A God for Bad Days, Too

Review of Finding God in the Dark: Faith, Disappointment, and the Struggle to Believe by Ted Kluck & Ronnie MartinBy ALEXIS NEALHave you ever gone through a difficult time? Had the rug yanked out from under you? Looked disillusionment and disappointment square in the face? If so, you are not alone.From sports writer Ted Kluck and musician Ronnie Martin comes Finding God in the Dark, which documents their respective struggles toward faith and peace in the midst of pain and … [Read more...]

A Boy, a Beanstalk, and the Power of Storytelling

Review of Jack the Giant Slayer, Directed by Bryan SingerBy ALEXIS NEALOnce upon a time, giants roamed the English countryside, crushing and consuming anyone who stood in their way. After much violence and property damage, a solution was finally found in the form of a magical crown that enabled the wearer to control the troll-like giants. King Erik (the wearer of said crown) sent them packing back to Gantua, their home in the clouds. The kingdom was saved, and Erik was eventually buried … [Read more...]

The Cat’s in the Cradle and John McClane’s in Russia: A Good Day to Die Hard

Review of A Good Day to Die Hard, Directed by John MooreBy ALEXIS NEALWhere does our favorite modern-day cowboy go on vacation to get away from it all? Why, Mother Russia, of course, to track down his missing son—an apparent ne’er do well who’s been incarcerated (in Russia) for unknown reasons. McClane quickly discovers that his son Jack, far from being a shiftless punk criminal, is in fact a real live spy (albeit not a terribly bright one). Of course, by the time McClane makes this impor … [Read more...]

Love Conquers All: Romance and Idolatry in ‘The Mummy’

Review of The Mummy, Directed by Karl FreundBy ALEXIS NEALYou really should know better than to read aloud anything you find in an ancient tomb in Cairo.But when the long-lost Scroll of Thoth is discovered, a certain archaeologist’s assistant decides to do just that: read it aloud—and in the presence of the mummified remains of the priest Imhotep, no less. It is hardly surprising, then, when the archaeologist returns to find that his assistant, clearly already deeply stupid, is now co … [Read more...]

Big Trouble in Little China: Tina Turner Was Wrong–We DO Need Another Hero

Review of Big Trouble in Little China, directed by John CarpenterBy ALEXIS NEALJack Burton is nobody special. He’s just your average red-blooded American—a loudmouth truckdriver with a gambling habit and a knack for getting into trouble. When his friend Wang’s fiancée Miao Yin is kidnapped by sex traffickers, Jack agrees to help get her back. This ends up being more complicated than he expected. Before long, Jack finds himself smack in the middle of a longstanding Chinese gang war … and t … [Read more...]

Finding Your Soul-Mate

Review of The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry, but Why?, by Gary ThomasBy ALEXIS NEALI’ve read a lot of marriage books. Not all of them, mind you, or even most of them. But as someone who tends to believe that there is no obstacle you can’t study your way over and no problem you can’t think your way out of, I have devoured marriage books like a chubby kid eats cookies the day before fat camp. The results of this literary quest have been middlin’ at best. There have bee … [Read more...]

Gonna Fly Now; Or, the American (Non)Gospel

Review of Rocky, Directed by John D. AvildsenBy ALEXIS NEALI feel a little silly describing the plot of Rocky (1976). Still, I know there may be a few young whippersnappers out there who never sat around on Saturday afternoons watching old action movies on TNT and who thus don’t know who this Sylvester Stallone guy is or why people get so excited when he pops up on their movie screens in otherwise unremarkable films like The Expendables (2010) or the much improved (if unimpressively n … [Read more...]

Alexis’s Top Reads of 2012

By ALEXIS NEALThis would be me jumping on Ye Olde Bandwagon (Bookwagon?), if you will. As Coyle and Kendrick have done before me, I include only books I read this year, not books that were necessarily published this year—and no re-reads, either. Only books with which I had my very first encounter in 2012. With that in mind, here’s my book award list:Best Western: True Grit, by Charles PortisI read quite a few Westerns this year, which is unusual for me (and is a direct result of bei … [Read more...]

Grace Accepted; Grace Rejected—A Review of Les Misérables

Review of Les Misérables, Directed by Tom HooperBy ALEXIS NEALAfter years of imprisonment and hard labor, one-time thief Jean Valjean is finally released from prison, only to discover that, for an ex-con life on the outside is harder than he expected. When the Bishop of Digne unexpectedly takes pity on him, Valjean promptly repays the Bishop’s kindness by making off with all the silver he can carry. Valjean is apprehended by the authorities, of course, but the Bishop insists that the si … [Read more...]

Faith, Reason, and the Man in the Big Red Suit

Review of Miracle on 34th Street, Directed by George SeatonBy ALEXIS NEALYoung Susan Walker is an intensely practical child. Her mother Doris has only ever told her the truth—her childhood has been uniformly free of such frivolous and fictitious nonsense as fairy stories, happily-ever-afters, make believe, and most importantly (for our purposes, anyway): Santa Claus. And Doris is quite satisfied with this state of affairs. It’s best to be realistic, after all—saves wear and tear on the em … [Read more...]