Monday, March 14, 2016
A little something some friends and I threw together as both an anticipation of a contested Republican convention and a summary of the last month of the Republican race...
The (Ir)Revenant: a political satire 
Any resemblance to current events and/or people is purely intentional 
SPOILER ALERT: this satire contains many potential spoilers of the 2015 film “The Revenant” 

Dear Reader, what you are about to read is one of the most harrowing stories of betrayal, survival, and revenge in the history of mankind. Few can hear this tale and remain unchanged, just as none of the characters in it emerge unscathed by the end of its telling. Thus forewarned, let us commence with this amazing saga…

There were once a party of fur traders, led by Captain George Octavius Peter Istablichmint, who set out into the vast American territories to make their livelihoods. Though always on the lookout for marauding groups of Native Americans, particularly from the Rineau and Liboreau tribes, all seemed to be going well and the party was nearing the successful completion of their quest and the eminent return to camp. But one day, a band of Rineaux, led by Chief Lynn Seagram, attacked them, killing many of the traders (including the young implacable Carl E. Pheorenah) and sending the rest fleeing for their lives. Among those who survived were Captain Istablichmint, Marceau Rubieaux and his son Jeb, Theodore Cruise, and Don D’Rumpf. They decided that their only hope of survival was to travel by foot back to their base, Fort Washington.

Initially, while there were arguments amongst the party on the right path to take, especially heated between Misters Rubieaux and D’Rumpf, it seemed that they had thrown the Rineaux off their track. But unbeknownst to them, a bear (the local natives called it Kristee) and her two bear cubs, known as Pow Ur and Faym (its third cub, Dig Knitee, had died months earlier due to an incident with some Cowboys), were living in the territory through which they were passing. One day, Marceau was out for a walk when he came upon Kristee and the cubs. At first, she attacked only hesitantly, thinking Rubieaux posed little threat to her cubs. But when he shot her with his rifle, the bear attacked with vicious ferocity, and nearly killed Marceau before finally succumbing to her own wounds. Rubieaux was left close to death, trapped under the bear carcass.

The rest of the group, upon noticing the tardiness of his return, went searching for him and discovered the grisly truth. With the help of their care, he held onto life through the night. But now the trip back to the safety of Fort Washington was significantly impeded by Rubieaux’s injuries. At any moment, a band of Rineaux could descend on them. D’Rumpf argued that the best plan was to kill Rubieaux immediately and save the party, but the Captain was unwilling to do so, and decided instead to bring most of the trappers with him to return to the fort as quickly as possible, leaving Jeb, Theodore, and Don to care for Marceau until he died. But D’Rumpf had other plans, wanting both to avoid the danger of staying in the wilderness as well as get back to the fort for his payment. He wanted to finish what the bear had started. He was quite fond of bears, in fact, and thought they were tremendous. He was particularly jealous of their large paws. In honor of the bear Kristee, D’Rumpf wore her pelt for many months afterward. But as for his plans for Rubieaux, he knew Cruise would never entertain killing him, and obviously Rubieaux’s son would sooner die than abandon his father.

So while Cruise was away from camp one day, Don D’Rumpf murdered Jeb as his gravely-wounded father watched, unable to help. Don then attempted to bury Rubieaux alive, but was in too much of a hurry to cover his evil deeds; so instead he tricked Cruise into leaving with him and returning to the fort, claiming that the Rineaux were nearby, Rubieaux dead, and Cruise lost. D’Rumpf left the camp, assuming Marceau would soon die, if he wasn’t dead already. However, with a renewed sense of purpose and desire for life, driven by a need to exact vengeance upon his son’s killer, Rubieaux did not die. With the zeal and fortitude of many men, he dragged his broken body across the wilderness, repeatedly avoiding run-ins with roaming bands of Native Americans, until he eventually came across a fellow wanderer, a Pawn(ee) by the name of A. Mary Convoter, who hesitantly shared her dead bison with Rubieaux. This sustenance helped him further regain his strength as he still had much farther to go in his pursuit of justice. Sadly, when he awoke in the morning, a band of Liboreaux had caught his friend Mary and lynched her. A Liboreau is much like a Rineau, only more vicious and unforgiving and shares little love for the Rineaux. In his attempt to steal one of their horses and escape, he found that they had kidnapped a young woman by the name of Mid Elk Lass, abusing her at their leisure. He helped free her, killing one of her captors, John M. Keans, in the process.

In the subsequent escape, Rubieaux rode his newly-acquired horse Rahm Neigh straight off a cliff, killing the horse instantly. Faced with the prospect of freezing to death in that cold, barren land, Rubieaux knew that, though dead, Rahm Neigh’s carcass still offered him some aid. So he set about eviscerating the dead animal and proceeded to crawl inside to keep warm during the long, cold night. 

The next morning, having further recovered much of his physical health, Rubieaux continued his trek toward vengeance. Meanwhile, back at Fort Washington, Rubieaux’s Super Pack canteen was discovered. The Captain, not knowing Jeb was dead, assumed he had acquired the canteen from his deceased father but somehow lost it in the interim. A search party was formed to find Jeb, but D’Rumpf knew that this meant Rubieaux was alive, so he stole off in the night. In the ensuing search, the Captain found Rubieaux and brought him back to the fort. When they realized that D’Rumpf had escaped, they set off together to chase him down.

They quickly caught up to him in a vale deep with wind-blown snow. Unfortunately, D’Rumpf’s betrayal knew no bounds, and he mortally wounded Captain Istablichmint in a conventional contest of firearms. Upon finding the Captain’s body, Rubieaux contrived to use the Captain’s body to ambush D’Rumpf and they ended in a bitter struggle before Marceau finally prevailed. However, he was loath to finish off D’Rumpf himself, but he happened to see Jean Caysic approaching. Caysic was one of the chieftains from the Rineau tribe, so Marceau left Don to the chieftain’s merciless hands. Caysic also happened to be the father of Mid Elk Lass, who, as you know, had just recently been rescued from the clutches of the Liboreaux by none other than Marceau Rubieaux.

The last we hear of our protagonist, we find him weary of fighting Liboreaux and Rineaux, so he lived out his days dreaming of his dead Mexican wife, Aym Nistea. Meanwhile, the young trapper Theodore Cruise, his name cleared of all wrongdoing, went on to a successful and renowned life in the American wilderness.
Monday, December 07, 2015
Once again, I present my annual list of the best films I watched in 2015... I will particularly try to highlight the ones that have had less commercial "buzz". Everyone knows about the blockbusters, but the good little indie flicks are the ones that need promoting.

As always, some of these have various "mature content". If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to, or

With no further adieu, I give you my opinion of the best movies from the past year.

Five-Star Films (worth the price of admission)

Calvary (genre: drama)

  • “Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.”  This Augustinian quote begins this beautiful, emotional, funny, profound, and sober film on the nature of sin and forgiveness. Wrestling with a society that is losing its faith in God... as the quote above hints, it doesn't settle for easy, emotionally-fulfilling answers. This is a great movie set in our unflinchingly dark world, with adult themes to match. But no more "adult" than the world shown in Scripture, and never glamorized.

  • American Sniper

  • Clint Eastwood again knocks it out of the park (besides the bizarre fake baby scene) as director of this film based on the powerful true story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American military history. 

  • Selma (historical drama)

  • 50 years ago, legal institutionalized segregation had come to an official end, but many blacks throughout the South were still not allowed into the most powerful space in America: the voting booth. Much like today, there were many voices, like Malcolm X, calling for a violent response. Thankfully, the voice of Martin Luther King Jr won the day and eventually the law. This film depicts the real events surrounding his attempted marches from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama. It stands as an important reminder of just how much has changed in half a century and the natural tendency of every human heart outside the redeeming love of Christ.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (action/superhero)

  • Joss Whedon just keeps pumping out cinematic gold, this time served with a significant side of Scriptural dialogue. This was just plain fun.

  • Short Term 12 (drama)

  • A couple years old (available on Netflix), this wonderful movie gives us the story of Grace and her life running a group foster home for teenagers abandoned by their families and forgotten by society. This honest film shows us the genuine struggle between law and grace, between guilt, pain, and forgiveness. 

  • Inside Out (animated/family)

  • It's Pixar, so obviously it was going to be good. But this was Pixar taking it to the next level. So much fun, for the whole family, and would have been the best family movie of the year, had it not been for...

  • Shaun the Sheep (animated family)

  • ... a little claymation film that came out later in the summer. Based on the beloved Shaun the Sheep TV show, this movie had my kids AND me rolling in our seats for most of the much-too-short 85 minutes.

  • Ant-man (action/superhero)

  • With the non-stop glut of superhero movies coming out every few months, when I heard they had one coming out based on a character that shrinks to the size of an ant, it seemed quite likely that Marvel was about to jump the shark. Boy, was I mistaken. This great film flits perfectly along the line between silly and serious; capturing us with the intense hand-to-hand combat between hero and villain before zooming out to remind us that the fight is taking place on a little kids' Thomas the Train engine.

  • Mr. Holmes (drama)

  • Sherlock Holmes is a very popular character these days, from the BBC's amazing "Sherlock" series to CBS's "Elementary" to two films with Robert Downey Jr. So you could say the fields of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary world are pretty well harvested by now. But not quite... this film gives us Sherlock as a very aged man, struggling with memory loss, while trying to recall, and solve, the one case at which he failed. 

  • Mad Max: Fury Road (action)

  • This post-apocalyptic eye candy is hard to describe. Bizarre yet beautiful, the cinematography and special effects are second-to-none. 

  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (foreign action/drama)

  • This Brazilian film begins by ridiculing leftist political ideals like emptying prisons and demilitarizing the police, but later shows the corruption inherent in big government. 

  • The Drop 
    (drama, suspense)

  • Tom Hardy stars in this final film of James Gandolfini's... set in Boston, it tells the story of a local bar owner and his barkeep trying to make a living while embattled by Russian mobsters. Very good, and has some nice twists along the way!

  • Creed (action)

  • Rocky lives! Stallone is too old to throw any more punches, but Apollo Creed's son is up to the challenge. This film is fantastic and rejuvenates the Rocky storyline! The highlight is a five minute long SINGLE-TAKE fight in the middle of the movie.

    • Four-Star Flicks (rent it)

      Big Hero 6 (animation/family)

    • Our family loved this fun Disney flick.

    • Unbroken (historical war drama)

    • One of my favorite books put to film, it couldn't live up to the book but is still a great telling of this amazing story of survival and redemption.

    • Exit at the Gift Shop (documentary?)

    • Interesting look at the underground world of graffiti art. 

    • Nightcrawler (drama)

    • This film that unabashedly damns modern TV news shows as, literally, a bunch of ambulance chasers. 

    • Whiplash (drama)

    • Whew, I hope no one ever had a music teacher (or coach) like Terence Fletcher (played by the incomparable J.K. Simmons). Brimming with intensity, this film about a top-class music school and a drummer is electrifying.

    • A Most Violent Year (drama)

    • The title is a bit misleading, as this film has very little actual violence. It's about a 1980's fuel magnate in New York City attempting to move beyond the history of violence and organized crime inherent in his business. A really well done movie.

    • Far from the Madding Crowd (period drama, chick flick)

    • I'm a big Thomas Hardy fan, so when I heard this film was coming out (though I haven't read the book), I was really looking forward to it. And it didn't disappoint. 

    • Spy (comedy)

    • Good comedies are hard to find, so I will highlight this one as the best of them last year (not counting Shaun the Sheep). Melissa McCarthy as always is a treat.

    • Ex Machina (drama)

    • This film made a lot of people's Best Movie of the Year lists. While it didn't quite get there for me, it was still quite a good movie about artificial intelligence.

    • Sicario (action/thriller)

    • Emily Blunt, fresh off her uber tough role in Edge of Tomorrow, seemed set up for a very similar role in this film about the drug traffic war taking place on our southern border. Instead, she brings a much more realistic, nuanced performance which helps the viewer relate to the emotion of the story.

    • Bridge of Spies (historical drama)

    • Tom Hanks. Cold War. Spies. Do you really need me to describe it anymore to catch your interest?

    • Love & Mercy (drama/music)

    • The fascinating story of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys as he loses his mind and eventually regains it. A lot of great music!

    • The Gift (drama/suspense)

    • I found the twist entirely predictable, but otherwise, this was a heart-poundingly well-done story about old sins coming back to haunt.

    • Three-Star Fails (watch only if all attempts to escape fail)


    • It's not based on the Biblical story. Even so, it's terrible. 

    • Exodus

    • God is a whiny brat. The director can't decide if the ten plagues are miracles or naturally-occurring phenomena. The Egyptians are pale Europeans. Nuf said.

    • Insurgent

    • This failed to live up to the promise of Divergent.

    • Identify Thief

    • Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman should be a hilarious combination. Should be.

    • Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

    • Ugh. This plays like a video game, with realism long discarded in favor of melodrama and sickeningly silly fight scenes. Good movie, terrible representation of the book.
    • Thursday, November 05, 2015

      Tuesday, December 16, 2014
      As we enter into the Christmas and holiday season when people are looking for good gift ideas, as well as movies to rent or see in the theater, I've once again put together my own personal top movies list for films I watched in 2014. Hopefully some of you can benefit from this list.  This year, rather than doing different award categories, like Drama, Comedy, etc., I've decided rather to highlight some of the films most (or least) worthy of your viewing, scoring them on a five star scale. I will particularly try to highlight the ones that have had less commercial "buzz".

      As always, some of these have various "mature content". If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to, or

      So here we go...
      The Hunt
      Five-Star Films (worth the price of admission)

      Lone Survivor (genre: war/action)
      • This heart-wrenching true story never averts its eyes from the harrowing survival of (you guessed it) one man while the rest of his military comrades perish. The title seems to be a major spoiler, but the movie is able to overcome the anti-climatic temptation and really was a great movie. One of the best of the year.
      Lego Movie (animated/family)
      • "Everything is awesome!" about this movie. Such a fun movie for the whole family!
      The Hunt (foreign/drama)
      • This Danish film blew me away with its powerful depiction of the terrible consequences that follow behind false accusations of sexual abuse and how hard it is to gain one's reputation back. A simply superb and very important film at a time where baseless charges are running rampant in Western society with little concern for the lives of good people.
      Philomena (drama)
      • This sweet little tale tells the true story of a woman (played by the incomparable Judi Dench) searching for the son who was taken from her many years ago. 
      X-Men: Days of Future Past (action/superhero)
      • The follow-up to the superb X-Men: First Class doesn't disappoint. Superb.
      Kapringen ("A Hijacking") (foreign/drama)
      • "Captain Phillips" got all the publicity (and not undeservedly, more on that later), but this little 2012 Danish film was actually the better one on the subject of hijacking on the high seas. Intense, realistic drama makes this a great current Netflix option.
      Captain Phillips (drama)
      • Another film inspired by a true story... as mentioned above, it deserved much of the acclaim it received. Tom Hanks is pitch perfect as the captain of a cargo ship hijacked by Somalis off the coast of Africa.
      Edge of Tomorrow (action)
      • The ending is weak, but otherwise this was one of my favorite action movies of the year. And surprisingly funny as well. Tom Cruise, for all his personal issues, still brings his A-game to the silver screen.
      How to Train Your Dragon 2 (animated/family)
      • How does one live up to the perfection that was the first HTTYD? Impossible, right? Well, HTTYD 2 nearly pulled it off. Fun for the whole family.
      Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (action/drama)
      • "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was a surprisingly good movie three years ago, so I went into Dawn of the Apes with cautious optimism. And boy, was I not disappointed. Dawn ups the ante with a powerful, touching post-apocalyptic tale of loyalty, family, and mercy.
      The Equalizer (action)
      • Denzel Washington. Enough said. 
      Fury (war/action)
      • "Ideals are peaceful. History is violent." Thus the main character sums up what is to follow. War is pointless and ugly. But war serves a purpose. Men are heroes. Men are villains. Many times both. This powerful war movie takes on the paradoxes of war with an abrasively honest touch. One of the best war movies in the last 20 years.
      Interstellar (drama/sci-fi)
      • Not much needs to be said about this spell-binding, thought-provoking film that hasn't already been said. If you're going to see something in the theater, make it this one. It's not the best Christopher Nolan movie ever, but it's still a Nolan movie.
      Blue Ruin (drama)
      • Okay, so I'm sure almost no one has heard of this film. In fact, it was made based on a Kickstarter campaign!  But man, it's so well done. A great story of revenge, it reminds us that vengeance almost always involves collateral damage, as well as taking on a life of its own. After all, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. This movie is currently on Netflix. Highly recommended.
      Guardians of the Galaxy (superhero/action)
      • Okay, so you've probably seen 617 commercials for this superhero movie. But if you somehow were able to resist those ads and not see it... well, I think Gob says it best: 

      Four-Star Flicks (rent it)

      Nebraska (drama/comedy)
      • Such a fun little film, well-deserving of its numerous award nominations. 
      American Hustle (crime/drama)
      • A slick movie that reminded me of the old Newman-Redford classic "The Sting."
      Mr. Peabody and Sherman (animated/family)
      • This smart kids flick is a blast for both adults and children alike, mixing in many great puns and other jokes that go over the kids' heads. 
      Locke (drama)
      • This film, starring Tom Hardy (and only Tom Hardy) takes place entirely in a car as Ivan Locke fatefully drives toward (and deals with) the unexpected consequence of a past sinful indiscretion. Hardy is superb, and the movie thoughtfully makes the viewer consider several different themes, including how sins are passed from father to son and the collateral damage that results from bad choices.
      Saving Mr. Banks (drama/family)
      • While the ending is not historically accurate, this otherwise touching film about the genesis of the movie version of Mary Poppins is a fun watch.
      The Book of Life (animated/family)
      • This fun kids movie has some dark-ish material involving ghosts and the Day of the Dead, but overall a fun film with some good opportunities to discuss with your kids a more Biblical understanding of death and the afterlife.
      John Wick (action)
      • Okay, so this is pure action for entertainment's sake alone. But it is really good, fun action and puts Keanu Reeves in a role where he can thrive. 
      The Suspect (foreign/spy thriller)
      • This South Korean film is quite good and very touching in spots as it follows the story of a former North Korean special ops agent now turned defector, on the lam from both Korean governments, searching for the truth behind the murder for which he has been framed.
      St. Vincent (comedy/drama)
      • Bill Murray is finally back in comedy (not counting Wes Anderson films). And he hasn't lost his touch as he plays an aging, seemingly self-centered war vet. But as we quickly discover, there is much more beneath the surface. 
      Snowpiercer (action/thriller)
      • This 2013 film by a South Korean director is a surprisingly well-done film I found on Netflix a few weeks ago. Using mostly Western actors (like Chris Evans, Ed Harris, and John Hurt) and filmed mostly in English, it's a unique film which is worth watching despite its rather transparent attack on capitalism and several pretty obvious plot holes. 
      The Giver (drama/dystopian thriller)
      • This movie is good, but I get the feeling it should have done more with the source material, a well-known post-apocalyptic book from the 80's of the same name.  More of a back story would have helped. But it does ask some good questions about society and is one of the more anti-abortion films I've seen, albeit in a more subtle fashion.
      Earth to Echo (family/coming of age)
      • I read that the director intended this film as this generation's "Goonies" and while I haven't seen that film, this one certainly stands on its own.
      Chef (comedy)
      • This is a fun little movie about food and fatherhood. 
      Three-Star Fails (if only North Korea had found these offensive)

      The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
      • As a movie, it was fairly entertaining. As a faithful representation of the book, terrible.
      Anchorman 2
      • As hilarious as the first one was, this was bound to fall short of expectations. But still, it should have been better than this.
      Ender's Game
      • Boring, lifeless, confusing
      The Master
      • Not what I expected, and not worth the time, despite having Philip Seymour Hoffman
      Hunger Games: Mockingjay #1
      • Mostly a waste of a movie just to set up the finale.
      Wednesday, December 11, 2013
      Here are my best movie awards for films I watched in 2013. As always, several of these may have crude language, violence, and/or sexual situations. If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to or

      Best Drama

      ~ The Place Beyond the Pines

      This film was so good, I saw it twice in the theater; the second time with a bunch of buddies after which we went to a bar to further discuss the film (later, one friend wrote up a "review" of sorts here).  The movie asks some hard-hitting questions about fatherhood, fate, and the role of each in our lives.  The film is basically filmed in three parts... it starts by following the life of Luke (played by Ryan Gosling), a loser with a temper who wants to do right by his son but can't pull himself out of his sinful and criminal past.  About halfway through, it switches protagonists to Avery (played by Bradley Cooper), who is trying to get out from under his own father's shadow.  Then last of all, the film again switches its character focus to look at the lives of Luke's and Avery's sons.  I won't spoil it beyond that, but I highly recommend this film as the most thought-provoking of the year.

      Honorable Mention: Prisoners, Les Miserables, The Impossible, 42, Biutiful, Robot and Frank

      Best Comedy

      ~ The Way Way Back

      Most of the comedies I saw this year were not funny.  So it wouldn't have taken much to win this category, but along came this film which blew the other ones out of the water.  Starring Steve Carell (in a serious role, ironically enough) and Sam Rockwell (in a brilliantly hilarious role), this coming-of-age movie about two single parents taking their kids on a joint summer vacation gives you a lot of laughs while saying some good things about marriage, being a man, and other hard topics.

      Honorable Mention:  The Heat, The Kings of Summer

      Best Action

      ~ Gravity

      Just like last year, this is a tight category with so many good action films in 2013.  But there really isn't any movie that could be in the top spot except this one.  I saw Gravity in IMAX 3D, which is really the best way to see this ground-breaking, breath-snatching film.  If you haven't been living under a rock in the last four months, then you know the basic premise: a team of astronauts gets stranded floating in space.  On paper, it may seem like a concept that offers little in terms of plot but plenty of physics-defying holes.  But in reality, while simple, the plot and script was powerful, profound, and well-executed.  And, contrary to some negative comments I've heard, the ending was perfect.

      Honorable Mention: The Hobbit, Bourne Legacy, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Olympus Has Fallen, Iron Man 3, Jack Reacher, Star Trek Into Darkness, End of Watch, Man of Steel, Catching Fire

      Best Family/Kids

      ~ Frozen

      Whew, this was a tight category, with two deserving films in "Frozen" and "Wreck-It Ralph".  But ultimately, I had to go with the one that had the best (and most unexpected) messages.  "Frozen" isn't perfect, but I thought it largely avoided the ditch of "real princesses don't need men" and the other ditch of "evil is just misunderstood", all the while ridiculing the silly notion of love at first sight and the typical fairy tale plot twist involving "love's true kiss".  Love is depicted as something that reveals itself through sacrifice, not infatuation.  Our whole family loved this movie.

      Honorable Mention: Wreck-It Ralph, Despicable Me 2, Monsters U, Jack the Giant Slayer, The Croods, Rise of the Guardians

      Best Foreign

      ~ King of Devil's Island

      I didn't see a lot of foreign films this year, so the options are a tad limited.  This Norwegian film offers a stark look at life in a real-life boys' juvenile detention center in Norway about a century back.

      Honorable Mention:  Biutiful, Going by the Book

      Best Movie You've Never Heard Of

      ~ Robot and Frank

      I really enjoyed this little indie film. It's a quiet, subtly moving tale about aging, family, and cat burglary.  I really recommend it.

      Honorable Mention: Mud, Dredd, Prisoners

      Worst Movie of the Year

      ~ This is the End

      Stupid, crude, inane, stupid.  That pretty well describes this movie.  I should have done more research before seeing this piece of trash.  Don't waste your time.

      Honorable Mention: Now You Can See Me, Taken 2
      Tuesday, December 04, 2012

      Here are my best movie awards for films I watched in 2012. As always, several of these may have crude language, violence, and/or sexual situations. If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to or

      Best Drama


      First of all, the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), the boxing of the 21st century, doesn't interest me. It's unnecessarily violent and injury-prone.  So when I first heard about this little movie called "Warrior" coming out, I didn't give it a second thought. But then a friend or two had some glowing things to say about it, so I thought I'd check it out.  Wow, am I glad I did.  It will remain one of my favorite movies of all-time for many years to come, so much so that I've already re-watched the last 30 minutes of the film a half dozen times.  From a great story of redemption to brilliant acting (Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy deserved Oscars) to one of the greatest closing songs ever, this powerful movie was easily my favorite of the year.  I give additional props to the production team in leaving out unnecessary R-rated content which could have so easily found its way into the film.

      Honorable Mention: The Descendants, Win Win, A Separation, Looper, Argo, Flight, Anna Karenina, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Safety Not Guaranteed

      Best Comedy

      ~ The Guard

      There were some high-profile comedies released this past year, and while some were very good (Silver Linings Playbook and Seven Psychopaths) and others overrated (Moonrise Kingdom), the one that stood out for me as the funniest film I saw this year was "The Guard".  Starring Brendan Gleeson (a comic genius) and Don Cheadle, this movie is about a rural Irish cop in over his head (or is he?) in dealing with drug dealers and hit men.  It's hilarious.

      Honorable Mention:  The Muppets, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Silver Linings Playbook, Hope Springs, Ted, Seven Psychopaths

      Best Action

      ~ The Avengers

      This is a tough category, as there were so many solid action films this year.  But in the end, I have to give it to the Avengers.  Not much needs to be said about a movie that blew away nearly every box office record this past summer, so suffice it to say that this film was WAY more fun than it had any right to be and was the first movie to make The Hulk actually fun.  Once again, Joss Whedon proves himself a genius behind the camera.

      Honorable Mention: The Man from Nowhere, Ip Man 1&2, Safe House, Chronicle, Men in Black 3, Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Headhunters, Skyfall

      Best Family/Kids

      ~ The Muppets

      While action movies were doing well in 2012, family flicks were experiencing a down year.  There were several decent ones, but nothing great.  So I'm giving it to the Muppets for once again charming a new generation.  Sit down with your family and check out this film for all ages.

      Honorable Mention: Hugo, Madagascar 3, Tintin, The Odd Life of Timothy Green

      Best Chick Flick

      ~ Anna Karenina

      My wife and I had to go to a little single-screen indie theater to catch the new cinematic edition of Tolstoy's masterpiece, "Anna Karenina".  We found ourselves surrounded by Russian expats, some of whom probably hadn't been to a theater since Omar Sharif played the titular character in Dr Zhivago.  And like that 1965 film, the story of Karenina centers on her marital infidelity and the huge costs that comes with it.  A lesser director would have merely followed the script laid out for him by Tolstoy.  But this director dazzles the viewer with a unique film set that evokes a Russian theatre.  Quite enjoyable!

      Honorable Mention: What to Expect When You're Expecting, Hope Springs, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

      Best Foreign

      ~ The Man from Nowhere / Ip Man

      I can't choose, so I'm naming two movies as the best foreign flicks of the year.  "The Man from Nowhere" is a great Korean film about a man with a secret who comes to the aid of a neighbor.  "Ip Man" is actually two movies, the first takes place during in China during WWII, while the other shows us a few years later.  Ip Man was Bruce Lee's master, and this story of heroism was very enjoyable to watch.

      Honorable Mention:  Headhunters, A Separation

      Best Movie You've Never Heard Of

      ~ Safety Not Guaranteed

      This was a fun little flick about time travel that avoids some of the cliches and mistakes of other films while giving us some real character depth.  The ending is not one you see coming...

      Honorable Mention: Jeff Who Lives at Home, Rampart

      Worst Movie of the Year

      ~ One Day

      Vacuous and depressing, this one is not worth a rental.  And if you come across it in a few years on TNT, you may want to consider immediately calling Comcast to cancel your cable subscription.  Enough said.

      Honorable Mention: The Lorax, Friends with Kids, Moonrise Kingdom (mostly because of how over-hyped it was)
      Tuesday, July 03, 2012

      How to Make Your Own Diagonal Bookshelf

      The bookshelf in the picture above took 20-30 hours to build and $200-250 in material costs (using poplar wood).  For a general idea of how to do your own custom diagonal shelf, here is how I did it.

      1. I chose to do a full-wall shelf, both in height and width.  In my case, this meant going up and around a hallway, and since the other side was too skinny to really employ a diagonal shelf, I made that portion a typical straight shelf.  I measured all of the primary outside dimensions and then modeled the shelf with 3D CAD software, from which I could then pull dimensions for all the boards, as well as be able to play around a little with the design.  For example, pictured in the image below is an option with corner cupboard doors. For a small fee, I can design your custom bookshelf for you. If you would like my assistance, email me at teichrod(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll be in touch. 

      1. Once I had my overall dimensions, I had to choose how to space the individual shelves and how deep to make the bookshelf.  I chose to make each shelf “compartment” 12”x12”, which is a little large for most books but allows pretty much all normal books to fit (as you can see above).  Making the compartments smaller will mean more compartments which means more space for books, but it also means more notching and thus more work.  Originally, I planned to make the shelf out of 1”x10” oak boards, but in order to save about 60% on material costs, I chose 1”x8” poplar boards instead (real dimensions are ¾”x7¼”).  Almost all books are less than 7” deep, so this ended up working well.  A couple things to consider though: 1) an 8” nominal depth may not work as well if you choose to include any cupboard storage space; 2) if you’re using a lighter colored stain for the bookshelf, poplar may not be a good choice as it tends to come a bit discolored and has an uneven grain.  It works great, however, if you stain it dark as I did.
      1. I chose to stain the wood prior to making any cuts, though this was primarily due to schedule considerations.  In hindsight, it may be best to make all the cuts and notches prior to any finishing work.  In my case, I had to go back and do a little touch-up with stain on a few pieces, and then covered it all in polyurethane finish prior to final assembly.
      1. I cut all the angled miter ends with a Skil-Saw set at a 45 deg angle.  Once this was done, I measured and marked the centers of the notches.  

      1. I made all the notches with a router using a ¾” straight dado bit, which worked like a charm.  To cut the notches straight, I clamped a square to the board to hold the router against.  It was easiest to make the cuts by making three router passes per notch.  I had to take care to notch all like-sloped parallel boards from the same face (either front or back), and notched them a little more than halfway through the board.  Since the boards ran a tad thicker than ¾”, I had to go back and use a Dremel to widen the notches slightly and smooth out the notch edges.

      1. For the non-diagonal shelves, I notched the vertical boards ¼” to give better support for the shelving.

      1. Once all the boards were cut, notched, and Dremeled, I did a test fit-up to verify that all the boards fit together prior to putting on the polyurethane.  Where necessary, I used the Dremel to fix any tight notches and interferences.  Some of the boards weren’t perfectly aligned on the sides or top, so I had to cut a few of them slightly to align the ends.  Because of the size of the bookshelf, I found it necessary to assemble it near its final location in the house.  Once all the diagonals were fitted together, I used wood screws (with a pilot hole to avoid cracking the wood) to fasten them to the perimeter boards.  From there, the bookcase was easy to tip into place.

      1. The boards initially weren’t all aligned depth-wise, so I used a couple clamps to pull them into alignment and then screwed several steel brackets across the back of the shelf to hold the boards in place.

      1. I stabilized the bookshelf with some small wood shims under the baseboard, and then used two 3” steel angles, screwing them to the wall and then to the shelf.
      Monday, January 02, 2012
      2011 was also the year that this blog died.  Tomorrow marks the 5th anniversary of the start of this blog, so it is appropriate that I wrap it up today 880 posts later.  The blog evolved a lot over the years, but recently my interest in keeping it going has waned (in case you hadn't noticed), along with the time required to invest in it.  Three kids can tend to do that.  It was fun while it lasted.  I got to give out a bunch of books via March Madness bracket competitions, and post Best of the Year movie awards, and highlight good articles and columns by Mark Steyn, Doug Wilson, Theodore Dalrymple, among many others.

      The top 5 most viewed pages:
      1. Pay No Attention to that Burning Ball of Gas!
      2. Babies and Abortion, Part II
      3. Wilson on Twilight, Cartoon Porn, and Domestic Abuse (the traffic for this post was largely due to the word "porn" in the title)
      4. I See Old People
      5. A Good Sign

      The most commented on post was easily this one ("Mike" and I went back and forth for awhile about the ethics of killing in defense of an innocent).

      For those still reading, thanks for joining me for at least some of this five-year journey and for the occasional comment.  Adios.
      Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity. - Maximus in "Gladatior"
      Once again, a chance to look back on those who will not see 2012.

      Harry Morgan

      Andy Rooney

      Steve Jobs

      Tuesday, December 06, 2011

      Another year in the bag, another opportunity to highlight the best (and worst) movies of the year. 2011 ended up being a pretty solid year as far as quality films go (a summer of almost entirely comic book movies and sequels notwithstanding). Here are the ones I enjoyed from the past year or so (some of these may in fact be several years old). As always, several of these may have crude language, violence, and/or sexual situations. If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to or

      Best Drama

      ~The King's Speech

      This film started slowly but gained a lot of buzz, primarily from Oscar talk, and ended up setting many records for box office longevity (it was still in the box office top 10 four months in).  And all of that popularity was well-founded.  This movie is a highly enjoyable re-telling of the circumstances surrounding the rise to power of King George VI just prior to World War II, focusing particularly on the speech impediment of George (or Bertie, if you will).  This video gives a better understanding of King George's real-life speaking difficulty.  The one thing the movie lacks is a glimpse into the courage of King George and Queen Elizabeth in leading the British through the war against the Nazis.  If you haven't seen this film, you've missed a gem.

      Honorable Mention: Solitary Man, Buried, Get Low, Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows II, Midnight in Paris, The Help, The Tree of Life, Moneyball, Harry Brown, The Way Back

      Best Comedy

      ~ Crazy, Stupid, Love.

      Steve Carell reigns a second straight year atop the Best Comedy category.  Plenty of high profile comedies were released in 2011, but not many particularly funny ones.  And those that were funny were also usually excessively crude.  Crazy, Stupid, Love. is one of the exceptions, and has a reasonably good message to boot.  The film focuses on 40-something Cal Weaver, who is blindsided by his wife's revelation that she's been cheating on him and wants a divorce.  What follows is his attempt to fill the void in his life with non-committal one-night stands (with the help of Ryan Gosling) and a bachelor lifestyle.  Throw in a hilarious twist and the movie is an all-around gem compared to its 2011 competition.

      Honorable Mention:  Bridesmaids, Our Idiot Brother, 50/50, the Snake Kings scene in Courageous

      Best Action

      ~ True Grit
      The wicked flee when none pursueth. Proverbs 28:1
      Thus begins the best overall movie of the entire year. I have not seen the original with John Wayne, but I find it hard to believe that it could dare approach the grandeur that is the remake. Jeff Bridges is fantastic as old Rooster Cogburn, but the real star of the show is Hailee Steinfeld as Maddie Ross, the sharp-tongued teenager bent on avenging her father's murder. The movie is first and foremost an action-filled Western, but it also contains some very humorous dialogue. Maddie's banter with a horse trader is particularly enjoyable. After watching this film, I read the book and found it to be fantastic and the film very faithful to it. Once again, the Coen brothers nailed it.

      Honorable Mention: The Fighter, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, X-Men: First Class, Source Code, Drive, 13 Assassins

      Best Family/Kids

      ~ The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

      Oh, what a difference a new director makes.  After nearly running the entire Chronicles of Narnia franchise into the ground with the terrible Prince Caspian movie, Michael Apted (director of Amazing Grace) took over and made what was largely a successful return to the series, though it still had some rough edges.  Particularly pleasing to me was that the most critical portions of the book were handled well in the film.  I look forward to the next Narnia installment, though reports indicate that could be many years away.

      Honorable Mention: Tangled, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rio, Courageous

      Best Chick Flick

      ~ Midnight in Paris

      No, that's not (necessarily) an oxymoron of a title. But the competition is usually thin, that's for sure. Midnight in Paris is a delightful little film starring Owen Wilson as a daydreaming writer who spends his nights in Paris with the who's who of great 19th and 20th century authors, only to find that his nostalgia for better days is sorely misplaced. A good lesson for us all.

      Honorable Mention: Water for Elephants, all but the last ten minutes of Jane Eyre

      Best Foreign

      ~ 13 Assassins

      This Japanese film is a great piece involving samurais and honor, superb sword fights and witty banter. Unlike some other recent Asian action films (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), 13 Assassins doesn't involve the same unrealistic stylized martial arts where gravity comes optional to every fight. Instead, it's the story of twelve honorable samurais who take on a vicious and cruel leader at no thought to their own lives.

      Honorable Mention:  White Ribbon, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, John Rabe, Intacto, Downfall

      Best Indie

      ~ The Tree of Life

      I've already reviewed this film here, so suffice it to say that this great work is well-worth watching for the patient film lover.

      Honorable Mention: Solitary Man, Get Low, Kill the Irishman, The Way Back, Harry Brown, Midnight in Paris

      Best Documentary

      ~ Waiting for Superman

      This doc gives a maddening inside look at some of the reasons why the public school system in this country is in the terrible state it is.  It follows the story of several students (mostly lower class, but does include an upper class child as well) as their parents attempt to find the best education possible for them, and the struggles they encounter along the way.  Every American should watch this film.

      Honorable Mention: Kimjoniglia

      Best Movie You've Never Heard Of

      ~ Get Low

      This delightful little drama stars Robert Duvall as a southern hermit who has cut himself off from everyone because of guilt over past sins and mistakes.  He eventually decides to host his own funeral while he is still alive.  Check it out.

      Honorable Mention: Buried, Harry Brown, The Way Back

      Worst Movie of the Year

      ~ Easy A

      While there was some competition for this award (Jason Bateman nearly took it home for a second straight year with The Switch), ultimately I had to go with this Christian-bashing, unfunny modernized telling of The Scarlet Letter.

      Honorable Mention: The Switch, Due Date, I am Number Four, the last 10 minutes of Jane Eyre
      Saturday, November 05, 2011
      The Paul Harvey of the TV world passed away today.
      Tuesday, November 01, 2011
      So I had my first direct run-in with (I believe) the effects of Obamacare today, and it left me with mixed feelings. The company where I work sent out the annual email update regarding the costs of health insurance premiums. Usually, we see a bit of an uptick in costs, but this year, I saw a pretty significant dip in what it will cost me to cover my family with health insurance. Pretty sweet, huh? But then I read the details a bit further and discovered that the insurance company is going to an age-based premium grid. In other words, it depends on your age for how much you pay for your insurance. And, as one would expect, the costs increase with age. So I, as a 32-year-old, pay significantly less for my insurance than I would if I were 52. And this applies to the spouses of employees as well. So while I am seeing a decent decrease in the cost of premiums this year, my fellow employees over the age of 50 are getting hit by a huge increase.

      Here is my theory for what is behind these drastic changes. Obamacare has a number of policy measures which could affect the state of health insurance, but two of the most egregious are the ban of pre-existing conditions exclusions and increasing the age that dependents can remain covered to 26. Obviously, both of these have significant costs involved. And since the costs of insurance have already been skyrocketing in recent years, insurance companies have to be a little creative in how they pass along the costs to their customers (you and me).

      One way, and an unintentional-yet-positive effect of Obamacare, is by pushing some free-market capitalism into the system via the age-based factor. Rather than every health insurance customer bearing the financial risk of those more likely to need health care and have 20-something "dependents" (the 50+ crowd), now those who are more likely to need health care have to pay for the increased risk inherent in their age. Meanwhile, those who are less likely to need medical care (the under-40 crowd) pay for the less-risky insurance. Overall, the insurance companies stay in business and turn a profit while distributing the new costs to the customer as required by basic laws of free market enterprise. Any time some semblance of capitalism can be injected into an anything-but-free market system like health insurance, it's a good thing. So I like that.

      On the other hand, it's merely hiding the costs with those who are least likely to do much about it and most likely to just die. Old people now bear even more of the brunt of the rising costs of health care, while young people think that everything is getting cheaper. In the big picture, the costs have gone up, and the State is forcing insurance companies to decide who is worthy of their services. At least, until the State steps in again to "save the day" for old people and requires insurance companies to charge everyone equally, at which point no one will be able to afford health insurance.
      Tuesday, October 11, 2011
      I mentioned this before, but here is a great clip from the movie, A Solitary Man.

      Thursday, October 06, 2011
      "Take a people who are able and strong. Place them in the wealthiest land on earth. Surround them with unparalleled opportunity. Then pay them not to work, not to strive, not to achieve. Pay them to accept nonproductivity as a way of life. Agree to subsidize their families with food, shelter, health care, and money if the fathers will leave.

      Do this for two or three generations and see what you produce. You will have a people who are unmotivated and dependent, whose hopes and dreams rise no higher than their subsidies - a people who have lost the work ethic, who have learned that others will take responsibility for them and who therefore assert little discipline or control over their own lives. You will have emasculated their men, making them expendable and unnecessary to their families' existence. You will have created a generation of prideless, fatherless youth who believe that receiving and taking is better than working and investing. And when you have seen the hope disappear from the eyes of the young, you can be sure you have developed an effective formula for the destruction of a people. We call it welfare." - Robert Lupton

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      Darius' book montage

      The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
      Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
      Overcoming Sin and Temptation
      According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
      Disciplines of a Godly Man
      Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
      When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
      The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
      Respectable Sins
      The Kite Runner
      Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
      Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
      A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
      Show Them No Mercy
      The Lord of the Rings
      Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
      The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
      Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
      The Chronicles of Narnia
      Les Misérables

      Darius Teichroew's favorite books »