The Oscar season is upon us, and we here at Reel Thinking want to take the time to highlight some of the films being released this fall and winter. Today, Blaine will give his top five list (in no particular order), but be sure to check back soon for John’s top 5 list. Also, sound off in the comments, letting us know what movies you’re looking forward to this fall.

Here are Blaine’s Top 5:

• Big Hero 6: I’m excited to see Disney try their hand at an animated superhero movie––and hopefully capture some of the emotional depth that has made Pixar a household name. It should be a fun, clever, and well-done family movie. I dare you to watch the clip below and tell me you’re not excited too.

• Knight of Cups: My M.A. research agenda focuses on Terrence Malick’s films, and I am predictably excited for the newest entry into his canon. However, Malick is known for taking his time with the post-production process, and it is entirely possible that we will have to wait until 2015 to see it. The only thing we know about the plot at this point is that it’s about “a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess.”

• The Imitation Game: This World War II drama about the man who cracked the allegedly unbreakable Enigma code stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keirra Knightley and could be a dark horse contender for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

• Interstellar: Okay, I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest Christopher Nolan fan, so this made my list mainly out of curiosity. Although it looks fairly preachy (a characteristic I find particularly irksome), I’ll still give it a chance.

• Leviathan: Judging from the trailer, it looks like director Andrei Zvyagintsev is familiar with and fond of Tarkovsky’s work—a prospect that will be a source of excitement for only a certain brand of movie geek. Dark, dense, and deliberately  slow-paced, Leviathan should be the antithesis of every Michael Bay movie ever made (thankfully).


It’s the things we love most that destroy us.

 

 

meet_joe_black_ver1Before you laugh or begin to judge my taste in movies, just bear with me.

My family and I recently had a STAY-cation and we were trying to maximize some free fun.  One thing we did was rent some movies from our local library.  While perusing the available films, we stumbled across Meet Joe Black – a movie I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]  Meet Joe Black follows the story of an older man named William Parrish [Anthony Hopkins].  William is visited by Joe Black [Brad Pitt] and told that he is going to die.  How does Joe know of William’s death?  Because Joe is Death.  Things become really interesting as William’s daughter, Sarah [Claire Forlani], falls in love with Joe a.k.a. Death.

As I began to watch this movie, I had forgotten about some of the cheesy banter between Brad Pitt [his character isn't called Joe until later in the film] and Sarah at the coffee shop.  Even though this film does contain elements found in your typical romance story, there are some that go against the formulaic nature of most in the genre.  For starters, right after the playful coffee shop talk, the male love interest is ping-ponged between cars while crossing the street…didn’t see that one coming.

Themes of life and death offer up some interesting discussion, but something I wanted to zoom in on is supper.  William is a highly successful man.  He had riches most of us have never dreamed of, respect many long for, and a legacy in the business world that is often pursued.  However, the movie helps us to see what is really important.  It’s not the fame, respect, or money that is often focused on, but family.  MJB helps us answer the often posed question, What would you do if you knew you only had one day left on this earth?  What did William Parrish want?  Dinner with his family.

Scripture affirms, in many times and in many different ways, that mealtime fellowship is significant.  One place in particular is seen through the story of a wee little man, Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was a man that was hated by all.  Why?  Because he cheated others for his own financial gain.  Jesus, however, being rich in mercy and grace told Zacchaeus he was coming to eat at his house.  Much of the significance of an act like this is seen through the response of the crowd, “And when they saw it, they all grumbled…” [Luke 19:7]  Sharing a meal with someone is an intimate thing.  It’s a time you typically share with those closest to you.  Jesus was showing love to a man who was unloved.  This action brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus but grumbling from the on-lookers.

As death grew near, it’s interesting to me that a man like William – a man who had it all by worldly standards –  simply wanted a meal with his family.  Every time he found out that death wasn’t going to take him, he knew he wanted dinner with his loved-ones.  He didn’t want to fly around the world.  He didn’t want to buy a fancy car.  He wanted the intimacy offered by a dinner table with those closest to him.

Part of the reason this struck me was because of the significance our current culture has made of the family mealtime.  Sadly, the significance comes from its rarity.  Families are often split in a thousand different directions – meals together aren’t something time allows.  Even when some families are sharing meals together, they’re often too busy “sharing” it with everyone else through social media and miss those at the table.

Towards the end of our lives, I doubt too many of us will think, I wish I would have checked Facebook more.  I should have tweeted pithier comments.  I wish I worked more hours in the office.  Sadly, I think many more will wish they would have simply shared in mealtime fellowship with those living under the same roof.  While we don’t have the ability to know when death comes knocking at our door, let’s ensure the dinner table is a place our families frequent.  Breakfast is good, too.

Snapshots

Posted: September 12, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Snapshots

snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

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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.

In No Good Deed, Idris Elba plays a creepy man who terrorizes a woman in her own home.

—Genre: Thriller

—Content: terror, violence, and language

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a love story (starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain), told from multiple perspectives, about a couple trying to find happiness and navigate relational difficulties.

—Genre: Romance, Drama

—Sexuality & language

The Drop: a man (Tom Hardy) is implicated in a robbery and must work to protect his family. It also stars the late James Gandolfini.

—Genre: Crime Drama/Thriller

—Very strong violence and a lot of language

The Skeleton Twins: Twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) meet through a strange set of circumstances and try to repair their disappointing lives.

—Genre: Drama

—Content: Sexuality, language, and moodiness

 

The Double and the Death of Robin Williams

Posted: September 11, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I am quite the fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fiction, and was excited when I heard that his novella The Double was being adapted for the big screen. A few days ago, I was finally able to find the  time to rent and watch it. I was neither prepared nor ready for what I was about to see.MV5BMTExMzY5MjAwODZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg0NTcxNDAx._V1__SX1394_SY638_

The Double is the story of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), a man who is ignored by and alienated from those around him. Simon is a lonely man: he is an embarrassment to his family; he has no friends; his coworkers don’t even know who he is. However, everything changes for Simon when he meets his doppelgänger, James (also played by Jesse Eisenberg), who is the embodiment of everything Simon wishes he could be. Simon is introverted and timid, whereas James is a gregarious charmer. When Simon’s look-alike is accepted and praised by virtually everyone, it proves to be too much. Haunted by his ever-increasing loneliness, Simon contemplates suicide. “I can see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I actually am and I know that I’m doing it but I’m incapable of doing what needs to be done. I’m like Pinocchio, a wooden boy. Not a real boy. And it kills me,” he says. You see, the truly frightening thing about Simon’s words—and The Double as a whole— is that they are not merely an unpleasant fiction—a bit of melancholia for morose minds. There are, I fear, many Simons in the world.

With the tragic death of Robin Williams, the issue of suicide has once again been brought to the forefront of our minds. And while The Double is a much-needed reminder to love the “stranger” in our midst, Robin Williams points us to the reality that it is not just the outcast and marginalized who are in need of help. All are affected: the poor and the wealthy, the famous and the unknown, the loved and the despised. Suicide is a spiritual sickness; it calls for a spiritual cure.

“It’s a disease! We need to medicate it,” society says. So we do what is right in our own eyes. We create new drugs, invent new twelve-step programs, study more Freud, and tell ourselves we’re good. We convince ourselves that we were meant to have our best life now, and we’re all the more miserable for it. “If only I had friends,” says one. “If only I had a spouse,” cries another. Others lie to themselves and say that money and possessions will keep them from suicide. At the root of every suicide lies some unfulfilled want.

Reader, I have seen what the world has to offer and can tell you that it is not enough. I offer you Christ. Are you lonely? He is a friend of sinners, loyal and true. Are you poor? He became poor for sinners, setting aside the glories of Heaven for a dark and dingy cave. Have you suffered? Are you an outcast? Look to the cross of Christ. There the God-Man suffered on behalf of sinful men and women. He absorbed the wrath and curse of the Father for the sins of His people. If you would but turn to Him, there is no more wrath left for you. Hear Him now: He does not say, “come to me, and I will make all of your problems disappear,” but “come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Yes, believer and unbeliever alike may struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. But only the believer knows who he is, or—more accurately—whose he is. Turn, then, from your sins. The so-called something you are missing isn’t fame, love, friends, or fortune; it is Christ. Augustine said it well: “our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

As for me, I thought I was going to sit down, watch The Double, and analyze the cinematography, directing, and screenwriting. But I couldn’t. All I could do was grieve for Simon and all of the real-life people he represents. This experience stands in my mind as an example of how art reflects life; and the reflection is that of a sinful and broken world. You see, the media was right about Robin Williams. He did have a disease; his heart was “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” He—like so many others who have felt the pull of suicide—was in need of the new heart that only Christ can give.

Trailer Tuesday: Big Hero 6

Posted: September 9, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Action, Drama, True Story
Tags:

Coming November 7th: 

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-2013-Movie-PosterNot too long ago I shared some thoughts about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film.  I understand that the film may seem a bit bizarre to some, but so is our thought life – in many ways it’s just a commentary on any individual’s thoughts throughout the day.  However, one scene I wanted to highlight was a conversation that takes place between Walter and Sean O’Connell [Sean Penn].

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Sean has been sending his pictures to Walter (who works at Time magazine) for years.  He feels that Walter is one of the few who actually understands what he is communicating through his pictures.  Walter and Sean have had a relationship for years without ever meeting each other.  However, after Walter’s surreal adventure in search of Sean, he finally meets him on a secluded mountain-top while Sean is attempting to take a picture of a snow leopard, or “ghost cat.”  Sean explains the reasoning for the name is due to the fact that so few have actually been able to snap a picture of them.

While Sean has been waiting on this mountain-top for this rare picture, the ghost cat emerges from hiding.  As Sean’s hesitance to snap this once-in-a-lifetime picture begins to bother Walter (and the viewer), he urges him to take the picture.  Listen to the interaction:

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

Sean explains that, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”  Now, I understand that many people have blogged/ mused/discussed this reality in light of our ever-sharing-Instagram-Facebook-Twitter-culture, but I thought it’d be worth sharing again (Yes! I understand the irony of sharing it through a blog…which will also be shared through social media).  What’s interesting is how our over-sharing culture is picking up on this phenomena.  Take comedian, and father-of-five, Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat (if you’ve read his book you understand the intro I just gave Gaffigan):

As parents, we can’t stop taking pictures of our kids.  “Hey, take a picture of that.  We’ll never look at it.”  We take pictures of everyday life and act like we are capturing history.  “Unbelievable! The cat is asleep.”  Click.  I’ve calculated that if I showed you all the pictures I have of just my six-year-old, it would take roughly six years.  It kind of defeats the point, right?  I suppose this happens because we have cameras on our phones.  Do we need that?  It’s not like ten years ago we were thinking, “I wish I could take a low-quality photo of my dessert and text it to someone who’s not interested.”  Remember when photos were special?  It was not that long ago.

I guess the point others have made from similar posts, and the point Walter Mitty and Jim are trying to make (as well as this post), is lamenting the fact that we are missing moments of our life.  We think snapping pictures of “the moment” are helping us preserve them, but often times we are missing them – simply perpetuating this distracted culture that has become the norm.

Now, for all those who may be guilt-ridden over the amount of sharing you do via social-media, turn that frown upside-down.  Take those low-quality pics as much as your little heart desires.  But, maybe holster that smart-phone from time-to-time.  Instead of longing for the “likes” and “comments” you may receive from a family outing, enjoy the family at the outing.  As great as it may seem to share moments in community, enjoy the community called family.

Snapshots

Posted: September 5, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Snapshots
Tags: ,

snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

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.

The season of summer blockbusters is coming to an end, and there aren’t many movies opening this weekend. I’m willing to bet that the best “new” release is 20 years old (read on to see what I mean).

The Identical tells the story of two brothers, raised by an evangelist, who make a name for themselves in the music industry.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Content: Discussion of infertility, Christianity, Music

Forrest Gump (IMAX re-release): Do we really need to give you the plot of this classic? Click here for our thoughts on the film.

  • Genre: Drama, Romance
  • Content: Drug use, war violence, sex, and language

The Remaining: It looks like a knockoff of Left Behind. That’s a terrifying thought.

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Content: Dispensational theology and rapture violence; scary scenes

jaws 1In 1975, a now-famous theme song—a haunting melody, its foreboding refrain feigning cacophony—announced the presence of a shark; and the shark, in turn, taught us to fear the ocean. For almost forty years now, that shark has terrified audiences. But when a film like Jaws endures for this length of time, there must be something more, something deeper, than a fear of sharks that compels us to watch. The real reason that Jaws is terrifying is because it forces us to confront a reality we fear the most: our smallness. This sense of smallness, which is primarily achieved through the film’s theme of isolation, makes audiences feel feeble and helpless, out of control, and, thus, terrified

The film opens with a shark attack at a nighttime beach party, as a young woman named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) leads her love interest away from the party and toward the beach for a romantic swim. The girl enters the water. Her would-be lover, being heavily intoxicated, passes out on the beach and is unable to follow. Alone in the ocean, Chrissie is pulled under the water. She resurfaces—but is then violently jerked back and forth like a rag doll. Her cries for help are in vain. Once again she is pulled under; this time, she does not return. This scene’s power to evoke fear stems from the fact that it depicts Chrissie as an isolated and, therefore, helpless sort of everyman figure. That is, as spectators, we acknowledge that we could very easily be in Chrissie’s position. And the realization that we cannot control nature—that we are powerless against it—fills us with fear. In addition, this theme of an isolation that magnifies our smallness becomes even more prevalent as the film progresses.

In Jaws we meet Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), who has recently been appointed Chief of Police in Amity, a small island town. Brody, aware that there is a killer shark in the area, has to fight the self-serving city politicians and locals for the right to do his job. One of the central conflicts in the first half of the film, then, is not man versus nature but man versus man. The mayor is not willing to close the beaches for the fourth of July weekend because he does not want to cause a panic, hurt local businesses, and damage his own ego. Adding to Brody’s frustration is the fact that many of the locals do not trust him since he is not “not an islander.” People stare and make snide jokes and eventually turn on him when the shark takes a young boy’s life. In other words, Brody is an outsider; he feels impotent and dwarfed by his surroundings, both politically and socially.

Jaws 2In a later, particularly frightening scene, shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) comes face-to-face with a type of isolation that makes him acutely aware of his smallness. He dives into the dark and murky water to explore a wrecked fishing boat and discovers an enormous shark tooth. Then, he realizes the gravity of the situation: he is in the water with one of the world’s top predators. The unilluminated sea that dominates the shots in this scene gives the impression that the owner of that tooth could be lurking just out of sight. Suddenly, the body of a dead fisherman floats on screen. A closeup of Hooper’s terrified reaction is shown as the soundtrack blares shrilly. The terror of it all is that we are right there with Hooper—alone.

The theme of isolation reaches its apotheosis as Brody, Hooper, and Quint (Robert Shaw) take a ship out to sea to kill the shark. Brody must leave his family and face his fear of the ocean. There will be no land in sight where they are going. The ocean, its beautiful and serene surface cloaking the killer it hides, stretches for miles. Here, Spielberg does a marvelous job utilizing numerous long shots to show us just how alone the crew is. It is almost as if the ocean becomes a central character, a deadly foe in its own right. Finally, after a face-to-face encounter, Brody arrives at the logical conclusion: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

jaws 3When taken as a whole, these scenes of isolation show us that there is something we fear more than people, oceans, and sharks. We fear our smallness above all, for we are accustomed to acting as if we are the center of the universe. Full of pride and selfishness, we are terrified to think that we can be brought so low. Indeed, what Jaws really shows us is that we are deeply afraid of being humbled—of losing control. Moreover, it pulls us out of our self-absorbed state and reminds us that we do not rule the world—that we are, in fact, tiny beings.

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?” God asks.

No.

Still, He cares for you.

Embrace your smallness.

Trailer Tuesday: Unbroken

Posted: August 26, 2014 by jperritt in Action, Drama, True Story
Tags:

[There were no new or notable trailers I was interested in, so I wanted to post one I'm really excited about.]