THE HOBBIT: PATIENCE REWARDED?

the-hobbit-gandalf cate blanchett

As we head into the thick of winter, the comforts of home are more appealing than ever.   A favorite sweater, comfortable couch, and a hot cup of coffee comprise some of the most profound and simple pleasures in life.   So it is understandable why Bilbo Baggins might slam the door on a wizard offering an adventure.   If thirteen rowdy dwarves barged into your kitchen pantry, you’d probably be as miffed as our hobbit.Director Peter Jackson takes his time, immersing us within Bilbo’s comfor … [Read more...]

PARENTAL CHALLENGES in THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN

The Odd Life of Timothy Green Joel Edgerton

You may have missed The Odd Life of Timothy Green.   It slipped into theaters at the end of the summer just as we were heading back to school.   It is a lovely autumn movie, filled with golden leaves and burnished tones.   The Odd Life of Timothy Green arrives on DVD as that rare film that works for parents and kids, giving all of us a deeper appreciation of the gift and challenge of family.   It is also a compelling portrait of adoption, how waiting and longing can turn into redemption for all. … [Read more...]

CELEBRATION AND LAMENTATION FOR ROB BELL

rob-bell-mars-hill

It was tough to read James K. Wellman’s astute assessment of Rob Bell and a New American Christianity.   His research is thorough, rigorous and insightful.    The writing is smart and on point.   It offers a great window into Bell’s conservative upbringing and his first forays into punk rock.  It chronicles the remarkable rise of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.   I learned about the origins of Rob Bell’s Nooma videos.  But more importantly, I learned why the successful series ended so … [Read more...]

LIFE OF PI: Visual Splendor and Spiritual Hunger

life-of-pi-movie

Life of Pi begins in a magical, animal kingdom in Pondicherry, India.    Birds and monkeys flight through the trees is especially vivid in 3D.   The seamless blend of real animals and digital replicas makes us sit back and relax, confident we are in the hands of a masterful storyteller.  Director Ang Lee staged magical moments in his Academy Award winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  The crouching tiger in Life of Pi is also Oscar worthy.   He commands our attention, a tribute to the visual e … [Read more...]

Blessed Are the Peacemakers–Amongst the Taliban

making-friends-among-the-taliban-book

Veteran’s Day is an important time to pause, remember, and honor our fallen soldiers.   We are all the beneficiaries of their blood, shed on battlefields far and wide.   But what about those who fought for peace without the use of guns or ammo?   How do we honor fallen peacemakers?  Jonathan P. Larson celebrates the legacy of his lifelong friend, Dan Terry, in Making Friends Among the Taliban:  A Peacemaker’s Journey in Afghanistan and in the companion documentary, Weaving Life.  (Free copies of … [Read more...]

ANTICIPATING THE HOBBIT? HERE IS A SHARP PREVIEW

The-Hobbit-poster-2012

Anticipation is rising for the December 14th release of The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.   Each installment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy remains ensconced in the Top 25 films of all time on the Internet Movie Database.   When the Hobbit trailer runs in theaters, fans applaud at the first peek of Middle Earth. Audience interest in director Peter Jackson’s latest adaptation is so massive that J.R.R. Tolkien’s first book will be stretched into three feature films over the next two and a half … [Read more...]

CLOUD ATLAS: SERIOUS FUN

cloud_atlas_poster

I’m disappointed by the dismal box office returns for Cloud Atlas because it is serious fun.   Those two concepts, “serious” and “fun,” are rarely melded together in movies.   Juggling those disparate tones is particularly tricky when you have six stories in play.   The effort to adapt David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, to the big screen may have been doomed to failure (or at least, misunderstanding) from the beginning.   Yet, I found it both engaging and entertaining, highly deserving of … [Read more...]

ARGO: ENORMOUSLY ENTERTAINING

Ben Affleck directs Argo

Argo is a rousing, nail-biting throwback to the best of seventies cinema:  timely, topical, and tense.    It begins with Islamic protesters burning American flags and besieging the U.S. embassy.   No, this isn’t a study of current events in Syria or Libya.   Argo celebrates spies and the far-fetched plans necessary to get State department employees out of Iran circa 1979.    A religious and political revolution lead by Ayatollah Khomeini had deposed the hated Shah of Iran.   When the United State … [Read more...]

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN: A SATISFYING SECRET

Searching for Sugar Man--Rodriguez

How could an artist of such originality and vision as Vincent Van Gogh sell almost no paintings in his lifetime?   Groundbreaking television series like Arrested Development and The Wire struggled to find an audience during their initial runs.  Searching for Sugar Man tackles a similar conundrum.   How could a songwriter as deft and poetic as Rodriguez be ignored by radio stations and overlooked by the public?   Moreover, what happened to Rodriguez after his evocative albums failed to sell?   Did … [Read more...]

Clay Morgan’s UNDEAD: A Bracing Wake Up Call

the-walking-dead-season-3

Why do zombies increasingly haunt our pop culture?   From surprise box office hits like 28 Days Later to the breakout cable television hit, The Walking Dead, zombies appear more prominent and problematic than ever.   In Undead:  Revived, Resurrected, Reborn, first-time author Clay Morgan connects our fascination with zombies to our most nagging spiritual questions.   We relate to the survivors navigating post-apocalyptic scenarios, dogged by shortages in supplies and human contact.   We sense tha … [Read more...]

WON’T BACK DOWN: WORKING CLASS HEROES

Won't Back Down-Viola Davis

As the Chicago teachers strike played out, I kept thinking of the new film Won’t Back Down.  How rare to find such a topical drama.   Debates about public education continue to bubble up across school systems.   In most cases, parents end up pitted against teacher unions.    Should parents be allowed to choose where their children go to school?   Should teachers’ job security be based upon seniority or effectiveness?    If parents choose to test teachers, then how should effectiveness be measured … [Read more...]


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