Some Thoughts on the Narnia Movies

There is a tendency within Christian circles to disrespect Walden Media’s first C.S. Lewis adaptation, and with the second one coming up fast, I thought it might be useful to scribble down a few ideas before the reviews come cascading in.

First of all, let me say that an astute piece of Lewis scholarship has forced me to reassess my view of Lewis’s books, which I enjoyed as a grade-schooler but never recognized as the product of a great intellect. Thanks to Michael Ward’s erudition, I am now beginning to appreciate them as works of profound subtlety and ambition.

While the two Narnia movies don’t even begin to address the complexity of the books, I still find them underrated, and believe they compare favorably with the Lord of the Rings movies and the Harry Potter movies, to name a few comparable examples.
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Tags | Film

More On Grand Theft Auto

Bottom Line: I love gaming and the best game of the year, based on reviews is Grand Theft Auto. Since the game has a lot of tough content, it seemed worth thinking about whether it was worth my time and money.

I decide that I could not play and did so publicly in part hoping that gamers could help me see what was good about the game. The results have not been promising for my chances to play the game.


If you like gaming, and I like gaming, then Grand Theft Auto looks promising. It is well made, stretches the virtual reality envelope, and is by all accounts fun.

Fun is good.

But, the game has a “virtual character” engage in behavior that stretches (or at least tests) the boundaries of mainstream gaming. As games become more realistic, American culture is engaged is a social experiment to see what the boundaries are between entertainment and reality.

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Tags | Technology

PANGEA DAY: Short films for Social Change

Given all the tremendous pain and suffering being unveiled in Myanmar, it is easy to despair. So many have felt compelled to do their part to assist the beleagured people of Myanmar. And yet we’ve struggled to even import supplies amidst an oppressive regime.   How can human rights be extended around the globe? How can we come to see each other as equally precious in God’s sight?    What can a filmmaker do to bring more freedom and dignity to others?

Twenty-four short films from around the globe will premiere on MAY 10, 2008. Pangea Day started as the dream of Jehane Noujaim, director of the documentaries and Control Room. Having been born to Egyptian/Lebanese/Persian father and an American mother, Jehane embodies much of the conflict in the Middle East within herself. When she was awarded the $100,000 TED prize in 2006, she shared her dream of world peace. Not in the Miss America contestant cliche way, but in the power of image to sensitize and humanize us. You can hear her address to the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Conference here.

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Tags | Film

Poetry Friday: For Mother's Day!

I've had Billy Collins on a Poetry Friday before, but this poignantly funny poem is one of my favorites, in honor of Mother's Day. I have a hunch that your mother will appreciate it, too.

The Lanyard 

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

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Tags | Writing


Flashy summer films arrive with Iron Man. The record breaking box office demonstrates how relevant comic book heroes remain. Superhero stories that endure are wrapped up in our ongoing interpersonal struggles. In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker dealt with his rage. The Hulk is all about managing our anger. The Dark Knight demonstrates how fine a line Bruce Wayne treads between our longing for justice and the blindness of vigilantes. Their divided selves mirror our own struggles.

Since we’re rapping about Billy Graham and vampires over at Purple State of John, I thought I’d add this unexpected link to Robert Downey’s thrilling turn as Iron Man. One of the funkiest takes on the film comes courtesy of Jeremy Hunt from the Billy Graham Organization.
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Tags | Film


Four hundred people filled the backlot at CBS studios to figure out how to navigate the digital age. The Biola Media Conference transformed the Seinfeld’ New York street into a marketplace of ideas. With record stores closing and network TV ratings plummeting, the old media conglomerates are struggling. Yet, on a weekend when Iron Man makes $100 million something is still working. What’s the blueprint for the Internet era?

I hosted the morning session of the Biola Media Conference. Kudos to the crew which transformed Stage 15 at CBS into a makeshift studio.  I interviewed Anita Renfoe, whose rousing MomSense routine sung to the William Tell Overture, received over 8 million views on YouTube. Anita’s unexpected breakthrough proves that funny and timely trumps all. I also chatted onstage with David Kinnaman, author of the groundbreaking study, UnChristian. The Barna Research Group suggests that the politicized faith of the Religious Right has dug a major public relations hole for the entire Christian community. It will take much more than better media to convince the next generation that not all Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, anti-homosexual and too political.

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Tags | Film

April Reviews

Some more reporting from the land of the moving image:

Leatherheads is a colorless comedy (literally—the sepia-toned photography turns 1920s America into a perpetual autumn of burnt leaves, mud, and crabgrass), although not without a few brightspots. Directed by and starring George Clooney, it offers a glimpse of the early tumultuous days of professional football, when the players had to compete with the more popular college market. The film is rudderless and a trifle boring, although a few of the visual gags (a human shape emerging from a slough; a grazing cow taking notice of a scrimmage game) are well executed. With Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce.

My Blueberry Nights is Wong Kar-wai’s first film to use the English language, though it makes rather better use of his favorite language of all—the language of love. Except for the unusually coarse image, the film has a seductive surface—everything seems to be lit by neon lights, traffic lights, candlelight. It’s a film to get lost in. Lawrence Block collaborated on the screenplay, and it resembles a good short story—lightly plotted, but rich in detail. Wong’s game plan is to cast a moody spell based entirely on shared experience. If you’ve ever been kicked in the groin by love, you will empathize with these characters. With Jude Law, Norah Jones, Natalie Portman, Rachelle Weisz, David Strathairn, and, in a particularly arresting cameo, Cat Power.

Tags | Film

MONSTERS!? Cloverfield and Emerging Christians

Having heard my fill of speculation regarding emergent Christians, I finally found an appropriate equivalent.  The panic sweeping the streets in Cloverfield matches the hyperbole abounding on the blogosphere about whatever Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell et. al. MAY espouse. Fear can be fun. Fear can be silly. Fear can also be foolish. Why are we so wound up about a revitalizing movement?   Read more about it at OUT OF UR.

And if that isn't enough, I expanded the metaphor with a second post. How did producer J.J> Abrams create such advance buzz for a reimagination of monster movies?   When have we allowed panic to supercede discernment?   These random musings on faith and culture generated heated remarks.
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Tags | Film

Poetry Friday: Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman is the quintessential American poet. He's most well-known for his book of poetry, Leaves of Grass.

He also was the impetus for the creation of the park in which I run every morning. Thanks, Walt.

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,

God in a Nashville Bar

It’s Sunday night around 10 pm Nashville time. My work and pent up curiosity have brought me to Nashville, Tennessee for the GMA (Gospel Music Association) Conference. What began years ago as a giant celebration of Christians in the music industry has now become a spectacle of all things Christian-Culture. Today alone I’ve witnessed everything from godPods and godtube, to Convert tennis shoes and yes…even Christian water. I’ve heard song after song sung from Christian songwriters: some famous, some not, and some who aren’t but think they are.

In a moment of pure jet-lag induced exhaustion, I turned around from the acoustic showcase I was supposed to attend, out the hotel doors, and began walking into the brisk, southern air toward the neon lights of Music City. Following the cadence of about 20 different drum sets down one block to another, I slipped inside a bar where acoustic instruments were exploding with electric energy. My ears perked to the sound of dueling fiddles clashing against the rhythms of a double bass as the smell of alcohol and smoke filled the room, a room filled with passion and realness…and more cowboy hats than I’m normally used to seeing.
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Tags | Music
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