The Conjuring Film Review

Before Ed and Lorraine Warren encountered the Amityville house that has already been made famous in film, they helped Roger and Carolyn Perron and their five girls to be free of some very strong, evil spirits in a farmhouse they were living in. The paranormal activity involved voices in the night, moving furniture, strange bruises on the family, injury to pets, and even the possession of Carolyn. The latter event resulted in Ed performing an exorcism despite not being ordained by the Catholic Church. The story of this event is the main subject of the new film The Conjuring- opening Friday.

The film adaptation of the Warrens’ account of working with the Perrons, was done by brothers Chad and Carey Hayes (White Out, House of Wax). They draw the audience in immediately with what could stand alone as an excellent and very scary five-minute short film about a possessed doll. Taken from a story of an encounter the Warrens had previously, it is used perfectly as a self-contained opening that instantly makes the audience jump even while knowing the scare is coming. It is a relief when the lights come up at the end of the sequence and we find that Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are giving a presentation on possession and the doll is now safely locked away in a room in there house.

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Are Evil Forces at Work In The World?

The Conjuring Possesses the Mind With Deep Theologial Questions

When I was 12 years old, my parents bought a house that was constructed around 1900. It was an old two-story house with creaky floors and squeaky pipes; the kind of house one might assume to be haunted. Shortly after moving in, while sitting alone in one of the upstairs bedrooms, I threw a quick glance towards the door just in time to catch a figure moving out of view down the hallway. Wondering who it was, I got up and followed, only to find the corridor and subsequent rooms that branched off it to be empty.

Certain I had just had an encounter with the paranormal, I shared my experience with my family and friends. From that day on, every settling of the house, howling of the wind, or flickering of a light bulb took on a new significance. It wasn’t an old foundation, a shoddy window or faulty wiring; it was confirmation of the belief that we weren’t living in the house alone. It was a fun belief that added excitement to moments that would have otherwise been fairly mundane.
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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

A SILVER BULLET NEVER FIRED 

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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Starting a Dialogue with Hip-Hop

Daniel White Hodge, a blogger with ConversantLife for the past four years, is a producer with a Ph.D. In his twenties he had production credits on Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's first album, E 1999 Eternal, as well as helping to score the first two seasons of New York Undercover. With a Ph.D. from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, he is now the director of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies and assistant professor of youth ministry at North Park University in Chicago. This interview first appeared in Christianitytoday.com.

How has your relationship with hip hop changed over your life?

I was a listener as a kid, back in the late 1970s when I first heard The Sugarhill Gang and Run DMC and started wondering how they put those words together. Until high school, I was more of a consumer. In high school I became a participant. In my early twenties, I was involved as a producer. Now I am looking at how God is involved in almost every facet of hip-hop culture, which has become more of a lifestyle, not just something in [a musical] corner.

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Man of Steel Review

As I waited for my food at a small restaurant near the theatre, a woman next to me noticed the ticket I was carrying. “You’re screening Man of Steel?” Her question hung in the air with bated anticipation of my answer. As I began to nod, she immediately replied, “You’re so lucky, I can’t wait to see it!” It was then that I realized how intense the buzz is for this film. Although, I should have recognized it when I met up with my “plus one” friend for the screening and saw that he was wearing a Superman shirt.  I might have instantly felt somewhat less professional, were it not for the enchanting quality of his childlike giddiness—a giddiness I must confess to engaging in.

Man of Steel opens Friday, and it will undoubtedly be the top movie at the box office.  The basic story of Superman is one that almost everyone knows, whether it be from the comics, the 1950’s TV show starring George Reeves, the series of films starring Christopher Reeve, the Bryan Singer rendering (that we’ve made an unspoken pact to agree never happened), or the two TV series that focus on the human aspects of Superman’s life: Lois & Clark (the alter ego Clark Kent) and Smallville (Kent’s coming of age in middle America). The story of a man, sent from a world beyond, who has superhuman abilities and chooses to use those abilities to help others, is one that people have found fascinating for centuries.

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After Earth

“Danger is real. Fear is a choice.” This limpid tag line of the most recent production from team Pinkett Smith, serves as a beacon that keeps the viewer and the story on track.  After Earth, opening this Friday, is the latest in a series of Talmudic-like morality tales from the high achieving family. Beginning with The Pursuit of Happyness and continuing with Seven Pounds and even the remake of The Karate Kid, each of these recent films focuses on delivering tips for a successful and fulfilling life to its audience. Happyness was about self-confidence. Seven Pounds focused on redemption and the connection between giving to others and forgiveness. After Earth is about the idea that fear is a construct of the mind that can be overcome by refusing to give the unknown outcomes of the future any power in the present.

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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: 

TEAM ANOINTED INK

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.

TEAM CHRISTIAN WRESTLING FEDERATION

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.

TEAM CITY TAKERS

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.

TEAM COWBOY CRUSADERS

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.

TEAM DETROIT BELIEVERS

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.

TEAM FIRST & FAITH

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.

TEAM GIRLS OF GRACE

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.

TEAM HELLO KIDNEY

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."

TEAM HOLY ROLLERS

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.

TEAM MEN OF MOTOR CITY

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.

TEAM PREACHIN' DIVAS

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.

TEAM REDEEMED REDNECKS

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.

TEAM RED ROOTS

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!

TEAM RIGHTEOUSRUBIES

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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THE BIBLE and the Bible

THE BIBLE is a huge hit. The Bible, not so much.

THE BIBLE, of course, is the recently aired mini-series that captured record ratings on cable television’s The History Channel. Produced by reality show guru Mark Burnett and his wife and former angel, Roma Downey, the five episodes that collectively covered the sweep of human history as recorded in the Bible were viewed by 100 million people. That’s astounding.

By comparison, the Bible, known by many as the Holy Bible, is the actual book you have in your home. To be completely accurate, if you’re an American, there’s an 88 percent chance you own at least one Bible. There’s only one problem. If you read it at all, you’re likely reading it just four times a year or less. That’s embarrassing.

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The Golden Age of Reading?

Selling books used to be easy. I did it for more than 20 years as a manager of a successful Christian bookstore chain.  It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when the bookstore—Christian or secular—was about the only place you could buy a book.

In the secular space, there were chains like Walden Books and B. Dalton Bookseller, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble. There were also thousands of independent bookstores, including a few that rose to legendary status among serious bibliophiles—such as Powell’s in Portland, Tattered Cover in Denver, Davis-Kidd in Nashville and Oxford’s in Atlanta. In the Christian world, even though the chains were smaller and the independent stores fewer, you could count on almost every community in America having at least one Christian bookstore.

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