Archive for October, 2013

When Horror Becomes Humorous

Posted: October 31, 2013 by jperritt in Uncategorized

Birds film posterHalloween has accomplished a great deal for our culture. It’s given us another holiday that reinforces unhealthy eating, a holiday that praises prostitute-ish attire, and a holiday that gives most everyone a reason to feed that innate fear which lies within.

While people love to dress up and scare one another in neighborhoods and haunted houses, receiving scares from the silver screen is also a common tradition for many. Hollywood has discovered this and typically slates a frightening flick to capitalize on this holiday. One example is the “torture-porn” film, Saw, and its recurring installments released each year on Halloween. Because of this, much of the horror franchise has resigned itself to produce these over-the-top graphic gore/sexualized films to feed the audience what they want. As a result, Saw (and films in this category) make many classic horror films look like Saturday morning cartoons.

For example, my wife and I recently watched Hitchcock’s classic “horror” film, The Birds. Hitchcock is easily one of my favorite directors of all time and The Birds only confirmed that. His attention to detail, signature cameos, quirky humor and his ability to build tension is unmatched – he was truly ahead of his time.

That being said, I couldn’t help but laugh at various scenes throughout the film. While I appreciated Hitchcock taking something every day and ordinary – like a bird – and turning it into terror, I couldn’t help but laugh because of the notable progression the cinema has made. The attacking birds are so far removed from the horrors depicted today. So much so, one could make a good argument that some previously labeled ‘horror’ films no longer belong in that genre. There are no doubt some classic horror films like, Psycho, The Shinning and The Exorcist, that will continue to frighten audiences no matter the age. However, films like The Birds can almost be cataloged in the comedy genre (I said, almost).

Now, I understand that film-making magic plays a major part in this.  If one were to revamp Hitchcock’s attacking birds today, they would look much more realistic and the gore would be increased, so it’s not the concept that’s flawed.  It’s not even the original film-making that’s flawed.  It’s the fact that movie production has improved over time.  And, this type of creativity should be praised among Christians.  A recent example of accomplishments in film comes from  the sci-fi movie, Gravity.  This film is now the benchmark for all future sci-fi films.  Every film of its kind will now be compared to Gravity, because it’s authenticity was amazing.

So apart from developments in cinema, why was a movie that was once labeled horror so humorous?

Well, movies are a depiction of the human heart.  Directors and screenwriters create a story and depict it onscreen, but the concept, the story and the final product are all a display of someone’s heart.  Therefore, I do not think people are becoming more depraved over time.  I also don’t think we’ve become desensitized and now long for something darker.  Not at all.  Mankind has always been depraved.  I think what we’re witnessing is a level of film-making that more accurately captures what’s been present in man’s heart since Genesis 3.

There is no doubt that films were a bit tamer several decades ago than now.  And, we also know movies over time have continued to push the proverbial envelope further and further.  However, we must not forget that the human heart has always been full of horrors.  Maybe films will continue to portray those horrors in a progressively accurate light.  Maybe mankind will start taking a deeper look at their hearts.  And, maybe we will look at the horrors of our heart with less levity and more gravity, less humor and more humility.

 

 

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The follow-up to Captain America will be released in March 2014, giving Spring Breakers something to do besides going to the beach. Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be the 3rd film of Marvel’s “Phase II” films – Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World being the other two. Be sure and check out the trailer that was released last week.

Interesting quote: “To build a better world, sometimes means tearing the old one down.”

Snapshots

Posted: October 28, 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.

Ender’s Game – A brilliant young mind is used to bring pre-teens to the box office and defend earth from an alien attack. Genre – Sci-fi, action, adventure; content – sci-fi action violence.

12 Years a Slave – A free black man is captured and sold into slavery. Genre – drama; content – violence and nudity.

Last Vegas – Hangover part 4…with senior citizens. Genre – comedy; content – sexual content and language.

Dallas Buyers Club – A man battles with pharmaceutical companies to ensure alternative medicine for HIV-positive people. Genre – drama; content – language, sexual content, nudity and drug use.

Diana – Princess Diana’s love affair with a Pakistani heart surgeon. Genre – drama; content – language and sensuality.

Free Birds – Two turkeys travel back in time to change the course of history for Thanksgiving by getting turkey off the menu. Genre – family, comedy, animation; content – rude humor.

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[Warning: This post contains spoilers]

Promised Land tells the story of a multi-billion dollar organization named, Global, and their attempts to tap into natural resources in a local small town. Steve Butler [Matt Damon] and Sue Thomason [Frances McDormand] are the two Global execs sent in to lovingly sucker the people into signing off their land. Things are going smooth for Global until Dustin Nobel [John Krasinksi], an environmentalist working for Athena, steps in and begins to sway the townspeople. Dustin is also a small-town guy with a personal story of Global’s destruction to his farmland.

Promised Land reunited Matt Damon with Director Gus Van Sant, who directed Good Will Hunting. It also gave Damon and Krasinski the opportunity to co-write the screenplay together. PL wasn’t as straight-forward as I thought it would be. Yes, it may be fairly predictable at points, but there was a bit of a twist. As Dustin and Steve continue to fight-it-out among the townspeople, it becomes clear that Dustin has falsified his story – losing credibility among the townspeople.

In Steve’s final confrontation with Dustin, he’s puzzled as to why Dustin would create this false story. Steve in essence says, “We’re a $9 billion dollar company. You know we would have found that information out.” Through their interaction, however, Dustin slips up and discloses some information he didn’t intend. This reveals the fact that Dustin is actually working for Global, but was posing as an environmentalist with a false company. This is not only a shocking discovery to Steve, but a humbling one as Dustin basically tells Steve, “You think we’d let you do this on your own? We let you do exactly what we wanted you to do. You were in control of nothing. You’re at the big boys table now. You did a good job, though.”

Global had been watching Steve the entire time. Steve thought he was a big-shot, he thought he was in control, and he thought he was moving up the Global ladder. But, Dustin just revealed to Steve that there’s an entire level of Global he wasn’t aware of. In essence, Steve was just a little child – a puppet – in the hands of Global.

Well, Global did control a lot, but they couldn’t control Steve from speaking the truth to the townspeople. He confessed to all the lies and did the nobel thing Dustin “Nobel’s” character was pretending to do.

This did get me thinking about control. How much of our lives do we really control? We can make plans, come up with a schedule, but how often do things go the way we plan them? Steve thought he was in control, but it was someone else controlling him. Global, however, thought they were in control, but couldn’t control the convictions of Steve.

Dustin’s line did make me think of our sovereign God and how he controls all things. While we are not puppets, or robots, walking around the earth, we can ultimately only do what He allows us to do. He is, in fact, ordaining all things that come to pass. He is working through all of the evil we commit. Just as Dustin and Steve were spreading lies and cheating people, God works through the every day lies of individuals and ultimately brings truth in the end. He is the one who’s in control. He is the one exercising His common grace in the lives of wicked people. And, He is the one who will bring the light of the Truth to bear in the end – the consummation of the true Promised Land.

rush-poster-2013Rush is the “true story” of a Formula One racing rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. This film, set in the 1970’s, has been received fairly well by critics and fans alike. Even though Academy Award winning director Ron Howard is at the helm, it has been somewhat surprising to read how well this film is being received.

One theme I wanted to focus on today comes a quote uttered by Hunt, The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It’s a wonderful way to live.  It’s the only way to drive. We wouldn’t expect to hear anything different coming from a film entitled ‘Rush’. We also couldn’t expect anything less from a man making a living by putting his life on the line every time he gets behind the wheel of a race car. Speeding past your opponent. Racing by a cheering crowd. And, doing it all knowing that the slightest mistake can end your life – this is what truly makes you feel alive, according to Hunt. Is he right?

Is living in such a way that brings you close to death, truly the way to live? Well, in some ways we can understand what Hunt means. If we have gone through a near-death experience, perhaps, it definitely moves you to appreciate life. Knowing that death was staring you in the face, but life was granted to you instead, one can’t help but feel more alive. We can possibly understand this reasoning, but we would certainly disagree with intentionally putting your life on the line just to get a rush. Bungee-jumping or sky-diving just to feel more alive is just plain dumb. Yes, I must admit that I have done both of those, but things have changed now that I have a family. And, hindsight provides such clarity for me in those situations. Therefore, if risk-taking was my only outlet to feel more alive, I would be in a sad state.

However, biblically speaking, I don’t think Hunt is too far off. While he wasn’t talking about getting a rush from fast driving, Jesus Christ said something similar to Hunt. Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it. [Matt. 10:39b] In one sense, Jesus was talking about a bigger risk-taking than Hunt. Jesus was calling others to deny themselves, to serve others, to live in a way that would, at times, feel like death.

Our sinful nature turns us inward and moves us to live life focused on ourselves. We desire to live life doing what we want to do. By nature, we chase after pursuits that we enjoy. Hobbies that bring us comfort or pleasure. Jesus, however, was calling us to die to those desires and truly live.

In one sense, Jesus was calling us to a bigger risk. But, in another sense, living a life focused on a calling from Christ is no risk at all. Jesus promised us that this denial of self-service would result in a life that’s truly life. And, of course, we cannot purchase this life by simply living a life of asceticism. Jesus Christ already purchased this life for us, now we live a life in service for others out of an overflow of what he’s already purchased for us. There are times, though, that will make a selfless lifestyle feel like death. But, the closer you are to this type of death, the more alive you really are.

next_three_daysThe other day I said that I wanted to write a follow-up post for The Next 3 Days.  Well, here it is [SPOILERS AHEAD].

Another interesting theme running through this film is ‘justice’.  Lara Brennan [Elizabeth Banks] is accused of murder and sentenced to life in prison.  As her husband, John, pursues her release to no avail, he then resorts to breaking his wife out of prison.  Since the justice system has failed him, he decides to take justice into his own hands.  Even though I previously mentioned that much of what Brennan did was commendable, you could also argue that much of what he does is equally idolatrous, obsession.

As the tagline of the film stats, lose who you are to save who you love. Without much persuasion, one could easily argue that Brennan loses who he is and even goes to the brink of insanity to save his wife. But, is justice served?  A few things to consider:

Murder is Murder

In Brennan’s pursuit to save his wife he kills one man and possibly indirectly kills others.  The one he kills would be labeled as a “low-life” of society.  Some may say, Yeah, he killed that guy but he was a meth dealer.  Or, He killed that guy, but I would kill to save my wife.  Listen, murder is murder whether they are a low-life or not.  Yes, you may be able to claim that Brennan was using self-defense, but he got himself into a dangerous situation that led to his defending of himself.  What Brennan did was murder, which made him guilty in the pursuit of his wife’s innocence.

Injustice is Part of Life

We don’t find out to the end of the film that Lara actually was innocent, but John needs to accept the fact that injustice is a normal part of an abnormal world [to borrow a phrase from Stephanie Hubach]. This world is sinful; therefore, injustice is a natural part of life.  As difficult as that may be, we still must accept it.  Instead, John Brennan put many others in danger, assaulted a police officer and fled from authorities.  No human has the right to take justice into their own hands, no matter how right they may be.  His love for his wife turned truly selfish when he put the cares of others out of his mind.

Justice Was Never Truly Served

The film ends with the Brennan family (wife and all) united as they fled the United States (irony).  The audience can somewhat take a breath at this point (and a much-needed breath at that), but the film doesn’t end well if you truly think about it.  In the end, the criminal gets away.  Not only does Russell Crowe flee justice and is never apprehended, the criminal who actually committed the crime Lara was accused of is never found.  That criminal murdered someone and will, most likely, live the rest of her life never paying the penalty for her crime. Plus, what about the family of the police officer John Brennan assaulted?  What about the car drivers who got into a wreck as Brennan recklessly sped through the streets of Pittsburgh?  What about the character of Nicole [Olivia Wilde] feeling used by Brennan?  There was so much injustice created by a fallen man’s idea of justice.  But isn’t this always the case?  We often try to fix what’s broken on this earth, only to make it worse.  And this is what points us to Christ.  Injustice will continue no matter how individuals or governments promise otherwise. But, this should make us long for the day when Christ returns to make all things new.  On that day every tear will be wiped away and justice will reign for all time.

Favorite Summer Movie?

Posted: October 2, 2013 by jperritt in Uncategorized

Even though there were a LOT of bad movies this summer (and I’m not solely speaking to the content or quality of acting/directing), there were still some enjoyable films.  Which one did you most enjoy?  If we left your favorite out, just add it in the comments section.