What would you name your rock band?  It is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and it came up again this weekend.

Last week I had the joy of watching yet another teen flick.  Okay, I was taken kicking and screaming, but that is beside the point.  My youngest sprout had read the book If I Stay and wanted to see the movie.  So off we went . . . to the matinee, of course. There is no way I was paying full price for this.

Here is a quick review of the movie–Throw in a dash of Romeo and Juliet, a bit of Titanic, sprinkle some Walk to Remember and now one teaspoon of The Fault In Our Stars and viola–If I Stay is born.

The Sequel Should be Titled 'Portland, My Heart Will Go on'
The Sequel Should be Titled ‘Portland, My Heart Will Go on’

The acting was uneven.  Stacy Keach plays the grandfather, and he is, as always, terrific.  The mom and dad roles are done well, but the two main actors, the girl and the boy, are dreadfully wooden and uninspiring.  That’s okay, I wasn’t expecting much more.  As I said on my Twitter feed that night, the real star of the movie, as far as I’m concerned, is the city of Portland.  The producers did a great job of portraying the delightful oddity of that wonderful city.

There was one cool part in the movie.  The father had been in a band (I presume back in the 90s) that was named Nasty Bruises.

To me, that was the most creative part of the film, the name of his band.  I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, so I will never be in any kind of band.  I was once kicked out of a church choir and the only thing I can play is the iPod.  But if I ever had a band, naming it would be the most enjoyable part.  I’ve been working on a list for a few years.  Here are some of my hypothetical band names, in no particular order.

1.  Crusty Theologians

2.  The Downspouts

3.  Tolkien’s Revenge

4.  Banana Sandwich

5.  Nietzche Was Wrong

6.  Leather Bound Edition (LBE for short)

7.  Assimov

8.  Then There Was Light

9.  Broken Wheelbarrows

10. Gag Reflex


Every now and again a new one comes to me.  What would you name your hypothetical rock band?


image from imbd.com


Come on, Hollywood!  I know you can do better than you’ve done lately.  So to help you out, I’ve got four sure-fire movie ideas for you, and none of them are set in the Marvel Universe.  You can thank me later.

1.  Jaws 5

They only made four Jaws movies.  Everyone knows that the first one, and the only one directed by Spielberg, was the best and probably one of the top 30 greatest movies of all time (anyone who says otherwise is chum) but the other three, not so much.  Jaws 2 was passable, but not the same.  Jaws 3 was possibly one of the worst movies ever (click her for an argument that Jaws 3 was a masterpiece) and Jaws 4 is ridiculous, but it does have Michael Caine.

Jaws 5So why do we need a fifth one, after 20 years of hiatus?  Because Sharknado and stupid SyFy movies have destroyed how great a shark movie can be.  It is time to reclaim it, and make a movie worthy of the first Jaws.  My suggestion is to pick up with the Brody granddaughter, Thea, and set her as a world-class marine biologist who is investigating exactly where all these over-sized sharks are coming from, and how are they able to remember to hate her family from one generation to the next.

2.  The Six Million Dollar Man

Rumors of a Bionic Man movie have been ongoing since the 90s, but most of these are from the comedy side of things.  What I mean is, they’ve talked about remaking it as a spoof like they did 21 Jump Street or Starsky & Hutch.  Boo that!  I want a real movie with drama, melodrama, and cool sound effects (visualize me now, sitting at my laptop, making that awesome sound.)

I loved that tv show in the 70’s.  Remember the one with Bigfoot?  You could even make it a Bionic Man and a Bionic Woman thing too.  This is a no-brainer and would be super easy to do.  My friend Chuck and I already have half a screen play written for this movie.  Okay, it’s really just notes written on a few pages of college rule notebook paper, but you get the point.  Call me Miramax.  Call me!

3.  Kim Possible

What’s the sitch?  Well, the sitch is that my family and I loved this cartoon and still, sometimes, late at night you can hear us mourn its loss.  It died far too young.  It was possibly the coolest cartoon ever.  Ever.  Just remember this, The Disney Channel killed Kim Possible so it could bring you more Hannah Montana, all day, every day.  Worst.  Decision.  Ever.


What I want to see, though, is a live-action Kim Possible.  I think maybe Ben Stiller should play Drakken.  Or maybe John Malkovich.  I want to play Ron.  I have to play Ron.

4.  The Little Girl Waits

Yeah, that is what you call a plug!  Seriously, several of the people who have read my novel believe it would make a great movie and I agree.  I mean, it has everything:  Car chases, shootouts, mystery, ghosts, indoor tornadoes, international gangsters, the FBI, and church drama!  I mean, come on, Hollywood, what are you waiting for.

The best part about making the movie of The Little Girl Waits is that I am pretty cheap.  I just want writer’s credit and to help with the screenplay so that I can accept the Oscar for best screenplay adapted from a previous work.  Is that too much to ask?  Of course, you’ll want to make sure and read the book (available at Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, iTunes and many other outlets, paperback and eBook) before the movie comes out so you’ll know the stuff we changed.


Jaws 5 image http://www.top10films.co.uk

Kim Possible image from http://www.deviantart.com



Do you believe in Heaven?

Most studies show that 85-90% of Americans believe in some kind of afterlife they call Heaven.  That is a high percentage of people to believe in anything.  For comparison, some polls have that only 80% of Americans believe we actually landed on the moon in 1969.  Heaven is doing pretty well in the court of public opinion.

The widespread belief in Heaven might be why the interwebs are all abuzz about the movie Heaven is For Real.  I have been asked by several people over the past couple of days what I think about the movie.  At first, I referred them to my review of the book a couple of years ago.  Click here to read the review of the book.  Yesterday, though, I broke down and bought my ticket to see the movie.  I watched it in a theater filled with 70ish year old women.  I sorta stood out.

Part One:  The movie as a movie

The acting in the film was really great.  Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly are great together and it feels like they’ve been married for years.  It was good to see Thomas Haden Church again and Margo Martindale almost steals the show.  Most people will point to the child actor, Connor Corum as cutely adorable and compelling in his portrayal of Colton Burpo, but I have high standards for kid actors and only rate him as average.  In some parts of the movie he reminded me of the creepy kid from The Shining rather than the sweet boy from the book.

The movie is beautifully shot.  Most of the filming takes place outside, which is nice.

Kinnear and Reilly
Kinnear and Reilly

The key problems with the movie was pacing, editing, and the screenwriting.  Some of the dialogue, particularly that of anyone not Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly was either filled with clichés or weirdly over structured.  I found this particularly with lines ascribed to Colton.  I didn’t feel the movie came to a good conclusion either.  It just sort of ended without any kind of resolution.

Watching the film I could tell there was a tension in the storytelling.  I think the creative people knew that keeping as much of Colton’s experiences mystical was a positive.  They didn’t want to show too much.  The producers though, with their churchy agenda, needed to always explain everything and make sure there was no room for doubt as to what really was going on.  What I am saying is that the movie explains too much, instead of letting things sometimes just hang there.

Overall I would give the film a C+ because it was slightly above average, enjoyable, and overall positive.  It is the kind of movie you can take your whole family to and not have to worry about language, nudity, or violence.  It was much better, than say, Iron Man 3 or American Hustle.  Another plus for the movie is that it will spark conversation.  That is always good.

Part Two:  The movie as a theological/ecclesiastical vehicle

I believe in Heaven because Jesus said so in the Bible.  I don’t need the movie to affirm it, however, that is major theological contribution of this film.  It affirms the biblical belief in Heaven as place where Jesus is and that Heaven is possible because of Jesus.  I like that part.  The book does a much better job of processing Todd Burpo’s belief in the Bible with his son’s experiences.  But books always do, because we don’t just have the narrative, we have the explanation.  The movie misses some of that theological nuance.

If you came into the movie already believing in Heaven, you probably left with some level of warmth in your heart.  If you came into the movie with doubt and skepticism, you might leave questioning those assumptions.

The movie does other theological things too.  They let the dialogue of Kinnear and Reilly ezpress doubt and frustration about God and the nature of faith.  Kinnear is very believable as an overly emotional bi-vocational preacher who doesn’t think about biblical exposition as much as moves from one emotional moment to the next.  I’ve met a lot of pastors like that.  The people in this film and the events in this film are more emotional than theological.

Church life is portrayed somewhat accurately.  Although a lot of church personalities and issues are compressed into only a couple of people and covered fairly quickly.  When Kinnear’s character is called before the board and his job is in jeopardy, I felt a certain pang because I know good people who have gone through great crisis only to be turned out on their ear by their church.  Honestly, because I’ve seen inside the velvet rope, that part of the film had the most emotional impact for me.

I would not point to the movie as a theological exposition as much as it is an exposition of the Burpos’ life and experiences as well as an exposition of many people’s grappling with the nature of faith and the afterlife.  Here it is important to keep this key thing in mind–whether it is about the movie Noah, Heaven is For Real, or any other film we must never rely on Hollywood for our theological insight.  Hollywood is built to put butts in the theater.  Our theology is built to change lives for eternity.

One more theological thing–because it is Hollywood, there is a very universalist bent to it.  By that I mean, the assumption seems to me in the film that everybody goes to Heaven.  That is not part of my belief system.

Part Three:  Credibility

So much of this movie boils to whether you believe the kid or not?  It is that simple.  I just can’t believe that the dad intentionally made it up, but I also have hard time taking my gospel cues from a 4 year old.  I am so thankful that I have the Bible as my guide and can look at a film like this objectively, knowing that ultimately our personal experiences are not what I rely on.  I rely on the promises of God.  It is possible that an overzealous dad took a few off handed comments from his son and lead him on, we all know that is possible.

I would like the story to be true, though.  If it is true; then what is the key value for it?  It is nothing more than what we used to call ‘testimony’ in the old days.  Simply someone sharing, albeit with a large audience, what God has done in their life.  I put it in the same category as someone who tells me that they dreamed about Jesus and he told them to do something specific.  It happens all the time.

If it is not true, well, then that is not our problem.  It is Todd Burpo’s.


To follow-up on the previous blog post, here you go Hallmark Channel, here are five free plots that would make far better Christmas movies than the lame ones I’ve sat through.

1.  Zombies.  Christmas needs more zombies to energize the younger and masculine demographics.  Santa is delivering toys to Romania one Christmas Eve and accidentally brings home a zombie virus that infects the elves.  To stop the spread of the virus he needs to enlist the help of his old nemesis, Jack Frost.

2.  Frosty the Snowman has developed a drinking problem and is pushing away all of his friends.  After waking up in a Vegas motel with Miley Cyrus he decides he needs help so he calls Santa.  The problem is, Santa has never forgiven Frosty for 2008 when he urinated in Kringle’s eggnog.

3.  An upstart young woman has a successful career in New York as a broker, but is called home for Christmas when her father dies of a heart attack.  She reluctantly moves home to be closer to her mother and to rekindle her roots.  In the process she patches ways with her mother and finds lost love with the boy who pushed her down the slide when she was in grammar school.  Just foolin’!  That’s what they put out there now.  Instead, we’ll take that plot and add the mob.  The reason she moves back home is not because of her dad’s death but because she is up to her eyebrows in debt to the Mafia and she is trying to hide in small town America.  Car chases, gun fights and a really cool helicopter crash can be added in.

4.  How about a period piece?  It is Christmas in Carson City circa 1873 or something and settlers are trying to figure out how to have a decent Christmas on the frontier.  The result is a slapstick comedy of errors as they negotiate with Native Americas for tree cutting rights, have treats shipped in, and work through the worst Christmas pageant ever.  Think of it like Mel Brooks meets Christmas.

5.  Last one:  Turns out Santa has been replaced with a blood sucking space vampire and the real Santa is imprisoned deep inside the moon’s core.  This horrible truth is discovered by a group of computer nerds living in Florida.  They recruit a reluctant and skeptical Army Ranger fresh from Afghanistan to help them rescue the real Santa before the whole world has been sucked dry.

You’re welcome Hallmark Channel.  You’re welcome.  Call me, we can make this happen.