See No Evil . . .
For many years, the most prominent religious movie was director Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." In my home, the film was a yearly tradition, and no matter how many times I watched the classic it always sent shivers up my spine. Charlton Heston portrayed a bold and brave Moses as he famously ordered Pharaoh to "Let my people go!" and then performed miraculous feats, including parting the Red Sea.
The Ten Commandments, released in 1956, garnered mostly positive reviews with one critic writing: ". . . Storytelling at its best." The main criticism of The Ten Commandments was that it strayed from Scripture and did not portray the literal biblical text (that's quite different from today). The Ten Commandments received seven Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture; Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Costume Design; Best Sound; Best Film Editing; and Best Special Effects. The film won an Oscar for Best Special Effects.
DeMille's epic feature was one of the most famous religious films – until 2004 when Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" hit theaters. The story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was uncompromising and bold. The unparalleled-feature film offered audience members a vivid cinematic illustration of the crucifixion.
Gibson's Passion was another epic movie recounting history as biblically chronicled, and it made Hollywood insiders take note, but not because of the religious theme. No, movie makers were interested in Gibson's film for one reason – money. The Passion of the Christ grossed more than $370 million.
The Passion was a box office success despite negative reactions from several Hollywood actors/insiders, and scathing diatribes by secular, and seemingly jaded, movie critics. Reviews were harsh: "Sick; Retells the Gospels as a horror movie; Depressed and spiritually bruised; This excuse for gore and sadism." But these and other antagonistic critical rants had no effect on public reaction, which was extremely positive.
Folks flocked in droves to movie theaters everywhere, more than once, to watch The Passion of the Christ. Although the movie was extremely popular and beloved by the public, it garnered only three Academy Award nominations in the categories of Cinematography, Music (Original Score), and Makeup. The film failed to win an Oscar, however, notwithstanding the Academy Award snub, the movie-industry's upper echelon would remember the financial success of the film far beyond award season. . . .
The Passion of the Christ - Official Trailer
YouTube by kaxa beri
Religious Movies in 2014 - Faith or Finance
Separation of Church and Movies
In 2011, religious movie fans flocked to theaters once again to watch "Soul Surfer." The film told the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer who lost her left arm after a violent shark attack. Hamilton, a Christian, relied heavily on her faith to get through the unfathomable situation. While the movie had an underlying Christian theme it was not a blatant attempt by any group or individual to proselytize, it simply told the true story of Hamilton's ordeal.
A number of movie critics pounced on the fact that Hamilton's faith was a part of the film, and they criticized Soul Surfer for that reason. One critic opined the movie would have been better if it only portrayed the two-dimensional story of this young girl's tragic accident; even though that would have meant ignoring the true version of the story.
It's mind-blowing to read the harsh words from mostly left-leaning critics. These self-absorbed cynics applaud and lavish heaps of praise to movies depicting rape, murder, adultery, but are appalled when they have to watch a movie that portrays faith and the love of Christ. It's as though these individuals critique movies with a mindset of imposing an unspoken rule of "separation of church and movies."
The reviews on Soul Surfer were not all bad. A few mainstream critics gave the movie fair reviews. In addition, an overwhelming number of the public reviewed the movie positively. If you have not seen Soul Surfer, I urge you to watch it then decide for yourself whether the voices on the left are disingenuous.
Son of God
The 2013 miniseries "The Bible" was one of the most watched television series specials. Premiering on March 3, 2013, the series began with the Book of Genesis and continued for ten weeks, ending with the resurrection of Christ. Week after week, audiences grew and the series became a popular water cooler topic. Thus, it was not surprising when the producers of the miniseries announced they'd made the movie "Son of God." The film debuted in theaters February 28, 2014.
As with The Passion of the Christ, The Son of God focused on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and also as with The Passion, the critics lambasted it. Statements such as: "The film is willing. But its spirit is weak; As brusque in its storytelling as an illustrated children’s Bible; Jesus looks like a tanned model . . ." and ". . . The blandness is enough to make you long for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ," displayed the disdain critics had for the film. Once again, however, audience reaction contradicted the critics, with almost 80 percent of the movie-going public giving the film a thumbs-up.
Son of God - Movie Rating
God's Not Dead
How far would you go to defend your faith? The 2014 film "God's Not Dead" tells the story of Josh Wheaton, a Christian college freshmen whose faith is put to the test. Wheaton's philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo, demands that his class write the infamous quote by Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche "God is Dead" as an assignment. Josh watches his classmates nonchalantly write the words on their papers, but he can't do it. He refuses the assignment, and when the professor questions him about it, Josh says; "I can’t do what you want, I'm a Christian." His refusal angers Professor Radisson, who is an atheist. He decides to gives Josh an ultimatum, either turn in the assignment or prove the existence of God through a series of debates and convince the class of his position.
Although faced with several obstacles, including a girlfriend who tries to persuade him not to take the challenge, and then breaks up with him when he does not heed to her request, Wheaton moves forward. He peruses his Bible and everything else he can find for help.
During the debates, Josh covers the prevailing arguments made by atheists. Regarding the infamous quote by Richard Dawkins, "If you tell me that God created the universe, then I have the right to ask you, who created God?" Josh counters: "Even leaving God out of the equation, I then have a right to turn Mr. Dawkins' question back 'round on him and ask, 'If the universe created you, then who created the universe?' You see, both the theist and the atheist are burdened with the same question of how did things start. What I'm hoping you'll pick up from all this is that you don't have to commit intellectual suicide to believe in a Creator behind the creation."
Once again, critics responded negatively to the film. Reviews such as: "Ban this sick filth; Despite the campus setting, little about the story is intelligently designed; Lambasts reason, and celebrates Christianity unabashedly; A dismal piece of filmmaking; The angriest faith-based film in recent memory; Even by the rather lax standards of the Christian film industry, God's Not Dead is a disaster; A sloppily written, badly argued, unevenly acted film"; and "Stacks the deck shamelessly in defense of its credo."
Opinions of moviegoers once again contradicted critical reviews, with 84 percent of audience members giving God's Not Dead positive or extremely positive reviews. Several folks watched the movie more than once, inviting friends and family members to watch with them. It's not surprising the movie did financially well at the box office, despite being released by a small independent distributor in only 780 screens initially. God's Not Dead earned over $8.6 million in its first week, and revenues continued to soar as the movie was released to more and more theaters.
God's Not Dead will embolden the faithful with a valuable lesson. Do not be intimidated into silence by the loud combative voices, trying to berate and mock Christians into muteness. In addition, blind acceptance of contradictory voices and ideas is a weak position to take. The movie should also motivate everyone to examine their beliefs and to ask themselves how far they would go to defend them.
God's Not Dead - Movie Rating
God's Not Dead | Official Full Movie Trailer
YouTube by GodsNotDeadTheMovie
Noah: No - Ah . . . Really?
One "religious" movie embraced by many in Hollywood and the secular media with its left-leaning critics is "Noah" featuring Australian actor Russell Crowe. Although the film is in the religious category, it is more suited for fantasy or the sci-fi section. The onscreen depiction of the biblical flood story bears very little resemblance to that of the Genesis account.
The movie's director has gone on record stating he is an atheist, and he took creative liberties transforming the story of Noah and the flood, to the degree that it is almost unrecognizable. No one in Hollywood, however, seems to have a problem with that or with the fact the movie's director is an atheist. It's akin to asking the president of PETA to direct a movie on how to butcher and cook beef.
One reviewer had the chutzpah to write: "The more controversial Noah might actually feed your soul. . . . [I] found nothing in it that contradicts the Bible, and I found Noah refreshing for the way it asks us to reexamine Scripture, faith and what it means to be called by God." Huh?!?! Scripture has been examined and reexamined throughout history, and still the movie Noah is at best a novelized version of the story, and at worst a mockery of Scripture.
Noah, the movie, is grossly misleading for those who are not familiar with the Genesis account. In the fictional tale, Noah is a vegetarian who teaches his children it is wrong to kill and eat animals. However, near the end of the movie Noah contemplates killing his twin grand-babies because they are girls. So, um, it's okay to kill babies but not animals?
The film includes fictional characters, some whose names may appear in the Bible but their storylines are pure fiction. For instance, the movie's lead villain is "Tubal-Cain," a fellow that wreaks havoc and enters the ark as a stowaway in an attempt to kill Noah. The Bible mentions a descendant of Cain, the son of Lamech and Zillah named "Tubalcain" (King James Bible) or Tubal-Cain. The Book of Genesis (4:22) states Tubal-Cain was the "forger of all instruments of bronze and iron." That's it. It is not clear whether Tubal-Cain lived during the time of Noah. Also, there were no stowaways on the ark – the Bible states only Noah, his wife, three sons, their wives, and the animals were on the Ark.
Other characters whose names are in the Bible but whose movie characters are fictitious, or characters not found in the Genesis account at all are:
•Methuselah – Noah’s grandfather: The movie depiction of Methuselah is that he lived alone on a mountain top; had mystical powers; and was constantly hallucinating and craving berries. The Bible states Methuselah, the son of Enoch, became the father of Lamech when he was 187 years of age. He also had other sons and daughters, and he died at the age of 969 – that’s all it says.
•Lemech: Noah’s father: The movie concocts a story of a birthright ritual involving snakeskin (not in the Bible) and shows Lemech murdered by Tubal-Cain when Noah is a teenager. The Bible states Lemech lived to be 777 years of age, and he died (unknown how he died) when Noah was 590 years of age – clearly not a teen.
•Naamah: Noah's wife in the movie. Although Noah's wife is not named in the Bible, Naamah is the name of one of Tubal-Cain's sisters and Jewish tradition states she was Noah's wife.
• Ila: She is portrayed as the wife of Shem, however, Shem's wife's name is not mentioned in the Bible, and no other information about his wife is given.
•Na’el: She is a woman involved with Noah's son Ham that is left behind to perish in the flood. In the Bible, Ham has a wife (all three brothers Shem, Ham, and Japheth have wives) who was on the Ark with him
•The Watchers: They are probably the most popular characters in the movie. These computer-generated giant creatures look like rocks; and are said to be "fallen angels," forced to leave Heaven because they helped the humans (Adam and Eve?) who were banished from the Garden of Eden. At the end of the movie, the Watchers are allowed back into Heaven because they sacrificed themselves to protect the Ark. (Note: fallen angels are never allowed back into Heaven, but are banished into the Lake of Fire.)
Writers of the film may have gotten the inspiration for The Watchers from a group known as the "Nephilim" (Genesis 6 and Numbers 13). Or, the idea may have been taken from Daniel 4:17 ("This sentence is by the decree of the 'angelic watchers' . . ."). Another thought is the idea came from the Book of Enoch (not accepted as Biblical Canon). Or lastly, the idea may have come from all of the above.
In the movie, these rock-like creatures state "We were not stone then, but light. Rock and mud shadowed our glow." Whatever the inspiration, the Watchers are fictional characters.
If you're looking for an interesting science fiction or fantasy flick, Noah is a good choice – but clearly not biblical.
Noah - Movie Rating
Noah - Official Trailer
YouTube by FilmTrailerStation
Heaven is For Real - But is this Story Real?
Movie reviews were mostly negative with critics saying things such as: "A bottom-of-the-barrel drama that's been geared towards the lowest common denominator; Don't be fooled, it's not hope or love that Heaven Is For Real is peddling. It's a divisive paean to a bogus cultural divide created by a coalition of opportunists who don't mind making money selling that same poisonous lie; Vanilla narrative from a faith-based film that will only preach to the choir"; and "More trite than inspiring."
Some critics gave the movie positive reviews; "A well-acted, family-friendly and timely movie for Easter audiences," and "A gentle, heartfelt movie that allows viewers to decide for themselves."
John MacArthur on Heaven is for Real
YouTube by Godson Eh
Moms' Night Out
Released May 9, 2014, "Moms' Night Out" is a family-centered comedy about three friends, married with children, who attempt to have a "girls' (moms') night out." Things don't go quite as planned, however, and the three women encounter funny (for the audience) situations.
This movie is amusing, and while it does not merit Academy Award nomination status, it clearly does not deserve the spiteful and malicious reviews it has received by critics. Phrases such as "Depressingly regressive and borderline dangerous," are carelessly used simply because the characters are stay-at-home mothers.
It's contemptible that this movie is characterized as, "Peddles archaic notions of gender roles," simply because it displays women that choose to stay at home and care for their children. Another critic calls it "Unintentionally grotesque" and "Worthy of damnation."
Other vicious remarks include: "An insult to the millions of women who have much more to deal with; Anti-feminist," and ". . . Just hire a nanny, find a job and get out of the house."
Wow! The intolerance of the hypocritical so-called "tolerant" is beyond belief.
Moms' Night Out has also been criticized for being family friendly. One critic said: "What this PG comedy lacks in cursing, it also comes up short on plot, character development, originality, and overall pleasure."
As with the majority of movies on this list, the critics and audience members disagree. Over 80 percent of movie audiences gave this movie a positive review.
Moms' Night Out: Official Trailer
YouTube by Moms' Night Out Movie
One little known 2014 Christian documentary is "Irreplaceable." The film was released in a limited number of theaters as a special one-night cinema event during the month of May. The documentary sets out to answer two fundamental questions: "What is family," and "Does family still matter in today's society?"
Irreplaceable received praise and positive reviews from the Christian community but was ignored by most secular critics. The only non-Christian review found stated the documentary; "Uses the rhetoric of support for family as a thin and increasingly cynical and specious cover for a pernicious agenda disguised as a 'conversation.'"
YouTube by Focus on the Family
More Faith Based Films in 2014
Additional faith-based films are scheduled to hit theaters in 2014. Films such as the Christian political drama Persecuted, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Hope Bridge, and Left Behind will all be in a theater near you in 2014.
A word of advice, don't let the imperious and catty diatribes of the critics dictate what you see. The only thing those visceral reviews are good for is lining a bird cage (sorry if that offends the birds).
On the other hand, go out with you family and friends, and enjoy a movie without having to worry about strong language or other scenes not appropriate for children.
Regardless of what any narcissistic critic says, it appears faith-based movies are here to stay. Why? Because the public loves and appreciates them, and the movie insiders know they earn big bucks.