REVIEW: Do You Believe?

I genuinely look forward to most Christian movies that are released, especially if I know they will be released in theaters and especially if I know that there will be an actual budget behind it.  As some of you might know, Christian movies have had many hurdles to jump in the past 20 plus years when it comes to quality.  One of those hurdles has been budget.  Now, as I have said in previous posts, I am not saying that Christian movies need to get budgets of $50 million in order to be successful but what I am saying is that the budget needs to match the story that is trying to be told.  For example, if you are telling an end times story with all sorts of natural disasters and you are trying to show all this on a budget that is not even in the millions then all you are doing is setting your movie up to look low budget and cheesy before you even get to the story.  The second hurdle has been acting.  Some of the worst acting in movie history has appeared in Christian films.  After you get past the hurdle of actually not revealing that your movie is low budget from the very first shot due to low production quality you then need actors who are good enough not to turn viewers away as they deliver their first line.  A third hurdle has been writing, if you are going to make a movie, writing is where you should actually start.  Yes I listed it last but it is because it is the last one noticed, but it really should be the thing you build the rest on.

Now, with all that laid out, I want to give a little background on the movie Do You Believe? I like to put things into perspective when I am judging a movie.  Here is the perspective; God’s Not Dead came out last year.  They did a fantastic job of marketing the film, connecting the film to the Newsboys who where the hottest band at the time having had two very successful albums just released.  They advertised appearances by members of the Duck Dynasty family who were extremely hot at the time and they showed a very simple story, a sort of David and Goliath story set in the classroom of a mainstream university.  All this lead to the film making over $60 million at the box-office and I am sure even more in home rentals, sales, church licenses and a Netflix deal all for just a $2 million dollar budget!  I am sure that you can see that the margin of profit is large.  Even after you take the theater’s portion out of that total which I have heard is an estimated 1/3 (it is more complicated than that and I am sure the truth is much different but lets run with it.) also taking out of that the money used for promotion which is anyone’s guess as to how much was spent on that.   The bottom line is still that God’s Not Dead made big bucks and placing it as the title holder of the largest grossing independent Christian movie not made by Mel Gibson of all time.

I was not overly enthused with God’s Not Dead but I can’t say that I didn’t find it at least enjoyable on some level but when I saw these final numbers, my mind was set! Pure Flix (the studio that brought you God’s Not Dead) All eyes are on you, with one film you have gone from the studio that makes a ton of low budget, cheesy movies each year to being the big juggernaut of the Christian film industry! Your next film needs to blow us away! This means that Do You Believe? Was really the movie to see if there would be an improvement.  Now, I do want to say that it is very possible that there is no God’s Not Dead money funneled to Do You Believe? As I do not know when production started.  However, it still stands that with such a big hit you need to follow that with something better to let people know you are serious. So, How did Do You Believe do?

THE REVIEW

BUDGET

It has not been reported yet how much Do You Believe actually cost, all that has been said is that the cost was higher than God’s Not Dead.  That means the budget was more than $2 million.  It is hard to say exactly what the budget was but if I were to venture a guess, and I am just guessing and I wouldn’t even call my guess an educated guess, I would say around $5 million… Prue Flix… was I close? In the ballpark?… anyway.  From the very first frame I could tell that the look of the film was going to be improved.  It looked pretty solid! Some good camera work, some nice looking shots.  The picture looked crisp and clear.  I was pleased with this aspect of the film from the very beginning.  I very good step in the right direction! Whatever the budget was, it looked as though it was enough to do the script justice.  Well done to the team on this one, also, good job to the director Jon Gun who has not directed a lot of movies but in 2000 he directed his first film Mercy Streets which, at a time when Christian movies were downright terrible, Mercy Streets always stood out to me! Unfortunately not a whole lot of people saw that film as I did not even know about it until I was introduced to me my first year in college by a good friend who I know reads this blog.  I don’t know how much you had to do with story development, sometimes directors have a lot to do with story and sometimes they have nothing.  For the purpose of this review I am not going to add anything about story here, other than the director did, in my opinion, a great job at piecing together a very difficult story. First hurdle cleared by Do You Believe.

ACTING

All you need to do is look at the list of actors in this film.  There are some pretty big, or once big names in this movie.  Cybill Shepherd, Ted McGinley, Sean Austin and Lee Majors! Hey, you look at that list and I can already see that the ingredients are there to make a movie with decent acting! As a whole, the acting was just that, decent.  I feel that Ted McGinley, who played the pastor in the film did a very good job and Lee Majors… well, what can I say about former Steve Austin himself (that is the Six Million Dollar Man, not the wrestler) Lee Majors elevated every scene he was in! His wife was played by Cybill Shepherd and I think she… well… did not. I don’t know if it was that Lee Majors performance that made Cybill’s look worse or if Cybill was just phoning it in, not even trying.  Either way, I know for a fact that Cybill is capable of far better. Now, please do keep in mind I am not saying any of these actors deserve an Oscar for there performances but at least this movie has the talent to give it credibility.  I like the direction that Pure Flix is going in with the actors they are hiring for their projects.  Second hurdle cleared!

WRITING

This film was written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, a couple that doesn’t give me any assurance of a good film.  They wrote God’s Not Dead, if that movie has any strong points it is not in the writing.  They wrote another film for Pure Flix called What If… which, isn’t actually that bad for a direct to DVD Christian film, The Book of Daniel which is one of my favorite stories in the Bible made into one of the most boring low budget Christian films I have seen.  Before turning their pens towards Christian films they wrote Earth vs. The Spider which is a low budget creature feature.  Over all their writing has not been high quality and this story will not help! In the very beginning moments we hear that the story will revolve around 12 characters whose lives will intersect under the cross, right from that moment I went “ut oh.” Why? Because it is difficult for a writer of high quality to write a story about 12 characters that don’t have much to do with each other but intersect at some point and actually make me care about those characters.  What follows is zero character development beyond the light bulb moment conversions, you know the type I mean.  “Jesus wants to save you!” “what? He does? How do I let him do that?” “all you have to do is repeat after me.” (sinners prayer) “Yay! I am saved.”  Some of my readers may not be bothered by this.  You might think to yourself “but, I enjoyed the movie.” That is ok.  I enjoy old monster movies like Godzilla and Gamera, does that mean I am going to try to convince you they are well written movies? No.  Since there is no time for character development the story relies on a series of events that amount to little more than emotional manipulation.  It is a film that knows it’s audience, as Christians we do love movies that show people getting saved from traumatic lives.  We love to hear in church the testimony of the man who was once a gang banging drug dealer but accepted Christ and then turned his life around.  The problem is, this movie is not a testimony, it is fiction.  I am sure that if you looked into the life of the former gang banging drug addict there would be a much deeper and more complex journey that eventually lead him to a place where he found refuge in the merciful and loving arms of Jesus Christ.  Yes, when he tells us his story on a Sunday morning he glosses over all that because he has a limited time to speak and just wants to get to the important part that he is changed but if we are going to sit down and watch a story for two hours we need to see more of the journey.  I feel like some of you might not believe me, or might totally disagree or think I am being too hard.  I am reluctant to share specifics for anyone who still would like to go see the film.  However, for those of you who have I am about to go into detail so if you do not want anything ruined for you, do not read the next part after “Spoilers” and just skip down to “Conclusion.”

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Why do I call this film “emotional manipulation?”  Ever death ends with a deathbed conversion.  Every person who once hated Christians sees how great Christianity really is and decides there must be something to this.  The reverend and his wife can’t have children and because they where Christian’s to a pregnant girl she ends up giving her baby to them as she dies minutes after delivery… but not before he deathbed conversion.   The gangbanger who ran into the church near the beginning of the film while running from the cops, prays to God the cops won’t see him… and they don’t.  Which allows him to try to convert his gangbanging friend named Kriminal only to be killed while taking a bullet for his friend WHILE witnessing to him.  His friend is shown at the end with tears in his eyes as he is asked “Are you the man who goes by Kriminal?” only to say “I was.” The only character with the unhappy ending is the Doctor who gets offended by people praying silently in a restaurant or patience who thank God for being healed instead of thanking him.

However, the one that takes the cake is Joe’s story.  Probably the story most well fleshed out.  The character I feel they did the best job of connecting the audience with.  Showing Joe as the do gooder who really touches a homeless woman and he daughter.  He is the picture of selflessness. All that is fine! I enjoyed the story.  I thought it was the most well written story in the entire movie.  Then comes the twist.  He is dying.  It was revealed with the cliché coughing into the white handkerchief to reveal blood.  I personally would have cut that out, you already had him at the hospital and giving up his spot for the little girl.  You already had him leave the hospital without being checked out by a doctor.  You already had him coughing throughout the film.  Cutting out the blood on the handkerchief portion  would have allowed the audience to find out about his dying when he reveals it to the homeless lady (who he delivers a note to while she was at Lee Major’s house before she had the chance to tell anyone she was there.) That reveal would have been better I feel.  BUT all this is my example of the glimmer of good writing in the film… and I hate to even use a word as strong a glimmer.  The worst part is, after setting up this emotional moment at his death bed.  The only death bed scene that did not have a conversion connected to it… after you have him pass and you have the doctor come in and examine him and sign his birth certificate, you suddenly have the heart beat monitor beep again, then again…  He’s alive!  The doctor comes back in and wants to explain this because he will not accept miracles.  He tells the nurse that he wants to find the nature of this infection.  To which the recently resurrected man says “You won’t find any.”  How does he know that God not only resurrected him but also healed him of his leukemia and of the infection that caused his death?  Maybe he met God in heaven and God told him…  I guess that is what we are meant to believe.

So the question of the movie stands and faces me.  Do you believe? Do you believe God can heal? Do you believe God can resurrect the dead? Yes, I believe all this.  However, do I believe God fearing, Bible believing Christian’s die every day and don’t come back to life? Yes! Do I believe that the Jesus of the Cross died on that cross so that we could be saved from sin and not just so that this temporary body can be healed for another 20 to 50 years only to meet the same fate down the road? You see, my problem is not that I don’t believe that God does these things because I do.  The problem is that when you insert this type of a story into a fictional story it robs from the true stories.  If you want to tell a story like that, go and find someone who has had that kind of experience.  Make a movie based on their lives and label it a true story.  Don’t cheapen their experience by writing it into your story because you want the people watching to praise God for resurrecting a fictional character when he is very capable of resurrecting a real person!

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CONCLUSION

My conclusion is, that though this film moves forward in many places when it comes to quality it is still lacking in the most important aspect of the film.  The story.  Pure Flix, please, don’t let these writers write anymore.  You now have the money to go and hire real talent.  Read over the millions of script summations I am sure you get. Maybe, just maybe there is one in there worthy of being a movie.  Please, don’t just settle for sowing together a bunch of emotionally manipulating scenes just to get the Christian to cry but find or write stories that actually show a journey of faith.  Keep stories a little simpler.  God’s Not Dead was a simple story of one college student going up against his teacher and how it impacted his friends who watched it happen.  Simple.  We understood what the movie was about from the trailer.  Focus on Character development.  Not conversion moments.  Character development can lead to a conversion moment and I promise it will be more impactful when it does.  Try not to make none Christians such jerks.  I know, some of them are… but a lot of them are not.  I would not recommend this film.  If you want to see it fine, but I warn you.  Wait for redbox or even Netflix next year.  There are still more Pure Flix movies on their way.  I am excited and haven’t given up hope.  However, they need to do better than this.

REEL WAR!

Yesterday I posted a blog outlining the various options that my readers have to take in content that is Christ driven.  My hope when starting this blog was originally to bring to people’s attention these opportunities to see content that lifts up their faith instead of tearing it down.  I also wanted to examine these works to see if they not only lift up our faith but does so with quality.  I think that all of my posts can fall within those lines. The post yesterday was a quick post that I wrote while my two month old son slept after his morning bottle.  It was simply informative but as I usually do I added a little bit of commentary with each project on the list.  Under the listed movie “Do You Believe?” I pointed out that I have not seen the movie but the reviews have been better than you would normally expect from a “Christian Film.”  I also pointed out the majority of what I have heard in the way of Criticism. I said:

“However, writing is being very criticized and words like “propaganda” and “preachy” are certainly being tossed around.  These criticisms are meaningless to me since anytime a Christian theme is introduced they use these terms.”

I know, it was not my most well crafted sentence and I knew going into this blog writing endeavor that I was opening up to the world just how poor of a grasp I have on grammar and spelling.  I also knew that people would disagree with what I have said and I might ruffle a few feathers.  Just like in real life, I have trouble letting someone else have the last word.  Well, out of all my posts the one that seems to have struck a nerve was my listing of Easter time viewing content.  The writer over at www.reeltheology.com has taken issue with my above statement.  You can view his blog post to me HERE.  In it he makes clear that he is not happy that I put no stock in the criticism of being “preachy” or being “propaganda.”  It appears that he thinks that when I say this that somehow I am saying that a Christian movie cannot be “preachy” or cannot be considered “propaganda.”  In the post he listed a bunch of movies that have “Christian themes” but where critically acclaimed.  I feel I should define some of these terms that I use so let’s start there.

CHRISTIAN THEMES

Sometimes we get so caught up on terms.  I have often been in discussions that turned into arguments only to be revealed later that the reason things went south was because of a misunderstanding on behalf of one or both of the parties as to what was meant by a term.

When I use the term “Christian themes” I am not simply saying “Moral Theme.” I am pretty sure that every living person has a “moral code.” In fact, if you took many opposing religions and compared their “moral codes” you would find that there is much overlap among them.  It is very unfair to use an example like Changing Lanes as examples of movies with Christian themes.  Do they tackle morality? Sure? Are there movies out there that have a sense of undefined spirituality? Yes, do these movies have uniquely Christian themes? No.

Basically, if the charge that reeltheology is throwing at me is that I believe that some movies are too specifically Christian to get a positive review from a movie critic, I would have to say I do believe that happens.  I do not expect a spiritually ambiguous movie like The Life of Pie to get criticism based on “Christian themes?” No.  However, even that movie had its critics who simply have an aversion to “faith” being explored within a cinematic experience.

He mentions the Lord of the Rings as an example of a film with Christian Themes that was not critically panned for them.  True, very true, however, even though I love the Lord of the Rings and I love the Christian symbolism and imagery within those films you need to admit that those specifically Christian aspects of the film are so well hidden that if you do not want to see them you don’t have to.  I have been in many discussions with fans of the movies who had no clue that Christianity was a strong influence on the story.  Also, before you become all upset, I am not saying it was bad for Tolken to hide these themes as if I am accusing him of being ashamed of his faith.  By no means!… or should I use the King James, God forbid! I am simply saying that I don’t think that the mark of a good Christian movie is how well you hide that it is a Christian movie.  I am saying that if you want to tell a story that is that subtle in its approach to the influence go for it! Make us work to find it.  I have fun doing this, it is like putting together a puzzle but what I am saying is that if I as a film make want to tell a story that is overtly, uniquely and in-your-face Christian that should be ok!

Included in the blog rebuttal to my sentence was a list of movies.  Like I said, some of them I think are unfair to include on the list.  I would also request that we remove movies like the Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur.  Both movies I love and if you are a frequent reader of my blog you will know that I am head-over-heels for the story of Ben-Hur but I would remove them because I do believe that during the 50’s Christianity as a whole was more accepted.  We currently live in what many consider a “post Christian” nation.  Do I believe this? That’s a larger conversation, but I do believe that statistics show that less identify with Christianity today than they did in the 1950’s.   So just for the sake of the current discussion, let us focus from 2000 on and on movies that specifically show a monotheistic world view.  I feel this eliminates much of your list but not all of it.  I have already praised on my blog the film The Good Lie, and if you have not seen it, check it out.  He did mention as “critically acclaimed box-office hits The Passion of the Christ and Bruce Almighty.  I love both these films and consider the Passion of the Christ to be a cinematic masterpiece as a movie fan, not simply as a Christian.  However, The Passion of the Christ was not “critically acclaimed” it was actually critically panned holding a 49% on Rotten Tomatoes which is missing a “fresh” rating by 11%.  A lot of the criticism is due to it’s very graphic depiction of the crucifixion.  I understand that, it is very graphic, but critically acclaimed it is not!… it should be… but it is not.  The other film you mentioned was Bruce Almighty.  It is odd to use this film to disprove this bias because first, it is also not critically acclaimed only reaching 48% on rotten tomatoes but if you read through the criticism you will find that terms like “sappy” where thrown around a lot.  This is a term used for many Christian films.  Here are some critisims of Bruce Almighty from professional critics (not the users section.):

“Leans too much into sappy sentimentality.”

“I was really rooting for Bruce to ignore the responsibilities and give God the holy middle finger.”

“Where The Truman Show delivered its sermon on Calvinism in modern times with humor, humanity and grace; Bruce Almighty tries the same with cheap sentiment and cheaper jokes.”

“The tale goes all sentimental and preachy.”

“moralizing mumbor-jumbo”

“the force fed pious platitudes coupled with Carry’s familiar rubber-faced shtick renders the pseudo-virtuous vehicle o one-way ticket to the pearly gates of mediocrity.

“Your tolerance for Bruce will depend on the sensitivity of your cinematic sweet tooth.  Sweet to one viewer is sappy to another.

I included that last one here because I think it really gets to the heart of the issue here.  “sweet to one viewer is sappy to another.” Do I feel that many film critics and many in the film industry have a bias against specifically Christian content? Yes.  Do I believe many people in everyday life have the same bias? I do.  Was I trying to say that the criticism against the film Do You Believe? Where some form of religious persecution? No but what I did say what that when I see those comments as a statement regarding the films quality I don’t pay it any mind.  All film is subjective.  As a Christian minister is it possible for me to see a movie and think to myself “That was uplifting, it showed Christ in a good light and was as bold with its faith as I want my congregation to be with theirs.  I want to show this to my church family to embolden them, or to lift them up.” That should be ok.  At the same time, I have had a lot of success with Church movie nights.  How? I won’t just show the newest Christian film.  I have a standard of quality and I have had a reputation for showing quality films that are also Christian.  Are there films that Christian’s as a whole have loved that I refuse to show due to quality? Yes.  Are there movies that I have shown, that I will not show again because my standard has been raised higher and so has the church community’s standards? Yes!

PREACHY

This is an odd reason to not like a film or story.  Let me give you an example.  The Dan Brown Novel, The Di Vinci Code was a novel I enjoyed reading.  Don’t get me wrong, it has many problems in its historical accuracy that to spite Brown’s disclaimer at the beginning they have still gone to great lengths to show that it is plausible.  Even going so far as Brown saying that while he was writing he did not believe these things but he has become a believer in the idea that there is a blood line of Jesus and all that stuff.  I bring this up not to debate the claims of the novel but to show that this was a story with a message and spent much of its pages presenting its case.  While reading I found the book entertaining.  The movie I found disappointing.  I have many reasons I was disappointed with the movie but one place I feel it failed was it spent so much time presenting the case for its premise.  The critics didn’t like this but instead of the anthem being “It was too preachy” most negative reviews cite it as trying to be to faithful to the novel.  So far I have not seen “preachy” used.  Why? Because it seems in culture today (not just within the film industry) “preachy” is a word only reserved for a Christian message or at the very least more readily used when discussing Christianity.

As a Christian I long to be well represented in entertainment.  I am sick of the only representation being the crazy right wing villain or Ned Flanders.  As a Christian, an aspect of life I can relate to is sharing and expressing my faith.  I can’t relate to a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend, or a husband cheating on his wife, or a wide variety of other life styles that are so far away from my own but every time I go to the movies I am asked to find common ground with these type of lifestyles because I need to find my way into the story.  I don’t think it is wrong to ask for some films where I don’t need to try so hard to find common ground.

Now please, don’t get me wrong, I think a movie can present a Gospel message well and still be trash.  I have seen Christian movies that have been “preachy” at the detriment to the detriment of the film.  My reservation is that somehow, being “preachy” or presenting a Christian message somehow makes the film inferior.  I believe it is possible to have a message and a high quality film.  Is that what normally happens? No. But it is not because it can’t happen.

If film is indeed an art form (which I believe it is) then I also believe that every other art form can convey a message or have a specific audience that it is trying to please.  In our church we have some beautiful banners hanging up.  They are depictions of Jesus doing various activities, each one has written under it a Bible verse or saying.  Does this mean it is not art? No! it means that it is art for the purpose of hanging in a church.  The Kendrick Brothers filmed their first films Flywheel with the intent of having a movie night at their church where they could show a movie no one has seen before and have a specific message to discuss with them.  Since the intent of their movie was to create it for a Church event does that mean it is not art? No! They used art to convey a message.  I actually think it is pretty cool and which I had the resources to do that.  They had such a positive response from this experiment that they just kept going.  They found a distributor and began to sell the film. It wasn’t what they intended to do but it is what happened.

PROPAGANDA

Propaganda is something that is used to promote or publicize a particular view point…. Yeah…  ummm….  Often Christian movies are Propaganda… so? My sermons could be classified as that.  A commercial is propaganda.  We are exposed to propaganda every day.  I can’t and wont defend against that.
All this to say that what I meant was not that I think a film critic is persecuting Christians when saying a film is “preachy” or “propaganda” I simply meant that what is “preachy” to them may not be “preachy” to me.  It is a subjective and somewhat arbitrary criticism that doesn’t really inform me of the quality of the film but rather informs me of the personal taste of the critic.  Which is what critics are suppose to do… I just don’t get scared off by these words.

[DISCLAIMER: The writer of reeltheology.com  is a good friend of mine and one of my biggest encouragers to begin my own blog.  We are in no way in any real fight or argument but rather a civil discussion between two film lovers who have opposing views on SOME subjects but not all.]

Easter Season Viewer’s guide

The Easter Season is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It would seem appropriate that many people would seek out media that speaks about Jesus during this time.   I have decided to put together an Easter viewers guide so that anyone who is interested would know what their options are… well, beyond the countless showings of The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Robe, and Ben-Hur which are all fine options but if you are looking for something new then here is the list for you.

Do You Believe? – In Theaters Now! – I cannot speak to the quality of this film being that I have not had the opportunity to view it yet.  As soon as I do you can expect a review.  What I can tell you is that the acting is not being panned among the critics as most Christian movies are.  However, writing is being very criticized and words like “propaganda” and “preachy” are certainly being tossed around.  These criticisms are meaningless to me since anytime a Christian theme is introduced they use these terms.  To some films deserve this? Yes. Have all the ones that have been criticized for it deserved this? No! Over all, if you are a fan of Christian films, you should probably make an effort to see this one. I’m workin’ on it.

Dovekeepers – On CBS March 31st and April 1st at 9/8c – This is a miniseries from the Producers of The Bible miniseries.  It is based on the novel of the same name about the Siege of Masada, the miniseries focuses on four women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada.

Killing Jesus – On National Geographic Channel March 29th 8/7c – Based on the book by Bill O’Reilly, this telling of the life of Jesus examines Jesus through the political and social conflicts that lead to his death.  I have never read the book, I have heard from people who have loved it and I have heard from people who did not.

A.D. The Bible Continues – On NBC beginning April 5th, 9/8c – The follow-up to The Bible miniseries, this miniseries picks up at the resurrection and then goes through the beginning of the Church.  This is a 12 part miniseries that will bring to life the first 10 chapters of the Book of Acts.   I do find it off that The Bible miniseries went from Genesis to the end of the Gospels in 10 episodes then this series will do the first half of Acts in 12.

My hope is to post reviews on each of these, hopefully even posting reviews of each episode of the miniseries.  Enjoy! And remember, each of these can be entertaining and can spark a conversation about the meaning of the resurrection!

TRAILER FOR THE NEXT FILM FROM THE MAKERS OF FIREPROOF AND COURAGEOUS!

The Kendrick Brothers have had much success when it comes to the Christian audience at the theaters.  Using only a group of amateur volunteers from their church as volunteers they have managed to put out movies that are just as good as any Christian Film out there including ones that actually pay for their actors.  This tells me that there may be some actual talent in the directing of Alex Kendrick.  I must say that even though I have seen problems in film making in their previous projects I have enjoyed every single one.  Now comes their fifth film and this one is very special and has peaked my interest beyond what it would have been.  Why? Because this film will be their first film outside the banner of their church. This will be the first time they will be doing a movie as a studio.  My hope is that this allows them to put more money and talent into the film.  I hope that maybe the Kendrick Brothers allowed a professional to polish up the script and the dialog.  I will tell you, based on what I can see in this first trailer the look of the film is beautiful.  I am truely excited to see what they will be able to do with this film! Let me know your thoughts! do you like what you see? Will you make it a point to see this in theaters?

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER BELOW!

THIS STORY NEEDS A MOVIE: Saint Patrick

This segment of my blog is dedicated to stories that I have heard or read, true or fiction, that I feel would make a great movie with Christian themes.  Since Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us I figured this would be a good time to highlight one of my favorite stories that I feel is long over due for a movie.

THE PITCH

A family near the British cost finds themselves in the middle of an attack from foreign pirates.  Sixteen year old Patrick finds himself taken captive and taken to the pagan land of Ireland. Though his family was Christian, the young Patrick had not settled on a religious belief. He would later talk about the fact that captivity was the most important part of his spiritual walk.  While in captivity Patrick found comfort in prayer leading him to a Christian belief.  After six years in slavery to the pagans in Ireland he escaped.

In his escape he found a captain of a ship that was willing to let him on board so he could find his way back to Britain.  It is said that in the three days on board the ship Patrick had lead the entire crew to Christianity.  They landed in Britain and all of them left the ship.  They spent 28 days in the wilderness making there way to Patrick’s home. During those 28 days the crew began to become very hungry to the point of fainting. Patrick felt the extreme pressure to provide for these new converts so that they would not blame there new faith.  They eventually stumbled upon a herd of wild boar causing Patrick’s faith to be elevated withing the group.

Upon returning home he continued to study Christianity, the faith he viewed as saving him from physical captivity.  He became a Christian missionary. He felt that it was his calling to return to the land that had held him captive to convert them to Christianity.  His presents changed Ireland completely.  It is even said that he used the three leaf shamrock to explain to the pagans the concept of the trinity.  Patrick’s influence can still be seen today.

A movie based on Saint Patrick’s life could appeal to an Evangelical Christian crowd as well as a Catholic and Irish crowd.  I feel the story is compelling, and entertaining enough that it could even find a mainstream audience much like Braveheart did not just appeal to the Scottish but captured a wide audience.

THE PROPOSAL

I would propose that this film be made for somewhere between 15 to 20 Million, getting the budget as close to 20 million as possible. A frame of reference would be the 2013 Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave which was made with a budget of $20 Million.  I am sure that a Saint Patrick movie could be made slightly cheaper as you would not need to hire such well known talent as Michael Fastbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Brad Pitt.  With that said though, hiring that level of talent would elevate the project and most likely make it capable of bringing in more money and more recognition.

I would personally see a proven and talented director take the helm on this.  It would warm my soul to see director Kevin Reynolds take the directors chair on a project like this.  In my opinion he is an underrated director.  His work on The Count of Monte Cristo was fantastic and to bring that sort of scale and beauty with only $35 million tells me that with him in the chair you will get the most quality for your dollar.

Every Saint Patrick’s day I am reminded of his fantastic story.  It always makes me want to watch a good movie based on his life but there are none out there that I know of.  Can you imagine a movie that not only could make money when it first comes out but that you could also see in stores every year in March? Please someone! THIS STORY NEEDS A MOVIE!

On The White Track: A peek into the production of a Christian Film via Youtube!

David A.R. White is a name that is synonymous with Christian movies.  For me he is a mixed bag as he has helped to bring us more Christian film content, some of which I really enjoyed and some of which I did not.  I have been following his career in Christian films for a long time and his status continues to elevate.  Maybe not to the point where I am overly excited over things his name is attached too but I usually take notice.  He is one of the founders of a Christian movie studio called Pure Flix.  You might have seen some of their films, their largest success story being the film God’s Not Dead which he helped produce and also was an actor in (He was the Pastor that couldn’t get his rental car started.) He often shows up in his own films which is fine by me, he isn’t a terrible actor and if I am honest with myself, when I see him pop up in a movie I usually smile because I feel that we both want the same thing.  We both want good Christian movies.

Just last month he began posting a Web series on Youtube called “On the White Track” a fun name that I hope people realize is titled after his last name and is not race related. This series is a look behind the scenes of the film he is currently working on.  All four episodes have been from the film Dancer and the Dame which is listed as a comedy.  Already from watching these “webepisodes” I like what I see.  I see that they have hired Billy Gardell who plays Mike on Mike and Molly, someone who is familiar with comedy.  Also in this film you will see Mike Starr who I mostly recognize from Dumb and Dumber. More information on this film will most likely be covered in a later blog post, but what I wanted to highlight today is the Web show “On the White Track” it is actually quite entertaining.  Each episode is a fun three minute look into the behind the scenes life of the film and is done very well in my opinion.  I personally think it is the most entertaining thing Prue Flix has put out and if this is any indication of the humor of the film it makes me smile!  I will link the first 4 episodes below.  Feel free to view all of them and subscribe to the channel.  I hope you enjoy them (personally I sympathize with writer Tommy Blaze)

Webepisode #1

Webepisode #2

Webepisode #3

Webepisode #4

What could this year’s Oscar’s tell us about Christian Films?

The other day I was watching one of this year’s Best Picture Nominees, it doesn’t matter which one, this isn’t a blog about well made movies… this is a blog about Christian movies.  But seriously, While watching this particular movie I began to think.  This year I have seen less of the Best Picture Nominees then I have in a long time.  Why is that? It is actually the first time I actually set out to see all of them but for some reason I didn’t get a chance to see many before the Oscars where actually awarded.  The reason was that many of the movies this year where independent limited release movies and even the ones that had a wide release did not make it to my part of the world.  So I began to think about this.

I have been a long time supporter of Christian films.  I have purchased VHS, DVD and Blu-Rays of some pretty bad films because I wanted to support them.  I still shell out my money on Christian films because I want them to succeed! I want them to improve.  In the past I have been very gracious when I watch a Christian film.  I would often think in my head “Well, they didn’t have the budget of a Hollywood movie so I need to be lenient.  However, this year’s Oscars confirmed to me one of the reasons I decided to start this blog!  Please allow me to throw some numbers around to make my point.  The following is a list of the Best Picture Nominees with their budget:

American Sniper – $58.8 Million

Grand Budapest Hotel – $30 Million

Selma – $20 Million

Birdman – $16.5 Million

Theory of Everything – $15 Million

Imitation Game – $14 Million

Boyhood – $4 Million

Whiplash – $3.3 Million

As you might have already noticed, these films are not a collection of the most expensive movies Hollywood offered us this year.  Even American Sniper at nearly $60 Million is less than many war movies that have been presented in recent years.  So, how do the budgets of these “Best Picture Nominees” stack up against recent Christian Movie budgets?  Do recent Christian Movies have enough budget to make a movie that could be considered Best Picture of the year? Here is a list of a few Christian movies and their budgets.

Son of God – $22 Million

Soul Surfer – $18 Million

Left Behind (2014) – $16 Million

The Identical – $16 Million

When the Game Stands Tall – $15 Million

Heaven is for Real – $12 Million

Mom’s Night Out – $5 Million

God’s Not Dead – $2 Million

With the above list, I must pose a question to everyone.  Is it still true that budget stands in the way of quality when it comes to Christian films?  Please, do not misunderstand.  There are some movies on the above list that I love.  There are a few that I do not, but I am simply asking the question, are we still in an age where the quality of directing, or of acting, or of writing of Christian movies can be blamed on the lack of funding?  Let’s say that the threshold for the budget to be in this year’s Oscar’s for Best Picture was between $60 Million and $3.3 Million, how many of the listed Christian films would have made the cut? Seven… Seven out of eight Christian films made it within the budget range of the nominees.

Now let me just be fair here.  Let’s remove Soul Surfer because it wasn’t this year.  Therefore, it wouldn’t have been eligible for this year’s Best Picture no matter what the budget but the other Seven would have been.  Let’s also say, God’s Not Dead is disqualified because it did not have enough funding (Which is something the Academy never does.) We now have six films that were released this year and are TECHNICALLY eligible for a nomination for Best Picture.  Now, you might say, yes, but Mr. Reel… I mean.. Mr. Pastor… Mr. Reel Pastor… even if a film was nominated it doesn’t mean it had enough money to make a good enough quality film to win.  To which I would say, everyone of these nominees could have won.  However, the winner was Birdman.  If only we had some movies that had as large of a budget as Birdman.  WE DID! We had Left Behind (2014) which is probably my least favorite movie on the Christian movie list, and we had The Identical, which was decent, it had its issues but over all I feel it was a step in the right direction for Christian films and makes me hope the film studio tries again.

Some of you might be thinking, “I am glad Christian films aren’t like these films, they are too weird!” That is ok, I am not saying that a “Best Picture” win means everyone must love the movie.  There are many “Best Picture” winners that I personally didn’t like or connect with.  That is a matter of taste.  I personally do not like sushi.  You could give me sushi from the most world renounce sushi chef and I still will not like it.  It does not mean that I think he prepared the sushi wrong or that it wasn’t high quality sushi.  I love stuffed shells! When I order stuffed shells I don’t want them to be bland or taste old or frost bitten.  I want them to be made to the best of the ability of the Chef, and if the Chef can’t make good stuffed shells then he should step aside and allow someone else to do it who knows what they are doing.  My wife makes the best stuffed shells; I am going to let her make them instead of trying to make some inferior batch myself.

I don’t want to seem like I am complaining about Christian movies, I love them and the reason I am pointing out these things is because, as you can see, we should start holding Christian films to a higher standard.