Book Review: Between Heaven and Mirth

Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin

Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by James Martin, SJ (New York: Harper One, 2011. 272 pp) Rev. James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America Magazine, and bestselling author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, and Between Heaven and Mirth. Father Martin has written for many publications, including the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and he is a regular commentator in the national and international media. He has appeared on all the major radio and television networks, as well as in venues ranging from NPR’s Fresh Air, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, and PBS’s NewsHour to Comedy Central’s… Read More →

Television Show Review: Crashing: Season 1

Crashing Season 1

Crashing: Season 1 created by Pete Holmes (HBO, Apatow Productions) Starring Pete Holmes, Lauren Lapkus, Artie Lange, and George Basil. The World Probably Doesn’t Need Another Autobiographical Show about a White Guy, But I Need this Show I know. I know. The autobiographical comedy based on a comedians’ point of view possesses no critical addition to the cultural milieu. Much like the rise of anti-hero drama in the 2000s, the autobiographical comedy has many reference points, chief of which emerges in the acclaimed series Louie highlighting the life of Louis C.K. And yet, Crashing, the vehicle for Pete Holmes’ rise into the comedy world resonates with my life to a point where I am glad it airs, despite its well-tread… Read More →

Television Show Review: Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1

Santa Clarita Diet Season 1

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1 created by Victor Fresco (Garfield Grove Productions, KatCo, Olybomb Productions) Starring Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Richard T. Jones, and Ricardo Chavira. Better Off Dead My favorite comedy series lasted one year. Then, the powers that be took it to the woodshed; they dismantled the parts and sold them for scrap. Some suits in Hollywood didn’t even give it a shot. Where most critically acclaimed comedies require time for audiences to gain footing with the particular concept, the long-game can pay off. Seinfeld anyone? Alas, Better Off Ted had no such benefactor, no such benefit of the doubt. And so, the zany workplace comedy got recycled, thrown into the… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Good Place: Season 1

The Good Place - Season 1

The Good Place: Season 1 created by Michael Schur (Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, Universal Television) Starring Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden, and Manny Jacinto. Simmering Craters Since Lost, network television has left a simmering crater of paint-by-numbers drivel. I speak hyperbolically, but solid programming is few and far between on the networks. Even of the network shows we watch in my household, most have clear deficiencies stomached for the greater good of television consumption. Sadly, the best and most promising network shows are not long for this world. The further away from the surreal mysteries of Lost, the more promising series die after fledgling glimpses of promise. In fact, after too many burns, I’ve… Read More →

Television Show Review: Silicon Valley: Season 3

Silicon Valley Season 3

Silicon Valley: Season 3 created by John Altschuler, Mike Judge, and Dave Krinsky (3 Arts Entertainment, Altschuler Krinsky Works, Judgemental Films, Inc.) Starring Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, Matt Ross, Suzanne Cryer, and Stephen Tobolowsky. *SPOILER ALERT FOR PREVIOUS SEASONS* Business Got Problems While not every job requires similar levels of commitment, skill, and knowledge, I would venture a guess that any job with career-focus includes a high level of stress and multiple problems to solve. For every stride of progress, a new challenge emerges. A multi-national corporation wants to sell your product. On the one hand, hooray! That’s money, money, money. On the other hand, your company needs to scale,… Read More →

Film Review: Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Ghoulardi Film Company, IAC Films, Warner Bros., R, 148 min) Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, and Michael Kenneth Williams. Searching for God Knows What What makes a good detective story? For some, the answer is a desire for mystery. The whodunit aspect becomes the key. Each chapter or scene adds weight to the impending sense of cracking the case. The mystery genre, however, provides many offshoots. In particular, the noir genre of detective story creates a brooding sense of drama surrounding the standard case solving formula. The detectives in charge of the case become the main point, transforming the story… Read More →

Book Review: The Ball and the Cross

The Ball and the Cross by G. K. Chesterton

The Ball and The Cross by G. K. Chesterton (New York: Dover Publications, 1995; originally published in 1910. 178 pp) G. K. Chesterton was an English writer, philosopher, and Christian apologist. He is best known for his non-fiction such as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. The Good News? “Have you spread the Gospel?” This question operates as a foundational principle for the majority of Evangelicals. The core purpose—maybe even the only purpose—surrounds converting souls. Family must be Christian. When a child is born, the mission of the parents exists only to bring the child to Christ. Unbelievers throughout the family need the cross. I would venture most awkward holiday conversations emerge from this evangelical mandate. Work does not exist for… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Last Man on Earth: Season 1

The Last Man on Earth Season 1

The Last Man on Earth: Season 1 created by Will Forte (Si Fi Company, Lord Miller, 20th Century Fox) Starring Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, and Mel Rodriguez. The Death of Network Comedy Ever since the cancellation of Better Off Ted, I’ve sworn off network television. What’s the point investing in a series when it will get cancelled? It has felt like a gradual slide toward mediocrity, as if anything daring or complicated might alienate too many viewers. Shows need to be just fine. If the quality isn’t up to par, nobody watches and it gets cancelled. But on the other end, if the show is too ambitious, it’ll get the axe because it didn’t get enough viewers. So… Read More →

Television Show Review: Getting On: Season 2

Getting On

Getting On: Season 2 created by Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, and Joanna Scanlan (BBC Worldwide Productions, Home Box Office, Anima Sola Productions) Starring Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, Mel Rodriguez. Death and Taxes All that’s guaranteed in life is death and taxes, neither of which are funny. Yes, this statement rings true. You can count on receiving a paycheck much smaller than you expected once the government gleans its share. And long term, you should expect your life to degrade into the sweet sleep of eternity. Both of these aspects of life flat-out suck. So why joke about it? Well, Getting On suggests we joke about death because it can actually be funny. Death Profits Season 2 of Getting… Read More →

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel written and directed by Wes Anderson (Scott Rudin Productions, Indian Paintbrush, Studio Babelsberg, R, 100 min) Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, and Tony Revolori. The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders Anyone prone to independent film ought to know the Wes Anderson brand well enough. The hyper realism. The cheeky humor. The cinematic jokes. Anderson’s work might be one of the most distinctive in Hollywood. And, Wes Anderson became the source for my favorite SNL short last year, actually. So it’s interesting to see Anderson play with his signature elements… Read More →