to become a contented, functioning adult?
3)      What’s your most extraordinary dog story?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas