A Pro-Choice Argument That I Cannot Stand

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I have been pro-life ever since I was ten-years old and my stance on abortion has only gotten stronger with time.  Even as a child, I could never wrap my head around the fact that there is a medical procedure that violently ends the life of an unborn human being.  Children are by no means perfect, but there is nothing they could do to deserve being dismembered or injected with saline to induce cardiac arrest.
However, I live in the magical land of California, which is more blue than a Dodgers baseball uniform.  This means that I have a plethora of pro-choice friends.  I have gotten into civil discussions about abortion with these friends, but it never gets nasty.  If people end a friendship over opposing views, then they were never friends to begin with.
To their credit, my pro-choice friends usually give me intelligent arguments as to why they feel the way they do about abortion.  They give me valid points that I keep in mind when formulating my own arguments.
I do understand that some women are in dire financial straits and cannot afford to care for a child.  I do understand that a pregnant rape victim is already dealing with enough trauma as it is.  I do understand that health complications in pregnancy are possible.  I understand all of these realities without accepting abortion as the lord and savior of women.

All that being said, there is one pro-choice argument that I do not understand. Every time I hear someone spout this argument, it is like nails on a chalkboard to my brain.
That argument is this:

“When does life begin?  I submit the answer depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents.  A powerful feeling – but not science.”
–Melissa Harris-Perry

So in other words, if mom and dad say it’s a baby, then it becomes a baby.  If mom and dad don’t think that it’s a baby, it’s magically not a baby anymore?  Forget prenatal science and embryology; it’s the mighty power of wishful thinking that tells us when life begins.
In what universe does this make any sense?!  Okay, maybe it would make some lick of sense in freaking Asgard (Thor and Loki’s world), but not on planet earth.
If a pregnant woman went in for an ultrasound and then tried to wish away the baby by chanting the words, “I don’t think it’s a baby, I don’t think it’s a baby, I don’t think it’s a baby…” there would still be a baby on the screen/in her womb when she opens her eyes.
What baffles me about this argument is that it’s inapplicable in any other area of life.  In an intellectual debate about a pressing real-life issue, it makes no sense to use insane, out-of-this-world talking points that could not be put into practice in real life.
If I told my boss, “I know you want me to come in a 7 am, but I think my shift doesn’t start until I decide it starts,” my name would be wiped clean off the payroll.
If someone kills an animal and then says, “Well, it’s not an animal until I say it’s an animal,” would the judge say, “You know, he/she didn’t think it was a living, breathing creature, so it’s all cool”?  No!  That person’s keister would still end up in the slammer.  Oh, and PETA would be protesting outside the courthouse.
If someone is pulled over for drinking and driving, do you think the officer is going to let them go if the person says, “Gee, officer, I don’t think I’m inebriated…” even if their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit?  No, they would still be handcuffed and charged.
I’m sure Ms. Melissa Harris-Perry is a nice woman who is loved by the people in her life.  However, why would a grown adult with years of life experience resort to such a childlish argument?
Honestly, I think that this argument is pretty insulting to women.  This argument treats women with kid gloves, painting us as immature people who resort to make-believe as a defense mechanism.  Women deserve better than to be talked down to. Adult issues need to be handled with adult discussion, not talking points that one would expect from a teenager.

So when does life begin?  When the sperm and the egg come together in the Fallopian tube.  When the sperm enters the egg, the zygote is conceived.  The zygote already contains the entire genetic DNA of both mother and father; exactly 46 chromosomes (23 from mom and 23 from dad).
New research has shown that the heartbeat is present just 16 days after conception.
It only takes three weeks after conception/five weeks of pregnancy for the heart, brain and spinal cord to form.
On the seventh week of pregnancy/fifth week after conception, the face and nostrils are already present.
By the twelfth week of pregnancy/tenth week after conception, the unborn baby has fingernails and a fully-formed face.

It takes one man and one woman to create a new human being.  Feelings have no say.


“I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept “unborn child” is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well conceived human baby, one that isn’t going to be critically deformed (or even some that are) will be able to survive outside the womb earlier and earlier, and earlier and I see that date only being pushed back. I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one.  And I say this as someone who has no supernatural belief.”
Christopher Hitchens


This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things/Christian Movie Reviews: No Greater Love (2009)

I absolutely adore the Christian film Grace Unplugged, so when I picked up the No Greater Love DVD, I was delighted to see the label, “From the makers of Grace Unplugged” on the cover.  “What could possibly go wrong?” I said to myself.

One viewing later….


This is my review of No Greater Love!


No Greater Love tells the story of Jeff, a workaholic who is about to propose to his girlfriend Katie, but stops in his tracks when his long-lost ex-wife Heather comes back into the picture.
Now both the trailer and the back of the DVD push the idea that this movie is about Jeff forgiving Heather for abandoning him and their son, as well as Heather forgiving herself.  However…
Well, let’s just get to the Hits and Misses.

The Hits
The actual premise is pretty interesting, especially in our generation where many people have experienced having a parent walk out on the family.  Most movies either villify absent spouses or just have them mentioned in dialogue.  The script is very merciful with Heather.  She is easy to empathize with and she is trying to make amends for walking out ten years ago.  As long as a character who messes up tries to make things right with a sincere heart, I can root for that character.
Jeff and Heather have a belieavable chemistry.  I can buy them as having been a couple at one time.  They also have a good rapport with their son Ethan.
This movie allowed me to root for Heather.  If only I could root for this movie. Why can’t I stand behind this flick?  Well…

The Misses
(Commencing rant mode) The movie is advertised as a journey of two people forgiving each other, but that plot point is resolved in seconds.  In addition to that, this movie is a demonstration of the oversimplification of forgiveness.  In this film’s universe, forgiveness can be achieved by a simple talking-to with some Christian slogans slapped on.
It took Grace Unplugged just fifteen minutes to get to its main conflict.  Jeff and Heather don’t run into each other until the twenty-five minute mark.  After that, scenes are either too long or too short, making it impossible for them to develop properly.  Hey filmmakers, pacing matters.
You know it’s a bad sign when a Christian blogger is calling a Christian film “preachy.”  That said, this movie is so preachy that the faith dialogue becomes a chore to listen to.  I shouldn’t be rolling my eyes when the pastor character says “God is in control” for the hundredth time.  Yes, I do firmly believe that God is running the show and He will never leave us stranded, but the message becomes meaningless when it is shoehorned into conversations where it’s not needed.
However, I could forgive all of these shortcomings if the plot didn’t feel so agenda-driven.  No Greater Love is so hellbent on getting these two ex-spouses back together that it forgets the personal sacrifice and sanctification aspect of marriage. Heather changes her ways for the good of her family, but Jeff–oh, Jeff–is obliviously self-absorbed and the script never has him own up to his selfishness. As you can tell, I really didn’t like Jeff.  Many times throughout the film, he goes from “I want you back, Heather,” to “You go to church, Heather; I’m gonna watch the game” in a matter of minutes.  This is the most halfhearted character I have ever seen, and even his sincere moments feel shady.
I’m a single woman, but even I know that marriage is about two imperfect people rising above their flaws for a Christ-centered marriage.  It’s about sacrificing selfish habits to be the best versions of yourselves.  If one spouse isn’t willing to change their ways, then you’ve got yourself a one-sided relationship.  In fact, the movie actually gives Heather reasons NOT to go back to him.  Not once does Jeff say something to the effect of, “You know, maybe always answering my phone even when I’m having a meaningful conversation with the woman I’m trying to get back together with isn’t such a bright idea.”
Heather, honey, when the man you love answers a work call while you’re showing him that you kept your wedding ring around your neck, that should send up a red flag.
Finally, the movie’s “ending” makes it clear as day that the budget ran out and they just had to wrap things up abruptly.  The film doesn’t end, it just stops.
A European-style ambigious ending would have been a lot more satisfying.

In terms of production quality and premise, No Greater Love is miles better than Christian Mingle: The Movie.  However, if I was a marriage counselor and I had to choose between No Greater Love and Fireproof to give to my client(s), I’d hand them Fireproof in a heartbeat.

Dear Animal Rights Supporter…

Dear Animal Rights Supporter,
I come from the pro-life movement.  You come from the animal rights movement.

I fight for unborn children.

You fight for animals.
We come from two different causes, yet we have more in common than you may realize.
It crushes you to see animals locked in cages so small that they can barely move.
It crushes me to see a dismembered infant tossed into the trash.
Your heart breaks for the abandoned dog on the side of the road.
My heart breaks for the unborn baby who will never live to know his/her mother.
You are outraged when emancipated tigers are forced to perform at the Missouri State Fair.
I am outraged when the latest Planned Parenthood video shows a worker carving open an unborn child’s face to harvest the brain.
You understand that owners often leave their pets behind because they are unable to take care of them.
I understand that women often turn to abortion because they have no one else to help them.
You believe that the disowned cat deserves adoption, not abandonment.
I believe that the unwanted child deserves adoption, not abortion.
Society defines both the animal and the unborn baby as property that can be discarded if they are an inconvenience.
You and I disagree.
Adoption is the loving option.
You and I agree.

Our movements have the power to create a culture of life.  A culture where no human or animal is reduced to a replaceable commodity.  A culture where all lives are valued equally.  A culture where every life is given dignity.

There are differences in our movements, but if the pro-life movement and the animal rights movement were to focus on what unites us, if we were to combine causes, we would be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

Every beating heart matters.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

Henry Cavil, you’re suave and cool, but you ARE allowed to express emotion!

This is my review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E!


The Man from U.N.C.L.E is based on the 1960’s TV show of the same name.  Henry Cavil, who you may remember as Superman from Man of Steel, plays an American agent named Napolean Solo (who is not related to Hans Solo), who must team up with a Russian agent named Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer.  Solo and Kuryakin must protect Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) in order to find her scientist father and prevent a cataclysmic global event.

Halfway through this movie, it occurred to me that the filmmakers were going for an Ant Man/Guardians of the Galaxy spy flick, but those two movies have two major ingredients that are missing from The Man from U.N.C.L.E: A consistent quirkly tone and characters with three-dimensional personalities.  Sometimes Man from U.N.C.L.E wants to be an action comedy and other times it wants to be a spy thriller.

The Hits
This movie really should have been called “Fun Things To Do With A Camera: The Movie.”  There are some very impressive shots and nicely-choreographed action sequences.  I was especially entertained by one scene where Solo and Kuryakin are trying to escape while on a boat.  Also the witty banter between the characters is well-delivered and the funniest scenes were when one character would do something mundane like eat a sandwich while another character fights off danger in the background.  For the most part, the saavy 60’s humor got me to chuckle.
However I happen to be a child of the 90’s watching a 2015 film that tries to recapture the essence of a 60’s TV show.  The end result: I took three short naps during the movie.

The Misses
Why does Hollywood always resort to expositonal dialogue?!  There has got to be a smoother way to deliver information about the characters.  I know that if I walked up to a good friend of mine and said, “Hey such-n-such, who moved here from the great state of blank fifteen years ago!  How are you? Tell me, did you fail that test because you didn’t study or because you’re harboring a dark secret that will factor into the plot later…” my friend would probably ask me if I had lost my marbles, to which I would reply, “Yes, I have lost my marbles after sitting through Man from UNCLE!”  Hey, Hollywood screenwriters, people don’t explain each other’s backstories in real life.
My biggest issue with the movie is that because everyone is trying to imitate James Bond, they all look completely uninvested in what they’re doing. I have no problem with Henry Cavil being a calm and collected, but if he’s not going to show some fear when he’s drugged or act like he’s in some kind of pain when he is being electrocuted, then why should I feel concerned for his survival?  Alicia Vikander looks inconvienced half of the time, as if she got dragged into the movie by her agent.  If the characters never become passionate about what they’re trying to accomplish, then why should the audience?

I wish I had more to say, but honestly, Man from U.N.C.L.E is a functional, passable popcorn flick that you’re not going to remember after the credits roll.  If you enjoy the original 60’s show and can appreciate modern films that attempt to recapture the time period, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie.  As for me, I’d rather just watch Guardians of the Galaxy on Blue-Ray or wait for Ant Man to come out on DVD.

Saint Barbara, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Cobbler (2014)

I would love to step into the shoes of someone who didn’t have to watch this movie.

This is my review of The Cobbler!


The Cobbler tells the story of Max Simkin, a New York cobbler who can quite literally step into the lives of his customers by fixing their shoes with a magical stitching machine and then wearing the shoes.
Have you ever watched a movie that was meant to be a short film, but was then auctioned off to a drunk guy and given the budget for a feature film?  Yeah, that’s this movie.

The Cobbler suffers from the same problem as Fant4stic Four; it’s a story that is given to the wrong director teamed up with the wrong actor and is filmed in the wrong format.  Fant4stic Four shouldn’t have been dark and gritty, and The Cobbler should have been animated and NOT starring Adam Sandler.
Why do I say that The Cobbler should have been animated?  Well, for one, the musical score belongs in an animated flick.  In a live-action movie, the bouncy musical score is obnoxious.  It doesn’t make my ears bleed, but it sure as heck isn’t The Imitation Game soundtrack!  Also, the entire premise would have worked better if done by Pixar or Illumination (the folks behind the Despicable Me franchise).

I get the feeling that this movie is desperate to be “Amelie” without having a proper understanding of the “Amelie” story formula.  Granted, I didn’t like “Amelie,” but I have respect for that film.  Why?  Because it was self-aware.  You see, “Amelie” was structured as a modern-day fairy tale.  Early on, it established itself as a whacky, offbeat universe.  The music, costume and the color palate matched the vibe of the film.  Amelie Poulain had neurotic parents, an odd upbringing and was a little strange herself, so it was easier to go along with the whimsy of her saga.
Meanwhile, The Cobbler takes none of those necessary steps to classify itself as a modern-day fairy tale.  The film’s tone is very indecisive, as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide if The Cobbler should be a quirky comedy or a character study that features a magic stitching machine.

For an Adam Sandler movie, he has very little to do.  All he does is look sad, mention his absent father who walked out because–potatoes–and put on shoes.  That’s pretty much it for his performance.  As for the other actors, they don’t have much to work with.  Here’s an example: Method Man plays a gangster.  In his first scene with Sandler, he’s a chill guy.  However, in the second act, he does a 180 and become unrealistically nasty.  Gangster doesn’t equal automatic hothead.  There’s a way to write the gangster archetype correctly.  Just go watch Black Mass if you want proof of this.

I had this movie playing on Netflix while working on the study guide for my upcoming Sign Language quiz.  The Cobbler is so not engaging that I got more enjoyment out of writing, “17% of people in the United States classify as hard-of-hearing” and “90% of Deaf people are born to hearing parents.”
I envy anyone who never has to hear the uninspired dialogue of The Cobbler.

Saint Zita, pray for us.

CGB Review of Black Mass (As Originally Published on The Catholic Response) http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/tcr-review-black-mass/

The second greatest trick the Devil has ever pulled is appearing in broad daylight to a world that is too desensitized to notice.

This is my review of Black Mass, as originally published on The Catholic Response (TCR).  http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/tcr-review-black-mass/


Based on the 2001 book titled, Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI and a Devil’s Deal co-written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Black Mass is the true story of notorious Boston mobster Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, the leader of the Irish-American Winter Hill Gang who goes from small town hoodlum to full-on kingpin; he’s like the Godfather of Boston.  In the 1970’s, Bulger formed an alliance with the FBI through his childhood friend/agent, John Connelly.  The purpose was to have Bulger be an informant and help the FBI nab the main Italian-American gang, the Angiulo Brothers, who had Mafia ties.  This allowed Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang to run amok and do what they pleased behind the FBI’s back. 

The Hits

If you want to see some superb acting, you’re going to enjoy this film.  All of the actors are at the top of their game.

Joel Egerton was a pleasant surprise as the scumbag John Connelly.  His descent into moral ambiguity and selfishness was illustrated perfectly by Egerton’s thoughtful performance.  His unwillingness to see Whitey Bulger’s clear-as-day deception is a perfect example of William Wilberforce’s poignant words, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

I owe Johnny Depp a thousand apologies for discounting him.  I had lost hope after seeing him play too many cartoonish characters.  Johnny, you need to be picking roles like these more often.  He is unrecognizable as Jimmy Bulger.   The choice to give him charcoal gray eyes and stiff, thin hair gives him a menacing presence throughout.  Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger is the Devil incarnate, the Prince of Darkness walking in flesh.   What makes him frightening is how he is both very human and demonic at the same time.  He’s not a mentally-unstable lunatic who is incapable of empathy.  He is capable of making the choice to love another person, such as the mother of his only child and his brother.  He is capable of caring for others and being loyal to them.  Living honorably is not out of his reach.  He could turn his life around and do what is right if he wanted to.  So why doesn’t he?  Because he lives by his own code.   The personal boundaries of others mean nothing to him.  The world is his stage and everyone in his life is an uneasy audience member who must comply.  He makes rules that are pleasing to him and if you don’t go along with his self-serving sanctions, you are dead.   He tells his son, “It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it, and who you do it to or with.  If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.”  Remember this quote, because I’m going to talk about it later.

I happen to be a huge fan of The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.   When we are first introduced to Billy Bulger, I was very happy to see that the actor playing Senator Bulger is Benedict Cumberbatch.  Like in the Imitation Game, Cumberbatch delivers a great performance.  Then again, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch; you could cast him as a pizza guy and he would still steal the show.

The music is amazing.  It’s a dark, sweeping score that settles into your ears and chills you to the bone.  The cinematography is gives the movie a sense of place.  You really feel like you’re treading the damp streets of Boston, looking over your shoulder for the shadow of Whitey Bulger.  There are so many memorable scenes with powerful performances that I wish I could do a scene-by-scene analysis of the film.  For now, I’ll just say that I’m still thinking about a lot of the scenes long after I’ve seen the movie.

The Misses

Joel Egerton’s character John Connelly never tires of reminding we, the audience, that he’s a “Southie,” that he grew up with Jimmy and Billy Bulger and their loyalty knows no bounds.   Repetition gets annoying and can hinder the cinematic experience.

This movie is trying to be both a gangster movie and a character study of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, but places more emphasis on the gangster crime drama element than the character study.  American Sniper and The Imitation Game succeeded in delving into the psychology of Chris Kyle and Alan Turing, but Black Mass shows us that Whitey Bulger is the Devil on earth without getting inside his head.  I know that he plays by his own rules, but I don’t know what led him to be that way.   I know that he has an unquenchable thirst for violence, but I don’t know what motivates his bloodlust.  Then again, it could be like the Screwtape Letters, where trying to get into the anti-hero’s head is basically giving Satan himself an invitation into your brain.

The Catholic Response

This movie is the greatest portrayal of Satan that I have ever seen.  The entire movie reminded me of 1 Peter 5:8,“Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  One of Whitey Bulger’s tactics is luring his victims to a calm, quiet location, making them feel that they are safe with him before he violently strangles them to death.  If one of his associates crosses him, he will accept their apologies and trick them into thinking they have been forgiven.  That is when Bulger will put a bullet through said person’s head.  Like Amy Elliot Dunne in last year’s Gone Girl, once Bulger knows you, your life is his to ruin.  As Christians, we acknowledge that this is how Satan operates; he seeks to command our lives by enticing us into a false sense of security the way a spider wraps its meal into a warm webbed cocoon so that it rests peacefully while being eaten alive.
Another similarity between Whitey Bulger and Satan is how they use their words to justify their actions.  Throughout the film, Bulger uses careful wording to make his actions seem like they are intended for a greater good.   Even in the third act, he tells someone, “You’re going to hear a lot of stuff about me—that I killed people and did a bunch of stuff—that’s not true.  You know me.”   He agrees to help the FBI nab the Italian mob, making himself seem like an agent of good when in reality he is continuing to build his own evil empire behind their backs.  John 8:44 speaks of Satan in this way: “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”  Hmm, a murderer from the beginning…looks like Satan and Bulger have plenty in common.  Remember that line that Bulger says to his only child, “It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it, and who you do it to or with.  If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen”?   He is basically saying that the morality of an act, whether it is inherently good and evil, is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the act in question; this is one of Satan’s favorite lies.  Also notice how Bulger is telling this to an impressionable child; Satan also targets the young and naive.  He tempted Eve when she was young and vulnerable.  He attacked Saint Padre Pio ever since he was five-years old.  The youthful Saint Gemma Galgani awoke to Satan’s hands on her bed.  Satan starts his temptations early and will not relent, especially when it comes to targeting God’s most faithful servants.
During my second viewing of the film, I noticed something that I hadn’t picked up on; There are three times where Bulger is seen standing near an image of Jesus, and one time where he is close to a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.   When he is near the Fatima statue, he is turned away from it and standing in the darkened area of a hallway while Our Lady is facing the light.  Meanwhile, in the three times where he is standing by a picture of Jesus, his back is always turned away from Him.  The one time that he does say Jesus’ name, it is hissed through his teeth in a moment of anger.
Our Faith assures us that Satan despises Our Blessed Mother more than anything, and that he flees at the very mention of Jesus’ name.

It’s been said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.  However, I think the second greatest trick the Devil has pulled off is appearing in broad daylight to a world that is too desensitized to recognize him.  Today’s secular audience will probably never see Whitey Bulger as a type of the Prince of Darkness in the flesh, and if that’s not a sign of the times… I don’t know what is.

That being said, I think that it would serve a lot of practicing Christians well to see Black Mass.  If there’s any movie that shows the darkness that we are up against it, it’s this one.  Johnny Depp’s menacing performance makes Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger more monster than man and depicts the true nature of Satan’s power.  Seeing the enemy is the first step in knowing how to fight back.

Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and Saint Monica of Hippo, pray for us.

CGB Review of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

This movie made me hate flashlights.  Why?  Because three times, the characters are in chase sequences that involve them running through dark rooms while swinging around their flashlights with reckless abandon.

This is my review of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials!


Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the sequel to last year’s The Maze Runner.  In this installment, Thomas and his friends, Newt, Minho, Teresa, Frypan, and Winston have survived living in a large maze while fending off, for lack of a better term, mechanicle beetles called Grievers.  Now they have escaped the maze and are staying in a facility run by Mr. Janson.  They are hiding from the organization WCKD (pronounced as “Wicked” like the Broadway play), but when Thomas and company discover that Janson and his cohorts have, well, wicked intentions in store, they flee the facility and travel across a scorched wasteland that was once the U.S of A.

The Hits
Everything good about the movie is in the first act.  The conflict is well-established and the chase sequence is action-packed and perfectly paced.  The facility develops its own character as a cold, unsettling sanctuary with hidden secrets abound.
Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas and makes the character a vast improvement from the first film, as well as the book.  He doesn’t have a complex arch, but he is curious, fast-thinking, and as someone who is prone to anxiety attacks, I can tell that Thomas may suffer from high anxiety.  O’Brien does what he can with the chracter he’s working with, and for the most part, he does a passable job.
I’ve always wanted to see characters actually walk into destroyed post-apolcalyptic skyscrapers and in this movie, they do!  There’s one pretty cool sequence in the second act where Thomas and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) have to outrun the infected CGI zombie people in a collapsed skyscraper.
Honestly, if this was a short film on YouTube, it would be amazing.  Just use the entire first act and then use the skyscraper fight as the climax, and you’ve got yourself a YouTube short film that gets a bajillion views.

The Misses
This movie gets really repetitive really fast.  In my intro, I mentioned how this movie made me hate flashlights.  There are far too many scenes of characters running in dark places while wildly swinging their flashlights.  A lot of scenes play out the exact same way: Thomas and the gang go to some rusty place, they turn the lights and CGI zombie brouhaha chase after them.  Rinse and repeat.  Even the Hunger Games have variety in their scene set-ups!
This movie has a major development problem, as in nothing gets a chance to develop.  The movie attempts character development with Thomas, but because the script is so hellbent on keeping the story as mysterious as possible, very little is revealed about him or the circumstances surrounding him and his friends.  The wasteland, aka the scorch, has no sense of place; it’s just a lot of sand and heat that never feels threatening.  Actually, now that I think about it, they don’t spend a whole lot of time outside in the scorch until the third act.  They just run across it from one broken-down building to the next.
I’m getting real sick and tired of the “good kids and shady adults” arch that contaminate these young adult movie adaptations, and this movie definitely falls into the trap.  I’m all for the “kid trusts adults, but then sees their imperfections” narrative, but when EVERY. SINGLE. ADULT character is a Bond-villain wannabe and there’s no strong adult mentor on the good side, it gets pretentious as all heck.
This movie was doing just fine when it was Thomas & company versus WCKD and even the resistance run by Jorge and Brenda was all right, but then comes this Right Arm group comes in and now you have WCKD, the Right Arm, the kids and all the while, I’m just so worn out from all the drama with underdeveloped characters who I really don’t care about that I’m just waiting for the credits to roll.

Overall, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials slogs more than sprints.  The action will definitely keep your attention, but the forgettable characters makes rooting for anyone a challenge.

CGB Review of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I know this seems like a random CGB post.  This movie isn’t in theaters anymore and I didn’t even announce that I’d be reviewing this movie on the CGB Facebook page.  However, there is an explanation as to why I’m reviewing this today.
On Friday, I wrote my first article for The Catholic Response.  It was an op-ed about Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to both homosexual and heterosexual couples.  When I posted the article on my personal FB page, it didn’t take long for a war to break out in the comments section between my conservative friends and my liberal friends.  Anywho, playing defense for two days wore me out, so I thought I’d do a more light-hearted post.

This is my review of Guardians of the Galaxy!

Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie that had Marvel Studios bitting their nails. Based on an obscure series of comics, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Peter Quill, aka Starlord, a fast-talking, brash space collector who ends up coming across three misfits; an alien named Gamora and two genetically engineered creatures, Rocket the racoon and his tree hybrid friend, Groot.  The four of them are taken into custody after a brief quarrel with one another and meet another outcast named Drax.  From there, this ragtag group must come together to save the world.

I’ve seen this movie four times and it wasn’t until my fourth viewing when I finally gave in to the film’s charms and embraced it as my favorite Marvel movie.  This is the ultimate popcorn flick!

The Hits
I have always had a soft spot for stories about a group of oddball people who have to set aside their differences and stick together.  The five leads are well-established and identifiable not just because of their unique designs, but also because of their personalities and backstories.  Peter/Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are all fleshed-out characters and never come across as cliched tropes.
I LOVE Rocket and Groot!  Rocket is hilarious with his sardonic humor and quips. Groot is just charming with his humility and classic line, “I am Groot.”  I appreciate how his one line never becomes annoying.  It’s made clear that he has a limited vocabulary through no fault of his own, so him saying “I am Groot” all the time is understandable.
Guardians of the Galaxy does what Fant4stic Four couldn’t achieve; it establishes Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot as a family unit.  They bicker and argue without bailing on each other.  They disagree, but begrugingly come to necessary compromises.  There’s a dynamic within the group.  They have a rapport with one another.  What’s interesting is that the five characters start out using each other, but as a journey goes on, their selfish agendas are gradually replaced with sincere loyalty and a sense that sticking together is essential for their survival.  Actually, this movie depicts how everything falls apart when people come together for self-serving reasons, and that the greater good can be accomplished once those same people put aside personal gain.
C.S. Lewis once said, “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.”  This movie is a great example of that.  The villains, Thanos, Ronan and Nebula have the same demeanor and are all self-centered.  Meanwhile, Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot all have distinct personalities and different backstories, yet come together for the same cause.
Yes, I love the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.  I’ve listen to “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Cherry Bomb” and “Come and Get Your Love” about a dozen times. Making Peter Quill/Starlord a lover of 80’s rock music was a brilliant way to incorporate the songs into the film.

The Misses
Why did it take four viewings for me to like Guardians of the Galaxy?  Well, for one, you almost have to watch it a second time because the plot gets convoluted, especially with its space talk and technobabble.  I found myself caring more about the characters than the actual conflict.  Despite all the emphasis placed on the Inifinity Stone thingamajig, the object itself doesn’t have much presence.  I kept forgetting that the Infinity Stone was even a thing unless characters brought it up via expositional dialogue.
Am I the only one getting sick of weak villains?  I understand that no one is born evil, but come on, screenwriters, step up your game when it comes to writing villains!  Mind you, the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is handled by the same people who gave us the entertaining, yet intimidating Loki (Thor’s brother).  Loki is the best comedic villain that I’ve seen in a while, so I know that Marvel Studios is capable of bringing great villains to the big screen.  As for Guardians, Ronan the Accuser is the reason why I didn’t care for the story’s conflict.  The script tries to make him a narrow-minded traditionalist, but that arch goes nowhere.  His rivalry with Thanos is partially realized.  Two villains who don’t like each other is an interesting concept, but the movie doesn’t execute it very well. Ronan himself is just not very interesting.  His design is passable and the actor portraying him is fine, but the character never frightened me.  How am I supposed to be concerned about the safety of the protagonist(s) if the villain isn’t an intimidating threat?
Finally, there is one thing I should mention.  The movie opens with a hospital scene in which young Peter Quill says good-bye to his dying mother.  This scene might be uncomfortable for those who have lost a family member (specifically a mother or grandmother) recently.  The scene is only a few minutes long, but I thought I’d give you all a heads-up.

Honestly, I love this movie because of the five titular Guardians.  Their evolution from selfish outcasts to a family unit that would go through Hell and back for each other is executed wonderfully.  Other than the heartwrenching opening scene, the majority of the movie is an exciting action comedy with heart and humor.

Saint Ignatius of Loyala, pray for us.

Is Kim Davis A Martyr? (Originally Published at The Catholic Response)– http://www.thecatholicresponse.us/is-kim-davis-a-martyr/


If you are like me and happen to have both liberal and conservative friends, you have heard heated—well, let’s call them— “discussions” about a woman in Kentucky named Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to both gay and straight couples after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Some call her a martyr. Others call her a fool.

I would like to argue that she is neither a martyr nor a fool.
She is simply wrong.


It all began on June 29th, 2015, just three days after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. Kim Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, denied David Moore and David Ermold, a same-sex couple, a marriage license. She also withheld licenses from three heterosexual couples. In August federal district Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue licenses to all who applied, whether they be gay or straight. However, Davis’ defiance continued as she repeatedly turned away marriage license applicants regardless of sexual orientation. As a result, she was found in contempt and was taken into custody.

Some would question why an elected official would defy the law.

I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. – Kim Davis

Not A Martyr

I happen to be an English major, which means I have a responsibility to be accurate in my use of various words. In politics, it is not uncommon for loaded words to be tossed around by both sides with reckless abandon. In Kim Davis’ case, some well-meaning conservative people have proposed the idea that she is a martyr for the cause of religious liberty. This makes me cringe because “martyr” is not a term that should be used lightly.
How does the Catechism of the Catholic Church define martyrdom?

Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. ‘Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God.’ (2473)

Just for the sake of emphasis, I will place a secular definition, as provided by Random House Dictionary, “A person who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce his or her religion.”

Based on these two definitions, I can say with certainty that Kim Davis does not qualify as a martyr. While going to jail was undoubtedly an unpleasant experience, she was not incarcerated for being a Christian. No one in a position of authority has threatened her life. She has not been coerced to renounce her religion. As an individual citizen, she has a right to disagree with the law. As an elected official, she does not have the right to go against it.

Let’s take another look at her quote, “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience.” Her issue is that by affixing her name to these certificates, she is condoning what clearly goes against Scripture. However, she was not only denying licenses to homosexual couples, but to heterosexual couples, as well, in defiance of the law.

In Matthew 22, Jesus warned against anarchy by urging the Pharisees, “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” We, as private citizens, can and should hold true to our beliefs and stand firmly upon Christian doctrine. However, as citizens of this great country, we all must follow the law of the land.

Not A Fool, Just Wrong

Going back to definitions, Random House defines a fool as, “A silly or stupid person.” Ms. Davis is neither silly nor stupid. Her statement above is articulate and purposeful. She seems to be fully aware of the consequences of her actions, and has the resolve to see it through to the end. One might argue that she has become a puppet whose strings are being pulled by those who seek to benefit from her conservative stance, but it is clear that she is a true believer.

All that being said, she is simply wrong.

When she became the County Clerk, an elected position, this is what she signed up for. Her duty is to serve whoever walks through her doors, regardless of her personal convictions. When confronted with what she believed was a moral dilemma, she had a choice. That choice was not to deny what has been legally afforded to same sex couples of her county by the Supreme Court and thereby break the law. That choice was to step down from her position.

As a Catholic, I hold firm to what both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition say about the sanctity of marriage, a sacramental bond, instituted by God. As an American citizen, I believe that no one is above the law, whether we agree with it or not. After all, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar,” or in our case, the Supreme Court. And at the end of all this, I’m not sure if we can say who ‘won’ and who ‘lost’. In the realm of public policy, there will be many casualties and Mrs. Davis might have been one of them; but we ought not consider her a martyr for her faith. When an age of martyrdom becomes a reality for America’s Christians… you’ll know.

The Belle of Peru: Saint Rose of Lima

I once read a book on Saints that described Saint Rose of Lima as being so beautiful that she would literally turn heads and have her fellow villagers staring at her as she walked into town.  If you’re a fan of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, this description will probably remind you of the Little Town/Belle song: “there she goes again, that girl is so peculiar…”
Thanks to scientists from the University of Saint Martin de Porres and the Brazilian Anthropological and Dental Legal Forensics Team who reconstructed her face, it turns out that Rose was indeed a head-turning beauty.

This is the story of Saint Rose of Lima!

The reconstructed face of Saint Rose of Lima.

What if I told you that her name wasn’t really Rose?  Actually, her real name was Isabel de Santa Maria de Flores…or Isabel de Flores for short.  She was one of Gaspar de Flores and Maria d’Olivia’s ten children.  She was named after her godmother, Isabel de Herrara, but she was such a beautiful baby that she was often called “Rose.”

If it feels like I’m beating you over the head with how beautiful she was, that is an intentional move because Rose herself was constantly reminded of her beauty. Her mother made a wreath of flowers that she placed on her daughter’s head.  She couldn’t take two steps without someone commenting on how lovely she was.
Rose was the kind of person who was uncomfortable with praise.  She was a humble soul, so vanity and superficiality did not sit well with her.  Another factor could be that she was being praised for the wrong reasons.  Her family gained popularity by having a gorgeous daughter and being the town eye-candy made her uneasy.

Rose was a working girl.  When her family fell on hard times economically, Rose pitched in by selling the laces and garments that she sewed.  She grew flowers and sold them at the market.  Like Saint Joseph, she was content with working hard and using her earnings to help out her family.

Rose was also a devout Catholic.  She looked up to Saint Catherine of Siena and spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, falling in love with Jesus.  To be loved by her Savior was more rewarding to her than the compliments of her fellow Peruvians.  The sincerity of seeing inner beauty and rejecting the world’s definition of attractiveness reasonated with her.  Rose sought to please Jesus with the beauty of her soul, even if it meant sacrificing her physical appeal.
When she was old enough to be pursued by suitors, that was when she knew that she had to act fast if she was going to be a faithful bride of Christ.  It became her mission to make herself look as unattractive as possible.

Her fair complextion was the first to go when she smeared pepper all over her face. Long hair was the mark of feminine youth, so she chopped off her dark locks, and I can imagine that her short hair didn’t look like the stylized pixie-cut of Hollywood actresses.  She rubbed lime on her delicate hands, inducing terrible pain.  To put it lightly, she looked like a wreck by the time she was done de-beautifying.
The townspeople couldn’t understand why she would want to do such damage to her appearance.  Her parents, who had planned on marrying her off, were not thrilled when she told them her desire to be a perpetual bride of Jesus.  The only person who took the time to understand where she was coming from was her brother Ferdinand.  All we know about him is that he readily defended his sister whenever he came across the uncharitable gossip of others.

They say that weak people don’t end things themselves; rather, they wait for others to put an end to things for them.  However, Rose was anything but weak.
The array of suitors who sought to court her continued to grow and being single wasn’t an option in her day.  To put an end to the pursuit of her once and for all, she entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic.  Donning the habit and taking a vow of perpetual virginity, she confined herself to a small garden hut that became her oratory.

Now here comes the part of her life that often gives people the perception of Rose as being too extreme; the self-mortification.  She wore a silver wreath with sharp points on the inside, symbolizing the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.  She cut back on sleeping to just two hours a night so that she could devote more time to prayer. Meat was not on her personal menu, for meat was a delicacy that she felt undeserving of.  Instead she took to chewing on bitter herbs in order to weaken her tastebuds.  When she was outside, she would drag a heavy wooden cross across the garden.
Are all of these actions extreme?  Yes, they are.  However, look at it this way: Think of someone in your life who you really love and admire.  It could be a friend, a family member, anyone you want.  Imagine that person was in the hospital, suffering tremendous pain.  You care for this person, so you want to stick by them and go through their journey with them.
Rose loved Jesus.  He was her friend, her mentor, her inspiration, her everything. His Crucifixion was an agonizing ordeal and He had to endure it alone.  The thought of her Savior being struck and humiliated broke her heart.  She felt unworthy of the comforts of life because her soul was paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice. Her practice of self-mortification was her way of going through Jesus’ Passion alongside Him.

Rose’s own personal Passion came to an end when she was called home to Heaven on August 24, 1617 at the age of 31.