Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman, 2017

Ever since I was a small boy, I have been a fan of superheroes.  I have read and purchased comics for close to 50 years now and have watched everything from television series, to old movie serials. animation and theatrical releases for as long as I can remember. With all of that as a backdrop, I have to say, I have just seen, what is in my opinion, my favorite superhero movie ever, Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is in many ways a testament to the power and potential of women, from the story to the terrific direction provided by Patty Jenkins, this movie is a tour de force of story, power and beyond that, the potential for all people, be they male or female. It is also a terrific testament to the power of love and the necessity at times of tough decisions that while they may not appear as love, are needed to bring about the potential of love to overcome hate.

Wonder Woman starts in a contemporary time which has Wonder Woman reflecting over an old photo. From that point, the movie goes to the origins of Wonder Woman and her involvement in helping win World War 1.  During this timeframe we see glimpses of Wayne Enterprises, (a part of the Bruce Wayne (AKA Batman) and her own history, origins and so forth. The movie does a terrific job of weaving these time frame issues into the story and we don't return to the present again until the end of the movie when we see her writing an email to Bruce Wayne. It becomes clear, this is a set up for future movies and her introduction into The Justice League which will bring DC characters together to fight crime in much the same way we saw with characters from Marvel in The Avengers.

Gal Gadot plays the lead as Wonder Woman. This Israeli actress has been featured in other movies such as the Fast and the Furious series but for all practical purposes this is her first lead in a major motion picture as the primary actor. This former Ms. Israel is terrific in this role. Not only is she easy to look at, she is a terrific actress who handles all of the difficulties of the role to a tee. Chris Pine, her co-star plays the part of Steve Trevor. Trevor is a character who has a tendency to go rogue at times in order to do what is right. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is not only entertaining , but at times, comical and romantic. Both actors play their parts wonderfully.

The movies plot is terrific, there is a wonderful score and sound track and as expected the special effects are terrific, but what I wasn't quite expecting was terrific cinematography in the film. The cinematography at times mirrors art you may expect from a museum and is more beautiful than many would expect in a movie like this. After all, movies like this are normally all about action, forget story and imagery except for some of the special effects, yet, on all fronts, Wonder Woman delivers a package that should thrill movie goers of all types, whether they like superhero movies or not.

Among the things I most appreciated about Wonder Woman was the terrific imagery and story   All through the movie there are references that one can see not only social significance, whether it be the role of women and the advancement of women's rights over the years, to even spiritual, where we even see Wonder Woman as a Messiah figure. We see images of her in what are called crucifixion scenes.  This is nothing new though, those crucifixion scenes are prevalent in many superhero stories and comics, including Wonder Woman. We also see terrific examples of sacrifice, sacrifice that involves the giving of one's life. I was reminded of the verse in the Bible that states:  "The greatest way to show love for friends, is to die for them."  John 15:13.  In that message of loving and serving others, comes in many ways what I see as the greatest message of the movie, Wonder Woman.
presented.

In Wonder Woman we see the power of hate, yet, we also see the power of love. It is in the willingness to come together that we see the ability to bring about change. That power comes from the collective of all involved to do what is right, while at the same time, to allow each individual within the collective to use their strengths, or as described in the movie, just as it is in the Bible, their gifts. While we see Wonder Woman struggle with the evils of war, we also see her recognizing that there are times to take action to bring about the change that may be needed. In that ability to bring about change, she understands how to bring people together and to recognize and acknowledge the gifts that each person has. We see a powerful message here that is relevant in today's world, especially with the political hatred that seems to exist.

In Wonder Woman we see that love for the whole includes involving people coming together to accomplish good. This is especially needed when so much evil exists. Of course it is not always easy to look at and determine what one believes to be evil but as is illustrated in this movie, when there are those that seek to destroy anything good, then differences have to be overcome to fight that which is, evil. It is in the coming together that we reverse the concept from evil to live. We can only live when we come together, yet we so often become so preoccupied with the things around us, our individual desires, that we forget about the needs of the collective. When and if self becomes so important that we ignore the need to come together to accomplish good then we only contribute to the evil around us. From a contemporary perspective, I couldn't help but think while watching this, what if the Trump haters, the Hillary haters, the Obama haters, the whatever haters came together to bring about good in what ways they can as opposed to continuing to find reasons to hate.

I will reiterate, Wonder Woman was for me in a surprising way, the best superhero movie I have seen. That isn't to put others down, but it is to say this is one terrific film. One I fully expect to see again, and again over the years to come. 

There are few films I consider virtually perfect but this film accomplishes that purpose for me. For the number of letters there are in the word incredible, I give this incredible film on a scale of 1 - 10 a 10.

To see the trailer for Wonder Woman, just click on the following video, if the video doesn't appear, click on the link.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSB4wGIdDwo



The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

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Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

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There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully, you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

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Friday, April 28, 2017

The Promise, The Armenian Genocide

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While rare, there are those moments I walk into a theater knowing nothing about the movie I am about to see. Recently one such incident occurred. there were two new movies I hadn't seen and decided that from what I had seen from the trailers and from the movie poster in the lobby that my wife would likely enjoy one more than the other, so, we decided to see The Promise.

The Promise was released on the festival circuit late 2016 and was just released into the theaters this last week. I will be honest, I knew nothing of the story, didn't know what to expect and after seeing it, am wondering if sometimes, maybe, just maybe, the feelings one has about a movie is expanded on in situations like this, whether the movie is good, or bad. If it is true, and I expect there is a measure of truth to it, The Promise is one of the best, if not the best movie I have seen in the last few years. I was shocked, moved and intrigued by this incredible story.

The Promise is a period piece that takes place in the early stages of World War One. The story takes place in Turkey and has to do with the Muslim Sect of Turkey and their attempt to largely eradicate and wipe out the Armenian Christians within their country. This attempt known as the Armenian Genocide is a little-known part of history within many circles, it is certainly a historical concept I personally knew little about.

www.thevirtualpew.comThe Promise is directed by one of our world's great directors, Terry George, noted for such important historical dramas as Hotel Rwanda and In The Name of the Father. His direction here is just as expected, outstanding.  The story also partially written by George takes us on an epic journey that one will not soon forget after seeing the movie.

Mikael Boghosian, played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac is a young man who desires to be a doctor and has to travel to Constantinople to attend medical school. In order to attend school he accepts a dowry from the family of the woman he loves, Maral played by Armenian, Angela Sarafyan. Mikael leaves the family and his betrothed behind to attend school. While in Constantinople he stays with a family member who has as a teacher for his children, Ana played beautifully by Charlotte Le Bon. Ana is in a relationship with American AP reporter Chris Myers played by Christian Bale. As things progress, there is a sort of love triangle that develops between Chris, Mikael, and Ana. It becomes clear that Ana and Mikael are truly in love and while Chris loves and sees what is going on between the two he is preoccupied with the events of the day, largely, the efforts of the Turkish Ottoman government's to wipe the Armenians from the face of the earth.  Caught up in the attempt to destroy the Armenians we see these characters story, as well as a friend of Mikael from medical school, a Muslim member of the Ottoman government, Emre Ogan played by Marwan Kenzari begin to develop and take shape. What transpires in that story is a historically epic story with a backdrop of love and faith. Not since Dr. Zhivago have I seen a story like this played out on the screen so brilliantly.

Seeds of faith, service, love and helping the least fortunate are sprinkled so heavily in this film that one would be mistaken to not take notice. From pivotal scenes in churches, among mission groups to the willingness to sacrifice life to save innocents and those in need we see these images sprinkled with images of Jesus, the cross and much more. While The Promise could have taken a heavy-handed approach to show the negative involvement of many Muslims in this world, during this time, it doesn't. One of the pivotal heroes of the story is in fact, a Muslim whose sacrificial actions save many lives. In his friendship with an Armenian Christian, we see the power of friendship which came about from sharing a mutual interest and a willingness to communicate and get to know a person of a differing belief.

www.thevirtualpew.comThere are many tragic, difficult scenes to watch in the Promise, I couldn't help but think of contemporary and current refugee issues that are going on in our world right now and the sacrifices of those seeking refuge. The Promise does a terrific job at illustrating those images to the point that one can't help but think of the difficulties that continue in our world today. Yet, in this, I am also reminded that many are even now unaware of this particular historical tragedy, and then, there is the attempt of many to pollute the story and keep others from seeing this movie. There is no better reminder of this than what can be seen taking place currently by reading the reviews by viewers on the IMDB page.

When doing research for some movies I go check out the IMDB page after seeing a movie, so it was I did with The Promise. When doing so I was shocked at the overwhelming majority of recent reviews since the movie came out of the very high ratings given the movie by viewers, it is in fact, if looking at those reviews, one of the highest rated and reviewed movies I have ever seen on this particular page. However, with a tad bit of research one can also easily see that there was what appears to be an organized effort prior to the release of this movies to critique and condemn the movie, prior to anyone seeing it. As a result, the true score or review from viewers at IMDB are not nearly as high as it would be if only reviewed by people who have seen the movie. I make mention of this for a couple of reasons, one, to let you know the movie is far better than is initially indicated from what appears to be some fan reviews, the other though, to let you know, apparently there is a large segment of society that still does not want to let people know about the atrocities that took place during the Armenian Genocide. Racism, prejudice, and hatred still exist to the point that like the White Supremacist who doesn't want to accept the reality of the Jewish Genocide during World War 2, some don't want to accept similar actions to exterminate the Christian Armenians during World War 1. 

I initially thought this movie would be boring, it is long and has a focus more on story than it does action, although there is a lot of action and intrigue. I was, however, never bored and despite being tired when I went to the movie, never lost interest.  I was so intrigued that I ended up doing research on the period of history and the Armenian Genocide from a historical perspective. While I am far from educated to the point I would like to be, the movie inspired me to learn more and I am far more knowledgeable now than I was prior to the movie.  

www.thevirtualpew.comThere is so much I would like to say about this film, it so vividly illustrates the concepts of my faith like when true love is willing to lay down one's life for another. Then the concept that real life is not always wonderful, sometimes in doing great things for others we realize that sacrifices must be made and sometimes there is a horrific cost to that sacrifice, which may or may not has any value in the long run. I was so moved by the reminder that in my faith, I live a life within a faith that thankfully realizes that it rains on the just and the unjust, so unlike some within my faith who likes to pretend that nothing bad ever happens in the life of a Christian, when in reality, sometimes it does, and there are those within my faith practice that have had to pay a horrible cost for their faith which is lived out by their actions. A Christian worldview is presented as opposed to an American Christian worldview which is in so many ways not always a real part of a faith that transcends outside of American view points.

I can't recommend this movie high enough, it is exceptional. It is so exceptional that it will enter my top 100 films of all time, likely in the top 25. It is rare as well, because it is as perfect, in as many ways as one can imagine. It is for that reason, that for me, The Promise enters a rare and truly Epic place as it is truly an Epic film in the tradition of a Dr. Zhivago or other films of the era. For the number of letters in The Promise, on a scale of 1 - 10, I give a rare, and well deserved 10 for this incredible film.

To see the trailer for this film, just click on the video below, if for some reason the video doesn't work, try the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnwgMYeaqr4


I also highly recommend this video to see some of the controversy regarding the film. The interview from Charley Rose follows the trailer of the film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9xInkOO5Xs



The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

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There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully, you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
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Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Netfix's, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore

www.thevirtualpew.com

I was recently talking with friends Bob and Andy Lutz on Wichita's 1240 AM and 97.5 FM KFH Radio where I am a frequent guest as The Movie and TV Guy.  I have done a lot of reviews for movies, but as we spoke on a recent show, television has come a long way, especially with the growth of various television networks. One of the shows we spoke about was The Walking Dead, I mentioned that I had never missed an episode of The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, or Chris Hardwick and The Talking Dead Series. Hardwick has just started a new show titled, Talking with Chris Hardwick. On his first episode, he had as a guest, from the Lord of the Rings fame, Elijah Wood.  During their interview, they spoke of a new movie that Wood has done with Melanie Lynskey known for her work in such things as Togetherness, Heavenly Creatures and much more.  This little-known actress has received high praise for her work and the movie she and Wood did together, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, sounded quite intriguing so I decided to check it out.

One of the things that disturbed me off the bat in my research was some of the bad reviews the movie had received despite winning The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I also didn't understand since the movie was written and directed by Macon Blair who has a cameo in the movie. Blair is a well-respected actor for his work in such thrillers as Blue Ruin among others. So it was with some skepticism that I decided to check out this movie on Netflix, and boy, was I glad I did.

www.thevirtualpew.comI Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a strange little flick that knows the importance of building characters but thankfully, it also knows the importance of using quirky characters to tell its story. Lynskey plays a nurse named Ruth. After a rather strange day at work, she comes home only to discover that her home has been robbed. One of her neighbors, who thinks he is a martial arts expert happens to be Tony, played very nicely by Elijah Wood. Tony and Ruth come to know each other as Tony walks his dog and it happens to poop in her yard each day. These two unlikely people end up working together to try and discover who it is that has robbed her residence, especially since they seem to get little effective response from the local police department.

What happens from this interaction, their investigation, takes all kinds of twists and turns and as a result, we have one of the better dark comedies I have seen in some time. The last thirty minutes or so is so intense one can't hardly take their eyes off the screen, mainly because we can't believe what we are seeing and we have had the characters developed to an extent that we care about them, despite their quirky nature. They are characters many of us can relate to in some ways because of our own quirkiness.

www.thevirtualpew.comIn this little film, we see the potential for those who come from different walks coming together, developing friendships and legitimately caring for each other. I am also impressed with the concepts of not giving up, taking the world around us into our own hands and following through for the things we want. Of course in that, we also see that sometimes, just as in real life, there are consequences we pay for that. 

I also appreciated the surprising hints in the film of the importance of faith in our journey, whether thinking of or hearing an old hymn, thinking about the role of God, or even the need of the Church in important emotional aspects of life. It is all hinted at, spoken of and at times forced on the viewer in a way that if they will but open their minds to the imagery used, will get it and think about it.

This little Indie film has some nice cinematography, great sound, a pretty good soundtrack, along with some great acting and direction and a rather wonderful script that I happened to love. While it isn't a perfect film, it was for me, very close and as exciting as anything I have seen in awhile. I honestly felt as good about this movie as I did Get Out after seeing it, and for this reviewer, with the bad I have to review at times, this was a very nice surprise.

www.thevirtualpew.comAs I mentioned in the first bit of my review here, I am impressed with what we are seeing on television now, and the advent of the likes of Amazon Prime, Netflix and others we are seeing some originality. While some complain about the redundancy and remakes on the big screen, there are great new story lines, with great actors and great direction that is taking place in this mode of entertainment. It is this type of thing that makes my own subscription to Amazon Prime, and in this case, Netflix worth it.

If you have Netflix, check this little gem out, especially if you enjoy off the wall characters and story. This little thriller delivers, and for those who don't feel at home in this world anymore, you will appreciate all of the little innuendos and commentary throughout the film as I am certain, you will find something about the quirkiness of these characters and the story you can relate to and appreciate.

On a scale of 1 - 10 for the number of letters in the title of this movie, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, I give a very deserving, 9. 

To see the trailer for this film, just click on the following video, if the video doesn't appear, click on the following link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR9F95D2TNw


The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

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There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully, you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

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Kari Jobe's The Garden CD Release

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I was recently given the opportunity to review Kari Jobi's new CD, The Garden Deluxe Edition, I was excited to review this as I had greatly enjoyed her previous work, Majestic. It was eclectic, up beat and something I wouldn't mind listening to over and over. So it was with excitement I listened to The Garden.

The Garden Deluxe Edition starts off quite nicely, albeit a bit too much electronic music for me. I understand that is a stylistic issue which one either likes or doesn't but there is a definite worship style within the style that has been built on her experience as a worship leader. It was her work within the Christian market that ultimately had her being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Album and 4 nominations for the Christian version, The Dove Awards of which she won 3 Doves.

In my experience with Christian music from both a reviewer since the early 1980's and with working in the music industry since that time there is definitely a place for the Christian audience and The Garden will appeal to that audience. It has some great worship tunes that are easy to listen to and can easily lead one into an attitude of worship. As to a non Christian or non follower of Jesus, the project will be something they don't quite get as it is most definitely a project specifically directed towards the Christian audience, it is if you will a Christineeze (speaking in the language primarily only Christians understand) project. I don't blame Jobi for that, she and her handlers most likely understand this is her market. There are other artist however, like Mary Kathryn who have taken on this role but the music keeps the attention and the vocal variations for the non Christian audience can be entertaining. In that regard Jobi's project is a bit lacking.

www.thevirtualpew.comI found myself experiencing a bit of monotony as I listened to this CD a number of times. That feeling was supported by others who listened with me with comments like "I like the songs, but after awhile it all sound the same."  That has me at a strange place as I review this project, while I am a fan, one that loves her previous work, I find myself loving two or three songs at a time but after that, so it sounds so much alike. I think this is for a variety of reasons. The project seems to be heavily driven by electronics and studio effects along with the same vocal and musical styles. I personally prefer that live sound, feeling and variety included in the production and mixing process. I just don't feel that, in some ways it falls as short for me as another artist I love, Amy Grant, whose electronic remix of her hits was somewhat of a travesty.  While The Garden is a ways from being a travesty, it is quite good with highlights in individual songs, it is just repetitive and in my opinion not her best work.

I think the CD will do quite well because each song on its own is quite nice and acceptable for radio air play but accumulatively, as a whole, it falls short for me and those who listened to it as a collective with me agreed. Again, please understand, not because it is bad, it is just so repetitive.

www.thevirtualpew.comI know there are Christians as mentioned earlier who have excelled in the worship style who have found a way to draw in the non-Christian listener. This is a great thing to work towards as I believe this also allows the non-Christian to get a taste of what following Jesus is all about. One can see and hear a sincerity in the music, lyrics, and yes, delivery of the song. Jobe does a great job, but the non-Christian listener is one I believe who also needs more instead of less in some regards. King David is a perfect example in his writings of the Psalm's. Many around the world, even those from varying faith groups read and memorize those passages because they hold so true to the things in life they are going through. For many, the agony, difficulty and hard times is as much a part of the worship experience as the "Praise God" concepts are for others. Unfortunately, we focus within Christendom sometimes more on the "Praise God" parts and entertainment aspect for each other than we do with an understanding of those hurting, even Christians, often surrounding us. It is for this reason, among others, that I would have preferred more than I got. 

On a scale of 1 - 10, I just found this CD to unfortunately be somewhat mediocre, so for that reason, I given a mediocre 5.

To hear a sample of the album, click on the video below, if the video doesn't appear, click on the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3Dtnaie4KY&index=1&list=PLbkVEAucwstu7tQHLNHMQCOVLrAoMd-qm



The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site


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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Theatrical Release, The Case For Christ



www.thevirtualpew.com
In 1998 Lee Strobel wrote the book, A Case for Christ. Strobel is former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, with a journalism degree from The University of Missouri and a Masters of Studies in Law from Yale Law School, Strobel prior to writing the book was also a devout Atheist. Shortly after his marriage, and while working at the Chicago Tribune he began to question the claims of Christianity shortly after his wife became a born-again Christian.  As a result of his research from the book, he interviewed 13 Evangelical Christian Scholars regarding their defense of Christianity. After the process, Strobel later on became a Christian who was convinced with the evidence that he had studied and discussed with scholars from various groups, including non-Christians as to the resurrection of Jesus. He later on went to serve as one of the pastors at Willow Creek, one of America's largest churches. As a disclaimer, I interviewed and was offered a position at Willow Creek as Pastor of the Harvest Division Ministries prior to 9/11/2001. After the terrorist attacks that opening was no longer available due to funding issues. I also initially met Strobel at a Leadership Conference at Willow Creek around 2008 / 2009.  I have been a fan of his writings for some time and have promoted them from an apologetic perspective for some of my friends looking for truth as to the evidence of Jesus Christ.

Pure-Flix is a film production company that has of late been making numerous Christian films, some of them have done well at the box-office and as a result, they decided to work with Strobel to make this film.  Strobel told me in an interview that he agreed only after making sure he could dictate the director of the film and the screenwriters to ensure that they got the story right. I am convinced that Stroble's involvement in the process is one of the reasons A Case for Christ comes across as nicely as it does. I have had issues with some of the earlier, and heavy handed films done by Pure-Flix but as of late they seem to be doing a much better job and the production of their movies, A Case for Christ helps illustrate their journey in a positive direction.

A Case for Christ is in many ways as much of a love story as it is an Evangelical film trying to prove its supports of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It presents the struggles of Strobel during his search and investigations. His character is played nicely by Mike Vogel, known for his television work and on such films as Cloverfield, The Help, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and numerous others. Erika Christensen known for her work in the films Parenthood, Swimfan and others does a nice job as Strobel's wife Leslie. The chemistry between the two actors and supporting cast contributes a great deal to the quality of the movie. One of the things this film also does is not become so preachy that it turns off those in the non-Christian audience.

A Case for Christ presents in an honest way, an honest search for the truth regarding Jesus Christ and his claims to be the Son of God. I suspect many Christian's, just as in the God's Not Dead movies will appreciate and support this movie, as to whether the movie has the potential to reach across and bring in the nonreligious community is yet to be seen. It deserves that audience and it deserves an open and honest discussion regarding the conclusions of the film. I suspect the film also has the potential to continue to divide people of faith and the non-Christian community, if however, people are open to an open and honest discussion, with mutual respect for each other, the film also has the potential to open up dialog regarding the serious issues of faith specific to the person of Jesus Christ. I will note, the film does not go into a great deal of detail as to the specifics of the conclusions Strobel came to, it instead gives a taste of that research and focuses more on the story of the relationship with his wife and his own struggles. I would personally recommend, that if wanting more detail as to his findings then one can easily pick up the book A Case for Christ or any number of other books that Strobel has written.

I have to comment on the insistence that Strobel made the film as an honest portrayal of himself and what he was like during that time of his life. It took courage to do this as there are times Strobel, prior to his becoming a Christian comes off as nothing less than a jerk. While I met him a number of years ago, I found that aspect of his life as surprising as the time spent with him when I met him, as well as the time I spent interviewing him for this film, he came across as a pleasant, easy to get along with guy who takes his faith seriously but also has a respect, appreciation and legitimate concern for those he spends time with, despite their religious beliefs or lack thereof. While he may have critics due to the actions of many Christians who use his material, his actions and respect is noteworthy and something that should also be followed by those who read his books.

A Case for Christ is not a great film, it is however for Pure-Flix one of their best films and compared to other theatrical film releases holds its on as an entertaining, thought-provoking story that has the viewer caring for the characters and thinking about the subject matter covered. For that reason, I can recommend the film and would have no difficulty watching and discussing it with any of my friends, Christian or not. 

On a scale of 1 - 10, for the number of letters, there are in the name of a man I like now more than ever, Strobel, I give a deserving and entertaining 7.

To see the trailer for the film click on the following video, if the video does not appear, follow the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhe8KhSxWGo




My review with Lee regarding the movie and other things:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P9ou1ihVPg&feature=youtu.be




The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

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Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

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There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

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Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Dog's Purpose, Beyond The Controversy



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I honestly can't think of a family oriented movie that has had as much controversy surrounding it as A Dog's Purpose in my lifetime.  PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has encouraged that the movie be banned and many theaters, such as the one in my community, Warren Theaters has banned the movie from showing in its theaters. This is all because of the release of the video a couple of weeks prior to the release of this movie taken on the set of alleged abuse of one of the dogs on set. That video and the protests surrounding the movie was publicized on the tabloid television show, TMZ.  I will make a few comments here prior to going to my review of the movie. 

Since the protests and publicity surrounding the alleged abuse of the dog in the movie has come about, numerous individuals have come out in support of the movie with explanations of the video, the most recent that of one of the stars in the movie,  much-respected actor Dennis Quaid.  Also coming out in defense of the movie, with a detailed explanation of what happened was by Gavin Palone, the film's producer and animal rights advocate.  Palone goes into some detail including his own culpability in an article published on January 23, 2017, in The Hollywood Reporter. While accepting some culpability in the article, this reviewer believes his reporting of the events is more accurate than any I have read and come to the conclusion, that the animal was not harmed or injured in any way, certainly not as presented by much of the media, in fact, I believe the protests against this movie, by some animal rights advocates, has the potential to do more harm to the willingness of people to accept and adopt pets than many realize. One must take into consideration, the reports came from a heavily edited video, popularized by a tabloid television show, (who has since backed away from much of the original reporting) and a radicalized animal rights group, PETA who has issues with anyone keeping pets, any animal use in movies and many more radical concepts regarding pets. 

www.thevirtualpew.comNow to the movie. I have recently gone through the process of getting a new puppy. My family has always had pets and have considered them, as almost family members. In many ways, they are family members incredibly important to our family but not held on the same level as humans. That said, we have been loving and nurturing to our animals we have had, including a cat that lived to be 27, and several large breed dogs that have lived to 15 or more.  We love animals and with the loss in the last year of a dear family member, Kersey, a White German Shepherd we realized that our lap dog, Buster, needed a new dog. We realize dogs are pack animals and respond best to another dog. So, we just adopted a new dog who will be coming into our family within 6 weeks of this writing. Again, we love animals.

The movie A Dog's Purpose is based on a best-selling book by the same title written by W. Bruce Cameron. It is a unique story in that it tells the story of a dog, and one could say his spirit, through the eyes of the dog Bailey. A unique attribute of the movie is we see Bailey through the eyes of numerous dogs after Bailey dies. We see his spirit reenter other dogs at their birth with an understanding of his past lives. In many ways, one could say it resembles concepts of reincarnation, except through the eyes of a dog. Bailey lives in various forms, through various breeds, and various sexes. The dog's character, Bailey narrates the story through several short story concepts, all maintaining the primary character of Bailey. Josh Gad does the voice of Bailey, and in all honesty, while he does a good job, there were times I personally got tired of the actor's voice. 

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This film, despite its various short story concepts all holds together. The movie flows nicely although a little boring to me for the first third of the story. It is near the conclusion of Bailey's life with a young Ethan, played by K.J. Apa that the story really picks up emotional ground. We see some good character development for Ethan, his girlfriend Hannah, played quite nicely by Britt Robertson and his parents and the turmoil of the family during Ethan's teen years. From this point on, roughly half of the movie, that this movie picks up some serious steam, and the viewer, especially if they have had pet dogs, better have a handful of Kleenex available.

The respect A Dog's Purpose gives to the importance of dogs, the life of dogs is quite moving. I have no doubt that for those watching the movie, they will reflect a great deal about their pet family members that have passed on. During my screening of the movie, for the last half of the movie, it was not unusual to hear weeping among not only adults but the children in the audience.  If the emotional pulls of the movie had only been solicited to end in a sad story, with sad events, and for the sakes of pulling on those tear strings, I would blast the movie. There are however, moments, especially the ending of the story that the entirety of the movie, all of the short stories in the movie come together It is here in the conclusion of the film that we get Bailey's response to the question he has been asking his entire life, as to what is, A Dog's Purpose? Bailey not only has his answer, but the viewer has their answer and the direction by Lasse Hallstrom all comes together. 

www.thevirtualpew.comMy belief is this movie is not a great movie, it is, however, a very good movie that I loved by the end, and will admit, also needed more than a couple of Kleenex as I reflected on my pets who have passed on.  I thought of them in a good way, I even went so far as to wonder, if this type of thing is a possibility, could the spirits of my past pets continue on.  Of course there is no answer to those types of things, but I did most certainly realize how God can bring life to people in so many ways and about how dogs, or pets in general, can be a tool of God to help us come to our own conclusions about the questions we have in life.  In the end, while this movie won't win any awards, it is likely that it will help many people, and could have helped do many pets through adoption. Unfortunately, the criticism of this movie, which I believe to be unfounded, will likely do more to harm this possibility than many people realize or want to accept. That is unless pet owners, who see the movie, does their due diligence, speaks out to some of the absurd comments and protests that are taking place. I encourage the reader, read the article in the Hollywood reporter referenced earlier.  I think you will see a filmmaker share what really happened as to their intent and desire for the movie. I for one, happen to believe him.

Now while this movie is not for the super tough macho thrill seeking type of guy, I will say this, if that guy has ever had a dog, he will stay until the end of the credits to make sure his own bloodshot eyes clear up, and after seeing it and getting home, will want to love on his dog. For those who don't have a dog but may have had one in the past, it may do something else, encourage you to go to a local shelter and adopt one. Now for me, I will conclude with this, regarding this movie, for the letters in the words, "cry baby," I give a heartfelt, wet Kleenex 7.

Feel free to check out the following videos by clicking on the video, if that doesn't work, click on the link:


Dennis Quaid Answering Questions of Abuse



The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Ben-Hur, 2016



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There are movies that are classics, and then there are classics that will seemingly endure forever. The story of Ben Hur has been told in numerous movies and scripts dating back to 1907. The most respected version of the story is the 1959 version starring Charlton Hesston. This rendition of the film is certainly in the top 25 films of all-time by virtually every film critic and reviewer on the planet.  It is for good reason Charlton Heston is outstanding and the cinematography and story, along with direction and cast is nothing short of exceptional.

So it is, justifiably so, that one would be critical from the outset at trying to explain why there would need to be a remake of this outstanding film. It would seem as if a remake would be doomed from the start from the criticism that would come about from fans of the 1959 film. I would remind folks, though, that even the 1959 film is itself, a remake of earlier versions of the story. So it is, with some understanding that I understand, the reasoning for a remake.

Ben Hur, 2016, is brought to us by producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett among others. These two have delved into religious-themed movies in recent history, some good, some not so good and all thought provoking. So it is with the new version of Ben-Hur starring Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur, Toby Kebbell as his adoptive brother Messala and numerous others including Morgan Freeman as Ben-Hur rescuer and mentor Ilderim.

www.thevirtualpew.comThe story takes place in Jerusalem during the time of Christ. Ben-Hur and Messala are best friends who are like brothers. Ben-Hur believes in the way of peace while Messala understands the need to become a part of the Roman Empire. Messala ends up joining the Roman forces while Ben-Hur stays at home in Jerusalem. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem join the Zealot Movement to try and overthrow Rome, Ben-Hur believing he should befriend all people harbors a Zealot who later on brings his house under the swift and judgmental sword of Rome. As a result, tragic events happen under the eye of those in power and Ben-Hur's life long friend and brother Messala. Ben-Hur is placed into slavery aboard a warship.  Later he regains his freedom but is still wanted for acts against Rome and comes under the protection of a wise mentor, Ilderim who takes him under his wing and trains him to race chariots. The story along the way is the story of Ben Hur that so many are familiar with, and this rendition stays quite true to the intent and concepts of the other films.

I have to say, there is not what I would consider any outstanding leads or bits of acting in this film. It is good but does not compare to the classic 1959 version which one can't help but think about. That said it is still told quite well with the script doing a good job at showing the influence of a young Jewish carpenter named Jesus. We see the role of Jesus in a background sort of way have an impact on Ben-Hur and the characters around him, including his wife, Esther, played by Nazanin Boniadi.  We see the impact and teachings of Jesus certainly come into play in regards to the spiritual freedom he emphasized in a country that was occupied by Rome, especially so when so many Zealots and others fought for religious freedom. Whether by intent or not, the movie helps illustrate in many ways the life-changing impact of Jesus, even in a political climate that seems to be in opposition to all things related to faith. The freedom provided is an internal freedom as opposed to a political freedom. In this manner, the direction provided by Timur Bekmambetov is quite exceptional as it tells an exceptional story and weaves in quite nicely the impact of Jesus not just individuals around him, but the culture of the time.

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Ben-Hur tells quite nicely a story that shows the power of redemptive change but along with that concept, the power of forgiveness. I was quite pleased, and moved at how the movie weaved in these messages, not that they haven't been told before, they have and even in an exceptional way, but the reminder of these themes is still needed in today's world, and it is in this vein that I can recommend the movie even though it is not a great movie as is the 1959 Classic, it is still a story worth watching and I believe many will see the story for the first time because it is on the big screen. Hopefully, though, it will also inspire people to go back and see the earlier versions, especially the classic 1959 version. I know it did me as I want to return to the classic to compare.

Now the special effects in this are quite incredible, especially the chariot race towards the ending of the film, many will and are talking about those scenes, but again, for me, I can't help but go back to the 1959 classic film to think about and realize, while there were some special effects and stunt actors used in that film, there was no CGI.

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All in all, this is again, a good movie, that doesn't make it a classic or great movie, though, I found the first 30 minutes or so of the film quite boring, almost at times amateurish, but it picked up and the last two-thirds of the film were actually quite good and entertaining and, as the story came together, quite meaningful.  I am going to recommend this movie, on the big screen for those reasons. It is a movie that revisits the themes of today's world that seem to exist in society as a constant, yet, it also shows the power of Jesus to change lives, and, the message on forgiveness and the power it can have is as relevant today as it ever was.

So on a scale of 1 - 10, while it may not seem like a great score, it is still a movie I highly recommend seeing, for the letters in Ben Hur, I give a somewhat, perplexed 6.





The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.



Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

http://www.mosaicwichita.com/#!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at mike@furches.org You can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/.

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214
Email: mike@furches.org

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site


Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News