Archive for April, 2012

Snapshots

Posted: April 30, 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.

The Avengers – A team of superheroes called, The Avengers, comes together to save the earth. Genre – action/adventure, sci-fi; content – mild language, violence, and some sexuality.

The Best Exotic Marigold – Moviegoer (speaking to person at ticket booth) “One ticket for The Best Ex…just kidding…one for The Avengers please.” Genre – comedy, drama; content – sexual content and language.

A Little Bit of Heaven – Friend #1: “The Avengers is sold out.” Friend #2: “Let’s just buy a ticket for A Little Bit of Heaven and sneak in.” Friend #1: “Great idea.” Genre – rom-com; content – sexual content and language.

In the movie,The Five-Year Engagement, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel play a couple that go against the grain of culture and pursue marriage…sort of. Violet (Blunt) and Tom (Segel) fall in love, eventually get engaged, however, the wedding is postponed after Violet gets a job at the University of Michigan. This postpones the engagement for two years, until she gets a promotion, which postpones it again, and so on.

Although there will no doubt be questionable content, Engagement looks like a funny film. Both Blunt and Segel appear to have good chemistry and are decent actors. However, this film illustrates some concerns I must share, especially because of the tolerant culture we live in.

People are waiting longer and longer to get married, yet they are not postponing falling in love; i.e., having sex, cohabiting, etc. People are giving their love away left and right, but don’t want the responsibility that comes with it.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are just one example from our culture. After years and years of living together, having children, and adopting children, it has been reported that they are finally engaged. The Fifteen-Year Engagement, a film which chronicles their love story will be released later this Fall (just kidding).

It should come as no surprise to Christians that the institution of marriage is taken lightly, not merely because of the culture we live in, but because of the fact that Satan hates God. If God is the one who invented marriage, you can rest assured that Satan will be using all of his strength to destroy it. The proof? Just to name a few, the divorce rate, same-sex marriage, and postponing marriage.

Why is marriage such a big deal? If the divorce rate is so high, why not rethink this whole marriage thing? As Christians, we must strive to honor and uphold marriage, for at least two reasons. One, God designed it. Two, he designed it as a way to communicate his love for the church.

I am in no way saying you shouldn’t watch Engagement, but I am saying that it’s feeding the all-to-common ideal of postponing marriage that this culture is perpetuating. The sobering reality to this is the fact that it is being heavily practiced in the Christian community.

Tom and Violet are doing what so many Christians are doing. They pursue a career before their marriage. Nothing is wrong with being driven and fulfilling a calling to a specific profession, but why not go ahead and get married if you’re in a relationship with someone you love?

The Bible NEVER says you need a certain job, or a certain amount of money in the bank account, before you get married, it does say, “But if they (the singled or widowed) cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Cor. 7:9)
I know Engagement, as well as the culture we live in, is okay with fornication but Christians shouldn’t be. However, many Christians are “burning with passion” instead of marrying their partner. This is a very serious concern that many Christians don’t seem to be giving much thought to. We tend to adamantly hold to the false commandment of ‘Thou shalt go to college, get a job, build up your savings, and then marry.” And all the while, they are burning with passion for that special someone.

Let me be clear, I am not saying The Five-Year Engagement is a movie attacking Christian ideals. What I am saying, is that this film brings up an issue that is prevalent in our culture. This culture is delaying marriage, but not the sex that is reserved for marriage. However, it is not merely the culture at large, but Christians are buying into and practicing this model, which is very dangerous.

Maybe, just maybe, this is one of the many factors that is adding to the divorce rate in our country. Think about it, we typically don’t have a lot of problems with Christians getting married at younger ages. Pursuing marriage first, then career. However, we do have it the other way around and many of those marriages are ending in divorce – not all, but many.

I know some will assert the idea that college-minded guys and girls are too immature. They need to grow up, live a little, and get ready to be married. The truth is though, no one is ever truly ready to be married. Marriage is a commitment that is beyond what anyone can comply to. In sickness and in health? Most people think of the common cold when they say that, but what about the traffic accident which leaves your spouse handicapped for the rest of your marriage? Part of God’s design of marriage is that he brings you to the end of yourself in order to make you cling to him. He is the one who is faithful.

Safe – This is your typical Jason Statham shoot-’em-up action film. However, he is defending some precious cargo in this film – a young girl who holds a valuable password. Now, we understand that Hollywood, most likely, wants to employ an ‘innocent’ little girl to possibly increase the amount of females that buy tickets (they already know the males will be lining up to see Statham blow stuff up), however, that idea resonates with many.

Will Safe be just another Statham action film? Is the twist of adding small girl to the plot just a way of justifying action? Will adding a young girl to the story increase the emotional response of the audience? Should a father-figure protecting a little girl resonate with audiences? What parallels can be drawn from our Heavenly Father and Luke Wright (Statham)? What aspects of this film can and should be praised by Christians?

The Raven – This film has an interesting concept for all the Edgar Allen Poe lovers out there. A serial killer torments his victims with inspiration from Poe’s works. This film will, no doubt, be dark and depraved, but what can gain from a film like this? Can the creative twist employing Poe’s works be appreciated? What can this film teach us about depravity? Can this help us better understand the darkness of mankind’s hearts? What does this film teach us about justice? What does this film teach us about good vs. evil?

The Five-Year Engagement – This film is a humors take on a couple’s engagement that continues to get postponed. Even though the couple seeks marriage, other things in life seem to take priority over that union. What does this film teach about the value of marriage? Are other things, like careers, deemed more important? Should careers be put before marriage? What does scripture tell us about careers and their importance? What does Scripture teach about marriage? What are the idols of the main characters in the film? What do they see as their salvation/gods? What good things are looked to as ultimate things in the film?

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – The story follows a clumsy pirate seeking to establish himself among his fellow buccaneers.  Although this film has some crude humor and sexual innuendo, it should prove to be a fun outing for the family.  However, since we are in the business of assisting Reel Thinkers, how can you engage your children in thinking about this film?  How can you use Pirates to teach and train your child?  You may think a film like this is for sheer entertainment, but I can guarantee you that truth will be communicated through this band of misfits.  What aspects of the pirates will they enjoy?  What aspects of a pirates life should not be for your child?  What are the main characters after?  Who is portrayed as good or evil? Why?  Be sure to use this film (yes, even this film) to raise your child as wise, instead of raising your own band of misfits.

This Friday we will be blogging on the film, The Five-Year Engagement.  It chronicles a couple’s engagement that gets postponed as life gets in the way.  We will highlight some thoughts that surround this film, but wanted to hear your thoughts on the matter.  Are long engagements bad?  What are some concerns that can arise from long engagements?  Are long engagements something Christians should avoid or pursue?  Take a second and let us hear from you below.

As mentioned in a previous post, I am a big fan of Batman. I have been since Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman hit the big screen. As I’ve reflected a bit more on Gotham City’s savior, I’ve come to see many parallels to the True Savior. We plan on doing several posts on the recent Batman franchise as The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters in a matter of months.

We previously spoke about the Dark Knight becoming a curse for Gotham City, which is a clear parallel to Christ (Gal. 3:13). Today we will highlight an aspect from Batman Begins that should point us to Christ.

In the 2005 hit, Batman Begins, audiences really got more back-story on the Capped Crusader. We were able to look more deeply into the life of Bruce Wayne. We learned about his fear of bats, which led to a bat being his symbol for justice, “Bats frighten me. It’s time my enemies share my dread.” We saw how Wayne learned how to fight, as well as, the origins of his costume and all of his cool bat-toys, including the Batmobile.

Prior to all of the cool bat-toys, we also learn about the not-so-glorious life of the Wayne family. If you remember, Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered on the streets of Gotham, leaving young Bruce to be raised by the family butler, Alfred. After Bruce grows up and has a few failed attempts at confronting the corruption of Gotham City, he seemingly gives up and disappears.

But the poverty and anonymity Bruce chose is eerily familiar.

After the failed attempt at confronting the evil Carmine Falcone, Bruce goes to the streets getting rid of his wallet, he later leaves Wayne manner, and enters a life of utter poverty. He becomes a nobody, a thug on the streets. He later gets arrested for “stealing” some goods that were being shipped in a warehouse. Although he was accused of stealing, the goods actually belonged to him. His life of poverty kept him from being recognized as the creator of the goods that were taken.

The words of the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 8:9 rang in my ears as I thought about this story, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Bruce Wayne was rich and somewhat free from the evils of the world. He lived in Wayne Manor, had endless money and possessions, and all the amenities that life had to offer him. However, the desire to rid ‘his city’ of corruption drove him to leave his throne, become poor, take on a ‘new body’, saving his people from evil.

It wasn’t until I began reflecting on the Dark Knight, that I saw the many similarities between him and Christ. Although Batman is a very cool hero, the parallels break down in numerous ways, and he falls infinitely short of the only Hero to ever walk the earth.

So as many of us cheer on Batman this summer at the local box office, let that hero point us to the True Savior of the Eternal City, Jesus Christ.

Snapshots

Posted: April 23, 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.

The Five-Year Engagement – A couple’s engagement continues to be postponed as life gets in the way. Genre – comedy, drama; content – sexual dialogue, language, violence, nudity.

The Raven – A detective must stop a madman that uses Edgar Allan Poe’s works to inspire his violent killings. Genre – mystery, thriller; content – bloody violence and gruesome images.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Captain Jack Sparrow is back with his…oh…wrong story. Pirate Captain battles his rivals for the Pirate of the Year Award. Genre – family; content – mild rude humor, some violence.

Safe – A young girl, whose memory holds a priceless code, is pursued by corrupt cops and the mob, forcing an ex-cage fighter to protect her. Genre – action, thriller, drama; content – strong violence, language,

Blue Like Jazz Interview

Posted: April 20, 2012 by jperritt in Comedy, Drama, Interview

I recently conducted an email interview with the authors of the book, Red Like Bloodgathering their thoughts on the release of the film Blue Like Jazz.  BLJ inspired Bob Bevington and Joe Coffee to write their book RLB.  Those who know anything about BLJ understand that despite the books popularity, it is not universally celebrated among Christians.  Whether you decide to read the book or watch the film, take a moment to read some of the thoughts below.

Did you read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz? If so, what were your thoughts?  JOE:  I loved the book. I think Donald Miller is an extraordinary storyteller. He is not merely gifted at telling a story but in choosing stories that express a truth most of us feel deep down. Good stories are like good music. They have the ability to go further in and touch both the intellect and emotion. Reading something like Blue Like Jazz can be a spiritual experience. I think that is why it resonated with so many.

You claim that Miller’s propositions were aimed at deconstructing a lot of what is bogus in the lives of todays Christians. Hypocrisy. Indifference. And intolerance toward injustice.  Please elaborate on what you mean by this.  JOE:  I think it was Ghandi who said, “I would be a Christian if it were not for Christians.” People long for genuine spirituality and feel it is wholly lacking within the established Christian community. I think there is some truth to that but I don’t think it is the whole truth. It does make for an easy target and it is an easy way to gather a crowd.

What would you say to Christians who read, and loved, the book? JOE:  I would say that Bob and I are with you. We loved the book as well as far as it went.

How did BLJ inspire your book, Red Like BloodJOE:  I think we loved the honesty and the rawness of BLJ. I think Donald Miller is very gifted and has a particular style that made reading BLJ an adventure. We wanted to take people on the same type of journey.

How can you say that BLJ doesn’t preach the gospel? In your words, what is the gospel? JOE:  The gospel is not a nebulous feeling of spirituality. The gospel is something that is rooted in an historical event. It is one of the things that makes Christianity different than every other type of spirituality. The gospel is the amazing truth that we are loved to such an extent that we are actually redeemed. In the words of Tim Keller, “The good news is that even though we are more deeply flawed than we have ever wanted to admit to anyone, even ourselves, we are more deeply loved than we have ever dared to imagine.” That love takes the form of a substitutionary sacrifice by Jesus Christ on the cross. His life for ours.

Why would so many Christians like a book that doesn’t preach the gospel?JOE:  I think a lot of Christians believe the gospel is the starting point of Christianity. It is something they did when they were at camp and that got them their Christian ID card. But that is about it. I think many Christians would feel a book about the gospel is for non-Christians to explain how they can join the club.

What are your concerns about the book and the movie? BOB:  They masterfully draw people in with their transparency and vulnerability—because everyone can relate to brokenness caused by our sin. But they leave people short because they don’t draw people to the authentic Jesus—the One who came to seek and save the lost. Telling that story needs a dying Savior or it makes no sense.

Have you seen the movie?  Do you plan on it? BOB: Not yet. But Joe and I will definitely see it as soon as we can.

On your blog you said, “BLJ might turn out to mark a sea-change in Christian film making.”  What do you mean by that and how do you think BLJ will accomplish that?  BOB: Christians like to use movies to preach to people and so it feels almost immediately like a bait and switch. Christian movies feel enormous pressure to make God look good so nearly everything needs to eventually work out in the end. That is just plain cheesy and unlike real life. It is also bad theology.

What advice would you give to Christian filmmakers, actors, etc.?  BOB: Make movies that portray reality. Including the reality of the way sinners actually talk and behave. The gospel is a reality, the greatest reality of all. Don’t leave it out. Creatively intersect the two storylines.

What advice would you give to Christians who truly like the cheesy and unrealistic Christian films? JOE:  Be careful. I would encourage moviegoers to watch all movies critically, both Christian and secular.

Thursday’s Thoughts

Posted: April 19, 2012 by jperritt in Thursday's Thoughts
Tags: ,

Today we are going to start a new series of posts that will frequent the Reel Thinking site. Even though we typically pick one film to review on Thursdays and Fridays, there are some other films that we should think about but often don’t discuss. Therefore, we’re going to start Thursday’s Thoughts. We will attempt to highlight a few thoughts about every film for the weekend in order to help our readers. These thoughts will pick up on various themes and worldviews that are being communicated through film – intentionally and unintentionally. Please let us know what you think.

The Lucky One – This tells the story of a Marine who travels to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war.

You don’t have to think too hard to see that this will be a film that idolizes love. This is your typical chic-flick that women will flock too. However, should women approach this film with caution? Will this film establish a sinful/selfish view of love? How will teenager girls process a story about this? What potential lies does a film like this feed us? Why is it dangerous to idolize love? Is it good to worship another person who may have saved your life? Could this film give us a view of a false savior? Do you think this is a film one should just sit back and enjoy without thinking? Why?

Think Like a Man – Four friends conspire to turn the tables on their women when they discover the ladies have been using Steve Harvey’s relationship advice against them.

This film is obviously taking a humorous look at marriage. It’s a battle of man vs. woman and the trophy is who gets to wears the pants. Now a movie like this could definitely be humorous, however, what potential concerns should a movie like this raise? In a culture where the divorce rate is extremely high, should we pit spouses against each other? When Scripture tells us that husbands and wife are to become “one” is it okay to plot against them behind their back? What trouble could this cause when men and women are concealing truth? Although this film is a comedy, is it truly funny to have spouses plotting against each other?

Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz was a very successful work that took an honest look at Christianity.  His book sold over a million copies and was a New York Times bestseller.  It has now been made into a feature-length film and was release last Friday.  This Friday we have an interview discussing the book and film and why it raises some concern among Christians.  For now we just wanted to know if you plan on seeing it.

Writer/Director Christopher Nolan has made some amazing films.  While we anxiously await the final installment of his rendition of the Batman saga, let’s take a moment to reflect on his 2010 hit, Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  Take a look back at the original trailer for the film.

Inception is a mind-bender to say the least.  DiCaprio plays Dominic Cobb – a professional thief, but not just any thief.  Cobb specializes in “extraction” – the process of stealing secrets from the subconscious mind.  Extraction involves entering into a person’s mind while he or she is dreaming, rummaging around for the needed info, and high tailing it back to reality before the person’s subconscious catches on.

If you don’t like to think while watching a movie and would rather choose to simply vegetate on the couch, I would suggest you avoid this film.  At the same time, here at Reel Thinking, it is our goal to be thinkers.  We want everyone to forgo simple entertainment, and watch movies with our brains turned on – filtering film through a biblical worldview.  Go on, give it a try!  If you are reading this, chances are that I am preaching to the choir or perhaps God has brought you here for such a time as this.

As the film unfolds we find out that Cobb is a complicated man.  Not only does his profession place him on the wrong side of the law, but we soon find that he has also been hiding a few skeletons in his own subconscious closet.  I want to avoid too many spoiler-like details, so I will simply say that Cobb is running from the law and is estranged from his young children.

Cobb and his team of dream-interlopers are offered a chance to clear Cobb’s name and restore him to his children.  They are asked to use their skills to perform “Inception” – the process of planting an idea in the subconscious.  This is far more dangerous than extraction, because you must travel much deeper into the subconscious and risk losing contact with reality altogether. (Getting all this? I know, it is crazy – just hang in there.)

In order to keep their hold on reality, they have developed a system by which they know if they are in a dream or reality.  They call it a totem. A totem is an object that acts differently in the dream world than in reality.  Cobb keeps a small metal top in his pocket as his totem.  In the real world, the top works as it is designed.  When he spins it in a dream, it never topples over.  It simply remains spinning.

Big spoiler: Movie ending!!  After completing his assignment, Cobb returns to his home where he sees his children in the back yard.  This is the moment he has literally been dreaming about – his heart’s desire – reunion with his children.  As the film ends, Cobb spins the top one last time and looks at his children…he wants to know if the moment is real or if he dreaming.  As the top spins on the table, the camera zooms in and the film ends.  Yep, that is the ending.  (I literally heard someone cry, “Noooo!” in the theater).

So…Did it topple?  Christopher Nolan wants you be the judge.  The film is designed to make you wonder – to determine your reality.  Nolan purposely ends the film with ambiguity in order for the audience to experience the film as Cobb experienced his life.

He writes, “There can’t be anything in the film that tells you one way or another because then the ambiguity at the end of the film would just be a mistake … It would represent a failure of the film to communicate something. But it’s not a mistake. I put that cut there at the end, imposing an ambiguity from outside the film. That always felt the right ending to me — it always felt like the appropriate ‘kick’ to me….The real point of the scene — and this is what I tell people — is that Cobb isn’t looking at the top. He’s looking at his kids. He’s left it behind. That’s the emotional significance of the thing.”

I recently watched this film with a group of high school students.  After the movie, I polled the group to see who thought is that to top fell over and who thought it kept spinning.  I also asked them the reasons they made their conclusion.  Many of the students believed that it toppled, but there remained a small contingency of nay-sayers.  So why did the majority think it toppled??  Because they want the happy ending…they wanted Cobb to succeed – to get back his children.  The skeptics and pessimists of the group were not convinced.  They held out that Cobb was still in dreamland.  What is your theory?

Films like Inception force us to deal with our own perception of reality.  We are challenged to ask ourselves if we live in the real world or exist in a “reality” of our own design.  Sadly, the fallen human condition pushes us toward the latter.  In order to “cope” with the reality of a broken world, we choose to believe lies.  Instead of believing that people are sinful and in need of a Savior, we claim that humans are essentially good and merely lack in self-confidence or perhaps only need only to believe in their potential to achieve their dreams.  I’m sorry, but according to the Bible, the top is still spinning in that world.

In the book of 1 John, we read, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us….If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1: 8, 10).  According to the Creator of the Universe, reality is not what we make it.  Reality is what God reveals as truth.

It is true that this world is full of brokenness, sin, and death.  But that is not the whole story.  Look at the rest of the 1 John passage.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 5-7, 9).

As Christians, we need not fear the difficult reality of a sinful world.  We need not choose to live in a dreamworld in order to avoid dealing with our own sin and the surrounding pain of others.  There is hope!  Jesus Christ entered into our reality to make us walk in the light – to see reality!

We can resonate with the story of Inception because it is a picture of the story of the Bible.  We too were estranged from our Father in Heaven because of sin – in need of a reunion with God.  In his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ points us to reality!  He is our totem – the assurance that by faith we are truly reunited with our Father!  Let us daily be reminded of that reality by, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).