Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trailer Time: TAK3N

I loved the original Taken.  It touched a raw nerve that set off a satisfyingly violent action film.  The second one was a bit of disappointment, to be honest.

I have higher hopes for this one though.  I like the new twist to the story and I like the inversion of the original trailer.  I think I'm going to have to see this one in the theater too.


New TV Show Mini Review: Blackish

A lot of people have made comparisons to Anthony Anderson's new comedy Blackish and the 1980's classic The Cosby Show, saying how similar they are.

They aren't.

That isn't to say that the show is bad.  In fact it is quite a bit of good-natured fun.  But the big difference is that Cosby intentionally created a culture on his show that celebrated his black heritage in a way that did not seem confrontational or controversial.

On Blackish, Anderson's Andre Johnson is living the American dream where he and his wife have achieved great financial success.  But whereas Cosby saw this success for the black family, Blackish sees it as a threat to losing the black identity.

That isn't to say that the show is cynical or hostile.  Everyone is treated to good-natured parody.  And it highlights the paradoxical desires of Andre.  He is upset that his youngest kids don't hang out with the only other black child in their class because they don't think that they should care about race.  He thinks that they should be racially selective.  But Andre is upset that he has been promoted at his work as the head of "Urban" division.  He wants his bosses to be colorblind but not his kids.

What makes this work is that Blackish never seems mean.  Everyone seems ridiculous.

And the writing is fairly sharp.  My favorite part of the pilot was this exchange between Andre and his doctor wife Rainbow (Tracee Elis Ross) about their son losing their black identity (I'm paraphrasing)

ANDRE: If he [their son] tries to too much like a white man might end up being chased down the highway in a white Ford Bronco by the cops
RAINBOW: So you think if he plays field hockey he's going to end up murdering his wife?

I laughed so hard I had to pause the DVR.

The rest of the pilot was fairly fun.  Lawrence Fishburne as Andre's father brings a nice grounding.  When asked about how he used to keep it real, he responds, "I didn't keep it real, I kept it honest."

The thing I liked the least was a moment with Andre and his son Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner) where he says that he says that he's trying basically to get to second base.  Rather than taking a fatherly moment and talk about respecting women, the grandfather chimes in "Can't be mad at him for that!"

But overall, the show is fairly funny with good potential.

3 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 29, 2014

Film Review: The Maze Runner

I'm a sucker for a big, mythic mystery.  And that is what I was expecting from The Maze Runner, a sci-fi film that starts by thrusting the audience into a big mystery.

The story kicks off with a teenage boy (Dylan O'Brien) being sent up an industrial elevator with a myriad of supplies.  He is rocketed up in darkness until he reaches the top where it opens up to a walled in glen populated by other teenage boys.

None of the boys can remember anything other than their names (the new boy soon remembers that his is Thomas), but they have built a livable society in that walled in glen that seems limited, but sustainable.  Everyone has a job.  Alby (Ami Amee) is the most senior and the default leader.  Gally (Will Poulter) is the tough one.  Newt (Thomas Brody-Sangster) is the cerebral second in command.  Chuck (Blake Cooper) is the young, innocent comic relief.

There is one opening that closes every night and opens every morning.  In that path is the maze.  Boys have been assigned to be Maze Runners who map out the maze to find a way out.  No one has spent a night in the maze and lived.  For 3 years, the boys have been living there trapped and no one knows why.

But Thomas is different.  He is curious and he is an original thinker.  With the exception of running the maze, most people in the glen are content with their lives.  Thomas questions the rules by which they live which sets the rest of the plot into motion.

One of the very nice things about the story is that it doesn't wait too long until it starts throwing up the established rules.  The set up is excellent at filling you with fear about the unknown maze, especially about the mysterious "Grievers" that inhabit it.  The rules don't feel like sheepish obedience.  You can understand how strict discipline has been necessary for basic survival.  So when Thomas starts upsetting the apple cart it feels like an incredibly dangerous act to everyone.

It is hard to talk about the rest of the plot without giving away the surpising plot points.  But Thomas' main question is why?  Why are they there?  Why put them in a maze at all?  Why take away their memories? The story does a good job of showing that hope and freedom, while precious, require a lot of risk and sacrifice.  There are some like Sliverweed in Watership Down or Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption who have come to depend on their prison walls.  Fear of what is beyond has paralyzed them from reaching out.

The action is fast-paced and director Wes Ball does an excellent job with his first feature.  Every new discovery leads to new possiblities and new dangers.  He is able to capture the grandure and danger of every moment in the maze.  He is also able to get some fairly good performances out of his young cast.

What I espescially like about his direction is the sense of both grandeur and clostrophobia.  Like the low-budget sci-fi classic Cube, the Maze is frought with everchanging danger.  And while the walls are high and some of the space is big, Ball also makes you feel how the walls are closing in and can literally cut you off.

The biggest downside of the story is the ending.  This is the first in a trilogy and it feels like they withheld a lot for the next chapter.  So if your investment in the movie is based purely on having the mystery resoloved, like Cube, you will be disappointed.

But I have to say that the story now has me hooked.  And I now want to know what happens next to those who survive the maze.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Best: Sitcoms of All Time #10 - Parks and Recreation


When this show first came out, it seemed like the less intelligent cousin to The Office.  And to be sure, Parks and Recreation had a lot of growing pains.  For a long time, the show had trouble finding its way.  But finally, everything clicked and not only made the show click, but it made the previous awkward episodes more watchable.

There are 3 stars to this show.  The first is Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope.  Poehler is one of the finest comediennes ever on television.  She brings a passionate intensity to her character that is at the same time infuriating and endearing.  She is so earnest that you cannot help but admire her.  And even when she steamrolls, she does so with great enthusiasm and love.  She is masterful at both joke delivery and funny body language.

But the second star counterbalances her: Nick Overman as Ron Swanson.  He is the prefect foil to Leslie and their comedic chemistry is not only wonderful, but he has some of the funniest lines of the show.  His part is not very showy, but there is a masculine restraint and deadpan that he is able to draw out amazing laughs with very little outward energy.

Finally, Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer shines in this show.  This is surprising since his character was mostly an unlikable leech in the first season.  But Pratt brings an innocent enthusiasm to his performance that you can see his mental wheels slowly turn and he rings every laugh not only out of every gesture but with some pretty wild pratfalls.  He isn't afraid to go big, which is perfect for his character.

The rest of the supporting cast is also fantastic.  Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, and Aubrey Plaza are fantastic.  Rashida Jones plays the shows "straight man."  Aziz Ansari is mostly annoying, but after a few seasons you get used to him.

One of the show's strengths is that it plays politics at large on the local level for laughs.  Leslie is for larger, more involved government.  Ron is for no government at all.  Surprisingly, the show does not make Ron automatically wrong the way Family Ties did for Alex P. Keaton.  Instead, his points are made and sometimes Leslie has to learn from them.  In one episode, they are planning on putting a copy of Twilight into a town time capsule.  One very conservative looking woman stands up and objects because of how anti-Christian and sensual the book is.  Another liberal hipster-looking man stands up and objects because the book is too overtly Christian.  The show works best when it mines humor from both sides of the political spectrum.  And while Leslie and Ron often disagree, there is still a notable mutual respect.

Of course it should be noted that while there is a healthy respect on the show for liberalism and libertarian moral conservatism is caricatured and lampooned.  The weakest and worst part of the show is when moral issues come up like "gay marriage," pornography, or contraception comes up, anyone who espouses a traditionally moral position is painted in broad, villainous brushstrokes.

But the above is not often a factor.  Instead, the show is an hysterical collection of social foibles in small town America.

"Flu Season" (3x02)

This show has a particularly long threshold because it took a long time for it to find its voice.  If you go and watch the first season, you can see the bones of some of the great characters like Ron and Andy, but something wasn't clicking.  In the second season, things became funnier, but the show had yet to become appointment television.

But at the end of the second season, they cut Mark Brandanawitz (an adequate Paul Schneider) and added the relentlessly cheery Chris Trager (Rob Lowe) and the budget slashing Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott).  This cast shake up was exactly what the show needed.  And this became clear in the Flu Season episode.

In this episode, Leslie has to give a make-or-break presentation to local businesses, but she is too sick with flu to do it well.  Some of Poehler's funniest moments come in this episode.  It also clearly sets the space and relationships to all the other characters and the chemistry finally begins to percolate.

"Sex Education" (5x04)
As stated earlier, here is where the show loses some of its spark.  This episode uses an outbreak of STD's among the elderly as a metaphor for getting contraceptives to teens.  It is with this episode that the show takes not only a kind of nasty stab at people who are interested in morals, it takes a dip in writing quality.  The shows bad guys become completely 1-dimensional  In the previous episode, they introduced Councilman Jamm, who has no other function than to be a jerk.  Nothing he does is funny or logical.  He is unpleasant to watch and makes every scene he is in uncomfortable to watch.  The "bad guys" in this episode are also portrayed this way.

There is a laziness here that pops up more and more from this point forward on the show.

"April and Andy's Fancy Party"

There is an episode in the 5th season called "Two Parties" that has some of the shows best moments as all of the male characters go on a bachelor party marathon, but the other half of the show is not nearly as good.

But this episode from the 3rd season was surprising and hilarious.  April is a dour, cynical 21-year-old who has fallen in love with the man-child Andy despite herself.  After nearly a year of "will-they-won't they," they finally start dating a few episodes earlier.  And then in this episode they throw a fancy party that Leslie only finds out later is going to be their wedding night.

Leslie's reaction is fantastic:  "Why?  Why.... why... is this wonderful thing happening?"  The rest of the episode plays out with some fantastic character moments with the rest of the cast that is both funny and joyous.

On a side note, I was so shocked that these two characters got married.  Instead of following the usual path on TV (and other characters on the show) of engaging in a long-running sexual relationship and then maybe getting married, these two get married and then move in together.  I'm not saying that they are paragons of virtue, but it was strangely refreshing as it was clear that they took their vows seriously.  And it was nice to see how they each complimented each others qualities and made each other better characters.

The episode is silly and touching, like much of the series.


Parks and Recreation is a silly show that is fun to watch and incredibly endearing.  Thinking about the show will not fail to leave a smile on your face.  The show has one more season and can still knock it out of the park with some amazing energy and wacky humor along with an earnest spirit.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Film Flash: The Equalizer

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

Denzel goes full Liam Nesson in Taken and maybe even outdoes him.  Graphically violent fun.

4 out of 5 stars.

Trailer Time: Big Hero 6 - Trailer 2

When Disney started their computer animation division apart from PIXAR, I was skeptical.  But the last two outings have been wonderful: Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen.

Now, with Big Hero 6, they are also working with Marvel to capture the zeitgeist of that franchise.  And I think they may have a hit.


New TV Show Mini Review: Gotham

What makes Gotham work is that it makes something so familiar seem so fresh.

The story begins as we watch a young Selina Kyle pickpocketing her way through the streets of Gotham and happening upon the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  This is a scene we've seen several times in movies, TV, and comics.  But the scene played like new.  I felt a sense of danger and possibility that I hadn't expected.

But what else makes the show work are the actors.  Ben MacKenzie is fantastic as Jim Gordon.  He is so full of righteous rage as the one good cop in the bad city.  He has yet to be pounded down by the corruption all around him.  And Donal Logue is fantastic as Gordon's partner Harvey Bullock.  Logue has a lot of wonderful contradictory traits.  He is ambivalent and yet sensitive.  He is corrupt but he has some sense of code.  He is a coward but he stands up when he thinks its necessary.   I love the fact that I cannot tell whether Bullock is going to be Gordon's main ally or adversary.

A lot of attention has been played to the different Batman-universe characters that popped up during the pilot like Penguin, Riddler, and Poison Ivy.  And that is all fine.  But the real drama is from the more grounded characters like Gordon, Bullock, and crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Doman).  Falcone brings not only some interesting back story, but he alludes to all the shades of gray that a black and white guy like Gordon has trouble navigating.

It also leads to some wonderful moral dilemmas that we find in stories like this.  How far do you go in bending the law until it breaks?  What moral line are you willing to cross for the people you love?  Can you pretend to be something you are not?  Gordon wants to be a good cop but he doesn't know what to do or how to do it.

The filming is wonderfully dark and moody.  Even in the nicest parts, Gotham does not seem like an enjoyable place to live.  It is dark and dank, even in the day.

I think if the show concentrates on the more real-world threats that face Gordon and his companions, this show will soar.

4 out of 5 stars.


Friday, September 26, 2014

New TV Show Mini Review: Red Band Society

Because of the sheer number of new shows that come out this season, I will not have time to give full reviews to all of them.  So please enjoy these mini-reviews

I loved the idea of Red Band Society.  I am not one to shy away from melodrama.  I love big ideas and big emotion.  And what could be more emotional than people who are young (and should feel invincible) being surrounded and beaten up by sickness.

The concept could call for a lot of soul searching and thinking about what is it that could make their lives count and matter.

Instead, we are left with an absolute mess.

The writing for the show is worse than Glee.  And that is saying a lot.

We start by being introduced to a mean cheerleader with a heart condition.  I couldn't even tell you her name, but it doesn't matter.  She has no more depth than that.

We are then introduced to the other kids:  Coma boy, bald sick kid, anorexic girl, black sick kid, and new sick kid.  They are completely and utterly one-dimensional.

I remember watching the pilot thinking: "There are thousands of young actors who probably auditioned for these parts.  Couldn't they have found any good ones?"  That may sound harsh, but please keep in mind, I just had to sit through Red Band Society.

The adult actors are actually fairly good.  Octavia Spencer is mean but fun.  Griffin Dunne is a bit of fun as sick, rich man.  And David Annabelle shows a lot of charisma for this show.

The main problem is that for the sickness and suffering of these kids to have any impact you have to believe them as people.  And you don't.  Even the writer's attempts at subtext are about as subtle as a sledge hammer.

And you would think that facing mortality would bring up at least a little explorations about the deeper mysteries of faith.  Nope.  Instead, we get kids facing death indulging in every kind of vice because… why not?  YOLO!  There's a little mention about the soul, but it so empty that it may as well have been left out.

This is television for how Hollywood imagines television watchers.  They think we are dumb and just want broad emotion.  But it is done in too broad brush strokes.  The emotion isn't real, but it is plastered all over the screen.  It reminds of the old Karaoke adage: if you can't sing well, sing loud.

1 out of 5 stars


Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall TV Season Preview 2014

I remember when new shows would start at the beginning of September around when school began.  I remember because it helped lessen the blow of returning to school.  I had to spend most of my day in class, but at least when I got home there was new TV to watch.

This week we are kicking into full swing with new shows and returning shows.  I've read a number of places that people in the industry are turning to television as a place of real vision and drama and daring as opposed to big budget movies.  As a result, I am more expectant of higher quality product.

Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't some unmitigated crap on the airwaves.

Here are my thoughts on some new shows that I want to catch and returning shows that I want to see again.



I am so excited for this series.  One of my favorite Batman related comic series was one called Gotham Central that focused on the cops in the Gotham Major Crimes Unit.  This looks like it could be a such a good police procedural with a super hero twist.
Premieres Monday Sept. 22th

Jane the Virgin

A story about a virgin who gets accidentally inseminated at the OB/GYN. I am curious about this show. It will probably just make fun of religious faith and chastity, but I want to see if it will
Premieres Monday Oct. 13th


I like John Cho and this is supposed to be a modern telling of My Fair Lady, but my expectations are low.
Premieres Tuesday Sept. 30th

The Flash

This is probably the show I am most excited for. I love Arrow and if they follow to the tone of the Geoff Johns comics then this will be TV/Comic Book heaven for me.
Premieres Tuesday Oct. 7th


Something tells me that the gimmick of the character dying and rising again over and over but this could have a good dynamic and I like the idea of an old immortal who is an expert on death
Premieres Tuesday Sept. 22


I have higher hopes for this. The previews have been funny and I like how the show looks at race in a humorous way that seems open and funny than divisive and mean.
Premieres Wednesday. Sept. 24th

Red Band Society

I actually got a chance to see this when it premiered last week. It was awful, awful dreck. This could have been some compelling, tragic TV, but it was so one-dimensional that I couldn't stomach it.

How to Get Away With Murder

I like legal shows and I love Viola Davis as an actress. But the more I see of the show, the less interesting it looks. As far as I can tell from the promos, there are no likable characters in the show
Premieres Thursday Sept. 25th


A mini-series murder mystery in a small town staring Dr. Who and Mrs. Heisenberg. This could be really good.
Premieres Thursday Oct. 2


Of all the new comic book shows that are premiering, this is the one I have the lowest expectations for. I was never a fan of the series, but the character can be compelling and interesting so I'll give it a shot.
Premieres Friday Oct. 24th


Dancing with the Stars

This will be the first time I've watched the show from the start. It is oddly compelling.


One of the most fun dramas on TV and it starts with a mystery from last season.

Agents of SHIELD

The end of the season was strong, I hope it keeps up at the beginning of this season and doesn't need another 16 episodes to ramp up.

New Girl

The show still has a good deal of wit, but it is getting ickier and ickier. The season premiere had some kind of nasty stuff. This might be a break it season.

The Middle

Sue Heck is my favorite character on the show and this season is supposed to focus on her a lot for her senior year.

The Goldbergs

A wonderful surprise from last year. I hope the quality keeps up.


After all of these years I can still get caught up in the real, yet contrived, drama.


So excited for the premiere. If this season is as good as last, I am going to be so happy!

The Big Bang Theory

My comfort show. Looking forward to spending more time with these characters.


I know its TV blasphemy, but I actually like Johnny Lee Miller's Sherlock more than Benedict Cumberbatch. He is more broken and more human because of it.

The Amazing Race

The best reality show on TV still. Hands down.

The Simpsons

The recent mega-marathon only solidified the amazing quality of the show even after more than a quarter of a century.

Brooklyn 99

I liked this show a lot more than I expected and I am incredibly curious to see where the new season takes us.

The Walking Dead

I am nervously excited about this next season. It is going to be tense and hurty to watch, but I think that the show might just now be hitting its stride. And that's saying something.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Best: Sitcoms of All Time # 11 - Everybody Loves Raymond

Fourteen years ago, when Everybody Loves Raymond was running new episodes, I did not care for the show.  I didn't get it.

And then I got married.

After that, it all made sense.

One of the extraordinary things about the show is how much confidence it had in its own characters and its scenes.  Earlier I mentioned how Friends changed television by doing quick, snappy lines and fast scene changes throughout the 22 minutes.  Everybody Loves Raymond was intentionally the opposite.  A scene would play out over half an episode just in a kitchen.  When sitcoms were skewing younger, this show skewed older.  When shows were focusing on finding your place in the world, this show focused on a man who was the person he was always going to be.

I am always amazed by the patience the show had.  The funniest moment on the show is one that is just a reaction shot of Robert as an FBI agent finishes reading a letter from Marie:

The comedic actors also understood who they were and how to play their characters to maximum comedic effect.  Several awards were won and all of them well deserved.

As I wrote about Scrubs, what makes Everybody Loves Raymond so good is its element of truth.  Not every husband and father is an idiot, but every husband and father feels like an idiot.  Not every sibling have constant competition, but every sibling experiences a sense of competition.

This is not a new concept.  But in execution, Everybody Loves Raymond is fantastic.

And while the characters are still essentially the same from the beginning of the series to the end is not necessarily a bad thing.  Instead of change we get depth.  Marie is still Marie.  Her behavior does not change.  But by the end of the series, we understand her completely and we love her as much as we are infuriated by her.  Robert is still Robert.  Frank is still Frank.  Debra is still Debra.  Raymond is still Raymond.  There are microscopic changes, but the change is not the point.  It feels honest.  For many of us, as we get older, we don't see our parents or even our adult family members change.  But we begin to understand them more and appreciate them in a whole new light.  That is the deep truth that Everybody Loves Raymond hits.

As a Catholic, I enjoy that they took faith and religion a bit seriously.  No, the characters are not perfect Catholics (or in some cases even good Catholics).  But they are normal and are trying.  The priests are often very human with their own flaws, but ultimately they are good men who are trying to help.  The episode where they confront Ray about not going to Church, was handled with a lot of good humor and ultimately ends with him taking at least some responsibility to be a role model to his children.

(The one episode that is the most flagrantly anti-religious is the one where Amy tells her parents that she has decided what is and isn't a sin.  To this day that line goads me and makes me angry.)

"Marie's Meatballs" (2x15)

It took a while for the show to touch on anything really special.  There have been countless family sitcoms and for the first season and a half, so was Everybody Loves Raymond.  Slowly though, the show found its way.  This episode is where everything really begins to click, and it took quite a long time to get here.

In this episode, Debra asks Marie for her recipe for meatballs, and Debra fails to make them taste good, thus defeating her.  That is, until, she finds out Marie sabotaged her:
And yet, despite this Marie is not condemned as a caricatured villain.  She does what she does from a place of vulnerability, not malice.  It was here that you realize who these characters are and why, despite all of the hijinks, they love each other.



This is one of those rare shows that did not begin to fail in quality.  Looking back, the shows actually got better and better.  By the 9th season, the show was as strong as ever and could have gone on longer.  There was still so much comedy to mine as the children got older as well as the rest of the cast.  It was at the top of CBS' ratings, but it was decided that they wanted to go out before they jumped the shark.


"Golf For It"  (8x23)
I am in awe of this episode.

Nearly the entire episode takes place inside the front seats of a parked car without a commercial break.

This is an episode that is supremely confident in its writing and acting.  There isn't much to look at, so the conversation has to fly off of the screen.  And it does.  This episode is so wonderfully written as each beat comes up organically and it is also incredibly revelatory.  Watch as the scene goes from comedic to morbidly serious to emotional to comedic all in a beautifully harmonious way.  An amazing piece of writing.


There is something warm and familiar about Everybody Loves Raymond.  Watching it feels like going home.  And that is the best compliment that I can give a show like this.

(for the last clip, skip to 8:00 for the best part)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Film Flash: The Maze Runner

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

Cube meets Hunger Games.  Better than average teen dystopian future film.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Star S'Mores

All I can say is, that this video combines two of my favorite things:

It reminds of this joke from The Simpsons where Homer is standing in front of the video store clerk who says, "I'm sorry sir, but the computer says that the movie Chocolate Star Wars doesn't exist."

A Path With No Happy Ending

I have been struggling with something for a little while regarding how I approach something more and more common in the popular culture.

It is very rare to find a relationship depicted in television or film that coincides with God's plan for romantic love.  Most TV romances have the characters meet, fall in love, and then begin sharing their bodies with each other before they share their souls in the bonds of marriage.

Despite this, I still find myself emotionally investing in these relationships.  On The Big Bang Theory I want Penny and Leonard to work through their tough times.  I enjoyed watching Jim and Pam hide their pre-marital pregnancy from Michael Scott on The Office.  I recently rewatched The Silver Linings Playbook.  Bradley Cooper's character is a married man whose wife cheated on him.  He plans to reconcile with his unfaithful wife but begins to fall in love with Jennifer Lawrence's character.  In God's eyes, he should stick by his commitment to his wife.  Yet I could not help but feel a preference for his blossoming romance with the other woman.

So you can see that I find myself connecting to and rooting for these relationships despite their questionable moral state.  Yet that is not the issue at hand.  The main issue is this: though I find myself emotionally investing in these relationships I have never been able to do so for  homosexual ones.

The proliferation of gay characters and plot lines means that there are more and more romantic stories in the pop culture involving homosexual relationships.  And yet no matter how many times I have encountered them, I can never find myself being drawn into the story.

Why is this a problem?  Some of you might be thinking that since all sexual contact between two people of the same sex is always wrong, then the case is cut and dried.  But as I just wrote, I find myself emotionally tied to other romantic relationships that are also sinful.  Why am I tolerant of these and not the others?

I am not one to simply assume the goodness of my own motivations.  If the reason for my reaction is simple-minded homophobia, then that is a problem that I have a moral responsibility to address.  As Christians we are called to love and respect our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attractions.  Any illogical or close-minded view of them should be rooted out.

So the way I see it, there are 3 possibilities going forward.

1.  I have an unwanted homophobic prejudice that must be removed.
2.  I have been too tolerant of all sinful romantic relationships and the detachment I have to homosexual relationships should be applied to heterosexual sinful relationships.
3.  I must discover a real difference between the two types that can account for the different reactions.

As to the first, I shall examine my conscience on this matter.  Regarding these characters, I do not wish them ill or despise them because of their orientation.  I simply cannot root for their relationship to advance.  When I used to watch Modern Family I found that Cam was one of my favorite characters.  I enjoyed his personality and his humor.  But I had no desire to see he and Mitchell get "married."

As to the second, this bears a good deal of thought.  I have heard from many people I respect that the popular culture has essentially devolved into a cesspool of moral depravity.  Interacting with it leads to moral corruption.  I do not dismiss this point out of hand.  I have seen how corrosive pop culture can be and I should be arrogant to think that I alone am immune from its glamours.

I don't think the second scenario applies to me either, though.  I am emotionally tied to the relationships, but that does not stop me for acknowledging that any sex outside of marriage is wrong.  But I will be exploring this and other issues at length in a new feature on this blog (more on this later)

So this brings me to the third possibility: that there is a substantial difference between sinful heterosexual relationships I see and the homosexual ones.  And I think this one is the key.

I believed I figured it out when thinking about the movie Oldboy.  For those who haven't seen the movie, I am going to spoil it here.  I admit that I myself have not seen the movie either.  The reason I haven't is that I found out what the plot entailed and it turned my stomach.

In Oldboy, a young man is locked away in a private prison for several years by an unknown captor.  He is then mysteriously released back into the world where he tries discover the mystery of his imprisonment.  Along the way he meets a young woman who helps him and the two become lovers.  Over the course of the movie, he discovers that his imprisonment was part of an elaborate revenge plot which involved him starting a sexual relationship with the young woman who, it turned out, was his grown up daughter.

At the end of the movie, the main character undergoes hypnosis to forget that his lover is his daughter.  When she finds him, she embraces him and it is unclear whether the treatment worked.  I read somewhere that this meant that it was unclear if the movie would have a "happy ending."

And I remember thinking, "There is no happy ending here."  If he remembers, he will be haunted by his terrible sin.  If he does not, he will persist in this relationship that goes against the human designs of sexuality.

This is when I think I finally understood the difference between all of those sinful relationships I do invest in and those that I do not: redeemability.

If a straight couple is fornicating with each other, this is obviously sinful.  But this romantic love can be redeemed by the two of them getting married.  It does not mean the fornication wasn't sinful, only that now their physical relationship can now be expressed in a moral way.  Recently Pope Francis married a couple in the Vatican that had been "living in sin."

If a divorced couple gets remarried, in the eyes of God that is still adultery.  But if they seek the processes of annulment and obtain it, they can express their physical love in a licit marriage.

Most of the heterosexual relationships with moral problems that I see on TV have the potential to be placed right.

But that is not the case with homosexual romantic relationships.

As a faithful Catholic I hold to the moral truth that sexual intimacy is only for marriage and that marriage is only for man and woman.  The Church does not teach that there is anything wrong with two people of the same sex sharing affection, friendship, or self-sacrificing love for one another.  But romantic love has as its ultimate endpoint a union between the lovers that involves the sharing of bodies.  And this sharing can never be in line with God's plan of human sexuality.

So when I see a gay romance begin to blossom, I am filled with a sense of sadness more than anything.  Because these two are going to burn with the same intense romantic flames that singe the hearts of so many.  But if they continue down that path, there is no place where they can end happily.  There is no point at which this romantic love can be made licit.

In this way it reminds me of the end of Oldboy: to continue forward would be to go against God's plan and thus go further away from our natural happiness.

I pray I have expressed my conclusion with sufficient logic and tenderness.  My experiences with many of my gay friends is that they feel like they are shunned and alienated from God and the Church.  God forbid that we should be anything but loving towards all, gay or straight.

But we can only love in truth.  We do no one any favors by exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  If I believed that someone could live an active homosexual lifestyle and find true happiness, then Christianity would be a lie and I could not believe in the faith any longer.

Regarding the morally problematic heterosexual relationships discussed above, just because they can be redeemed, it doesn't mean that they will be redeemed.  If, for example, a couple persists in a fornicating state permanently, then they choose not to redeem that romantic love.  They choose to walk down a path away from God's plan.

And the truth is that any path that leads you away from God will lead you to a place with no happy ending.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Evangelizers Post: No Prayer Too Small

I have a new article up at

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:1-5)

There are many lessons to take from Christ’s first sign at Cana.  But there is one particular part that I think should be addressed.  Notice that the first miracle that Jesus performed was not one of healing or one of glorious light like the Transfiguration.  

Jesus made more booze.

Would the world have ended if they ran out of wine?  No.  Would someone have died or lost their soul if they didn't have any more adult beverages?  Again, no.

So why does Jesus go out of His way to help out with, what was essentially, was just a big party?
I think it is to remind us that the little things must also be given to the Lord.

You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Trailer Time: Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part I Full Trailer

I've really enjoyed the teasers that they've released so far, but I this full trailer is great.  It shows how this chapter of The Hunger Games is different than all the ones that have come before it.  This is a war movie.  It looks different than anything before.

My favorite moment, though, has to be the brief 1-second shot of Effie Trinket.  So much said in such a little shot.

I think I'm going to be there opening night.