Monday, September 28, 2015

SPECTRE: Newest James Bond "Day Of the Dead" Poster

If you need a refresher on the trailer, you may find it at the end of this post. The skeleton figure behind the dinner jacket is Bond, dressed for the Day Of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, so it's a very specific moment in the calendar year within the film. From the trailer, we know Bond wears that white dinner jacket when he is on the train with Madeleine Swann, so the poster is juxtaposing two different but absolute points in Bond's narrative that, otherwise, we might not connect together, so this is, in effect, a poster that is designed as a kind of "love note" to the audience: if we have cared enough about the film to keep tabs on posters like these being released, we are going to be rewarded when the film comes out because, like Bond in the film, we will be looking for what connects all of them (the scenes) together. So, what is it? First of all, we don't know if Bond, dressed in "dead" costume is on his way to assassinate someone, or is escaping from it; what we can say is that Bond has, literally, been stripped of his total being: he is a walking skeleton. This might have something to do with the conversation Bond and Q had in the British Museum in Skyfall: "Once in awhile, a trigger has to be pulled," Q condescendingly says, and Bond retorts, "Or not pulled. It's difficult to know in your pajamas." In this sequence, however, we know Bond has taken it upon himself to pull a trigger and there are definite consequences to it. Now, back to the skeleton suit and being a "walking skeleton." This possibly means three things: either Bond is the "face of death" in the film (as Mr. White points out, "I always knew death would wear a familiar face, but it's not yours,"), Bond himself has experienced the face of death (like when he's looking through his personal effects from Skyfall brought by Moneypenny) or both, and I rather think it's this last option, because that's beautifully more complicated and why on earth would Sam Mendes NOT want to do that? So, what this poster presents are the two personas Bond will be wearing throughout the film; why? Spectre itself is a persona for Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and Oberhauser has spent years creating layers of deceit to protect Spectre and himself; the skeleton suit Bond wears reveals how Bond is ripping away his own layers of deceit and identity because, if he doesn't, he won't survive. There is another important facet to the skeleton suit: when we see Bond walking down the road, he glances backwards (0:06 in the trailer below), as he is doing in the poster; why? We saw Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) do the same gesture in The Man From UNCLE as he approaches the Berlin Wall. In both instances, there is the feeling of being watched by Big Brother, and given that both films center upon an international organization trying to take over the world, we shouldn't be surprised that such a casual gesture can hold such grand significance. 
Some new stills of Spectre have been released, along with this tantalizing new poster for the film and they deserve some attention. To begin with, there is a report of an interview with Daniel Craig suggesting that he might not be back for the next Bond film; I think this is publicity, because Mr. Craig is contractually obligated to do five films: Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre leave Craig one film short of his sign-on agreement. Why would he say this? Well, Spectre is getting free publicity with all the talk of "Who will be the next James Bond?" without specifically over-selling the film, or spilling any of its plot secrets. One might think it would undermine Craig's performance, and make people wish there were all ready a new Bond, however, Craig has been so successful (with the help of incredible screen writers and directors) as Bond that instead, it's making me dread the day there is another Bond; in other words, it's solidifying Craig as Bond even more. I don't know about you, however, but I actually think this might be a Oscar ploy to instill in the industry's mind just how amazing Craig has been as Bond and that he is, indeed, Oscar worthy. I certainly think so, and wouldn't have hesitated to give him the gold statue upon leaving the theater in November a few years ago, having watched Skyfall.
"Magnificent, isn't she? A few little tricks up her sleeve," Q says,... of the car, not Madeleine Swann (Lew Seydoux), however, this stunning evening gown begs comparison with the bespoke Aston Martin Bond drives in the film. How? To begin with, one of the meanings of the name "Madeline" is "magnificent"; both are/wear silver, and secondly, both are the "vehicles" of the narrative: the Aston Martin because Bond will be driving it and it symbolizes his own abilities in the film, but also Swann because, without her, Bond won't be able to access Spectre.  The gown she wears is at least a little bit computer generated: note how the fabric hugs her right hip and her inner thighs, especially around the knees; fabric doesn't do that, but that's okay, because the gown makes an important statement: Madeline has the curves that Bond will have to handle as if he were driving the Aston Martin, and that relates a bit of danger that we might not expect coming from her since her dialogue with Bond (what has been released) echoes that he must be tired of hunting and being hunted. Is it true that Bond "doesn't stop to think about it, really,"? Yes and no. Bond couldn't be a hero if he didn't meditate on his own self, because it's only through his self-awareness that Bond remains a "good guy" and is able to understand who the villains are and why they are the villains. What Bond doesn't stop to think about are the possible consequences of such a high-stakes game because the stakes are too high if he doesn't hunt and be hunted: he will lose his soul, and a reference to, "It was this or become a priest," enforces this concept: he has become a spy and a priest, because without his soul to guide him in the direction he needs to take, he would end up being just another Silva (Javier Bardem, Skyfall). 
This brings us to director Sam Mendes who did Skyfall and also Spectre, stating that he's pretty confident he's done with the Bond franchise. This is actually possible. Sadly, Mr. Mendes might be out but I certainly hope that isn't the case. Like Joss Whedon under the stress of making The Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron, and pressure to deliver the highest-grossing film of all time, Mendes is under financial and artistic pressure to elevate the Bond franchise even more than did with Skyfall, and after all, he is only human,... from what I've heard.
We've all ready discussed the importance of how water (snow, fog, rivers) will be symbolic in the film (please see Bond's Secret: Spectre Trailer for more); glass will most likely be utilized in the same manner. The building at the top is the clinic where Madeline is a doctor (some kind of mental health institute) and then we see Bond, in the pilot's chair of a helicopter with the windshield smashed out, and the logo of the film, the bullet hole in glass, crackling to form the SPECTRE logo of the octopus.  Glass and mirrors symbolize reflection, the deep, meditative type that we do in order to mentally, psychologically and spiritually advance in life and get through our obstacles. As noted in the earlier post linked above, water in all three forms--liquid water, fog/clouds and snow--symbolize three stages of the meditative process: water is reflective, so we first see the problem or issue that arises when a character is in/around water, but it's only a surface understanding of what is happening to them. The second phase, fog, signifies a deeper approach to the problem, but there are blurs and ghosts, difficulties arise as the character tries to delve deeper into the murkiness and discover what is really there. Finally, snow symbolizes that the problem has materialized and is solved, but healing has still to take place--just like the earth in winter under snow, when it rests from the summer crops it produced. The character isn't well at this point, but the wound and trauma is ready to be healed so the character can move on. At Madeline's clinic in the top image, it's not only a completely glass hospital, but it's surrounded by snow: either this means Madeline herself has experienced the cleansing of her troubles, or, at this point in the film, Bond has a part of his troubles figured out, with more still to come. Likewise, with the second image, Bond's shattered windshield suggests that his own understanding of what was happening or would happen has been interiorly undermined--perhaps he thought he was more capable than what he proves to be, or his enemy is stronger than he thought--but this will be one of many trying moments for Bond since the whole film will be pointed towards the interior life (the glass the logo consists of) and the death that will be introduced to it (the bullet).
A bit more of the plot synopsis has been released and it puts the film in a bit more of a timeline, although that is still sufficiently confusing (but in a good way):

A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organization known as SPECTRE.
The exquisite monochromatic elegance of this scene has mesmerized me: I don't know what it is, but the limestone and total black of the funeral mourners, the cold air (Bond wears a coat) contrasted against the sunlight and the casting of shadows, entrances me with this scene. I am going to suggest, because I can't possibly have a real clue about what is going on, that the stone facades we see are meant to be for the viewer a kind of artistic interpretation of Lucia herself (remember, "Lucia" means "graceful light" but what we appear to see more of in this meting is her "graceful darkness exhibited by her dress of grieving: she will probably appear monochromatic herself, not giving much away (if, indeed, anything at all) but within her and her dialogue, there will be a play of the darkness of the shadows and the light of illumination Bond seeks in going to her for help. Lucia wears a dark hat covering most of her head, but not all of it, suggesting that she is keeping most of her thoughts, fears, suspicions and what she knows to herself. The netting over her face acts as a form of erasure for her identity because it obscures her features: there is far more to who she is than Bond will be able to first discern, which is why she's not only a "forbidden" widow, but her last name is "Sciarra" which means "argument" or "quarrel"; the stylized aesthetic of this scene is surely a set-up to what we will be seeing as the "rest" of her story. 
Madeline's character is not mentioned in the synopsis, causing part of the confusion, but another part will revolve around what is happening to M (Ralph Fiennes) as he works to restructure MI6 after M's death (Judi Dench) in Skyfall. It's a new beginning, in a sense, but not for Bond: whereas he dealt with M's ghost in Silva (Javier Bardem) in Skyfall, now he deals with his own ghosts, but it appears he has decided to become a ghost in order to chase them. "Do one other thing for me," he asks of Q; "What did you have in mind?" and he replies quietly, "Make me disappear." I will be perfectly honest with you: between Spectre, The Avengers Age of Ultron and Star Wars VII, 2015 may go down in history as one of cinema's best years in film ever.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, September 25, 2015

News & Updates

So, Sam Smith has released the hotly anticipated Spectre theme song, Writing's On the Wall, and you can hear it at Spotify, iTunes, or wherever it is you go for digital music. I think it's one of the worst songs I have ever heard in my life. Not to mention a James Bond theme song. I guess there is a reason they always go with females singing the song; yea, they should go back to that. Adele's newest album, on the other hand, will be released October 30.
Uh,...
So, here is just a run-down of odds and ends that have been released: Star Wars VII tickets are being RUMORED to go on sale in November; its official release date is Friday, December 18, however, there are also plenty of speculations that there will be earlier shows opening, for example, perhaps Wednesday and Thursday night. There are also rumors, and I think this is more substantial though it won't apply to everyone's theater, that there will be numerous Star Wars Marathons with all 7 films being shown; it was also being rumored that the original, big 3 would start streaming on Netflix sometime before SW7 comes out. Other big news, this interesting short docu on Spectre's special effects scenes has been released, and it's rather impressive.
Thank goodness!
Henry Cavill has not been cast as Anastasia's boss in Fifty Shades of Grey something or other. Rumors had been circulating, however, it's been confirmed that the casting director hasn't even been hired yet and they are nowhere close to setting the cast. I think such a film would put a terrible cast over the Man of Steel's image,.... Ridley Scott has announced the title of his newest film, the follow up to Prometheus, but it's not Prometheus 2 even though it is the sequel to the film: Alien: Paradise Lost, will open in theaters in 2017 and does reference the title of John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, but, according to Scott, that's where the similarities end. Michael Fassbinder has confirmed he is returning. Men In Black is re-booting the franchise without Will Smith: Men In Black 4 is being written without Smith who has been in all three previous films (no word on Tommy Lee Jones).
The big opener this weekend is Hotel Transylvania 2; I am going to try and see this because people think that, when a film is animated, it's automatically going to contain the values and morals and political positions they themselves hold, and as we saw in the first film, this is a blatantly "anti-capitalist franchise,"... hypocritical greed intended.
Last but not least, Fast and Furious 8 is having director problems,... as in, they can't get one....? James Wan, who did FF7 bowed out of the next installment to do The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist; when Justin Lin also bowed out to do Star Trek Beyond, Universal went back to Wan and offered him a "life changing sum of money" to direct the film; Wan replied, thanks, but no thanks. It appears that he is exhausted after the untimely death of actor Paul Walker, and the incredible stress that placed upon Wan and crew to finish the film without one of the main actors. F & F is slated for a total of 10 films, after which time, the franchise will end.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Saturday, September 19, 2015

20 Years Ago: Se7en In Film

In 1995, David Fincher's Se7en made some Hollywood careers serious, and it's a film that has held its own over time, not a brag many films can make. It's such a powerful narrative and visual masterpiece, it was one of the first films I wrote about on this blog, arguing that when Somerset (Morgan Freeman) first sets the metronome in gear, we see him fall asleep, but we don't ever see him wake up, making the entire film that takes place after that a dream sequence Somerset has to fulfill a wish he can't quite come to terms with in reality. This makes John Doe (Kevin Spacey) not a criminal, but a psychological double for Somerset, so it's not really John Doe tormenting Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) throughout the film, it's Somerset himself; why? The post, Se7ven and the Eighth Deadly Sin is right here. Yahoo! has also provided this 25 Deadly Serious Facts About Seven you might enjoy as well!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, September 18, 2015

TRAILERS: Goodnight, Mommy; Point Break #2, Witch Hunter, Trumbo, Bridge Of Spies, Creed, The Young Messiah, The 5th Wave

Paramount has announced that next summer's blockbuster Star Trek Beyond has been moved a couple of weeks; while no explanation was given, it's most likely to a bit more time needed to properly finish the special effects. The film is being released in time for the 50th anniversary of the TV series and features the cast returning; there have also been rumors of a cameo of sorts by William Shatner, but nothing confirmed. Star Trek Beyond will be released on July 22, along with Ghostbusters and Bourne 5 with Matt Damon. 
Uh, wow.
I carved out two whole days to work on posts; due to the excessive wind, I wasn't able to get online for more than a few seconds at a time; literally. This is one of those times to meditate upon the nail wounds in the hands and feet of our Lord upon the Cross: His Will was nailed down to do the will of the Father, not His own, and in little circumstances like having your plans destroyed and not being able to get anything done, we are called to offer it up and unite it with the pierced hands and feet, to "Be still, and know that I am the Lord." Okay, so I wanted to let you know that, as well as post some new trailers and news that has been breaking which will have an effect on films coming out soon.
British actress Emily Blunt has been in the news this week, and not in a good way. Having just received her American citizenship, she claims that she watched the GOP debate and felt she had made a terrible mistake. Her film, Sicario, opens this week and will likely be boycotted by conservative Americans upset with her comments. Disney, however, not concerned by the backlash, has announced they are making a sequel to Mary Poppins and Ms. Blunt is at the top of a short list to play the British nanny set about 20 years after the events of the original film during the Great Depression. It would be directed by Rob Marshall who also directed her in Into the Woods, so we all ready know it will be a pro-socialist film. 
Woody Harrelson is slated to portray the villain in the next installment of Planet of the Apes; Elizabeth Banks, who just had a huge success with directing and starring in Pitch Perfect 2 is being courted to direct a new version of Charlie's Angels. Michael Bay confirms that he is in talks to direct Transformers 5 and X-Men director Brian Singer confirms his next project is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (based on the Jules Verne story). Crimson Peak director Guillermo del Toro has stated that, even though it's likely going to be delayed, Pacific Rim 2 is not dead and will still be made. Opening this week is Maze Runner: the Scorch Trial, Everest and Johnny Depp's desperate attempt at redemption, Black Mass; all of these are pro-socialist, and I think that after I get up the post for The Visit, which was very anti-Obama and takes a hard look at the role of feminists in politics for the last seven years, I'm going to work on getting some other posts up, like Fast and Furious 7. So, onto the trailers for good films that are still coming out.
Kong: Skull Island has now been revealed to be more of a mashup because King Kong has a impressive co-star: Godzilla. The script has a group of explorers going onto Skull Island and encountering the ape and Godzilla shows up,... somehow. The film has Tom Hiddleston starring, along with John C Reilly, Samuel L Jackson and Tom Wilkinson, among others. 
 I meant to introduce you to this trailer much earlier and didn't get the chance, but please pay special attention to it as this is a theme I am discussing in The Visit. In Goodnight, Mommy, nine-year-old twin brothers Lukas and Elias have moved to a new home and wait for their mother to return after she has had extensive plastic surgery; they soon realize she is not their mother.
So, impostors has been a theme the last couple of years: "What if the president, isn't the president?" Lady Jaye asks in GI Joe: Retaliation. With Mystique in X-Men Days Of Future Past shifting her identity all the time, we can argue she, too, is an impostor as well as the "doctors" in Stoneheasrt Asylum and, of course, this is the theme in The Visit. We can also argue that Johnny Utah in the newest Point Break trailer is also an impostor, or, is Brodie and his group of would-be "Robin Hoods" the impostors?
If you had any doubts about the "Robin Hoods" being socialists in not-so-discreet disguises, I hope sentences such as, "We have to give more than what we keep" and "We're going to give it back" signaled the real history lesson. These are the Utopian catch phrases employed, but those deciding what they are going to keep, have a tendency to decide they need to keep more and more,... then more and still more, and when they take to "give back," they have not just stalled the boundaries of sustainable economies, but the law as well. Okay, enough of that. Next trailer, Vin Diesel's Witch Hunter which looks pretty good:
Of all the things to have Vin Diesel go hunting down, why witches? Well, our next trailer, Trumbo, should answer that; by the way, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters (Gemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner) is finally having the sequel in the works but with a new director; the sequel is rumored to be based on voodoo this time around:
In resurrecting their "saints," Hollywood has boldly confessed, and publicly, that Senator Joseph McCarthy was actually correct in his persecution of communists in Hollywood, often referred to as "Witch Hunts" and which celebrities, up until the last two or three years, habitually mocked as being grossly inaccurate that there were any communists in Hollywood (although it would be validated by individuals occasionally). This film is such a massive dose of indoctrination and twisting of what "Freedom" is, I can't even bear to watch it. Moving on, we have what may also be what is a pro-socialist film, but I have hope for it:
Again, as I have mentioned, Steven Spielberg has produced nothing but pro-socialist films since 2008; the script for Bridge Of Spies, however, was written by the Coen Brothers, who have done nothing but pro-capitalist films, so I am deeply hoping that this film will mark a change in Spielberg's direction; for example, watching a family trying to escape over the Berlin Wall and being gunned down for it. We'll just have to wait and see. This film, is going to be pretty awesome, and I hope it's a direct answer to self-sabotage films like Straight Otta Compton:
I hope the film will be as good as the trailer for this one looks:
Okay, be looking for my post on The Visit, it's coming next!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--I'm tacking these two trailers on because I wasn't aware they had come out. Sony appears to be making a "Hail Mary" campaign push for The 5th Wave coming out in January with dropping two trailers just a couple of weeks apart from each other and this looks good:
And if you would like to watch the second trailer, which is also good, please click here because it's not yet available for download on general sites.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TRAILER: The Jungle Book & Allegiant

There has been some news dropped today. First of all, I saw M. Night Shymalan's The Visit and it is a solid horror film; is it good? That's difficult to answer. Horror fans are the snobbiest connoisseurs in the world, so to say a horror film is good is to invite them to detail for you how "not good" it really is. I will say this: it's a classic psychoanalysis and in sticking to the best rules of the horror genre, Shymalan delivers a solid film that was suspenseful and twisted. That's the post I am working on right now. Some news items: Michael Fassbinder is returning for Prometheus 2, production stills are all ready being released for Star Wars VIII, a new Mary Poppins film is being planned (no news on if it will be a sequel, prequel or a remake), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is going to be a "wild card" in Captain America 3: Civil War, a Deadpool (Ryan Rynolds) has all ready planned a sequel; if you are as excited about Crimson Peak premiering as I am, you will want to watch this clip which has finally been released of the film, featuring Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska (the rights of the clip are not allowing it to be shared off of  certain sights so, for the moment, it can't be posted here). Due to time restraints on my schedule, I am not going in-depth for trailer analysis here, but I at least wanted you to get to see them:
As always, we aren't so much interested in that elusive quality known as "originality," rather, we want to find and see patterns of similar behavior because that validates what is or isn't happening in culture and being revealed in art. Here is the trailer for The Maze Runner 2: The Scorch Trials which features similar elements to Allegiant (and the whole Divergent series):
The similarities are easy to see, so let's start by asking what are the differences? One film, Allegiant, is going to be pro-capitalist, and the other film is going to be pro-socialist. Both films accuse the other of the exact same evils, and both films are claiming they posses the same goods and virtues. Which film is right? That's for you to decide, and that's why these last four years in Hollywood have been so critical to (not just the US but) the whole world. And now for Mowgli:
As my film criticism professor taught us to ask, "Why is this film being made/re-made now?" There is always some defining element in society which causes a generation to need or reject something that other generations or other time periods would not need or need, so choices in art and those choices in context are paramount to understanding the psychological history of a given era. Politically speaking, there is a facet of the socialists in America known today as Progressives, and they are anything but. We can see their agenda being criticized in the opening sequence of Star Trek: Into Darkness (the white faced beings with no technology) as well as the world of the dinobots in Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Transformers 5 sounds really exciting and is underway!) and supported in films such as Gravity (when Bullock's character walks out of water and into the isolated Chinese [communist] village) and The Lone Ranger (when Johnny Depp's Tonto walks into the deserted landscape alone). Iron Man director Jon Favreau is pro-capitalist (as we know from his other films) and we can be confident that The Jungle Book is an answer to those "Progessives" who want to return to a world where there is no technology (because that would eliminate the need for a free market) and strict government control, rather like the days of medieval feudalism: you think you're going to be happy living like this, Favreau will ask? Look at how dangerous this world is. We can say the same will be the case with Ridley Scott's The Martian.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, September 14, 2015

TRAILERS: Krampus, The Martian, Our Brand Is Crisis, The Intern

This is the new Spectre poster that has been released and there is a ton going on in this; so much so that I am still writing that post on it and can't seem to wrap it up, so see what you can pull from it before I get the post up and we'll compare notes!
I had three posts to get up this weekend and, sadly, I ended up binge watching Drunk History instead; these things happen. I am on my way to the theater to see The Visit; originally, I wasn't interested in the film, however, a plot detail has been revealed that makes the film,... more revealing. So, Fast and Furious 7 is available tomorrow to own; I will be picking up my copy and finishing that post that I didn't quite get done :(  that happens too often. Still no word when tickets are going on sale for Star Wars VII, but they will go quick, as in, world record time quick, and I am getting mine ASAP. But, here is a trailer:
"The shadow" of St. Nicholas.
For those who don't know, St. Nicholas is the patron of un-wed women, and assists people with difficult passages in the spiritual life (please see my post From Saint Nicholas To Santa Claus for more on this subject). I'm glad they made this film because there are so many difficult people, as we know, who do nothing but complain about Christmas and seeing what life would be like if the devil came into the world, instead of the Nativity of Jesus we celebrate, is a stupendous idea for an intellectual and moral exercise for us all. Ridley Scott's film The Martian has released a clip today that provides some excellent clues as to what the film will be like:
At least three important things are happening in this clip. First of all, in spite of the dire circumstances Mike Watney (Matt Damon) is in, stranded on Mars, there is still hope to get him back home. Secondly, as we saw in Interstellar with Cooper using the black hole for a "gravity assist," man is not settling for being a small, insignificant part of the universe, but is employing the universe to assist him in his needs (in this case, the gravity assist). Thirdly, the young man making the proposal in this clip, must be a math genius, and, as such, even if they don't end up using his plan, his gift for math is harnessed to his creativity on what can be done and how; he has grown up in an environment of excellence so he became good at math; he is now in an environment of an emergency (Watney being stranded) and he can and is responding appropriately, rising to the challenge, not the government, but individuals, which I am confident will be at least a part of Scott's message in this film (his next film is Prometheus 2, which I am hyped about, followed by a sequel to Blade Runner which the whole world is hyped about). And the newest Sandra Bullock film:
You know, I was so distracted by words like "George Clooney," and "Argo," "Sandra Bullock," that I totally missed the good they are trying to do with this film. Hmmmmmm..... Oh, yea, the Hillary Clinton advice, do an interview and try and have some tears,... make it look like you are a genuine human being,.... gotta love Democrats. HOWEVER, I think The Intern will make a large contribution to the "generational warfare" taking place in the States right now, and this does look good:
A young person in business,.... an older person helping with advice and their experience... team work to save a company... these are the kinds of issues that liberals don't like, so I love them. Here is the trailer for The Visit, which I am on my way to see now:
Originally, I thought this was going to be the opposite of The Intern (and it might still prove to be so) but there is a plot twist that makes me think it's smarter than that. I'll let you know how it goes!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--Don't forget, you have homework! See what you can make the Spectre poster at the top of this post before I get my post up!

Friday, September 4, 2015

3 Blondes: Transporter Refueled & Robbery

This is the first of the Transporter films I have seen, and it had great action, good car stunts and Ed Skrein who plays the Transporter Frank Martin Jr is well-cast and does a good job, in both his lines and action sequences; Ray Stevenson (Thor & Divergent) is most likeable as Frank Jr's father, Frank Sr. The poster is interesting for two reasons: first, the action sequence taking place "within" Frank Jr reveals that the action of racing and "being" the Transporter is what "being" Frank Jr is all about. The second feature is his partially turned face, giving us just over half a profile view, suggesting that there is a part of him we won't see in the film, but that he keeps hidden. 
"What's mine is mine,... and what's yours is mine," How would you feel if someone said that to you? That's what Transporter: Refueled is saying. While they attempt to make a case for wealth re-distribution based on "social justice," with a feminist bent, the narrative accidentally reveals the problems with its own position, and that position begins with the introduction to Frank, which is also the opening scene of this trailer, when some thugs attempt to steal the famed Audi S8:
The first problem is: there is no difference between what the thugs are trying to do to steal his car, then there is with Anna and her friends robbing Karasov. The second problem is, it's due to the brilliant technology in the car and his smartphone that Frank's car isn't stolen, and that technology comes from the free market, which the film is supposedly blasting. In the opening scene of the film, we see a Toulouse-Lautrec paining, in glass in a safe box, on a street corner in the French Riviera; why? Lautrec was painting a house of prostitution, which is what that street corner is, run by an all-black gang. A group of vehicles pulls up and shoots all the black pimps and announces that it's now the white pimps who are taking over prostitution, and that's when we meet Anna. This manner of introducing yourself into a new market isn't capitalist, and it certainly isn't good business; that's how socialists run a market: end all competition, whereas with capitalism, there is lots of competition. But this is just the beginning of the film's moral dilemmas.
This is, to me, the most damaging aspect of the film: the lack of individuality which socialists always embrace (they deny it when they are pressed about it, but they always go for everyone being as similar as possible). The three blondes from the Transporter: Refueled on top, can be compared to another pro-socialist film, In Time (Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried) with a mother, wife and daughter on the bottom picture. Why do socialists not like individuality? This was explored in X-Men Days Of Future Past: individuals can be smart enough to overthrow the system, they can lead others to revolt, they demonstrate the terrible holes in socialism and why it will never work. It's not that everyone gets to be equal in socialism, it's that everyone has to be equal in socialism.
Frank Sr., Frank's father who is a retired,... "ambassador" of sorts (British spy,... who isn't capable of defending himself) is allotted only 791 Euros a month for his retirement, which he complains about. He's saved enough money to buy a boat for himself, but he believes he should be receiving more, then he goes out and buys a bottle of wine costing 900 Euros. Yes, that's right. It's the system's fault, he complains to his son, why he now has time to enjoy life, but no money to do it, and the system should be fixed. Enter Anna and her three friends who are going to fix the system the way they see fit.
When we first meet Frank Sr, he mentions that his wife, Frank Jr's mom, is dead, she was a good Catholic who was buried, but he had to get away from where they lived because it had become a cemetery to him: "Burn me up or dump me with the fishes," he tells his son, but don't bury him; why not? This is a further lack of respect for the individual, our bodies and our identities. One can argue that it's the soul which is important, not the body, and that's a viable argument on its own; when it's in the context of socialism, however, it means that we are just animals and no type of reverence should be shown to our memory because our bodies are not going to be raised again. One might argue, correctly, that Frank Sr works hard to save Maria when she's hit by a bullet, and he's genuinely upset when Gina dies; yea, sure, because socialists stick together and they believe they have the right to have feelings and possessions that others do not. Seriously. No one is as righteous as socialists, and they will never stop reminding us of that. Later, in the scene above, Frank Sr tries to make a cup of coffee using the little k-cup pods and he complains, "I need a woman around here," because socialists aren't really for women's equal rights, just when it's necessary to get feminist votes; it ends up, Frank Sr was putting the coffee pod in the juicer, not the coffee maker. 
Anna's "back story" is really important because it reveals the impoverished mind of the writers (there are several of them): Anna lived in an impoverished village, and she had to work in the factory when she was 12 years old; when she came home one day, her mother sold her for $500 dollars to Karasov her put her into prostitution, so she's going to get even with him.
What's wrong with this?
Why does the Transporter hate to be late? Do you remember Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in Fast and Furious 6? His personal motto was "Precision," which is quite like not being late; how? It's the exact opposite of chaos theory, which means, things happen that we can't control (obviously a simplification, but acceptable for now) whereas never being late assumes that all events and occurrences can be controlled. The lack of respect for the human body and identity, clearly places the film on the side of  "Darwinism" (or what is left of it) and the idea that people are nothing but animals; unless you are a socialist, and then you practically view yourself as a god, but you're the only one, no one else. So, the idea of never being late is a terribly pretentious one because it assumes that all obstacles don't exist or won't exist and his will dominates reality.
Well, it's obviously wrong that this would happen to anyone, the problem is this happened in some third, fourth or fifth world country, but the film makers are trying to get you to believe that because it happened there, socialism and wealth redistribution should happen in first world countries like Britain and the US. This is typical of socialists: they are prostituting the people who are genuinely poor in the world--people who live in extreme poverty in reality--but offer NO SOLUTIONS to helping them, but demand that the 1% be stripped of everything they have and it be given to them, socialists, while nothing is still done about those living in extreme poverty elsewhere, so it's even more selfish, base and self-serving than those horrible 1%-ers the socialists target.
The beautiful woman in this shot, Maissa, was a prostitute and working for the black pimps when Karasova came in and shot of them up; he asked her if she wanted to work for him and she said yes, so she became his private whore (and never became very intelligent). During the film, I kept expecting that she would side with Anna and her friends at some point, but she didn't, she said firmly on the side of her sugar-daddy, which is an implication of employees. Basically, socialists view humanity in one of two camps: if you have a business, you are a vampire who sucks the blood of your hard-working employees; if you are an employee, you are virtuous beyond virtue and you should murder your boss and take over whatever he has for yourself. People like Maissa, above, are bourgeois pigs and should be killed just like the bosses and that's what happens to her. There were several close-up shots of Maissa's eyes, which had a lot of make-up on, and that was to suggest her materialism and artificiality; Anna and her friends, on the other hand, had very little make-up on. Maissa's outfit in this is interesting: the top straps across her breasts act as a standard of how low-cut the dress should be, whereas the actual hemline of the breasts is much lower, demonstrating that she's loose, whereas Anna and her friends are supposedly virtuous whores. On another note, when the four girls have put their plan into motion, they use the body of a woman who overdosed on heroine and put a necklace on her (the "dog tag" of Karasov's gang's mark) so she will be bait for their plan, and then they burn her body and two gangsters to ash. So, Anna has just treated someone else like trash (the woman who overdosed) because she had been treated like trash. There is no moral superiority in socialist/communist circles; they think they are, because all their arguments are the low-lying fruit kind, but there is no righteousness to these Machiavellian acts. On still another note, the last shot of the film leaves the viewer undecidable as to whether Anna deposits $10 million Euros into Frank Sr's and Frank Jr's accounts; does she transfer money to them? Yes, it's almost certain, that will probably come out in the next film, and she wants to see him again, even if he's going to be angry with her. She is buying friendship the way men have bought sex from her.
The last point I will make about this is the "slippery slope" of lawfulness and morality that occurs when one adopts this line of thinking. Before Frank Sr. is kidnapped the second time, he accuses Frank Jr. of not "doing the right thing" in helping the girls rob a Russian mob boss. When did "doing the right thing" become not following the law? The mob boss is a mob boss because he doesn't follow the law, so in order to bring justice to the mob boss, you break the law like he does? This is an imperative point because heroes like Batman (Christian Bale) and Superman (Henry Cavill) won't kill people who are bad (or at least try not to) because order and law must be preserved. With socialism, there is an automatic break-down of law for "wealth re-distribution" to take place, which leads us to the last point I'm going to make.
Even though her friends die, we see Anna depositing millions into the accounts of their family members so they have the funds the other girls would have had if they had lived: sure, that money is going to change their lives for ever, but it's also going to make them a target for people just like these film makers who want to take that money and give it to other people they decide are "more deserving," because that's what socialists do. Further, it demonstrates that Anna isn't really interested in helping someone--think of how many people all those millions would help?--because she's keeping her money all to herself; so it's okay to take what belongs to someone else when they have wronged you, but don't you dare take money that belongs to a socialist and re-distribute it to others.
The "rules" of using Frank Martin as a Transporter are designed, like never being late, to insure he's in control of everything all of the time. As in game theory, rules are designed to benefit the one making the rules, in this case, Frank Martin, and he doesn't allow for any play, that is, anything creative or unexpected, because that's a sign of intelligence (like when Frank drives his car through the airport, that's intelligence in him and what he's doing, but he doesn't allow for it in others). 
What about the poison the girls supposedly gave to Frank Sr? The girls threaten Frank Jr that, if he doesn't help them finish their plan, their dad will die from poison he drank mixed in with his beer, but it ends up that the poison was actually water, they just had to threaten Frank Jr somehow. That's an important slip, because that's basically what all socialists are doing: they are threatening us that capitalism is a poison and society is going to die if we don't do what they want us to do, which is to switch to a socialist/communist society, but as the film reveals, it's all a lie, because that's what they do to get their way.
The purpose of their thefts is to access the fingerprints of the bosses, then use their fingerprints to open their checking accounts and rob them. Why is this important? This is the kind of thing the government wants to do. Socialist governments don't believe you have any individuality (again) and your fingerprints are just something to be stolen and manipulated. Additionally from this scene is that the gas used to make everyone pass out could have been released and then the girls go into the club, instead, like in The Collection, we get a look at the decadence taking place within the club that the girls are participating in as two of them make out with each other. 
In conclusion, Transporter: Refueled had great action, good acting and great car stunts, it just has the typical moral black holes that all socialist theory suffers from, even though the narrative might have been a convincing one had the writers not introduced their half-thought out, greedy and self-serving political agendas. By the way, an Audi S8 starts at $115,000.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Surrender First: War Room & Smelly Feet

War Room follows a family going through the kind of spiritual crisis any of us might face in our daily lives but shows how we probably don't go about solving it. One of the characteristics of Tony in the film is his ability to do a back flip; why? It shows that he's able to do a "complete turn-around." His back-flipping is a metaphor, but it demonstrates how powerful and dramatic conversion is, even though we don't usually see those results in our day-to-day lives. Late in the film, Tony is driving his family to the double-Dutch competition and he sees his old boss on the side of the road; his car has a flat tire. The car is and symbolizes a "vehicle," and the boss' vehicle for conversion and faith is debilitated, he can't move. Tony making that selfless and forgiving act towards him literally changes the flat tire of the vehicle of grace, so he can get moving again in his own journey of faith. Little things such as these might slip beyond our attention in daily live, but they carry powerful effects in the invisible world of faith and conversion.
Let's be perfectly honest: Christina spiritual films rarely live up to the high standards of Hollywood blockbusters that we are used to seeing. Either because the Christian film can't get the financial backing of a big film to get the talent and equipment, the executives aren't interested in making "faith-based" films or the people making them love God, but don't have a deep wisdom for narrating a truly compelling story (or, all of the above), but when it comes to Christian films, too often they just aren't good, and sadly, because of this reputation, audiences to whom the films are directed don't won't to waste time and money on seeing films that aren't going to deliver.
This is Ms. Clara and her story is very simple: her husband, Leo, was a strategist during the Vietnam War, so he would analyze what the Viet Cong were doing, what they were trying to accomplish, and then create a response strategy to stop them. Ms. Clara narrates her story that she didn't do what Leo had been doing: she was fighting Leo instead of fighting the one using Leo against her, Satan. Again, this is one of the strengths of the film: it calls the devil by his name, it's not whitewashing in political correctness, or trying to blanket over concepts to make people feel more comfortable watching the film: it shows people failing, and doubting, and uses such instances to make its point: we all need a strategy to defeat the devil. Another strength of the film is that it doesn't try to make it look easier than what it is, and that will be discussed further when we discuss Elizabeth's feet. In the meantime, we see Ms. Clara in "her favorite room" of her house, her closet that she has cleared out and goes into when she prays. She has written a prayer for every part of her life, every person she holds up, and keeps a list of all the prayers God has answered so she doesn't get discouraged. This "inner-room" wherein God calls us to go so that we may pray is the inner-room of our hearts; why? Because our heart is where we hold our fears and pain, our dreams and our hopes, this makes it The Wilderness, as in, "the wilderness" the Israelite children wandered for forty years, waiting to be taken to the Promised Land. It is in the wilderness that the devil and his servants are best found, because when you are fasting from the world (in what ever manner: social media, food, comfort, talking, etc.) you are taking away the places of hiding where they can safely live, free from exposure. When you go "into the wilderness," or into the war room, you are making an act of fasting, doing what God wants of you instead of what you want to do, and this act of discipline makes the demons scream in pain. In the wilderness, too, however, you find God. In this inner-room of your heart, which was made by God for God, you find the Holy Spirit leading you in life by your dreams and your hopes, instead of being led by the devil by your fears and your scars. 
Case in point: Darren Aronofsky's Noah (Russell Crowe) was so bad on a number of levels, people didn't want to experience that with Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings even though that was a first-class Christian film (not to mention some very damning and false reviews that got around to the conservatives about the film). So, when it happens that a film like Exodus doesn't do well, executives point to that and say, "See? They don't do well," and invest elsewhere. Fortunately, War Room has the quality, the talent and the story to make for a truly compelling narrative that never tries to out-do itself or convert people via guilt trips; the film speaks on its own terms, and it's moving audience members to greater faith and participation in their spiritual lives. There are a couple of key symbols the film utilizes and this develops the characters and their struggles, which also properly categorizing what the struggle ahead of them is: death.
On the left is Tony, Elizabeth's husband who has not been doing a good job lately; on the right is his friend, a paramedic. Michael, who realizes Tony is having problems but gets shut out by Tony. Something Michael realizes is how much effort Tony has put into getting ripped, and correctly deduces that Tony is doing it for someone other than his wife. The differences between Tony's mind and body is a simple, but effective metaphor for what we are willing to do in life: we put all our efforts into the world, but not the next world, into keeping physically healthy, but not spiritually healthy. The out fits the two men wear reveal their spiritual priorities. Gray is the color of the pilgrim or novice and usually denotes penance. Tony's gray shirt means he is a novice at prayer (the torso, which houses the vital organs, most importantly symbolizes the heart and our ability to live) and making priorities; Michael, however, because of how he speaks of marriage in the film, could be said to be doing penance by his gray shorts, which covers his sexual organs, suggesting that he has control over himself and his desires. This is emphasized by his gray tennis shoes: the shoes symbolize the will, because our feet take us in life where we want to go the way our will decides where it is we want to go and then directs our actions. But Michael's gray shoes, that of being a pilgrim and doing penance, have bright orange shoelaces; orange is the color of life and of vibrancy, so even though Michael is sacrificing and abstaining from things in life, this is exactly what helps him enjoy life (the orange shoelaces). Tony, on the other hand, wears red shorts, and red symbolizes the appetites, because we either have an appetite for love, or an appetite for wrath, and we can argue that Tony isn't really attracted to other women, however, he is made at Elizabeth and that anger is what is driving him to set himself up to cheat on her. Black is the color of death, and Tony's black shoes mean that his will is dead, and he's not leading a purposeful life, just getting by, which is why he started stealing the drugs from his company and selling them on the side. Michael's blue T-shirt means wisdom: he has suffered in life, and he knows sadness, but he has learned form his experiences and church and he is a better man for it. Later, when Tony reveals that Elizabeth cleaned out her closet and has been praying for him, Michael says, "I wish I had someone praying for me like that," because he realizes that Tony's bonuses and the affair he's passively starting isn't what life is about, rather, love is, and God is love, so those who truly love someone put them before God. Tony's arms are exposed in this shirt, meaning that Tony sees his strength in his own body, his own arms and personal strength, not in the strength that comes from a strong heart that has been cleansed of its sins and counts on God.
One of the first of these symbols we encounter is that of Elizabeth's smelly feet: her feet smell so bad, everyone comments upon them, and her shoes smell so bad, she has to take them outside. Feet, as we know, symbolize the will, and that Elizabeth's feet smell so bad means that her will is dead, like Lazarus rising from his tomb and stinking because he had been dead for three days. This would be a typical symbol and characterization which we could expect in a Christian film, however, the film makers let us know that, at the end of the film, in spite of God's help and Elizabeth's personal rejuvenation of her prayer and spiritual life, Elizabeth has only just begun and her will is still dead. This isn't a soft, warm and fuzzy kind of Christian film, this is reality.
So, Elizabeth clears out her closet and begins a "campaign of prayer." Elizabeth goes through a number of chairs so she can be comfortable in her room, and at one point, her daughter opens the door to find her sitting in there eating from a bag of chips. Why? That's exactly what we so in our spiritual lives, we want easy and fast food. Towards the end of the film, after Elizabeth has sold Ms. Clara's house, she goes to tell her and Ms. Clara says, "Wait, don't tell me, it's been bought by a preacher and his wife from Texas," and Elizabeth replies, "That's how I wish the Lord would talk to me!" and Ms. Clara responds, "The Lord didn't tell me, your daughter sent me a text message." That's what we want from God, a clear, easy-to-understand text message about what it is we want to know. But if that is what God did, we wouldn't grow. God does have a text message sent to Elizabeth, and we could say it does come from Him, but it's not what she wants to hear. While she's in her war room, a friend texts her that she sees Tony in Atlanta having lunch with a woman she doesn't recognize; Elizabeth has been afraid that Tony has been cheating on her, and this message is what Elizabeth needs to now get serious about prayer and trusting God. If you will notice, in this image, Elizabeth wears a purple shirt: purple is the color of suffering, and the color of royalty. At Lent, we often see the Cross draped in a purple cloth, because it denotes how Jesus' willingness suffer for us means that we should be willing to make Him our king and lord because of His love for us. Elizabeth is suffering for Tony and her family, and this begins the process of making her more like Christ so she can radiate His love to all.
At the end, Tony gives Elizabeth the ice cream sundae she has been craving, and a foot massage, but not until he first puts on a surgical mask before getting close to her feet. Her feet still smell bad, because all the trials that they have encountered and overcome, are a drop in the bucket to the spiritual exercises still required to make Tony, Elizabeth and Danielle fully alive in Christ; the surgical mask Tony wears invokes Christ as the Divine Physician who knows what the soul needs in order to remove the deadly sins, and that is still ahead in their future. The ice cream, however, serves as a metaphor of the consolation of the moment: when we need a rest, especially in the early days of our trials and struggles, God sends us consolations, ice cream, so to speak, and something to comfort our soul, but He removes those and sends us on more and more difficult trials so we continue in our progress, and the consolations (tend to) become fewer and fewer.
What about the jump rope?
The purpose of withdrawing consolations from us, and still sending us trials and struggles is so our will (symbolized by our feet) will become strong and automatically chose God in all things, not just easy ones. After her first meeting with Ms. Clara, Elizabeth sits on her couch, rubbing her stinking feet and looking at her Bible, but she doesn't pick her Bible up, she allows herself to become distracted by something else instead; this is a sign of a weak will. A sign that Elizabeth's will is getting stronger is when Tony tells her that he has been fired and instead of questioning him, nagging or worrying, she offers her help and reassurance to him; this is the first sign to Tony that something has changed with Elizabeth, and it has: she has begun strengthening her will so that she chooses God, not the world (in this case, worrying about the loss of income). The time she has spent exercising her will in prayer has paid off and she is able to will herself to turn to God, rather than indulge in the fears the rest of the world would plunge themselves into and get angry at Tony the way he expects her to. 
Jumping rope might not seem like a particularly strong metaphor of the spiritual life to use, however, it requires a plan, it requires team work, there is an element of timing, there's a rhythm and each jumper has to share; they are each being pushed to try something new and different. Above all, there is an element of trust, and all of these elements are virtues we can see being developed in our spiritual lives, individually and collectively. We mess up, others mess up, and then we just start again, and that's how life in Christ is: we forgive, we are forgiven, we sin, they sin, and we forgive again, then we ask for forgiveness again, and each time, it's on a deeper level, a level closer to the genuine mystery of our individuality and belonging to Christ.
I think this is the most moving scene in the film: Tony realizes Elizabeth and Danielle have both been praying for him and he's been willing to cheat on them. Tony is in Danielle's room, meaning, he has entered into the part of him that can still be a child before the Heavenly Father, and his heart is filled with shame and remorse over how he has acted. Earlier in the film, Tony had a nightmare that he heard Elizabeth crying out to him to help her and when he confronted the assailant threatening her, he turned around and it was Tony himself. In the spiritual life, we are often fighting ourselves, but it's our false self, the self the devil has created in world terms, an idol for others to talk to and go have fun with, not the real person God created us to be. The destruction of this idol is slow and has to be deliberate because we often can't tell the difference between the idol of ourselves and our real self. An example of this would be Bruce Jenner. He claims to be a Christian but has created this false idol of himself he, and everyone else, is calling, Caitlyn, but that's not who Bruce Jenner was created to become; instead of worshiping his creator, Bruce Jenner has sought to make himself a creator, and those around him who are playing into his lie are dragging him further and further away from God, but he's doing that to others as well by suggesting that he has made a "legitimate choice" in "becoming" a woman. But let me not be self-righteous: I do the same thing in my own life: when I don't tell my loved ones when I hurt so they can help me, when I don't chose to spread love, and I get angry at rude drivers and I let myself hold a grudge, I am also building a false idol; I tear down the devil's work when I ask for forgiveness and do penance, but I also have to actively work at revealing and understanding the mystery that is my own self which God created for His purpose, and you do, too.  
Elizabeth thanks Ms. Clara for helping her through her tough times, and then Ms. Clara tells Elizabeth that she was an answer to Ms. Clara's own prayers that God would send Ms. Clara someone she could teach her "war room" tactics to; this is an important point, because it shows how Grace--God's very own Life--flows through the most mundane parts of our lives, and how God's economy of salvation is always working; we can choose to be a part of it, or not, but that choice is ours and we will reap the rewards or suffer the consequences depending upon how we use our free will or abuse it.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Look At Luke Skywalker's Costume in Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens & the Importance of Beards

This is the first and only glimpse we know that we have had of Luke Skywalker in the upcoming Star Wars VII; we think that's his cyber-kinetic hand resting on R2D2's top in the trailers, but we aren't definitely sure. While we have seen the other major players, this is the first time for Luke who has rumored to be in hiding so that he doesn't unduly swing events in the universe with a negative use of the Force and put people, or himself, in jeopardy, which leads us to why this is such a massive reveal (discussed below). Please note, his beard is a "contractual obligation," which means it's an important part of his costume.
You know I adore costumes.
Since the very first rumors that another Star Wars film would be made, ultra-fans of the films and comics have speculated that Luke would be the ultimate baddie, having gone the way of the Dark Side like daddy-dearest. The first image of Luke released (above) has a massive, universal sigh going out that these rumors are (at least mostly) false, and it's the light color-scheme of his robes that have assuaged fans' fears.( UPDATE: NOW THAT I HAVE SEEN STAR WARS VII, THE FULL REVIEW CAN BE FOUND HERE AT THIS LINK; THANK YOU!).
Fans are noting that the light-color scheme is a sign that Luke hasn't gone over to the Dark Side since Jedi knights like Ben and Yoda wore light-colored robes like the one we see in the new image; does that mean that, since Luke isn't wearing black like Darth Vader that he isn't evil? Well, no, it's more complicated than that. For example, we know that white can mean death because a corpse turns white as it decomposes, and for a Jedi to go to the Dark Side means they have spiritually died and are alive to worldly ambitions and using the Force for their own gain, not the greater good of others. Brown, which there are several different shades of on the robes, refers to dirt, so either someone is as humble as the dirt and view themselves as being lowly, or this person is, literally, dirty and they are not to be trusted or respected. We also don't know at what point in the film Luke begins wearing this outfit: from the beginning, or not until the end? He wears a black cape/hood in the trailer when he puts his right hand on R2D2 (which you can watch here, look for 0:49), so he might start out on the Dark Side, but convert like his father at the end of Return Of the Jedi. Further, seeing that the robes of the old Luke (right) are the same color scheme as those of the young Luke (left), we could say that Luke has digressed into a childish phase that makes him selfish or short-sighted as he was before his destiny of meeting Leia, Luke and Ben. This is all possible, but I don't think it's probable, but we need to be flexible. The beard most likely is intended to signal to fans that Luke's self-imposed exile has been meant for him to gain wisdom so he can be the instrument of the Force, rather than use the Force as his instrument. The earth tones, then, signal that Luke has gained in humility because he has learned how great the Force is and it's not to be used lightly or without intellect and the color tones he wears from his youth indicate that the scars, passions and pains of his youth have been overcome and now he's balanced. There are two additional features of this costume we need to explore: the hood and his belt. The hood is going to function like a hat or a character's hair: it symbolizes the thoughts because our thoughts originate in our head and hair/hats are closest to the origin of our thoughts. Remember when Luke was young? He pretty much blurted out whatever came to his mind, we always knew what he was thinking; now, however, it appears that he will be keeping his thoughts mostly to himself, keeping them "under wraps" so to speak with the hood covering his head. What about the belt? The rest of his costume looks very simple, even like it could come from ancient days, from homespun or something simple like that, its natural fibers, not man-made or synthetic, etc., rather, fiber spun from some animal, domestic or alien. The belt, however, is man-made and clashes with his costume. Traditionally, belts symbolize chastity (which would make sense because he's in self-imposed exile, and exile with a bunch of prostitutes doesn't really make sense, does it?), or some vow that has been taken, and a belt (or something like it) is worn around the waist reminding the wearer of the vow taken (consider Dante and his rope belt in Inferno), and, since Luke's belt most likely holds his light saber (maybe some Jolly Ranchers or something, too) the belt reminds him of a vow he made regarding the Force (most likely to protect rather than to be aggressive). Most likely, this isn't going to come directly out in the story, however, Luke will most likely do something that violates his own vow/oath and that will be devastating to him. 
Let's discuss the beard.
Typically (and I don't mean to offend any of the male readers: this is about the strictly controlled context of art, not what you do or don't do in your morning routine, or your personal fashion statements) a man with an unshaven face will symbolize a man who is undisciplined, or has animal appetites; why? That's how the Romans distinguished themselves from the barbarians: Roman men shaved, the barbarians had beards, so Romans considered themselves civilized whereas the barbarians were men of appetites in all realms of their existence: sexual, spiritual (they weren't converts to Christianity), intellectual and even in terms of diplomacy and warfare. We know the mouth itself symbolizes the appetites (and again, this refers to just more than food, so a woman in an artistic context, for example, who wears bright red lipstick, could be interpreted as having very active appetites, from sexual to professional, depending upon the character).
So, what about Luke Skywalker?
In Man Of Steel, Clark Kent goes on a similar exile trying to discover who he is, and he has to learn discipline to be worthy of the role he hopes to fulfill for humanity.  The example of this is in the bar when Clark tries to keep one of the waitresses from being hit on, and the truck driver hitting on her dumps a drink all over Clark's head; Clark doesn't do anything in there, but when the trucker walks out, his truck has been wrapped around a telephone pole; Clark's emotions are still getting the better of him, and he has an "appetite" for revenge because of his pride. In the lower image, after Clark has discovered who he is, and what he's meant to do, his pride transcends itself and he can be humble enough to let go of petty instances like getting a drink poured over him and so his appetite for revenge is gone. In Man Of Steel, we get a traditional, straight-forward interpretation of facial hair and how it reflects a deeper level of struggle within this character.
We know also that, traditionally, a beard can be a man's status sign of wise/holy: in the ancient days, especially of Christianity, men would retire to the wilderness and the deserts, where they would renounce the world and do penance, pray and fast. Not keeping society, they wouldn't bother to shave, and this carried over into monasteries where "vanity" of shaving was shunned and men tended to grow beards, even long beards (at some early point the tonsure hair shaving was adapted because that was the mark of a slave in Roman society, so early Christian men marked themselves as the slaves of Christ in this manner of humility). So, is a beard a sign of the appetites or holiness?
Both.
Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) in Penny Dreadful, Season 1 above and Season 2 below. Typically, Sir Malcolm wears a beard, as in the image at the top; in Season 2, however, he begins courting Evelyn Poole/Madame Kali who is a witch and wants to use him to destroy Vanessa (Eva Green). To look younger, Sir Malcolm shaves his beard off and it works, he does look younger, he acts younger too. His beard symbolizes his hard-won wisdom that comes from experience, and--in effect--he's castrating himself so he can leave wisdom behind and do what he really wants to do (have sex with Mrs. Poole) even though the wiser Malcolm would refrain, knowing better from his experiences that this can only bring him trouble. In this case, the beard is the exact opposite of Man Of Steel, being a sign of wisdom rather than the appetites. Now, I would like to mention causally that it's also possible to interpret the beard as an appetite for wisdom, This is perfectly legitimate, however, wisdom is something which happens over a long, drawn-out period of time; "appetites' generally don't have patience about what it is they want, they want it and now. An example of this is Irinka Spalko (Cate Blanchett) in Indiana Jones 4 and the Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull. The Soviet commander has an appetite for unlimited knowledge, normally, that would be a good thing, however, it's an appetite for her because she's a villain and she wants to use knowledge as a weapon, so it's bad and she's punished with death for it. Indy (Harrison Ford) on the other hand, is more than intelligent, but he accumulates what comes to him through experience and doesn't use it as a weapon (yes, he occasionally wears a beard, but we aren't going to interpret that here). 
Typically, and there are exceptions, if there is a beard, it's meant to further develop the behavior patterns a character has all ready established: if a character is good, then the beard portrays his wisdom and lack of appetites; if the character is behaving according to worldly ambitions while showing no regard for others, then the beard acts as a sign of his lack of discipline and lack of wisdom. Yes, it's regrettable that it's not more iron clad, but it is one of those symbols we can rely upon to signal to us that there is more going on with a character and we need to ponder the totality of his actions.
Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane from The Hunger Games. This is an interesting concept as the beard is retained as a symbol of the appetites, but the design in the beard, which is unusual, further develops the symbol as being an appetite for certain, cultivated tastes, something of the unusual and decadent even. 
Does the first image of Luke Skywalker really tell us anything about his character? I think so. The thing about symbols is, as Carl Jung might say, they have to tap into the "collective unconscious" of the viewing audience to work, people have to be able to access the meaning of them so the characters make sense, even if it's not going to be verbally articulated by the audience at large. Whether Luke starts out still being on the side of the Force, or is there by the end of the film, the costume communicates to us that Luke has sought wisdom and limited himself on the use of the Force in trying to keep from becoming like his father; whether or not he has or will accomplish this is a huge portion of the narrative (I can't wait to see!).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--I just saw The War Room and it was quite good! Working on getting that post up next!