Category Archives: Movies

Random Thought Thursday: May 15, 2014

TAYLOR’S FINAL BIG RACE…FOR NOW
This weekend, Taylor runs his final high school race: the NM State Championship.  He’ll run the 2-mile, the 1-mile, and the 4×400 relay.  I’m so proud of all the dedication and training he’s put into his running over the past 4-years.  He’s the most disciplined young man I know.  Thankfully, he’ll be running for the University of New Mexico in the fall, so while this is his last big high school race, it won’t be the last big race we get to enjoy with him.

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POTTERS IGNITING FOR PEACE
While driving my mom and my in-laws around downtown the other day, we came across this truck with these rather interesting bumper stickers on it. We Potters approved!

Potters

SPEAKING OF PICK-UP TRUCKS…
Michelle and I are in full mid-life crisis mode – or so say our kids.  We ride motorcycles, go to the gym at least 3-times per week, run triathlons and 5ks, and so on.  A few weeks ago, we traded our mini-van in for a pick-up truck! A Dodge Ram 1500…with a Hemi!  After 20 years of mini-vanning, we decided to cut the cord and get what we’ve always wanted – a big truck to pull our motorcycles so that we can take our mid-life crisis all over the country!

Truck

THE RAILWAY MAN
I haven’t seen the movie “God’s Not Dead” yet – and I may not see it.  I have a real hard time with “Christian” movies.  But, I really appreciate movies that surprisingly and powerfully promote Christian virtues without being so blatant and contrived.  The Railway Man is one such movie.  When the movie ended and the credits began rolling, I turned to Michelle and said, “Wow! God’s not dead.”  This film – based on a true-story – reaffirmed my faith maybe more than any “Christian” movie ever would.  Check out the trailer, and then go see it. By the way, it’s rated R for disturbing prisoner of war violence.


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Weird Name. Good Movie.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie with a compelling storyline, superb acting, and one that authentically but beautifully wrestles with some of life’s more difficult issues. However, this past weekend, I saw one such film: Philomena.

Philomena is a film about a washed-up political journalist who picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.  The themes of religious abuse, adoption, a mother’s love, and ultimately forgiveness are explored in a realistic way that is at times humorous and at times uncomfortable. But it makes for a powerful (and even rewarding) story to watch.  Here’s the trailer…


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Random Thought Thursday: July 11, 2013

IMG_5455Spent a week in Wisconsin recently. It was cool, green, plush, and beautiful. Fool’s gold, however. I’ve lived there in the winter – which lasts from October thru May. If you’re thinking about moving to the Midwest, please visit in the winter before making your final decision.

I love what I do. Of course, I say this after two Sundays off and a week in-between with lots of rest and no emails. And yes, sometimes the task is overwhelming and I often feel spent…but I do love being a pastor – and more specifically, the pastor at Foothills Fellowship.

My father-in-law retired last Sunday after 47 years of full-time ministry. That’s longer than I’ve been alive. What an accomplishment! By the way, he retired on June 30th and on the following Sunday, he was filling in at a church for a pastor on vacation. I guess his joke is coming true. He always used to say, “Pastors never retire, they just reload!” (And he’d say that while pretending to violently cock a gun.)

The wreck of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco happened as my family and I were flying home from Wisconsin. I first heard about it when we were in Atlanta for a layover. The TV screens all throughout the airport were showing it. That was REALLY troubling. Maybe it’s just me, but you would think that showing that in an airport while people are awaiting their flights is not the smartest thing to do.

lonerangerMaybe I’m getting older and less interested, but it seems as though there are very few good movies out right now. Summer is supposed to be a time for lots of good movies, but there is not one movie I currently want to see. I saw “The Lone Ranger” last week only because it was the only movie the six of us who went hadn’t seen. I wasn’t interested in seeing it, but I thought maybe because it was filmed here in NM that I might enjoy it. It was not very good – a $250 million flop in my opinion. Almost hate to admit it, but the best movie I’ve seen so far this year is Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise. It wasn’t great, but I think it’s the best I’ve seen so far.


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A Little-Known Movie That Should Have Won

I watched the Oscars on Sunday night.  On one hand, watching the elite in Hollywood compete to out-dress each other and heap sickening praise on one another was a bit too much for me.  As host Billy Crystal said, “Nothing takes the sting out of these tough economic times like watching a bunch of millionaires giving golden statues to each other.”  On the other hand, I love a good movie, so I was curious enough to weed through the nonsense to see which actors and movies were awarded the year’s best.

As you know, “The Artist” won six Oscars.  Obviously, there was something unique about it to win that many awards, but a silent movie about a man who falls deeper and deeper into self-destruction just doesn’t do it for me.  Right after “The Artist” was named best movie of 2011, I posted this message on Facebook: “Best film of the year: The Artist? Seriously? Granted, it wasn’t a stellar movie year, but The Artist?! Boooo.” Since then, many have asked me which movie I think should have won best picture.  I could refer you to My Top Movie Picks of 2011 blog post, but there was one movie I had not seen when I posted it that I would add to this list…and if I had an Academy Awards vote for best picture of 2011, it would have received my vote.

The movie “A Better Life” opened in June last year on 4 screens nationwide.  It cost $10 million to make and brought in a little less than $2 million at the box office.  A bust, right?  Wrong.  The film is about a gardener in East L.A. struggling to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.  He’s an illegal immigrant, and after watching this movie, some of your thoughts and opinions about illegal immigration may be challenged.  Mine were.  For his work on this film, little-known Mexican actor, Demián Bichir, was nominated for the best actor Oscar – alongside Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and other stars (including the actor from “The Artist” who won having spoken only 2 words in the entire film!).  Perhaps you saw him during the broadcast, and perhaps you saw the scene they showed – which was powerful. 

This film – along with other films about illegal immigrants including 2007′s “The Visitor” – has spurred lively discussions over immigrant labor and the root causes of illegal immigration.  This is a discussion that Christians ought to be engaged in, because Jesus – the One we follow – had a lot to say about the “stranger” among us.  Illegal immigration is a complex and politically charged issue in our country right now, and watching films like “A Better Life” helps to humanize the issue – which is what it is above anything else: a human issue.  Please watch the movie, and please pray for the “strangers” among us that we would treat them as God would have us.

Here’s the trailer for “A Better Life”


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When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.  Lev. 19:33-34

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matt. 25:35-40

My Top Movie Picks of 2011

At the end of each year, I post my top 5 movies of the year.  2011 was – in my opinion – a down year for good movies.  Mind you, I’m not one to get excited about “blockbusters,” so my list is a bit obscure.  Of the top 10 grossing films of 2011, I only saw one: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (#9), and I was a bit disappointed.  I didn’t see Harry Potter, Transformers, Twilight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and other top movies.  I’m just not interested in them.  There is a theater in town that always plays one artsy/independent film along with the blockbusters.  This is where I often find myself.  I love a film that develops characters and explores the ups and downs of humanity in a realistic way.  Some call these types of movies “slow.”  I call them “riveting!”  So with this in mind, I offer you my top 5 movies of 2011.

5. The Descendants
George Clooney is hot.  At least that’s what many women think.  In this movie, he plays a hapless, passive father who is trying to hold his family together amidst a tragedy.  He’s not very hot in this film, but his acting is superb.  The movie is labeled a comedy but the themes it explores are deep and sometimes very serious.  Funny and emotionally moving.


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4. X-Men: First Class
This is my one guilty pleasure movie.  Not realistic.  Not really a movie where characters are explored and developed (although some of that does exist here).  But this was a very good movie that gives the background to all the prior X-Men  movies.  Ironically, I haven’t even seen all of them!  Special effects are great.  Story is good.  Movie is fun.


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3. Win Win
I love Paul Giamatti. He’s one of my favorite actors, and he stars in this simple yet profound film about a man whose career is washed up who meets a boy whose life is a mess.  The acting is excellent; the story is engaging; and the message about the importance of family and parental love comes through loud and clear.

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2. The Beaver

This movie cost $21 million to make and earned less than $1 million in the U.S.  When it comes to box office ranking, it was #209.  A box office flop – probably because it stars Mel Gibson (not a very popular man these days) and is about a man who communicates with his family and friends using a handheld beaver puppet. However…this is a powerful story about living with someone who is mentally ill and the power of family.  Mel Gibson shows that despite his off-screen woes, he is a superb actor.  I found the film to be profound, powerful, and moving.


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1. Moneyball
I love baseball, and I was already familiar with the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, but this was much more than a baseball flick.  The smart story and excellent acting made for a movie that was incredibly interesting and engaging from beginning to end.  I had to convince Michelle (a nominal at best professional sports fan) to see it with me, and even she said that it proved to be one of her favorite films of the year.  It probably didn’t hurt for her that Brad Pitt was the star, but regardless…this film is excellent.


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MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM OF 2011:
The Debt
Wow, does the trailer make this film look good.  I was hooked after watching it and anxiously awaited it’s arrival in theaters. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the casting of the main male characters when they were older did not match up with how they looked when they were younger.  As a matter of fact, I felt like they should have flipped the older characters which would have made more sense.  Because of this, I was confused and had a hard time following the film at the end. And speaking of the end, how can such a smart film end in such a gruesome, unrealistic way? I’ll not ruin the ending for you, but I felt like the movie (which hailed itself as a smart film) ended in a ridiculous fashion.  Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed at the end.

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My 2010 Top Films
My 2009 Top Films

Wisdom from Mr. Veggie Tales

Mr. Veggie Tales (Phil Vischer) has spoken a lot of wisdom to children over the years, but in a recent interview in World Magazine, he made a pretty astute (and very adult) observation about the fallacy of what he calls the “American Christian Ideal.”  He said…

We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel.  And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore.  Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make your dreams come true.  It’s the Oprah god.

My Best And Worst Films of 2010

Was 2010 the worst year for movies ever?  This is what a writer for AOL.com recently asked, and I agree with him that the question needs to at least be asked.  I was able to come up with my top 5 films of 2010, but as I look back on the nearly 40 films I saw this past year, I’d have to say that overall, it wasn’t a good year for film.  Nevertheless, here’s my “best and worst of 2010″ – with a few additional categories thrown in for fun.  Enjoy…and let me know what you think.

Films That I Didn’t See

It’s important for you to know that among the top 10 highest grossing films of the year, I only saw two of them: Iron Man 2 and Inception.  I didn’t see many of the top films of the year because they didn’t interest me.  Films like Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland, Twilight:Eclipse, Harry Potter (Part 17), Shrek XXVI, and the Ralph Macchio-less Karate Kid were not worth the $9.50 admission fee.  I’m confident that none of these films would have made my top 5 anyway.  The only movie I didn’t catch that I could see possibly breaking into my top 5 is Social Network.  I’ve heard rave reviews about the film, but somehow I missed seeing it at the theater.  It comes out on DVD in a couple of weeks, and I plan to watch it then.

Films That Didn’t Make My Top 5 But Deserve Honorable Mention

FLIPPED
This is a sweet and slow-moving film that follows the life of a little boy and little girl who are neighbors and grow over the years to have feelings for each other despite being total opposites. It’s based on the novel by the same name and stars two young actors who play their roles superbly.  The actor who plays the little girl is especially wonderful.  She’s sweet, yet strong and very believable.  When it came out on DVD, I brought it home for my kids to watch.  Alexis declared it to be “adorable” and immediately asked me to buy it for her!  “Adorable” is a great way to describe this movie, and even though it didn’t make my top 5, it surely deserves mention…and a viewing, if you haven’t seen it yet.

THE BOOK OF ELI
I love Denzel Washington, and I love that he creatively conveys his faith in Jesus Christ in many of his movie roles.  The Book of Eli is a dark, apocalyptic film that has moments of intense violence and feels mostly depressing and hopeless.  However, the ending is amazing, profound, and full of hope.  The Word of God takes center stage, and the extremes that Washington’s character is willing to go to in order to protect and preserve it is stunning and powerful.  The film didn’t quite make my top 5 because of how dark it was.  However, the powerful way in which the film concludes is worth the watch.

My Top 5 Films of 2010

#5: INCEPTION
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of my favorite actors.  I get excited every time I hear that one of his films is coming out.  When previews for Inception hit the theaters, I knew that I was going to like the film.  DiCaprio, cool special effects, funky storyline, and the girl from Juno…what else could you ask for?  And the film did not disappoint.  The special effects were phenomenal, the story was fascinating and incredibly intriguing, and Dicaprio was on his A-game.  I also love the fact that the film ended with more questions than answers.  Is the top going to fall or not?  Love it!

#4: CYRUS
What a fascinating movie!  The storyline of this independent film is, “A recently divorced guy meets the woman of his dreams. Then he meets her son.”  The guy is perfectly played John C. Reilly (Step Brothers); the woman is played by the beautiful Marisa Tomei; and her adult son, Cyrus, is played by Johan Hill (Superbad).  The three of them together make for a stunningly real and at times uncomfortably dysfunctional trio.  Watching the film is like watching real people fumbling (but succeeding) to work through real life issues.  There’s humor, discomfort, sadness, irritation, frustration, and ultimately genuine happiness.  The characters are well developed, the acting is superb, and the story is very enjoyable.

#3: SHUTTER ISLAND
For starters, ditto on all of my DiCaprio praise above.  He is excellent in this movie as well.  The reason why I like this movie a bit better than Inception is because the character DiCaprio plays in this film is easier to feel compassion for.  In many ways, his characters in both movies are very similar: loved ones dead, very sad about that, looking for redemption.  In Inception, he’s a man hardened by the pain of his past, while in Shutter Island, instead of being hardened by the pain, he’s just plain gone crazy.  But, we don’t know this until the end when everything DiCaprio’s character has done in the film is revealed to be part of an extreme, last-ditch effort therapy session.  Great twist.  Great film.

#2: IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY
You may not have even heard about this one, but in my opinion, it was one of the year’s best films.  It’s a film about a clinically depressed teenager who gets a new start after he checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward.  It’s there that he meets a character played by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date) who befriends him and helps him with his depression – even though he’s  clinically depressed himself.  Galifianakis steals the show.  He’s known in other movies for being funny (even goofy), but in this role, he’s not only very funny, but he’s serious too and invokes a lot of empathy. He’s very believable – somewhat similar to when Jim Carey or Robin Williams venture into more serious roles.  And the occasional cameo by Jim Gaffigan (of “HotPockets” fame) as the boy’s father is a nice addition!

#1: TRUE GRIT
I know.  I know.  It just came out, so how could it already be my favorite movie of the year?  Well, I’m a sucker for a good western, and this one is more than good.  It’s great.  I also love the fact that it’s filmed in New Mexico – the most beautiful state in the country!  Jeff Bridges is superb reprising John Wayne’s 1969 role as Rooster Cogburn.  As he displayed in the movie, Crazy Heart, Bridges plays a drunk very well, and in True Grit, he plays a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshall that has his hard heart melted by a 14-year old sassy but sweet girl who enlists his help in avenging her father’s death.  Although Bridges role is memorable, it’s Hailee Steinfield’s role as young Mattie Ross that steals the show.  She is brilliant and has already been nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role by the Screen Actor’s Guild.  The dialog between her character and Bridges’ produces several great one-liners, and the love/hate relationship between the two makes for some great moments.  I don’t own many DVDs because I’m not one for watching a movie twice.  However, this film is so good that I plan to buy the DVD when it comes out and watch it again and again.  And by the way, Matt Damon as a cowboy?  Believe it or not…it works!

And finally, the worst film of 2010.  It’s a tie between…

GROWN UPS
Why Americans would waste $162 million on this ridiculously stupid movie is beyond me.  Funny stars.  Not a funny movie.  Stupid to the point of insulting.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
Had no desire to see it until I read some reviews saying that it was reminiscent of the funny John Cusak movies from the 80′s.  So, since I’m a sucker for things from the 80′s, Michelle and I rented the DVD when it came out.  Horrible movie.  Not funny at all.  Extremely vulgar and senseless.  Turned it off within 30 minutes…30 minutes of life I’ll never get back.