Captain America: The First Avenger

 A refreshingly unapologetic pro-American thrill ride. Fine acting. A rousing musical score. Superb visual effects. A dash of humor. Plenty of imaginative action. A slick retro vibe with sci-fi gizmos galore. And best of all, a hero who is genuinely heroic through and through. There’s no doubt about it: Captain America is the best superhero movie of 2011. To quote another critic, “Hating on Captain America just isn’t American. Go ahead and move to Canada; I’m sure they have some magical Mountie who’s thwarting evil loggers.”

“I can do this all day…”

(I’ll be posting a more in-depth review of
Captain America: The First Avenger on
my movie blog Reel Quick)

Book Review: Think

 Too often, we tend to pit thinking and feeling against each other – particularly when it comes to the Christian experience. But glorifying God with our hearts and minds is not either-or, but both-and.  In his latest book Think, John Piper challenges the reader to “think about thinking” and consider how the heart and mind “glorify God together”.

In his introduction, Piper writes,

The ultimate goal of life is that God be displayed as glorious because of all that He is and all that He has made and done – especially the grace He has shown in the work of Christ. The way we glorify Him is by knowing Him truly, by treasuring Him above all things, and by living in a way that shows He is our supreme treasure (Phil. 1:20-21, 23; 3:8).

Therefore, the main reason God has given us minds is that we might seek out and find all the reasons that exist for treasuring Him in all things and above all things. He created the world so that through it and above it we might treasure Him. The more we see of His surpassing greatness and knowledge  and wisdom and power and justice and wrath and mercy and patience and goodness and grace and love, the more we will treasure Him. And the more we treasure Him, the more He is consciously and joyfully glorified. The point of this book is that thinking is a God-given means to that end.

… I hope that this book will rescue the victims of evangelical pragmatism, Pentecostal short-cuts, pietistic anti-intellectualism, pluralistic conviction aversion, academic gamesmanship, therapeutic Bible evasion, journalistic bite-sizing, musical mesmerizing, YouTube craving, and postmodern Jell-O juggling.  In other words, I believe thinking is good for the church in every way.

Think is a fairly short read – 200 pages or so – but the length does nothing to weaken the impact or importance of Piper’s message. Words are not wasted: each one feels carefully chosen, like it’s there for a reason, instead of merely taking up space on a page. This, coupled with Piper’s frank, humble, and conversational writing style, makes the book an eminently readable one.

This is not to say Think is easy fare: it does, after all, deal with “the life of the mind and the love of God” – a rather complex subject. It goes without saying that in order to really understand this book, you need to apply yourself and think about what is being said. Piper, however, tackles this complicated subject matter in a surprisingly understandable way. He takes what might have been an insufferably dry and academic read and turns it into something we mere mortals can grasp. *wink wink*

Think gets my unqualified recommendation – no two ways about it. Without elevating one over the other, Piper shows us how the mind and the heart must both be used in glorifying and loving God. It’s a fine balance, but he strikes it perfectly.

Flotsam & Jetsam (7/21)

Thy Righteousness in Heaven – Excellent words from Petra. “Why is that mirror still showing the same old sinner, or worse? I’ve tried. I’ve prayed. I’ve studied. I’ve believed. If grace cannot fail me, then what? Did I fail grace, or worse, did I fail to get it?”

Book Recommendation: Why Revival Tarries – Looks like a worthwhile read.

Reel Quick – It took awhile, but this week, I reached a marker of 101 reviews on my movie review blog. *pause to pat self on back* And on we go…

Prayer Request – Continued prayer for Joel Garner would be most appreciated as he battles severe illness.

Weekly Dissections – Click here for my review of The Return of the King (2003), here for Samuel Hadfield’s review of The Eagle (2011), and here for Eric’s review of X-Men Orgins: Wolverine (2009).

Indifferent – A superb, thought-provoking short story from Michael Wright. (Discretion is advised for younger readers, due to mature themes and some strong violence).

Prayer Update – On Craig Boyd, who is currently recovering from surgery.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – The sequel to the first Sherlock Holmes film is set to be released in December 2011. As far as I can tell from the trailer, it looks awesome.

Jack the Huckster – Great stuff from RT. “Since we are constantly being offered new experiences and well packaged sanctification techniques, we must continually guard against growing tired of Christ Jesus our High Priest, Prophet and King and trading him for something else.”

The Law of Sacrifice [Caution: Mature] – From the Art of Manliness website: “…sacrifice isn’t purely altruistic. The best definition of sacrifice is this: ‘To forfeit something for something else considered to have a greater value.’ (American Heritage Dictionary, emphasis mine). Sacrifice does not mean giving up something for nothing; it means giving up one thing for something else we believe is worth more.”

The Dark Knight Rises – The very first teaser trailer for the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. It reveals just enough to wet the appetite… and no more. Arrgh.

“Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” ~ Peter Marshall

Great Guy Movies (Pt. II)

If you have not read part one, and are thoroughly lost or confused as to the purpose of this post… do yourself a favor and click here.

Black Hawk Down (2001), [R]
Based on the book by Mark Bowden. Detailed, factual, and sticking closely to its source material, Black Hawk Down triumphs not only as a gripping story of camaraderie and courage, but also as a raw, unflinching depiction of modern warfare. The acting, cinematography, and directing are all top-notch, and the battle sequences are stunning in terms of sheer realism and authenticity. Above all, much like Saving Private Ryan, the film left me with an even deeper appreciation for the bravery and sacrifice of our troops.

Defiance (2008), [R]
Based on a true story, Defiance is one of the best, most underrated pictures of 2008. The historical accuracy of the film, though not perfect, is surprisingly good, and the performances of Daniel Craig and Liev Schrieber are spectacular. The story is well-told, intensely thrilling, and also thought-provoking, leaving the viewer with plenty to think about long after the end credits roll. Pretty much a must-see film, especially for guys.

Valkyrie (2009), [PG-13]
Valkyrie is a factual, unpretentious, and straightforward tale of heroism and sacrifice, revolving around the last attempt to assasinate Adolph Hitler. History tells us the assaination plot failed, and that Hitler committed suicide months later – but that doesn’t stop this movie from being as taut and suspenseful as any thriller.

The Lost Battalion (2001), [NR]
Notwithstanding its made-for-television origins, this A&E production is an exceptional war film. Rising above cliched storytelling and run-of-the-mill plot devices, it vividly portrays the horrors of war and the “never say die” attitude of the men who fought in such extreme conditions. The performances are solid all around, the history is accurate, and the battle sequences are tightly shot, impressively staged, and brutally realistic, in the tradition of other greats like Saving Private Ryan. And although copious amounts of strong language are staple in most of today’s war movies, the script for The Last Battalion is, for the most part, refreshingly devoid of unwanted obscenities.

Hotel Rwanda (2005), [PG-13]
This powerful, inspiring film tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina’s courageous stance against the savagery and violence that occurred during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. Don Cheadle gives the performance of his career as the protagonist, a man who has only his wit and willpower to protect himself, his family… and 1,200 refugees.

Taken (2009), [PG-13]
Pierre Morel’s Taken is a harsh movie. It’s violent. And it’s very unsettling. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. Amid the brutality is the powerful story of a father who loves his daughter so much he’s willing to fight to protect her life and purity. He doesn’t give up, he doesn’t back down, until she is safely in his arms again. And he doesn’t negotiate with bad guys. This isn’t to say the film’s ethics are flawless, and there is one particular scene in which I think Neeson’s character crossed the line. Everything considered, however, the good qualities of Taken more than redeem it, making it a worthwhile choice for those in search of a thought-provoking action thriller with plenty of grit.

Collateral (2004), [R]
Michael Mann’s gritty crime thriller is an excellent film that requires your brain to come along for the ride. And it’s a ride you won’t soon forget. Thanks to a smart script, stellar plotting, and the raw performances of Cruise and Foxx, there’s ample opportunity for rich, thoughtful character studies that will provoke plenty of intelligent discussion long after the film is over.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), [PG-13]
Based on the novel by Richard Condon. The Manchurian Candidate is, in my opinion, one of the greatest political thrillers ever made. After watching it, all I could think was, “Wow.” Brilliant performances by Lansbury, Sinatra, and Harvey lend even more gravity to the already chilling storyline. I was literally on the edge of my seat during the entire film – especially during the final scenes, which add new meaning to the word “intense”.

Amazing Grace (2006), [PG]
Based on the true story of William Wilberforce and his passionate, never-say-die struggle to abolish the slave trade, Amazing Grace is one of those films that will have you on your feet cheering at the end. Despite a uniformly excellent cast, Ioan Gruffudd stands head and shoulders above them all – his portrayal of Wilberforce is something to see.

A Man Called Peter (1955), [NR]
Based on the book by Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter is a superb depiction of the life of Peter Marshall, an immigrant Scotsman who eventually became Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. A quick-witted, fiery preacher, he was a man who stood by his convictions, and who sought to serve God in every way he could… and God used him mightily because of it.

Once again, got any favorites/recommendations of your own? If so, be my guest and share ’em down in the comments section, whether you’re a guy or a gal.

Flotsam & Jetsam (7/19)

A Book GiveawayInto the Book – a Christian book review site which I recently started contributing to – is hosting its first book giveaway. If you’re interested (or know someone who is), click the link to check it out.

And Another… – For the month of July, Persis is giving away a copy of Don’t Call It A Comeback, edited by Kevin DeYoung. It looks like an awesome read.

Captain America: The First Avenger – It hits theatres this weekend, and if it’s even half as good as the trailer promises… it’s gonna be downright awesome.

What If P.G. Wodehouse Wrote Star Wars? – This clever piece is just too good to pass up.

The Great Commandment (Pt. 1) – The first of a new series of posts from Michael Wright.

Something Good At Huffpo – Good stuff from Phil Johnson. “Just as the material universe reflects the order and arrangement of a far Greater Intelligence, the intellectual climate of the world today (including the religious world) reflects the chaos that is the inevitable fruit of sin.”

Factual Monday – From Gregg.

Reel Quick – Click to read my review of Edward Zwick’s Defiance (2008), a war film based on the heroic lives of the Bielski brothers.

“A madman is not someone who has lost his reason; a madman is someone
who has lost everything but his reason.” ~ G.K. Chesterton