Author Archives: RubyTea
Looks like the flashback to Bible times this book will be a look back at Caiaphas, and the trial of Jesus.
I’ll admit, I’m not as up on Caiaphas as I am on some other Bible characters and stories. Still, I look forward to learning more. Especially as the whole thing seems like a delightful entry into the old the-Jews-killed-Jesus trope, and given the fact that Murphy’s best buddy is Jewish, this might be amusing.
So Caiaphas hires “two swarthy men.” (Of course they’re swarthy. Apparently they also stink and have bad breath. Because all bad guys do.) The swarthy guys are to spy on Jesus and report back to Caiaphas.
Bizarrely, the two stinky guys manage to follow Jesus and the disciples out of Jerusalem and all the way up the Mount of Olives (a 30-minute climb, we are helpfully informed) without being detected. It’s important that Jesus took the guys all the way up there…because he needs to tell them about things they will never see or experience!
“Can we tell when the end of the world will come?” asked Peter.
“Others will come in my name, claiming to be the Messiah. They will lead many astray. Wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic.”
Yeah, don’t panic, Peter—BECAUSE YOU WON’T BE ALIVE TO SEE IT.
Seriously, Jesus goes on and on and ON about all this (“It sounds as if it will be a terrible time of tribulation,” Peter helpfully exposits) but never once points out to the apostles that all this will happen in a series of books published in the 1990s and 2000s.
Seriously, none of the apostles will see this, according to LaHaye. And Jesus knows that they won’t see it. So why waste their precious time together (and Jesus knows just how precious and short this time is) by informing them of this but not that it will happen far, far in the future?
Just seems cruel, is all I’m saying.
Murphy’s next adorable trial in this never-ending “fun” house is the maze of mirrors. Murphy, a grown man, takes time out of his busy schedule of staying alive in the face of ninjas and…well, big guys, I guess…to admire the differences in all the mirrors.
Dozens of Murphys were reflected back at him
What a nightmare.
One of them was curved and made him look fat. Another made him look skinny—he really liked that one.
He did? Okay, I’m sorry, but that sentence just stopped me dead in my tracks. Murphy is a straight, mid-forties (probably), athletic guy, and he wants to look skinny? I have never in my life heard a man say he wants to look skinny. Women, sure, but “skinny” is generally not considered to be a positive term when it comes to men. And it’s not like Murphy has struggled with his weight all his life and thus might like the idea of being skinny. Because we are constantly told that he is (and always has been) super-athletic.
It’s just very weird that a man wrote that sentence.
Anywho, Murphy starts to mark his trail with a granola bar. Oh so very proud of himself, he thinks,
Hansel and Gretel have got nothing on me.
Or, yanno, you could put one hand out, touch the wall, and just follow it to the end. That always works. Might take awhile, but you would be assured of victory.
Murphy sees a video camera monitoring him (so Meth had the time to completely wire this place for surveillance), and just as he gets close to it, he falls through “a hole in the floor.” Huh. Too bad Indiana Murphy wasn’t watching where he was going.
The precious granola bar is lost forever, and Murphy manages, action hero that he is, to grab the edge of the “hole” and then pull himself back up again (we are told this is all over an “abyss” with a giant pool of water below. Nothing but the highest safety standards for the underground fun house!
Finally, Murphy makes it out of the stupid maze.
He was growing weary of this game…
And he isn’t the only one…
And he finds the beginning of the book—the roller coaster car he’s supposed to ride. And Phillips played a bit of a trick on us here. Because this is actually a tunnel of love ride, not a roller coaster. It’s just that roller coaster-type cars are used in the ride, instead of the more usual boats.
So it’s not nearly so dramatic when Murphy has to jump out of the ride. Because he’s going, like, two miles per hour.
He does the ride, and there are spooky things, and Murphy is feeling all superior, because silly spooky rides don’t scare him, no, sirree.
Yet something made him apprehensive. Call it instinct, intuition, or just plain street smarts…
Or the fact that he’s on an old, decrepit ride that would be a death trap even if it wasn’t being operated by a mysterious billionaire who likes to torment him?
So Murphy makes the smart decision and hops off the car, riding the bumper. And it’s a good thing he does, since “two eighty-pound blocks of cement smashed into the seat where he had just been sitting.”
Okay, that just seems plain unsporting of Meth. How was anyone supposed to see that coming? Oh yeah, Murphy’s “street smarts.” What mean streets would those be, Phillips? College Lane at his private college?
So the ride ends and Murphy hops off and the car crashes (slowly, I assume, though Phillips tries to make it seem tense). Anyway, Murphy’s bag is still aboard the car, and everything is destroyed, included Muphy’s bow, which he was skilled with when Greg Dinallo was writing him, but Phillips forgot about for the past two books, only to bring it back up right now so that the bow can be destroyed. But it’s okay…
Knew I should’ve insured the darn thing.
…because Murphy isn’t exactly broken up about this.
And, FINALLY FINALLY, the frakking clue:
Thirty degrees northeast of the altar…press the king’s head.
Well. That was certainly worth four full chapters.
I really can’t believe it’s Chapter Four and we’re still on Murphy’s initial In Media Res.
The Asians defeated, Murphy spots a sign:
Having fun yet?
How about a game of roulette?
Heh, I doubt it. Murphy is probably of the RTC strain that thinks playing penny poker is a sin.
So this room contains one of those dangerous, old-school spinning wheels that threw people off it (basically, I think it’s a bigger, more deadly version of a roundabout). At the center of the wheel is the next clue on an index card.
But he doesn’t just have to deal with a dangerous ride of yore. Nope, Meth has invested in yet another on-call thug: this time, a six-foot-six, three hundred pound bodybuilder.
Murphy tries his new, patented trick of throwing his bag at the guy, but no go. The guy knocks Murphy down, Murphy sweeps the leg…
…but the wrestler quickly gets the best of him. Murphy tries to get to his precious bag, but the bag beats him to it, unleashing its contents one by one as the bag is whipped around by the roundabout (no, I don’t get the physics of that, either). In fact, entirely by accident, Murphy’s hatchet flies from his bag and hits the wrestler in the leg. Murph uses this to his advantage and gets the guy in a chokehold and, for good measure “put his foot on the hatchet and pushed it in deeper, as blood splattered everywhere.”
OUCH! How Christian and loving of you, Mikey boy.
Finally, he gets his hand on the clue. Here it is, in all its glory:
In the town
Of King Yamani
A Great Mystery
Has Been Solved
I Kings 8:9
Murphy frowned. Who in the world is King Yamani?
Why are you asking me, Murphy? You’re the archeologist and globe-trotter, remember?
(I don’t remember this plot point from the first time I read this book a few years ago. So, from a quick Googling, I’m guessing Meth is referring to this guy, who is from Mecca and who played a big role in the 1973 oil embargo, which might make him of interest to Murphy. Maybe?
The other side of the card continues the “clue”:
Ride Your Fears to the End
Man, hopefully this will bring us back to the first chapter, where Murphy flung himself off a roller coaster. Because I am sick of this stupid, boring “fun house.”
Phillips decides Murphy hasn’t been gross enough yet, so he yanks the hatchet from the unconscious man’s leg.
The blood ran freely from the gaping wound and Murphy’s stomach turned.
And they say professional wrestling is fake.
That sensitive internal quip done, Murphy lovingly leads the man to bleed, and wanders off.
By the way, I’ll just point out that having part of your story take play at a creepy, abandoned amusement park is a cool idea. Too bad it doesn’t work here.
But check out this or this:
We cut away from the MORE THAN TWO CHAPTERS LONG MICHAEL MURPHY “ACTION” SEQUENCE to get back with The Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!) who are once against twirling their collective mustache and plotting in an exotic locale—this time, Cape Town, South Africa. This is actually Talon’s hometown, which none of The Seven mention, even though they do discuss Talon, and even though you’d think they’d know this tidbit of information.
However, Phillips is very interested in dropping more tidbits of information about The Seven themselves into our laps. It’s nothing we don’t already know, or could have guessed, and it really makes no difference to the story. It’s also peppered into the prose rather blunt-force trauma: “said Sir William Merton, the oldest member of the Seven.”
Inserted into their exposition like this, it makes this whole chapter read like a logic puzzle. If Ganesh Shesha and General Li both have black hair and Viorica Enesco is from Romania, what color was Jakoba Werner’s shirt?
Speaking of appearances, Phillips goes ever farther down the RTC rabbit hole of judging others by their appearance.
[Sir William Merton] was physically repulsive but quite brilliant.
Of course he is. Because evil and/or unsaved people are always less than beautiful. Looks at how Isis graduated from pretty-but-frumpy in Babylon Rising to model-beautiful (to the point that nearly everyone comments on it) in the subsequent three books. Jenkins and Phillips always make sure that the villains have bad looks to go along with their bad intentions. Heck, it even goes for characters whom we are only meant to pity then dismiss, like Alvena Smidt and Charlotte Ian, both of whom are (gasp! choke!) overweight. Guys, watch that, okay? Evil people don’t always look evil.
Anyway, The Seven (TSAN!) observe Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and blather on about the events of the last book, including the George Washington Bridge attempted-destruction, and about how they have two “loose cannons” they have to deal with: Michael Murphy and Methuselah.
Huh, so The Seven consider Meth an enemy, too. That’s actually…kinda cool. Now, it makes sense that The Seven haven’t been able to kill Meth, since a) Meth is incredibly wealthy and can afford fortified mansions and the best security money can buy and b) I don’t think they know who he actually is.
Murphy is, as always, a different matter, and it still boggles my mind that The Seven haven’t managed to kill one college professor, who lives in the same house he’s lived in for years, drives the same car on the same route to work every day, takes no security measures with his home, office, or self that we ever see, and is hardly ever armed. The only way this would make sense would be if The Seven thought Murphy was of more use to them alive than dead, but they don’t say that, and in fact they state that Murphy is now even more dangerous than he was before (since he “knows too much about the Bible” and all), because now he’s talked to Dr. Anderson and knows at least something about “The Boy” (the AntiChrist).
The puzzle of the unkillable Murphy dispensed with, talk turns to Shane Barrington. They want to call him in to make him promote something or someone (I don’t care) on his news network. Señor Mendez brings up the tiny inconvenience that they just offed Stephanie Kovacs, his “live-in lover.”
Man, Phillips and LaHaye just can’t help themselves, can they? The have to use shaming language even in the mouths of the supposed villains who, being godless hedonists, would no doubt find nothing wrong with such a relationship. Such a relationship being, point of fact, a monogamous one.
Anyway, they decide it’ll all be cool with Shane, since he loves money way more than people. Good thing too, Sir William points out, as “if he turned on us, he would be a powerful enemy.”
(Actually, my first exposure to this awesome turn of phrase was in the movie Father Goose, when Goody Two-Shoes takes away the Filthy Beast’s booze. It was Cary Grant’s penultimate film, and a fun romp. Recommended.)
Finally, they bring up Talon, because he needs to get back to the Black Sea so he can get that crap from Noah’s Ark that he dropped, so The Seven can “know more about Potassium 40.”
And I still don’t know why they all had to be together physically to discuss all this. (It’s not for pleasure, as Bartholomew points out that “This is not a vacation.“) So, what, they’ve never heard of video conferencing? Man, the evil cabal is right out of the Stone Age. (Which, probably, Phillips doesn’t even believe in.)
Well, I know a consensus when I see it: Michael Murphy it is!
As many of you know, The Edge of Darkness is the fourth book in the Babylon Rising series. It’s also the last book in the series, but, as you’ll see, it doesn’t really feel like the last book. It feels like the penultimate book: only one or two subplots are even partially tied up, and new characters are introduced, who don’t seem to have an immediate purpose.
Tim LaHaye starts us off with this lovely dedication:
Dedicated to those who realize this world is in an irreversible mess and want to believe there is hope for a better world tomorrow.
This book came out in 2006. And LaHaye died in July of 2016. So he didn’t even see such a thing as a Trump presidency. Dude, you don’t know from irreversible mess.
He then spends the forward whining about North Korea and earthquakes and “Asian flu” as evidence that “we are indeed approaching THE EDGE OF DARKNESS.”
Dude, you don’t know from edge of…yeah, I did that already. LaHaye ends by once again praising his hero and engaging in a little self-back-patting because “this book could not be more timely.” Oh, I beg to differ, asshat.
Oh, Hulk, where are you when we need you?
Annnnnywho, Chapter One starts off just as all Chapters One start in Babylon Rising books: with Murphy In Media Res: this time, jumping off a moving roller coaster. And, just as in our previous book, The Europa Conspiracy, we cut back and forth between the action and Murphy’s pleasant day at “work” at Preston University. He rhapsodizes about the beauty of the school and the South, but in this book, is actually greeted by a horrifying sight: a stack of tests and “book reports” (in advanced college classes, really?). If there’s one thing Murphy hates in life besides uppity women and scientists, it’s doing the actual work of a teacher. So…
I think I’ll delegate those to Shari. She’ll hate me, but isn’t that what assistants are for? Doing all the jobs you don’t like? [he thinks]
What a colossal asshat. Not to mention a lazy prick. I love how he seems kinda surprised that there are a pile of tests in his office from the class he designed.
But he doesn’t get the chance to pawn off his work, as Shari gives him yet another package from Methuselah. And, because we can’t have any originality no matter what, there is an incredibly stupid poem inside.
Here it is in its entirety, so never say I don’t do anything for you:
Row, row, row your boat gently around the lake
Walk and talk and have a piece of cake
Ride, ride, ride the trolley
Be sure to stop and visit Molly
Dance, dance, dance the choo-choo
Visit the zoo and casino too
Round, round, round you go
Don’t be depressed by the big tornado
Search, search, search and find
Be sure not to lose your mind
Seek, seek, seek, like a mouse
You may even find a fun house
[Inconsistencies and unscannabilities are the author’s not mine.]
Shockingly, though Murphy is up on Colorado prisons, he is not nearly as familiar with amusement parks, and has to actually use the interwebs to find the answer to this nigh-unsolvable riddle.
Except when he starts to blather on about trolleys and the history of electricity, Shari asks him how he knows all this (just like she did in the last book). Except she just saw him Googling, so WTF? Seeing his opening, Murphy claims that he learned all this from his grandmother, who used to visit the Lakewood Amusement Park with a roller coaster called Molly’s Madness when she was a girl.
(Hilariously, the Lakewood Amusement Park was a real thing. Emphasis on WAS. This fascinating website chronicles the history of that particular plot of land. The amusement park, a great success in its day, closed in 1932 and the buildings were torn down. Eventually, a shopping center was built there. Scroll down and you’ll see a cool picture of the modern stores with the probable locations of the amusements labelled over them.)
But Phillips REALLY wanted to set his action scene at an old amusement park, so he spins this yarn about a supposed underground fun house that the owners wanted to build. (???) So Murphy heads to the Charlotte Hall of Records and library, “mostly working his way through endless red tape and the frustration of government bureaucracy.”
Poor baby. Is the eeeevil librul gubmint out to get you again, Murph?
In this alternate universe, warehouses are now on the old site instead of stores, and Murphy heads over there and fumbles around amongst surrounding trees to finally find a hatch down a winding staircase to an underground fun park.
This may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. And just think about all we’ve seen in all the various works of entertainment on this blog. I’m almost numb to it at this point, so I’ll just state it outright: an archeology professor has followed the clues left by a deranged billionaire he has never met, leading him to an underground fun house built in the 1930s. This will somehow result in an expedition to find a piece of Bible history.
This makes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom look positively realistic.
Anyway, the diabolical tricks of Meth start immediately, as Murphy is forced to traverse one of those old rolling-barrel type rides from Ye Olden Dayes.
And that’s when things get weird.
Really, really weird.
As Murphy reached the center barrel, an Asian figure in a black ninja outfit entered the third barrel. He resembled a young Bruce Lee…
Of course he did.
…and moved toward Murphy with the agility of a cat. He did not look too friendly.
A quick glance behind Murphy revealed another Asian, dressed in a dark brown outfit He had entered the first barrel after Murphy and was quickly gaining ground.
Another Asian? Are the Asians in this book going to be like the Moar Arabs in the last one? Does this one look like Bruce Lee, too? Or more like Jackie Chan or Jet Li? Or is Bruce Lee the only Asian action star Phillips knows of?
And, of course, turns out Meth is hiding somewhere, watching all this and laughing, just like last time.
And he brought his ninjas with him. As you would.
The two Asians looked like professionals.
Professional what? Ninjas? Is that a thing?
Maybe. But I’m against the ninja.
So is Murphy, since he quickly dispenses with Ninja 1 by just running up the side of the barrel and dropping down on him. Heh, some ninja.
Now that there is a conscious Asian and an unconscious Asian, Phillips feels free to refer to each as “the Asian” in turn. I’m almost tempted to consider this progress, of a sort. I mean, villains aren’t just Arabs. Sometimes they’re Asians, too! I can only imagine that had there been a fifth book, the villains would be The Hispanics.
The Other Moar Asian gets in two good kicks, even though “Murphy knew that he could hold his own if he could ever catch his breath and get his feet under him.”
Of course you could, pumpkin. Those mean ole The Asians just don’t fight fair, do they?
But Murphy finally triumphs. Now, you might think that with all Murphy’s karate training and punch-each-other-in-the-stomach training with Levi, his martial arts skills would win the day. But no, Murphy just flings his bag at the ninja, then when that floors him, drives his elbow into the guy’s head. Though we’ve already seen that the ninja can hold his own when he has his breath and his feet are under him.
But fighting dirty is okay when Murphy does it.
Gorram, folks, we’re already two chapters down. This underground fun park thing is already WAY too long.
And Murphy hasn’t thrown even one reverse punch yet. That makes me sad.
This will be a quickie poll: just two options! (I only have Christmas romances, so I might do a Christmas-in-July bit.)
But for now:
Edge of Darkness, by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips, the fourth and final part of the Michael Murphy saga.
I, Saul, by Jerry Jenkins with help from James MacDonald
(If you ever listen to Christian radio, you’ve probably heard MacDonald and his super-catchy theme song…WALK WALK IN THE WORK WALK IN THE WORD WALK WALK IN THE WORD THIS IS THE WAAAAAYYYYYY!!!)
Since we only have two options, just leave a comment with your vote!
Man, am I behind on this one, guys. Sorry.
Okay, so to recap: Priest Dad found some apparently interesting evidence on a tape that already basically proves John, if not innocent, at least not entirely guilty. And Priest Dad was then Killed for Knowing Too Much before he could actually tell John.
btw, in watching this scene again, I am struck by another level of incompetence of the conspirators. They shoot Priest Dad in the head and then steal his computer. Why not give him one of those movie drugs that makes it look like you’ve had a heart attack or otherwise died of natural causes? Again, SHOOTING SOMEONE IN THE HEAD only makes it look more and more like John is being set up.
At the Hotel Blue, Slimy Brad Stine has squealed to the FBI or whatever, and they’re fitting him with a wire. Why they’re doing this, I don’t know, since now that they (ostensibly) know where John is, they could just ARREST HIM, but whatevs.
(Slimy Brad Stine swats at a fly then, when he misses, holds his fists up at it, boxer-style. This marks the only time I have ever seen Brad Stine do anything remotely amusing.)
The FBI guys are actually a little suspicious of him. Partly, I assume, because he’s Slimy Brad Stine, and so who WOULDN’T be suspicious of him, and partly because Slimy Brad Stine is kinda a dick to people just trying to do their jobs.
Back at the
ranch church, Joh reveals the death of Priest Dad to one of the junior priests. Despite saying he was “executed,” Junior Priest seems far more interested in the fact that Priest Dad was John’s dad than in the fact that Priest Dad is a) dead and b) by “execution.”
(I mean, in a way, I can’t really blame Junior Priest: I was assuming that Priest Dad was a retired priest. But now it seems that John is the secret, shameful son of a priest. Which raises a bunch of interesting questions, including how a priest’s secret son came to be the head of a RTC megachurchcorp.)
Meanwhile, at yet another shadowy meeting, complete with Evil Music, Senator X-Men is staring in front of a SUMAC sign (what the hell does that stand for, anyway?), rejoicing in the vague bill. And just in case we weren’t sure that he is evil, he uses the word “evolution” (though in a non-science-y way) and then says …DUN DUN DUN…
“This is no longer a Christian nation. In fact, it never has been.”
Hey, I agree! And I suppose that only goes to prove how evil we are.
Then he gets a standing ovation for invoking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his own dream of a coming together of religions, just like people of different skin colors have come together. Doesn’t sound so bad to me, but then we see that John is in the audience (WHY ARE YOU THERE, YOU IDIOT???), reacting as though Senator X-Men had just led the call to evict all orphanages and kick all puppies.
Now wearing priest garb and clutching a rosary (yeah, I bet the RTC crowd just loved that part), John heads out to Junior Priest’s Volvo, and they speed off. Okay, tell me again WHY John needed to go to this thing in the first place.
Then John goes to confront Senator X-Men at his sauna (???), having changed out of the priest garb, but still clutching the rosary and now, a gun. He interrogates Senator X-Men, who bizarrely reveals that the bill is awesome not so much because of the all faiths coming together (though there IS that), but because now he’ll have the “oversight” to hunt down religious terrorists in mosques and temples and stuff.
This bill just gets weirder and weirder.
Senator X-Men calls the death of the girl and the ruining of John’s life “collateral damage,” and then bizarrely seems to start buying his own bullshit, calling John a “sexual predator.” And yes, though we have one of those in the White House now, that seems to be one of the sins John didn’t commit. So, WTF?
John then reveals that he has been taping the whole conversation (duh), and clocks Senator X-Men with the gun instead of shooting him.
And then he goes to the police and everything is cleared up.
HA. Yeah, right.
John spies on his daughter at school for a few minutes, then we cut to YET ANOTHER shadowy meeting, this time with the Truth squad, led by Slimy Brad Stine, at least until John crashes the meeting. Now, this is supposed to be a badass moment for him, as he calls to account the festering corruption in his own organization, but instead he just comes across as a homeless-looking crazy guy, threatening his former coworkers with a gun and blathering on about “tax money, blood money,” getting angrier and more hysterical by the second instead of calmer and more rational. Al does his best to talk down the raping, murdering, gun-wielding lunatic in front of them all. But it is all for naught, as John rants on about how he (yep, all alone), built up the organization, only to find them all now “in bed with the government.” Slimy Brad Stine is apparently no fool, and texts for help. John lectures them about Jesus for a minute, then tosses some bills in the air to symbolize their collective greed, then ditches his gun and fucks off, mere paces ahead of the FBI guys and gas who are now storming his little compound.
Junior Priest once again serves as chauffeur, until their are t-boned by an FBI agent. And it is now that the movie decides to use a special effect, slowing to bullet-time as the agent shoots and (I think) wings John. But a Volvo can take anything, and Junior Priest speeds off, though not before the agent wings John yet again.
(Hilariously, the Volvo speeds off, but almost immediately slows two seconds before the scene ends. I think the driver wasn’t told to speed, yanno, farther away, or the editor didn’t end the shot soon enough. Either way, it looks really clumsy.)
Junior Priest heads back into the church to upload the video of Senator X-Men sorta-confessing, and John drives off in the Volvo.
Then some guy, I think on the President’s orders, goes to Senator X-Men’s house and shoots him dead.
Then John’s Volvo breaks down (?????) and he runs into the woods with some bad guys hot on his trail. Why John doesn’t just TURN HIMSELF IN at this point, I have no idea, since the video of Senator X-Men’s “confession” is now on all the TV stations. But it turns out the bad guys are actually bad Secret Service guys, and they get into a shoot-out with the good guy FB agents. It all ends with John shot yet again, thinking about his daughter and flashing back yet again to that morning with MonicaMelissa in the rocking chair, which I guess is indeed a flashback to him coming off a bender. Not that I care.
He calls home for a dying conversation, and his daughter seems remarkably incurious as to why Daddy hasn’t been home in like, four days. And then John apologizes to MonicaMelissa for “shutting you out,” which might have more emotional resonance if we had ever seen these two characters interact with each other for more than thirty seconds, total.
All is interrupted when the bad Secret Service guy takes hostage a female FBI agent. Serves her right for serving in the FBI while simultaneously having ladyparts. Naturally, John, shot three times and suffering from blood loss, finds a gun and shoots the bad Secret Service agent, freeing the little lady. That’ll teach her to be a girl!
Anyway, John is totes fine and soon heads back to work. But he is there only to say “fuck all y’all” and get his Bible from his office and peace out. Which actually seems kinda rude. I mean, it wasn’t these guys who conspired to frame him for rape and murder. Al, especially, tried to stand by him and help him. Yeah, they supported the Evil Bill, but they certainly didn’t know how evil it was. But hey, ideological purity, right?
President Why Are We Acting Like He’s Innocent introduces John at a press conference, acting like they’re old buddies, so are we just supposed to forget that the Prez was all for framing John before he wasn’t? Guess it’s good to be the king.
I’m so confused right now.
President Just Fine with Framing Someone for Murder advises John to be “nice now, real nice.”
So John steps to the podium and…
Yep, it just ends there. John’s speech was too exciting for words, I guess.
Not exactly an American President moment.
And now I’m sad. Damn, but this movie was prescient. “He’s only interested in two things: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.”
On a lighter note, hell, this isn’t even a Team America moment.
Now, this whole movie raises endless questions about who knew what, when, and exactly how stupid the filmmakers think we are, but really, my main question is: Where is John’s growth? Remember, this is the guy who gave an innocent gas station attendant the “don’t you know who I am” treatment, and who, even after getting clean and sober, continued to neglect his wife and daughter, and whose besetting sin appears to be pride, and after his whole ordeal, which saw his life wrecked before his eyes and his father murdered, all he learns is…he was right all along? The whole world was indeed against him and he truly is the only Real, True Christian?
Yanno, I expected the usual silliness of an overblown RTC movie that takes itself way, way too seriously. But I did not expect this to be so friggin’ STUPID.
The Penniless Princess was a more cohesive story.
So, as John luckily drives away from his surveilled home, to do…whatever he wants to do now, we cut to a bit later that night, when the board of his ministry gets together to talk about the situation. Now, I’m sure the filmmakers did not intend this to seem like an evil and clandestine meeting when they shot it in such low light, with the little table lamps illuminating the men from below to make them look slightly sinister…but that’s the effect.
HOWEVER, we see that one of the members of the board is Dean Stockwell. So, for me, this movie has just become 3000% more awesome, because Dean Stockwell is one of my very favorite actors of all time. I’ve loved him ever since I was a kid and watched him portray Admiral Al Calavicci on Quantum Leap. But he’s awesome in anything, including when he’s playing the most evil of Cylons or when he’s running a home for wayward teenage girls who are going to sell their babies.
Anyway, he’s the voice of reason here, finding the whole meeting kinda pointless until they can hear John’s side of the story. Which seems quite optimistic of him. Slimy Brad Stine pulls a Trump, standing up and yammering on and saying nothing of substance, mildly implying John’s guilt. Al looks displeased.
Then Slimy Brad Stine starts talking about the evil legislation, that he wants everyone in the room to sign. Um, why??? Why would a board of ministers even need to sign some legislation that hasn’t even passed yet?
(Still, we learn a tiny bit more about the evil legislation: that it has “earmarks” for compliant ministers and “a very generous tax advantage package,” though I don’t see how a church can have a bigger tax advantage than the one they already have, which is: they don’t have to pay them.)
Meanwhile, John heads back to the scene of the crime. I note again that this is the THIRD thing he chosen to do with his time, wad of bills, and car. Before exiting said car, he pauses to read the Bible and have a cry. Interestingly, he prays,
“If I have done this, if there is any iniquity in my hands, let my enemy pursue me and overtake me.”
IF? That’s bizarre. We have seen that John has a few flashes of what happened; that is, of the girl crawling all over him snapping pictures. But I still can’t imagine there is anything that would suggest to John that he is in any way responsible for what happened. He knows he stopped his car and saw a girl and was then knocked out, yes? There’s nothing that implies that John might think he went on a bender that he doesn’t remember or anything. Odd.
Then, right there at the scene of the crime, he decides to go to sleep in his car. Look, dude, when I suggested that, I didn’t suggest you do it AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.
He has a dream (or something) where he wakes up shaking and calling for MonicaMelissa. She’s facing away from him, sitting in a chair, so I kinda think it’s either a flashback to when his daughter was just born, and/or to him coming off a bender. I dunno, and I don’t think it really matters.
He wakes up, still at the scene of the crime, which includes a trailer with a bunch of stoned hippies living in it or something. I dunno, I’m pretty square.
Still though, seems short-sighted of the villains to do their bad deed right in front of the hippies’ trailer home…
And I am vindicated when it turns out to be one of the hippies who recorded the whole incident. Luther buys a copy of the recording off the hippie chick without batting an eye.
Then bizarrely, the FBI wants to have a talk with Slimy Brad Stine. Then then, Senator X-Men has a meeting in his fancy house about the legislation, and the priest crashes it, posing as a different priest who was actually invited. Whatever, I don’t see the point.
So John calls the priest, who I guess must also have given him a burner phone:
“I have it, Dad. I’m going to the police.”
This is the first I’ve heard of this! What kind of crazy shit you trying to pull, movie?
The priest is John’s father? The Catholic priest is RTC preacher John Luthor’s father???
Holy weird fucked-up-ness, Batman!
Okay, okay, I know some priests become priests later in life, even after raising families of their own. Hell, I listened to a Catholic radio show one time where they were bemoaning the lack of men who want to join the priesthood these days, and were saying that some widowed older men join the priesthood. Hell, they made it sound almost like a retirement option. But I’m sorry, this is just WEIRD.
And the weirdness of the whole situation aside, why did John think it was safe to go to his dad after he became a fugitive? If they had his own house and his wife under surveillance, wouldn’t they do the same for his father?
Ah well, guess not.
Anyway, Priest Dad actually advises John not to go to the police. AGAIN. Because “you’re in their way.” They meet up, and Priest Dad shows John a really bad photo of Senator X-Men and the girl, and tells a convoluted and nonsensical story about the girl being adopted by some lady only three days ago.
Priest Dad also expositions that Senator X-Men is the Senate Majority Leader, which again raises the question of why the hell they need some TV preacher’s support to pass any legislation. Priest Dad then ties it all to evil and persecution:
“…it’s what [Senator X-Men’s] a part of, the people he’s associated with, what SUMAC is trying to do, what this legislation is bound to do, the results. … You ask the people in this country, round here, about the persecution of Christians, most times people will just smile and say, ‘No such thing. Not here, can’t happen.'”
Um, okay. Look, dude, they’re not doing this to John because he’s RTC and they’re just mean ole atheists. They’re doing it because they inexplicably need his support for their stupid bill. It’s a plot device, not persecution.
Anyway, Priest Dad once again does not offer John sanctuary in his church, but instead has gotten him a hotel room (this despite the fact that ten seconds later he says, “the eyes of the world are on you.”)
But before going to his hotel room, John finds and confronts Slimy Brad Stine. He pulls a whole we’re-still-friends fakeout, giving him a note to give to MonicaMelissa. All the note says is “Hotel Blue, 717 Central Ave 90125.” Then John fucks off.
(Now, I don’t know if this is supposed to be a clue or what, but the Hotel Blue at 717 Central Ave. is actually a real place in New Mexico. But the area code is wrong. In fact, 90125 is a Yes album. Whether this is a mistake, or a code between the couple will be interesting to see.)
Next we know, Senator X-Men is getting a late-night call from the President, who tells him a ridiculous yet folksy and threatening tale about when he was a lil boy down in the Deep South, son, and once kilt him a rattler with his bare dadgum hands. This all leads to the revelation that the President is in on the whole John mess, or at least was aware of it. The Prez then says he washes his hands of the whole thing, which it seems a bit late for. Then again, we currently have an untouchable “president,” so what do I know?
John takes a refreshing dip in the hotel pool, because I guess he doesn’t have anything better to do with his time, while Priest Dad watches the recording of John being set up and the girl being murdered. Priest Dad leaves a message on John’s phone, because “I think I’ve found something here.” Of course, he doesn’t give any details, and a good thing too, because then there wouldn’t be any suspense created when two bad guys murder Priest Dad ten seconds later!!
Okay, so this is your standard conspiracy movie he-was-killed-for-knowing-too-much bit, but this is a conspiracy that the conspirators are still trying to pull off. So it seems pretty counterproductive to kill the victim’s own father. That just makes John look victimized. Why not just overpower the priest, take and destroy the recording, and let Priest Dad look like a raving loon who would say anything to save his son?
Slightly later that night, John bursts into Priest Dad’s room as though expecting something awful, though there is no reason he should. This leads to John’s crisis of faith moment, where he rails at God (“Are you not true to your name?!“).
Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t last.
Until next time!
So I can tell this is going to be an interesting one right off the bat, because COMMENTS:
Gram Pol said:
“I hate to say it but I’m going to go easy on John for running away at the end. I mean, he did just suffer head trauma severe enough to render him unconscious for a good stretch of time.”
So this is a good point. Having had a Grade III concussion myself, I give John credit for being able to run at all. Granted, he only makes it a few hundred yards before collapsing again, and he does not stop when he hears sirens, which is still kinda odd. I mean, as far as John knows, he is the victim of a strange sort of carjacking. He has no reason to suspect that any kind of political plot or lies are involved. So why not run right TO the police? “Hey, I was knocked out and my car was stolen!”
Oh well. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for that, but not for what happens after. John collapses again, and doesn’t wake until broad daylight the next morning. (Meaning that the bad guys have had a good eight hours to get their story out there, but John doesn’t know that.)
Also, the cops who were rushing to the scene didn’t find him? They didn’t think to sweep a perimeter of even a couple hundred yards?
Anyway, John wakes up and almost immediately finds a gas station. The decrepit old pay phone outside is long gone, so he heads inside. He asks to use the men’s room (not the phone???) and the attendant tells him it’s for paying customers only. Nothing daunted, John proceeds to drink some soda from the machine (nice!) and splash some water on his face from the little bar sink.
And then he STILL doesn’t ask to use the phone!
Now, something weird starts to happen, and this is just such a good example of RTC movies not understanding how normal people think and talk. The attendant, and several others, act as though John is a homeless guy. Like, NO, man, you gotta pay to use the restroom. Except John does not look at all like a homeless person right now. He looks like a person who has been attacked or had an accident. He’s wearing business clothes, only slightly rumpled, and has blood splattered down the side of his face. Yet nobody seems the slightest bit concerned about this.
Then John ramps up his asshole rating by asking the attendant, “Don’t you know who I am?”
Oh yeah, John, I guess TV preachers get all the free soda they want, but us regular peons can just BUY some, right?
“No idea,” answers the attendant. This stops John dead in his tracks. Seriously, he looks deeply emotionally pained that this random woman doesn’t know him by sight. So, he just heads out. Again, WITHOUT ASKING TO USE THE PHONE.
Now, if this was any other movie, this would all be signs of John’s hubris, and we would be confident that by story’s end, he would have a bit more perspective.
But for now, John wanders onto the road, and IMMEDIATELY a van pulls up. It has a SUMAC bumper sticker (the same SUMAC featured on the signs of some of the protesters from Part 1), and a bunch of religious symbols like you see on a COEXIST bumper sticker. The driver, a woman with “Helping Hands,” also bizarrely thinks he’s homeless, and offers him water and doughnuts. Seeing not one, but TWO crosses around her neck, I guess John assumes she’s one of the good ones, because her phone is deemed good enough for his precious self. John calls his wife (not 911???), and Monica fills him in on what’s been happening: the police are at the house, his “relapse” involving drug possession and killing a young girl is all over the news, and Monica in fact cautions him against coming home, even though he has no wallet, no phone, and no car.
Um, okay? WTH, movie? As they said in The Fugitive, “running only makes you look guilty.” And again, Richard Kimble had the very good excuse that he had already been convicted of the crime. The crime here isn’t even ten hours old, so why not hoof it back home and get in a hospital, take a drug test, take a polygraph, do everything possible to prove your innocence and try to get the real killer(s)???
But instead they just hang up, and John doesn’t even say “I love you” or even “goodbye.” Nice guy.
Meanwhile, Senator X-Men is playing the whole my-heart-goes-out-to-his-family-but-justice-must-be-served card like a pro. And the Helping Hands lady, who I guess has nothing better to do, drops John off at a Catholic church (????), where he meets up with an old priest friend.
The priest friend of course believes in John’s innocence, and lets John in on the whole conspiracy business. Okay, he actually has no idea who is doing this, only why:
“…by the grace of God, you were able to bring yourself up from the depths of degradation and form a wonderful ministry that has spoken the truth to millions of people. Now, those who believe in nothing must bring you down…”
Let that be a lesson to all Christians. Better your life, and atheists will try to ruin it. Those MONSTERS!
Yeah, bet you never guessed that all this would be blamed on the god-free.
The priest, like John’s wife, convinces him not to turn himself in, because “I think you know how that will turn out.”
Yeah, those evil atheist cops and atheist lawyers and judges and atheist polygraphs!
So instead, they pick Plan B: “prove the truth.”
Wouldn’t a big part of proving the truth be showing your injuries from being attacked and framed, you idiot??!!?!
Nope, proving the truth begins with John taking a shower and washing away as much physical evidence as possible. Then the priest gives him a wad of cash and a change of clothes and a car. Thus equipped, John immediately sets off on his mission…
TO FIND A HOTEL!!!
Seriously, movie? SERIOUSLY???
Look, if John needs sleep so badly, sleep at the damned church. Or if you have to go somewhere immediately (though it’s very clear he feels no pressing need to do so), then sleep in the damned car. But don’t go to a hotel with the news of your fugitive-ness being broadcast on the lobby TV, try to bribe your way into a room, then act surprised when things go south.
Indeed, the young girl manning the front desk is immediately suspicious of this man with open wounds on his face, wearing sunglasses at night (so he can, so he can keep track of the visions in his eyes). Like a good Christian, he tries to bribe her with a $100 bill. She pulls the “just give me one minute to check something, sir,” and makes a call, but when she turns back…John has escaped.
What this really is, mind you, is a direct ripoff of the scene in North by Northwest where Roger Thornhill, also on the run from the police, is trying to secure a train ticket. Except Roger really needed to get on a particular train, whereas John apparently just wants a comfier bed than the priest can provide (oh, wwwwww…).
And now John is out $100, whereas Roger not only didn’t waste any money on an attempted bribe, but managed to get on the train anyway.
Deciding that he hasn’t done quite enough stupid things that could easily get him caught, John then heads…TO HIS OWN FREAKING HOUSE.
GORRAMIT, MAN, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU???
Yeah, he goes to his own house, not even in disguise or anything. The place his wife specifically told him not to go. The place that he must know is being staked out by the cops, just in case the murderer would be so immensely stupid as to go to his own HOUSE when he is wanted for MURDER.
This is really just so we can see that Brad Stine is over there, opening a bottle of champagne (no, really), and trying to put the moves on Monica (who, for some reason, I keep wanting to call Melissa). Now, he’s doing it in a very Christian, not-actually-touching-her way, but his intent is clear. He acts all sympathetic and stuff, but, like a good Christian wife, MonicaMelissa says nothing…actually, she literally says nothing when Brad asks her point blank if she has had contact with John, letting him assume the negative. So we know MonicaMelissa would fit in just fine in the Left Behind series.
Having thus seen Brad’s car in his driveway, and thus given himself one more thing to worry about, John drives away, cunningly turning his head to the side when he passes the cop car staked out at his own house.
But apparently the cops are not brain scientists either, because they don’t notice the lone occupant of a car, driving very slowly down a suburban street and stopping in front of the very house they are watching.
This is too much stupid for one session. Next time, John (might) begin his extremely time-sensitive investigation into the frame job.
Once he finds a nice, cozy bed, that is.
Well, I’m heading into this one with a tad more trepidation than when I critiqued The Penniless Princess.
Can you imagine a glorious alternate reality, where I’m critiquing this in a happy time? A time when we’re celebrating a milestone in our nation’s history, one long overdue, where we actually show our daughters that we don’t think less of them than our sons?
But no. We live in Bizzarro World now. A world where up is down, right is wrong, and a stupid, corrupt, pig-ignorant, pussy-grabbing, child-ogling, racist, classist, misogynist, petty, vindictive, narcissistic Putin-puppet is sitting in the White House in an ill-fitting suit, in a chair that he no doubt considers SAD because it is not gilded.
So now I’m going to watch a movie about how the RTCs have it soooooo hard in Washington, D.C. They’re soooooo put upon. This after they voted for this serial adulterer, this child-neglector, this materialistic opportunist who, you would THINK, is the antithesis of everthing they claim to stand for.
If there’s one silver lining to this clusterfuck (besides Alec Baldwin being able to do his perfect impression for the next couple of weeks or months or however long it takes for the GOP to find this thing not a useful enough idiot), it’s that the RTCs can never hold the moral high ground again. They’re done. You put a serial-cheating, child-neglecting, pussy-grabbing, stupid, corrupt, pig-ignorant, pussy-grabbing, child-ogling, petty, vindictive, narcissistic Putin-puppet in charge? Well, you are now officially done with claiming that you stand for any kind of values or morals.
And when he ruins your life, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourselves.
Okay, rant over. For the moment.
Okay, moment’s over. Movie’s starting.
We open with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., about being willing to die for a cause. Then we cut to the Jefferson memorial. Yeah, because the ideals of King and Jefferson are soooooo in line with RTCs. I mean, they know it was Jefferson who coined the phrase “wall of separation between church and state,” right?
And he also crossed out all references to miracles in his own Bible.
A rally is happening in the streets of Washington, with screaming people sporting signs for something called SUMAC, and featuring quotes like Gandhi’s “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.”
They’re protesting against preacher man John Luthor, who is being interviewed. The interviewer expositions that Luthor has been hailed as “God’s ambassador,” but that some say that he is “intolerant” and “condescending.”
John explains it away thusly:
“I’m not a Republican…”
“I’m not a Democrat, I don’t belong to any particular religious denomination.”
Of course you don’t, bud. We want this movie to sell to all intolerant, condecending denominations.
He also describes himself as a former “abusive, alcoholic, gambling drug addict.”
Damn, son, that’s a lot of addictions to have at once. You must’ve been a busy boy.
Of course, this is the typical “I was a horrible sinner saved by grace” stuff, and it’s pretty early to hit that, but whatevs. The interviewer has nothing to say about John’s past history of abuse, but instead pops right to her next subject, the “Faith and Fairness Act,”
“…to publicly declare your religious beliefs in a way that permits equal time and respect to other systems of faith…”
That’s all we get so far on what this proposed legislation is actually about, meaning…we know basically nothing. What are the details of this, and how would it affect John and his ministry or anybody else and their ministry…that is all fuzzy at this point.
(Yep, I decided to do this movie blind. Because I have so much to say about every little scene.)
But despite the fuzziness for the audience, John is ready with his take on the legislation:
“Freedom is fragile and costly, and must be defended by work and by faith…and even by blood.”
Wow, John, that doesn’t sound vaguely threatening at all. Jerk.
After the interview, John goes to a nighttime rally or whatever. I mean, I guess whatever it is when it’s not Sunday and a preacher yaks at you and you have an opening act.
Said opening act is a lame and supremely unfunny stand-up-isa guy, who cracks wise about how “meticulous” John is, and how he had a sinful past involving “buying Communion wine in kegs.” Har.
WAIT A MINUTE!!! THAT’S FRIGGIN’ BRAD STINE!!!
Damn, no wonder I’m not amused.
Still, it seems Brad isn’t wrong about the whole “meticulous” thing, as we cut to John prepping backstage, obsessively repeating a prayer to be “pure, honest, clean,” and doing some stupid shadow boxing exercises. He’s so deadly serious about this that we do get the impression that John is one of these intense kind of guys who is incapable of overcoming an addiction or a troubled past without CONTROLLING EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE AROUND HIM WITH AN IRON GRIP.
Doesn’t exactly endear me to him, but then again, maybe we’re going to see some growth in John. Maybe the persecutory events he’s about to go through will force him to loosen up a little.
As he’s in the middle of yet more pre-preaching praying, John is interrupted by Senator Evil Senator From The X-Men Movies, who wants John to say nice things about the Faith and Fairness Act. This seems a tad unlikely, as Senator X-Men just saw John talk about the blood that might be needed to combat such a bill, but the senator really wants John’s good word, since he has such a big ministry.
Okay, we’re only a few minutes in, and already this is falling apart. The very first thing we see in this movie is a demonstration AGAINST John and his ministry, so how does the senator think John’s support is necessary? Hell, there appear to be plenty of people who HATE John and what he preaches, so why don’t you use that in your favor, Senator X-Men? Talk about how John’s intolerant ministry is against freedom and equality! Do I have to do everything for you?
John says no, citing the whole “there is only one way to Heaven” bit, and Senator X-Men alludes vaguely to some favors he has done for John in the past. John shrugs this off (vaguely), and now it’s Senator X-Men’s turn to make a veiled threat, this time about running out of patience. Undeterred, John kisses Senator X-Men (yes, really. On the cheek) and heads out to preach.
Well, okay, he goes out to denounce the bill. Seriously, Senator X-Men just asked him to support it, and John goes out and THIRTY SECONDS LATER talks smack about it. That’s pretty rude, John. I thought you just said that all you wanted to do was preach the Bible.
So Senator X-Men gives a go-ahead over the phone. And out in the alley, a besuited dude gives a young black girl some pills. She tosses them back, and they go inside and he takes a picture of her with John when he’s done preaching, since “she loves your show.” Oh yeah, humorless TV preachers are always a hit with the under-18 demographic.
Driving home later, John thinks about a conversation with his wife and their little daughter. He has to miss her recital because of a “super-important board meeting,” but it’s okay because…she gets to make him breakfast in bed?
Man, RTC families are weird.
John spies a young girl on the side of the road, signaling for help. It is of course, the same girl from before, but John doesn’t notice. He does, however, get out of the car and follow her, and is, of course, conked on the head by Besuited Guy and dragged away.
Okay, this plan sure banked heavily on John a) noticing the girl and b) getting out of the car and following her instead of, for example, staying in his car and calling 911.
They take his car and drive it around while the girl makes out with the unconscious John and takes pictures in the backseat. Then they stop and Besuited Guy smacks the girl around to bruise her…and then kills her. Meanwhile, John regains consciousness, stumbles out of the backseat, and makes a run for it.
And, to make sure there is no suspense whatsoever, we see that all this is recorded on the phone of a person hiding in the woods.
Okay, I get that they’re trying to do a Fugitive thing here, with John as the wrongly-accused man, fighting against the odds to prove his innocence, but…why run NOW? Dr. Richard Kimble ran because he had already been convicted in a trial, and knew if he was caught, he would be sent right back to prison. But John has no idea what’s going on yet. All he knows is that he was ambushed and knocked unconscious. And again, as far as he knows, there is only one other man there. And they took the trouble to establish that John is an active guy who knows boxing. So why wouldn’t he take down this guy, or at least run to the first phone he can find to call the police and figure this out?
But no, John runs…like a guilty man would. And he only compounds his stupidity from here…