LES MISERABLES: A Truly Moving Picture

les- miserables-marius-eponine--eddie-redmayne

Adapting a beloved novel to the big screen is a dicey undertaking.   Bringing a rapturously remembered musical to the movies is even more risky.   Following up an Oscar winning film is also fraught with danger.   And yet, Tom Hooper expands his remarkably assured direction of The King’s Speech in the epic, poetic, and nearly overwrought Les Miserables.   Opening on Christmas Day, Les Miserables embodies the Easter narrative—sacrifice, death and resurrection.   It is about the eternal tension betw … [Read more...]

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2012: Year of the Musical Comeback


So much of pop music is meant to be disposable.  Dance now, forget later.   But the finest songwriters connect our current context to the larger questions that cut across eras.   The best music is timely and timeless.    2012 was the year of the musical comeback.   From Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” to Sinead O’Connor’s “How About I Be Me (and You Be You),” the best of the 80s and 90s came roaring back.    If anything, the righteous anger that flows from our most resonant artists resurfaced … [Read more...]

The Best Music of 2012: If you can find it…


Having purchased several thousand albums, cassettes, and compact discs in my lifetime, my switch to digital downloads has taken AWHILE.   I still prefer a physical rendition of the music (probably because I expect Apple iTunes to change their user terms someday; I don't want to repurchase MP3s.)    But I can't argue with the convenience that comes with digital.   It is so fast, so easy, so simple to download.   And it is amazing how many songs can be crammed onto an iPod.     I'd still rather buy … [Read more...]


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...]


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...]



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 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


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...]



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...]



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...]


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...]