Monday, January 25, 2016

Batman and Goliath

Superman, Spider-man, Arrow, Iron Man - it seems like superheros are everywhere you turn these days, from TV to the big screen, and every year there are just more and more! In a couple months, they'll be releasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which has already had so much hype, it's sure to be a box office smash! Later this year, there will be new movies for Captain America, the X-men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; meanwhile, Supergirl got her own TV series recently, DC's Legends of Tomorrow TV series has just kicked off, and The Flash is currently in his second season - just to name a few!

It seems that people today just can't get enough of their comic book favorites, and I think there's good reason behind it. When you get right down to it, superhero stories are great because of what they offer...

Monday, May 25, 2015

If the Shoes Fit

The Cobbler is not your
usual Adam Sandler movie
If you're like me, when someone brings up Adam Sandler, your mind immediately jumps to his zany movies like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Wedding Singer. Maybe you even think back to some of his crazy characters on Saturday Night Live, or maybe you just associate him with crude humor. I admit that Sandler's sense of humor isn't for everyone, but I also appreciate that he seems to have mellowed out a little bit over the years.

(Some of you may remember the post I made a few years ago about Sandler's movie Click - click here to go there!)

I like a handful of his movies, myself, but I'm really not a huge Sandler fan. My wife, Amber, on the other hand, has always loved him, so for better or worse, we've seen most everything he's put out. That's why we were both a little surprised when Amber was looking at a Redbox machine recently and discovered an Adam Sandler movie from 2014 that we had never seen before!

The Cobbler is nothing like The Waterboy - let's put it that way. The Cobbler seems very subdued next to the movies he was making 10 years ago, but I have to say I really enjoyed it! I'll try not to give too much away for those who might be interested in looking it up.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Days of Christmas!

As you probably know, I love Christmas. I love the music, the decorations, the pageants, the get-togethers, and yes, all kinds of Christmas movies and TV specials. Over the past couple years, I've written about some of my favorites - everything from The Grinch to Ernest Saves Christmas - because the Advent and Christmas season is just one of my favorite times of the year!

A quiet Christmas with the Cunningham family
(including the older brother, Chuck!)
Recently, I rediscovered the first Christmas episode from the classic TV show, Happy Days (from Season 2), and it made a huge impression on me. In the episode, Ritchie's father, Howard, wants nothing more than for his family to have a nice, quiet Christmas together. He wants them to take part in all the classic family traditions, and most importantly, he wants their celebration to be family-only. After all, this, Howard later says, is "the whole point of Christmas Eve"!

And I would imagine that for many families, this is exactly what they believe - that Christmas is about families spending time together and having a nice dinner and trimming the tree and reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" together, and showing their love for one another by buying each other as many presents as they can afford - or as many as they can get on credit!

But then there's Fonzie...

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Living Memorial

With Thanksgiving approaching, I hope your mind is on more than turkey and stuffing and football! I hope it's on family and friends and all the blessings you have in your life. When I was little, we always took the time before Thanksgiving dinner to go around the table and have everyone talk about what we were thankful for. Some years, it was hard to think of anything others wouldn't say first, but I remember some years when I couldn't wait for my turn to share!

"Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Whether it seems like something easy or hard, gratitude is an important attitude to have, and I'm glad we were taught early on to think about what we appreciated in life and express our thanks. Having an attitude of gratitude can help you when life is rough by reminding you that not everything is bad. Having this attitude also helps you to stay humble when you remember that "every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17, NIV).

I was thinking about all this recently when I was watching Western classic, The Sons of Katie Elder, starring John Wayne and Dean Martin. In the movie, four sons come back to their hometown after news that their mother, Katie, has passed away. When they arrive, they slowly find out that their father had been murdered and their mother had sold the family farm to make ends meet, and they begin trying to piece together the mystery of what happened to their family and their home. In the midst of this, there's one scene that particularly stands out to me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Birds of a Feather

Every October, I go on a scary movie binge. I'm not really a big fan of horror movies in general, because I have a low tolerance for blood and gore, but I love to watch classic monster movies (as I've shown before with posts about Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man). I also love movies with good suspense. It should be no surprise, then, that many of my favorite films to watch in October are those directed by the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock!

Hitch's thrillers typically have a psychological edge (which to me is always fascinating), and he has a way of building on many of our common fears. Frequently, what happens on screen isn't even as scary as what's happening in the viewer's mind! In fact, his movies were so scary for their times that Hitchcock once said he was afraid to watch his own movies!

Ornithophobia - the fear of birds - is apparently a fairly common fear, and it's said that even Hitchcock shared this phobia. This, plus the true story of thousands of birds that descended on a small California town one night in 1961, and a little bit of imagination all combined to make the perfect storm for a brilliant Hitchcock horror flick in 1963.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Get Smart (about Spiritual Warfare)

For some reason, over the past decade or more, Hollywood seems to have been obsessed with taking every popular TV show from the 60s through the 80s and turning it into an "updated" big-screen adventure. Generally speaking, I try to avoid these, because what they end up with is almost never as good as what we already have, and often their attempts to make things more "modern" or "adult" just ruin it - but once in a while, I can't help myself, and OCCASIONALLY I am pleasantly surprised!

The 2008 movie, Get Smart, is an interesting example, because there are definitely lots of elements that are meant to remind you of the original series: Max still uses all the old catchphrases from the TV show, character names are carried over, they still use the telephone booth and the shoe phone, and there's even a cameo by Bernie Kopell (the original Sigfried). There are other allusions to the old show, too, and yet, no one in the movie is really trying to do an impersonation of the original actors. Terence Stamp (the new Sigfried) said he had never seen the show before he assumed his role. Steve Carell (the new Maxwell Smart) didn't even try to imitate Don Adams' iconic voice or copy his delivery of the famous catchphrases. And yet, as a fan of both spy films and the old show, I personally enjoyed it.

Of course, Maxwell Smart was never as smooth as James Bond. He was always somewhat of a klutz, and made you wonder how he ever could have become a secret agent in the first place. But would you believe that the new Max can actually teach us some important spiritual truths?

Well, believe it or not, I'm gonna try to explain.....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cancer Sucks, and Life Is Not Fair

I think we can all agree to that much. I think we can also agree that dealing with the painful things in life is not always easy. For that reason, I think it's important to recognize that grief is a process, and everyone has to learn to deal with it in his/her own way. These are just some of the themes that come out in The Fault in Our Stars, a movie about a teenage girl with cancer, and her struggle to live with the fact that she's dying.

Cancer doesn't care how old you are
I'd like to begin by saying that this is definitely not the kind of movie you take your church group to see. There are several references to Christianity in the movie, and almost all of them are negative. But that's not to say that all Christians should necessarily avoid it. There are several points from the film that are certainly worth considering.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers!

Cancer - like other diseases, natural disasters, and car accidents - doesn't care how old you are, and for Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), cancer came calling when she was 13 years old. Over the years, she had the ups and downs of a roller-coaster - this treatment seems to be working, then it doesn't work, then something else works, then it doesn't work, she gets better, she gets worse - and now, at 17, even though the latest treatment seems to be working, she finds herself often depressed as she faces the reality that this can only go on for so long.

It's not fair.

It never is.

But unfairness doesn't stop bad things from happening to anybody. Why did my dad have to lose a foot in a tractor accident? Why was I born with vision problems? Neither case was really anybody's fault - we didn't do anything to deserve it - so why did it have to happen? Or just as importantly, what do we do now? How do you handle it when life is more than just unfair, but it's downright cruel?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quality Christian Programming

When I was growing up, we had a cassette tape of Blaine Bowman and his family that I think I just wore out. With a combination of singing and preaching and a fair amount of comedy, the Bowmans put on a great show, and if you have an opportunity to see them live, I would highly recommend it!
Perhaps my favorite thing on this cassette we had, though, was a little sketch called "The Radio Broadcast", which was basically pokin' fun at some of the things you sometimes hear if you listen to Christian radio. It's not meant to make anybody mad - it's just a little fun - and it starts off with this one little line:
"Have you ever been driving down the road, looking for some quality Christian programming on the radio, but all you could find... was Christian programming? It ain't quality, it's just Christian!"
The sketch proceeds from there to give you an example of just how bad some Christian radio programs can be, from people singing out of tune to some sort of... questionable... interpretations of the Bible to overly-dramatic pleas for listeners to send in donations. It's truly hilarious to listen to and kind of sad when you stop and think about it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

5 Keys - How to Live in Mayberry Today (5/5)

All week long, I've been talking about The Andy Griffith Show, and how nice it would be if we could somehow make the world we live in more like Mayberry. Some people may dismiss the idea, saying that times have simply changed too much or the show was just a work of fiction in the first place, but I honestly believe that this world can be changed if each of us takes responsibility for ourselves and tries to set a good example for others.

So far, I've covered four of the five keys I think would make it possible for anyone to live in Mayberry:
  1. Live with Grace - This includes things like tolerance, forgiveness, trust, helping each other, and just generally treating people with the same kind of respect you expect from them.
  2. Value Other People - This means putting the needs and feelings of others ahead of your own and learning to be humble. If you can do this one, it will be a big help in doing the first one!
  3. Seek Peace with Others - This goes hand-in-hand with the first two and emphasizes the importance of love, patience, and the ability to let things go. It means accepting people who are different from you, and it means looking for non-violent ways to resolve conflicts as often as possible.
  4. Lead by Example - It's important to remember that others see you and can be influenced by your lifestyle. It's important to model the Mayberry mindset consistently if you want others to see its value and start living it for themselves.
All of this leads us up to the fifth key, which might actually make the first four easier...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Keys - How to Live in Mayberry Today (4/5)

Do you ever watch The Andy Griffith Show and wish you could somehow escape to Mayberry? Do you long for simpler times filled with lots of laughter and loving relationships? Well, over the past few days, I've been talking about some of the basic principles taught on the show, and I believe these ideals have the potential to change the world if you let them! If we all could learn to Live with Grace, to Value Other People, and to Seek Peace with Others, wouldn't that be a huge step in the right direction?

If you said yes to this, then you're ready for the fourth key to living in Mayberry...

4. Lead by Example

If you want to live in a world where people treat each other with love and respect, you make that happen by first learning to treat others the way you want to be treated and then trusting others and teaching them how to follow your lead. Whether you sense it or not, people notice the way you live. They notice how you act, the things you say, and they see the outcome of your lifestyle. You can influence the community around you just by setting a good example – and perhaps the most important influence you can have is on the children in your life. This is especially true for parents, but everyone should remember that children who see you can soak things up like a sponge!

Perhaps the clearest example of this is in “The Case of the Punch in the Nose”. In this episode, Barney finds a record of an assault case 19 years ago that was never officially closed. The case involved Charlie Foley, the grocer, and Floyd Lawson, the barber. Since both men still live in town, Barney decides to dig into the facts in an attempt to officially close the case. He is seeking legal closure, when he should be seeking peace! As a result, Floyd and Mr. Foley get fired up over something that should’ve been left alone, and they begin arguing and fighting again. Then others get involved, taking sides, and the next thing you know, the whole town is divided into two camps. The fighting is not limited to the adults, either: soon Opie is sent home from school for fighting with his best friend, and it turns out they were fighting over the same issue! The children have followed the poor example set by the adults!