Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Random Thoughts 9/24/13

  • My eldest turns 13 on Thursday.  That's just bizarre.  That just five years away from the point at which his mother and I were talking marriage.  Five years!!!
  • So the new iPhones are selling well.  This is probably the generation that I'll skip.  I've had my iPhone 5 for awhile now and I couldn't be happier with it.  Now I just have to sit back and wait for the iPhone 6.
  • I have what looks like a bee sting on my thumb.  I woke up this morning with it itching/hurting.  How did that happen?  Maybe it's some kind of spider bite?  I'll report later if my spidey-sense starts tingling.
  • If you wanted to see a list of the Emmy winners from Sunday night, here you go.  Just a note: if your show or its actors are either gay or really liberal, it sure seems to be an advantage in winning awards.  The liberal thing will probably always be a part of Hollywood and the art-scene in general but when is the heroic homosexual meme going to jump the shark?  Just wondering.
  • Quote of the Week:  Nancy Pelosi, in regard to the $3.7 trillion budget, said, "The cupboard is bare, there's no more cuts to make."  Really?  There are so many politicians that seem to be crooked liars.  I'll never go into any kind of politics for that very reason, i.e. it seems entirely corrupt.
  • There was a story in the news today about a kid that may be suspended from school for a year for playing with an airsoft gun, wait for it… in front of his own house.  The school argued that it has zero tolerance policy on "firearms" (which airsoft isn't) that extends to the home (where the school should have NO authority).  Really?!  Is that even legal?!  Schools don't need to help the government seem creepier and more invasive than it already is.
  • Just to clarify: my kids do NOT belong to the government.  I'll raise them myself and do my best to instill my values.  In the meantime, I'll try to avoid contact with the nanny state.  
  • Note to self: take kids to gun range with uncle Craig and Grandpa.  Every 10-year-old should know "breathe, relax, aim, squeeze…"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Random Thoughts 9/18/13

  • The Democrats excused themselves from the Benghazi hearings before the victim's families testified.  How do you make a bigger insult than that?!  I'm shocked.
  • Board meeting tonight at church.  That's not actually anywhere near as bad as it sounds.
  • The only problem is the Chiefs play at 7pm.  How did the board meeting get scheduled at the same time as something this important?
  • The Pope is on roll.  Last week he said you didn't have to believe in God to get to heaven.  Let that sink in for a minute… okay.  This week he says the church needs to stop "obsessing" over abortion and other social issues in order to make the church more "welcoming."  Here's the problem, the church is in the truth business not the make-you-feel-better business.  I really wanted to like this pope but he's firmly gone off the deep end of orthodoxy into universalism.  Do you know how many previous pontiffs would have excommunicated this guy for things he's saying?
  • Can you impeach a Pope?  Or take a mulligan?
  • Former KU one-and-done star Xavier Henry is circling the NBA career drain.  News is that he's getting a second chance on the Lakers' bench, but some commentators aren't optimistic.  Granted, he has made approx. $5.5 million in three years but if he doesn't play beyond this point how much money has he potentially lost?  How much better could he have been had he stayed in college?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Off They Go

I just sent off my two older boys, Brennan and Tanner, on their first overnight youth group trip (not counting church camp, of course).  The other junior-high kids were milling about in the parking lot, saying goodbye to parents, and all of the advice/admonitions directed their way seemed to be the same:

"Don't act normal!  Be good [instead]!"

The kids didn't even bat an eye.  Junior highers are awesome.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Film Review 2013, part 1

I'm a longtime movie-buff.  I grew up with a diverse appetite for movies and have read extensively about the history of film.  I've completed both versions of the AFI top-100 movie lists and I've seen almost every Oscar winner older than five years.  So I thought I would share some movie reviews.

My plan going into 2013 was to write a two or three line review of every movie I watched.  Please understand that I'm not endorsing all of these movies.  I'm not even giving a blanket endorsement to movie watching in general.  But I watch movies with a view toward history, culture, spiritual worldview, so perhaps I can steer you toward (or away) from certain films based on that point of view.

Part 1 of this list represents the films I watched from January through June, 2013.  My ranking system and special GOC warning follows the list.

5 stars
Man of Steel (2013) - How do you not like Superman in a Jayhawk shirt?  It is so refreshing to have a super-hero who is heroic, noble, and moral instead of broken, dysfunctional, and dark.  In fact, Superman's squeaky-clean image seems to have rubbed wrong some viewers, a bigger indictment of them than of the film, I think.
4.5 stars  
Argo (2012) - Even if you know the end result of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, this story is so authentically told that it becomes surprisingly compelling.  Nevertheless, it's still amusing that a film where filmmakers are real-life heroes was given so many awards by other filmmakers.  Also the foul language was like a recurring character in the film and surely wasn't necessary.  GOC
Oz, The Great and Powerful (2013) - I was so impressed with this movie in contrast to what the reviews had said.  My family thoroughly enjoyed it, it had a great message (virtue and goodness is better than self-promotion), and we all agreed that it was the best use of 3D we've yet seen.
Shadowlands (1993) - Based on the true story of C.S. Lewis' relationship with Joy Davidman.  This is the noblest of tearjerkers, warm and well written.  You may hate to watch a movie about love and grief but this one is worth it.
4 stars
Looper (2012) - A great sci-fi/crime story, though the time-travel aspect can be confusing, which the characters themselves actually admit to onscreen to avoid an actual explanation.  Nevertheless the story will keep you guessing.  GOC  
October Baby (2011) - Based on its theme and message, this ought to be a five-star movie.  But the film is so heavy handed with its emotional content that you'll feel whiplashed after nearly two hours of tear-jerking.  Nevertheless, this is an emotional roller coaster I endorse.  
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) - One of the all-time best Westerns; this film has dark and complicated sub-plots wrapped around four great characters (none of which are entirely "good guys"). It has great direction and great cinematography but not everyone will appreciate the Spaghetti-Western style, with the long silences, super close-ups, and dripping irony.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) - The latest claymation effort from the creator of Wallace and Gromit, Pirates is in that same eccentric vein of British comedy inhabited by Monty Python and everything Simon Pegg does.  
Rear Window (1954) -  I didn't recall that the movie is a bit risquĂ© at times and perhaps that pulled me out of the story a bit.  I hate to say it but maybe the imitations and knock-offs have robbed this Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart classic of some of its punch.  
This is What Winning Looks Like (2013) - This is a great documentary on the state of the Afghan police and military before the American-led coalition pulls out.  In a word: corrupt.  Other words would include inept, immoral, backward, incompetent, and failing.
3.5 stars
• Bullit (1968) - Here is that Steve McQueen film with THE classic car chase.  Honestly though, in the last 45 years, the filming and choreography of car chases has advanced so much that this one seems a bit pedestrian.  The movie itself is surprisingly slow as we follow McQueen's gut instincts and hunches that don't pay off (or even feel justified) until the final act.  These same themes, characters, and plots have been copied in a dozen police-centered television shows since, where they probably received better development.  
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) - There's nothing wrong with this movie except that we've seen it before (and recently).  This Spider-Man is more snarky and this story hits a few notes differently than its predecessor.   It's a well-executed comic book movie that presumes an appetite for more Spider-Man, which you may or may not have.
3 stars  
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - A huge disappointment.  Though it has its moments, weak acting and a weak plot almost ruined this film for me.  It doesn't live up to the reputation of the second film in the trilogy.  
Here Comes the Boom (2012) - Another cute movie from Kevin James, this time he's a teacher that fights MMA to earn money to save the school's music program.  Harmless, kind-hearted comedy here.
Men in Black 3 (2012) - MIB3 has lame humor, a bad time travel plot, and assumes you remember something of the first two movies, which may be asking too much.  That said, it's actually got a bit of heart and Josh Brolin impersonating a younger Tommy Lee Jones as "Agent K" is jaw-droopingly uncanny.  
Rio (2011) - Unremarkable but a perfectly cute movie.  This movie actually caused the cancellation of a very similar Pixar movie about the last male newt of his species paired to a wild female.  Rio came out first, Pixar dropped the project.
• Rock of Ages (2012) - I wouldn't normally like a musical like this much at all, but the star-studded film version of this jukebox musical is genuinely funny.  If you're a child of the 80's, the familiar tunes may carry you happily through the cruder moments, otherwise it may be too much of a turnoff and altogether forgettable.  GOC
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) - Almost epic, almost noteworthy.  This film was actually better than I expected it to be and had a great twist in what would have been an otherwise transparent plot.  The effects were magnificent, the acting was not so much (even Ian McShane lacked his usual fire).  It was also intriguing that the movie had a few distinctly Christian elements bubbling under the surface.
The Three Stooges (2012) - I was surprised to find this movie had an almost-innocent (though very juvenile) quality compared to how raunchy most comedies seem to be these days.  But be warned, like the source material, this film is over-the-top stupid––if that's what you're shopping for, you'll find it here in spades.
Wreck it Ralph (2012) - A cute movie with tons of heart and several clever references to the video game culture of the 80's and 90's, when arcades were still a thing.  Much like Toy Story, it's kind of depressing to consider the idea of your toys dying.  So thanks for that.
2.5 stars 
Chronicle (2012) - The "found footage" conceit gets in the way of a story that needed a better treatment than this.  It's not well acted (mostly) and not well put together. Chronicle has a great concept but it is so mediocre that it's almost bad.  
Four Lions (2010)  - I watched this story of an inept British terror-cell in slack-jawed disbelief; is it mocking Muslims and terrorists or half-heartedly praising them?  Is this a comedy or a tragedy?  I haven't been this uncomfortable with (and uncertain of) the message of a movie in a long time. • Wrath of the Titans (2012) - Bleh. Nothing about this sequel to 2010's uninspired Clash of the Titans is particularly good.  It's got a simple plot but very pedestrian acting and writing.  Like its predecessor, the story doesn't adhere strictly to actual Greek mythology, rather it's a cold serving of Greek mythology potpourri. 
2 stars
Battleship (2012) - This movie has a bad case of the stupids, something that is normally unforgivable in sci-fi.  But if you figure this movie already knows how silly its premise is, the rest isn't so bad.  It's kinda funny, kinda exciting, kinda entertaining.  Mostly.  Cut out the language and it's perfect for 12-year olds.
Total Recall (2012) - How do you make a classic Sci-fi story from the great and prolific Philip K. Dick into a tedious, emotionless, snore-fest?  Total Recall found a way.  I actually had to rewind multiple times because I kept falling asleep.  If not for the action sequences and the core concept, this would be unwatchable.
1 star  
The Raid: Redemption (2011) - I was deeply disappointed in this overly-bloody action film.  The fight choreography doesn't redeem this grisly, foul-mouthed film from it's worst, most glaring flaw: far and away the worst English voice-dubbing since Godzilla.  Horrible.  Horrible with awkward giggles and nervous sideways glances.  GOC

5 stars - A great movie everyone should see.  
4 stars - A great movie with some qualifications.  
3 stars - An okay movie that will appeal to some audiences.
2 stars - Not very good to most audiences but with some redeeming qualities.
1 star - Not a movie worth seeing.

GOC - Warning: Gratuitous Objectionable Content -- Please fast forward or, better yet, watch an edited version of the film.  Used especially in reference to nudity or abusive use of vulgar content.  

I have deliberately watched edited versions of some films and may not be aware of the content of the theatrical release or director's cut.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Interview with Jase Robertson

Here's a great interview with Duck Dynasty's Jase Robertson from a little while back…

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Random Thoughts 9/5/13

  • NFL football begins tonight!  I have no players from my fantasy team playing tonight and no one from the other guy's fantasy team is playing against me either.  And I'm not a huge fan of either team.  But still… NFL football!
  • I love to read my boys' essays they write each day.  It's a glimpse into their interests and creativity and it makes for amazing keepsakes.
  • Bearded Gospel Men.  What else needs to be said?
  • I thought that if you hung up on a call that it was disconnected.  Apparently not.  I got a call at the church today that was some kind of robo-conference call.  It went on and on and on.  I hung up, checked it again a few minutes later, and it was still going.  The infomercial eventually ended but our church land line was tied up for awhile.
  • KU's incoming freshman Andrew Wiggins has been selected as a pre-season All-American.  The only freshman on the list humbly dismissed it, since he's never played a college game.  Personally, I can't wait to see Wiggins and company play.
  • Here's a list of prospects that KU is recruiting, what schools they are considering and when/if they will be visiting Lawrence.
  • How much will the Chiefs improve over their brutal 2-14 record from last season?  I put the over/under at 8-and-a-half wins.