Saturday, December 6, 2014
10 am - 1 pm (I'll be signing all 6 of my novels)
Books for Less - HUGE Sale at the Store
2815 Buford Drive
Buford, GA 30519
4 out of 4 Stars
Driving home from the theater in awe after watching the new blockbuster, Fury, I thought aloud, “We have nothing to fear in this country.” Back in 1945, however, our soldiers had everything to fear, and everything to lose. Fury brings the realities of life and death, of God and country, of war and humanity vividly to life in an epic motion picture that should garner at least four Academy Awards.
Everything about this film — from its dark, wet, frigid settings to its incredible cinematography, visual effects and poignant acting — were off the charts. Brad Pitt should take home Best Actor in his role as Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a combat-hardened US Sherman tank commander in charge of four renegade soldiers, each of whom is brilliantly realistic on the big screen as they invade Germany during World War II.
From the moment the static-filled army radio sounds in the theater, viewers are whisked away in this breathtaking story that brutally and beautifully portrays the sheer unthinkableness of war. “Ideals are peaceful,” Wardaddy says during the film, “but history is violent.” Indeed, the film left me thinking, “I truly don’t know what fear is,” and “What on earth do I have to worry about, compared to the brave men and women of war?”
Best Actor in a Supporting Role could easily go to tank-mate Shia LaBeouf, who plays Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan, or to Logan Lerman, who does an outstanding job as rookie warrior Norman ‘Machine’ Ellison, an Army typist who is thrown into the shocking and brutal role of tank gunner.
The language isn’t pretty in this film, but it wasn’t pretty behind enemy lines in the heart of Nazi Germany either. There are many gruesome scenes, but again, realism trumps everything else in this incredible film. Highly recommended for adults.
Denzel Washington has such ‘star’ quality, such screen presence, that he can make even a predictable script at least “good.” That’s what happens in The Equalizer, a film that, without his charisma, probably would have been a complete flop.
The Equalizer starts off slowly, showing the ordered life of Robert McCall (Denzel), who takes the train to his job each day at Home Mart and lives a reserved life. When he befriends a young hooker, Teri (played by Atlanta native Chloé Grace Moretz), at the diner he frequents in the middle of the night because he’s an insomniac, he soon realizes she is “owned” and often beaten by ultra-violent Russian gangsters.
When McCall confronts five of the Russians, the violent scene that ensues turns out to be the most riveting in the entire film. That’s where we learn that McCall is far from a mild-mannered home store clerk. Later we glean that he was a black ops commando who faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston.
It turns out the Russian hornet’s nest McCall has disturbed is huge and far-reaching. When they send in a scary Russian villain named Teddy (played well by Marton Csokas), that’s when the film turns predictable. It’s here we realize no one is going to defeat McCall, not even Teddy and his evil minions.
The movie started feeling like it should end at about 75 minutes, but went on for 130, with McCall becoming more of a vigilante with each tick of the clock, and ultimately slaughtering Teddy and company — and I do mean slaughter. This film lives up to its R-rating with extreme violence, gore, and a gratuitous amount of rancid language. Definitely not for kids. It also sets itself up for Equalizer 2, 3, 4, and however many they want to make, but this is the only one I will pay to go see.
After really looking forward to this thriller, set in NYC in 1999, I was let down, especially with the acting of Dan Stevens (who was fantastic as Matthew in Downton Abbey). Liam Neeson, always good, plays former cop Matt Scudder who has been sober for eight years after a stray bullet from his gun killed a girl.
Wealthy drug trafficker Kenny Kristo (played by Stevens) hires Scudder, now a freelance detective, to find the men who kidnapped his wife, got away with $400K in ransom money, then dismembered her body anyway. The deeper Scudder gets into the case, the more heinous the killers seem to be; truly sick, in fact.
Although Neeson is very strong as a remorseful, yet tough-as-nails detective, the flashbacks and interview scenes where he is pursing the bad guys are just too canned/staged. It seems director Scott Frank was rushed to make the film and threw those parts in as information dumps.
One shining character in the story was a teenage African American boy named TJ (played by Astro), who Scudder befriends and jokingly hires as his “partner.” TJ is homeless and suffers from Sicle Cell Anemia. The bond they form adds some much-needed character depth to the film.
I think the biggest problem with Tombstones was the bad guys, who were too sadistic to be real. We never get the slightest hint as to who they are or why they are as bad/sick as they are and, therefore, care nothing about them (which is why I’m not even going to dig up their names for this review).
It was Liam Neeson’s trademark acting, and his neat partnership with teenager TJ, that kept this movie from completely tanking. If I could give one word of advice to actor Dan Stevens it would be, “Please, stick to playing good guys with charming personalities, like Matthew.”
4 of 4 Stars
For what this movie was intended to be — “a captivating story about a family restored, and a life discovered” — it was a home run. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival, The Identical is a redemptive tale about twin brothers separated at birth during the Great Depression. One of them, the son of a preacher, rejects his father’s desire to join the ministry and instead embarks on a career as a rock singer. The other, well, you have to see the film to find out what happens to him, and if he ever meets his long lost brother.
Veteran actors Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd shine as the Christian parents in the film, while Elvis-lookalike actor Blake Rayne and his girlfriend, played by Erin Cottrell, do a wonderful job making the movie genuine, dramatic, and uplifting.
There are hints of Elvis’s life and musical style throughout the film, which makes it fun and enjoyable, but it is not meant to be about his life (in fact, Elvis is mentioned as one of the stars in the story’s era). Families looking for a movie about relationships, love, and figuring out what we were intended to do with our lives can choose The Identical with confidence.
1 of 4 Stars
In the way-too-complicated spy thriller, “The November Man,” veteran UK actor Pierce Brosnan as Peter Devereaux comes across too brash, too “bad,” too old, and too unbelievable.
In one early scene, as Brosnan and actor Luke Bracey (who plays David Mason) chase each other with guns drawn through a crowded marketplace in an attempt to kill one another, they actually exchange jokes on their cell phones, completely jarring the viewer and stealing any hint of realism that may have been built to that point.
November Man whisks viewers on a dizzying hodgepodge of storylines, characters, and locations — from Montenegro to Moscow, Serbia to Belgrade. After an hour and a half of the patchwork film, you’re waiting for the end and wondering why you didn’t go see The Giver.
Why is it that I can appreciate and applaud the good qualities in people who do not have the same beliefs I do, but most often do not receive the same grace and respect in return?
This has bothered me for some time now.
I am a Christian, which happened due to no boasting of my own. God put me in pressure-filled circumstances 25 years ago that channeled me toward His doorstep for help. He is where I found true joy and peace, strength and contentment. I’m thankful for that.
With that belief comes the command to love others, all others, unconditionally. Do all “Christians” do that? Absolutely not. Many times I find myself judging and hating instead. Like all people, I am a work in progress and hope that I can become more gracious with each new day.
Here’s the thing. What I often read and hear from non-Christians is their opinion that self-proclaiming “Christians” are intolerant, judgmental, boastful, and hypocritical. Sadly, in so many instances, this is true. I am often grieved and frustrated by the loud, obnoxious, fleshly, un-Christlike words and behavior of so-called Christians in today’s society — from gay-haters to abortion bombers, and those intolerant of any belief-system other than their own. On their behalf, I can only apologize.
But there is a flipside to the dilemma. That is, non-Christians — from Hollywood stars, to gays and lesbians, to average unbelievers — often act exactly the same mean-spirited way toward Christians. I give them respect, grace, and mercy. I applaud their good works and triumphs. Yet they stamp me with the stereotypical “Christian nutcase” label and automatically throw me into the category of intolerant, judgmental, and hypocritical.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to listen to people whose beliefs aren’t like mine. I want to build them up, hear their stories, and become their friend. Why? Because I want to share the love and care of Christ. When they feel that genuine, unbiased love, it will be like light and salt to them. Who knows, maybe our relationship will even generate a thirst in them for God.
Part of being an author these days is the need to keep up with social media. As I do that, I often ‘friend’ and ‘like’ the Facebook and Twitter pages of famous actors, actresses, and musicians whose work I really appreciate. I don’t care if they are gay or atheist. I want them to know I appreciate their work and talent. The question is, would they embrace me in the same open-minded way, knowing that I am a Christian?
Often, I think not.
That feels so hypocritical. It frustrates me. It riles my flesh.
Yet, our call is to love anyway. Unconditionally. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Then again, what was fair about sending Christ to the cross? The reason He surrendered Himself to that torture was so we could have His presence in us — to love anyway, to love when we get nothing in return.
Honored to be up for a Carol Award from the American Christian Fiction Writers this year. Fear Has a Name is one of 3 finalists, along with the work of authors Terri Blackstock and Brandilyn Collins. Winners will be announced in St. Louis late September 2014. Thanks and good luck to all.