September 30, 2010


Dr. Janet Smith------------Dawn Eden-----------Dr. Pia de Solenni

Dr. Janet Smith answers Dawn Eden's thesis on Christopher West:
Dr. Pia Solenni answers Dawn Eden's thesis on Christopher West:
Bookmark and Share

September 29, 2010


This is an excellent movie. A lush, talkative New York film, done up in an older dramatic realism style (that I miss) which caters to a longer attention span. Lengthy conversations—that are not boring or verbose but rather absolutely necessary and organic—demand the very finest acting from the very fine cast. Each actor nails their part. Shia LaBeouf (Jake Moore) is winning, and those of us who feel nostalgia for Michael Douglas (boy does he look like his father now), are so happy to see him shining once more--larger than life despite his real-life cancer--one of our best American actors. In fact, the mix of young talent (LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan) with seasoned stars (the great Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon) is a rare delicacy we should be hungry for more of! There is one small scene of Jake with his mother (Sarandon) that just screamed Oscar! What I’m trying to say is that we haven’t seen dialogue like this in a while that actually imitates real life—people speaking quickly and naturally, interrupting each other, and filled with logical, yet unexpected emotional reactions. What a concept! Definitely a film for grown-ups. Reminded me of Robert Altman’s work, except nothing seems ad-libbed. Today’s visual effects/sound blended with old-school masterful timing and pacing makes “Wall Street 2” a sensory delight. (With absolutely NO explosions! Yay!)

This sequel to 1987’s classic “Wall Street” segues smoothly. This achievement is probably due to the fact that Oliver Stone got to make his own sequel (not everyone does)! Stone’s father worked on Wall Street, and Stone captures the financial world so well. Gordon “Greed is good” Gekko has been released from prison, and things have certainly heated up at his old playground. 2010 couldn’t be a riper time for another look at how the money markets (dysfunctionally) operate. Gekko sums up what has changed since his absence: “Now greed is also legal.”

Gekko’s estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), is marrying Jake. Gekko is using Jake to reconnect with his daughter, and Jake—although a trader with a conscience—is out for vengeance against whoever destroyed his mentor’s (Frank Langella) company and life, and is using Gekko to that end. Gekko and Winnie both warn Jake that he is acting an awful lot like Gekko used to. But has Gekko actually changed? Do people like Gekko change?

In typical Oliver Stone fashion, there’s lots of big, intense thinking-out-loud going on about mega-issues, all the way back to…wait for it…the Cambrian Explosion! The connection? Bubbles. Where do these pesky bubbles come from? Then he launches into, or rather situates the question of humanity (and therefore ethics) in a Darwinian framework, leaving a slight possibility for “design” rather than “chance.” I feel a rant coming on!!! I am soooo sick and tired of almost every single newspaper/magazine article referencing evolution! They could be talking about potato chips and suddenly there’s some desperate attempt to connect to a bigger picture (not a bad impulse) and an attempt to posit the theory of everything right there on the spot and all it winds up being is a very minimalistic, impoverished view of blind nature blindly leading us. Yuck! Where are the Victorians when you need them? The Victorians with their reading of science as the grand divine order of which we are the crown with our magnificent works of art and ability to appreciate the BEAUTY in nature and the ability to CREATE BEAUTY modeled on nature which they did and thank God their truly beautiful works of art and textile and architecture are still extant. End of rant.

To his credit, Stone sincerely makes more than one heavy-handed reference to marriage and children being the only thing that really matters, not the money. And in the end, as Gekko explains how Wall Street really works (including housing bubbles, “moral hazard,” bail-outs, “too big to fail,” insider trading, you-name-the-buzzword), it’s not really about the money but the games between people (which I have long thought to be the case), and he doesn’t say it, but the game is really about power. How much more power can I acquire than the next guy, the next company, the next bank, just because I can, because I figured out how to do it (legally or illegally), and figured out also how not to get caught, and I have the guts to actually do it no matter who goes down because of it, even if it’s the whole country, the whole world? It’s kind of like the mob, where the only loyalties are not to friends or even kin, but just to the self left standing.

The ending is not a downer, but I didn’t buy it. “Wall Street 2” didn’t end with a bang but a whimper after such a great story, set-up and slow build. It looked very, very rushed up. In fact, the ending was so simplistic that it didn’t even really make sense, lots of threads hanging, inconclusions, dangling participles (and not the kind that are MEANT to be there, or are priming us for “Wall Street 3”). Pity.


--If you haven’t seen the old “Wall Street,” do. It’s not an absolute requirement for appreciating “Wall Street 2,” but it helps.

--There are some great lines, too. “Are you an idealist or a capitalist?” “Privatize the gains, socialize the losses.”

--Lots of good Big Questions are proposed.

--The time-line is a little confusing. Toward the beginning of the film, the date “2008” pops up, and then there are a few stock market crashes. Fictional?

--Stone seems to be warning us that the next crash will be the crash to end all crashes. The End. This is how the world ends. Fictional?

--Stone puts his mug in the film more than once. Muy distracting!!!

--Instrumental soundtrack nicely understated and sparse. A few songs-with-lyrics from the 60’s fit aptly.

--There was no physical drama, chases, escapes, hunts, etc. The drama was all in the human interplay. Well done.

--Wholesale rudeness in my theater. Dude in front of me with bright iPhone surfing for an apartment. His phone “booping” the whole time. (He was big and scary looking or I would have said something to him.) Old lady runs to back of theater to answer her phone. From the back of the theater. Where I’m sitting. (She was little and frail looking or I would have said something to her.)

--Prominently in the film, Winnie has a news website called . Knowing Stone is a leftie activist (remember his recent film tribute to Hugo Chavez: “South of the Border”?), I checked out the website to see if it was some real thing that Stone wanted us to go to. Um, no.


--Yet ANOTHER Boston film is coming out about boxing starring Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams.

--They are using Channing Tatum solely as beefcake in an upcoming rom-com. This is a great tragedy. The guy can really ACT, and my hope for him is that he could even start filling the “Russell Crowe roles” that only Russell Crowe can seem to fill.

--THEOLOGY OF THE BODY: In the same rom-com, a male character asks how he knows if he’s in love with a particular girl. Buddy says: If you only use a condom with all the OTHER girls. Pathetically sad, but do you hear the ring of truth here?

Bookmark and Share

September 28, 2010


Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Corbin Bernsen (Yes! Sean's father on "Psych"!) about his new movie, "Rust," releasing on DVD October 5.

First of all, the story of "Rust" is probably the most unique story of the genesis of a movie EVER. Do you remember several years ago that guy in Montreal who wanted to see how far he could get bartering online? He started with a large red paper clip and wound up snagging a house. Well...that house was bartered away for A PART IN A CORBIN BERNSEN HOLLYWOOD MOVIE. It involves a collector's item KISS snowglobe, so it gets a little complicated, but here's the kicker: it was actually the WHOLE TOWN of Kipling, Saskatchewan, CANADA, (population 1,100) who bartered the house. Therefore, Corbin decided that the whole town had to have, and star in, a movie of their own. And that's exactly what "Rust" is.

"Rust" is a term used to describe a crop blight, but also what's happening in the life of an ex-minister, Jimmy, returning home after a long absence. There's a developmentally-challenged adult in town, Travis, who gets blamed for a tragic fire (this actor totally steals the whole show). Nothing is making sense in Jimmy's life, and there are hard-hitting questions from the past to be dealt with, all swirling around the ever-present underpinnings of the classic problem of evil--as persistent as permafrost. The long shots of snow--although beautiful--speak to the deep freeze in Jimmy's soul. He is surrounded by a warm, rooted community who nevertheless have dark flaws of their own. The town needs a light, but Jimmy is too immersed in his own dark night to be that beacon for them just yet.

There are some interesting relationships, explored in an original way in the film, such as Jimmy's empathetic sister, the old minister Jimmy goes to to hash out his problems, Travis--his buddy from youth.

The actors are so natural and raw that it's a welcome respite from anything polished. Canadians are truth-tellers any way, so the unvarnished "performances" are doubly authentic.

The tagline is "Sometimes losing the the only way back," but I prefer a line from the film: "It's not ours to question the plays, but to play the game. God has his plan." And there's more where that came from, but you'll have to watch the movie.

Here's my interview with Corbin (after telling him what a fan of "Psych" I am!):

SrH: Since "Rust" has a such a unique backstory, did you think of taking film to do a "making of"?
C: Funny you should ask! Yes, we did, and yes, we're going to do a documentary. [So Sr. Budinski later TEXTED CORBIN a title idea: "How about 'The Town That Made a Movie'?" Corbin replied: "Not bad." (Do NOT ask me for his cell phone number.)]

SrH: Why did you write THIS story for THIS town?

C: It's semi-autobiographical. My father passed away, and I've been on my own journey with that.

SrH: So, at the end of the film when the words come on the screen: "For Father," it's for your Dad? [I actually didn't get that feeling when I saw the film, it felt to me more like God the Father.]

C: It's open to interpretation. [Random sidebar: Corbin also has four boys of his own.]

SrH: How has Jimmy's struggle and the words of wisdom in the film played out in your own life? What religion are you and where are you from?

C: I was raised Christian Scientist in Los Angeles. I'm not what I would call "practicing anything," but I've always known God was there, all my young adult life. There's always been a sense of role-play in my life. I didn't go to church, but I always communicated clearly with God, for example, running marathons--you get closer to things, but just not in an organized sense. See what's going on now. The country is so divided. But everyone's trying to get to God. I believe God has a plan for me, not MY plan, clearly. With this movie, I want to bring more people into the discussion, the philosophical discussion. It used to be commonplace for people to go to church on Sunday, but now we're going to the store to buy large screen TVs. But with the economic downturn, people are having to live more simply, maybe return to God.

I don't identify as a particular denomination, but I don't want to sound like I'm sitting on a fence. I'll leave it up to others to say what I am. A "Christian"? I just want to follow the journey.

Kipling is real people, a real town, real issues, real community--not a Hollywood veneer.

I always see the good, the silver lining, I always believe there is good around the corner, a rose around the corner. I love flowers. Children born with tiny fingers. Each thread is a part of a larger blanket of God's grace. Even the most devout Evangelical Christian doesn't see the whole picture. We can never be close enough to God, to light. In the weirdest, darkest times of my life, there has always been a rose. After the freeze, there will always be a thaw. I hate to say that there's a "message" to this film--I think of it as a kind of primitive folk art, but if there would be a message, it would be simply this: HAVE FAITH. HAVE FAITH.

"Rust" will be available October 5 from Christian retailers, Walmart, Amazon, Netflix and others.

Bookmark and Share

September 13, 2010


On the heels of the Emmys, are you looking for something good to watch this Fall? Yeah, I know it's hard to keep up with the bizarro changes in schedules, seasons, times, even shows jumping to other channels. Suddenly the tube tells you: "Stay Tuned for the Late Pre-Midsummer Finale of Your Favorite Show!" and you just figured out its new time (CST) and day of the week one week ago. Oh sure, there's internet TV and Hulu and all that, but don't you still prefer getting all excited for that night of the week when your favorite show comes on, and you know you're having some kind of communal experience with other people across the country watching the same show at the same time? It's a great feeling. Nothing like it.

Here are my picks (and I'm not telling you when they come on because it will probably change by the time you read this):

  1. "Psych"—two boyhood pals, Sean and Gus, run a psychic detective agency and get hired by the Santa Barbara police to solve cases. Only Sean is not psychic, just very observant. If I had kids I would make them watch this show. So funny and sweet with hilarious and constant use of 80's pop culture references. Lassiter—a bumbling but arrogant lieutenant—is comic relief to the comic relief. Occasional blue humor, and unfortunately Juliette (Sean's love interest) is now sleeping with Declan. Corbin Bernsen--who plays Sean's retired cop Dad who trained him to be observant--just released a very unique Christian film: USA NETWORK

  2. "White Collar"—a young art thief (with electronic cuff) is recruited by the FBI to help solve cases. He's paired with an older agent and proves to be a thorn in his side, even while unorthodoxly cracking tough cases. Tiffani Thiessen is perfectly cast as the older agent's wife. Great, warm, "genuine" relationships throughout. Classy. USA NETWORK

  3. "Medium"—Although the core of the show deals with something strictly forbidden by, oh…say, GOD AND THE BIBLE (viz., contacting the dead), it's more like the dead contact HER (although she will do a few favors for living loved ones and send a psychic text to the next world….) Patricia Arquette (the medium) is an incredibly believable Mom of three girls and has simply THE most down-to-earth, everyday, unhyped-up relationship with her husband and kids. Actually, this is one of the most realistic, almost mundane portrayals of family life all around—except for those extraordinary gifts (like a sixth sense) that have been passed on to the girls. By BEING realistic and seeing all the "ordinary love" in this family—not without their trials—family life is appealing. Allison (Patricia Arquette) helps solve murder cases because she sees murders in her dreams. My cousin, Alexandra Breckenridge, recently guest-starred. CBS

  4. "Dog the Bounty Hunter"—Why does everyone laugh when I tell them this is one of my favorite shows? They usually stop laughing when I tell them it is THE most Christian show on TV. Duane "Dog" Chapman shows forth the mercy of the Father. How many shows do you know do that? When I attended "Act One—Hollywood," a Christian screenwriting bootcamp, we got to listen to Ron Austin (former head of the WGA—Writers Guild of America), a profound, devout Catholic. He said that there's a lot of justice in the movies and on TV, but not a lot of mercy. Mercy for even bad people. Dog (an ex-convict himself) is a Christian who believes in giving every man a "second chance," because God gave him a second chance. He and his family are colorful to be sure, but watch how he treats people with great dignity and love and challenges them to be better. Watch how he prays and preaches and concretely helps people (without being a bleeding heart and having false compassion), often with tough love. Listen to his piercing and effective pep talks, reminding people who they really are, calling them to their responsibility as parents, etc. A & E

  5. "Covert Affairs"—A brand new show about a wet-behind-the-ears female CIA operative who faces plenty of opposition everywhere, including inside the agency. Not quite the eye candy that "Alias" was, but satisfying cloak and dagger storylines. USA NETWORK

  6. "Cold Case"—Yeah, I know it's old, but it's still good, isn't it? Old murders ("cold cases") are resurrected by a determined cop (Kathryn Morris) who isn't out for vengeance, but to honor the life that was snuffed out, and bring peace to all involved. The flashbacks always end with a shot of a grateful "victim" finding a way to thank her. Oops! Just found out that this show "went cold" as of May 2010. RIP. We can always watch re-runs. CBS

  7. "NCIS"—This consistently top-of-the-ratings show features Mark Harmon as the head of a team of internal Navy investigators. It's filmed like a movie—tons of creative, complicated camera angles with fancy editing. Lots of robust, jockeying relationships. I'm not biased towards this show in any way, even though my cousin, Michael Weatherly, plays Agent DiNozzo. CBS

  8. "House"—You either love him or hate him. I love him. People argue with me all the time: "But he's so self-centered!" ME: "No! He loves his work." PEOPLE: "He's just a curious medical geek!" ME: "No! He really wants to help people!" PEOPLE: "No, he doesn't!" ME: "Yes, he does!" PEOPLE: "No, he doesn't!" ME: "Yes, he does!" PEOPLE: "No, he doesn't!" ME: "Yes, he does!" (last word) Dr. House solves medical mysteries (the show's writers are supplied actual medical mysteries by the same doctor who works on the medical mysteries article for the Sunday New York Times Magazine). FOX

  9. "The Dog Whisperer"—Not to be confused with "Dog the Bounty Hunter." Cesar Millan is a genius with dogs. It's not that he has some magic way with them, he really understands "dog psychology" and he can train pet owners to do exactly what he does in a very short time. It's really a kind of simple behaviorism. As Cesar says: "I rehabilitate dogs, I train people." He tries to get people to stop treating dogs like people, and treat them like the dogs they are. If YOU are the pack leader, your dog will follow. You can also get your puppy fix with this show. (Not to be confused with "getting your puppy fixed.") NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (NATGEO)

  10. ANY "Real Life" TV show—Not to be confused with fake "Reality TV" like Survivor, Big Brother, Bad Girls Club, Really Obnoxious Housewives of Anycity, etc. (where people are put in unnatural, scripted situations and swear at each other and pull each other's hair out), "Real Life TV" is usually just job-shadowing regular people during their regular lives (usually work-related). It's endlessly fascinating to see people carry out all kinds of exotic skilled activities: "Ax Men" (lumberjacks) HISTORY, "Billy the Exterminator" (just like it sounds—in Louisiana!), "Deadliest Catch" (Alaskan King Crab fishermen) DISCOVERY CHANNEL, "Dirty Jobs" (just like it sounds) DISCOVERY, "Animal Cops" (don't even think of abusing an animal) ANIMAL PLANET, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" (host goes cross-country to talk to cooks and customers and sample the local menu) FOOD NETWORK, "Jerseylicious" (big-haired, orange-skinned New Jersey hairdressers…oh wait..that's "Reality TV"), and my favorite: "Ice Road Truckers" (big rig truck drivers risk their lives to bring goods to the northernmost reaches of the planet as they trek across frozen bodies of water in the winter--there's now also a trucker-chick) HISTORY.

"Breaking Bad" is a critically acclaimed show about an addicted schoolteacher who makes and sells drugs to pay for his expensive cancer treatments. My nephew, Jere Burns, has a critically-acclaimed recurring role on the show. I find the show too depressing to watch. "Mad Men" is a beyond-genius show, but also beyond-bleak.

Did I mention there are actors in my family?

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently about USA Network doing so well in the ratings with all their ("characters welcome") character-driven dramas. The WSJ believes this is what TV should be about. I didn't mention "Burn Notice" (USA NETWORK) because they are just blowing up half of Miami and that's not right. But you will learn how to make all kinds of explosives out of what you find in your medicine cabinet, how to do hostage negotiations with a Super Soaker, and how to rappel down a burning building with only a fishing line.

Please stop screaming at your screen about YOUR favorite shows that I left out and just leave a comment telling me what they are and why. Thank you.

If you are still confused about scheduling or want to break out of my little box of selections, pick up the latest issue of "Entertainment Weekly—All the Buzz on 86 Shows—Fall TV Preview" #1120/1121, Sept. 17/24, 2010 (double issue, so it'll be on stands for a while).