Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Just wanted to let everybody know that I'll be out of my office until April 6th. I'm actually out of it now (in more ways than one) and on the road on vacation with my family. But I wanted to jump on here real quick to let you guys know that "In Search Of Truth" will be back next Wednesday and although there will be no podcast this weekend, we'll be back on track on April 8th!
See you then!
Monday, March 28, 2011
On Saturday I had a table for Spirit Blade Productions at a quarterly event my comic store chain hosts called "The Bizarre Bazaar", in which local artists get to showcase their work for free and keep 100% of their profits.
Since my work is almost completely an online endeavor, I've never done anything quite like this before. Of all the exhibits there, mine was probably the most "bizarre", given that the word "Christian" tends to alienate plenty of folks all by itself. Mix that with audio drama AND sci-fi/fantasy and you've got an odd combo. But taking all this into consideration, I was really happy with how the event went and the connections I was able to make.
I'm planning to sign up for the next one as well, and I'll be sure to pass along the info for those of you in the Phoenix area that might like to stop by and say hi!
Friday, March 25, 2011
Let's get straight to it, shall we? This movie was a nerdly geek-splosion of awesomeness. I'm giving it a 10 out of 10 for my Quality score. Not because it's flawless, but because it's a major achievement in film that shouldn't be ignored. I haven't checked my records to verify, but I don't think I've given another movie a 10 since the first "Iron Man". Like that film, "Sucker Punch" is too much fun, too much of a visual feast and just too freakin' cool to give it anything less.
The story centers on a girl nicknamed "Baby Doll", who finds herself framed by her evil stepfather and sentenced to an insane asylum, where she faces a lobotomy in 5 days unless she can escape. A matronly psychologist helps her and the other girls in the asylum, to cope with their situation by empowering them to retreat into an imagined world they create, in which they are powerful and able to bring about positive change in their circumstances.
As the story unfolds, Baby Doll leads a group of girls in a mission to escape the asylum, but we get to see their progress through the lens of Baby Doll's imagined fantasy world, a crazy blend of sci-fi, fantasy and steam-punk that propels itself with action visuals the Wachowski brothers(The Matrix Trilogy) would drool at.
The creative quality and almost relentless quantity of visual effects sequences has enough optical intensity to make this movie worth seeing. But the time spent on character motivation, though not a lot, is enough to help us invest in their struggle, especially in the second half of the movie. This is not a simple "eye-candy" visual effects film. It has plenty of heart and a few moments that left me leaning forward with a dropped jaw, not from some stunning CGI, but stunning tragedy inflicted on our heroes. I especially found the character "Rocket" to be compelling and for some reason very interesting to watch.
Another elements that might be easy to overlook is the costumes, which are almost a visual effect themselves. This is where the inspiration of "Heavy Metal" magazine and modern comic books makes itself most evident.
Although "Sucker Punch" is mostly escapist entertainment, it has some clear themes of overcoming evil and self-empowerment, with a healthy dose of self-sacrifice. From a biblical standpoint, we might support the first theme and automatically reject the second. This movie ultimately states (even literally through narration) that we are our own source of trials and victories in life. We are the ultimate power in control of our lives. Biblically, this idea doesn't fly. In fact, the movie itself is inconsistent on this point. In the last moments of the film, while this point is being made in narration, a main character is able to achieve her aspiration, though only because of the assistance of others, including a random stranger. In fact, other characters who wanted to achieve their aspirations much more strongly, failed in their attempts. This is in direct contradiction to the philosophy stated in the final words before the credits roll, leaving me a bit confused.
That said, their is room for some "self-determination" according to the Bible. Paul clearly struggles with conflict that he brings about in his own life (Romans 7:15-20) and David declares a determination to himself that he will choose to praise God. (Psalm 103:1-2) Messages inspiring self-determination on not by nature counter to scripture unless they promote self-determination as the ultimate source of strength. Sucker punch verbally validates ultimate self-determination but illustrates what might even be described as divine intervention or at least exterior supernatural aid. The movie doesn't beg for conversation, but it could be started fairly easily on the way home by simply asking out loud, "What exactly IS it about that movie that makes me feel like I can conquer the world right now?"
A mind-blowing, genre-bending experience that will likely be a benchmark for years to come. If you're a fan of sci-fi/fantasy action, you'd be crazy to miss this one.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
This is a casting call for "Jealousy", an audio drama produced by "The Spirit Blade Underground Alliance"!
This is a one-shot feature. (Not a series. One, then done.) The story is a post-apocalyptic murder mystery written by Malcolm Cowen! A small community is struggling to survive after a deadly disease wipes out most of the earth's population. But when a mysterious outsider visits the village one night, the outcome is murder. Without an established legal system, this small group of survivors has to determine how they will find the truth, and what they will do when they find it.
The script features some brief, mild "swearing". You may request a copy of the script to examine the specific words used by contacting me at:
Please record your audition at 128kbps or higher in mp3, or use wav file format.
All auditions should be sent via Yousendit (www.yousendit.com) to:
***Yousendit is a FREE online file transfer service. Please remember to make use of it. Do not send your file directly to
the e-mail listed.***
Please use the following format when naming your audition files:
All lines for each character audition should be in one file. However, please submit a separate file for each character you audition for. You may send multiple files separately or in one compressed folder. In either case, PLEASE make use of yousendit.
If a role requires yelling or screaming, please take measures(lower recording levels, increase
distance from microphone, etc.) to avoid distortion in your recordings. Your
ability to do this will have an impact on whether or not you are cast for these kinds of roles.
***Auditions are due by Saturday, April 9th.***
Below are brief character descriptions and the lines to use in your audition.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at: paeter(at)spiritblade(dot)net
Thanks and have fun!
DAVID- Old man, voluntary chaplain to the group. Mildly old fashioned evangelical. Works building up the community's information database. Think of Cadfael or Father Brown.
David [URGENT BREAKIN] I’m sorry Janice, It’s David here. I’m at Kathy and Chris’s farm and I need to interrupt your radio school. We’ve got a problem, and I need to speak to the Chairman of the Council urgently.
David [HURRIED] Hugh, I don’t want to say too much over the radio, but I’m still at Chris and Kathy’s farm. We’ve found a body, it’s a woman. She’s been murdered and it’s a stranger.
David [BLUNTLY] Her throat’s smashed in, looks like she’s been strangled. I need someone who can deal with this better than I can.
David [OCCASIONAL PAUSES AS HE WALKS DOWN A MUDDY LANE]There’s one more thing to show you at the back entrance to the farm. If you follow me, but be careful how you tread. I checked everywhere outside for footprints. Most of the ground in the yard is fairly dry, so there’s no marks except for Claire’s galoshes running back to the house through that patch of mud by the gate. Mind that muddy patch there.
KATHY- Self-taught farmer. Young woman, early 30's. Rotten childhood. Dad abandoned family. No Christian contact. Fell to bits after the plague. Rescued by David, became a Christian, rebuilt her life. Now sees her old life coming back through recent events, and is scared.
And then David found me. I was lying in a hotel room just crying, and he cleaned me up, and got proper food into me, and he was so kind.
So when I got better I just offered myself to him, because I thought you should. And he just kissed me on the forehead and said “No, because that kind of thing is so important that when I take someone to love it’s a commitment for life, and you’re in no state to make any commitments right now. And besides I’m an old man, and you’re a young girl. If there’s two of us left, then there must be others, and you should be with a younger man than me”. And I didn’t know what to do, so I just hung on to him and cried. No man’s ever said that to me before. And that’s why I love him so much, he’s like my Dad should have been to me.
CHRIS- Self-taught farmer. Young man, Kathy's husband, late 20s. Decent young Christian man. Loves Kathy (And knows all about her past). He'll stand by her no matter what.
Chris No. I know Steve and Sandra were upset they didn’t get appointed leaders for this new settlement, but as far as I’m concerned they’re our partners, not our underlings or something. And in any case once we’ve been here two years and have got more than eight of us in the settlement my job will be an elected one anyway. And I’d be quite happy to step down for Steve then. And even if someone resented us, what’s that got to do with killing this stranger?
[INTERRUPTING] .. but you’d had a bad time. I know. But that was before, before we met, before the plague, before everything, it was another world. So forget it, what matters is us and now.
[LOUDER] I just want to make one thing plain, if this means Kathy gets exiled from the group, then I go with her. I made her a promise for better or worse, and I made it because I love her, and I keep my promises.
[ALSO SCARED BUT TRYING TO BE THE BIG STRONG HUSBAND] It’s all right, I’m here and I’m staying with you.
CLAIRE- Researcher. Young woman, early late 20's, in love with Chris. Shallow. Previously she was a pretty good person, but only because she has never faced a challenge. The truth is she has no real faith.
[BLUNTLY] You mean when we had a big fight, and I acted like a complete bitch to her? Yes, and I was out of order. Chris has the right to choose who he wants to marry, and I’ve got to accept that.
Kathy told me the tools and things were all in the outhouse, but I should use the galoshes, because of the mud. So I went to the outside washroom and put the galoshes on, then Kathy and I went inside the outhouse, and that’s when I saw the body. At first I thought it was someone who’d fainted, so I bent down to see who it was. Then I saw the marks on her neck, and then I realised she was dead. I suppose I panicked a bit, and ran out and back to the farm kitchen to get help.
[DEEP GRIEF] Oh no. Not Kathy, she can’t have, it must be a mistake
OWEN- Young man, early 20's, former boyfriend of Kathy. Decent young man, a bit shy.
Owen Yes, I used to be fairly close to Kathy before she started seeing Chris, but that was when she was still working at the Centre. I’d not seen her at all since she moved out here.
Owen Well the wedding seemed to go off okay. David presided and they made their promises to each other. Then we had a party. I must admit I found it a bit hard to join in, but I tried my best. I think I probably drank too much, which was pretty stupid of me. Then we all went to bed in the barn, except for Kathy and Chris who were in their new bedroom in the farm. I think I had Chris’s old bed and Claire had Kathy’s. Then Claire got me up about nine and I was going over for breakfast, when Claire came running past me into the house saying she’d found a body. And that’s it really.
HUGH- Oldish man, leader of Council. Ex-Army. He kept a small group in quarantine through the plague. When he found there was no civilian authority to report to he decided his duty was create a civilian government and then submit his command to it. He then found himself alected as the first Chairman of his new Government - the Council.
Hugh: She says there was a knock on the door, and when she opened it she recognised Theresa at once. Her first reaction was horror at something from her past.
Then Kathy decided that since she’d changed since then, maybe Theresa could have changed as well, so she invited her in. But when Theresa got talking Kathy wasn’t very happy. Theresa just kept on harking back to what happened ten years ago. Kathy said she was beginning to feel scared by her, so she told Theresa the best thing to do was to come to the Centre here and make contact with the Council directly.
As far as Kathy knew, that’s what she was going to do. Well, until a few hours later Theresa turns up dead.
[TAKING CHARGE] I think you’d better tell me.
HELENA- Doctor, Council member. mid 30's. Previously a nurse, she's the only medical survivor. Has read up text books to teach herself to be a doctor and is now training others. Committed to what she does, but aware of her own limitations. A decent honorable woman whose personality has been strengthened by trial. She's a sincere agnostic who respects David's faith.
(With distaste) Well you’re right, as far as I can see. She was strangled, by having a something pressed down over her throat. Presumably this rake, because if I hold the wood up against her throat you can see how the marks line up.
[PAUSE] That’s odd, there’s another wound as well, looks like she was hit on the back of the head by something blunt and possibly padded. There’s a small cut, a bit of bleeding, and a definite depression in the skull. Pretty strong force, this might even have killed her by itself. At a guess I’d say this was used to stun her, then the rake was used to finish her off.
THOUGHTFULLY]Untrodden clear ground, with just one line of recent tracks. I’ll check, but they look about right for her shoes. So she was alone. Unless... is there any other way in?
STEVE- Farmer, early 30's. Son of a farmer. Decent young man, knows about farming but still a bit immature. He grows through the plot.
[INTERRUPTING] No, we understand. You’re going to ask is there any bad feeling from us towards Kathy and Chris because they got appointed to lead this new settlement, and we didn’t?
Obviously we both felt disappointed with the Council’s decision, especially seeing we were both brought up on a farm, and they weren’t. But, well there’s probably not more than a few thousand people left in the entire country, and two hundred of them in our group of settlements. The way I look at it I can’t afford to fall out with anyone, there’s too few of us as it is.
The following are smaller roles that may be given to existing cast members. For characters without audition lines, please use lines for another character in your audition.
SANDRA- Farmer, Steve's wife. Decent young woman, about 30.
Sandra Our half of the farmhouse isn’t weatherproofed yet, so we’ve build ourselves a temporary bedroom just inside the barn door. Until last night, Kathy had a sort of alcove at the back of the barn and Chris slept in the loft. For last night we made some temporary sleeping areas in the loft for David and Owen, out of Chris’s old area, and used Kathy’s old place for Claire.
Janice- Teacher, on community radio.
3 Children- Being taught by Janice
Otto- Young researcher working for Helena.(Can be male or renamed as female)
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Some big news for those who sign up for The Spirit Blade Productions Newsletter!
Everyone who is signed up for the newsletter on April 10th will receive FREE download links for the Spirit Blade Enhanced Audio Book (AKA, "Archive Disc Vol. 2", featuring 6 1/2 hours of audio content, including a 56 minute commentary!), and the Spirit Blade: Special Edition Song Bundle!
With the newsletter, you'll also get a monthly dose of the biggest news, discounts and free content from Spirit Blade Productions, including some HUGE discount opportunities not advertised ANYWHERE else!
So don't miss out! Get more information and sign up today on our Newsletter Page!
Monday, March 21, 2011
In previous verses, Paul explained that Christians (those who entrust their lives to the identity and work of Jesus) are heirs of God, destined for an incredible future beyond imagining.
Because of this perspective, Paul doesn’t consider any level of suffering in this life to be even close to equal to the reward waiting for believers in eternity. (v.18)
Currently, the world and our universe are not functioning in a way suitable for the eternal lifespan believers will possess. Ever since The Fall (Adam’s rebellion, which infected himself and every human after him with sin), creation has been metaphorically “frustrated”, awaiting its own death in anticipation of a new creation that will be appropriate for the adopted children of God, who will one day be “revealed” with their new, eternal bodies. This is all part of God’s plan to rescue humans and creation from death and decay. (v.19-21)
Paul compares the build up to this rescue to labor pains. Just like the birth of a child, our existence now involves pain and difficulty, but results in something new and wonderful. (v.22)
The “first fruits” were the first part of a season’s harvest. The very first results of the work put in since planting season began. The Holy Spirit, present in believers, is the “first fruits” of our adoption as God’s children. We’ll get the full harvest when we are given our new bodies. In terms of our “adoption”, the Holy Spirit is a little like the signed adoption papers. All our new parents were working toward is beginning to be realized the moment they sign those papers. Getting our new bodies is a little like arriving at our new home for the first time. (v.23)
So we’re meant to fix our hopes, not on our goals and dreams for this current life, but on the life waiting for us. Just as we’ve placed our faith in Christ, in who he is and what he has done to save us, we should also place our faith in this future reality he promises.
The nature of hope is that it is placed in something that’s not provably certain. (Otherwise we wouldn’t have to hope, would we?) What the Bible says about Jesus and the eternal future of his followers is not 100% provably certain. But we are still meant to look forward to our ultimate salvation and eternal life with expectancy. (v.24-25)
Why have to hope at all? Why doesn’t God just make himself obvious to everyone all the time, so we don’t have to have faith in him?
Well, the truth is that God made himself extremely obvious to humans starting on day one. (Genesis 2) But humans have progressively expressed greater interest in doing things their own way, without God controlling them.(Genesis 3, onward) God made us with a will to make choices and be responsible for those choices. And one could argue effectively that if God made himself constantly and obviously present to all people at all times (because in truth he is omni-present by nature), we would lose all ability to choose anything but his will. The staggering, awe-inspiring presence of God wouldn't leave room for any real alternative.
This is similar is some ways to a child learning math. He might choose to believe that 5+3=7. But as his knowledge grows and truth becomes clear, the child soon finds that 5+3 undeniably equals 8. He doesn’t have much choice to believe otherwise.
God steps back and clouds our perception of him partially to respect our right to choose or not choose a life with him.
However, for those who desire to seek out the truth and are prepared to respond to it, God has orchestrated numerous trails of logical evidence that will lead people to him and provide good reason to trust him.
Coming back to verses 24 and 25, this is why I find apologetics (the logical defense of the Christian faith) to be helpful and rewarding. Studying evidences for the Bible might seem technical or boring to some, but as the evidence grows in front of me, so does my confidence. The future planned for us is not a foggy dream-like world or a nice idea. It is just as real as the computer or steering wheel in front of you. And the more we remember and understand that, the less bothered we’ll be by things not stacking up the way we’d hoped right now.
Next Week: God Is In Control
Coffee House Question: How is the idea of a new creation and new body different from the ideas of “heaven” you’ve heard or thought most of your life?
Friday, March 18, 2011
Recently I just launched the all-new Spirit Blade Productions Newsletter!
In the next few weeks I'll be phasing out use of the old newsletter and transitioning to the new one, which features a ton more functionality that will make for a more fun and interactive experience.
The newsletter will now be produced through a blogger blog and is set up so that you can receive posts via e-mail. This will make it possible for me to include links and different media like audio and video right in the newsletter. No more copying and pasting links or sifting through the website to find content featured in the newsletter. It will now be either embedded in the e-mail itself or just one click away, with nothing to download. The Newsletter Page will also serve as easy access to archived editions of the newsletter.
The Newsletter is now designed to be a VIP portal to the essential Spirit Blade Productions experience, and also features discounts not advertised anywhere else. For example, if you weren't subscribed to the newsletter a few weeks ago, you missed out on this year's first "Demented Dollar Download", in which I made "Pilgrim's Progress: Similitude Of A Dream" available to purchase for just a buck!
So don't miss the next Newsletter exclusive sale or the latest free content! Sign up for the newsletter today!
You can get an idea of the new features of the newsletter on the Newsletter Welcome Page.
You can also see a sample of the newsletter on the Newsletter Page.
There will also be a free bonus for those who subscribe in the next few weeks. More details on that next week!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Now through this Saturday is your LAST CHANCE to save tons from the HUGE sale at the Spirit Blade Productions Store!
All of our download products are 30% off!
Spirit Blade: Special Edition and Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual can be purchased right now for just $6.99 each! And Pilgrim's Progress: Similitude Of A Dream can be downloaded for just $3.49!
Download all three of our audio dramas for just $17.47! (Tax free! That's all you pay!)
You can also buy the song bundles for "Spirit Blade: Special Edition" and "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual" for just $3.49 each!
These are some of the biggest savings you'll see all year on our products, so spread the word and don't miss out! This Saturday is your LAST CHANCE to save!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Haven't had as much time as I'd like to dive into "Dragon Age 2" over the last week, but I've had enough to give my first five impressions of the first five hours:
1. The interface has changed noticeably. I'm still getting used to it. Most buttons still serve the same functions. But full equipment access/adjustment has been moved from the radial menu to the pause menu and the "back button" is only good for bringing up the map, rather than the entire menu system. In some ways this simplifies things, giving you one route to reach a given menu, but the menu changes don't seem to be a big enough improvement to justify the change in familiarity from the last game.
2. The graphics continue to look great, possibly even better than the first game. Still lots of blood flying around in combat. This game pulls no punches. The general color of the game seems to be a little more sterile and gritty this time around. This hasn't been a plus or a minus for me yet, it's just different.
3. The story is a sequel to the larger events of the first game, but doesn't involve your character from Dragon Age: Origins except in vague references to the "Hero Of Ferelden" now and then. No sign of Morrigan yet, but Flemeth (voiced by Kate Mulgrew of "Star Trek: Voyager") makes an appearance early on, revealing new layers to her character and setting up her further involvement (I assume) later in (and hopefully throughout) the game.
You choose the sex and class of your human character and use multiple choice options to select your "type" of response in dialogue. Identical to Mass Effect 1 and 2, you don't know exactly what words each response type will result in. The trade-off is that your character is fully voiced. Personally, I could go either way. When I'm in the mood (and alone) I'll actually read my "lines" out loud in Dragon Age: Origins and similar games.
4. The sound of the game is very similar to the first. Same composer, and presumably the same female vocalist providing haunting melodies over the orchestra. So far, the score hasn't "opened up" as much, although I assume things will sound more epic as the story expands. The voice acting is just as strong as ever, and the male actor for Hawke (your character) does a good job of creating a voice and tone that works whether you take the noble, snarky or hard edged dialogue options.
5. The biggest change is the combat system, which has been tweaked subtly but significantly. It is now a bit more action oriented. Instead of your character repeatedly attacking a selected foe until they are defeated, you have to press the "select" button repeatedly (after moving into range) in order to continue attacking. Your supporting characters are still automated with customizable tactics and you can switch around to control whoever you want, but the combat feel is now just a little closer to a "Diablo" clone than Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights, which Dragon Age: Origins drew heavily from.
This has been a step backward in my opinion. I enjoyed the real-time combat of the first game, but since it was still somewhat automated, I could easily move the camera around to check out the cool combat from whatever angle I wanted. Now, however, the thumb controlling the camera is busy pushing "A" over and over again, and so the combat is seen mostly from one angle. Bummer. After five hours in as a fighter, and trying out a mage supporting character for the last 20 minutes, I've actually decided to start the game over as a mage, since I believe that will provide more of the "stop and go" tactical experience I enjoyed in the first game, without having to micro-manage my whole team (as I would personally need to do if I just amp up the difficulty).
Over all, I'm really enjoying the game, though I would have been happier if the combat hadn't been touched. Still, this is Bioware, we're talking about. So I'm giving myself some time to adjust to their changes and hopefully they'll prove to be good ones in the end. Either way, this is shaping up to be a very compelling game experience that I'd recommend to almost any RPG player.
In previous verses, Paul taught that the Holy Spirit will give eternal life to those who place their trust in the identity and work of Christ (Christians).
Paul then says that because of this, Christians have an obligation to God to not settle into a selfish, “sarx” way of living. (See previous weeks for more on “sarx”.) (v.12)
Living this way ultimately results in death, as we saw in previous verses. But if we live life on the same page as God’s Spirit, we will put to death the sin clinging to our lives and gain spiritual vitality in exchange. (v.13)
Everyone who is letting God’s Spirit govern their life is a “son” of God. The Greek word for son here is “Huios”, and refers not just to offspring, but to a child that reflects the attributes of their parent. Allowing the Holy Spirit to govern the way we live results in lives that more and more mirror the character of God. (v.14)
Consider this for a second. Becoming a Christian, someone who places their earthly and eternal life in the hands of Jesus, is not signing up for slavery. It’s not a band-aid or something to simply fill that “spiritual slot” in your life. It’s a journey of transformation, in which real change comes about that you can look back on and be encouraged by. A life in which you are more than just a servant of God, but his adopted child!
The Christian life, despite involving growing obedience to God, is not a life of slavery and burden. It is not a life lived in fear of God’s condemnation or judgment. It’s a life in which we have been adopted by God and can approach him as easily as a child calling out “daddy” to their father. (“Abba” is of Aramaic origin and is the equivalent of “dada” or “daddy”.) (v.15)
As Christians spend more time with God and learning from the Bible, God’s Spirit will make this reality more and more clear to them individually. (v.16)
Another mind-blowing part of this truth is that Christians become “heirs” of God in the same way that Christ himself is an “heir” of God. Everything (as in, EVERYTHING) belongs to Christ, and Christians are co-heirs with Christ and will enjoy and possess all that God creates forever!
Before then, however, there will be suffering in our lives. Jesus lived a perfect life and the world brought him tremendous pain in reaction to it. As we aim to live lives like his, pain is a natural result of sin existing in the world. But even the pain and suffering we experience will be recognized, honored and compensated for. This is what is meant by being “glorified” with Christ. (v.17)
Next Week- The Best Life Now Means Looking Toward The Future
Coffee House Question- What are the benefits of being God’s son or daughter instead of just his housekeeper?
Saturday, March 12, 2011
After seeing just one trailer for "Battle: Los Angeles", I didn't want to see any more. It looked like a movie I didn't want to spoil by seeing too much of in advance. And I was right.
Aaron Eckhart leads the cast as U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz. He's had a long career, but his last mission ended terribly, haunting him with the death of the men he led. Despite preparing to retire, he is kept on when mysterious meteorites striking earth turn out to be the first wave of an invasion force. The story follows Nantz as he is placed back into the uncomfortable and weighty role of leadership amidst this relentless, unstoppable threat. Further complicating matters is the fact that he has a reputation, deserved or not, for letting those he leads die in combat.
Right from the start I sensed this movie was making some good moves by introducing us to the ensemble cast and Nantz in particular. These were not meant to be a series of ranks and last names, but people with families, fears and dreams. Too often genre movies are concept driven rather than character driven, so I appreciate when a movie like this aims to make characters a core value, since doing so adds to the mounting tension that genre films are often trying to capture in the first place.
And speaking of tension, this movie rarely lets up. After the first 15-20 minutes of setup, the literally explosive pace offers few opportunities to catch your breath. Despite some sci-fi trappings of an alien invasion, this movie feels mostly like a military combat action flick. Explosions and gunfire create firestorms of chaos for the viewer and the sound design places us in the middle of the action with bullets flying in surround sound.
The "shaky-cam" effect is used quite a bit as well, to keep us from getting settled. Often, this effect can be abused, hiding poor special effects and uncreatively coordinated action sequences. But here it builds the tension as the viewer, like the soldiers, try to make sense of what's happening on the battlefield.
Special effects are cool (sometimes extremely convincing!) and not too colorful, in keeping with the gritty realism the movie captures.
The score is used with solid yet subtle effect, getting out of the way of the sound effects, which sell the chaos and tension so well, but becoming more noticeable during some moments of triumph, while still maintaining a somber attitude. (Moments of triumph are rare and short lived in this flick.)
Performances are all fine, though nothing outstanding here. This is related to my one area of complaint. Despite the setup of a few marine characters in the beginning, as soon as they stepped into uniform, I quickly lost track of who was who. So when someone died I wondered "Oh, was that the guy whose wife is pregnant?" instead of immediately reacting the way I should have. Most often I didn't realize which characters were dead until I started asking, "Hey, what happened to 'whatzisname?'" So despite taking the time to set up some characters, similar skin tones and identical helmets and uniforms proved to severely cripple my connection with several supporting characters and their stories.
In terms of worthwhile conversation to be had on the drive home, it's possible you'll find yourself discussing reputation in some form if you really want to bring it up. Nantz commits himself to serving the best he can, regardless of the fact that he is seen as a villain or coward. He even willingly takes on responsibilities that will potentially enhance this reputation. So doing the right thing without getting credit is certainly a big part of the character plot. However, the ride is so intense that most will likely just be thinking about survival for two hours and just learning to breathe again on the way home.
Rated PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language.
Friday, March 11, 2011
This week I've started putting together a database of our customers, tracking what they've purchased in our store and when. It's the kinda "business/marketing" stuff that I hate having to do and is usually just a necessary evil.
But as I started going through our store history, I started seeing familiar names and e-mail addresses. People that were strangers to me when they first went out on a limb and bought something from us, but have since become people I've been interacting with for years through this blog, the Podcast or more recently the Spirit Blade Forums.
Just yesterday I sent an e-mail thanking Winston Crutchfield of Critical Press Media. He was the first person(that I didn't already know) to ever buy from our online store. As it happens, he and I have stayed in touch over the years and even spent an afternoon together in person! I consider it part of God's reward for what I do to have met Winston and so many of you guys through this work.
All this to say "thank you" to all of you who have connected with what we're doing and supported this little endeavor with big ambitions. I'm extremely grateful for every one of you and look forward to connecting with you more and more in the future.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Paul has been contrasting life lived according to Sarx (a Greek word, often translated “Flesh”: the default tendencies of humans that lead to sin) and life lived according to God’s Spirit. Sarx is naturally hostile to God and his will. Its default is to want what is contrary to good. So when a mind is “set” in this mode, what is wrong will seem and feel right. This mindset is incapable of pleasing God. Even its “good” acts are corrupted in some way, as Isaiah describes.
Isaiah 64:6- We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
The mind set on Sarx is unable to truly subject itself to God’s will. And those who live in this condition can’t please God, no matter how “good” they may appear when compared to other humans.(v.7-8)
The NIV uses the phrase “controlled by” in verses 8 and 9 when talking about either Sarx or the Spirit. But this might be misleading. In verse 9, the NIV seems to imply that if the Spirit of God is in us, we will not be controlled by our Sarx. But as Paul clearly showed in chapter 7 (verses 18 and 19), there are numerous times when he did things according to his Sarx that he didn’t want to do.
The more accurate translation of the Greek word “en” is simply “in”. The Greek word “en” carries the idea of being fixed and remaining. So a person can have God’s Spirit in them and still fall victim to Sarx at times. It’s only if you and I are constantly living in our Sarx, ignoring all of God’s expressed will, that we should question whether or not God’s Spirit is really in us.
All who place their trust in the identity and sacrifice of Jesus have God’s Spirit. There is no need to pray to receive the Holy Spirit. He is with you and in you constantly if you have put your trust in Christ, starting at the very moment that you place your trust in Christ. Because of this, believers (by definition) do not live completely stuck in a Sarx mentality, despite struggling with their Sarx on a regular, even moment-by-moment basis. (v.9)
And although Christians are still subject to physical death, God’s Spirit is life itself, and lives in us, resulting not only in restored life now, but life through a literal resurrection after the death of our bodies. This life is given to us through the Holy Spirit because of God’s perfect will and plan (his “righteousness”). (v.10-11)
Next Week- What it means to be adopted by God
Coffee House Question- What is one benefit of remembering that God’s Spirit is constantly in us, giving us new life and a clean slate?
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Don't miss the HUGE sale going on right now through March 19th at the Spirit Blade Productions Store!
As you pack your bags for that big spring break road trip, remember to take some cool audio entertainment along to add some adventure to the drive! (Or plane ride!)
During this huge "Road Trip Reduction Sale", all of our download products are 30% off!
Spirit Blade: Special Edition and Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual can be purchased right now for just $6.99 each! And Pilgrim's Progress: Similitude Of A Dream can be downloaded for just $3.49!
That's right! You can download all three of our audio dramas for just $17.47! (Tax free! That's all you pay!)
You can also buy the song bundles for "Spirit Blade: Special Edition" and "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual" for just $3.49 each!
Lastly, you still have until the end of March 8th to save 17% on T-shirt orders over $35! Just enter 17OFF as your coupon code during checkout!
These are some of the biggest savings you'll see all year on our products, so spread the word and don't miss out!
Friday, March 4, 2011
This week I've been hard at work getting ready to launch the all-new Spirit Blade Productions Newsletter. I'll have more info on that for you soon, but keep your eyes here. There are some great benefits to the new version of the newsletter that you won't want to miss out on!
And as I mentioned on Wednesday, we've got a big sale starting on Monday! Spring break is nearly here and many of you will be on the road to some fun. But you can also have tons of fun on the road itself!
The "Roadtrip Reduction" sale starts on Monday! I'll be dropping all prices on our digital download products by 30%! Don't miss out on the chance to transform your next road trip into a sci-fi/fantasy adventure! And if you're staying put, but someone else is coming your way, be sure and let THEM know about the money they can save!
The sale will officially launch on Monday as soon as I have posted the announcement for it here. So check back throughout the day!
In the meantime, have a great weekend!
The world is not what it seems. While we least expect it, eerie men in suits, who like to avoid water, freeze time and use strange tools on our heads to change our memories so that we will think what they want us to. Somehow, one man stumbles upon this behavior in action, and from that point begins a quest to uncover the truth and remain with the woman he loves, using as his weapon the very powers these strange men in suits possess.
Now, before you try to tell Matt Damon where "Shell Beach" is, you should know that “The Adjustment Bureau” is not my dream come true of a sequel to “Dark City”. Not even close. In fact, the trailers seem to imply this is a fantasy/sci-fi thriller, when it’s much more of a fantasy romance, similar in tone to a flick like “The Time Traveler’s Wife”.
In The Adjustment Bureau, Damon plays a politician who meets a woman randomly. After just minutes of talking for the first time, they are passionately kissing in response to the magnetic power of their fated, unstoppable love for each other. If you can buy this premise and enjoy a bit of fantasy, you’ll find a well made movie here.
The acting is solid and the mysterious tone is compelling. I was leaning forward for much of the movie for each new nugget about the mysterious "Bureau". There was a lot in this movie that was just plain good film making. Nothing truly memorable about it, but the sum was more than its parts and in general I had a pretty enjoyable experience.
However, because I had a lot of trouble buying the initial premise of “instant love”, I never emotionally connected with the characters and their story. I didn’t really see why it would be such a terrible thing if they didn’t end up together, yet the tension for much of the movie relies on this as the primary threat. (There is a threat to wipe Damon’s memory if he squeals on the Bureau, but this isn’t played up strongly until near the end.) Without spoiling anything, I can say that the end, while only partially predictable, is not at all interesting or inventive.
Of greater interest to me were the philosophical foundations of this movie. The story implies that this mysterious “Adjustment Bureau” is the truth behind stories of angels, and that its “chairman” is actually the power behind all concepts of God. Again, this is implied. Not obviously stated. But the world presented here is certainly presented as an alternative to religious ideas about any higher powers working behind the scenes of reality.
There are a few things that correctly mirror the nature of humans and spiritual reality. But I really wish I would have had a notebook to jot down all the little nuggets in the dialogue that so strongly mirror common ideas in “pop-spiritual” thinking. To try and sum up, the movie suggests that:
1. There is a powerful (though not omnipotent) being orchestrating events according to a plan.
2. This plan (and therefore the higher power) is fallible and requires changing to adapt to human choices.
3. The higher power doesn’t always know what is best for us.
4. The higher power can be thwarted by “chance”.
5. Humans were built to be led by their emotions, rather than reason. (And this is implied to be a good thing.)
There is also a lot to talk about regarding the nature of free will and fate (or God’s sovereignty). This movie unintentionally illustrates the logical problem with emphasizing one over the other. Unless both are somehow operating in complete compatibility, we are either left with a God who is not really all-powerful and all-knowing, or we’re left without real free will. My personal opinion is that fiction will never be able to treat this philosophical wrestling match with satisfaction until multiple space-time dimensions are brought into the equation. (See the book “Beyond The Cosmos” by Hugh Ross for some great thinking on this issue.)
In the end, “The Adjustment Bureau” is a well made fantasy romance in which the romance itself(and not just the Bureau) is pretty fantastical. But if you can get past that and don’t mind sitting through some illogical pop-philosophy, there’s a good movie to be seen here, with a TON to talk about on the drive home.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
From now through Tuesday (March 8th), all T-shirt orders over $35 are 17% off!
Visit our Spreadshirt Store and use the coupon code 17OFF when you check out.
Don't miss the chance to "out" yourself as a big, nerdy, Spirit Blade fan!
Then check back here Monday for news about a BIG SALE on our digital downloads coming soon!