Behold the Lamb of God - Live at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Earlier this month, I went to one of Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb Christmas concerts with my brother and his wife. All I can say is that I was blown away. Songs that I had heard a hundred times over rang true from the lips of their creator, Andrew Peterson, an average, down-to-earth guy searching for truth. My heart was touched as I viewed this songwriter on the verge of tears as he sang, "Hallelujah! Christ is born!" This was truly an unforgettable experience that I'd now like to share with you. Below is a 20 minute video of some snippets of this unbelievable concert. I hope that you enjoy it, and that it reminds you of "the brave little boy who was God, but he made himself nothing." Merry Christmas!


Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in , | Posted on Sunday, October 19, 2008

Andrew Peterson's newest project, Resurrection Letters, Vol. II, is replete with images of brokenness and redemption. With rich lyrics and lush musical arrangements, this album displays the unique talents of singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson in a new light. His most powerful song, in my opinion, is his retelling of the tale of the prophet Hosea. Here's what Peterson says about it:

"The Old Testament story of Hosea paints a powerful picture of the stubborn, pursuing, renewing love of God. Hosea is told by God to marry a runaround, no-good, heartless woman. Hosea obeys, and I can’t help thinking that he must not have enjoyed it much. He was probably humiliated, scorned by his friends, not to mention heartbroken by his new wife, Gomer. Even Noah, though mocked for building a giant boat in the middle of a desert, at least kept a little dignity, could feel like a man. But there was Hosea, alone in bed while his wife caroused, and everyone knew it. All because God wanted to make a point. After Gomer ran off with another man, God sent Hosea to buy her back and bring her home. Then God said about Israel, about us, dead in our sin: “…I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth…” The word Achor means “trouble”. From the ashes of the Valley of Trouble came new life, green and lush. Forgiveness. Rest. Resurrection." -Andrew Peterson

You can listen to the song above by clicking the play button. Enjoy.

Here are the lyrics:

Hosea by Andrew Peterson
Every time I lay in the bed beside you, Hosea, Hosea
I hear the sound of the streets of the city
My belly growls like a hungry wolf
And I let it prowl till my belly's full
Hosea, my heart is a stone

Please believe me when I say I'm sorry, Hosea, Hosea
Oh, you lovable, gullible man
I tell you that my love is true
Till it fades away like a morning dew
Hosea, just leave me alone

Here I am in the Valley of Trouble
Just look at the bed that I've made
Badlands as far as I can see
There's no one here but me, Hosea

I stumbled and fell in the road on the way home, Hosea, Hosea
I lay in the brick street like a stray dog
You came to me like a silver moon
With the saddest smile I ever knew
Hosea carried me home again, home again

You called me out to the Vally of Trouble
Just to look at the mess that I've made
A barren place where nothing can grow
One look and my stone heart crumbled--
It was a valley as green as jade
I swear it was the color of hope
You turned a stone into a rose, Hosea

I sang and I danced like I did as a young girl, Hosea, Hosea
I am a slave and a harlot no more
You washed me clean like a summer rain
And you set me free with that ball and chain
Hosea, I threw away the key

I'll never leave

Letters to the Editor, Vol. II

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2008

So, there's this guy named Andy Osenga who makes really good music.

Sometime last year, he got this crazy idea to record an EP from ideas that his fans emailed him. He also let his fans record themselves as background vocals and email him the audio.

Thus, Letters to the Editor, Vol. I was born.

It's an awesome record, and you can download it for free here.

But Andy wasn't done yet.

No, over the past month or so, he's been working on Letters to the Editor, Vol. II. He allowed his fans to submit ideas, pictures, and stories just like last time.

And here's the exciting part: my vocals (along with many others) and guitar part made it into his final song on the record! I'm incredibly pumped. So if you want to hear good music that one of your friends was a part of, download this album. You can download it for free or make a donation here. You won't regret it!

The Dark Knight Soars

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When “Batman and Robin” was released eleven years ago, moviegoers shuddered as they watched their dark knight succumb to ridiculousness right before their eyes. The film, riddled with cheesy one-liners and ridiculous gags, seemed to extinguish any hope of a solid series.

Until now.

Director Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has successfully rebooted the franchise, as evidenced by its latest film “The Dark Knight.” In the film, Gotham City’s famous caped crusader returns to face his ultimate nemesis: the Joker. The realistic take on the Batman universe set forth in “Batman Begins” continues in the sequel, but with a much darker tone. Batman faces an epic struggle between good and evil… order and chaos. The lines he has drawn have suddenly become blurred, and he must decide whether his role as the protector of Gotham is an asset or a danger.

The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger, is a twisted anarchist bent on wreaking havoc across Gotham. Ledger’s chilling performance is breathtaking, underscoring his unique ability to fully inhabit a character. When you watch him slither across the screen, you don’t see Heath Ledger; all you see is… the Joker. And it isn’t his grin-shaped scars or his grungy appearance that makes him so frightening. It’s his motivation: “I am an agent of chaos.” Ledger’s Joker has no agenda. He’s not in it for money or power. The Joker is the ultimate embodiment of chaos. He thrives on disorder and panic. As Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred puts it, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical… They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Even more unnerving is the Joker’s delight in inflicting pain, whether on himself or on those around him. While being thrashed by Batman in an interrogation room, he continues to taunt the dark knight, laughing all the while. The more Batman pummels him, the more he enjoys it. The Joker’s deadly instruments range from pencils to pistols, but his signature weapon is a knife. He uses knives because “guns are too quick. You can’t savor all the little emotions.” And savor he does. Every time he employs this weapon, he asks his victim, “Wanna know how I got these scars?” Then he delves into some horrific story about his scars, embellishing it to terrorize his victim. This Joker is no joke.

Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne / Batman in the film and delivers a solid performance. Batman’s struggle to confront the Joker without sinking to his level permeates the plot, allowing Bale to explore a much deeper level of the character than before. The caped crusader is driven to the brink of darkness in his quest to bring order to Gotham. Bruce Wayne’s words, “Batman has no limits,” ring hollow as the city he has sworn to protect is going up in flames. For the first time, the mortality of Batman is on display. The incredible angst after Rachel Dawes’ death makes the struggle even more poignant, as Batman must avenge the death of someone he loves.

Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent is excellent, but his transformation into the coin-flipping murderer Two-Face is less believable. Dent’s love for Rachel Dawes is shown in the film, but it isn’t developed thoroughly. Thus, when she is murdered, his vengeful alter-ego is hard to take seriously. Also, the burnt half of Two-Face is just a little bit over the top. Nonetheless, that is my only bone to pick with the film.

While the film is titled “The Dark Knight,” the Joker is the one who steals the show. Ledger creates a comical, yet creepy villain that will be remembered for years to come. His performance is absolutely Oscar worthy, and this movie wouldn’t have been the same without him.

The movie ends with Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s string of murders. “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be,” Batman declares to Gordon. He adds, “Sometimes, truth isn’t good enough; sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.” But this movie raises several important questions. While it is noble, almost Christ-like, to take the blame for someone else’s actions, isn’t Batman just perpetuating a lie? Can he assume to know what is best for Gotham? Is withholding the truth really the right thing to do? We are left without answers as the manhunt for Batman begins.

But that’s okay, because some of the greatest movies aren’t meant to answer questions, but raise them.
RATING: 5 (out of 5)

Family Man

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Thursday, July 31, 2008

Here is a beautiful video illustration to Andrew Peterson's heartwarming song, Family Man. Enjoy!

"Family Man" from Trevor Little on Vimeo.

Let's Trade Some Noise

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Friday, July 25, 2008

"A great record is its own best marketing tool." Those words from singer/songwriter Derek Webb echo the motivation of, a new website by which artists can supply their music directly to their fans. After the enormous success of Webb's experiment, Webb sought to create a platform for artists and fans to interact.

Here's how it works. An artist uploads his/her music to You (the consumer) hear about this magnificent website and check it out. Soon, you find an album that you wish to own. No problem. You can download the album after you 1) email three friends about the site or 2) pay what you want. Yes, that's right. Pay what you want. It can be as little as $1 or as much as $25.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "Why are these artists doing this? Don't they realize that they will lose money if people pay what they want?"

But remember the wise words of Derek Webb, "A great record is its own best marketing tool."

Honestly, when it's all said and done, the majority of an artist's income doesn't come from record sales; it comes from ticket sales. You see, a musician's album is a vehicle for getting his/her name out there. The more people know of you, the more opportunities will arise for you. That's what NoiseTrade is all about, allowing artists the chance to get their music out in the marketplace.

Personally, I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. One of the best albums available for download in my opinion is Derek Webb's "The Ringing Bell." You can download it below if you'd like. Believe me, you won't regret giving NoiseTrade a look. But don't take my word for it... see for yourself!

Muppets on YouTube!

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Monday, July 21, 2008

Yes, my friends, it's true. The Muppet characters we all know and love have now officially joined YouTube and have uploaded their first round of hilarious videos. Sam the Eagle, Gonzo the Great, the Swedish Chef, Beaker, and our favorite hecklers Statler and Waldorf have now entered cyberspace to bring Muppet mania to your computer screen. Their renditions of famous pieces of music will bring you to new depths of laughter... enjoy!

Stars and Stripes Forever (Sam the Eagle and friends)

The Blue Danube Waltz (Gonzo the Great and Camilla)

Habanera (The Swedish Chef and Beaker)

Ode to Joy (Beaker)

Statler and Waldorf

Love As a Way of Life

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Friday, July 18, 2008

Recently, I came across a new book by Gary Chapman called Love As a Way of Life. I haven't finished reading it yet, but what I have read is full of practicality and spiritual truth. Below is a book summary and a special interview with the author himself. Enjoy!

For decades Dr. Gary Chapman’s best-selling books have shown readers how to speak the “love language” of those they care about. Now he digs even deeper to uncover the foundations of what it means to cultivate a lifestyle of love and how doing so leads to satisfaction and success in every area of life.

Drawing fresh insights from timeless biblical principles, Chapman presents poignant stories of real people who have discovered the joys of living out the seven characteristics of authentic love: kindness, patience, forgiveness, humility, courtesy, generosity, and honesty. Enhanced with eye-opening self tests, practical ideas for building daily habits of love, and inspiring examples of love’s power to change lives, this book guides readers in putting love to work in all of their interpersonal relationships.

Convinced that in a world of constant conflict people desperately need authentic love, Chapman paints a compelling vision of how life can be richer and relationships more satisfying for anyone who practices Love As a Way of Life.

Interview with Gary Chapman
1. Can you describe some of the everyday situations that can be changed if a person has a foundation of love?
When love becomes the focus of ones life it will change every encounter we have with people. In the family, the husband is thinking, “what can I do before I leave for work that would be helpful for my wife?” Such thinking may lead him to take the trash out, put his breakfast plates in the dishwasher or feed the baby while his wife takes a shower.

In the workplace, employees are asking, “on my break, what might I do that would help someone else?” They will also make time to listen to a co-worker who seems to be having a hard time with a personal issue.

At the bank, post office, or cafeteria, the lover will look people in the eye and smile, perhaps opening the door to a conversation. They will express interest in what is going on in the lives of those they encounter.

The focus is not on “it’s all about me.” But, rather on “It is all about others.”

2. What is the take-away message of Love as a Way of Life?
Love as a Way of Life is designed to help the person who sincerely wants to make a positive impact in the world. I believe that is ‘most of us.’ Our biggest problem is that we don’t know how and we keep getting tripped up by our own selfish ambitions. The purpose of the book is to help us break free from the prison of selfishness and come to experience the satisfaction of truly loving others as a way of life. It is little acts of love that build up to a lifestyle of service.

3. Why do you need a foundation of love before you start figuring out our love languages?
The five love languages give information on the most effective way to express love in a meaningful way to a particular person. But, if you are not a loving person – don’t have the heart or will to focus on others – the information is of little value. Most of us must make a conscious change of focus from self to others if we are going to genuinely, and consistently enrich the lives of others. Love as a Way of Life is designed to help people make that change.

4. When did you realize the need for this book?
I first recognized the need for Love as a Way of Life when in a counseling session a husband said to me, “I’ll tell you right now, if it is going to take my washing dishes, and doing the laundry for my wife to feel loved, you can forget that.” I had just explained to him the concept of the five love languages and that his wife’s primary love language was ‘acts of service’ and that these acts would deeply communicate his love to her. I realized that he lacked the will to meet his wife’s need for love. He was locked into his own perception of what his role was to be and it did not include washing dishes and doing laundry. I knew at that moment that there was something more foundational than simply knowing a person’s love language.

5. What are the seven characteristics of lasting love?
I view love not as a single entity, but as a cluster of traits, which if developed will enhance all of life. These traits are:
Kindness: discovering the joy of helping others
Patience: accepting the imperfections of others
Forgiveness: finding freedom from the grip of anger
Courtesy: treating others as friends
Humility: stepping down so someone else can step up
Generosity: giving your time, money, and abilities to others
Honesty: caring enough to tell the truth

6. Why do you think it’s so hard for people to embrace these characteristics?
All of us have some of these characteristics to some degree. Most people see love as being better than hate. But most of us are comfortable to live somewhere between love and hate in a lifestyle that is fundamentally focused on self. We feel good when we are making money, accumulating things, gaining status, but in time these things do not ultimately satisfy what I call the ‘true self’. The true self longs to make the world a better place to live. To do something to help those less fortunate than we.

However, we all suffer from the malady of being ego-centric. I call this the ‘false self’. It is that part of man that pulls him to focus on self-preservation and a self-centered lifestyle. This is not all bad. Indeed we must meet our own physical and emotional needs in order to continue life. It is when we never get beyond this self focus, that life becomes a ‘dog eat dog’ world where everyone is out for self even at the expense of others. Such a life never brings long-term satisfaction. However it is often later in life that people discover the emptiness of selfish living. I’m hoping that Love as a Way of Life will help people discover the satisfaction of developing the ‘true self’ earlier in life.

If you'd like to learn more about Gary Chapman's new book, Love As a Way of Life, visit the link below!

Long Lost Luggage

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There are only two possible disaster scenarios that can occur when you ride on a plane. The first, and most obvious, is a plane crash. The second is losing your luggage.

Hold on. Let me rephrase that second one. The airline loses your luggage.

I recently experienced this disaster firsthand, and I’m now telling you about it to vent my frustration.

It all started in the St. Louis International Airport at the check-in area. Everything was fine until I realized that the airline I was flying on (which will remain anonymous) was charging me $15.00 to check my bag. Miffed at this superfluous surcharge, I reluctantly handed my suitcase over to the airline employee. My flight path would take me through Dallas / Fort Worth to my hometown Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My luggage was supposed to follow, but due to the inept nature of several airline employees, it did not.

After arriving late into Fort Lauderdale International (about 10:45 pm), I made my way to the baggage claim. Slowly but surely, the baggage carousel crept along, revealing bag after bag after bag. Time passed, and I soon realized that the crowd around me had begun to thin. And then the carousel stopped.

My bag was not there.

I made my way to the Baggage Claim office to try and straighten things out. After waiting fifteen minutes in line, the woman at the desk told me that my luggage had been left in the Dallas / Fort Worth airport. However, I was soon informed that my suitcase would be placed on the next available flight to Fort Lauderdale, a flight scheduled to arrive at 12:30 am. I described my bag to her and gave her my address so that they could ship it to my house first thing in the morning. She handed me a sheet of paper called a “Property Irregularity Receipt,” and I was on my way.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. When I gave this airline employee my address, I was speaking clearly and concisely. I even spelled out the words “Oakland Park” one letter at a time to make sure that everything was correct. Despite my efforts, I discovered after I had left the airport that the address on the receipt was noticeably different from my actual address. “40th Court” had become “48th Court” (a street which does not exist), and Oakland Park was spelled “Aokland Park.” Maybe my thick South Florida accent got in the way…

We turned around and headed back to the airport. I waited in line again at the Baggage Claim office for several minutes. When I reached the desk, I explained the mistakes, gave her the correct address very slowly, and triple-checked my second “Property Irregularity Receipt” when she printed it out for me. Everything was correct. By this point, it was a little past midnight. Frustrated, I left the airport and got home around 12:45 am.

After coming home, I called my father to explain all that had transpired that evening. During our conversation, he informed me that the airlines only deliver baggage when there is someone present to receive it. Because of my job, I wouldn’t be at my house at all the next day. Thus, my bag would not be delivered to my home. I called the airline’s 1-800 number and pressed “0” frantically until I got hold of an actual representative. I explained the situation, and the operator said that she would make sure my bag wasn’t sent out, but instead left at the Baggage Claim office. I thanked her and hung up. I called my older brother briefly to fill him in on everything and then went to bed around 2:00 am.

I woke up the next morning and emailed my boss, telling him that I would be late to work that day. My plan was to head to the airport in the morning around 8:30 or 9:00 am to pick up my luggage and head back to work. Problem solved, right? Well, when I reached the Baggage Claim office (for the third time now), I was told that my luggage had missed the 12:30 am flight. However, I was soon informed that my suitcase would be placed on the next available flight to Fort Lauderdale, a flight scheduled to arrive at 11:05 that morning. This all sounds too familiar, I thought to myself. The man I spoke with also told me that he would call my cell phone as soon as he had my luggage, which he said would be around noon. I thanked him and left for work. My new plan was to wait for the call and stop by the airport during my lunch break.

Before I continue, here’s a little side note I’d like to share with you. The cell phone that the airline was going to call had very low battery that day. Why didn’t I charge it the previous day? Because my charger was unavailable to me. Where was it? Yep, you guessed it. It was in my suitcase. Thankfully, my battery didn’t die until later that day.

Back at work, I kept my eyes on the clock. 11:00… 11:30… 12:00… 12:30… 1:00, and still no call. Fearing that making a call might drain the battery on my cell phone, I used a work phone to call the airline. After pressing “0” several times, I spoke with a representative about the status of my bag. Checking her computer records, she said, “It says here that your bag was picked up this morning at 10:30 am.” I informed her that I had not picked up my bag this morning, and she agreed to send a notice to the Baggage Claim office.

Now my biggest fear was that someone else had stolen my bag, and there was no real way to find out except to visit the airport for a fourth time. I gave them another hour and a half to call me, and when they didn’t, I got in my car and drove over to the airport around 2:30 pm. I explained my situation and handed them my “Property Irregularity Receipt.” The woman at the desk took my paper and began to look around the office for my bag like she was looking for the remote control. I’m sure she was thinking, It’s gotta be here somewhere.

As she was looking, the man I had spoken with that morning came out of a back room. He recognized me and began to help me. While looking up my records on the computer, he asked me if I’d like to help them. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Would you like to step into the back room and see if you can identify your bag?” Puzzled, I agreed. As I stepped into the back room of the office, I felt like I was breaking several federal laws. After all, who can say that they’ve entered the inner sanctum of the Baggage Claim office? As I scanned for my luggage, I noticed two workers sitting in the back room watching TV and munching on some snacks. Not very surprising, I thought to myself. They looked at me strangely as I surveyed the room, as if I shouldn’t be there. After failing to locate my luggage, I returned to the outer office.

The man at the computer said that my luggage may have missed the 11:05 flight, but he wasn’t very sure. After a little more research, he realized that the flight had been delayed. Instead of arriving at 11:05 in the morning, it had arrived about 3:00 that afternoon. At that point, it was 3:15 pm. “Carousel #8 has the luggage from that flight coming in. If you stand over there, you might find it,” he said. I rushed over to the carousel and waited impatiently for the luggage to start rolling in.

Eventually it did, and I watched as bag after bag passed me by. Nothing. The crowd began to thin, and my spirits began to wane. And then, my bag appeared. The carousel stopped. I hurried over to my bag and picked it up. I’m not exaggerating here: it was the second-to-last bag. But there it was, good as new. Exhausted but satisfied, I loaded my bag in the car and drove away from the airport. After four visits and a dozen or so blunders, I don’t want to go back to the airport for a long, long time.

Fourth of July

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Sunday, July 06, 2008

With Independence Day on the minds of Americans this weekend, I felt it fitting to share this song by Ben Shive. It is simply entitled, "4th of July." I hope you enjoy it!

4th of July by Ben Shive
The first star of the evening
Was singing in the sky
High above our blanket in the park

And by the twilight's gleaming
On the 4th day of July
The city band played on into the dark

And then a cannon blast
A golden flame unfolding
Exploded in a momentary bloom

The petals fell and scattered
Like ashes on the ocean
As another volley burst into the blue

But the first star of the evening never moved

We stood in silence
The young ones and the old
As the bright procession passed us by

A generation dying
Another being born
A long crescendo played out in the sky

This nation, indivisible
Will perish from the earth
As surely as the leaves must change and fall

And the band will end the anthem
To dust she will return
So the sun must set on all things, great and small

But the first star of the evening
Will outlive them all

Hello, WALL-E!

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Monday, June 30, 2008

WARNING: This review contains material that may spoil the movie for you. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now.

Robots in love… Sounds like the premise of a cheesy B movie from the fifties. But Disney / Pixar’s newest film “WALL-E” is one of the most delightful and heartwarming films of the summer. Once again Pixar Animation Studios has churned out a quality family film in the ranks of “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Cars.” Who ever thought that a love story between two robots could be so touching on such a human level? From the opening titles to the closing credits, all eyes are on the lonely trash compacter named WALL-E as he searches for meaning in his existence.

The movie opens by introducing our mechanical protagonist as he goes about the work of cleaning a desolate and deserted planet Earth. The last surviving Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class (WALL-E) unit, WALL-E lives alone with his pet cockroach. Over time, he develops a curious personality, sifting through rubble to find interesting knick-knacks. Among them is a videotape of the film “Hello, Dolly!” that introduces WALL-E to the concept of love and its expressions. Thus, when a female robot named EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) visits the planet, WALL-E is immediately star struck. What follows is a tale of excitement and wonder as WALL-E pursues EVE across the galaxy to gain her love.

What is most impressive about the film is the way that emotions are conveyed so plainly with so little dialogue. This story is simple, yet compelling and doesn’t need more dialogue to develop the characters. Sound engineer Ben Burtt (“Star Wars”) electronically constructed almost all of the robot chatter in the film. Aside from an assortment of beeps and blurps, a few human characters speak as well. Burtt’s work combined with the animation from Pixar creates a film that is worth seeing again and again.

Once again, the people at Pixar have displayed their seemingly endless creativity in “WALL-E.” They continue to confound expectations by continuing to make quality family films one after another. “WALL-E” is a heartwarming feature that surprises and awes. It is full of laughter, romance, and hope. This visually stunning tale transports you into the imagination where true love is cherished above all else… whether you’re a human or a robot.
RATING: 5 (out of 5)

My Traveling Brother Returns!

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, it's true. Not only has my oldest brother Jonathan returned from a week long trip through the Mojave Desert, but he has also returned to the blogosphere with a vengeance! Visit his new blog (Felix Culpa) at or just click on the his link under "Favorite Blogs."

Now, there is one issue I need to clear up before you visit his blog. As you can see, the web address for my blog is entitled "A Groves Blog," while the web address for Jonathan's blog is "THE Groves Blog." I just wanted to reassure my many readers that, despite my inferior title, my blog is still noticeably cooler than his blog. With that said, enjoy your reading...

Shyamalan's Just Not Happening Anymore

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WARNING: This review contains material that may spoil the movie for you. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now.

I settled into my seat and tried desperately to quell my excitement during the endless pre-movie ritual known as the previews. After each preview I expected the movie to start, only to be shown another preview. For fifteen minutes this ensued, until I could take it no longer. Finally, the lights dimmed a bit, the theatre grew quiet, and I leaned back in my chair to enjoy M. Night Shyamalan's newest thriller "The Happening."

Now, I wish the previews had never stopped.

"The Happening" suffers on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin. The magic, if you'd like to call it that, is gone. If you've seen some of Shyamalan's earlier films, ("Unbreakable," "Signs," "The Village") you can easily recognize the ethereal, mystical qualities. Shyamalan is known for leading his audience down paths of the unknown, where some questions are answered, but most are not until the very last instant. His previous films have also contained deep character studies that highlight the authenticity of his characters. In "Signs," Graham Hess' grief after the loss of his wife is so... real. When you watch the film, you understand Graham at a much deeper level because you relate to him. Not so in "The Happening," as Elliot Moore (played by Mark Wahlberg) doesn't deal with any major emotional issues at all in the film. With the exception of a few spats with his wife and the typical emotional distress found in disaster scenarios, this film fails to engender any emotional attachment from the audience.

Part of the problem lies in the acting, which is some of the worst I've seen in a summer blockbuster. An actor or actress in a Shyamalan movie is expected to react to supernatural events in a believable or coherent way. In reviewing Shyamalan’s previous movies, we would discover this to be true. But in "The Happening," something went wrong. Elliot Moore (Wahlberg) sounds like a child afraid of the dark. Often, his tone of voice borders more on whining than panic. And his wife, played by Zooey Deschanel, is just plain odd. Her character is as inconsistent as the changing winds that threaten to destroy her family.

Shyamalan's initial concept for the film was to answer this question: "What if nature turned against mankind?" An interesting question. However, his way of answering this question is both gruesome and non-suspenseful. It's like a bad mixture of "I Am Legend" and Spielberg's revamped "War of the Worlds." The film begins in Central Park, as some kind of chemical toxin is rewiring people's brains to kill themselves. We see these suicides throughout the movie, from a girl jabbing a hairpin in her neck, to construction workers leaping off buildings, to a man lying underneath a lawn mower. The gruesome sights are completely gratuitous and only produce disgust for the movie. M. Night Shyamalan's first R-rated movie? I wonder why. In addition, the cause of the manic-inducing toxin is correctly attributed to nature about thirty minutes into the film. There is no race to find out what's really happening, because we've already figured it out. It also feels like Shyamalan takes every opportunity to explain how it’s happening, why it’s happening, and how to escape "The Happening." There are no real twists and turns... just running and hiding in this film.

"The Happening" is also incredibly preachy. The only singular message of the movie I could find is, "You shouldn't pollute because it hurts the environment. After all, the environment might get angry and try to kill you, so watch out!" In a scene where Elliot and friends join up with some strangers to escape the toxin, the background clearly illustrates this message. The kooky strangers own a greenhouse, in contrast to the giant factory smokestack a few miles behind their house. In addition, the movie ends in hopelessness, as we see this event beginning to occur around the world with no feasible solution. You walk away from the movie saying, "Well, that's kind of depressing."

While Shyamalan presented early signs of becoming an unbreakable blockbuster director, in the same village as directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, my sixth sense is telling me that something peculiar has been happening in his more recent films, beginning with "Lady in the Water." (Read that sentence again...) If "Lady in the Water" signaled the director's departure from what made his previous movies great, then "The Happening" confirms that the old M. Night Shyamalan is gone for good. Apparently, his next movie will be a live-action version of a Nickelodeon cartoon show.

What is happening to M. Night Shyamalan? Maybe he breathed in some of that chemical toxin because it looks like he’s committing career suicide.
RATING: 1 (out of 5)

New Look... Same Blog

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008

Hello, everyone out there in Internet Land! It is I, Andrew Groves, and as you can see, I've restructured my blog slightly. I hope that you enjoy the new look and continue to visit my site regularly! Here's a sneak peak at what else is coming to my blog...

  • For the next twenty weeks, I will be reviewing my top twenty favorite albums of all time. I'll start with number twenty, and each week I'll count down to my favorite album ever!
  • Continued reviews of summer movies including Prince Caspian, The Happening, and more!
  • My various ramblings and lessons I've learned from the Almighty.

If I Were the Devil

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008

As I was sitting at my desk today, a song by Andy Gullahorn was stuck in my head. So, I decided to share it with all of you out there in internet-land. Following are the lyrics to "If I Were" by Andy Gullahorn. Humorously, this song describes how the singer (Andy) would behave if he were the devil; ironically, the description Andy gives accurately depicts the real devil and his character.

"If I Were"
By Andy Gullahorn
If I were the devil, I wouldn't wear red
I wouldn't have horns or a pitchfork
I wouldn't breathe fire 'cause it might give me away

But if I were the devil, you'd never know
I'd befriend you quick and corrupt you slow
So you don't notice until it's far too late

If I were the devil... if I were the devil...

If I were the devil, I'd spend all day
Lowering standards of what's okay
To think, to say, to watch on your TV

I'd break down the value of promises kept
And fade out truth till there's nothing left
Except gossip and lies popping up as thick as weeds

If I were the devil... if I were the devil...

I might not be as foreign as you think
'Cause I wouldn't always show my evil side
I've got the time and patience just to wait
And steal your soul just one sin at a time
Like I would if I were...

No, I'm not the devil, but if I was
I'd take God's people and split them up
To keep their minds off who they're called to be

So they're no longer fighting over living or dead
It's "Is it the body or just bread?"
While all the unfed die hungry on the street

If I were the devil... if I were the devil...

I'd make moms and dads who never stick around
And pain so bad you have to drink to drown
And guilt so I can kick you when you're down
And I would if I were...

If I were the devil, I wouldn't wear red
I wouldn't have horns or a pitchfork
I wouldn't breathe fire 'cause it might give me away

Fatal Deduction

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Friday, June 06, 2008

Gayle Roper's latest book, Fatal Deduction, provides a simple yet pleasurable experience to the average reader. Not quite as thrilleresque as the title suggests, this story is rooted more in who the characters are than the events surrounding the characters. When strange events begin to transpire around the main character Libby Keating, her true person is revealed and explained. The mystery of the crossword clues provides a framework by which Libby and the other characters can be fleshed out, allowing the reader to better understand the characters' decisions and actions.

Libby is an excellent example of a true Christian that struggles with past events and present decisions. So often in Christian literature, the Christian protagonist is presented as flawless or incorruptible. Not so in Fatal Deduction, as Libby's heart is in the right place, but her decisions are not always upright. Several times in the book, the reader hears Libby's thoughts about her self-centered sister, her impolite daughter, and her corrupt father and grandfather. During these thought processes, Libby often realizes that her thoughts are not God-honoring and prays for forgiveness. With the aid of her newfound Christian neighbor Drew Canfield, Libby is able to learn to forgive those who have wronged her just as her Heavenly Father forgave her.

All in all, Fatal Deduction is able to provide sound Biblical lessons in the form of a pulse-pounding, page-turning murder mystery. Gayle Roper weaves a story full of real-life characters, extraordinary plot twists, and moral guideposts that bring enjoyment to any reader.
RATING: 2.5 (out of 5)

If you'd like to learn more about Gayle Roper's new book, Fatal Deduction, visit the links below!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Overblown Sequel

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WARNING: This review contains material that may spoil the movie for you. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now.
Well, the time has come for me to review the highly anticipated movie "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." After almost twenty years, everyone's favorite archaeologist adventurer returned to the silver screen this past Thursday. His reception thus far has been less than stellar, but for good reason. Indiana Jones has fallen prey to excessive special effects and bad writing.

It seems that the George Lucas trend of redoing good, old movies badly has carried over into this new film, much to my dismay. Recently, Lucas has relied heavily on special effects rather than story in his films, a strategy that has proved unsuccessful three times in a row with his Star Wars prequels "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," and "Revenge of the Sith." The same is true of Indiana Jones, I'm afraid. Extravagant CGI backgrounds populate the film and distract from rather than enhance the plot. The action sequences are so extreme that the element of realism is lost. While the previous Indiana Jones movies certainly weren't known for their realism, an element of belief existed in the audience that these events were truly happening to the title character. Not so in "Crystal Skull," as Indy survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator, escapes debris flying through the Amazon by simply ducking his head, and goes over three waterfalls with hardly a scratch.

The new film also lacks the quick-witted writing found in the previous films. The father-son duo in The Last Crusade is reciprocated in this film with the introduction of Mutt Williams, Indy's son. But the chemistry that existed between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery does not carry over into this new relationship. With the exception of a few humorous asides, Mutt and Indy barely bond at all in the movie. Reintroducing Marion Ravenwood (now Williams) was a nice idea, but the spunky and adventurous Marion we all came to love in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is reduced to a minor character who swoons at Indy’s every word in “Crystal Skull.” Their marriage at the end of the movie adds insult to injury as a tamer, more family friendly Indy is unveiled.

In addition, the villains in the new film are more eccentric than evil. Leading the group of Soviet soldiers is Irina Spalko, a Russian “scientist” of the paranormal, played by Cate Blanchett. Indy’s finicky sidekick Mac is equally odd as he switches loyalties about every ten minutes or so. Both characters can’t even compare with the treacherous archaeologist Belloq, the creepy Nazi named Toht, the savage Thuggee cult, or the double-crossing Elsa Schneider from the previous movies. Whenever Indy is captured, you don’t fear for his safety because Spalko and her minions aren’t that frightening to begin with. Throughout the movie, it seems as if Indy is eager to help the bad guys because of his curiosity regarding the skull. Whatever happened to the old Indy―the one who was willing to blow up the Ark of the Covenant just to save his girl?

Also, the movie’s plot is the most confusing and farfetched in the series thus far. With “Crystal Skull,” the series has strayed away from its supernatural roots into the extraterrestrial. The movie’s climax is a mixture of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” with Spalko being consumed by flames, and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” with the aliens departing from our dimension to explore the “space between spaces,” whatever that means. The rest of the movie consists of Indy and Mutt stumbling through curiously well lit tombs to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The only positive thing I can say about the film is that Harrison Ford has still got it. He can pull off Indiana Jones, even at age 65. The opening chase through Area 51 reassures us that Indiana Jones can still get it done. But can we put up with all the other garbage they crammed into this movie? Sadly, no. Harrison Ford’s performance isn’t enough to salvage “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It seems that the series will forever have an ugly stepchild tacked onto it. On a more personal note, I was incredibly disappointed with this movie. As I texted my brother after watching the film, “I need to cleanse my movie-watching palate; there’s a bitter aftertaste in me.” Let’s hope that the bitter aftertaste isn’t prolonged by another overblown sequel in the future.
RATING: 1 (out of 5)

A Seemingly Awful Day

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God is good. Over time, I've managed to forget such simple truth as this. Do not be mistaken: I do not view God as one who lacks goodness. Instead, I have allowed the goodness of God to slip my mind and my heart... until today. This seemingly awful day was redeemed by the one source of hope in our fallen world. The stress of the day had overwhelmed me, but Almighty God enveloped me in his love.

God is good. There's really no better way to say it. He is faithful to the faithless and loving to the loveless. And we can see this goodness all around us if we just take a look. He reveals himself in times of trial and triumph; yet so often we ignore him in both. We can see him in the blossoms of spring, the warm smile of a friend, and the sparkling of midnight stars. His promise of redemption drives deeper than we may realize, granting us comfort when we least expect it.

God is good. And he is the only being that is perpetually good. All else may fade, but the goodness of God endures forever. His word is replete with examples of this goodness, if we would only read it. And we can be a part of this goodness, if we would only listen. Our lives are filled up with so much noise that the voice of God cannot be heard. We must stop picturing God as a part of life and begin to recognize him as the source of our life. Then, if we acknowledge him, he will lead us in his way, and the seemingly awful days will be redeemed by the sovereign Savior.

God is good.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2008

"When your spirit is hovering over the deep,
In the image of God just look into that darkness and speak."
-Andrew Peterson
"Let There Be Light"
Love and Thunder

Andrew Peterson fulfills these lyrics as he creates a world of surprise, suspense, and wonder in his first novel, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Peterson, a master storyteller, transports the reader to a place where the imagination rules supreme. Filled with tales of flabbits and Fangs, bards and bookstores, and dragons and dynasties, this book compels its audience to dream as a little child.

Overflowing with original songs and poems, humorous footnotes, and appendices, this carefully constructed tale brings laughter and enjoyment to any reader. Peterson enhances the story with memorable characters such as Podo the grandfather pirate, Peet the Sock Man, and Armulyn the Bard. His vivid descriptions of faraway lands paint word pictures that tug at the imagination. And the timeless truths presented in this book spark noteworthy thought and discussion.

Just as Andrew Peterson's songs contain reflective expressions of truth, this novel leads its readers down a pathway of discovery. Discovery of innocence, hope, and courage. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness reminds us to look beyond the present to the endless possibilities that await us. Possibilities not yet imagined...
RATING: 4 (out of 5)

If you'd like to learn more about Andrew Peterson's new book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, visit the links below!

Love Is Different

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Love is different than you think
It's never in a song or on a TV screen
Love is harder than a word
Said at the right time, and everything's alright
I said love is different than you think." -Caedmon's Call

Ah, the season of love has come... and passed. Valentine's Day: that time when you remember those you love or when you frantically search for someone to love you. It is a joyful time for some, sorrowful for others. Often we get so wrapped up in who is loving us that we forget to love others. Somehow Valentine's Day has become strictly romantic, stripping the word 'love' of its full meaning.

You see, I love different people for different reasons. I love my mother and father because they have raised me up into who I am today. I love the guys on my hall because they are my support socially and spiritually. And I love all my friends (or at least try to) because Christ first loved me. What has happened to Biblical love? The love that overflows from us because we are so thankful for God's love. We are supposed to be so overwhelmed by God's grace that we just can't help it. Love should be the natural result of our inward state. But so often our love is motivated by other factors or conditions. Imagine if God operated like that. His love would be based upon whatever he deemed to be 'lovable.' How tragic that would be! Thank God for his un-conditional love!

I also believe that what we learn about love from songs and movies is often NOT representative of Biblical love. The love I see in scripture is one that made the blind see, washed the feet of sinners, and drove the King of Kings to a bloody death on the cross. Love is not just that feeling of nervous excitement or anticipation. It is not just those butterflies that seems to course through your stomach when that special someone says hello to you. Love is not strictly romantic. It is more than that. Love is decision and sacrifice. Andrew Peterson puts it this way:

"Now, love is not a feeling in your chest
It is bending down to wash another's feet
It is faithful when the sun is in the west and in the east
It can hurt you as it holds you in its overwhelming flow
Till only the unshakeable is left
'This new command I give you,' he said, 'Love as I have loved.'
So, brother, love her better than yourself
And give her your heart."

So amidst the candies and the flowers this month, remember that love is different than you think.

Wind and Spirit

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Monday, February 04, 2008

These are the lyrics to an old Chris Rice song; I felt like sharing them in light of last week's awesome Prayer and Praise Chapel and Holiness Emphasis Week. Enjoy!

I hear a sound and turn to see
A new direction on that rusty weathervane
Suddenly the dead brown leaves are stirred
To scratch their circle dances down the lane

And now the sturdy oaks start clapping
With the last few stubborn leaves that won't let go
I can hear Old Glory snapping
And her tattered rope now clanging against the pole

And my breath is snatched away
And a chill runs up my spine
Feels like somethins on the way
So I look up to the sky and

From the corners of creation
Comes the Fathers holy breath
Riding on a storm with tender fierceness
Stirring my soul to holiness

I see the lifeless dust now resurrected
Swirling up against my window pane
And carried across the distance
Come the long awaited fragrances of earth and rain

And out across the amber field
The slender grasses bend and bow and kiss the ground
And in them I see the beauty of the souls
Who let the Spirit lay them down

And it takes my breath away
And a tear comes to my eye
Feels like somethins on the way
So I look up to the sky and

From the corners of creation
Comes the Fathers holy breath
Riding on a storm with tender fierceness
Stirring my soul to holiness

And like a mighty wind blows with a force I cannot see
I will open wide my wings and let the Spirit carry me

From the corners of creation
Comes the Fathers holy breath
Riding on a storm with tender fierceness
Stirring my soul to holiness

I hear a sound and turn to see
A new direction on that rusty weathervane