Archive for the ‘ROMANCE’ Category


by Randall Allen Dunn


A good friend once asked me if something about her attracts “problem people”. It seemed she was always spending time with people who unloaded all their drama on her with little concern or regard for her own time or needs. She cared about these people and wanted to help them, but she wondered if there was something wrong with her that made everyone feel they could dump their problems on her.

Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing. Wondered why you have to deal with some people and problems that others ignore. Or why you have to constantly clean up other people’s messes while everyone continues on their merry way, without a care in the world.

It’s frustrating enough to bear a heavy burden, but it’s much worse when you recognize that you’re the only one carrying it.

In the film, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) is presented with a monumental problem. An evil sorcerer, Sauron, threatens to destroy the entirelandofMiddle Earth. He is connected to a single Ring of magical power, which must be destroyed in order to defeat Sauron. The only way to destroy the Ring is to hurl it into the volcanic flames ofMountDoom, so someone must take it there.

The problem is that the Ring’s evil power is tangibly felt, and it tempts anyone within close contact to become evil themselves.

Not the sort of task anyone would want. Or the sort that anyone could handle. Even the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) cannot trust himself around the Ring, knowing that if he turned to evil he would become as great a threat to humanity as Sauron.

So he chooses Frodo, a humble and helpless Hobbit. The least powerful of all the races in Middle Earth, and therefore easy prey for anyone who would attack him to take hold of the Ring.

Yet Frodo is also the least tempted to use the Ring for his own ends. He recognizes the Ring is evil and must be destroyed. He has no interest in using its power, even if it might be for a good purpose.

This is why he was chosen.

Yet for Frodo, it is both an honor and a curse. While he doesn’t want to possess the Ring, the Ring’s power does tempt him and attempt to control him. Just as it nearly consumed his Uncle Bilbo (Ian Holm), and as it did consume another poor Hobbit, Gollum, who became corrupted and deformed from years of selfish exposure to the Ring.

Other fellow Hobbits who accompany Frodo on the journey – Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) – can scarcely help protect him from enemies, such as the Nazgul, a squad of dark spirits sent by Sauron to retrieve the Ring. Those who later join Frodo provide some muscle but also provide a potential threat to Frodo’s mission. While he can trust Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), who expresses kindness and a desire to defend Frodo, and the archer-elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Frodo is less certain about the argumentative dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). And one of their number, Boromir (Sean Bean), a man of Gondor, clearly wishes to use the Ring to save his own people.

Boromir ultimately reveals his inner nature when he’s left alone with Frodo. He suggests the Ring is too great a burden for one person alone to bear. He offers to share it with Frodo, just to borrow it long enough to help his own race. When Frodo refuses, Boromir challenges the idea that Frodo should be chosen to carry the Ring, rather than any one of them. He knows Frodo can’t protect the Ring by himself. So he attempts to take it by force.

Frodo uses the Ring’s power to turn invisible and escapes, leaving Boromir alone in the woods, ashamed at his actions. The Ring tempted him and he succumbed to it completely.

Demonstrating why he was not chosen to bear it.

I told my friend, regarding her concerns about whether she was an easy mark for complainers and drama queens, the way I viewed her situation. In my job at that time, I counseled college students on how to be successful in their classes, and scheduled them to re-take classes they had failed. For students who needed extra help, I often assigned them to instructors I knew were the most patient, the most encouraging, the most helpful. I sometimes wondered if those instructors felt burdened to be given so many needy students. But I continued to assign some of those needy students to those excellent instructors, because those were the instructors I could trust to provide genuine help.

That made my friend feel a lot better.

When you struggle with difficult tasks or difficult people and you want to ask the heavens, “Why me?”, the answer might be that you’re the best person for the job.


Find more reviews of “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” at!

Monday, April 1st, 2013

MOVIE: THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK – The Law of Retribution

by Randall Allen Dunn


Some people think they’re untouchable. That they have attained such a high position – through wealth, popularity or power – that no harm can ever come to them. They feel insulated against any attacks, believing they are free to do whatever they wish.

This is how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

In the 1939 film, “The Man with the Iron Mask”, King Louis XIV believes he has reached such a height. As king of allFrance, he has become utterly selfish, manipulative and cruel. As the final authority in all the land, he knows that no one can oppose his whims.

When he meets Maria Theresa of Spain, he is puzzled by her concern for others. He is betrothed to marry her, in order to create international alliances, but Louis takes less interest in creating international peace than in admiring Maria Theresa’s beauty. At the same time, he still intends to keep a mistress on the side.

When Louis’ mother asks Maria her impressions of France, Maria says, “I find it very difficult to associate the poverty of the provinces with the splendor of the palace. … I have been taught to believe that when the people wear rags and the king and his court wear velvet, the result is always disastrous.”

Louis finds her concern laughable. “May I ask why you are so interested in the people of France?”

Maria finds his lack of concern offensive. “Perhaps it’s because I’ve agreed to become the Queen of France. My father considers himself a servant of the state.”

“It’s different with me,” Louis insists. “In France, I am the state.”

Maria’s point is quickly proven as a mob gathers outside and throws a rock through the palace window, to protest the king’s heavy tax on salt.

Louis is annoyed. “So they don’t like the salt tax.” He turns to one of his subjects and orders him, “Double it!”

Louis later learns he has a doppelganger named Philippe, the spitting image of himself. Philippe has been arrested along with three former musketeers, for protesting the salt tax and fighting off the king’s soldiers. Having learned of an assassination plot against him, Louis offers Philippe and the others their freedom, if Philippe will agree to pose as the king for a few hours. Philippe agrees, which allows Louis to protect himself from attack, while spending some extra time with his mistress in secret.

While Philippe is out traveling as king, rioters attack his coach. After they stop, Philippe restrains the king’s guards from killing the people, insisting they are not enemies but the people of France. “Since when does the King of France need to fear Frenchmen?” he argues.

He asks the people why they’re trying to kill him. One man in the crowd asks Philippe why he – the king – is trying to kill them. They show that one rioter’s child died of starvation, while another man’s family died because they couldn’t get the medicine they needed. Philippe acknowledges that the king has made mistakes, and asks forgiveness for losing common touch with his people. He promises to make everything right, and wins the crowd over. For the time being.

But one of Louis’ advisors, Colbert, urges Philippe to go a step further. Knowing how corrupt and cruel the king is, he suggests that Philippe attempt to replace the king permanently, by posing as him long enough to marry Maria Theresa, with whom Philippe has fallen in love. Philippe realizes that by assuming the king’s power for a single day, he can order the release of his musketeer friends, so he accepts.

But their plan fails, and Philippe is arrested. When Louis prepares to hang Philippe, Colbert reveals that Philippe is actually Louis’ twin brother, separated from him at birth to prevent civil war. Louis is stunned, but soon concocts a punishment far worse than death for Philippe. He orders that an iron mask be forged to hide Philippe’s face, so no one will mistake him for Louis. Then he sends him to a dungeon, to be well-cared for and mocked by guards, who are given instructions to address Philippe as a king.

The musketeers free Philippe and surprise Louis in his bedroom. Louis panics, seeing the iron mask that Philippe now holds in his hands. “I’ll give you anything,” he pleads with Philippe. “I’ll recognize you. I’ll make you rich. All of you. A million francs. In gold. Two million!”

Philippe regards him with cold eyes, raising the iron mask higher. “When you turned the lock on this, you locked out any mercy that might have been in my heart. You knew I was your brother. Your twin. We were almost one body, one life. You half, me half. But you forced my half to live in shadow and despair, so that your half might live in grandeur and glory. There is one law in life, brother, that not even a king can escape. The law of retribution. The pendulum of the clock of life swings so far in one direction, and very surely swings back. The pendulum is swinging for you, brother. The time has come when your half must live in the shadows. Not for what you’ve done to me, but for what you’ve done to the people of France. Not because I have suffered at your hands, but because they have suffered more. Not because you would have murdered me, but because you have murdered them! Because you betrayed a sacred trust. Because you’ve proven yourself unfit to live in the light of day.” He extends the iron mask toward Louis as if bestowing a gift. “Fair exchange, brother. My kingdom … for yours.”

The musketeers lock him in the mask and send him to the dungeon he had condemned Philippe to endure.

Louis served himself, and himself alone. He forced those within his care to suffer in poverty, poor health and prison, while he lived in the lap of luxury. When it came time for him to seek mercy, his countless victims had none left.

Consider this, if you think others to be beneath you, or if you think yourself to be above the laws of compassion and justice that govern all humankind. In the end, you are human, just like everyone else around you. You might earn more money, have more friends, exercise more influence. You might be prettier, smarter, stronger or richer. But those things can be lost or stolen at any given moment, through random chance. When that happens, all that is left is the person we are inside. In the end, our character alone will determine our true worth among others who judge us, both rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, popular and friendless.

If Louis had listened to Maria Theresa and become a servant of the people he ruled, he might have saved himself. Instead, he continued to abuse others while pampering himself, until the only way to bring equity to the situation was to reverse the roles of servant and king.

The way we treat others will ultimately determine how they treat us.

And perhaps the measure of force they use.


Find more reviews of “The Man in the Iron Mask” at!

Friday, March 1st, 2013


by Randall Allen Dunn


People who dream of marriage often have wonderful dreams, until they get married and have to deal with reality instead.

A lot of people enter their marriage with a personal agenda. It’s unspoken and perhaps unknown, even to themselves. But in their hearts and minds, they imagine what their married life will be like. How they’ll talk with their spouse, how they’ll share chores, how they’ll show affection for one another.

The problem is that these dreams begin and end in the mind of one person, and may have no relation to the dreams forming in the mind of their spouse.

In the musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, we meet fourteen of such people. Seven men and seven women with grand imaginations of their perfect married life that will one day come true. But they learn that to make a marriage work, they each have to make a genuine commitment to walk through life with the one they love, which means sacrificing a few things. Like their unrealistic dreams.

When mountain man Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) arrives in town and tells a local couple he’s seeking a wife to bring back with him that same day, they’re stunned. The wife is appalled and the husband scoffs at Adam’s chances.

But Adam is determined, as he demonstrates by wandering through town with his eyes peeled, singing “Bless your beautiful hide, whoever you are …” A pure demonstration of his naïve brutish innocence.

He meets a hard-working, beautiful woman named Milly (Jane Powell), and decides she’s the one for him. He explains his proposition to her and asks, “How ‘bout it?”

Milly is attracted to Adam and intrigued by his offer of marriage, but she insists he get down on one knee and ask her properly. Adam happily does so, insisting he must have her answer that day because he’s returning to his mountain home and can’t return to town for several months. Milly quickly decides she’s ready to leave her life of cooking and cleaning for a bunch of sloppy, ungrateful men. She wants a life of her own in a house of her own, with just one husband to care for.

So she agrees and leaves with Adam. Upon arriving, she discovers that Adam had wanted her not only for himself, but also to help cook and clean for his six brothers, who all share the same house with him.

They should have compared notes.

Milly is crushed, but determines to make the best of it, the way she has always done. But when Adam’s brothers come charging to the dinner table like a pack of wild animals, pushing and shoving one another on the way to grab whatever food they find, she refuses to serve them and walks out.

She also refuses to let Adam share the same room with her for their “honeymoon” night, feeling he tricked her into slaving for his family. So Adam decides to sleep on the tree limb outside their window. Although still angry, Milly doesn’t feel right letting him spend his first night of marriage sleeping in a tree, so she invites him back in.

The next morning, Milly tells the brothers to bathe and shave and surrender their filthy clothes for her to wash … if they want any breakfast. After she describes the sumptuous meal they would miss, the boys agree to do things her way.

From then on, the boys recognize that if they want to get wives of their own, they’ll have to behave like gentlemen. Milly teaches them how to court a woman by showing proper respect and manners, then teaches them how to dance for the upcoming barn-raising ceremony, where they’ll meet plenty of townswomen.

Adam doesn’t put much stock in Milly’s lessons on manners, but he’s been learning a few things from her himself, from all her reading. Unfortunately, a little knowledge becomes a dangerous thing. After his brothers’ failed attempts to court six townswomen, Adam suggests they do what Milly told him about, in the tale of “the Sobbin’ Women” (that is, Sabine women), when men raided a town and grabbed the women they wanted.

So Adam leads them back to town to grab the women they’ve fallen in love with and herd them back up the mountain, while the townspeople give chase. Adam and the boys cause an avalanche to cut them off, barring the path until the spring thaw.

When they return home, Milly is outraged. She brings the kidnapped girls inside to comfort them, while ordering the men to sleep in the barn, ashamed of them all. Stunned by her response, having thought he did the right thing, Adam leaves in a rage, deciding to spend the winter alone at the trapping cabin further up the mountain.

Not knowing that Milly is pregnant with their first child.

Throughout the winter, the girls get back at their would-be grooms by dumping icy water on their heads and hurling snowball-covered rocks at them.

But they also realize what they knew before: they actually love these mountain men, despite their appalling ignorance and brutish behavior.

Benjamin (Jeff Richards) visits Adam and puts him in his place for abandoning his wife and newborn child. Adam sulks, but considers that he might have made a mistake.

When he finally returns to Milly and sees his child, he tells her he’s been thinking about the baby. He realized that if anyone ever harmed his little girl – the way they kidnapped the townswomen – he would be enraged. He agrees they should never have taken them, and orders his brothers to take them back, now that the pass has opened up.

But the brothers don’t want to, and the women don’t want to leave them, either. So the women run off, forcing the men to chase them down, just as their worried families arrive to rescue them. Seeing the mountain men chasing them, they assume the women are being attacked. They’re ready to do away with the Pontipee brothers for good, when they hear a baby crying. When they ask whose child it is, each of the women claims it to be her own … resulting in a classic shotgun wedding.

Of course, a lot of this craziness – and violence – could have been avoided by talking things out. It would have helped for Adam to explain his home and family life to Milly, and for Milly to explain she hoped to have more time alone with her husband.

It would have helped for the brothers to express their true feelings in words, rather than a nighttime kidnapping. It also would have helped for the women to express their true feelings toward the men instead of letting the other townsmen chase them off.

It would have helped for Adam to stick it out at home when he got mad, rather than running off for the winter, holding onto his pride instead of reaching out for his wife.

It also might have helped for Milly to be more careful which stories she read Adam, or at least to include a footnote that said, “Don’t try this at home.”

At the same time, Adam and Milly save their marriage with the things they do right. It does help that Adam listens to his wife’s ideas, even if he doesn’t immediately see the wisdom in them. It does help that he respects her, even when he doesn’t agree.

It does help that Milly and the other townswomen recognize the good intentions and sincere hearts beating behind those brutish chests, to know the Pontipee brothers mean well, even if they can’t figure out how to express it.

Expecting the best of one another is the first step in showing respect.

A lot of marital problems can be solved by respect, sensitivity and honest communication – before and during your marriage.

Want to know how you should treat your spouse?

Ask them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Find more reviews of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at!


F A S T   R E A D !

Clockwork – a suspense short story

by Randall Allen Dunn

A disturbing shadow falls over a forgotten town, unnoticed by everyone except for an old shopkeeper …

Nothing ever changes in the vanishing town of Aaronton, Illinois. After all the years of running his little shop, Sam Wells can measure every detail of the morning routine like clockwork.

So he notices when something is out of place. Something that smells of danger. But can Sam and his aging friends realize what’s happening before it’s too late to stop it?

Friday, February 1st, 2013


by Randall Allen Dunn


Some people will never believe you can change.

Having known you at your worst, they expect little of you. Little success, little achievement, little desire to do what’s right. They’ve already labeled you, based on your previous crimes, and nothing will remove that label from their minds.

The 1998 film, “Les Misérables”, shows us such a person in Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush), a hard-nosed officer pursuing justice by the book. He has no qualms about admitting his own parents were criminals themselves, or the fact he is convinced they cannot change their ways. In his opinion, it has been proven that criminals cannot change.

Which is why he refuses to believe any such change has taken place in Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), the paroled convict he now suspects is pretending to be reformed while acting as mayor of Vigau.

Javert doesn’t know what happened to Jean Valjean shortly after his parole. That he spent the night at a church, where Bishop Myriel (Peter Vaughan) welcomed him in, though he knew Valjean was a convict. That Valjean talked about becoming a new man, but his limited job prospects led him to steal the church’s silverware instead.

That he lied to the police who caught him, saying the bishop gave him the silverware. That the police joked about his lie when they brought him to the bishop in handcuffs.

But Bishop Myriel told them it was true he gave Valjean the silverware, but was angry with him because he forgot to also take the silver candlesticks, which are far more valuable.

The police released the stunned Valjean, who privately asked Bishop Myriel why he was doing this. The bishop reminded Valjean he had promised to become a new man. “Jean Valjean, my brother. You no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I’ve bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now I give you back to God.”

This was how Valjean received the freedom and the means to start a new life, and the conviction to make it a good one. Not one of anxiety and thievery, but one of kindness and charity, giving the best of himself for the rest of his days.

But if Javert had known this, it wouldn’t have mattered. He would still insist that everyone is born as either a criminal or a law-abiding citizen, and destined to die as such.

After Javert spends years hunting him down, Valjean finally gets the chance to do away with him and live his life in peace. A group of revolutionaries capture Javert and plan to kill him, but Valjean insists on having that pleasure himself. He takes Javert to a back alley where no one can see them and asks Javert why he keeps chasing him across the country. Javert warns Valjean he’ll never stop hunting him, so his only chance for freedom is to murder him, like any other criminal would. So Valjean draws his gun … and fires into the air. “You’re dead, Javert,” he says, and walks away.

Javert finally catches Valjean as he is escaping through the sewers with Marius (Hans Matheson), a wounded revolutionary who is in love with Valjean’s adopted daughter, Cosette (Claire Danes). Valjean persuades Javert to release Marius, since he is the one Javert wants. Javert permits Valjean to take Marius home to let Cosette care for him.

Meanwhile, Javert sits and thinks about Valjean, who served as a benevolent mayor in Vigau and then as a father and upstanding figure in Paris, organizing a soup line for the poor. When Valjean returns, Javert confesses privately to him that he cannot make sense of Valjean’s kindness and law-abiding nature, given his criminal background. “It’s a pity the rules don’t allow me to be merciful,” he says. “I’ve tried to live my life without breaking a single rule.”

He confirms that Valjean does not wish to return to prison life, then offers to spare him that torture. Valjean agrees, and waits for Javert to shoot him.

Instead, Javert releases Valjean and places Valjean’s handcuffs on his own wrists. Valjean stares in shock, as Then Javert plunges backward into the Seine River, drowning himself.

This film pares away many elements of the original Les Misérables novel and presents a clear illustration of the gospel: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

Those who live by the spirit of the law can’t understand those who live by a spirit of life and grace. Jean Valjean received grace and spent his life extending that grace to others. Javert tried to live according to the letter of the law. But when his life no longer made sense – when he couldn’t justify either condemning or freeing Valjean – he condemned himself instead. As the Bible also says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2:12-13.

According to the Bible, no one can become righteous by making their best moral choices. Righteousness is given by God as a free gift, the same way Bishop Myriel freely released Jean Valjean into a new life, free of condemnation for his past crimes. When someone receives this gift of freedom, they can live a new life, bestowing that same grace on others. But when someone like Javert insists on pursuing righteousness by upholding the letter of the law, they end up condemning those who live by grace. Their own self-righteous efforts ultimately fail, and the spirit of life and grace puts the spirit of the law to death.

If you have made such a change in your life, don’t wait for people like Javert to accept you. Some people simply never will. But you don’t really need others to understand your new life or give their approval. You just need to focus on maintaining the change you’ve been blessed with.

That’s the reason you’ve been given a new life: so you can live it.


Find more reviews of “Les Misérables” at!



A Simple Mistake – a suspense short story

by Randall Allen Dunn

Sybil Strang can’t help being suspicious of the nervous man loitering in the convenience store at closing time. But did she really see a gun inside his rolled-up newspaper?

Young Sybil Strang is ready to close up Quick’s Convenience Store when a man with a scraggly beard enters and begins wandering the aisles. A man who might be hiding a gun.

But with the deputy just five minutes away and a phone in the back room, there’s no reason to panic. As long as Sybil was right about what she saw …

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

MOVIE: SANTA CLAUSE 2 – The Gift of Giving

by Randall Allen Dunn


I was really angry a few years ago whenI heard about a Christian couple that wondered if it’s right to give gifts at Christmas. After all, they reasoned, people get so greedy about gifts at Christmastime, and the only place in the Bible that mentioned gift-giving was when malicious people gave gifts to one another to celebrate the murder of two righteous men.

I was outraged. I still am. As a Christian, I absolutely want to follow God’s commands and the Bible’s instructions. But some Christians seem intent on having a relationship with the Bible, rather than with Jesus Christ. If it’s not written down as an explicit biblical instruction, such people don’t know what to do. And they come to ludicrous conclusions, such as the idea that giving a gift is somehow evil rather than loving.

In “The Santa Clause 2”, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), is enjoying his role as the new Santa Claus. Thanks to a magical contract called “the Santa Clause”, he became Santa after the previous Santa fell off of his roof and Scott put on his Santa suit. What no one ever told him is that in order to remain as Santa, he needs to get married by this Christmas. Bernard the elf (David Krumholtz) explains, “It’s the ‘Mrs. Clause’.”

The ‘de-Santafication’ process has already started taking effect. Soon Scott loses his white beard and most of his Claus-ian weight. Meanwhile, he needs to return home to deal with his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), who keeps spray-painting protests against school principal Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her efforts to stamp out any Christmas celebrations. Scott orders Charlie to stop the vandalism, but he agrees that something is wrong when school kids have no decorations of any kind to celebrate the happiest time of the year.

Carol feels kids should not be distracted by a lot of Christmas propaganda instead of focusing on their studies. But her real reasons for avoiding Christmas cheer are a little more personal. She later confides in Scott that she used to love Christmas, since it was the only time of the year her parents weren’t fighting. But now as an adult, it all seems to be nothing but stress and a display of human selfishness.

Scott changes her mind about that when he accompanies her to her faculty Christmas party, which turns out to be a dull, sour function that no one really wants to attend. Taking to the stage, Scott announces to everyone that it seems they’ve all forgotten what Christmas is really about. Using his Santa magic, he pulls out a large bag of presents from backstage, each addressed to one of the annoyed party guests. Opening their gifts, each person finds something surprising. Not a practical gift for an adult, such as a blender, a socket set, or even a sweater. But toys and games! The same ones they loved as children. Everyone is overjoyed at the gifts they received, and amazed that some “secret Santa” somehow discovered which game they secretly cherished. It showed them that someone, somewhere, cared enough about them to give them exactly what they wanted. And for a few moments of the year, they could lose themselves in the simple childlike joy of playing with a game or toy that meant something special to them.

Even Carol, upon receiving a Baby Doll from Scott, is deeply touched. So much so that she drops all of her defenses against love, against friendship, and even against Christmas. Soon, she’s even ready to start believing in Christmas magic again, as she reconnects with the wonder she felt as a child. With the knowledge that someone somewhere knew her inside and out, and had a special gift waiting just for her.

Do people get greedy at Christmas? Of course. Does gift-giving become materialistic for a lot of people, myself included? Absolutely. In fact, my family writes out Christmas lists each year to share with one another, so we can actually know what everyone wants for Christmas. It makes shopping a lot easier when you don’t have to make random guesses. To some people, that’s pure greed at work.

But as I see it, the money I spend on others is the same money I would have spent on myself. At some point, I would plan to buy whatever items I put on my Christmas list. However, I take great pleasure in seeking out the gifts that I think others will use and appreciate. I could easily ignore Christmas tradition and the imagined “evil” of giving gifts to others, and simply buy what I want for myself. But somehow I don’t think that would be more “biblical” or more godly, or in any way demonstrate love and kindness.

Gift-giving, by the very definition of the word, is a blessing. I realize not everyone shares this Christmas tradition. Many people celebrate Christmas without any gifts at all. For them, it is simply a time of worship and reflection, to spend time with family and be thankful for all they have. But even if you don’t give gifts at Christmas, even if you hate how Christmas has become commercialized, does that mean the act of giving a gift is somehow wrong?

It’s not. And Christmas doesn’t have to be materialistic if you don’t want it to be. Even if others view it as a time to fill their pockets with gift cards and their stockings with stuffers, you can enjoy one of the greatest aspects of this Christmas tradition: the effort that goes into finding just the right gift for someone you love.

Will they appreciate it? Will they be greedy or ungrateful? Perhaps. But that part has nothing to do with you.

Your part is to enjoy the giving, at a time that makes it the easiest and most enjoyable to do so.

Merry Christmas!


Find more reviews of “Santa Clause 2” at!

You can also click here for my FAST READ e-book, “Santa’s Chair”.

Seven-year old Henry Burrows is anxious to know whether Santa Claus is real. In the face of his father’s lay-off and his mother’s fears that Christmas might not come this year, it grows harder to believe. It would take a miracle for his family to celebrate Christmas now. The kind of miracle that only the real Santa could provide. If the old man in the Sears & Roebuck store can somehow grant Henry’s wish …

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

MOVIE: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Choices


by Randall Allen Dunn


“Now, as you know, each and every one of you was searched upon your arrival here tonight. And you have the right to know why. Once there was a young man who, like you, sat in this very hall, walked this castle’s corridors, slept under its roofs. He seemed to all the world a student like any other. His name: Tom Riddle. Today, of course, he’s known all over the world by another name. Which is why, as I stand looking out upon you all tonight, I’m reminded of a sobering fact: Every day, every hour, this very minute, perhaps, dark forces attempt to penetrate this castle’s walls. But in the end, their greatest weapon … is you.”


Sooner or later, each of us must make a difficult choice. Sometimes the right choices are easy ones. Especially if we have trained ourselves to maintain good habits. We know that if we follow the proper instructions, we will be successful in our projects and assignments. We know that if we show kindness to others, most people will be kind to us in return. We know that if we work hard, study hard, or train hard, we will improve our skills and strength.

But when making a choice means putting our personal interests – even our reputations or our lives – at risk, making the right moral choice becomes very difficult.

In the film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to his sixth year at Hogwart’s school, to find that it has added new security measures. The school’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), warns the students that evil forces are attempting to break into the school. He knows that he and Harry have personally dealt a blow to their enemies, the Death Eaters, successfully imprisoning one of their lead members, Lucius Malfoy.

Malfoy’s son, Draco (Tom Felton), is also back at Hogwart’s, with a secret mission to kill Dumbledore. His task was assigned to him by Lord Voldemort, who rules the Death Eaters and wants to establish a reign of terror over the entire wizarding world. At sixteen years old, Draco must decide whether he believes in the Death Eaters’ cause enough to become a murderer.

Unfortunately, Draco knows that if he fails to kill Dumbledore, Voldemort will kill him. He must choose whether to kill or be killed.

That is how many of our tough decisions feel. Whether to sacrifice ourselves to do what we know is right, or save our own necks and let others suffer. Even the simplest choices we face still boil down to the same question: whether to dowhat we want and serve our own short-term interests, or do what will benefit others and ultimately benefit ourselves more.

Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) also has a difficult choice to make. Dumbledore personally asked to return to Hogwart’s as a teacher, but Slughorn knows that Dumbledore actually wants him to reveal secrets of what he told Voldemort while the evil wizard was still a young student. Dumbledore is anxious to learn their secret conversation in order to discover Voldemort’s current plans.

But Slughorn knows he provided young Voldemort with dangerous information that helped him rise to power. Information he should never have shared with any student. To reveal his horrible act could ruin his reputation as a teacher forever.

But Harry urges him to be brave and do the right thing now, in order to honor the memories of Harry’s mother and all the other students who trusted and respected Slughorn. Convicted by this, Slughorn finally reveals the truth.

Harry also has a hard choice to make. He’s discovered a used textbook in his Potions class that states it is “Property of the Half-Blood Prince”. It contains special notes and instructions that allow him to excel in class, creating potions that no other student can concoct.Seeing the wealth of secret information he possesses, he studies the book deeply, becoming obsessed with it, learning spells that he never even knew existed.

Meanwhile, having made enemies with Draco over the years, Harry is the first to suspect him of becoming a Death Eater and of being responsible for the recent attacks on students. Attacks that were meant to kill Dumbledore instead.

When one such attempt nearly kills Harry’s best friend, Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry launches a personal attack on Draco. All their years of hatred for one another explode in a violent battle of wands. Harry finally attempts to end the conflict, once and for all, by using a secret spell he learned from his old textbook. A spell that the book reserves “for enemies”.

But when he casts it, he discovers that it not only defeats Draco, but leaves him lying on the bathroom floor bleeding to death. Thankfully, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) arrives and works to slowly heal Draco.

And preventing Harry from becoming a murderer himself.

Harry’s friends form an intervention group to meet with him and persuade him – specifically, help him – to choose to get rid of the book, once and for all. Harry has become so dependent on the book and its power that he can no longer choose wisely without some help. And his anger toward Draco has clouded his judgment too much for him to act wisely while holding such dangerous power. He agrees with his friends that the book must be destroyed, and he wisely agrees to let them help him get rid of it. Before its addictive power turns Harry into something he does not want to become.

Our choices will ultimately define us. What we choose for our lives will determine whether we become noble and courageous, or selfish and destructive. Whether we honor those we love and those who depend on us, or whether we seek our own interests instead, sending the message to others that we don’t care enough about them to change our ways.

The Bible book of Proverbs says that a man who lacks self-control is like a city with its walls broken down. In other words, if we don’t control ourselves and the choices we make, we open ourselves up to dangerous invaders. This is the very reason that Hogwart’s installed extra security to keep out its aggressive enemies. Once dangerous choices come inside our gates, they can begin to rule and destroy us from within.

We all have choices to make. And resulting destinies to fulfill.

Be careful what you choose.


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Thursday, November 1st, 2012

MOVIE: BEND OF THE RIVER – Changing Course


by Randall Allen Dunn


Have you ever done something you deeply regret, and realized that there was nothing you could do to take it back? Nothing you could do to merit forgiveness from those you’ve wronged and set things right again?

Some people will never be willing to trust us again after we shun our responsibilities to satisfy our selfish desires. Some people will never believe in us again after we fail to complete an important task. Some people will never forgive us after we brutally betray them.

And we can’t blame them. When we expect others to adjust their mindset for our sake – to forgive us for our obvious sins against them, no matter how deeply we wounded them – we have not yet taken responsibility for our actions.

Unfortunately, even after we recognize our wrong and commit to changing our ways, some people will still refuse to believe in us. To their minds, people who do what we did are incapable of change.

In the film, “Bendof the River”, Glyn McClintock (Jimmy Stewart) joins a small farming community set on starting a new life together. But a harsh winter with no provisions threatens to dash all of their hopes. Glyn sets off with a handful of men to retrieve the provisions they ordered that failed to arrive. Among the party are Laura Baile (Julie Adams), her father, Jeremy Baile (Jay C. Flippen) and Cole Garrett (Arthur Kennedy), who was once a thieving raider. Knowing this about Cole sets Jeremy on edge. Glyn privately tries to assuage his concerns, telling him people can change.

“His kind can’t change,” Jeremy replies. He holds up an apple for Glyn to examine. “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the entire barrel. Then everything we’re working to build will be ruined.”

Jeremy’s stern position unsettles Glyn. “There’s a difference between apples and men,” he states. Still, he wonders whether Jeremy is right. Because – unknown to Jeremy and the other families he’s leading – Glyn McClintock was once a raider himself. He’s changed his ways and plans to settle down as a farmer, but he fears Jeremy’s community won’t trust his leadership on this excursion if they discover his criminal past. He just wants to do what’s right and become a different person, whatever it takes.

Of course, there is really no way to make up for our past crimes with a laundry list of good deeds. Measuring the weight of our good deeds against our bad deeds is like comparing apples to oranges. They really have nothing to do with one another. If we embezzle funds, then give away all of our money, time and effort to build homes for people living on the street, will that make up for the people we cheated out of their income? Of course not. The damage remains unchanged. The only thing that has changed is us.

The good news is most people don’t care much about where we’ve been or what we’ve done. Most people judge us according to where we are now and where we seem to be headed. When we turn from a life of selfishness and cruelty to change the world for the better, people can usually forgive – or rather, ignore – our past crimes because they’re focusing on our current deeds. That is, focusing on the person we have become. In the same way, if we had been an alcoholic, others can ignore our past when they see us slowly recovering, because they focus on the person we are becoming.

We can’t control what others say about us or how they view us, let alone make them choose to forgive us. We can only continue moving forward, day by day, into the future of the people we choose to become.

Glyn McClintock continues to march forward toward the new life he anticipates.  Even after his dubious partner, Cole, hijacks his wagon with his community’s provisions, along with Laura and her father. Cole leaves Glyn stranded and unarmed in the desert, telling him his only hope for survival is to abandon the wagon and flee to the next town.

Yet despite the impossible odds stacked against him, Glyn presses on to rescue the hostages and his community’s supplies. “I know one thing,” Laura tells Jeremy. “Glyn will never give up. He’ll keep after us. He’ll find a way.”

Laura doesn’t know where Glyn has been. In fact, she’s only known him about a month altogether. But she’s seen his heart, and she knows where he’s going. That’s all she needs to measure his true character.

You can’t change your past. But if you can keep pressing on to change your future.


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Saturday, September 1st, 2012


by Randall Allen Dunn


Sex has become a cheap commodity in our culture. It used to be prized as something intimate and unique, which people anticipated and treasured. Now it’s a way that some girls feel they should thank a boy for a fun date. Or a way to attract attention and gain respect, by wearing revealing clothes or paying for surgical enhancements. People who show sexual restraint are considered old-fashioned and naïve, while celebrity performers who promote sexual promiscuity and experimentation are viewed as strong models of maturity. After all, those people have freed themselves from the sexual inhibitions that society tried to impose on them, so we feel we should follow their example of sexual “freedom”.

Although the means of enhancing one’s appearance and broadcasting a message have changed, these ideas are not new: there just seem to be more people today who buy into them.

But real maturity and real love are marked by the other responsibilities that go with being an adult. Without them, claims of “freedom” and of multiple sexual experiences only demonstrate a lack of genuine understanding or of concern for others.

I saw one of the most powerful dissertations on genuine love and maturity when Nicki and I watched the original “Yours, Mine and Ours” movie with my mom. Frank Beardsley (Henry Fonda), a navy officer and father of ten children, marries Helen North (Lucille Ball), mother of eight. Their ensuing chaos caused more stress than most families experience. So much so that they originally decided it would never work.

But because they love one another so much, they decide to make it work. So they determine to get to know their new stepchildren and fully accept them as their own. Unfortunately, the kids are less eager to welcome the new incoming parent, least of all Frank’s eldest son Mike (Tim Matthieson), who keeps blaming Helen for all the problems experienced by their combined family.

Until he learns Helen is pregnant (yes, again!) with child No. 19, but kept it secret from Frank so he could take his annual trip without worrying about the family. Mike finally recognizes how much Helen cares for them and he begins making genuine efforts to help her around the house.

By the end of the film, Frank learns of Helen’s pregnancy and cuts his trip short. As Helen is about to deliver late one night, Frank and the kids prepare to take her to the hospital. But Frank finds Mike fighting downstairs with Larry (Ben Murphy), the boyfriend of his daughter, Colleen (Jennifer Leak). He breaks up the fight and asks what’s going on as they all continue getting Helen ready. Colleen explains that Larry has been pestering her to have sex with him, and claiming that she’s the only girl who thinks it’s a bad idea. Colleen starts to wonder if she’s being selfish and foolish for refusing him. Listen to their conversation as Frank helps Helen to the car (and click the picture link at right for the whole scene):

Colleen: “Larry says he’ll never speak to me again unless I grow up. He says that I’m being ridiculous and I don’t love him. But I do love him. Am I being ridiculous?”

Frank: “You’re not being ridiculous.”

Colleen: “Well, do all the other girls, like Larry says, and am I being old-fashioned?”

Frank: “The same idiots were passing the same rumors when I was your age. But if all the girls did it, how come I always ended up with the ones who didn’t?”

Colleen: “But it’s all different now!”

Frank: “I don’t know. They wrote Fanny Hill in 1742 and they haven’t found anything new since.”

Colleen: “I know this is a terrible time to talk about it, but Larry says –.”

Frank: “I’ve got a message for Larry. You tell him this is what it’s all about. This is the real ‘Happening’. You wanna know what love really is? Take a look around you. Take a good look at your mother.”

Helen: “Not now!”

Frank: “Yes, now. It’s giving life that counts. Until you’re ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won’t keep it turning. Life isn’t a love-in; it’s the dishes, and the orthodontist, and the shoe repairman, and ground round instead of roast beef. And I’ll tell you something else: it isn’t going to bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him. It’s getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.”


So consider this, ladies. If that guy is convinced that all the other girls your age are giving out sex like candy, thenwhy is he badgering you so much for it … instead of pestering all of those other willing and available girls? Is it maybe because you’re actually the best chance he has for getting someone to sleep with him?

And if sexual experimentation is such a sign of liberal freedom and maturity, why do we see so much divorce, so many abortions, such an outbreak of AIDS and other diseases? What are these sexual liberators actually freeing us from?

Love and loyalty are what holds families and societies together, not wild sexual escapades. As a Christian, I firmly believe that sex was created to be reserved for marriage, to be fully enjoyed with the person you can trust to remain by your side in the worst of circumstances. The ones who pressure you to have sex with them, or to show more skin, or to give them “freedom” to do whatever irresponsible behavior comes into their heads – these probably aren’t the kind of people you can count on in a crisis.

Grown-up love is about sacrifice, not pleasure-seeking or sexual gratification. If you want to know whether you’re truly mature or truly in love, consider what you’re willing to wait for and what you’re willing to give up.

That’s the mark of a grown-up.


Find more reviews of “Yours, Mine & Ours” at!

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

MOVIE: SPIDER-MAN – The Pursuit of Power

by Randall Allen Dunn


“Remember, Peter: with great power comes great responsibility.”

- Uncle Ben Parker



Everyone would love to have great power and influence. To overcome bullies and put them in their place. To outshine everyone else in a competition and be celebrated. To win the lottery and spend it on whatever your heart desires. To do more and be more and have more control.

But gaining more power doesn’t mean gaining more life. Before achieving power, a person should know how to live life responsibly without it.

The 2002 film, “Spider-Man”, addressed this truth in a big way, and restored a sense of nobility to the idea of super-hero films. To become a genuine hero, people had to do more than receive super-powers. They needed to make sacrifices that ordinary citizens were not required to make. They needed to attain levels of maturity and responsibility that allowed them to handle those powers in a good way, rather than using their abilities for their own personal gain.

They had to become selfless.

When high school nerd Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a mutated spider, he develops spider-like powers to climb walls and shoot webs from his wrists. He also gains more useful powers like super-strength, super-speed and the ability to sense any approaching danger. Being a teenager, Peter figures he can use his powers for something good: to get the attention of his longtime crush, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). He decides he needs a flashy car to impress her, so he needs to earn some fast cash. So he enters a wrestling competition, disguising himself and using his new power to win the fight and the prize money.

Of course, he had to lie to his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) about the fight, since his guardian would never have given him permission to go to the fight arena. Ben was already worried about Peter’s odd recent behavior. Peter had become reclusive, neglecting his chores and any family time with Ben and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). He even got into a fight at school, acting completely out of character.

Peter insisted he didn’t start the fight, but Ben told him that wasn’t the point. The point was he nearly put the bully who attacked him in the hospital. “Just because you can beat him up doesn’t give you the right to. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility.”

Peter didn’t appreciate Uncle Ben hinting he was heading down the wrong path in life, and begged him to stop lecturing him.

“I don’t mean to lecture and I don’t mean to preach,” Ben said. “And I know I’m not your father –.”

“Then stop pretending to be!” Peter exploded.

Once the words were out, Peter realized it was too late to take them back. Ben quietly ended the conversation and dropped Peter off, planning to pick him up at the same spot later.

Now, as Peter has regained some confidence from winning the fight, he’s ready to celebrate with his three thousand dollar winnings. Only the manager shortchanges him, giving him only a hundred and claiming Peter won the fight before lasting in the ring long enough to claim the prize. Peter argues that he needs that money.

“I missed the part where that’s my problem,” the manager tells him.

Helpless,Peter leaves the office. A few minutes later as he waits for the elevator, another man comes running from the manager’s office, pursued by a policeman. The manager emerges and shouts that the man stole his cashbox. The officer shouts for Peter to help stop the fugitive.

Instead, Peter steps aside, letting the thief flee into the elevator to escape.

The policeman is aghast. He runs for the stairs, yelling at Peter that all he had to do was stand in the crook’s way. The manager is angry, too. “You could have taken that guy apart. Now he’s going to get away with all my money!”

“I missed the part where that’s my problem,” Peter states, relishing his revenge.

Later, Peter finds his Uncle Ben laying on the sidewalk, injured from a gunshot wound. He dies as Peter kneels beside him. Peter dons his wrestling mask and follows police reports and squad cars to track the murderer. When he finds and confronts him, he recognizes it is the same thief he allowed to escape with the manager’s cashbox. His moment of glory has become a tragic, selfish mistake. One that cost him his Uncle Ben.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Everyone would applaud Peter for turning the tables on the manager who cheated him. It’s our nature to seek revenge instead of letting someone get the better of us. To seek our version of justice instead of God’s version of mercy.

The Bible calls us to something higher, and heroism calls us to something nobler. The Bible says, “Whoever can be trust with little can be trusted with much.” If we can’t handle the little things in life – the mundane, everyday choices to do what we know is right – how can we make the right choices when faced with big decisions?

The interesting thing is, Peter didn’t need special powers to do what he did. To stop the thief, all he had to do was block his path for one second while the officer grabbed him. To take revenge on the corrupt fight manager, all he had to do was step aside.

Peter chose to step aside. He chose revenge.

He chose himself.

Thankfully, Peter learned his hard lesson and devoted himself to helping others, at great personal sacrifice. Even surrendering his own happiness in a relationship with Mary Jane in order to protect her from further attacks. Because he learned his powers were meant for others, not for himself.

We all make similar choices every day, to help ourselves or someone else. Who will you choose?

Be someone’s hero.


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Sunday, July 1st, 2012

MOVIE: COURAGEOUS – Father Figures


by Randall Allen Dunn


The role of fathers is far more significant than many are willing to admit. Women’s liberation emphasized the importance of women’s roles in family and society to such an extent that people ultimately forgot the value of men’s impact, including the impact of fathers on their families. But the relationship we have with our fathers often influences the way we see God as a father, and the way we see ourselves in life.

In exploring this, the film, “Courageous”, starts with heart-pounding action, when a young man hijacks a man’s jeep at a gas station. To the thief’s surprise, the man chases after him, hanging desperately onto the side door as they race down a country highway. After the boy crashes the vehicle into a tree and the man tumbles away, witnesses jump out of their cars to help. One woman tells the car’s owner not to worry about his jeep as he crawls toward it. He assures her he’s not concerned about his car, struggling to open the back door to reveal his infant son crying in the back seat.

The deputies of Albany, Georgiameet the man, Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), and learn he is scheduled to join their force the next day. His dangerous act later leads them to wonder whether they would have risked their own lives to save their kids that way.

As the deputies focus on stopping the flow of local drug traffic, their sheriff reports statistics that fatherless children are the most likely to get involved in gangs and crime. He therefore urges those who are fathers to spend time focusing on loving their families.

At home that night, Deputy Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick) rejects the persistent requests of his teenage son, Dylan (Rusty Martin), to join him in a father-son 5K race. Adam sees no need to exhaust himself just so they can spend time together. Later, he takes his daughter, Emily (Lauren Etchells), onto his lap to spend time with her. When the son walks back into the room and sees this, he knows instantly that she is the favorite child. Still, Adam chooses not to look foolish by dancing with Emily in public even when she begs him.

Meanwhile, Nathan works hard to protect his family, especially his teenage daughter, Jade (Taylor Hutcherson), who sees his no-dating policy as far too strict and old-fashioned. Having never known his biological father, Nathan is determined to be a good father to his own kids.

Adam soon meets Javier Martinez (Robert Amaya), a struggling Hispanic immigrant who can’t catch a break. He prays to God for help, but is once again disappointed when a promised job doesn’t work out.

Miraculously, he is hired on the spot by Adam to help him with some handiwork in his back yard, when Adam mistakes him for the “Javier” that a fellow deputy had promised to send to him that day. When Adam realizes a week later that the wrong man is working at his house, he decides that Javier’s work ethic and skill are so outstanding that he’s glad it happened. Javier makes fast friends with Adam and the rest of the deputies.

Later on, when a car accident claims Emily’s life, Adam is at a loss. He asks his wife, Victoria (Renee Jewell), how he can go on without his daughter, and she reminds him that he still has a child.

But when Adam tries to encourage Dylan in their shared grief, he encounters a cold stone wall. Dylan wants nothing to do with him, since Adam wanted nothing to do with Dylan before the accident. Dylan refuses to form a phony father-son bond or become a “replacement” child.

Adam soon realizes how far he has fallen short of being the father he should have been, and could still be. He sets a new standard for himself as a father, based on the requirements he finds listed in the Bible for fathers. Soon Javier, Nathan, and others decide to join him in his public commitment to uphold biblical standards for fatherhood, to love and lead their families, putting the needs of their wives and children above their own.

Their passion for this commitment provokes a rookie deputy, David Thomson (Ben Davies), to confess that he is also a father, but had abandoned his girlfriend after she refused to have an abortion. Encouraged by Nathan, he writes to his estranged girlfriend and ultimately receives her permission to become involved in his daughter’s life again, to be as much of a father to her as he can be.

Adam starts restoring his broken relationship with Dylan, by taking him out to buy two new pairs of running shoes so they can start training for the father-son race. Meanwhile, Nathan takes Jade out for a special dinner, and gives her a purity ring that she is to wear until her wedding day, promising her heart to her father to save herself for the right man. This time, Jade doesn’t find it intrusive or old-fashioned, but understands how special she is to her father, and that any man she marries should honor her the same way.

Javier starts a new job and is finally making enough money to keep his family stable. But when his new employer offers him a promotion and also asks him to falsify some warehouse records, Javier and his wife, Carmen (Angelita Nelson), fear that if he refuses, his integrity will cost him the only real income they can count on. Committed to staying honest, Javier tells his employer he cannot play along. He is then informed that the request was a test, which several other employees before him had failed. Javier’s personal integrity ends up earning him a promotion.

Like it or not, children look to their fathers to set an example in life. To show us how to live responsibly with strength, conviction and compassion. Those who fail to set such an example are simply setting an example of apathy for their kids, that such standards don’t really matter.

At the same time, upholding personal standards while refusing to show our children how much we treasure them destroys the connection we were meant to have. Not only to lead by example or instruction, but by a strong loving bond that no outside influences can break.

Commit now to being the kind of father you were meant to be. The kind of father you still can be.

The kind of father you really want to be.

Happy Father’s Day!


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Friday, June 1st, 2012