2015 Year-End Countdown

Join us as we take a look back at the year 2015 and talk about our favorite films that we have either reviewed for the Monday Movie Review column or discussed at length on the Podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:56 – 2015 Year-End Countdown
  • 01:02:45 – Listener Feedback
  • 01:20:18 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:30:25 – Lightning Round 
  • 01:32:46 – Upcoming

Brenden’s Year-End Countdown for the Monday Movie Review

In creating this list, I just started at the top of the year in January and worked my way chronologically to December and selected the films that I personally favored over the rest. Along with a brief recap of each movie, I include the Christian angle that I either found when I first saw the film or that which I realized while reviewing it for this list. Either way, these are my top films for 2015. 

1. Selma

This film really is just as powerful as the true events on which it is based. The story of the march on the Edmund Peetus Bridge in 1965 has never been so immersive as it is in this film. And while the film itself doesn’t speak enough on how Martin Luther King, Jr.’s love for God was the foundation for how strong he remained in times of trouble, glimpses of it are there and serve as a reminder for all of us to embrace that type of love God.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Exploding onto the scene from way outta nowhere is this smash hit. No one really knew what to think about this film when trailers first came out – I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes at the idea of bringing back another 80’s movie franchise – but just like almost every car and motorcycle in that film, we were all blown away. Some may complain about the “gratuitousness” of the violence and general filth portrayed in the film, but it’s important to remember that we can never really understand our salvation until we understand what we’re being saved from. Seeing the wickedness of Immortan Joe make us value the rescue efforts of Furiosa. May we consider with that same type of high-definition clarity what we’ve been saved from and thus treasure our salvation all the more.

This image from MAD MAX FURY ROAD shows Charlize Theron as Furiosa kneeling in the desert.3. The Visit

No one had much hope for M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie; we all figured it was just another let down like his last few (public opinion, at least, though I hadn’t seen anything since The Happening until this one). Imagine our surprise when we walked out of the theater asking what it was that we just saw and why aren’t there more movies like it. This film is a gripping thriller pleasantly punctuated by bits of comedy, and trademark twist, although not that complex, is the perfect ending. And without giving away too much of that twist, the main take away with this film is not letting anger control you – a message always worth sharing.

4. The Martian

So what if Hollywood has spent over $9 billion to save Matt Damon? We love it every time, and this film is no exception. His portrayal of Mark Watney as the ever-optimistic / go-get-’em botanist stranded on Mars is endearing to the end – to the point where we laugh when he laughs and we cry when he cries. And to be frank, it doesn’t matter how much it cost to save Matt Damon; the people of Earth did whatever it took – no matter the cost – to bring him home. How fortunate we are to have a God that feels the same way, that He is willing to save us any means necessary – no matter the cost, even if it is His own Son.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Whatever. It was at the end of the year, and I would have never heard the end of it had I not put this film on the list. Yes, if you are going to watch it at all, you will have to watch it at least a couple times to bypass the spectacle and latch onto something within the story – like children growing up without parents and making it decently on their own but then realizing that they still need that mentorship and even discipleship to be able to accomplish their goals. Or maybe even people who have already grown up but have reverted back to the childish ways of living (like smuggling contraband) but then have that one brief moment of putting things back to rights…yeah, that’s why this film is on the film, not just because it’s Star Wars.

This image from STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS shows Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn.

Michael’s Year-End Countdown for the Podcast

On the other hand, Michael was a little more missionally minded in his selection, as he chose his films for the very specific purpose of a movie marathon to be watched in order. Starting with the first selection, believers will be able to watch these films with non-believers and show them who God is, who we are, and why we need Jesus to save us with the power of His love.

1. The Shawshank Redemption

Red does not understand hope. This is why he has abandoned it and, like Brooks, become institutionalized. Andy understands hope, that in it’s true New Testament form is confident, doubtless, and assured. Because of the relationship between Andy and Red, Andy was able to disciple Red; he was able to give that reason for the hope in him. And Andy has the confidence (hope) that Red will follow him in that hope.

2. Calvary

Father James is a clear picture of a Christian – a disciple of Jesus. Perfect? No. Demonstrating his faith continually? Yes. Is he saved by his works? No. Do his works show all around that he is a participant in The Kingdom? Yes. How do we know? Because he is persecuted and hated even though who know him assert that he is a “good priest.” He himself is covered in Jesus’ dust because he follows Him so closely.

3. Pacific Rim

The giant robots called Jaegers are like The Church – the body of believers and the temple of God – and are operated by individual engineers like Christians being of one mind (via the Neural Handshake and being Drift compatible) in order to move it forward. They don’t have to think the same thing; they don’t even have to agree on everything. They do, however, have to be unified in purpose in order to move toward the goal. In one scene a close-up view shows the pilots of the Jaegers being of one mind via the Neural Handshake, while the long shot shows all the pilots of the different types of Jaegers united in one purpose: to save the world from death. Because as Jesus to the Jews, so the Church to the world, right?

This image from PACIFIC RIM shows Raleigh and Mako getting ready for the neural handshake.

4. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Vader is redeemed through Luke’s love, patience, kindness, and assurance of the good within him and of his chance to return to the Light Side of the Force. Furthermore, Luke’s sacrifice of himself, and the taking of the full wrath of the Dark Side (sin), gave back a choice to Anakin: to trust in the Son. It was the choice to resist that beast of sin crouching at the door with the desire to dominate him. Vader cast off Darth Sidious and chose to trust in the Son.

5. Back to the Future

Mankind is in trouble that we cannot get ourselves out of. It takes something “other” to save us. It took the most unpredictable thing imaginable to save Marty, his siblings, Doc Brown, and many others: a lightning strike. In terms of storytelling, this type of divine intervention has been called a Eucatastrophe. Such is the term coined by J. R. R. Tolkien which refers to the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensures that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible doom. Without that lightning bolt, the DeLorean could not have made it back to the future, and without God’s powerful love for us, we would not be able to get back home to Him.

This image from BACK TO THE FUTURE shows the courthouse being struck by lightning.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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