January 31, 2010
Author Chris Seay, vlogging for CT, gets to show off his work to other fans
January 31, 2010
Author Chris Seay, vlogging for CT, gets to show off his work to other fans
January 30, 2010
Pastor of church behind Fireproof and Facing the Giants answers that question
Michael Catt, Senior Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and executive producer of Fireproof and Facing the Giants, explains why the church's next film, Courageous, will focus on fatherhood.
"There's a difference between a good idea and a God idea," says Catt. "It is our sense that God has given us a God idea to address fathers in this country."
See Catt's comments on this 79-second video:
January 29, 2010
Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is videoblogging for us from the island
Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is on the island, taking part in the festivities, and will hopefully be interviewing some of the cast members. Chris is doing regular videoblogs exclusive for CT through the weekend and throughout this sixth and final season of the popular show. Here's his first installment:
January 29, 2010
The Blind Side and Invictus are 1-2 on the list from Indianapolis organization
Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, based in Indianapolis, honors "theatrically released films that meet Heartland’s mission of emphasizing the best of the human spirit."
Calling The Blind Side "a valuable lesson on compassion," Heartland says the film "shares the inspiring true story of a strong, courageous woman and her family who are compelled to adopt a young man despite their differences and backgrounds, showing what it means for a family to unite in order to help someone that is less fortunate than themselves."
Also in the list, Invictus was No. 2, followed by The Horse Boy, Up, and The Cove. For the whole list, click here.
January 28, 2010
New documentary puts the lens on demon possession in various parts of the globe
The trailer shows various people thrashing about as if possessed, and an expert interviewed says, "The powers of darkness rage blatantly here. I call it Disneyland for the spirit world. But because of that, the love of Christ rages even more."
Wilson is currently showing the film to pastors and churches to stir some buzz, and invites churches to host the film for its Feb. 14 premiere -- an apt release date, Valentine's Day, to celebrate a movie that's ultimately about the power of love.
Wilson says he understands that parts of the film may be controversial, and may even turn some people off, as was the case with his first film . . .
January 28, 2010
The Resurrection of the Christ to film this summer; but it's not a Passion sequel
Ever since Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ struck box office gold ($612 million worldwide in 2004), Hollywood has been looking for the Next Big Thing in Christian movies. Mostly, they've struck out, but they're still trying.
Variety reports that preproduction is under way for The Resurrection of the Christ, but it's not a sequel to Gibson's epic, nor is it made by the same studio or filmmakers. Filming will take place this summer in Israel, Morocco, and Europe, and the film will hit theaters around Easter 2011.
The movie is being produced by Bill McKay, who was also behind the 2008 movie, Billy: The Early Years, a film about Billy Graham that was a bust at the box office and among the few critics who saw it.
Here's hoping McKay does a better job with the most important event in the history of Christendom. At least he's got the money this time: $20 million to spend, according to Variety, compared to about $5 million for Billy). Jonas McCord, whose only other feature film was 2001's The Body (an Antonio Banderas film that was critically panned), will direct.
McKay told Variety that The Resurrection will focus on the power, greed and ambition of those involved in the crucifixion -- Pontius Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas and Judas. "It's as much about the key players as it is about Jesus," McKay said. "We want to bring in the 'Gladiator' dimension of the first century against the political milieu of the time."
Samuel Goldwyn Films will handle U.S. distribution.
January 28, 2010
Christian indie film finishes in top 15; teens responding to its message
Opening on just 441 screens (wide-release blockbusters typically open on 3,000 or more screens), the indie film averaged an impressive $3,586 per screen -- a higher average than several films that finished above it, including The Lovely Bones and Sherlock Holmes.
Teens are responding strongly. On the film's Facebook page, which has an impressive 90,000 users, a girl named Nicole wrote (sic): "This movie saved my life, last night i attempted suicide but didnt succeed and my confirmation sponsor asked if i wanted to go see it today and as much as i didnt want to i did, and it made me think so much. I have been where jake was on top of everything and no matter what was happening in your life i always had a smile on my face but i have also been in jonny's position too, i used to cut, people just dont no peoples breaking points and i wish people could just be who they want to be without being judged or doubted on your abilities. i was, and now i realize if you trust in the lord and just do the right thing, you will be just fine."
To find a theater, click here.
January 27, 2010
Bill O'Reilly and an activist talk smack over controversial Super Bowl ad; Palin weighs in
Now it's about a controversial pro-life ad funded by Focus on the Family. Though the script and commercial have been kept under wraps, CBS has approved it -- and pro-choice activists apparently don't like that decision. The ad apparently addresses Tebow's mother's decision to give birth to Tim when doctors had advised considering an abortion.
On The O'Reilly Factor last night, host Bill O'Reilly and guest Jehmu Greene of the Women's Media Center got into it:
O'REILLY: Are you offended that Tim Tebow's alive? . . . You can't be offended that Mrs. Tebow made the decision to give birth to Tim?
GREENE: I applaud the fact that she had Tim.
O'REILLY: Yeah, so let's celebrate it.
GREENE: And every American woman deserves that same choice.
O'REILLY: And they have it.
GREENE: And this ad, this organization is trying to undermine that, is trying to take that right away. And that is not appropriate.
Read more about the ad controversy at CT's Liveblog.
January 27, 2010
8: The Mormon Proposition greeted by chants of 'Separate church and eight'
About two dozen activists showed up recently for the Sundance Film Festival screening of a documentary depicting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' efforts to pass Proposition 8, the successful 2008 California ballot initiative that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
"We think it's a shame -- a very big shame," demonstrator Joe Baker-Gorringe said. "If [Mormons] would have channeled [their time and money] into something more constructive, they would have helped a lot of people."
Of the film itself, Matthew Lyon, who is gay and grew up in the LDS Chursh, said, "I felt like I was going to bawl the entire time. Mormons say that I can't be something I was born innately [as]."
January 22, 2010
Poignant documentary asks, what really happens to a person with amnesia?
The film, which I thought was one of the best of 2009, combines elements of family drama and medical mystery. A week after being in a seemingly minor car accident, the director’s father, Richard Minnich, claimed to have no memory of his family. Was Richard Minnich faking his injuries in order to begin a new life?
January 21, 2010
Filmmaker finds anti-slavery activists among 3 faiths -- Christian, Muslim, and Hindu
Filmmaker Jody Hassett Sanchez, who wrote, directed, and produced the project, says the film originated from several basic questions, starting with one inspired by 18th Century abolitionist William Wilberforce, whose story was so nicely chronicled in Amazing Grace: "We began by asking, Who are the William Wilberforces of the 21st century? What inspires and motivates them? Are they having success in ending the slave trade? By telling their stories, can we inspire others to take action?"
The result is Sold, which documents the lives of three contemporary abolitionists -- a Christian (in Togo), a Muslim (in Pakistan), and a Hindu (in India).
Sanchez, who covered religion, culture, and education for ABC News and “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings,” says she hopes her film "will do more than just expose the darkness of slavery today. There are already so many films that document what is wrong with the world, exposing us to image after tragic image. . . . The challenge has been to balance the bleakness with hope. I want people to be outraged by the problem but also to be inspired by our three extraordinary abolitionists. Each of them battles a different virulent variety of slavery, with humor, grace, righteous anger and unflagging determination.
"It was important for me to focus on people of different faiths – Hindu, Muslim and Christian – because religion has been intertwined with slavery throughout history. Just as the Bible and the Koran have been manipulated to justify slavery, people of faith have always been on the frontlines of the battle to abolish slavery. The three abolitionists in our film believe that each of us was created in the image of a creator and therefore none of us should 'own' another human being."
January 20, 2010
Jesus of Hollywood explores how films tweak and nuance Christ's story
Jesus of Hollywood is a "critical evaluation of similarities and differences found in the interpretations" in those films, writes Wayne Holst in a review in the Toronto Star.
Holst, who teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary, goes on to write, "Movies – rather than the scriptures and the churches – shape and define a lot of our contemporary cultural awareness of Jesus. This interesting and accessible book unpacks and elaborates upon that reality." He also notes that because the author is Jewish, "she doesn't readily adopt the clichés of an almost too-familiar Christian story. She critically yet sensitively assesses the Jesus of Christian scripture and of the cinematic portrayals.
"Reinhartz uncovers many of the foibles and flaws in both the familiar biblical texts and the popular movie scripts that might otherwise elude the unsuspecting. This is done with clarifying skill and is especially evident in the book's latter parts. . . . The author writes as a film critic and a religion specialist. She is expertly conversant in both cinematography and theology. This helps her to view Jesus movies in ways unmatched by those limited to only one discipline."
January 19, 2010
Ministry creates series of 'digital diaries' to spark conversation in group settings
Producer-director Steve Horswill-Johnston explains the series like this: “We set out to create a never-before-seen type of Christian discussion-spurring film. These films are about exploration, not explanation. There are no experts here—no spoon-fed theology. Rather, the films are mysterious, open-ended, often dream-like . . . and they invite us to unwrap Jesus’ teachings and see their application in our lives in a whole new way.”
But does it work? I watched one of them (a "digital diary" on a fictional character named Christine), and found it a bit weird and trippy at first, and then bluntly cliched and didactic in the end. Something between those extremes might have worked better. Perhaps their discussion guides help the viewer to process the films better.
Anyway, for more info, watch the video below, or check their website.
January 19, 2010
Ralph Winter, a Christian producer, says blockbuster delivers more than most 'religious' films
Our friend Ralph Winter, producer of the X-Men and Fantastic Four films, recently checked out The Book of Eli and Avatar in the theaters. And though he notes that one (Eli) is more intentionally religious than the other, he found more depth and meaning in the more secular film.
"Avatar, with no religious intentions, displays a world where the hero discovers an after life of sorts, finds a way to not just replace his destroyed legs, but receive a whole new body and existence," Winter writes at The Bully Pulpit. "Much is made of how Avatar is pantheistic, is anti-conservative, etc. But notice the yearnings in the storytelling – the desire for something more than just conquering, and experiencing a world we can barely imagine. . . . I think that is what audiences are responding to – a world where they want to go and live, and explore. They want to be around Jake, who figures out what is important and how the world works. Remind you of anything?"
January 18, 2010
Golden Globe Awards yield more than a few head scratchers.
They say the Golden Globe Awards are often a precursor or predictor of what might happen at the Oscars. If Sunday night's ceremony is indeed the shape of things to come, yikes.
Even though the night mostly belonged to Avatar, it was the choice of The Hangover as Best Musical or Comedy Film that was the biggest head-scratcher, beating out other--and much better--nominees as (500) Days of Summer, It's Complicated, Julie & Julia, and Nine.
E! called it a night of "upsets galore." And as host, Ricky Gervais could not have been more out of line with his crude jokes, leading off the show -- while the kids are still watching -- with jokes about his penis and masturbation. Ha ha, Ricky. Save it for the locker room.
But the night belonged to Avatar (Best Drama and Best Director), Meryl Streep (Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for Julie & Julia), Sandra Bullock (Best Actress in a Drama for The Blind Side), and Disney/Pixar's Up, which won two awards -- Best Animated Feature and Best Score.
January 15, 2010
What one of our critics learned from watching a week of TBN
"All I knew," Todd wrote recently at ThinkChristian, "was what I’d read, heard or glimpsed while channel surfing—headlines about mixing money and ministry, a reputation for being cheesy, a talk-show set with golden thrones, and some woman with big pink hair."
But Todd notes that when his week-long experiment ended, "Yes, I’d seen some cheesy stuff. I’d listened to pastors who certainly mixed money and ministry. But I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised by some programs" -- including Precious Memories with Bill Gaither. Kingdom Connection, and Ancient Secrets of the Bible.
January 14, 2010
Maybe a little of both, surmises Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times
Los Angeles Times blogger Patrick Goldstein surmised, from the looks of the previews, that The Book of Eli was just another post-apocalyptic action flick.
Then he adds, "But wait. It turns out that the movie may end up being a huge hit in the heartland, since to hear the New York Post's Kyle Smith tell it, the film is actually a "Christian blockbuster." Smith, one of the few openly conservative critics at work today, . . . sees Eli as being "like The Road Warrior as rewritten by St. Paul."
Denzel Washington, who stars in the title role (as "Eli," not "The Book," in case you were wondering), is a Christian, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
January 14, 2010
Lost fans agonizing, analyzing ABC's "The Lost Supper" for clues to final season
Since ABC's recent release of a couple of promo shots for the final season of Lost (beginning next month), fans have been crafting all sorts of theories about what various clues in the photos might (or might not) mean. The first obvious clue is that the pictures are clearly akin to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" painting, with John Locke's character sitting in the place of Christ. Locke has always deemed himself something of a "savior" when it comes to the mysterious island.
The images are posted below (as well as Da Vinci's masterpiece), and here are various musings on what the pictures might be saying. Meanwhile, the show's producers give a few hints (but no spoilers) regarding the final season here.
January 13, 2010
Haven't signed up yet for our FREE weekly CT Entertainment newsletter? Uh, why not?
Well, you won't find it here. But you will find the latest Christian perspectives on new releases in film and music, as well as occasional TV coverage, in our weekly CT Entertainment newsletter. Clearly, you're already a brilliant consumer of entertainment news just by reading this blog. Why not make yourself even smarter -- and get our complete entertainment coverage -- by adding our entertainment newsletter to your list? It's free, after all.
We promise not to spam you, sell your name, raid your fridge, drive across your lawn, or mention Brangelina, Britney, Lindsay, or Paris. Fair enough?
January 12, 2010
That's the conclusion of a psychology journal that studied more than 900 films
"Although it is commonly assumed that “sex sells” in mainstream cinema, recent research indicates a far more ambiguous relation between strong sexual content and financial performance."
So goes the first line of the abstract for a new article in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
"All in all, it appears that sex may neither sell nor impress. This null effect might suggest most cinematic sex is in fact gratuitous," write the authors. "It is manifest that anyone who argues that sex sells or impresses must be put on notice."
"Initially, I assumed that more sex would equal higher box office, since everyone said 'sex sells' and I believed them," researcher Anemone Cerridwen told The Vancouver Sun. After analyzing the data, Cerridwen questions why so many scripts are so heavy on sex.
"It makes you wonder why it's there at all," she says.
Indeed. And it helps to quantify what is really meant by the word "gratuitous." It just ain't necessary.
(Hat tip to Phil Cooke.)
January 12, 2010
The recent Urbana student missions conference emphasized evangelistic films
The JESUS film has been going around the world for three decades, successfully bringing millions to Christ through thousands of screenings globally. So while the notion of "film as evangelism" is nothing new, it's taking on a new look -- and a new urgency -- among young Christians who are interested in international missions.
At the recently concluded Urbana 09 student missions conference, more than 1,000 students attended sessions devoted solely to the concept of evangelistic films, according to a recent story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The story noted that "younger filmmakers are turning away from using their craft as an element of the conversion process itself. Instead, they are taking the skills they've learned in film schools and using both documentary and fictional narrative techniques to change the direction in which their movies find an audience.
"Rather than making a movie that shows the story of Jesus to a Third World nonbeliever . . . today's Christian filmmaker might target an American audience and dramatize the dangers for those leading the underground church in China, or examining the role of the prosperity Gospel in Ghana."
January 11, 2010
Film Snobbery has compiled what it believes is the ultimate list
The Ten Commandments and The Passion of the Christ are no-brainers for anybody compiling a list of The 50 Most Important Religion Films of All Time, as Film Snobbery recently did on its website. Both are appropriate in their top 10.
But Fiddler on the Roof, Life of Brian, and The Blues Brothers are also near the top of their list. Seriously. Check it out. And let us know in the comment below what you think of the list.
January 10, 2010
Evangelicals aren't embracing voodoo message of Disney's animated hit
In a recent article for the Wall Street Journal, pop culture writer Mark I. Pinsky notes that evangelical Christians aren't very happy with Disney's latest animated hit, The Princess and the Frog.
Why? Seems that we boo that voodoo that they do so well. According to the article, "Hollywoodjesus.com said the animated feature's preoccupation with voodoo, black magic, bloody amulets and Ouija boards was 'too dark and extreme for this kind of kids' film.' Christiananswers.net rated the movie 'Offensive'; citing a Tarot card reading, soul transfer and implied reincarnation, the site called the film 'demonic.'"
Still, Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to Disney, concludes his article by saying that the film "embodies the full canon of the Disney Gospel: dreaming, wishing, hard work, love and self-sacrifice, aided by strategic magical intervention. Believers in the Judeo-Christian tradition will also recognize the saving grace of selfless love and good works."
Have you seen The Princess and the Frog? What did you think? Who's right -- Christians who think it's too occult, or those who see its "saving grace"?
January 9, 2010
Co-star Sam Elliott blames it on the Catholic church; author Pullman is miffed
When asked what happened to the film trilogy, Sam Elliot, one of the actors in the first movie, told London's Evening Standard, "The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I'm concerned. It did 'incredible' at the box office, taking $380 million [worldwide]. Incredible. The Catholic Church ... lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off." (New Line Cinema was the studio behind the film.)
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights took some of the credit for shutting down the franchise, citing his call for a boycott of the first film: "I am delighted the boycott worked," he told the Evening Standard.
In response to Donohue's comments, Golden Compass author Phillip Pullman, an atheist, told Wales Online, "It’s disgusting, but only the sort of behaviour I expect of these people."
Pullman went on to tell the publication about his new novel, coming out this spring -- The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, in which he denies Jesus was the son of God. He also recently finished writing his own version of the New Testament in which he imagined Jesus being given a fair trial and walking free instead of crucified.
Finally, London's Guardian isn't so sure the Catholics are to blame for the demise of The Golden Compass. Their film blog recently concluded, "Maybe The Golden Compass wasn't given any sequels because it didn't deserve any. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score of 42%, ranking it alongside such masterpieces as Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, with reviewers calling it "bland," "patchy," and "a crushing disappointment." . . . It's a little sad that Elliot has to blame a shadowy religious conspiracy for [its] failure, especially since he was just about the film's sole redeeming feature, but the truth is that not many of us could bear to sit through any more sequels if there was any chance they would be as ropey as the first film. Nice try, though."
January 8, 2010
The Daily Beast reports that Christians made the modest film a blockbuster hit.
Nicole LaPorte of The Daily Beast wanted to know why The Blind Side, made on a modest budget of $29 million, has become a box office beast with over $200 million.
The answer: Christians. Not only have believers embraced the film, but there was aggressively marketed to faith-based audiences -- including "22,000 megachurches" -- before its release.
My friend Jon Bock at Grace Hill Media (which was among those marketing the film to Christians) nailed it with this quote in the article:
“The thing people don’t get about Christians is that they don’t want a Christian movie, they want good movies. You don’t need everyone to have an altar call. They want to see the faith that they so deeply believe in portrayed in action on screen. The Blind Side is a beautiful example of that.”
Interesting story. Check it out.
January 8, 2010
Sky Angel adds MLB and Home Shopping Network to its lineup.
Interesting additions for a TV channel whose official vision is "to provide a global communications platform as an instrument of unity to equip the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission."
Baseball, shopping, and the Great Commission? I'm just sayin'. What do you think?
January 7, 2010
Actor Bruce Marchiano shares his passion for Jesus . . . No Greater Love
A few months ago, we blogged about how the filmmakers behind Jesus . . . No Greater Love were soliciting 4.5 million "producers" -- everyday folks pitching in $10 apiece -- to make the film a reality.
Actor Bruce Marchiano, the main impetus behind the film, made a recent pitch while on a trip to South Africa, stressing how the film won't be just for North American audiences, but for the whole world -- as an evangelistic too. Check it out:
January 6, 2010
Film depicts man's weakness, but also his oppressive, dominant, empirical mentality
The image that has most stuck with me since seeing Avatar—and there are a lot of amazing visuals—is one of a human’s weak and broken body cradled in the arms of a giant, strong and healthy alien. It’s a stirring and powerful juxtaposition. Struggling to breathe and crippled from the waist down, this body is the model of human frailty—useless, expiring and fragile—held in the powerful arms of a 9-foot Na’vi like a diminutive child.
This moment highlighted for me how inadequate, brittle and broken the humans are in Avatar. They bleed. They die. Almost every main human faces some physical limitation in the movie’s runtime. But what is fascinating is how they all compensate for their bodily deficiencies and mortality by hiding within other bodies: giant metal attack ships, robot suits and even genetically-altered Na’vi bodies. These examples are just the physical ways in which Avatar’s humans compensate for their frailty. They also compensate with insatiable needs to possess more, know more, gain more and mean more. Ironically, it seems to be this reaction to weakness that spurs their violent aggression. For instance, Colonel Quaritch refuses to cosmetically fix his visible and brutal scars. Those scars prove to this tough solider that he is mortal. And like any classic Napoleon complex, that reminder fuels him to overcompensate with rage and hostility.
Despite all the political messages that might be seen in Avatar, this universal—and possibly unintended—truth lingers behind the action: Humans are frail. Humans will die. And they try to do anything to erase those truths. That is exactly why the film shows such a contrasting view of humans: They are weak and dying but yet are the oppressive, dominant, and seemingly unstoppable empirical force bearing down on creation. I can’t help but think of Job 14: 1: “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (NIV).
The image of the broken man in the arms of a strong Na’vi got me thinking about the frailty of man (and verses like Psalm 39:5 and James 4:14) and so, in Avatar’s ending, I saw the hope of our new heavenly bodies. No, I’m sure it was not intended. And yes, there are Pantheistic and New Age overtones clouding the issue, but still, as that weak and crippled character finds a new home, I couldn’t help but think about the day when we turn in our fragile bodies. For, as 1 Corinthians 15: 42-43 reads, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” And it won’t just be computer generated.
January 5, 2010
First, recite the 23rd Psalm by heart. Then chop off somebody's hand. Hey, it's The Book of Eli!
There's yet another post-apocalyptic film on the horizon, which should be reason enough for skepticism: Haven't there been enough already? But The Book of Eli , releasing Jan. 15, looks pretty interesting, if for no other reason than its central character: The Bible.
Denzel Washington plays a man named Eli who has allegedly been instructed by God to deliver the Bible -- apparently the last one on earth -- to some unknown recipient "out West."
Our friend Phil Cooke recently had Washington in his studio to film a promo for the movie (see below). In it, Washington says that his character "hears voices from God" to take the Bible "across the country, and to deliver it, out West. In following his mission he's been given by God, he becomes more and more violent in order to get the job done."
Washington, a Christian, says the film is "a story about faith. . . . We're all a work in progress. I think we're all on a journey on this earth to be better human beings and to hopefully follow the Word of God."Check it out: