Showing posts from August, 2011

Fantasy Vick-tory?

Last year was my first foray into Fantasy Football. Sure, I've played Madden for years, and I love statistics, but I'd never taken the leap. Finally, for the 2010 season, I decided to take on the challenge. And it was 17 weeks of exhilaration and frustration, almost in equal measure.
The first thing I noticed is that it changed the way that I watched football. No longer was it just about watching my favorite teams score and win, it was about which player made the score. Second, I realized that it is impossible to separate my heart from my head when it comes to sports and, by extension, fantasy sports. If you're smart, you pick the best lineup from an unemotional, unattached perspective. If I could do that I would. But I can't. When I played Fantasy baseball with a friend one year, I picked a lineup that very closely mirrored the Atlanta Braves lineup. In my heart, it was the right thing to do. In reality, it was a one-way ticket to the basement.
So, last year was a somew…

A New Look Jesus

A friend from church sent me the link to an article in "The Guardian" that featured the above photo of Jesus. I had to take a moment to consider that image, and the story that accompanied it. I've remarked in the past that England — which is home to "The Guardian" — is probably the most secular society of the Western World. So, given that, it might not be odd to see a bit of a revisionist picture of Jesus.
But as I read the article, I thought about what was really being said. Basically, this artist — and a few other groups — have changed the perception of Jesus as a means of connecting with the modern culture. This, of course, can be a dangerous path to take. Changing our preconceived notions of Jesus in order to reach people with the Gospel is fine, just so long as you don't change the Gospel to conform with an ever-changing culture.
A few years ago I saw a movie called "Hamlet 2," which is quiet irreverent and also pretty funny. One of the big mo…

Politically Incorrect "Enthusiasm"

One of my favorite things in high school was tuning in to "Seinfeld" on Thursday nights. It was funny, crazy, and a great way to (sort of) wrap up the week. Nothing on network television has really captured that feel.
But HBO has something that comes close. "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which is in its eighth season and currently airing on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on HBO, comes from the mind of Larry David, who co-created "Seinfeld." In fact, the show premise of season seven was Larry and Jerry (Seinfeld) working on creating a reunion for the "Seinfeld" show.
"Curb" follows a lot of the "Seinfeld" model. It's a group of people going through seemingly random events and creating humorous situations. The part that makes it unique is the talent of Larry David (who plays a version of himself), and the fact that it is on premium cable and doesn't hold back.
David would seem to be an odd choice to be the lead in a TV show, but he mak…

The Nature of Man

"They claim their labors are to build a heaven, yet their heaven is populated by horrors." — Dr. Manhattan, "Watchmen"
One of the classic differences between the humanist perspective and the evangelical Christian perspective is the nature of man, and the path to salvation. You either believe that mankind, at the core, is good and capable of redeeming itself, or that mankind, at the core, remains depraved and is saved through grace.
Those that don't want to give their lives over to Jesus Christ or live under the authority of a higher power are prone to choose the former. But when you look at the whole of human history — including the dark history of every religious tradition — it is hard to buy into that.
I couldn't help but think of that while watching the new French film "Sarah's Key" on Sunday. The film — set in the contemporary world and during World War II — tells the story of a journalist (Kristen Scott Thomas) that uncovers her husband'…

The Fellowship, Pt. 2

"There are people who go after your humanity, Sister, that tell you that the light in your heart is a weakness. Don't believe it. It's an old tactic of cruel people to kill kindness in the name of virtue." — Father Brendan Flynn, "Doubt"
"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." — 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Jesus Christ transcended the things of this work, including politics. Unfortunately, too often, the church cannot. The political battles that plague the modern church create division, derision, and anger if we let them. But the question is whether there is a better way.
I have strong, personal, Bible-based, moral convictions about theological interpretations…

Coming Soon...

(All that intensity has to result in something good, right?)

... to a theater near you in September. With labor day weekend quickly approaching and August quickly disappearing, here's a look at the mainstream releases coming in September.
Friday, Sept. 2: "The Debt" — OK, technically this movie opens on Aug. 31, but it's really a Labor Day weekend release. This looks to be the class of the Labor Day movies, but I still wonder about it. On paper this should be a good film. It's directed by John Madden ("Shakespeare In Love"), with a screenplay from Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake," "X-Men: First Class") and Jane Goodman ("Kick Ass," "X-Men: First Class"), and a cast that features Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson. But the film was finished, and started making festival appearances, nearly a year ago, it's received little marketing push, and it's story seems a bit unclear. Those are all bad signs. So, while this could …

The Fellowship, Pt. 1

"'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'" — Matthew 22:36-40.
"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." — famous saying with various authors.
This is not a great time for the church. In fact, you could argue it's been like this for quite some time. The thing that bothers me most about Christendom is that we spend a ton of time fighting amongst ourselves. It's not that there aren't valid reasons for this debate and inward focus, but it seems to me that all the time we spend focused inward distracts us from our outward mission. We should be reaching the world. But last year, while the PCUSA spent endless hours arguing about its new for…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week. Some were great, some were duds....

Conan The Barbarian Starring: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Pearlman, and Rose McGowan Synopsis: And we start with the dud. There is a large question in my mind as to whether or not this was a movie that needed to be (re)made. Of course there is the 1980s original — a standout in the cannon of Arnold Schwarzenegger's work — and this film is darker and more sober and serious than that, to it's detriment. Momoa had some training playing this type of character in "Game of Thrones," but the production values of that series, its storytelling, and its presentation were much more compelling. Basically, there is just not much to like about this mirthless exercise in violence. Plus it's in 3D! Ugh. This month has really put a premium on 3D, and has really pushed me to the point where I'm sort of loathing this format. We'll have to see how it goes long-term, but t…

Eating with the Enemy

For the last week, I've been thinking about the Last Supper. We looked at the passage last Tuesday in preparation for the message Sunday, and an interesting idea stood out to me. That meal was yet another example of how Jesus' model differs from the typical human response to situations.
Consider, Jesus was at a celebratory dinner with the disciples. These were his friends, the people that spent the most time with Him as He did His work. It was a time of celebration; a time where He had a big announcement to share. And there, in His midst, was Judas, who was about to betray Him.
Now if you thought about that scene in a movie, that would be the moment where the hero would turn the tables on the traitor and establish his heroism. Think about a movie like "The Godfather," where Michael Corleone constantly had to fend of threats from those closest to him. And he reacted with a cool, detached, merciless response each time. He even responded that way with his own brother, Fre…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 1

1. A Time To Kill (1996)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Ashley Judd, and Oliver Platt
About: "What in us seeks truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts? I set out to prove a black man could get a fair trial in the South; that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That's not the truth because the eyes of the law are human eyes — yours and mine. And until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be even-handed. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices. So until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth — not with our minds, where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts, where we don't know better." — Jake Tyler Brigance, "A Time to Kill."
I have loved "A Time to Kill" since I first saw it when I was in high school. I have watched it at least once a year since that time, and I never…

Glee Live, The Concert Movie Event

So we're closing in on the end of the "limited" engagement for the "Glee Live Concert Movie in 3D," which was released on Friday, Aug. 12 for "two weeks only." Doubtless the limited time was supposed to goose ticket sales. It didn't. The film made just $5.7 million during its first weekend, and judging by the nearly empty theater when I attended Thursday, this weekend won't be much better.
I think there's a couple reasons for this. First, why did it need to be in 3D? OK, granted, all these concert movies have been in 3D lately, but really this did not make me feel more like I was actually there. In fact, the 3D effects were pretty weak, and mostly it was just like I literally had one of the "Glee" stars singing right in my face. Not to mention, there was some terrible cinematography or editing choices. One, in particular, stood out as it transitioned from stars to the front of the stage and an extreme, 3D, close up of the waist of…

Faith in Film 3

I have set the final list for Faith in Film 3, which will again be on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. at Highlands Church beginning on Sept. 21. Below is the full list for the 12 weeks of the class. Take a look and feel free to let me know what you're looking forward to!
Faith in Film StudyPurpose: A chance for attendees to grow their faith and study deep faith issues by examining how the worldview presented in modern films compares to the Christian faith. This will be an opportunity to fellowship, learn and grow in faith in a different way. It will be a 12-week study for believers of all ages and places on their faith journey.Twelve Week Schedule, Biblical concepts:Week 1: “Dead Poet’s Society” Biblical Concept: Free Thinking; Daring to take a standWeek 2: “Doubt” Biblical Concept: Faith; Love; Doubt; Gossip Week 3: Screening: “Evan Almighty”Week 4: “Evan Almighty” Biblical Concept: Faith, Family; Perseverance.Week 5: “Field of Dreams” Biblical Concept: Faith; Family; Redemption Week 6…

Now Playing

OK, it was a sad week for my theater-going, thus there is only one film to be listed today. But, worry not, next week will pick up everything I was missing and I might put reviews in along the way this week.
30 Minutes or Less Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, and Fred Ward Synopsis: Looks can be deceiving. That’s certainly the case with “30 Minutes or Less,” which opened on Aug. 12. The first trailer looked strong. The film also boasts a good cast — including Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari — and it comes from the team responsible for the sleeper comedy hit “Zombieland.” Unfortunately, the jokes in this film — indeed the entire construct of the film — doesn’t quite work. There are some humorous moments and elements, but on the whole “30 Minutes or Less” feels like a movie that missed the mark. That is becoming the story of movies in 2011. There are some funny people in this production. McBride and Swardson make for a good pairing, with McBride playing…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 2

2. Simon Birch (1998)
Starring: Joseph Mazzello, Ian Michael Smith, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt and David Strathairn
About: "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice, not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. What faith I have, I owe to Simon Birch, the boy I grew up with in Gravedown, Maine." Joe Wentworth, "Simon Birch"
I still remember the first time I saw this movie. I cried, twice. I still get teared up when I watch the film, and I think that's a testament to the power of the characters and the story. I saw the movie during my junior year in high school. A few months later, at the start of my senior year, I was handed the book "A Prayer for Owen Meany" to read. That book, written by the great John Irving, was the basis for "Simon Birch."
This film will forever be at or near the top of my f…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 3

3. The Godfather (1972)
Starring: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Talia Shire
About: "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." Michael Corleone, "The Godfather."
This is the ultimate "guy" movie, and I will always remember watching it for the first time with my dad and the bonding that provided. I love the story, the performances, and the way that Francis Ford Coppola put it together. There is a reason that "The Godfather" is on everyone's short list of the greatest films ever made, and is at or near the top of the IMDb list of fan favorite films.
Pacino gives an incredible performance in this film, as does Brando, who won the Academy Award. The classic lines and sections in this film are incredible. It is easily one of the most quoted films of all time.
I also love the novel, by Mario Puzo, that served as the inspiration and basis for this film. The novel expands on the story (some of it is featured in &q…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 4

4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Ted Levine, and Scott Glenn
About: "You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don't you — why don't you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you're afraid to." — Clarice Starling, "The Silence of the Lambs"
From a cinematic standpoint, "The Silence of the Lambs" is a marvel. The film was released in January 1991, yet it captured the Best Picture prize. That is a rarity. For the most part, contending films are released in the latter part of the year (mostly in October, November, and December), lest they be forgotten. But, clearly, this film made a big impression.
"The Silence of the Lambs" also scored a rare cinematic achievement for excellence. It earned Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. Only two other films —…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 5

5. The Paper (1994)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Randy Quaid, and Marissa Tomei
About: "We run stupid headlines because we think they're funny. We run maimings on the front page because we got good art. And I spend three weeks bitching about my car because it sells papers. But at least it's the truth. As far as I can remeber we never ever, ever knowingly got a story wrong, until tonight." Marty McDougal, "The Paper"
None of the films on this list more accurately represents my personal, nerdy pursuits than "The Paper." It's not a particularly popular or memorable film, that is unless you connect with the story. Being a journalist at heart, a writer, this film has always appealed to me.
The film follows a day in the life of a metro editor (Keaton) for a New York City newspaper. I first saw this movie when I was in high school, and it really crystalized for me a passion for being a journalist. This film shows the highs and lo…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 6

6. The Dark Knight (2008)
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
About: "Because he's the hero Gotham deserves. But not the one it needs right now. And so we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent gaurdian. A watchful protector. A dark knight." Commissioner Jim Gordon, "The Dark Knight."
This is one of the most fascinating films I've ever seen, and it's fast become one of my favorites. I've seen this film more than 20 times, and each time I am moved. I am always moved by the end, but I am also moved by the ideas in the film and the way the film is put together. I actually think "The Dark Knight" is one of the most important films released in the past decade in terms of providing a window into the ideological battle we are fighting with the world. It is also a genre picture that transcends its genre to become one of the great…

The Shawshank of Ape movies?

There are a lot of things you could take from the new "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" movie. It touches on one of my favorite themes — lack of humility in the face of scientific discovery could lead to our ruin. This film, in providing the foundation for the world of "Planet of the Apes," certainly showcases that reality.
You could take away the way technology is impacting the movie-making process. There is some great use of digital effects in this film as the technology continues to make our visions more of a reality. Andy Serkis, who famously played Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" films, takes a step forward with the motion capture technology as Caesar, leader of the super-smart apes.
But what I was most struck by seeing the film for a second time is that, in part, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" does for apes what "The Shawshank Redemption" did for humans with prison movies. I know you're probably laughing right now, but I'…

Now Playing

This is the way the summer movie season ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper...

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Starring: James Franco, John Lithgow, Frieda Pinto, and Andy Serkis (motion capture). Synopsis: Since the last 1960s, when Charleton Heston secured his place in American cinema battling talking apes, we’ve been subjected to tales of humans battling super-intelligent monkeys for control of the Earth. But a logical question is how did things get to that point? Finally, thanks to James Franco and some digital effects magic, we finally have an answer. A decade after Tim Burton’s failed “Planet of the Apes” re-boot, we get a little insight into how things got that bad. Technically, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is sort of a re-make of the 1972 film “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” but really it bears little resemblance to that film. What it does do is, possibly, pave the way for a new generation of “Planet of the Apes” films. And, judging by the Box Office take opening w…

End Times, Course Survey

A big thanks to all of you who attended the End Times class. I feel like the six weeks flew by, and it was really fun to engage with all of you, hear your ideas, and look at this complex topic. On behalf of Israel and myself, I wanted to thank all those who attended and I hope it was as valuable for you as it was fun for us.
Below is a few survey questions, which I handed out last night. For those of you who weren't able to be there or didn't get a chance to grab a survey, please feel free to reply to this post with any thoughts you had on our six-week course.
End Times Survey
1. Do you feel End Times has been a growth experience? Why or Why not?

2. What has been your favorite part of the class?

3. What part did you like least, or think could be improved?

4. If this class was offered again, what time of day and day of the week would be best?

5. What topics would you like to see covered?

End Times, Heaven

From the day we started planning this class, I have looked forward to this session. The reason for that is simple — it's the end of the story, and it's a good one.
Often, the focus of the End Times and end times theology is the signs and wonders, the judgments, the anti-Christ, and the Tribulation. It is good to know about that, it is important to study Revelation, and it is good to be prepared. It also helps you to sift through what's said about the end times and to sort fact from fiction.
But all too often — both in the secular world and in our own Christian contributions to End Times thinking — we end with the judgment and Tribulation. We end with the chaos and the destruction. We end with despair and hopelessness. But that's not how John ends Revelation.
Sure, the final chapters contain the final judgment, but they are about celebration. The celebration of our Lord, Jesus Christ, over all that which is dark, evil, and profane. The New Jerusalem, the Second Coming, and…

End Times, Week 6

Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow's final session. This will be, I hope, a great conversation about Heaven. Please feel free to check out the listed verses and bring your thoughts on Heaven to share.
The End of the Story — Heaven and the New JerusalemMovies Covered: “Field of Dreams” (1989); “5 People You Meet in Heaven” (2004); “Case For Christ” (2007)Songs Covered: “Meant to Live,” Switchfoot; “Where the Streets Have No Name,” U2; and “Higher,” CreedVerses: Revelation 21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:9; John 14:2-4“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” — Revelation 22:3-5

The Tebow Thing

So, as the football season gets under way, it's the same old story in Denver, unfortunately. During the off-season it seemed that the time had finally come for Tim Tebow — God's quarterback — to take the reigns for the Broncos.
He started the final three games of last season, he is one of the most popular figures in professional sports, and it seemed as if the Broncos were ready to see what he could do with the team. After the lockout finally ended, the Broncos put Kyle Orton on the trading block and it appeared the Tebow era was about to begin.
Then it didn't. The Broncos took Orton off the trading block and named him the starter. Then a variety of analysts, none crueler than Merrill Hoge, took shots at Tebow based on three games worth of evidence from his rookie season.
Now, it appears I can look forward to a Broncos season that looks a lot like last year — or maybe worse. But that's the question, isn't it.
Since I launched my Facebook page, no one has born the brunt…

Another Bronco for the Hall

I have been a Denver Broncos fan for as long as I can remember. I think what first drew me to the team were their magical, bright orange uniforms. As a small child, watching football on TV, I was drawn to the uniform more than the players.
That's changed now, of course, though I still do love the alternate orange uniforms. It hasn't been a particularly good stretch for the Broncos, which is what makes Saturday's Hall of Fame inductions such a welcome change of pace.
In my more than 20 years of fandom, I can probably narrow the field of players that have meant a lot to me over the years to less than 10. At the top of that list would be Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway (though his short stint in the front office has yet to yield anything impressive). Others that would be on my list of all-time favorites include running back Terrell Davis, receiver Rod Smith, safety Steve Atwater, cornerback Champ Bailey, (if I'm honest, Tim Tebow), and, of course, tight end Shannon Shar…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 7

7. Gettysburg (1993)
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliot, Stephen Lang, and C. Thomas Howell
About: "This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we're here for something new. This has not happened much, in the history of the world: We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, all of it, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me. What we're fighting for, in the end... we're fighting for each other. Sorry. Didn't mean to preach." — Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, "Gett…