Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz
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Trailer for Pixar’s “Monsters University,” a prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” (2001). Starring Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
Wreck-It Ralph (voice of Reilly) longs to be as beloved as his game’s perfect Good Guy, Fix-It Felix (voice of McBrayer). Problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. But they do love heroes… so when a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Lynch), Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan — win a medal — but soon wrecks everything, and accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Ralph’s only hope? Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Silverman), a young troublemaking “glitch” from a candy-coated cart racing game who might just be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. But will he realize he is good enough to become a hero before it’s “Game Over” for the entire arcade? Written by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Every so often, I still enjoy sitting down to a book with pictures. One such story that I would suggest is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Let me offer a bit of an explanation as to why this one, in particular, stands out to me.
I’ll bet you’ve heard of Quirk Books, the publishing company that is known for publishing such books as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and The Word-Case Scenario Handbook. The company specializes in books that have a funny or quirky edge and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children fits right in. The book features a series of strange, but unedited pictures from decades gone past. Several pictures include a little girl that appears to be floating off the ground, a boy holding a large boulder as if it were a pebble, an invisible boy, along with other strange oddities. Using these elements, the author, Ransom Riggs (stellar name), penned an intriguing story of a World War II-era home for orphans and “peculiars,” or those with strange powers. The home has an “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” feel, but stands on its own two legs instead of relying on such a comparison.
The story follows a sixteen-year-old average boy named Jacob, living present-day, who is on the trail of learning more about his beloved and misunderstood grandfather. As the story goes, his grandfather leads him to the island of Wales where a home once stood. Will Jacob find what he is looking for? Will he be able to make sense of his grandfather’s stories from years gone by? I do not want to spoil the book, but Jacob finds a way back to the home’s glory days in the 1940’s… sort of.
The story is just as much a coming-of-age story of a young man as it is about the sideshow cast of misfits. The skillful story balances heart and creepiness and the grade-A plot like a line of spinning plates.
As for spiritual content, I don’t want to try to force some spiritual meaning into something that lacks one, but I do find much value in a believer that knows who he or she is like Jacob in this book. For example, for years, I struggled greatly with my family life. My father left my mother, brother, and me. My brother and I went back and forth from parent to parent every other day. I felt as if my bearings were lost until I realized how important it was for me to find myself in Christ. A big part of this was coming face-to-face with my family’s history and finding out who I was in the midst of the craziness and hurt. When all was said and done, I had to look to Christ for strength, purpose, and hope. The very thing that could have hurt me, became a tool in the hands of the Creator to shape me. Though the character in the book doesn’t do this, he is forced to discover the truth of his family, which I find admirable.
Overall, I would recommend this unique story for its quirk and story, but don’t take my word for it…
Warning to the younger readers and parents, there is some crude language in the book.
Recently I finished the “Hunger Games” series. The series follows a young woman by the name of Katniss Everdeen as she struggles to survive deadly games in which people set out to kill their opponents. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic nation that is divided into districts and the Capital. Each one of the districts is assigned to provide a specific good or service to the oppressive Capital. To discourage the people from rebelling, the Capital holds the Hunger Games every year in which two people from each district (usually teenagers) have to fight to the death in a simulated environment.
This brings me my first reason to read the Hunger Games: Teenagers killing one another. Of course, I’m kidding (mostly). The battle royal-esque situation adds a very interesting and exciting aspect to the story.
But don’t get the impression that the story is just about bloodbaths. In fact, the deaths are not meaningless for they represent something much bigger. The backbone of the series is about fighting oppression, which I have chosen as my second reason to read the Hunger Games series. This series is much more meaningful and poignant than some of the other popular young adult series as of late. Two major inspirations pressed Author Suzanne Collins to write the series. First, the Greek myth of Theseus impressed her at a young age. In the myth, young people are thrown into a pit to be killed by a monstrous Minotaur to avoid war. Second, modern reality television and footage of war impressed her to the write the series. The series encourages the reader to think beyond ourselves. It isn’t the story of survival of a girl, but of a civilization.
My third reason to read the series is the illustration of substitutionary atonement. In the first book, names of the young people are drawn from a bowl to select the contestants in the games. When the younger sister of Katniss is selected, Katniss steps forward and takes her place. This decision changes the course of the entire series and ultimately changes the world. Though it is was not on purpose, we can see Christ in this. Substituationary atonement means
that he stood in our place, taking our sins so that we can live free. As Katniss fought instead of her sister, Christ died for our sin in our place. Such things ought to cause us to praise God.
Overall, I recommend the series, but I have a couple of reservations. The books contain quite a bit of killing though I suppose it can be justified by the unique circumstances. Also, half of the first and second book reads much like a beauty pageant. Katniss is forced to dress up for interviews etc. This can make the story a bit slow, especially for the male readers. Lastly, could it be a young adult story without a love triangle? Thankfully, the love triangle between
Katniss and her two suitors isn’t as annoying as having to choose between a werewolf or vampire, but still becomes stale and awkward at times.
The books are being converted into movies. The first movie, “Hunger
Games” is due on March 23, 2012.
Check out this official trailer for the upcoming film, Prometheus.
Beware the trailer is a bit scary.
Behold the first official trailer for “The Hobbit!”
Behold the newest, official “The Dark Knight Rises” Trailer!
It’s Christmastime, everybody!
Every year around this time, I realize that Christmas has lost a lot of its meaning for me. I wish I could go back to being a kid, but then I realize that would require me to be like one of those kids from the Narnia movie who had to go through puberty twice. No, thanks.
But not all hope is lost! As an adult, I’ve been drawn to the word “advent” and its relationship to the word “adventure.” The words come from the same root word meaning, “to look forward to something.” This has caused me to think on all of the years before Christ while they were looking forward to the Messiah. Now, Christmastime has regained meaning for me, even though I am skeptical of its origins. Even now, we are looking forward to his return just as the believers did before his birth.
There are two ingredients needed to look forward to someone. They are love and separation. Another great example of this can be seen in “The Constant,” arguably the most-celebrated and overall-loved episode of ABC’s “LOST.” The story shows two lovers, separated not only by space, but also time. Even though the episode aired on February 28th, 2008, Christmas Eve, 2004 played an important role in the story. The episode features Desmond, an often-cowardly Scottish man that has been stuck on the Island, as the “special qualities” of the Island cause his consciousness to flip back and forth in time while he travels off the island to the freighter ship.
As his consciousness becomes more and more unstable, it is clear that one of two things is going to happen. Either his mind will fail from the instability, causing him to die, or he will have to find a “constant”, a person or thing that is emotionally significant in both his past and present.
Desmond’s mind flung back from 2004 to 1996. In 1996, Desmond found his ex-girlfriend and the love his life, Penny. He begged her to give him her phone number, not to change it for eight years ,and to wait eight years for his phone call. Though she resented him because of his inability to commit and suspected that he was losing his mind for begging such a crazy request, love prevailed and she agreed. When Desmond’s mind returned to 2004, he was finally able to call her from the freighter on Christmas Eve, 2004. When they spoke, her love rekindled, he gained his hope, and he found his constant, subsequently, showing that true love conquers all.
I admit that the set-up for the phone call is confusing, but whether you are a fan of confusing storylines or not, I think most will admit that the phone scene is beautifully written and pulls at their heartstrings. But don’t take my word for it…
There are two strong Halloween memories that resound in my mind. First, the church I attended when I was a kid had an annual “Fall Festival” (it just happened to involve candy and occurred on October 31, but no relation to Halloween… I promise… *rolling eyes*). One year, I was playing basketball because I thought I was tough after going to a Dr. James Dobson Basketball Camp for kids from broken homes. I slipped on some ice and got a concussion. Second, my mom made me a god-awful jack-o-lantern costume in second grade that required me to wear green tights, a large orange pumpkin thing she sewed, and a hat that looked like the top of a pumpkin, leaves and all.
To this day, I sincerely believe my mom wanted me to get beat by the bullies. To help replace those memories, allow me to share my favorite scary/Halloween movie, book, and video game.
Let the Trick and Treating madness begin!!!
Movie: The Last Exorcism
At first glance, this movie seems like it would be a horrible exorcism movie that has little to no regard for the Bible. I expected that it would be chalk-full of bad theology and exaggerations of Catholic dogma, but Brian Godawa, a Christian screenwriter that I greatly respect, recommended the movie. I tested it out, and I was pleasantly surprised. The film is a footage-found movie much like Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch, Cloverfield, or any other movie that features the found footage of a missing or dead film crew. The film follows a man that claims to be a preacher by the name of Cotton Marcus. Marcus comes from a long line of preachers and religious leaders, but he does not have faith. Instead of coming clean and pursuing his own destiny, he settles to fake his faith and trick people into thinking he is a spiritual man. He is even convinced that he is doing good for the people he encounters. He decided to allow a crew to do a documentary on him as he goes around and “casts out demons,” which he believes are just a psychological problem. Then things start to get interesting when a rural farmer calls him to assist with a girl that seems to be oppressed. Soon, he finds himself in way over this head.
The moral of the story is crystal-clear even if your theology doesn’t include such beliefs of modern exorcisms: bad theology and false faith are deadly and terrifying. I watched the film with a few of my friends that are not into movies like this, and they loved it. The last five minutes can almost ruin the film, but I recommend the film if you are able to handle it. Check out Brian Godawa’s review of the film here.
A while back, I received a gift card to Borders Bookstore (R.I.P.). As one that didn’t read much fiction at the time (thank you, Bible school), I wanted to immerse myself in a good story, but didn’t know where to start. I ended up finding The Road by Cormac McCarthy. What drew me to this book was reading that they were going to a release a movie, and I love Post-Apocalypse stories to a point that it is a bit unnerving. I read the book quickly. It was a shorter book and very easy to read. Honestly, I don’t have the best reading skills (I’m a bit dyslexic), and I get quickly annoyed by authors that strain too hard to speak poetically. McCarthy reads like a poem, but there wasn’t a moment in the entire book that I felt he was hyper-poetic. Just plain-out amazing writing.
Let me clarify something for you. This is not a Post-Apocalyptic story. This is a story that happens to take place in a Post-Apocalyptic America. In fact, McCarthy never reveals what happened to put America is in ruins. The man in the story has a son, who is all he has left in the world. He protects his son at all costs as they move south, where it is warmer. During this time, they must fight against the elements, hunger, and cannibals. Everything in the world dissolves to nothing but a handful of survivors. Consequently, this powerful story dissolves to nothing but the relationship between the father and his young son. Trust me; read this book. My wife read it in one day. As for the movie, it is wonderful as well and has an amazing soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Speaking of music, this song by the Editors was no doubt inspired by the book .
Video Games: “The Bioshock Series”
It is necessary to understand that I have been coming to terms with my geekiness within the last year or so. Therefore, a few things that are “old news” to others, I am finding new and exciting. For example, the storyline captured me in the first Bioshock game that I found used and on-sale at GameStop for 9.99. It wasn’t long before I think my wife was sick of hearing about it. A man survives a plane crash over the ocean. He swims to a structure where he finds a submersible that takes him to Rapture, an under-water utopian society that went hellishly bad. The citizens of Rapture lived cooped up under the ocean for decades. Nearly all of them have become junkies to a drug that give powers over the elements such as electricity, fire, ice, and other things (think of X-Men crazy and hooked on coke). Did I mention that the drug that everyone wants has been hidden in a group of glowing-eyed little girls that are protected by their very own “Big Daddy,” which is a man in a large machine-looking deep-sea diving suit armed with weapons and explosives? You can choose your own morality by either saving the girls’ lives or harvesting their life to get all of their power.
The second Bioshock also takes place in Rapture, but you are a “Big Daddy” searching for the girl you were to protect. The third Bioshock that is coming out the end of next year will take place up in the air instead of under the ocean. The storylines for these games are very deep and rich. There is a whole wiki devoted to it and an official novel based on the game. In fact, if IMDB is correct, it seems there may be a movie in the works for 2013 . Be warned: the games are a bit scary, violent, and a bit vulgar.
Ben and Matt tackled their favorite Sci-Fi theme songs on the latest official Sci-Fi Christian podcast. Their lists were great, but lacked a few of my favorites. Here is a list of my personal favorite themes songs (excluding the ones mentioned on the podcast) from Sci-Fi TV and movies. Be sure to check out the podcast to hear their great lists of favorites as well.
My Top 5 TV Themes:
5. Star Trek Enterprise (I can’t decide if I hate or love this song)
3. Sarah Connor Chronicles End Theme
Fringe Retro Theme
The X-Files Unkle Variation
LOST Life and Death Theme on ukulele