Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Killing Jesus

Killing Jesus is a book about the life of Christ.  O'Reilly and Dugard don't just reiterate the Bible.  They infuse history and politics, giving the story even more depth than it already has.
I learned quite a bit beginning with Julius Caesar.  The authors claim that his assassination is critical to setting the stage in Jesus's crucifixion.  Julius Caesar, although ruthless, generally let conquered regions keep their cultures whereas his successors micro-managed.  Much attention was spent on the rise and fall of Julius Caesar which helped me understand the inferred politics of the era.
The writers also added some of the idiosyncrasies of Rome's most notorious leaders.  For instance, Tiberius had slaves perform sex acts for him.  If they failed to arouse the emperor, he would push them off of the cliff.  Some of the Jewish tetarchs weren't much better.

The authors claim that Jesus died at thirty-six years old whereas I always thought He was closer to thirty-three.  At the end of the book, the authors go over several theories of what happened to the other key characters.  Supposedly, Pontius Pilate was fired and left for Ethiopia where he and his wife became followers of Christ.  Other reports state that he left for Europe where landmarks were named after him in France and Switzerland.  I also learned about the horrible deaths of the disciples with exception of John.  John was exiled to Patmos where he wrote Revelation and died a natural death.  Years ago, I heard from a preacher that John never died but rose to Heaven alive. 
Killing Jesus is definitely a Christian book, but the authors treat the subject on a historical level.  I enjoyed it tremendously and understand why it is a best-seller.  I recommend this book to anyone who believes Jesus is the Messiah and/or want to learn about the history of his life. It's the perfect read for Easter.  5/5 Stars

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Movie Review: God is Not Dead

God Is Not Dead is about an atheist philosophy professor (Kevin Sorbo) who uses his position to promote his views.  He makes his students sign a pact that 'God is dead' on a piece of paper for the purpose of debate within his class.  He is very clear that religion will not be part of any discussion.  One of his students, Josh Wheaton, refuses to denounce God for any reason. 

The professor challenges Josh to debate the great minds of civilization by using religious reasoning.  At first, Josh is awkward while speaking to the class, but gradually finds his voice along with other great minds who believe in God for research.  His faith based on logic wins over the class. 
Josh's girlfriend dumps him for causing 'trouble' in college.  The college professor is irate because Josh beats him at his own game on his own field, the classroom.

There are other subplots such as an atheist reporter who finds out she is dying.  Her boyfriend dumps her because of her illness and she turns to God.  The professor's girlfriend is a Christian who dumps him for treating her badly.  A pastor who Josh turns to for guidance helps a Muslim girl in need.
My Review:  One of the many things I liked about this movie was its refusal in trying to appeal to everyone.  The Christian message is never altered in the name of being politically correct.  The theater was packed, full of young Christians who cheered when the hero, Josh, made great points about Christian philosophy during scenes inside of the classroom. The movie showed a Muslim father who almost strangled his daughter when he found out she converted-a scene many would be too afraid to film because of political backlash. 
Although some parts were predictable, I was surprised to see the professor get hit by a car and call out to God while dying.  At the end of the movie the director ran a list of court cases that show how Christianity is discriminated against on college campuses.  The movie had a great message and was very entertaining.  The acting was somewhat flat at times.  I wondered if the name Josh Wheaton was based on the town Wheaton, Illinois.  FYI-Wheaton is supposed to have the most churches per capita in the United States.  Kevin Sorbo, the only famous cast member, was the most convincing.  Overall, I highly recommend this movie to anyone who is a Christian or is curious about becoming a Christian.  Great flick! 4.5/5 Stars

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Elizabeth Eckhart Stops By with a Song of Screen and Paper-Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones: Song of Screen and Paper
By Elizabeth Eckhart

Following a piece great literature, there is often a high chance of an eventual play, movie, or television series based on the work, and along with these adaptations, inevitably, comes the battle between which is better. Fans of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy would have no problem rattling off a list of annoying changes Peter Jackson made in the movies, in spite of the film franchise’s massive success in the box office. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is no different. HBO debuted its television adaptation in 2011, and the show begins its fourth season on April 6, 2014 (you can find details here on streaming previous seasons for binge-watching) to a chorus of media fanfare, including everything from billboards in major cities to every imaginable merchandising tie-in.

Will the show’s need to entertain and continue its production schedule eventually make it part from the books altogether? It’s too soon to say, but it’s not too soon to take a look at some of the biggest differences between book and show thus far:

1. In the books, many of the characters are significantly younger than the show portrays. Robb and Jon are 17 on the show, but 14 in the books. Bran is 10 instead of 7, and Rickon is 6 rather than 3. Arya is 9 in the books but 11 on the show, and finally her sister Sansa also receives an additional two years (making her 13) on the show. The change in ages might be one difference, however, that most fans don’t mind. A thirteen-year-old Daenerys being forced to wed and bed Khal Drogo might be a little uncomfortable, as would many adult scenes throughout the storyline if the ages were not changed.

2. One of the most noticeable changes involves the scenes between Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister. In the book, Arya serves many people during her stay at Harrenhal, but Tywin Lannister is never one of them. While the switch-up allows the viewer to get a glimpse of both characters’ storylines at the same time, it might result in readers of the book feeling as if the show has lost some credibility.

3. HBO puts many relationships out in the open throughout the first three seasons, including those that George R.R. Martin had so far only hinted at in his work. Most notable is Loras Tyrell’s tryst with Renly Baratheon. While it can be picked up in the reading, HBO took the relationship a few steps further by making it a fairly well-known fact.

4. Of all the character changes on the show, Lady Talisa is one of the biggest differences. Lady Talisa doesn’t even exist in the books, despite her large role on the show. She is a replacement for Lady Jeyne Westerling, whom Robb marries in the books. The original Jeyne is not a nurse Robb meets on the battlefield, as he meets Lady Talisa, though Jeyne does help nurse his wound back to health when they do meet. The change in storyline gives the viewer a better look at Robb’s life on the show (in the novels, Robb’s storyline mostly plays out in the background) but the change of character from Jeyne to Talisa is still questionable.

5. Game of Thrones is known for its use of strong female characters, both on paper and on screen. At this point in the books, much is still unknown about Margaery Tyrell regarding her personality and internal thoughts. The show, on the other hand, has brought her front and center, and made her political prowess one of her most captivating qualities. This is one of the best changes, since television Margaery is much more interesting.

At the end of the day, are there a lot more changes from book to show than those on this list? Of course there are. But many of the changes seem to have been made with careful consideration and for good reasons. Overall, HBO has done the books incredible justice, and it will be exciting to see what they do with the rest of the series!
Thanks, Elizabeth for guest blogging!  Follow her at @elizeckhart.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Conspiracy Theory: What was Stanley Kubrick Trying To Say?

I am a Stanley Kubrick geek-The Shining, Clockwork Orange, and Eyes Wide Shut are some of the masterpieces that showcase his brilliance.  I am proud to say that I paid $35.00 for an autographed picture of Malcolm MacDonald in A Clockwork Orange.  I also got a picture with Malcolm and me which sits on my desk. 
Kubrick was a genius with an I.Q. second only to Einstein.  Before hearing all of the whispers of what Kubrick's movies were actually about, I felt disorientated after watching some of his movies.  There was something about them that made no sense.  Just ask Stephen King who has publicly stated numerous times that Kubrick's portrayal of The Shining sucked bigtime. 
But despite Kubrick's odd cinematic shots, choppy continuity, and seemingly irrelevant symbols stuck 'randomly' in frames, part of you has to wonder if this was all done on purpose.  What was the real agenda of his films?  Many believe the real message has little to do with the actual movie.  The Shining is probably the best example because it deviates so far from the actual book.  I'm not the only one who wonders.  Lately, I've heard quite a bit about conspiracy theories surrounding Kubrick.  After listening to Alan Park's podcast of Conspiracy Queries ( ), I felt compelled to share.
Alan had Jay Weidner as a guest.  Jay theorizes that Kubrick shot the footage of astronauts walking on the moon for the government.  He is not alone.  I've heard this theory before.  Weidner believes Kubrick went rogue on the U.S. government, causing him to move to England and refuse to fly on an airplane.  On a sidenote, Kubrick, a Jew, was obsessed with Hitler and German innovations during World War II.  He has been accused of being a Jewish anti-semite.
Kubrick's hidden messages might have caused his death.  Weidner insinuates that Kubrick was murdered while shooting his last movie, Eyes Wide Shut.  I've heard this many times before.  Officially, Kubrick died of a myocardial infarction while sleeping.
Room 237 is a documentary about The Shining and the symbolism behind the scenes.  A review will soon follow.

Kubrick's most famous quote: "Be suspicious of people who have, or crave, power." He added, "Never, ever go near power. Don't become friends with anyone who has real power. It's dangerous."

Here are some of the theories surrounding his movies:

Dr. Strangelove: A warning about fluoride
Clockwork Orange: Really about MK Ultra mind control
2001: A Space Odyssey: A Saturn Death Cult  (planet was Saturn and Warner Bros. made Kubrick change planet to Jupiter.  Why?), existence of aliens
The Shining: Classism, demonic evil, telepathy, oppression, abandoning the gold standard, Mayan Apocalypse
Full Metal Jacket: Military as gang, mental indoctrination
Eyes Wide Shut: Illuminati, orgies, pedophilia, sexual slavery, pagan worship  Ironically, Mick Jagger's girlfriend who just killed herself worked on the set of Eyes Wide Shut.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah: Movie Review

Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson, starts out with lots of action.  Like the story from Genesis, Noah gets divine visions from God that warn him of the upcoming flood.  It's not God who he seeks for answers, but his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins).  Methuselah is the man who lived the longest in the Bible.  Methuselah's father, Noah's great-grandfather, was Enoch.  Methuselah spells it out for Noah on what he is supposed to do. 

A forest of trees magically grows by Noah's home.  He has "Watchers" to help him prepare the ark.  These "Watchers" are different than the ones mentioned in Enoch.  They are angels, but encrusted in rock and gigantic in size.  Most of these "Watchers" choose to live with the rest of the world and partake in evil doings.  Noah's "Watchers" seek God's redemption.
Once Noah begins building the ark, the animals slowly find their way and take up residence in their stalls.  The nearby townspeople threaten Noah, but his "Watchers" protect him.  Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, want wives to bring on the ark once the rain begins.  Shem is very interested in Emma Watson's character, an orphaned girl that Noah and his wife raised for over a decade.  The only problem is that Emma Watson's character is barren and she wants Shem to have a wife who can give him a baby.  Methuselah, who has supernatural powers, fixes this problem.  Ham also has a love interest, but Noah puts the kibosh on the potential marriage.  Japheth has no one.
Once the rain begins to fall, they high-tail it to the ark.  The townspeople also want in.  Again, the "Watchers" protect Noah and his family.  As they rid the angry townspeople, they burst out of their earth-rock bodies and beam up to Heaven.

Life on the boat gets to Noah and the whole family.  Ham finds the town leader, Tubal-Cain, on board as a stowaway.  Instead of going to his father, he feeds the man and plots to kill Noah because he is still furious about the potential wife Noah left behind.  Shem gets Emma Watson's character pregnant and Noah promises to kill the child.  At the end of the movie he almost kills her twin daughters, but has a change of heart.  They find land, but Noah and his wife separate.  He becomes an old drunk and then Ham leaves the whole family to go his separate way.  Eventually, Noah and his wife reunite.  They live "happily ever after" with his two sons, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.
My Review:
Wow, where do I start...Watchers and nephilim are my thing.  I wrote two novels (Halo of the Damned and Halo of the Nephilim) based off of Enoch and the Great Deluge.  The "Watchers" were inaccurately portrayed in this movie.  I liked the mystique of Methuselah, but do not recall his character in the Bible story.  Perhaps it was in another writing.  Mathematically speaking, he could have been around before the Flood.  There is no mention of Shem's wife having twin daughters on the ark, let alone Noah attempting to kill them off.  I was taken aback and a little offended when the director turned Noah into the bad guy.  I read in other writings that Ham left his family.  Some believe he went to what is now called Germany.  All in all, the movie was entertaining.  My biggest problem is the accuracy.  I am not sure why the story was heavily altered.  For instance, there is never any mention of Tubal-Cain being a stowaway on the ark.  So why drift so far from the written word?  As a Christian, I'm looking for a retelling of the Bible with some dramatic license and other theories/writings thrown in.  On the other hand, if extra drama gets people interested in the Bible, then bravo to Director Darren Aronofsky.  Russell Crowe was great as was the entire cast.  The special effects were spectacular.   4/5 Stars

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Game of Thrones Alert: Merchandisers Making Fortunes

George R.R. Martin/Game of Thrones empire has expanded on a colossal level.  Like the great George Lucas (Star Wars), Martin and HBO are cashing in.  One of their new products is high quality beer.  Ommegang, located in Cooperstown, New York, has created a series of beer based off the dragons in the runaway HBO show.  The owner claims that George R.R. Martin is a big fan of the brewery.  Fire and Blood, as the beer is called, is taken from House Targaryen.  The beers come in three different labels named after Danerys's dragons-Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viscerion.  Ancho chiles and rye are key ingredients to the ale.

You can use these to play Drinking Game of Thrones!

Game of Thrones Pop!
Figurines of the most popular characters are available!  Can you tell who is who?  You can re-enact your favorite scenes or use for a collectible.  Adorable!

And of course there is a video game of how to play the Game of Thrones...
I'm not a gamer, but this looks really fun.  The plot of the video game is different than the series and books, but keeps some of the characters and the setting involved in the mission of the player.
I haven't purchased any of these products, but did treat myself to a coaster set that has all of the catchy sayings that the characters say.  It was inexpensive and serves as a great conversation starter when company is over.  More Game of Thrones blogging to come!  So happy that 'winter is almost here!'


Thursday, March 13, 2014

TV Review: Believe

Believe, NBC's new paranormal thriller, aired last Monday at 9pm Central.  The show starts with an edge-of-your-seat action sequence of two different story lines. 

The first plot begins with foster parents of a little girl (Bo) driving down the road.  A car slams into them.  The parents almost expect it, as if they know people are after the girl.  The car flips over from the other driver banging into their car.  The foster mother and daughter crawl out of the car, but the foster father stays, trapped inside.  A woman checks to see if he is still alive and then snaps his neck.  The killer quickly finds the mother and girl and then kills the mother.  She almost kidnaps the girl, but is forced to pretend that she is a good Samaritan as others and an ambulance are gathered at the scene.  
The girl, Bo, is taken to the hospital by the ambulance.  Once she is admitted, the audience soon learns she has supernatural powers.  She causes a power outage while in a MRI machine and then tells one of the doctors about a future patient he will save.

The second story line is about a prisoner who has a priest for a visitor.  He thinks the priest wants to save him but quickly learns that the priest is there to help him escape.  There are strings attached.  The prisoner is forced into stealing the little girl out of the hospital. 
As the two stories merge, more action takes place.  Two separate groups of people, one representing good and one representing evil, need the girl for their agenda.  At the very end of the show the audience learns the connection between the prisoner and girl (Bo).  He is her biological father.  I really liked everything about this show.  Great story, acting, action, and special effects.  I hope the rush continues. Leave a comment.  Curious to what you think! 5/5 Stars