January Roundup

I posted a few reviews this month.

For The Gospel Coalition, I reviewed Destroyer of the gods by Larry Hurtado.

Christians ought to be a little weird. That’s the message of a new book by Larry Hurtado, emeritus professor of New Testament at the University of Edinburgh. In Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, he describes how Christians in the first three centuries set themselves apart from the broader Greco-Roman society. Christianity, with its universal claims, must be accessible to all cultures, but it shouldn’t accommodate itself to that culture in a bid to be relevant. Being accessible and odd at the same time, Hurtado argues, helped Christianity grow.

Hurtado wants to address our “cultural amnesia” regarding the origins of Christianity. He wants us to see how Christianity was different from all the other religions of the Roman era, but he also wants us to understand that many of our modern presuppositions about religion have little to do with religion in general and everything to do with Christianity.

You can read the rest of my review here. It’s a helpful book, and you can buy it here if you’re interested.

I also reviewed a couple of movies for The Federalist.

The first was Sleepless starring Jaime Foxx. I don’t recommend it.

sleepless_poster_finalThings start to fall apart for Vincent in the movie’s second act, and when I say “things” I mean the script. “Cookie cutter” was the phrase I heard as I exited the theater, and the movie hits every narc-movie cliché.

You can make a satisfying movie out of clichés (e.g., “The Force Awakens”). But if you’re not planning to show the audience something fresh, the least you can do is film and arrange your clichés with excellence. “Sleepless” could have been named “Sleepwalking” because it seems that everyone involved decided to shoot for mediocre.

You can read the rest of this review here.

The second movie I reviewed this month was much better. I had low expectations going into M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, but the movie turned out to be pretty good.

split_ver2Shyamalan is still Shyamalan, and all his movies, to a greater or lesser extent, suffer from his self-important style. But his trademark tight camerawork complements his script, by forcing the audience to focus on the idiosyncrasies of the human personality. Yes, the end of the film has a significant plot hole. But perhaps one could argue that every horror thriller needs a good plot hole. Working with a small budget again has forced Shyamalan back to what he’s good at: creative psychological storytelling unencumbered by special effects.

In “Split,” James McAvoy plays Kevin, a young man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Kevin has 23 different personalities residing in his body. Twenty of the personalities are benign, but three are sinister. When the three sinister ones get the upper hand, they kidnap three girls, so they can have sacrificial victims ready for the emergence of a malevolent 24th personality. Let’s all say it together: That’s not how Dissociative Identity Disorder works. But it’s okay, because it’s just a movie.

You can read the rest of the review here.

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