Archive for March, 2015

IT FOLLOWS Review

Posted: March 30, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

MV5BMTUwMDEzNDI1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzAyODU5MzE@._V1__SX1394_SY660_I’m guest reviewing the new film It Follows, which is already being called the best horror film of the year, over at Reel World Theology. Here’s a snippet:

Like so many horror movies before it—Halloween, Friday the 13th, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, to name a few—Robert David Mitchell’s It Follows is about sex, which, of course, has very specific connotations in the genre and is replete with concomitant baggage. The trope is one with which we’re all familiar: two teenagers engage in premarital sex and are subsequently murdered by the monster or knife-wielding psychopath; but unlike its predecessors, who were largely content to let sexual politics serve as a plot-progressing subtext, It Follows puts them in the driver’s seat.

Click here to read the rest, and be sure to check out all the great stuff they’re doing at Reel World Theology!

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Chef: Made in the Image of its Creator

Posted: March 27, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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MV5BMTY5NTYzNTA1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODIwODU1MTE@._V1__SX1394_SY660_Chef (2014), written and directed by Jon Favreau, is one of those charming little films that is virtually destined—predestined, one might say—to get marginalized in a Hollywood industry characterized by big-budgeted, effects-laden, and Oscar-grubbing motion pictures—some of which are very fine films in their own right. On one level, that Chef didn’t shatter box-office records or garner widespread critical or popular acclaim makes sense; it’s a family film but isn’t exactly “family friendly,” and it is thus a difficult film to sell to studios and a broad audience. The appeal—or at least an appeal—of Chef, however, is that Favreau’s enthusiasm permeates the film so that it is almost palpable. Indeed, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he speaks about the film as a sort of passion project:

[T]his was me seizing an opportunity to do something that was completely satisfying for me artistically, and I feel very lucky to have done it. It was really exciting to go back to my roots in independent film and face the challenges that I used to face with time and money – but not having to face the challenges of making a case for my creative vision in a roomful of people who all might have different opinions.[1]

After directing the first two Iron Men movies—Marvel isn’t known for giving directors complete freedom—and several television gigs, he wanted to undertake in Chef a project of personal significance. Given the above quote, it is both unsurprising and deeply interesting that the film itself reflects Favreaus’s desire to express himself as an independent filmmaker, free from the pressures of the studio system; for although Chef is an amalgamation of the road movie and father-son bonding flick, it is ultimately a work that bears the mark of its creator.

Chef Carl Casper (played by Favreau himself) labors away in a restaurant kitchen as the film begins; and, as one expects in a filmMV5BMjA5NjkzMDE4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjg0NzEzMTE@._V1__SX1394_SY660_ named Chef, seductive closeups of food, in all of its pre-cooked, cooked, and delicately prepared glory punctuate the opening scenes (and the entire film).[2] Casper prepares a new menu that is bound to impress the famous food critic who will be visiting that night; but the restaurant owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), puts an end to the creativity, telling Casper that he should cook the menu that has kept them afloat and successful for years. “Look, if you bought Stones tickets and Jagger didn’t play Satisfaction, how would you feel? Would you be happy?” Riva asks rhetorically. This time, however, Casper has had enough; and after an episode of public humiliation, he leaves his job at the restaurant, opens his own food truck, and attempts to repair his broken relationship with his son and ex-wife.

The similarities between chef Carl Casper and Favreau are not difficult to discern: both men have grown weary of the pressures to conform to the strict standards of their respective industries and seek another creative outlet. The restaurant, which is a stand-in for the Hollywood studio system, ultimately exists to make a profit; and it therefore ultimately makes certain demands on its chefs—demands that, as Favreau explains, can be burdensome:

I was really excited to do something that was not part of a big committee and a big collaboration. It’s [Chef] about a character in transition in life, a person trying to find his voice and reconnect with his passions. To me that’s the story of many people that I know that are my age.[3]

Ultimately, Chef is less an indictment of the Hollywood system and more of an impassioned ode to creativity wherein Favreau reminds us that, as goes the oft-quoted adage, art reflects life. He has crafted a film the way a master chef prepares a special dish: with love, care, and attention to detail. Chef is very much made in the likeness of its creator, and it offers an interesting meditation on why we value creativity. It testifies that, as human beings, we create things in our image—that bear our mark and our name—precisely because we are created in the image of God.

[Chef is currently streaming on Netflix.]

New Trailer: Tomorrowland

Posted: March 9, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

Check out the latest trailer for Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland.

The Overnighters: by Josh Crabb

Posted: March 5, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

Typically hoMV5BMjE5MDE3NzA0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjM1NzY2MjE@._V1__SX524_SY699_w pastors have been portrayed in movies is not really always favorable. It’s a tough thing to pull off an authentic pastor/priest in a movie or TV (just ask The Walking Dead, who can’t seem to get it right in the comics or TV), and as is often the case, the portrayal is either too simplistic, too insanely over-the-top, or just plain absent. While you don’t need a pastor or clergy member to effectively tell a spiritually significant story, when done well a narrative with a significant clergy presence can be very profound (see Calvary from last year).

The Overnighters, on the other hand, is a feature-length documentary from Jesse Moss (Full Battle Rattle, Speedo) that is a non-fiction portrayal of a Midwestern pastor that is one of the best and most significant portrayals of a pastor on-screen that I have ever seen. It focuses on the “Overnighters” ministry to the many people traveling from all over the world to find work in the modern day boomtown of Williston, North Dakota. The ministry is the work of Pastor Jay Reinke and Concrodia Lutheran Church, where he pastors and where many of these hopeful people eat and sleep. The church has responded to the need to house the hundreds of people who don’t have homes yet have jobs or are still looking for jobs.

While it is an immensely inspiring story of a pastor and the church responding to Jesus’ call to care for those in need in their community, this ministry and the people who are ministered to are just one element of a very compelling and layered narrative. Pastor Jay Reinke’s personal story opens and closes the movie and is by far the most captivating storyline that Moss explores. An incredibly gifted and loving man, Pastor Reinke is also an incredibly flawed human, like all of us. Pastor Reinke’s story highlights the passion and the peril of Christian ministry.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

The ministry to the “Overnighters” is the passionate pursuit of Jay Reinke, and the movie makes no doubt about it. It is evident from an early scene where around the dinner table his wife recounts that when she first met him he had a Native American homeless man living in his basement. He has the gift of hospitality, and that heart of Jay’s is the driving engine behind the ministry to these displaced and homeless men and women (although it is mostly men). Reinke’s passion for the people he ministers to keeps him going when things got difficult. Without a love for people, as Jay shows, there is no way our efforts will be sustainable and last for the long haul.

MV5BMTk2Njc0NjYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjg3ODg3MjE@._V1__SX524_SY699_A love for people will also foster a passion to see people progress in their discipleship and faith. We echo Paul’s love for the Philippians when he said that to remain with them, “for [their] progress and joy in the faith.” (Philippians 1:25). There are a number of people in the film who have stuck around to continue to help with the Overnighters ministry and it is a joy to see their progress in faith from having none to helping love others. Without this type of passion to see people actually progress in ministering to others, again, our resolve would be lacking.

One particularly poignant portion of the movie is when he is sitting down and talking to a man who clearly has had issues with drugs and alcohol. He describes his life and his pursuit of God but eventually breaks down in tears over the difficulty of following Jesus and having the problems he has. Pastor Reinke hugs him and assures him he is loved and prays with him. Later, he tracks the guy down as he is leaving town to make sure he is doing alright. It is a great moment where we see the passion for people and their progress in the faith in Pastor Reinke’s actual pursuit and follow up of this broken man.

It is Pastor Reinke’s love amidst the brokenness of these people that is the biggest reminder of that our love of others comes from a passion for a person: Jesus Christ. From his prayers to God to his morning singing of the doxology, we see that no ministry can sustain itself without a firm commitment to Christ (Eph 4:15; Col 2:19). I was blown away by the example of Pastor Reinke and Concordia Lutheran Church as well as their firm commitment to Christ through worship, prayer, and Bible Study with the people they were ministering to.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

The first third of the movie is incredibly inspirational in showing the loving and life-shaping impact the Overnighters ministry is having on all of these displaced and hopeless individuals. However, what makes this movie special and what adds lots of humanity is when the cracks and weaknesses of both the ministry and Pastor Reinke’s life start to show amidst the pressure of taking care of people and the outside pressure of those in the city. It shows us that ministry may be and need a passion, but it is also incredibly perilous.

At the halfway point of the movie it becomes abundantly clear that, although this ministry is incredibly beneficial to so many, both the regular congregation of Concordia Lutheran and the community of Williston opposes much of what Pastor Reinke is doing. Reinke stumps both in congregational meetings and at city councils that being a Christian people means caring for those who are homeless and in need, but all the congregation and city can see is the drastic change in their lives. As one church members puts it, “it’s not the “Christian” thing to think, but these people are taking over my plains, my prairie.” These scenes reminds us that no matter how good the work is that we are doing, we will come up against strong opposition from within (the church body) and without (the world).

Not only will we see opposition, but an equally large peril is that in our desire to share Christ with and love others, you will be disliked. One of The Overnighters more difficult scenes is when a long time leader of the Overnighters ministry messes up (his own sin) and is forced by Jay to be done helping and leave in order to keep up the appearance of the ministry. As he leaves he verbally chews out Pastor Reinke and voices his displeasure at his choices and leadership. Whether justified because of our own sin or unjustified because of other people’s sins against us, there are going to be people who, despite your best efforts, will not like you.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18

Lastly, and largely the most gut-punching for a pastor, is that not only will the world dislike you but it can be even more sinister when people like you. When you are liked and adored for your ministry, i.e. have a movie made about it, there is a temptation to buy into that significance and begin to believe the hype and adoration. Many of the choices made in the movie set Pastor Reinke on a path where the Overnighters ministry swallows up his identity, his family, and his life. In his own words, “It’s easy to become a facade, maybe especially when you’re a pastor, but I know for me. The public persona, you can believe that, and the private person becomes something else. And the result is always…pain.”

The grueling realizations made in this documentary force us to confront what we are really worshipping. Every church planter and pastor, really any Christian of any denomination, should watch this movie and discuss it afterwards. When we separate our daily work and especially our ministry from the person of Jesus Christ, it will almost certainly fall apart and result in pain. However, when we connect our passion for people and people’s progress with the person of Jesus Christ, we are assured that he will be with us and will deliver us from temptation and be a shelter from the storm in perilous times.

Go see this movie, if you have not seen it, and make sure to digest it and discuss it with others to enrich this movie going experience. You can watch The Overnighters on Netflix Instant, as well as rent or buy it from major digital providers such as iTunes and Amazon.

Final trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

Posted: March 4, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Action
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Guest Post Tomorrow!

Posted: March 4, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

film stripIt’s a busy season for the writers here at Reel Thinking, and you’ve probably noticed that we haven’t been able to post quite as much as usual. The good news is that we will be featuring an article tomorrow from a guest, Joshua Crabb; so be sure to check back tomorrow! In the meantime, here is a little bit more about Josh:

Josh Crabb is a husband and father of four. Pastor of Adult and Family Discipleship at Appleton Gospel in Appleton, WI and lead planter of Coram Deo Church in Neenah, WI. He is a writer and podcaster for Reel World Theology as well as writing at 13Past1.com. He loves movies and loves talking about them even more. You can get in touch with him on Twitter (@HeyItsThatJosh) or on Letterboxd to talk more about movies.