Sunday, August 31, 2014


Three male detectives become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident that leaves a child in a coma. One is guilty of a crime, one will try to cover it up, and the other attempts to expose it. How far will these men go to both disguise and unravel the truth? -- IMDB

A brilliant new Australian crime drama. Joel Edgerton is excellent as Malcolm Toohey, as the cop who knocks a child off his bike and doesn't admit to it. Jai Courtney (Jim Melic) is also good as the colleague who is troubled by what's happening and is disturbed by the coverup. But Tom Wilkinson as the experienced and worn-out detective who pressures Malcolm to persevere with the cover up is incredible and steals most of the scenes he is in. The story is excellent with more of a focus on the internal struggles of the protagonists resulting from guilt and ethical dilemmas than on the crime itself. It's a refreshing take on the crime drama which is directed well and is tightly woven, keeping us on the emotional edge until the end. This is a morally complex story that is intellectually and emotionally rewarding. Make sure you see it!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

I was privileged to see a pre-screening of PREDESTINATION which opens in cinemas on 28 August. It's excellent! There have been lots of time travel movies made - and this one adds a brand new layer of complexity and intrigue to the genre. Sarah Snook (Not Suitable for Children) is brilliant - as always - in a breakout performance. Add Ethan Hawke  as co-star and the cast is great. The movie is very dialogue-driven, cerebral, and intellectually engaging. This one's for those viewers who want something to think about rather than just special effects and action. The first 1/3 was a touch slow, but necessary in the context of the whole narrative arc. Watch out for this one when it arrives in cinemas! And, by the way, try to see it without knowing anything much about it... One of the best sci-fi movies this year!


Saturday, August 23, 2014


Two men separated by 100 years are united in their search for freedom. In 1856 a slave, Samuel Woodward and his family, escape from the Monroe Plantation near Richmond, Virginia. A secret network of ordinary people known as the Underground Railroad guide the family on their journey north to Canada. They are relentlessly pursued by the notorious slave hunter Plimpton. Hunted like a dog and haunted by the unthinkable suffering he and his forbears have endured, Samuel is forced to decide between revenge or freedom. 100 years earlier in 1748, John Newton the Captain of a slave trader sails from Africa with a cargo of slaves, bound for America. On board is Samuel's great grandfather whose survival is tied to the fate of Captain Newton. The voyage changes Newton's life forever and he creates a legacy that will inspire Samuel and the lives of millions for generations to come.

Average. Has a very strong (and sometimes very heavy handed) religious flavour with the song, Amazing Grace, by John Newton, providing the organising theme. True freedom is presented as that which comes from trust in the Christian God. The story did not have the power I thought it should have. The acting was adequate and the musical element undermined the emotional potency - although viewers who like musicals may experience it differently to me. The whole movie seems restrained - pulling back form the harsh realities of the slave trade. I suspect that it may be that way to ensure a broad audience. It is consistent with the distributors, Heritage Films International, which has a faith focus, according to its website. Movies supported by faith-based organisations tend, in my opinion, to promote somewhat sterile versions of reality - and I think that FREEDOM suffers from this. The most frightening aspect of the movie is the declaration at the end, just before the titles, that there are more people in slavery today than ever before in human history. While reminding ourselves of the past history of slavery is essential, I'd like to see more contemporary movies addressing what is happening today. It's a travesty that slavery hasn't yet been eradicated.




Friday, August 22, 2014

All Is Grace (book)

All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin MemoirAll Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Brennan Manning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book description: Brennan Manning has spent the past forty years helping others experience the reality of God’s love and grace. It’s at the heart of everything he’s written and done. A recovering alcoholic and former Franciscan priest, his spiritual journey has taken him down a variety of paths. He has taught seminarians, spoken to packed arenas, lived in a cave and labored with the poor in Spain, and ministered to shrimpers in Alabama. Brennan is best known as the author of the contemporary classics, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Abba’s Child, Ruthless Trust, The Importance of Being Foolish, Patched Together, and The Furious Longing of God.

My review: I read Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel some years ago and really appreciated it. I didn't know much about his life other than the hints he revealed in that book. After reading this memoir, it is easy to see why grace is so important to Manning - and why every human is a ragamuffin in need of grace. So I appreciated Manning's honesty and the confessional tone of the book. But, for me, there was something missing - there didn't seem to be the depth that I'd expect from someone reflecting on such an incredible life of grace. Maybe I was expecting too much. Manning is now obviously very dependent on assistance from a carer and I was saddened to hear of his Wernickes disease as a result of his alcoholism. Whatever the deficiencies, this is a moving book from a man who truly lived and breathed grace.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

SNOWPIECER is a very fresh, innovative take on the post apocalyptic genre. While there is lots of spectacular action, there is a solid foundation of social commentary - and asks the question, how far would we be prepared to go for the greater good? The ideas are not new, but the story conveys these old ideas in a stunning new way. The whole movie takes place on a train that travels once around the earth every year. Having all the action take place in a long, narrow space brings a trapped claustrophobic feel to the events. The cinematography is excellent - as the revolutionaries move from the back of the train to the front, the various sections of the train convey the variations in lifestyle of the inhabitants. There is a strange quirkiness to the script with elements of oddball humour that reinforces the peculiarity of the events. The characters are carefully drawn, the cast is outstanding, and we, as the audience, are respected as intelligent viewers. If you are put off by violence, then you might want to avoid this one. For the rest of us, this is a movie not to miss. It's a real roller coaster ride (well - a train ride, actually). I loved it.


Monday, August 18, 2014


College philosophy professor Mr. Radisson's curriculum is challenged by his new student, Josh, who believes God exists.

Evangelical Christian cinema hits a new low with this propaganda movie designed to convince the viewer that atheism (and science) is irrational and provides an inadequate world view for modern society. Now, there is nothing wrong with literature that engages in the contemporary debate about the existence of [the Christian] God. My gripes with this movie have nothing to do with the differences in belief between the characters. There is some outstanding material on both sides of the debate worthy of consideration. But GOD'S NOT DEAD is most assuredly not one of them. It is superficial, predictable, contrived, emotionally manipulative, and misrepresentative of atheism and, in particular, science. Just about every character in the movie is converted (what did you expect?!). The arguments offered by the main character are simplistic and, frequently, caricatures of what science actually says or the best atheist thinkers actually believe. Most of them could be effectively critiqued by any thinking school-kid. The movie's explorations of physics and philosophy demonstrate almost no actual engagement with the ideas and are reductionistic and ill-informed. Any intelligent non-Christian would, in my opinion, be quite offended by the way in which it portrays them - and any intelligent Christian would probably despair of the ridiculous, narrow-minded Christianity that the makers so obviously believe is true. The film essentially demonises atheists, scientists, and Muslims. Just about every distorted stereotype is paraded in this travesty of a movie. Fundamentalist Christians will probably lap it up and will have reinforced the prejudices already held against science, philosophy, and other people who differ from them. Give it a wide berth!


Sunday, August 17, 2014


The Kadam family clashes with Madame Mallory, proprietress of a celebrated French restaurant, after they open their own nearby eatery, until undeniable chemistry causes the Madame to take gifted young chef Hassan under her wing.

A beautiful movie - beautiful food, beautiful people, beautiful scenery. It's a "nice" movie - gentle, romantic, nothing offensive, just a quietly satisfying entree. But that's also its weakness. THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is predictable and undemanding. But sometimes it's nice to relax into a film and be entertained. The cast do a good job of the straightforward script with Helen Mirren putting on a reasonably authentic French accent. The developing relationship between her character  (Madame Mellory) and that of Papa (Om Puri) is amusing and is a mirror of that between the other younger stars played by Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon. For a lay-back couple of hours of light entertainment, check it out.


Sunday, August 10, 2014


The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human OriginsThe Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human Origins by Tim Stafford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Science and faith should be allies, not opponents, in the search for truth. But when it comes to understanding the very beginnings of life, it is no easy task to reconcile the history taught in the Bible with the discoveries of the scientific community. Author Tim Stafford watched the tension between the beliefs of Darwin and the teaching of Genesis shake the faith of his family, ruin friendships, and leave Christians in the field of science feeling as though the doors of the church were closed to their profession. He believes this civil war can stop. The scientific record and the truth of the Bible aren’t mutually exclusive. The Adam Quest offers a compelling new look at the beginnings of life as Stafford puts questions of dinosaurs, genealogy, and the age of the earth to eleven world-class scientists. A sweeping book — touching everything from advances in genetics to a particle physicist striving to become Anglican priest — Stafford uses the stories and journeys of these remarkable men and women to provide a new diversity of answers. Scientific progress is carefully detailed, while the struggle toward truth and toward God is humanized. A deeply informative look at Christians working in science, this book is for both believers and those who harbor doubts — an intersection of faith and science, and a safe place for questions. Whether you believe in a young earth, intelligent design, evolutionary creationism, or something else, The Adam Quest offers a chance to strengthen your faith, deepen your knowledge, and bring science back into the church.

MY REVIEW: One of the most helpful and engaging books I have read on the debate between young earth creationism (YEC), intelligent design (ID), and evolutionary creationism (EC) I have read. The author has interviewed eleven scientists and allowed their perspectives to stand as they are. The interviews are presented in the order from YEC -> ID -> EC. Each view is presented respectfully and intelligently. It is fascinating to hear how these scientists have arrived at their perspectives and the humility they convey about what they believe and know. The author, Tim Stafford, concludes the book by sharing his own position and, in the process, describing the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective. The book includes a comprehensive index making it even more useful. The writing is engaging, clear, courteous and thoroughly constructive. I highly recommend it every Christian, of whatever persuasion on the issue, and anyone else interested in the contemporary debates raging within evangelical Christianity (in particular) on creationism/evolution.

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