Unbroken film review

In the opening shot of Unbroken, Roger Deakins camera pans across a beautiful open sky, finally landing itself into one of the approaching warplanes.  In the tight space of the plane, where every incoming bullet is a few inches away from every crew member, Louis Zamperini and his crew are carrying out a harrowing mission from the sky.  The scene (as with the other plane scenes) is shot perfectly – it is tense, the sound mix is perfect, and the general sense of dread is enhanced by the claustrophobia.  In this opening sequence, Angelina Jolie’s reverent interpretation of the story of Louis Zamperini’s life begins, taking us into the too wild to believe true story of Louis Zamperini. 

This includes being stranded at sea, POW camps, and Olympic dreams.  Those who read the book know what to expect.  As for the rest of us – it’s best to just sit back and watch as spoiler free as possible.  The film documents Zamperini’s incredible life, ending with an emotional punch that reserves itself from the rest of the film.  Between there and the beginning, Unbroken (which credits Joel and Ethan Coen as 2 of the film’s 4 screenwriters) bounces between multiple parts of Zamperini’s life, as though we are skipping from chapter 2 to chapter 7 to chapter 3 – and it mostly works.  The timeline comes to a halt and the majority of the last half is spent in the Japanese POW Camp where Zamperini faces off against notorious Camp general, The Bird (played with a bratty menace here by Takamasa Ishihara).

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The Monuments Men review

On leaving the theater from seeing “The World’s End”, part 3 of a spiritually connected set of films directed by Edgar Wright starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (aka the Cornetto trilogy), I overheard the theater attendant complaining about the film.

The Lone Ranger - Film Review

Please enjoy this guest contribution from my Father, Bill Faris.  Bill is a Pastor, Pastoral Counselor, and all around Renaissance Man.  You can see more of what he's up to by clicking here


The “human element”: it’s what makes a movie more than a series of car crashes, mad dashes from danger, romantic interludes, and other goings-on that carry us away until the Big Finish lets us walk back into the night air.  The human element puts us behind the makeup and inside the costumes to encounter the character’s head and heart.  It is the human element, and not merely “special effects” that truly rivet us to the screen. It is a film’s people that make it compelling: their hopes, dreams, visions, struggles, conflicts, courage, wisdom, tears, smiles, tests and victories (or failures!).  The human element makes the kiss magical, the leap from the bridge breathtaking, and the comic interlude, well, comic.  And, amazingly, it is the human element that escaped the reach of the purported $250 million budget in the bloated epic that is The Lone Ranger. 

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American Bible Challenge Fan Vote

Our friends at Grace Hill Media have some news about who will be competing for charity on the wildly popular "American Bible Challenge" game show.  The show, which had a limited run last season, debuted and remained the Game Show Networks highest rated show.  You can help vote through your favorite team to help them win money for a good cause by participating online, and you can vote once a day.  Here's the details:

"It's time to play favorites on THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE! GSN announced today the launch of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE FAN FAVORITE.  From Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, May 19th, fans of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE can go to gsntv.com to vote for their favorite team who can potentially win $10,000 for the team's charity.  THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE airs Thursdays at 9:00pm ET/PT on GSN.

The team with the most votes at the end of the voting period will receive $10,000 for their charity and earn the title of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE FAN FAVORITE.  The Fan Favorite winner will be announced on GSN during the finale of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE on Thursday May 23rd at 9:00pm ET/PT.  Voting starts on April 18th and ends at midnight (PST) on May 19th.  Limit one vote per person, per day.

THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE is the highest-rated original series in GSN history.  The one-hour game show, hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, brings together contestant teams who compete based on their knowledge of the Bible as they strive to win prize money for the charity of their choice. In THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE FAN FAVORITE COMPETITION, fans can cast their votes for the following teams: 


Hometown:  Porter, Batson, and Katy, TX

Charity:  Inner Cry Ministries, which helps rehabilitate former gang members by covering gang tattoos with uplifting substitutes

Team Members: Scott Hill (tattoo artist); Leigh Ballinger (evangelist); Chris Peacock (clothing line owner).  Each team member ministers outside the "church box"-Scott via his Anointed Ink tattoo parlor, Chris via his "Redemption" clothing line and MMA involvement, and Leigh via his evangelization throughout the US, Canada and Australia.


Hometown:  Royse City, Rockwall, and Lubbock, TX

Charity:  Christian Wrestling Federation, which promotes a wholesome version of professional wrestling

Team Members:  Phillip Barron, Rob Vaughn, and Mike Watt (all pro wrestlers).  Phil is the leader of this group of Christian wrestlers, all of whom have loved pro wrestling-but not its increasingly sexualized image-their whole lives. They believe strongly in the ministry of CWF, which is facing dire financial straits. They're playing to save the Christian Wrestling Federation.


Hometown:  Atlanta, GA

Charity:  City Takers, exists to transform the urban and hip-hop culture with The Gospel of Jesus Christ through outreach and discipleship

Team Members:  Ronnie Rolon (freight handler); Scott Free (director of outreach); and Tim Igidi (security). These Christian rappers spread the word of God to the hip-hop community through City Takers, the organization founded by Scott Free, formerly a mainstream hip-hop artist. Ronnie and Tim (who leads the TABC team) grew up in rough circumstances but found salvation through the Bible.


Hometown:  Springtown, Weatherford, and Grandbury, TX

Charity:  Western Harvest Ministries, teaching life skills to disadvantaged youth through rodeo sports

Team Members:  (John) Kelly Clark (rodeo instructor); Scott Mendes (former World Champion bull rider); Jeff Copenhaver (roping instructor). After leaving the sport of cattle-roping, Jeff founded the first "cowboy church," bringing the gospel to cowboys and rodeo athletes. He, Scott, and Jeff are playing for Scott's Western Harvest Ministries, which uses rodeo sports instruction to reach disadvantaged and at-risk youth.


Hometown:  Detroit, MI

Charity:  Dominican Literacy Center, which works to reduce Detroit's 47% adult illiteracy rate

Team Members:  David Stephen (law student); Crystal Willis (law school graduate); and Eleisha Teasley (prospective medical student). These smart, achieving graduate students-who became friends while attending college in Atlanta-want to advance a positive image of Detroit, and provide living proof that their home city produces successful, capable people.


Hometown:  Strongsville, OH

Charity:  One More, founded by Benjamin and Kirsten Watson to spread the love and hope of Christ to One More soul by meeting real needs, promoting education and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiatives and partnerships

Team Members:  Benjamin Watson (tight end); Reggie Hodges (punter); Robert Brookes (team chaplain at time of taping)-all with the Cleveland Browns. These men of the NFL love football and love the Lord! Watson, a pastor's son, founded his charity to help the community and share his faith.


Hometown: San Diego & Chula Vista, CA

Charity: Life Acts, provides groceries & household goods to approx 6,000 people in need each month

Team Members:  Cynthia"Cindy" Shaw (Life Acts director), Elizabeth Samala (Life Christian Center & Life Acts CFO); Ezraley Samala (child support services student clerical aide). The Samala family started a full Gospel ministry to restore broken lives with simple acts of love, food, and resources. With this movement, Life Acts was birthed. Now the Samala sisters work alongside Cindy, their father, and pastors in this outreach ministry of Life Christian Center International Ministries of San Diego.  If they win, they'll buy industrial shelving and refrigerated storage for Life Acts, allowing that ministry to touch even more lives.


Hometown:  Gadsden, AL

Charity: National Living Donor Assistance Center, providing financial support to individuals who volunteer to be living organ donors

Team Members:  Kelley Zeringue (Christian romance author); Rene Zeringue (youth minister); J.R. Zeringue (cheerleading gym owner and coach). This family is ready to share their testimony to raise awareness about living organ donation: Two years ago, Kelley donated a kidney to one of her husband's employees, and today both are healthy and happy. Now she encourages everyone to "share your spare."


Hometown:  Simi Valley and Moorpark, CA

Charity:  Live Ride Christian Church's Annual Angel Tree Toy Drive, which delivers Christmas presents to children whose parents are in prison

Team Members:  Billy Brown (pool man); Brian Matthews (truck driver); Dana Palminteri (cosmetologist). These three bikers, with their Bible-verse leather jackets and inspiring tats, spread the Good Word on their Harleys as part of a very unconventional ministry that reaches those who might not otherwise be exposed to God's saving grace.


Hometown:  Detroit, MI

Charity:  Trinity Deliverance Church and its outreach to drug addicts, criminals, and at-risk youth

Team Members:  Ron Daniels (ordained pastor & quality assurance chemist); Lavell Neal (Marriott banquet supervisor); Jimmie Davis (semi-truck driver, Ford Motor Company). These men are committed to seeing the Motor City overcome hardship and achieve greatness-and believe that transforming Detroit into a prosperous city begins by transforming the lives of the dejected.


Hometown:  Oakland, Concord, and Berkeley, CA

Charity:  A.D. Willis Memorial Center - a family life center construction project for their East Oakland community

Team Members:  Michele Brown (writer); LaShawn Taylor (underwriting assistant); Jacquelyn Melton-Jenkins (graphic designer). These self-proclaimed divas love to preach and teach the word of God -and to serve their East Oakland community through their church, Lily of the Valley Christian Center. One of the outreach ministries of the church is Project Lily Love, a service that provides resources and referrals to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their passion is fueled by LaShawn's story.  Her former husband was discovered to have been living with AIDS for more than 10 years, undiagnosed. Miraculously, LaShawn and her child were both found HIV negative.


Hometown: Jackson and Covington, GA 

Charity:  Burning Bush Youth and Family Intervention Center, which offers positive solutions to youth and families struggling with life-controlling issues

Team Members:  Mike Redman (professor); Rachel Stubbs (band director); Jeremiah Redman (engineer). These proud rednecks, bluegrass singers, and disc golf players are also committed to community outreach-providing food, resources, and services to the poor, sick, and shut-in.


Hometown:  Moss Point, MS

Charity:  Home of Grace, an addiction recovery program founded by their pastor-and the first place the Red Roots performed

Team Members:  Natalie, Nika, and Nicole Taylor (sisters and band members). These 21-year-old triplets formed the Christian-pop-country band "Red Roots," named in honor of their red hair and their renewal in the blood of Christ.  These sweet Southern girls are also passionate, tough competitors!


Hometown: Ontario and Corona, CA

Charity: The Ruby Project, dedicated to helping physically, sexually, and emotionally abused teenage girls

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42 Film Review

This review is being submitted by guest conversantlife contributor and known Los Angeles Dodgers guru Matthew Faris.  Matthew is a life long Dodgers fan and dare I even say it - baseball scholar.  He is perhaps most qualified to review the merits of the film.  Enjoy!

Let's just start with the obvious: "42" is an absolutely fantastic movie.  Any movie about Baseball is usually enough to entertain me, but "42" is about so much more than Baseball.  It’s about race, segregation, and doing the right thing, even when it’s the most difficult thing in the world. 

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Zach Bonner and The Little Red Wagon

In honor of the DVD for "Little Red Wagon" releasing on January 8, ConversantLife is giving away 5 copies of the DVD. The first 5 people to post a comment will get a copy!

Talking with Zach Bonner reminds the cynic in me just how great people really can be.  He’s literally walked across America to raise money and awareness for homeless children, and he’s been up to it for years via a foundation he started called the Little Red Wagon Foundation.  It all started 8 years ago.  “I started back in 2004 with Hurricane Charlie.  That was my first project. It was at that point that I decided that community service really needed to continue to be a part of my life.  It was after that project that I knew I had to keep going.”

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Christopher is a Marriage and Family Therapist completing his license in Southern California.  He loves to write about films, make music, and spend time with his lovely wife.

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