Not since the first Spider-Man hit the big screen had I been looking forward to catching a superhero at the cineplex as Captain America this summer.
After all, I remember as a small boy being hooked on the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States' World War II effort. read more
If Spider-Man's creed is "with great power comes great
responsibility," the mantra of Thor could easily be "with great power comes
The latest superhero movie from Marvel Studios, Thor
features an out-of-this-world arrogant, reckless and selfish warrior (Chris
Hemsworth), who is about to be named king of the mystical
kingdom of Asgard by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). But Thor's reckless
actions reignite an ancient war with the frost giants—a provocation that runs
counter of Odin’s advice: “a wise king never seeks out war, but he must always
be ready for it.”
Odin justly calls Thor a "vain, greedy, cruel boy," but the son
fires back with, "You are an old man and a fool!" Bad move, as his father
removes Thor’s power, and casts him and his mighty hammer Mjolnir to
Earth—forcing him to live among humans. Speaking of Thor’s hammer, it can be
thrown like a boomerang, spun like nunchucks and can alter the weather—"a weapon
to destroy or a tool to build," according to King Odin.
From a celestial sword-and-sorcery fantasy ala The Lord of the Rings, the film then becomes a
fish-out-of-water action/comedy as Thor must adjust to the new world around him,
while earthlings are dumbfounded by his Viking ego and mannerisms. For example,
he storms into a diner and yells “I need SUSTENANCE,” and “I need a HORSE” as he
stumbles into a hamster-and-hound-packed pet store.
The best parts of the movie are when Thor is banished to Earth,
and he must find out what it takes to be a true hero when his crafty
half-brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), threatens the whole planet. After he
crash-lands in a New Mexico desert, Thor literally runs into astrophysicist
Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and he must learn to embrace a humble attitude to
Despite earning more than $440 million at the global box office
this summer, I was leery to watch Thor largely because the character
was heavily promoted in the box office as the “god of thunder.” Getting over my
trepidation, I decided to catch the movie's recent release on DVD and Blu-ray.
After all, I recall as a youngster reading about
the Mighty Thor—a superhero who doesn't have a costume to be the hero
when he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics back in the
Thor, Odin, Loki and other denizens of Asgard are "gods,"
according to Norse myth and in Marvel's original comic books. In the film, the
inhabitants of Asgard don't see themselves as gods, although they acknowledge
that they were taken to be such when they came to Earth about a thousand years
ago. Although they possess god-like powers and reside in a heavenly place, the
movie portrays them as aliens from a faraway world—a realm where science and
magic are basically one and the same.
By getting around this cloudy spirituality, the film does offer
a nod to Christianity, turning Thor into a Christ-figure when Loki sends a
robotic Destroyer to eliminate his stepbrother and Earth's inhabitants.
Best known for film adaptations of several plays by William
Shakespeare, director Kenneth Branagh deftly handles direct this large-scale
superhero drama as he wisely sets the stage for a Shakespeare-like fallen
hero who must find humility in order to rise to greatness. Thor is a
worthwhile summer flick, offering plenty of hammer-wielding action, but it's not
exceptional as Captain America—which I'll save for another review.
Besides deleted scenes, featurettes and teasers for next
summer's The Avengers, the next superhero movie from Marvel Studios,
the DVD and Blu-ray features the first "Marvel One Shot"—short films that are
meant to link The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor, members of the Avengers. The short stars S.H.I.E.L.D.
(Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division)
man-on-the-ground Agent Coulson (Clark
Content Watch: The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense
sci-fi action and violence, and brief, light foul language. It features some
family-friendly content, although I wouldn't recommend the film for children 10
and under because of the scary frost giants and relentless battles. Although
there's no sex or profanity, Thor is seen out-drinking another character.
Parents should discuss with youngsters the difference between the gods of Norse
mythology and the one true God. read more
My three young boys were not Jim Carrey fans,
but that changed this summer when Alex, Andrew and Chase saw trailers of the
rubber-faced actor in Mr. Popper's Penguins.
After reading the 1939 Newbery Award-winning
children's book with my wife, Tammy, last year, the brothers were excited to
watch the “loose film adaptation” of Richard and Florence Atwater's classic in
1938. In the book, Popper is a house painter who starts breeding trained
penguins and takes his animal act on the road, creating a national sensation.
In the 2011 contemporary movie version,
Carrey plays Popper, a successful Donald Trump-like real estate mogul, whose
cold relationship with his family warms up after he “inherits” six cute but
trouble-making penguins from Antarctica from his recently-deceased father.
John Wooden is someone I have always looked up to as a role model and a hero. Coach Wooden, who was nicknamed the "Wizard of Westwood," led the UCLA Bruins basketball teams of the 1960s and 1970s to a never-since-equaled 10 NCAA National Championships.
All those titles came during his last 12 coaching seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. His UCLA teams also had a record-setting winning streak of 88 games and four perfect 30-0 seasons, and won 38 straight games in NCAA tournament play. read more
When I was about 10 years old, I fell into a hornets’ nest. The hornets got caught in my clothing. The more I fought, the more they stung me. Later I counted about 20 stings. It was a painful few days, but I survived. Every now and then, I see someone caught up in a flurry of painful but meaningless activity. I am reminded of my childhood experience and often use the age-old expression, “They fell into a hornets’ nest.” Most Americans agree that President Obama fell into a Middle Eastern hornets’ nest during the last few months. Despite the toppling of totalitarian states and the possibility of the establishment of new democracy, it is difficult to see a realistic end to the terrorism, bloodshed, and warfare in this important region of the world.
The death of Osama Bin Laden marked a symbolic end to America’s war on terrorism. National jubilation is the only way to describe our corporate feeling about the demise of this “arch enemy” of everything Americans stand for. Perhaps this euphoric victory led the administration’s foreign policy strategists into a subtle state of hubris. This false feeling of power may have convinced them that they could actually advance the peace process by imposing the US will on the Palestinian/Israeli peace process.
The entire nation is aware that on Thursday May 19, the president declared Middle Eastern peace talks could only progress if Israel would agree to return to their 1967 boundaries. After a veritable maelstrom of rebuttals, the president's international policy team realized the error of their ways. Therefore, the next Sunday morning (5-22-11) the president retracted his peace talk ultimatum. He even went so far as to claim that he was misquoted. His clarification speech occurred at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual meeting in Washington, DC. Despite the public acquiescence of former Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president seemed to create even more controversy. As I walked through the more than 11,000 pro-Israel advocates, I heard everything from motherly articulation of forgiveness to numerous people declaring they would never vote for President Obama again. read more
Remember that movie Hoosiers, in which a small town basketball team wins the state championship in Indiana? In the dramatic conclusion, one of the players gets to sink the shot that wins the game over the highly favored big city school. I think I've watched that movie 20 times. I'd like to be that guy. read more
Coaching wizard John Wooden modeled Christian character
Former players, university officials and friends eulogized John Wooden at a public memorial service June 26, remembering the legendary UCLA Bruins men’s basketball coach as a dedicated family man and a wise teacher who lived out the values of his renowned Pyramid of Success, which includes the component of faith.
“Coach Wooden was one in a billion,” said former Bruins and Los Angeles Lakers player Jamaal Wilkes. “Coach lived a Christian life, and he died a Christian death.”
Current UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland described Wooden as a humble man. “His basic nature was love,” Howland said. read more