Summer Movies

I have a few weird habits concerning my movie collection. First, I alphabetize my DVDs. I’m sure that’s one of those things that’s weird, but common. Second, I categorize them into Drama, Action/adventure, Comedy, and animated in four different cabinets throughout our loft (and of course a special shelf that exclusively displays my Pixar movies). Now, that’s getting a little weirder. But wait – there’s more! The weirdest thing I do is watch my movies seasonally. Most people have regular movies, and Christmas movies. I divide mine up into Christmas, winter, spring, and fall movies. Quirky, I know. I just can’t watch White Fang when it’s 98 degrees out, you know?

So with that said, I’ve just pulled out all of my Summer movies that we’ll be watching in the next few months and I realized that most of them have a recurring theme (no, this was not intentional). Most people have common themes that run through their DVD and book collections. For some, their themes might be romance, and finding your true love (Never Been Kissed, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bridgett Jones’s Diary). For others it might be the idea that death and blood and gore are glorified elements (Halloween, Freddy, Walking Dead). For many, the theme is mindless (and sometimes funny) 90-minute breaks from reality (Dumb and Dumber, Anchorman, Monty Python).

The theme for our Summer movie lineup, I discovered, is redemption. Bellow are films I highly recommend if you’re browsing through Netflix and just need to be inspired to get off your chair and do something meaningful for others and your family. Feel free to recommend some of your own. Enjoy!

The Last Samurai

I remember years ago when I saw the poster for this movie hanging up in the hallway of the movie theater, I thought instantly, “That has got to be a joke.” Tom Cruise as a Samurai warrior… really? But this film wows me the more times I see it. Though my wife and I quibble over the validity of this film’s origins, it is a wonderful reminder that no no matter how far we’ve sunk, how far we’ve fallen, or whatever we’ve done, there is always a reason to redeem yourself and a chance to start your life anew.

The Majestic

Say what you will about Jim Carrey, but he really does pull himself together for this one. It’s a perfect film to celebrate 4th of July or Memorial Day. This film is a testament to why we should stand up for what we believe in and not be so pacifistic as many of us have become. It reminds us that our freedom came at a very high cost and that there is shame in shrugging it off as no big deal. Our country was worth the fight, and if we agree, we will show a little more respect toward it.

Sweet Home Alabama

I’m not much into romantic comedies at all, and this movie is hardly a funny, though it is lighthearted. I appreciate this movie so much because it defends the honor and integrity of marriage. The main characters have been trying for a divorce for many years, but something in them just won’t let them go through with it, even if it means ditching the new boyfriend. Marriages are worth fighting for, and this movie shows that it’s not easy, but the rewards can be great.

Cinderella Man

Whenever you put Russell Crow and Ron Howard together, you’re in for a great time. Not great time as in, escapism. But more like, getting to see a movie for what, I believe, movies are meant to be made for – documenting the lives of otherwise overlooked, great personalities in our world’s history. Cinderella Man is a fine film that does just that. Our country is headed toward hard times, and this is a great film for fathers and husbands to see to give them a picture of how a real man handles difficult times.

The Sandlot

This is an oldie, but very much a goodie. And yes, the 4th of July scene with the fireworks makes me cry every time. With all this talk about putting a stop to bullying these days, this is a great film for kids to watch as it shows that we can’t expect to change society to accommodate our insecurities, but we must be willing to adapt to some surroundings if we want to be accepted into a group. Show ’em what you’re made of and you’ll earn their respect.

Other redemptive movies: Finding Neverland, A League of Their Own, A Beautiful Mind, Finding Nemo, Cars

Image credits: Last Samurai, The Majestic, Sweet Home Alabama, Cinderella Man, The Sandlot

This Summer’s Reading List

Summer’s approaching and that means… book fever! Yes, it’s time to dust off those books you’ve been meaning to read for so long, pull out those books you received for Christmas last year, open them up and start reading. I always say that no one is too busy to read. If you’re saying that, then stop *reading* this blog (or tweet), and stick your nose in a book. (And not a book that’s most likely going to be made into the next steamy movie – that doesn’t count… that’s just watching a silly movie in slow motion.)

So as you’ve probably figured out by now, every Tuesday is Book Rec day here on Adopting James. I’m just tingling with excitement over the next several books I’m going to read  this summer. Here’s a sneak peak at my bookshelf I’ll be making my way through in the next few months, so if you have any of these books, you can read along, or maybe this post will inspire you to get out there and treat yourself to some useful purchases. Be looking for my reviews in the next few months. And remember, I’m open to suggestions, so email them to me or comment. Happy reading!

This will be my first official baseball book, as I’ve just recently developed a love for the sport. I’m more interested in the history of baseball than taking it up as something I currently follow. Anytime you mix history in with something, my attention is taken captive. And heck, reading about the world’s longest ball game could be a good way to begin my baseball reading endeavor. Anyone have any other baseball book suggestions?

 

 

I am indebted to this man, like many of you, in so many ways. No so much because of the products he’s invented (Sarabeth and I still only have a MacBook, but would like others), but because of certain investments he’s made. Many people don’t know this, but it was Steve Jobs who gave Pixar Animation Studios their start by funding them back in the late ’80’s. In so many ways, it’s because of Steve Jobs that we have movies like Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and others, thus ultimately saving the Disney Studios. And, I’ve been told that it was Jobs himself who suggested Woody be a good guy rather than antagonistic when Lassetter, Stanton and their team were creating the first Toy Story . Why is that such a big deal, you ask? Let’s just say I’ve got a small collection of Woody figurines on my desk, including a real pull-string Woody doll on my bookshelf… with my name (Andy) written on the bottom of his right boot.

 

This is one of my favorite books, written by one of my favorite classic authors. If you haven’t read it, or Around the World in 80 Days, you finally need to do so. Plus, I hear Disney is making a movie about Captain Nemo, so… gots to be prepared for that.

 

 

 

I’ve heard nothing but outstanding things about author Erik Larson, and especially this book of American history. It’s set in Chicago, 1893, and centers around an architect, who was behind the idea of the 1893 World’s Fair, and a serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. This sounds like it has all the makings of a classic. Why didn’t they teach us this sort of stuff in school?

 

 

This book came highly recommended by Dr. Albert Mohler, and quite frankly, after reading a couple of his recommendations, I just keep going back to his list for more. And, after seeing The Conspirator last year, I’m very excited to get the story inside the story. I mean, other than hunting down Nazis or terrorist, what else could be more exciting than searching and capturing John Wilkes Booth? Plus, this will be great preparation for Spielberg’s Lincoln coming out this summer – And no, he does not go around hacking zombies to death with an axe.

Additional books: The Universe Next Door, Sire; The History of Israel, Kaiser; To Try Men’s Souls, Gingrich; America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. 2, Bennett; God’s Passion for His Glory – Piper

Image credits: Bottom of the 33rd, Steve Jobs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Devil in the White City, Manhunt

China’s Lost Girls

I would highly encourage all of you to watch this 35 minute video concerning the desperate needs little girls in China have. Think about what you can do to help.

http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/chinas_lost_girls

George and Walt

There are two historical figures that I have great admiration for, but for different reasons. Reading their biographies over the past year has been a wonderful eye-opener to me. The first one I want to share with you is Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

Chernow does a superb job at bringing this dusty historical hero to life. He doesn’t linger long on the president’s ancestry or childhood, which has proven to be quite sluggish in other biographies. The majority of the book centers around Washington’s generalship in the Revolutionary War. With the way Washington constantly carried himself, it’s no wonder people thought of him as a god. He struck fear and admiration in the hearts of men, sort of like an 18th century William Wallace. Having a deep-rooted admiration for the man, I was glad that the author points out his flaws, one of them being that he was overly flirtation with the opposite sex throughout his married life. This prevents me from worshiping the man in my heart, which I’m prone to do. This flaw proves that he may have been an honorable war hero, a trustworthy statesman and sound president, but he was not a model husband. It is referenced over and over that he and Martha shared a deep friendship but not much more.

Washington was a much generous man than I ever would have known. He gladly adopted Martha’s children, and then helped raise their children. He paid for his son’s tuition, and even his nephew’s, even though they both proved to be sluggards and disappointed Washington in the ways of work ethic. He constantly had the door of his home open to guests and admirers. He repeatedly served his country in any way he was called to, though he was deeply reluctant to accept the presidency and much abhorred the idea of postponing retirement to his beloved Mount Vernon home.

As with the issue of slavery, Washington straddled the fence to say the best. It was as though in his heart he knew the practice was a deep evil, but he fooled himself (as had most other plantation owners), that it was an economic necessity. Even though he wasn’t as brutal as other slave owners, nor did he ever consent to breaking up slave families or condone selling them to other slave holders (though he had to resort to doing that in his later years due to a poor economic standing), no one can refute the fact that he didn’t better make known his abolitionist mindset. Instead, he put it off for future generations to deal with.

To stick with the darker side of much revered world-shakers, Neal Gabler handles Walt Disney’s life with complete bluntness in Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. In this book, Gabler discards the fairy-tale myths that often accompany the image of Walt Disney. To say the least, he was not an easy many to get along with, nor work for. He was self-motivated, hard-driven, and always had his nose to the grindstone, often forfeiting time with his family. The business of cartooning and moviemaking was air to him. Later on, his passions dramatically changed to amusement park building.

Talk about building a kingdom for yourself. In stark contrast to Washington, Disney sought only self-perseverance. He lived on his Mount Vernon his whole life, constantly devising ways to build his kingdom higher and bigger than anyone else’s. But the one thing no one can hold against Disney is his steadfast faithfulness to his wife. Unlike Washington, he was never bellow reproach on that subject, even though he once claimed that women were of no interest to him (and he certainly didn’t view them as the delicate flowers Washington had because he almost always cast women as the antagonists in his earliest films).

Washington died on December 14, 1799 and Disney died on December 15, 1966. Washington gave his life up in service to his country, and he welcomed death, never fearing it in the least throughout his life. Disney kept his life to himself, serving only his namesake, and he viewed death with much trepidation. One founded the greatest country in all the world, and the other founded the greatest entertainment industry Hollywood has ever known. One set humble goals for himself, but was swept away by his generous heart to serve his fellow countrymen, and he was happy to let go of the obligations to his country when he died. The other set lofty goals for himself and achieved those, but in the end, he did not get to take his kingdom with him when he died.

Though both America and the Disney Kingdom still stand strong today, it is fair to say that Washington did not lose nearly as much as Disney did at his death because he did not value his own life as much as Disney had. When you value yourself too much (at the expense of valuing others more), then in the end, you will most certainly lose the one thing you love the most. Death is eminent. Will you leave behind a legacy of servitude toward others, or will you grudgingly have to be torn away from the precious kingdoms you’ve built for yourself on this earth?

You can order Washington: A Life on the right side of this page.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Though Kung Fu Panda 2 wasn’t my favorite movie, I really appreciated the heavy themes of adoption and redemption. The two were married beautifully in this Dreamworks picture. Setting aside my personal preferences, I think it’s a wonderful movie for all families to see together. Check out this link for a more in-depth description of the movie by the vise president of Southern Baptist Seminary. http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/06/05/adoption-identity-and-kung-fu-panda/

Discuss: The Hunger Games: Is It Going Too Far?

Image It’s hard to ignore all the buzz that’s going around about the movie coming out this weekend, based off of the mega top-selling book by Suzanne Collins. Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss  Everdeen who lives with her mom and sister in post-America. When the districts attempted to rise up against the Captitol long ago, they were defeated. As part of the surrender terms each district has to give up one boy and one girl to fight in a televised event where the only object to is to not be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen to participate by the lottery, Kat takes her place.

The story goes on to tell about a group of kids, aged 11 to 18 (12-17?), who get thrown into a forested arena and are forced to kill each other. The only way to win the game is be the only survivor. The only way to survive is to kill your opponents. So my question to you is this: Should this type of movie (or book) be marketed to our teenagers? I have read the book and it is violent, and from what I’ve read about the movie, it flirts with an R rating. If you don’t think this should be marketed to teenagers, would it be better for adults? At what point would you draw the line in dealing with violence in teen movies? If you don’t think it’s a problem to market this kind of movie toward teenagers, what, then, would you consider inappropriate?

I know this blog is young and I’ll be lucky to get one comment, but for anyone that cares to participate in this dialogue, feel free to comment. Let’s hear your thoughts.

Book Rec: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

 It’s 1943. A United States Air Force bombardier and an Olympic runner find themselves drifting in a deflating life-raft in the Pacific Ocean. Tethered to them in another raft is a third crewman, with a gash on his forehead. They’ve been at sea for twenty-three days. Below them are hungry sharks bumping their raft when they swim by. Above them they just barely hear the hum of an airplane approaching. Rescue! They fire two flares. They wave their weak arms frantically in the air, hollering hoarsely at the tops of their lungs. The plane draws nearer and the three men realize that it’s not about to rescue them. It’s a Japanese bomber and it’s firing at them.

Folks, that’s only the beginning. The first part of this book is enough to be a volume of its own. It tells the story of one of the greatest runners in the world and his unforgettable journey to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he saw Hitler himself.

It took Hillenbrand nearly a decade to research Unbroken. You can find an interesting article about her here: http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2010-11-10-hillenbrand10_CV_N.htm

I hate to give spoilers, so avert your gaze if you promise to read this book. But a note to those of you who are reluctant to read it, let me just tell you, this book is an evangelical tool. Give this book to your non-Christian friends and family members for their birthdays this year. Pass it out on the street-corners if you can afford that many copies. Do what you can to get this book into the hands people who are on the fence of Christianity. It is as good a testimony as you will hear from any pulpit at church.

I don’t give many books or movies perfect scores, but this is one of them. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that Unbroken is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read in my life.