The Amazing Spider-Man 2…

 
I am a bit late to the party.  But I am a critic.  Nothing about the Amazing Spider-Man sequel excited me.  I was indifferent to the first one.  My initial thought was “been there – done that”.  Enough already.  Nothing really new was brought to the table.  The reboot was neither better or worse and therefore not necessarily.  
 
With that in mind, I had little to no desire to see the second one in the theater.  So I just got around to renting it on video.  And honestly, this flick was yet another reason why I love superheroes.  And I love movies.  So much so, in fact, that it pushed (one) Superman movie down my list (which is saying a whole lot).  
  1. The Dark Knight.  Possibly the best villain in the history of cinema (3:10 to Yuma is right up there – but not a superhero movie).
  2. Man of Steel.  The origin story we were waiting for.  We need to wait for the entire trilogy to be completed before this interpretation can truly be judged (especially in comparison to Nolan’s Batman).
  3. Batman Begins.  The greatest story ever told about a superhero.
  4. Superman II.  For the era there was none better.
  5. The Avengers.  Until I saw the film for myself, I did not believe that it would be possible to juggle so many egos and actors.  Well done.  The most fun on the list.
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger.  The most underrated superhero of them all.
  7. Spiderman 2.  Transformed special effects for superhero movies.  They should have stopped here.
  8. Batman   There would probably have not been a Nolan-take on the Dark Knight had Burton not revived the Caped Crusader (and recaptured the darkness behind the mask).
  9. The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  I wasn’t a fan of the idea of a reboot (so soon) – but the new Spidey is fun.
  10. Superman.  Truly the beginning of the modern-day genre.
Honorable mentions:  X-Men (Marvel entering the fray), The Dark Knight Rises (a fitting conclusion to the best superhero saga to date), Superman Returns (not done right – but an ode to the ’80s franchise), Iron Man (the best film on a previously lesser known superhero), and X-Men: First Class (probably a better interpretation than the one listed above but less meaningful overall).
You notice one significant movie missing – one Guardians of the Galaxies.  I have only read great reviews.  Some have even labeled this flick “the Star Wars for this generation”.  I hope to see it very soon.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that my list will have to change yet again (which is always a good thing).
What makes your list?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2…

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy…




I would highly recommend Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Incredible account of a man discovering a loving and loyal God in the midst of such hideous trials and tribulations.  What I appreciate about this book the most is the author’s ability to allow the tension and transparency to speak for themselves.  A church, both in Germany and around the world, wrestled with the biblical and practical theology of their age.  They failed to be good news too many times to count.  But despite that, Christ refused to give up on the church – challenging her and changing her. 

The author suggests, “Bonhoeffer examined and dismissed a number of approaches to dealing with evil. ‘Reasonable people,’ he said, think that ‘with a little reason, they can pull back together a structure that has come apart at the joints.’ Then there are the ethical ‘fanatics’ who ‘believe that they can face the power of evil with the purity of their will and their principles.’ Men of ‘conscience’ become overwhelmed because the ‘countless respectable and seductive disguises and masks in which evil approaches them make their conscience anxious and unsure until they finally content themselves with an assuaged conscience instead of a good conscience.’ They must ‘deceive their own conscience in order not to despair.’ Finally there are some who retreat to a ‘private virtuousness. Such people neither steal, nor murder,nor commit adultery, but do good according to their abilities. but… they must close their eyes and ears to the injustice around them. Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep their private blamelessness clean from the stains of responsible action in the world. In all that they do, what they fail to do will not let them rest'”.  

That being considered, when do you suggest a Christ follower fight for what is right?  Speak up and out on what is evil?  Defend the defenseless?  And when should he or she choose to refuse the path of retaliation?  Lose their lives alongside those being oppressed?  

The church needs Spirit-empowered discernment.  

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy…

Johnny Commercial…

Allow me to be the first one to admit, that after last year’s predictions, I have little to no credibility left.  That being said, here is how I see the 2014 NFL season playing out…

AFC EAST

New England Patriots
Second best secondary in the league.

New York Jets
Michael Vick will save Geno’s bacon… until he gets hurt again.  
 
Miami Dolphins
No protection for Tannehill.  Not yet.  

Buffalo Bills 
Give them a few years.  I think that is what fans say of this franchise every year.  



AFC NORTH 

Pittsburgh Steelers 
The window is close to closing.  But there is still an inch… not to mention they have one of the best coaches in the league. 
 
Cincinnati Bengals 
The coaching staff is decimated.  They won’t win a playoff game this year.  Wait, they have not won a playoff game in years anyways. 

Baltimore Ravens
The only reason Flacco is not the most overrated (and overpaid) quarterback in the leagues is because Tony Romo is still starting for the Big D.  

Cleveland Browns
Will Johnny Football be the starter by the end of the season?  I believe so.  But it will not matter much. 


AFC SOUTH 

Indianapolis Colts 
I like Luck.  
 
Houston Texans
What a shame that this type of defense is cursed with this sort of quarterback.   

Jacksonville Jaguars
Better defensively.  How can they get any worse? 

Tennessee Titans
Hurt.  Locker.  


AFC WEST 

Denver Broncos 
Still the team to beat in the AFC (but they can be beat).  Please.  Somebody.  Anybody?

San Diego Chargers 
Will someone let Rivers know that the season does not start in November? 

Kansas City Chiefs
Smith can go only so far.  But Reid will take them further than they deserve. 

Oakland Raiders 
Why do they even have any fans left?


NFC EAST 

Philadelphia Eagles
One of the most talented teams on paper.  And Kelly is growing on me.  Not a team that I would want to face in the postseason.  
 
Washington Redskins 
I hope RGIII can bounce back.  But he really could go either way.  Thank goodness the coaching staff as changed.  The mascot should be next. 
 
New York Giants
Eli plays in the regular season like his big brother plays in the postseason. 

Dallas Cowboys
I love this. 


NFC NORTH

Green Bay Packers 
One of the most talented arms in the league. 
 
Chicago Bears
Cutler will disappoint. 

Detroit Lions 
Is there a better receiving core than this one? 

Minnesota Vikings
Peterson is the new Barry Sanders.  Wasted talent.  But Dallas, really?


NFC SOUTH 

New Orleans Saints
Easiest schedule for any playoff team.  One of the hardest places to play.  Don’t sleep on the Saints.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Underrated coach.  Class personified. 

Carolina Panthers
They simply cannot score enough points. 
 
Atlanta Falcons
What happened to this team in twenty-four months? 


NFC WEST

Seattle Seahawks
Best team in football.  The offense gets better and better.  Pretty difficult schedule.  Target on their backs.  Won’t be easy.  But they will have similar success as last year… at least in the regular season. 

San Francisco 49ers
This team puzzles me.  Honestly, the Niners are the one team in the NFL who could either win it all or miss the playoffs entirely.  But do not forget that they were just six points away from going to the Super Bowl for a second straight year (the Saints were just eight away).  My prediction: they get better and better as the year progresses (if their quarterback can stay healthy – and keep his shirt on).

Arizona Cardinals 
I do not believe in them this year. 

St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford, again. 


SUPER BOWL
New England over Seattle. Brady will have a game.  Unfortunately. 
Johnny Commercial…

A Year Down Yonder…

 

Our family completed yet another Newbery Medal Award Winner in Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder.      

I have updated my rankings accordingly.  Like I have mentioned several times before, the following list does not include the works that did not happen to make the list of award winners (but that we still enjoyed together) such as the seven books included in The Chronicles of NarniaHatchet (an honor recipient), and The Hobbit.
Here is the list to date (along with my respective reviews): 
  1. The One and Only Ivan (2013)
  2. The Tale of Despereax (2004)
  3. Bridge to Terabithia (1978) 
  4. Dead End in Norvelt (2012)
  5. Kira-Kira (2005)
  6. Shiloh (1992)
  7. Flora & Ulysses (2014)
  8. A Year Down Yonder (2001)
  9. Crispin: The Cross of Lead (2003)
  10. A Single Shard (2002) 
  11. When You Reach Me (2010)
  12. Holes (1990)
  13. A Wrinkle in Time (1963)
  14. The Higher Power of Lucky (2007)
  15. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (2008)
  16. The Graveyard Book (2009)
  17. Moon Over Manifest (2011)
  18. Criss Cross (2006)
This particular work is unique in that it is a sequel.  Many of the above books spawned series (as did other Newbery winners) but this is the first one that we have come across that was a continuation of the story.  But it can be read as a stand alone narrative in it’s own right (I believe my oldest daughter plans to go back and read the prequel).  
 
My favorite quote from this book was when the sixteen year old girl was finally able to define the special relationship that she had with quirky grandmother by suggesting, “That meant I could come back whenever I could manage it. And she was telling me to go. She knew the decision was too big a load for me to carry by myself. She knew me through and through. She had eyes in the back of her heart.” 
 
As far as our next selection, we will jump out of order so that we can read The Giver (I plan to personally watch the movie afterwards).  
 
Have you read it (my eleven year old did so with her class a couple of years ago.  She said that the book was creative but difficult to grasp at times)?  I have heard from several people that this particular book (which would eventually become a four-part series) is Hunger Games before Hunger Games.  Care to share your experience? 
A Year Down Yonder…

Child’s Enemy…

 

I had the time, during summer vacation, to finish the eighth book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series (I had to go out of order because the sixth and seventh installments did not ship in time for my trip to the beach).  

Honestly, I am not usually a fan of prequels.  They lack the suspense that a continuation tends to bring.  And yet, this one happened to be one of my favorites.  Child becomes a better writer nearly with each book.  I also enjoyed the fact that he chose the first person as the voice of the narrator (something he has not done since his original book).  This prequel was intentional in subtly revealing the reasons why Reacher became who he was while still leaving the door open for a few more mysteries in this period of his life (which I don’t believe he has done so to-date).  
 
My favorite quote was when Reacher proposed, “This was like July 13th, 1943, the pivotal day of the Battle of the Kursk. We were like Alexander Vasilevsky, the Soviet general. If we attacked now, this minute, we had to keep on and on attacking until the enemy was run off his feet and the war was won. If we bogged down or paused for breath even for a second, we would be overrun again.” 
 
That quotation probably resonated with me so much because I have been to that region and have witnessed the sites of those epic tank battles.  Child had a lot of fun with the armory issue facing the US Military in the latter part of the twentieth century (which brings a lot to the overall story)   
Here is where I rank each installment thus far…

  1. Tripwire (#3):  Vietnam and Wall-Street 
  2. Killing Floor (#1):  Currency and Counterfeiting 
  3. Enemy (#8): Cold War and Cover-Ups
  4. Echo Burning (#5):  Immigration and Domestic Violence 
  5. Running Blind (#4):  Sexual Harassment and Serial Killers 
  6. Die Trying (#2):  Extremists and Militias  
I plan to continue this series during the Winter holidays. 
Child’s Enemy…

Bountygate Bad…

This fantasy football season will be memorable indeed.  A few friends from Blue Bridge Church have come together to start a Keeper League.  Sixteen of us, to be exact.  Should be a great challenge.  My obvious strength lies in my running backs.  But let’s see if they will be strong enough.

The good news is that this league might very well bring me closer to my wife.  As many of you know, I am a Saints fan.  This has obviously been a point of contention between my 12th Man of a wife and myself.  However, I now have a legitimate reason to pull for the Hawks (when they are not facing Who Dat Nation, of course).  I drafted Russell Wilson.  I did so for two reasons.  First, I thought he would bring me a diverse amount of points.  Second, because I thought he would be a great quarterback for the future (as it pertains to the Keeper format).

So with that, go Bountygate!

Bountygate Bad…