Archive for May, 2012

My wife and I rarely get to go to the movies. We often receive them through Netflix, but going to the theater is a once, or twice, a year occurrence. However, a gracious family friend offered to keep the kids, so we got the opportunity to go to the local cineplex. Since it’s the summertime we thought a summer blockbuster would be fun to see, so we checked out What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I know we’ve already had a couple of posts on this, and I also realize this isn’t a summer blockbuster, but I wanted to point out a couple of things I enjoyed about this film.

This film received bad reviews and there is some content that Christians must be sensitive to, however, I actually liked the film. It had some good humor in it and it was fun to be able to go to the theater with my wife. Yes it was ‘sitcom-y’ as some critics have said and there was some weak acting, but there were two aspects of the film I enjoyed.

(There will be some spoilers)

First, I enjoyed the young romance between Marco (Chace Crawford)and Rosie (Anna Kendrick), but not for the reasons you might think. Their story was your formulaic, cheesy, romantic comedy love that is so often depicted at the theaters. They had your way-to-typical banter and fast-paced love that so often occurs, but there was somewhat of a twist I appreciated.

Marco and Rosie had some history together, which made their rushed romance more believable. After they let their emotions dictate their decisions, Rosie meets back up with Marco to tell him she’s expecting. This is obviously a shock to both and it doesn’t fit the cutesy young love we so often see onscreen. Shortly after they decide to keep the baby (something we should applaud), but Rosie has a miscarriage and loses the child.

Even though the story of Marco and Rosie didn’t always seem to fit the movie, I appreciated the realism their story depicted. It was so formulaic until the reality of pregnancy and miscarriage were depicted. Your typical rom-coms don’t throw in the reality of sleeping around leading to an unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage. I appreciated the sobering reminders that their story communicated.

The second aspect of the film I enjoyed was the overall positive portrayal of parenting and children. I know the film makes many jokes, jabs even, at having children. But, the overall message of parenting is very positive. They do not minimize the difficulties and drastic changes that come about with children, which is true. With lines like, ‘This [parenting] is where happiness goes to die.’, one may think this is going to be anti-family film but it’s not.

I think if every parent is honest, they would admit that there are times when they’ve thought their children have robbed them of happiness. Children are difficult and they so often rob us of our idol of peace we think we deserve. So WTEWYE does give an accurate portrayal of the frustrations that arise from parenting, but also the happiness. We have the best line of the film from Vic (Chris Rock). I’ve only seen the film once, so I may misquote, but he says something along the lines of, ‘Before children, I thought I knew what happiness was, but now that I have them I really know what happiness is. It’s hard, but I’m happier now.’ He’s affirming what every parent knows to be true. Parenting is hard…very hard, but there is much happiness as well.

All of this to say, I found WTEWYE to be an enjoyable film. It probably won’t be a film I watch again and it won’t be a classic, but there were many positive elements Christians should appreciate. WTEWYE affirms parenting, adoption and a couple choosing life. It also faithfully shows the consequences of sex that may occur. Christians so often criticize Hollywood, but forget to applaud them when they communicate truths we affirm. This is why I felt the need to communicate why I enjoyed this film. Again, giving some cautions to the content, I hope you can appreciate this film from a biblical perspective.

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As we have witnessed on many weekends, we have a pretty weak showing of films opening up.  While Snow White and the Huntsman looks intriguing, the other two are garbage (just our opinion…but it’s right).  However, we know people think differently from us, and may be excited about some of these horri….I mean…interesting films being released.  Therefore, if we were going to make you pick a movie being released this weekend, which one would it be?

I know, I know–they should have probably stopped with just a trilogy.  Or maybe even with just one.  I certainly did miss Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann–not to mention the pirate with the wooden eyeball and his sidekick.  And yes, we’re all agreed that Penelope Cruz was an utter disappointment as a replacement heroine.  But, I would argue that Johnny Depp easily makes up for those weaknesses in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, as he has really carried all four of these swashbuckling adventure films.

And now for the boldest assertion of this entire post: This fourth installment is the best of the series!  Before you stop reading because you are laughing so hard, let me clarify a bit.  Pirates 4 is the best because it will give your family the most to talk about from a Christian worldview perspective.  The three other films are pretty much mindless, sword-fighting fun.  But for some reason, the writers of this installment took it to another level.  They decided to make some fascinating statements about eternal life.  Other than the joy of watching the antics of Captain Jack Sparrow, what more could we ask for!

Pirates 4 centers on the search for the fountain of youth.  The Spanish are pursuing it.  The English are pursuing it.  Blackbeard and his daughter are pursuing it.  Captain Jack Sparrow, of course, is right in the middle of it all.  From the very beginning, this is more than just a search for a mythical place.  As Jack’s dad tells him: “The fountain will test you.”  That truth frames the rest of the movie.

So let’s try to piece together the eternal life/salvation threads (you can enjoy the fun fight scenes in-between).  Spoiler Alert! A missionary is brought along on Blackbeard’s ship in hopes of saving the evil pirate’s soul.  Blackbeard’s daughter is putting her faith instead in the fountain of life to give her father eternal life.  Barbosa wants to take Blackbeard’s life, out of revenge for the loss of his leg.  The missionary saves a mermaid (her tear is needed for eternal life) and begins to see her as something more than a soul-less creature.  [We find out later that the mermaid also spared the missionary’s life out of love for him.]  Jack Sparrow ends up saving the life of Blackbeard’s daughter, out of some mixture of love and guilt.  Are you following all this?  The climax actually sorts everything out in a fascinating way…don’t read anymore if you don’t want to know the ending!

All three search parties finally make it the fountain of youth.  While the English and Blackbeard’s pirates fight, the Spanish finally show up.  The Spanish commander gives the best line of the movie as he casts away Ponce de Leon’s magical chalices: “Only God can grant eternal life, not this pagan water.”  Hooray for the Spanish!  Love the Spanish!  Then another great line is given to Blackbeard: “You are a fool.  You seek in this place what only faith can provide.”  Of course, we get the response of the cynical, athiestic Blackbeard next: “In faith there is light enough to see, but darkness enough to blind.”  What? Take that, Christian!

It actually gets even more interesting after that exchange.  The mermaid retrieves the chalices and declares to Jack Sparrow: “Don’t waste my tear” (translated: give eternal life to someone worthwhile).  From the fight over the fountain of youth, both Blackbeard and his daughter are mortally wounded.  Blackbeard chooses to save himself when he could have saved his daughter, still operating from his own selfish wickedness.  But Jack, knowing sinful human nature, switches the chalices, saving the daughter and killing Blackbeard instead.  And then comes his great line on salvation: “Your father saved you, perhaps he now has eternal life.” And finally, the missionary finds ultimately his eternal in the depths of the sea with the beautiful mermaid, who says: “I can save you if you only ask.” 

Now when I first saw the movie with my children last summer, I asked them a simple question to get the conversation started: “Who’s the real hero of the story?”  Was it Jack for giving eternal life to Blackbeard’s daughter?  Was it the mermaid for the giving of her tear and the salvation of the missionary?  Was it Barbosa for effectively killing the bad guy, Blackbeard?  Or, were the Spanish the true heroes, for pursuing the destruction of the pagan temple of eternal life?  You probably know my answer.  The Spanish clearly stayed committed to this foundational Biblical truth: Eternal life is found in Christ alone.  These seemingly narrow-minded religious zealots really understood the source of true life.

Pirates 4 reminds us that people have always sought eternal life outside of Jesus Christ.  In our day, we have all manner of “fountains of youth” that deceive us into thinking they will extend our lives or give us abundant lives.  I’ll leave it to you to think through what some of those idolatrous fountains are!  Many people seek them aggressively like Blackbeard and his pirates.  Others are simply pragmatists about eternal life, like Jack Sparrow.  And, unfortunately, there are even those within our churches who, like the missionary, abandon their faith for idolatrous loves.  May we always be zealous like the Spanish, both believing in Christ alone for eternal life and proclaiming that truth to the world!

Snapshots

Posted: May 28, 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.

Snow White and the Huntsman – This live action adaptation of the children’s classic is not for children and probably won’t be a classic; looks kinda cool though. Genre – Action, Fantasy, Drama; content – violence, disturbing images, and some sensuality.

Piranha 3DD – In this sequel to the gross-out porn, Piranha, piranhas begin attacking people in bath tubs and water parks. Genre – Horror, ‘comedy’, thriller; content – extreme gore and horror violence, graphic nudity, and language.

Battlefield America – It’s basically the same thing as the dance films, Step Up, except it has a bunch of eight-year-olds…gyrating…fighting…acting like adults…but they’re eight (Could they pick a title that tells you less about the actual film?). Genre – ‘Action Dancing’; content – drug use, language, aggressive dance gyrations, violent dancing, and nasty dance trash-talk.

We are continuing our thoughts on trilogies at Reel Thinking, by looking at films that should not have been made. As you can guess from the title, this list includes films that should have stopped with one. Most of the below mentioned films had excellent inaugural films, but horrific ensuing installments. As you know, Men In Black 3 is released today, therefore, some of you may think that franchise belongs on this list. Let us hear from you.

If you missed the reasoning behind our look at trilogies, it is because the release of The Dark Knight Rises, which could prove to complete one of the best trilogies of cinema in recent years. This is our second part of our three-part series on trilogies (see what we did there?). Our Top 10 Trilogies can be found here and here. Our next list will be the Top 10 films that should have a trilogy/sequel, entitled: Why Oh Why Didn’t You Make a Sequel? Hope you enjoy.

John Perritt’s Top 10:

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. The Matrix
  3. Star Wars (I, II, II)
  4. Indiana Jones IV
  5. Karate Kid
  6. Jaws
  7. Batman (Tim Burton’s; it was good for its time but went downhill fast)
  8. The Silence of the Lambs
  9. Dumb & Dumber
  10. The Sting

Josh’s Top 10:

  1. Never Ending Story
  2. Matrix
  3. Scream
  4. Original Batman (1989)
  5. Free Willy
  6. The Wizard of Oz
  7. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  8. The Sandlot
  9. Transformers
  10. Home Alone

Emilio’s Top 10:

  1. Rush Hour
  2. Matrix
  3. Jurassic park
  4. Robocop
  5. Beverly Hills Cop (Part 2 was great, part 3 was awful)
  6. Anaconda (Does not live up to the expectations after the classic first part)
  7. Scream
  8. Transformers (First one is not good, second one makes no sense whatsoever. Awful.)
  9. Speed
  10. Batman sequels (from pre-Nolan era)

John Kwasny’s Top 10:

  1. Bad News Bears
  2. Beverly Hills Cop
  3. Crocodile Dundee
  4. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  5. Jurassic Park
  6. Major League
  7. The Mummy
  8. Ocean’s Eleven
  9. Rush Hour
  10. The Santa Clause

This weekend two ‘unoriginal’ films are being released, Men in Black III, and The Chernobyl Diaries (I understand that TCD is not a sequel or part of a trilogy, but it follows the reality/horror genre of The Blair Witch Project, Quarantine, & The Paranormal Activity franchise).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure both of these films possess creativity and there are other sequels and trilogies that are excellent (check out our posts on Top 10 Trilogies part 1 and part 2), however, both of these films are based off of pre-existing content.

I honestly don’t have a problem with sequels.  There are good ones and there are very bad ones.  The story of any film takes some level of creativity to make, so we should be cautious of knee-jerk critiques.  Yes, many sequels are simply money-makers for studios, but many people who critique these films have never actually made a movie, so that truth should keep us humble.

I for one, enjoy reboots and sequels, because it gives filmmakers the ability to improve their craft, tell a better story, or develop a character more deeply.  As I have posted before (here and here) I think there is a deeper longing to be re-created.  Everything gets old and worn out, therefore, we long – just as the filmmakers do – for this idea of being recreated.

All of that being said, there is also a chance that Men in Black III and The Chernobyl Diaries are simply trying to make money.  Therefore, what every box-office-watching movie producer knows, is that these types of films have made money, and money is very important to them.

In the book, Popologetics (P&R 2012), author Ted Turnau takes an in-depth look at such topics as pop culture, worldview, entertainment, & apologetics, to name a few.  This is a book everyone needs to read, especially those that follow this site.  It’s an excellent work that is very helpful.  In the book he states,

the entertainment industry is always probing to find out what the public likes, chasing popular tastes.  That is why there are so many sequels and why Hollywood studios bank on ‘star power’ to draw audiences.  They are risking money, and they want to reduce the risk by investing in names and stories that have already proved themselves at the box office.  In other words, for popular culture to succeed, it must connect with us, with our worldviews.  It must reflect back what is already there. (pgs. 20 & 21)

Turnau is on to something.  For some reason MIB3 & TCD have resonated with our culture.  That is why studios are making these movies; they will make money.  Watch the box office results after this weekend.  Even though TCD might not make as much, it will make money.  It is filled with no-name actors (cheap), therefore, the out-of-pocket costs will be less than what is received at the box office, most likely.  That movie can be made fairly cheap.  MIB3, on the other hand, is not cheap, but studios will spend a bit more because Will Smith has proved himself summer, after summer, after summer at the box office.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of why these films resonate with audiences.  So this is what I want you to reflect on, what is it about Will Smith fighting aliens in a comical sci-fi film and college students getting attacked by nuclear fall-out victims that makes people buy a ticket?  Is it simply because we like to laugh or be scared?  Is anything wrong with simply being scared or laughing?  What deeper Truth are these films hitting on that resonates with audiences?

Will Smith’s name has been synonymous with summer blockbuster for years now.  This weekend, the third installment of the Men in Black franchise will be released.  Will his success at the box office continue?  Is this going to be a worthy film?  We’ll have to wait and see.  For now, let us hear from you.  Are you excited about it?

A movie with Martin Scorse (films: The Departed, Shutter Island, The Goodfellas) as a director and Sacha Baron Cohen (films: Borat, Bruno, Dictator) as a main actor that can be safely watched by children? These are reasons enough to view this Academy Award winning film.  Add to this the beautiful musical scores and visually pleasing cinematography and it’s a must-see! But surely by now you know that this site does more than point out Academy Award nominations. This movie presents some great questions to wrestle with for both adults and your children: questions on purpose and meaning as well as illuminating the Gospel.  Now I tried to not merely summarize, but highlight the themes to be watching for. You’ll have to watch the movie to get the whole effect. That being said, there still may be some spoilers.

So who are we and why are we here? Are we “broken machines with no purpose” or are we created for something? This theme is found throughout the film beginning with the identity of Hugo Cabret, the orphan who lives in the train station of Paris and keeps the clocks up. Hugo learned to tinker from his father who was a clock maker. His father died leaving Hugo nothing but memories and an automaton – a mechanical man created to write/draw a message when wound like a clock. Hugo makes it his purpose to gather parts and get it working. He toils endlessly but cannot find the one heart-shaped key that would begin the wind-up process. Hugo meets a young girl named Isabelle. They quickly become friends and discover they already have something in common; the heart-shaped key hanging around the girls neck. Now the adventures begin to discover who the girl’s god-father is. Off to the clock-tower to wind the automaton and get this written message; the message to give Hugo purpose in life (at least he hoped it would). Hugo says to Isabelle:

I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine… I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.

 “Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose… it’s like you’re broken.”

This begs the question, what is our purpose? Why are we here on this earth? Are we extra parts with no purpose? Are we machines that work perfectly once our heart-shaped keys are found? Are we scrap metal to the Great Manufacturer? Are we actors in God’s great guild? The Bible does tell us in Job 23 that God does what he pleases and in Romans 9 that he created vessels for both wrath and mercy for the display of His power and glory. Could a broken vessel ever be used to glorify God? If we are broken vessels, will he just discard us like junk? Is He cruel? Calloused? Is God on a power trip?

Well, we find out Isabelle’s god-father, is Georges Melies; a man depicted as emotionally dead and seemingly calloused about his particular circumstances. Hugo must “fix” Melies like the broken machines he tinkers with and help him rediscover his purpose in life.

Skipping ahead, Gorges is at an award ceremony. He sees Hugo in the seats and addressing the whole crowd says:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I…I am standing before you tonight because of one very brave young man, who saw a broken machine and against all odds, he fixed it. It was the kindest magic trick that ever I’ve seen.”

Finally, a narrative is being read by Isabelle:

Once upon a time, I met a boy named Hugo Cabret. He lived in a train station. Why did he live in a train station? You might well ask. That’s really what this book is going to be about. And about how this singular young man searched so hard to find his secret message from his father and how that message led his way all the way home. [Emphasis mine]

Now, some thoughts, if you haven’t already been connecting spiritual dots.  Our purpose? Our “reason” for being created? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. The problem? We can’t. We can neither glorify God nor enjoy him. We, “broken machines” and sinners are unable to be “fixed” on our own powers – we are simply vessels of wrath talked about in Romans 9. End of the story? Is God cruel to make us and then leave us so helpless? No, because we are all here because God saw us – “broken machines” – and against all odds, He fixed us.  To use the movie’s quote: “It was the kindest magic trick that we will ever experience.” How did He do this? Well, once upon a time, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to do the message of His Father; to live in this world, to take on our flesh, to have no place to lay his head, live a perfect life, die a gruesome death and be resurrected into glorious light so that we may no longer be called “broken orphans”, but Sons of God; co-heirs to the thrown – finally giving us purpose. All glory be to God!

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”  – John 4:34

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

______________________________________

Glen Ulrich: Husband. Father of one daughter. Member at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, MS.  A Civil Engineer who graduated from Mississippi State University.  Avid movie watcher but recently (with the help from this site) trying to watch movies through the lens of scripture. Thankful for God’s grace upon my life in that I can love because He loved me first.

Snapshots

Posted: May 21, 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.

Men in Black 3 – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air travels back to the 1960’s to fight aliens and protect Agent K from being assassinated. Genre – Sci-fi, action, comedy; content – sci-fi violence and some rude humor.

Chernobyl Diaries – In this new variation of The Blair Witch Project, six tourist are terrorized by the remnants of the nuclear fall-out which took place in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Genre – horror, thriller; content – violence, bloody images, and strong language.

What do I expect from What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Well, I certainly don’t expect to see conscientious husbands and fathers exercising spiritual leadership in the home. What would be the humor in that? And, how would that be reflective of our society anyway (since Hollywood always tells us that they strive to reflect culture in their movies, not promote it)? Therefore, I expect that WTEWYE will have plenty of fathers-to-be acting like idiots, with absolutely very little idea what fatherhood is all about.

Granted, movie trailers don’t always give you the entire story–even though many of them do clip together the extent of the good parts! But the trailer for WTEWYE tells us much about the men in the movie. Specifically, we witness a “dudes group”: a support group for fathers and fathers-to-be. Now, I’m not a big fan of support groups, but I understand why they are popular with so many. It’s comfoting to have the encouragement and counsel of those who are experiencing the same circumstances as you.

Like all most support groups, the dudes group in WTEWYE has a couple of rules. First, what is talked about in the group stays in the group (I know, sounds eerily similar to Vegas). Second, and most importantly: No judging in the dudes group! These two governing principles makes the group a safe place to share and discuss common problems. Sounds fair enough.

But what happens when the group becomes more of the “blind leading the blind” rather than a repository of wisdom and knowledge? For example, one “seasoned” dad gives this advice to a father-to-be: “Stay on the other side (meaning childlessness). This is the side where happiness goes to die.” Definitely a funny line. But is this the encouragement our new fathers need? Obviously not. It is our duty as Christian fathers to communicate that, while fatherhood is really hard work, it is a joyful calling from the LORD! This is just one example that reminds us to be careful of what sort of groups we participate in–that we aren’t really being counseled by fools.

Here are some other great lines from dads in the dudes group: “You dropped your kid off a changing table?” “My kid ate a cigarette!” “I caught him playing in the dryer yesterday.” “I picked up the wrong baby from daycare.” Again, very funny. And, you can see why the two main rules of the support group are so important! What would the wives say if they knew? Remember, no judging!

Don’t get me wrong, we fathers make LOTS of silly (and sometimes serious) mistakes with our children. We are often particularly incompetent when it comes to infants and toddlers. If I catalogued some of my own errors with my babies, this post would become way too long (and much too embarrassing). So the dudes group in WTEWYE is probably a fairly good representation of the modern father.

My problem with the dudes group (in addition to the “blind leading the blind” aspect) is the notion that there should be no judging of one another. But, wait a minute–aren’t the dudes just following Christ’s injunction in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? Even non-Christians throw out this verse to support a view of absolute tolerance of the behaviors of other people. We should allow all people to live their lives, make their own decisions, with no criticism or moral judgment. Besides, the dudes will only be free to share if they feel no condemnation from other dudes, right?

But there is a vast difference between harsh, thoughtless judgmentalness and Biblical judging. One just needs to read the next few verses of Matthew 7 to see this truth. In verse 2, we learn that we will be held to the same standard to which we hold others. In verses 3-4, Jesus describes the hypocrisy of judging someone else’s sin while refusing to looking at our own sins. Then finally, in verse 5 we have these words: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” So Jesus is clearly not forbidding all sorts of judging or even the confronting of others in their sin.

Biblical judgment is essential among dudes (and dudettes) for numerous reasons (I’ll just list three). First, we have a responsibility to live according to God’s Word. We are free in Christ in order to live to please God. Second, we need other people to see our sins and failings due to our own blind spots. Because of our sin, we can’t always see our actions and decisions clearly. And finally, we should recognize that Biblical judging serves as safety and protection from the LORD. If we don’t allow others to confront us in our sins and errors, we will most likely continue in them.

So while I applaud men seeking the help and support of other men, let’s take it to the next level and openly invite one another to level some Biblical judgment!