Friday, May 30, 2014

Film Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West

I need to get out of the way that I loved Seth MacFarlane's Ted.  I think it was one of the funniest movies I've seen in years.  So it was with great anticipation that I went to see his followup film A Million Ways to Die in the West, in which he stars as well as writes and directs.

And I was greatly disappointed.

The movie centers around MacFarlane's character Albert, a sheep farmer in 1882 in the Old West.  The central conceit of the movie is that Albert is a 21st century personality making modern observations about the severity of the Old West.  He does not see a point in its roughness, and so he loses his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) through his cowardice.  But then Anna (Chalize Theron), wife of ruthless bandit Clench Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) comes to town annonymously and the two spark up a friendship/romance.

The story is fairly straightforward and by-the-numbers.  The narrative is there only to set up MacFarlane's outrageous gags.  And to be sure there are some big laughs.  But they are few and far between.  For the most part, the humor is at the level of a typical episode of Family Guy.

MacFarlane is serviceable as a leading man, but his acting is all in his voice.  He doesn't engender the same pathos as Mark Walberg did in Ted.  Theron is actually quite good.  She comes off as intelligent, funny, and strong.   Neeson does a good job as Leatherwood, but MacFarlane writes too much darkness into his character.  In Back to the Future III, Mad Dog Tannen was a killer like Leatherwood, but his violence never distracted from the comedy.

A big detraction for me was Sarah Silverman as Ruth the prostitute.  Perhaps it is simply my own personal taste, but she has always come off to me as a disgusting person.  The most debased and vulgar things are said and done with Ruth.  It made  me queesy more than it made me laugh.

As a Catholic, I noticed a lot more jabs at Christianity in the movie than in Ted.  In both movies, MacFarlane went after any and all sacred cows.  But the humor in Ted seemed more light-hearted, a good natured ribbing.  A Million Ways to Die in the West is more biting.  There seems to be more of an attempt to laugh at than to laugh with.   Ruth and her boyfriend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) are particularly used to portray Christian as stupid hypocrites.

And because of that, the movie's lack of charm, the story ends up dragging.  Everything in the movie plays out too long.  The central conceit gets old very fast.  The gross out jokes go too far.  The movie makes callbacks to jokes that were only mediocre to begin with, so did not necessitate an encore. I do not mind raunch, but shock humor wears thin.

Perhaps I am being unfair by continually comparing A Million Ways to Die in the West to Ted.  But when you see what MacFarlane is capable of acheiving, you can't help but feel like this time out is a wasted opportunity.

2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Evangelizers Post: Lessons of the Sower Pt. 2 - The Rocks

I have a new article up at

Today, we are going to focus on the seed that fell on the rocks.  Jesus tells us that this represents those who hear the Word of God with joy, but they have no roots.  As a result, when trials come, they wither away.

One of the biggest challenges we have in ministering the Word, especially to young people, is getting their attention.  In my observations, the main way that youth ministers and guest preachers approach this problem is to pull at the heartstrings and create an emotional bond with Jesus.

Regarding teens, this especially makes sense.  Their world is an emotional world.  Their strongest relationships are emotional ones.  It’s during this time that parents feel their children pulling away.  For many of them, their strongest relationships are with their friends or their boyfriends or girlfriends.  It is a time when new feelings come on with great intensity.  The most real relationships that they have are with those with whom they share a deep emotional connection.

You can read the entire article here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Film Review: Godzilla

A good friend of mine, Matthias, passed on an invitation I extended to him in order to see the new Godzilla the night it opened.  When I feigned insult he said, "You have to understand, I've known Godzilla longer than you."

I have never been a Godzilla fanatic.  But those who are have a strong emotional attachment to him and the entire giant monster movie genre.  Another good friend, Rick O., has still not forgiven me for laughing through most of Godzilla 2000.  

I say this to emphasize that unlike the creatures in Pacific Rim or Cloverfield, Godzilla fans demand that he be taken seriously and accurately.  He is not simply a monster who brings destruction.  Rather he is a force of nature that is our last best hope against the other monsters that seek to utterly destroy humanity.  The 1998 American Godzilla starring Matthew Broderick completely missed this point.

The good news about this 2014 Godzilla is that it understands that Godzilla is the king of monsters who is to be feared and honored.  For that reason alone, it is better than the Broderick version.  

The movie begins with the discovery of the cave on an ancient creature by Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabee) where something has escaped.  It then shifts to Japan where American Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is working on addressing seismic anomalies that threaten the nuclear power plant where he works.  But a calamity has radical effects on the entire city and his family.

The story jumps over a decade into the future where Joe's son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has returned from deployment to his wife (Elizabeth Olson) and child only to be pulled into to his father's quest to find the source behind the Japan disaster.  One thing leads to another and without giving anything away, there is a lot of monstrous destruction.

As a character, the movie nails Godzilla.  The first time you get a full glimpse of him it is a cheer-worthy moment.  You get a strong sense of his personality by how he moves and fights.  Andy Serkis is credited as a consultant and I believe that it comes through in this portrayal.  The rest of the action is bold and exciting.

But the biggest problem with the movie is that the director, while understanding who Godzilla is, does not think that he is the most interesting thing in the movie.  In fact at the beginning of the first great battle,  director Gareth Edwards immediately cuts away to people watching the fight on TV.  This is not an isolated incident.  Consistently he takes us away from what we really want to see to follow some much less interesting character arcs.

The movie centers around Ford.  The problem is that Taylor-Johnson cannot carry this film.  His portrayal is appropriately stoic, but lacks any charm or charisma.  When he should be at his most sympathetic and engaging, he comes off as dead-behind-the eyes.  The movie would have been much better served by following Joe, who is played with wonderful desperation by Cranston.  But he feels way too underutilized, especially considering his prominence in the trailers.  And Olson is absolutely wasted as Ford's wife.  She has very little to do except wait for Ford and hide.  (On a side note, Taylor-Johnson and Olsen will be playing brother and sister Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in next year's Avengers: Age of Ultron.  That makes watching them make out in this movie a tad uncomfortable).

Because the movie so often trades Godzilla for Ford, you feel as if you are not getting a fair exchange.  We pay to see monsters fighting and using cityscapes as their battle ring.  But the movie spends too much time on action sequences with Ford to the point where it feels tedious.  You sit through them until Edwards deigns to let us see what we paid to see.

Godzilla is a step in the right direction from where the franchise has been.  But it feels much more like a wasted opportunity.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Memorial Day 2014

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people were told to remember the Passover.  To "remember" in that sense was not simple recollection.  By recalling and re-enacting, they believed that they somehow made the past present.

One of my traditions on Memorial Day to watch Saving Private Ryan and/or Glory.  I know that these are just artistic representations of the actual events and do not come close to really capturing the real horror and valor of those moments.

But film, more-so than any other art (besides maybe the culinary), has the ability to transport us to another place and time.  When I watch these movies, I can, in a small way, remember the way the Hebrews meant.  In those moments I hopefully get a small glimpse of that last full measure of devotion that was given by our brave soldiers who fought for our freedom.

I'm sure that you have better traditions than I do.  But regardless, let us take to today and make ourselves present to the those who marched into hell for a heavenly cause:

Our freedom.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Best: X-Men Films

With the releases of what many are saying is the best movie in the X-Men franchise, I thought it would appropriate to go back and rank the X-Men movies for worst to best.

Be warned, I am in the minority of opinion on some of these.

7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

There is a good deal of fun to be had in this movie.  Some of the action set pieces are great and I could watch Hugh Jackman doing his Wolverine thing all day.  But it probably has the worst special effects of any of the movies.  It also completely ruins the character of Deadpool not to mention making Wolverine's past needlessly convoluted.  The story is also a bit of a drag.

6.  X-Men: First Class

Many think that this is one of the best in the franchise.  I beg to differ.  It is fun to get a very fresh take on the younger version of these characters.  But it comes down to my complete and utter annoyance with Charles Xavier in this movie.  He is an idealist who never had to enter the real world.  Magneto is a holocaust survivor who constantly gets lectured by a rich, ivory tower egghead.  This is also the movie that has the least amount of Wolverine in it because of that, a lot of the charm and energy are missing as well.

5.  X-Men

The first of the series got a lot right.  It took the characters seriously and it hired a fantastic cast.  Can you picture anyone else playing Wolverine but Jackman?  But if you look at it in the context of the rest of the series, it is a bit dull.  There are very few really good action set pieces to carry it through.  It also has the worst line of the entire series.

4.  X2: X-Men United

What was great about this movie is that it built off of the first and added more characters and more layers.  Instead of it being simply good vs. evil mutants, it added the human element into it.  It did a great job of showing Wolverine as the reluctant guardian and Magneto as a sympathetic monster, but a monster nonetheless.  Again, the place where this has its deficits was in ramping up the excitement to epic levels.

3.  X-Men: The Last Stand

I am one of the few defenders of this movie.  I know that it has its flaws, but there are some great attributes to this movie that place it above the first two:
-the Joss Whedon inspired cure storyline adds fantastic levels of complexity to all sides of the X-universe.
-the killing off of X-Men, while sometimes handled poorly, raises the stakes in this movie in ways that were''t present in the others.
-Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde was perfect.  Her scenes, especially against the Juggernaut were some of the best in the entire series.
-Some people couldn't buy into the emotional side, but I was completely in tune with what was happening.  I thought it was such a touching and dramatic moment when Jean asked if Logan would die for all of the people there and he replies defiantly and helplessly, "No.  For you!"
-I thought the action set pieces were much better than in the the first 2 Bryan Singer films.

2.  X-Men: Days of Future Past

I will give my full review later.  But this movie was well written, acted, paced, and themed.  It did an excellent job of bridging the original X-movies with the First Class cast.  Its major deficit is, again, Singer's inability to infuse a constant sense of action throughout.  But that is more than compensated for by a very entertaining spectacle.

1.  The Wolverine

This, of any of the X-movies, captures the real heart and soul of Wolverine.  He is a beast who wants to be a hero.  It has some of the best action sequences of the entire series, not because of the special effects, but because they finally let Wolverine be Wolverine.  This movie embraces both the killer and the stalwart found in him.  The movie doesn't try to be anything other than a straightforward action adventure and it delivers that better than all the rest of the X-Men movies.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Film Flash: X-Men - Days of Future Past

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Better than overrated X-Men: First Class; epic action highlighting the struggle between cynicism and hope.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trailer Time: Guardians of the Galaxy

You know, I was really worried about this movie.  I thought the first trailer made it look overly silly and lacking any real seriousness.  It made it look way too much like The Fifth Element.

So I've been anxious to see more.  A few days ago, Marvel released another trailer.

And it looks even worse than I feared.

My goodness, does this movie look awful!  A good movie draws you in.   Nearly every scene in this trailer pulls me out.  Glen Close?  How can they make an actress that good look so awful in such a short amount of time.

And that awful rock'n roll soundtrack?  Ugh.

So here it is:

(I'm still going to see it.)

Film Flash: Godzilla

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Godzilla's a bit player in own movie.  Better than Broderick's, but that's a low bar.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hollywood Heroes: Cinematic Avengers Assemble.

Catholic writer Stratford Caldecott is dying.

The doctors have only given him a few weeks to live.  I have only learned about him very recently (hat tip to The Bishop).  I was sent an article about him because of Caldecott and I share a mutual love of Catholicism, Tolkien, and Comic Books.

I have just sampled a little bit of his writing from what has been sent to me and I am moved.  He wrote very beautifully about what the classic comic books meant to him and why they are not just things of nostalgic memory, but they are also important (click here to read)

Recently, he has become too sick to leave his bed.  So he was forced to miss the latest Captain America movie.

His daughter then sent out an appeal for two things:

1.  Asking Marvel Studios to send an advance copy DVD to him so he can see it before he dies.

Marvel has since confirmed that they will do so.

2.  She has asked the actors who play the different Marvel superheroes to tweet a picture of themselves holding a sign saying "[NAME OF MARVEL SUPERHERO] For Strat."

She is planning to print out the pictures and place them next to her father's bed to give him comfort in his last days.

Wonderfully, the Avengers have responded.  So far we have pictures from Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, and more.

One of the things that touches me is that Caldecott is a conservative Catholic who I'm sure is on the opposite political spectrum of many of the people sending him their messages of comfort.  It moves me that these celebrities understand the power they have to improve a person's life with a simple act of kindness.

You can see all of the pictures linked here.

Keep Stratford Caldecott and his family in your prayers.

Sunday Best: TV Sitcoms of All Time #24 - Andy Barker PI

1 Season (2007)

Some shows never truly get off the ground and given the chance to really take off.  Andy Barker PI is one of them.

The premise of the show was very simple: an average, ordinary accountant named Andy Barker (Andy Richter) is drawn away from his boring life into a strange world of modern day noir.

The show was pure silliness.  This was a show that embraced its strangeness from the beginning and did not look back.  That also may have been its downfall.  As I've found with people's reactions to Monty Python, they either get it or they don't.

Harve Presnell was fantastic as a the tough-as-nails former PI who dispenses wisdom and insanity, often at the same time.  Arrested Development alumni Tony Hale also brings the funny as the wayward manager of a video store who is so bored that he accompanies Andy on his adventures.


Pilot (1x01)

After the first episode I was hooked.  The humor was so strange and yet so relatable.  When trying to describe to his cautious wife how much being a PI excited him he says, "You know that feeling when you press the equal sign on the calculator and the number on it is the same as the number on the spread sheet… it felt like that!"  Presnell particularly offers some lines that are both funny and quasi vulgar ("Back in my day we used to kick the brown bread out of some Commies…")


The show only ran 6 episodes, so it is one of the few shows that never got a chance to collapse in on itself.  It never got a chance to play out its concept.  It was always able to play up both Andy's earnestness, intelligence, and naivitee all at the same time without it straining credulity.  It could still work all of those angles into the jokes.  My favorite gag was during a car chase where Andy and Simon (Hale) being followed and have this exchange:

Andy:  I can't lose this guy!
Simon: That's 'cause you keep signaling!

I laughed so hard because it was such a silly yet understandable mistake for someone who spent their whole lives following the rules.


This post is shorter than most will be because of the length of the series.  The show never got a chance to lose its luster.  And that is the reason it the #24 sitcom of all time.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Trailer Time: The Flash Extended Trailer

Okay, I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed by the teaser the other night, and I'm still not crazy about the costume.

But this extended teaser turned me into a believer.

I especially like how it feels like a Geoff John's comic book come to life.  I like the idea of how they're going to be bringing in the Rogues.


New Evangelizers Post: Lessons of the Sower Pt. 1 - The Path

I have a new article up at

Sharing the joy of the Gospel is not always an easy thing.  There are many challenges that lay before us.  That is why Jesus told us the Parable of the Sower.  In it, a man sows seeds which represent God’s word.  The seed lands in one of four places: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and the good soil.  Anyone who is interested in spreading the Word of God would do well to meditate and reflect on His words.

This article is the first in a four-part series that draws out the lessons of that parable for us in the modern world.


We are called to share God’s word with anyone.  But some of those seeds fall on the path.  In the parable, birds immediately take up the seed and eat it at once.  Christ told us that the birds represent Satan.

And with this, He warns us against the devil’s most used weapon: distraction.
I’ve often heard my students ask why God doesn’t speak to us today like He did in the days of the Bible.  Why aren’t there more miracles?  Why can’t we see His presence?  

The answer, of course, is that He does still speak as He did in days gone by.  We are surrounded by His miracles and the wonder of His presence. 

You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Film Flash: A Million Ways To Die In The West

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

More vulgar and less clever than MacFarlane's other movie Ted, with none of its charm.

2 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

First Look at the New Batman

Behold: Batffleck!

A few thoughts on this image:

-Notice how bulky Batman is.  Like Cavill's Superman, Affleck's hero is going be dense with muscle.

-This version of the Batsuit reminds me very much of The Dark Knight Returns.  The horns are trim, the logo is very wide and flat on the chest.

-I like the little I see of the Batmobile.  It looks more like Tim Burton's version than the tumbler from Nolan's movies.  And that's good with me.

-This might not mean anything, but the first released image of Cavill for Man of Steel gave us a sense of his character: powerful, aggressive, dynamic.  This image of Batman, like The Dark Knight Returns, looks more pensive.  He appears more the weary warrior.  Maybe I'm reading too much into the image, but that is what I see.

-Summer of 2016 can't get here fast enough for me!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

In my review for the original Amazing Spider-Man, I said that this franchise reboot was the equivalent of Batman Begins.  It was a more grounded, emotionally real film that opened the door to better possibilities.  With that comparison, I was expecting the Amazing Spider-Man 2 to be the equivalent of The Dark Knight.

It wasn't.

The sequel picks up soon after the original.  (SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FIRST AMAZING SPIDER-MAN).  Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is truly enjoying his time as Spider-Man as he is on the cusp of graduating high school.  The only dark cloud are visions of Captain Stacey (Dennis Leary) the deceased father of Gwen (Emma Stone), the love of Peter's life.  This leads to the central conflict of his character: does he keep his promise to Gwen's father to stay away from her or does he he follow his heart and stay with her?

In addition to this, a childhood friend named Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) comes back into Peter's life.  He has taken over his father's company, Oscorps, where Peter got his powers.  For reasons that come out through the movie, he desperately wants to contact Spider-Man.  Also an employee of Oscorps, Roscoe Dillon (Jamie Foxx), becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after his life is saved by the wall-crawler. Then through an unlikely series of events, he gets super powers and becomes the villain Electro.  These antagonists force Peter on a journey of self-discovery and also leads him to confront his past abandonment by his parents.

If that plot sounds convoluted, it is.  That is part of the film's problem.  The first act is actually fairly exciting and fun.  But when the additional characters start popping up, the film actual begins to lose steam.  DeHaan actual does a very good job as Harry.  He has a DiCaprio-esque quality to him that is charismatic and dangerous.  But the story about him and his corporate power struggle is rather distracting.  In addition, Peter's constant kvetching about Gwen begins to wear a little more than it should.

But the worst part of the movie is without a doubt Electro.  Both in the writing and execution, he is all wrong.  Before his accident, he comes off like Jim Carrey's Edward Nigma from Batman Forever.  After he gets his powers he looks and acts like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze from Batman and Robin.  Even his theme music is cartoonish.  His motivations are inscrutable and he sucks the life out of nearly every scene that he's in.  Foxx plays him like he's doing a sketch on In Living Color.  All he does is mug and menace at the camera, insulting the intelligence of the audience.

I don't any inside baseball stuff, but I get the feeling that the studio pressured director Marc Webb to add more humor to the movie in the form of Electro.  But it creates such a tonal disconnect from everything else. The characters involved in that villain's story are painted in such broad brush strokes that it is near ridiculous.  This is epitomized by Electro being interrogated by an "evil German scientist" straight out of a Sci-fi B movie.

With that, the movie should sink under its own weight.  But it saved by two things.

The first is the chemistry between Garfield and Stone.  The two of them are so adorable together that you cannot help but root for them.  Yes, the on/off/on/off nature of their relationship is pushed to the breaking point.  But they seem so genuine in their affections.  When they tease each other and joke around, it feels very real.

The second is the finale.  I will not spoil it here, but it pulls the strings that have been dangling for two movies and uses them to hit you with an emotional punch.  And not only is it emotionally stirring, it is visually stunning.  The ending lifts the movie out of the mediocrity.

There is a great deal of fun to be had it in this movie also.  The special effects are eye-popping.  And the wit and action are exciting.  The movie works best as Spidey cracks wise while swinging through danger.  Like The Dark Knight, there are two villains and main character deals with a romantic dilemma.  But that movie made their world more tangible and gritty and real.  That movie took a big risk but it paid off handsomely.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could have gone that way, but they decided to play it safe and it paid the price.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 should have soared.  Instead, like Spidey swinging through the streets, it starts out high, swings low in the middle, but rises at the end.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Best: TV Sitcoms of All Time #25 - Night Court

9 Seasons (1984-1992)

I remember this show with great fondness.  I think when most people think of Night Court, they think of the off-the-wall zany antics of Judge Harold T. Stone (Harry Anderson) and his legal cohorts.

What they may not remember is that the show was not that zany to start.  In fact, Night Court was meant to be a more grounded show where real legal and social issues could be addressed in a humorous light.

The premise of the show was that Harry Stone was a young, unorthodox judge who brought humor and wisdom to his court.  He was supposed to be the madcap figure surrounded by straighten.  Over the course of time, the supporting cast began to take shape.  John Laroquette had an award-winning turn as ADA Dan Fielding.  But it took several seasons before his character found his voice.  Notice in the pilot how he comes off as an intellectual snob.  But by the 3rd season his is painted as an amoral lothario.

But for me, it was always about Harry.  I loved his sense of humor, his Peter Pan personality but with wit beneath the surface.  I even ended up buying his book on how to con people (which almost got be beat up at a Church carnival, but that's another story).

The setting allowed for a constant parade of interesting people and cases to be brought before the characters.  I particularly am fond of the episodes where they have to get through a certain number of cases before the night is over.


The show reached its threshold in the 4th season with the episode "Give Thanks" (4x02).  By this time only Anderson, Laroquette, and Richard Moll (Baliff Bull Shannon) remained from the original cast.  They were complimented by the actors who would continue on with the show until the end of its run: Charles Robinson as the witty Mac, Marsha Warfield as the stoic Bailiff Roz, and Markie Post as the Sandra-Dee-like Christine Sullivan the public defender.  The chemistry of the cast was phenomenal.

In this particular episode, the lustful Dan saves Christine's life.  She asks how she can repay him and he wants her virginity.  At first she balks at this ugly request, but then caves to guilt.  The result is a hotel room scene that keeps adding more and more people like something out of A Night at the Opera, where the rest of the court comes and tries to prevent this disgusting transaction from occurring.  Not only is this episode full of laughs (especially with the suicidal guy on the ledge), but it ends with an understanding of how respect and objectification are incompatible.  It also displayed the fantastic group dynamic that would carry the show throughout the rest of its seasons.


For me the best part of the show was the romantic tension between Harry and Christine.  Because of their professional positions, they could never have a relationship beyond friendship.  And yet it was so clear that they were in love.  In the the 3-part episode "Her Honor," (4x21-5x01) Christine gets promoted to judge and Harry gets fired.  Not only does this lead to some of the show's most heartfelt moments but also some of Harry's most insane antics (I particularly enjoy his planned publicity stunt revealed at the very end of the episodes).  But when Harry and Christine declare their affections, it is with a note of sadness and the realization that being together means that they won't be able to fulfill their vocations.  I remember being a kid and watching this episode over and over again.  It made me realize good writing involves real emotional conflict.


The show took its downturn in quality with "Wedding Blues" (7x15-16).

Most sitcoms from the 80's kept their main romantic leads apart because bringing them together let a lot of the excitement die (see Moonlighting).  The same was true of Night Court.  In this episode, Christine impulsively married a man and became pregnant with his baby.

What changed about the show was that they could never capture the romantic spark between Harry and Christine again.  Both characters would have relationships with other people, but it always rang hollow and felt like pointless filler.  But even after this, it took all the wind out of the sails of this relationship.

Of course the series was not focused only on them.  The other characters had wonderfully fun story arcs.  And by the middle of the series, Night Court found a fantastic balance between the silly and the sappy.  But from this episode on, the humor continued to broaden and make further and further breaks from reality.  The story lines became more nonsensical.

This can especially be seen in the final season, which was tacked on at the last second instead of cancellation.  What had been zany wit devolved into bland mugging for the camera.


Night Court was an oasis of silly fun at a time when comedies were becoming more and more cynical.  Yes, as a Catholic I was not impressed with a lot of the loose sexual humor, but it is nothing compared to what is on today.  And, as in the case of Dan, it was clear that he was only really happy when he could find someone to love and share his life with, not just his body.

So if your tastes run something towards the wacky, give this series another look.

I'm Done With

As with, I am now done with

I had been frequenting Cracked for years, ever since I came across an article about why a zombie apocalypse would never happen.  I was struck by how clever the writing was. I remember particularly how the author pointed that human beings are not only a zombie's only natural predator but also it's main food source and a necessary part of zombie reproduction. The author concluded that this is so absurd because it would be like a human being having to wrestle a lion every time he wanted to make love or have a sandwich!

I started exploring and found a lot of laughs.  Sometime it was a bit raunchy, but I didn't mind. I also found done truly fascinating things like the Bolton Strid.

I even registered with them and tried to write a few articles.  Their process was fairly rigorous and I was never quite able to write to their standards. One of the things they emphasized was backing up your points with facts. They did not want unsourced screeds because they understood, quite rightly, that humor has to be based in truth.

But it seems like they have forgotten that principle.

Over the last few months, I found myself laughing less and less by their work.

There were little things that bothered me. In one article someone wrote that the people at Chick-Fil-A are "fake Christians." I posted on their message board that this joke didn't make any sense. People are angry at them because they support Christian morality.  You could make the point that because of the way they apply their beliefs they could be "bad Christians," but there is no way you could claim they are "fake Christians."

Then there was the article that continued to spread the falsehoods in John Boswell's book claiming that the Catholic Church used to have same sex marriages.  I even wrote a New Evangelizers article on the subject. A friend of mine who is a history teacher, warned about how Cracked plays very fast and loose with facts in the name of "humor."

But it was the latest article in human sexuality that was the straw that broke this camel's  back. As I wrote above, Cracked has a rigorous editorial process, so this is not an issue of a line bigoted writer. This article would have had to be read and approved by their staff. So it is clear they have no problem with its contents.

In the article, it attacked the idea of sexual sin. Again, all good humor has to follow some sense of truth or logic. This point had none. First of all, the author could not grasp the idea if context. He pointed out that sex can't be sinful because we need it to procreate. That's like saying shoplifting a candy bar can't be bad because we need to eat to live. Sex is good, says the Christian faith. But only in its proper context. 

Speaking of context, he also pulls out the old chestnut about how don't follow most of the Old Testament laws, so we shouldn't follow any of them. It amazes me that people in the modern world think that the people who put the Bible together were ignorant if its contents. I could try to explain how the old law was a transitional law slowly preparing the people for the law written on our hearts in Christ, but I fear that would be pointless.

I think that it would also be pointless to address his assertion that there is no reason to believe in sexual sin other than the Bible says so. I suppose raising natural law and virtue ethics would draw blank stares. As someone who works with young people, I have too often seen the dehumanization that occurs as they trade pleasure and attention in place of  love and respect. I see how the intoxication of it strips them of joy.

But then he makes the absolutely irrational leap to blaming religious teachings on sexuality for teen pregnancy and STDs.  I read that point several times to try and figure out his point, but his illogic eluded me. I am reminded of how Pope Paul VI warned the world in Humanae Vitae that if the world ignored the Church's teaching on contraception, you would see an increase, not a decrease in the problems that this article blames in religion. Paul was right. 

That Cracked published an article that opposed Church teaching is not the issue. The problem is that this publication has devolved into bigoted,  close-minded rants against things that it does not like.

And that's not funny.

Happy Mother's Day

A wonderful day to give thanks for our mothers.

Being immersed in the pop culture as I am, I always think of the movie The Crow on this day because of a line that the main character says, "'Mother' is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children."

While there is a bit of theological resistance from me, I understand the sentiment.

And we cannot forget this:

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother,“Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (Jn 19:25-27)

Let us also remember the Mother that Christ gave to us on the day He gave His life.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Trailer Time: Gotham

I was skeptical of the idea of doing a Batman prequel show, but I really like the feel of this trailer.  Ben McKenzie is really selling me as a young Jim Gordon and I really love Donal Logue as Bullock.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday Best: Lightsaber Battles

In honor of Star Wars Day, here are the top 5 lightsaber duels in all Star Wars.

5.  Luke vs. Vader (The Empire Strikes Back)

What makes this battle so fantastic is that Luke loses.  It seems so obvious in retrospect, but I remember being a kid and not being able to comprehend the hero losing.  But he needed to lose because he needed to be humbled so he wouldn't end up like his father.

4.  The Duel of the Fates (The Phantom Menace)

There are a lot of detractors for The Phantom Menace.  But this lightsaber fight was wonderful.  It was the first time that we had seen Jedi from the Old Republic fight on such a massively awesome scale with amazing choreography.

3.  Yoda vs. Dooku (Attack of the Clones)

One of my favorite memories being at the movies was Yoda facing down Count Dooku.  The entire theater became electric as Yoda force pulled his lightsaber into his hand.  But then there was an explosion of cheers we saw the wizened Jedi demonstrate why he was in charge of training others not just in wisdom but in combat.

2.  Battle of the Heroes (Revenge of the Sith)

Not only is this the best choreographed fight, but I love the emotional context.  I remember talking with a friend of mine who had the exact same thought I had as the two former best friends careened down the lava river trying to murder each other: "It's come to this!"

1.  Luke vs. Vader (Return of the Jedi)

To this day, I get chills thinking about this moment.  The dark choral music, the use of shadow and light, the hero defining moment… This is the culmination of all the other battles: mythic, emotional, powerful.

Happy Star Wars Day

May the 4th be with you.

(and all Catholics respond)

"And with your spirit!"

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Star Wars Episode VII Cast - CatholicSkywalker's Thoughts

I know I am a little late to the party, but it has been an incredibly busy week.

A few days ago they announced the cast of the new Star Wars movie.  While details are sparse, here are my initial reactions.

I cannot tell you how excited I am that the original leads (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford) as well as Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) are all returning.  And they look pretty darn good.  Someone on Aintitcool mentioned that it looks like Hamill dropped about 60 pounds in the past year.

To see the cast reunited not only fills me with nostalgia, but excitement.  Star Wars isn't just lightsabers and Death Stars.  We care about Luke, Han, and Leia.  The last time we left them, they had a happy ending.  But now they once more being thrust into danger and that has me worried.

Still no Lando, though.  Maybe he'll pop up half way through Episode VIII.


I know that some people might still feel burned by the last round of unknown actor cast for the Prequels, I feel different about this group.  I am not sure what their dynamic will be.  I am also unsure about their talents and charisma.  But JJ Abrams has an eye for casting.

He has a knack for taking unknowns, putting them into lead roles, and having great success.  Just look at his track record:

Felicity: Kerri Russel
Alias: Jennifer Garner
Lost: Evangeline Lily
Star Trek: Chris Pine

I think Abrams knows his vision and finds actors who not only look the part but can execute that vision.

There were some real surprises.  I never even thought that Max Von Sydow was in the running.  I am stoked at the idea of Ming the Merciless taking a lead role in Star Wars.  And with Sydow, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee, I think Star Wars won the evil British guy hat trick.

Oscar Isaac's is also an actor I have been following for awhile.  I loved his performance in The Nativity Story as St. Joseph.  He also has a chameleon quality, since he appears so different in every movie in which I've seen him.

But the actor that has me the most excited is Andy Serkis.  He is THE motion capture actor.  It's hard for me to describe the mad respect I have for him, because he was a pioneer in creating amazing characters through motion capture performance.  No one does it better than him.  People often look to his Gollum and rightly so.  But I am riveted by his Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  He can devastate, intimidate, and inspire with the simplest looks.

The reason why the addition of Serkis has me excited is at the prospect of an amazing CGI character.  I know I shouldn't assume that he will be doing motion capture.  He is a fantastic actor in his own skin.  But Star Wars has never really had a CGI character who was at the same level as Gollum.  Jar Jar was a failed attempt at humor.  The Prequel Yoda was pretty good.  But because the characters never reach the immense level of believability and reality that Gollum had.  What they were missing was an expert actor informing every level of the performance.  I desperately want to know who Serkis is playing, because I think it will be awesome.

And I just have to say that the primary reason I'm glad Adam Driver is in this movie is that it means the won't cast him as Nightwing for Batman vs. Superman

What are your thoughts?

Free Comic Book Day 2014

Today is National Free Comic Book Day.

Go to your local comic book store and get some free comics!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Film Flash: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

A listless 2nd act and campy villain (Electro) almost derail movie.  Incredibly emotional superhero film.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars