In case you missed it last week.

12_Years_A_Slave_PosterArtI’m very hesitant to write about such a sensitive historical event.  Prior to watching this film, I had told myself that I wouldn’t be doing a post on this.  In many ways, writing eloquently about a topic such as slavery is something outside of my gifting.  However, instead of writing in-depth about the film, I thought I would simply highlight a few themes that struck me while watching.  12 Years a Slave falls into the category of movies everyone should watch.  Below are a few reasons why:


If this movie teaches us anything, it is the depravity of mankind.  My wife and I couldn’t help but ask, Were people really that wicked?  We both know our theology and we believe in the the doctrine of original sin, but how could people be that cruel?  How could people treat fellow image bearers in such a wicked way?  This movie displays the depths of wickedness we are all capable of.  It shows the dark, evil that lurks in all of our hearts.  It should humble us all to know that we are capable of those same sins.


In a conversation between Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Bass (Brad Pitt), I was reminded about the gift of my freedom.  Bass makes the statement that his freedom is “everything to him” and remarks of his taking for granted being able to walk off the plantation at any time.  This too, made me realize how often I take my freedom for granted.  To be honest, I rarely give a passing thought to the cost of my freedom and the luxuries my freedom offers me.  This film gave me a small glimpse into the blessings I’m afforded every day.


If this movie doesn’t move you towards hatred, I don’t know what will.  Of course Scripture commands us to be angry (Eph. 4:26), but we are to guard towards sinful anger.  This movie caused me to feel anger towards racism, slavery, wickedness, but I had to be cautious not to hate white people, in general.  Movies like this – if we’re not careful – can stir up feelings of hatred over past sins.  While I’m baffled by the blind racial hatred by our previous culture, I was reminded to guard myself against hating those responsible.  Rather, I’m forced to think about the blind-spots of our current culture?  What sins will the next generation hate us for?  How are similar sins currently being manifested?


This film also helped me to grasp a deep theological truth.  Towards the end of the film, the proper authorities show up presenting Solomon’s freedom papers to his slave master – Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender – btw, phenomenal performance by Fassbender!).  As Epps views these authorities taking his “property”, he becomes furious.  He screams, he threatens, his rage spews through his words and actions, but he can do nothing to Solomon.  In fact, Solomon is told, Pay no attention to that man.

As Christians, we too were enslaved.  We had a hard master who still screams at us, mistreats us, and makes us live in constant misery.  However, the truth is, we have One who calls us out of slavery and tells us to pay no attention to that man.  All the devil can do is threaten and disrupt our peace.  While that causes us misery each and every day, we no longer belong to that master.  We have a master whose yoke is easy and burden is light. (Matt. 11:30).

While I don’t think it was my best picture, it was deserving of the Best Picture – well acted and executed by the filmmakers.  As I said, this is a film every Christian needs to watch.  Some may protest that due to the rough content, but I find movies like this helpful to watch.  Helpful for the reasons listed above, but also helpful to assault the idols of comfort and ease in my heart.  So, rent 12 Years a Slave and be thankful for your freedom, and think of ways in which you can stand against injustice in our current culture.

Weekend Reading Roundup

Posted: October 18, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

photo 3Warner Bros. announces 10 DC movies, including ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Green Lantern,’ and two ‘Justice League’ films: Catch up on WB’s big announcement, and let us know which film you’re most excited about by commenting.

A Statement on Movies for Youth Groups: “We also view the incarnation as instructional, because we have a Savior who entered a sinful world, not one who avoided it. Applying this to movies, we need to enter into stories of a broken world. Just as scripture does not shy away from depictions of sin, we too, need to watch movies that give accurate portrayals of life in a sinful world.”

Popcultured: Thinking Christianly About Style, Media, and Entertainment: Check out this helpful review of a book that will likely be of interest to Reel Thinking readers.

Why We Go to the Movies: Film and Community: “We were—if only for two short hours—a part of a vibrant and enthusiastic community. Every quote spoken, every glow stick raised served as a reminder that we were part of something bigger than ourselves, while simultaneously uniting us around a shared goal—the desire to (dare I say) fellowship with others in watching, a testimony to our common humanity.”


Posted: October 17, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Snapshots

This Friday we hope to provide our readers with snapshots of films being released for the upcoming weekend. This will be a brief summary of films that will assist our readers in the area of discernment. Instead of searching other sites and reading lengthy articles, it’s our hope to provide a concise list of all the films of the weekend in one consolidated post. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here. Sound off in the comments, letting us know what you’ll be seeing this weekend.

Fury is a WWII film about a tank unit that must carry out a secret mission in Nazi Germany.

Genre: Action/Drama

Content: Intense war violence and language 


The Best of Me  is the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. It will likely be just like its predecessors, and it won’t be all that surprising if one of the protagonists dies at the end.

Genre: Romance

Content: Bad acting, sexuality, violence, and langage


• The Book of Life is an animated tale, rooted in Mexican culture, about a young man who is transported to a magical land and must overcome many obstacles to win the heart of the girl he loves.

Genre: Fantasy/Children

Content: Action sequences, crude humor

I recently had the opportunity to attend a special event at a local movie theater—a Back to the Future Quote-Along. Since I wrote on Back to the Future not too long ago here at Reel Thinking, that’s not what I want to do with this post.[1] Instead, I want to focus on the event itself (the quote-along), drawing out some observations about cinema’s ability to create a sort of community and, thus, a communal viewing experience.

My wife and I, along with a couple of friends, packed into a crowded theater on a Saturday night, eager to watch—for the umpteenth time—Robert Zemeckis’ time-travel classic. On our way in, we were instructed to stop by a booth and get props for the screening (see picture). We each grabbed a glow stick, a scratch-and-sniff card, a “save the clock tower” flyer, and a miniature skateboard. Before the movie started, an emcee made his way to the front of the theater to explain the rules of the game. “This is an interactive experience,” he told us; “wave your glow sticks when the DeLorean hits 88 miles per hour.” Holding up the clock tower flyer as an example, he instructed us to do likewise every time Marty was asked to give money to save the clock tower. The scratch-and-sniff cards should be ceremonially scratched and sniffed at appropriate times throughout the films; smells will correspond to what is shown on screen. When Marty rides around town on his skateboard, we could perform tricks with our miniaturized versions. Then, having explained the proper use of the props, our host told us how the quoting would work. At various times, words would appear on the screen, karaoke style, telling us when to quote and what to say. “Don’t you dare say the lines early and ruin the experience for every one else,” he warned, “and enjoy the Back to the Future!” The show began, amid scattered cheers throughout the crowd.

It was one of the most lively times of movie-watching I’ve ever experienced. Laughter was abundant. We waived our glow sticks with fervor, and jovially exclaimed, “Great Scott!” along with Dr. Emmet Brown; clock tower flyers were hoisted in the air. The scratch-and-sniff cards provided us with some pleasant (and some unpleasant) smells to enhance our viewing experience. We cheered when George McFly finally stands up to Biff, delivering the knockout blow. We quoted, and quoted, and quoted. Sometimes we even quoted things that didn’t appear on the screen in karaoke text. It was undeniably geeky … and a lot of fun.

A few days after the fact, I thought about the event and was struck by a lingering, persistent question: Why? Why did a room full of people pay to go see a movie they can buy—or rent for even less money? I own the entire trilogy on Blu-ray and can quote the entire first movie in the comfort of my living room; so why was I excited to go see it in theaters? Why did a bunch of allegedly sane adults wave glowing sticks in the air to cheer on a car in a Hollywood movie? Well, I think the answer can be encapsulated in a single word: community. [2]

In short, we all packed into that crowded theater that night because we really, really like Back to the Future, and we wanted to see it with others who feel the same way. We wanted the community experience that the quote-along promised to provide. We were—if only for two short hours—a part of a vibrant and enthusiastic community. Every quote spoken, every glow stick raised served as a reminder that we were part of something bigger than ourselves, while simultaneously uniting us around a shared goal—the desire to (dare I say) fellowship with others in watching, a testimony to our common humanity. This language is hopefully familiar to Christian readers, for we are united in the crucified and resurrected God-man. United as a church, we proclaim our Lord’s death in the taking of the sacraments. And in His amazing and mysterious world, something as simple as a night at the movies can remind us that we were created for relationship.

  1. I will, however, talk about the movie as if you have seen it. If you haven’t, you truly must see it soon.  ↩
  2. In truth, there is a multiplicity of ways in which we can approach this question. I am not saying that the need for community is the only reason that people go to special events like quote-alongs. I maintain, however, that the claims presented herein are applicable—on some level—to the majority of spectators.  ↩

Wednesday’s Weekday Poll

Posted: October 15, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized, Wednesday's Weekend Poll

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re Brad Bird fans here at Reel Thinking. What is your favorite Brad Bird movie? Let us know by voting in our poll. 

Picking a Youth Group Movie

Posted: October 15, 2014 by jperritt in Uncategorized
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film strip

[Note: I posted this a while back, but thought it'd be appropriate to post again in light of our youth retreat this weekend.]

In case you’ve never read my bio under our ‘Who We Are’ tab, I am a youth pastor at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church. One defining characteristic of the ministry I have attempted to establish is solid teaching/doctrine/theology being primary to, more fun. I know these students need the saving power of the gospel, not whip cream on their face. I know the Word of God is the only thing that can change their heart, not more entertainment that makes the church ‘fun’.

That being said, we still have a lot of fun in this youth group. We still have time for fun and games, but we don’t sacrifice the teaching of the gospel to do so. And, one of those common events we regularly do as a youth group is hosting a movie night.

Whether we go to the movie theater or rent a movie off Apple TV and watch it in the youth room, a night like this fits straight into our philosophy of ministry. A movie night provides a unique context for fellowship that can deepen relationships with students, the church, the staff, and, ultimately, Jesus Christ. We know God uses, seemingly, fun events to accomplish eternal purposes.

The biggest difficulty with youth movie nights? Picking a movie.

G-rated is always the safe way to go, because those films were created pre-fall and have been preserved for moments with the family. However, we know G-rated doesn’t fly too well for teens. If you announce a youth movie night and state that the movie is rated ‘G’ you can go ahead and plan on ordering one pizza (medium size/thin crust), because it’s going to be a small turnout.

On the other hand, you announce that you’re hosting a movie night with an R-rated film and the room is probably going to be just as empty. Parents won’t allow their teens to watch an R-rated film, your phone will be ringing off the hook with concern, and the Session will probably be scheduling a meeting with you soon.

That leaves you with three choices: PG, PG-13, or canceling the movie night. The thing about PG movies is that most of them are cartoons. But, if you announce you are watching a cartoon to the youth group, most students won’t come to that either. Especially if they’re junior high. They typically aren’t secure enough to admit that they like cartoons. Somewhere in high school, you realize that you can like cartoons again, but in junior high you’re fighting to be older and a cartoon doesn’t seem to support that. Therefore, PG is pretty much out because that leaves you with only cartoons or cheesy films that no one typically watches (Pixar is an exception here).

Which brings us to PG-13. These are appealing to teens, because they typically have enough sin in them to entice their rebellious heart, however, the parents are on alert. If it’s an action movie you typically have to worry about violence. If it’s a comedy you pretty much have to worry about everything you do in an R-rated movie, the only exception is the content is now implied. If it’s a rom-com, you just have to worry about idolatrous thoughts of love and marriage being fed to your teens.

Therefore, it’s easy to see that it is almost impossible to pick a movie for a youth group. What the parents like the students hate, and what the students like the parents hate. It’s a challenge. However, here are some thoughts for parents, teenagers, and youth workers:

  • We live in a sinful world, so our movies won’t be sinless.
  • Try to not place too much emphasis on the movies’ rating (I’ve written a lot on that here.)
  • Consider the manner in which the content is being communicated.
  • Take time to communicate which film is being viewed and why.
  • Train students to think during the film and not just consume it.
  • See film as a form of general revelation [Ps. 19; Rom. 1].
  • Know that corruption comes from within [Mark 7:14-23].
  • See the fellowship that is fostered through a movie night.
  • See the church as a safe place to view questionable content and discuss it.
  • See the Creator behind the creation and thank him for the gift of film.

Trailer Tuesday: Tomorrowland

Posted: October 14, 2014 by jperritt in Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Imagine a place where nothing is impossible.

A Statement on Movies – For Youth Groups

Posted: October 13, 2014 by jperritt in Uncategorized

“The EARTH is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…”  Psalm 24:1a

Our annual youth Fall Retreat is this weekend, so I felt it appropriate to share the below statement on movies.  In the youth ministry at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church, we place a great deal of emphasis on teaching the Word of God.  Therefore, we will have four times of teaching over the weekend.  However, we will also have a hayride, bonfire, group games, free time, as well as, some other events planned.

One event that has become a favorite for our students has been the outdoor movie.  We typically discuss the movie beforehand and get everyone thinking biblically as they approach the film.  However, discussing the movie is the easy part, choosing a film is the challenge.  In fact, the challenge makes me want to cancel the movie every year.  But, the teaching opportunity it allows for our students makes us continue to do it.  That being said, below is the statement we share with parents each year as a reminder of our reasoning for hosting a movie.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

POPC-YouthBecause of sin, discerning which movies to enjoy and which to abstain from is a very complicated issue.  It’s a very difficult struggle for the individual, but when you attempt to watch a movie in a large group, it becomes even more difficult.  While the Youth Ministry of POPC wants to be sensitive to family’s decisions concerning their movie-watching, they also want to engage this sphere of culture in a safe environment; i.e., the church.

The first truth we accept comes from a statement Dr. Grant Horner makes about movies.  “There’s no such thing as an in-offensive movie.[i]” What offends Family A might not offend Family B and vice versa.  Applying this truth to group movies, makes it impossible for us to choose a movie that doesn’t bother anyone.

Another truth we accept comes from the words of Jesus Christ telling his followers to be in the world, but not of the world [John 17:14-15].  Part of this “in not of” mentality is engaging the world with a critical eye.  Not simply sitting back and letting culture impact us, but also impacting culture by questioning it through a biblical worldview.

We also view the incarnation as instructional, because we have a Savior who entered a sinful world, not one who avoided it.  Applying this to movies, we need to enter into stories of a broken world.  Just as scripture does not shy away from depictions of sin, we too, need to watch movies that give accurate portrayals of life in a sinful world.  This is not to say, however, that we do not abstain from certain movies.  There are movies Christians must avoid and they are typically films that glorify sin – those films that accurately portray sin without accurate portrayals of the consequences.

Movies fall into the confusing grey area of Christian liberty.  While there are some hard and fast rules we can apply – all pornography is sin, for example – the waters become murky very quickly.  We know that we cannot simply follow a movie’s rating, because they attempt to oversimplify the exceedingly complicated sinful heart.  Yet we know that movies are a culture-shaping experience, therefore, Christians should engage that sphere with discernment.

In light of all of this, the youth ministry attempts to engage the culture by helping our students think biblically about film.  We will not do this perfectly.  We will get it wrong from time-to-time.  Everyone won’t agree with us.  However, we are attempting to develop students that are ready to enter the world with an understanding that God is Creator of all things, even movies.

[i] Horner, Grant. Meaning at the Movies

photo 3Left Behind review: “Left Behind is not a Christian Movie, whatever “Christian Movie”could even possibly mean.” It’s likely that you won’t hear much about the new Left Behind movie from us, so if you’re interested, check out this incredibly honest review.

Gone Girl: Check out our spoiler-free thoughts on this “unbearably tense” film.

The Definitive Ranking of 17 Pixar Bad Guys: This is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s a lot of fun!

Star Wars VII—Reasons to Hope: John Perritt gives us some excellent reasons to get excited about the upcoming Star Wars movie.

• It may be cheating (since it’s not something to read), but you’ve got to take a look at N.D. Wilson’s short film, The Hound of Heaven.

Video  —  Posted: October 11, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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