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Thor: Hammer Time for Action, Adventure

If Spider-Man's creed is "with great power comes great responsibility," the mantra of Thor could easily be "with great power comes great arrogance."

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 become heroic.

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 1960s.

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 Gregg).

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

Props for 'Mr. Popper's Penguins'

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. read more

Wisdom From Wooden

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

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'X-Men: First Class' Best of the Series

With four comic-book movies coming out this summer, X-Men: First Class seemed to draw the least amount of excitement. “Another X-Men movie?” seemed to be the common thought. However, X-Men: First Class surprisingly turns out to be the best movie about Xavier’s mutants so far, and it may turn out to be the best comic movie of the summer.

Set mostly in the '60s, the film details the story of the beginning of the X-Men, and, more importantly, the beginning of the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto. It’s this relationship and the two actors, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, that bring it to life and really set this movie above your normal comic action-fest.

The plot follows Xavier and Magneto as they grow up in very different childhoods, one with a privileged upbringing and one in a Nazi concentration camp (guess which one ends up turning into a bad guy). As they grow older, they cross each other’s paths in search of the movie’s villain, a mutant who is arranging the Cuban Missile Crisis in hopes of starting World War III. They form a team to deal with the threat, and the first class of X-Men is born. read more

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Father-Son Missions Adventures

With Father’s Day coming up, we took some time to speak with David Horner, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Horner is the author of When Missions Shape the Mission, which examines America’s role in world missions. Passionate about spreading the gospel abroad, Horner also took his three sons on mission trips as each turned 16 and had memorable and life-changing experiences with them. He details these accounts to us and recommends other ways fathers can give their children a heart for missions. read more

Hornets in the Middle East

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

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Becoming Vulnerable

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. —2 Corinthians 13:4 read more

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One in a Billion

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

Make Room for Daddy!


We recently wrote a book for moms about the unique and vital role dads play in parenting. It's called Make Room for Daddy: A Mom's Guide to Letting Dad Be Dad. In researching the book, we questioned hundreds of moms and dads about the differences between mothers and fathers, and what dads need most in order to be the best dads they can be.

Bottom line (you like to get to the bottom line, don't you?), you can help your wife to help you by telling her about your needs as a father. These "Five Talking Points About Fathering" should get you started: read more

The Doc's Top 10 Summer Sports

Keep in shape and sharpen your competitive edge in the backyard or on the field.

This summer, you have a chance to get outdoors, pump some fresh air into your lungs, work up a sweat and bond with the guys or your family. Without further adieu, here are my top 10 summer sports for shaping you into a "new man:" read more

Enter the 'Overload Zone'

 

The sacred time called 'when things slow down' always seems out of reach for most men.

 

So your profession is very demanding and you carry a heavy workload. You pull a couple of all-nighters every now and then, plus give up a few weekends to go to work. What's the big sweat? Someone's got to pay the bills, right?

Look at your return: You get that water-cooler reputation and recognition in the workplace as being successful--a real company man. read more

Longer Life?


Will biotechnology stretch our legacies out longer, or are the ethical implications too damaging?

 

Although escaping mortality is out of the question, stretching its boundaries may not be, according to new discoveries in genetic research.

Geneticists discovered how to lengthen the life span of animals and insects by the alteration of a single gene. Though companies form to benefit from any future application to humans, some are raising questions about the ethical implications of such a process.

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Good Eats


Summer will soon be here and millions will decide to trim the fat by exercising in the sunny weather. But jogging a mile each day won't help anyone if their diet consists of Big Macs and fries.

Here are some healthy foods, as listed on CNN.com, that can help you achieve your fitness goals--and that don't taste like carpet lint. read more

The Conditioned Couple


How does marriage affect your health? More than you know!

 

God told Adam that it was not good for him to be alone. Then, God did one of the riskiest things ever. He made woman.

But before woman came, Adam was quite self-sufficient--he ruled the garden. He fed himself; he never had to shower; and he was free to roam wherever, whenever. Let's face it, the guy was living in bachelor paradise.

If the story ended there, our lives today would be just a little different: No steak and no sex. Fortunately, there is more to the story.

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The Source of Strength


The death of my father refocused my health priorities.

 

Be tough!" "Hang in there!" That's what us guys have been told all our lives. That's what real men are made of, right?

Well, I have to admit, the things that make a hero in my mind ironically don't come from toughness. As we strive to be our best in developing a healthy body and getting our pectorals the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger's, it is vitally important that we look beyond what may be the least fulfilling single-dimensional viewpoint--being self-centered.

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Talking the Walk


After heart trouble nearly claimed his life, FOX News Radio host Todd Starnes.

 

From the time he was a kid, Todd Starnes wanted to be a journalist. At 13 he became the staff cartoonist for a small weekly paper outside New Orleans where his family lived.

His journalism career eventually led him to the West Coast, where he became a news anchor and senior reporter for KFBK in Sacramento, Calif.

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When Your Kids Talk Dirty

 

For Christians, the worst consequence of vulgarity's ubiquity may be the influence upon children.

 

"All children, whether they swear or not, learn what the words are that they're not supposed to use," says author Timothy Jay, who also is a psychology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Sometimes teens must learn that words matter by going too far, such as being kicked out of a restaurant or fired from a job for using vulgarity, Jay says. Yet enforcing rules is more difficult when many of the rich and powerful--movie stars, athletes and politicians--use vulgar words with impunity.

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The Four Skills Needed to Be an Accountability Partner

Men who are growing spiritually, emotionally and relationally know the importance of having other men in their lives who can hold them accountable. They also recognize the value of helping other men. Proverbs 27:17 says it well: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV). We need one another in order to be sharp. We also need to realize that every man is sharpened differently.
 
Accountability is not about asking a list of questions. It’s about being involved in another man’s life. It’s coming alongside other men. Godly men know they need to be accountable, but they don’t always know what that looks like. I’ve been in good accountability relationships and bad ones. I've noticed that the accountability partner has four key responsibilities. read more

Beyond a Mountaintop Experience

This dad discovered the importance of transparency when he tool his 14-year-old son on a father-son adventure in Jackson Hole, Wyo.


Wyoming is far from our home in Florida, but my 14-year-old son and I grew closer together when we took part in a Christ in the Tetons father-son retreat last year in the breathtaking Teton Mountains in Jackson Hole.

Joshua was happy to commit after hearing the itinerary: Five exhilarating days filled with climbing, fishing, rafting, horseback riding, hiking, biking and a day at Yellowstone National Park.

I wanted this to be an exciting time of refreshing and renewal for both of us because we've had our share of challenges to work through these last few years. read more

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