Friday, September 30, 2011

Review of "Courageous"

A police station in Albany Georgia is populated by men of all races and personalities. There is one tie which binds them, a tie which reaches even deeper than the bond shared by police. They are all fathers, yet most of their fathering falls short of what their wives and children long for in their loneliness.
 That is the theme of "Courageous" which is another film by the Sherwood Baptist Church which brought you "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants". Sherwood Baptist Church is a unique phenomenon, a movie-making Baptist Church, but they have come a long way since their first film, "Flywheel", and "Courageous" is proof that an openly faith-based film can be riveting. Although I had a long day at the Catholic Marketing Network trade show, and viewed another film before it,  I was emotionally involved the entire film,and noticed, when it was time to leave, that my sides ached from laughing and my eyes were wet with tears.
Courageous is not all sermons, however, it has several interwoven stories of the policemen's families in need of healing because of the failure to father. Its a story so many of us see all around us, where fathers are missing either in body or in spirit from their families. Courageous seems to touch on most popular scenarios; the workaholic dad, the missing dad, the absent but loving dad, all called to account by the dedicated dad whose relationship with his family and his God is built on solid ground.

Courageous is riveting if preachy (I don't mind a bit of preaching in a film if they tell a good story) film which touches the heart of the crisis in society, which is the source of crime, drug abuse and misery in the ghettos; absentee and uninvolved fathers.The film makes no bones about wanting to start a movement of men supporting men in their fatherhood, and I hope, that as they did in "Fireproof" they succeed ("The Love Dare" the book used in the film was a bestseller) The good news is that that Catholics like the National Catholic Register's Tim Drake were brought in as consultants during the filming, and the follow materials are geared towards Evangelical as well as Catholic viewers.
 If it does become a movement, Courageous could go a long way toward healing millions of broken hearts in our country.Action scenes are tightly directed, and meaningful though violent. There is no profanity, or nudity, though some scenes may be too intense for little viewers.
Highly recomended for children over ten, but don't take the kids yet. Go for the first time as a date with the man in your life, this film is a real conversation starter.

See the trailer here. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Movie Review: Abduction - PG13

While working on a school project, Nathan (Taylor Lautner)  sees himself on a missing persons website and discovers that the parents he was raised by are not his real parents.   And there are several people trying to stop him from finding out more about his real parents.

There is plenty of action, mostly chase scenes and fight scenes, all driven by a very compelling and suspenseful  story.

Content warnings include some violence and a few curses.

There is one open question at the end which leads me to believe there will be a sequel.

An excellent movie!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dolores Hope and Mother Angelica

In memory of Hollywood Legend Dolores Hope! EWTN will re-air Mother Angelica’s poignant interview with the late wife of Comedian Bob Hope.

Find out how you can be “in the world, but not of it.” Airs 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Sept. 24 – exclusively on EWTN. Find EWTN at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: "The Queen" by Steven James

Patrick Bowers is called to investigate a double homicide in Wisconsin, and  the investigation soon leads to a much larger conspiracy, one which threatens many lives. 
As Patrick races to stop a disaster, this story reveals more of his personal life:  Patrick's brother Sean and his wife Amber  live in Wisconsin, so we get to meet them.  Patrick's stepdaughter Tessa is preparing for college,  and Patrick and Lien Hua continue their relationship.
Steven James is a Christian author, and there is more discussion of faith in this story than in earlier ones,  specifically in regard to forgiveness;  there are several characters in need of forgiveness. 
Mr. James' storytelling is captivating, and the way he weaves together multiple plots is masterful.  The suspense builds exponentially, to the point that you won't be able to put it down.
An excellent book...Mr. James' best to date!

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Dumbo", many of us remember it from our childhood, it probably helped shape our opinion of what a Disney movie should be; replete with charming characters, singable music and a gripping story line. It's about to come out now in a 70th Anniversary Edition DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, replete with the fascinating back stories that make you appreciate what a uniquely sensitive film this is. It is called the most emotionally potent Disney animated feature, and it deserves the title.

 Take another look at this film, as a parent, and you will be moved in ways you haven't anticipated. There is serious moral theme running throughout the film, a lesson in not allowing the negativity of others destroy your life. In a time when kids are facing bullies both in person and online, they can learn from the example of a courageous little fellow who faced up to the bullies and won.
 Dumbo is a baby elephant, who, from his delivery by the stork, faces rejection because of  his enormous ears. In the circus which moves from city to city by train, where everyone has an 'act', Dumbo's means of proving his worth is first to risk his life in a dangerous stunt, and ends up the laughingstock of the circus, as a clown, with a smile painted on his tearful face. His mother is jailed for trying to save her baby from the cruelty of the mockery he endures,  his fellow elephants turn their backs on him, and his only ally is a compassionate little mouse, Timothy, who takes it upon himself to give Dumbo a reason to smile.
Few mothers forget the heartbreaking scene where Dumbo's mother is in chains and can only rock her little baby through prison bars, as the haunting "Baby Mine" is crooned. What mother hasn't felt the agony of seeing her child in pain over what happened at school, or on the playground, and feels helpless to remedy it?

I am not a fan of surrealism, so the pink elephant drunk scene is one I skip by on the DVD, however the scene where Timothy and Dumbo are awakened by the crows in the tree is hilarious.So are the crows, who were modeled on the stage acts of black band leaders of the thirties, like Cab Calloway. An interesting cultural note, the crows were depicted as blacks for a reason which goes deeper than stereotypes of the time, they represent a marginalized group who understand what rejection feels like, and how great it feels to overcome prejudice. The scene where Timothy preaches to the crows about having compassion for Dumbo is one of the most powerful religion-insprired scenes you'll see in Disney animation.
So, give the little elephant with the big ears a chance to recapture your heart, and that of your children.
Leave a comment below for a chance to win your own Dumbo DVD. Appropriate for all ages, scenes of cruelty may be hard on sensitive little ones.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Music Review: "Furious" by Jeremy Riddle

"Furious" will be released 9/20/11.
The title Furious does not convey anger, as one might infer. 
In the title track,  Furious refers to the strength and intensity of God's love ("Your love is furious").  Some thoughts on other tracks:  
"Love Came Down" is the best track on the CD, telling us how because of the overwhelming love of God, we are forever His.
"Always" reminds us to make room and make time in our lives for prayer.
 "Glory to the Lamb" speaks of Jesus' victory over death and His call to us.
A very inspiring and enjoyable CD.
I've found that some Christian singers, in their zeal to incorporate their faith or a message into popular music genres, sometimes inadvertently conceal that message within the music; listeners enjoy the music, but don't even hear the message.  The quality that makes  Jeremy Riddle unique is that he is very clear in what he is trying to say, the message he is trying to share.
         "Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:
"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

'Warrior' director explains film's spiritual inspiration

The director of the critically-acclaimed film “Warrior,” which achieved a top box office ranking during its $5.6 million opening weekend, has provided CNA with an exclusive look at the spiritual friendship that motivated the movie. “My friend Charles 'Mask' Lewis died last year just as I was preparing to go into production on my film 'Warrior,' for which he was an indispensable help and supporter,” Director Gavin O'Connor recalls in the Sept. 12 column. “I dedicated 'Warrior' to Charles and wanted to mark the occasion of its release by sharing the story of our brief but magnificent friendship.” Lewis founded the popular “Tapout” clothing line, which gave popular exposure to the world of mixed martial arts in which “Warrior” takes place. He also offered O'Connor, who comes from a Catholic background, with a faithful perspective that shaped the film's story of conflict and redemption. “We drove to Vegas together one weekend and I was surprised to see Bibles strewn all over the back of his car,” the director remembers. “He was on a path and it inspired me. He spoke about his Christian faith in a way that touched my heart and rekindled the embers of my own Christian upbringing.” “This big dude, this larger-than-life personality who often wore face paint, was brimming with the love of Christ and it was infectious.” 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Movie Review: Contagion - PG13

Gwyneth Paltrow contracts a deadly disease on a trip to Hong Kong and unknowingly brings it back to the U.S., in Minneapolis.  It is frightening how quickly the disease spreads world-wide.  The CDC, DHS, and MDH (Minnesota Department of Health) are all trying to find the origin of the disease, contain its spread, and develop a vaccine.

The spread of the disease, which is so far fatal, leads to public panic and unrest.  That only serves to complicate efforts to contain the disease.

A very well-told story with stellar acting performances.  Everyone was very good in their role, but Jude Law was particularly good as a reporter trying to benefit from the story. Laurence Fishburne was very good as Dr. Cheever, the head of the CDC.

A gripping story with plenty of suspense.

Content warnings include some language and one brief autopsy scene (a couple of minutes, and certainly not worth missing the movie over)

Two words:  See it!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Music Review: "Get In, I'm Driving" by Ginny Owens

Ginny's newest CD, to be released Tuesday September 13, is a soulful combination of R&B and jazz.  There are 11 tracks,  here are some thoughts on a few:

"Get in, I'm Driving" - The best song on the CD - Reminds us that God is in charge, so there's no need for us to worry.
"Mystery of Grace"  is about how precious we are in God's eyes.  This message is further emphasized by how we are  "Joined at the Heart" with our God and Creator.
 "Before You Fly" tells us to never give up and keep trying. 

I have heard quite a few CD's that include different styles, but Ginny is one of the best at blending R&B and Jazz and making it all flow seamlessly; yet each song delivers a unique message in a distinct style.  The music and the lyrics are both beautiful.

One word: awesome!  I look forward to Ginny's future music!
"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity
Fr Jason Worthley's podcast of a hymn for Our Lady's Nativity.

Video Review: Theo Presents

This is a children's DVD containing two short lessons: The first is "Saving Faith", which teaches the importance of having faith by telling the story of God's promise to Abraham (and a couple of cute mice who are trying to get Theo's cookies :) 
The second is "Good News", which teaches that sin separates us from God, but that Jesus is the Way back to Him. I really liked the directness of this lesson; it didn't sugarcoat the consequences of sin. 

I wish the lessons were a bit longer;  they were very clear and direct in their message.  You can get the DVD at the above site, and you can also get a fee app for your iPhone and/or iPad!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Movie Review: The Debt - R

In 1966, three Mossad agents pursue and capture a war criminal.  Thirty years later, as they are still considered heroes for their mission, the truth about the outcome is about to be revealed.

The story is told during two time periods, and  the sequence of events is unclear at first. 
Much of what happens is the direct result of decisions made at that moment;  as a result,character development is very good, as the story reveals much about them.

A very suspenseful, captivating story with a few interesting plot turns.

Content warnings:  The main warnings are for violence, and the F word is used multiple times.  There is a scene where Rachel, the female agent, visits a fertility doctor.  There is no nudity, but I was really uncomfortable when she was laying there with her legs in the stirrups. It was necessary to the story, as that was how they got to the man they were pursuing; but it could have been handled better.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Movie Review: Apollo 18 - PG13

Warning:  Possible spoilers.

Set in 1972, two astronauts (a third is orbiting in the ship) travel to the moon.  
Apollo 18 is told from the perspective of being filmed during the actual mission, which it is NOT.  I did not care much for this technique.
The first two indications that something is wrong are that they find a dead cosmonaut. and they are mainly communicating with the Department of Defense, more than NASA..

There was plenty of anticipation, and not necessarily in a good way.  I found myself constantly waiting for something, anything, to happen.  It did, as the two astronauts discover that they are indeed not alone.

Much of the scariness is accomplished through surprise (and through the creatures that attack them) and it was successful, because my nephews, age 13 and 11, told me it is the scariest movie they've ever seen.

Content warnings include scariness and some gore.

An interesting story, but it could have been done better.