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The 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.
Technology 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.
The 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.
My 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.
If 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.
The 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.
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This 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.”
“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.
The 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.
On 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?
Why 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.
I 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 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.
Wish 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.
In 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.
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)
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.
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.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
The Fault in Ours Stars continues a tradition that has been seen from John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles all the way to Diablo Cody’s Juno; teens who sound more like middle age people while trying to deal with the rigors of high school. From the mind of popular teen author John Green come Augustus and Hazel who are not only trying sail the waters of adolescence but do so with cancer. The Fault in Our Stars strives to be anything but typical while at the same time using many familiar cliches. Girl meets boy, they fall in love and are separated, except this time one of them dies. The thing that sets this movie apart are the performances of Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. They truly do sell the romance and the plight that these characters find themselves in. Where the film falters is in not allowing for more genuine expression. Augustus and Hazel sound more like philosophy majors much of the time and the authenticness of their views falls flat because of it. While the movie is good, there is something that is missing to make it truly a classic.
The Death of Hope
“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.” - Hazel
This movies’ philosophy on life is bleak. Hazel and Augustus have rejected that there is truly any meaning to life and are left to deal with their pain and misery all on their own. There is absolutely no hope for them to hold to; their worldview has ruled any such thing impossible.
There is an interesting scene in the movie where Hazel and Augustus are in Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. In the background there is an audio version of Anne’s diary playing. It creates a fascinating dichotomy between these teens. Our films protagonists are cancer patients in the prime of life, arguably a horrible situation. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl sent to a concentration camp where she would die at the age of fifteen. What is astounding is the difference in her view of the world as compared to Hazel and Augustus’.
“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” – Anne Frank
What Hazel and Augustus are facing is horrendous, yet nothing compared to the nature of Anne Frank’s suffering. One has hope that see’s her through the worst that life has to offer and the others have nothing concrete to hold on to. They find each other but as the film so deftly points out, even that is fleeting. And if there is not meaning, no higher purpose and oblivion is all that awaits, connection between humans can never be enough. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the bleakest and most depressing movies that has ever been made for teens and in the end, the fault lies not in the stars but in the philosophy of oblivion. Thank God there is hope,
Mystery and Victory I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55 ESV)
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Can’t get enough of Harry Potter? Then this is for you. Since March, best-selling author J. K. Rowling has been writing original stories about the imaginary 2014 Quidditch World Cup Finals for Pottermore, the online home for the world of Harry Potter.
Rowling shared her latest Pottermore.com story exclusively with TODAY.com. Written in the voice of the fictional Daily Prophet’s gossip correspondent Rita Skeeter, this post centers around the reunion of Harry Potter and his friends at the Quidditch World Cup Finals. Click here for the new Harry Potter Story
Where will the music industry be in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?
Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you’re reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it’s just coming alive
Who’s better, Superman or Batman? Zack Snyder doesn’t have to choose a favorite since he’s getting to put both on the big screen at the same time.
The director of last year’s Man of Steel doubles down on A-list superheroes in his follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (in theaters May 6, 2016), teaming a returning Henry Cavill as the big guy in the cape and “S” on his chest with Ben Affleck as the latest cinematic incarnation of the Dark Knight.
Did American soccer just win the football world’s respect?
The World Cup is over for the U.S.A. after a heartbreaking loss to Belgium. But that defeat made for what some regard as perhaps the best match of a tournament that has thrilled from the start. More importantly, the U.S. has been called a “world-class team” by the likes of Barry Glendenning, the ever-critical football writer from The Guardian. Glendenning is perhaps not the Supreme Leader of Football (that title belongs to Sepp Blatter), but he is near the epicenter of international football, and he does not compliment teams lightly.
Few categories of literature right now seem to receive the level of hatred reserved for young adult fiction, which is the subject of nearly endless editorials on its supposed inanity, excessive sexuality, darkness, and girlyness. It doesn’t escape notice that there’s a strong whiff of sexism underlying the wave of YA hate—the genre is heavily dominated by women, and female authors can recount their experiences with sexism first hand.