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Posted 12/12/14 at 4:20 PM | Marc Newman
Exodus: Gods and Kings is a disaster of biblical proportions. Critics who have praised the film's lavish visual style are grasping at the only thing in the movie that works.
Is Exodus riddled with biblical inaccuracies? Yes. But a Bible epic designed to appeal to the Richard Dawkins/new atheist crowd might find an audience. (Some people can rally around a film that has nothing for everyone.) But as a Christmas gift to moviegoers everywhere, let's look at three parts of the film that should keep any reasonable person away.
Despite his beard, Christian Bale is still locked into his Batman role. His armor is black. His horses are black. He is the consummate hand-to-hand warrior. And, often, his menacing presence is enough to get local bad guys to back off. Unfortunately, Moses can't always be in battle.
When he is in the court of Pharaoh, Bale seems lost. An interrogation scene in which Pharaoh attempts to discover the truth about Moses' family origins makes no sense. Ramses is Pharaoh. He doesn't need proof or justification for his actions. He is a god to his people. But it is important that Moses be convicted, so he can be exiled, to set him up for a stealthy return. Apparently, Ridley Scott thought this courtroom drama preferable to the Bible's account of Moses killing an abusive Egyptian and then running away. FULL POST
Posted 10/21/14 at 6:30 PM | Marc Newman
Christians have been divided about Halloween for decades. Some Christians outright reject it as a pagan holiday that celebrates demonic evil. Others see it through the lens of contemporary culture and enjoy watching little kids dress up in costumes and go door to door, meeting their neighbors who liberally pass out candy. Some split the difference and host “Harvest Festivals.”
But Christians should not miss the opportunity that Halloween affords to discuss important spiritual topics that are easier to introduce at Halloween than at just about any other time of the year. Hollywood has served up hundreds of horror flicks over the decades, and while some are worthless — such as the "slasher film" sub-genre — many of them are valuable as doorways to discussion about the supernatural, death, and a way of escape.
In a culture with a slavish devotion to scientific materialism, any opportunity to discuss things that exist outside of the physical world should be welcome. Scientific materialism is the philosophical position that nothing exists other than physical matter. This view is championed by the late Carl Sagan, Christopher Hitchens, and the new atheists. And even when many of our schools do not directly advance the cause of scientific materialism, their ignoring of the spiritual is a de facto endorsement. If spiritual things are excised from the public square, then people are left to conclude that they are either non-existent or irrelevant to the way people live their lives. FULL POST
Posted 10/20/14 at 3:57 AM | Marc Newman
If you have planned, promoted, and produced a great movie Bible study event, it is tempting to rest - mission accomplished! Not quite. One of the reasons many people are dissatisfied by the outcome of events is that they quit too soon. They think that when the event is over and everyone heads home that they are done. To avoid that sinking feeling that all of the hard work resulted in too little payoff, you need to be willing to do the appropriate follow-up.
There are five follow-up strategies that can help you see results from your event: prayer, evaluation, feedback, looking back, and looking forward.
1. Pray. The event is over, but the people you are discipling remain. Take time to pray over each of the participants in your small group. Keep in mind the questions they asked or the answers they gave, as each provides insight into areas of strength and struggle. Pray that the Scriptures read that evening will find their way into the people's hearts, minds, and actions. Pray that participants will be excited about sharing both what they did and what they learned with friends. Pray about ways that, as a leader, you can better sense and discern the needs of your group, and know how best to meet them. FULL POST
Posted 10/15/14 at 2:26 PM | Marc Newman
In the midst of an economy that is no friend to the working man, desperate eyes turn anywhere there is news of work. For many people, one such place is North Dakota, a state positioning itself as the second coming of the gold rush – a black gold rush. Fracking has turned the United States into the OPEC of the West. Towns such as Williston are being overwhelmed by a flood of newcomers who believe that North Dakota is the answer to their prayers. But, as many of them soon learn, the promise does not extend to everyone. And those who arrive with blemished records, arrests, or worse, discover that they have landed in an unwelcoming no man’s land where the local community is closed to them, and friends are hard to find.
The Overnighters is director Jesse Moss’ unflinching look at this broken world. Pastor Jay Reinke, the shepherd of Concordia Lutheran Church, loving husband and father, is determined to step in and bring hope and healing to the depressed and damaged people (primarily men) who come to him looking for shelter, aid, and compassion. But the opening line in this film -- suggesting that Reinke’s public persona and private self are in conflict -- keep the viewer wondering when the entire narrative that the pastor has carefully crafted will come undone. FULL POST
Posted 9/8/14 at 3:36 AM | Marc Newman
You paid attention to your planning, and you (or your team) promoted well. You have a houseful of people ready to watch the movie you have selected and then talk about it. You look around and see a lot of new people - some of whom may have never opened up a Bible in their lives. Many have no clue as to how the ideas they encounter in a film could have any relation to the Scriptures or the kind of worldview they embrace. For some of these folks, curiosity got the best of them. They are waiting to see if this group can deliver something meaningful.
To make the most of your Movie Bible Study you will need to pray, make sure everything works, greet new people, prep the audience, provide snacks, kick off the discussion, customize your approach, reward group members who bring guests, and then whet your group's appetite for the next meeting.
1. Pray. It is imperative that you pray for the people attending the movie Bible study. Some who come will be believers who have abandoned Bible study and this might be their first time back in a long while. Pray the event reignites their desire to study God's Word. Others know little to nothing about the Bible. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead, convict, teach, and draw them to Christ. Many attending will be part of your regular group. Pray that God will give them wisdom in what they say, and that they will be able to be a positive influence on their guests. Pray that everyone grows in discernment. FULL POST
Posted 8/29/14 at 3:48 AM | Marc Newman
Once you have committed to teaching one or more Movie Bible studies, it is important to get the word out to your target audience. Everybody talks about “promotion,” but we want to discuss seven key elements that will help you to get your intended audience to the event: prayer, coordinating your promotional team, observing promotional limitations, web landing pages, tickets, leveraging social media, personal invitations, and “save the date” cards. Not every group will need to or want to engage all of these strategies. Just target the ones you think would work best for your group.
1. Pray. Every stage of creating an event should begin with prayer. Pray for creation and display of the promotional materials, and that the target audience will see the promotion. Pray for the people who see the promotion pieces, that they will be motivated to attend. Pray for the success of your social media campaign, and pray for the team coordinating promotion.
2. Coordinate your promotional team. If your group is very small, it is possible that the entire promotional “team” is just you. But if you have a larger group, it would be best if a small team is in place to coordinate promotion. When members of a group share the responsibility for putting an event together, they will be more committed and they will feel a sense of accomplishment when the event is complete. FULL POST
Posted 8/22/14 at 3:55 AM | Marc Newman
If I Stay -- another Young Adult book adaptation from Gayle Forman -- tells the story of cello-playing teen Mia, who reconstitutes her love for her rocker boyfriend Adam through a series of flashbacks that occur as she lies in a coma resulting from a horrific car crash. If you haven't figured out that it's a weepy, you haven't seen the trailers.
If I Stay continues the hip-yet clueless parental theme from The Fault in Our Stars. The mom and dad are exactly the kind of ideal parents every fictional teen seems to have these days: supportive, kind, quirky, oh, and understanding (encouraging, in fact) of their daughter's underage drinking and premarital teen sex. It's cool with 17-year-old Mia's dad that her 18- or 19-year-old boyfriend Adam keeps her out all night on New Year's Eve, because, after all, Adam owns some of her dad's music from "back in the day." The only person who appears to set any rules at all for young Mia's behavior is Mia. She sets her own curfew, but her "fun loving" parents encourage her to break it.
And because it is set amidst a tragedy it allows all the teens watching it to feel so, well, tragic.
No one gets pregnant, no one gets cheated on (despite the presence of Adam's innumerable groupies), no one gets permanently brokenhearted, but there is an awful lot of longing looks. And in the second half of the story -- the one where Mia is in a coma trying to decide if she will stay or go (hence the title) we discover from the wise nurse that whether she lives or dies is completely up to her. The white-tunneled afterlife beckons, but there's no God, none of the living pray (Mia says "God" but it is unclear what her intentions are). FULL POST
Posted 8/20/14 at 4:00 PM | Marc Newman
No one doubts the entertainment value of a popular Hollywood film. Millions of people turn out every week to pay to see them. Many churches have used film as one of the lures for junior high school “lock-in” nights. But the Scriptures do not demand that we entertain our youth, we are to be equipping them for the work of the gospel. However, that doesn’t mean that we are barred from using winsome methods like movies to introduce that training.
Many youth pastors, college leaders, small group facilitators, and pastors would like to leverage film for something more than filler or a social night out. Unfortunately, there isn’t much help out there for those who want to do it. Telling pastors to “pick a film, promote the event, and do a study,” (without providing any details), leaves a lot of gaps – causing some leaders to think that they just can’t do it. Others try, but are unsatisfied with the results. FULL POST
Posted 10/23/13 at 9:39 PM | Denny Wayman
Focusing on people who are flawed in ways that cause them pain, Nicole Holofcener creates this tale in which the central characters have few friends and pervasive insecurities. She writes and directs Enough Said in the style of Woody Allen. This is understandable when we learn that her stepfather was the long-time producer of Woody Allen’s films and her initial work was on his films.
The story focuses primarily on the romance between Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (James Gandolfini) and their relationships with their college-bound daughters. As single parents who still carry the pain of their divorces, both are wounded people whose aversion to dating is shared. Serendipitously meeting at a party, they begin a tender romance that is quickly consummated in sexual intimacy. Not yet really knowing who the other person truly is, this sexual familiarity leaves their relationship vulnerable to the questions everyone has as a new relationship begins.
Their vulnerable new relationship is jeopardized by Eva’s coincidental introduction to Albert’s ex-wife, Marianne (Catherine Keener). As a masseuse, Eva begins FULL POST
Posted 10/17/13 at 11:51 AM | Denny Wayman
Pirates are often romanticized, used as sports mascots and even as fantasy figures for children. But when Somali pirates abducted Captain Phillips in the spring of 2009, there was nothing appealing or romantic about them. Brutal and brutalized, these desperate men were as much pawns in their own pirate crew as Captain Phillips was in their attempted plot. Bringing this harrowing experience to the screen is director Paul Greengrass who has mastered the creation of suspenseful tales as seen in his films The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy and United 93.
Surviving the attack, Capt. Phillips uses the skills of Stephan Taity to help write a first-person account of the actual event. Taking this account and adapting it for the screen is screenwriter Billy Ray. His work on Hunger Games, Shattered Glass and Hart’s War brings experience and nuance to the tale. But it is the acting of Tom Hanks that is both believable and identifiable. From the first scenes when he expresses to his wife (Catherine Keener) his concern for his kids to the final scenes when he is struggling with a post-traumatic reaction, we are captured by his courage, his intelligence and his authenticity.
There are three primary groups of people involved in this event. There is the crew of the American cargo vessel, MV Maersk Alabama, under Capt. Phillips command, the Somali pirates under “Capt.” Muse (Barkhad Abdi), and the U.S. Navy anti-piracy taskforce under Capt. Frank Castello (Yul Vazquez). Although very different in style, each one of these captains is responsible for what their crews are and are not able to do with each providing a fascinating study of leadership. Similarly, the second in command on each of the crews demonstrates dramatic differences in the ways the U.S. Navy operates contrasted with the infighting of the pirate crews or the concerns of union members on the cargo vessel. Such differences are seen not only in the motivations of each person but also in their level of respect and effectiveness.