Category: Reviews

Review of Zhang Zuo’s March Seventeenth of Two Thousand Eighteen Performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto (Emperor) with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boettcher Concert Hall

I should have known the night was on my side when her dress fit.

She briskly, confidently, and oh-so-perfectly entered Boettcher Concert Hall, holding the thin, race-car red fabric of her dress off the floor with her soon-to-set-the-piano-on-fire fingers.

Red is my favorite color. And if dresses could direct their attention, her dress pointed directly at my heart. Did I mention that it fit? It fit.

Beethoven is said to have said something like, “Music is God’s final revelation to man.” Of course, with an understanding like that, he could only have meant the LORD. Amen, Brother B. Amen. And thank you, LORD.

All I really want to do here is call to your attention this pianist. If she comes to your town, drop everything–every single thing that you are holding, whether in hand or mind–and pay any dollar amount to see her play. (Or any other currency for that matter, you uptight legalists.)

This woman turns the concert hall into the cathedral.

Do you believe that there is more to music than sound? Good. Me too. Zee Zee three.

You will not be disappointed.


Review of mother! by Darren Aronofsky

Logan was the first movie I saw in the theater after one year away, over one year ago. Hoping to love it, I instead almost left the theater. Children being violently wounded on-screen? Shouldn’t there be a line?

Now with mother!, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. It is a terrific film–but it puts the graphic, on-screen adult-on-child violence in Logan to shame in a way that I cannot yet reconcile.

Bluntly, Mr. Aronofsky’s motion picture is not for kids. But it is for adults, especially Christians.

Many of you know that I study ancient languages. In brief, you may be intrigued to learn that the naming conventions become tricky quickly. For example, you’ve likely heard of the Hebrew language. Maybe you’ve even heard that distinct from Modern Hebrew is Biblical Hebrew.

If you’re uncommonly interested in such things, you may be aware that within Biblical Hebrew there are designations for both Early and Late Biblical Hebrew–the difference being mostly related to vocabulary as opposed to grammar. Not surprisingly, Late Biblical Hebrew’s vocabulary shows influences from the surrounding culture’s languages. C’est la vie.

Most of you, however, will not know that there is something before Early Biblical Hebrew, that is clearly related to it, but which dates before it. The scholars who discuss this more ancient Hebrew variant call it Paleo-Hebrew.

See what’s going on?

This language is not exactly Hebrew, but it’s also not exactly a different language, nor dialect for that matter. It probably sounded like Early Biblical Hebrew, but the letters looked different. So to try and capture this complicated relationship, the prefix “paleo” is applied. (Sometimes it is also more simply labeled Old Hebrew.)

mother!, then, is likewise Mr. Aronofsky’s telling of, not the Bible’s story, but the Paleo-Bible’s story–except that there is no such thing, until now. And that is what makes the movie so phenomenal.

It has many of the elements of the Bible; for example, Father is the name of the creative storytelling poet who longs to be loved, and his newborn son is unintentionally killed by Father’s fanatical fans–who then eat the dead baby in some kind of cultic memorial ritual.

Oh boy.

I’m telling you too much. You’re not going to watch it.

Review of Phantom Thread, By Paul Thomas Anderson

Michael Mann still owns pacing–he always will. But director Paul Thomas Anderson owns something else. What is it? I have not found the word yet. But when I do, it will describe the way Phantom Thread is not about dresses. It will also convey the way this motion picture about some dressmaker makes me want to wake up early every morning. Oh, and this word will describe how without Mr. Anderson spending any precious time on patronizing summaries, technical explanations, or unambiguous declarations, I felt like I learned something–something that I might have otherwise missed. I wonder, what will you learn?

Review of The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead (A Bloodline Novel)

Fiery Heart

The most fitting way to describe this book is by telling the truth. It is both good and bad.

You may be wondering how I ever stumbled upon Richelle Mead’s The Fiery Heart. The answer: one semester of translating Hebrew and Greek. I mentioned to a friend that over the break I just wanted to read something easy and preferably out of the norm for my tastes. I was thinking sci-fi or fantasy. I thought that that conversation bore no fruit, so I drove to the bookstore where I picked up Octavia Butler’s supposedly sci-fi story Kindredchosen literally by its cover. Sci-fi written by a black woman, who knew? (Review coming soon).


Anyhow, the next morning I found Mrs. Read’s vampire tale on my windshield and decided to follow the rabbit. Like I said, it’s good and bad. The following sentences should demonstrate what I mean.

There was just her and the feel of her lips, the exquisite way they managed to be soft and fierce at the same time.

I admit that one caught my attention. It is on page three, and it caught my attention because while I was in college, I took an ethics class. (Oh the fondness of that memory.) There was a lady in the class who had some very odd tendencies, and one friend and I identified these tendencies and exploited them. We were classically behaving as “little shits.” In short, while we ate lunch before class, we would decide which of her tendencies we would adopt and then impose them on the classroom discussions at will. One of our innocent classmate’s tendencies was to answer in opposites. You can imagine the fun we had as we concluded any ethical analysis with, “I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I think it’s both right and wrong.” And the best part was that the woman would resoundingly answer, “That’s how I feel!”

Back to blood boilers and dhampirs (thought I’m still not sure exactly what those are). As I read Mrs. Mead’s novel, I kept noticing this tendency to invoke contradictions in the name of good writing. I didn’t start keeping track until about half-way through the book, but here are a string of them. They occurred about every forty-ish pages.

Her long, dark hair spilled over her shoulders, and there was a fire in her brown eyes that was both dangerous (wait for it) and alluring.

And another.

Even through my jeans, that touch was provocative and made me think of all the times he’d run his hands over my legs. It was agonizing…(drumroll please) and exquisite.


Time stopped having meaning. It seemed like both an eternity and (How short? Please, I can’t wait a moment longer!) a heartbeat before I was cognizant of my surroundings again.

More bluntly.

This isn’t the same as you running off to a witch’s tea party! This is life and (Let me guess…) death. (YES! I was right.)

Last one, for effect. The speaker is talking to the human girl who is dating the vampire boy.

And that’s the thing, I think…the real reason I’m not that weirded out by you two. It goes against all sound logic, but somehow, you two together…it (Anyone else’s head feel warm?) just (Oh boy. I’m not feeling so good anymore. Bathroom please.) works. (Hurrrl. Now, retract tongue.)

Besides these juxtapositions of contradictory and ultimately inconsequential platitudes, the book contains two hundred plus pages of foreplay and a disappointing sex scene, prescription drug use, illicit drug use, and a whole host of other unsavory behaviors (all by eighteen year old’s) which in and of themselves certainly need no help being normalized into our degrading civilization. Oh, and there was a lot of mouth’s crushing together. Considering the nature of vampire teeth, that seems dangerous. And life-giving.

Just Go See It

I don’t know what the big fuss is about. H8ers gunna hate, I guess. It’s a perfectly good movie. I’d probably say it was “great” but I don’t want to build it up too much. Just go see it.

To critics: That’s enough alone time. I didn’t mean forever. You can go play with your friends again.

Review of Sicario and The Heart of the Sea

These two movies had piqued my interest when I first heard of them, but the mainstream critical reception was off-putting enough that I hadn’t take the time to view them. Finally I had a minute. The critics are wrong.

If you liked Miami Vice and Zero Dark Thirty, then Sicario is for you. My only real problem with Sicario is that it would be ruined if the cartel horrors it depicts were not based in the historical record, but I am too afraid to confirm that they are to do any fact checking. Depressing stuff.

If you have read Moby Dick, then The Heart of the Sea is for you. This one’s reception is especially baffling. Critics can’t say anything good about it, but as far as ocean voyage movies go it is much better than Master and Commander, which wasn’t bad. I loved Moby Dick and so I can’t say how much of that influences my enjoyment of The Heart of the Sea. What I can say is that if you know that Moby Dick is not about a whale, then you’ll like this movie. Conversely, if you are asking yourself, “Moby Dick isn’t about whale?” right now, skip the movie.

That is Patently Untrue–A Review of Matt Damon’s Opening Claim in The Martian Trailer

“Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out…this instinct is found in every culture without exception.”

From his dissection of the card player’s hands in Rounders, to his dissertation on clubbing baby seals in Good Will Hunting, to his explanation that he knows which vehicle in the parking lot is most likely to have a gun in it in Bourne Identity and more, in just about all of his films Mr. Damon has proven he can memorize and deliver long, dry, and yet convincing speeches that seem like they might trip up other acting professionals. And that’s fine and dandy. I like those movies and I like his characters in those movies. But I don’t know if anyone likes to hear what he has to say after he clocks out, and it seems like the two are beginning to merge. Recently, he’s starred in films that sacrifice entertainment value in favor of agendas, films like the one about fracking. Soooo dramatic. And they’re probably filled with science. Again, whatever.

A year or so ago a couple handed me the book The Martian because they knew I had applied to be an emigrant to Mars. I read it and reviewed it here. This book is now a major motion picture. And all of this is very interesting to me and probably every other independent author, as its author published the book by his own self years before it got picked up by a major publisher and now Hollywood. It looks like Mr. Weir self-published it in 2011, three years before the big boys picked it up in 2014. So it seems that five years after self-publishing a quality book any one of us could watch A-listers act out our story on the big screen. That’s neat. Anyhow, back to the point. The book has nothing to do with making a statement about “every culture” of humans. Anyone that disagrees with this is flat out wrong and I would argue hasn’t read the book. And yet somehow (I picture a lot of whining and temper tantrums and threats to walk out of the room) Matt Damon opens the preview to what looks like a fantastic new space movie with this bogus notion that every culture has a basic instinct to help each other out. I can buy every human does on an individual level. There’s books about that. But the simple fact is there are plenty of cultures who don’t rescue people who find themselves stranded on Mars or mountain tops or the side of the highway. What’s worse is there are plenty of cultures who actively believe in kidnapping people for money or political statements. These cultures are generally those not labeled The West.

I buy and promote the truth that if we’re talking about the level of the soul, then we’re all just people making our way through this world and will more times than not help each other when able. But it is not true that in groups (cultures) we’re all the same and without quantifiable, measurable differences that can be labeled “better” or “worse”–no matter how hard we wish for it.

Review of Sam Neill’s Velociraptor Speech in the first Jurassic Park

Click here if you need your memory jogged.

Or read these two snippets.

“You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that’s when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side, from the other two ‘raptors you didn’t even know were there.”

“The point is… you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know… try to show a little respect.”

Do you remember how surprised you were to learn that the ever mysterious and enchanting king of the dinosaurs T-Rex’s visual acuity was based on movement, as “Oh Alan” describes? What an intriguing revelation that was. And then in the time it took for Sam Neill’s index fingers to swing from his side to his front, within that instant, a previously unknown dinosaur severed any remaining connection our minds had with any reality outside the film. From that moment, unlike the annoying kid who has had enough velociraptor for a lifetime, we found ourselves thirsting for them. Like Dana Delany’s head-straightening declaration “I want one” after hearing Billy Zane’s thespianic description of a quintessential cowboy while marveling at a distant, lean-silhouetted Wyatt Earp upon arriving in Tombstone, we wanted velociraptors. And Jurassic Park gave them to us. And to prove how much we wanted them, we set the Memorial Day weekend box office record as we paid to to see the sequel, The Lost World, way back then. Remember that? It’s true.

But the filmmakers failed us in the sequel. They had a little girl gymnastic-kick our beloved.

And then in number three, a velociraptor spoke English.

Last weekend, however, Sam Neill’s speech was back in the forefront as a new box-office record was set by the head-bobbing six-foot turkeys. Why? Why did we rush to see it? Because the previews and movie posters teased us with the idea that we’d get to see what it would be like to have our very own velociraptors. Velociraptors as pets. Awesome.

All because of Sam Neill. Nice work, Sam.

Review of The Message Of The Cross, by Derek Tidball

When I read a book or watch a movie I am on the look out for the one thing upon which the book or film is centered. Sometimes this one thing can be an entire scene, but more often than not, I find that it is one line. As an illustration, I would argue that the entire movie Monster’s Ball was built to make Halle Berry’s guttural “I want you to make me feel good. Can you make me feel good?” confession as powerful as it was.

Which brings me to this book I received from a pastor’s personal stash. It’s all about both the symbolism and (possible) reality of Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion. The author, Tidball, is a pastor and the book certainly carries his preaching voice throughout. This is mostly annoying. On the whole, there are all sorts of quasi-theological points and what have you, but unless you’re a Christian looking to invest some time acquiring answers to some very particular questions, I don’t think this book has much value–save one point.

With an emphasis on an “everyone is on their own journey” attitude, one thing that keeps me very interested in Christianity is its prophetic aspect. I wrote earlier about discovering the money-changer showdown prior to the arrest and crucifixion was at the temple, the same one that was destroyed as Jesus seems to have prophesied, the same one whose site is still being fought over today in the middle east.

Likewise, Tidball’s single scene or line in The Cross is found in Genesis 22:6. He calls to our attention that during the infamous Old Testament scene where Abraham unquestioningly follows god’s command to sacrifice his first and only son, the Bible has it that Abraham places the wood for the burnt offering on his son Isaac’s back for him to carry up the mountain. Boom!

Or crickets.

Remember that we’re talking about stories here. Remember also that words are not things, but the way we attempt to describe things.

So you’re telling me that the one true god’s chosen people–meant to be a beacon of hope for the world–out of whom some say the savior of the world was birthed had as their founding father and exemplar a man who obeyed this god’s command to sacrifice his son up to the point of the down-stroke of the knife; you’re telling me that the son walked with wood on his back at some point during the event? And then, thousands of years after this story had taken root, you’re telling me that a man who claimed to be the savior of the world carried wood on his back as he willfully submitted to his own sacrificial execution? In my book, that’s a pretty powerful and difficult to deny theme, a theme that might actively contribute to the claim that one story reigns as the greatest story ever told.

Unfortunately, in my own life of late I can admit that the Christian god has been at the least hiding, at the most absent in certain tribulations. And yet Isaac carried wood on his back long before Rome invented crucifixion or a father god sacrificed his own son.

I don’t know what to do with information like this, but I will say that I find it to be the most pleasant and empowering thing to think on, so I will continue to do so.

Glenn’s Review of It’s Just Us, Daddy by Pete Deakon Is Up

coverfrontYou can, but really should not, read it by clicking here.

I think he was a bit lazy with this one, or perhaps I was hoping for a more pointed critique than saying my story was “pointless.” No big thing. What’s important is that low things, bad things, poor things–like his review–allow for greatness to be seen as an even greater success in the future. You know, zero-to-hero style. In other words, maybe he’ll hate the sequel to the story more fully. 🙂

Oh yeah, buy the book on Amazon by clicking on the picture or here.