The 2020 Binge Report



My binging of all things Netflix and Amazon Prime kicked into high gear earlier this year when my wife was quarantined in a nursing facility for 7 weeks. Here are a few thoughts, and some feedback, on the things that I binged.

In the Star Trek Universe, I watched a lot of Trek movies. Always enjoy the newer Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto versions of the movie franchise. Here are a few shows that I watched.
πŸ‘ Enterprise - a great 4 season prequel to the series
πŸ‘Ž Picard - a really disappointing and maudlin sequel for TNG fans 
πŸ‘ Discovery - a great series featuring a few of the original characters.
πŸ‘ Alias - 5 seasons of action filled espionage - and Rambaldi!

πŸ‘ Hanna - Ann and I enjoyed watching two seasons of teenage spydom together

πŸ‘ House MD - 8 seasons of orneriness got me through Ann's quarantine

πŸ‘Ž Watchmen on HBO - a really confusing take on the comics

Apart from those things, this retired guy enjoys binging on HGTV and the Food Network. How about you?


Harriet | ★★★★★★★★★★



I love how this movie deals with Southern Slavery. The complex images of life as a slave is on display. It gives us an insightful view of the faithless cruelty of plantation owners and the magnificent faithful courage of slaves.

Harriet Tubman, played beautifully by Cynthia Erivo, emerges as a woman of faith and courage. I was fascinated by the ways that the Lord guided and directed Harriet as she led slaves to freedom in pre-Civil War America. God would often give her prophetic visions and speak to her as she acted so boldly.

My admiration of Harriet, as an American and as a Christian, swelled as I watched her inspiring story. I think that her story, and that of the underground railroad, should be extolled as one of the greatest in American history.

I really loved this movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.



Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Knives Out | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆




Ann and I are fans of the detective-sleuth genre. This movie plays in that arena. We should have liked it more than we did. I thought that the story-line was a tad predictable and sluggish at the beginning but picked up steam midway into this two hour flick. It had some pretty good twists and turns in the second half. Thought that Daniel Craig, the lead actor in this ensemble cast, may not have been best suited to play a part that involved speaking would a southernish drawl - can you imagine him saying Bond, James Bond with a twang?

Even so. I did like the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★☆☆☆.


Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Just Mercy | ★★★★★★★★★★



Pictured to the right is Bryan Stevenson and actor Michael C Jordan - the subject and the star of the movie "Just Mercy". Bryan is an amazing person. His book of the same name (reviewed here) is a heartbreaking account of injustice in Alabama. The movie takes the books main narrative and creates a compelling look at systemic racism in the South.

The movie was hard to watch but communicated such a strong message of how one person with passion can impact society and change lives. I thought Jamie Foxx did a great job playing Walter McMillian, a man falsely imprisoned for 6 years. I consider the movie a must watch.

On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.


Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Do Video Games Keep Kids Inside?



This cartoon cracked me up! Reminds me how I loved to play outside when I was a kid. When it was cold outside I would play board games inside with my sisters but when the summer came I was outside all of the time playing with my neighborhood pals.

Can you relate to that? Do you think that video games keep kids today from playing outside? Not sure that I do because my son usually just played with his Nintendo when the weather was bad or it was dark. He loved to be outside. Yet I do think that, generally speaking, video games keep kids indoors.


perspective



Ever had really high expectations and have somewhat of a let down? Fifteen years ago my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Niagara Falls. Our hotel room overlooked the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side. Here is the view from our room.


Quite majestic. And awesome. If only I didn’t have expectations. Hype and preconceived ideas are not the best way to approach something as monumental and unique as Niagara Fall.

It is also not the best west to approach God and prayer.

I think that we often imagine God to be someone, or something, that he is not.

Before traveling east I imagined Niagara to be much different - I was sucked into my own imagination. I envisioned something much taller, much louder and frankly more majestic. At first glance, from my hotel room, I was disappointed because of my expectations of the Falls.

We can, in the same way, be disappointed with God when he does not meet our expectations. We often imagine that he will do something in one manner - then he acts, or doesn't act, in a way contrary to our thinking. And we are disappointed. We often come to God in prayer expecting Him to answer according to our imaginations. And we are disappointed when he doesn't.

After the initial letdown my wife and I journeyed closer to the Falls. A few more pictures.

Taken from the Maid of the Mist as we headed towards the Falls

The overwhelmingly breathtaking view from the Maid of the Mist.

You know, when the view changes … when the perspective or context is different … a different dynamic is at play. When I saw the falls from the boat I was able to take in the power of the falls. Up close the waters seemed more powerful. The sounds much louder. Everything seemed different.

Rainbow arching over the Falls.

Later that day we returned to our hotel room. I looked out the window and saw this image.  When I saw the bow I was reminded of God’s blessings. Sometimes we can only see the blessings from afar.

I think that a different perspective often brings us to a new place of appreciation for God’s working in our lives - if we can only get past our expectations and imaginations.


Rocketman | ★★★★★★★★☆☆



Elton John is one of the most iconic performers of my lifetime. His music is legendary. His sound is unique. Even so, this movie surprised me. I was not ready to watch a movie that was so transparent and so revealing.

The flick takes us on a journey. Beginning with childhood Reginald Kenneth Dwight, Elton's name before he changed it, showed somewhat of a musical genius. He played his grandmother's piano at age 7 and won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music when he was 11.

His life trek continues as he meets his life long song writing partner Bernie Taupin and finds success and eventual fame in Rock and Roll. Yet Elton's life is fraught with pain. And the pain morphs into addiction. John reveals a lot about himself as he uncovers his painful past.

I thought that Taron Egerton did a great job playing Elton. I loved that he sang the songs himself and didn't try to copy John's voice while keeping true to his sound. The film was a good mix of music and drama. I really liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.


Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

My friend Steven



Life is a bit crazy at times. People come in and out of your life. Some leave good impressions. Some bad.

Today, on his birthday, I want to share some impressions that I have about my friend Steven.

My daughter Susie, pictured here with Steven, has been in a wonderful relationship with this excellent man for several years. Let me tell you a little bit about my friend.

Steven is a man of integrity. If he says that he will do something you can take it to the bank.

He is a man motivated by a great love for God, for Susie, his son Kaeden, our grandkids, for family and for me.

Steven has a lot of wisdom shown best in the ways that he seeks out counsel and actually listens to what people tell him. He thoughtfully blends his mind and his heart into his life.

He has the heart of a servant. Last year he became my personal Uber driver when I was getting around with a wheelchair and walker. He usually thinks of other people first and acts accordingly.

Lastly, Steven has a great personality. He is winsome and funny. His zeal for life is contagious.

I appreciate him so very much and am asking God to prosper him on his birthday and the rest of the year.


happy pi day





Not apple or cherry pie. Not even key lime (my favorite).

Pi, Greek letter (), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th. Pi = 3.1415926535

Making me hungry. What is your favorite pie?





Originally post March 14, 2010

John and Charles Buraus, Leap Year Twins



I am reminded today, February 29th, of my childhood friends John and Charlie who were born on this day in 1952. My parents were friends with their parents. I lost track of them in my teen years.

I did a search on them and discovered that John died while living on Staten Island, my hometown, on April 8, 2005. The obituary did not say much except that John was married and had two children. What I found on Charlie was more extensive. Here are a few excerpts from his memorial.

Father Charles E. Buraus died in his rectory at St. Teresa Catholic Church in Fushimi, Diocese of Kyoto, Japan about 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 8, 1992. He was 40 years of age and a Maryknoll priest for 11 years in Japan.

A wake was held on Wednesday, September 9 in Japan for the parishioners of St. Teresa’s. His Superior wrote: “It was a spontaneous outpouring of love from the Christian community of Fushimi, which is a poorer section of the city of Kyoto. The Marthas and Marys prepared food for the mourners. The men came as they were from work. They prayed, sang hymns of Faith, and recounted cherished memories of Fr. Charlie’s generosity and above all his gentleness. Charlie had shared their life, visited their homes, worked on parish projects together, and was always available for pastoral counseling. His personality was ideal for mission and ministry…. For the Maryknoll family here in Japan it was a shock though all were aware of his health situation. He was ever at the disposal of others. While it is difficult to lose a young talented missioner, his influence in the parish and the diocese will live on in the Christians he guided, the vocations he nurtured, and the priests he shared his ministry with. In a way it is a great blessing, he taught people how to live and how to die. He was always smiling and apologetic when visited in the hospital. He bore the sufferings of the Lord, and now he shares the joys of the Resurrection. A great missioner of Maryknoll; I am envious.”


I was moved by the words spoken about Charlie - especially that he taught people how to live and how to die.  His life seemed to embody the love and character of Jesus. I wish that I had kept up with he and John as we all grew older. Even so, it has been great thinking about these two old friends.


Judy | ★★★★★★★★★★



This movie is heartbreakingly beautiful. It tells the story of the last months of the life of Judy Garland as she worked a residency at a club in London. The plot revolved around Judy's brokenness and the irreparable damage from her experiences at the hands Hollywood moguls and big-shots.

It was really difficult to watch a Hollywood movie mogul manipulate and bully Judy when she was so young and impressionable. Seeing her fed a stream of drugs to lose weight, to sleep and to stay awake was like a kick in the gut. My emotions were heightened throughout the film as I felt some of her pain.

Yet there was this beautiful person that emerged from the awful childhood. A broken individual for sure. Yet such a sympathetic one. I mean who cannot relate to being broken. Even more when the wounds came in childhood.

RenΓ©e Zellweger was simply amazing as Judy. Her voice was beautiful. Her acting even more so. Her portrayal helped viewers see Judy as more than a diva. The actor brought Judy's inner beauty to life.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.


Green Book | ★★★★★★★★★★



I loved everything about this movie. It is based on a beautiful true story about two guys on the road for 8 weeks. The dialogue and interactions between them was spectacular. I loved that it was based on the beginnings of a lifelong friendship between Tony "Tony Lip" Vallelonga and the brilliant classical pianist Dr Don Shirley.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali both got well deserved Oscars for playing Tony and Don. Their acting was simply brilliant. I think that the movie drew you into the tensions of the Deep South in 1962. What I loved most was the way that each character challenged and transformed the other. In the end it was a story of love winning the day and the birth of an authentic friendship.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.


Cats | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆



My friend Missy saw Cats. She gave me permission to post her review here:

1) It seems there are several critical “articles” circulating on FB about problems with CGI, which are absolutely false! The digital animation was incredible!

2) If you don’t like the musical, specifically the music, you won’t like this. While abridged and having some additional dialogue, it is the musical.

There are some character changes that make act 1 far more coherent and add more theatrical tension as well as better character development in my opinion. The decisions weren’t all my favorite, but they work!

I did not like Rebel Wilson in this interpretation of Jennyanydots, particularly her added dialogue, but she’s physical and hilarious. James Corden is tolerable as Bustopher Jones, but easily my least favorite scene. Both of these guys take the humor a bit to far for the tone of the show but their scenes are fun.

Taylor Swift is purrfect as Bombalurina. Even better is the original song she wrote with ALW for Victoria (whose elevated character in the story is very good!)

Macavity is quite a bit more evil in this interpretation, and rather dark-magicky.

Jennifer Hudson is an incredible Grizabella, even as an alto. She is heart-wrenching!

Mr. Mistoffelees is my favorite interpretive character change. I love his development.

Judi Dench and Ian McKellen were cast just right.

The dancing was terrific, especially Victoria’s ballet and an exciting tap rendition of Skimbleshank’s Railway cat scene. Both of these characters are played by incredibly talented dancers.

The singing is great. I have an affinity for the soundtrack because my kids loved it so much when they were little. I really enjoyed the music.

The set is so much fun and more interesting than the staged version.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. If you like Cats the Musical, I suspect you will like this very much.

On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★★★☆☆☆. Would be 8 stars without Corden and Wilson.


The Two Popes | ★★★★★★★★☆☆



This Netflix papal biopic is worth the two hour viewing time. The casting was perfect. Anthony Hopkins playing Benedict and Jonathan Pryce playing Francis. I loved the vulnerability offered and the peek into papal personalities and operations.

I have to admit that I was concerned that this might be a hit job on one of the popes as they are somewhat polar opposites and have loyal followings. Even so, I felt that a message of brotherly love trumped papal politics and personalities.

I really liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.