Jason C. StanleyJason is a deacon in the United Methodist Church, serving as the Assistant Minister of Youth and Education in Lynchburg. He holds a B. A. in Religious Studies and a Master's in Christian Education. He and his wife blog about ministry, life, and film at jasoncstanley.com.

Big Eyes
Truth Will Set You Free
Artists finds Freedom from Oppression

One day she is visited by two Jehovah’s Witnesses. Something between the women clicks, and Margaret invites them in. As Margaret reads the sacred words to Jane later that evening, those about truth and the ethical value of truth-telling speak to her. These words give her new life and she stands up for herself, perhaps for the first time ever.

Interview: VeggieTales’ Mike Nawrocki
The Veggie Gospel
Telling the Story of God's Unconditional Love

Kellie Pickler, the former American Idol finalist, has been told that she sounds like a cartoon character. In Beauty and the Beet, she is given the chance to make that a reality. Mirabelle is a sweet potato with a sweet song to sing, which includes eight of the original ten songs in the film.

Mad Max (1979)
Tensions in Reality
The slippery slope of justice

No longer is the screen dominated by dark leather and villainous faces but by sunshine, beaches, and bluejeans. Life is good. This change marks the tension between the future that Max and the police are fighting for and the reality that the biker gang prefers. It is the tension between good and evil; justice and injustice; integrity and corruption.

Madam Secretary
Premiere Review
Disappointed, but hopeful

While disappointed, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that the show will step it up. While the pilot is not perfect, it does communicate a few things that we can assume are going to figure prominently.

Juno (2007)
Honey and Milk
Juno finds her Promised Land

Of course, the land of milk and honey does not have to be an actual, physical land. It can be a spiritual state of mind. It is outside of the Honey and Milk store that Juno comes to understand what she has to do.

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Change is Possible
Listening to Prophetic Voices Call us to Change

Despite these prophetic voices urging Will to move forward, change, and embrace his future, he is reluctant. Perhaps it is class pride; he does not want to leave his kind behind. Perhaps it is a lack of confidence. While Will seems to swim in confidence, the way he hides behind the pain, and hides most of his God-given gifts and abilities, suggests otherwise.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)
Facing Our Beasts & Making Things Right
Best Of Indies 2014

Despite its rough appearance, Hushpuppy, the six-year-old heroine of the film, thinks the Bathtub is the “prettiest place on Earth.” Hushpuppy has a connection to the natural world. She picks up every animal she can, lifts it to her ear, and listens.

Heaven Is For Real
Dealing With Doubt
Colton Burpo's Vision Of Heaven

Wallace’s images of heaven, complete with angels, were a bit too much for me. But the rest of the film, now out on Blu-ray and DVD, was enjoyable and thought-provoking.

The Perfect Wave
Surfing for Jesus
Finding God in Unexpected Ways

It is the story of a young man’s love for surfing. It is the story of a faithful mother’s love for her son. It is the story of young men and women falling in love. And it is the story of persistent love of God.

Up (2009)
A Journey Across Generations
Summer Blockbusters 2014

More importantly, the two discover that they have a few things in common. They are both lonely, and they both need each other.

The Terminator Quadrilogy
Saving Humanity?
Best of Summer Blockbusters 2014

“I feel the weight of the future,” says John at the beginning of the film. “So I keep running.” He is running both from the vocation that has chosen him and from the terminators that may be coming to kill him.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Whose Blood Will Save Us?
The Best Summer Blockbusters

Barbossa, believing that Elizabeth is a Turner, thinks that she is the one who will break the curse. But she is not. Sparrow tells Barbossa that he knows whose blood he needs to break the curse. Blood is needed to break the curse. For Barbossa and the crew to be redeemed, to come back to life again, blood is needed.

The Color Purple
A Journey To Transformation
The Films of Lent

Shug: You just walk past the color purple and don’t notice it.
Celie: You mean that God just wants to be loved?
Shug: Everything wants to be loved.

Touch the Untouchable
The Films of Lent

Philadelphia reminds us that there are untouchables with us still. There are those whom society has deemed unclean. Andrew Beckett was deemed unclean by his law firm and fired for it. Wheeler tells his fellow partners, “He brought AIDS into our offices—into our men’s rooms!”

Hotel Rwanda
Striving to be a Hotel Manager
The Films of Lent

Everything about Paul is Christ-like. He is compassionate, never thinking twice about taking in refugees. Every action and decision he makes is focused on fulfilling this calling in his life – to care for those whom no one cares for.

An American Tail
No More Cats
The Films of Lent

At one time or another, we have all felt like tiny creatures lost in a huge, confusing, and oppressive world. And the journey that we are on as people of faith becomes dangerous and difficult.

We All Doubt
The Films of Lent

When we doubt, we raise questions. Questions demand answers. Doubt has the potential to send the Christian on a journey seeking answers. This journey moves the Christian beyond the way things have always been to the new possibilities in Christ.

The Green Mile
Infected: Theology of John Wesley & John Coffey
The Films of Lent

Given the chance to be exonerated by Paul and the Warden, John Coffey declines. He willingly goes to the electric chair. This humble act of sacrifice is the final act of John Coffey’s that make us think of Jesus Christ.

The Lion King
Graveyards & Grace
The Films of Lent

Lent rolls us into the graveyard of Jesus’ death, a time and a place of great sorrow. It seems that all hope is gone. Yet, the graveyard is not final. Refuge is possible. Life is possible.

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
Looking Forward to Feeling Happy
The Films of Lent

In the opening scene as Lucy listens to Schroeder play his toy piano, she talks about Easter being a time of getting gifts. Schroeder corrects her, “It’s a time of renewal,” and later, “All you think about is gimme, gimme, gimme, get, get, get.”

E. T. The Extra Terrestrial
Alien Christ Figure
Films of Lent

When we first encounter Jesus we aren’t sure what others will think. Metaphorically, we take Jesus up to our room and hide him among our stuffed animals. We don’t know how our older brother will respond, but we are pretty certain our parents might freak out.

Interlocking Stories
We May be Different, but We all Need Love

A film like Babel challenges us to remember our own roles in the suffering of those around the world. It encourages us to wander in the desert, searching our hearts, and confessing those things that have caused separation between us and God and us and the rest of humanity. We confess the things that break the connection.

August: Osage County
Dysfunction and Forgiveness
Prodigal Daughters Without a Loving Mother

Amidst the film’s connections to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, what seems to be missing is the loving father. In fact, the Forgiving Father is Johna, the hired cook, nurse, and maid. She is the healer, offering unconditional love to Violet as she holds her and rocks her. It is the film’s only major, significant scene.

Dallas Buyers Club
Oscar Nominated Film Tells AIDS Story
Touching Those with AIDS

Ron’s friendship with Rayon is what finally breaks down his arrogance and attitude toward those who are different from him. It is through this relationship that Ron has his self-awakening moment, when he defends Rayon in the grocery store.

Joyeux Noel (2005)
Make a Joyful Noise
How Singing Disrupted War

On Christmas Eve, 1914, an unbelievable thing happened. A ceasefire between British and German forces was called. It was marked by the singing of carols and the exchange of gifts, photos, and stories; it was even extended so that the units could bury their dead. It is this historical event of World War I that inspired the film Joyeux Noel.

Home Alone (1990)
Forgive & Reconcile: A Christmas Lesson from John Hughes
The Film Countdown To Christmas

When Home Alone came out in November 1990, critics were not fans. Entertainment Weekly gave it a “D.” Roger Ebert repeated that it just wasn’t plausible. Yet, here we are talking about it, watching the marathons on cable television, and looking forward to it.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Nothing Artificial Here
Finding the Meaning of Christmas

This was another risky move by Schultz. Not all of his team thought it was a good idea to use the Bible on primetime television. His wife recalls him thinking that scripture is not just for the church, but for everyone. In reciting the birth narrative from Luke’s gospel, Linus makes the connection between the message of the Gospel and Charlie Brown’s actions.

Journey to Forgiveness
Search for a Lost Son Becomes Journey of Faith

Philomena knows the reality of institutional injustice because she has been on the receiving end. However, she does not stop believing in God. She is faithful. She is persistent.

Church Rescue
Rescue Me
The Rescue Genre Takes on Churches

There are a large number of reality TV shows in which businesses of every stripe are rescued from their own demise. Everything from beauty shops to bars to restaurants. And the clergyman in me cannot help but think, what about churches?

Returning TV Worth Watching?
New Seasons of TV Favorites
A Glimpse of Returning Television

My DVR stays pretty full, so it’s hard to pick just a few shows worth watching. But here’s a go at it.

Snake and Mongoose
A Racing Friendship
Independent Film Captures Racing Duo

Throughout the film, as Tom chases his purpose in life, his wife sees her vision of a family slipping away. She becomes very discouraged with Tom as he is gone all the time and because he is spending less and less time with his sons.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Forgiveness From the White House
A Parable of a Forgiving Father

In writing about the about the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), Fred Craddock observes that the parable should really be referred to as the parable of the forgiving father. It is this image that I see in Cecil Gaines. There are so many converting moments in the film, or as Oprah would say, “ah-ha moments.”

Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
The Search for God

Maybe this one was tossed together, but doesn’t it ask some of the greatest Star Trek questions ever?

This Is Our Time
Interview With Erin Bethea
We Are All Called

The film’s theme of calling is something that Bethea hopes viewers will connect with. She does. She has come to understand her own calling in the medium of film: “God gives me these gifts and passions, so I go in that direction.”

Star Trek Into Darkness
The Search for Spock
Taking Risks And Exploring Sacrifice

Tackling the big questions about life and sacrifice, we’re aboard the Enterprise and searching for Spock.

Man Of Steel
Superman III
A Cinematic Comic Book

Roger Ebert called Superman III a “cinematic comic book,” and he didn’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Richard Lester’s direction took the film series from complex, thoughtful elements to more campy, silly moments.

Parental Guidance
Crystal & Midler Deliver in Family Comedy
Transformation in the midst of Crazy

After the mistakes, and after the clean up, there is time for coffee. Artie comes down into the kitchen and finds Alice drinking a cup of coffee (or herbal tea). He sits with her and the two of them have a great heart-to-heart about what happened. They also begin the hard work of mending their relationship.

A Conversation with Cristóbal Krusen
Director challenges Christian media to tell the truth.

Krusen hopes that young people will respond favorably to the film’s honesty. Overall, he hopes that people will catch a glimmer of God’s great love for them. As he says, “No one is beyond the pale; no one is removed from the grace of God.”

Alex Cross
Cross Makeover
"Don't Lose Your Soul"

Cross watches as Nana Mama gives the children instructions to pack, as they are moving to Washington, D. C. She notices him, and finishes her sentence to the children, “You don’t want to leave behind anything you love.” Will Alex Cross get the message?

Undaunted: The Early Life of Josh McDowell
Failure Isn't Final
Turning Brokeness into Fruitfulness

The rest of the film is like an Oprah special. It’s real life and real emotions. McDowell is honest and vulnerable, as if to say, “This is what happened to me. If it has happened to you, you can rise above it.”

The Cabin in the Woods
Nothing Is Quite What It Seems
Evil vs. Bong

These five head out to a cabin in the woods to get away from the challenges of college life. And that’s when we expect to see what happens in every other slasher film. Except, this isn’t every other slasher film.

Terminator Anthology
For the Sake of Humanity
All 4 Terminator Films on Blu-ray

The first few films are concerned with preventing the massive destruction of humanity. It is worth saving, but it takes the machine Marcus to show us what it means to be human: to give is to live.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Once Was in Prison
Being Set Free

In light of viewing this film, it has occurred to me that this verse from Micah has been used a lot, yet has not been lived. What does it mean to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God? Paradise Lost offers a glimpse into what it does not look like.

The American Bible Challenge
Bible Trivia Gets Makeover
GSN on to something?

There were some questions that Megan and I, both seminary grads, didn’t have answers for. This was actually welcomed as we played along. There is a lot about the Bible that many do not know, and they present the trivia in some creative ways.

Season Three
Learning to Live Together

The season also deals with some difficult topics without being too dark. Domestic violence, texting while driving, and teen suicide are a few of the topics that get some mic time. And all of this is done within the context of community.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
On the Inside
Striving to be Holy

The film, one of the best stop-action animation films I’ve seen, is absurd in all the best ways. Just imagine the best of Monty Python in a stop-action animated film minus the dirty jokes.

Looney Tunes: Mouse Chronicles
Chuck Jones Mouses Up
Remastered Shorts on Blu-ray

They then seek out Claude Cat to end their lives, for there is no reason left to live without the need for cheese. This sends the characters into a strange spiral of events. But it raises the ethical question that has been debated for years, should one assist another in ending life?

Alex Cross
New Alex Cross
First Look at the Trailer

When I first heard that Tyler Perry was gong to play Dr. Cross, I wasn’t sure about it. Morgan Freeman brought Alex Cross to the big screen in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Would the man who created Madea be able to fill those shoes?

Dr. Seuss’s Deluxe Edition The Cat in the Hat
Theological Ponderings on Dr. Seuss
Classic Seuss Cartoons on Blu-ray

Meanwhile the Church is the fish, stuck in its ways, its tradition, and its codes. The Cat in the Hat, then, is leadership within the faith community offering new ways of looking at things and new ways of approaching things . . . .like Jesus?

The Dark Knight Rises
Grace Rises
Good, Evil, and Grace

Like Jonah, Bane prefers vengeance on those who have done wrong. Like Jonah, Bruce Wayne rises above his own struggles to reclaim a commitment he has made to do good. And like Jonah, grace is the lesson learned. We rise because we have grace.

Murder in the First
When Were You in Prison?
Alcatraz Story Comes to Blu-ray

If Henri Young is the Christ-like figure, James Stamphill represents who Jesus calls us to be. We are to find and show compassion to others—those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Vampire Hunter or Emancipator?
Stuggles with Vocation

But, that’s not to say the film is without its theological ponderings. Lincoln, in fiction as in life, represents light, while the vampires (as opposed to the Southerners) represent darkness. Yet, underneath all of this, Lincoln is struggling throughout the film with his vocation.

Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and Other Stories
Change Happens

Dr. Seuss has always managed to tell parables for the 20th century. While his characters appear to be kid-friendly (and they are), his stories and morals are very much adult-needed. Dr. Seuss knew how to tell a story, and knew how to preach a sermon.

Franklin & Bash
Season One
A Legal Bromance

Restoring the bromance and kooky drama, the latest in legal dramedy arrives on DVD.

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
A Gracious Woman
Lessons from a Comedian

“The heart Carol shows on stage is the heart she shows in real life,” Barbara Walters observes in the film. And that is who Carol is.

Happiness is Peanuts
Team Snoopy
Don't Give Up

We have all had moments where we felt like Charlie Brown. We can never quite seem to kick that football. We are walking in the shadow of someone else’s charisma. When we feel like a win is coming, the game gets rained out.

Dirty Sexy Money
Seasons One & Two
Unraveling The Mystery

While network television wasn’t quite ready for the Darlings, your DVD player is. And along the way there are narratives of self-discovery, lustful temptations, marital difficulties, and the ultimate certainty: forgiveness.

W. E.
A Flawed Film
Madonna's Attempt at Storytelling

Madonna is on to something here… but convolutes the storyline by splitting the plot between eras and relationships. It might remind you of a music video. Maybe Madonna should stick to what she knows.

A Vision Of A New Kingdom
Thinking without Boundaries

A vision for a new kingdom, the musical takes us on a journey with Arthur, Lancelot, and other well-loved characters, this time singing!

Season Two
Wrap Your Troubles In Hope

In the midst of all this recovering from the storm, music takes a center stage. So much so that some have argued that season two is more of a showcase of local musicians than it is a television drama. I tend to disagree.

A Streetcar Named Desire
Compelling American Classic
Streetcar On Blu-ray

Even in a black and white film, it is clear by the lighting employed that Blanche’s narrative is filled with darkness. In a scene where Mitch is asking her about the darkness, she replies, “I like the dark. The dark is comforting to me.”

Goodnight for Justice: The Measure of a Man
No One Is Sinless
TV Western Makes Its Way To DVD

Luke Perry wrote and starred in this TV sequel to his western on the Hallmark Channel. Now, I haven’t seen the original Goodnight for Justice which might have been helpful. Praise be to God for IMDb.com!

The Avengers
The Countdown Has Begun
Film Clip Released

I, along with others, hope for the creative side of Whedon in Avengers. A clip from the film that was released this week implies that we will get that Whedon-style storytelling that will add another whole layer to the Marvel narrative.

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
The Face Of Our Demons
Battling with our Inner Selves

In its French version, the film was given the subtitle, “un conte,” a fairy tale. A fairy tale, as it unfolds, that communicates to us the emotional texture of a man, rather than the literal play-by-play truth of his life.

Nicole Kidman Collection
Kidman Parables
Four Films About The Human Condition

These four films are parables about the human condition and the human response (or lack there of). No matter whether you are a fan of Kidman or not, these four films are worth checking out.

The Broken Tower
The Wounded Poet
Franco-philes Delight

Shot in black-and-white video, Franco’s film uses repetitive, stop-and-start-like cuts that are very chaotic and could simply mirror Crane’s life, that of a man who ended his own life by jumping from the steamship SS Orizaba at the age of 32.

A Religious Zealot Of A Horror Film
Antagonist As Christ-Figure?

Jacob speaks in the cryptic way using churchy language, and yet is the opposite of the church. Or is he? Is Jacob a representation of the way the Church is viewed by those outside of it? As an organization taking chances with the lives of millions?

In the Land of Blood and Honey
Love And War
It's more than a love story

After his general father tells Danijel to get rid of Ajla, he comes to her in tears asking, “Can I trust you?” This sums up the feelings of many of the characters during the war. Trust is a luxury no one can afford when in war.

We Don't Need To Grieve The Earth
Von Trier's Apocalyptic Narrative

If the earth as we know it is evil, we do not need to grieve for it. The old will pass away and the new will be created. The write of 2 Peter tells us, “But according to his promise we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (3:13).

The Legend of Awesomest Maximus
Not So Awesome
Blu-ray Takes It Low

This spoof film was written by the people who gave us Scary Movie. And frankly, none of those spoof movies were really that good either. What happened to the Mel Brooks’ spoof movies? Where is that quality of comedy?

Like Crazy
What Is True Love?
Love, long distance style

The challenge of being in a relationship where the cell phone is the third wheel becomes very real for Anna and Jacob, and for us. At the same time, the film raises questions about the relationship.

The Looney Tunes Show
Season One Volume Three
Carrot-Smacking Christ Figure

Each episode offers its own little life lesson. Mostly it teaches us something about being a good friend. Bugs and Daffy aren’t the adversaries we remember. Here, they actually care for each other, at times Bugs more than Daffy.

Stuck Between Stations
Overnight Romance
Stuck for Only One Night?

At one point Becky asks Casper, “Are you ready to go home yet?” He replies, “Not really.” This seems to sum up the film well, as well as the lives of these two young people. Nobody wants this night to end.

Answers to Nothing
Lonely And Broken
Change is Possible

The film doesn’t end with answers to nothing, or with brokenness. As the film comes to a conclusion we see the characters making decisions that show they are ready for a change… for transformation.

What Would You Do?
A suspenseful thriller raises ethical questions

What follows is a twisted mystery keeping you guessing what will happen next. But, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Just trust me… it’s worth sticking with it to the end. In fact, at times, it’ll leave you going, “What the . . . .?!?”

King of Triads
Heavy On Kung Fu, Low On Plot
DVD delivers in action, but not much else

There is no bad voiceover, but there are plenty of bad subtitles, bad acting, mixed in with decent fight scenes. The plot is a bit twisted in that it’s hard to follow, or hard to make sense out of.

London Boulevard
Good vs. Evil, London Style
Choosing good is not that easy

Mitchel has the capacity for great violence, yet he has this weariness about him. He tries so hard to be on the straight and narrow, and it seems the more he tries to do right, he is faced with options to do wrong, which are so much easier.

The Way
This Ain't No Yellow Brick Road
Journey to Transformed Life

The symbolism and metaphors of the spiritual journey are numerous. Jack from Ireland, who first appears like a mad poet, rants about the El Camino as a metaphor. “It’s a metaphor bonanza!”

Prophetic Art
The Words of Shakespeare??

Through the art form of the play, Edward is given a prophetic voice in which to communicate with the people of England. Film, music, and literature have all taken words and turned them into prophetic art form that speaks to generations.

Project Nim
Shackles Of Humanity
Insights from a chimp

The film, if anything, says something about human nature. It offers a blending of self-interest, troubling egos, and complex emotions… which leaves us wondering if we need violence to see the negative aspects of human nature.

Fresh Starts
A loaded, suspense filled drama

Juliet gets in trouble after being provoked by another girl in class. Her teacher stands up for her with the principal. When asked why, he says, “Everyone deserves a fresh start.”

From Brokenness to Purpose
The Wisdom of Hugo Cabret

Discovering who we are is indeed a spiritual quest. And, while I’m not a huge fan of 3D, I have become a fan of Scorsese’s 3D, and hope to see more 3D films like this one. Like many things, 3D is far superior in the hands of Martin Scorsese.

J. Edgar
"Do I Kill Everything I Love?"
Love for Self & Others

What at first appears to be an awkward start to a bromance leads into an awkward romance. While this is the least dysfunctional relationship Edgar has, it’s a relationship his mother does not approve of. While she is fine with the two men being friends, she is not fine with them being “daffodils.”

The Rum Diary
Never Too Late
Finding Your Voice in San Juan

Kemp and his roommate photographer Sala participate in some recreational drug activity, which sends the characters (and the viewers) into a few strange moments as they roam the streets of San Juan high… and muse about God.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
The Mystery of the Lorax
Faith Adventures in the World of Dr. Seuss

Just from the trailer’s two and half minutes, you can tell this is a fable (dare we say, a parable?) regarding the dilemma of the environment.

Modern Family
Making the Impossible Unimpossible
Walking the Walk with Phil Dunphy

And Claire ends up in plastic handcuffs. There is an old phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do.” This is such a humbling moment for Claire.

The Lion King
From the Graveyard to Grace
Finding Ourselves in Simba

Eventually Simba is discovered by Nala (cue Elton John love songs), and is challenged to answer his call as King of Pride Land. After receiving a few bumps on his head from the priestly prophet Rafiki he accepts that calling.