Film · Movie Review · Movie Trailers · Movies · The Hunger Games · Uncategorized

The 602 Club 7: At Least They Put A Bird On It

TSC007-Thumbnail-SquareMockingjay Part 1.

Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games series took the world by storm in 2008 and has continued to do so through the film adaptations. 

Host Matthew Rushing is join by Andi VanderKolk in The 602 Club to discuss the first part of the finale Mockingjay Part 1. Together they dive into the first two films, the decision to split the final book into two movies, while dissecting the themes and topical nature of the series and rounding out the discussion with the validity of female lead films.

Catching Fire · Disney · Film · Man of Steel · Movie Review · Movies · The Hunger Games · The Spectacular Now

Best Films of 2013

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This was a fantastic movie about the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. There are very few films these days that tell an important story that you could also let your kids watch; not only is this a great movie for the family, but it is a good way to introduce the theme of courage in the face of persecution. Harrison Ford shines as Branch Rickey making this my 11th pick for 2013.

ANSIN-MANOFSTEEL-R-PRESSMan of Steel:

You seemed to either love this movie or hate it, there was not a lot of middle ground with fans or the general public. I loved it. This was the first movie that I felt got Superman, especially for the 21st century. Giving us not only his origin story but his growth into the character we all know. This is Superman’s first day on the job, using is powers to their fullest and having to make choices no one ever dreams they’ll have to make. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, this has done one thing no one can take away from it; it has gotten people talking about the grand daddy of superheroes again.

FROZN_014M_G_ENG-GB_70x100.inddFrozen:

When I first saw the preview for this film I was wary, with a talking snowman and no really explanation of the story in the trailer I did not have a lot of hope. I have never been so glad to be mistaken. Frozen is a beautifully animated movie with true heart. Not only is it fun but the themes of true love and sacrifice have rarely been portrayed better in a children’s movie. Classic Disney that is sure to endure alongside it’s best animated films.

american_hustle_ver6_xlgAmerican Hustle:

The movie can be a little inconsistent but the acting carries you through. Each of the actors is in fine form and no one should be surprised to see their names come up during Oscar season. Not as good as Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was last year, it is still one of the best movies of 2013. This movie is all about our desire to be known and loved as well as the ways we lie to ourselves and to others to make it through life. These themes alone make it worth watching. (It may also make you glad that for the most part 70’s fashion has stayed there).

hunger_games_catching_fire_poster_embedCatching Fire:

There is nothing harder than tying to bring a book to life on film and satisfy the fans; Catching Fire was able to do just that. With a lackluster first film, new director Francis Lawrence captured the gritty reality of Suzanne Collin’s creation with disturbing perfection. Jennifer Lawrence was once again brilliant as Katniss, yet is was Josh Hutcherson’s much improved performance as Peeta that really made this a much better film than the first. This is a strong movie that deserves to be on any top 2013 list.

MV5BMTA1ODUzMDA3NzFeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDgxMTYxNTk@._V1_About Time:

Not just another romantic comedy, but an exploration of the love between a father and son. Using time travel as a way of exploring choices and their impact on our lives, Richard Curtis has created a movie that is just as good as his classics Notting Hill and Love Actually. Unabashedly sentimental and heartfelt, this is not to be missed.

SONY-BDOS-01_Onesheet4.16.13_Layout 1Before Midnight

Continuing the story that began in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Before Midnight is the conclusion to Jesse and Celine’s story. Set nine years after they ran into each other in Paris, they now have two girls and are on vacation in Greece. It is a very real film, pulling no punches in it’s portrayal of the trials of married life. Deply and Hawke are incredible and will sure to be nominated come award season.

short-term-twelveShort Term 12:

This is the story of Grace, a social worker in an at-risk home for teens. It is a heartbreakingly moving film about the need we all have for community and acceptance. Brie Larson gives an Oscar worthy performance and is a break-out star of 2013 as she appears in The Spectacular Now as well. You may have missed this in it’s theater run so seek it out in it’s home release, you won’t be disappointed.

the-way-way-back-poster1The Way Way Back:

I have been trying to give new thoughts on this list so far, but I think I said it best in my review of the movie earlier in the year. “This coming of age story about a boy trying to traverse the canyon between boyhood and manhood will leave you moved and thankful for quitter summer films. This movie is not to be missed.” You can find the movie now, so go rent it and enjoy.

gravity-movie-posterGravity:

An amazing theater experience that will leave you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Sandra Bullock is perfect and George Clooney is in his usual fine form. Alfonzo Cuarón is sure to win best director. The special effects are beyond brilliant and the 3D leaves you feeling as if you are floating in the heavens with the characters. As close as many of us will ever get to being on a space walk.

spectacular-now-final-posterThe Spectacular Now:

No film of 2013 had a greater personal impact than this. I cannot say it better than I did in my review; “This is a powerful film. The performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley will leave you in tears as you feel every single emotion of the characters. This is the kind of movie that makes you thankful for the art of cinema. I cannot recommend this film more.”

Honorable Mentions:

The Hobbit: the Desolation of SmaugWarm BodiesStar Trek Into DarknessDrinking Buddies

Movies I Still Want to See:

Blue Jasmine, Lone Survivor, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, Her, August: Osage County, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis, Philomena and Dallas Buyers Club

Worst Movie of the Year:

Pacific Rim

“Just when you thought summer movies couldn’t get any dumber, they go and do something like this…… and prove us wrong.”

Comment and tell me what I missed or what you think!

Books · Catching Fire · Christianity · Dating · Doctor Who · Faith · Family · Film · Harry Potter · Love · Movies · Sex · The Hunger Games · Tim Challies

Owl Post 12-4-13

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

In Defense of Katniss Everdeen:

risa-rodils-catching-fireCatching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, has set theater records, and like its predecessor, it’s an impressive, gritty film. Suzanne Collins wrote a gripping series of young-adult novels, and the film adaptations have been well cast and well directed, especially the choice of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film’s star and protagonist. Lawrence manages to easily embody both Katniss’s tenacity and also her youthful ignorance at the high-stakes politics of her situation.

Why Harry Potter is Great Literature:

harry-potter-series-books-7I enjoy spending time with people who appreciate great literature. The number of my friends who are intimate with Dante or Tolkien or Austen is, as Oscar Wilde would say with a wink, “considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.” My book-loving church regularly ships in world-class English professors to give lectures and field the usual round of questions about Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Aragorn and Faramir.

And I’ve noticed that in these circles, it’s often a faux pas to admit that I, like nearly every other Millennial in America, own extremely well-loved copies of all seven Harry Potter books. And I would lose all credibility with many of these people if I suggested offhand that I think the Potter books are in the tradition of the great English novels, deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, and are easily the most morally and socially insightful works of fantasy published in this generation.

The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men:

10298738-silhouette-of-a-man-on-a-mountainSo not every guy proposes with lip syncingrolling cameras, and a choreographed entourage.

Yeah —  so what if  your Dad didn’t?

He just pulled that beat-up Volkswagon Rabbit of his over in front of Murray Reesor’s hundred acre farm right there where Grey Township meets Elma Township, pulled out a little red velvet box, and whispered it in the snowy dark: “Marry me?”

How Doctor Who Survived 50 Years:

Untitled-1When it started in 1963, Doctor Who should not have succeeded. A committee created it, to fill a time slot. It had a small budget. The BBC intended for it to be a children’s educational show focusing on science and history. Oh, and it debuted the night after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

And yet it worked, as seen in the incredible hype preceding Saturday’s 50th anniversary special—an extra-long, star-filled special called “The Day of the Doctor.”

Gospel-Centered Sex?

I recently read an article from a prominent blogger on the subject of the new “gospel-centered” emphasis in books. He commented on various books that applied the gospel to every area of life from the ivory towers of theology, to the mom caught up in the chaos of home and family. One quote at the end of his blog got me thinking: There is not yet a “Gospel-Centered Sex” book; however, it is probably on the way and may well be very helpful! If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.”

How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home:

Every Imperfect and Normal Family wants their kids to turn out right. So, we establish goals for character development and try to create an environment where our kids can mature. Church, school, sports teams, family relationships… each of these provides a context where our kids can learn to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Too many times, (Christian) parents have it as their goal to make their kids good and moral. It is as if the entire purpose of their family’s spiritual life is to shape their children into law-abiding citizens who stay out of trouble. The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.

Stopping An Affair Before It Begins:

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife.

Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

J.J. Abrams at TED in 2007: The Mystery Box

Film · Movie Review · Movies · The Hunger Games · Uncategorized

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Review

hunger_games_catching_fire_poster_embedThe Hunger Games came out in 2012 to decent reviews and created a breakout star in Jennifer Lawrence. Yet the movie missed the mark in production and with the heart of the source material. Fast forward to November of 2013 and Catching Fire looks to succeed, where it’s predecessor failed. Armed with a new director, bigger budget and a fantastic second book, I am delighted to say that Catching Fire is everything I had hoped The Hunger Games would be and more.

One of my main criticisms of the first film was its lack of depth in dealing with the issues Suzanne Collins so deftly portrays in her gritty series. There are no such problems here in Catching Fire. Francis Lawrence directs with precision and captures the core of the series. He embraces the darkly disturbing world that Collins created, showing the fallout the first hunger games has had on Katniss and Peeta as well as the fear it has instilled in President Snow. Katniss, now a symbol of hope for the rebellion must be discredited and eliminated in Snow’s mind. Thrust again into the hunger games, Katniss and Peeta must figure out who they can trust as well as try to survive.

The acting is superb. In The Hunger Games, Peeta felt miscast and off. Here in Catching Fire, Josh Hutcherson comes alive as Peeta. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss, continuing to embody the role with ease. Each of the other characters feels spot on. This is a fantastic movie that will leave everyone clamoring for Mockingjay.

(A quick aside. Covergirl makeup is selling makeup inspired by the Capitol’s flamboyant fashion. It saddens me to see a celebration of the opulence that Collins writes against being accepted in the real world. Strangely enough, our society may have more in common with Panem’s Capitol than we’d care to admit.)

abortion · Billy Joel · Books · Christianity · Christmas · Kevin DeYoung · Marriage · mbird.com · Mockingjay · Music · Parenthood · The Avett Brothers · The Hunger Games · The Psalms · Tim Challies

Owl Post 11-28-12

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Purchasing Joy:

Through the weekend that follows Thanksgiving I have been maintaining a page that provides a round-up of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that are of particular interest to Christians. This is something I have done for several years now, yet every year I do it with a bit of a guilty conscience. There are both benefits and drawbacks to publicizing deals like these. On the one hand, it is a means of connecting Christian retailers with people who may be interested in taking advantage of a few pre-Christmas deals, but on the other hand it may just feed the consumerism that is rampant both outside the church and within.

Eating Poorly, Sleeping Well: Mockingjay and the End of Progress:

There are dystopian novel plots that resolve, and there are those that do not. Commercial success demands resolution, which is a great reason why Collins will have to overcome a credibility barrier with adolescents and young adults if she ever wants to match The Hunger Games trilogy’s sales with future works. Peeta?? Come on – all pulp bestselling authors know that the dark, masculine hunter is supposed to win out in adolescent-lit love triangle. Anyone writing a conventional dystopian epic knows that readers like resolution, and let’s face it, Panem’s new government doesn’t seem particularly promising. Katniss fails in her assassination attempt, which honestly changes the prospective climax into a major letdown. Most people seemed disappointed by the ending in some way or another, but it’s also safe to say that the third book is the most honest – since it alone in the series doesn’t have to appeal to anyone commercially (they’re all buying it anyways), Collins is free to present her undistilled vision for her literature. Even in the raw, oft-disappointing power of Collins’s vision of her characters as weak, suffering, or powerless, audiences still try to recover conventional meanings of glory from her work. “Real or not real?”, the poster at left reads. “Tick, tock, this is a clock”, a poster from Catching Fire reads. And yet, there are no deep musing on Time in this trilogy, no thematic explorations of reality in the way those two posters would suggest. Similarly, the clichéd love triangle disappoints many readers at the end, and the naive theme of political revolution takes an obvious backseat to Katniss’s own internal trauma. Whatever Collins is presenting us with, it’s certainly not the easy romance and suspense which drew people into The Hunger Games, and neither can it be described by simple catchphrases which, quite frankly, are more situational and fun for Collins than universal or philosophical points. Instead, it’s the plot itself that articulates her vision.

Newly Unemployed Newlyweds and Billy Joel’s Fiery Optimism:

I’ve recently become fixated on fire – in both its noun and verb form. This preoccupation began when, three days after returning from my honeymoon, ten days into my marriage, I was fired from my position as a first-time 5th and 6th grade teacher. This jarring turn of events has (much like the beginnings of a B-rated rom-com) led to some soul searching. After weeks of crosswords, wedding thank you notes, episodes of Gilmore Girls, and intermittent moments of panic, I’ve landed on Billy Joel’s 1989 hit “We Didn’t Start theFire” as an unexpected spring of inspiration.

Don’t Sanitize the Psalms:

In some churches, if our public worship and prayers echoed what we find in the Psalms we might find ourselves called before the church board for correction. Unlike the stoic legalist or safe churchman, the psalmist expressed the full range of emotions in worship. He felt no need to pretend that he had it all together. He did not limit himself to safe clichés about God.

A Sigh of Relief: The Avett Brothers and Anne Steele Get Honest:

Peace can be uncomfortably paradoxical. I’ve found that a vast majority of the conversations I have during the week beat around the bush–and the lack of substance only perpetuates existing anxiety. Art has proved to be exceedingly helpful, in that it often points me to an inescapable truth: when feeling stuck, the worst possible thing to do is hide. But we want to hide. Nothing about displaying fears and insecurities seems the least bit freeing.

In their new album, The Carpenter, The Avett Brothers continue their wonderfully raw and beautiful articulation of real life.

Previously on Parenthood, Pt 4: It’s Scary, It’s Really Scary:

Remember that I introduced this series of posts by looking at an earlier episode poignantly titled “Everything is not OK ,” a title that spoke to Adam’s relentless positivity in the face of his wife Kristina’s suffering. Since then Adam has slowly come to grips with the realities of Kristina’s breast cancer, but the most recent episode (#7, “Together”) portrays his continued futile attempts to keep everything “under control” as he says: “I’ve got this taken care of.” The thing is, Kristina isn’t the only one suffering. Adam is, too. His attempts to keep everything at work and at home under control/business-as-usual are basically unconscious efforts to distract himself from the pain. Ironically, he is killing himself by doing so.

Do Pro-Life Policies Even Matter?

One of the persistent myths in the abortion debate is that the pro-life movement doesn’t actually do much to help save lives. You’ll sometimes hear this complaint from pro-lifers themselves who have cynically concluded that pro-life legislation and pro-life legislators don’t accomplish anything that matters to unborn babies. On the other side, pro-choice advocates will claim that the pro-life cause is all about controlling women and regulating sex and don’t do anything to reduce the number of abortions anyway. If there is one thing cynics on both sides can agree on it’s that pro-life policies don’t work.

Please check out my new podcast on Trek.fm, Literary Treks. It is devoted to all things Star Trek in literature; novels, comics and reference books. We talk to authors, have book and comic news as well as cover books in-depth. So give us a listen.