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Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

It’s that time of the year, Christmas, our cultural season of giving. Yes, it can be extremely consumer driven from Black Friday to Cyber Monday to new TVs and an excuse to overspend. However, it is an opportunity to bless others and our families, especially our kids. Awhile back, in a parenting class at our church, the speakers talked of how they have invested in an extensive media library of godly resources that edify and encourage. They weren’t simply condoning buying Veggie Tales videos to babysit your kids but utilizing the solid resources that are out there to bless your family and to help stir your kids up in good things. It triggered a desire in us to do the same. Now, 5 years later, there is even more of a multitude of good stuff out there! I just wanted to highlight a few of our favorites, what we have found fun and especially encouraging.

Seeds Family Worship (Music)

Seeds Family Worship is core Bible verses set to music. I was skeptical at first because it seems like most verses set to music aren’t exactly quality tunes but can be quite cheesy. This is not the case with Seeds. It took a little bit for their music to grow on me but now our whole family is hooked and our kids especially love listening to this in the car. My 4yr old daughters have memorized most of the 4 CDs that we have. There are 5 CDs that Seeds has released altogether with another one on the way by Easter. I think my favorite is Seeds of Purpose but my kids love Seeds of Faith and Seeds of Praise a lot. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

Colin Buchanan (DVD & Music)

“Colin,” as we call him, has put together some fun excellent tunes of a mix of verses and original songs. Colin, from Australia, just has a way of emulating a certain style (like Johnny Cash or rap or country!) and utilizing that style and his enthusiasm to make it easy for our kids to engage with the music and remember the lyrics. We have all of his DVDs and they’re a blast and very edifying. They’ve just extended their free shipping November to December 10 so act quickly! Our kids (and I) especially love the Christmas DVD and the “Jesus Rocks the World” DVD. “Baa Baa Doo Baa Baa” is still our favorite of his CDs.

NIV Kids Club (DVD & Music)

My final recommendation is the NIV Kids Club set. I recommend getting the set of all 4 cds, they’re so good. The Colossians 3 DVD and CD set is just awesome. Yeah, it’s a bit cheesy but your kids will love it and you’ll find the Word sticking in your head.

These resources are also excellent tools for use in Children’s Ministry at your church. It’s very easy to incorporate a few songs for a month or two at a time and you’ll find even the younger kids (2-3 yrs old) have them quickly memorized. Colin Buchanan’s DVD/CDs and the NIV Kids Club lend themselves even better towards this because you can incorporate the hand motions from the videos to make it even more fun for the kids.

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December brings a whole host of DVD releases as Hollywood tries to get as many into stores as possible prior to Christmas. Check out my thoughts on the movies I’ve seen or had reliable recommendations on. Again, if you want to know how I evaluate movies and media, check my Film & TV Mini-Manifesto.

Eclipse (Dec 4)


Twihards and TwilightMOMs will be stoked for this release in the battle of Team Jacob vs Team Edward with a nice battle tossed in at the end for the dudes including some dismembering and decapitation of various unnamed vampires. Definitely the best film of the series (yes, I’ve seen all 3) and probably the most fast-paced and least painful for bros. You know my thoughts on Twilight overall from “The Edwardian Conflict” and The Gospel According to Twilight” and, again, the movies can barely do the books justice. Look for the picture of glorified divinity in the good vampires and the concept of the eternal family. Ultimately, Team Jacob can only offer a finite relationship while Team Edward represents eternity and glory. Let’s move on.

Inception (Dec 7)


This is easily the best movie I’ve seen all year in a year of some really good ones (Shutter Island, Get Low, Crazy Heart). It’s a tour de force that you’ll have to watch multiple times. Nolan is simply phenomenal in how he doesn’t settle for some action flick with an original concept but pushes into the heart of man. I can’t speak highly enough of this film and how I see the gospel woven into the very framework. My post on the father themes in this movie is the most popular post by far of my blog (1/3 of the total hits in November!). Read it here. Read here for a fuller preview prior to viewing.

24: Season 8 (Dec 7)


I had to call this release out. Is this Jack’s last hurrah? Is it just a prequel for a big release movie? Season 8 became fascinating to me once I connected the dots that this was the final season of the series. No one is safe. No line is too far for Jack Bauer. I hated how it finished but I really loved it once I had a chance to think about it. Jack Bauer represents who we want to be while at the same time manifesting the darkness inside of us that we all know is there. My reflection on the series and finale are here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Salt (Dec 7)


I have not seen this film but felt like I should plug it simply because I have not heard a bad thing about it. The previews only show scenes from the first half of the movie and it looks like the previews way overplay the sex – from what I can tell it’s a very clean movie but for language. Watch James Harleman’s thoughts on the film below. I look forward to seeing this movie.

Other releases include the final installment (hopefully) of the Shrek saga (Dec 7), the highly rated (97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) war documentary Restrepo (Dec 7), the looks-disappointing A-Team (Dec 14), the heavily recommended
Despicable Me (Dec 14), and Wall Street 2: Greed Again? (Dec 21. The original was one of my dad’s favorite flicks).

UPDATE (1/3/11)

Salt: My wife and I enjoyed this film. By the middle of the film, I had no idea what to expect. I loved the husband and his humble confidence as well as his relentless pursuit after her to win her.  I loved how everything wasn’t necessarily tidied up at the end.

Restrepo: Simply incredible documentary that will enthrall you and break you. It follows a platoon of soldiers deployed in the insanely intense Korengal Valley of Afghanistan for a year. The scene in which one soldier is killed (off camera) and seeing the response of the other soldiers will change how you think about war. This is a must see documentary, very well done, very objective, and will increase your respect and honor for what our soldiers endure. Beware of the language if you’re sensitive to that, I’m not sure if I’ve heard more f-words in any movie (even Tarantino’s films) ever. This film is worth watching though, I highly recommend it.

Update (1/28/11)

Despicable Me: I enjoyed and laughed frequently in this movie. Steve Carell is so funny as Gru and Jason Segel is so over the top as Vector I laughed whenever he came on screen. The end is predictable and I appreciate how they don’t even try to explain the origin of the minions.

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In my very first post, I gave some background on what my goals are whenever I engage with a movie or even with a TV show.  However, it was embedded within another review so I decided to repost this and expand upon it as a separate entity as my mini-manifesto on watching movies and TV.

My wife and I love seeing a good movie in the theater or on DVD but how we do that in a manner in which God is glorified? Movies are definitely modern art along with music. Movies heavily reflect culture as it is and where it is going. They also influence culture. Think about movies overall from the past 2-3 years and compare them to 30 years ago. Look at “The Dark Knight” (2008) and compare it to “Superman”  (1978). “The Dark Knight” has significantly less hope, is much more in tune with human depravity, much less clear distinction between good and evil, and just look at how law enforcement officials are portrayed (heavy influence of 9/11).

Don’t be naive. You are being preached to whenever you watch a movie regardless of the movie. You are being pushed in a direction. Will we passively sit back and be manipulated by media? Or will we engage and glorify God in how and what we watch? Will we view with Gospel vision?

My Goals with Movies & TV

#1. When in doubt,  just pass on it.

When in doubt about the makeup of the movie, regarding explicit content that would have the potential to be a stumbling block, just avoid it. I’m not saying I’m perfect with regard to this goal but I usually do as much research as I can prior to watching a movie. I don’t even mind knowing the entire plot. Knowing the ending to a movie doesn’t usually take away from it for me as long as the meta narrative is strong.  There has been a progression in my life with this. There are movies that my wife and I viewed when we were first married (over 8 years ago) that there is no way I would choose to watch now or even take the chance with. This is an area where convictions need to be developed (see Romans 14 and Philippians 4) so that you can walk in faith with whatever media you take in. I definitely have failed with that many times but significantly less and less as my wife and I have grown in discernment. I’m a sinner and I’m in progress in learning discernment with regard to movies. I’ll try to help both you and myself in this area with this blog.

In “The Dark Knight,” the language is pretty clean, violence is high but not gory or glorified, and there is very minimal sexual innuendo.

#2.  Seek out the meta narrative(s).

By meta narrative I mean the overarching big picture storyline that the movie is drawing from. This meta narrative is usually why we like a certain movie or why a movie is so rewatchable and what brings us to tears or draws out other emotions. We cannot be passive when we approach media. I know we all want to just relax and “veg” but if we are passive, our viewing will not necessarily be refreshing in the right things. It does not take much more effort to learn to watch for the meta narrative and for truth about ourselves or God.

Some questions to ask as you watch: What is the slant on human depravity, are people viewed as generally good or generally evil? What is valued by the movie characters and thereby glorified? How are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers portrayed? What is the source of joy for the characters? What is the context (culture, time frame, event) of the film? What  is the main theme that you think the director & screenwriter are trying to get across?

In “The Dark Knight,” human depravity is a major thing that the characters themselves wrestle with. The Joker (Heath Ledger) is full of lies and deceit but his goal is merely to draw out the evil in people and to demonstrate that we are inherently depraved. Batman (Christian Bale) and Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Gordon (Gary Oldman) try to fight this idea but ultimately get bit by their own sin and struggles at some point in the film, especially Dent who becomes The Joker’s ultimate example. The film is very dark and disturbing because it is a world in which hope is very fleeting and victory is far from assured. Joy is only in relationship with others and even those relationships get attacked throughout the film. What do I think the point of the film is? Escalation will always seem to give evil the upper hand. Good comes through sacrifice, through laying down your life for others. It’s a great film from Christopher Nolan.

#3.  Run to The Gospel

Seek to glorify God in seeing how the meta narrative reflects a truth about him or his character or reveals the very Gospel itself. Can this movie help me to see God more clearly? Does it point out something about myself that I need to understand further? Is there a good example to follow? Why do people gravitate towards this film and what does it reveal about them? Does it give me another illustration of gospel to use in communicating the gospel? These are things I want to be thinking about.

In “The Dark Knight,” the Joker is a clear depiction of Satan. What is his power? Only his words. He barely uses much else and is very simple. His main threats are his lies and his key truth that people are depraved. You cannot even really hurt him as he is completely given over to the chaos, to evil. “You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.” The Joker helps give the feel of the film such a hopelessness and the stomach punch that it feels like.

I think many believers feel this way in general. We don’t have a hope in the ultimate victory that Jesus promises and guarantees. We feel defeated in this world in our battles with sin and in our battles to help others know Jesus. We feel like Satan and evil have the upper hand in this American culture. So we resign to surviving and to numbness in our own Christian way. We don’t give our hearts. We don’t strive for intimacy with God. We live for comfort and innocent temporary pleasures that get us through the week. Is that right? Is this what Jesus calls us to? What am I actually hoping in? I confess I’m describing myself most of the time.

Then there’s Batman. Most of the film, he wrestles with his own humanity and limitations just as Dent and Gordon do. But then at the end, he comes through in an almost shocking, surprising way. By the end, Dent has turned to bitterness and defeat and run on the path of evil vengeance, killing multiple people. Gotham’s “White Knight” has tarnished everything Batman, Dent, and Gordon have fought for. But Batman steps in for the sake of Dent and Gotham. Batman literally takes on the sin of Dent at the end of the film. “Put it on me,” he says, “You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me. Set the dogs on me. Because that’s what needs to happen.” Batman lays down his life, lays down his reputation and takes the consequences of Dent’s sin. Wow. That’s the Gospel! Jesus takes on much more suffering and much more sin but He does it just as willingly enduring for the joy set before him to redeem us.

Summary

As you can tell, I loved the movie, “The Dark Knight,” and so did most of us who have seen it. As I’ve tried to demonstrate, there are some powerful reasons why so many loved it or were haunted by it. Many movies are more complex or more dark or much simpler, just don’t be passive when watching! You don’t have to be super analytical or some film critic to extract the main points and worldview of the film, just ask some of the questions I’ve proposed above. Discuss it with your spouse or friends or coworkers. I’m not advocating you watch movies every night of the week or that you disregard good reading habits. I’m definitely not advocating that you work to desensitize yourself to the violence or sex of many movies. Just trust God to use our modern art, movies, to reveal Himself as you walk in faith to see them.

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I know that all of my posts (the few) so far have been about movies and tv but can I help it? There were 2 series finales last month for 2 of the only shows my wife and I watch! Just to disclose, my wife and I have stuck  to a couple of shows: Lost, 24, Survivor, and Biggest Loser. We’ll sometimes watch CSI NY or The Office but not very consistently.  I covered 24 in 2 previous posts here and here. Survivor is a great demonstration of human sinfulness and a fun show. We love the outward transformations while rooting for heart transformation in The Biggest Loser.

Then there’s Lost. I honestly believe that there has never been a show quite like it and there never will be again.  Tell me about another show with those ratings and popularity that ended after 6 seasons and had one single purposeful story arc that finished. The new Battlestar Gallactica?  Maybe. We bailed in season 1 simply because the characters weren’t great and it felt like it would be same storyline over and over until they found Earth (another reason we bailed – way too much sex). Lost had both the mythology and sci-fi aspect as well as superb, well-acted characters that you locked in with. Between Locke, Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Ben, Desmond, and more, you had someone you gravitated towards and rooted for. It was pretty much the question in the first few season: Locke, Jack or Sawyer, who’s your guy?  I just listed 8 characters above and I could name 10 more. Without the characters, there would be no Lost, just a mysterious island with a smoke monster.

The show creators knew that and wrote it that way. Sure there were the mysteries: the time travel, the smoke monster, Jacob, the Darma Initiative, the Others, Richard, the Island’s weird powers, the fertility issues the Island caused, the strange bermuda triangle aspect of the island, the electromagnetics, the man in black/Jacob’s brother’s name, the nature of the island and the light at the center, and more. But the heart of the story was always the characters. Is there redemption for them? Will they unite? Will they find happiness? Can they overcome their pasts? People have whined about the finality and how too many mysteries remained unsolved but you knew they had to end it the way they did – a redemptive ending centering on the characters. There was no other way to finish. Who cares about the mysteries? I just wanted to see if Ben would be redeemed. Would Sawyer find peace (and Juliet)? Would Jack and Kate finally be together and happy? Was Locke right, did his life matter? Would Sun and Jin reunite and finally get to move forward? Who cares what the Smokey’s name was.

You can already guess then what I thought of the finale. It was awesome. I loved it. Even watching a second time, I still wept at certain moments – Locke and Ben’s conversation at the church, Charlie connecting with Claire, Jack saying goodbye to Kate on the island, and of course when Jack meets his dad. Such a bittersweet finish. A few things to key on: the flash sideways and Jack.  I like how the flash sideways ended up being the sort of purgatory, like the gray town in The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. I loved how what happened on the Island was real. There really were no second chances at life. Locke really did die when Ben killed him. The flash sideways was not a simple everything ends well story where all is good. Sun and Jin really did die on the sub together. Sayeed really did sacrifice his life so more of them could get off the sub. Hurley never met up again with Libby in life, she really was gone. Sawyer didn’t simply get to erase his past sins as a con artist and leaving a wake of brokenness in his path. Charlie really did die trying to help rescue the others. Jack’s dad really was dead. Powerful. This life matters. What happened on the Island and the choices that were made – mattered. Jack’s final choices on the Island were not just a temporary death before the storylines merged, but mattered. Wow. Do I think that about my life? Do I wake up and think my life matters for Jesus everyday? Do I live as if I really only have one shot at this whole thing? Am I living like the selfish, wounded, fixer pharisee that Jack started as? Or am I living as the Jack walking by faith, ready and willing to genuinely unselfishly lay his life down for his friends? What a gut check. I’ll come back to this.

I have to talk about Jack and his dad. I  wanted to see them reunite. I knew it had to happen for the story to be complete, the writers were building towards it and you knew it would be a significant moment when it happened. And it was. It hit me at 2 levels. First, I lost my dad almost 9 years to alcoholism (yes, like Jack’s dad, Christian). I loved my dad. Sure he had his faults but I always felt like my dad was for me and we could always be straight up with each other.  I miss him often. I long to see him again. When I came to Jesus as an eighteen year old, one of the first things I wanted was for my dad to experience Jesus with me and that he would know Jesus and be a spiritual father to me not simply my dad. My dad accepted Christ on his death bed and I never had that chance. When I think about heaven, I think about seeing him again and fully experiencing the love of Jesus and his glory together, no longer divided and no longer blind. So to say that I looked forward to the moment when Jack would see Christian again is an understatement. The loving embrace, the tender revelation. Second, Christian Shepherd has his name in this story for a reason. A loving father meeting his son at the end, ready to guide him into eternity? I wonder what book they found that theme in. It hits us emotionally (at least it did for me) because of the truth of the gospel in it.

Finally, the bittersweetness of the ending. Walking into eternity at the same time as flashing back and forth to Jack’s death, mirroring the exact beginning of the show.  Really well done in how it draws out that feeling of nostalgia, that longing for home, for that perfect time and place, for the past and “better times”, for innocence, and for redemption. We all feel it. That longing for home. That desire for ease and peace and no more struggle. Safety. But it’s unattainable. Everything is broken in this life. Everything can feel tainted. When we try to reach back for what we’re longing for all we find is emptiness and memories, not satisfaction. What we really long for is eternity. This life is truly bittersweet and meant to direct us to the only one who really can give us a second chance and is the reason we’re even here. That bittersweetness is meant to tell us that this life is not all there is. Nostalgia is a gift to point us to our true Father, the one who really is waiting for us, making a home for us, able to redeem us and desiring to show us what matters.

Jesus’ death on the cross matters. God’s glory really does matter. Finishing well matters. A life well lived for Him and with Him matters.

Other good reads on the Finale and Series:

The Rabbit Room

WorldMag.com

HitFix

EW

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24 Series Finale – Part 2

Read my 24 Series Finale, Part 1: here.

Jack Bauer genuinely has had nothing go right for him and has been spiralling into darkness ever since Season 1. Let’s look at the circumstances: he loses his wife and unborn child in Season 1, loses nearly every coworker except for Chloe, gets backstabbed by friends, loses more girlfriends, gets tortured multiple times and so forth.  Now the darkness. This is a man who has killed or tortured likely over 300 people by the end. The man becomes known for his end justifies the means mentality. He’s known for being an unstoppable pain-bringing killing machine. Yet Jack doesn’t like this, ever. He’s always trying to right the ship and be different at the beginning of every season.  But he can’t. Circumstances and urgency and friends and himself don’t allow him to change.  Even the 24: Redemption movie showed he has no hope to save himself  through turning good or trying to live peacefully nor could he hope in his friends to make up for everything he’s done. He is what he is and has never been satisfied with that, for good reason. How can he change? Again, even circumstances push against that. He wrecks nearly everything he touches. Friends are always dying.  The lesser of 2 evils always seems to be the choice. Always trying to make a new start and failing utterly. Sound familiar? See Romans 7:

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

No good deed or number of good deeds is enough to save us. This is because it is not a matter of atoning for some sins but atoning for who we are. Jack saves 10,000 people but is no different a person and descends right back into madness and death the following season. You might argue that Jack saved more lives than those he wrecked. Might be right. But it still does not redeem him. You know it. Jack knows it. Jack Bauer would likely call himself the chief of sinners. So should we all. Not even getting into the motivations of a good deed apart from God, we know it’s not enough. We know we’re lost and we feel far from home and there’s no going back. But, let’s finish Romans 7…

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

and look at Romans 5:

“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. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:6-9)

We need a savior, a perfect, holy substitution and sacrifice to redeem us from the slavery of our sinful nature and restore to the home of our loving Father God. And God the Father provides His own Son as that sacrifice. We couldn’t do it. We couldn’t change. We couldn’t do enough good. We couldn’t even help each other. Jesus can and did and does.

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Last night my wife and I were able to watch the season and series final of 24, the final (or not so final) adventures of Jack Bauer. We have watched every season of 24, although mostly via DVD, and loved the first 4 or 5 seasons. Jack Bauer and President Palmer were fantastic characters, well acted, that you rooted for.  Toss in Chloe in Season 3 and it was great.

This series was a really unique concept – 24 episodes attempting to countdown 24 hours in real time. But you can only do that for so long when you just know Jack Bauer is not going to die and you know they only have 24 hrs to resolve it. You know that after 12 hours, the first baddie’s boss is going to emerge and the next 12 hours will be about stopping him instead. You know that the first plot to blow up NY or kill the president is going to be replaced by yet another crazier plot or high-level conspiracy.  There stops being very much at stake when it seems like no one else beside Jack can really die either (see: Tony Almeida).  The last couple of seasons my wife and I stuck with it but it was a show that my wife would just sleep through most of the time. But I really wanted to see it end and that is one reason why I kept engaging with 24.

Enter Season 8 of 24.  I had no idea this was the last season of the series. I don’t follow entertainment news. We don’t watch 24 on TV, we watch it online on Hulu. So when Jack’s girlfriend gets killed around episode 16 or so and he starts to spiral downward even further to where there’s no coming back, basically entering the “Tyson Zone”, I wondered just what was going on. Finally, after episode 22, I caught that it was the final series and it all made sense.

Heading into the Finale, I had high hopes. I hoped for either a redemptive death of Jack Bauer or a redemptive death of another significant character (like Chloe) for Jack. Maybe that was asking too much but if you watch, you know it was heading there, all signs pointed to something significant, a change of direction, an end. Then I heard that there was the potential for a 24 movie and I knew Jack couldn’t die – yet again. Sure enough, Jack walks away at the end of the finale in a very anticlimactic way setting up the movie. I wanted redemption for Jack and Pres. Taylor’s confession and repentance was not enough for me, especially since the Satan-like Logan is probably still alive and justice isn’t close to being done.

But maybe that’s the reality we need to engage with…

Read Part 2: here.

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