I like to keep one foot in the popular culture so that I can be conversant about what my congregants are enjoying. That’s a fancy way of saying I like to go to movies, read books, and listen to CDs. As some of you may know, in a former life I was a journalist, and one of my duties was writing movie and music reviews for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Although having kids puts a serious crimp in my movie attendance, I still try to keep up with popular culture as much as I can (my only non-church magazine subscription is to Entertainment Weekly). I also occasionally will be lucky enough to get a review in the Louisville Music News.

So in an effort to share with you my latest consumptions, I offer some random reviews for your enjoyment. I’d like to hear what you’ve seen read, and listened to lately that you’ve liked, so feel free to share!


The Prestige – Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman – I’ve been surprised by the “love it or hate it” reviews I’ve read about this one. I saw “The Illusionist” with Edward Norton and was slightly disappointed, so I had higher hopes for “The Prestige.” It was more than worth the price of admission. Christian Bale is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors (check out “American Psycho” if you dare), and Hugh Jackman proves to a worthy on-screen adversary. The story is well-paced and not too hard to follow, considering the number of twists. The director, Christopher Nolan (who did one of my all-time favorites, “Memento“) really knows how to tell a story. He does a great job of making you think you know the twists (I figured out a couple of them early on, which I don’t usually do), then going in a completely opposite direction. “The Prestige” is probably 20 minutes too long, but the payoff was worth it for me.

 An Inconvenient Truth – Al Gore – First of all, this movie isn’t about politics (so stop rolling your eyes, Mom!). Regardless of what you think about Al Gore, this documentary (which amounts to nothing more than a PowerPoint presentation with a few vignettes thrown in) is a must-see for everyone. Gore presents incontrovertible evidence of the effects global warming is having on the earth. I’m not a tree-hugger by any stretch, but I can easily see the implications for our environment if we keep going at this pace. I even used part of this movie in my public speaking class. It’s a compelling argument that thankfully ends with a word of hope. You owe it to your kids and grandkids to watch it, or else they may not have much of a planet on which to live.


The Ruins – Scott Smith – I really enjoy Smith’s other (and only) book “A Simple Plan,” which was turned into a movie starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton (the movie, while good, make some significant departures from the book, which ticked me off). “The Ruins” goes in a completely different direction as Smith tries his hand at horror. Smith attempts to mix suspense with character study, but never really makes enough headway in either area. He doesn’t spend adequate time developing his characters before putting them in peril and asking us to root for or against them. The book is fairly predictable, and while Smith’s writing style is enjoyable, Stephen King owns this genre. I hope Smith moves in another direction with his next book.


Go! – Newsboys – I’m a huge fan of the Christian rock group the Newsboys, and have been for about a decade. In the past few years they’ve made a departure from their typical style of music to make two very good worship albums. “Go!” represents their return to their style of pious power pop, and it’s just as good as I would have hoped. While still a notch below their last rock album, “Living in Stereo,” “Go!” has the same catchy tunes and sing-along lyrics that have made the Newsboys so popular. This is about as radio-friendly as Christian rock gets.

Good Monsters – Jars of Clay – Some albums I listen to I like right away; others don’t last an hour in my CD player. And then there are those that take a few listens for me to get it. When I first listened to “Good Monsters,” I thought it was quite good, but not much more than that. But after a few more spins, the album has seriously grown on me. It’s catchier than anything I can remember Jars of Clay doing, and manages to be both more accessible and deeper than just about any Christian CD that I’ve heard. This album has been hyped for months by CCM Magazine as a career-definer for the band, which automatically made me skeptical. I can now say that the magazine got it right, and “Good Monsters” is simply a tremendous album about the struggles and triumphs of being faithful.

 So, what do you recommend?



Filed under Pop Culture

8 responses to “Rev-commendations

  1. Mom

    LOL – you caught me!

  2. Gale Killinger

    Hi Kory,
    Thanks for making me really think about the meaning of Advent and Christmas hymns. I guess I never really thought about it before as being the “anticipation”. It really does make sense.
    Silent Night would have to be one of my favorite. I think for me it brings back the true meaning of Christmas and not the commercial part of the season. The words and the tune of this hymn fill me with the peace and joy of Christmas.

  3. Kendra Ro

    I loved “A Simple Plan”….well-written, and a riveting story. Thanks for reminding me of the author… I’m going to go reserve the book at the library right now. (I never *buy* books…..)

    When people ask me to recommend books to them, I always just think back to my favorite authors: Chris Bohjalian (“Midwives”), Anna Quindlen (“Blessings”), Nelson DeMille (“Spencerville”), Anita Shreve (“Light on Snow”)…I’ve read most of what these people have written, and haven’t been disappointed. On my trips to the library, I mostly hang out around the “New Releases” shelves, hoping to find my new favorite author… sometimes I find one, but sometimes I only find one when someone recommends one to me. So, thanks for this forum!

    As for CDs…..One group that I think you would like, Kory, is Nickel Creek. These are young kids that started out in Blue Grass, but have invented their own kind of music, a cross between blue grass and pop…well, they don’t even have a name for the music they make. It’s interesting, beautiful, exhilarating… they are very talented musicians in their 20’s!!! I have several CDs, if you want to borrow them.

  4. Hi Kendra! Did you see the movie version of “A Simple Plan”? I was very disappointed. They changed the story significantly, which was very disappointing. Leigh is a big fan of Anita Shreve. I read one of her books (“The Pilot’s Wife,” I think) and liked it. I’ve heard of Nickel Creek but haven’t had a chance to listen to them. I’d love to borrow one of them, if you don’t mind! THanks for the recommendation.

  5. Kendra Ro

    Yes, I saw the movie…I am usually disappointed in movie versions of books that I have read, so I was probably disappointed in this one too…I don’t really remember. I think I taped the movie from late night television, and the ending got cut off, which always increases the disappointment factor! The one thing they got right in the movie was the smart brother/dumb brother duo…I think Paxton and Thornton pulled that off to a tee!

    Another author I really like is John Irving, although I have to admit I have not read a lot of his stuff. His writing is complex, and the stories are sometimes bizarre (I’m thinking of “The Fourth Hand,” about a guy with some kind of extra appendage, or the lack of one…use your imagination…), hard to get through. But I *really* like “A Widow for One Year,” partly for the book cover (I only discovered that half-way through the book, though). So, if you decide to read the book, don’t go for the paperback, but get the hardback. I’m not really good at writing reviews, or even a synposis of the story…for me, a good book has a lot to do with the style of writing, how a writer can lead you to conclude things without telling you. I think John Irving does it perfectly.

    I put the Nickel Creek CD in my bag for Sunday….I hope you get time to listen to it!

  6. I agree that Paxton and Thornton fit the characters from the book very well. But the ending changed the motives of Paxton’s character, which were a big part of the book. Had I not read the book, I think I would have enjoyed the movie more.

    I’ve read “Garp” and “Owen Meany,” and enjoyed both of them immensely. I’ll have to pick up some other things by John Irving.

    Looking forward to listening to Nickel Creek. I have about a 45-minute commute to work, so that’s a great time to listen. Thanks Kendra!

  7. Hi Reverend Kory,
    My name is Richard Faust ,In my search for “good” morning devotions I stumbled on your website. I have been reading up and down your archives.using your sermons and writings for my daily devotions .I’m a Christian and a PK You remind me of my father in your sermons.and i’m becoming quite addicted to your take on about everything, I am an independent song writer /singer which ,lets face it ,means I haven’t found any one willing to put money into my projects. . At 56 I recorded my first solo album.Titled “The Way Things Are” Its a combination of 6 of my own tunes and 5 songs i’ve always wanted to do..Some are secular but hopefully you can hear my Christian up bringing and influence in most of the songs. One song “He Lets Me Sing” is my offering to the Lord on the cd. The Baptist ,Christian ,Methodist .choir.from Nasville back me up on three of the songs and they do a bang up job on He Lets Me Sing . now I noticed on your dec. 06 archive you did some reviews of Christian music. If I were to send you a copy of my cd Would you have time to review it and send your thoughts to me at this email address. I would value your oppinion greatly and would consider it an honor . Let me know if you would have the time to do this and an address to use . I can understand and won’t be offended in the least if there’s no time in your schedule for this .God bless you and thank you for your time . Richard Faust

    • Hi Richard! Thanks so much for your comment. I would be thrilled to listen to your CD and give you some thoughts on it. In my previous life I was a journalist and did a bunch of music reviews, so I’m always on the lookout for music. Email me at and I’ll give you more information about where to send it. Thanks so much for asking and thanks for reading my blog. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!


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