Category Archives: Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW: “Stranger Than Fiction” (2006)

51yko5ot8ll_sl5001Repost from 2009. -JB

I just watched “Stranger Than Fiction” again starring Will Ferrell.  I thought the movie and story was alright – nothing too special. But I absolutely LOVE the idea that drives this movie.  If you haven’t seen the movie, here is the summary from the back of the case:

Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, a lonely IRS agent whose mundane existence is transformed when he hears a mysterious voice narrating his life. With the help of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold discovers he’s the main character in a novel-in-progress and that the voice belongs to Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an eccentric author famous for killing her main characters in creative ways.  Harold must quickly track down Eiffel and stop her before she conjures up a way to finish him off.

The parallels and contrasts between this silly story and the True Story of God and humanity as revealed in Scripture are quite profound.  Let me just share a few observations.

SIGNIFICANT CONTRASTS

1. The author of Harold’s story is evil and seeks to find a creative ways to kill her characters.  In God’s Story the characters tend to find creative ways of bringing about their own destruction, but God in His infinite love and mercy finds a way to rescue them from death!

2. While Harold must hurriedly track down the Author before time runs out, in God’s Story it is the Author who relentlessly pursues His prodigal characters before it is too late.

BIBLICAL PARALLELS

1. We are indeed living in a story driven by a particular plot, with God as the primary author and ourselves as one character among many others.  Waking up to this reality is one of the most significant moments of one’s life.  The sooner we find our place in this larger story, the more meaningful our lives will be.

2.  Far too many people today find their lives as lonely and mundane as Harold Crick, the IRS agent.  Many of us, like Harold, will only find real meaning, significance and purpose when we begin to hear the still, small voice of the narrator trying to get our attention amidst all the noise of our daily shuffle.

3. Harold’s future hangs in the balance and is dependent upon whether or not he can find the author of his story and make peace with her.  Our future hope also hangs in the balance and depends on whether or not we can make peace with our Author.

4. While it is a bit of a stretch, Professor Hilbert plays the role of the mediator who helps the confused, scared Harold make sense of the plot he’s in and connect him with the author of his story.  God’s Story is full of prophets, pastors, teachers and ultimately Jesus himself who function as mediators between lost souls and the Author, unfolding the plot and bringing us back into relationship with God.

If you want to pursue this concept of “Narrative Theology” further I would recommend the small book and DVD called Epic: Discover the Story God is Telling by John Eldredge.  One of his opening lines is that “life often feels like a movie you’ve shown up for 40 minutes late; something important seems to be going on but you’re not quite sure what.”  I am taking our high school group through the Epic curriculum for the next 5 weeks exploring our place within God’s Big Story.  Check it out the trailer below:

MOVIE REVIEW: Jesus Went “The Green Mile”

the_green_mileA repost from a few years back in remembrance of Michael Clark Duncan’s passing this year. -JB

It’s already been 10 years since the release of The Green Mile (1999). The Stephen King film stars Tom Hanks as a Death row guard and the massively large and mysteriously gifted prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. I finally saw it for the first time this weekend at the request of one of my youth group boys who has been powerfully moved by the Christian themes found throughout.

Here’s a general plot summary:

“Paul Edgecomb is a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death row in the 1930’s. His faith, and sanity, deteriorated by watching men live and die, Edgecomb is about to have a complete turn around in attitude. Enter John Coffey, He’s eight feet tall. He has hands the size of waffle irons. He’s been accused of the murder of two children… and he’s afraid to sleep in a cell without a night-light. And Edgecomb, as well as the other prison guards – Brutus, a sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up, perverse, and violent person, are in for a strange experience that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions, and the revelation about Coffey’s innocence and his true identity.” Written by Kadi Lynnith

On a basic level this movie presents the difficulty for some to believe in the miraculous. At a much deeper level what comes through very clearly — even to the casual observer — is the obvious similarities between John Coffey and Jesus Christ as depicted especially in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Here are some of the strongest parallels between Christ and Coffey:

  • John Coffey is a hated and despised man, rejected and unwanted because of his race, reputation and size. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
  • John Coffey is a striking blend of power and might clothed with Jesus-like meekness and gentleness. He’s 8 feet tall with barrels for biceps yet afraid of the dark and wouldn’t hurt a fly. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Isaiah 42:3).
  • He has the ability to see what’s inside people’s hearts. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

Are We Done Picking on Potter?

This past summer my wife and I decided it was high time to visit Hogwarts and dabble in the dark arts.  That is, we decided to watch the Harry Potter movies. I’m glad to report 6 months later I’ve finally recovered my faith. Ok, enough with the sarcasm.  Alright Christian: Have you seen the films?  Did you boycott the movies?  Did you let your children see them?  Did your pastor warn you of them?

I wrote previously on the complete 180 turn around some Christians have had in their stance toward these films HERE.

What’s my opinion on the whole matter?  I found myself a kindred spirit with Mark Tesreau’s thoughts on the whole matter in his little piece: Harry Potter: Even Worse Than the Smurfs posted at Steve Brown Etc. Please check it out:

Recently, I listened to the pastor of a well known mega-church sermonize from Revelation 21:8 that we should not see the Harry Potter movies because Harry is a sorcerer and sorcerers are going to Hell. So as not to take him out of context, his comments were as follows. Continue reading Are We Done Picking on Potter?

MOVIE REVIEW: To Save A Life (2010)

Every few months youth pastors get a promotional box in the mail luring them to jump on the bandwagon of the next big Christian movie, book, conference or concert.  Marketing madness bombards you with free promotinal posters, t-shirts, devotionals, bookmarks, bumper stickers. Sadly, the Christian entertainment sub-culture often disappoints. I usually don’t bite.  I’m the boring youth pastor who tends to just stick to the Bible as much as possible.

So, I was skeptical at first when the hoopla came out about the latest Christian-produced film To Save A Life. But our youth group was due for a field trip, I had heard great things and so we boarded a bus this past Wednesday night and took a group of 50 high school students to the theater for some popcorn and a two-hour trip into the world of many teenagers today.

The movie quality was great, the acting quite good, and the plot tackled the issues in a real, non-cheesy way.  There were moments of gut-busting laughter and applause, and other moments where we were holding back tears. Our group seemed to really enjoy the film.

Here’s a synopsis of the plot:


This is a story and film written by a veteran youth pastor from California. He attempts to accurately capture the challenges and pressures teenagers face daily.  One way the film does this is by leaving in scenes involving sex, partying, binge drinking, cutting, abortion, divorce and so on. The film earns it’s PG-13 rating. While not shying away from the messiness, ugliness and complexity of some dark teen issues, the film brings a positive, redemptive message of hope and transformation.

So, while I have much good to say about the film’s real portrayal of teenage culture, I have some other disappointments from a pastoral and theological point of view. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: To Save A Life (2010)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Book of Eli (2010)

<Envelope Please> “And the winner for the grayest, grimmest, most violent post-apocalyptic thriller of 2010 involving the Bible goes to…..The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington.” <Applause>  This movie is not for the light-hearted or weak-stomached.  This movie paints a very dark picture of humanity in all it’s unfettered barbarism: rape, dismemberment, pillaging and survival of the fittest in all it’s glory — or should I say gory.

Here’s a synopsis by Dr. Marc Newman, president of MovieMinistry.com:

“In a post-apocalyptic world, Eli (Denzel Washington) walks west, carrying with him a book that can save the world. Unfortunately, the evil Carnegie also wants to get his hands on Eli’s book, though not at all for the same purposes. Both men know the power of the words contained in the book, but one intends it to heal the nations, while the other wants to twist them to serve is own desires. This is one of the most original films of the decade, with outstanding material for sermon illustrations and discussions. But the film is rated R for good reasons, so discretion in its use is strongly advised.”

While this movie is certainly not for everybody, it is a must for those who like examining the themes of the human depravity, sin and evil, the power of religion for both great good and horrendous evils, morality and, especially, the powerful influence the Bible and other holy books can exercise over human history and civilizations.  (For a much better review than this go HERE.)

For the Christian viewer the following lessons can be drawn from this film:

  • The Bible is truly a “two-edged sword” and can be used for great good or horrendous evil depending on whose hands it’s in.
  • Those among us who claim to see clearly are often spiritually blind; while many who are blind see things clearer than us all. (You have to see the movie to fully grasp this point.)
  • We owe an infinite debt of gratitude to God and his human agents who, like Eli in this film, labored to preserve, protect and pass down the Holy Scriptures faithfully, fearlessly and accurately throughout the centuries.  The main storyline reminded me of Thomas Cahill’s bestselling book How The Irish Saved Civilization which, as one reviewer summarizes, is about

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: The Book of Eli (2010)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Religious World of “Avatar” (2009)

After braving the 15 below zero weather, fighting people for seats (almost literally), finding clean 3D glasses and smuggling in pop and snacks, we were ready to experience James Cameron’s visually stunning world of Pandora filled with 8 feet tall blue people — or, as someone else put it, “warrior Smurfs.”

It’s always nice when a film lives up to all the hype.  This movie delivers on it’s promise of matchless special effects and all the cinematic bells and whistles that will someday soon be in all films.  I can’t imagine it will be more than 5 years before 2D films go the way of the dinosaur.  To be honest, the visual experience is what drew me to see Avatar — not James Cameron’s storytelling.

How about the story?  Well, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that Hollywood’s rewind button may be stuck.  More than one person has called this movie the equivalent of Dances With Wolves in space.  Another called it “Rambo in reverse.”  Read a plot summary HERE. What I do know for certain is that this film was jam packed with all the hot-button religious and political themes so popular in Hollywood and the culture in general.

Where do we begin? Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: The Religious World of “Avatar” (2009)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Blind Side (2009)

The most inspiring, heart-warming cinematic experience of the year for me has been without question The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock. While this movie based on a true story is sure to win over everybody’s heart, there is a special significance for Christians viewers.  Coming out just in time for the Christmas season I found this film radiating with echoes of the gospel and the heart of true Christian faith and love.  Let me share a few of these observations below.  But first a brief synopsis:

“The Blind Side” depicts the story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential. At the same time, Oher’s presence in the Touhys’ lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own. Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. As a football player and student, Oher works hard and, with the help of his coaches and adopted family, becomes an All-American offensive left tackle.”

Sandra Bullock has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of southern belle Leigh Anne Tuohy whose Christian convictions lead her to take in and “adopt” the all-but-forgotten Michael Oher and raise him as her own. The film certainly didn’t trumpet the gospel and is by no means “preachy” at all.  Yet, the director is to be commended for making it relatively plain what was the key motivating influence in the Tuohy household — Christ. The Washington Post shares some of Sandra Bullock’s personal thoughts on playing the role of this evangelical Christian woman HERE.

Here are a couple of my observations related to Leigh Anne’s “living out” her Christian faith and how the gospel shines through this story. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: The Blind Side (2009)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Eschatology of “2012”

I recently saw the latest apocalyptic global disaster movie out of Hollywood — “2012”.  Special effects were better than ever.  Disturbing yet awesome scenes of global upheaval and catastrophe kept coming for the entire 2 hours and 40 minutes of gloom and doom.  First earthquakes whose “cracks” (if you can call them cracks) chased John Cusack and family to one side of the city to the other like heat-seeking missiles. Then came the explosive volcanoes in Yellowstone National Park and everywhere and the resulting ash showers.

But the volcanoes and earthquakes set in motion the shifting of the earth’s continental plates causing the most deadly and decisive cataclysmic force of all: worldwide tsunamis.  The ferocious tsunamis eventually drowned the entire planet just as our friends find refuge on ginormous, 21st century style “arks” secretly hidden high on the mountains adjacent Mount Everest reserved for the political leaders of the nations and those who could afford to buy their salvation ticket for 2 billion a seat.

It’s a fun movie and worth seeing — especially on the big screen with surround sound.

But what messages does this film send about the “end of times”?  You can’t watch a movie like this and not ask, How will it eventually end?  (And who says it’s going to “end” anyways?) How would human beings behave if the end of the world was imminent?  Would we all join together with people of all faiths and none to celebrate our common humanity and make peace for our last moments?  Would religious fanatics grow more divisive and spend the final hours of earth shouting at each other and debating whose faith offers the sure hope?  Would people give up their faith in despair and hopelessness, concluding that God must not exist after all as they watch the horror unfold?  Or, would atheists all storm the cathedrals in repentance and newfound faith as they fear meeting their maker?

Well, the movie sends a couple popular, predictable yet ultimately hopeless messages. Here are a couple of the messages I saw coming through clearly in this film: Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: The Eschatology of “2012”