Archive for August, 2011

As you’ve probably heard by now, Brian Godawa will be doing a guest post on The Tree of Life this Friday.  We were so excited about him being willing to post for many reasons, one of them being because there aren’t any strong releases this weekend.  Although we don’t think any of these Friday releases are strong, let us hear from you.

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Slumdog Millionaire

Posted: August 30, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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Part of our task here at Reel Thinking is to prepare you and discuss upcoming releases. Another part is trying to get you to watch (or at least consider watching) some movies you might have missed. Perhaps even better, to cause you to re-watch a movie through the lens of the Bible. You will likely find out that there is much you can re-visit and learn. One of such films is 2008 Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire. It is a great film directed by the lunatic (in a good sense) Danny Boyle, who made zombie movies, sci-fi movies, drug action gritty movies, arm-ripping movies and more; when he got his Oscar he jumped like Tigger.  He is one of the most visually interesting directors out there.

Slumdog Millionaire is astonishing. It is a celebration of unyielding love, of truth prevailing. It is a survival story, a romance, a rough life account and at the same time a fairy tale. It tells the tough story of a boy’s past in India while cutting to the present and telling about his participation in a game-show. The film is sensible, electrifying and shocking. The violence, the music, the Indian culture, all of that contributes to a great film. The basic plot revolves around a boy who comes from a slum in Mumbai and who now has the chance to win a lot of money answering questions in a TV contest. People are baffled that he seems to be getting the right answers; in their minds a boy from a slum should not be able to know much and must be cheating. The movie shows us how he knows the answers through his life story. By this description it may seem like the movie is slow, philosophic and reflective…no! It is rather a fast-paced fascinating account. Slumdog Millionaire lends itself to several biblical discussions, but for that I will need to get into spoilers that will diminish the first-time watching experience. So, please go watch the movie and then come back to Reel Thinking.

A warning: the movie is heavy on violence, much is suggested rather than displayed, but one should know that this is not gratuitous violence, rather it shows hard realities of our world.   A suggestion: DO NOT MISS THE CREDITS SCENE! Seriously, go watch it and then come back.

Here is the trailer, discussion resumes after it

Time to discuss details, spoilers and the like. I’m warning! Come back later!!

Did you see the final dance? This thing has been replicated in college cafeterias all over the country. In Indian cinema they usually have a dance number, and director Danny Boyle paid homage to it; in order to keep the western sensibilities intact regarding interrupting the story flow with folks dancing and jumping, Boyle saved it for the credits. Delightful!

There are several topics worth discussing based on the movie. One of them is simply good defeating evil. The apostle Paul wrote to us that we must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21). Basically, if you pay back evil with evil, the winner is evil, yours rather than theirs, but still evil. In the movie Jamal (the main character) never pays evil with evil, the opposite of his brother Salim. And boy, does he suffer evil. Hitting, forced labor, abandonment, hopelessness, religious persecution, you name it. In all his life Jamal sought to do what was right even if it meant suffering as a result; Salim would often take the wrong path and blame everyone for his misfortunes. Difficult issues, life and death decisions. We must strive to do good but without being simplistic, remembering that evil sometimes disguises itself as good. This has large resemblance to the way Abel and Cain dealt with the issue of how to worship God. Cain sought to define his own path according to his autonomous justice, while Abel sought to do good by God’s commanded ways.

Another important theme is that of unchanging love. Jamal loves Latika in spite of time, distance or tragedy. It reminds us, imperfectly of course, of Christ’s love for his people. His covenantal love does not measure distance or occasion. Jamal does not see her for many years but never stops searching and loving her.

Closer to the end, a police officer says that Jamal does not know how to lie, only how to be true. It is a shame that we are not like that, we prefer to lie and make our lives easier rather than facing the hard realities for the sake of truth.

The movie also reminds us of Jesus in comparing how Jamal was accused of not being who he claimed to be. The TV producer and the police say that it is impossible for a poor boy from the slums be all that he claims to be and know what he claims to know. Christ was also accused of not being who he said he was. The difference is that Jamal triumphs and gets the money and gets the girls, while Jesus dies on the cross as a criminal. That was his triumph as well. In the cross he crushed sin and Satan.  In the resurrection, Christ was vindicated by the Spirit (1 Tim. 3:16), he was proven right, all the amazing claims he had made about himself were proved by his resurrection. This apparent defeat was in fact the true victory not only for him, but for all of those who believe. With this we have the certainty that although we will have to face death and maybe horrible things in this world, we have already triumphed with him and and will be together very soon. Very soon, but not yet.

P.S. you knew it was Aramis, right?

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

Every Monday 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.

  • Shark Night 3-D – A group of fresh-water sharks attack a group at a lake house in Louisiana…that’s right…a lake house in LA. Genre – horror, action, thriller; content – violence, disturbing images, partial nudity, language.
  • Apollo 18 – Old NASA footage is discovered, which reveals why we have never returned to the moon.  Genre – horror, action, thriller; content – violence, language.
  • A Good Old Fashioned Orgy – Let’s give credit where credit is due, the title basically sums up the plot, genre, and content.

Brian Godawa to Guest Post on RT

Posted: August 27, 2011 by jperritt in Uncategorized

We are very excited to announce that author and screenwriter, Brian Godawa, will be posting on Reel Thinking THIS Friday!  Also be sure and check back this week for Emilio’s post on Slumdog Millionaire and our snapshots for the weekend releases.

Yesterday we considered darkness’ age-old foe, light, but today we will look more closely at darkness.  As mentioned yesterday, anyone can easily see that light is desirous over darkness.  Scripture affirms that light is good and darkness is bad, so it is only fitting for a director like Guillermo del Toro to exploit darkness.  If the point of a horror film is to scare its viewers, than any wise director would employ the use of darkness.  By the way, think of how dark most Hollywood horror films are….not a coincidence.

Numerous times in Scripture we are told to fear God.  We are also told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but what does the Bible say about being afraid of the dark?  We established yesterday that darkness is a fearful thing.  The Psalmist even tells us that the Lord will protect us so we won’t “fear the terror of the night.”  (91:5)  So there is specific mention of the night/darkness as terrifying, but God is greater than that fear.  So the question before us is this, is there ever reason to be afraid of the dark?  I think the Bible answers in the affirmative.

Even though there aren’t many Scriptures speaking specifically to the fear of darkness, there are several verses that reference darkness with the implications of being fearful.  There are about 200 verses that include the word ‘dark’ or ‘darkness’ in Scripture.  Therefore, the Bible is not silent on this.  Darkness in Scripture is seen as something incomplete when we think back to creation (Gen. 1:2).  Darkness is seen as contrasting to good (Isaiah 5:20), as judgment (Amos 5:20), in reference to hell (Matthew 22:13), and what we were apart from Christ (1 Peter 2:9).

Therefore, one must not be a rocket scientist to see that darkness is bad and light is good.  So should anyone be afraid of the dark?  While everyone should fear God and him alone, I think Scripture is clear that we CAN be afraid of the dark.  If we see the dark as God’s wrath and judgment, it is a frightful thing.  However, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been brought from darkness to light [Eph. 5:8], that is, from death to life.  Therefore, Christians can stand firm and feel safe in the midst of darkness, knowing we will enter the Father’s marvelous light.  On the contrary, if you are one that has not bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and has not been brought into his light, you should be very afraid of the dark.

That’s right…another horror film.  Since we’ve started this blog, there has been a horror film released every weekend.  There have also been, at least, three remakes of films at the local box office.  This may tell us two things.  First, there may not be much creativity left in Hollywood and second, that horror movies tend to do pretty well at the silver screen.  I’m not sure if I agree with the former, but the latter is definitely true.

Horror films seem to do quite well, monetarily speaking.  Even if the plot is weak and the acting is bad, people still turn out for a good scare.  However, with Guillermo del Toro at the wheel of this horror film, I think we can expect a little more from this than our typical horror diet we feed on at the box office.  Especially after what I read about the opening scene to this rendition.  It sounds pretty creepy.  Del Toro’s previous work shows us that this won’t be your run-of-the-mill horror film.  While I’m not a huge fan of his work, he is a thoughtful filmmaker.  And his remake of this ’73 cult classic Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, draws from a classic fear in us all…the dark.

I know there was a time my life when I was very afraid of the dark.  Truth be told, in certain contexts, the dark is still quite frightening.  I know I can’t be the only one who is somewhat afraid of the dark, or has at one point, been afraid of the dark.  For starters, someone made a movie out of this fear and then re-made that movie, so more people than we might realize are frightened by the absence of light.  Why is that?

In Grant Horner’s book, Meaning at the Movies, he helped me to see that fear is a part of all human beings.  If you are human, you are afraid of something.  Think of all the different phobias that are out there – heights, enclosed spaces, public speaking, the list goes on and on.  People have been created to fear God, but they misplace their fear on everything else.  Deuteronomy 6:13 says, “It is the LORD your God you shall fear.  Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.”

Before we analyze darkness, let’s consider it alongside it’s foe – light.  These two can never perfectly dwell together.  Where there is light, there is no darkness, and where there is darkness there is no light.  Light reveals all things and gives us feelings of warmth and security.  Darkness, however, conceals and cannot be trusted.  It can deceive and harm us.

I can remember working at Alpine Camp for Boys and finding myself in a frightening position.  I was walking back to my cabin, which was at the back of camp, but the other guys I was walking with went to their cabins, which were located before mine.  I realized I would be walking the road alone, close to midnight.  I was walking along the gravel road in utter darkness.  No street lights, no light from the moon, in complete absence from light.  The only way I knew I was still walking on the road was the sound of gravel.  It was a terrifying walk and I slowly picked up the pace as I approached my cabin (it was a manly pace).  The darkness was deceiving me, making me feel that something was with me.  I paused thinking I heard other footsteps a few times.  In short, the darkness could not be trusted.

Light is a good thing…a great thing!  Being in utter darkness only helps you appreciate the gift of  light.  This gives new meaning to the words Christ spoke when he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8:12]  Scripture affirms again and again that light is good and Jesus is the light of the world.  In him there is complete warmth, love, trust, and security.  If this is true of light, by contrast, darkness should be terrifying.  We will take a closer look at this terror in tomorrow’s post, so be sure and check back.

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: August 24, 2011 by jperritt in Uncategorized

With Guillermo del Toro’s remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark hitting theaters this Friday, we wanted to know if darkness is a fairly universal fear.  Let us hear from you.

There is much to say about Marvel’s most recent superhero flick. Viewers will enjoy lots of action, an interesting (although predictable) plot line, and fascinating characters. Check out the video below for a peek.

While Capt. America may receive high marks for entertainment value, there are a couple particular themes that make this film an interesting one to consider watching.

The first theme is that of beauty or maybe I should say sexuality. This is by no means a major theme in CA. I only mention it because of what was noticeably missing from this film – as opposed to most action flicks…a “hot chick.”

While there is a beautiful “love interest” (Hayley Atwell) to play opposite the Captain, she is presented in a way that stands in sharp contrast to many of the leading ladies of contemporary action films (examples that will remain nameless, cough, Transformers, cough). Sadly, sex sells and the “hot chick” has replaced the leading lady – who might actually be cast for more than her physical features. While I don’t want to blow this out of proportion, I simply want to note that it is refreshing to have a beautiful female character that is presented in a way that I don’t have to cover the eyes of my sons – let alone my own.

The second theme to note in the film is that of goodness – the very quality that makes the Captain a different kind of hero. The story of Captain America is compelling largely because it is a story of the weak becoming strong – the insignificant becoming great. In this story, the weak and wimpy Steve Rogers (Chris Evans with the help of CGI) is chosen to participate in a secret army program that exists to create the ultimate super-soldier. Dr. Erskine, creator of a new technology, chooses Rogers because of his inner character – the fact that he is a “good” man – as opposed to the usual soldier qualifications, physical strength and combat ability.

On the night before Rogers is to undergo the “treatment,” he asks Dr. Erskine why he was chosen. Erskine tells Rogers that the chemical treatment magnifies what is on the inside of a person. Good become great. Bad becomes worse. He explains that it is Rogers’ physical weakness and his innate goodness that makes him the ideal candidate. He says, “a weak man knows the value of strength, knows the value of power.” He closes their conversation by exhorting Steve to, “stay who you are, not just a soldier, but a good man.”

How should we think about this pivotal (and touching) conversation from a biblical perspective? Two thoughts…

First, we know that inherent human goodness is a wish dream. While championed as common wisdom, this worldview is misguided. Scripture tells us that people are inherently wicked – no one is good (Romans 3:10-18). Psalm 51 teaches that we didn’t even begin life “good” – our sinful condition existed pre-birth. If any human were to undergo Dr. Erskine’s treatment, the result would not be a superhero, but rather a super-villain. The magnification of my inner character would produce of a terrible beast. Although we all want to imagine that our “inner beauty” will win the day, the truth is that the doctrine of total depravity teaches otherwise. Humanity needs a different kind of “treatment” – the “beast” needs to be transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Second, Dr. Erskine tells Rogers that because he understands weakness, he is better suited to exhibit compassion. As redeemed sinners – transformed by the Gospel, Christians should lead the way in compassion. When we truly understand the depths of our sin and the power of Christ to save us – not just from the penalty of sin, but also from its power over us – we will be different! Christians do understand weakness, but through the presence of the Holy Spirit, they now live powerful lives – lives of compassion!

The Gospel magnifies Christ in us – not a better us in us!!! When we come to grips with the biblical view of sin and our need for Jesus Christ, we will become a people who may actually make a difference in the world.

Snapshots

Posted: August 22, 2011 by jperritt in Uncategorized

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

Every Sunday 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.

  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – In the remake of this 1973 cult classic, a young girl is sent to live with her father and girlfriend, only to discover little creatures (who come out in the dark) are attempting to make her one of their own. Genre – horror, suspense; content – violence and terror
  • Colombiana – A girl who was raised to be an assassin, seeks vengeance on the drug lords who murdered her parents.  Genre – action, drama; content – violence, disturbing images, strong language, and sexuality.
  • Our Idiot Brother – After a pothead is released from jail, he discovers his life has changed as he annoyingly bums off his sisters.  Genre – comedy (if you say so); content – drug use (surprise surprise), nudity, and bad language.

The movie Jaws [1975]  is an obvious classic.  If nothing else, it gave us the most familiar musical score in film history.  However, it truly highlights Steven Speilberg’s genius as a filmmaker.  I’ve heard reports about his desire to keep the audience in suspense by not revealing the great white in the first hour of the film.  People thought he was crazy and pushed him to show the shark earlier, but he refused.  Many said this film would surely bomb.  But one could now easily argue that Speilberg’s daring move actually cemented Jaws as a timeless classic.  Why do I say that? Because when we see the special effects of the 1975 shark in the cgi-age of 2011, it looks really fake.

Not only did Speilberg know that the absence of the creature actually heightens the suspense, but he also knew that his film would one day be outdated.  He knew that he was a pioneer filmmaker, but he also knew there would be others to follow in his footsteps that would raise the bar on the whole process.  Whether he could articulate it or not, he was striving for perfection.

I don’t believe that remakes prove that Hollywood has lost unique ideas or stories, rather I think it illustrates a deeper longing we all have and that is perfection.  We touched on this a little yesterday, but now I want us to think a bit more about this idea.

Human beings spend much time and money trying to cover up the fact that we’re not perfect.  You can see this in our interaction with each other.  We can often be fake with one another and act like we’re not troubled with anything.  I’m not suggesting that you go out and share your heart with total strangers, but our outward friendliness often attempts to cover our imperfections.  We also see this with the numerous beauty products on the market.  ‘Wipe away 10 years’ or ‘No more gray‘ are the promises of many products.  All of which are trying to cover up the fact that we’re not only imperfect, but we’re dying.

Being recreated is part of our DNA, because we know that we were once perfect.  It is only natural for films like Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian to be recreated, because they, like us, have aged.  While those films offered good scares and action, they don’t compare to the horror and mayhem that will be at the box office this Friday night.  I guarantee you, if anyone rented the 80’s version of either one of these films, you would laugh.  It would be tough to make it through without somewhat of a smile, because the imperfections are easy to spot.  However, go to your local theater this weekend and see Night or Conan and I guarantee you it will seem more perfected.  Even if the plot is weak and you don’t care for the movies, the recreation is going to be more perfected.  Could it be because we are all moving closer to perfection?

As I mentioned yesterday, both of these films have brought back feelings of nostalgia from the 80’s.  While we do look back to the garden and think of a time absent of sin, Christians must look forward.  The truth is, we too have been remade.  Paul tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Cor. 5:17].  For the Christian, we know we should have bodies that don’t have aches and pains, bodies that don’t feel the effects of sin.  With all the remakes Hollywood has cranked out, and will continue to crank out, they’re really just illustrating the desire we all feel to be recreated.

The great thing about the recreation for Christians is the fact that it is finished.  The remake of Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian will get old.  They will become less suspenseful and less action packed, the special effects will get dated, and the actors will become unknowns.  But the new creation we become in Christ is final.  Once we enter the Kingdom where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal, the idea of recreating will be an afterthought.