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Showing posts from November, 2010

Waiting for the End

I've been seeing a popular bumper sticker out lately that reads — "Is It 2012 Yet?" This, of course, is a reference to the Mayan calendar prediction that the world will end in December of 2012. And it fits perfectly with people's fascination with the end of the world.
I remember when I was in college, in the fall of 1999, and all the Y2K madness was going on. One night in December, just before Christmas break, my friend and I walked to the nearby theater and saw "End of Days." (Of course end of the world films are always popular during such periods). Walking back to campus, we couldn't help but wonder if the world would be plunged into chaos on New Year's eve.
I remember people buying bottled water, canned food, and pulling out all the cash they could just after Christmas. Everyone braced for the worst — and nothing happened. Looking back now, it seems silly. But at the time, it seemed so real.
Now we're in it again. With two years to go before the…

Dropping the Ball

This will come as no surprise to those who know me well, but I watch a lot of football games on TV. I watch at least two games, sometimes more (more than one at once) on Sundays, and I watch the highlights in between. I love the NFL. But there are things that bother me.
Yesterday, I noticed a lot of receivers dropping the ball in clutch situations. Sometimes it was good — a Ram receiver dropped the ball to give Denver new life — and sometimes it wasn't — Daniel Graham dropped a pass in the clutch squandering that new life for Denver. Sometimes it was pivotal — DeSean Jackson dropped a pass in the end zone as the Eagles comeback fell short — and sometimes it wasn't — several New Orleans Saints dropped passes from Drew Brees but the team rallied to win anyway.
But none was bigger than the drop by Steve Johnson in Buffalo. In that game Johnson — who was WIDE open — dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass. Everyone in the stadium thought the game was over, but it continued. …

A Defining Weekend

With the College Football regular season coming to an end, this was set up to be the biggest weekend for those hoping to get to the national title game. Auburn faced rival Alabama, Oregon faced Arizona, TCU hoped to stay perfect, and Boise State faced a stiff test in Nevada.
Going into the weekend, the big question was whether or not Boise State and or TCU would get a chance to play for the title. Both were undefeated, but from non-BCS conference that didn't afford them much respect.
Early in the day, it looked as though Auburn might make things more interesting when they fell behind 24-0 to Alabama. Instead, Auburn battled back behind embattled quarterback Cam Newton and pulled off the 28-27 win to all but assure them of a shot at the title.
Oregon, similarly, held serve and appears a lock for the title game.
TCU won their game big, but appears to be the odd team out, again...
Then there's Boise State. Riding the nation's longest winning streak, Boise has been critical darling…

Black Friday

Those that doubt that we're living in the most consumer-driving culture in history need look no further than Black Friday. Black Friday is the day when millions of Americans begin the ever expansive process of getting ready for Christmas.
No, Black Friday isn't about preparing your hearts for the season, decorating the house, or even making holiday plans. It's about spending money you don't have to buy tons of things people don't need all in the name of tradition. Now, it might sound like I'm down on the whole thing, which is somewhat true, but like many others I was out there in the cold early morning hours shopping.
I first started waking up at the crack of dawn — or rather before dawn was ready to begin — a few years ago. Looking in the enormous amount of circulars that accompany the Thanksgiving day paper, I saw some cool deals and thought, why not? I was totally unprepared for the kind of chaos I was about to embrace.
Each year since, though I've gone, I&…

Being Thankful

I've been thinking about thankfulness a lot this week. I guess it comes with the season :) That was also the focus of our message on Wednesday night.
Yesterday I felt so blessed in my life. I had a great day with family, I watched football, and I played with the most precious dog in the world — Keeper — and all my parents other pets. It was a great day to rest, relax, and reflect.
On days like that, it's easy to be thankful for everything I have, and every opportunity I have. But I think the true discipline of thankfulness comes when you can be truly thankful when things go wrong. I have had many times in my life that I would consider low points. Those times when anger, frustration, and confusion lead to despair about where my path is leading.
And each time the Lord has used those times in my life to redirect me toward the path He has for me. That's what I'm truly thankful for. What are you thankful for?

Now Playing

Here's a look at the movies, or rather movie, I saw this week. The penultimate chapter in the Harry Potter saga!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Ralph Fiennes Synopsis: Endings are hard, especially when it comes to beloved film series. You have to find a way to wrap up the story that’s compelling, advances the relationships established in previous films and provides some sort of closure. After nearly a decade on screen, it seems hard to believe that “Harry Potter” is coming to an end. But if the first half of the series’ final chapter, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” is any indication, this series has found the right way to say goodbye. Some have compared “Deathly Hallows Part 1” to the “Harry Potter” equivalent of “Empire Strikes Back.” While the film doesn’t end in quite as perilous a position, it certainly sets the stage for an epic final installment in July. As is to be expected, little gets res…

Movies to watch with the Family

With Thanksgiving less than 24-hours away, most of us will be logging some family time. Nothing breaks up that time better than watching a good movie (or, you know, football). So, in honor of our prolonged family time I thought I'd continue my look at favorite films by genre with some family dramas.
As always, films only fit on one of these lists. If you have other favorites, feel free to add a comment and, as always, Happy Thanksgiving!
5. The Goonies (1985) This is a fun movie. Produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Richard Donner, there are a lot of reasons why this movie is a classic. Though its 25 years old, the film continues to be a favorite among teens and young adults — Biola actually showed it every year at some point when I was in college. The film also has a pretty decent cast — Josh Brolin, Sean Astin, Martha Plimpton, and Corey Feldman. Who doesn't enjoy watching a group of teens track down One-Eyed Willie's treasure ship?
4. Big Fish (2003) This is probably my…

Green Bay Coach Killers?

A lot has been made this week of the fact that, for the second time in three weeks, the Green Bay Packers played and blew out a pre-season NFL favorite that was slumping, leading to that team's coach being fired on Monday.
First, it was a Sunday night beat down of Wade Phillips and the Cowboys. The Cowboys showed Phillips the door, and they've won two straight games to improve to 3-7...
Then, Sunday, the Packers delivered a 31-3 statement win in Minnesota, leading the Vikings to can Brad Childress because the team slumped to 3-7 and lost all hope of a Super Bowl berth.
So there are two questions, I guess. First, did Green Bay really lead those coaches to be canned. And second, can we change the schedule so that Josh McDaniels and Denver play the Packers on Sunday?
While there's little possibility of the second question being answered in my favor, it's pretty clear that the loss to Green Bay was little more than the final nail in the coffin for both Phillips and Childress. …

A Western Feel

I saw a couple trailers last week that reminded me that, while it isn't a major part of our cinematic landscape as it once was, westerns are still alive. This Christmas we're getting the Coen Brothers take on "True Grit," starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Then, this summer, we're getting the strange genre mash up "Cowboys & Aliens" starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig.
That got me thinking about westerns I like, so I thought I would post my top five. Again, these lists are personal favorites by genre. This isn't my favorite genre, so I tend to gravitate toward newer films. And, as always, films only appear once on my lists by genre.
Here are my five favorite westerns in ascending order:
5. Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) This film from director Robert Rodriguez continues his El Mariachi series with Antonio Banderas. I happen to like this one the best because I think the action, comedy, and story work the best. That could also be because it …

Facing tests

The final part of "The Lord's Prayer" focused on facing temptations and tests. The prayer concludes with "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Kind of a heavy idea, but the Bible talks about facing tests a number of times, each time reminding us that no matter what we face, we don't face it alone.
One of the verses I always come back to when considering this topic is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." As Graham discussed this morning, it's not temptation that's the sin, it's acting on those temptations.
Often, those that stand firm in the face of adversity experience it as a growth opportunity. James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trial…

Linkin Park's latest album

It's been a long week. Sometimes, when it feels like you have a million things going on around you, it can get draining. One of the places where I have tried to catch my breath this week has been my alone time driving back-and-forth from one destination to another in my car.
In September, I got Linkin Park's latest CD, "A Thousand Suns," and listened to it for a couple weeks on end. Then I took a break. This week, I went back to it and I have been struck by how much I enjoy several of the songs on there. One of the songs, "Iridescent," has beautiful lyrics that kind of spoke to me this week. So I thought I would share them below, maybe they will speak to you too.
When you were standing in the wake of devastation When you were waiting on the edge of the unknown And with the cataclysm raining down Your insides crying, "Save me now" You were there, impossibly alone.
Do you feel cold and lost in desperation? You build up hope, but failures all you've know…

Harry Potter's "Empire?"

I read an interesting review of "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1" that compared the film to "Empire Strikes Back," regarded as both the best and darkest of the original "Star Wars" films.
As I watched the "Deathly Hallows" — a great film that fans of the series will love to see — I couldn't help but think of the comparison. It makes sense, for a lot of reasons.
What makes "Empire" stand out is the way it took the story. The middle part of the series, it ups the stakes for the principle characters, establishes the growing relationship between two of the leads, and takes a darker tone than the other films. It leaves the heroes in a precarious position, eliciting a strong emotional reaction from the audience.
That certainly fits "Deathly Hallows Part 1" in a lot of ways. The film puts the principle characters — characters we've come to know and love over six films — in greater peril, the film has a darker tone, …

Now Playing

Here's a look at the movies I saw this week. We are in the midst of a busy month. Three new releases opened last week (all reviewed here), with "Harry Potter" and "The Next Three Days" coming this weekend and FOUR new releases Thanksgiving weekend. So, if you want to see something that opened recently ("Due Date," "Megamind," "Morning Glory," or "Unstoppable"), you might want to do it soon.
Whatever you do, don't see "Skyline." More on that in this post...
Megamind Starring the voice talents of: Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill Synopsis: Another animated film, another 3D film, and another cartoon celebrating the antihero. Must be 2010! There are some amusing moments in this film, and the filmmakers do a nice job putting it together, but "Megamind" is not dynamic. The best animated film released this year was "Toy Story 3," and this movie doesn't come close to that level. …

Film Series

With the next "Harry Potter" film less than 48-hours away, I thought it would be a good time to continue my list of favorites with the category of film series. This is a tough category, but basically the ones I've picked fall under the old adage "the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Meaning, taken collectively, these films are better as a series than having any one individual film represent them.
Obviously there are many trilogies and film series, but some contain great films that stand out better on their own. Take, for example, "The Matrix." As a stand alone film, "The Matrix" is ground breaking. As part of a series, that luster gets diminished a bit.
The series on this list work better when they are thought of as one continuing narrative — it's like the film version of a TV show. Many episodes, one real story.
As with the other lists, films will appear only once. Here is the films I think work best as part of a ser…

MICHAEL VICK!

So, my first year playing fantasy football has been an exciting experience. At times it's been wonderful, at times it's been challenging, and then there was last night. To fully appreciate this story, you have to go back to the beginning.
When I drafted my team (dubbed Bronco Glory in honor of my favorite team) I was really sick, had never played before, and was a little too enamored of players and teams I like. But, somehow, I've muddled through.
About four weeks into the season, I was offered a trade — Greg Jennings, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, for Michael Vick, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, straight up. I also had Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd, Andre Johnson, and Miles Austin at receiver, with only Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler to carry my quarterback slots, so I accepted.
The first week I had Vick, I left him on the bench. He posted 32 points and I lost by about six points while McNabb and Cutler combined to kill me. Next week, I benched McNabb and …

Forgive because we are Forgiven

Forgiveness was at the heart of our discussion of The Lord's Prayer Sunday because forgiveness is at the heart of the message shared by Jesus. That makes sense given that the idea of forgiveness and redemption seems to be something we crave, seek, and feel we don't have as a society.
One of the filmmakers who I feel like best captures this soul craving is M. Night Shymalan. Shymalan's films have always been powerful to me because from "The Sixth Sense" through "The Happening" the story was always the same, but the lense through which it is told changes. His stories are all around a central character or characters who are searching for redemption. Along with that comes the idea of meaningful reconciliation.
One of the best examples of that is "Signs." Not only does Mel Gibson's character have to come to terms with his anger toward God, but he also has to develop some sort of reconciliation with Ray Reddy (played by Shymalan), the man who was …

Our Daily Bread

Today we continued our look at The Lord's Prayer with the tough middle section. "Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." That's truly a loaded section that provides plenty of food for thought. Today I thought I would tackle the first half of that, about praying for our daily needs.
As a longtime Christian I understand the principle that we are not to worry about the future but trust that the Lord will provide for our needs daily. But that's not always so easy for me.
I have always admired people that have the ability to live in the moment. For me, I have a tendency to think about the long term plan and consequences. Sometimes that is good, but sometimes it can leave you trapped by self-doubt and worry.
In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I don't think it's a coincidence that this admonition ap…

Sci-Fi Classics

Given how bad "Skyline" is, I figured now was a good time to continue my look at films I like in different genres with Sci-Fi films. This gives you a few options to consider as an alternative to "Skyline."
Again, the rules of these lists are films can only appear on one list, so though they may have many genres I pick the one I think makes the most sense. Picks appear in ascending order.
5. Transformers (2007) I told you I like Michael Bay movies. I think this is one of his best action films, and not just because it repeatedly uses Linkin Park songs. (Though, on a side note, it's hard not to wonder if this film was specifically targeted to me). This film could fall into a lot of genres (action, comic-book, toy-based film, comedy, etc.), but I picked Sci-Fi because it is about alien robot warriors that that the shape of Chevrolet vehicles. I think that seems like a fair assessment. This was one of the gems of the summer of 2007 and remains a fun movie to watch.
4. D…

How to Spot a Turkey

This week the movie "Skyline" opens. You probably don't know that much about it — and that's by design. The ads have been nebulous, the trailer was inconclusive, and the producers decided not to screen it for critics.
And there's a reason for that. It's a total turkey. Take it from me and don't let yourself suffer through it.
But that got me to thinking, how do you spot these terrible films before stepping into the theater. I came up with three ways to know if you're about to head into some depressing film territory.
1. The film isn't screened for critics. This isn't a total kiss of death, but it's never a good sign. Usually it means the producers think they'll get a terrible review and they want to get as many viewers (suckers) as possible on opening weekend. Some good films didn't get screened pre-release, but those are the diamonds in the rough.
2. The trailer doesn't tell you anything. This was a dead giveaway for "Skyline…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw last week.
Due Date Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Zack Galifianakis, Michelle Monahan, and Jamie Foxx Synopsis: This film reunites Galifianakis and "Hangover" director Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the screenplay. This film is funny and makes the best use of its talented cast members. Downey and Galifianakis make for a fun comedy duo even though they would appear to be a mismatch. The film also makes the best use of its cameo appearances, including a fun one from Foxx and from Danny McBride. But this movie lacks the heart of "The Hangover," and lacks some of the resonant power of that film. Though this is a fun, funny movie, it's lacking something to make it an instant classic. Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual content. Verdict: Three stars out of four.
For Colored Girls Starring: Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, and …

Veterans' Day movies

In honor of Veterans' Day (which is tomorrow in case you weren't aware), I thought I would list my favorite war/soldier movies. I have been going through different genres and, eventually, I will probably go through my favorite movies of all time regardless of genre. Also, with these lists, once a film has been used, I eliminate it from other categories. So for movies that fit in multiple genres, I pick the one that I think fits best.
So, here are my picks in ascending order:
5. Taps (1981) An underrated military school saga. Features compelling performances from a young Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, and Tom Cruise. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is, in 1981 when the film was made, the three actors didn't have defined roles, so all are seemingly playing against the character types they get now. That makes it fascinating and compelling. And for those that think Cruise only showed flashes of his acting ability late in his career, look again.
4. Schindler's List …

Talking to Kids

So last week I got to give the message at the high school group. The message was really an adaptation of a lesson I did in "Faith in Film," on "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." I had given the message once before, was secure in my points, and thought I knew what to expect.
Of course it didn't go exactly as I drew it up. One of the things I love about speaking to youth is the unpredictable nature of it all. Kids minds work in mysterious ways, and that always makes for some fun questions. You never get what you expect, and I certainly got some great, unexpected responses last Wednesday.
But what was really encouraging was how much these kids wanted to dig into these topics, find some answers, and really see what the Bible is all about. It was encouraging.
Some have asked why talk about "Emily Rose." Well, I think the film brings up some themes that all Christians should consider. In fact, the film was written and directed by a Christian and is very intentional…

Bye Week Blues

You know your team is having a poor season when you lose confidence in them during the bye week. Welcome to the 2010 Denver Broncos!
Denver started 6-0 last season and finished 2-8 to fall out of playoff contention. This year, record-wise, the team never gave me that much hope. They leapt out to a 2-6 start. But what has been hard is the fact that, with the exception of the farce against the Raiders, Denver has competed in every game, giving fans just enough hope that their eventual in game collapse becomes that much more depressing. Which led to the following joke exchange with my mom on Oct. 31.
Mom: Who does Denver play next week?
Me: They have a bye, which I'm counting as another loss...of confidence.
I wasn't serious, but maybe I should have been. It's hard not to see how the team's lack of leadership and planning is starting to kill them. This week, though the Broncos didn't have a game, they took plenty of blows. First, my favorite sports pundit, Bill Simmons, r…

Sports Movies

This was the second saddest weekend of the NFL season for me. The saddest is the week between the championship games and the Super Bowl, when all you have to watch is the Pro Bowl and are faced with the cold realization that the season is almost over. But next to that is my team's bye week, which was today. Though I enjoyed watching Michael Vick stick it to Peyton Manning and the Colts while leading my fantasy team to victory, bye weeks are also a good time to take in a movie. Especially with this blissful winter weather!
So in honor of the bye week, I thought I'd continue my list of personal favorites with my favorite sports movies. Here are the top five in ascending order:
5. Miracle (2004) Do you believe in miracles! That call from Al Michaels remains a classic, as does the 1980 victory over the U.S.S.R. that the United States posted at Lake Placid during the winter Olympics. This film — starring Kurt Russell as coach of the squad — celebrates that team and their glorious run …

From Stage to Screen

There have been a number of stage plays that have been translated to the big screen, but it can be a tricky thing. I know, that sounds obvious, but I couldn't help but think about that last night as I watched Tyler Perry's cinematic adaptation of "For Colored Girls."
Based on a stage production written by a poet in the 1970s, there are a number of weighty themes in "For Colored Girls." While the film boasts strong performances and a tough but powerful story, there are elements about its construction that don't work as a film.
The thing is that audiences give a lot of leeway to stage productions. You have to use your imagination a lot to fill in the gaps, and you expect all the characters to come together in one or two static locations in a play because they are limited to the stage. But the leeway is greater than that.
In a stage play we accept that characters are going to have long, dramatic monologues and that they may give speeches to the audience. It&#…

Looking for Laughs

Last week I listed my five favorite horror movies and said I would be listing off favorites in a variety of genres in the coming weeks. Well, with "Due Date" opening in theaters today, I thought it was a good time for me to list off comedies I keep coming back to. Let's hope "Due Date" delivers the laughs and these deliver a few chuckles for you at home.
First, I'll say comedy isn't my favorite genre. I don't think I can accurately provide a formula for why comedies hit for me or don't, but I think it has to do with the people, the story, the situation, and my mood.
But here's five I can watch over and over again in ascending order.
5. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) I love the Coen Brothers, but I am not a typical Coen Brothers fan. The comedies they've made that I love aren't usually the most popular, while the comedies they have made that are critical favorites don't always resonate with me. I think "Hudsucker" is a good exam…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new films I saw this week including a new documentary that should be on everyone's Top 10 list in 2010.
Paranormal Activity 2 Starring: Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, Katie Featherston, and Molly Ephraim Synopsis: Here is where I am torn — I applaud the filmmakers for not taking the cheap and easy road in making these films, but I didn't like the film all that much. I generally like the horror genre, I have since I was young. But I can't stand what has happened to the genre for the most part. The recent wave of horror films — yes, "Saw" franchise I am looking at you — have been fairly graphic and depressing, but they haven't been all that scary. A great horror film builds up suspense. It's not about how graphic what you see depicted is, it's about how afraid you are of what you haven't yet seen or what's coming. That is something that "Paranormal Activity" understands, and the sequel continues that trend. I just…

A Nation Divided

It has been said "A house divided against itself cannot stand." How about a nation? Not likely.
We have been looking at "The Lord's Prayer" as part of our new series at Highlands Church. The second section we'll be looking at is "Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven." I was considering that yesterday and what that really means.
When we think about the Kingdom of Heaven, what makes it different from Earth now. The first thing I thought about was unity. There is so much anger and division in the world today. The strife between peoples is, at times, suffocating. When I think about Heaven, and the fulfillment of the Lord's will on Earth, I think about the unity of believers, all working toward a common purpose, all worshipping the one true God, and all being wrapped in His love and protection. That's a picture that is radically different from what we see in the world today.
I couldn't help but think about that last…

Waiting for Superman

When I did my class on "Superman Returns" I talked about how Superman was the perfect kind of savior for our time. He was always there to protect us and right all of society's wrongs, and we didn't owe him anything.
Davis Guggenheim picks up on that theme as well with his exceptional new documentary "Waiting for Superman." The film isn't about superheroes, but rather the real heroes of our society, the men and women that have dedicated their lives to trying to make a difference in the lives of students. And it's certainly an uphill battle. The film also takes a hard look at the education system, exhorting the public to get into the game, so to speak, because we can't sit around and wait for a hero to save us.
Education is a passionate issue for me. I spent the better part of my full-time career as a journalist covering the education system and I was often inspired and touched by the dedication and heart that many of our local educators brought to …

Topsy Turvy world of the NFL

Last Sunday, I raced home after church (as is the usual routine during the fall) to prepare for my beloved Broncos' game against the Raiders. Turns out I could have taken my time... what I got wasn't a game, it was a 59-14 beat down.
Yesterday, as I left church, I was told Denver had a 10-3 lead. Fifteen minutes later when I got home, I flipped on the TV and saw that Denver trailed 24-10... not what I was expecting. Then again, I'm probably not alone.
If you would have told me the Cowboys would be 1-6, the Vikings would be 2-5, Randy Moss would have been traded, Denver would lose by 49 points at home to Raiders, and the Kansas City Chiefs would have one of the best records in the AFC at the end of eight weeks, I wouldn't have believe you. But all those things are true.
What continues to make the NFL the best of the major sports is the unpredictability of it all. The teams that should be the best going in are often not the ones that make it to the big game. This year just …