Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the books for this movie, so all interpretations, observations, and notations are based off the film. 

In the future.

74 years ago, the Hunger Games were established. Before that time, the people of this Nation grew sick and poor. They gave the government power to distribute and care for the people.
After a time, the people grew stronger, and the famine gone. But the Government would not relinquish this control.
Civil War ensued. And the Government emerged victorious.
To Ensure such uprising would never happen again, the Nation was divided into 12 districts and forced to live in extreme poverty. Hunting? Not allowed. Weapons? Banned.
In addition, each year every district must pay tribute to the government by giving one boy and girl, ages 12-19, in the “Hunger Games” A battle to the death, and the winner giving immense riches and food for the rest of their and family’s lives.

24 participants

12 Districts

1 Victor

Let the Hunger Games Begin.

Before I go into the actual content, I wanted to say a little something about the motivations behind seeing this movie.
I am not a culture bandwagon jumper, Twilight… Harry potter… The latest music… I don’t really follow that stuff.
This movie however, sparked my attention, because of the story behind it, the story of a government in absolue power, and people willing to stand up against it. I knew there would be a lot of stuff presented, especially on death, and wanted to see an audience up with the current “Fads” reacted to various moral scenarios.
To say I was surprised… would be an understatement. It was incredibly amusing, perplexing, and baffling to see double standards, edging on relationships… and cheering and yelling out at various… male characters. (in previews… the Movie begins with T)
So, I will get more into that in a moment… but was very telling to me, to see what our culture is like in terms of entertainment and standards.

Alright, onto the movie content. :)

Things I liked

One of the biggest themes throughout this movie, is sacrifice. The main character (from District 12), Katniss volunteers herself during the “reaping” to save her little sister. She puts her life in danger many times to save other combatants in the games. Peeta (the guy from District 12) also, is willing to give his life for another. We see this throughout the movie, that Katniss values other people above herself, this is one of the bible’s strongest commandments, second only to to “Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and Mind”.

Another theme in the movie is to stand up against what is wrong. Katniss sees the wrong in these hunger games, and is determined not to stoop to that level. It does come with a cost however, as refusing to kill someone makes things… difficult to survive. In standing up for what is right, against the gladiator style game, she inspires the people watching throughout the Nation, not to be entertained by violence, but to reject it.

There is a strong focus on compassion and mercy, coming from many combatants in the game. Granted they are occasional occurrences, but present nonetheless. A guy spares one girl, merely for the fact she is helpless and not able to defend herself. Another instance includes Katniss befriending a 13 year old girl who is a possible liability to herself. Protecting the weak and helpless, in an inhumane environment, was good to see.

Things I didn’t like

The violence in the Hunger Games is some of the most unappetizing I have seen in a long time… There are so many levels of violence too. So, I will attempt to break it down in the conclusion…
The style of violence here, is one I hadn’t seen before. It was hand camera, so you would see a strike, the a the last moment spin away, so you just saw blood. Very rarely do we ever see a full hit. One girl warming herself by the fire, is surrounded by a group. We see her face, the it cuts away and we hear her dying scream. After a tribute is killed, often they would give a 5-10 second cut of the dead body. Shots included slit throats… snapped necks… bludgeoned to death…
Cato is a 19 year old boy from District 1, there, they train for all of their life, then volunteer for the games. They almost always win. Cato is the epiphany of ruthless, vile, and tyrannical fighting. We watch him break the neck of young boy, slay thirteen year old girls, and ally with those as strong as himself. If you are weaker, you die, and ultimately he cares only for himself, others are just tools to be used.
Katniss also is not without blood on her hands. she drops a swarm of killer wasps on the allied group, and one person dies from the stings. We later see their face, swollen, disfigured, and discolored while Katniss pries a bow out of their death grip. She shoots a guy in the chest to protect herself and the girl she is with, but she kills him nonetheless. She also commits a “Mercy” killing, as a guy is getting torn and eaten to death by wild dogs… she decides to end his suffering with a shot of a bow.
Other deaths include a boy being beaten to death with a brick, we see a girl who died of eating poisonous food. One rather large guy snatches a girl up by the neck, and pounds her against a wall until we hear (and see) her neck snap, and she falls to the ground. We see a girl gored in the stomach with a spear, and she numbly pulls it out.

There is a relationship between Katniss and Petta in the games, used to increase the odds/excitement/etc. It initially starts as a show for entertainment, but quickly develops from there. Back home though, there is another guy who is ready to marry Katniss.
Stupid love triangles.
These are made solely for the drama and entertainment of some girls watching this movie (no offense girls). After Peeta is injured, they wind up kissing a short time later. It is never shown what actually happens after they get back home, whether they stay together, not, etc. It wasn’t needed to build the story, and distracted from the overall goal. In my opinion anyway.

Cussing is in the movie, D—, H—, and God’s name is used in vain several times.

The mentor for Katniss and Peeta is drunk all the way to the city. He also tells an uptight city lady to loosen her corset and have a drink.

Closing Thoughts

After watching this movie, my brain was churning. So many ideas, themes, and moral scenarios presented… It still has me reeling four hours later.

Let’s starts with the violence aspect.
It is very interesting to see what a double standard our society has in terms to life and who deserves it. I remember, when the bad guy died (you know he was going to… ;) ) there was cheering.
Did you read that?
Cheering.
Over the death of a person.
Several times.
Death, is never something we should rejoice in, unless it is one of a person going to meet Christ in heaven.
It sickened me to my core. Moresoe than anything else, actually hearing the audience cheer for a brutal death, because that person was “Bad”.
Ironic actually, as it seemed the hunger games was made to warn against a society reveling in, rejoicing in, and being entertained by death and violence. It warns against the perils of a society that takes delight in seeing people killed. Katniss kills a girl who is sleeping, with killer wasps… and that is OK? She shoots a person who is dying to relieve suffering… Euthanasia anyone? One person kills to save another. Why is the person they saved more valuable? These are just some questions that arise when watching the arena battle.

Outside the arena, as they are preparing for combat, more items arise…
“May the odds Ever be in your favor”
This is the slogan of the Government. Funny though, as the government controls those odds, since they own and control the arena.
If there is anything to be learned from this movie, it is that Thomas Jefferson was absolutely correct in saying “A government big enough to give you anything you want, is also big enough to take away everything you have.”
In one scene, the president is talking to his advisor about how he should manipulate the games this year. He says “…These games provide the people with one thing. Hope. The only thing more powerful than fear, is Hope. Be careful with this…

I found it very interesting that throughout the whole movie, what happens after death is never mentioned. Not once does someone ask about what happens after, nor God (or someone like Him) brought up. Leaving it up to the person to ponder, if they cared enough, the question. Clearly, this movie supports humanity and value of life… but the question never answered is Why? Because it feels right? Because one is entitled to live? Because one is a good person? No ultimate standard results in the double standard we see in this film, one where, a person can be killed if they aren’t “nice” or stronger than others…

There are many biblical and honorable traits portrayed in the 2 hour and 20 minute “Hunger Games”, and it also provides some very good stuff to chew on.
But given the brutal teen violence and lack of moral resolution…. I’m going to have to pass on seconds.

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Movie Review: Act of Valor

Act-of-Valor

Navy Seals.

What comes to mind when you hear that phrase?
Elite?
America’s best?
The ultimate solider?

Well, those are some word to come to my mind…

This film explores the lives of Seals in a single squad. Their mission? There are plenty. At home, they put their training behind them and focus on the precious moments they have with their family. Abroad, they focus on their mission, to protect the family they love at home.

It is an incredibly tough and dangerous life to be a Navy Seal, to be a good one, would take an Act of Valor.

Things I liked

One key point this film drive home again and again, is it is crucial to have a strong family. Many times buddies in the squad volunteered to send a man home, so he could be with his family during an important time. Act of Valor is a tale of a group of guys who have families just like us, and serve our country in an extraordinary way. The fact they put such a large amount of focus on strong families ties was to me, amazing. One quote I remember was “Guys, if you are having any problems at home, you need to man up and take care of them. We don’t need those distractions when we hit the ground.” There’s a lot of truth in that little statement, and advice to be heeded for any guy with a family.

The Seals themselves are honorable, loyal, and even courteous. Even when the battle ensues, that take care to only attack the people with guns, and negotiate when possible. When men are injured, no one gets left behind. They know when to have fun with each other, and when to buckle down and get the job done. One seal gives his life for the others, and others continually watch each other’s back. There is a brotherhood seen among the Seals, and made me proud to be part of a country that has such men as those serving us in that way.

(not really a spoiler, but does describe a scene in detail)
One scene in particular I loved, was in an interrogation with a head enemy of America. They talked until it became clear he was not going to give information without a more pressing cost.
So the seargent pulls out his iphone, and shows the man a video of him and his seven year old daughter swimming in a pool.
The enemy tears up  and says “you would hurt my family?”
The Sergeant leans in close and says “I would never touch your family, but I want you to think of that little girl, and what her life would be like without her father…..”

This little scene made Seals to me not only ones who are the best fighters in the world, but also the most humane. Sometimes it doesn’t take physical threats… merely imposed self inflection.

There are tons more things I could go over regarding the Seals and their character, but am stopping there. Simply put, they are shown to be soliders of honor and looked up to. Perhaps something we have lost in this day and age in which we live.

The main enemies of America are Muslim extremists. I will say however, this movie did a very good job at making a point not all muslims are like that. In actuality, they are extremely rare.

Things I didn’t like.

The cussing: I know, once again, this is a war movie, but still… hearing the F word, S—-, a– d—, and more over and over… got really painful to listen to. Christs name is used profanely a few times, and some guys make crude references to body parts.

The Violence…
Where to begin? Well, there is person who is tortured in absolutely horrid ways. Hung from the ceiling and punched continually, a power drill used on their hands and feet, (we don’t see this, but we do hear the screams, and see the bloodbath afterwards)…

The rescue ensues, and dozens of men are sniped in the head, with blood splattering against the wall.  One seal gets shot in the head, causing a severe injury. Enemies are blown to bits in a truck pursuit.

Another scene has an offscreen explosion, where several hundred children are killed. It fades out with one child screaming and running with his arm blown off.

A man is shot point blank in the head, blood splatters….

Dozens more enemies throughout the movie on a boat… in tunnels… on the street… are all gunned down, fragged, and exploded. Blood is present in every death, spraying others, walls, etc..

A suicide bomber kills herself. We see the explosion, and the aftermath…

A Seal is killed, and a large pool of blood collects around his body.

So, as you can read, this movie has a ton of violent content. While painful to watch, in some ways I begin to understand more and more, war is not a thing of glory like some movies portray. It is nasty, dirty, and while victory may be won. The cost, even if just one man, is a terrible thing to pay.

There is about a 20 second close up of a woman in a bikini… Totally unnecessary.

Other things you should be aware of

The Seals drink and smoke at times for pleasure.

My Closing Thoughts

Today we are saturated with violent and war movies. To often I think, I gloss over them as entertainment, not giving real thought to people who are affected, or who’s lives are touched when fighting that war.

Act of Valor made me think, long and hard, about what our military has done in the past, but also about the people serving today. This movie shows that, contrary to what the media might say, honor is still present in our military. Standards and rules are still followed. And men still sacrifice everything for the protection of our borders and the people who live inside them.

So if you can wade through the depths of blood, bear the constant assault of cussing on your eardrums, and watch the deaths of hundreds of people…

You will find a movie that brings back a positive light to those who serve our country, men who love and are truly good stewards of their house, and ones willing to carry out the greatest sacrifice one can make for the protection of others.

Movie Review: The Secrets of Johnathan Sperry

The Secrets Of Jonathan Sperry (2010)

Have you ever met a person who seemed so wise it was unbelievable? Who always knew the exact thing to say at just the right time? Or was always right… but the most humble person you ever met?

Such is man called Jonathan Sperry.

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry is a tale set in a small town around the 1970s. A group of young boys about twelve years old have a couple problems. There is a town bully for one thing, and one boy (Dustin is his name), has a hopeless crush on a girl who works at the local diner. One day, mowing the grass, these boys meet Mr. Sperry, and together work to mend these troubles that seem so great to boys of that age.

Things I liked:

This movie is explicitly Christian. Bible verses are referenced throughout the film. Christlike principles of loving your enemy and compassion are encouraged. And we also see the benefits of shamelessly spreading the gospel of Christ to anyone we meet. Seeing these things in a movie was refreshing and enjoyable, while not over the top and maintaining a balance.

I also liked the boys in the film itself. I remember what it was like to be twelve, and this movie captures it quite well. The boys do a very good job at acting, and some parts are quite humorous, as I remember similar situations from that time past.

Mr. Sperry fills a lacking father role in several of the boy’s lives. It shows how hard it can be to grow up without a father to consult about important matters or just eat a pizza with… It presented the positive changes one man can have if he just gets involved in a boy’s life. Something lacking more and more in our culture.

There is a whole crush/relationship scenario with dustin and the Young waitress. I really like the way they presented approaching a relationship from a biblical point of view. Plus, the ribbing from Dustin’s friends, and his nervousness was very nicely written and played out, so it was funny to watch that whole dynamic.

Things I didn’t like:

Since this is an independent film, the quality of the movie is lacking. Mainly in editing taste. Several times watching the movie I thought “Okaaaaay, enough street shots. Or We get the scenery is nice…” So, the movie does drag in places.

The acting by the boys and Mr. Sperry is quite good, but everyone else is just soso.

My Closing Thoughts

When I choose this movie from Netflix to watch with my family, I honestly expected it to be pretty boring, and had my mac out to work on should the movie be as I expected. It turned out, I not only watched the entire thing, but liked it a lot. No, it doesn’t have guns, explosions, or incredible special effects…

Rather, “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” tells us a simple story about boys growing up in a time where TV and video games didn’t dominate every spare moment. It tells a story we can all relate to in some way or another, and gives principles we can apply to our own life and walk with Christ.

But most importantly to me, it shows that just because you are old or young, it doesn’t give you the excuse to stop working for God’s kingdom. God can use any Christian, at any age, to make an impact for His glory. There was a quote that summed this idea up nicely: “You know, if you just keep telling folks about Jesus, sooner or later, one of em is going to listen.”

Combine that core message with a funny group of young boys, and an old man with the same sense of humor…
You just might learn a few secrets from old Mr. Sperry… Just like I did.

Cheesy Bacon Bites (one of the best finger foods EVER)

Time for another recipe.

Since my last recipe was so good for you, now is the time for a really bad for you food that tastes amazing and are incredibly addictive! :)

Here we have the ingredients needed. An onion, pepper, Cream Cheese, Bacon, and a package of crescent rolls.

Get about 4-6 pieces of bacon on the skillet. You might want to cook more if you are like me, and have to eat some because it smells so good.

While the bacon is cooking (multitasking here 0_0 ), take your onion and cut off a small portion like above.

Then cut the onion piece up.  you can use a food chopper if you like, I prefer to do it with a knife as it is easy to clean and for me, is faster.

Check your bacon.

Take a garlic clove… and press it into a medium bowl. I forgot to say you need a bowl…

So, you need a medium bowl.

Your cream cheese should be plenty soft by now if you have left it out while prepping the onion and bacon. Cut the block in half, and toss it into the bowl with the garlic and onions.

Your bacon should be cooked. IT is important you leave it chewy, and not cook it to crispy.

Mash up the bacon with your hands in a paper towel. This not only breaks the bacon up into bits, but gets rid of a lot of the excess grease we don’t want.

Here you can see all the ingredients are in the bowl. You should use about a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Mix it all together with a spatula and set aside.

Time to break out the crescent rolls.

You will want to divide the rolls into two halves. Since the rolls are perforated, it should be relatively easy.

Roll them out like above and,  using your finger, pinch all the perforations together, so the rolls become 2 flat, rectangular pieces of dough.

Next, spread out the bacon and cream cheese mixture over the pieces of dough…

Roll them up.

And then cut each section into 16 pieces. I found it easiest to find the half, then the half of the half… and so forth and so on. :)

Lay them out on a stone or cookie sheet.

Pop them in the over and viola! A Toasty, cheesy, bacony…. and yummy snack!

Cheesy Bacon bites

 Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup real bacon pieces
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 package (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent roll dough
 Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In Small Batter Bowl, combine cream cheese, bacon, onion and black pepper; mix well. 
2. Unroll crescent dough; separate into 2 rectangles on Cutting Board. Press perforations together to seal. Spread cream cheese mixture on each rectangle using All-Purpose Spreader. Starting at longest side, roll up each rectangle, jelly-roll fashion; press seams together to seal. 
3. Cut each roll into 16 slices using Serrated Bread Knife. Place slices, cut side down, on flat Baking Stone. Bake 15-17 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Yield: 32 appetizers

How to find and buy an inexpensive Macbook Pro

Something I am finding more and more with my friends when we talk about computers, is most want a mac, but say they can’t afford it.

Macintosh products are indeed expensive, but worth every penny. Since most of us don’t have an extra 2 grand laying around to spend on a Mac, here are a few things I learned when I went mac hunting…

Buy Used.
Macbooks are known for their incredibly long operating life and hardy construction. Buying a older macbook model doesn’t mean you will get an outdated computer, but rather one that is cheaper. You can find used 2010 Macbook Pro 13″ models on average from $500-$800. The price depends on the condition, software included, Operating system, Hard Drive, Ram, and more….
Craigslist is your best bet to snag a great deal. Professionals often dump the “old” models for a new one,  and don’t want the hassle of ebay. Also, since mac is a “high-end” product, you will often be dealing with people who are… better off, which is safer both for you as a buyer and them as a seller. You will often find macs there $500-$800. you can bargain down $50-$100 depending on the person and the condition of the computer.
Another option you have is ebay. This will cost a bit more, but is a fine place to get a macbook. I will say, you won’t find one closing less than $750, so keep that in mind.
The last, and most expensive option, is to buy refurbished from apple.com. This is the safest option of the three, but will cost you $800+.

Once you have decided to buy used, there are a few things to look for, and things to avoid in a used macbook pro. I will be talking about the 2010 13.3″ Model, as that one gives you the most bang for your buck. :)
Things to look for:
1. Extended Applecare warranty. If a mac has the extended applecare warranty, the computer will be covered and repaired at the cost of the store until 2013. This is a huge plus, because if something goes wrong, you won’t have to pay to fix it. This should be a big priority when looking for a used mac.

2. Stock Specifications. This will take a little research, but you need to know what your model standard features were, and the upgrades Apple offered to each of those models. Look for stock specification macs, I will tell you why in a bit.

3. Included Software. A big hindrance to getting a mac not only is the cost of the computer itself, but the programs you have to purchase afterwards. Many sellers include iLife, Microsoft Office, photoshop, and even complete CS4 packages with the computer. These are incredible deals, and should be taken into account when looking at a computer.

4. This may seem petty, but the box, install disk, and all the standard components should be included with the mac. This shows the person takes care of their stuff, and allows you to reinstall the OS should the need arise.

Things to avoid.
1. Physical damage. If there is a dent, bump, or even rather large scratch on the mac. Don’t buy it. That means the computer has been in some sort of drop or rough event, and could have a damaged component, there are plenty computers out there. Don’t get one that has surface mars or has been dropped.

2. Software and Hardware modifications. Many users, after purchasing their computers, will install an upgraded Hard Drive, Ram, and more. This is fine, but know the computer has been opened, and there is a chance they forgot to add a screw, plug in a cable, etc. There is risk involved when aftermarket upgrades have been installed.

3. Minimal information. A standard seller post should include a detailed description of the condition of the computer, specifications (HD, RAM, Processor), software it comes with, price, and if it has applecare included. If they leave a phone number, that is also a huge plus, because they stand behind what they are selling, and want to move it quickly.

I hope that information helps you in your quest for one of the best computers out there. It will be tricky to find the one for you, but with patience, one will come along where the price is right, and the criteria met, and you will own one great computer that will last you for years to come.