Archive for February, 2015

2015 Oscar Picks

Posted: February 19, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit Images[With the Oscars coming up this Sunday, I thought I’d take some time to share my picks. Before you proceed, however, you’ll want to note a couple of things. First, these are not my predictions of what will win each award, but are instead representative of what I would like to win in its respective category. Second, I have not made a selection for every category—only the “major” ones. Now that the caveats are out of the way, happy reading! Be sure to leave your comments at the end.]

Best Picture: Boyhood

I said elsewhere that it’s “heartbreaking, moving, and provocative—with scope and ambition unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Actor in a Leading Role: Michael Keaton

Honestly, this one is a toss-up between Keaton and Carell.

Actress in a Leading Role: Rosamund Pike

I didn’t see any of the other nominated films.

MV5BMTYzNDc2MDc0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwMDQ5MTE@._V1__SX626_SY660_Actor in a Supporting Role: J.K. Simmons

Still, Edward Norton is fantastic in Birdman. Simmons tips the scale because his character is the driving force of Whiplash.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Patricia Arquette

I won’t be sad if Emma Stone pulls it off, though.

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (for Birdman)

Lubezki does a fantastic job executing Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s vision for the film. As always, his use of natural light is impeccable.

Directing: Richard Linklater

Animated Feature Film: How To Train Your Dragon 2

I still can’t believe that The Lego Movie was not nominated.

[So, what are your picks? Did I make a horrible choice? Let me know by commenting below!]

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Backcountry Trailer

Posted: February 18, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

MV5BMjA3MjI0NDAxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk2NDI3MzE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_The Phoenix Project (2015) is a little-known, independent Sci-Fi film shot on a tiny budget by debut director, Tyler Graham Pavey; and as such, it has all the trappings of a film with great potential. Small production companies and the rise of VOD (video on demand) have combined to created a market replete with opportunities for up-and-coming filmmakers, affording them a chance to do with Sci-Fi what the genre does does best: experiment with narrative, form, and style to create truly innovative films that speak to the human condition. One particularly notable example of this is Shane Carruth’s 2004 film, Primer (perhaps one of the most convoluted—in a positive way—and captivating time travel stories ever told through the medium of film), which is clearly the father of and forerunner to Pavey’s Phoenix Project. Both films take place almost exclusively in a singular setting (a garage), and both place a heavy emphasis on jargon-filled dialogue and minimal exposition. What is interesting, then, is that these two films that have so much in common are so starkly different.

The Phoenix Project begins in media res, with a team of four men assembled to work on a project referred to as Phoenix. In many ways, the first thirty minutes of the film are the most interesting, as we learn about the characters and their unified purpose. And one way The Phoenix Project succeeds is by showing more than telling. Pavey makes us sit patiently and observe in order to learn that Perry (Corey Rieger), Devin (Andrew Simpson), Ampersand (David Pesta), and Carter (Orson Ossman) are working on a project that will bring the dead back to life. One of the more fascinating—or maddening, depending on your viewpoint—aspects of The Phoenix Project is that it, like the aforementioned Primer, does not even attempt to explain the “science” behind the endeavor. Whiteboards are filled with endless equations and formulas that are most likely gibberish to those who don’t have advanced degrees in requisite fields, and the film’s sparse dialogue is interspersed and charged with highly technical language. The majority of screen time is thusly devoted to the team’s attempt to get this elaborate machine they have built to work on live subjects. They begin by conducting tests on small animals, such as insects, and then move on to mammals, mice and rabbits; and when they discover—after numerous delays and complications— that their machine actually works, the next question is to whether they should run a test using a human subject.

MV5BMTgwNjY5MDkzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTAxMTcyMQ@@._V1__SX1394_SY676_While it all sounds very interesting and promises to be thought-provoking and suspenseful, the most noticeable problem with The Phoenix Project—as is often the case when a film has this sort of symbiotic relationship with its predecessor—is that it fails to delight, captivate, entertain, and illuminate where Carruth’s Primer succeeds. Whereas the latter is able to be jargon-laden, vague, and character-driven in way that appeals to both hard-core Sci-Fi aficionados and a more general audience, the former has the same end-goals in mind but achieves none of them. The film’s attempts to generate interesting conflict among the characters falls flat, and the narrative itself is devoid of any meaningful progression. Moreover, the score of The Phoenix Project has a hokey, daytime soap opera feel that works against its otherwise somber, serious tone.

The real tragedy is that Pavey’s debut film builds toward a provocative and worthwhile theme— that humans are much more than biological organisms or highly advanced animals (the film even hints at the existence of soul or some sort of transcendence)— but it fails to deliver on a formal level. Earlier I invoked the notion of Primer as a forerunner to The Phoenix Project. In reality, this language falls short, for forerunner imagery conjures up ideas of the hairy, wild, camel-hair clad, locust-eating, John the Baptist, who proclaimed the coming Messiah. The purpose of a forerunner is to point to something greater than oneself, and so the unfortunate thing about The Phoenix Project is that all it ever does is remind us of how good Primer is; it merely points back to its forerunner and fails to build on the foundation that has been laid.

 

[Note: This is being re-posted to foster thoughts on the pornographic film, Fifty Shades of Grey]

Since American Reunion makes the eighth installment of the sex-worshiping franchise, American Pie, we have compiled 8 reasons Christians shouldn’t watch it. Yesterday, we posted the first four, below we have the remaining four.

Sex is Idolized

The first American Pie was all about losing one’s virginity on prom night. That was the god of the four main characters. In one scene, the character actually prays that God would allow him to fornicate with a girl. Sex is still the false god of this newest installment. Sex is a good thing, but when it becomes the thing it’s idolatry. This is the first and greatest commandment. Love God first, not sex. This film feeds THE lie of this culture, that lie? “Sex is the greatest thing.” Sex is a good thing, but God is the greatest in all creation.

Lust & Pornography

One would be hard-pressed to find any film that didn’t cause you to lust, whether it was for food or possessions or sex, however, lust is a sin (Prov. 6:25, Job 31:1, Matt. 5:25, Col. 3:5). And if I were a betting man, there is no way you could make it through an American Pie film without lusting. The entire franchise is designed to make you lust. I’m surprised they don’t give you a money-back guarantee if you don’t. The bottom line is, this film was created to make you sin. While we are on the subject of lust, let’s just go ahead and call this a pornographic film. Compared to more raunchy films this could be considered a “soft” porn, yet it is porn nonetheless. Even though this film will not be as explicit as some porn, there are plenty of pornographic elements contained in the film. Pornography is clearly sin and is one of the most powerful addictions in our culture. Even though this film will have less graphic content, it will lead to more explicit content because porn can never satisfy. It destroys marriages, spouses, & children – it is not funny. Why take the chance of indulging in something that could be your end, and laugh at something that ruins so many lives?

Masturbation is Okay

The combination of lust and porn will bring us here. In the previews Jim (Biggs) exclaims that he doesn’t have much sex now that he’s married, therefore, he decides to “please” himself. However, his 4 to 5 year-old son walks in and catches his father masturbating to pornography – again, all played for laughs. This is wrong on so many levels, but let me just take one. God created sex to bind two people together, once married. Jim’s character is idolizing sex to such a degree that his own pleasure is more important than his union with his wife. Instead of drawing towards his wife, he is committing adultery with strangers on his computer screen…in front of his son. Hilarious…right?

One Final Thought

If you are still persistent and say, “As a Christian, I think I can watch this film.” My question for you is, “Will you be embarrassed?” If you were to go to the cinema and see this film and run into someone you know – parents, girlfriend or boyfriend, pastor, or grandparents – and they knew you saw this film, would it bother you? Chances are that it would. And if it would, that means there’s a certain level of shame and guilt attached to it. I would say that there is a certain level of guilt and shame attached to this film, because of the above mentioned reasons. If you say, ‘I won’t be embarrassed.” You should be.

Use great caution in possibly indulging these areas of sin for some cheap laughs. Christians have much freedom, because of our beautiful Savior Jesus Christ, but that does not give us license to let grace abound. Let me close with God’s Word in Romans 6:1-4:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 

[Note: This is being re-posted to foster thoughts about the pornographic film, Fifty Shades of Grey]

As mentioned before, Reel Thinking, wants to be cautious about its approval or disapproval of any film. We are aware of Christian liberty and understand what’s offensive to some, might not be offensive to others. However, there are times we will speak more bluntly, and American Reunion certainly gives reason to.

It’s interesting to note that the last time I spoke strongly against a film was A Very Harold & Kumar Mockery of Christ….or something like that, I can’t remember the exact title. And, American Reunion has some of the same writers involved. Adam Herz & Jon Hurwitz have been responsible for such classics like Harold and Kumar 1 & 2 and American Pie 1-7 (I’m not exaggerating; Reunion makes the 8th installment of the franchise). So one must not be Det. Columbo to figure out that Herz & Hurwitz have an agenda for sex in their films.

Now we want to be cautious of not sounding hypocritical or judgmental toward those involved in this film, or even those who really want to see this film. With a certain level of guilt and shame, I admit that I saw the first American Pie in the theaters and today I wish I wouldn’t.

All of that being said, Christians would be hard-pressed to give reasons why they should subject themselves to a film like AR. If you simply say you want to see it because it’s funny, I can think of some more wholesome ways to enjoy a good laugh. Plus, should we be laughing at the jokes AR are telling? I’ve thought of eight reasons why Christians, or anyone for that matter, shouldn’t go see this film. Since it’s the eighth installment of the franchise, I figured this would be fitting. I will post four today and the remaining four tomorrow, so be sure to read all my reasons before you say I’m an out-of-touch-culture-hating-Christian.

The Content

Let’s begin with the obvious. The film contains crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking. And I think it’s safe to say, none of these will be presented in a redeeming way. In actuality, all of this will be glorifying the sinful depravity of man. I would say, that there are times when this content could be okay to accurately tell a certain story, but not when it’s making light of it or glorifying it.

Adultery

Remember, I haven’t seen the film, and won’t be seeing it, so I’m going off of the previews. The character of Stifler (Sean William Scott) encourages Jim (Jason Biggs) to have sex with a certain girl. When Jim tells Stifler he’s married, he makes another crude remark encouraging the pursuit of adultery. Last I checked, adultery is not only a sin listed in the Bible, but it also wrecks the lives of the spouses and children involved, therefore, it shouldn’t be a punchline Christians should laugh at.

Marriage is Mocked

Now maybe the film teaches a moral at the end about marriage and family, but you have to wade through a lot of garbage to get there. On the other hand, at least one scene from the previews implies that life is over once married. This may seem like a ‘Lighten-up-John’ comment, but let’s not be too quick to dismiss. Marriage is instituted by God, therefore, Satan and the world hates it. We live in a world with an insane divorce rate, so should we take lightly a film that mocks it? The world is buying this lie, let’s not propagate it by laughing along with them.

Fornication is Funny

This film sees sex outside of marriage as funny. Period. Sleep around, sleep with many different people, laugh about sleeping around, etc. Let’s get back to some basics. God made sex as good. He made it to bind two people together. Sleeping with many different partners tears people apart – spiritually, mentally, & emotionally speaking. I know plenty of people who slept around and they carry difficult baggage with them throughout life. Fornication is not funny, ask the people who have done it.

 

[NOTE: This was originally published in June of 2012, but is being re-posted to foster thoughts about the up-coming release of Fifty Shades of Grey.]

Yesterday we considered many thoughts that surrounded the movie Thor, centering on lust. Is it okay to watch a scene that highlights a certain actor’s – or actresses – physical attributes? Does it bump up too closely to lust? In my opinion, the scene from Thor was designed to make you do so, and other similar scenes do so as well.

These thoughts came about from a post I read on Facebook, the rise of female pornography addiction, and the release of Magic Mike. Here is the synopsis of the film: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money. Classy! I promise to stick to some of the same concerns from yesterday and stay away from the question of, why Steven Soderbergh is continuing to throw away his career by making bad movies?

I guess this is the main question I have with the release of Magic Mike, is this a preview of what’s to come? Will films like this become common-place because of the rise in popularity of female porn?

I may be wrong, but I cannot think of a film that has marketed male nudity this explicitly, at least in recent years. The content says “brief graphic nudity”. Some may think, ‘at least it’s brief.’ Yes, but it’s still graphic. This film is dangerous for at least two reasons.

First, the cast is made up of notable actors. Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey are guys that have catered to girls idolatry of love in many romantic comedies. Now, they are going to be leaving little to the imagination in MM, but women will flock to the theaters.

Secondly, the story seems to follow your typical romantic-comedy plot. Rom-coms usually depict rank fornication, but do so in a cutesy way which sells tickets. And even though the story of MM follows male strippers, the added rom-com subplot makes this pill easier to swallow. It makes porn seem cutesy.

To me, a line from the film sums up everything. Dallas (McConaughey) is giving his fellow narcissistic strippers a pep talk and states, “You are the husband she never had.” This statement is wrong on so many levels, but let’s just pick one.

Husbands and wives make a vow before God that death will be the only thing to separate them. Because of this covenant, the man commits to the wife and visa versa, no matter what. In light of the current discussion, this means the wife holds the husband as her standard of beauty – not some stripper.

And this is the true danger of films like this, creating lustful covetousness of a fantasy. You see, many men and women can remain in a marriage, while fulfilling fantasies through movie stars and make-believe characters. The new, exceedingly popular, pornographic novels Fifty Shades of Grey have proved that. Walt Mueller, President of Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, recently wrote an article about the literary porn phenomena. Read what he witnessed at the book table at Costco one afternoon:

A younger woman was holding the book and pondering the purchase. She had an inquisitive and slightly guilty look on her face. An older women standing nearby happened to see the same inquisitive and guilty look and decided to engage the younger lady in conversation. . . . a conversation that pushed the latter to a tipping point. “Thinking about reading it?”, the older woman asked. “Yes, but I hear it’s a little dirty,” the younger woman replied. At that point, the young woman’s husband appeared behind her with their cart. Noticing her husband was now privy to the conversation, the young woman turned a little red and muttered something about her husband showing up. . . as if the conversation needed to come to an end. She looked like a guilty kid who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The older woman. . . probably in her mid-60s by my estimation. . . looked at her, gave her a little wink, and said, “It’s ten dollars well spent.” With that, the young woman placed the book in her cart. . . . and I watched her exchange a sly little smile with her husband. That was an interesting mentoring moment that says a lot about who we are and what we’re becoming as a culture [read the full article here].

One can never point out the deceitfulness of our sin enough. Whether it’s Thor with his shirt off, Magic Mike struttin’ his stuff, Twilight vampires glistening in the sun, or new explorations in bondage from Fifty Shades of Grey, we must be cautious of toying with our sin. Remember, sin wants to destroy your marriage, lead you down a path of adultery, and, ultimately, drag you to hell, so be wary of the lie it’s telling. Should you go see Magic Mike? Will it help you appreciate your husband? Will it cause you to lust? You might not have to search your heart too long on this one.

Selma: A Bittersweet March–by Kenneth Evan Haynes

Posted: February 5, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

MV5BODMxNjAwODA2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzc0NjgzMzE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_This past Tuesday, I went to see Selma, a film that depicts Dr. Martin Luther King’s (MLK) march from Selma, Alabama to the capitol steps in Birmingham to protest African Americans being denied the right to vote. At that time in America’s history in 1965, much of the south was still segregated, despite President Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing discrimination against all races, including segregation. A large part of this segregation was that voting registration offices denied African Americans their right to vote.  After the Civil Rights Act made it illegal deny African Americans that right, voting registration offices in southern states, including Alabama’s, required them to pass a verbal patriotic test similar to what an immigrant would have to know to become a citizen in order to be legally approved to vote.

This is fact is made clear in one of the opening scenes of the film where Annie Lee Cooper (played by Oprah Winfrey) fills out the form that should register her to vote.  She walks to the registrar’s window and places her form through the slot for the registrar to inspect. Normally for any Caucasian citizen, the registrar would scan the form and then stamp it with the word “Approved,” signifying the citizen being granted the right to vote; but since Cooper was an African American, the registrar asked her to recite the preamble of the constitution, how many judges were appointed for the state of Alabama, and to name those judges.  Cooper recited the first paragraph of the preamble, gave the number of judges when the registrar interrupted her recitation, but could not name the judges, so the registrar stamped her form “Denied”.

Denials like hers and those of others drove MLK and his friends to protestant action, action that they knew might cost them their lives.  The story of that action is bittersweet.  Bitter because of the hateful acts of racial bigotry that were done to MLK and his friends, including two murders.  Sweet because of MLK’s faithful God-fearing response and the resilience of his compatriots.

Scripture is not often quoted in films, but Selma is salted with it.  In one scene, MLK (played by David Oyelowo) tells his friend Rev. Hosea Williams (played by Wendell Pierce) that he worries that their efforts could risk the lives of others down the road.  Williams responds by quoting Matthew 6:26-27: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

And yet, MLK is given very good reasons to worry.  In several scenes, his wife receives a call to their house accusing her husband of adultery and saying they will be damned.  The other forms of persecution depicted are far more violent and sometimes brutal. One young man was killed by a policeman the night after MLK and his friends made a stand against denials to vote at the Selma registry office. In addition, the FBI are watching and recording MLK’s words and deeds throughout the film, and in several scenes an agent of theirs tries to talk MLK into backing down. Their last conversation is about the speech he plans to make on the capitol steps after the march.  The agent fears there may be an attempt on his life during the speech.  MLK responds, “I’m like any man, I want to live a long happy life. But I’m not doing what I want; I’m doing what God wants me to.”  MLK was willing to be persecuted to death for his Lord. I wonder if Christians in the American church today can truthfully say the same.