Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Review: Heaven is for Real - PG

Coming to Theaters April 16, 2014 

Colton Burpo is the 4 year-old son of preacher Todd Burpo and his wife Sonya.  When Colton gets sick, his appendix bursts and although he doesn't die, he is given a vision of heaven.  Although people are skeptical, including Todd and Sonya, Colton describes seeing himself on the operating table and then meeting people such as his great-grandfather (as a child), and his miscarried unborn sister (who he was never told about), and these things cannot be explained away.   Todd must decide if, and how, to address Colton's experience to his congregation at Church.

I liked how  the story is told;  it is straight-forward and realistic with the appropriate moments of humor.  Greg Kinnear is particularly good as Todd Burpo, and  Connor Corum is amazing as Colton, especially being so young.

It is a simple yet important message that Colton conveys to everyone, a bit at a time:  everyone is young in heaven, no one wears glasses in heaven, and no one will hurt you in heaven.  The messages add up to this: that Heaven IS for real, Jesus loves us, and He is coming again.

I highly recommend Heaven is for Real....bring the whole family!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review: Draft Day - PG13

Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner) is the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, and today is Draft Day, when he has the opportunity to determine the future of football in Cleveland.   

The ups and downs of the deal-making activity behind the Draft were fascinating to watch. 
 There was also a lot of human interaction as Weaver had several people indicating which deals he should make, as well as the relationship between Weaver and his girlfriend, and with his mother.

Although I have my teams I root for,  I am not a huge sports enthusiast and to be honest, I enjoyed Draft Day a lot more than I expected to.

The acting was pretty good, especially Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver and Frank Langella as Anthony Molina, the team owner.   Denis Leary was good and realistic as the Head Coach and Jennifer Garner was good as Sonny's co-worker and girlfriend, as was Ellen Burstyn as his mother.

An intriguing look at the behind-the-scenes deals that are part of the NFL draft process.
A  very entertaining movie.

The only content warning is some cursing, but it is pretty tame compared to that contained in most movies today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: The Last Days of Jesus by Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly tells the story of Jesus' last days by providing important historical context surrounding  the Passion story we are all familiar with.   He also provides information on the political and social  environment of the time, which leads to a more complete understanding of those events.

I was particularly impressed with the illustrations and photos included....they really bring the reader closer to the story.

Although we've all read or seen the story of Jesus' passion, Bill's  description of the events of the original Holy Week really convey the intensity of Jesus' passion.  I am glad I a got a chance to read it during Lent.   I recommend that everyone read it, especially during Lent.

A very well-written and composed book.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Movie Review: 3 Days to Kill - PG13

When CIA Agent Ethan Run finds out that he has a terminal disease,  he decides to reconnect with  his estranged wife and daughter, who he had left in order  to keep his work away from them.  But his work has a way of finding him, when he is offered a potentially life-saving drug in exchange for tracking down and killing the world's most dangerous terrorist, the Wolf.  To add to his problems, he finds a family occupying his apartment, which turns out to be entertaining.

After his wife leaves town for a few days, there is a bit of a humorous aspect to the story, as Ethan struggles to watch his teenage daughter while pursing the Wolf, without her knowing his real 'work'.

The interaction between Ethan and his daughter adds a lot to the story.

The  plot is well-written and the action is good, but watching Ethan struggle against his illness does get tiresome: it only serves to drag out certain scenes to the point of frustration.  It takes away from the story rather than adding to it.  I am a big fan of Kevin Costner, and I am used to him playing strong characters,  but that is not how he portrays Ethan.

An average action movie, but disappointing for a Kevin Costner movie.  


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Movie Review: Non-Stop - PG13

Bill Marks (Liam Neesom) is a Federal Air Marshall aboard a flight from New York to London.  He receives a series of text messages threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred to a designated account.  Bill tries to let the TSA know what is happening, but the real hijacker does a good job of making Bill look guilty

a series of well-written plot twists make it nearly impossible to figure who is behind the threat.   Add  that to a great cast (Neesom, Julianne Moore, Linus Roache and others) and you have an excellent movie.  One of the more suspenseful movies I've seen.  Both the writing and the acting are top notch.

There is lots of action, and a few people do die, but there is no gore or overdone gratuitous violence.

The only content warning is one sensual scene where a couple is being intimate in their seats (covered by a blanket).  

This is a very good thriller that you should see!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Movie Review: Son of God - PG13

Most of us are familiar with the life of Jesus in the New Testament, and as shown in movies, but there is something very special about how He is portrayed by Diogo Morgado.  It's the subtleties like a facial expression, a look in the eyes,  or tone of voice that make Diogo's portrayal so realistic and so moving.    I felt closer to the person of Jesus, his humanity,  both during and after the movie.  I especially liked how he reacted in the temple, when he overturned the moneychangers' tables.

As I watched Son of God, I couldn't help but compare  the passion scenes to those portrayed in the Passion of the the Christ, perhaps because it is among the most recent of movies about Jesus.  Passion of of the Christ used more intense brutality to convey the horror of Jesus' passion,  but there was somehow more realism to those scenes in Son of God.

I think Judas was portrayed as too sympathetic, almost as a victim, as if he were duped by the High Priest to whom he  betrayed Jesus.  He spent a good part of the movie complaining and questioning Jesus, so it feels like he was moving toward the betrayal for a while.

Peter was  portrayed just right: he wanted to be strong after Jesus called him Rock ("and upon this Rock I will build my Church"), but felt a lot of guilt over denying Him.  I found the scene where Jesus first called Peter to join Him particularly entertaining :)

Roma Downey was good as Mary and was as distraught as you'd expect from a mother whose Son was being scourged and crucified.

My favorite scene was the ascension, and how Jesus' Disciples were emboldened by His resurrection and ascension:  Peter announces "We have work to do!"

I strongly encourage everyone to see Son of God, especially so close to Lent.  It will bring you closer to Jesus.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Music Review: Lent at Ephesus

I am glad to have the opportunity to review Lent at Ephesus.  I reviewed the Sisters' last two albums and I love their crystal-like voices.  Their voices combine into a beautiful harmony.

As with their earlier CD's, it is mostly English, with some Latin.

A couple I was already familiar with, "O Sacred Head Surrounded" and "All Glory, Laud and Honor", but the rest, for the most part, were new to me.  But that didn't matter...just listening to this CD prepares you for Lent by the songs chosen.   You'll immediately recognize it as music for Lent.

My favorites are "Jesus my Lord" and  "O Sacred Head Surrounded".

I definitely recommend this beautiful will bring you closer to the Lord and prepare you for Lent.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Movie Review: Robocop - PG13

In the year 2028, OmniCorp has successfully deployed military robots overseas and now wants to create a robotic cop here in the U.S.,  starting in Detroit.   They see their first opportunity when officer Alex Murphy is critically injured in a murder attempt.  

It is difficult to watch  a remake without comparison to the original.  In this version, they are much more open about the fact that RoboCop is Alex Murphy.  In the original, he was believed dead.  His partner is still Lewis, but now a man rather than the original female partner.  Joel Kinnaman is good as Alex Murphy and Michael Keaton is good as Raymond Sellars, the head of OmniCorp. 

 I liked Alex's reaction when he was first learns he is now RoboCop. It was very realistic and believeable.  His wife Ellen, played by Abbie Cornish, was pretty realistic in her reaction to his injury, but somehow too accepting of seeing her husband as a robot for the first time to be convincing.

The bad guys, Michel Keaton,  Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley were pretty entertaining.   When Haley played "If I only had a heart" from the Wizard of  Oz, I couldn't help but crack up  :)  Samuel Jackson was annoying as a TV Reporter covering the story,  which is what I believe he was intended to be.

The plot was better than expected, and better than the original.  There is a lot of action.

Content warnings include violence and one brief bed scene (no nudity) early on.

Most importantly, they end by making the point that his humanity is not overcome by his robotic body.

Go see will be entertained!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - PG13

Jack Ryan(Chris Pine) is a CIA Financial Analyst whose work leads to the uncovering of a Russian plot against the United States.  He is then recruited by Harper(Kevin Costner), another  agent, to help stop the plot.   Not only does he have to contend with the question of who he can trust, he has to decide what to tell his fiance Cathy(Keira Knightley), who he's kept in the dark.  He must also contend with the powerful Russian businessman who is masterminding the plot.  If Jack fails, it could mean millions of lives.

The story is well-written  and suspenseful, with plenty of action.   There is some violence, but only as appropriate to the story, not overdone, as is so common today.   It will keep you on the edge of your seat.

An excellent movie...see it!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Movie Review: Unstoppable

Against the backdrop of the tragedy of a couple losing their child, Kirk addresses the question of why there is suffering in the world, and why God allows it.  To provide answers, he uses the bible.   

Kirk starts with the story of creation and then he discusses the fall of Adam and Eve which, while an appropriate example, I disagree with his version of the story.  The bible has always stated that the serpent (Satan) temps Eve into eating of the forbidden fruit, then she tempts Adam into also eating of it. However, Kirk places the majority of blame on Adam, first  for not being there to protect Eve, and then for standing by and doing nothing while she gives in to temptation.  Aside from his obvious variance from the Biblical version, he can't have it both ways. 

Then Kirk uses the story of Noah and the Ark, and how Noah and his family and the animals are protected from the flooding that God inflicts on the world due to sin.

Kirk concludes by pointing out the fact that tragedy ultimately leads to the manifestation of God's love:  Adam and Eve's fall leads to salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection and the flooding that God inflicts leads to a new world.  Ultimately, the couple that lose their son, while still grieving, do realize that their boy is in a better place with the Lord, and that they will one day be together with him in heaven.

Although a depressing story, Kirk effectively uses the bible to address the question of why tragedy and suffering exist,  and how God's love for us always prevails.