Showing posts from September, 2010

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new releases I've seen this week.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LeBeouf, Josh Brolin, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, and Carey Mulligan. Synopsis: This is similar to the original "Wall Street" and different at the same time. Instead of being an indictment on the greed of the 1980s, this one is more of a cautionary tale about the over speculation that caused the collapse of the financial markets in the current economy. In other words, it hits too close to home and its too depressing to watch considering that we are still in the midst of it. Additionally, it's tough to get a feel for what the filmmakers want to do with the famous Gordon Gekko (Douglas) character. Gekko sometimes preaches caution and advises that the markets are on the brink of collapse — which we all know happened — sometimes he seems like a power broker, sometimes he seems interested in reuniting with his estranged daughter Winnie (Mulligan), somet…

Finding Truth

I have had a chance to participate in "The Truth Project," a 12-week video series from Focus on the Family. It has been an interesting exploration of the values of our world, our sphere of government, and how that all compares to the Bible.
Tonight is the final installment of the Truth Project, which is a call to take what we've learned and apply it to our world.
I haven't always agreed with everything that's been said, but I feel like I have grown through considering different issues. I especially appreciated last week's session on labor, and what the series had to say about taking our talents into the world and living out our faith while in the working world.
The mission of Biola University, where I received my undergraduate degree, was to train Christians to enter the workforce. They weren't training us to be Christian accountants, reporters, teachers, or psychologists. The university sought to train us to be accountants, reporters, teachers, or psycholog…

Murder police in Detroit

I finally saw the pilot for "Detroit 187," which airs its second episode tonight. I thought I would offer a late grade/review for those thinking about tuning in.
Detroit 187 (C) — This show tries too hard to be gritty. Of course, it's hard to judge too harshly as the original premise for the show — a documentary crew follows homicide detectives in Detroit — had to be scrapped due to a real life incident. The pilot obviously bears the marks of the original premise, so it will be interesting to see how it changes. This show wants to be a more serious, gritty police drama. That fits with Detroit, one of the most economically depressed major cities in the United States. There were elements of the pilot that worked well, and the premise has potential. But the first case(s) were too obvious and I felt like the show was trying too hard to be edgy most of the time. You either are a gritty crime drama or you aren't, it can't be forced. Michael Imperioli is working pretty h…

The power of prayer

Yesterday we looked at the model for prayer offered by David in Psalm 3 as part of our look up series. It reminded me of a book I read earlier this year about the models of prayer offered by figures in the Bible and how it compares with the way we're taught to pray now.
Prayer should be a worshipful, reverent experience, but sometimes I wonder if we put too much emphasis, culturally, on the way people pray. I think Israel really touched on that yesterday. When I was reading this book on prayer earlier this year I was struck by what it said about the depictions of prophets, key Biblical figures, and even Jesus when they prayed in the Bible.
Often, now, we think about bowing our head, closing our eyes, and praying quietly to the Lord. While those are all signs of respect and may fit the desire of some when they pray, that isn't the only way to pray. Often people in the Bible looked up, they cried out to the Lord, and they were very demonstrative in their prayers. We don't thin…

Faith in Film, Round 2

It's still early in the planning stages, but I am working on a list for a second go-round of the Faith in Film class. Attached is a look at the preliminary class list. Several of the weeks were selected based on the feedback I received from those who attended the first class. I want to thank everyone for their support and am excited to hear any new feedback on the potential list included.
The only repeat is "Superman Returns," a favorite from the first session, which will be slightly altered and used as a kick-off for this new series.
Check out the list and let me know what you think. Once a list is finalized and a date selected, I will announce it on this Website.
Week 1: “Superman Returns.” Biblical Concept: A Secular Messiah Week 2: “Bruce Almighty” Biblical Concept: Playing God Week 3: “The Invention of Lying.” Biblical Concept: Dealing with the idea of God. Week 4: Screening “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” Week 5: “Narnia” vs. “Lord of the Rings” Biblical Concept:…

A look at new pilots

As I mentioned on Thursday, today I'm going to give you my grades for the new pilots I've seen. Next Saturday, I'll pick up any additional pilots I've seen as well as second episode grades for any I decided to check out more than once. Instead of using the star system — which I use for movies — these pilots will be getting letter grades. A+ is the best, F- is the worst. There are none of either...
I'll arrange the shows by the day of the week they air.
Sundays: Boardwalk Empire (A-) — This show, which airs on HBO, is about gangsters in the 1920s. According to critics I've heard, the show only gets better after the pilot episode. The pilot set the tone and introduced the characters, but there were some stylistic choices (probably because it's on HBO) that made me a little uncomfortable. Still, it was a good pilot and I have hope it will be a good series.
Mondays: Lone Star (C) — This show, which airs on FOX, might be the first show cancelled in 2010. It's not…

Spies on the Small Screen

Spy films have always been a popular genre. The fact we've had more than 20 James Bond films should be proof of that, then there's the Bourne series, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "Salt," "The Good Shepherd," and a host of others to choose from over recent years.
But spies have also found a home on the small screen. Since the turn of the century, we've had "Alias" and "The Agency" come and go, but right now did you know there are five spy shows on the air right now?
The oldest of the current spy shows is "Burn Notice," which just finished its fourth summer season. The show, which airs on USA, features a burned spy and his friends who run secret missions in Miami and help those oppressed by villains.
Next comes "Chuck," a comedy action show featuring an ordinary man that gets drawn into the spy game, working with a CIA handler and an NSA agent.
Then this summer, USA added another spy drama — "Covert Affairs"…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the movies that opened last Friday. It was actually a decent week, featuring three fairly strong new releases.
Devil Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jacob Vargas, and Bokeem Woodbine Synopsis: This film, based on a story from M. Night Shymalan, is a throw back to a classic era of thriller and horror films. This is more of a psychological drama than recent horror/thriller films. The movie also has some interesting spiritual tones, which is typical of Shymalan's work. Shymalan didn't write the script or direct this film, but his fingerprints are all over it. The film was directed by John Erick Dowdle, who delivered the film "Quarantine." This has a strong feel, and Dowdle makes the most of the material. The film is entertaining and gives you plenty to think about. Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references. Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Easy A Starring: Emma Stone, A…

Guesting on PTI

You know things are murky when you hear stories of woe and crime in your own area then hit the ESPN home page for an escape only to see a headline about a player on your favorite football team having killed himself... Not what I was expecting yesterday.
But in the midst of that, the jubilee of the coming of Fall continued when I realized that Bill Simmons was guest-hosting on PTI. For those not familiar with sports, PTI (short for Pardon The Interruption) is a sports talk show on ESPN that features a pair of sports reporters — Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon — debating the topics of the day. It's not for everyone, it's kind of like a friendly sports version of "Crossfire," but I like it.
Simmons is the best thing about sports. He is a columnist, podcaster, and GGTK (Good Guy To Know) for ESPN. I love reading his columns and listening to his podcasts with everyone from sports figures, to personal friends, to entertainment industry people. But rarely do you get a chan…

The beginning of a new season

Today is the first official day of fall. Apparently some people didn't get the memo. I gleefully (you see what I did there, it's also the premier of "Glee" tonight) announced it was the first day of fall in our staff meeting and it was met with blank stares. I guess not everyone shares my passion. That's OK, but I never forget the first official day of fall, because it's usually one of my happiest days of the year.
There are four seasons — Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. And they always begin on the 21st day of the month in which we change. Sept. 21 for fall, Dec. 21 for Winter (which is also the Solstice, the shortest day of the year), March 21 for Spring and June 21 for Summer (also a Solstice, the longest day of the year). OK, so I'm a season nerd. I accept the charge and wear it proudly.
Anyway, there may be four seasons, but they are hardly equal. In my opinion — and since it's my blog mine is the only one that really counts :) — Fall is without …

The American Experiment

Those that were at The Truth Project on Wednesday heard the interesting take on "The American Experiment" offered by Dr. Del Tackett. It was an interesting discussion and an interesting take on America.
I have a couple problems with the video, and the way it reinforces some sterotypically Christian responses to our government. First, the video was adamant that the Constitution proves that America was founded as a Christian nation based on Biblical principles. The favorite phrase used to justify that is the clause that "All men were created equal."
While that bedrock principle describes a certain vision for America and where we still strive to go, I don't think you can use that as concrete proof. Think about the Constitution. What that line really meant is all adult white males were created equal. We're talking about a document that denied people rights based on gender (ladies weren't granted the vote for more than a century) and counted people as less tha…

Embracing Realities

There was a part of today's message topic that really made me think. In the early part of the message, Graham talked about what his professional dream had been when he was younger, and how that had changed into the reality God wanted for his life. And that turned out to be better than what he'd hoped when he was younger.
I think that's certainly something I've experienced in my life. Where I am now is about a million miles away from where I thought I would be when I turned 18 and graduated from high school. During locker room this morning, we talked about what we had wanted to be and I started to think about that.
When I left high school, I was locked onto the idea of being a sports broadcaster. I loved sports and had a good voice for announcing. It seemed like a logical plan. In fact, I got my degree in Radio, Television, and Film, with an emphasis in Broadcast Journalism. And there are things I liked about broadcasting. I interned for two summers with KSBY, and I could…

The Fall Season, Pt. 2

Yesterday I got ready for the new fall season — which began in part a couple weeks ago and really takes off beginning on Monday, Sept. 20 — by looking at three new shows I think look interesting. Today, I'll wrap up this mini-primer by listing five returning shows I'm excited about.
1. Chuck — Mondays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 20. (NBC)
What can I say, I think "Chuck" is hilarious. It is kind of a spy spoof, based on an average guy who worked in the tech department of a "Best Buy" type electronics store, that's thrust into the spy life. The show kicks off its fourth season on Monday. The first three season are now available on DVD. I think the show has a good blend of action, drama, character, and humor. It's not the toughest show to follow, but it's an enjoyable hour.
2. House — Mondays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 20. (FOX)
"House" is a show about a cranky but brilliant diagnostician and his team at Princeton Plainsbrough Hospital in New Je…

The Fall Season, Pt. 1

I love the fall season. It's a time when favorite shows return with new seasons, always beginning full of promise. And it's a time when new shows begin, each hoping to capture our imagination. Over the next two days, I'm going to get you ready for the new fall season with some shows I'm excited about. Today will feature three new shows that look promising, while tomorrow I'll give you five returning shows I like a lot.
Now on to the newbies! There aren't as many new shows that look promising this year, but there are a couple that could be interesting.
1. Boardwalk Empire — Sunday nights at 9.m. beginning on Sept. 19. (HBO) I wasn't a big "Sopranos" fan, but this new series from HBO looks intriguing. It comes from one of the producers of "The Sopranos" and director Martin Scorsese, who helmed the pilot episode set for Sunday night. The show stars Steve Buscemi, a wonderful character actor, and is set in the 1920s in Atlantic City. It focuses…

Now Playing

Here is a look at the major release from last week!

Resident Evil: After Life Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, and Shawn Roberts Synopsis: This is the fourth film in the "Resident Evil" series, but the first in 3D. As every other film in 2010 has been in 3D, I think that stops being exciting about now. Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson first launched "Resident Evil" in 2002. The series has been successful for a couple reasons: first, it is based on a video game, a fact that usually serves as a death knell for films. Second, the films have gotten better as the series has pushed forward. Anderson wrote the screenplay for all four films, but "After Life" is the first he's directed since doing the original. And that is a problem. Anderson crafts an incredible visual style, but that is essentially his only focus with the films. As a result, the performances are a little stiff and the story leaves something to be desired. That was less …

Helping the helpless

Last Sunday, we had an interesting situation. There was a vehicle parked in our parking lot that appeared to house some itinerant people passing through the area. It was Sunday morning and crowds were arriving for church. Someone suggested we should call the police out to speak with the people about moving on.
That struck me as odd, so I said no. After all, they weren't harming any one, just looking for a spot to rest. I started to think about what Jesus would have done, concluding the last thing he would have done would be to call the police. But that's what our society tells us we should do.
I was fascinated when Graham told me the story of another church in another area of the country that actually sued the city because they had forcibly removed homeless people from the steps of the church. I admired that as a rare display of practicing Christian love in a tangible way.
I will never forget the story my mom told me once about why she and my dad left a church they had been atten…

Football hangover

By the time the second Monday Night Football game came on last night, I was a little gridironed out. Don't get me wrong, I told everyone who would listen that Sunday was my "day of jubilee" because professional football was back, but after nine hours of games and two more hours watching highlights again, I was full.
The first week of the NFL season has become a bit like Thanksgiving dinner. It's more than you want spread over a longer period than it should be and when it's over, you need a break. I was pumped Thursday as the season began. Then I watched high school highlights Friday, college highlights on Saturday, games all day on Sunday, breakdowns of the games on Sunday night and Monday morning, then more games Monday night. That's a lot of football. I also sprinkled in some Madden.
But that's what football is in America — event television. It's so engrained as part of Americana that when I was reading my text book chapter on culture for my class, th…

Looking Up

"They claim their labors are to build a heaven, yet their heaven is populated by horrors." — Dr. Manhattan, "Watchmen" (2009).
I think that quote is kind of emblematic of our world today, which is why I like the idea of our new "Look Up" series so much. I think Graham really hit the nail on the head when he talked about the idea that everything in this world serves to pull our focus down.
When I first heard the quote from "Watchmen," that's what I thought about. In the human-centric society that exists today, much of the focus is on how we can build this place into what we dream. Our labors are to build a heaven, but when we take our focus off God and think we are capable of creating that reality ourselves, we inevitably fall short.
Sadly, it seems to take a crisis of some sort for us to reframe our gaze. I was watching the show "Supernatural" the other day and one of the main characters, Dean (Jensen Ackles), was at the end of his ro…

A Day We'll Never Forget

Today marks the ninth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history. It's hard to believe it has been nine years.
I will never forget where I was on that day. It was early in my junior year of college and the first thing I saw that morning was the collapse of the World Trade Center. It was a time of fear, sorrow, and anger. Nine years later, sadly, we still haven't shaken those feelings.
A great deal of controversy has swirled this week about a Florida church that planned to burn a Quran today. The holy book of the Islamic faith, the burning of a Quran was meant to be a symbolic blast at the evil of Islam tied to the tragic events nine years ago. All I could think was that it was tragically misguided.
Those that sought to make a political and religious statement by destroying the World Trade Center committed a terrible act. But it does nothing to honor the memory of those that died or to honor our call as Christians to react with hate. Hate returned with hate…

Thoughts on "The State"

I've had the opportunity to participate in the Wednesday night video series "The Truth Project." It's been an interesting exploration of faith and our world. Wednesday night's video focused on "The State."
One of the most striking things to me in the presentation was near the end, when the series offered a list of traits that characterized Rome right before its fall. The list included the following:
* A mounting love of show and luxury.
* An obsession with sex, especially homosexual activities.
* An increased desire to live off the state.
* freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity.
When looking at that list, I couldn't help but think that many of those same things could be said about the United States right now. Obviously many of those in attendance felt the same, as our group discussion illuminated. One of those points in particular led to a discussion of how the state as it is currently construct…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the films I saw last week. The common theme that bonded them was violence, pointlessness, and unexpectedly high levels of random nudity. In short, we must be in the dregs of early September.
The American Starring: George Clooney Synopsis: I could list some of the other actors in this film but decided against it for a couple reasons. First, none of them are well known domestically, so there is a chance we could protect their anonymity from the let down this film was. And second, this film is really all about Clooney, and it's not really good, so there's no point to belabor the point. This film could be described in one word — tedious. Clooney is a gifted performer, but it's hard to tell what he was trying to convey with this role. The film is about an assassin who is being hunted by some unknown bad guys. He fills his days by working out, tinkering on a sniper rifle, enjoying some social time with a local priest, and visiting a prostitute. That's it. F…

America's Game

With all due respect to baseball fans out there, America's real pass time is the National Football League. Weekends in the fall are booked for many guys with high school games Friday nights, college games on Saturdays and pro games on Sundays. There can really be no doubt that America is a football nation.
I am one of the proud football fans out there. I love football. I have no trouble getting lost in games on Sunday afternoons and evenings, and I find myself excited as it gets closer to opening day. It's fair to say that Sunday — the first week of the NFL season — will be practically an unofficial holiday. And tomorrow night, when the NFL season begins with Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings battling Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints, it will be nuts.
In fact, when I saw an ad today for a Templeton Chamber of Commerce mixer scheduled for tomorrow night, I predicted a total attendance of three. And I was only kind of joking. In America, football…

Over reaching

It's been said that a man can't serve two masters, and I think the same could be said of a film that tries too hard to live in two worlds. "Machete," the latest from director Robert Rodriguez, falls into that category.
Rodriguez is a master at a certain a certain type of over-the-top, "B" action film. "Machete" began as a trailer in the feature "Grindhouse." It was kind of a joke and send up of the genre. But that trailer became so popular, it spurred him to make a feature-length film.
Now "Machete" should have followed the "Grindhouse" model — being a modern day throwback to the 1970s exploitation films. And this film, which stars Danny Trejo as the titular character, does attempt to capture some of those elements. But Rodriguez doesn't stop there, he crams the plot with a heavy-handed message about illegal immigration that can't help but feel out of place.
Illegal immigration has become an increasingly tense is…

Fantasy Games

I have never played Fantasy Football, but in about 42 minutes I won't be able to say that. I have listened to podcasts, considered the potential enjoyment of it, but never waded in.
So this year, when a friend asked me to join a league, I decided to give it a go. I've always loved playing video games, so I figured this could be fun too. Then I logged onto the site and saw how much research and work it is.
People spend hours planning, drafting, and tinkering with their teams. One of my favorite scenes in the movie "Knocked Up" comes when Paul Rudd's character heads out saying he's going to work. His wife is suspicious he's having an affair and trails him to this house. When she bursts in, it turns out he's attending his Fantasy Baseball draft. It is a funny scene and a little too true.
Of course, my problem is still that I pick too much with my heart and not enough with my head. I don't know where this adventure is going, but after tonight's draft…

Finishing Well

The final topic in our Journey series was the idea of finishing well. I think this is a big part of the Christian walk. One of my favorite sayings is the Christian walk is a marathon, not a sprint. And the only way to complete that marathon is to finish well.
Think about the history of those who were early leaders in our faith. They endured trials, hardships, and prison cells. But they stayed the course. That's what makes Paul's letter to Timothy meaningful. Paul had really run the race well, staying true to the cause to the end.
One of my favorite examples of finishing well is the story of William Wilberforce. His story is depicted in the film "Amazing Grace."
Wilberforce was a politician and a devout believer. He believed that the slave trade in England violated God’s law because it failed to show God’s love to those in bondage. He felt God put it on his heart to be an agent of change. He tirelessly campaigned to abolish slavery in Britain. He gave impassioned speech…

Opening Day

The college football season got under way this weekend. It always feels like a sure sign of excitement when legitimate football begins. Though we're still five days from the start of the pro football season, the college games counted this weekend and there were plenty of exciting games to choose from.

Heading into the first Saturday of the season, it seemed that the matchup between 21st ranked LSU and 18th ranked North Carolina would be a marquee affair. It should have been, but then a scandal erupted that took some of the shine of North Carolina's luster. Typically when you think of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, you think of men's basketball. After all, that's the school that was home to Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Dean Smith.

But now it looked as though this would be a break through season for the gridiron Tar Heels. But a scandal involving illegal benefits cost North Carolina greatly. A group of 13 players — including seven defensive starters — wer…

The Golden State

When people think of California, they think of beaches, major metropolitan areas, Disneyland, and Hollywood. It is considered a large, diverse area full of concrete freeways and sunny skies.
California has all those things, but I think sometimes it's easy to forget the state includes so much more. Today I traveled to Merced for a men's retreat. The nearly three-hour trip from Paso Robles to Merced takes you through the California valley, where you see part of the state that is key, but is often overlooked.
Traveling the lonely two-lane highways between home and this mecca in the valley, I saw many farms with the thousands of laborers in this state toiling in this hot September sun. I think it's easy to forget that California didn't get to be one of the largest economies in the world thanks to Hollywood and Disney Land alone, but rather with a big assist from our agrarian roots.
I think that's a nice analogy to faith too. There is a lot of emphasis put on corporate wor…

Now Playing

Here's a look at films I've seen this week.

Get Low Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, and Bill Cobbs Synopsis: This is one of the best films I've seen this year. To this point in 2010, my favorite film is "Inception," which I've written about several times. That film really focused on how the burden of guilt can weigh someone down in their lives. In many ways, "Get Low" focuses on the same idea. The film features a great lead performance from Robert Duvall and some excellent work from Murray, Black, Spacek and Cobbs in key support roles. The film centers on a man who, after 40 years in seclusion, seeks to have a funeral party while he's still alive. Most believe it's a chance for Felix (Duvall) to revel in people's remembrances of him, but really he wants to have the event to unburden his soul. There are some touching moments and some humorous moments, but Felix's grand pronouncement at the end is handled …

Faith in Film, Participant Suggestions part 2

Yesterday I offered the first half of a response to a participant suggestion during our "Faith in Film" class, which wrapped up on August 23. The participant suggestion was a look at "Lord of the Rings" and "The Chronicles of Narnia." In yesterday's post (Faith in Film, Participant Suggestions), I offered some thoughts on the Christian themes in "Lord of the Rings." Today I'll conclude a look at that question with some thoughts on the Christian themes in "The Chronicles of Narnia."
I think there is a principle difference in the way both series are looked at by viewers. With "Lord of the Rings," the three films, based on the three books, are basically one continuous story, and you really have to evaluate the whole work on that basis. "The Chronicles of Narnia" is a bit different. With that book series, while I think many are familiar with "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," the first part of the…