Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy: God Rest His Soul

photo by Gage Skidmore

I just learned of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, after a long battle with a lung disorder.

It is very strange to me that someone who had been around my entire life as an icon of the pop culture should now no longer be here.

Of course, his great fame is from Star Trek as the half-Vulcan Mr. Spock.  While his performance has been imitated countlessly through the years, that performance is actually quite remarkable.  Nimoy showed some remarkable subtlety and complexity with the role.  He understood that Spock was not without emotion, but he was someone holding his emotions in check.  When the damns burst either out of joy or sorrow, it knocked your socks off.

I don't think I recognized that when I was young.  The first time I ever really grasped that he was a talented actor was when I saw him in a television movie Never Forget.  He played a man who survived the Holocaust as a child, but as a man goes to court with a neo-Nazis group who claimed that the genocide never happened.  I remember seeing his powerful range and his ability to transform.  I actually forgot for awhile that he was the man who played Spock.

And his accomplishments as a director should not go unnoticed.  He helmed the highest grossing film of 1987 (Three Men and a Baby) and 2 of the more enjoyable Star Trek films (Search for Spock and The Voyage Home).

Nimoy was very much involved in his Jewish heritage and faith.  He caused some convtroversy with his photo series Shekhinah, which explored the feminine aspects of Judaism (with female models often in states of undress with religious objects).  But commented on growing up in Boston and being raised in a religious environment.

I will miss Leonard Nimoy.  I know it is cliche, but I can't help but think of Kirk saying goodbye to his friend at the end of Wrath of Kahn.

And on one final note.  It should be remembered that Leonard Nimoy could always make us laugh.  

Leonard Nimoy: God Rest His Soul.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Casting Call: Spider-Man

With Marvel ramping up to bring in a new Spider-Man to the MCU, it is time to cast a new wall crawler.

From what I understand, they want to skew a bit younger, keeping him in high school longer.  I also keep hearing the rumor that they are going to use Miles Morales.  I've said this before and I will say it again: terrible idea!

Peter Parker is Spider-Man.  Period.

So what we need is someone with Peter's vulnerability and wit but who cans till come off as an action star.

Here are our choices:

Josh Hutcherson
photo by Gage Skidmore

We know he can work in a big franchise and can do the action thing. And if you saw his latest performance in Mockinjay, he does have some skill.

Donald Glover
photo by Galeen Hadlett
He publicly campaigned for the part. He could definitely bring the humor and with that the character needs. I'd be very curious if he could bring the dramatic side.

Dylan O’Brien
photo by Gage Skidmore
We know that he can hold the center of a big-spectacal movie in The Maze Runner.  He definitely can still pass as a teenager while bringing a believable action hero quality.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster
photo by Elen Nivrae
This would be going for a much more cerebral Peter Parker, that would emphasize his nerdy-ness. While this was played up a bit in the last movie, I think they could push this more.

Steven Yeun
photo by Gage Skidmore
While he has grown a lot on the show The Walking Dead, he could still play very young. And he does have great comedic and dramatic range. He's basically the Spider-Man of The Walking Dead anyway.

Be sure to vote on the poll in the upper right corner of this blog.

Or vote other and put your suggestion into the comments of this post.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Best: Oscar Night 2015

I will be live-tweeting the Oscars tonight.  You can follow @CatholicSkywalk if you would like.

Until I saw American Sniper, I really had no horse in this race.  Now I'll be watching and hoping that the Academy voters can be open minded and not dump on the vast majority of movie-goers.  Again, not that the Academy should be completely populist, but it tends to be too much elitist.

Anyway, there is still time to play the Oscar Game.  Fill out the form here.

Here are my choices and predictions for tonight:

"American Sniper"
Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game"
Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Birdman"
Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
Michael Keaton - Birdman
Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"
Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"
Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
"Foxcatcher" (E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman)
"American Sniper" (Jason Hall)
"The Imitation Game" (Graham Moore)
"How to Train Your Dragon 2"
"Big Hero 6"
"Interstellar" (Nathan Crowley; Gary Fettis, Paul Healy)
"The Imitation Game" (Maria Djurkovic; Tatiana Macdonald)
"Ida" (Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland)
"Unbroken" (Roger Deakins)
"Birdman" (Emmanuel Lubezki)
"Into the Woods" (Colleen Atwood)
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Milena Canonero)
"X-Men: Days of Future Past"
"American Sniper"
"Interstellar" (Hans Zimmer)
"The Imitation Game" (Alexandre Desplat)
"Lost Stars" from "Begin Again"
"Glory" from "Selma"
"White Earth"
"Me and My Moulton"
"American Sniper" (Joel Cox, Gary Roach)
"Boyhood" (Sandra Adair)
"Boogaloo and Graham"
"Guardians of the Galaxy"

As you can see, in nearly every major category the film that I want to win is not the one that I think will win.  But we will see.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: The Tenth Leper Lenten Challenge

I have a new article up at

I apologize in advance if someone wiser than I has already come up with this idea and in my ignorance I have now aped someone’s originality.  

But a number of years ago, I was introduced to an activity called an “Affirmation Circle.”  What happens is that people gather in a circle and one person is chosen.  Then everyone in the circle goes around and says at least one thing they like, admire, or generally think is good about that person.  The person chosen can only respond, “Thank you.”

I don’t know about you, but I tend not to be a big fan of these touchy-feely exercises.  My patience for them is limited.  But despite that, I have witnessed the power of this activity. 
We often only hear or allow ourselves to hear the negative things about ourselves. 

 Sometimes we not only have to face our fears, but we have to face our hopes.  It is amazing to me how some people never recognized the good effect they are having on others.  When I participated, I learned things, surprisingly good things, about myself.
Giving thanks is an essential part of who we are as Christians.  I always think of the tenth leper who Jesus healed:
 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.  As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”  And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”  (Luke 17:11-19)
I cannot tell you how often I go through my life like the other nine lepers, having momentary gratitude and then moving on and forgetting the amazing gifts given to me.
But I don’t want to be that anymore.

So I would invite all of you to join me in The Tenth Leper Lenten Challenge.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Best: Saturday Night Live Sketches

Tonight they will be celebrating 40 years of SNL.  Whether you enjoy it or not, the show it is a television institution.  

And its influence on the popular culture, for good or for ill, is profound.

I remember once a student said to me that Sarah Palin was stupid.  When I asked why, he said, "She said that she could see Russia from her house."  Of course she never said that, but the impression took hold in people's minds.  

The show has power.  It helps shape the perception of the events around them.  

But that is a topic for another day.

For now, let us go through the best sketches from this sketch comedy show.


There has been no skit I looked forward to more than this.  Because you don't know what skits will be performed each show, each one is a surprise.  When I would hear the Jeopardy music play, I would perk up.

The sketch was silly and bawdy and hysterical.  One of the unexpectedly great things about the bit is Will Ferrel plays the straight man to his insane cast.  Just sitting hear thinking about Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds, Jeff Goldblum, Adam Sandler, Calista Flockhart, Keanu Reeves, John Travolta, Michael Keaton, Jerry Lewis, and the others parodied makes me smile.  Some great lines:

"I'll take the rapists for 200."
"That's 'Therapists' Mr. Connery."


This one of those "near the end" skits.  It starts off like a silly kids show.  Introducting Katie Kindness, Carla Caring and Umberto Unity.  But then Jinglheimer Joe was introduced to Fred Friendship.  From the moment that Joe says, "I don't think this is a good idea," I could not stop laughing.


The skit, "Debbie Downer," is actually not that funny.  It is serviceable, but it wears.  But when they first rolled out the skit, it was a disaster that was so funny that no one could stop laughing, especially the audience.


Honestly, when I think of Christopher Walken, I actually first imaging Kevin Spacey's impersonation of him doing an audition for Han Solo.  And I'm not just biased to this skit because I am CatholicSkywalker


Speaking of Walken, he is the best host because no matter what he does, he's funny.  I don't know what it is, but he has the quirkiest line delivery.  My favorite moment of his isn't "More Cowbell" or "Champagn-ia" or a lot of those better known ones.  My favorite moment of his is a Seth Meyers  skit: Pranksters.  It starts so lame, but escalates to hilarity.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of Missing Masculinity (REPOST)

(I wrote this article a few years ago regarding the book 50 Shades of Grey.  Now that the movie is coming out on Valentine's Day, I thought it was apropos to revisit this article and reflect on why this piece of violent pornography has become so popular.)

Sad as it is, the book 50 Shades of Grey has sold over 65 million copies around the world.  For those who are unfamiliar, it is about a young, intelligent, ambitious young woman who finds herself drawn to a handsome young man who is into sado-masachism.  In the book, she willingly participates in being dominated by a man and it is described in lustful detail for several pages.

Now, this is not a book review, since I have not read it.  It would be wrong of me to comment on the quality of the writing, character development, plot structure, diction, etc because I am in no position to do so.  Whether or not this book is grand literature or illiterate drivel is not the point I would like to make.  Instead I thought I would explore why a book like this is so popular.

It is a mystery to me.  Perhaps it is incredibly well written.  But let us leave that theory aside for the moment.  There are many well-written, unread books in the world.  Particularly, this book is popular among women.  And that is what I find deserves some attention.  This is not a book about a woman becoming sexual aggressive and taking control of her life.  It is about a woman who submits to being treated like an inferior for the pleasure of another.  (Forgive me as I try to write vaguely about the details, because too much description of an erotic thing becomes an erotic thing).

So why, in this day and age when we came through the Women's Liberation movement would so many women be attracted to a relationship that was so clearly unhealthy?  I think the answer lies in something missing from our culture: masculinity.

I think that it was a misunderstanding of feminism to view masculinity as a negative.  A popular slogan of feminist icon Gloria Steinem was "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."  When I was in college I took a course called Philosophy of Woman taught by a radical feminist professor.  It was abundantly clear from the lecture and the texts that the problem with society was that we acknowledged any difference between the sexes.

It was argued that acknowledging and reinforcing those differences resulted in chauvinism, which is the belief that because men and women are different, men are superior.  Not only that, but these differences were created from chauvanistic ideas.  Chauvanism was the cause and result of any differences between the sexes.

In the chauvinist's ideal society, men have all of the power and influence and women are treated like commodities.  The radical feminist believed that in order make sure that one sex is held superior over another, all gender differences should be abolished.  In an ideal society for the radical feminist, you should walk into a room and based on all outward appearance including clothing, hair, makeup, muscle mass, etc, you would not be able to tell who was a man and who was a woman.

Of course the wise philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft astutely pointed out that even though the chauvinist and the radial feminist are opposed to each other, they make the same logical mistake.  They both assume that any difference is a difference in value.  Air and water are different, but that does not mean that you can live without one of them.  Just because men and women are different, it does not therefore necessitate that this difference should mean one is better than another.

Be that as it may, the influence of modern philosophies has led to a demasculinization of pop culture, particularly television.  Look at Ray Romano's character on Everybody Loves Raymond.  The patriarch of his family, he is in no way assertive or strong.  He offers no real guidance or discipline to his children.  He cowers to his wife and his mother.

But he is not the only offender.  The most popular sitcom today is The Big Bang Theory.  None of the lead males carry traditionally masculine traits besides their raging libidos.  They are emotional adolescents never growing up into real men.

A real man has firmness of the will, with courage to act, and boldness in conviction.  A real man does not seek a confrontation, but will not shy away from one if it is for the right.  Yet I can remember through much of my college days that these traits were frowned upon as brutish, stubborn, insensitive, and violent.  We were constantly taught that masculinity was simple social convention that trained boys to be bullies.  As a result, I believe, we've pushed masculinity

Some may point to other areas of pop culture like hip-hop music or movies like The Hangover which show men being assertive to the point of overbearing machismo.  But that is the point: this is not real masculinity.  It is a parody, an ape of real masculinity.  But when you starve society of an integral part of human nature, they are going to hunger for it or anything that resembles it.  When you are hungry, you may eat things that would normally repulse you.

It makes sense that if we make our men less and less masculine that there would be those in our society who would turn to things which should be naturally repellent.  Books like 50 Shades of Gray portray a twisted, warped masculinity where boldness is dominance and strength is mere violence.  And yet when starved of masculine nature, some latch onto whatever it can find that is like it.

This applies not just to women, but to men as well.  Boys learn to be men by watching other men.  Who are their role models?  How do they see men behave and interact with others?  Is the way to a woman's heart to be like Joey, Chandler, and Ross?  Or should they be Lotharios like on Two and a Half Men or Game of Thrones?

To suppress masculinity from our culture is to leave a giant vacuum that invites more inadequate substitutes to try and fill the void.  And that which we should naturally reject as perverse, such as treating a woman like an object of lust and violence, becomes more mainstream.  That which should be black and white as been turned into too many shades of gray.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wednesday Comics: Spider-Man in the Cinematic Marvel Universe

picture by stick-man-11 (click here for link to license)

Spider-Man is coming home!

Before Marvel was able to come up with its master movie plan, it had licensed its most popular characters to different studios.  Fox was given X-Men and Fantastic Four.  And Spider-Man was given out to Sony.

As a result Marvel had some of their B-list players like Iron Man as the foundations of their cinematic universe.  It may seem hard to remember, but Iron Man was not nearly as well known 8 years ago as he is today.  Say "Tony Stark" then and you might get a blank expression in return.  Say "Peter Parker" and everyone gets the Spider-Man theme stuck in their heads for the next week and a half.

Creating a shared universe was an absolute gamble.  It wasn't until the Avengers shattered box office records that the full power of the Marvel plan came to fruition.  And now that they have Mouse Money behind them with the Disney acquisition, their franchise powers seem unstoppable.

Look at Guardians of the Galaxy, a film with no A-List names about a group of comic book characters most people hadn't heard of opening at the end of Summer Movie season.  And then it became the biggest hit of the Summer not just because it was good, but because it was Marvel.

With Sony's recent financial and publicity woes, this was the perfect time to shake things up.  They have agreed to lease the character back to Marvel.  So now Spider-Man can appear with all of his other Marvel compatriots.

It is confirmed that his first appearance would be in Captain America: Civil War.  Fans of the comic will remember that Spider-Man played an integral role in the events that unfolded there.  I don't see it playing out the same way, especially if the character is rebooted.

And rebooted he shall be.  Andrew Garfield is out, so it seems that they are eschewing the Amazing Spider-Man continuity.  This makes me a bit sad.  While the second installment was a bit bloated and convoluted, it had some truly wonderful Spidey moments.

Rumor is that the plan is to return Spider-Man to high school age and remain there for awhile, just like they did with the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book.

Speaking of which, there has been a lot of Internet pushing to get the new Spider-Man to be Miles Morales and not Peter Parker.

This is a horrible idea.

Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker was killed off and replaced by the younger Miles Morales.  A big deal was made at the time of the fact Morales was half-black, half-Puerto Rican, thus giving more diversity to comics.

But I can tell you that Morales is nowhere near as compelling of a characters as Parker.  I tried to follow the Miles Morales story, but they were so boring.  He wasn't awful or anything.

He just isn't Spider-Man.

If Marvel roles the dice on Miles Morales, I'm sure they could make a movie version of him work just fine.  But fanboys like me have been waiting for Peter Parker to join up with Cap and Hulk and Thor and Iron Man.  Using Morales would be like making a movie with Jean-Paul Valley as Batman or Mon-El as Superman.

We'll see though.  In the meantime, I'm excited at all the story possibilities that could come forth from this.  And who knows?  If this studio cross-pollination is successful, maybe we could get Fox on board for an epic Avengers vs. X-Men movie.

And then could you imagine a deal worked out with Warner Bros to do a Marvel vs. DC movie?  Okay, this last one is far fetched.  But if you had asked me a year ago if Sony would let Spidey into the Marvel MCU I'd have said you were crazy.

Stranger things have happened.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Charity of the Month: Avila House

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.

Fr. Larry writes:

Praised be Jesus Christ! 

I pray that this message finds you living in God's holy will!  This past Thanksgiving I sent to you a message asking for your help with our Retreat Center and I am just wondering if you prayed about it, and if you could help...  If you cannot, I fully understand that times are tough, and so please just pray for us!  God will not be outdone in generosity.  Thank you for your prayers and help! As always know that I pray for you everyday - May God bless you with His peace. 

In His love,

Fr. Larry

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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Best: Superbowl Commercials 2015

We were supposed to go to a Superbowl party last Sunday, but we got snowed in.  Still, we sat down and enjoyed the show.  And by show, I mean the commercials.

And while there were some awful commercials (Nationwide?  What where you thinking?), there were some delightful ones as well.

Below are the most entertaining commecials from last week (again, these aren't necessarily the best.  A good commercial makes you want to buy the product.  For some of these, I wouldn't be able to tell the product off the top of my head):

1.  Liam Neeson can sell anything

Pure awesome.

2.  We miss Breaking Bad.

I laughed so hard at this unexpected commercial that I scared my wife.

3.  Trained Raptors

If I wasn't excited about Jurassic World before (and I was), this would seal the deal.

4.  Proud Dad

I loved the twist at the end.  Made me go "awww."  But then again, I'm an old softie.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

TARDIS Travels: Exploring Doctor Who Part 3 - Clearing the Board

I am late in updating my continued exploration of the rebooted Doctor Who.  I've already written about my impressions of Season 1 and how I believe the TV Threshold can be found in the fourth episode of season 2, "The Girl in the Fireplace."

Now I have completed Season 2.

Overall, it is a marked improvement over the first.  David Tennant is fantastic as the Doctor.  I'm finally beginning to understand all the hhullabaloopeople have been making about the show.

Here are my overall observations (SPOILERS BELOW FOR SEASON 2)
picture by MisanthropicPoet

1.  Chemistry.  The relationship between The Doctor and Rose finally clicks in a believable way.  While I could see the connection between her and the Ninth Doctor, the Tenth Doctor has a much flirtier and intimate relationship with her.  And that chemistry was the heart of this season.  It made the last episode so incredibly heartbreaking.

2.  Cheapness.  I was hoping the production value of the show would improve, and it has.  But there seems to be an inherent cheapness to the show.  Maybe this is an outgrowth of the whimsical tone it sometimes tries to set, but it draws me out of what I'm watching.  I don't know what the show's budget it, but they should do more to make the aliens look less CGI.  Even the makeup looks cheesy at times.  In "Love and Monsters," it was silly and horrific.  And, I'm sorry, but I am over the Daleks.  I get that they are important to the show's history, but the production design needs to be updated or abandoned.

3.  Callbacks.  This season really reached back into Classic Doctor Who.  We saw the return of Sarah Jane Smith, a companion of the Third and Fourth Doctor.  We also saw the return of the Cybermen and it all culminating with a war between these classic Who enemies and the Daleks.  But I have to say that I'm not a fan of them.  Perhaps this is only because I've jumped onto the new series and I am not a fan of the classic shows.

4.  Creepiness.  I am not a horror fan, but the scariness factor on the show is actually one of the things the show does best.  The episode on the Impossible Planet was so scary in tone, design, and directing that I was on the edge of my seat.  And the constant sense of foreboding that accompanied the season made the tension build and build until it became wonderfully unbearable.

5.  Clearing the Board.  The finale really felt like closing the book on the main cast of Season 1.  And while I liked Rose, I was not a fan of the the dynamic between her mother and Mickey.  With this grouping out of the way, it feels like a fresh start for the show.  And it felt like a cathartic goodbye with Rose finally saying, "I love you."  It was sad, but necessary.  There was something a bit cloying and low brow about those characters that were weighing the Tenth Doctor down.

Stay tuned for my reflection on Season 3.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Trailer Time: Daredevil TV Series

I am in the minority of people who loved the Affleck Daredevil, especially the Director's Cut.  But despite my strange tastes, the movie is generally panned.

So it is understandable that Marvel did not want to do another theatrical feature, but is instead rebooting Daredevil for the small screen.

I am very curious about this series.  I love that it is on Netflix, so as soon as it comes out, I can spend a weekend binge-watching it (if it's any good).

I also love how Marvel is keeping with the synergy of the movie and television properties, unlike DC.  This show will tie into to the same universe as Avengers, Agents of SHIELD, etc.


(Oh, and I kind of dig how his first outfit looks like his costume from The Trial of the Incredible Hulk).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: Love Being Hated

I have a new article up at

I remember waiting for an elevator at a store.  When it opened, there was a woman waiting to get off.  I was lost in some random thought, so I rudely went in before letting her out.  I realized my error as soon as I entered, and I said, “I’m sorry.”  To which she responded, “I should say so.”

That little exchange stayed with me for most of the day.  I can still feel a little sting when I remember it.  I was in the wrong and she had every right to be angry.  But strangely, this person I have never met before, and probably will never meet again, is left with a single impression of me (that she has probably now long forgotten) as a mean, terrible person (albeit in a smallish fashion).  The idea that anyone could feel that way about me is unsettling.

I think that is the same with most of us.  While there are those who let things like this roll easily off of their backs, many of us would do almost anything to avoid being hated.  It gnaws at us when we are spurned and we burn with shame when we are bullied and defamed.  We tell little white lies to avoid angering the people around us.  We flatter so as to avoid wrath.  In school we learn to conform so as not to stand out for ridicule.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I would say that it is very human of us to hate being hated.

And that is why it is so important that we learn to love being hated.

You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Film Review: American Sniper

I am not a fan of Clint Eastwood as a director.  I tend to find his movies long, aimless, and kind of boring, with an occasionally potent scene.

So when I went to see his latest film, American Sniper, I was not optimistic.

But what I saw was his greatest film ever.

American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), "The Legend" who has the military's highest record for sniper kills.  The story opens with Chris already in the war, keeping watch over a military convoy as he sees a woman hand a child a grenade to use on the Americans.  The scene is horrific and tense.  The movie then brings us to a flashback of Kyle'e upbringing.  He is a manly Texan who is inspired to join the Navy SEALs after the American Embassy in Tanzania is attacked by terrorists.  He goes through the intense training and meets Taya (Sienna Miller).  They engage in a whirlwind romance that is jarred by the Iraq War.

What follows is a harrowing tale of Chris as he enters the hell of war that takes its toll on himself and his family.  To add to the tension, American Sniper portrays an insurgent sniper, Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) who acts as the chief rival and foil to Chris as their inevitable confrontation builds to a head.

This is the movie of young man.  It has the vibrancy and the energy of someone at the beginning of his career. But Eastwood, at 84, has infused his movie with a dynamic power that I haven't seen in his other films.  He is very conservative with his movie score, but in this case it serves to underscore the realism of the movie and when music does come up, it is heartbreaking.

The staging of the action sequences is great.  He doesn't cut it up and make it choppy.  Instead, he gets most of the excitement out of the rising tension.  Whenever Chris and his crew enter the war zone, you feel the danger.  A knot enters your stomach that doesn't let up until he's home.

And when Chris is home Eastwood plays up a whole different type of drama.  It is a testament to the film that the home-front scenes are just as compelling as the war scenes.  Miller is particularly good as her frustration mounts.  She does not come off as cloying or unreasonable as Chris pulls further and further away.

The biggest drawback of the film are the supporting characters.  Outside of Chris and Taya, I probably could not tell you the names of anyone else.  This was the same criticism I had of Big Hero 6.  They all have distinctive looks and voices, but it feels more like they are there to fill a certain space than that they are there to inhabit three dimensional characters.

But what really brings this movie together is the wonderfully stoic performance of Cooper.  I have never seen him better.  The great thing about what he does is his restraint.  He plays Chris as a very John Wayne-type man.  He is the strong, silent type in the classic sense.  His quietness is not portrayed as a flaw that has to be broken, but just a character trait.  Chris is who he is and he is okay with that.  Cooper plays portrays him with a simple honesty that resonates with anyone who knows the personality type.  But Cooper's performance has power percolating behind his eyes in a way that transforms him.  I stopped thinking of him as Bradley Cooper.

Thematically, the movie is powerful and refreshing.  Like most modern war movies, it doesn't hold back the horrors of war.  But it is does a great job of making clear that there is no moral equivalency between the terrorists and the Americans.  I think people are hungry for a movie that doesn't berate them for rooting for our soldiers.  The movie doesn't shy away from the toll that even the most righteous warriors feel, but it you never stop yearning for a happy ending for Chris and his family.

The violence is shocking and not gratuitous, even when our heroes are fighting evil terrorists.  As Catholics, we recognize that we need to reach out to others in peace.  But we are allowed to use violence in a just war.  There is no question from the movie's perspective, Chris believes the war is just and his intent is noble.

This is also one of the manliest movies I have seen in a long while.  Writer Jason Hall captures the way guys talk to each other.  When his injured friend mentions that he is going to get surgery to fix his face, Chris responds, "About time."  This seeming cruelty is typical of the way most men relate to each other.  It also touches upon the responsibility men feel to not only provide for their family but to show loyalty to their pals.

Christianity and the Bible are brought up, and while they are not centerpieces of the movie, they are treated with respect.  Chris Kyle is not portrayed as a holy rolling saint.  But when one of his fellow soldiers begins to question his faith (whether it was in God or in their mission), Chris tries to turn him in the right direction.

As an aside, I love the fact the Chris named his group of SEALs "The Punishers" after the comic book character, going so far as to paint his logo on their stuff.

When American Sniper was finished, everyone left the theater quietly.  It felt disrespectful to talk.

This is one of the best movies of the year, and the best of Eastwood's career.

You should see it.

4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Trailer Time: Fantastic Four Teaser

There have been a lot rumors about Josh Trank's reboot of Fantastic Four.  Most of them have been negative.  So a lot has been riding on this first teaser.

THE GOOD: What I can say about it is that visual look of the film is strong.  I particularly like the look of the cast.  I was dubious about Miles Teller, but he seems to pull off the strong, but nerdy look.  And even those tiny seconds of film, Kate Mara seems like a much smarter Sue Storm than Jessica Alba.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:  I really don't know what the heroes will look like.  It was very sparse on the super powers.  And I want to see how they will handle all of those things.  Also, I still have no sense of the story, although it seems like they are taking their cue from Ultimate Fantastic Four, which is fine by me.

So right now, I am cautiously optimistic, but I need to see more.


Also, does anyone else notice that the Thing isn't wearing pants in the last shot?

Sunday Best: Most Entertaining Superbowl Commercials

I watch the Superbowl every year.  Although I really couldn't tell you much about the games themselves.  I don't follow sports for the most part.

But for some reason, companies put together their big event commercials on during this game.  And I always find that the following day more people talk about the commercials than the game.

Below are, what I think, are the most entertaining commercials that have appeared at the Superbowl.

-these are not necessarily the most important.  Many consider the original Apple Computer "Big Brother" ad to be the one that made the Superbowl commercial an event unto itself.  But the ad is actually not that entertaining.
-these are not necessarily the best commercials.  As my good friend Rick O. points out, a good commercial makes you buy the product or service.  The below are not in that category.
-these are not necessarily the funniest.  By most entertaining, I simply mean the ones that stick with you, that you remember and go, "That was good!"

I know that this list is even more highly subjective than any other list on this blog.  But here goes.


This came out while I was in high school and everyone was copying it.  I don't know why it was so catchy, but it got the product name out there in a very creative way.


Isaiah Mustafa came onto the small screen as a model and mockery of manliness that had people talking about the "Old Spice Guy."


Please don't judge me, but I know this tune by Ray Charles better than any of his other songs.


This commercial made me laugh and laugh and made me look at the movie Cast Away in a whole new way.


I remember watching this and thinking, "If Clint Eastwood was running for president, he just won the election."


It was so silly and ridiculous for little Claire Piller shouting that cloying refrain, but it resonnated throughout the '80's.


Watch this and tell me that your heart doesn't melt a little.


I have watched this commercial over and over again.  It delights me in a way that I don't think any other commercial has.  I don't know why someone with the handle CatholicSkywalker would think that, but there you are.