Archive for April, 2013

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Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph is rated F3 – fun family film. It especially appeals to those of us whose childhood included a steady diet of video games. (Many would say that this diet explains a lot of my issues)

Spoilers ahead!

Wreck-It Ralph is a story of a video game villain named (you guessed it) Ralph (John C. Reilly). Ralph becomes disillusioned with being a bad guy. Even after attending a support group for villains (one of the best scenes in the film), he decides to go on a quest to become a hero. He believes that by securing his very own medal he will finally be accepted into his video game community.

Wreck-It Ralph is creative and fun. It has many good messages to celebrate. Throughout the film we are encouraged to love others, have compassion, be content, and sacrifice for our friends. It is refreshing to see these qualities portrayed on the big screen. Unfortunately, these moral lessons have no real power in themselves. While still good advice to follow, without Jesus Christ, they provide little hope for Ralph to truly become what he was made to be.

Let me explain…

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One of the main themes (if not the main one) is that of personal contentment. “Be content with who you are” is an obvious take away from the film. Listen to the mantra of the villain support group…

“I am bad and that’s good.

I will never be good, and that’s not bad.

There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

On the surface, this may seem like great advice. You can even “Christianize” it if you want – something like, “I just need to accept the way God made me.” While it is true that we should learn to understand our personalities, strengths, and weaknesses (and quite frankly, not take ourselves so seriously), this understanding can in no way provide the power to become who we were designed to be. The truth is that we are much worse than we think we are.

Wreck-It Ralph tells us to look inside for answers to our problems. The danger in this thinking is that we lack any real power to change what is broken. Ralph’s desire for acceptance and longing for community are good things – they are part of what it means to be human. The bad news is that these things are broken because of sin. The only hope for reconciliation with other people is found by being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

Sin destroyed true community. Because of sin we cannot be in true communion with God or with each other. Selfishness is at the core of sin. Isn’t this what happened in the Fall of mankind (Genesis 3)? Adam and Eve believed that they were better off without “the Man” keeping them down. They decided to go alone and make their own rules. As a result they were (we are) separated from relationship with God. Sin also destroyed authentic relationships with other people. Instead of working together for a common purpose, men and women now fight, manipulate, and compete. We all want to be accepted (like Ralph), but sin is a barrier that cannot be overcome by learning to love ourselves more.

Jesus Christ died not so that we could learn to accept ourselves as we are, but rather so that we can be changed into what we were created to be.

What is interesting is that Wreck-It Ralph illustrates this very thing. We see this in the character of Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). Vanellope, like Ralph is an outcast who desires to be accepted into her game community – “Sugar Rush” (a candy racing game). What is interesting is that we come to find out that she is an outcast only because the true villain, King Candy (Alan Tudyk), has distorted the original game code. Threatened by her true identity, King Candy deceives everyone into thinking that Vanellope is nothing but a “glitch” in the system – not a true part of the game.

As the story unfolds, Ralph and Vanellope come to realize that if Vanellope crosses the finish line of the race, the game will reset. This reboot will return the game to its original programming – with Vanellope as a true part of the “Sugar Rush” community. Ralph, along with Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch), helps Vanellope finish the race and return the game to its original state – exposing King Candy and revealing Vanellope as the princess of Candy Rush.

What I love about this is that Vanellope’s dramatic change (and the rest of the character’s as a result) comes through a “reboot.” The game needed to be reset to the original design. This drastic change has a ripple effect on the gaming world – restoring lost relationships and creating new communities of friendship and trust.

This is the story of the Gospel. Humanity cannot save itself. We need a “reboot.” We need some way to restore the world to its original design. God created us to be in relationship with Him and to be in relationship with other people.

We have no power in ourselves to repair the damage caused by sin. Jesus Christ entered human history to pay the price for our sin and restore our true identity. He renewed our relationship with God and made a way to be reconciled to others.

The apostle Paul put it like this:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 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 5:16-21, ESV)

In light of these verses, let me offer a Christian mantra…

“Because of sin I am bad, and that’s not good.

On my own I can’t be good, and that’s pretty bad.

But in Christ I am no longer bad, and that’s pretty good.

Now there is no one I’d rather be than the redeemed me.”

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Snapshots

Posted: April 15, 2013 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.

Oblivion – On a mission to extract the earth’s remaining resources, a man beings to question what he knows to be true of his mission and himself.  Genre – action, sci-fi; content – language, violence and nudity.

Lords of Salem – A radio DJ questions her sanity as she begins to think the lords are back to get revenge on Salem.  Genre – horror, thriller; content – graphic nudity, language, drug use, disturbing violent and sexual content. [Keep in mind that Rob Zombie directed this.  He’s the same director of House of 1,000 Corpses and other disturbing films].

Scary-Movie-5-Wallpaper-1280x720Today marks a historic day for cinema as the fifth installment of the Scary Movie franchise makes its way to theaters. It’s hard to believe that the first film came out around 13 years ago and its popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As is the case with most movie franchises, the first installment was somewhat unique. A slapstick comedy parodying (it’s a word) popular horror movies. It poked fun at popular movies such as Scream, but what are we to think about this new installment?

Well, the parodies continue in this film as it pokes fun at the popular Paranormal Activity films. The tagline explains that a couple begins to experience demonic activity in their home as they bring their newborn home from the hospital.

Before we consider some other elements of this film, let’s look a bit more closely at what this movie is. Even though the first film was unique (I’m not recommending that you watch it), it was still a parody. And, a parody is pretty cheap, artistically speaking. Think about it, the originality of a particular film adds to the artistic value. While it did take some creativity to parody the Scream films, Scary Movie is still ripping off another story; i.e., it’s not original.

Therefore, Scary Movie is unoriginal by design, but now we have the fifth installment to an unoriginal film. Yes Scary Movie 5 parodies another popular horror film series, Paranormal Activity, but SM5 still rides on the coattails of Paranormal Activity and Scary Movie. All of this to say, SM5 is extremely poor art. I know that’s stating the obvious, but I think many may go see this film without truly having that thought before them.

Not only is SM5 a disgrace to art (can we even call it art?), it also uses some shock factor to sell tickets. When I say shock factor, I’m not talking about the crude content that will, most assuredly, be present, I’m talking about the film using actors like Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan. These two are in and out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Controversy and gossip have been attached to these two for quite some time, and SM5 is exploiting that fact to make money. Sheen and Lohan might be making fun of Paranormal Activity, but SM5 is making fun of them. In the trailer, Sheen is getting beat up by a demon and says, “I’ve come back from worse than this.”, which is an obvious statement referencing his career. Therefore, SM5 is a parody of a parody, which parodies someones life.

Again, I haven’t even gotten into the filthy content that has made itself a staple of the SM films, but we can see it is fairly filthy – content excluded. It’s filthy because it’s a disgrace to art. And, I know many viewers don’t care whether or not SM5 isn’t artistic. I also know many of the filmmakers don’t care if the film is artistic or not, but it should matter to Christians.

While any movie that is made takes a certain amount of creativity, we must desire that artists truly strive to hone their craft and offer the culture their best. However, those behind the SM films know that they are giving the consumer something cheap and they’re doing it fairly explicitly. While I’m sure we should be concerned about the exploitative nature of the content in the film, we shouldn’t minimize the exploitative nature of cheap art we are being offered. Even though I haven’t seen the film, I can safely say this movie would be a waste of your life. It’s an hour and a half you will never be able to get back and that’s a scary thought.

Thursday’s Thoughts

Posted: April 11, 2013 by jperritt in Thursday's Thoughts
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42 – The life story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey.

– What does this film teach us about hate?

– What does this film teach us about love?

– Is there any racial reconciliation that occurs? How does it point us to future reconciliation?

Scary Movie 5 – A couple begin to experience some unusual activity after bringing their newborn son home from the hospital. With the help of home-surveillance cameras and a team of experts, they learn they’re being stalked by a nefarious demon.

– What conventions of the horror genre are explored?

– Even though most of the content is implicit, should this be a film Christians should abstain from?

– Is this movie really just sinful exploitation of sex, nudity, cheap laughs, etc?

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: April 10, 2013 by jperritt in Uncategorized
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This weekend we will witness the release of another classic installment to the Scary Movie franchise as Scary Movie 5 makes its way into cinema history.  These movies continue to dazzle audiences and show us what acting and story-making is all about.  Since these movies obviously continue to make money, which means people are still going to see these films, when will they stop?  How many more installments do you think they will make?

Kingdom Come

Posted: April 9, 2013 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead was a hugh hit and brought Zack Snyder to the attention of the public at large (is it time for another remake? I lose track…). The movie is action packed, very violent and hilarious in some spots. Exercise judgment (no pun intended). The film follows the fast-zombie line of zombieness.

What causes me to discuss this movie today? The following use of music in the movie. You are, in some level, aware that music is a very powerful thing and combined with film it can have tremenduous result and greatly impact the viewer. What I find particularly interesting about this use of music, is how Zach Snyder used a famous Johnny Cash song to deal with the issue of a Zombie apocalypse.

See the opening here, but know that it is a little disturbing (so again, judgment). Notice the use of the song When the Man Comes Around.

The end of days is an obsession of mankind. There are inumerable stories produced in all kinds of media (movies, comics, books…) about how the end shall be. Snyder and the producers of Dawn of the Dead play with this idea, using a Johnny Cash song about the end times to begin a movie in which zombies rise to end the world as we know it. The idea is that the old expectaions of the end will be met with the harsh reality of flesh eating mindless creatures

Now look at Cash’s song lyrics. Notice how much Biblical imagery he uses from the book of Revelation and other portions of scripture.

“And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder. One of the four beasts saying, ‘Come and see.’ and I saw, and behold a white horse”

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names,
And he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same,
There’ll be a golden ladder reachin’ down.
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up,
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter’s ground?
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin’.
Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettledrum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s alpha and omega’s kingdom come,
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks,
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks,

Till Armageddon no shalam, no shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home,
The wise man will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns,
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.

“And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts. And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him.”

There are direct references of Matthew 25 (parable of the virgins) and Revelation 6 and even Job. Cash’s song reveals some of the fear and of the trembling, but also the majesty of what is to come. The main thing to keep in mind when thinking about the end of days is not how scary, how difficult or how violent things may be. The main thing is to know that it is Christ’s victory and there is nothing to be afraid for his disciples. It is a fully controlled event. There is a story of a boy who came to a pastor saying that he had just read the book of Revelation. The pastor asked him “did you understand it?” “Sure” the boy replied. “Jesus is winning”. In the end it is pretty simple, a plan made before the foundation of the world unfolds in the ultimate victory of Christ, the consunmation of all things.

Is the coming of the kingdom supposed to be scary? It really depends. The Bible portrays the coming of the Lord, or the Day of the Lord as terrifying for those who rebelled against him, but joyful to those who have taken refugee in the world. And what will rise in the last day is the furthest thing you could get from a zombie; it will be a renewed mankind, clothed in righteousness and incorruptibility, similar to their master and savior.

Snapshots

Posted: April 8, 2013 by jperritt in Uncategorized
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.

Scary Movie 5 – This spoof on the horror genre continues to crank out the ‘high art’ while starring Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, Mike Tyson, Snoop Dogg, and Lil’ Bow Wow (he’ll always be Lil’ to me).  Genre – comedy; content – crude humor, language, sexual content, brief nudity, comic violence and gore, and drug use.

42 – The story of Jackie Robinson making history by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Genre – drama; content – language.

To the Wonder – Another Terrence Malick film that will blow the minds of some and be stupid to others.  Genre – drama, romance; content – some sexuality and nudity.

Evil Dead“The most terrifying film you will ever experience.”  What an over-confident tagline!  Obviously, the marketers of this film are trying to draw you into the theater so you can be absolutely sure if this is really the most terrifying film ever.  Is it really scarier than the original Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, or A Nightmare on Elm Street?  Okay, maybe I’m dating myself here; I was never a huge horror movie fan.  Until researching for this post, I didn’t even know that Evil Dead is a remake of the “cult classic” The Evil Dead released in 1981!  I was just 15 at the time, so I was probably more into the original Star Wars trilogy than young people possessed by demons.

Here’s the plot synopsis, according to IMDB: “Five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.”  Yes, there are several immediate issues here that raise the flag that says: HORROR MOVIE COMING!  Friends stuck in a remote cabin in the woods.  A Book of the Dead just so happens to find itself in this cabin.  Demons sleeping in the woods.  No wonder I never go camping!

Now if I’m holed up with friends in a cabin in the woods, I would hope we would break out a game of Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary before we choose to read from the Book of the Dead.  What is a Book of the Dead, anyway?  Well, a Book of the Dead was often placed in coffins in ancient kingdoms, like Egypt.  This book, or scroll, was filled with magical spells that were intended to help the dead person in his or her journey to the afterlife.  So it makes sense that when a Book of the Dead is opened today, and its spells are read, that demons living in woods would possess youngsters, right?

TheEvilDeadAs ludicrous as Evil Dead’s premise is, we would be in grave error if we simply dismiss the reality of demon possession.  Scripture gives us several examples of people who are demon possessed, and the descriptions are not very pretty.  Satan and his minions are real, and they have the power to radically transform someone’s life.  For example, the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5) had severe personality change, antisocial behavior, super-human strength, and a tendency to self-destruction.  He was so tormented and dangerous that he lived among the dead in the “tombs.”  No one could bind or control him.  I would bet that if he were locked in a remote cabin with a bunch of his buddies, he would kill some (or all) of them!

So the reality of demon possession should be one of the most terrifying things in this life.  If demons were in total control of things, we would end up hopelessly destroying one another.  Even friends would turn on one another.  And it would be totally normal to do whatever it takes to get away from someone possessed by demons.  The truth is that we should want people to believe that demons are real and powerful!  We need them to embrace a “super-naturalistic” view of the world, rather than simply dismissing demons as the stuff of myths or fairytales.  A movie like Evil Dead should be a sobering drama rather than some just some sort of unrealistic horror story where we are rooting for people to live or die.

If a person comes to truly believe that demons are real, then it is just one more step to believe that there is only one real solution to demonic activity in this world.  In Mark 5, we read that the townspeople were totally incapable of dealing with the demoniac.  Counseling or medication would not do the trick.  He could not just be locked away in an institution.  The demoniac could not even control himself.  Then, Jesus showed up on the scene!  The demons were cast into pigs and destroyed.  The once-possessed individual was restored to sanity.  And what did this man want to do then?  He longed to follow Jesus!  Instead, His Lord and Savior made this delivered man into a missionary to his own people.  He was to tell others what Jesus did for Him, and that Jesus is the ONLY deliverer from the EVIL DEAD!

Now just imagine if Evil Dead ended with one of the “twenty-somethings” realizing that the only way to stop the demons was to put his faith in Jesus!  Now, that would be a totally ridiculous plot twist, wouldn’t it?  Most moviegoers would rather just see one “hero” survive a demonic attack all on his own. instead of needing a Savior to come to the cabin and cast the demons into a herd of swine.  Then they can comfortably go home after experiencing the “most terrifying film ever” still believing that demons (and Jesus) don’t really exist.  Instead of reading the Book of the Dead, they need to read the only Book that gives LIFE!

JP3dIt’s hard to believe that Jurassic Park is already twenty years old.  It seems like just yesterday when  nail-biting moviegoers everywhere were thrilled by Steven Spielberg’s ground-breaking special effects.  Next year, Jurassic Park IV is slated to be released.  But this weekend, the original will be re-released in theaters in 3D.  I’m not sure that I would pay hard-earned money to see it again in 3D when it seems like the 2D version is on TV every other week.  But, this revision gives us the chance to do some good Biblical thinking on this classic sci-fi adventure!

I really love Jurassic Park.  The characters are great, especially the choice of Seinfeld’s Newman as the bad guy.  Jeff Goldblum is excellent as the slick chaos theorist, and I even like the two little stressed-out kids.  I also appreciate Sam Neill as the curmudgeonly paleontologist who ends up much softer in the end.  Of course, the dinosaurs steal the show, especially the Raptors.  Just the idea of a theme park made up of pre-historic dinosaurs is pretty awesome.

A story about the re-creation of dinosaurs from DNA extracted from ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber is pretty outrageous.  Yet we are pulled into this drama precisely because we are trained to believe that modern technology can accomplish just about anything!  This is certainly the central issue that the novel’s author, Michael Crichton, wants us to think about.  Is new and better technology always such a good thing?  Even if we are able to do something technologically, does that make it wise and/or beneficial to do it?

The characters themselves do a great job of debating this issue.  John Hammond, the park’s “creator,” takes the idealistic position that if we can do something technologically, why not do it!  The two invited paleontologists (Neill and Dern), are skeptical about science being able to re-create the past, but are enamored with the possibility as well.  Dr. Ian Malcolm, the smooth scientist and philosopher, takes the most negative position using the doctrine of “chaos theory.”  Essentially, chaos theory teaches that small differences in initial conditions will have potentially devastating outcomes (popularly called “the butterfly effect”).  Malcolm believes that introducing dinosaurs into modern times, interacting with humans (even in a caged theme park), would have chaotic effects.  Even if you have never seen Jurassic Park in 2D, you probably can figure out which position wins the debate!

Beneath the central theme of the use/misuse of technology is the REALLY BIG question of the human desire to “play God” in this world.  Since we are all made in the image of our Creator, we are endowed with the ability to be creative.  Humans can have amazingly brilliant ideas, as well as the skills and tools to actually see many of them come to fruition.  John Hammond’s dream of a dinosaur theme park demonstrated the combination of extreme creativity with scientific innovation.  Unfortunately, he also naively believed that he could control all of the environmental variables in order to create something that seemed impossible.  His “playing God” enabled dinosaurs to eat some people and scare a few others to death.  If the park actually opened, the results would have been a lot more devastating.  All it took was one greedy disgruntled employee to take away all of his God-like abilities!

There are many ways that human beings attempt to play God, other than trying to re-create dinosaurs.  Abortion and euthanasia are two of the most heinous activities that use technology to make it “easy” to kill off unwanted people.  Genetic engineering is another area of great debate which puts scientists in a potential position of playing God.  Yes, it can be argued that we play God any time we do anything to extend or reduce life.  And certainly, we serve a sovereign God who is still in control even when we attempt to play God.  Yet within that blessed sovereign control we human beings still make devastating decisions in rebellion against him.  We can use our creative minds that produce ideas and practices that do Satan’s bidding rather than God’s.

But let’s end our brief discussion of Jurassic Park 3D with a much wider application of this temptation to play God .  The oft-ignored truth is that we demonstrate the desire to play God each and every time we give in to ANXIETY.  The best definition I have ever heard of the pervasive problem of anxiety is that it is the attempt to “control what I can’t control.”  In other words, every time we are anxious or worried, our hearts are saying that we long to BE GOD.  Our anxious minds race to figure out how we can control our own little world, making sure things go our way.  Anxiety is really about trying to build our own kingdoms (maybe even dinosaur theme parks) instead of seeking God’s Kingdom first (Matthew 6).  That’s why anxiety eats away at our hearts and minds like those irritating Raptors, or even swallows us whole like a T Rex.  So let those sleeping dinosaurs lie, and rest in the sovereign plan of God!

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: April 3, 2013 by jperritt in Wednesday's Weekend Poll
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Evil Dead is being marketed as The most terrifying film you will ever experience.  The violence, gore and disturbing content is, supposedly, through the roof.  In light of that, do you feel like Evil Dead is one of those films Christians should clearly abstain from?  Or, do you think Christian liberty gives them the freedom to watch a movie like this?