One friend challenged me to read fifty books this year; another asked me what my movie-to-book ratio was- said there was no way I actually read that many books with the movies I review regularly. So this year, I kept track of what I read and watched, in and out of the theater. [For the record, it was 87 books, 48 movies, 60 DVDs, and at least some of 49 different TV shows.) But here are the best for your consideration for reading or watching over your Christmas/New Year break, and what I’d recommend you spend your hard-received Christmas money on.
Unbroken: Whether you prefer books (by Lauren Hillebrand) or movies (directed by Angelina Jolie), the extraordinary life of Louie Zamperini, Olympic runner, WWII P.O.W., and Christian philanthropist, deserves your undivided attention. I took the book to the beach (it’s not a beach read) and have reflected on it since; the film served to excellently put visual images to what my heart has been considering. There’s no better example of what it means to be “light in the darkness” this year than Unbroken, and it’s gripping enough to keep the casual filmgoer interested.
Guardians of the Galaxy: (Superhero) Comic book films, I’ve seen ’em all. This one was an unknown to me, and proved to be the most fun film I’ve seen this year. Or in the last ten. “I am Groot!” proves to be hilarious- and visually provocative. [Captain America: Winter Soldier came in a far second.]
The Lego Movie: (Animation) Toys are for playing with. Everything is awesome (or not). Adults and kids should see, reflect, and then go play. (Yes, Big Hero 6 was good, but not great.) [Runner-Up: How To Train A Dragon 2]
Edge of Tomorrow (Live.Die.Repeat): (Sci-Fi) I don’t like Tom Cruise but his movies ARE entertaining. What would you do if you wouldn’t stay dead? (This is much better fleshed out than ABC’s Forever.) Hit Netflix or Redbox and check this one out.
Fury: (Drama) War movies aren’t my cup of tea, but my proximity to an Army base and the men and women who serve that attend my church have made me attentive. This film highlights the camaraderie, risks, violence, faith, and sacrifice of those who protect our freedom in a wonderfully acted film. If it wasn’t for Unbroken, it’d be my number one. [Shocking, I know, but Lone Survivor gets my other nod- strange for not liking war movies but Pashtunwali makes it a must watch.]
The Overnighters: (Documentary) A truly insightful film by director Jesse Moss, the camera follows Pastor Jay Reinke as he houses displaced migrant workers in North Dakota, and fights for their acceptance. Gritty and powerful, the final twists will shock even those who figure they have it all worked out.
John Wick: (Thriller) My sleeper pick, this one proved that Keanu Reeves might have something left. I’m still not saying he can act, but it proves once and again, you should never mess with another man’s dog. [Liam Neeson’s A Walk Among Tombstones gets runner-up.]
Noah: (Biblical Epic) In a year ripe with attempts to suck the Christian audience in (Gimme Shelter, Left Behind, Heaven Is For Real, Exodus), Darren Aronofsky’s mid rash about the farmer and his ark still has me thinking about what it means to be called by God, and how we listen. While strange to some and infuriating to others, this is the one I could actually watch again. [Gimme Shelter isn’t an epic but it’s my second favorite film in the major category.]
The Song: (Indie) A modernization of the Song of Solomon, this one comes from Kyle Idleman’s (Not A Fan) company, and stretches the parable to reach around into our comfortable lives, and challenge how we see marriage.
The Wake: (Graphic novel) This takes my favorite current author (Scott Snyder) and lets him spin an original, futuristic tale about danger in the deep ocean and what humanity can do about it with spellbinding illustrations. Snyder’s Batman run is also epic.
Red Rising: (Sci-Fi) A futuristic first novel in the trilogy, this one captivated me and I couldn’t put it down, as a slave rises anonymously to enter the elite and exact his revenge. The sequel debuts for Pierce Brown in a few weeks.
Making Sense of the Bible: (Religious) Adam Hamilton’s moderate, middle path through reading the Scripture is an interesting discussion starter, and one that had me thinking about how I historically read the Bible or not.
Hands Free Mama: (Inspirational) This memoir/printed blog highlights the pitfalls of a technology-doused world, and what we’re missing as parents. It’s made me re-evaluate my own use of technology in regards to my kids and my wife, and a book that can make me change? That’s a book worth reading.
True Detective: Gritty and crass, this one follows three timelines as detectives played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey investigate a series of murders. Not for the faint of heart, it’ll reboot with all new detectives this coming spring.
The Divide: Civil rights, the wrongly accused, revenge, and family drama collided in this miniseries I was surprised to enjoy, and too captivated to look away from.
Black-ish: Kenya Barris is a masterful scriptwriter/creator and Anthony Anderson makes music, poetry, and lots of laughs as Dre, the patriarch of a family exploring parenting, marriage, race, class, and history in 22-minute shifts once a week. Love it.
What did you love? What did I miss? Recommendations? Leave them below in the comments!