Archive for June, 2012

Just a few weeks ago my wife and I watched the movie Thor – we were a little behind on this one. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t really wanted to watch this movie. It didn’t look all that great to me, but then I saw The Avengers so I figured I needed to see this one. As you can tell, I had low expectations going into this film but really enjoyed it. It had some fun action and a decent story, and even had some great biblical themes to discuss.

However, I don’t want to discuss any of those themes, I don’t really want to discuss anything that explicitly relates to the story. I want to discuss the actor, Chris Hemsworth and his Thorish physique – he must work out (name the movie quote).

If you’ve seen the film, or the previews, you know there is a scene that highlights Hemsworth’s muscular body. He has his shirt off, trying to appear nonchalant about looking so buff, and the character of Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) says, “He’s pretty cut for a homeless guy.”

Here’s what I want to get us thinking about today, and I will explore this a bit further in tomorrow’s post. Was that scene sinful? I believe the way the scene is setup is designed to create lust, which is sin. We know Hollywood typically employs the right lighting and makeup to highlight every actor’s physical beauty and minimize their physical weaknesses. Therefore, we could say they are trying to make women, young and old, lust.

When the scene came up, it created some good discussion between my wife and I. I asked her if she thought it was wrong. We came to the obvious conclusion that it was a heart issue. The scene could be sinful depending on what the heart does with that scene. I would easily agree that someone could watch a shirtless Hemsworth and not lust, but the movies can make it difficult when they are inviting you to do so. Plus, our sinful hearts are exceedingly wicked, and will deceive us into thinking the scene is harmless because there’s no explicit nudity.

Part of the reason I decided to discuss this today at Reel Thinking was because of a comment I saw on Facebook. A former youth from my church commented on the extreme beauty of Chris Hemsworth. Not only was she very passionate about how beautiful he was, but she communicated it to thousands of people on Facebook; i.e., no shame.

Now, it’s great that we can see and appreciate God’s creation as beautiful, and hopefully, give the Creator glory, but I did not sense this from her comment. I sensed sinful lust. Even worse, it was celebrated lust. This is a dangerous place to be.

I don’t want to get into the details of tomorrow’s post, but it will be discussing the issue of female pornography addiction. This has been a growing concern, because the amount of females looking at pornography has been on the rise over the past decade. And in this humble bloggers opinion, it is these types of scenes in film that are feeding it.
I have been shocked, and embarrassed, at the women who have spoken so openly and boldly about how incredible Taylor Lautner’s body is in the Twilight films. You don’t hear too many males speaking this openly about the females they’re infatuated with. Maybe it is because their infatuations are darker, so they don’t voice them. Therefore, the females thoughts may be somewhat innocent, so they feel a bit more comfortable to speak openly of them. I don’t claim to know what they’re thinking.

However, my concern is that these scenes are feeding the growing porn addiction among females. What do you think? Do I need to lighten up? Is this a nonissue? Is it okay to walk the tight-rope between lust and appreciation? Let’s consider this a bit more tomorrow.

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Posted: June 27, 2012 by jperritt in Comedy, Drama, Rom-com [romantic comedy], Romance
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The romantic-comedy-stripper film, Magic Mike is being released this Friday.  The previews make the film look somewhat innocent, but the content doesn’t seem to be all that innocent.  Some might even say it’s pornographic.  What do you think?

City Slickers: Just One Thing

Posted: June 26, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Comedy, Drama
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I recently had the opportunity to re-watch one of my nearly forgotten favorite films from 1991, City Slickers.  For those too young to remember, this movie featured Billy Crystal in his heyday (as well as the successful writing team of Ganz and Mandel).  Crystal had several hits in the late 80’s and early 90’s featuring his quick Long Island New York wit (which also made him the best Oscars host in modern history).  Being just a young adult and newly married when City Slickers was released, I probably didn’t watch it with much of a critical Biblical worldview eye.  But now, I can enjoy the timeless humor as well as interact with the film’s strong “meaning of life” theme.

The story centers around three “city slicker” best friends who decide to go on a two-week vacation as cowboys on a real working ranch.  This adventure was a fairly new choice in the 90’s for men going through a midlife crisis–which well describes Mitch, Ed, and Phil.  Mitch (Billy Crystal) is majorly depressed, emasuclated by his boss, and overall miserable in life.  Ed (Bruno Kirby) expresses his midlife crisis by being a womanizer who has trouble “settling down,” and an adrenaline addict (he comes up with all the adventures).  Phil (Daniel Stern) is the most pitiful of all, committing adultery to escape a lifeless marriage and an even more emasculating job.  These are three middle age men who definitely need something to change in their lives.

Even though all three men somewhat succeed in dealing with their personal midlife crisis by being transformed from city slickers to cowboys, Mitch is the main focus of the movie.  He forms a hilarious “odd couple” brief friendship with Curly, the crusty old trail boss, played brillianty by Jack Palance.  Curly has life all figured out.  He scoffs at “city folks” who think way too much and make everything so complicated.  He is amused by all the middle aged men who think a two-week cowboy experience will change their lives.  Even though he acts like he may kill Mitch with just one glare, Curly ends up giving him a much needed dose of life.

How does the old trail boss do this? Well, Curly tells Mitch the SECRET OF LIFE!  In a raspy cowboy voice, He holds up one finger and says: “The secret to life is just one thing…just one thing.  Find that one thing, and nothing else matters.”  By the end of the movie, Mitch finally understands what Curly means, and finds that ONE thing.  Or, as his wife comments, he find his smile again.  Mitch finds what truly matters  (you’ll have to watch the movie to see what it is!).

This storyline made me laugh in my 20s, but it really resonates with me in my 40s (By the way, Crystal give a hilarious but true summary of life-by-decades to his son’s grade school class).  Mid-life crises are real events in many people’s lives, especially men.  Many are in dead-end jobs, or stuck in careers that they chose for the money rather than as a true calling.  Others are emasculated in their jobs or in their homes.  Still others are trapped in struggling or lifeless marriages.  And, of course, many are wandering without Christ in their lives.

There are certainly men who attempt to solve this problem by going on yearly “manly” extreme adventures.  Others invest themselves heavily in weekend hobbies and avocations to try to get some joy in their lives.  Still others so deeply identify in their favorite sports teams to try to feel like “winners” or re-live their youth.  Again, still others, chase the almighty dollar and invest in too many boys’s toys in order to deal with the pain.  (Unfortunately, not too many men seek to solve their mid-life crises by improving their marriages, getting more involved in serious Bible study, or even church ministry!)  Yet none of these activities even the good ones, will truly solve the problem.

Old Curly had the solution.  Find that one thing…and nothing else matters!  Find that one thing, and it puts everything else in persepctive.  The Apostle Paul puts this truth much better than Curly in Philippians 1:21.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

This is the secret to life. It is actually the only way to life.  When we are living for anything else, we live in fear of losing it in this life, and we certainly lose it in death.  Living for money and material possessions?  They become someone else’s when we die.  Living for fame and power?  You will be quicky forgotten after you die.  Living for fun and pleasure?  Again, gone at death.  And, like Mitch, Ed, and Phil, we can actually live like death while seemingly alive.  But, when “to live is Christ,” we enjoy an abundant life in Christ, and then gain even more in death!  Even when we suffer through difficult things in this life, centering on JESUS as the “one thing” brings grace to live and true meaning in life and death.

  

Snapshots

Posted: June 25, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
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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.

Magic Mike – A courteous male stripper teaches a young and vulnerable male stripper how to take his clothes off, get women, and party.  Genre – heart-warming, family, drama; content – language, drug use, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.

Madea’s Witness Protection – Tyler Perry proves, yet again, that it’s funny to dress up and play multiple characters.  Genre – comedy; content – crude sexual remarks and drug references.

Ted – A bear comes to life from a childhood wish, but the boy grows into a man (an adult spin on a childhood plot).  Genre – comedy; content – crude sexual content, language, and drug use.

Okay, this is a post I’m approaching with some fear and trepidation, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, enjoy this excellent trailer for Brave.

I’m really excited about Brave coming out. I have loved Pixar films and am amazed how consistently good their films have been. The quality of story-telling and the emotions these movies can evoke are amazing, which leads me to have cautious expectations for Brave. I say cautious because I am still uncertain about the story. Although there have been plenty of TV spots and trailers, the story is somewhat vague and Pixar is smart enough to keep some tricks up their sleeve.

The reason I am fearful to discuss this film, is because some of the themes seem to feed some feministic thinking (I know some of you just rolled your eyes). There have been two times when we discussed feminism at this blog, and it led us to get our feelings hurt (guys are sensitive too). We weren’t shocked at the feminists who bashed us on their message boards (true story), we were surprised at the subtle levels of feminism we witnessed among professing believers. I also found it interesting that secular blogs were affirming a certain film’s ability to help move the feminist agenda forward, yet Christians seemed blind to it.

All of that being said, I’m not trying to make anyone angry, rather I’m merely discussing a film’s possible storyline. It appears that Merida is determined to redefine the roll of a lady in this film. The trailer shows us that she is a strong woman who will be shootin’ for her own hand. And you can bet your kilt there ain’t no one who will stop her. Not her father, not her mother, and surely not another man. We must remember that the devil works in subtle ways, in this case, in ways to war against gender roles. No, I’m not saying that a strong woman equals feminism, but I am saying that an unsubmissive woman to her mother and father does. Here are some thoughts:

Feeding Feminism = Frustration

If Brave does indeed feed this thinking, it will only further frustration for females. We must know that there is never going to be a point in history when the earth will be feministic enough to satisfy females. Even if every world leader was female, all the heroes of film and literature were female, and every man recited a creed each morning proclaiming how inferior they are, feminists will still be angry. You want to know why? Keep reading.

A Contradictory Cause

The feminist movement is strange because it only affirms the very thing it’s fighting against. The reason feminists are fighting is because they want everyone to know they are equal to men. Why? What’s so good about men? Why do they want to be treated the same way as the gender they’re annoyed by? If that’s the case, then we can start depicting females as incompetent idiots just like the males are depicted in your average sitcom. There’s no arguing with the fact that males are rarely depicted in a positive light.

Pre-Gender Wars

It’s not Brave’s fault that this conversation is coming up. It’s also not the male’s fault and it’s not the female’s, it’s sin. Sin messes everything up. That’s why I find Genesis 1 & 2 a great place to look, for this is our record of earth prior to the entrance of sin. When we do flip back to those sweet times of fellowship, void of gender wars, we read that Adam and Eve were created equal in essence, but Adam was to lead – not rule – his wife.

Guess what? This does not make the woman inferior. She is Adam’s helper. Guess what? It’s not an insult to be a helper. Do you know who else is called our Helper? The Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity. This is God’s beautiful design to affirm the unique gifts He created and He bestowed to His creatures. He has the right to determine how His creatures function in this world – men and women cannot dictate this. And this is why feminists will never be happy. Feminists are warring against God Almighty, not sinful men who do abuse their manhood at times. You are angry at a holy God that loves to display your femininity in a beautiful way.

What I pick up from the trailers of Brave is Merida’s strong desire to change her fate. Changing the typical ways in which a lady is to behave. Now, the film may also err at this point and treat women as objects, which is also unbiblical. All of this uncertainty about the storyline is why I’m uncertain about it.

So I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to buy my ticket to Brave. I’m ready to see what story they are telling. I’m ready to watch it with the beautiful women God has placed in my life (my wife and daughter). I’m ready to correct any feministic, or domineering, teaching for biblical teaching. And I’m ready to continue to affirm the many ways in which my wife and daughter are stronger and more uniquely gifted than I am. Men, let’s be brave and lead our families by affirming that.

We’ve discussed the topic of genre-mixing before here at Reel Thinking. What we mean by genre-mixing is pretty self-explanatory. Taking two genres that typically don’t belong together and mixing them. Sometimes this is done well and sometimes it isn’t.

A film that didn’t do this well last summer was Cowboys and Aliens. Before you get defensive, I was really looking forward to this film. Some people may say that’s just too unbelievable, yet a film with just regular aliens isn’t? I didn’t have a problem with the concept, the film had a great cast, and the first half of the film was great. To me, it seemed like they gave up on the story half-way through the film. But, I wasn’t bothered by the idea of mixing science fiction and westerns. If we believe aliens exist (on-screen) why not believe they could exist in the wild west?

This year’s Cowboys and Aliens appears to be Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (it’s hard to even type that without smiling). I have to admit, I am one who is actually intrigued by this film. I mean, why not believe our sixteenth president of the United States is an axe-wielding vampire hunter?

This movie sounds like a b-movie, but it appears to be done with A style. The special effects are not subpar, therefore, should Christians watch a ridiculous film like this? Would it be wrong to watch a film like this? Well, I’m not going to address the content of the film, but the idea of it. The movie is said to be violent, so that is something you need to wrestle with if you struggle in this area.

I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that this is a creative film. I haven’t read the book, but am intrigued as to why, or how, anyone would come up with a story about a former president being a vampire hunter. It’s so ridiculous, it doesn’t bother me…if that makes sense. We watch movies with asteroids on a collision-coarse with earth, a big, hairy space alien named Chewbacca, and vampires caught in a love-triangle, why not see or former president fighting off the undead?

Part of the intrigue of film is to escape to make-believe places. I love being transported to Middle Earth, as I watch the Lord of the Ring films each year. At what point does a film become too make-believe to watch? I think it might be this idea of genre-mixing. As I said, sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think combining a true-story with a make-believe one is a case where this doesn’t work. Even though it doesn’t work for the average movie-goer, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t work at all.

Again, this is creative. The human mind is created by God. God is the ultimate Creator and has given us the ability to create. My children come up with some pretty hilarious fantasies when they’re playing in our living room, and I encourage them to continue to exercise their creativity. Part of this is simply stewarding the minds God has given us. Is there a point in time when we are to quit stewarding our minds in a creative way and just grow up? Maybe? Maybe not?

Yes this film may glorify violence, which isn’t good. And yes most people can’t keep a straight face when they read the title, but I don’t have a problem with the concept. Christians must applaud creativity knowing that it is bestowed on us by God, even if Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn’t your cup of tea.

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: June 20, 2012 by jperritt in Action, Drama, Horror
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Tomorrow I will be sharing some thoughts on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Some of you may not even care about any thoughts surrounding that film, but I thought I would write some down anyway.  I mean, how often do you get to talk about a former president’s secret life historians never talked about?  This poll will give us a bit of an idea about our reader’s thoughts on this film.

I Am Legend

Posted: June 19, 2012 by jperritt in Uncategorized

This past week I have been in Brazil serving the Igreja Presbiteriana Semear (Presbyterian Church of the Sowers) It was an excellent week and the Lord was truly at work. We enjoyed some of the sweetest fellowship, this side of Heaven, any Christian could hope to enjoy.

Last week I mentioned that we did various work alongside the Church Semear, and we also held a Reel Thinking Night – it was a blast! This night definitely served our three-fold purpose as we had those who were inside and outside of the church. We watched the movie, I Am Legend, and highlighted some of the parallels from that film. Here they are for you to enjoy.

The Story of I Am Legend

I have mentioned before just how much I enjoy this film. This may surprise some of you since it is your big-budget-Will-Smith film, and it surprises me too. I have watched it many times and each time I am truly surprised at what a great film it is. A good story is vital to the enjoyment of any film, and most assuredly that is the case with IAL.

The story follows Dr. Richard Neville attempting to survive in post-apocalyptic New York, while trying to find a cure for the zombie-like creatures that are trying to eat him. One could sum up the story this way. The entire human race has been infected by a disease. The disease causes them to hate the light and love the darkness. It renders them selfish, violent, and hate-filled. And, the only cure is one man’s blood.

If one were to sum up the story of the Bible, you could sum it up this way: The entire human race has been infected by a disease. The disease causes them to hate the light and love the darkness. It renders them selfish, violent, and hate-filled. And, the only cure is one man’s blood. Maybe this is why I like the story so much.

The Depth of Our Sin

Mankind is clearly represented as the horrifying creatures of the film. It’s funny that we may call them creatures, zombies, or, as they say in the film, ‘dark seekers’ but they are actually just human beings. Humans that have been infected. You too are infected, and this film helps us to see the depth of that.

No one would watch this film and say these creatures aren’t that bad. These creatures are pure evil, self-serving, violent, love darkness, and are just plain ugly. This is a helpful and accurate representation of your heart and mine. We often downplay our sin and say we aren’t that bad, or it’s someone else that causes us to act the way that we do. But, this film can truly help us see the ugliness of our sin. Listen to J.C. Ryle discuss our sin:

Let us, then, have it fixed in our minds that the sinfulness of man does not begin from without, but from within. It is not the result of bad training in the early years. It is not picked up from bad companions and bad examples, as some weak Christians are too fond of saying. No! It is a family disease, which we all inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and with which we are born.

This film is not more sufficient than scripture in teaching us about our sin, however, it does affirm what scripture says about our sinful heart.

The One True Light

Even though Neville isn’t a perfect parallel to Christ, he is obviously the Savior of the film. If you remember, there is even a newspaper cutout on his refrigerator with his picture on it with the word savior written above his head. He is immune to the disease and he has the cure in his blood.

At the very end of the film, he is screaming at the creatures, ‘I can save you. I can help you.’ But they wouldn’t listen and ended up killing the very one who was trying to save them. We did the very same. The only True Light, Jesus Christ, was killed by the very ones he came o save.

Light Up the Darkness

Songs by the reggae master, Bob Marley, are played throughout the film (another reason I like it). While Neville is telling a story about Marley’s love, he makes the statement, light up the darkness. This phrase us repeated at the end of the film, just prior to Marley’s Redemption Song. This call to light up the darkness, affirms the call of Christ on the sermon on the mount:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [Matt. 5:14-16]

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.

Brave – Pixar made it…that’s all you need to know. Genre – Pixar; content – Pixar.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – As an asteroid careens toward earth, a man seeks to find his high school sweetheart. Genre – comedy, romance; content – brief violence, drug use, language and sexual references.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – The inspiring true story of our sixteenth president sportin’ garlic and slingin’ stakes into the hearts of vampires; this is all prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, of course. Genre – history, true story; content – violence, disturbing images, and language.

Let me begin by saying, I think Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg are hilarious. I grew up watching Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore and laughed until it hurt. I saw Hot Rod, as well as, some of the Lonely Island videos and think they are equally funny. Even though I have laughed at some of Sandler’s and Samberg’s work, doesn’t mean I should and doesn’t mean it’s okay.

People have a funny way of justifying our sin. I am not saying you are in sin if you watch Sandler and Samberg’s newest film, That’s My Boy, but I think it raises a few questions for us to consider.

Laughter = Sinless

Getting back to my point of justifying our sin, laughter has often been a means to ease the guilt that sin brings. Sometimes you may even hear people remark, “I know it’s bad, but it was so funny.” There is no doubt that TMB will make people laugh. The two stars are funny, the premise can be funny, but there is a lot of filth in this movie. The content described is crude sexual content throughout, nudity, drug use and language. Therefore, Christians must be cautious of exposing themselves to content like this and merely passing it off as ‘Yeah, but it’s funny.’

J.C. Ryle, in his book, Holiness, reminds us about the deceitfulness of our sin:

Men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin is not quite so sinful as God says it is, and that they are not so bad as they really are.

Ryle’s truth rings true in a culture that loves to laugh at sin. We must be reminded that sin is, first and foremost, offensive towards God. Let us be careful what we laugh at.

What Is Funny?

This leads me to my next thought from TMB, should we be laughing at the storyline from this film? When Donny (Sandler) was a teenager, he had sex with one of his high school teachers. She gets pregnant and has a boy, however, she goes to prison for statutory rape and Donny is left to raise Todd (Samberg). The story follows Donny and Todd’s later years as Donny tries to reconnect with his son. However, Todd is much more mature than his father, but Donny ends up getting his son to follow his sinfully indulgent lifestyle of drugs and sex. I must confess that I have not seen the film, so I don’t know if Donny sees the error of his ways and turns from them but I wouldn’t bet on it.

So my question is, what is funny? If you were to read the above premise of the film, without a knowledge of it being a comedy, you would assume it described a depressing drama. But, Hollywood has turned statutory rape, sex, and drugs into humor. Should that be funny?

The same thing could be said about another movie being released this weekend, Rock of Ages. A musical that celebrates rebellion and indulgence in sex and drugs, however, since it’s a musical it gets a pass. Musicals have a way of doing that. They make things seem innocent, because they sing about depravity…it’s just so cheery!!

As Christians, we must be very cautious of laughing at our sin, because Satan loves for us to think sin is harmless. Let us remember that sin damns people to hell, which isn’t funny. Let me draw from Ryle once more:

We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself to us in its true colours, saying, “I am your deadly enemy, and I want to ruin you forever in hell.” Oh, no! sin comes to us like Judas, with a kiss; and like Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words.

With films like That’s My Boy and Rock of Ages, we could add that sin comes to us in songs and laughter. Just so we’re clear, I am not saying Christians should abstain from these movies. Rather, they should be wise and discerning enough to consider these things as they watch these films. How do these films convey sin? What do they present to be funny? Is it okay for us to share in the world’s laughter? Some of the sins in the film might be funny and we may laugh at the jokes, but let us remember it was sin that nailed God’s perfect Son to the cross. That’s no laughing matter.