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Star Trek Beyond: a movie review

Credit: Wikipedia CommonsStar Trek Beyond is the third installment of the franchise reboot that began in 2009, so it's fitting that the film takes place in the third year of the ship's five-year mission "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, [and] to boldly go where no man has gone before." By the start of the current story, however, the extent of that mission and the time spent in the outer-most reaches of space have begun to weigh heavily on Captain Kirk and his crew.

We find Kirk, in particular, struggling with questions of purpose and motivation. The dual burdens of a mission that will never truly end and an upcoming birthday that will mark an age his father—who died in the 2009 film's opening sequence—never reached have led him to contemplate leaving his starship for a new position. So when the Enterprise pulls into Yorktown Base, a massive new space station that functions as the Federation's hub in this region of space, everyone on board welcomes the break from life in the darkness of space.

That respite proves to be far more brief than planned, however, when a lone survivor from a stranded ship in a nearby nebula comes seeking their aid. Chaos ensues shortly thereafter when the Enterprise is attacked and most of its crew is left either dead or stranded on a neighboring world. Krall, who perpetrated the attack and is played by a delightfully menacing Idris Elba, seeks an artifact on board the Enterprise that he can use to wreak havoc on the Federation. In light of this new threat, individual problems must be set aside and personal questions left unanswered in order for Kirk, Spock, and the others to save the crew and stop Krall.

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The Secret Life of Pets: a movie review

The Secret Life of Pets: movie trailerWhat is life like for our pets while we're away? That's the question at the heart of The Secret Life of Pets and one that's answered over the course of roughly ninety minutes of cute, frenetic, and mostly amusing action. With strong voice-work on the part of the actors behind each creature—especially Kevin Hart's scene stealing, delightfully evil bunny, Snowball—and constant movement between the various groups of animals, the film's sure to entertain the kids and grandkids who are clearly its intended audience. And while there's not as much in this movie for the adults that will inevitably accompany those children as in many recent animated offerings, like Finding Dory and Zootopia, it remains a mostly enjoyable way to spend part of your day (and the Minions short that precedes it is almost worth the price of admission by itself).

The film opens with Max, a lovable terrier-mix, speeding through New York with his owner, Katie. The two have quite the life together and Max's only complaint is that Katie inexplicably leaves each morning despite his best efforts to keep her in the apartment—going to work is a rather incomprehensible concept for him. Their perfect life is interrupted, however, when one evening she brings home Duke, a giant, hairy, and slobbery rescue from the local animal shelter who is no more keen on Max than the terrier is of his new "brother." The competition between them eventually culminates with both dogs lost in the city, hunted by animal control, a people-hating group of creature castoffs called the "flushed pets"—memorably led by Hart's Snowball—and Max's friends, who set off to rescue him upon discovering that he's gone.

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Finding Dory: a movie review

Warcraft: movie trailerDisney/Pixar's Finding Dory takes place roughly a year after the events of 2003's Finding Nemo, but places the focus firmly on the first adventure's forgetful sidekick. The film opens when Dory, the loveable blue fish with short-term memory loss, begins having flashbacks to her childhood and the parents she's forgotten. The memory triggers a need to search them out, with Marlin and Nemo going along to help.

While the movie is entertaining throughout, it really picks up once the three fish arrive at the Monterey Marine Life Institute that Dory used to call home. The institute is part theme-park, part rehabilitation center for injured animals. As such, Dory is not the only creature we meet who's trying to go through life with a disability of one sort or another. The septopus Hank—an octopus who is missing a leg, a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny, and Baily, a beluga whale whose self-confidence is lagging after a head injury short-circuited his eco-location, all play an integral role in helping Dory navigate the Institute and search for her parents.

Marlin and Nemo also play their part, though they remain separated from Dory for much of the film. Despite the physical distance, however, they never give up on her and gain a new respect for her by the end of their journey.

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Warcraft: why the critics are wrong

Warcraft: movie trailerWarcraft is the latest in a long line of movies based on video games—most of which have ranked somewhere between mildly entertaining and a complete waste of time. But while most critics have placed this film towards the negative end of that spectrum, it has gotten a far more positive response from the general public. On the popular review site Rotten Tomatoes, for example, critics gave the film a paltry twenty-six percent score while, in contrast, eighty-three percent of users have said that they liked it. As Forbes' Eric Kain wrote, "Something's rotten, but I'm not sure it's the film."

Part of that appeal to the public is likely due to the source material— taken primarily from the series of strategy games by the same title and the massively successful World of Warcraft, which peaked at over twelve million monthly subscribers. Though at times a bit rushed and difficult to follow, the film is genuinely entertaining so long as you go into it with the proper expectations.

While Warcraft will not be showing up on any awards lists, it makes an honest and mostly successful effort to tell a genuinely good story with fun characters and epic battles. To that end, the film opens in the dying home world of the Orcs as they prepare to make the journey to the more peaceful realm of Azeroth—home to humans, dwarves, and elves. Their leader, Gul'dan, has used his dark magic to open a portal through which he sends his army to pave the way for the rest of their people.

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X-Men: Apocalypse – a movie review

X-Men: Apocalypse TrailerX-Men: Apocalypse is the third installment of the franchise reboot that began with X-Men: First Class (2011), set ten years after Magneto attempted to kill the President at the end of 2014's foray into time traveling: Days of Future Past. For those who don't remember those films, most of the relevant plot points are rehashed in Apocalypse so there probably isn't much need to re-watch them unless you just want to. While this movie utilizes that timeline, it also acts as something of a transition towards a new batch of films to come over the next few years. Those films are likely to center on younger mutants, such as Cyclops and Jean Grey, who are introduced throughout the course of the movie.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt where the first mutant, the aptly-named Apocalypse, is aging and seeks to transfer his presence into a younger, more suitable mutant host. We eventually learn that he has done this for quite some time, accumulating new powers and growing stronger with each transition. However, things quickly go awry for the self-proclaimed god as the humans he rules trap him inside a sunken pyramid where he lies dormant for thousands of years until he's finally reawakened in 1983.

Apocalypse quickly gathers four mutants, called his four horsemen, to serve as his accomplices in an effort to regain his place atop the world. Magneto, grieving from a particularly tragic episode after trying to live in relative peace and anonymity for the past several years, joins him as one of the four horsemen. Consequently, he finds himself standing in opposition to Charles Xavier and his students once again. From here, the film continues largely as one might expect.

While X-Men: Apocalypse was entertaining throughout, the sheer number of characters made it feel, at times, a bit rushed with none of them really staying on screen for very long before transitioning to the next group. There are some great actors and actresses in this movie, though, and they make the most of what screen time they have.

As Christians, God wants us to do something similar with our lives. While some are called to more public roles in his kingdom, most of us have been given a purpose and a place that often appears relatively minor by comparison to the pastors, ministers, and other "professional Christians" that we see in church each Sunday. That's not how God sees it though. In his eyes, our role in the kingdom, no matter how small it may appear to us, is just as important as that of any other believer (1 Corinthians 12).

The question we have to ask ourselves, however, is whether or not that will be enough for us. Will we be satisfied with knowing that we have done our best in whatever part God has given us? Will it be enough to know that God is pleased when it seems like he's the only one that truly appreciates all that we do?

Those are not always easy questions to answer, or at least easy answers to truly accept, when we look back at the time and effort we've put into serving the Lord in ways that only he really understands. And while few, if any, of us will ever get to the point that we do not desire the approval and recognition of others, we can find true peace and contentment only when God's approval and recognition are enough.

So whatever your divinely-granted part in God's kingdom plans may be, ask him to help you find peace and contentment in the knowledge that he is pleased when we do our best, through his power and guidance, to fulfill that purpose. And if that doesn't seem like enough today, know that he understands that as well but longs to help you get to the place where it is. Will you let him?

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