Archive for February, 2012

Tomorrow and Friday we will be blogging on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance…yes, you read that correctly. This movie is a joke and will most likely be terrible. However, there is Truth in this film, so we’re blogging about it. Speaking of truth, be honest and tell us if you plan on watching this movie…don’t be embarrassed.

Not too long ago I wrote two posts (find them here and here) dealing with themes surrounding Liam Neeson’s new film, They Grey. Those post deal well with ideologies in the film, however, I had the chance to see the film and would like to share some additional thoughts. I will warn you that this post will have MAJOR spoilers (I’m going to disclose the ending in the next paragraph). If you do plan on watching this film, you should probably abstain from this post.

The Grey’s main character is Ottway (Neeson). He is a man that’s been given the task of defending Alaskan oil drillers from wolves. Because of this task, he is able to help the men greatly when their plane crash-lands in the wilderness. As the men are slowly picked off by a pack of wolves, they fight for survival against the extreme temperatures and ravenous wolves. However, this is one of those untraditional Hollywood endings where the hero dies…everyone does for that matter.

The title of the film tells you much about what it’s communicating. The word ‘grey’ conjures up cold and bleak feelings, a sense of helplessness. The cinematography for the entirety of the movie communicates exactly that. The attitude of Ottway’s character is cold, & the philosophy of fatalism is communicated throughout the film. Not to mention the feeling one gets as the credits roll right as the hero falls. Even if you were one of those who stayed until the credits had completely rolled, you still see the fallen protagonist laid against the dead alpha wolf.

I have spoken with several who did not care for the film, I did, however. If we simply accepted the message the film tries to communicate, I agree, it is pretty bleak. The characters really don’t give anyone much hope. They constantly state the helplessness of their situation. Ottway, as he communicates to a dying passenger on the plane, makes a statement that sets the tone for the entire story, “You’re going to die.” Although this was a somewhat gracious statement attempting to calm the man down, it was hopeless.

Vanity of Life
As the character of Diaz is dying, he exclaims that he really doesn’t have much to live for. He asks what is the point? He remarks on the fact that even if he lives, there’s no point to his life anyway. He then throws in the towel and accepts his fate.

Ottway makes a similar claim. After all of his comrades have fallen on this journey, we see him at his most vulnerable. He looks up to heaven and screams at God, cursing him to “Show him something!” Pleading with God to give him a reason to believe. When the answer is nothing but silence, Ottway exclaims, “I’ll just do it myself!”

There is no God, there is no hope, everything is predetermined, and we must make our own fate. This would be the surface message of The Grey, however, illuminating this message through the lens of Scripture, there is a deeper meaning.

Ottway’s entire life reflects his exclamation toward God at the end of the film, “I’ll just do it myself.” He doesn’t believe there’s a God and wants to live a life independent from God, especially because of his bitterness over the death of his wife.  Ottway is in rebellion towards God and the entire film is an illustration of what that life looks like. It’s interesting that one of the men even asks the question of the other survivors, “Do you think this was ordained?” Even though they dismissed it, he was exactly right. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

The Lord is not apathetic towards sin, Scripture is clear that he hates sin because he loves righteousness. We are all rebellious – Christians and unbelievers. The only difference is the fact that Jesus took the wrath on himself so believers don’t have to drink that cup. However, the end of The Grey is a fitting reminder for those outside of Christ. Ottway’s entire path of rebellion led him to a den of wolves. The last place any man would want to find himself. A place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Snapshots

Posted: February 13, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots

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. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

This Means War

      – Two CIA agents fall in love with the same women and fight for her…both physically and metaphorically speaking. Genre – action, comedy, romance; content – violence, language, and sexuality.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence – If the first Ghost Rider didn’t kill Cage’s career, chances are this flaming-skeleton-on-a-Harley won’t either. Genre – action, sci-fi, horror, true story; content – violence, language, scary images of a flaming skeleton guy.

The Secret World of Arrietty – Arrietty, the daughter of a four-inch-tall family, is discovered by the residence of the house they are living in. Genre – children, fantasy, family; content – It’s rated G.

Yesterday we considered one possible theme in The Vow starring Channing Tatum and Rachel Mc Adams.  We asked the question, “What is the basis of our marriage vows?”  (you can check out that post here).

The very title of this film strikes me as odd in a culture that seems to care very little for marriage vows.  We live in a culture where commitment is frowned upon and back-up plans are encouraged.  Prenuptial agreements may not be standard fare yet, but many choose to live together first before promising to stick out the relationship  (“try before you buy”).  It is really quite remarkable that stories like The Vow are still playing on the silver screen.

It is important to remember that covenant-breaking is not a recent phenomenon.  We need not be too hard on our culture.  God’s people were continually unfaithful in the Old Testament.  The prophet Ezekiel delivered God’s message to his people, the Israelites, “For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant…” (Ezekiel 16:59 ESV – emphasis mine).  Lest you think that this was one moment of covenant weakness, I must tell you that this is par for the course with Israel.  God’s people are known for their unfaithfulness.

If we are honest, covenant-breaking should not be relegated to Israel.  The truth of the matter is that since the Garden of Eden humanity has been unfaithful to their Creator.  The human heart, which is intended to be in relationship with God, is inclined to worship and serve other things.  John Calvin said it this way, ““From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols” (from Institutes of the Christian Religion).  The human heart is a divided heart.

Is there any hope for covenant-breakers?  Yes!

Praise God that there was one member of humanity who never broke covenant relationship with God.  Jesus Christ – the perfect, covenant-keeper – gladly paid the death penalty due covenant-breaking humanity.  In his death and resurrection, Jesus purchased our way back to God.  Consider the second part of the Ezekiel passage mentioned above, “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 16:62-62 ESV).

It is only the gospel of Jesus Christ that can turn covenant-breakers into covenant-keepers!  As we watch stories like The Vow, let us remember what gives human love stories their true meaning – the ultimate love story of the covenant-keeping God.

Reel Thinking desires to be an equal opportunity site (I haven’t really asked any of the other contributors about this, but I am sure that they would agree.).  This means that from time to time we will include films which fit into the “romance” genre.  Check out my post on The Notebook for another such film.  Seeing that Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, I thought this might be the right time to consider the upcoming release of The Vow – starring Channing Tatum (cue throbbing hearts) and Rachel McAdams.  Check out the trailer…

The Notebook 2…I mean, The Vow (sorry, couldn’t resist) promises to be a story about love and commitment.  Leo (Tatum) and Paige (McAdams) are enjoying a happily married life until a car accident puts Paige in a coma which results in severe memory loss.  The Vow is supposed to display the actions of a committed husband working to win back his wife’s heart.  Sounds like a perfect movie for a Valentine’s date.

In the trailer we hear Leo say, “Life’s all about moments of impact and how they change our lives forever, but what if one day you could never remember any of them?”  This is a curious statement because of what it assumes – especially in relationship to love and marriage vows.  Is love based upon emotional “moments of impact” – fond memories that when lost can threaten our vows?  Maybe I am reading too much into this film, but nevertheless this is an interesting issue for us to consider as we watch The Vow.  What is the basis of our marriage vows?  How will this film answer that question?

The Bible is a book of vows.  It is a “covenantal” book.  In it, the God of the universe enters into covenant relationship with his people.  Throughout the story of Scripture, God’s people continually fail to remain faithful to the covenant (more on that tomorrow).  In spite of their unfaithfulness, God is faithful to his vow of love.  This is the gospel: The faithful God redeems his unfaithful people.  Consider Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

What is the basis for this kind of love?  Simply this: God’s promise.  God did not choose to love a people based upon the great memories of their courtship.  Deuteronomy 7:6-8 describes the way God relates to his people,

“…The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery…”

Before you begin your protest let me say this…of course love is emotional too!  I am not saying that love is mere mechanical commitment.  That would be too reductionistic.  The point to consider is that true love is not based upon mere emotion – even strong “moments of impact.”  Vow-keeping love is based upon promise – a commitment to remain in relationship.  Let’s keep our biblical minds engaged as our emotions are stirred up during this film.  And yes, guys, it’s okay to cry.

Christopher Nolan is quickly becoming one of the most fascinating film directors of our time.  Four of his movies (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Inception) rank in the IMDB Top 250 movies, even though Nolan is just 41 years old.  He is presently finishing his fabulous Dark Knight trilogy, as well as the production of a new Superman movie.  So I thought it would be worthwhile to view one of his earliest films, the low-budget 2000 film Memento.  Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

If you have seen Inception, your head will hurt in much the same way when you watch Memento.  The story is told mainly in reverse with some forward action mixed in.  The protagonist, Leonard Shelby, suffers from short-term memory loss after receiving a blow to the head when he witnessed his wife’s murder.  He uses Polaroid photographs, notes, and tattoos as memory aids to hunt for the murderer.  Leonard needs those “facts” to get him started each day (and sometimes during the day) since he can’t commit anything to memory since the murder.

This short-term memory loss causes a variety of problems for Leonard, as you can imagine.  Friends become offended that he can’t remember anything about them–even their names.  Several people take advantage of his memory loss, from the humorous (renting him multiple motel rooms since he can’t remember his room number) to the dangerous (manipulating him to commit crimes).  And finally, Leonard has the tedious daily task of continuing to put the puzzle pieces of the murder mystery together, always starting from square one.

The key theme of Memento is our utter dependence on our memories.  Without his short-term memory, Leonard has to create an imitation memory by way of notes, photos, and tattoos.  He attaches captions to the photos so that he knows where he lives, who to trust, and who might be his wife’s murderer.  The tattoos are believed to be irrefutable facts, thus he makes them “permanent” all over his body.  Leonard convinces himself that his information system is actually better than mere human memory because he is relying on “facts” rather than a weak memory.  The problem is that his perceived facts need interpretation, can also be manipulated, and require proper context to truly understand them.

You’ll have to watch the movie (if you don’t mind an overuse of the “f” word) to find out what Leonard’s short-term memory loss does to him in the end.  What you’ll ultimately discover–if you don’t know it already–is how much we NEED our memories!  Scripture consistently exhorts us to make regular use of our memories.  Israel was often instructed to remember their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.  They were to remember God’s love for them and all His commands.  Why?  Because, in a way, we are all suffering from Leonard’s disability.  We are commanded to remember God and His ways every day because we so often forget.  As Leonard basically “started over” in his remembering each day, so must we.

The good news for believers is that, even with our short-term memory loss, God always remembers us!  His memory is perfect, and His daily remembering moves Him to merciful action.  Instead of Polaroids, notes, and tattoos, the LORD God has covenant signs that prompt Him to remember His promises.  The rainbow serves as a sign to remind him to never destroy the earth with a flood again.  Baptism is a covenant sign that points to the believer’s union with Christ and our cleansing from sin.  And, best of all, God’s remembering of His people is accompanied by an absolute commitment to “remember our sins no more” because of the blood of Christ!  If God would ever forget us, we would all be lost in our sins forever.

Like all of us, Leonard absolutely needed his memory.  Without it, he inadvertently manipulated the facts of his life into a totally different story.  His memory aids ended up failing him.  Thankfully, instead of Polaroids, notes, and tattoos, we have God’s Word as the perfect memory aid.  It gives our memories perfect context and direction.  In the end, it is God’s Word that must be tattooed all over our minds–as we read in Deuteronomy 11:18, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

Snapshots

Posted: February 6, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
Tags: , , ,

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. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – Some people go looking for an old man who is said to be missing on a mystical island. Genre – action, comedy, fantasy; content – brief mild language.
  • The Vow (The Notebook part 2) – A wife loses her memory in a car accident causing her husband to try and win her heart again….sniff, sniff. Genre – drama, tear-jerker, chic-flick; genre – sexuality, partial nudity, and language.
  • Safe House – When a safe house is attacked, a young CIA agent goes on the run with the fugitive he has in custody. Genre – action, thriller, drama; content – language and strong violence.

Yesterday we looked at some of the themes of This Means War and how it raises some concerns for Christians. This may seem somewhat surprising since the film seems to be a fairly light-hearted, funny take on a love-trianlge. However, that is what may be so disconcerting for Christians, that is, taking such a serious thing and making light of it.

Let’s take a step back from the film for a second and let me ask you how you would feel in the same scenario. What if you found out someone you cared about had been intimately involved with another? You would be filled with a thousand different horrible emotions. Part of the design of sex is to draw two people together. Therefore, jealousy, rage, depression, sadness, fear, hate, and many other things come to the surface when we discover unfaithfulness in another.

Now I know some may argue, ‘But John, this movie presents it in a humorous fashion. Don’t get so uptight.’ Which is exactly my point from yesterday, should something so serious be presented in a humorous way? Let’s draw this out a bit further from a biblical perspective.

Sex was created by God to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in marriage. And it is through marriage that God illustrates his relationship to us. He is in a covenantal relationship with his people and HE is the faithful party. WE are the unfaithful spouse who are involved in the love-triangle, to use the movie analogy (only we have given our love to more than one other lover).

Scripture likens us to whores because of our unfaithfulness, all the while, God remains faithful but not emotionless. God, in part, would agree with the film. He too would entitle his film in the same way – This Means War.

You see, people shy away from talking about God’s wrath, but it actually communicates how loving he is. Using the example from the film, Tom Hardy & Chris Pine are both infuriated at the other, because of their love for Reese Witherspoon. We know this parallel breaks down, because pride is a driving force behind these two CIA agent’s battle, but love is involved as well.

Getting personal, if someone was to mistreat my wife, I would not sit back and watch. You better believe I’m coming at you and there isn’t an army who can stop me – this is true of God. When we give our love to anything else, be it sports, money, sex, leisure time, possessions, or whatever else, God gets jealous because he LOVES us.

God reminds us many times in Scripture that he is a jealous God and jealousy can only occur when you love someone. If you don’t love someone, you don’t care what they do. Therefore, the reaction of the CIA agents over Lauren (Witherspoon) is normal in a fallen world.

Love + unfaithfulness = jealousy, and, although taken lightly, this is what TMW communicates. God loves his people with such an intense love, he hates it when they give their love to another. This is the first commandment, You shall have no other gods before me. There is no one, or thing, that can love us in the way God can. And there is no one who will jealously declare war over those false gods like our infinitely faithful Father.

When I first heard of This Means War, I thought it sounded like a pretty funny scenario and felt that the cast could make this film enjoyable. However, from recent TV spots and ads, I began to question whether or not we should even discuss this film on our site. To assist the readers who may not know much about the film, let me add a brief synopsis.

According to IMDb’s website (the best movie website) the storyline follows two top CIA operatives [who] wage an epic battle against one another after they discover they are dating the same woman. The movie, humorously, depicts the two agents using aggressive force to knock each other out of the competition and win the girl. It is a mixing of genres – romantic comedy meets action adventure. Plus it is directed by McG, which tells you a lot. He typically directs entertaining action movies (Charlie’s Angels 1 & 2) and his name is McG….seriously, McG (it’s really Joseph McGinty Nichol but he only retains three of those letters).

Even though I had some hesitation about discussing this film at Reel Thinking, I felt that we should still do so. Part of our commitment is to discuss just about any film (excluding pornography) through the lens of Scripture. This film can still illustrate truth. Which brings me to the storyline and caution surrounding this film.

As mentioned above, two CIA agents discover they are dating the same woman. Let’s just be brutally honest and say that the world’s definition of dating isn’t the same as Christian’s. Dating, to the world means, sleeping with, fornicating, having sex. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of Christians who have sinned and gone down that path, however, the ‘dating’ this love-trianlge is doing in TMW is highly sexualized in the previews.

Brief side note here, according to Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, in 1896 dating was introduced as lower-class slang in reference to prostitution. That being said, it seems that most of the culture and Hollywood have embraced dating’s initial meaning.

As a believer, what aspect of this film should be most troublesome? For starters, and those who place stock in the MPAA, this film’s rating has been debated. It was initially given an R rating but moved to PG-13, whatever that means. Second, there seems to be significant sexual content. Third, there will be a decent amount of violence. While all of these should give caution to Christians and require an amount of discernment (I hope it does) these should be lesser concerns for the Christian.

The story follows three people becoming one…wait, how is that possible? Where is that in Genesis? We have a love-triangle; i.e., two people being joined together as one and then one of those people being joined to a third. What does this communicate abouti sex or dating or marriage? However, what might be more troublesome than this love-triangle is the fact that it is to be viewed as humorous.

We laugh at the extremes the two CIA agents go to as they battle each other for the love of a woman. It’s humorous to discover their jealous reaction when they discover they’ve given their love to a woman that is giving it to another. We think it’s funny that the woman becomes an object/mission/contest for these two agents to win. At least that’s what the previews communicate. But, for the Christian, these are gross perversions of love, marriage, unity, and relationship. Therefore, we must be cautious of the manner in which these lies are communicated. If not, one may subtlety buy into these and begin to treat them as rational ideals, when they are clearly lies. We must be cautious of laughing at lies.

We’ve had a few weekends like the one we’re preparing for.  That is, those weekends that seem to be fairly weak at the box office.  Although some of the weekend releases seem to be somewhat intriguing, our guess is that none of these films will be timeless.  Therefore, we are jumping ahead a few weeks to the movie, This Means War.  Even though TMW might not be a timeless film, there are some interesting themes to hit on.  Plus, this movie does look pretty entertaining.  The story is fun, action looks fun, & the cast is well put-together.  However, what do you think?  Do you think This Means War looks entertaining?