Showing posts from May, 2012

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Starring: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, and Maggie Smith
Synopsis: The summer season is a time when you expect loud, star-driven, effects-laden films to dominate the Box Office. And while that’s certainly been the case, there are plenty of other options for viewers as well. One such option is “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a quiet character study that offers a pleasant alternative to the usual summer fare. It’s also a chance for some veteran actors to shine. The film includes a number of decorated and nominated performers doing what they do best, creating indelible characters in this charming, warm-hearted film. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” centers on a group of seniors from England that are lured to India by the promise of a luxurious, affordable retirement community. What they find doesn’t exactly match their expectations. This film, directed by John Madden, is a beautiful…

Nature of Faith

What does it mean to be a Christian? How do you become a Christian? That's something that I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I blame Donald Miller.

In April, I attended a conference where I heard him speak. He talked about the role of right theology in the conversion process. His ideas seemed to make sense, but at the same time they challenge the conventional notion.

This month, I started reading his book, "Searching For God Knows What," which asks the same questions. Basically, the question he poses is, can someone have bad theology and still be a Christian? A fundamentalist would like to say no, but a moderate would probably like to say yes. However, that leads to an interesting discussion of this idea.

I like to call this the slippery slope take on faith. Clearly being a Christian is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. That's the difference between knowing about faith and having faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is an emotional connection, at some leve…

Faith in Film 4, Get Low

We wrapped up the first half of class last night with our third and final film dealing with the idea of forgiveness, confession, and the peace and freedom that come from following God's plan. "Get Low" is a beautiful story of a man who is finally at a place where he's ready for that door to be opened, and this really helps us come full circle from where it started.

With our first film, "Atonement," we saw how a lack of forgiveness and confession can create a prison of the mind from which you can never escape. That was certainly true for Briony, and that's what made that film heart-breaking in the end. Fortunately, in "Get Low," Felix is able to summon the courage to make a full confession and find the peace and forgiveness that eluded him for 40 long years. But it wasn't an easy journey.

Not once but twice ministers had to point him in the right direction. Still, it took him a bit more to work up the courage to do what his soul cried out …

Faith in Film 4, Week 4

Here, again, is a look at the worksheet for "Get Low."

Title: “Get Low” (2009)

Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, and Sissie Spacek

Synopsis: This is another interesting film that continues the arc of forgiveness, guilt, and the quest for redemption over the first half of this session. The film was released in 2009 to little fanfare, but it was one of the hidden independent gems of that year. Though snubbed by the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, “Get Low” did win an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature for director Aaron Schneider. Bill Murray earned a nomination from the Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Actor, turning in one of his better performances of the past few years, and Duvall could easily have snagged an acting nomination as well.

The film centers on a bitter older man, Felix Bush (Duvall), who wants to throw himself a funeral before he’s dead. He finds and opportunistic mortician (Murray) to help pull it off, and he plans a grand aff…

Reaching the Lost

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." — Matthew 28:19-20

Scripture makes it clear that our top priority is to save the lost. What's less clear, to some, is how that's accomplished. That's especially evident when you look at conservative Christian communities. It's easy to get the impression they've walled themselves in with theology, keeping the unwholesome world at bey.

I can't help but wonder what Jesus would think of that. Jesus said he came to seek and save that which is lost. It's hard to get much more lost than the world we live in today. And if the way we share Jesus with this world is by following his commission to go OUT and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, we can't accomplish that without seeking out and engaging the culture.

Can the Lakers Be Fixed

There are five teams still alive in the NBA postseason, but watching nightly SportsCenter updates, you might not know it. The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Lakers in five games to move on to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals, but every day the story is about where the Lakers go from here.

The Thunder are one of the best teams in basketball, and are arguably the future of the league. But they aren't the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers and the Boston Celtics are, arguably, the premier teams in the NBA. And with the Lakers' track record of success the past 10 years, they continue to be a focal point for the league.

Three years ago, the Lakers won the second of back-to-back titles, and completed their third straight year in the NBA Finals. They came back with a loaded team, in the last year of Phil Jackson's reign, and completely fell apart.

This off-season, the Lakers tried to get Chris Paul, and the league blocked it. They were forced to ditch Lama…

Upcoming Releases — June

Well, one down three to go for summer movie months. May had its fair share of pleasant surprises. Now it's time to hope June can do the same! Here's a look at what to expect this month.

Friday, June 1:
Snow White and the Huntsman — The second "Snow White" film of the year, this is the one that looks like a prize. The trailer is awesome and, Kristen Stewart aside, the cast looks pretty awesome too. Charlize Theron can play a good villain, and she looks to be in her element here. Chris Hemsworth, meanwhile, is having quite a spring and summer. He was in the excellent "Cabin in the Woods," reprised his role of Thor in "The Avengers" and now looks to play the hero in this film. In other words, his year has been the opposite of Taylor Kitsch so far. Look for that to continue. This may be one of the better, more fascinating films of the summer.

Piranha 3DD — Um, yeah... not so much. The first Piranha was overly graphic, overly sexual, and attempted to …

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week! Summer is in full swing!

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Jesse Plemmons, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, and Alexander Skarsgard
Synopsis: On paper, it’s hard to see how you make an exciting movie out of the board game Battleship. Sure, it’s kind of fun to hide your ships and try to sink your opponents ships, but it’s a little like trying to turn checkers into a thriller. Then there were the early trailers for the movie version of “Battleship,” which seemed to confirm the worst fears about the idea. But, oddly, that was misleading. Though it would be easy to call the film an homage to Michael Bay — sort of a love child of “Transformers” and “Pearl Harbor” — you can’t help but be a bit entertained by director Peter Berg’s vision for “Battleship.” Perhaps the best, most successful board game adaptation in movie history is the 1985 film “Clue.” Starring Tim Curry, the film was full of fun and whimsy, and latched on to a gam…

Blue Like Jazz

"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened.” — Donald Miller, "Blue Like Jazz"

A couple years ago, when I attended the Catalyst West Coast Conference, my eyes were opened to a voice that resonated with my own passions. That voice belonged to Donald Miller. Prior to that conference, I didn't know who he was or what he wrote. But during the 45 minutes he spoke, I found someone that gave voice to ideas that resonated with me. He was someone who had similar interests and passions, and someone who looked at the world in a way I identifie…

Faith in Film 4, The Real "Get Low"

Last night we had a chance to see the film "Get Low." It's a fascinating character study full of some quirky characters, led by Felix Bush (Robert Duvall). What's even more fascinating is that the film is inspired by a true story.

In 1938, in Roane County, Tennessee, Felix Breazeale (pictured above) threw himself a funeral party while he was still alive. Breazeale was a skilled craftsman who made his own coffin and perched beside it as guests came to mourn and wish him well at his funeral party. It is estimated that nearly 8,000 people, many of whom didn’t even know Breazeale, attended the affair. While that part is rooted in history, the context of this story are fictional. The depiction Murray offers of the lonely funeral director is a fabrication, and the backstory and inciting incident for Felix Bush offered in the film are also a work of fiction.

The producers said the movie was inspired by true events, but is not meant to be a docu-drama. The real Breazeale ha…

Faith in Film 4, Week 3

Here's a look at the worksheet for "Get Low." We will be screening the film tonight and will be talking about the film's themes next Monday!

Title: “Get Low” (2009)

Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, and Sissie Spacek

Synopsis: This is another interesting film that continues the arc of forgiveness, guilt, and the quest for redemption over the first half of this session. The film was released in 2009 to little fanfare, but it was one of the hidden independent gems of that year. Though snubbed by the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, “Get Low” did win an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature for director Aaron Schneider. Bill Murray earned a nomination from the Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Actor, turning in one of his better performances of the past few years, and Duvall could easily have snagged an acting nomination as well.

The film centers on a bitter older man, Felix Bush (Duvall), who wants to throw himself a funeral before he’s dea…

Stand Firm in the Lord

Paul was an amazing writer and theologian. He seemed to have a knack (probably that whole inspiration from God thing) for speaking to the needs of people who were his direct audience, and to us who have his letters in the Bible years later.

There are a lot of times in life when things don't make sense. That is especially true when you don't deal with change well. That would be me. I don't like change. It take a long time to adjust to change. I suspect God knows that. I also suspect that has a little something to do with this season in my life.

It's fair to say nothing will be the same. My family dynamics are changing. My work life is changing. My house is changing. And my personal life is REALLY changing. Most, if not all, of these changes are blessings from God. But that doesn't really help when you're not good at dealing with change.

That's why I'm always glad to know that at least one thing never changes, and that is God and His love for me. That…

The Aging Lakeshow

There was a time that, no matter how I feel about him personally, when Kobe Bryant had the ball in his hands in the deciding minutes of a game, I felt like the Lakers were going to win. Now, it's more like a toss up. Is this how LeBron James fans feel? Ok, that was a low blow; but, still, Kobe's no spring chicken anymore.

Five NBA Titles (I just like writing that) and a bunch of playoff games have taken their toll. This last run, which saw the Lakers in the Finals three straight years and many of the stars in the Olympics in the summer of 2008 seems to have aged the group. Pau Gasol doesn't look that imposing anymore, Lamar Odom is working on reality shows full-time, and Ron Artest has become Metta World Peace. Then there's the missing Derek Fisher component, who is now on the bench for opposing Oklahoma City.

The Lakers trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with OKC, but if they don't win tonight it's hard to see how they stand a chance in the series. Two yea…

Shows That Need a Reboot

Now that the dust has settled, the schedules are out, and the trailers for the new shows have been released, it's time to take stock of what to expect heading into the new fall season. On Wednesday I reviewed some of the new shows, today I look at some aging shows that need to do something if they're to keep going.

A few shows already have expiration dates. "30 Rock," though still hilarious, will wrap up after 13 episodes in the fall. That seems like a good plan to wrap up the show with dignity. And "Fringe," while low-rated, will get a chance to have a proper 13-episode farewell in the fall too. But, undoubtedly, still more veteran shows will see their flames extinguished by next May — whether by choice or by force. Below is a list of some shows that have gone through rough patches. If they bounce back strong, their presence will endure. If not, it could be time to say goodbye in one year's time.

The Mentalist — moving to Sundays at 10 p.m. on CBS

Now Playing

Two weeks and two stunningly fun summer films. Things are looking up for the summer of 2012... or they were until we realized this week we get "Battleship" and "The Dictator." Oh well, nothing good lasts forever.  Here's a look at "Dark Shadows."

Dark Shadows
Starring: Johnny Depp, Jonny Lee Miller, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Jackie Earle Haley
Synopsis: No major stars have as diverse a set of indelible characters on their resume as Johnny Depp. He’s sailed the high seas as a pirate, lived the solitary existence as an outcast, played an average Joe stuck in an espionage plot, been a reclusive chocolateer, and been a signing barber with a homicidal streak. And that’s just a handful of the different roles Depp has played over the years. Given his range and history, it makes perfect sense he would be tapped to recreate the iconic role of Barnabas Collins in a modern update of “Dark Shadows.” And who bette…

Network Upfronts

For those of us that like TV, this is a big week. It's the week each year when the networks, one-by-one, unveil their fall schedules. This lets audiences know what shows were cancelled, what shows were kept, where they will air, and offers a sneak peak at new shows. In other words, it's a week filled with promise.

The question is, which of those promises looks the most intriguing. Each year networks trot out dozens of new shows. Some pop; some wilt and end up on the scrap heap. Below I've picked a handful that I think might pop based on first looks.

Good Bets:

Revolution, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC
Why: This show has a good pedigree. It comes from producer J.J. Abrams and features a lot of the trappings of his other shows. There is a scientific/supernatural mystery, it is set in a unique location, and it's all about trying to find hope. Since "LOST" is several seasons gone now and "Fringe" is airing its final 13 episodes in the fall, it's about …

Faith in Film 4, Devil

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." — 1 Peter 5:8

With that Scripture, the film "Devil" begins. It has an ominous name, and was the victim of a terrible marketing campaign, but it's really a movie that strikes at the heart of an important theological principle, which is forgiveness. This film dovetails nicely with the film we looked at in week 1, "Atonement," but offers a more hopeful take on the idea. The ending of this film, and the journey for the hero, Det. Bowden (Chris Messina), is remarkable. It brought me to tears when I first saw it, and did the same for many last night.

The film comes from writer M. Night Shymalan. Shymalan, as he does with all his films, has many religious themes in "Devil." He is a seeker in the truest sense. He was raised in a Hindu home, but spent his youth attending Episcopal school. He grew up with dueling ideologies, and that in…

Faith in Film 4, Week 2

Here's a look at the worksheet for this week's selection, "Devil," which isn't quite as traumatic as its name!

Title: “Devil” (2010)

Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, and Jacob Vargas

Synopsis: This was not a movie that many people saw. It came out late in the summer of 2010 to little fanfare. By the time it was released, the name M. Night Shymalan didn’t have the creative weight it used to, and this was a small movie that came out during a season of blockbusters. Yet it offered a unique vision into a concept that was both engrossing and fascinating. The film is grounded in the idea of religion and wrestles with some weighty concepts throughout its short running time. All that is woven into a short, confined horror film. That is where the creativity of construction — not just of the story but of the film craft — comes into play. Everything comes full circle and is important in the telling of this story.

The film takes place almost entirely in an off…

Mother's Day

"I want to tell the whole world about a friend of mine This little light of mine, I'm feelin' let it shine I'm feelin' take y'all back to them better times I'm feelin' talk about my momma if y'all don't mind" - Kayne West, "Hey Mama"
Today is Mother's Day. It's amazing, as I reflect, how far we've come in a year. On May 12, 2011, I was awoken early in the morning to a phone call. It was my sister saying my mom had a heart attack and was in the hospital. That day was one of the scariest of my life.
In some ways, it's fitting that Mother's Day weekend has fallen on the one year anniversary of that day. A year ago, as I sat in the hospital waiting for news, I reflected on the thought that I don't know what I'd do without my mom. I still don't. But I thank God that he has brought renewed health and strength, and that my mom is still here.
No matter how old a boy gets, he still needs his mommy. I'm grat…

Hope in Dark Times

"The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming." — Harvey Dent, "The Dark Knight"

It has been a long week. It is human nature to not embrace big change. That's certainly true for me. I don't like change. I like the safety of routine. But our God is a god of change. And that change is always for our benefit.

That doesn't mean it's always easy. It isn't. It's easy to get lost and to feel like we're lost under a dark cloud. That's the other thing I like about God. He is the light in the darkness, and He is more powerful than any of that darkness.

When we're tempted to give in to despair during dark times, it's important to remember our God is bigger than all that. As it says in John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

This is a time of change for Highlands Church, but it is also a time when God is opening the door to some new source of light…

My Perfect Show

"In this game of skill one must have above all else, Patience. The board changes, but very slowly. The art of chess, the art is knowing when a piece is most valuable and then, in that very moment, being willing to sacrifice it. For in the vacuum created by the loss of what is most precious, opportunity abounds, influences maximize, and desire becomes destiny." — William Bell, "Fringe"

Tonight TV's most unique, layered, exciting, and beautiful series wraps up its fourth season. I'm referring, of course, to "Fringe." You may not know this show is on. It's never been an incredible ratings hit, but it's quality, and the passion of its fan base, is undeniable. That's why FOX gave this low-rated series a final season, 13-episode pick up for next year.

That final 13 episodes will give the series an even 100 shows, an impressive total for a show that's been quietly brilliant for five seasons. It's a quirky mix of "The X-Files,&qu…

Now Playing

The summer movie season has begun! Here's a look at the first big blockbuster, "The Avengers."

The Avengers
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, and Cobie Smulders
Synopsis: There are few superhero films that have been as ambitious, or as big a gamble, as “The Avengers.” But, then again, few have been done as well as “The Avengers,” a credit to the long-term vision of Marvel Studios, the strength of the cast, and the guiding vision of Joss Whedon. “The Avengers” is really the culmination of years of work. It began with Marvels’ roll out of “Iron Man” in 2008. That was followed by a re-boot of “The Hulk,” a second “Iron Man” film, and last summer’s debuts of “Thor” and “Captain America.” That fabric of films all comes into play with “The Avengers.” In some ways, it’s fair to say that “The Avengers” is the payoff for the may prologues that have greeted a…

The Elephant in The Room

I love the NFL. Since I was a child, it's been my favorite sport. I love the pageantry of the game, the excitement, pretty much everything. And I'm not alone. The NFL is by far the most popular, profitable sport in America.

But it's also, arguably, the most deadly. And it is that last aspect that should give all fans a moment of pause. It's been a long time coming, and it's getting impossible to ignore.

Last week, Junior Seau committed suicide. Though it will be months before anyone can say for sure, many suspect he was suffering effects of traumatic brain injury. Many suspect that he killed himself because he was losing himself, and a pattern of erratic behavior over the past few years seems to back up that sentiment.

It was jarring to me to see he was dead. Seau was a great player from my youth. I spent years fearing him when he was with the San Diego Chargers, and then rooting for him when he was part of some loaded New England Patriot teams. The idea that 20 y…

Faith in Film 4, Atonement

It was wonderful to resume Faith in Film, especially when tackling such a fascinating and challenging film as "Atonement." The title of the film, based on the novel from Ian McEwen, refers to the concept of atonement. The film considers this principle from a human perspective. The dictionary defines atonement as, “amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation.” That is the human definition, which this film explores, that we try everything in our power to earn forgiveness for transgressions.

Of course we know that, from a Biblical perspective, atonement can't be earned and comes from God. The theology dictionary says this of the concept of atonement, “the Bible's central message is atonement, that is, that God has provided a way for humankind to come back into harmonious relation with him, is everywhere apparent in Scripture. From the first stories in Genesis to the last visions of Revelation, God seeks to reconcile his people to himself.” This is a key…

Faith in Film 4, Week 1

The latest edition of Faith in Film begins tonight. As will be the pattern during this run of the course, I will post the worksheets for each session on Mondays and recap my speaking notes on this blog on Tuesdays. I look forward to seeing everyone tonight as we begin a fun, eight-week journey!

Title: “Atonement” (2007)

Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightly, Saoirse Ronan, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Romola Garai

Synopsis: “Atonement” is a beautiful movie with a challenging concept that seems to have been overlooked by audiences. It was a great movie, and in most years would have been a prominent award contender. But the year it was released, it was eclipsed by an incredible field of films — including “Juno,” “No Country For Old Men,” and “There Will Be Blood.” Yet, years later, the central ideas and themes of the film continue to offer compelling fodder for discussion for those that see this film and love it. The film is based on a novel from Ian McEwen, and is largely regarded as on…

Hearing God's Voice

Faith isn't a passive act. It is interactive. I think sometimes we forget that, but if we really want to hear God's voice, we have to seek Him.

One of the things I loved about this morning is the reminder in the video that following and seeking God is a choice. God created man with free will, that's the upshot. The downside is that with free will comes choice, and it is up to us to make the right choice; the hard choice; the choice to follow Him.

We have to seek after God if we really want to hear His voice. And that means we can't just sit back during services and hope that God's wisdom washes over us then go on with our normal daily routine. In fact, I think it's a human tendency to get too caught up in where we seek God.

One of my favorite movies is "Simon Birch." There is a section in the film where Simon is sitting in the corner in the Sunday School room. The minister comes to him and asks what he's doing. He tells the minister he is thinking…

Riding to the Finish on a White Horse

I love the Triple Crown races. There is something exciting about the spectacle and the pageantry of the races. And, of course, it's a blink and you'll miss it experience, which makes it even more exciting.

But there are a couple things I've never seen in my lifetime. The first is a Triple Crown winner. It's been years since a Triple Crown was achieved. The last one belonged to Affirmed in 1978. Each year that passes, we get more removed from seeing it. Still, I hope that one day we'll see it.

Who knows if this will be the year. I still have hope, but it remains to be seen.

The other thing I've wanted to see was a non-traditional colored horse make a run. Hansen is that horse, but he doesn't have great odds. The horse (pictured above), is white, which makes it unique. I'm not certain Hansen can win, but wouldn't it be awesome to see both things I've longed to see converge? Imagine a white Triple Crown winner!

The quest begins this afternoon!

The Measure of a Year

"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens" — Ecclesiastes 3:1

What a difference a year can make. Birthdays feel different as you progress. They are exciting parties when you're young, the gateway to landmark events in your teens and early 20s, an excuse to blow off steam as a young adult, and a time to take stock of your life as you pass on toward adulthood.

I don't know when adulthood really sets in, but a panic about adulthood set in for me last May, when I turned 30. It gave me a new appreciation for a lot of things I didn't have when I was younger. All those times I bemoaned a player being too old or over the hill when they turned 30 gave me pause. Now I say 30 is old for professional sports, but certainly not for life.

Still, in a country and culture that worships youth and early accomplishment, it's hard not to feel a little underwhelmed at times when you look at your life. But that is the influence of the world …

Now Playing

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

The Five Year Engagement
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, and Chris Pratt
Synopsis: Most romantic comedies are all a build up from the moment the characters meet until the moment they fall in love. The film ends with a sweeping romantic gesture, and you’re led to believe, or at least hope, that those two crazy kids will have the perfect, worry-free romance we’d all like. That’s what makes “The Five Year Engagement” so interesting. This is a film that starts at that big, sweeping romantic gesture, then explores what happens after the typical romantic comedy ends. The film is tense at times, tough to watch at times, and the lives of the characters get messy. But that’s what gives it a sense of realism that you frequently don’t get in these types of films. There is a line in the film that sort of sums up the take on relationships offered in this film. Violet tells Tom she doesn’t think they can work out all their issue…

Active Faith

I think there are many times in the Bible when I'm reading a passage that challenges my faith. I don't mean it makes me question whether I have faith, or it makes me question what my faith is in; rather it makes me question whether I am able to put my faith into action the way people in the Bible did.

If I'm being honest, most of the time that's not the case.

Last week I had a chance to lead Bible Study. My chapter was 1 Samuel 14, which presents an interesting contrast in faith from Saul, King of Israel, and his son, Jonathan. It deals with a battle with the Philistines, and it presents an interesting contrast between who we'd like to be as people of faith and who, too often, we probably really are.

Early in the chapter, Jonathan leaves the Israelite lines with just his armor-bearer. He is convinced that, if it's God's will, he'll be granted victory over a stout foe. He goes out, here's the Philistines call him to their camp, and believes God will …