Furious 7: Everything Explodes (A Statler & Waldorf Review)

Furious-7If movies can be spoofed, why can’t reviews? In the spirit of dialogue, I’m going to be doing a review a la The Muppets’ Statler and Waldorf.

Statler: Is that guy, The Rock, inflated? Like, do they blow up his arms in between shots? Vin Diesel can’t act but at least he looks semi-human.

Waldorf: I don’t know. Maybe it’s that HGH. But the thing is, his fights with Jason Statham’s baddie were the highlights of the film.

Statler: You know “highlights” are hard to come by in this film, because there are no lowlights. It stays consistently at NOS- level speeds throughout.

Waldorf: I thought I was going to be sick when they dropped those cars out of that plane. Did you know that was a real stunt, no CGI? And that bus hopping scene by Paul Walker was done in real-time by a stuntman, too?

Statler: First off, you’d never get me on no plane. Ha ha, BA Baracus and all that. Secondly, while those stunts were spectacular, that’s not much of Walker in that film. You know the poor man died in a car wreck, right?

Waldorf: I thought they did a remarkable job remembering the man at the end. Brought a tear to my eye.

Statler: You cried?

Waldorf: Harumph. Of course, not (sniffle). Speaking of crying, some of that dialogue made me want to cry. When I wasn’t laughing, it was terrible. Laugh out loud funny at times. Other times, it felt like they were forced to write something in between stunts.

Statler: Carhopping from building to building. Mission Impossible Next Best Thing eat its heart out right there.

Waldorf: It’s about as realistic. Who drops a fully loaded shotgun to let Statham tee off on him like Tiger’s clubs? Seriously, you have to suspend reality to find this one entertaining.

Statler: Were we watching for the story? Seems like we could’ve seen The Longest Ride if we were going for the story. I went to see if Ronda Rousey could fake fight better than Gina Carano. Apparently she can’t handle the keys as well as Michelle Rodriguez.

Waldorf: Ha, some kind of ebony and ivory, that one! Tony Jaa’s cameo was the best fighting we saw outside of Statham’s. Maybe next time they’ll just make Fast & Expendable 17 and get it over with. Stallone can wheelchair himself off the building into a helicopter over a wave through a tunnel without getting up.

Statler: I think you’re on to something. Can we copyright that?

Love it? Hate it? Blame Steve Norton. It was all his idea. 

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Sunday’s Sermon Today: Adopted By God

Today is Adoption Day at Blandford UMC. You’re adopted, I’m adopted. Everyone in this room is adopted. Now, some of you were adopted by earthly parents who chose you to be part of their family. That is just… awesome.

But some of you may not know that you were adopted by God. Wait, what? Some of you are asking what I’m talking about because you fell asleep during the scripture and missed the important parts.

Yes, you say, I get that Jesus died on the cross for me, and I’m forgiven of my sins because a) he was innocent and died anyway, and b) he rose again. Happy Easter! Right?

But here’s a quick recap: those who are led by the Holy Spirit of God are actually adopted into God’s family. That means that initially we were orphaned – by sin and by the fact that most of us are not, were not, born Jewish. The Jews were the people that God had made a covenant with in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit, thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, means that all of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc., all of those things he promised them – are true for us.

Paul makes the point in 8:15 that the Holy Spirit isn’t there to chain us down or make us afraid of what God would do, but that the Spirit causes our adoption to be complete.

Can you imagine what it’s like to not have a home? Can you imagine what it’s like to not know who will take care of you or who will cook your next meal?

It’s hard for me to imagine because since I was a little boy, I’ve known that my mom and dad love me. They still treat me like I am their little boy sometime. “Go to bed early! Dress up for that meeting! Make sure and tell Joanne and the boys such and such!” Some of you are laughing – your parents never stop being your parents! But mine also tell me that they love me, and that I matter, and pick me up emotionally when life punches me in the face.

I’m thirty-seven years old, but I still know that I am loved by my mom and dad.

So, I have to look at life in a different context to see what it’s like to be a child needing adoption. I mean, I know I’m sinful and that I can’t be saved without the grace of Jesus, but adoption? Adoption, I don’t quite get. So, where can I look?

Well, you know me, I’ve explored movies about adoption. We’ll watch Annie (2014) later today, but I want something that’s a true story, that “tells it like it is.”

Just in the last two months, I’ve seen two movies about adoption. The first one is a documentary called The Drop Box, the story of a pastor in South Korea who knew that mothers were abandoning their babies on the street – because they didn’t know how to take care of them. Some of the moms hadn’t wanted to be mothers in the first place, some of them had the decision made for them by someone else. But they were throwing these babies away.

A pastor named Lee realized he had to do something. He’d heard about this older tradition of “foundling wheels,” where parents could leave their children anonymously in a wheel in the center of town and hope that someone would take them in. So he created a two-way compartment in the wall of his church – like the drive through window at the bank – where people could leave their babies, and Lee’s family would care for them. Kids with disabilities, kids that can’t be afforded – Lee’s church now takes them in and claims them.

Then, there’s the story of Christina Noble. She grew up in Ireland in the 1940s, lost her mom, lost her dad to alcoholism, and ended up on the street caring for her siblings. The church took responsibility for her, but didn’t treat her well. She grew to marry a man who took her as his wife but treated her like property. And yet, in dreams, God kept showing her a vision of these children in need in Vietnam. I won’t spoil the movie for you – it comes out May 8 – but Noble uses her own hurt from being abandoned to make sure these other children aren’t forgotten.

Adoption. Wow. Just wow. It’s hard for us to consider the tenderness that it would require to open your home to a stranger, not just to feed them a meal or let them stay for an hour, but to make them your family? Some of us are considering the family we “put up with” by blood… And some of you are shaking your heads: “Jacob, those are just movies. People in Hollywood make stuff up all of the time.”

Lovely, skeptics, I’m ready for you! I went to Facebook and asked my friends to share their stories.

So I read your post about adoption stories so here goes….
Way back when, I was young and stupid and dated a guy older than me, I found myself a pregnant teenager. We ignored it for a long time and didn’t tell anyone.  It seemed like one of those things that you see in the movies or that doesn’t happen to you. I knew we were young and I was nowhere near prepared to be a parent.

I talked to my parents about it and my doctor knew a couple that had been trying to have a baby for years but couldn’t. We met them and I just knew.

We have stayed in touch over the years and they send me pictures and letters and I have done the same. He is actually in college now (how crazy is that?) and reached out to me on Facebook, so we stay in touch.

Although this wasn’t the most ideal of situations at the time, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I was able to give a family the baby they longed for, and my family became closer than ever.

A friend shared her husband’s story:

My husband was removed from his birth home at the age of two, after being hospitalized due to abuse that included multiple broken bones. He was in foster care with his adoptive parents for the next two years while social services kept tabs on his birth parents. It was determined that it was best for him to be permanently removed and adopted. His adoptive parents were Christians and adopted him through the United Methodist Children’s Home in Detroit. As a child, youth and young adult he would try his parents faith and patience at times.

For example when Jason was four, on the day he was adopted, his dad had a damaged toe. Jason was walking on the curb and his dad was walking on the ground. Jason jumped off the curb and landed on his dad’s foot. Jason thought it was funny his dad saw stars. (And may have had some buyer’s remorse.) His dad still flinches when he tells the story.

As a youth he was very active in his local youth group and the district youth group. He loved it. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Navy. He rebelled against his parents, church and God but always had the little voice in the back of his head.

When he was twenty-one, his biological parents contacted the adoption agency and asked to meet him. He agreed because he learned he had two biological sisters he’d never met. He has a relationship with both of those sisters still today at age thirty-nine. Due to some boundary issues with his biological parents he has not remained in relationship with them.  He has five adoptive siblings and two biological siblings with whom he has a great relationship. My husband attributes the man he is today to his parents and their love, faith and patience. (Lots and lots of patience…)

It doesn’t always work out the way you want it to, but the process is still rewarding. A friend of mine and his wife have been fostering, and wrote this together to share:

Karen came to us when she was around eight weeks old. She had been with another foster parent since she left the hospital. We were excited to welcome her to our home. Our six-year-old took to her right away wanting to help out.

Over that first summer she went on about eight or nine camping trips, a trip to annual conference and seems to be one of us so much that people said, “I think she looks more like Tim.” We were at first hopeful that she would be able to be reunited with her birth mother and father. The number one goal in foster care is reunification. Over time that became less of an option. At one point we were hopeful that we would be able to adopt and were thrilled with that prospect. I should back up and say that we are dual licensed as foster and adoptive parents.

After things really tanked with the birth parents, we found out an Aunt across state lines had petitioned for custody when Karen was born. So the plan was eventually shifted that she would take Karen. into care along with her older brother. We were supportive of that, but at the same time told we could petition for custody if we wanted to. We wrestled with that and decided it was best for Karen. to be with her brother and to stay in her biological family hoping that both her and her brother could help bring healing to the entire family, also legally the aunt had the best claim and if we petitioned we would burn any future relationship with the aunt. We kept trying to think what was best for Karen, not us and our family.

Karen transitions this Friday to her aunt for good. Karen has been a part of our family for just over a year. We were the witnesses to her first time rolling over, her first solid foods, the first night she slept straight through. Her first steps, her laughter that filled our home. She snuggled on our shoulders when she was tired or upset. We have shared all those experiences together. Many say, “how can you let her go? Doesn’t it hurt?”

Well yes, it hurts and just plain out sucks! We have cried many tears and will cry many more over the next weeks. But as Audrey has said, “Life is too short to guard your heart.” What I think she meant by that was if it didn’t hurt we didn’t fully open up ourselves to love the child in our care as one of our own. Fostering has taught me to really live in the moment and treasure them as they come, the good, the bad, the funny and even the stinky diaper ones.

If there was any message I would want the people of god to hear about fostering it would simply be, pray for the children in foster care, for the parents both foster and biological and the social workers. Fostering can be messy work.

I’ve interacted with Karen and her family of a year-and-a-half. I know she is loved by them, and they will continue to pray for her.

Another person wrote:

I am adopted! I really don’t have too many stories but I remember a girl told me once, ‘your momma didn’t want you.’ I said, ‘No, my momma chose me out of a room full of little babies. You’re momma is stuck with you!’

Unfortunately, my friend was the one who got the spanking. But she went on to say:

Adoption seems to be a lot of preachers families. We have know several in our years of Baptist and Methodist pastor groups. God always knows who to give these kids to! We are SPECIAL!

A pastor shared:

Years ago, I helped a girl in our youth ministry give her child up for adoption. Then she left the church. Two years later, a woman introduced herself to my wife at a church event. She adopted the child and lives around the corner from the church. The birth mother had read applications from all over Canada and ended up picking one around the corner. We’ve become quite close actually. I almost cried. I don’t cry. I don’t think she knew where they lived when she picked them.

All of those people knew that family was necessary – whether they were adopted, adopting, or giving up their child. They knew that family mattered.

I hope you know today, that no matter what has been said or done to you, you have a purpose, you matter. You are a child of God, blessed with talents and gifts to share with others, to bless the world. And you are loved.

As children of God, and followers of Jesus, we are brought in, Paul says, into an “adoption to sonship.” There’s no mistaking the power of the words he’s using. We are family to God and to each other. We belong.

Paul takes it a step further and says that we get to call the God of the universe, Abba, or Daddy. And like a Daddy, like God the Father, God knows your name.

God signed off on your adoption because Jesus’ name was on the form. You were created in the image of God and adopted into the family because Jesus closed the deal.

…. so what are you going to do about it?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.–James 1:27

We’ve got an obligation, friends. There are kids being abandoned today in cities around the world … and in our own neighborhoods. There are young parents who need comfort and support in how to make the best decision about their child. There are communities where the children have been neglected. And they are all the children of God, just like you and me.

I hope today, that you’ll consider what you personally are going to do to make a difference.

Maybe God has been calling you to adopt.

Maybe God is calling you to foster a child or children.

Maybe God is using this to help you love and cherish your children, or your spouse, or yourself, better.

Maybe you’re supposed to volunteer or give financially to an organization like United Methodist Family Services.

Maybe you’re supposed to pray that God would give you a vision like Christina Noble that keeps you up at night until you do something about it.

Maybe today, as a new beginning, you need to realize that you are a child of God, adopted by the life of Jesus, and meant for God’s glory.

Thank God for all that works toward the good!

Thank you, Daddy.

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Sunday’s Sermon Today: The Church’s Middle-Aged Powerpoint

God has been talking to me.

Some of you were just thinking, “thank goodness, you are the preacher!” Others are less convinced, and are eyeing the exits…

In all seriousness, over the last few weeks, I think God has been begging me to open my eyes in worship and notice things in a new way. See, God has been speaking to me through Colton [a little four-year-old]. Every Sunday, Colton comes up, plops down next to me, and tries to focus on the Arch Book or story that I have prepared for children’s time. But what Colton really, really wants to know is, “Why does that man have holes in his hands?”

See, Colton sees something every Sunday that most of us visually see but many of us have stopped thinking about. Colton sees the stain glassed windows. Colton’s enthusiasm for the pictures, and the earnestness of his question made me come in the sanctuary one day, just to see what he was talking about.

Stain glass windows have been around for centuries! In fact, in a world where most people weren’t literate, the church of the third and fourth centuries used the pictures and images around church to teach people about the faith. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” or something like that, right?

nativityWell, the more I considered the stain glass windows, the more I realized that there was a sermon here that I should be sharing. I knew you all didn’t want to hear a post-resurrection story about Peter’s forgiveness or about two men on the way to Emmaus for a fiftieth year in a row. And then I realized that the images that our church founders chose have something to say about what they, and we, believe.

Let’s start at the back corner. Here’s a picture of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus from Luke 2:16-18. It’s pretty simple, right? But in the image itself, we can see that Mary clearly cares for this baby – which, in a well-articulated way shows clearly more awareness than the average week old. And Joseph is present, shepherd’s rod prepared to protect the baby Jesus and his mother, Mary. But Joseph is doing something else interesting: he’s holding the light. Even while that magnificent star shines outside, Joseph is holding the light for Jesus before Jesus can hold it for himself. There’s love, and light, and a humble beginning here in a stable (with a token lamb paying homage to the king of the universe).

childrenThe next two images go together,but the space in between them is pretty interesting, too. On the righthand side, we have a mother with some children, and on the other side, we have Jesus with a single child. And Jesus’ hand is up. Now, is he a crossing guard saying stop or saying go? Is he forbidding or is he summoning? Well, we know from Luke 18:15-16 that Jesus allows for the little children to come to him.

welcomechildrenWe don’t know if the mother there is reluctant at giving her child over to Jesus, holding them back, or pushing a reluctant child forward. But we know that Jesus, see his holy glow, his kingly glory, there, is solemnly acknowledging the worth of the child who others didn’t see or accept. We see the tenderness of his hand, transferred by paint and glass, in the way that his hand rests on the first child’s head. And we recognize that the child with the flowers knows that Jesus is worthy of adoration – of bringing a gift. This child gets what many of us struggle to understand: Jesus is fully God, fully present, and wonderful to behold.

prayingBut how quickly things move, from good to bad, from light to dark. Our next stained glass window, tucked up in the choir loft shows Jesus praying. Now, Jesus prayed an awful lot, as in “he got up early in the morning and went by himself to pray”… but this isn’t one of those times. We can see to the far right that there are three figures, fast asleep from Luke 22:39-46. The disciples who once vowed their allegiance and support, even in the midst of everything, “to the death!”… lie fast asleep. Like some of you regularly on a Sunday morning … I kid, I kid. Right?

Still, God hasn’t abandoned Jesus, as the light shines down from heaven. And this is the portrayal of Jesus as focused, centered, determined, moving toward his destiny. There is no question, just patiently and obediently following God’s will.

To the cross.

IMG_0834Our next stained glass window is that of the crucifixion. Here, Jesus is dishonored between two thieves, bleeding from his already pierced side from Luke 22:32-43. It’s this picture that fascinates my little friend Colton, because the idea of a man bleeding, dying even, in the middle of church, seems too much to consider. But that is where our faith stands out as extraordinary, so not ordinary that it is mind-blowing in fact.

See how the one thief has the same covering as Jesus, and his beard looks likes the one depicted on Jesus? This must be the thief who confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness, to be remembered in heaven by Jesus. Captured in stained glass is true genius: wouldn’t it be wonderful if, as we grew in our faith, we began to look more and more like Jesus? Figuratively, of course, although, I’d dig the beard.

There’s also the question of the inscription (in Latin) above Jesus’ head. Technically, it’s an abbreviation in Latin: “INRI.” The Romans put it there to mock Jesus, and it (fully spelled out) means, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” But it also mocks the Jews, who didn’t want Jesus as king, who had him crucified. “Here you go,” says Pilate. “Who’s so powerful now?” It’s amazing how in the shaming of Jesus, people end up articulating the irony that the God of the universe would die on a cross for God’s own, disobedient, and ungrateful creation.

shepherdNext up, two illustrations or parables Jesus told explain what Jesus’ teaching was all about. Interestingly enough, the church didn’t immediately follow the crucifixion with a resurrection scene. The stained glass leaves us with the images of what Jesus’ taught his disciples to consider: that God wanted to have a relationship, that God was a protector and provider, that God would not force himself onto anyone but offer up an invitation! How different this is from much of what we hear today in other circles about faith: how it is by coercion and force, and power, when these images share with us the tenderness of a God who wants to know and be known, but would never demand of you. The first is actually a combination of Jesus’ teachings and Revelation 3:20.

knockAgain the tender care of the shepherd is there in John 10:11-16. The beauty of a divine meeting is there. If only we would follow or answer or choose to be who we’re meant to be from the very start – as children. Would we recognize what is offered? Would we choose it for ourselves? Jesus offers so much, so poetically represented in these paintings, and yet, so many people outside the church have not heard.

That’s the irony for me as I look at the stained glass windows here. They are for us. Outside our church, they don’t show up well. The light doesn’t travel from the church out to the world, but from the sun in through the windows. The reminders of the windows are to edify us, to lift us up, to comfort us, so that we would leave and carry the story with us.

Of course, there’s one last picture. It’s of Jesus on a cloud. Is it the ascension? Is he rising up when the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost in Acts 1:9-11? Or is he descending like he promised in Mark 14:62? Is it Jesus’ second coming, when he will take the world as his kingdom and every knee shall bow? I don’t know. Maybe it’s both and. Jesus does ascend first, but he descended to be with us once, and he will do so again. Either way, it shows that God was, and still is, with us. And we are in God’s heart.

Those are the pictures our church forefathers and mothers picked. Jesus born divine, Jesus with children, Jesus’ passion, Jesus’ comforting teachings about grace and inclusion, Jesus’ rising and return. Powerful images, no doubt.

All of that from a series of stained glass windows. Stained glass windows that we can see in here, but that aren’t visible from outside the church. Stained glass windows that are beautiful from when the light outside the church shines in and illuminates the pictures. The church has to be in the world but not of it, but it needs the world – the light from outside and the Light of the World (from inside) to illuminate these windows. Stained glass windows that remind us that we’re not to get too comfortable in here because we’re supposed to be out there sharing the stories.

Now, it’s time we remember that the church’s history started with an empty tomb, and then grew with the running feet and loud proclamations of those who knew the truth.

“He is risen! He is not here! We must tell the others!”

May we take these pictures into our hearts and minds, and share that same message in the world outside. Amen.

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The Bible Says What? God and Moses: The Musical (Exodus 24-34) #11

moses face glows

Moses spends so much time with God that his face glows (Ex. 34:29-35). If there was ever a time when someone became a “friend of God” (thanks to Israel Houghton for the image), it had to have been Moses. Sure, David will earn “man after God’s own heart” status, but here’s Moses looking like the candidate to co-star in the buddy cop movie with YHWH. Or is it the song-and-dance number with the big finale with spirit hands?

You can almost see God and Moses performing “I Don’t Need Anything But You” from Annie. Of course, that’s if you can imagine God as an older bald man sans beard and Moses as a cute redhead:

Together at last!
Together for ever!
We’re tying a knot,
They never can sever!

I have a hard time imagining that level of friendship with the God of the universe. But that’s what God implies we should have in the relationship with Jesus. Yet, in the Old Testament, it seems that the devout, the faithful, etc. can have that kind of friendship with God, where they finish each other’s sentences, know what the other needs, and know how to push the other’s buttons.

After wading through the explanation of how to prepare the tabernacle and the implication that Moses was shown pictures (on the side of the mountain? in his mind?) of what it would all look like, and after Aaron was given the weight of being the priest even though he would blow it mere hours later, we see Moses spending even more serious time with God.

We get the first historical notation of a sin offering (Exodus 29:14).

We get Moses nearly blowing his top at his own brother over the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-8).

We get Moses serving as the advocate for the people that he’s angry with to save them from God’s wrath (Exodus 32:11-14).

We get Moses seeing the glory of God (kind of) when God passes through when they’re on Mount Sinai together (Exodus 33:19-23).

But then Moses starts glowing like he’s irradiated in Exodus 34:29-35. He glows like a superhero! The people are so terrified him that he had to put a veil over his face when he was around other people. Being in the presence of God fundamentally changed Moses. I wonder what fundamentally changes me… Gatorade? This level of relationship with God is pretty mind-blowing.

So, here’s my big takeaway from this one: Moses is with God and he’s forever changed. Moses wants to be with God and so everything changes. I want to be with God, but am I with God so much that other people see a change in me? Do I let God shine through me?

What would it take for you to glow?

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The Bible Says What? God’s Promise for Our Good (Exodus 23:20-33) #10

lambTo be honest, I was inclined to skip ahead a bit. Have you ever felt that way? It doesn’t have to be the Bible, it could be any book… or the eightieth episode in a serial show. You just figure that this next little bit can’t be that important. I felt that way about Exodus 23:20-33. I mean, I knew that some good stuff was coming and this “angel of the Lord” bit seemed like an add-on. And then I read it. What I would have missed! [Wow, that could be the story of my life and the Bible…]

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared,” God says (23:20).

 

The Israelites are headed into some hardcore wandering and searching, struggle and trials. But they are not alone. This angel that God is sending ahead of them; it’s intentional on God’s part and meant for their good. [What would you do if you knew that God was sending an angel ahead of you?] And God’s angel is going to lead them where they are to go. They don’t need to know the way because the angel does. It’s like when I blindly jump in my car and input the address into the GPS. I don’t know how to get there, but the British lady inside my GPS does! There’s trust there (until you end up going the wrong way down a one-way street).

God tells the Israelites to listen to the angel, and as a result, things will be good for them (23:21-22). It’s important for them to pay attention to the signals they get, and to listen to them. The end results are in their favor; the opposite of listening gets them the opposite of favor. Seems pretty straightforward.

God tells them that they, the Israelites will go ahead of them and wipe out their enemies (23:23). That’s one of those troubling, Old Testament ideas that I just can’t quite wrap my mind around, but I accept that God is God and there’s a plan here that I can’t understand (and that probably the people of Israel in Exodus didn’t get either).

But in Exodus 23:24, God lays down an admonition that I think we could stand to pay more attention to: “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.” How often is the ‘stuff’ that we can’t overcome or deal with the result of falling for, investing in, or becoming obsessed with something that wasn’t to be ours in the first place? Or something that we didn’t really need but we ‘worshipped’ it anyway, because we gave it more credit, power, control, or attention than we should have? Here, God tells the Israelites to destroy the idols of these other people so they don’t stick around and trip up the Israelites. It’s revisited in Exodus 23:32-33 because it’s just that important. Hmmm. What better day than Good Friday to destroy the idols in our lives?

And to think I almost missed this food for thought. God wants what’s best for me and God wants to keep me from being tripped up by things that aren’t good for me. Rinse and repeat.

I know, I know, the cartoon didn’t really “flow” today, but it’s the best I could do. Besides, it’s a warning about how we can take things too literally… and let them end badly. 

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After The Sunset: Pierce Brosnan’s Post-Bond Career (Movie Review)

As his turn at James Bond ended, Pierce Brosnan began turning his eyes toward projects that provided more of a variety. After the Sunset (2004) was one such movie that halfway propelled him into a broader genre: the action/comedy that he may be just as well known for now. Starring as Max Burdett, master jewel thief, Brosnan teams with Salma Hayek (as his henchman, Lola) to snatch the Napoleon diamonds out of the grasp of the FBI’s Stanley P. Lloyd (Woody Harrelson). As the film moves forward, Burdett and Lola are on the run, with Lloyd hot on their heels.

Directed by Brett Ratner, the film has much more tongue-in-cheek than action-blasting scenes. We get early work by Naomie Harris as a local cop in the Bahamas, with cameos by then- LA Lakers and Ed Norton, to name a few. It’s all in good fun but it wasn’t a box office success. One supposes that a twenty-year anniversary with “first time on Blu-ray” counts for something, but this is one that Brosnan and Hayek fans (who has more, I wonder?) will probably scoop up no matter what.

Ultimately, the story revolves around Burdett’s ability to let his career go, and embrace life with Lola. Everyone struggles with that, even if they’re not retirement age. How do we slow down and take time off? How do we make our families more important than our careers? How do we follow through on our commitments to make our futures the way we want to? After the Sunset asks those questions, with a few chuckles thrown in, and maybe a few answers, too.

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Steve Berry’s The Patriot Threat: Terroristic Mathematics (Book Review)

The tenth Cotton Malone novel from Steve Berry finds our former Magellan Billet operative fighting a rogue North Korean despot and the legacy of the feud between American patriots, Andrew Mellon and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s also Berry’s first book with Minotaur Books, with a new team editing and such, but the majority of the novel feels like Berry’s typical fair.

Here, Malone is mourning the “loss” of Cassiopeia Vitt, in the aftermath of his decisions in The Lincoln Myth. My only complaint with Patriot Threat is that the trouble in Myth was more obviously dangerous, while the taxation situation of Threat requires Tom Clancy-like explanation. It drags at times, but Berry mixes in a foil for Luke Daniels in the person of the Treasury agent, Isabella Schaefer. Of course, Malone’s boss, Stephanie Velle, and her boss, President Danny Daniels, have greater involvement than in Myth, too.

Ultimately, there are documents that Mellon had in his possession that caused him to hold power over several presidents. His collision with Roosevelt (over taxes) led him to create a National Treasure-like quest to get back at FDR, and in the present day, those papers have fallen into the wrong hands. It’s up to Malone and his team to get them back, before this estranged son of North Korean powers can use them to crush the relationship between the U.S. and China.

I really enjoy Berry’s work, but this one fell a bit flat. It was too unwieldy, and too predictable to keep me as hooked as Myth. But it’s still an interesting read, and fans of his previous works will want to read this one, too. rating: borrow it

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