All posts from “February 2010”

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February 28, 2010

Jesus and Esther Coming Home . . . on DVD

Just in time for Easter, Sony releases two DVDs of made-for-TV Bible stories


In 1999, Jeremy Sisto played the Lord in a made-for-TV miniseries simply called Jesus. It received mixed reviews, even from Christians--some who appreciated Sisto's very "human" portrayal of God's son, while others didn't appreciate the liberties the filmmakers took with Scripture . . . including an almost-romantic love interest in the story. Nothing like The Last Temptation of Christ, though, the story portrays Jesus as a winsome man that people were attracted to and listened to.

Jesus, and a companion DVD, the also made-for-TV Esther, are both releasing to DVD on March 2 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

February 26, 2010

Avatar: 'The most satanic film I've ever seen'

So says Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll of James Cameron's sci-fi adventure

In a recent sermon, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church, denounced Avatar as "the most demonic, satanic movie I've ever seen."

Driscoll denounced its "demonic paganism" and its portrayal of a "false Jesus" and a "false heaven." He also took issue with the film's depiction of "connecting, literally, with trees and animals and beasts and birds." Driscoll also said, "That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me."

Well, count me and many of my friends among them. Did James Cameron take a "Christian worldview" into this imaginative, fictional world? Nope. But did I find it "overtly demonic"? Heck no -- and even on the contrary. I saw some distinctly Christian themes in the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation, and even a model for missions. (Driscoll even takes our review to task in his sermon.)

Taking Driscoll to task, Houston Chronicle faith-and-art blogger Menachem Wecker, in a post titled "Does God Hate Blue People?", writes, "I don't think that Driscoll is correct that the Na'vi are demonic or that the film is demonic. If anything, Avatar should be applauded for celebrating a spiritual approach to life." He also notes that he was "struck" by the film's "Christian undertones."

In a post titled "How Not to Exegete Culture: Driscoll, Satan, and Avatar," the Children's Ministry and Culture blog elaborates on four mistakes that Driscoll made in his attack:

1) Misunderstand or Oversimplify What the Author is Saying; 2) Not Letting the Author’s Universe Exist on Its Own Terms; 3) Choose Combat Over Conversation; and 4) Failing to Find the Redeemable in the Movie. Read their explanations of these mistakes here.

Here's the part of Driscoll's sermon that is drawing so much attention:

February 25, 2010

'Blind Side,' 'Up' Big Winners at Christian Gala

Movieguide's 18th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala lauds 2009's best films & TV

Handing out more than $300,000 in prize money -- including $100,000 each to The Blind Side (Most Inspiring Movie) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (Most Inspiring TV Program) -- Movieguide's 18th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala was held Tuesday night in Beverly Hills.

The Blind Side was also named the best movie for mature audiences, while Pixar's Up was the best movie for families. Meanwhile, The Stoning of Saroya M. and Invictus tied for winning The Faith and Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values.

Read more about the awards and the event here.

February 25, 2010

'This Show Asks the Deeper Questions'

Locke and Jacob reminiscent of characters in Garden of Eden . . . but which is which?

Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay notes that Fake Locke/Man in Black/Esau "seems to be upright" in his conversations with people, while Jacob seems more mysterious and less "forthright; he seems to be manipulative." Fake Locke is reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but Jacob? With his vague "guidance" and lack of specifics? Seay speculates on what it all means in his latest vlog on the fascinating series:

February 24, 2010

When a Film Practices What It Preaches . . .

The filmmakers of 'As We Forgive' encourage others to help reconciliation efforts in Rwanda

Laura Waters Hinson's excellent documentary, As We Forgive, examines radical forgiveness and reconciliation in Rwanda, a nation still healing from the 1994 ethnic genocide that took the lives of as many as 1 million of its citizens. (I heard several amazing stories of forgiveness in my own trip to Rwanda last year.)

For Lent, Hinson and her team have launched a 40 Days of Forgiveness campaign, encouraging people to "join us this Easter season to build a village of reconciliation" in Rwanda -- through hosting a screening of the film, buying the DVD or other merchandise, and/or making a contribution to Living Bricks, a partner with Prison Fellowship in building homes for those Rwandans who have reconciled . . . and encouraging others to do likewise.

They've also launched a 40 Days blog, where various artists and writers are weighing in with their thoughts on forgiveness and reconciliation. (So far, myself and musician Sara Groves are the first bloggers, but more are to come in the weeks ahead.)

February 24, 2010

Christian Musicians to Stage Haiti Benefit

Saturday's Nashville event, which will stream live online, to benefit Compassion International

Remember the Hope for Haiti Now benefit concert last month? Featuring the talents of Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Madonna, Coldplay, Sting, Beyonce, and many others, the telethon raised over $58 million for relief efforts in the earthquake ravaged nation. Subsequent downloads of the album have raised over $3 million.

Help Haiti Live, a Nashville event featuring various Christian musicians, is the same idea on a smaller scale. Musicians including Alison Kraus and Union Station, Jars of Clay, Switchfoot's Jon Foreman, and Brandon Heath highlight the lineup for the show at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, to begin at 7:30 p.m. Central.

Proceeds -- through ticket sales, online giving, and texting (text "Disaster" to 90999 to donate $10) -- will go to Compassion International, which has long been on the ground in Haiti and serves more than 60,000 children in the nation. Amy Grant was slated to appear in a simulcast from Los Angeles, but that part fell through this week.

To watch the event on Saturday and/or to donate, click here.

Help Haiti Live - Feb 27

February 24, 2010

The Twisty Spirituality of Martin Scorsese

Relevant magazine explores the spiritual imagery in the films of the famed director

An excellent article in the latest edition of Relevant magazine notes that director Martin Scorsese once planned to be a priest before devoting his life to making movies.

Author David Roark writes, "Raised in a religious home, [Scorsese] attended Catholic school and spent a year in seminary. His life was once solely dedicated to the gospel. And though it’s uncertain where his beliefs are today, it is clear he is still working through his faith. Scorsese’s movies have been a lucid autobiography of his convictions and his struggles. He once stated, 'My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else.'"

Roark goes on to give a brief film-by-film examination of the spiritual themes of the director's movies. It's worth a look.

February 23, 2010

Sci-Fi Movies Ask 'What It Means to Be Human'

With 'Avatar' and 'District 9' up for Oscars, are sci-fi films finally being taken seriously?

An excellent USA Today article this morning explores the question of whether sci-fi movies are entering "a new realm," in the wake of Oscar Best Picture nominations for both Avatar and District 9.

The story notes that sci-fi films are typically slighted by the Academy; only three sci-fi movies (A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, E.T.) have ever been nominated for Best Picture before now.

"We seem to be witnessing a geek ascendancy [with] the appreciation of sci-fi entertainment," sci-fi author John Scalzi told the newspaper. "It's a great time for the genre. . . . Sci-fi lovers should be excited."

The article goes on to note sci-fi's traditional strengths in storytelling and using metaphors as social commentary; both trademarks are clearly evident in Avatar and District 9.

"Story, story, story," District 9 director Neil Blomkamp said. "Ours is a simple human tale, [Avatar] is an epic, Kiplingesque narrative. But both offer characters you can relate to."

But Sigourney Weaver, one of the co-stars of Avatar, probably got it most right when she said, "To look at these movies with [the sci-fi] label is to miss the points they are trying to make. These movies ask us to look at what it means to be human."

February 23, 2010

'Praying That Jesus Would Knock Me Down'

'Shutter Island' co-star Mark Ruffalo faked his conversion for Jimmy Swaggart as an 8-year-old

Mark Ruffalo, who stars in the No. 1 film Shutter Island, tells talk show host Tavis Smiley that he faked his conversion at 8 years old when Jimmy Swaggart was a guest preacher at his church. The episode will air tonight (check local listings).

Ruffalo said he agreed to "go down" to the altar to please his grandmother, who had been asking him to get "saved." He says that as Swaggart touched the heads of other children who had approached the altar, each child fell out, as if slain in the Spirit. But when Swaggart touched Ruffalo's head, he didn't feel a thing, but decided to fake it by falling backwards to the floor: "And that was my first acting gig."

2/24 UPDATE: Ruffalo talks more about that experience in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter, and his directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious, in which he plays a priest, is reviewed here.

Watch him tell the story -- and watch Smiley crack up as he hears it:

February 23, 2010

'A Truly Scary Christian Film'

Cloud Ten Pictures says 'Dangerous Calling' is "definitely not for children or for the faint of heart"

Cloud Ten Pictures, the studio that produced the Left Behind movies, is distributing an indie flick that it claims is "bound to stir up controversy."

"Dangerous Calling is going to shake things up," says Cloud Ten CEO André van Heerden says of the studio's first suspense/thriller release. Adds owner and chariman Paul Lalonde, "It's not everyday you come across a truly scary Christian film. Dangerous Calling may raise some eyebrows, but we're proud to be distributing it."

The movie, with the tagline "Church politics can be deadly," depicts a new pastor in a small-town church who stands up to a few members who oppose his ideas. As a result, the pastor and his wife face dire consequences. Cloud Ten says the movie gives "a nod to films like Psycho and Misery."

Dangerous Calling can be purchased here. The trailer:

February 22, 2010

30 Chick Flicks in 30 Days

What one guy learned about women while conducting that very experiment

Is it possible for a man to be more understanding of women after watching a marathon of chick flicks? Nick Waters, an Average Joe from Southern Oklahoma who has been married for seven years, would say the answer is a definite yes.

"Love is tender," Waters told after his recently concluded experiment, "30 Chick Flicks in 30 Days: One Guy’s Exploration of Romance Through Movies Loved by Women." "And any real relationship is based on forgiveness, compassion and vulnerability."

Sounds very 1st Corinthians 13-esque, doesn't it? He also says he learned a lot more about the "lost art of romance," and he tells The Toronto Star, "My wife has told me she notices I have changed. I am much better at picking up her body language and she notices an improvement in the way I read her. I have learned what not to do in our marriage from watching these movies."

Check out all of Waters' observations here.

February 22, 2010

The Candidates: What's in a Name (or Psalm)?


A lot of Lost fans noticed in last week's episode, "The Substitute," that Jack's name in the cave was assigned the number 23. (Warning: Don't read if you didn't see that episode.) The connection to Psalm 23 seems almost too easy for a guy with the surname Shephard.

Ever since I saw that, I've wondered, "Do each of the names in that cave relate to their respective number's psalm?"

Well, this is no exact science--and it's totally stretching. I mean, the producers didn't sit down 6 years ago and assign psalms to various characters. I know. But still, this is a fun little exercise, right? And so, I tried to see what I could discover. And while it may just be meaningless fun, I also stumbled on some very intriguing things--including a possible clue about who may replace Jacob.

Continue reading The Candidates: What's in a Name (or Psalm)?...

February 20, 2010

Films for Religious Study in the Classroom

Andrei Rublev, The Apostle, Babette's Feast top suggested list of 43 movies

M. Leary, co-editor of the excellent online publication Filmwell, has compiled a list of movies with religious themes that he believes would make great fodder for classroom discussion.

"When teaching courses on basic concepts in religious studies and comparative religion, I often find myself wondering what resources the history of cinema has to offer the classroom," he begins. "I often wish I could . . . integrate more cinema into the learning experience."

To that end, he has compiled a list of 43 suggestions, beginning with Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 1966), saying "This challenging film tracks a Russian Orthodox iconographer through the turbulent history of Russia, suggesting some complicated things about religion and history along the way. It is a virtual treasury of thoughts on iconography, politics, and religion."

Others on his list include The Apostle, Babette's Feast, Ghandi, Lilies of the Field, The Passion of the Christ, and last year's Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man.

Check out the list, and let us know what you'd add to it -- or subtract from it -- and why.

February 19, 2010

Catholics to Laud The Hurt Locker, Glee

17th Annual Mass and Awards Brunch will also honor author/critic Sr. Rose Pacatte

The Catholics In Media Associates 17th Annual Mass and Awards Brunch, to be held February 28, will honor The Hurt Locker with the CIMA 2010 Film Award, and Glee with the CIMA 2010 Television Award, it has been announced.

The CIMA 2010 Board of Directors Award will be presented to Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, MEd Media Studies, director, Pauline Center for Media Studies (PCMS) and media literacy education specialist, film and television journalist and author.

February 18, 2010

Jars, Skillet, Crabb, Maher Top Dove Nods

Each earns six Dove Award nominations; Michael English up for top male vocalist


Jars of Clay, Skillett, Jason Crabb, and Matt Maher each received six nominations for the upcoming Dove Awards, it was announced on Thursday.

Leading the way was producer Wayne Haun, with seven nominations. The 11-time winner is seeking his first major award. He's up for producer of the year, song of the year, and nine more. Click here for a complete list of nominees. The Dove Awards will be held April 21 at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House.

Two notable names were among the eight nominees for Male Vocalist of the Year -- one for his inclusion, one for his omission. Missing from the nominees is Chris Tomlin, who had won the award three straight years before losing it to Brandon Heath last year. And back on the list for the first time in sixteen years is Michael English, nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year for the first time since 1994, when just one week after he won that particular award, his Christian music career came to an abrupt end when his record label dropped him after he confessed to having an extramarital affair

English didn't perform for three years, but got back into the business slowly first as a producer and later as a performer again. He has slowly been re-accepted back in Christian music circles, and is now one of the singers in the Gaither Vocal Band.

February 18, 2010

'We Got a Lot of Answers in This Episode'

Tuesday night's episode of Lost was revealing in more ways than one


Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay notes that Fake Locke/Man in Black/Esau "seems really nice" and rhetorically wonders, "Is he really the good guy? The show keeps us guessing." Meanwhile, he also notes a bit of a "reversal of roles" in the alternate reality -- Jack seems to believe in miracles, but Locke doesn't. But, adds Seay, "I'm not going to read too much into it." That's always the temptation, isn't it! Check Chris's thoughts below:

February 17, 2010

Gospel Music Museum Coming to Chicago

The Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum is scheduled to open later this year

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that a new gospel music museum will open later this year in Chicago, the city where the genre was born.

The museum is the brainchild of the Rev. Stanley Keeble, who has worked with gospel legends Inez Andrews and Jesse Dixon. Rev. Leon D. Finney said it's "enormously important to have a museum like this in Chicago. Gospel music is part of the faith history of African Americans, as is how they shared that music with all people."

February 17, 2010

John Locke: Man of Science, Man of Faith?

This week's episode of Lost asks us to consider the truths of competing narratives.


After last week’s fairly quiet episode, this week’s Locke-centric entry, “The Substitute” (watch it here), moved us closer to answers on some of the biggest questions of the series: why are these people on this crazy island? Do they have any choice in what happens to them, or is fate in control? What forces are driving the story, and who falls on the sides of good and evil?


Continue reading John Locke: Man of Science, Man of Faith?...

February 17, 2010

Faith Bigger Than a Peanut

In recognition of Black History Month, documentary celebrates George Washington Carver

Long before he earned fame as a scientist and for his work with peanuts, George Washington Carver had endured slavery and the reconstruction era as a man of Christian faith.

His story is told in a new documentary, George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Way, now available on DVD.

"Carver's greatest overlooked contribution . . . was his love and appreciation for creation and creativity," says Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr., who narrates the film. "He was a true scientist who was more than a lab coat and a microscope."

The trailer:

February 17, 2010

Evangelicals Applauding Scenes of Fornication?

So claims a panelist at a Southern Baptist panel discussion on film and pop culture

In an otherwise often commendable panel discussion on Christians and cultural engagement, one participant spouted off a real head-scratcher when discussing Avatar, James Cameron's remarkable film that has broken all the box office records and is nominated for nine Oscars.

Russell D. Moore, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Theology, was quoted in The Christian Post as saying, "Keep in mind this is the same guy (James Cameron) who had evangelical Christians standing up and applauding to scenes of fornication in Titanic."

Say what?? I know a lot of Christians who liked Titanic, and as far as I know, every single one of them wished that the film had not included those rather explicit scenes. To what Christians is Moore referring? Sounds like such a flippant comment.

On the bright side, the panelists did encourage better discernment for Christians when watching films or otherwise engaging pop culture.

Mark T. Coppenger, professor of Christian Apologetics at the seminary, said, "We've become so cool about [culture] that we don't realize the dangers. We probably need to take a deep breath and back away from being so enculturated that we don't have any critical distance now."

Panelists acknowledged that Avatar depicts an Eden-like world that makes viewers -- religious and secular -- long for something more, something better. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of SBTS, said that universal longing yields a potential mission field for evangelicals.

"If this is the story that millions of people are paying so much to see, those millions of people are looking for a story," he said. "And that gives us the opportunity to speak of the story of stories – the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

February 17, 2010

'It's not a Christian film. It's a journey.'

So says Allen Hughes, co-director of The Book of Eli, where the Bible is a central character


In an interview with The Final Call, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam, Allen Hughes, co-director of The Book of Eli, says the film was made to "speak to everybody—Muslims, Christians, Native Americans, Buddhist, Hindus. I call it a oneness. That was the approach we took in filming it, editing it, creating a sound, a score, creating a oneness that if you came in as a Christian or a Muslim you could relate and could see what you wanted to see in it. . . . We both believed it would be great if Christians would embrace it but it's not a Christian film. It's a journey. It's about one man's personal faith and his journey to fulfill his mission in life."

Read the whole interview here.

February 16, 2010

Film Explores Link Between Faith & Science

Indie flick to open in Grand Rapids, MI, and go wider in the weeks ahead

With Academy Award winners Louise Fletcher and Ernest Borgnine playing small roles, a new film shot in Grand Rapids, Michigan, allegedly explores the relationship between faith and science.

The Genesis Code, opening in Grand Rapids, asks, "Is the six day story of Genesis true or is what science teaches us about creation true? The Genesis Code explores the idea that perhaps they are both true and science has 'caught up with' the truth of the Bible."

Here's the trailer:

February 16, 2010

Roger Ebert: 'There Is No Need to Pity Me'

In profiling the critic's battle with cancer, Esquire has a great story about a great writer


In one of the best pieces I've ever read about Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, Esquire magazine gives us a well-written and sensitive look into the life of a man who has lost his voice but not his spirit or gift. Arguably the best film critic of all time, Ebert is an interesting study -- he's an atheist in a world (big-time newspapers) that's generally populated with hard cynics, but he is full of joy, wit, and wonder, even as his life slips away.

"There is no need to pity me" he tells the Esquire writer, Chris Jones, by writing on a scrap of paper. "Look how happy I am."

Later in the story, Jones writes (italicized portions are Ebert's direct quotes):

Ebert is dying in increments, and he is aware of it.

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear, he writes in a journal entry titled "Go Gently into That Good Night." I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

There has been no death-row conversion. He has not found God. He has been beaten in some ways. But his other senses have picked up since he lost his sense of taste. He has tuned better into life. Some things aren't as important as they once were; some things are more important than ever. He has built for himself a new kind of universe. Roger Ebert is no mystic, but he knows things we don't know.

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Read the whole story here.

February 15, 2010

Pope Is into the Supernatural

Well, at least Santana's album of that name . . . and others on the Vatican's Top 10 list

It might not really be a list of the pope's favorite rock albums of all time, but the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has compiled its Top 10, which includes The Beatles' Revolver at No. 1 and Carlos Santana's Supernatural at No. 10.

The complete list:

1. Revolver by the Beatles
2. If I Could Only Remember My Name by David Crosby
3. The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
4. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
5. The Nightfly by Donald Fagen
6. Thriller by Michael Jackson
7. Graceland by Paul Simon
8. Achtung Baby by U2
9. (What's the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis
10. Supernatural by Carlos Santana

February 10, 2010

What's Happened to Sayid?

Speculation abounds as to what's going on with the Iraqi character.


Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in last night's episode of LOST, the second show if this sixth and final season. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Is Sayid really "claimed," as temple leader Dogen declares? Can he still find redemption? What about Jack and The Pill? And what's up with the revival of Claire? Check Chris's thoughts below:

February 9, 2010

Christian Skater Stars in 'Ice Castles' Remake

19-year-old skater Taylor Firth loves youth group and writing poems about God

Remember Ice Castles, the 1978 teen romance on ice starring Robby Benson and Lynn-Holly Johnson? Well, they've done a remake, with a young Christian skater in the lead role.

Ice Castles, the 2010 version, releases to DVD today, just in time for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Special guest appearances in the film include Olympic Medalist Michelle Kwan and NBC correspondent Andrea Joyce.

But the star of the show is 19-year-old Taylor Firth, a one-time aspiring Olympian herself (she placed 13th at the 2009 U.S. Nationals), from Jamestown, NY. Firth is a regular at her church's youth group, and says she loves to write poetry about how God influences her life. Her short program music for the 2010 season is Michael W. Smith's "Prayer for Taylor."

“This is my God-given talent. This is what I have to do,” Firth told a local newspaper. “This isn’t my ability, it’s His ability. I’ve grown up a Christian all my life. It’s who I am.”

Here's the trailer:

February 8, 2010

Filming Begins on Soul Surfer in Hawaii

True story of Christian surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark attack

An A-list cast including Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, and AnnaSophia Robb began principal shooting last week in Hawaii for Soul Surfer, the true story of Christian surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark attack at the age of 13.

Quaid and Hunt will play Bethany's parents, while Robb will play the young surfer in the film, slated for a 2011 release. Robb (Bridge to Terabithia, Because of Winn-Dixie, Race to Witch Mountain) is wearing a green sleeve on her left arm, which will be digitally removed for the film. The cast also includes star singer Carrie Underwood (as a church youth leader) in her film debut, plus Jack Nicholson's daughter Lorraine Nicholson (as one of Bethany's friends) and Kevin Sorbo (as Holt Blanchard). Sean McNamara will direct.

Press materials say the film will chronicle "the rise of a promising young athlete, a debilitating tragedy and one of the greatest sports comebacks ever," Hamilton first competed as a surfer at the age of 8, and was on her way to stardom when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark in 2003 while surfing off Kauai's North Shore.

"Losing more than half her blood, yet miraculously surviving, Bethany was now living without a left arm. The determination to pursue her dream, however, had not been taken away. She was back in the water a month later, learning to paddle with one arm and to find her balance on the surfboard. . . . Two summers later Bethany took first place in the NSSA National Championships, [and in] 2008, Bethany began competing full-time in the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series." Here's some footage of her at a recent pro event.

February 8, 2010

'Dorky' Billy Graham Film on DVD in March

Evangelist's son, Franklin, provided that assessment of the movie that bombed in theaters

Billy: The Early Years, a film about Billy Graham, bombed at the box office and was panned by critics and even by his own son, Franklin, who apparently told his sister the movie was "dorky."

Despite those shortcomings, filmmakers will look to recoup some of their losses through DVD sales when the movie hits the video shelves on March 16. "This film will make you thankful for the life of Billy Graham," the Dove Foundation said in a press release. Actually, Graham's preaching made me thankful for his life, but that's another story. The DVD can be purchased here.

February 5, 2010

Should This Woman Abort? YOU Decide

That's the premise of a new -- but fictional -- reality show, where the audience makes the choice

Three young women, all very early in unplanned pregnancies, are the main characters of a new "fictional reality" online TV show, in which the viewing audience gets to choose who aborts, and who does not.

BUMP+ is fictional in that the characters are really actresses, not real women in such a situation. But their predicaments are very real and common. One is a young mother of two who is pregnant with another while living with an abusive boyfriend. Another is a young wife whose military husband has been deployed to Iraq, and she got pregnant during a lonely one-night stand. Another is a young woman who has aborted before and says she has no guilt about the procedure.

Each brief webisode (three so far, and each is less than 8 minutes long) sheds new light on the women's situations and features plenty of feedback and comments from viewers. The show's writers say they're incorporating viewer feedback into their writing for subsequent episodes; i.e., even the creators don't know how this is going to end. They say they're not trying to craft the shows in such a way to bias the audience one way or another, and from what I've seen of the three episodes so far, that seems to be true. Of course, pro-life viewers will already be predisposed to vote only one way for all three women, no matter their situations. But it'll be interesting to see how pro-choice viewers vote -- to them, when is it OK to go ahead and have the baby?

Check out the trailer below, and check out the first three episodes at the site. Feel free to leave your comments here and/or at the show's site.

February 4, 2010

Finding Common Ground in Abortion Debate

Documentary 12th & Delaware, from makers of Jesus Camp, apparently shows both sides

One flick that got a lot of buzz at the recent Sundance Film Festival was 12th & Delaware, made by the same filmmakers who brought us Jesus Camp a few years ago.

The movie is about an intersection in a small Florida town, with an abortion clinic on one corner and a crisis pregnancy center -- which encourages expectant mothers to have their babies rather than abort them -- across the street. The film includes footage inside both establishments, and intimate interviews with the women who head to both places.

HBO has picked up the film, and plans to air it in July or August TBA. Cinematical calls 12th & Delaware "fantastic," noting that directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (who are both pro-choice) did a fine job maintaining objectivity and really getting at the hearts of the women caught in the middle of the abortion issue: "Most impressive about 12th & Delaware are the numerous frank and touching moments with the potential mothers. I can only assume that Ms. Grady and Ms. Ewing are warm and trustworthy people, because their camera is privy to some powerfully personal moments. I don't know many women who'd open up to a documentary film crew on their way to an appointment at an abortion clinic, but it's a testament to the co-directors that their film is so damn ... real."

In this interview
, Ewing and Grady describe the filmmaking process and say that their goal was ultimately to go "beyond being into their heads. We're inside their hearts."

I'm looking forward to seeing it.

February 4, 2010

Has Gibson Moved on from Anti-Semitic Remarks?

An innocuous question prompts Gibson to get agitated and to curse at the interviewer

Four years ago, in a highly publicized incident, Mel Gibson was arrested for DUI, an incident during which he became belligerent and made anti-Semitic remarks to the police officer, who was Jewish. Many fans who had embraced Gibson for his fine movie The Passion of The Christ were in turn disgusted by his behavior. Gibson's later divorce and affair with a much younger woman -- with whom he has fathered a child -- didn't endear him to audiences much either.

So when Dean Richards of Chicago's WGN-TV simply asked Gibson if he thought fans had "moved on" from those past incidents, Gibson -- who certainly should be prepared for such questions -- got visibly agitated and said, "Well, I certainly hope so. That was a while back, and I've done all the necessary mea culpas, so ... let's move on, dude." Richards thanked him for the interview, and, thinking he was off the air, Gibson said into a live microphone, "A--hole."
Gibson later said the remark was directed at his own publicist. Hmm.

Richards later blogged his impressions of the incident, noting, "The true measure of a person is how they act when they think no one is looking. More than the content of the interview, here we get a crystal clear view of a man who claims to be sorry for his actions and claims to be a changed man. Apparently, that's only if he thinks that no one can see the 'real' him."

February 3, 2010

'I Want to See a Battle Between Good & Evil'

So says author Chris Seay in reaction to Tuesday night's Season 6 premiere of LOST


Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, weighs in on Tuesday night's premiere:

February 3, 2010

'When I Die, What Do You Think Will Happen to Me?'

The Lost premiere raises questions about the afterlife.


I hope you loved that episode as much as I did. Lost has always excelled at delivering mind-bending, game-changing premieres, and “LA X” proved no exception.

So much happened in this episode, I am not even going to attempt to recap it all. Instead, I'm going to focus on the theme that most intrigued me: the question of what happens to us when we die.

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Do not read if you are not completely caught up on last night’s episode.)

Continue reading 'When I Die, What Do You Think Will Happen to Me?'...

February 3, 2010

LOST character study: Will Kate Believe?

Author Chris Seay explores the possible character arc for Kate Austen in Season 6


Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is video blogging for CT about Season 6 of Lost. In one of several brief character studies, Seay notes that Kate believes she'll never be good, that she can't be redeemed. But he says, "My prayer is that we'll see Kate believe that good things will come to her" during this final season. Chris's thoughts:

February 2, 2010

LOST: The Place Where 'Nothing Is Irreversible'

The season premiere for Lost's last season was rich with spiritual imagery

It's been just a few minutes since the season premiere of Lost's sixth and final season ended, and I think I'm going to be scratching my head on this one for a while.


I don't think we've solved the mystery of Locke/The Man in Black/The Smoke Monster yet, but hopefully those answers will continue to unfold in the weeks ahead. This much is certain, though: Nothing is certain. Not on this island, and not in this unpredictable universe. Reality isn't, unreality is, dead people are alive, and living people are dead, and I don't even think 1.21 jiggawatts could send me far enough into the future to figure it all out. At least not yet.

Three images/scenes near the end of this episode really caught my attention . . .

Continue reading LOST: The Place Where 'Nothing Is Irreversible'...

February 2, 2010

Predictions for Season 6: Answers in the Bible


Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, says that Scripture can provide some of the answers to Season 6 of Lost, which begins tonight. He believes the story is playing out like the Exodus story in the Bible: "They've been in captivity on this island. They've been forced to face their demons, their struggles, but ultimately to be redeemed by the journey." Check out more of his thoughts in the vlog below, and keep coming back here over the coming days and weeks for our frequent blogging on the final season.

February 2, 2010

HBO Plans Biopic on Anita Bryant

The former beauty queen, a Christian, may be best known as an opponent of gay rights

Cable network HBO is developing a biopic about Anita Bryant, a former beauty queen, singer, and a devout Christian who is also well known for opposing gay rights.

"She is a fascinating person on every single level," said writer Chad Hodge. "The twists and turns of her life are incredible." Sex and the City creator Darren Star will direct.

Bryant, now 69, led a highly publicized campaign in Florida in 1977 to repeal a county ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As leader of a coalition called Save Our Children, Bryant feared the potential homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation, saying, "What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. [...] I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before."

Bryant's outspoken opposition led one gay rights activist to throw a pie in her face at one press conference; at the time, Bryant quipped, "At least it was a fruit pie."

February 2, 2010

LOST character study: Sayid's Redemption?

Will the tortured torturer reach a point where he can let go of his troubled past?

Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is video blogging for CT while in Hawaii for the big premiere event. In one of several brief character studies, Seay wonders if Sayid will be redeemed in this final season by finally letting go of his tortured past and embracing his future, or will his final words of Season 5 -- "Nothing can save me" -- be his epitaph? Chris's thoughts:

February 1, 2010

LOST's Ultimate Question

Will the sixth season move from “where are we” to “why are we?”


If you haven’t yet had a chance to rewatch Lost’s season 5 finale, “The Incident,” I highly recommend you find time to do so between now and tomorrow night at 8/7c. Without the question of what’s going to happen to distract your viewing, you can spend more energy picking up the details you may have missed the first time around (or just plain forgot sometime in the last nine months). This episode is so much more than an exciting race to turn back time — it’s a meditation on the nature of good and evil (note: not necessarily good vs. evil), the consequences of choices, and, of course, the ultimate showdown in the fate vs. free will debate.

I think we’re about to get an answer to that last question — the premiere will pick up right where we left our castaways, and those first few minutes should make it clear whether Jack's plan succeeded. But a brand-new promo, the first to feature season six material, hints that there may actually be a bigger question at stake:

(Promo discussed after the jump)

Continue reading LOST's Ultimate Question...

February 1, 2010

LOST characters: 'I Really Want Jack to Be Right'

Will Jack Shephard transition from being a man of science to a man of faith in Season 6?

Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is video blogging for CT while in Hawaii for the big premiere event. In one of several brief character studies, Seay wonders if Jack Shephard will be redeemed in this final season by his decision to embrace "destiny" by dropping a bomb (literal and metaphorical) on us at the end of the last. Chris's thoughts:

February 1, 2010

Who Decides If We're Lost or Found?


Have you seen the 24-version of the Oceanic Flight 815 crash? This YouTube hit takes all the action happening around the time of the crash and puts it chronological order. It's fun. But it also helped stress something to me. The final words Juliet says before hearing the crashing plane? "Here I am thinking free will still actually exists..." (See this at the 6:40 mark).

I don't believe there are too many coincidences in Lost. And this statement clearly fits with Jack and Locke's long-running debate about destiny vs. choice. In fact, as we look back, we can see that theme growing stronger and stronger throughout the series--culminating with last season's "Whatever happened happened" missive, Jacob's repeated assertions that characters have a choice and the huge cliffhanger leaving us wondering, "Did Jack's plan work? Did he change everything on faith?"

So where does Lost go know with it's exploration of free will? Co-producer Carlton Cuse told Entertainment Weekly that “this notion of predeterminism is something we’re very actively exploring this season." I'm expecting a lot of redemption in this season. Who stays lost and who gets found? And in that mix will be the ever present underlying question: Were their paths laid out or do characters truly choose their paths?

What do you think? Where is Lost going with free will? Will it affirm it? Or will it turn out that Jacob and his nemesis have been using the characters as pawns all along? Does Jacob have to touch you for you to be saved? Or can you choose him?

Will any of this actually be answered or left for us to decide?

Todd Hertz, a CT movie critic, is also a regular contributor for where he'll also be writing about Lost this season.