Showing posts from October, 2011

Happy Halloween

In honor of Halloween, here's a couple movie suggestions for different age groups/audiences.
For the Whole Family (Kids included): "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (1966) About: Does anyone do family holiday specials better than the Peanuts? No, no they don't. This isn't the best Charlie Brown special, but it is a classic. Most people think of this as a TV special, but it is widely available on home video. I own it, and I think you should too!
A Ghost Story: "Lady in White" (1988) About: I first saw this as a child and it freaked me out. I saw it in college and, guess what, it still freaked me out a little. It's an obscure late 1980s title with Lukas Haas and Len Cariou, but it's a good one. It's a fascinating story and it's more chilling than you might imagine.
Indie Film Fans: "Evil Dead" (1981), "Evil Dead II" (1987), "Army of Darkness" (1992) About: Sam Raimi's trilogy starring Bruce Campbell, king…

Pilot Roundup, Week 7

Here's a look at this week's new shows. We're through October and the new shows keep coming, with "Grimm" joining the fold this week. Next week we get the new AMC drama "Hell On Wheels."
Tuesday Nights: Man Up, 8:30 p.m. on ABC Synopsis: This show is a mess. "Last Man Standing," the new Tim Allen show, is decent. I've seen four episodes, and each was mildly amusing. This show just isn't as good. There are moments of mild amusement, but I'm not entirely sure what the point was with this show. I appreciated the "Star Wars" humor — as does George Lucas, who probably just sold some more merchandise — but that's about all I can say here. Pilot Grade: C- Second Episode: C-
Friday Nights: Grimm, 9 p.m. on NBC Synopsis: This show is a cop drama with a twist — that twist being the fact that the show closely follows the stories from "Grimm's Fairytales," with the assertion they aren't just fables. The first episode wa…

Swimming Upstream

It's fitting that for Kirkin O' The Tartan we talked about how difficult it is to be a Christian, moving upstream, in a world that prizes conformity. Yesterday I talked about some of the ways the Christians have adopted the stance of the world in 2011. Today, it's time to focus on why we shouldn't.
Of course, this isn't easy. Nicky Gumbel, during the Alpha Course, noted that in the Western World, it's easier not to be a Christian than to be a Christian. He said that for a lot of reasons. First, there are a lot of distractions in this world. Second, we live a relatively blessed life that makes it easier to forget how big a role God plays in our lives. And third, we live in a world that values the idea of our culture and succeeding according to a cultural definition.
Earlier this fall I looked at the movie "Dead Poet's Society," and one of the ideas an scenes I liked in that movie is when Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) urges the students to forge their …

Blows to the Kingdom

It's fair to say 2011 has been a rough year for Evangelical Christianity. There have been a number of occurrences that have made it difficult to stand against external criticism. In that way it's interesting that we're looking at Romans 12:1-2 tomorrow.
First, this spring, Pastor Rob Bell produced a new book that dealt with the subject of Hell. In all fairness, I haven't read the book. But it's undeniable that, in a series of press interviews, Bell gives the distinct impression there is no Hell and that everyone is redeemed by God's love. It's hard to argue with the idea that redemption comes through God's love, and that redemption is available to everyone, but he seems to be taking that too far. Again, I don't know if that's the impression one gets from reading his book, but I watched his interviews a couple of times, and that certainly seems to be the impression he gives during those interviews. Either way, a conflicting time for the Kingdom.

Coming Soon — November

With October practically in our rearview mirror, it's time to look at the new movies headed our way in the month of November.
Friday, Nov. 4 Tower Heist — The trailer for this looks OK, but the film hasn't even been released yet and I'm tired of seeing it... Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, and Alan Alda headline the cast, but reportedly many, many writers worked on the script. That's never a good sign. Also not a good sign — Brett Ratner directed this film. My guess is we may have seen the funniest moments of the film in the trailer.
A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas — When "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" came out, I thought it was a novel, funny film. Their second trip — to Guantanamo Bay — was less amusing and far more crass. Hard to imagine they will have toned it down any for this third and (hopefully) final installment, which is also in 3D. Christmas comes early... or maybe it doesn't.
Son of No One — It's an action/drama starr…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the slew of re-makes, sequels, and prequels now playing at a theater near you...
Paranormal Activity 3 Starring: Katie Featherstone, Sprague Grayden, Lauren Bittner, and Christopher Nicholas Smith Synopsis: When “Paranormal Activity” was released in 2007, I didn’t buy into it as a scary film, but I did buy into it as a unique cinematic experiment. It was shot home video style. It was unexplainable. And it moved away from what horror movies have become — in your face, grizzly, and bloody — to what they used to be, which is suspense driven. The whole film set you up for a few moments of reveals. The idea was to keep you on the edge of your seat, and it worked for many fans. It’s not surprising, given the success of the first film, that sequels and rip-offs would come. Earlier this year we saw a rip off of this film with “Apollo 18,” and now we’re on the third incarnation of “Paranormal Activity.” The formula remains largely the same and, judging by the strong Box Offic…

The World of M. Night Shymalan

Tonight we're going to be screening "Signs." Personally, I have always been fascinated by Shymalan as a filmmaker. He is best known for the endings to his best films — "Signs" and "The Sixth Sense," among them — but what has always drawn me in is his stories. I contend all Shymalan's stories are the same. They are all about a central character struggling with a crisis of faith, a tremendous loss, and seeking redemption, it's just the context that changes. I hope everyone will think about that tonight as we watch "Signs" and will look for that when checking out the bulk of Shymalan's work.
In that spirit, I have put Shymalan's films (from "The Sixth Sense" through "The Happening") in order of how I like the way he put them together.
"Signs" Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, and Rory Culkin Synopsis: This film features an alien invasion, but it's really about a minister (Gibso…

Faith in Film 3, Week 6

Here's a look at the worksheet for the next couple weeks. I'm looking forward to our screening tomorrow night!
Title: “Signs” (2002)Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, Rory Culkin, and M. Night ShymalanSynopsis: This is arguably the best of M. Night Shymalan’s films. Thought “The Sixth Sense” (1999) draws more acclaim, I think this is a better film for a variety of reasons. Shymalan’s films all have similar under currents and themes, but they are all told through a different lens. With “Signs,” Shymalan tells the story of a single father struggling with how to move on and raise his two children in the wake of his wife’s death. He is hurt, lost, angry, and going through a crisis of faith. What gives the story added emotional depth is that his is a minister who, in the wake of an indescribable personal tragedy, found that he wasn’t able to cling to the faith that had been his guide through his life and chosen vocational path. During the course of the film, his…

Pilot Roundup, Week 6

We're almost through October, and the new shows keep coming. Here's a look at the updates this week.
Monday Nights: Hart of Dixie, 9 p.m. on the CW Synopsis: This isn't really much of a medical show — though that could be said of most medical shows on TV with the exception of "House." This show reminds me, in some ways, of "Gilmore Girls" with its quirky small-town feel. Rachel Bilson is decent in the lead role and they have populated the show with some colorful characters to go alongside her. This isn't the deepest show, but it's entertaining and kind of fun. If you like lighter entertainment — you know the kind of show where there are no cops, no murders, and no unexpectedly dark plotlines — this is the kind of show for you. Pilot Grade: B- Second Episode: B-
Enlightened, 9:30 p.m. on HBO Synopsis: This show had one of the worst pilots I've ever seen. The second episode was mildly better, in that I thought a couple moments were mildly amusing and…

The Chosen One

Today is the day I've been waiting for all season. Tim Tebow, who was drafter No. 25 overall in the 2010 draft, has finally become the starter for the Denver Broncos. And it's hard to imagine a better scenario for that first start — coming in Miami (where he played his college ball and the home team is reviled by fans) on a day when the Dolphins are honoring Tebow's 2008 National Champion Florida Gator team.
For three quarters, it didn't look like much. Tebow was under pressure, the game plan was as conservative as possible, and there was little to cheer about. There were two missed field goals and a lot of missed opportunities.
With Denver trailing 15-0 and five minutes left, Tebow came to life a bit. He drove the team down quickly for a touchdown to cut the lead to 15-7 with 2:44 left in the game. After recovering an onside kick, Tebow led the Broncos on another touchdown drive, then added a two-point conversion to tie the game 15-15 with 17 seconds left.
In overtime th…

Quarterback Carousel

Tomorrow, four teams will run new quarterbacks out to lead the offense, including the Tim Tebow Era beginning again in Denver. I've written at length about the reasons why I thought Denver needed to make a change, and why I think Tebow will be good for the team and for fans. But every situation is different.
Quarterback is the most visible, most high-pressure position on the field. The quarterback is often given too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. And, it's been said, the most popular person on any team is usually the back-up quarterback. That's because the back up provides a sense of promise in potentially hopeless situations. That's what we're going to be seeing tomorrow.
It's interesting to think about the three other teams (besides Denver) that will be going in a different direction tomorrow. First we have the Oakland Raiders. At 4-2, the team is doing well. And had Jason Campbell not broken his collarbone, ending his season, last Sunday, …


Sometimes you can find inspiration in unexpected places. I like to listen to up beat hip-hop and rap. It just helps me focus and pumps me up. But, sometimes when you're listening to songs, you get inspired by what inspires the artists as well. The passage copied below has been on my mind this week, and I hope it is a powerful thought for you too.
From "Never Let Me Down" by Kanye West Feat. Jay-Z & J Ivy (Verse 3, J Ivy) Determination, dedication, motivation I'm talking to you, my many inspirations When I say I can't, let you or self down If I were of the highest cliff, on the highest riff And you slipped off the side and clinched on to your life in my grip I would never, ever let you down And when these words are found Let it been known that God's penmanship has been signed with a language called love That's why my breath is felt by the deaf And why my words are heard and confined to the ears of the blind I, too, dream in color and in rhyme So I guess I'm one …

Now Playing

It was re-make week last Friday, with Hollywood revisiting the classic 1984 Kevin Bacon dance film "Footloose."
Footloose Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller, Andie MacDowell, Kim Dickens, and Ray McKinnon Synopsis: There are some people that just don’t appreciate modern dancing, or any kind of dancing for that matter. They see it as a gateway to other undesirable behaviors. But it’s hard to see how that take on dancing could be prevalent in 2011. When “Footloose” debuted in 1984, it doubtless stretched some of the bounds of reality. The idea that a town would be so down on dancing as a gateway to lurid teen behavior that they would outlaw it seemed a little tough to swallow, but still sort of plausible. The same can’t be said in 2011. Putting aside that fact that it’s depressing that Hollywood continues to re-make old movies instead of generating new ones, the idea of the story of “Footloose” set in the modern era seems borderline preposterous. …

Faith in Film 3, Field of Dreams

Tonight we take a look at another film that showcases an interesting call. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is standing in his cornfield when he hears a voice whisper, "If you build it, he will come." Eventually he gets more clarity on what he's supposed to build and who will come, but it's still an incredible call in his life.
Last week we looked at "Evan Almighty," which is about a guy literally called by God to build an ark and change the world. "Field of Dreams" isn't a Christian film, and Ray doesn't get a literal call from God, but the principle is the same. Each of us get a call from God — or several calls throughout our lives — and the question we must answer is how will we respond to that call from God.
If you look at our faith, we have a Bible full of stories of people who received unique and challenging calls in their lives and faithfully responded to those calls. One of my favorite examples of this in the Bible is the prophet Hosea. …

Faith in Film 3, Week 5

Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow's class.
Title: “Field of Dreams” (1989)Starring: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan, and Ray LiottaSynopsis: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? That’s got to be one of the questions surrounding “Field of Dreams,” the story of a farmer in Iowa who hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. The amazing part of the story is that the farmer follows the voice, builds the field, and it leads him and his family on an incredible journey. This is the kind of story that can only come from Hollywood, yet it’s become a beloved classic tale because of all the themes contained within the film. Writer/director Phil Alden Robinson taps into a couple of themes that are very important in our world. This is also a film that probably appeals to men more than women because it prominently features baseball and is, at heart, the story of a father and son.This is probably the most famous of Kevi…

Pilot Roundup, Week 5

Here's a look at pilots and second episodes. The fall season keeps rolling and new shows keep slowly leaking out. Plus, our casualty list is up to Four shows (Charlie's Angels, How to Be a Gentleman, The Playboy Club, and Free Agents).
Monday Nights: Hart of Dixie, 9 p.m. on the CW Synopsis: Interesting idea from the CW. This show is billed as coming from the creators of "The O.C." and "Gossip Girl," and while Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are executive producers of this series, they aren't the writers. At least not on the pilot episode. The show does star Rachel Bilson ("The O.C.") in her return to series TV, but this show feels a little slow at times and kind of like a "Doc Hollywood" type set up. In this case, a young hot-shot doctor from New York City comes to a small town in Alabama to get "family practice" experience. That's plausible. She ends up staying because she's charmed by the town and finds out the d…

Return of the Dead

Over the past few years, cable network AMC has built up its credibility in the industry with a strong group of critically acclaimed series. While "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" may claim the most award attention, and freshman series "The Killing" generated the most controversy, it's "The Walking Dead" which became the network's highest rated series.
Last fall, "The Walking Dead" had a six-episode initial run, creating a phenomenon. The show, based on a graphic novel and developed for the small screen by Frank Darabont ("The Green Mile," "The Shawshank Redemption"), made an impact because it rose above the standard conventions of the genre.
Zombie stories have been a staple of the entertainment world for decades. It really dates back to the novel "I Am Legend" in the 1950s. The 1954 novel written by Richard Matheson has had a large influence in American pop culture and in the variations of this type of …

God Love Sex

Tomorrow we start our new series called God, Love, Sex. I am sure that it's not a topic at the top of most people's wish lists, and I am certainly among them. But, it's undoubtedly something that the church needs to address in a serious, realistic way.
The CNN Faith Blog posted an article last Sunday that was somewhat stunning to me. In the piece, it noted that the rate of pre-marital sex among self-professed Christians was nearly the same as for non-Christians. That, alone, is startling, but what's also startling is the fact that those rates are so high. According to the piece, the rate of pre-marital sex among Christians is 80% and among non-Christians its 88%. Look at those numbers again. It's astounding.
In the piece, some "experts" weighed in on what could be the reason for those percentages. One reasoned that it's because our society is so much more different today. He reasoned that, during Biblical times, youths married in their mid-to-late-teens…

From "Glee" to "Horror"

So, on Oct. 5 the creators of "Glee" offered a new show, "American Horror Story." I didn't know much about it, but I thought I would like it for a couple reasons. First, it was from the creators of "Glee," which was really fun in its first season and has shown flashes of it since. And 2, because it stars Connie Britton, who I loved on five years of "Friday Night Lights."
What I've gotten through two episodes simply defies expectations, and I'm not sure what to think. The pilot episode was about what I would imagine a bad drug trip would be like. Lot's of strange imagery, a sense of paranoia, and kind of a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach. I didn't like it. I didn't hate it. I simply didn't know what to make of it.
When a show features an actress from a beloved family show and is marketed as coming from the creators of a show called "Glee," you're expecting it to be entertaining and maybe a little j…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw last week.

Dolphin TaleStarring: Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Nathan Gamble Synopsis: This film, based on a true story, is family entertainment of the highest order. The film centers on the story of a dolphin that lost its tale and struggled to move forward, and the people whose lives that dolphin impacted at just the right time. Winter, the dolphin that overcame the loss of a tale, becomes a symbol of overcoming obstacles in our lives. The film creates kind of a beautiful narrative of how the humans in this film overcome their own obstacles. It's a strong tale of friendship, faith, and perseverance. Connick, Jr. does a nice job in the lead role, with veterans Judd and Freeman adding their talents to the mix as well. Gamble, who fills the lead role as the young Sawyer, has a nice screen presence and does a nice job in his role as well. The best thing about "Dolphin Tale" might be the fact that it's the r…

Faith in Film 3, Evan Almighty

Tonight we're going to take a look at the film "Evan Almighty." The film, from director Tom Shadyac, is meant to be a modern day parable, this time looking at the Biblical account of Noah. While I was somewhat critical of some aspects of this approach with Shadyac's "Bruce Almighty," I like the work in this film better.
That wasn't a universally held opinion among Christians. Dr. James Dobson, of "Focus on the Family," was actually critical of the film's theology. He said, "God,” played charmingly by Morgan Freeman, told the new Noah character that the first flood occurred because the people hadn’t done enough “acts of random kindness" (as in A.R.K. Get it?). God destroyed the world and its inhabitants, the contemporary god said, not to punish a wicked and perverse generation as we read in Genesis 6, but as a benign object lesson to encourage people to be nicer to each other. It was bad theology and a radical distortion of Scriptu…

Faith in Film 3, Week 4

Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow night's discussion of "Evan Almighty."
Film: “Evan Almighty” (2007)Staring: Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, and Morgan FreemanSynopsis: This is a sequel to the 2003 film “Bruce Almighty,” which we looked at in the last round of Faith in Film. The film is not as well regarded as “Bruce Almighty,” didn’t make as much money, and isn’t quite as laugh-out-loud funny. But it might be a little more theologically correct. While “Bruce Almighty” deals with the idea of a regular guy becoming God, offering some paradoxical explorations of theology, “Evan Almighty” is a parody of the Biblical account of Noah.The film deals with the idea of being given a special call, and how one would respond to that call. God doesn’t always call us to do things that are easy or in a time frame that is comfortable for us. This film deals with the idea of being faithful to that call despite the circumstances and what a faithful response might …

Tebow Time!

The Denver Broncos' season officially begins on Sunday, Oct. 23 as they come out of a bye week to battle the Miami Dolphins. The reason I am choosing to ignore all but the second half of one of the team's first five games is because of Kyle Orton. The reason I'm excited for Sunday, Oct. 23 is because that's the day the Tim Tebow era officially begins.
On Sunday, after watching Orton go 6-for-13 for 38 yards and an interception (it could/should have been two) and the team falling down 23-10 at home after taking an early 7-3 lead thanks to the defense, Head Coach John Fox had seen enough of Orton. I wrote a couple weeks ago about the problems with Orton who, by all accounts, is a nice guy. And, I could see in the right situation, him being an OK starting quarterback. That situation is not with the Denver Broncos.
We saw that on Sunday. Tebow came in with the offense and the team sputtering and the listless home crowd looking at their nachos and the exit doors. He didn'…

One Church

We concluded the "One" series with a look at the universal church on Sunday. It's a topic that's important, Biblical, and something difficult to discuss and find consensus on in our world. The question is whether it was ever possible.
When discussing the tenants of the Nicene Creed last week, I was asked what I thought of when I read it. My response was that it was an idealized vision of what the church should be. As a follow up, I was asked if that church ever existed. My immediate response was no. I don't believe it's ever really existed historically, and I don't think it exists today. But that doesn't mean that the concept shouldn't remain our ideal.
When we think of the word church today, we think of a building where a specific body of believers gathers to worship and conduct the business of ministry. But that isn't what the Bible means when it talks about the church. The church is, was, and always will be people. We are the church, and it t…