Owl Post 9-12-14

Owl Post

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U2′s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

738aa476The biggest surprise of the launch of U2’s new album isn’t the way it was released—it’s how good the songs are.

It has been five long years since No Line On The Horizon, an album with some great moments but one which also revealed a band in artistic decline. In those five years, they knew they were one more misstep away from irrelevance. The reports weren’t hopeful: a new producer here, a scrapped album concept there. They seemed “stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of”, finally crushed under the weight of their own ponderousness.

Apple Watch: To Wear It Like a Man — or a God?

440633-apple-watchTechnology keeps getting more and more personal. First “personal computers,” which sat on your desk, gave way to laptops, which sat in a rather more intimate position. Now laptops are giving way to tablets and phones, which nestle in your hand and slip into your pocket. And early next year, the Apple Watch will wrap around quite a few wrists, which it will tap gently to signal that a friend is calling or a message has arrived.

On Repeat: Why People Watch Movies and Shows Over and Over

190568.1020.AThe millisecond that Dumb and Dumber clicks into focus on the television screen, something magical happens to me. It can be a terrible day, a stressful day, or a sick day, but within seconds of seeing Jim Carrey’s bowl cut, I’m 10 years old again. The number of movies I have once memorized is small (The Lion King, A Few Good Men, and, inexplicably, While You Were Sleeping), but Dumb and Dumber is perhaps the only one where I have reasonably thought, “I could perform this entire film from start to finish, on my own.” On multiple occasions in college, I think I tried.

Why I Love to Read Non-Christian Book

atonementMy practice of reading goes through phases. There are times where I just cannot get enough of the newest Christian books, and there are times where reading yet another Christian book seems almost intolerable. In some seasons I love to read novels, and in some seasons I can’t stand them. I’m sure any committed bibliophile can identify with the ebb and the flow of the literary appetite.

Getting Married Is Not Enough to Fight Sexual Temptation

ring-2If you follow a certain road away from the city center, it will cross the river and lead you to the surrounding mountains. As it rises and falls with the contours of the land, it will pass cow pastures, dilapidated barns, and neat ranch houses built on family land where generations live side-by-side. Near the end of the road you’ll come to a small, brick church that just last year celebrated its 90th anniversary. The congregation is made of folks who have known each other their entire lives. They have attended school together, married together, reared children together, and even today, worship together. The oldest member was also the first to be married at the church back in 1947. Another couple recently celebrated 50 years together — she agreed to marry him one month to the day after he landed a full-time job — and yet another member could tell you about being a bride at 16.

IN WHICH WE ANSWER THE QUESTION: “WHAT CAN STAR TREK FANS DO TO ENCOURAGE CBS TO RELEASE DEEP SPACE NINE ON BLU-RAY?”

8yrv5uThe one question I get probably more than any other these days – outside of “When will the unaltered Star Wars be released on Blu-ray?” – is this: “Will CBS keep releasing remastered Star Trek series on Blu-ray, including Deep Space Nine and Voyager?” I get this question in one form or another at least several times a week. And the answer is simple: Maybe. I’ll explain in a minute. But the second part of the question is often this: “What can I do to convince CBS to remaster Deep Space Nine for Blu-ray?” That I can answer very definitively.

Star Wars: A New Dawn – Review

A_New_Dawn_coverIn June of 1991 Heir to the Empire gave Star Wars fans something they had been craving since 1983, further adventures in the universe George Lucas created. Timothy Zahn’s book kicked off what became known as the Expanded Universe and for over 20 years thrilled, annoyed and satiated the fans desire for more Star Wars. With the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and the plans for a new trilogy to take place after the events of Return of the Jedi, the expanded universe has been reclassified as the “Legends” line. Bits and pieces of it will influence future projects in the Star Wars universe, but none of what is seen in the Legends line is considered canon. A New Dawn is aptly named as it begins a whole new line of Star Wars tie-in merchandise. From now on, the books, comics, films and games will all work in concert, creating the whole saga.

Path of Destruction

A New Dawn is the prequel to the upcoming Disney show, Star Wars Rebels which introduces the genesis of the rebellion against the Empire. Set 14 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and 2 years before Rebels, the galaxy is firmly in the grip of the Empire. John Jackson Miller uses his Soviet studies degree to full effect in creating the milieu that exists under the rule of Emperor Palpatine. Citizens are under constant surveillance and their importance is based solely on their usefulness in growing the Empire. Miller is able to weave in the topical issues of wire-tapping and corporate greed well without getting lost in the parallels. This time period feels perfect as the galaxy “obeys the master’s whip.”

The main villain here fits brilliantly. Vidian is a commercial opportunist with a Machiavellian streak rivaling Palpatine himself. He is willing to do what ever it takes to fulfill his desires even if that means destroying a world. He may be more machine than man, bringing to mind Vader, but his mind puts him on par with the most cunning villains Star Wars has had.

Choice of One

The true highlight of the book is the origin story of Kanan and Hera’s relationship. These two will be part of the main cast of Rebels and Miller chronicles what brought them together.

Kanan is a former Jedi who’s master was killed by Order 66. He received Obi-Wan’s message to avoid Coruscant and detection. Therefore he takes on the persona of a drunken rebel-rouser, who’s only goal is to make enough to earn that next drink. Kanan is a man adrift, feeling abandoned by the Force and the galaxy at large, he’s lost any sense of purpose. It’s inspiring to see him slowly learn throughout the book the meaning of being a Jedi, even if he can’t be one in the open. It’s about serving others and the greater good.

Hera on the other hand knows who she is and her mission from the beginning. She’s seen to oppression of the Empire, it’s evils and is looking to do something to challenge that. She understands clearly that change has to begin somewhere, “Ignition leads to reaction leads to detonation.” Miller really captures the spirit of rebellion in Hera. It’s the choices of ordinary people, every day that can make a difference and it starts with one brave soul, willing to stand up for what is right to inspire others. Hera is this person, clearly having that effect on every person she meets in the story, inspiring them to be their best selves for the betterment of others.

Hera and Kanan have the best banter this side of Han and Leia. It will be fascinating to see how the characters evolve as Rebels progresses. Especially in light of what is revealed in the book, that the Jedi ban on romantic relationships is not part of the Jedi Code but an addition to their rules for life later. These are the nuggets that will leave Star Wars fans guessing. Is this a set up for things we will see not only on the new TV show but also the new feature films as well? Only time will tell.

star-wars-rebels-kanan-hera

Conclusion

If you come into this book expecting a new Heir to the Empire you will be disappointed. This is every inch a tie-in novel. It’s boundaries are clear; introduce us to Kanan and Hera as well as the feel of the Rebels era and in that Miller soars. From the moment the book begins it just feels right. The atmosphere utterly represents the dark times, after the Clone Wars, but before the flames of rebellion have begun to spread. The secondary characters of Skelly, Zaluna, Okadiah and Sloane are all worthy additions to the Star Wars pantheon and hopefully will pop up in other novels.

A word of caution to Del Ray, Disney and Lucasfilm. If you are going to have the books, comics and games be canon they need to have weight. People need a reason to read or play, so make the stories important and not just filler. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has suffered with this very issue, so please be careful to not allow this to happen with the these Star Wars properties. The fun of the now Legends line, were the big, galaxy altering events that took place. Just because there are new films or shows does not mean readers and gamers don’t want meat to the stories, something that matters. A New Dawn is a wonderful start to this new era, hopefully all that follows will be just as fun and meaningful to the overall saga of Star Wars. Rated 8 1/2 out of 10 

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by Del Ray as an early review and in no way affects the thoughts or feelings of the reviewer.

Owl Post 8-19-14

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The Problem with Christian Films

gods_not_deadThis past year has been the year of the Christian film. We have seen an explosion of Christian-themed and Christian-produced films, each seemingly more financially successful than the last. In the words of Scott Mendelson, box office analyst for Forbes.com, “I think we can safely say that 2014 is the year that Christian-themed religious pictures officially outnumbered comic book superhero films. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it definitely is a thing.”

Confronting Reality By Reading Fantasy

TheLionWitchWardrobe(1stEd)“If you were in a room full of books,” Lev Grossman writes in his latest novel, The Magician’s Land, “you were at least halfway home.” For Grossman, no books feel more like home than C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, which provide the template for what he likes to read—and how he wants to write. In our conversation for this series, Grossman explained what The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe taught him about fiction, what makes Lewis’s work so radically inventive, and why his own stories must step through the looking glass into fantasy.

Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality

boy_girl_symbolsThe sociologist Mark Regnerus recently published a piece for the Witherington Institute’s Public Discourse, suggesting that support for same-sex marriage in some Christian circles correlates to broader shifts in morality surrounding sexuality and relations. Survey respondents were asked to declare their level of agreement with seven statements relating to the issues of pornography, cohabitation, no-strings-attached sex, the duty of staying in a marriage, extramarital sex, polyamorous relationships, and abortion. The results illustrated pronounced fault lines between those committed to historic Christian stances on sexual morality and supporters of same-sex marriage.

I Quit Liking Things On Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity

Facebook-Like2On August 1st, I announced that I was going to quit liking things on Facebook. At the time, I simply stated that I no longer wanted to be as active a participant in teaching Facebook how to advertise to me as I had been in the past, but another and much larger issue was my real curiosity: how was my Facebook experience going to change once I stopped feeding its engine with likes?

How To Keep the Spark Alive

sparksWhy do married couples have sex? And how can they ensure that they keep enjoying the sexual relationship throughout their marriage? This weekend I read through a pair of recent studies from the University of Toronto that offer some intriguing, though not shocking answers.

Why We Love to Read

reading-a-bookI have watched the avid outdoorsman, the fisherman, come slowly drifting by. He goes by morning after morning, day after day, always at the same time, always casting into the same locations. He is patiently waiting for the big one, waiting for that hard strike, that long battle that will land him his prize.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Review

guardians-webGuardians of the Galaxy is summer fun at it’s best. Great jokes, action, adventure, explosions and a fantastic soundtrack. This movie will have you cheering and laughing the whole time. Director James Gunn has created an incredible looking film. There may be CGI all over the screen, but you never for a minute don’t believe that everything you are seeing is “real”. This movie proves that CGI can be just as affective as practical, if it is done well. As an aside, this should give everyone hope for the new Star Wars movies, since they both Disney properties.

This is the latest film in the Marvel cinematic universe and you can tell they are a well-oiled machine. They are able to take the strangest ideas and make them work, talking raccoons and trees seem completely normal in the hands of such professionals. What is lacking is real heart. Everything in the movie is choreographed. Much of the movie tells the audience things instead of showing us. By the middle of the movie this band of miscreants goes from enemies to friends, which is said by the characters multiple times; basically, “Isn’t it nice that we’re friends now”. The problem is that the film does not establish enough of a reason for this change.

Another issue is some of the cast. Zoe Saldona lacks any emotional punch as Gamora. There are quite a few times she is telling a story or meant to make the audience feel something and it just falls flat. She perfect when asked to kick someone’s ass but fails when it’s most important for the tender moments. Dave Bautista will have you snickering at his inability to understand metaphors, even if he is also lacking in emotive ability, which is a detriment to his character’s story. Luckily, the rest of the cast is wonderful. Chris Pratt is a star, it’s official. He carries the entire film. Bradley Cooper who voices Rocket the raccoon and Vin Diesel as Groot are as close to Han and Chewie as has been seen in years.

One more criticism. A fun as the movie is, it doesn’t have much to say. It’s cotton candy, good as you taste it, but gone in a flash. It’s a problem with the Marvel line as a whole (Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fortunate outlier). There is a formula for their team-up films as seen in Avengers and now continued in Guardians. It’s a problem. Marvel may have the corner on fun, but if they want their films to stand the test of time, it would behoove them to give them some gravitas.

Even with all of this, Guardians Of the Galaxy is the most fun you can have at the movies this summer and a spectacle not to be missed.

Owl Post 8-4-14

Owl Post 2-17-12

 

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Bringing New Toys to Someone Else’s Sandbox

Point_of_Divergence_coverFor those of you who may still be wondering: Yes, the rumors are true. I do indeed write Star Trek novels.

Why? Well, sure, they pay me, but I also do it because it’s just so gosh-darned fun. I’ve been a nerd for Star Trek for as long as I can remember, having grown up in the 1970s and 80s watching reruns of the original series every weekday afternoon. Catching the gazillionth rerun of Captain Kirk fighting Klingons or whatever was the sole exception to my mother’s “homework and chores before TV” rule. To this day, I’m sure she thinks that hour could’ve been better utilized cutting the grass or cleaning our backyard pool.

Bibliotheca: What’s the Point of Making the Bible More Beautiful?

34fb575c62d581abe2984a3a70341386_largeWhen I graduated from high school, my parents gave me a study Bible for a present. It was packed with supplements: book introductions, historical information, a version of Strong’s Concordance, and best of all, hundreds of notes that sought to explain the Bible’s more challenging passages. All of it was intended to make the Bible more accessible.

How I Discovered the Secret Ingredient to Being a Good Man by Watching Doctor Who

rory-cast-a-good-man-570x320I have had a long and fairly wonderful relationship with science fiction and fantasy. The first movie that my mother took me to was Transformers, all the way back in 1986. I was only eight months old, at the time, so my memories of the event are, well, hazy at best. She assures me that we had a great time, though—the two of us and the one lonely old African-American man sharing the theater with us—and up until the age of twelve I thought that God looked like a giant, blue helmet and sounded like Optimus Prime… but that’s probably a story best told at another time. The first movie that I actually remember going to see, consciously, was also science-fiction. It was Star Trek V, granted, but I think I can probably be forgiven for thinking it was awesome. I was, after all, only three years old.

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

ab30fceebf2b93eb_14974775_468e147941“Nobody ever touches me,” a friend recently lamented. I could sympathize. In my 20s, I was in the same situation—unmarried and living far from my parents. As a teacher in a public junior high school even my job was strictly touch-free. Faculty were routinely warned against so much as placing a hand on a student’s shoulder, and once an anonymous co-worker filed a sexual harassment complaint against a single male teacher who sometimes stopped to talk to me on his free period. With no spouse and no nearby relatives, I returned untouched every evening to a quiet room and a stack of papers, often spending several days in a row without so much as a handshake of human contact.

Just One of the Guys?

irJenny Lewis’s latest album, The Voyager, dropped this week, but the video for the single “Just One of the Guys” was already making internet waves due to the inclusion–in drag, no less–of actresses Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway, and Brie Larson. I walked away from my four minutes at the screen feeling that Lewis had tapped into something pivotal and subversive about how we see gender.

7 Different Ways to Read a Book

bo6Reading is kind of like repairing a bicycle. Kind of. For too long now my bike has been semi-operational. It has one brake that just doesn’t want to behave and all my attempts to fix it have failed. Why? Well it turns out that I haven’t been using the right tool. To get the bike working I need to use the right tool. And when it comes to reading, well, you’ve got to use the right tool—you’ve got to know what kind of reading to do. Here are seven different kinds of reading.

 

 

 

Who Mourns For Apollo?

zeus-is-dead-tour-banner-5

My mom introduced me to Star Trek when I was a kid, in the pre-TNG era. At the time, one of my favorite episodes was “Who Mourns For Adonais?”, a vision of what happened to the Greek gods by the 23rd century. I loved Greek mythology (and still do), so I was thrilled to see the Enterprise meet Apollo.

As of last week, there’s another vision of what happened to the Greek gods since their heyday. My newly-released comedic fantasy, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, tosses the pantheon back into our world following Zeus’s 2009 assassination. For my guest post here on Life, the Universe, and Everything In Between (and hi, it’s great to be here!), I thought I’d compare Star Trek’s Apollo with my own Apollo, who happens to be one of the novel’s main characters.

But first, a quick refresher on the episode: The Enterprise crew find themselves captive guests on a planet by Apollo, the last of the Greek gods after the others “returned to the cosmos” without the worship they need to survive. Apollo, referring to them as his “children,” demands the crew stay, forever, and worship him. Also there may be some light goat-herding.

The Differences

"I am Apollo, god of light and Elton John's wardrobe!"

“I am Apollo, god of light and Elton John’s wardrobe!”

Let’s be honest: Trek’s Apollo is something of a pompous jerk-nozzle. But perhaps he’s got a right to be bitter? After all, he’s the last of the gods, no one worships him anymore, and he has to sit around all day in that ridiculous outfit. This Apollo hasn’t modernized. In Zeus Is Dead, the gods use cell phones, dress in modern clothing, and use Hephaestus’s special plasma-screen TVs for their mortal-watching. Heck, Dionysus hangs around in a casino all day playing video games. Trek-Apollo, while further in the future, is also stuck in the past, and perhaps a little bitter about it. Still, that doesn’t really excuse the sexist cracks (“You seem wise, for a woman.”) and general abusive boyfriend shtick he gives Lt. Palamas. And then there’s that whole forcing the Enterprise crew to stay, herd goats, and worship him all day…

I’ve always considered Apollo to be one of the more benevolent of the pantheon. Yes, he has his jerk moments in the myths, but on the whole, he strikes me as comparatively noble. Sure, my Apollo likes being worshipped, too, but he also feels he needs to hold up his end of the bargain. That’s part of why he’s so stressed out in Zeus Is Dead: there are so many billions of mortals in the modern world, all counting on him to handle his divine duties in a responsible manner.

Trek’s Apollo also goes to using physical threats quicker than mine. He’s in an adversarial position in the episode, so it makes sense for him to be more aggressive in order to put the crew in jeopardy. Trek-Apollo throws thunder and lightning around a lot, too, but that’s Zeus’s thing—or at least it used to be. Presumably this Apollo picked it up after Zeus left. Zeus is gone in Zeus Is Dead, too (it says so right there in the title, after all) but my Apollo still prefers a bow, the occasional sword, or simply his wits. In my world, Athena’s got the lightning tucked away for safe-keeping.

Despite having picked up Zeus’s lightning, Trek’s Apollo seems to have a smaller divine portfolio: “God of light and purity. Skilled in bow and the lyre.” But I’ve always seen Apollo as the over-achiever of the pantheon. Look him up. He’s god of the sun, light, prophecy, literature, music, archery, medicine, gelatin desserts, and the list goes on. Let’s face it, the guy can’t delegate. And here, perhaps, is the largest difference: my Apollo wants LESS attention. He wants to be able to go target-shooting with Artemis now and then without getting interrupted by texts from rapacious mortals every other moment. It’s what leads him to try to—well, I won’t go into the book’s details too much here, but it suffices to say it gets him into an epic amount of trouble.

The Similarities

There are a few. Both can get tired out. It’s a major plot point in both the episode and in Zeus Is Dead. Not only is that from the original myths, but it’s very difficult to use gods as main characters and not give them some weaknesses. (Fortunately, the Greek pantheon has never been considered infallible.)

Both are skilled at prophecy. Trek-Apollo knew humanity would come to the stars one day. “Of all the gods, I knew and I waited.” Though his prophecy is imperfect, too, since he didn’t foresee what happens…much like my Apollo’s visions of Zeus’s return.

Both have their pride – though Trek-Apollo’s is more easily tweaked, at least at first. In Zeus Is Dead, Apollo suffers enough setbacks that he starts getting a bit snippy about things too, and in those moments both Apollos seem to share a need to demonstrate power to comfort their egos.

And, finally, both Apollos crave a break from their current circumstances, but whereas the gods in Star Trek faded away into melancholy non-existence, the gods in Zeus Is Dead have done the exact opposite: Freed from Zeus’s edict of non-interaction, they’ve come back to the world like kids on Christmas morning to dive into the bounty of worldwide celebrity status. They revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires, their long-starved, superhuman egos now gorging themselves on as much attention as they can get…

…What could possibly go wrong?

Zeus

Is Dead

A MONSTROUSLY INCONVENIENT

ADVENTURE

“A hilarious mythological tale of god-like proportions. Munz has crafted a tale of bizarro comic fantasy that sits comfortably among the ilk of Gaiman and Pratchett.”

—Andrew Buckley, author of Death, the Devil, and the Goldfish

ZID coverBOOK DETAILS:

Title: Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure

Author: Michael G. Munz

Genre: Contemporary Mythological Fantasy

Release date: July 21st, 2014

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Length: 446 pages (paperback)

Synopsis:

The gods are back. Did you myth them?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus’s murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires—well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.

Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif—two mortals who hold the key to Zeus’s resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)

Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.

Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.

Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

Find Zeus is Dead on:

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

ABOUT MICHAEL G. MUNZ

michael photoAn award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.

Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.

Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none—except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.

Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.

Find out more about him at michaelgmunz.com. While there, it wouldn’t hurt to get a FREE copy of Mythed Connections, the spiritual prequel to Zeus is Dead.

Contact Michael on Twitter / Facebook

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

Sign up to win either:

A $25 Amazon Gift Card

One of two signed copies of Zeus is Dead by Michael G. Munz

DVD of Clash of the Titans (1981)

One of five e-copies of A Memory in the Black, Book 2 in The New Aeneid Cycle by Michael G. Munz

Click Here -> a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wish I Was Here – Review

rs_634x939-140528062250-634.Wish-I-Was-Here-Poster-JR-52814Wish I Was Here is Zach Braff’s sophomore film and a vague follow-up to his first film Garden State. Braff’s main character Aidan is a 35 year old man who comes face to face with his existence in the light of his father’s impending death. The movie explores a myriad of topics, including family dynamics, marriage, raising children, faith and the dreaded question of what to do with one’s life. The movie has some stand out performances. Kate Hudson is brilliant as the matriarch of the family,gracefully loving her husband and his hard to please father. Joey King is perfect as the oldest daughter Grace, whose world is turned upside down throughout the film. While not perfect, it is surely well worth your summer dollars and constitutes another solid movie from Braff.

What You Leave Behind

Adian’s father Gabe is dying. Gabe has tried to raise two sons as well as he could, supporting and loving them, all while trying to pass on his values. It is interesting to see throughout the film the clash of generations. The movie perfectly portrays a first generation that was unable to pass on its values to their children. Gabe, who is Jewish, was unable to pass this faith and belief system on to his sons. He is also a firm believer in hard work and fulfilling your potential with the gifts that God has given you. Gabe’s sons are a disappointment to him in many ways as Aidan still pursues a nonexistent acting career and his younger son Noah squanders his genius “blogging”.

Where the film gets really interesting is in its comparison of Gabe’s parenting and Aidan’s. Generally Aidan is not shown to be the best parent. He swears constantly in front of his kids, pays very little attention to them in the beginning of the film and has no values of his own to pass on. Aidan’s values seem to be nothing more than pursing happiness. In the movie, there is a conversation between Aidan and a rabbi. Aidan asks if God is not worried about his happiness and dreams to which the rabbi replies, no. God desires Aidan to take care of his family, the rabbi tells him. Aidan is so wrapped up in himself he has forgotten that it is his responsibility to raise his children, to train them up and teach them about life. Yet he and his wife are ill equipped to do so because they are unsure as to what they even believe about life itself. There is a sadness in this inability to pass on anything substantial to children because of the innate selfishness of an umoored existence.

Manhood

wish-i-was-here-reelgoodIn Aidan’s pursuit of acting he has abdicated his role as provider for his family. In a “modern” world the sexes have been equalized and there are many who would see nothing wrong with the woman being the sole bread-winner in a family. Yet Aidan has abandoned more than the provision of material things, he has resigned leadership of his children and his family. He has thrust upon his wife the sole responsibility of providing for the family as he pursues his dreams, while taking away her ability to pursue the dreams she has. She even asks him at one point, “When did this relationship become solely about supporting your dreams?”. He has side-lined her in his selfishness. As she has sacrificed for him, believing in him and supporting him, he has reciprocated nothing, leaving her exhausted mentally and physically.

It is a sad picture of the state of manhood. Manhood has nothing to do with beers, hunting and video games. Manhood is about responsibility. Manhood is about putting others before yourself, especially those you have joined your life with or brought into the world. What is nice about the film is that Aidan does begin to grasp what it means to truly be a man, and he begins to live that out for his wife and children.

Faith

The movie is filled with conversations about God, but one of them stuck out more than the others. Aidan, who is struggling with losing his father and the turmoil it has caused with his brother, goes to see a rabbi. The rabbi tells him not to worry so much about labels for god, god can be whatever he wants. If Aidan feels like it’s the cosmos and it’s trying to tell him something, he needs to listen. Really this advice is not all that different than any episode of the Oprah show or a Starbucks coffee sleeve these days with Oprah’s “words of wisdom”.

The problem with this advice is very clear; if you make god in your image, if it is only a construct of what you think or desire, it’s useless in the end. A god of your own making has absolutely no authority or weight, even in your own life. In the end, such a god amounts only to what you want it to be, and that is meaningless to speak into your life when you have no idea who you are or what life is about. Only a god who transcends humanity and our ideas can possibly be worth listening to, otherwise it might as well be the great spaghetti monster in the sky.

Aidan says that he and his brother wanted to be heroes when they were little. They would play for hours in the back yard, saving the universe. He asks a poignant question at the beginning and ending of the film, “What if we aimed a little high? What if we were not the saviors, but the everyday people needing to be saved?”. This is such a profound question with the resounding answer of, yes. Yes, we are the everyday people needing to be saved.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 ESV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

Courage

Films often try to have it both ways, telling us to live for our dreams while at the same time telling us to be responsible. Wish I Was Here definitely wants to have it both ways. Gabe constantly gets on to Aidan for not providing better for his family. Aidan’s response, which is also backed up by his wife, is that he is living for his dreams–dreams that come at the expense of everyone around him. This film, more than most, portrays the immense courage it takes to live out the day in, day out responsibilities of a father or a mother. Real courage is demonstrated through facing one’s obligations head on with grace and love. There is nothing braver or more loving than laying down one’s wants, desires or life for the betterment of another. Aidan learns this the hard way as he loses his father, but through that experience he learns not to take for granted his own family.

The movie is at its best when, in the end, it shows the characters finding their passions leading them in directions they had not considered before. Aidan, who has single-mindedly pursued acting, has his kindness to a fellow actor pay off when he is invited to become an acting teacher. This effectively reinforces the message that life is not about selfishly following our dreams, but living for the betterment of those around us.

Conclusion 

Wish I Was Here is a good movie that has a lot to say. The messages do get muddled in characters that as a friend put it, are one minute the worst life has to offer yet are transformed by the end. There is a lot here and many of the answers are not satisfying completely, but the questions themselves are worth wrestling with.