Movie Review: Unbroken: Path to Redemption, directed by Harold Cronk (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: Unbroken: Path to Redemption, directed by Harold Cronk

(Five Stars)

“The war’s over.”

The rest of the story. The 2014 film Unbroken relates the World War Two service and prisoner of war experiences of Louis Zamperini. This movie tells of his struggles after the war. Both are based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book: Unbroken: A World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

“In the prison camps they tried to take your humanity, and you wouldn’t let them.”

Over 85% of World War Two prisoners of war in the Pacific theater suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was not then recognized as a specific disorder until 1980.

“God often uses difficulties in our lives to prepare us for a greater future.”

The movie, like the true story, is unabashedly Christian, but it is not Continue reading

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Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine, directed by Andrew and John Erwin (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine, directed by Andrew and John Erwin

(Five Stars)

“Every feel like everything in your life is building to one big moment? This is it.”

Not just a really good Christian movie, a really good movie. Well written, well acted, well filmed and well produced. Based on the story behind MercyMe’s song by the same name.

“God can forgive you, I can’t.”

All about redemption, in many different forms.

“I saw God transform him from the man I hated to the man I wanted to become.”

Christian books and movies need to be good books and movies. They don’t get a bye because they are faith-based. This movie vindicates that opinion.

“The dad I wanted is about to leave me. How is that fair?”

Book Review: This Life I Live by Rory Feek (Four Stars)

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Book Review: This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever by Rory Feek

Four Stars

“People pass away. It’s part of life. It’s hard and it’s terrible, but it’s gonna happen to all of us.”

An extraordinary story told very well. Feek bares his soul and talks from the heart about his life, which started badly and got worse as he lived it. The conversational tone pulls the reader in as if this was a chat over coffee.

“A different perspective from what I had most of my life. Finally opening my hands and turning my life over to God.”

So many quotable epigrams that I filled four pages of my notebook. The man is a professional writer: it shows.

“The only way this can work is if we are both willing to give everything up for the other person.”

I never heard of Rory Feek or Joey Martin. I’m not a fan of Country and Western music, but the man has a powerful message: admittedly Christian, but without the trappings and jargon of professional religion. He used only one theological word.

“The point where I did everything wrong was just the bigger of a bigger story. Just the setup.”

“I just wanted a little bit of something good, what I got was a lifetime of something great.”

If you read this book, be prepared to be moved, both by the hash Feek made of his own life and to its incredible outcomes. He takes you deeper inside himself than many memoirs and tell-alls. He shares his heart.

“A story that will live long after the man who told it is gone.”

“Her love strengthened my faith.”

Movie Review: I’m Not Ashamed (Four Stars)

theatrical release poster

theatrical release poster

Movie Review: I’m Not Ashamed, Directed by Brian Baugh

Four Stars

Rachel Joy Scott died during the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. This movie chronicles the last year of her life. For an admittedly Christian movie, there is little preaching and no one is perfect, least of all Rachel. The story is drawn from her journals. It’s about forgiveness and compassion in the pressure of modern life set into bold perspective by Rachel’s murder. The film also explores the motives and plotting of the shooters.

The production values and acting are good for a small,  independent production. (It was shown once a day in the smallest venue of our local multiplex.) The actual shooting is realistic but not gory.

“I just want to make a difference.”

She did.

Book Review: Pensées by Blaise Pascal (Part One)

Book Review: Pensées by Blaise Pascal (Part One)

Five Stars (provisional)

“Do you wish people to believe good of you? Don’t speak.”

Pascal was the master of the one liner. Pensées is laced with aphorisms. It also overflows with serious considerations. Not to be read fast or superficially. (Unfortunately my first reading in the 1960s was both.) Therefore, this review will be in sections, as I read the major subdivisions of the text.

“The last thing one settles in a book is what one should put in first.”

Since Pensées was not published before Pascal died in 1662, textual inclusion and order are disputed. This 1958 English translation (available free on Project Gutenberg) includes an excellent Introduction by Nobel laureate T. S. Eliot.

“It is far better to know something about everything, than to know all about one thing.”

Being an unfinished work, inconsistency of flow and expression are not surprising. What is unexpected is that he beat the Enlightenment by a century and even anticipated some modern thinking.

“Who doubts that our soul, being accustomed to see number, space, motion believes that and nothing else?”

One of the greatest mathematical and scientific theorists of his time, Pascal intended Pensées to be a defense of the Christian religion, but boldly admitted the case of the sceptic. Pascal’s other great work, Provincial Letters, addressed the abuses of contemporary Catholicism even though Pascal remained a communicant his whole life. He died in Paris at age 39.

“What is a man in the infinite?”

Book Report: Don’t Waste Your Sorrows by Paul E. Billheimer (Four Stars)

Book Report: Don’t Waste Your Sorrows: New Insight Into God’s Eternal Purpose for Each Christian in the Midst of Life’s Greatest Adversities by Paul E. Billheimer

Four Stars out of Five

An amazing book, first published in 1977, which addresses the most vexing issue of modern Christains, “Why do good people suffer?” Billheimer’s answer, simply, is that’s how people grow spiritually. Not seeking the easy path. Not awards or riches, but perseverance through sorrow and suffering grows character.

He offers support from the Bible and historic and contemporary (for his time) Christian sources. (Billy Graham is cited. His place in the American Christian community much the same forty years ago as today.) Most of Billheimer’s exposition is logical, straight-forward and easy to follow. Slightly repetitive, but that fits with the teaching character of the book.

Those of other faith or non-faith communities will find it opaque. More a teaching than a devotional reading, but worthwhile for Christians.

Movie Review: Heaven is for Real (4 stars)

Heaven is for Real (movie)

(Four stars out of Five)

Occasionally Hollywood gets it right: “it” being a Christian movie. Not that Heaven is for Real is perfect, but it follows the book well and where it diverges it improves–by condensing and focusing. Not a big-budget blockbuster, but a solid, well-told story. Greg Kinnear, as Colton’s father Todd Burpo, is the only big name.
This “based on a true story” film about a child’s near-death experience, captures the emotion, the uncertainty, and the growing wonder of the book well. It doesn’t have easy answers and, in fact, when it dramatizes young Colton Burpo’s reports of heaven is where it goes farthest astray. A respectful, is necessarily compact, exploration of the other people’s reactions–both positive and negative–to Colton’s reported experience.

Connor Corum‘s portrayal of four-year-old Colton is nothing short of amazing, and worth the price of admission.
Quibbles: I doubt that many blacks lived in western Nebraska. Hispanics, yes. Sonja Burpo (played by Kelly Reilly) was just a bit too sexy. Why did they have to film it in Manitoba?

Imperial Legions by Andrew M. Seddon (4 of 5 stars)

legionsImperial Legions by Andrew M. Seddon
(Four of five stars)
Excellent historical fiction. Well-researched and imaginatively told.

By making one of the Roman officers and one of the Briton elite followers of “the Way” (as an early name for Christianity) Seddon introduces a new dynamic to this retelling of the Boudiccan Rebellion of AD 60. It works, mostly. As with most you-are-there historical fiction, principal characters pop up in illogical places and slip through the fingers of fate with amazing ease, but that’s mostly to keep the plot coherent. The combat is as gruesome as expected for that time without dwelling on the gore. Motives are fairly and honestly explored on all sides. Many historical figures have cameos. Good pace.
Quibble: Yes, many authors are willing to place the apostle Paul in Briton at about that time, but his life could just as well have ended with his first visit to Rome.

Neat opening: Luke starting the third volume of his works of early Christian history, of which only the first two are known (the Biblical books of The Gospel According to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles).

A very good read.