Steve’s 2012 Rankings Page Has Been Added

Now that I’ve seen ten 2012 movies, including one that deserves a number 1 ranking, I figured it was time to add my 2012 ranking page to the blog. Check it out and let me know what you think. Do you agree with my ratings? Are there movies released so far in 2012 that I should make it a point to see?

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The “God” Character in Men in Black 3 – A Reflection by Bill

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Alright…confession time.  You should know by now that I go to the movies in search for God.  Trying to look past the acting(bad or otherwise), the director’s nonsense, or the curious plot line, I search for where God might be in THIS film.

At first, watching Men in Black 3, I had no idea what I would write.  The plot is…typical of a Men in Black movie.  The acting…the same.  It has the same feel as the other two movies.  So…at first I was lost.  “Where is God in this movie?’  And then a new character came on the scene.

His name is Griffon.  He’s a 5 dimensional alien who can see all possibilities.  In his world, everything happens at the same time.  There are possible futures compounded upon possible futures.  One decision might take the characters left.  Another decision might take them right.  And all decisions and their consequences are beholden to Griffon.  Griffon holds the key to salvation.  The ArcNet in the movie which will protect the Earth from a ravenous alien species.  And its up to the Men in Black, of course, to protect Griffon and save the planet.

What I loved is how Griffon looked at the world.  Since he could see all consequences, he could also see all the details.  Watching a baseball game, he noted how the manufacturer of the baseball had an argument with his wife the day this ball was made and that’s why it flies in a certain way.  He spoke about all the details surrounding the game.  And they were all present to him.  All at once.  It was beautiful in a way.  And mindblowing at the same time.

And I wondered… is this how God sees us?  When God looks at the world, does he see all the details happening all at once?  Do they sound like a symphony to him, with each part playing their part?  Does he see how our decisions affect other people in way that we can never see?  Does he witness all possibilities, all parallel universes, at once?

I think he does!  I think he really does. If the psalmist who wrote Psalm 104 were alive today, I think he might include some of those things in his description of God’s activity.  Check that psalm out!  It’s mind blowing when you think of it!  It’s like an ancient version of the Griffon character.  God is involved in so many details of life!

And that’s where God differs from Griffon in the movie.  Where as the Griffon character could see all these possibilities, he could do nothing about them.  In fact, he says: “A miracle is something that is never suppose to happen.”  Griffon is not really full of love for anything either.  He’s got a sense of humor, but that’s about it.  God’s full of love for his creation.  So, while he may look in upon all the details of our lives, he looks upon them with delight.  “It is good!” he declares of his creation…even now!

Check out Men in Black 3…if only to ask yourself: “Is that how God is in the world today?”

Why the Church should Watch Battleship: A Reflection by Bill

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Okay… I am a sucker for alien movies.  I love the movies where the aliens come with awesome technology to wipe out humanity, only to be stopped by a rag-tag group of people struggling to survive.  I know it’s been done before.  I know it’s predictable.  I just…love it!

So, when I heard what the new Battleship movie was going to be about, I had to see it!  And see it we did.  With my two boys excited, my daughter afraid, and my wife unsure.

And Battleship did not disappoint.

It had everything I came for.  Alien invaders with amazing technology.  A small group of heroes to save the day.  Unspeakable odds.  The end of the world.  It even had references to the classic Battleship game on which it was loosely based.  It was awesome!

But the best part of it had to do with what it told me about the church and how we should be doing things.

You see… what finally won the day wasn’t what had always worked.  Nor was it the coolest technology.  The heroes “salvation” came in two stages.  First… the assessed the situation.  They learned they could not “see” the aliens on their radar.  That made targeting difficult.  Next… they changed the way they did things.  They brought out what could be used from the past and changed it up.  They used different tactics and a new angle.

The aliens didn’t stand a chance!

We in the church are faced with a similar situation.  Our churches are emptying.  The younger people who we assumed would fill those pews simply aren’t there.  As they old faithful ones get older, they also grow less active.  Less able to do what they use to do.

That’s the assessment of the situation.  Things aren’t working the way they did.

And our churches are suffering for it.  Some have already gone into survival mode.  Clinging onto their life rafts, they don’t stand a chance against the enemy of time.  Soon the waves will overtake them and they will be no more.  Others have just kept shooting their old guns in the old familiar way, again and again, just like they did before thinking that maybe this year things will change.  Maybe this year our old Sunday school will be filled.  Maybe this year they’ll just magically show up.  Maybe this year.

What we need is a change of tactics.  We need some brave people who are willing to turn their ship around. Some who will think “outside the box”, so to speak, to engage a younger generation.  We need people who will put their time into mobilizing the old guard, as the hero did in Battleship.  Who can meld both the old talents we mustn’t lose with a new direction toward the young.  We need a change of tactics…just like Battleship!

Maybe if we were faced with an enemy as relentless and alien as the ones in Battleship, we would change.  Maybe if our lives were on the line, then we’d change.  Or maybe not.  One way or another, at least we’re not alone.  For even, if our individual church-ships fall under the waves of time, God who began this good work in us will see it to completion.  He is faithful.  He will do it!  Our church might not look like anything we’d even dream of…but it will still be God’s church nevertheless.

So…what do you think?  Will we, or can we, change our tactics as they did in Battleship?  What will turn this ship around?

What Makes A True Savior? – Bill’s Reflection on John Carter

What makes a savior, truly, a savior? And why is it that we gravitate so much to saviors that are quite the opposite of our True Savior?

My kids and I went to see the new movie John Carter. Now, I can almost anticipate what my co-blogger will write here, about the movie not being well acted, the script was scarce at that, and the plot predictable. All of which I would agree with.

Except… Except. This movie is a Savior story at its heart. The book its based on predates Avatar and all the rest of the modern day Savior-Hero movies, but the plot remains the same.

The hero(John Carter in this instance) comes from the outside(Earth) to rescue the poor natives who can’t rescue themselves. He comes with superpowers(in this case the ability to jump HIGH and hit HARD). And he comes to rescue those who can’t do it themselves. To unite the natives under one banner. And to save people with violent force.

In the end he is forced to ascend back to Earth…only to rediscover a way to return and claim his rightful place in Martian society.

Typical savior movie…right?

So why is it so appealing to watch? Why do so many of our stories center around what Christians might call a “false Messiah”, and someone who works out the problems by force?

Maybe its because we really still don’t get what Jesus did for us. Or continues to do for us. Maybe we’re still waiting for Jesus to return, like John Carter does at the end of the film, to rescue us from the world and take us away to some far away planet called “Heaven”. Maybe we really can’t believe that Jesus really did conquer sin, death, and the devil two thousand years ago on a cross, so we’re waiting for him to take up his sword and do it right sometime soon. Maybe that’s why, even we Christians, gravitate toward such stories.

The fact remains, though, that, as hard as they are to watch for some, movies like Avatar and John Carter can provide a means to witness to the true Savior of the world. The one who comes with all the power in the world and lays that power down at the cross. The one who took on death itself to save us and defeat the powers of darkness once and for all. And who will return, not with a sword, but with a new heaven and a new earth!

That’s the story worth telling. And if we need John Carter to help us tell that story…so be it.

Real Life Adventures: Bill’s Triple Recommendation & Reflection

Why are “true to life” movies so great? Why do they all leave me in tears, grabbing the tissue, wishing for more? Of all the movies that I love, why do true movies touch me so deeply.

Take these three family friendly true to life movies.

The first… “We Bought A Zoo“. Now… I wasn’t the most excited one in our family to see this movie, but see it we did. And talk about good. And fun. And family friendly on top of it! This is the story of a family who accidentally buys a zoo. And how they turn this zoo into the top ranking animal park it is today. Though it was a feel good movie…it still left me in tears with hope that good things do happen in life.

The second movie is out on DVD already. We showed “Dolphin Tale” to our youth group this past weekend. I brought it home too to watch with my family. This is a movie made around a disabled dolphin and the remarkable way his keepers(and this 11 year old boy) never gave up on him! It’s an outstanding movie… And again I was in tears. Especially when this little girl who lost her leg sees the dolphin and tells her mother: “He’s just like me!”

Finally, we saw the newest true-to-life movie in theaters, “Big Miracle.” This is the story of a family of whales stuck in the ice in Alaska and how the country rallied around this family and brought them to safety. A warning, though, there are sad moments in this movie too. But overall, it was a heartwarming tale!

So… why are true-to-life movies so…good? Maybe it’s because hope, true and pure hope, can’t be manufactured. Hope is something that comes from God in life with all its ups and downs. Most true stories I’ve seen have captured that hope in a powerful way, making you realize that, Yes! God is alive! Yes! We are stewards of the world around us. Yes! We should care about what happens to animals, to creation, to everything! And yes! It’s already happening here!

Joyful Noise…An Anti-Recommendation by Bill

I am a musical nut. Pure and simple. I love watching musicals. Musicals on tv. Musicals on the big screen. Musicals in a small community theater. It doesn’t matter.
So I was initially excited about seeing Joyful Noise, a new musical movie starring Dolly Pardon and Queen Latifa.

That was…until I actually saw it. Talk about a mixed bag of reactions.
On the one hand the music was astounding! Pure and simple. Pardon and Latiffa did a brilliant job singing all their parts. And their co-stars were just as talented as they. This is definately a soundtrack to purchase, especially if you like “Sister Act” kind of music.

But everything else…and I do mean EVERYTHING else…really stunk.
The plot was straight out of Sister Act 2…only with a non-denominational group of adults. The plot goes like this:  Choir gets new choir director. Choir struggles with change. Choir overcomes challenges. Choir wins tournament. That’s the plot of Sister Act 2…and that’s the plot of Joyful Noise too.

But even worse than the overused plotline was the dialogue. I don’t know who wrote the screenplay but they need to sit in on a few realistic conversations. Most of the dialogue happens in the car as they’re traveling to one place or another. And most of it is totally unrealistic! Would people actually talk this way?!  What was worse was when they started talking about God! Talk about contrived!

The dialogue was so bad I started to cringe half-way through the movie.  I noticed that when they were talking, even my fellow movie-goers were finding other things to do.

Overall I’d give this movie’s soundtrack an A-. It was that good!  But it’s dialogue and plot…and firm C+. Don’t waste your money seeing this one. I’m sure it’ll be on ABC Family channel eventually.

Game of Shadows Reveals the Purpose of Movies

One of the many movies I’ve been looking forward to this winter, Sherlock Holmes 2, just came out!

Ever since the first one came out two years ago I have been looking forward to seeing this movie. With its original cinematography and its dead-on characters, I thought this would be a hit. At least as much of a hit as the original was.

And a hit was what it was…at least for me! I loved how Robert Downing Jr. drew you into Sherlock’s character, making him more action hero than boring sleuth. I loved how Jude Law played off his character as Watson in every way imaginable. And I loved the bad guy! Wow! The action was exciting. The story was real. And the ending was to die for!

Coming out of the movie I realized what one purpose of the movies is…at least for me.  Going to the movies takes me out of my reality.  It pulls me into another world with new characters and new challenges.  A good movie becomes real to me, like a dream, making the hours fly by.  At the end of a good movie I look back and wonder where the time went.  The theme music becomes a part of my day.  I start humming, even a piece of it.  I get wrapped up in the movie that I want it to continue past the credits.  I stay to the very end.  That’s the sign of a good movie for me.

What is it for you?  What do you look for going to the theater?  Is it realism?  Is it a thought provoking plot-line?  Is it realistic characters?  Or a dramatic score?  What makes you go?

If you find the same things appealing as I do, though, check out the new Sherlock Holmes movie.  And be prepared to be profoundly confounded, good sir!  The game is afoot!  It’s time to see the show!