Archive for January, 2015

Ted Turnau on Pop Culture and Worship

Posted: January 29, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

photo 3Ted Turnau on pop culture and its ability to aid us in our worship:

Worship is perhaps the most basic, fundamental aspect of life with God. Doesn’t the Westminster Shorter Catechism put it as Q&A number 1? “What is the chief end of man: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” (Or, I quite like John Piper’s spin on that: to glorify God by enjoying him forever.) A proper understanding of the Christian life subsumes every activity, thought, word and deed under the heading of “worship.” Everything in our lives is supposed to be about worshipping God.

There’s one teeny tiny little problem: I’m really bad at it. My heart tends to be sluggish and cold when it comes to worship. When I pray, I try to start with some time just adoring God, and it always feels like climbing up a steep hill. Maybe I’m just too self-focused, or distracted, or whatever. But I think the cardinal problem is a failure of my imagination. When confronted with infinite beauty and power and love and wisdom and perfection, my mind just collapses and I fall back on clichés that sound hollow, even to me. I don’t think this failure of imagination is my problem alone. In fact, I see it in a lot of Christian popular culture as well: it’s trying to describe someone so spectacular and mind-blowing, it often falls back on sentimental metaphors and ends up being saccharine fluff.

And here’s where I think non-Christian popular culture can be such a help to us. Non-Christian popular culture (at least the good stuff) is replete with images of awesomeness. It is full to the brim with awesome. This is not random happenstance. That awesome is there for a reason: people made in the image of God cannot help but produce fragmentary and refracted images of the original Awesome. And this means that the awesome in popular culture ultimately points to the (capital A) Awesome God that we serve. Our job, then, as Christians, is to find the awesome and connect it with the Awesome, to ignite our feeble imaginations into worship worthy of him. It has been watching really, really good popular culture – that’swhen I feel my heart warmed to praise. Popular culture, properly understood, can warm the heart to worship.

 

Click here to read the entire post.  Also, check out his book, Popologetics, here.

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Trailer Tuesdays: The Fantastic Four

Posted: January 27, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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Most Anticipated Movies of 2015

Posted: January 22, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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The new year brings new movies, and 2015 is set up to one of the highest-grossing years of all time. Here is my unranked list of some of the films I’m looking forward to this year.

MV5BMjEwMzI2MjcyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDcwMTgwMzE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_Avengers: Age of Ultron
It’s seems like Marvel can’t do anything wrong. Let’s see if they can keep the streak alive as they transition to phase three.

Knight of Cups
Terrence Malick’s latest, about the perils and potential vanity of fame, sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes. It was on my 2014 list, but ended up getting moved. Hopefully it’s released this year.

Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller
How can I put an untitled film that we know next to nothing about on my list? Well, it is written by the Coen Brothers, directed by Steven Spielberg, and stars Tom Hanks—enough said.MV5BNTA5NzMwNTk4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIzNTY4MzE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
John gave us some excellent “reasons to hope;” check them out.

Tomorrowland
I really admire Brad Bird’s work, and this looks like an imaginative and beautiful Sci-Fi film.

Jurassic World
I know some of you are probably sighing about this one, but that’s okay. I have loved Jurassic Park since I was a kid, and there’s a part of me that is hoping that this will be decent. My heart hopes, but my mind tells me it won’t be that good. We’ll see.

Spectre
Sam Mendes knocked the ball out of the park with Skyfall. I want to see what else he’s got up his sleeve. I would be even more excited had they brought Roger Deakins back as cinematographer.

As you can probably tell, this is not a comprehensive list (nor is intended as such). I know there are some films I forgot to put on here, and I’m learning about new movies all the time. Let me know what you think about the list and what you’re looking forward to seeing. Comment away!

THE BABADOOK and The Enemy Within

Posted: January 15, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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MV5BMTk0NzMzODc2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTYzNTM1MzE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_Creeping silently through the eery, decrepit house, the well-meaning-but-not so-wise protagonist is accompanied by an appropriately foreboding soundtrack. Just as she or he arrives at a corner (or doorway), however, the music stops; the character’s breathing, initially audible, fades as well. All is silent. Then the music and whatever creature, person, or spirit that haunts the house reappears suddenly, swiftly, and simultaneously, causing moviegoers to jump out of their seats and scream in terror.

Unfortunately, the horror genre has become characterized by the kind of cheap jump-scares depicted above; and all too often, such films have little to offer—other than a sleepless night or two. It is, in other words, rare to encounter a horror film that is truly innovative, wherein scariness is not entirely dependent upon quick cuts and dynamic shifts in the soundtrack but is instead driven by smart subtext and finely-tuned, nuanced performances from the cast. Enter Australian director Jennifer Kent’s feature-length directorial debut The Babadook— a film that will scare you, a horror film that will make you think … long after you leave the theater. As the tagline says, “If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”

At the most basic level, The Babadook is the story of a fraught relationship between a mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), and her son, MV5BMTkwOTkzNjA1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk3NTU2MjE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The film opens with a dream sequence in which Amelia is forced to relive the death of her husband that happened on the night Samuel was born. As a result of this tragedy, Amelia has allowed herself to grow cold towards her son—a theme that is reinforced cinematically in that Samuel and Amelia are very rarely shown in close proximity on screen. At best she tolerates him, and at times it seems like she has come to hate him. His seemingly excessive and irrational fear of monsters drives her crazy, and his social ineptitude makes it difficult for her to pawn him off to relatives and friends. For Amelia, her son is a constant, nagging reminder that her husband is dead; and it looks like she is doomed to live with her depression and anxiety in isolation.

Then, one night as Amelia tucks Samuel into bed, a children’s book entitled Mister Babadook brings all of these relational tensions to the surface in a horrifyingly real way. Samuel finds the book on his shelf and begs his mother to read it too him; initially hesitant and not wanting to fuel his fear of monsters, Amelia reluctantly acquiesces. The picture book, which tells the story of a murderous monster named Mister Babadook, terrifies Samuel.

In the following days, Samuel’s behavior becomes increasingly odd, and he makes claims of seeing the monster from the book. Amelia would like to dismiss these claims as a desperate pleas for attention or further evidence of the boy’s obsession with monsters, but soon she begins to see Mister Babadook as well.

The plot may sound like the standard horror film fare, but one of the interesting things about The Babadook is that it opens up an interesting interpretive possibility that makes it a worthwhile entry into the genre. In so many horror films, the evil antagonist is something “out there,” an external threat—be it monster, demon, or crazed psychopath—that is trying to harm others. A surface-level reading of The Babadook ostensibly reinforces this trope, but the film also leaves open the possibility—nay, even suggests—that the greatest threat lies within. In other words, The Babadook can be interpreted allegorically, where the titular monster is but a stand-in for and picture of Amelia’s psychosis—her hatred for Samuel, her bitterness, depression, and anxiety. Through all of its scares (and there are plenty), the film is really and at heart, an insightful—and almost Biblical—meditation on human nature, sinfulness, and the redemptive power of love.

Despite its ultra-creepy and seemingly fatalistic tagline, The Babadook ends up being one of the most optimistic horror films of all time; and while it stops short of the Biblical promise that those who trust in Christ will be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29), Kent doesn’t feel compelled to leave viewers utterly hopeless just for the sake of faux complexity or a fleeting final scare. Perhaps, after all, the tagline is right: “If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” No, you can’t.

Wednesday’s Weekday Poll

Posted: January 14, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Wednesday's Weekend Poll
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Spectre could be Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, so . . . who should take up the mantle once he’s done?

Trailer Tuesdays: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted: January 13, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

Take a look at the new trailer for Age of Ultron.

Reel Thinking

jaws 1In 1975, a now-famous theme song—a haunting melody, its foreboding refrain feigning cacophony—announced the presence of a shark; and the shark, in turn, taught us to fear the ocean. For almost forty years now, that shark has terrified audiences. But when a film like Jaws endures for this length of time, there must be something more, something deeper, than a fear of sharks that compels us to watch. The real reason that Jaws is terrifying is because it forces us to confront a reality we fear the most: our smallness. This sense of smallness, which is primarily achieved through the film’s theme of isolation, makes audiences feel feeble and helpless, out of control, and, thus, terrified

The film opens with a shark attack at a nighttime beach party, as a young woman named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) leads her love interest away from the party and toward the beach for…

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Top Posts in 2014

Posted: January 5, 2015 by jperritt in Uncategorized

As we start a new year, let’s take a look back at the Reel Thinking posts that received the most views in 2014.  Stay tuned for new posts this week.  Enjoy!

On Watching Movies

After Earth: Fear is a Choice

Picking a Youth Group Movie

Godfather: Never Go Against the Family

Shutter Island: Life or Lobotomy

The Intelligence of Sherlock Holmes