Passion of the Christ 2 Directed by Mel Gibson!

I am sorry that I have not posted much recently.  This one and only downside of being a new father along with my regular pastoral duties.  Not to mention that given my location and having a little one makes it hard to get to a movie theater to do any type of reviews of Christian based movies such as God’s Not Dead 2.

However, The Hollywood just broke a story that I just NEEDED to post about! Anyone who knows me knows just how much I feel The Passion of the Christ is a straight up masterpiece.  It helps that before the movie ever came out I was already a fan of Mel Gibson as a director and a huge fan of a mostly unknown Jim Caviezel.  I have posted several times on this blog that Little Boy director was directing a Passion of the Christ prequel and that this project was after the producers had already rejected a script that would go on to be Risen directed by Kevin Reynolds.  There have been many attempts to further capitalize on the success of The Passion of the Christ which still stands as the highest grossing independent film in history.  Well, after a long time of not hearing anything from the Passion of the Christ prequel… and seeing as it kind of dropped off the map, one may wonder what is being done to continue this franchise. I don’t care if it is viewed as a cash grab… as long as it delivers in the same way The Passion did.

Well, in an exclusive interview with THR, Randell Wallace, who wrote Braveheart (which was directed by Mel Gibson) and wrote Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson’s next film coming out later this year) and who directed Heaven is for Real, Wallace revealed the project he is currently writing… The Passion of the Christ 2 which MovieWeb speculates will be retitled The Resurrection of the Christ which would please me so very much!  This isn’t the only bit of information that Wallace dropped… the magnificent screen writer also said that Mel Gibson was set to direct! He said that it was the outcry from the Christian audience for more Christ centered films that has convinced him to return!

Say what you will about the man Mel Gibson but God has crammed buckets full of talent in that crazy head of his and I simply cannot wait.

 

Looking at Randell Wallace’s background also convinces me that he has the right care and passion for this script as well.  He was a Religion major at Duke University and claims the Resection was something of a specialty of his.  He has longed to bring this story to the screen.

Now, it does tend to take Mel Gibson a long time to piece together his masterpieces with there being 9 years between Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ and 10 years between Apocalypto (his last film) and Hacksaw Ridge (His next film).  But, there was only 2 years between The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, so time will tell what kind of timeframe we are looking at for this project.  My hope is that it will be more the 2 years than the 10 years.

I look forward to posting more about this project the next time I hear any news about it!

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN MY REVIEW

Those who know me personally know that I have a few passions.  Christian Films, Ben-Hur… these are the reasons I started this blog.  However, these are not the first things to come to mind if you know me personally. I am a huge Superman fan.  In fact, there have been a few times that my love for this ambassador of Truth, Justice and the American way has gleaned some negative reactions from members of churches I have ministered at.  Usually, if they take the time to hear about this passion they will find that my love for Superman and my love for Christ are interconnected. It is for this reason I decided to post a review of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice on this blog.

This will be a non-spoiler review. I would hate to ruin the surprise ending of this film for anyone, like it was ruined for me…. That’s right…  I already knew the outcome of the film before I saw it.

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

I don’t really even know where to begin… maybe, the beginning? The introduction to the movie is basically a retelling of Batman’s origin. It’s only about 3 minutes and is assuming most people know the fuller story.  Personally, I thought it was one of the most beautiful and heartfelt retellings of the Batman Origin I had ever seen. No dialog, but yet so much emotion saturated the images.  It took an odd turn at the end but it all makes sense in a few seconds. Yeah, I was diggin’ the first three minutes.

We then enter Bruce Wayne’s story that parallels what happened during Man of Steel.  You see it all again but from his perspective.  It was intense! It was well told! It sets up Batman’s motive for the rest of the film real well! For these first 20 minutes I was really diggin’ it!

Then they fast forward 18 months…. And the movie…. Falls apart! From this point on the film becomes such a mess! Some critics say it recovers in the last hour… I didn’t feel it recovered at all!

Don’t get me wrong, within that mess of story and images and subplots I still found a lot to enjoy.  Several very cool ideas! I mean, my feelings about this movie are all over the place.  Maybe I need to see it a few more times before I pass judgment on it but I won’t be able to get back to the theater to see it again so I will need to wait for the Blu-ray.  I really feel that it was the presence of all these fantastic ideas that helped me still enjoy this film… and it was the presences of all these fantastic ideas that where never given appropriates follow through that is the bases for the hatred I have for this film!

Within this film are grand and spectacular ideas for at least three films, each being extremely wonderful but…  instead of being in their own films, they are thrown together into this huge mess.  I mean, imagine, you like chocolate ice cream.  You like spaghetti.  You like Sweet Tea. Now, throw them all into a bowl and stir it around.  Yummy?

Within this film is the spark of an idea for a Man of Steel 2 that could have been the best Superman movie of all time. A U.S. Senator asks the question “Does the world need a Superman?” There is a court hearing.  What transpires there…. COULD HAVE BEEN FANTASTIC! I mean… wow… the places they could have gone.  Seriously, this film put Superman in a position he has never been in before… and the ramifications of it barely even register on the rest of the film.  What should have been a 8.9 Earthquake felt more like a plow passing by my house at three in the morning.  It woke me up.  I had trouble falling back to sleep after.  But it didn’t even have me getting out of bed. If this scene was poured as the foundation for it’s own standalone film it could have been fleshed out and done real justice.  But, why flesh out a good story when we have so many more great ideas to introduce to you and not flesh out!

The film eventually gets to the place that the title eludes to.  A showdown between The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. For fellow comic book fans, this portion was almost a panel for panel retelling of one of the most beloved stories by Batman fans… and one of the most frustrating stories for Superman fans. For what it was, it was ok… I will go into more into that later but it was short and I don’t think earned the title of the film “Batman V Superman.” Because… why dwell in this story… there’s more we want to shove in this film!

You see, the Director of this film, Zack Snyder is a huge comic nerd.  He knows his comics.  The writer of the first draft is also a comic nerd.  He has written several comics.  In Man of Steel they took portions of some of my favorite stories and cherry picked their favorite parts and knit them back together into a new story.  I loved that!  This film they took great ideas in the beginning, mashed them all together, then told one of Zack Snyders favorite stories… then, I guess he figured we just told a Batman fan pleaser, we need to tell a Superman fan pleaser.  So they took one of the best Superman stories ever written AND COMPLETELY BUTCHERED IT! A story arch worthy of a multi-movie arch and they TACK IT AT THE END and held it on with bubble gum and shoe laces! That isn’t to say, I didn’t really enjoy some of the moments but they didn’t earn those moments! So I am left with emptiness….

The movie came with a very hefty share of wonderful Christian Symbolism! Something I was extremely pleased to see but the weight of it could have hit so much harder if they had only taken the time to earn the moments they tried to force upon the audience.  Instead of earning these moments they rely more on emotional manipulation, using imagery and yet another great score by Hans Zimmer in an attempt to get the audience there faster.

Lex Luthor – So bad, I hated him.  And not in the way you are supposed to hate the villain.  He was corny, over the top… and not Lex Luthor at all. Instead of a cunning genius who is completely self-absorbed.  Or instead of the genius sociopath who hates Superman because of how humbling Superman is to Lex… we have a cartoon.  He’s crazy.  He’s over the top.  He’s more of a Batman villain from the 80’s than Lex Luthor.

Doomsday – later down the road, this film will be compared to Spiderman 3 and it’s very poor use of Venom, one of Spiderman’s greatest villains.

Some of the positives.  I loved this Batman, I want to see more of him.  I want to see a standalone Batman film starring Ben Affleck. (I would also like to set the record straight, I was not against Ben Affleck playing Batman because I thought he would do a bad job… I thought he would be fantastic.  The reason I was against him was because we were told Superman was the first hero in this universe, which was great because he was actually the first Superhero in comics. Casting Ben Affleck told me they were going with and older Batman which bothered me… because I figured they would go… well… the way they did.

Wonder Woman! Bring on a solo Wonder Woman film! I want more of this Wonder Woman! If I had a daughter I would be so excited.  Finally, a strong female Superhero who can throw down with the best of them!

RATE THE FILM ALREADY!

This film left me angry at missed opportunities… yet somehow, it left me excited for the future of the DC Cinematic Universe (Which they call the DC Extended Universe) I think that might have been part of the problem.  They spent too much effort in setting up the future… I wish they gave a greater effort in telling a good story here.  I want a Justice League Movie and before that, I can’t wait for the Wonder Woman film coming soon.  However, I would really prefer Zack Snyder step down as director.  I like him looking over the direction of the entire DCEU but not directing it’s individual films.

I sadly, and with a very heavy heart… give this movie a 5 out of 10.  Should you still see it? If you like comic book films and you like DC Characters, see it, you will want to for future films.  If you don’t, there isn’t much here that is going to make you a fan…. But ultimately you will need to make up your own mind because every single person I talk to has a different view of this film… it almost like not a single person agrees. Who knows, you might be one who likes it.

Of Kings and Prophets CANCELED

I must admit, I feel a little gypped.  I had wanted to watch the ABC TV series based on the life of David and write up my personal review and compare it to the biblical text.  Unfortunately the combination of being a father, being a Pastor, having jury duty and Easter coming up has not left me with a lot of time to add a new TV Show to my watch list. I figured it would be ok.  I mean, the TV show looked to be of high budget and I figured the network would want to get it’s moneys worth which would mean that I would have time to catch up.  After all, I am just 2 episodes behind and Easter is almost upon us.  I can catch up after that…. right?…. right?…. no…

Last night EW confirmed that ABC has decided to cancel the show after airing just two episodes.  Low ratings, especially in the demographic that advertisers love to market to has lead to its very premature demise.  What went wrong? Do Christians not watch Television? Do they not want tv shows following their Biblical heroes?

I can only venture a guess as I have not gone around interviewing people and I have not seen the show… so maybe I can speak to why it wasn’t a higher priority on my list.  After all, if this was the new Ben-Hur movie you could bet I would have found the time in my schedule to watch it!

Here is my guess… ABC didn’t know who they should be advertising to or who the story content would most appeal to. Let me explain, I am not saying this should have been a fluffy poor quality Christian movie equivalent of a TV series but the advertising even set me aback as a rather forgiving Christian TV watcher.  Look at much of the advertisement, The first two banners I saw where of half naked, or fully naked women from behind.  The first trailer for the series showed sexuality that wouldn’t just push the boundaries of a conservative Christian but rather push the boundaries of what is currently on cable TV.  The comment my wife made after seeing the advertisement was “That looks really good but… wow.” and I responded by saying “I know.” Look, I realize that some Christian’s out their are indeed looking for a sanitized fluffy version of Biblical stories but I am not.  I would be the perfect demographic to get on board. I mean, come on! I watch Hell on Wheels, you mean to tell me you couldn’t tone it down a little bit?

I believe the problem is not that this show didn’t look to please the conservative crowd… but rather the problem was they went for the Game of Thrones crowed.  They showed as much sex as they could possibly get away with and they advertised it almost like it was a peep show set during the time of David.  Vikings is a gritty show and it is far from sanitized but they didn’t even go for that crowd.

Of course, the Christian TV watchers will be blamed for not tuning in.  Some will blame them for not knowing their Bible and not realizing that their is sex in the actual text… but those same people will fail to realize, many already know this but they just don’t feel the need to be sitting in the bedroom watching it happen.  That is creepy.  Is creativity completely gone? have writers, directors and show runners completely lost the ability to find creative ways of implying something without being so in your face?  ABC, you had a product that could have worked, but in your lack of restraint, you offered a tainted product that was to raunchy for the fans of the source material and too Bible oriented for the demographic you where advertising to.  Learn from it.  Maybe some day we could actually get an Bible epic TV series… unfortunately I don’t see that time coming soon as the film industry is still trying to figure out the Biblical epic in movie form.

Reel Thoughts on the Ben-Hur Trailer

My hope is that anyone who is reading this saw my previous post which linked the First Ben-Hur trailer or at least saw the trailer some other way.  This is a movie I have been looking forward too for a very long time and have been very nervous about seeing the first trailer because it would tell me a lot about the style of the film they are going for.  Will it be more like Gladiator? 300? Pompeii? Hercules? What where they going for?  Well now we have our first look.. and I would like to give you my thoughts on it!

The trailer opens up with the famous Galley scene.  You see a bearded Ben-Hur in the belly of the Galley with the other slaves when suddenly he looks out his small window and sees a body tied to the ramming portion of a ship heading right for him.  The ship breaks apart and we as the viewer are looking through the eyes of Ben-Hur has he is thrown out of the Galley and into the air.  We catch a glimpse of the vastness of the battle and I must admit.  I was in awe.  Yes, did the effects look under done? yep.  However, how many times have we said that about a first trailer only to get to the theater and see that they have been fixed… this film is still 5 months away!

The look of the film is very nice and the feel of the trailer I feel adequately captures the more action oriented aspects of the story.  Camera angles where different in an attempt to give us the same story many are familiar with while still trying to give us something new.

The performance we see from Jack Huston and from Toby Kebbell look fantastic. Will they be Oscar worthy? Probably not… but might I point out that the performances in Ben-Hur, if competing today, would not have even been considered.  It is a different time.

Over all I was very pleased with what I saw… Who knows, a few weeks from now, after I viewed this thing 100 more times I might realize that I am only pleased because I am relieved.  It doesn’t look like 300, it doesn’t look like Pompeii, it doesn’t look like Hercules.  As the big fan of Ridley Scott that I am I would have liked it to look more like Gladiator but that is just me and I am equally pleased that this film has a very original look to it.

Now, as a fan of the novel, what was I displeased with?  Well, I can already see that changes have been made that I do not believe where necessary.  It looks as though Ben-Hur is found, washed assure by Sheik Ilderim.  This bothers me for two reasons, and that is that it looks like it eliminates two characters from the story.  Or at least diminishes them. Quintus Arrius was in the trailer as the War Ship Commander but it looks like Ben-Hur does not rescue him which eliminates the part of the story where Quintus adopts him as a son. A portion I am very fond of…. but… I can live without if they tell me a good alternate story.  The second Character that looks to be removed is Balthasar.  Now, this is only examining a trailer from a few clips but judging from that it looks as though Balthasar is not in the film.  This bothers me because it means they probably will not begin the movie the way I would like them to.  With the three wise man… one of those being Balthasar.

This would also eliminate a third character I just thought of… which I already figured was eliminated being that she was eliminated from the 1959 version and they announced no actress to play her, but Iras is one of the more complex Characters in the original story as we watch her go from a beautiful girl who Ben-Hur falls in love with and originally marries (That’s right… he picked the wrong woman) to a villainous puppet master who actually ends up killing her second lover after Ben-Hur… Messala. Yep, Ben-Hur doesn’t kill him… she does… what evil!

Another change from the original novel is also a big deal to me. I was hoping they wouldn’t change this but they did.  Pontius Pilate is shown in the trailer as the runner of the Chariot race.  This goes against the very character of Pilate in the novel.  A man who enters Jerusalem after a governor who has really made a mess of things. He is level headed and tries to make things right by the people.  Freeing prisoners who where arrested under sketchy circumstances. This Pilate would also fit very well with the Pilate we see in scripture who tried everything he could to prevent the Crucifixion of Jesus. Also, by having Pilate rule these games means that they are being held in Jerusalem which is not Antioch where they are supposed to be, unintentionally shrinking Ben-Hurs world and making it, to me, seem less epic than the original story actually was.

Now, to spite these changes, all I ask is that this film be a well told story that has the same skeleton of a story as the original novel.  To that end, I like what I see so far!  What do you think?

FIRST OFFICIAL PICTURES OF BEN-HUR (2016)

Here is our very first look at Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur in the upcoming remake of the Novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.  and I got to say… I LOVE IT!

ben-hur-jack-huston-morgan-freemanben-hur-remake-jack-huston

Roma Downey has already posted that we will be getting a trailer sometime this week.  Often, a release such as this would be an attempt to get people looking in their direction for a trailer tomorrow…  I hope so! can’t wait to see these photos in action!

REEL REVIEW: Risen

As some of you might know, I have been looking forward to this movie and have been urging people to see it opening weekend.  Now I have seen it, and it is time to face the question, was it worthy of my support and my movie money?

A LITTEL BIT ABOUT KEVIN REYNOLDS

I first discovered this film because I enjoy Kevin Reynolds as a director. His visual style is fantastic and for me, the visuals of a movie mean just as much as the story itself.  Others might have different feelings on that, and that’s fine, but this is my review.  If I had to make a list of directors that I actually get excited about simply see the visuals of a film, he would be on that list.  Behind Ridley Scott and Mel Gibson of course, but he’s up there somewhere. So, for me, seeing Kevin Reynolds direct a movie about Christ I couldn’t help myself but get excited.

THE REVIEW

Let’s start with some of the negatives.

  1. This film has a little bit of a smaller budget than I think Kevin Reynolds is used to working with. (But let’s not fool ourselves here, it had a $20 million dollar budget. That’s still plenty f money to make a quality film.)
  2. The actor that played Pilate I felt was subpar and that was only made more apparent by the superb job of everyone else.
  3. I think they had a few missed opportunities to place a few “Easter eggs” in the film. For example, while checking other Hebrew graves trying to find if someone stashed the body of Jesus in another grave, I thought it would have been easy to have a report come in that they have found other graves empty.  This would have been a small way of pointing to when the Bible talks about other righteous men raising from the dead.

Alright….  Well….  That’s really all I can think of right now.  I mean, really…. I loved this film!

So let’s talk about the positives!

  1. Just as I expected, this film was visually beautiful. Many critics have said that the first half of the film was good but the second half really was lacking….  Well… I am sorry, I had a very different experience.  The critic’s say that when Clavius saw Jesus alive, that was the moment the movie fell away… and I am here telling you, that is when Kevin Reynolds kicked it into high gear.

 

After Clavius searched for the body of Christ he finally closes in on them.  He sees Mary Magdalene go into an upper room.  Clavius, apart from the rest of his team crashes in.  He sees Jesus and is so taken back he steps back outside.  Visually, Kevin Reynolds told us something in that moment that some people might not have picked up on.  Clavius is shrouded in light as he steps back out.  He has walked in and seen Jesus, and now he has walked into the light! The understanding that something very different is going on here.  It was the moment for me when I felt that Kevin Reynolds, as a directors said “OK, it’s on!” because from that moment on the movie was beautifully shot! That’s not to say it wasn’t beforehand, but it seems Reynolds kicked it up a notch.

  1. The acting was great! I mean, not Oscar great… but still very very good! Especially from Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton! Bravo to both for outstanding performances!
  2. The depiction of the Disciples and their relationship with Jesus was very moving. I can’t remember a single other time I felt that the Disciples where portrayed as a family.  With the comradery of brothers!  Every scene the disciples were in as a group just made me smile, with the biggest smile coming when they see Jesus on the shore and run to him.  One negative review from an audience member said the Disciples where just a bunch of laughing hyenas.  Unfortunately this criticism must come from someone who has either been too influenced by previous depictions of bumbling humorless Disciples or does not recognize the humor bore out in scripture like John referring to himself as “The Disciple whom Jesus loved.”
  3. The musical score was really good! Roque Baños gave us music that simply enhanced our movie watching experience. I can promise you that I am not the only one who was impressed by Roque Baños because Ron Howard (Another fantastic director) hired him to write the score for In the Heart of the Sea.  Because of how long ago this movie finished, I am only assuming that the score was already written by the time Howard was looking to score his film which came out before Risen.

DISAPPOINTMENT

I have read some criticisms of this movie from a few Christian’s saying that it is inaccurate to scripture.  The problem I see, however, is that I saw virtually no “inaccuracies” I did see a few liberties.  The only thing I can think of is the Doubting Thomas Scene, were Jesus is meeting with the disciples, Clavius comes in see Jesus, says nothing but collapses…  then Thomas comes in.  Yes, the Bible makes no mention of a Roman soldier being there, but it also doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.  That’s what makes this fiction.  The inaccuracy comes when Thomas comes in… in the Bible, Thomas was already there when Jesus appeared.

Here in lies my frustration.  We want to see Bible stories brought to life in a huge way with all the splendor of Hollywood just like the Golden Age of Hollywood when Charlton Heston appeared in Bible Stories. Yet, when Hollywood (or a member of its industry) gives us one, we nitpick.  Think about this.  Noah made Noah look like a crazy killer and gave us fantasy creatures like these Rock People.  These are legitimate issues.  Exodus made Moses look like a hallucinating head injury victim who hears from a “god” who speaks like a spoiled child.  Another good criticism.  Thomas enters at the wrong time in Risen….  Ummm….  This is where I’m out.  I cannot defend your positions.

Let’s take another instance.  The movie begins with a battle, the battle is against a band of rebels who hate Rome and want to cause an insurrection.   We find out that this leader is Barabbas.  When, in that scene, the end up killing him I was taken back.  Why? Because I thought I was witnessing the arrest of Barabbas.  However, When Clavius returns we find that the Crucifixion had already taken place.   That means that Barabbas was already released and what the film would like us to imagine is that this man, whom many scholars peg as a “Revolutionary” had followers ready to rebel upon his release.  The Bible does not say anything about Barabbas’ demise so we are free to do some speculation.

This type of speculation is not new to Biblical films.  Go ahead and watch anyone of the great Biblical classic.  Every single one of them has scriptural inaccuracies and liberties.  Watch The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Ben-Hur, The Robe, all these films take liberties but we as Christians where not as cynical then as we are now.  Some of us might have even grown up assuming that Pharaoh loved Moses as a son.  We might have believed that was all Biblical only to find out later, with greater biblical study that we have been wrong. But therein lies the beauty!  Just like the movies from the Golden Age of film, Risen was told in a way the lifts up Christianity and shines a light on the risen Savior. If there are people who come away with some sort of fractured view of Jesus from this respectful film, how would it be any different from the millions of people who find Christ after hearing horrible outright lies about who Jesus is or who Christians are? This movie provides a spring board into conversations that start from an extremely positive view instead of a negative view.

CONCLUSION

I loved this film.  I think it is destined to become an Easter classic.  Even the naysayers will calm down after a while. I am already planning on showing my congregation this film next year at Easter.  Though I don’t think it is Kevin Reynolds at his best I don’t feel he let me down either.  I can’t wait to see what his next film will be! I personally hope this film was a positive experience for him and gives him an appetite for more Biblical epics…  if you need help Kevin, give me a call!

SPOILER

*******Don’t read this portion until after you see the film.*********
 

Personally, I think they missed one big twists that I was waiting for… but they never did.  If I wrote this script I would have had a different ending.

At the end, when Clavius takes off his ring and says he is no longer the same guy, how could he be.  I wanted him to say “I am no longer an enemy of God but rather a friend of God… I am no longer Clavius, I am Theophilus!”
Theophilus is most likely an officer of Rome, probably an officer of equestrian rank.  Both the book of Luke and the book of Acts are addressed to Theophilus so that he can know these things to be true.  Theophilus is used as this officers name, but interestingly enough Theophilus means “friend of God” it very well could have been an officer who changed his name at his conversion which did happen at times.  I would have loved to think that Clavius’ investigation continued after the film but with a different intent.  Instead of trying to disprove the rumor he continued his investigation to know more about this Christ whom he only knew for a few hours.  That, to me would have been the best ending!… but… oh well…