By BRUCE DENNILL
Digital Cocaine (PG) 7
Louis Giglio: Waiting Here For You – An Advent Journey Of Hope (A) 7
77 Chances (PG) 6
You’re reading this review on a screen, so you may have the sort of issues discussed by speaker and author Brad Huddleston in Digital Cocaine, an entertaining filmed seminar. The central tenet of his talk is that screen time, in its many forms – watching TV, staring at cell phones, playing games on tablets, working on laptops – is damaging if not practiced in moderation. That’s a line most people would probably spout intuitively, but Huddleston’s presentation is riddled with useful, compelling evidence. He speaks of, among other things, the way that exposure to screens and the content they convey causes behavioural changes both temporary and permanent, which can at best be damaging to relationships and at worst lead to psychological damage and physiological changes in the brain. Huddleston is an agreeably no-nonsense sort of guy. He understands that his audience don’t want to hear his message because if will mean being challenged to deal with the reasons they interact with screens – beloved TV channels, social media, pornography and more. He explains how the release of endorphins (downers) and dopamine (an upper) in the brain can be affected by certain digital behaviours and how sustained patterns can alter the way an individual functions. It’s fascinating and frightening in equal measure, but never sensational. All of Huddleston’s research is easy to verify, making this a message that demands a reaction. As such, it’s a great resource to share with viewers of any age who have the opportunity or desire to put themselves in harm’s way via their interaction with the digital world. Unflashy, intelligent stuff.
Pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Louis Giglio is an incisive, enthusiastic preacher with heart for dealing with themes of particular import to college-age youngsters, who make up the bulk of his congregation. This is not to say that his approach is simplistic; but it does mean that the mechanisms he employs to make his points memorable or innovative and effective. The underlying purpose behind the three presentations in Waiting For You – An Advent Journey Of Hope is to communicate to listeners and viewers that the first Christmas was the culmination of a long, silent period of waiting – 400 years in which God sent no prophets or other messangers, only to completely change the game with the arrival of Jesus on Earth. Giglio’s point it that waiting can be – and often is – part of God’s greater plan, and needs to be understood and accepted as such, with one eye on what is to come, no matter how unlikely that future event may seem. There is no trite shrugging here; no twee truisms. Rather, there fronting up to the challenges inherent in waiting – particularly when other factors such as illness or pain are at play. Good advice, creatively and convincingly presented – worth watching and sharing.
The Groundhog Day-style mechanism of having the same scenario play out over and over again with just the slightest tweaks can get very annoying very fast if not well handled. In 77 Chances, Tracy J Frost has done a good job keeping a story about a man dealing with grief on point. The repetition gives him the chance to change his behaviour incrementally as he moves – slowly – from being a rather selfish sort to someone who realises the value of meeting the needs of others; not least because there are ultimately personal rewards in doing so. There is gentle comedy, slowly unfolding drama (including a clever, satisfying twist) and believable romance, with leads Andrew Cheney and Rachel Hendrix having authentic onscreen chemistry. Cheney’s character Jason is also on a journey to regain the faith he’s largely abandoned, and the depiction of a confused and unwilling former believer is recognisably accurate. Gently absorbing, this is never shoot-the-lights-out stuff, but it is worthwhile family fare.