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 ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

hope is a force

When things are dark, and the struggle is hard, hope helps me.

In times of weakness and debilitation, hope makes me strong.

When things are chaotic and out of control, hope gives me peace.

Hope helps me to trust the Lord and release my cares to him.

It is a force that keeps me going and optimistic about tomorrow.

I am a work in progress because I have embraced hope.

developing a grateful heart

This is the image that greets me each morning when I enter the hall bath of our downtown KC loft.

It reminds me that thankfulness is a challenge to embrace every single new day.

The words challenge me to live a different sort of life and develop a transformed image of it.

I honestly don't always pay attention to the words - sometimes I am simply not up for the message.

Often I wake up to a life that seems so heavy and I feel so alone and forgotten.

In times like these I think that it is so hard, yet so necessary, to develop a grateful heart.

Some think that thankfulness is purely a matter of perspective and focus.

These folks say things like count your blessings and focus on the positive.

That may work for some but it has not really been helpful in my life.

For me, the journey begins with an acknowledgement that I am a thankful person.

I am so grateful for the love of my God, my wife, my family and my friends.

I think that this acknowledgement is foundational in developing a grateful heart.

Developing a grateful heart begins with the idea that I am grateful.

So it is not so much a change of heart as it is a development of it.

It is not saying that I am thankful for bad things but acknowledging that God is at work.

Believing that God is active in every situation causes thankfulness to grow in me.

If something bad happens it can help strengthen and grow a thankful heart in me.

I think that a strong heart is a thankful one that is able to see unseen things.

Developing inner vision requires feeding, nurturing and training our heart.

In essence a thankful life is one not dominated by the brain but by the heart.

In my experience, leaning into my brain nevers develops thankfulness.

On the flipside, I find thankfulness to bubble up from a strong heart.

It is not so much a matter of counting our blessings as it is knowing we are blessed.

Having this knowledge causes us to embrace the idea that life is a blessing to be lived.

So with each new day we can awake thankful for the blessing of life.

In doing so we make our heart a bit stronger than our head.

And find thanksgiving and gratefulness developing in us.

on the judging of nations and societies

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members - the last, the least, the littlest.” -Cardinal Roger Mahony

“The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens.” -Jimmy Carter

"The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons." -Winston Churchill

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” -Mohandas Gandhi

“A society will be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” -Harry S. Truman

The Mule | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This movie was not at all what I expected. Not Dirty Harry. Not Gran Turino. But an amazingly tender and thoughtful experience. The story took me on a journey through family, priorities and love. It highlighted forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption.

The creative genius of Clint Eastwood was on display and his acting was spot on. Loved how his character was beautifully transformed by his granddaughter's love for him. His care for a cartel soldier was endearing and showed a loving side of the character.

I love bio-pics like this movie. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

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

The Favourite | ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

First of all. I have to say that this period comedy (of sorts anyways) is way different than I imagined it to be. Much darker. Pretty racy - R rating earned and then some.

Olivia Colman got an Oscar for her performance and I really don't know why. Did not find the story or the acting to be anything great. Cruelty seemed to replace comedy and I am not sure that it was a drama either. I am not a fan of this one.

So I am scratching my head wondering why this one got an oscar nod. Even 'First Man' would have been a better nomination. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆.

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

Lilies of the Field | ★★★★★★★★★☆

A few days ago my wife and I watched this beautiful movie. I am generally not a fan of the black and white genre. Yet the presentation was wonderful as the story of a black man helping five German nuns evolved and hearts changed.

I loved the way that Homer Smith, played flawlessly by Sidney Poitier in an Oscar winning performance, felt drawn to helping the nuns. Despite the self-righteous persona of the nun's leader, Homer persevered and, with help from the community, (spoiler alert) completed the chapel that the nuns dreamed about.

It is a great story about how God often uses broken and imperfect people to accomplish beautiful things. I loved it. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★☆.

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


A Facebook conversation this morning reminded me of this thought from the bible:
"let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger"
It has been said that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

I like what this picture quote says. 80% seems to be a good goal for us when we are having a conversation. That said, it is challenging to do when we are the more outgoing person.

I think that listening is an art form of sorts. My wife is a great listener.

In my counseling days I tried to use the phrase 'what I hear you saying' to communicate that I am listening and that I am wanting to know what the talker is actually trying to communicate.

On several occasions Jesus spoke about having ears to hear. That is a challenging thought. It speaks to me about how difficult it is to hear ideas that challenge us. The underlying thought seems to be to keep open to new ideas and different concepts.

I think that listening is a form of love. Most of us want to really be heard and when someone listens to us it shows us that they really care. I think that a side effect of listening is that it turns our focus away from ourselves. And that is a good thing. Especially for people like me. ツ

Good Friday Reality Check

I think that the images at the left represent the different ways that people see the scourging of Jesus on that first Good Friday when He suffered at the hands of the religious and political leaders of His time.

In truth the image on the far left is the one that I want to cling to - the one of a super-human man who endured a beating and walked triumphantly to death.

The other image just breaks my heart. It haunts me. It challenges me. It confronts me with a reality that I don't like.

I pray that this will cause you to ponder the reality of Jesus' sacrifice for us.
It is a good thing to do on this Good day.

- I first posted this in 2010. Seemed appropriate to republish today.

Palm Sunday Meditations

The entrance into Jerusalem [on Palm Sunday] has all the elements of theatre of the absurd: the poor king; truth comes riding on a donkey; symbolic actions... even parading without a permit! Also, when Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem," what was involved was direct action, an open confrontation and public demonstration of the incompatibility of evil with the Kingdom of God. -David Kirk

But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they'd heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem - to die. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda. -Bill Hybels

messy grief

I love the representation of grief presented in this image.

It communicates to me that grief is:

  • anything but neat and tidy;
  • different for each person that experiences loss;
  • multifaceted and often repetitive;
  • not limited to the five Kubler Ross steps.
In my experience grief is one of the most chaotic experiences of life.

If you are experiencing it I pray that you will be able to find peace in the chaos.