Jupiter Ascending and Choose Your Own Theology

Was back on the mic podcasting with Fizz, my compatriot at RWT, and Elijah Davidson from Reel Spirituality talking about Jupiter Ascending. Check it out over at Reel World Theology.

Jupiter Ascending and Choose Your Own Theology

Advertisements

Review | The Overnighters

Normally, you can find me writing and reviewing movies over at Reel World Theology. However, I got the really great opportunity to write an extended review at Reel Thinking on the movie The Overnighters.

“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.”

The Overnighter’s Review – Reel Thinking

Click on the article link to check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks to Blaine Grimes and John Perritt at Reel Thinking for the chance to write the article and check out their site and their other writings, as well.

Review | As It Is In Heaven

Here’s my latest review over at Reel World Theology on the movie As It Is In Heaven. It is the directorial debut of Joshua Overbay and it has been getting a lot of play among my circle of Christian cinephile compatriots. It’s a thoughtful and terrifying look at spiritual abuse and the interpersonal relationships of a Christian cult.

Click on the link below and let me know what you think and make sure to follow my work over at Reel World Theology.

As It IS In Heaven Review – Reel World Theology

Important Updates! (Don’t Restart Your Computer)

Updates

It’s been awhile since I have updated personally on what’s been going on.  I started this blog as a semi-personal update blog and a place to slap all my writings, but it has grown a bit more beyond that and I wanted to share some really cool updates.

First of all, as I mentioned in an earlier post from January, I have been spending the better part of the past 10-ish months as the church planting intern at Appleton Gospel in Appleton, WI.  It has been an incredible experience with some great chances to preach, counsel, lead, and learn.  David, our lead pastor, is an exceptional leader and friend that I have enjoyed spending time with and learning from.  As of last week Friday, we had our follow-up meeting on the assessment process and now approved to church plant with the EFCA!  +4 Church Planting Powers!  Tina and I are both very excited to continue on this journey towards planting a church, and you can now expect some regular updates on us, where we will be planting, and what’s next and how you can pray and help!  We would love to hear from you and , Lord willing, join us in planting the gospel in a community of the Fox Valley!

Second, since I last did a personal update on here, Tina’s cake decorating and cupcake business has exploded!  I have always reaped the insane benefits of her baking mastery, but things have gone crazy around here.  She now has a cupcake club for the local Appleton and Fox Valley area and is delivering cupcakes to a bunch of people twice a month.  She is designing and decorating the cake for my brother Nick’s wedding in October, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future.  The dream is to one day have a brick and mortar location, but one step at a time to that goal!

Also, she has been writing as of late, as well.  I shared one of her posts here last week, and I wanted to highlight going to her blog to read all her posts.  She typically writes once a week on topics that personally relate to her life as a wife and mother, but is honest and true to the struggles of life as well as the joys.  She writes at OUR BIT OF CHAOS.  I love her and I love her writing, and I am positive you will love her writing, as well.

Lastly, after some conversations I had over the past week and culminating on Tuesday night with Mikey Fissel of Reel World Theology, I have officially joined Reel World Theology as a content creator for weekly posts on the site as well as sometimes co-host for the Reel World Theology Podcast.  Fizz contacted me shortly after I started Movie Church, which I posted about last week, and it made total sense for the two of us to combine our like-minded goals and merge what I was starting with Movie Church into what Fizz has already been doing with Reel World Theology.  Movie Church is no more but it is new beginnings with new friends at Reel World Theology.

What Fizz has done with Reel World Theology is fantastic and I am super excited to join him in helping people to redeem entertainment and see the reflection of God’s character in the movies and TV shows we watch.  You can read that daily content starting September 16th and I will link to where to find that content below.  Thanks for supporting me and Movie Church!  The journey is not over, it now has a different name.

Thanks for all who care and now that some pieces are being put in place, I will be writing on ministry, culture, movies, etc. on here a bit more often than I did over our busy summer.

 

Links to Stuff I Talked About:

Appleton Gospel

Forest Lakes District of the EFCA

CrabbCakes (Tina’s Bakery on Facebook)

Our Bit of Chaos

Reel World Theology (website)

Reel World Theology on Facebook

Reel World Theology on Twitter

I Am a GODzilla Fearing Man

Re-View (Black)

 

Every movie, TV show, or documentary is not just entertainment but has truth claims that shape the message and story of that medium.  Re:View’s mission is reviewing movies with God in view.  Echoing Paul’s charge that, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31), Re:View looks to see where God’s truth can inform stories and where His truth can be found in the narratives and themes of the movies we watch.

Godzilla (2014) – Directed by Gareth Edwards

Godzilla-2014-Teaser-Trailer-Poster

 

There are many people, directors and fanboys alike, who would love to have Gareth Edwards’ life right now.  After a successful directorial debut with the 2010 sci-fi/fantasy drama Monsters, which garnered tons of fans and the admiration of late, great movie critic Roger Ebert and others, Edwards’ landed the $160 million budget Godzilla reboot.  Shortly before the resulting Godzilla movie landed in theaters in May 2014, Edwards was hired to direct one of the Star Wars standalone films that will be released between the new trilogy movies.  Edwards’ must be somewhere muttering Han Solo’s famous line, “Sometimes, I amaze even myself.”

Tossing aside the amazing exploits of the past 4-ish years by Gareth Edwards, he did some serious work to make the new Godzilla movie a better version of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version of the movie.  It has been well documented that previous incarnations or re-cuts of the Godzilla movies have not translated well from Japan to America.  This movie definitely stressed a more rooted return to the 1954 classic that launched Godzilla into the pantheon of movie monsters.  From naming one of the characters after the eye-patched Dr. Serizawa of the original film to the first part of the movie and a major plot device focusing on nuclear testing and nuclear power, Edwards’ Godzilla was not going to repeat the mistakes of the past with the “King of the Monsters”.

Although opinions vary on the new Godzilla movie, I join the chorus praising the movie for its overall success and introducing a better and truer Godzilla.  My partiality on this may be a bit more of my own personal preference for how the film was directed and the influence some of my favorite directors had on the movie.  For one, the name Ford Brody is a dead giveaway that Edwards’ was influenced by the great Stephen Spielberg.  Edwards even directly stated the feel of what he was going for was to replicate the suspense of Spielberg’s JAWS.  Throw in a sterling performance by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston that came off with a bit of a Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones style intensity and you had a recipe for a Spielberg-ian feel to this movie.

Another small influence on the movie that I could definitely see was the influence of the late HR Giger and the Alien movies.  Edwards also has said that he really wanted the darker, more suspenseful portions to mimic the more fearful moments of Alien.  Towards the end of the movie when Brody and other soldiers are down on the ground level of San Francisco you can feel that tension and darkness through the thick clouds of wreckage.  It’s slightly terrifying and definitely something you do not expect from a movie with a 350-foot monster.

In an ode to Giger and Spielberg’s JAWS, what Edwards accomplishes in Godzilla, and what was masterfully done in Monsters, is to play on the elements of suspense and fear surrounding the impending monster while also probing the deeper fears of our collective societal sub-conscience.    

Edwards wanted to take the fear we associate with being shocked on-screen and take it into a deeper realm that the original 1954 Godzilla had done with Japanese fears of nuclear warfare.  However, the threat of a nuclear disaster has not reared its head in the American public conscience since the Chernobyl disaster in the 1980’s.  Edwards had to ask, “What did American and global audiences fear with similar intensity to nuclear fears that gave rise to the Cold War?”  In Edwards’ own words:

“You have to ask yourself, “What does Godzilla represent?” The thing we kept coming up with is that he’s a force of nature, and if nature had a mascot, it would be Godzilla. So what do the other creatures represent? They represent man’s abuse of nature, and the idea is that Godzilla is coming to restore balance to something mankind has disrupted.”

The nuclear power plant, the nuclear warheads, military prowess, giant skyscrapers, monorails, fighter planes, among many other things are props and motifs showcasing human and scientific mastery over nature and the elements.  The opening scene of the jungle-scape of the Philippines being marred by a giant quarry is the opening salvo of the war between man and nature.  Godzilla and the MUTOS rise out the depths in response to human abuses of nature and act as a counter-balance to what human progress has knocked out of balance.

In the opening sequence we see a JFK-like cut of old film reels and ancient artifacts showing historical depictions of sea serpents, dragons, and other symbolic and religious imagery of giant monsters.  Edwards acknowledged, “[T]he idea is that for all of time man has always found that there’s something out there for us to worship or fear, and it’s gone away for a while but in our film it returns.”  Nature can be fearful and unknown and as a people we have always been struck with the awe-inspiring wonder of what we see

The GOD in Godzilla is a testament to this wonder and fear we rightly have toward nature and the unknown.  Throughout history we have tried to quantify this fear of nature and its unknowns through dragons, sea serpents, yetis, etc.  Today’s modern version of these projected fears of the unknown and powerful are to make giant 350-foot monsters that rampage across our big screens and into our collective social and cultural consciousness.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Romans 1:19-20

It is no coincidence that Godzilla’s name starts with God.  Edwards mirrors the Apostle Paul’s assertion that what we fear about nature is really a greater fear of the God who created all these things.  We can perceive God in the giant mountains, the great depths of the seas, and the intensity and far off wonder of the sun.  We see His eternal power and supernatural character and we rightly fear nature and perceive the divinity ruling over nature.  This fear is captured brilliantly in Godzilla through the camera perspectives that avoid the typical movie-like panoramas or frames of the monsters and it focuses on human and ground-level perspectives of the monsters that give the movie this awe-inducing and massive-scale.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  Proverbs 9:10

All of these elements witness to the rightful fear we have over nature and the great majesty and power behind all of it.  The epic King of the Monsters points us to the even more epic King of Kings who created all things and whose majesty and power are behind every created thing.  In a time where we believe nature is at our mercy due to scientific knowledge and vast human progress, Godzilla points us to the eternal truth of our finitude and counters our supposed mastery of the natural elements with every squished building and MUTO digested nuclear missile.

“For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.”  Psalm 103:14-16

Our great and powerful creator, the God of the universe, knows that we are mere dust.  Every city destroying moment of Godzilla reflects the plain truths of man’s grass-like nature.  Like David Strathairn’s character, Admiral Stenz, we try to suppress the truth like the people Paul refers to in Romans one.  However, we cannot hide the 350-foot monster in the room.  The fall in the garden of Adam and Eve has led to the ills described by Edwards in Godzilla; man’s abuse of nature, death, strife, nuclear war.  It has also created a literal gulf between us and our creator and separated us from him.  Our sinful repression of God’s truth bears the same fruit as trying to hide the rampaging of kaiju; it reaps death and destruction in our lives and in the world and reveals the wrath of God.

“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.”  Psalm 103:17-19

But God has not left us under His wrath, which is revealed against our unrighteous suppression of the truth, and has fully revealed his steadfast love in His son, Jesus Christ.  Like the soldiers halo jumping into the hell-torn cityscape of San Francisco, the literal saviors from the monsters, we are safe from His destruction and wrath through the condescending into history of Jesus Christ, our savior from the monsters of sin, Satan, death, and hell.

 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”  Romans 3:23-24

We no longer have to fear the destruction wrought by our sin and have been redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and given a new life to walk with him in faith.  Godzilla is that reminder of the destruction sinful man has wrought and points to the God who has given us a savior in the perfect man, Jesus Christ.

Meddling in Foreign Affairs: America’s Short and Silly History With Godzilla and Hope for Better Times

godzilla_1954_poster_03

Ishiro Honda’s 1954 movie Gojira, stands the test of time as a classic of film.  Godzilla, the skyscraper-crushing, train-eating, King of the Monsters, is a fairly obvious and stunning metaphor for the nuclear fears that still gripped Japan only 9 years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the devastation in cities like Tokyo from the nightly fire bombings of US and Allied planes during the closing stages of World War II.  As the movie progresses we are gripped by heart-wrenching scenes as a mother comforts her children shortly before the building they are in is bulldozed by our radioactive protagonist, as well as countless scenes of citizens on stretchers and injured people being monitored by doctors and scientists with equipment monitoring radioactivity.  These scenes are not just dark and tragic but were reality for a whole country that had laid eyes on this kind of devastation less than a  decade previous.

When the Japanese military successfully defeat Godzilla at the conclusion of the movie using the deadly Oxygen Destroyer super-weapon, Dr. Serizawa, the inventor of the super-weapon, burns the research for his weapon and then takes his own life so the knowledge of the weapon dies with him.  The Japanese not only feared the bomb that had desolated their cities, but Honda placed a stark commentary on what they would do with knowledge of such a weapon.

The movie made waves around the world, but was all in Japanese.  This movie was A-list quality, but it needed a different cut in order to keep its A-list billing in the United States and cater to American audiences who had not yet developed a full sense of hipster snobbery about foreign films.  The American re-cut of the movie, “Godzilla: King of the Mosters!”, keeps the story of Godzilla, but waters down the narrative with the unfortunate addition of Raymond Burr as Steve Martin, an American reporter who delivers commentary on the disaster as well as added scenes to help explain the film to an American audience.  It is not Bur’s performance that ruins the movie, but Burr’s commentary and dialogue is a horrible addition that breaks up the tension and suspense of the film and extinguishes a lot of the narrative momentum that made Honda’s film so good.  Thus started a long history of Japanese products being lost in translation to the American audience (“All your base are belong to us”).

Like a determined grandparent set on getting their kid Frozen for Christmas but being duped into buying the cheap knock-off Snow Queen, America would persevere to churn out the regurgitated version of Godzilla 1985: The Legend is Reborn.  Once again, as if paying homage to the fact they messed up the first one, Raymond Burr reprises his role in the American version of this film.  This movie is not up to the Japanese quality of the first Godzilla, so you can imagine how bad it was as an American version.

Probably the most notoriously bad of the Godzilla movies is America’s first attempt at making their own Godzilla movie.  Forget the 40 year history of Godzilla and all the other Kaiju that had been built up around the “King of the Monsters” mythos.  Remember that movie Jursassic Park?  Yeah, how about a Godzilla that looks more like a T-Rex!  And those Velociraptors?  Those were so awesome!  How about Godzilla babies that are velociraptor-like?  Ka-ching!

Unfortunately, or maybe not, the American public saw right through that and the movie famously flopped.   Although I have heard a good case made that the Roland Emmerich 1998 Godzilla performed just as well as the new Edwards’ Godzilla movie currently is, the movie was hyped with expectations that ultimately failed to deliver for fans or for critics.

Borrowed from http://nyjunig.gitantie.net/
Borrowed from http://nyjunig.gitantie.net/

The Japanese had their own take on the new, re-designed Godzilla.  In the movie Godzilla: Final Wars, the 1998 re-design was lampooned as a kaiju named “Zilla” that is onscreen for about 10 seconds before he is radioactively toasted and booted out of the movie by Gojira himself.  The makers of that film have been quoted as saying that the 1998 movie had taken “God” out of “Godzilla” and therefore deserved the shortened moniker, as well as the atomic halitosis and quick exit.  There had now been three famous instances of Godzilla flaming out when Americans got their hands on remaking the radioactive, fire-breathing king, and it was getting hostile out there.

The dream would not die, however.  In 2010, Legendary pictures hired Gareth Edwards to remake Godzilla.  Edwards was fresh off making his indie-debut, Monsters, a film about an alien-invasion in Central America that is one part suspense, one part drama, and one part social commentary.  Edwards seemed like an ideal fit due to his careful design of the alien “monsters”, as well as the suspenseful drama he had managed to build around the few actual glimpses we get of the aliens in his movie.

When Edwards was asked what he planned on doing with the Japanese kaiju king, he said;

“You have to ask yourself, “What does Godzilla represent?” The thing we kept coming up with is that he’s a force of nature, and if nature had a mascot, it would be Godzilla. So what do the other creatures represent? They represent man’s abuse of nature, and the idea is that Godzilla is coming to restore balance to something mankind has disrupted.”

The mascot of nature, Godzilla himself, was coming to a theater near you with great hope and trepidation, from fans and critics alike, to restore not just the balance of nature in Edwards’ film but restore the balance of Godzilla movies.  American remakes had been a collective cannon ball weighing down Godzilla movie-dom and Edwards was tasked with righting the ship of one of movie’s most beloved monsters.

Four years later the vision of Godzilla came to fruition in a to-date box office of $177 million domestically and a worldwide gross of over $376 million.  The story of this movie has not been fully written, and although it is not an eye-popping, runaway smash that most expected, Godzilla delivers on Edwards’ vision and, I feel, done a serviceable job of making more American Godzilla movies viable and watchable.  There is hope for the future, America.  Godzilla in 2016!

Make sure to follow 13Past1 on Facebook or follow Josh on Twitter to get updates on all the posts and kaiju happenings.