I’m Dreaming of a Selflessly Sacrificial Christmas

Review of White Christmas, Directed by Michael CurtizBy ALEXIS NEALOnce upon a time, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis were in the Army together. On Christmas Eve in 1944, Davis (an aspiring performer) saved the life of Wallace (an established Broadway star) and the rest, as they say, is history. After the war, the two embark on a highly successful career culminating in the production of their own musical. Along the way, Wallace and Davis meet the charming Haynes sisters, Betty and Judy, and … [Read more...]

In Which Arius Receives a Stocking Full of Coal and a Knuckle Sandwich

Review of The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus by Adam C. EnglishBy ALEXIS NEALMy idea of Santa Claus is based on an amalgamation of Disney specials, Norman Rockwell paintings, and the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore. I know what every kid knows—that Santa looks vaguely like Edmund Gwenn. But I didn’t know a blessed thing about who he was before he was Santa Claus. Fortunately, Adam C. English was aware of my plight (shared by many Americans), and so he wrote The Saint Who Would Be Sant … [Read more...]

Patience is a Virtue

Review of All Creatures Great and Small, by James HerriotBy ALEXIS NEALFirst things first: If you have never read this book, read it. I’m not kidding. You can watch the television series, if you like—it’s quite good—but please read it as well. I’m sure they have copies at your local library, and at bookstores (of course, whether they still have bookstores may be another matter entirely). You can even read it on your Kindle. Just read it. You won’t be sorry.I first stumbled across this … [Read more...]

Skyfall; or Why Some Old Dogs Don’t Need to Learn New Tricks

Review of Skyfall, Directed by Sam MendesBy ALEXIS NEALM has a problem. Someone has stolen MI6’s list of all NATO agents embedded in terrorist cells around the world. (Obviously this someone was a big fan of Mission: Impossible.) And it would appear the same someone has a personal vendetta against her—someone with a gift for computer wizardry. Someone who is perpetually two steps ahead of MI6’s best agents.Obviously, this is a situation that calls for Bond. But there’s a minor snag: h … [Read more...]

Intentional Christian Community: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing (Pt 2)

Review of The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus, by David Janzen and a Community of Friends (Part 2 of 2)By ALEXIS NEALAnd now for my biggest issue with this book. I said in Part 1 that I think Janzen’s idea of community lacks a solid gospel foundation. This is actually a twofold problem. First, Janzen veers dangerously close to a works-based understanding of salvation. Second, the communities he advocates are united not a … [Read more...]

Intentional Christian Community: Vocation, Community, and the Local Church (Pt 1)

Review of The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus, by David Janzen and a Community of Friends (Part 1 of 2)By ALEXIS NEALThe Christian church has ceased to be a body and has become instead a disconnected assortment of individuals. We no longer care for one another, meet one another’s needs, or walk alongside one another as the early church once did. “Church” has become somewhere we go once a week instead of something we are o … [Read more...]

Why We Fight: Searching for Justice in an Unjust World

 A Review of Cloud Atlas, directed by Tom Tykwer and Wachowski StarshipBy ALEXIS NEALEvery once in a while, you see movies advertised as offering ‘something for everyone,’ and it’s usually just so much marketing malarkey. Cloud Atlas is an exception. This deeply strange film includes: a period adventure on the high seas (complete with abolitionist sub-plot); a tragic Gothic love story full of secrecy and betrayal; a 1970’s conspiracy thriller; a screwball madcap comedy caper; a dystopian … [Read more...]

The Source of Sanctification: Human or Divine?

Review of The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson BurnettBy ALEXIS NEALMistress Mary, quite contrary,How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockle shellsAnd marigolds all in a row!So goes the nursery rhyme taunt sung to the central character in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel, The Secret Garden. And the shoe certainly fits: Mary Lennox is quite contrary. And little wonder: Born in India to wealthy British parents, she’s always been given her way in ev … [Read more...]

Good News/Bad News

Review of The Cabin in the Woods, Directed by Drew GoddardBy ALEXIS NEALFive college students—a stoner, a jock, a nerd, a (bottle) blonde, and a girl-next-door—head off to spend the weekend at a remote cabin (which, of course, always ends well). Meanwhile, technicians in some sort of high-tech facility prepare for an important operation of an unspecified nature. It’s not long, however, before we learn that the students are the operation, and their physical circumstances (and sometimes the … [Read more...]

The Call of Cthulhu

Review of The Call of Cthulhu, Directed by Andrew LemanBy ALEXIS NEALPh'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn … In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming …That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die …These cryptic phrases appear in a manuscript found among the papers of the late Francis Wayland Thurston of Boston.  The manuscript is full of curious things—feverish dreams of Cyclopean cities and  green ooze, a bizarre oc … [Read more...]