Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast • Episode 5

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In the fifth episode of the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast, we look at 2016’s Wildflower. Directed by Nicholas DiBella, and starring Nathalia Ramos and Cory Longo (among others), Wildflower is an unusual film in that it’s a Christian-made thriller that doesn’t have anything to do with the Rapture. I was especially excited to have a nice long conversation via Skype with Mr. Dibella and his partner, producer Jim Pavone.

The Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast is a part of the More Than One Lesson podcasting family. Check out this and other episodes as well as other great podcasts at morethanonelesson.com.

Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast • Episode 4

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In my fourth episode of the film review podcast, I turn my attention from films that have been to films that will be. This includes upcoming films such as The Case for Christ, Rapture Bowl, Tulipman, and Let There Be Light.

Tune in to episode 4, and don’t forget to rate and review on iTunes!

The Shack – The Highest Grossing Christian Film To Give Away Free Resources?

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shackThis weekend, the controversial faith-based film The Shack crossed the $30,000,000 box office mark. This put the film in fifteenth place in the Box Office Mojo list of highest grossing films marketed to the Christian audience (or as they say, “Movies produced by Christians that promote or embody their religion.“)

Considering that the movie has only been out for two weekends, it will undoubtedly climb higher on the list before all is said and done, and could potentially crack the top ten.

The film’s release renewed heated debate about The Shack, which was a controversial best selling book years before it was adapted for the silver screen. Calls of heresy and blasphemy from respected church leaders have kept many people from supporting this film, a decision that other respected church leaders see as a missed opportunity to share the Christian faith, if a believing movie-goer has the right tools at his or her disposal.

To help solve this problem, and possibly to answer some of the concerns of the detractors, the makers of The Shack put together an impressive, biblically-based discussion guide, as well as other materials, all available on http://theshackresources.com for free.

When I saw that The Shack had cracked the top 15 highest grossing Christian-made films, it made me wonder how the other films on the list handled their ministry resources in a similar way. To help answer this question, I did a simple search for each of the top 15 movies [“The name of the movie movie resources”] and looked for the official resource page provided by the filmmakers or studios. While most of these films have ministry-related products that are sold through Lifeway or Outreach (including The Shack), I was specifically looking at which high grossing films made it a point to give resources for free, for ministry’s sake.

The results of my research were mixed.

15. The ShackResources are free, including hard copies of discussion guides and resource DVDs.

14. FireproofResources are not free.

13. CourageousResources are not free.

12. RisenCombination of free and not free resources, the free resources include a downloadable 14 page conversation starter and a link to a free Bible study plan.

11. The Nativity Story – The film is from 2006, and I was unable to find any working links for resources, free or otherwise.

10. Soul Surfer – No resources available on film website, free or otherwise.

9. Son of GodResources are not free.

8. God’s Not DeadResources are not free.

7. Miracles from HeavenCombination of free and not free resources, the free resource is a downloadable sixteen page discussion guide, no Scripture references.

6. War RoomA whole bunch of resources, more than I’ve seen from any of the other movies, but none of them are free.

5. Heaven Is For RealThe website has a free ten page discussion guide, with Scripture refrences.

4. The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderA free education guide, but no ministry resources.

3. Prince Caspian – A free education guide, but no ministry resources.

2. The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe – A free education guide, but no ministry resources.

1. The Passion of the Christ – The film that started it all, from 2004. I was unable to find an official website for the film, so no resources.

While it saddens me that all of the top grossing Christian films don’t give away ministry resources,  I am heartened by the films that do. Also, I should point out that Affirm Films (the faith-based division of Sony) makes free discussion guides available for the movies they release, many of which are on the list above. You can see those study guides by going to the Affirm Films website.

However, I would encourage Christian filmmakers and producers – especially of films that make impressive profit – to use some of that profit to create tools that people can freely use to share the Gospel, and not just create ministry tools to increase the profit even more.

Thimblerig out.

[update: after the second weekend, The Shack has crossed $42M, making it number 11 on the list just behind The Nativity Story. It’ll push Soul Surfer out of the top ten very soon.]

Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast – Ep. 3, A Thief in the Night (1972)

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Could there be a connection between the first end-times Christploitation film and Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Is it true that A Thief in the Night might never have been made if not for the 1958 horror sci-fi classic, The Blob?

Listen to episode 3 of the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast to find out the answers to these questions and many more regarding the Christian-made film that obsessed Marilyn Manson, and is surprisingly listed as a seminal influence on many fans of the horror genre.

To listen, just follow this link: Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast Episode 3

The Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast Is Here!

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thimblerig-ark-1024x994I’m pleased to announce that the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast is up and running. The podcast has come about as a result of conversations with Tyler Smith of Battleship Pretension and More Than One Lesson, and will be hosted on the More Than One Lesson website.

If you are interested in the world of Christian media, specifically Christian filmmaking, this is the podcast for you. We will be examining Christian-made films thematically and artistically, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the budding Christian film industry.

Follow this link to iTunes to subscribe! And if you do, and if you enjoy it, please rate and review the podcast to help give it more exposure.

Click this link to enjoy the first full episode, which is an examination of the mega-hit, God’s Not Dead.

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Thimblerig’s Picks, Oscars 2017

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2017-oscars-89th-academy-awardsSupporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight 

Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Documentary Feature

Life Animated

O.J.: Made In America

Best Documentary Short Subject

The White Helmets 

Best Foreign Language Film

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Lead Actor

Denzel Washington, Fences

Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Live Action Short Film

Silent Nights

Sing

Sound Editing

La La Land

Arrival

Sound Mixing

La La Land

Hacksaw Ridge

Production Design

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

La La Land

Visual FX

Kubo And The Two Strings

Jungle Book

Costume Design

La La Land

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Makeup and Hair

Star Trek: Beyond

Suicide Squad

Original Score

La La Land, Justin Herwitz 

Original Song

“How Far I’ll Go” Moana

“City Of Stars,” La La Land

Original Screenplay

La La Land

Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea

Adapted Screenplay

Moonlight 

Animated Feature

Kubo And The Two Strings

Zootopia

Animated Short

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Piper

Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences 

Film Editing

La La Land

Hacksaw Ridge

Lead Actress

Ruth Negga, Loving

Emma Stone, La La Land

Directing

La La Land, Damien Chazelle 

Best Picture

La La Land 

Moonlight (what just happened?)

The Winners of the 25th Annual MovieGuide® Awards

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Each year for the past 25 years, MovieGuide® has held an awards show where they award films and television shows using a completely different set of criteria than most awards shows. While shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes highlight films and television programs based on their artistic merit, MovieGuide® looks at the “moral and spiritual principles as well as… production values… movies that tell a story that is both redemptive and inspiring to their audiences.

I’m pleased to announce the winners of the 25th Annual MovieGuide® Faith & Falues Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry (gasp) which was held this past weekend at the Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City.

Once again, the results have not been easy to track down, and have been pieced together by scouring the social media accounts of people who were in attendance.

The 2016 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Winners

Lifetime Achievement Award

Pat Robertson

The Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Movies & TV

The Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Movies & TV is awarded to popular, entertaining movies and television programs that are wholesome, spiritually uplifting, inspirational, redemptive and moral.

The Most Inspiring Movie of 2016

The Young Messiah

The Most Inspiring Television Program of 2016

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Bradley Foundation Faith & Freedom Award

The Faith & Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values are awarded for entertainment value, for craftsmanship, and for creating programming that is uplifting, moral, insightful, compassionate, and that shows America and its people in a positive light.

For Movies:

Hacksaw Ridge

For Television:

Operation Christmas

Best Movie for Families

Miracles from Heaven

Best Movie for Mature Audiences

God’s Not Dead 2

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

Awarded annually to an actor or actress in a motion picture or television program who exemplifies God’s grace and mercy toward us as human beings through their outstanding performance.

Actress:

Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2

Actor:

Adam Greaves-Neal, The Young Messiah

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for TV

Actress:

Faith Ford, The Bridge

Actor:

Devielle Johnson, A Time to Dance

And if I can take a moment to editorialize just a bit…

I feel like it’s important to note that while it’s not publicized on the MovieGuide® website, apparently box office also has something to do with the nomination process. Watch this video to hear MovieGuide® founder Ted Baehr say that there were so many worthy films this year that poor box office results might have kept some films from receiving a nomination. I find this odd considering that Ben-Hur, which only made about $26 million domestic, was nominated.

But this just highlights an issue I have with this awards show. While it’s certainly fine that MovieGuide® chooses to look at entertainment through a different lens than typical awards shows, their process for deciding nominees and winners is pretty opaque.

And so I’ll end this post by asking the three big questions:

Dear MovieGuide®:

Who decides the nominees?

Who decides who wins?

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is it just a coincidence that your award statue is a crystal teddy bear and the founder of MovieGuide®’s name is Ted Baehr?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Thimblerig out.

Thimblerig’s Ark is Free, Feb 3 & 4!

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In honor of yesterday’s most important holiday Groundhog’s Day (why isn’t it a day off, Mr. Trump? That should have been your first executive order!), we’re pleased to announce that Thimblerig’s Ark will be free for download on February 3 and 4!

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The second book in the series is nearing completion, and so you want to make sure you grab the first book while you still can. And tell your friends!

You already know about Noah. Just wait until you read the animal’s story.

Thimblerig is a little groundhog with big problems.

He’s a loner con-artist who’s losing his mojo; the wild dogs who run the forest harass him at every turn; he’s having vivid nightmares of apocalyptic floods; and worst of all, he believes he sees unicorns when everyone knows unicorns are only the stuff of legend.

But what one animal might call a problem, Thimblerig calls an opportunity.

In a moment of inspiration, he comes up with the ultimate con: persuade as many suckers as he can that a world-ending flood is coming; the fabled unicorns have told him where the only safe place will be; and only he can lead them to safety.

All for a reasonable price, of course.

When the flood really does come, Thimblerig has a choice: either save the ones who trusted him, or lose everything.

And that’s when he discovers that his problems have only just begun.

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The Resurrection of Gavin Stone • Thimblerig’s Review

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[Note from Nate: Usually, I write the reviews for this blog. But, living in China, I’m restricted to films that have been released on DVD. However, every now and then a film will come out that I feel needs a review sooner rather than later, and so I’ll put out the word to see if someone else can watch the movie and write me a review. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is one of those films, because a comedy for the Christian audience is such a rare bird, and screenwriter Andrea Gyertson Nasfell’s last big comedy, Mom’s Night Out, was one of my favorite Christian-made films of 2014 (you can read my interview with Andrea right here). And so, I’m pleased to present guest reviewer, Lynn Moody, who saw the film and was gracious enough to write a review for Thimblerig’s Ark. Thanks, Lynn!]

“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” Film Review

20161019_ResurrectionOfGavinStone--5ebac77deb63d60662d560416998ac42.jpgThose of us who have been holding our breath waiting for some really good Christian films will breathe a little sigh of relief after watching Vertical Church Film’s The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. No cheesy stuff this, just solid storytelling with great performances by Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E. L.D.) as Gavin Stone and the rest of the cast.

The only scene missing the ring of truth plays in the first few minutes as washed-up child actor Gavin Stone is told by his lawyer (Nicole Astra) and agent (Kirk B.R. Woller) that he has been sentenced to two hundred hours of community service for his most recent intoxicated antics. His must serve them in his Illinois hometown, but he has a choice of where to serve: the sanitation department or the local mega church.

The film quickly slides past that rough spot into the believable reunion of Gavin and his estranged father, played by Neil Flynn (Scrubs), from whom Gavin must beg a place to stay, and on to the mega church where Gavin begins his service hours by mopping floors. Thankfully, the church is just holding auditions for their annual Easter production, for which Gavin pretends to be a Christian so he can be cast as the lead.

Christians will recognize and laugh out loud at our own modern religious trappings and foibles, especially if one has ever been part of an Easter production. Non-Christians will enjoy the truth of Gavin’s experience as an outsider who comes to understand who Jesus really is.

gavinstone.jpgAnjelah Johnson does a fine job as the grown-up PK (pastor’s kid), Kelly, who directs the Easter play, as does D.B. Sweeney as the Pastor. But the real standouts are the ex-con played by Shawn Michaels (former WWF superstar), and his two geeky companions, John Mark, played by Tim Frank, who is still in love with Kelly even though she has rejected his advances, and Anthony, played expertly by Patrick H. Gagnon, a star-struck church actor-wannabe who starts wearing his Gavin Stone fan club t-shirt everywhere.

The real drama comes when Gavin finishes his service hours three days before opening night and receives an offer for a TV-gig back in L.A. that could revive his career.

The editing by Kenneth Marsten is perfect, as the pacing of the film carries us right along to its heart-warming conclusion. With some nice cinematography by Lyn Moncrief, this smart script by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has been expertly executed by director Dallas Jenkins and will make you remember what modern Christianity is all about.

With the recent release of some really great movies like Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Risen (2016), Little Boy (2015), and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, I’m hoping faith films have turned a serious corner.

Guest Reviewer Lynn Moody is a screenwriter, filmmaker and theater director living and working in northern Michigan. You may follow her work at PreciousLightPictures.com.

[This review has been edited to correct a name.]

The 2017 Oscar Nominees

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The 2017 Oscar Nominees are in! What do you think about these nominations? Any big surprises? Any disappointing shutouts? Will La La Land make another sweep like they did at the Golden Globes, or will someone else step up and take a surprise victory?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. But meanwhile, here are your nominees…

Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life Animated

OJ Made in America

13th

Best Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 mile

Joe’s Violin

Watami My Homeland

The White Helmets

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

Lead Actor

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

Live Action Short Film

Enenemis Interieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

Sound Editing

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

Sound Mixing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Production Design

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

Visual FX

Deep Water Horizon

Dr. Strange

Jungle Book

Kubo And The Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

Makeup and Hair

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek: Beyond

Suicide Squad

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Herwitz

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicolas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition” La La Land

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” Trolls

“City of Stars” La La Land

“The Empty Chair” Jim: The James Foley Story

“How Far I’ll Go” Moana

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

Animated Feature

Kubo And The Two Strings

Moana

My Life As A Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Animated Short

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomi Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Film Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

Lead Actress

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Directing

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

Lala Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight