Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Best: Final Oscar Game Reminder

Just a final reminder for any of you readers to participate in my annual Oscar Game.

For those who have played before, I have made important changes.
-I have re-adjusted the point values
-I have divided the awards into different categories
     -MAJOR AWARDS (the awards that the casual viewer cares about)
     -TECHNICAL AWARDS (awards for technical achievements)
     -MINOR AWARDS  (the awards that most people don't care and haven't seen the movies)

Just click this link.

The game goes like this:

OBJECT: Get the most points!

HOW TO PLAY:  Fill out a score sheet for each category with your choice (who you want to win) and your prediction (who you think WILL win).


-Best Picture
-Best Director
-Best Actor
-Best Actress
-Best Supporting Actor
-Best Supporting Actress
-Best Original Screenplay
-Best Adapted Screenplay
-Best Original Score
-Best Original Song
-Best Animate Feature

On the night of the Oscars, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.  If you get a prediction wrong, subtract 1 point.  Give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY CHOICE.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY CHOICE.

For example:

-MY CHOICE = • "Mad Max: Fury Road," George Miller
-MY PREDICTION = • "The Revenant," Alejandro G. Iñárritu

-MY CHOICE = Matt Damon in "The Martian"
-MY PREDICTION = Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"

-MY CHOICE = • Jennifer Lawrence in "Joy"
-MY PREDICTION = • Jennifer Lawrence in "Joy"

If Alejandro G. Iñárritu wins Best Director, gain 1 point for a correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS, but no points for an incorrect MY CHOICE  (total points = 1)

If Matt Damon wins Best Actor, gain 1 point, for a correct MY CHOICE, but subtract 1 point for an incorrect MY PREDICTION (total points = 0)

If Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress, gain 1 points for correct MY CHOICE and 1 correct MY PREDICTION.  (total points =2)

You may NOT make a guess for a MY CHOICE in a category if you have not seen any of the films in the category.  You may, however, make a blind guess for the MY PREDICTION section even if you have not seen any of the nominees.

-Best Editing
-Best Cinematography
-Best Visual Effects
-Best Sound Editing
-Best Sound Mixing
-Best Makeup
-Best Costumes
-Best Production Design

For these, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.   Give yourself 1 points each correct guess in MY CHOICE.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY PREDICTIONS or MY CHOICE.

-Best Documentary Feature
-Best Documentary Short
-Best Animated Short
-Best Live Action Short
-Best Foreign Language Film

For these, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.   Since so few people have seen these, there is no MY CHOICE section.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY PREDICTIONS.


Fill out the below score sheet and send it to me.  I will be the designated score-keeper.  You may change any choice up until the broadcast begins.

The winner will receive bragging rights and recognition on this blog.

You can change your answers up until the broadcast.  Here is my ballot:

Catholic Skywalker
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," George Miller
• "The Revenant," Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Matt Damon in "The Martian"
Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"
• Jennifer Lawrence in "Joy"
• Brie Larson in "Room"
• Christian Bale in "The Big Short"
• Sylvester Stallone in "Creed"
• Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Hateful Eight"
• Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Hateful Eight"
• "The Martian," screenplay by Drew Goddard
• "The Big Short," screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
• "Inside Out," screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley; original story by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen
• "Inside Out," screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley; original story by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," John Seale
• "The Revenant," Emmanuel Lubezki
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," Jenny Beavan
• "Carol," Sandy Powell
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," Margaret Sixel
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," Margaret Sixel
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," John Williams
• "The Hateful Eight," Ennio Morricone
• "Writing's on the Wall" from "Spectre"
• "Writing's on the Wall" from "Spectre"
• "Mad Max: Fury Road," production design: Colin Gibson; set decoration: Lisa Thompson
• "The Martian," production design: Arthur Max; set decoration: Celia Bobak
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Matthew Wood and David Acord
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Matthew Wood and David Acord
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
• "Son of Saul," Hungary
• "Inside Out," Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
• "Inside Out," Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
• "Amy," Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
• "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness," Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
• "World of Tomorrow," Don Hertzfeldt
• "Ave Maria," Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont

When guessing for MY PREDICTION, my rule of thumb is to choose the most pretentious title.

So I invite all of you to join in the fun!

I will try to live tweet the Oscars tonight, but that will depend on out outside factors.


Thank you, dear reader, for your prayers and your patience.

At the request of family members, I will not go into specifics regarding the person in our family who is still currently in the hospital.  We have more information now, but still we are waiting for more results and then need to figure out our next steps.

Today is really the first day that we've had to stop and catch our breath between work, the hospital, and other obligations.

Please continue to pray for our family

God Bless,

Catholic Skywalker

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lack of updates (part VI)

Dear reader, 

Please be patient with the lack of updates. We have a family member in the hospital, so writing is taking a backseat right now.

I ask for prayers for our family, particularly the one who is sick

God Bless,
Catholic Skywalker

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Revision to CatholicSkywalker Movie Rating System

One of the reasons that I started this blog was so that I could engage my Catholic identity and my love of pop culture at the same time, even when they are in conflict.

But this becomes especially problematic if a movie (or TV Show, comic book, etc) is artistically excellent and yet presents problems for me as a devout Catholic.

I recall early on I did a review of Pitch Perfect that gave the movie a fairly good review.  But one commentator was aghast that I could give such positive praise to a movie that is casual about binge drinking and sexual promiscuity.

I still stand by my review, but the reader brought up the real dilemma.

Currently the question of the relationship between art and Catholicism is being addressed in the Catholic Skywalker Dialogues, but I have not come to any solid conclusion yet.

This also brings to mind my upcoming review of Deadpool.

As with Pitch Perfect I plan to give it a fairly good review.  However, there is much in it that some may find objectionable.  If my readers find my rating system problematic, I thought that I should contemplate a revision.

First, allow me to how I rate films now.  I go by a 5 star system: 5 is excellent, 1 is awful.  The stars represent the general overall artistic excellence of the piece.  While all reviews deal with the subjective, I try as much as possible to give an objective evaluation of the movie's artistic merits.

I have used the star system to comment on the movie as a movie per se.  It is not meant to be a recommendation by itself.  I try to put into the body of the review items that people may find problematic or objectionable.  The reader can then determine if this film fits within their moral limitations and judgments.

Allow me to distinguish between these two.  A moral limitation regards a person's personal moral response to the film.  It is important to give this information so that a person can safeguard themselves from something that may lead them toward sin.  I remember when I was in high school a movie called New Jack City came out.  For some reason, it triggered within some people a violent response and several fights broke out at many different theaters.  If you are someone who has a propensity to be set off to violence, then you should avoid that film.  Or for example, a person who struggles with lust should stay away from a film that leeringly lingers on the human form.

Outlining the moral content of a piece of art is also important for the viewer's moral judgment.  By moral judgment I mean that the viewer (particularly the Catholic viewer) is sensitive to the presentation and promotion of moral values that are repugnant to the Gospel message.  In my review for The Theory of Everything, I excoriated the film because of its absolutely dreadful view of marital love and fidelity.  I thought that viewers should be forewarned that the movie would present distorted and broken view of God's plan for romantic love.

In both cases, once the information is given, the reader can make the determination for himself or herself regarding seeing the movie.

This brings us back to the star system.  The main detriment with it is that it does not directly address the moral question in its rating.

Part of the reason for this is that movies are not just one art form by several pulled together into a whole.  A movie can be excellent in many ways but damaged by one element like the actor (e.g. The Martian).  Or a movie can be overall of poor quality but have one element like the actor which makes the film worth seeing (e.g. Winter's Bone)

The moral dimension of a film is not separate from the artistic consideration; it is a part of it.  But in the star system it is only one aspect of the work as a whole.  And depending on the degree of excellence of the rest of the art and/or the level of depravity in its morals, the ratings will vary.

To make matters more complicated, the presentation of immorality may be done for an overall moral purpose.

For example, The Godfather is not only an amazing piece of cinematic art, but I believe it is also one of the greatest morality tales ever put to film.  You can watch Michael's slow descent into evil by slow, practical, and well-intentioned choices.  It is such a good movie at presenting the slow erosion of the soul through moral choice.  In that way the violence may be morally depraved, but it is done to show it for what it is.

However, do not forget that there is a gratuitous nude scene halfway through the film.  I find this morally objectionable because it does little to help the story and serves mainly to excite lust in many of the viewers.

Shall we consider the moral shortcoming of The Godfather?  Of course.  But is that the only consideration when rating a movie?  No.  At least not for the star system I am currently employing.

And to further complicate things, sometimes the meaning of the content is ambiguous.  I have had several debates with people a greatly respect about the moral content of The Devil's Advocate and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  I argue that both movie ultimately have positive and Catholic messages.  My interlocutors disagreed.  Both of us saw the same films and walked away with opposite conclusions.

The change I am ultimately implementing is this:

Begin each review with a breakdown of the moral content.  This will give readers a heads up regarding where the movie stands in relation to Catholic morals.

My plan is to focus on 4 Categories:

Anti-Catholic Philosophy

The moral metrics will be as follows:

Objectionable = the content is strongly negative and may have negative effects on some viewers
Mature = the content may be objectionable to some, but it should only be viewed by someone mature enough to properly process the content
Acceptable = the content may have a few morally questionable items, but it does not have enough immorality to make it mature or objectionable, but it does not necessarily support good morality
No Objection = the content does not have anything morally objectionable.

So for example, below are some famous movies rated using the following metrics:

A house is hovering in the air, lifted by balloons. A dog, a boy, and an old man hang beneath on a garden hose. "UP" is written in the top right corner.
No Objection
Violence  No Objection
Vulgarity  No Objection
Anti-Catholic Philosophy  No Objection

Braveheart imp.jpg
Sexuality/Nudity  Mature
Violence  Mature
Vulgarity  Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy  Acceptable

The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Sexuality/Nudity Objectionable
Violence No Objection
Vulgarity Objectionable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Schindler's List
Schindler's List movie.jpg
Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy No Objection

Superbad Poster.png
Sexuality/Nudity Objectionable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Objectionable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Objectionable

These ratings are based on my judgement as a Catholic movie reviewer and they are not without controversy.  Notice that even though The 40-Year-Old Virgin has objectionable content in Sexuality/Nudity and Vulgarity, it is Acceptable in Anti-Catholic Philosophy.  That is because I believe that the ultimate theme of the movie is that God's plan for sexuality (including virginity until marriage) is presented as the path that leads to the greatest happiness.  As I mentioned, many people would object to this interpretation of the film, but that is my conclusion.

The movie reviews will still contain the same star rating system.  But by adding these new items, hopefully I will be better able to serve the moral needs of my readers with my reviews.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New Evangelizers Post: God Loves a Cheerful Giver

I have a new article up at  

We are now in the season of Lent. As we all know it is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If you are anything like me, Lent does not fill you with the same child-like joy that Advent does. And yet both are times of preparation. And they must both be times of joy.

Obviously, Lent is a time of sacrifice and this means that we might be tempted towards the grumpy side. If we do Lent properly we will have less free time, less in our bellies, and less money in our pockets. These things are not usually a cause for celebration. In fact being busy, hungry, and poor are some of the largest stressors we can encounter.

But we are reminded by Our Lord to be cheerful even in these times.

Let us be clear: this is not a “fake it till you make it” philosophy. We have to be honest about how we feel in our current spiritual life. But we must remember that our disposition depends greatly (though not totally) on our will. While my emotions may shift, I can choose to focus on the good instead of the evil in my life. This will not always magically change my mood to the positive, but habitually drawing my mind to what is good and holy will have a strong influence on my feelings.

And this is what Christ is talking about when wants us to re-orient our souls so that we can even rejoice in sacrifice.

The Scriptures say “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) That is because there are fewer ways to witness that are more powerful than being a happy Christian. CS Lewis points out that joy on this world is a window into the next:

You can read the entire article here.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Film Review: Daddy's Home

I'm sorry that I've been late in getting this review out.

And to be honest, the movie has not left that large of an impression with me.  That in and of itself should say something about Daddy's Home.

It isn't a bad movie per se.  But it does little to make any kind of impression.

The movie centers on Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell), a mild-mannered man who married his wife Sara (Linda Cardellini), who has two small children from a previous marriage.  But Brad couldn't be happier to be a step-father.  With great patience and love, he waits through the children's meanness and coldness until a parental relationship begins to form.  But then Sara's ex-husband Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) comes to town.  He is a tough, manly-man who is stands in stark contrast to Brad's beta-male ways.  Dusty ingratiates himself further and further into his children's lives in an effort to win back his family.  Hilarity is supposed to ensue.

What follows is not particularly good, but it also isn't very bad.  Humor is very much a subjective thing.  I can see how people might find many of these jokes funny, but they kind of went past me.  The story is very much by-the-numbers.  The movie does a fairly decent job of showing the challenges of blending a family.  Brad is likable enough until the competition gets between he and Dusty gets out of hand.  There is a sequence where Brad gets drunk at a basketball game that is more upsetting than it is funny.

The performances are adequate.  They are unable to elevate the script beyond anything too spectacular.  There is one slightly off-color scene in a doctors office that is funny.  And Hannibal Buress does a fine job as additional comic relief as a contractor who ends up moving in.

But the last few minutes are the best of the movie, with the some nice surprises and character moments.

The movie does a nice job of showing the difficulty and necessity of fatherhood and as a Catholic I always find this message refreshing.  Too often fathers in film and television are viewed as superfluous and disposable.  The movie makes clear that children need fathers in their lives and this requires a great deal of sacrifice.

But the biggest takeaway from Daddy's Home is that it isn't great or terrible.  It is exceptionally ordinary.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Best: Top 10 Movies for Valentine's Day

photo by Johntex
Happy Valentine's Day, dear reader.

I have always been a sucker for really good romantic films.  The problem is that there are so many bad romantic films out there.

So what are the best films to watch with that special someone or to watch by yourself if you believe in love but have not yet found the one?

Here are my humble suggestions

10.  Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Much ado about nothing movie poster.jpg
This film is soaking with cinematic romance.  Filmed with such soft, poetic camera work, this film really brings out the funny side of Shakespeare while building to such a joyous finale that you cannot help but smile.

9.  Titanic
The film poster shows a man and a woman hugging over a picture of the Titanic's bow. In the background is a partly cloudy sky and at the top are the names of the two lead actors. The middle has the film's name and tagline, and the bottom contains a list of the director's previous works, as well as the film's credits, rating, and release date.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes the tragic love stories can put us in the most romantic moods.  There is a reason this became the most successful film of all time and I am convinced it is because of the way James Cameron filmed the love story so that it casts a spell on you.

8.  The Wedding Singer
The Wedding Singer film poster.jpg
This movie would be all schtick, except that Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler make you really invest in their relationship. You root for Robbie and Julia as two nice people who would be so nice together.  And there are few movie songs as sugary sweet as the one played on the plane to Vegas.

7.  When Harry Met Sally...
A movie that seems on the outside to be cynical about relationships, but it is really about how love can blossom on a solid foundation of friendship.  This movie is probably a bit more vulgar than you remember, so be prepared for that.  And how can you not love Billy Crystal's big speech at the finale.

6.  (500) Days of Summer 
I know a lot of guys for whom this movie is semi-autobiographical.  It perfectly captures the feelings of being young and disappointed in love.  This is a movie to watch if your love life hasn't panned out the way you expected, but it reminds us that new possibilities are just around the corner.

5.  The Princess Bride
Princess bride.jpg
Do you want to see a movie full of child-like storytelling with a warm glowing heart at its core and some fantastically funny scenes and one of the greatest cinematic sword fights of all time? As you wish.

4.  An Affair to Remember
Beautiful from start to finish.  There are few movies that so wonderfully capture the classic romantic style of the golden age of Hollywood and are still able to hold on to its cathartic power.  And that score is fantastic.

3.  Sleepless in Seattle
Sleepless in seattle.jpg
A riff on the standard Rom-Com without being above the material.  Witty, silly, and heart-felt, this movie fill you with a sense that love and destiny are two sides of the same coin.

2.  While You Were Sleeping
One of the best reviews for this film I read: “Like Cool Whip: as artificial as it is irresistible."  This is one of my favorite romantic stories.  There is nothing heavy about this film.  It is a feel-good, silly romp with incredibly lovable leads.

1.  Somewhere in Time 
Somewhere sheetr.jpg
Before I started dating I showed this movie to a friend of mine to get her opinion if Somewhere in Time would be a good movie to show on a date.

That friend of mine and I are married now.

The best romantic film ever made. Pascal once said “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.” There is so much unexplained in this movie, but those mysteries fall away because of the powerful beating heart at its center. When Christopher Reeve's Richard Collier falls in love with an old photograph, it may not make much logical sense, but it feels right. And when he travels through time to find the object of his affection, we don't question it because we want him to find her. The Song of Songs 8:6 says “Set me as a seal upon your heart... for love is stronger than death.” This film reminds us that it is not life we want, but love. What good is life without love? And what kind of possible happy existence could there be beyond this world if not love itself.


  1. Love Actually (2003)
An exploration of so many different types of love and how it fills our world.

Teddy Bear

40-Year-Old Virgin
West Side Story
Moulin Rouge
The Sound of Music

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Trailer Time: Batman v. Superman Trailer #3

So they have released one more trailer before the big release next month

My biggest takeaway is that this trailer makes it feel very much like a traditional Zach Snyder film.  I love Man of Steel, but it was so unlike any of his previous films.  This trailer makes Batman v. Superman feel very much at home in the cinematic aesthetic of 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch.

Other random thoughts:

-I love Alfred's dry sense of humor
-In terms of fighting style, this cinematic Batman is the closest I've seen to match the comics.
-I love the interplay between Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman
-The final shots in this trailer make me feel like I cannot wait to see it.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Film Flash: Deadpool

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

Violent, vulgar, meta-fun take on X-Men franchise.  Points lost for graphic sexuality.  Not for kids.

4 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 8, 2016

Why Do Good Directors Go Bad?

This is a question that was asked of my by a good friend when I was doing my list of greatest directors of all time.  There seems to be an almost gravitational pull to mediocrity and badness even from the greatest of directors.

I was contemplating this when the Nostalgia Critic made a video about this very subject.  And most of what he says is cogent and compelling.

Check it out below (WARNING: a bit vulgar in the first few seconds)

Essentially he says that there are a few different categories of directors going bad:

1.  The Ground-Breakers:  These are directors that do something so influential and excellent early on.  The reason that they go downhill is two-fold;

a.  Expectations.  Having set the bar so high it becomes almost impossible to reach again.  Lucas' original Star Wars is considered by many to be the best of the franchise and the best of Lucas' career.  Very few people would argue that the first Matrix was the best and that the others are nowhere near as revolutionary.

b.  Lack of Limitation.  Once these directors are declared geniuses, they think that they can do no wrong.  They forget that their limitations and compromises often made their films better.  Remember Spielberg originally wanted to show much more of the shark in Jaws.  It was only because of mechanical reasons that he had to force himself to creatively show the shark's presence without the shark.  This jump off the deep end is seen best in M. Night Shyamalan.  His first 3 films were so critically praised that he began to think all his ideas were gold.  This led to massive stinkers like The Lady in the Water, The Happening, and After Earth.  By buying into their own hype the close themselves off to the criticism that will keep them grounded as storytellers.

2.  The Repeaters:  These are directors who start off new and fresh, but begin to wear out their welcome when we find lots of repeating motifs in their films.  He points to Christopher Nolan and how he uses a lot of philosophical talk leading to a long running time and a complicated story.  For those who direct for a long time, the creative juices begin to run dry.  John Carpenter infamously began plagiarizing his earlier movies for his later movies.  Don't believe me?  See Ghosts of Mars and you can pick out all of his earlier films that he steals from.

3.  The Occasional Director:  These are directors that do not direct very much.  As a result they may not have a large body of great films and thus give the impression that they degrade in quality.  Francis Ford Coppola has made some truly classic movies, but he doesn't make that many.  Can you name any that he made in the last decade?

4.  The Hit or Miss:  These are directors who always swing for the fences.  They have bold story-telling styles.  But that boldness does not always guarantee successful storytelling.  Because they don't play it safe, they either knock it out of the park or strike out.  The Nostalgia Critic points to Tim Burton as a good example.  His good stuff is amazing, but his bad stuff is horrible.  But both bear the same extreme style.  I would say the same thing about James Gunn who directed the awful Super but made the amazing Guardians of the Galaxy.  In one the extreme style failed and in the other it worked.

I would add only one other reason to the ones listed by the Nostalgia Critic:

5.  Fatigue:  Directing a film is a draining processes.  To do it repeatedly requires an incredible amount of stamina.  There are so many forces aligned against you from making good art that I think it is impressive that as many good movies get made.  And like anything else, routine and labor can turn a work of passion into a monotonous activity.  I am surprised more big name directors don't burn out more.

Of all the above factors, I think the lack of limitations is the biggest.  We may big-budget spectacle, but many would agree that most blockbusters lack the character and heart of classic films.  When the ability to visually realize your film was less available to directors in the past, they had to rely on emotionally grounding the characters so you could suspend your disbelief.  But now our special effects have become 3D and our characters have become flat.

A great storyteller will know their strengths but they will always challenge themselves.  I disagree with the Nostalgia Critic's assessment of Nolan.  With each film I see him doing what he does well and then adding another layer.  In Interstellar I saw someone who once again asked philosophical riddles.  But I saw a director reaching deeper emotional truths than he had ever reached before.

Anyway, those are the reasons good directors go bad.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #7 - The Walking Dead

(2010 - Present)

The Walking Dead title card.jpg

I could never have predicted that this show would have become the phenomenon that it is today.  Based on the Robert Kirkman comic book of the same name, The Walking Dead is a bleak, violent, and sometimes downright disgusting view of human beings put into the most extreme survival situations.  And while the TV show has all of those elements, it made the wise decision to focus on the heart of the human person: how it breaks, hardens, and is redeemed.

Set in an unexplained zombie apocalypse, the main hero Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his small band of survivors as they try to overcome the hordes of zombies and other maurading humans.  What could have been simple horror schlock instead became a show exploring the boundaries of human morality in extreme conditions.  This show is the Lord of the Flies.  It asks the question: "How far would you go to survive?"

And while that sounds horrible, and at times it is, there are moments of hope.  What makes this show watchable is that even in this broken world, there are those who try their best to be moral heroes.  I reflect on the difference between this show and Game of Thrones, which is also set in a dog-eat-dog world of Westeros.

There are no saints in Westeros.

But there are saints in The Walking Dead.  They are few and far between, but you can find them.  And just like the saints of this world, they are rejected and suffer for it.  There are no easy answers in The Walking Dead, but there are clear ones.  As a Catholic, you can find such wonderfully rich examples of morality.  Two come to mind at once.

At one point, Rick and Hershel (Scott Wilson) are made an offer to turn over one of their own to be tortured to death or face total annihilation.  At first they both decide to do it for the sake of their families.  But after Hershel reflects on the Scriptures with his daughters, he finds the strength to do what is right and not do this wicked thing.

That isn't to say that everyone is filled with faith on the show.  In fact, Hershel's daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan) begins to feel her faith slip away.  But in one scene she confronts a priest who wants to die because he saved his own life and let his parishioners die.  While looking down on him broken on the floor he cries, "They're all dead because of me."  Maggie replies, "Yes.  They are."  And then she reaches out a hand and lifts him up.  She then joins him in prayer.  Notice the very Catholic view of sin and forgiveness here.  There is conviction in Christ, but not condemnation.  He has done something horrible, he owns it, and now forgiveness can take place.

Please don't misunderstand, the show is not particularly focused on theology.  And there are just as many dark moments (if not more) than their are hopeful ones.  But I cannot tell you how appreciative I am that this show takes faith and God seriously.  Some characters lose faith.  Others cling to it.  But no matter what, it is not simply dismissed as it is most media.  That alone gives The Walking Dead high regard in my book.

But from an artistic point of view, the show is also incredible.  It is richly cinematic show that pulls you into the world visually.  And notice its lack of music.  For most of the episodes, you will not hear a score.  The producers have such confidence that the visuals with convey the emotion of the scenes that they do not need a lot of music to emphasize it.

The acting is also fantastic.  It is amazing to see how the characters have evolved over the years and how the actors have made those changes organic and powerful.

The first episode of the series set up the entire feel for the show.  It was scary and dire with action and lots of deep emotion.  I always remember in the pilot where Morgan has a chance to shoot his zombie wife and simply cannot bring himself to do it no matter how hard he tries.  At this point you knew this was a zombie show about the human heart.


As of right now, The Walking Dead has not jumped the shark.  One of the smart things that the show has done is that it reinvents itself every season or so with new characters and locations.

"Pretty Much Dead Already"
I can understand if someone watched the show and took this episode as their TV Tap Out (SPOILERS BELOW)
The entire season had been focused on finding Carol's daughter Sophia.  But the end of this episode not only revealed that Sophia had been dead the whole time, but that she was a zombie in Hershel's barn.  The level of despair that this episode has is overwhelming.  While the show never promises a happy ending, this was a real gut-punch.  And this was only half-way through the show's roughest spot: season 2.  But starting with the 3rd season the show found its way again.

"No Sanctuary"
This episode has all the best and worst that the show has to offer.  You see the absolute worst in humanity, where people treat others as essentially livestock.  But you also see our heroes at their best.  Not only does this have some of the best action sequences of the entire show, but it still reminds us why we root for them.  When they come across a container where someone is imprisoned, some contemplate leaving it alone to save their own skins.  But Glenn says, "That can't be who we are."  That sums up our heroes.  This world pounds them down, trying to turn them into beasts.  But they refuse become that.  Yes, they fail along the way, but they never stop trying.  This episode also has one of the happier endings that the show has ever had.


The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies.  It's a show about the human condition and forces us to put a mirror up to ourselves and ask some difficult questions.  And while there is a great deal of darkness in the show, there is also light.  And the darkness has not overcome it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Charity of the Month: Avila House

Front of the House edited
Hello all,

I know I haven't done one of these in a while and shame on me for that.

I would like to return to a charity that I promoted here last year.

I've written a great deal about the impact that Fr. Larry Richards has had on my life.

Currently he is fundraising to restore the Avila house as a retreat center.  I can speak from personal experience that religious retreats can be an opportunity for life-changing moments.  We should all look for anything we can do to make it possible for others to come to know Christ in a profound way.

You can read all about Fr. Larry's plans here.

If you would like to donate, you can follow the link here.

And as always, I will never ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself.

New Evangelizers Post: On the Necessity of Justice for Mercy

I have a new article up at  

We have now entered the Year of Mercy, a wonderful year when we focus on the incredible love and forgiveness that Christ brought to the world. Mercy is a truly heavenly thing. As Shakespeare wrote, “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…” (Merchant of Venice, Act IV Scene I)

And that is the mercy we find in the Gospel. But what about before the Gospels in the Old Testament?

A common cudgel used by secular society against the Church is the harsh justice presented in the Bible before the birth of Christ. Our opponents will point to God sentencing whole populations to death for infractions that are rampant today. What cities in the modern world could pass the test of Sodom and Gomorrah now? Capital punishment was enforced by the Jewish people for idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, and the like. The severity of the rules handed on by Moses sometimes appear at odds with the gentle forgiveness offered by Jesus. But the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. We didn’t get a different God with Jesus. And God is not schizophrenic. He was not all fiery and angry at first but then mellowed out for the Gospel.

So how do we explain the relationship between a God of severe justice and gentle mercy?
Simple: You cannot have mercy without justice.

You can read the entire article here.