Dear White People is a letter (or film) addressed to people like me.   I am a college educated, indie film fan, aware of America’s tangled history of race relations, and eager to do the right thing. And yet, Dear White People senses that I (maybe even we) haven’t rooted out a curious fascination and indirect racism in my expectations.   We feel familiar enough with black folks to expect certain patterns and tendencies.   In slotting colleagues into such boxes, we further delimit the glorious poss … [Read more...]



I was so happy to miss Transformers: Age of Extinction in theaters.   Director Michael Bay engages in such an unrelenting assault on the senses.   The cuts and crashes happen so fast and so frequently that audiences rarely have time to consider what is actually transpiring onscreen.   Most viewers don’t care where Optimus Prime and the Autobots have come from or how Mark Wahlberg became an inventor in rural Texas with a Boston townie accent.   We want to see metal crunch metal. This time they’ve … [Read more...]

WHIPLASH: What Price Glory?


Whiplash is the bracing flip-side to Mr. Holland’s Opus, an exploration of how cruel and demanding teachers may drive students to dizzying heights (if they don’t destroy them in the process). It is feel good film about a feel bad teacher, Terence Fletcher, and his driven student, Andrew Neyman. Whiplash depicts the hours of practice necessary to achieve genuine excellence, but it also questions the wisdom of such a single-minded pursuit.  Andrew wants to be a game-changing musician associated wit … [Read more...]

Musical Healing in God Help the Girl

God Help the Girl movie

Where does music come from? Is there a deity who bestows the perfect pop songs?   Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian desperately wants to craft the ultimate three minute single.   From “If You’re Feeling Sinister” in 1996 to the “The Life Pursuit” in 2006, Murdoch has polished his songwriting chops, updating the sixties sounds of Burt Bacharach through an arresting Scottish lilt.   Murdoch’s effervescent new musical, God Help the Girl, melds psychosis and spirituality into an arresting mélange … [Read more...]

Calvary and the Cost of Following God


How shall the Roman Catholic Church pay for her sins? Legal judgments have been rendered and financial compensation awarded to the victims.   And yet, nobody seems too satisfied.   The specter of sin still lingers in the church rafters.In his short tenure, Pope Francis has done so much to repair the tarnished image of the Roman Catholic Church.   His surprising acts of kindness have superseded the reports we’d come to dread of another cover up of another priest in another parish.   Pope Franc … [Read more...]

Jesus in the Movies: A Complicated History


After Son of God, Noah, and God’s Not Dead demonstrated strong box office appeal, the media has dubbed 2014 as “The Year of the Biblical Epic.”   Stories in the Los Angeles Times, Fox News, NPR, The Daily Beast, U.S. News and World Report and The Telegraph have chronicled this 'flood' of faith fueled films.  Another religiously themed movie opens this week:  Randall Wallace's stirring adaptation of the bestseller, Heaven is For Real.   Later this year, Christian Bale will take on the mantle of Mo … [Read more...]

The Haunting Reality Beyond Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips

It took me a long time to work up the courage to see Captain Phillips.   Despite all the positive reviews and even Academy Award nominations, I stayed away because the story struck me as far too real.   I couldn’t view the movie as mere entertainment because I had followed another hijacking by Somali pirates with an intense personal interest.     When Scott Adam retired from a career as an assistant director in Hollywood, he enrolled at Fuller Seminary.   We were students together, presenting at … [Read more...]

TREE OF LIFE: From Genesis to Revelation


A friend was recently searching for my original review of Tree of Life and discovered it was no longer available online.   So here are my initial thoughts about Terrence Malick's towering cinematic achievement from May 2011: Tree of Life resurrects the era when Hollywood still aspired to greatness.  Not since 2001:  A Space Odyssey (or less successfully, The Fountain) has a filmmaker attempted to capture both the origins of life and our ultimate destination.   Terrence Malick came of age when mo … [Read more...]

THE ESOTERIC ELVIS: Gary Tillery’s “The Seeker King”


I have always been an Elvis fan, initially because we shared the same birthday.   Over time, I came to truly love his classic songs, from the Sun Sessions in Memphis to his NBC Comeback Special in 1968.    When Elvis was encouraged to find something deep within his soul, the results were startling—a bolt of rock and roll lightning.   Yet, in between the early Elvis and the comeback Elvis were years of Hollywood Elvis, phoning it in for the movies.  What kept Elvis going amidst all the medioc … [Read more...]



Plenty will be written about how Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Emma Thompson, and Oprah Winfrey got snubbed by the Oscars.   Many may wonder how Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks and Lee Daniels’ The Butler could be overlooked for Best Picture (after all, the Academy could have nominated 10 films, not just the nine that were recognized).   Less will be written about why this occurred.  What lies behind the Oscar nominations?While no one can know the mind of the individual Academy member, … [Read more...]