Life Through the Lens: How much is too much praise?

“There are two kinds of pain in this world: the pain that hurts and the pain that alters.”

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What’s the deal with praise? At times, it seems a natural craving. At other times, it seems insatiable and selfish. It can provide a healthy-boost when digested properly or a gluttonous-feast that leaves you hungrier than when you started. It is a tricky, little thing – praise.

Here in America, we have a praise-problem. We seem to place praise above worth and value. We tend to seek admiration above benefit and assistance. We don’t mind doing good…but we better get the credit for it. Instead of allowing the “spotlight” to aid in organic and lasting growth, we distort the “spotlight” and wilt upon its removal. We see it this way: you are either RELEVANT, or you are trivial. You are either on people’s lips, or you are forgotten.

Who doesn’t like to hear their name elevated? Who doesn’t like to bask in the chorus of compliment? I have often found myself perverting praise, allowing it to be the desired-end instead of a pleasant byproduct. It overrides and spoils even the best of intentions. With all talent, with all sacrifice, with all charity comes this enticing phantom of praise.

To me, one of the most difficult tenets of Christianity is the call to deflect praise. Instead of accepting and corrupting the glory, we are called to redirect it all back to the One truly worthy. Sister, that ain’t easy! For anyone who has allowed praise to deform and mislead, though, it makes complete sense. My tiny brain gets drunk on just a whiff of praise; deflecting it might be my only chance at temperance. In a world hoarding praise and staggering around intoxicated by its effect, politely say “thank you” and GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE!

Both movies below deal with praise. The Equalizer 2 (2018) shows a man seeking to do good for good’s sake, shielding himself at all costs from the praise that quickly follows. Life has coldly taught him that goodness is its own reward – all else is vanity. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018) also deals with pride…but this time from the deceptive depths of a seeker: Robin. Robin is blinded by the quest for his own movie, to see his name in lights, to hear his name celebrated. Will he see the error of his ways in time to stop the evil Slade? Stay tuned to find out!

The Equalizer 2 comes four years after its predecessor. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has now created a life for himself. After personal loss and confusion came this clarity: there will always be people who need help. Life is not empty when this realization is reached. McCall now spends his time helping those who cannot help themselves. The exploited and abused have a champion.

McCall never misses an opportunity to serve, now mentoring a young neighbor named Miles (Ashton Sanders). Although most would deem him “a lost cause,” McCall sees in Miles something extraordinary…it just hasn’t been fostered and encouraged. McCall’s life is dramatically altered when a friend and confidant is murdered. His connection and history with her now places him directly in harm’s-way. Instead of hiding, he prefers to play offense. McCall will stop at nothing until everyone responsible is held accountable for their deeds.

Denzel Washington is one of my all-time-favorites. His talent has created some of film’s most memorable characters. In his forty-one-year career, he has starred in ZERO sequels…until this one. To be an A-list actor and to shy away from sequels was quite the accomplishment. It is quite sad that The Equalizer 2 is his first sequel…mainly because it was so unnecessary.

My main issue does not come in the performances, though: Denzel carries himself well, and Sanders is, once again, magnetic. My main issue resides with director Antoine Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk. Instead of being driven by ideas and innovation, they seem driven by flash and veneer. The directing was passionless, the writing unexciting. Most of the film bordered on clichÈ and predictable.

All in all, the movie has moments of immense-heart but still more moments of fabricated-adrenaline.

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REPORT CARD: C

Comment: Enjoyable but lacks ambition

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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies piggy-backs on the Cartoon Network series now airing its fifth season. In this stand-alone story, Robin and the gang continue their shenanigans (dancing, rapping, flatulating…oh, and fighting crime). Life is good and consciences are clear…until they are called out as being the jokes of the superhero-world. What makes a superhero credible? A movie about them – that’s what.

In a world where every superhero gets a movie about them, the Teen Titans have been seemingly snubbed. Not only does Batman get seven movies all to himself…but the studios are now marketing movies about Alfred…and the Bat-car…and the Bat-belt. Basically anything but Robin and the gang. If they seek a Hollywood Blockbuster, they must find themselves a nemesis; no one will take them serious until then. Enter the wicked SLADE! Or is that Deadpool? No, it’s Slade. If they can defeat him, their movie is guaranteed.

I am not exaggerating when I say this: this movie might be the funniest superhero movie of all time. I laughed from the beginning credits until the after-credit scene. They have approached the “superhero movie” with an air of self-deprecation that breathes so refreshingly. No one is safe from their wit, either: not DC movies, not Marvel movies, not even Back to the Future! Because they don’t take themselves too seriously, they’ll step on their own toes and not flinch.

I was amazed at the movie’s humor, both silly and smart. I was impressed by the movie’s reach, visually interesting as well as some great, original music. Even the film’s rationality is comical: you aren’t judged by your deeds…you are measured by your movie. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a special experience – if laughter is the best medicine…then I’ll have to bill them through my insurance for treatments rendered.

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REPORT CARD: A

Comment: As funny as any movie I’ve seen this year

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