Spring 2014 Micro Movie Reviews

At Middleton | ★★★★★★★
An interesting look at the strong emotions that surface when your only child prepares to leave the nest. Strong performances by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmigia.

The Book Thief | ★★★★★★★
Heartwarming tale of the influence that an adopted father can have on a child and how a mother's unexpressed love can run so deep. Love the way that it showed courage in the young and the old in a setting of Nazi fundamentalism.

Cypher | ★★★★★★★
This techno-thriller was surprisingly good. Liked the mix of tension and intrigue imbedded in the plot. I did figure the mystery out but so enjoyed the experience.

Dr Zhivago | ★★★★★★
Yes, I finally saw the (ancient) film interpretation of the Boris Pasternak book. Like many older movies my expectations were higher than my experience. Liked the allusion to the history of the times but was not that impressed with the acting or plot.

Enough Said | ★★★★★★★
This was one of James Gandolfini's last movies and it was a good one. He played such a tender part and the chemistry between him and Julia Louss Dreyfuss was great.

The Fifth Estate | ★★★★
Very disappointing when you consider that the lead was played by an actor that I very much like (Benedict Cumberbatch). A bleak story of a narcissist that may have been better to have left untold. Small wonder Julian Assange did not want it made.

The Hunger Games :: Catching Fire | ★★★
Gave the original 8 stars. This seemed to be a disaapointing ripoff of the first. Not much to recommend about it.

The Internship | ★★★★★★★★
Did not see this one coming and was blown away that this was a movie about mentorship, teamwork and camaraderie. Expected a Vince Vaughn / Owen Wilson "Wedding Crashers" flick and got a heartwarming one instead.

Jobs | ★★★★★★
I am a ancient nerd who used punched cards to program computers. I wanted to like this movie. I simply could not see Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs. His personality came through in every scene. He was just too big of a celebrity to play a lesser celebrity. They would have been better to use a lesser known actor to play Mr Apple.

Labor Day | ★★★★★★★
The story line started out pretty slow but picked up about 30 minutes in. I especially enjoyed the scene where the dad apologized to his son. Thought that the acting was pretty good. Good story with a few tense scenes.

Monuments Men | ★★★★★★★
Loved the rich history and war realism included in this movie. The Nazis were really deranged. The movie posed the question of whether lives should be risked to preserve sacred and secular images. Did enjoy seeing geezers in uniform.

Rush | ★★★★★★★
If you like Formula One racing you will probably enjoy this one. I liked the tension between the two main drivers, thought it was well directed by Ron Howard but felt it could have been edited down a bit.

Saving Mr Banks| ★★★★★★
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney both worked and didn't. I think that it is hard to portray a man that many of us once had a bit of exposure to. And I really did not care all that much about Mary Poppins as a movie to begin with.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty | ★★★★★★★★
One of the best flicks I have seen this Spring. Loved the way that Ben Stiller played the lead role. So related to the shy every-man. Great directing by Stiller of a compelling plot that slowly builds to such a great crescendo.

Stuck in Love | ★★★★★★
Love it when a movie surprises me. Like the way that this one showed how parents are often role models (good and bad) and how often it is to forgive familial sins.

The Three Stooges | ★★★★★★
If you loved them as a kid, I think that you will like this movie. I would not have seen it if not for a Netflix recommendation. It was silly and heartwarming. Good for a few laughs with the kids.

The Way Way Back | ★★★★★★
A coming of age movie about a young boy and his mom struggling to find their identity while on vacation at a resort town. Interesting to see Steve Carrell play a bad guy. Reminded me of a vacation when I was a young teen.

The Wolverine | ★★
What is my attraction to action hero movies? This one was a total rip off of the many iterations of this character and lacked any redeeming value at all. Here's hoping this will be the last one (at least for me).

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

Remembering Maya Angelou [1928-2014]

"We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated."

"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."

“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!”

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."

our commitment to remember

I took these photos this week at Leavenworth National Cemetery when I visited Ellen's grave site.

The markers cause me to remember.

Remember that our freedom is not free.

Remember that bravery and heroism are still alive and well in the USA.

Remember the families of those who gave all to protect us.

Remember that our country is one that is worth defending and fighting for.

Remember that we are still a united country even though we have differing views.

Remember that we are all committed to remembering our fallen heroes.

Click on the photos to enlarge and see more details.

Not to decide is to decide.

“If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else.” [Paul Arden]

“What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient.” [Bodie Thoene]

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” [C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair]

“Not to decide is to decide.” [Harvey Cox]

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.” [Elbert Hubbard]

“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.” [E.E. Cummings]

“You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” [Michelle Obama]

“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” [Malcolm Gladwell]

“I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” [Mark Twain]

“Whatever you decide, don't let it be because you don't think you have a choice.” [Hannah Harrington, Saving June]

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. [Psalm 32:8]

... inspired by Don's post today at the Daily Prayer Blog.

Remembering Ellen

It was weird walking over to that grave marker a few days ago. I had not been there for a few years. The National Cemetery is such a peaceful and beautiful place. One of the few veterans benefits that I have used. Just seeing my name on the marker was a bit surreal. Walking over to it brought back so many memories of the first time I was here so many years ago - today marks twenty years when my first wife Ellen passed away.

What I most remember about Ellen was her zeal and zest for life. And her love for the Lord. She was a wonderful wife and mom who brought joy into our home every day. I remember that day when her heart and kidneys failed at age 39. I will always remember the courageous ways that she faced adversity in those last four years. Our twenty-three years together shaped me so much as a man and as a follower of Jesus. I will always be thankful for the way that God brought us together and the impact she had on my life.

Coal Powered Cars

We can debate whether or not the carbon footprint of driving an Electric Vehicle is that much lesser when charged from the electricity that needs to be generated from a fossil fuel-based power plant than that from the emissions of a gasoline or diesel-fueled car.

Regardless, the electrical power requirements of the United States and other nations are generated overwhelmingly by fuels that have just as much, if not more, environmental impact than the combustion of automotive fuel.

So unless your house is completely off the grid and you've figured out how to charge your Tesla with a water or wind turbine or a gigantic solar farm, you can wipe that elitist greener-than-thou grin off your face.

- Excerpted from an article at ZDNet.

Remembering Mom

This Mother's Day is the first since 1995 that we will celebrate without Ann's mom. Margaret was 97 when she passed away last August. The time seems to have gone by so fast. It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting with her, sharing lunch and talking about our lives. I loved her so much. She was such an example of a Christlike woman. Here is an excerpt from one of the scriptures readings at her funeral:
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:

“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Mom had a gentleness and kindness that all of us felt when we were around her. She was always so interested in each person that came into her presence. She had a wonderful sense of humor. Until the end her mind was sharp. I loved to sit listening to the stories that she told as she shared her memories of working at the War Department or about celebrities like Amelia Earhart. Mostly I remember the love that she had for her husband, children and grandkids - and for me.

Hating the term "Celebrity Christian" by Rachel

How do I hate the term “celebrity Christian?” Let me count the ways!
I hate that it reflects a culture that idolizes success.

I hate that it exposes my own dark desires and unhealthy fixations.

I hate that once someone decides you’re a “celebrity Christian,” they use that as an excuse to treat you as something other than a human being.

I hate that I’ve used it as an excuse to do the same.

I hate that it comes with the pressure to speak more definitively (even when you’re not sure) and lead more decisively (even when you have no idea where you’re going).

I hate that it reduces people to “fans” or “haters” when God only gave us neighbors.
I don't want to live in a world of fans and haters.

- excerpted from a great post about faithfulness by Rachel Held Evan. Read more here.

May the Fourth

"Do or do not... there is no try." -- Yoda

"I find your lack of faith disturbing." -- Darth Vader

"Your eyes can deceive you, don't trust them." -- Obi-Wan Kenobi

"Never tell me the odds." -- Han Solo

"Yeah, I'm responsible now, the price you pay for being successful." -- Lando Calrissian

"Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" -- Princess Leia

Call the Midwife

Last year Ann and I began watching the first season of this beautiful TV show. It comes on Sunday evenings (before Downton Abbey) here in KC and I could not recommend it more. It is about the lives of a group of energetic and caring young nurses/midwives living with an order of Anglican Nuns in East London in the late 1950s.

Even more, it is a story of faith filled people caring for "The Least of These" in the midst of poverty and despair. It is based on the book "Call the Midwife" by Jennifer Raines and recounts her memories of what it was like serving the poor as a Midwife. I love how it presents such a realistic and magnificent picture of faith-filled people.

Each week I find myself being moved deeply as I watch these beautiful women (older nuns and younger nurses) bring compassion to young women who are expecting babies. The show does not present us with an image of perfection but one where God uses flawed people to bring hope to those who need it most.

Dallas Buyers Club | ★★★★★★★★★★

I love it when a movie surprises me. This movie did in a wonderful way. It is set in the 1980s and is loosely based on the experiences of electrician Ron Woodroof after he is diagnosed with HIV and given 30 days to live. Ron refuses to die and crosses the border to Mexico where he finds a rogue doctor who helps him live way past 30 days. Ron gets healthy using supplements and drugs not approved by the US FDA.

The movie definitely addresses the moral issues involved with such matters but more importantly it deals with the changes that people experience by watching their friends suffer. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Oscars for the acting. Greatly deserved. Each of these actors, as well as others, give wonderful and tender portrayals of people who respond with so much love, care and compassion.

Not sure that all will appreciate this movie. It contains coarse language and actions that come with a story about HIV/AIDS. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.

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