Flicks & Faith

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Posted 9/8/14 at 3:36 AM | Marc Newman

Making Movie Nights Work: Part Three - The Event

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

Making Movie Nights Work: Part Two - Promotion

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" Just Made Me Want to Leave

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

Making Movie Nights Work: Part One - Planning

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

Cinema in Focus - ENOUGH SAID - 2 Stars

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

Cinema in Focus - CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - 3 Stars

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.

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Posted 10/11/13 at 7:52 PM | Denny Wayman

Cinema in Focus - GRAVITY - 3 Stars

Gravity brings the spectacular beauty of an IMAX documentary together with the thought-stretching drama of great space films such as Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001, A Space Odyssey. Written and Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, what unfolds on the screen is truly a remarkable piece of movie-making.

If you have ever watched the space shuttle or the international space station in IMAX, then you will be amazed at how life-like Cuarón has brought this to the screen. The images of earth’s beauty are spiritual in their depth. The fact that man has created a way to live and study in space is nothing short of a miracle.

Through the entire story we meet only two people: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission who joins veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) who is commanding his last flight before retiring. While working remotely to repair the Hubble telescope, Mission Control informs them that a Russian satellite has reportedly blown up and has caused a debris field to travel in their direction. As the debris field picks up speed, it FULL POST

Posted 10/11/13 at 5:44 PM | Denny Wayman

Cinema in Focus - RUSH - 3 Stars

What passion drives your life? Does it consume your every waking moment? Does it attract, or does it drive away, the most important people in your life? All of these questions are woven into Rush, a remarkable film by Ron Howard.

This is a retelling of the fierce rivalry between Formula One race car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970’s. Flamboyant British playboy Hunt couldn’t be more different than the Austrian Lauda who is highly focused-to-a-fault. Each thought that the other was a caricature of a wasted life, and ironically in the end, each came to depend on the other to drive their passion.

James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) both come from well-to-do backgrounds, and both have chosen to pursue their love of power, speed, and danger at the expressed displeasure of their fathers. Hunt is the strikingly handsome blond rock star that attracts the most beautiful women in the world. Hunt was driven by the rush of speed and the intoxication of sex, having claimed to have bedded 5,000 women in his short life. His first of three wives was the stunning model Suzy Parker whom he married in 1974. However, Hunt could not put anyone first place in his life other than his own passions and by the end of 1975 Suzy had left Hunt for the actor Richard Burton, who paid Hunt's divorce settlement of $1 million dollars.

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Posted 10/9/13 at 4:52 PM | Denny Wayman

Cinema in Focus - GRACE UNPLUGGED - 4 Stars

Brad Silverman’s Grace Unplugged presents a multi-layered look at living a life of purpose rather than one of celebrity. Recognizing that a life of fame and fortune does not satisfy the soul, the film walks with a young music-minister’s daughter who has the abilities to be a success in Hollywood. Feeling hampered by her father’s control as well as by her southern Christian subculture, this young musician has to not only face her father-issues but her faith-issues as well. Partnering with writers Brandon Rice and James Killian, Silverman wrote and directed this engaging and inspiring coming-of-age tale.

Having just turned 18, Grace Trey (AJ Michalka) is the deeply loved daughter of Johnny (James Denton) and Michelle Trey (Shawnee Smith). Having been a commercially successful musician 20 years earlier, Johnny had been morally and physically destroyed by his fame. Finding joy in his faith and a meaningful life in his work as a minister of music, Johnny teaches his only child Grace to lead worship with him at their church. But when her own growth as an artist begins to create an artistic and relational conflict between the two of them, Johnny responds with a harshness that makes Grace rebel against his authoritarian manner. Although Michelle sees the situation clearly, she remains impotently uninvolved in helping the two of them find a future together. When Frank ‘Mossy’ Mostin (Kevin Pollak) visits to invite Johnny to return to Hollywood, it is Grace who responds and runs away from family and faith to begin her singing career under Mossy’s guidance.

Having personally experienced the moral and career decisions that he knows his daughter is unprepared to face, Johnny FULL POST

Posted 10/3/13 at 1:24 AM | Denny Wayman

Cinema in Focus - PRISONERS - 3 Stars

The loss of a child is difficult under any circumstances, but when it is by abduction it can unravel a parent’s soul. Willing to do anything to find their child safe, it is easy for a parent to lose their moral footing and stumble into a confusing journey where violence is justified as love. This complex moral tale is the brainchild of writer Aaron Guzikowski and impressively brought to the screen by director Denis Villeneuve.

Using the bleak fall landscape that weeps and freezes along with us, the two young girls who are abducted are friends. Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons) is the daughter of Nancy (Viola Davis) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), while Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) is the daughter of Grace (Maria Bello) and Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman). On a Thanksgiving afternoon while their families are enjoying one another at the Birch home, the girls want to go back to the Dover home to get a special whistle of Anna’s. Disregarding their parent’s guidance to have their older siblings, Ralph Dover (Dylan Minnette) and Elza Birch (Zoe Borde) accompany them; it eventually becomes clear that they are missing. Panic sets in as the worst nightmare of a parent becomes a reality.

When police are called they respond immediately to what are thought to be obvious clues, primarily that of an out-of-place motorhome. The lead detective assigned to their case is Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). An intense man whose nerves are expressed through his twitching eyes, Loki provides little emotional support as he assures the two families that he will find their daughters. When this promise is not quickly realized, the parents begin to take matters into their own hands.

A mystery with many unexpected twists, the theme of the tale is best expressed by a confessor who seeks a priest to deal with the evil compulsion that has captured his soul. Explaining that he is “waging war with God” he FULL POST

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