Silence

2017-01-29-silenceIn recent years Hollywood has gone out of its way to paint Christianity in a bad light whenever possible. Last year’s Best Picture winner, “Spotlight,” focused on the abuse scandal within the Catholic church and how that was an investigative journalism and criminality breakthrough by the media.

Unfortunately, it looks like this year’s obvious best film — Silence — also about the Catholic church, will almost certainly be given the cold shoulder by those same award ceremonies and industry types who loved talking about Christianity in a negative way just a year ago.

Martin Scorsese’s Silence is about the last few Christian missionaries from Portugal in feudal Japan, back in the mid-1600s. After the Japanese government started slaughtering Christians converted by missionaries (the film reports hundreds of thousands had converted before widespread persecution began), the last remaining priest was rumored to have renounced his faith, publicly.

As a result, two more — but final — priests were sent to Japan, in an effort to verify whether the story was true or not. Upon entering the country in secret, however, it becomes very clear how hate-filled Japan had become regarding anything Christian. Entire villages were wiped out, with public torture a common thing.

The entire film is beautifully shot, amazingly acted and is very well written overall. The cruelty of punishment endured by the Japanese (by their own countrymen) is sad to watch, and the film ends very differently than expected, which is also something you’ll be thinking about for quite some time after it ends. I would say go into the film expecting an epic, historically accurate view of Christianity in Japan at that particular period of time … and you’ll probably be less shocked by what you see.

Luckily, the film doesn’t go overboard with anything, and there’s nothing risque or heretical displayed on screen, but I would still recommend very young people not watching it, due to the violence.

Since the film is nearly out of theaters, barely promoted and hard to find (I had to drive two hours to a theater it was playing at), I would just wait until it comes out on video, and then watch it on the largest screen you have available to use — and then be amazed by it for three hours — as you sit in silence.

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The Remaining

2017-01-28-theremainingSomehow, this film from 2014 had slipped under my radar (I’m always on the lookout for big-budget Hollywood films involving Christianity, since they are few and far between) … and what an interesting movie it is!

“The Remaining” can be summed up pretty simply — it’s a Christian “horror” film centered around a small group of friends, and the events take place during and immediately after the Rapture.

The director stated he wanted a Biblically accurate depiction of the Rapture events, vs. trying to make it too Hollywood-ized. While the film does fudge details here and there regarding the trumpets and timing and things like that, the overall message is on target.

And wow, what a message the film has! By focusing on a small cast of characters as they are caught up in the scary times after the Rapture, the film gives the audience plenty of time to hear fairly deep discussions regarding — I’m not exaggerating — Jesus, the Bible and the end times! The film portrays the information clearly and in a very respectful manner … which made me very happy.

The movie doesn’t beat you over with “preachiness,” and you could easily show this to a non-believer and they’d surely find the film very interesting. I’m not positive if it’d make them a believer, but I do think it’d pique their interest enough for them to look into Biblical end time content even more.

Personally, I felt like the acting, editing, production values and writing were all very well done, and the changing of the characters seemed entirely believable. The last portion of the film is very creepy and unsettling as well — but hopeful at the same time. Unlike so many poorly made Hollywood thrillers/horror films, this one actually presents what the stakes are — and they feel significant. You’re rooting for the non-believers to understand God, so that they’ll be protected.

The Remaining is an excellent Christian film, and one that even normal audiences could find an engaging story in, as long as they don’t have their hearts hardened.

The Bible Collection: The Apocalypse

2017-01-23-apocalypseStrangely, the final film in The Bible Collection — The Apocalypse — is not actually included in the Google Play offerings … so, if you want to see this final chapter of the monumental series, you’ll have to look online at a place like eBay or Amazon (luckily, you can find a copy for just a few dollars plus shipping).

This final film stars Richard Harris — an amazing actor who played Abraham in The Bible Collection: Abraham (filmed seven years earlier). Just as in the first film he appeared in, he steals the show in this second one also, as he plays the Apostle John (near the end of his life), while imprisoned on the Greek island of Patmos (a prison colony).

Supporting cast members show how John’s visions are written down and spread among churches throughout the area, and the film also does a good job of showing the cruelty (and insanity!) on Rome during that time. The Emperor Domitian was particularly loathsome in the film, and actor Bruce Payne did a great job of showing that ruler’s craziness on screen.

The other actors do a very good job as well, bringing both a human and regular believer element to the story, to accompany the heavier Revelation content.

If I had any complaints it would be that the special effects were inconsistent and obviously lower budget/TV quality, and that the visions weren’t always described well … but overall, the film presents a good story, message and detailed look at an often overlooked part of the Bible (in Hollywood). If you get a chance, I would say seek out a copy of this film, and watch it for some quality, Biblical entertainment.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Charlie Campbell

2017-01-18-jehovahswitnessesThe newest Charlie Campbell movie I’ve watched focuses on Jehovah’s Witnesses, and describes the origin of the cult, its history since its founding, differences between it and Protestant churches and how to evangelize to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This video does a very good job of creating a detailed — yet digestible — survey of the odd church’s origins, and sheds a lot of light on core differences between it and mainstream denominations.

Some of the oddest things I learned from the video is that apparently Jehovah’s Witnesses (today!) believe that Heaven apparently “filled up” back in 1935, and that Jesus came back to Earth (to reign!) in 1914. But he did so invisibly, of course. I also didn’t know that the Watch Tower Society is the largest religious publisher in the world, and sends out tens of millions of the strange magazine (viewed as written by God) each and every month. Oh, and it’s very odd how they are so focused on blood transfusions and basic medical care, which have led to many member deaths.

I also found Charlie’s advice regarding how to spread the Word to Jehovah’s Witnesses to be very intelligent and wise — basically, if they show up, hear them out, and then say you have a few questions (that will challenge their beliefs, such as Jesus and Satan being brothers, how things were added to their translation of the Bible, etc.) … and then invite them back to discuss things further. I would recommend this video to all, and the presentation is well made and interesting.

The Bible Collection: Saint Paul

2017-01-17-saintpaulAs we near the end of the Bible Collection videos, I found myself watching ‘Saint Paul,’ which is oddly named ‘Saint Paul’ (vs. just ‘Paul’) … and that immediately made me a bit nervous (I thought, are there Catholic undertones to this?).

Overall, this movie feels very, very different from previous Bible Collection films, in that it features a mostly European cast (with the exception of a few US actors, like the bad guy from Police Academy movies, this time playing Barnabas) and doesn’t feature the signature soundtrack previous entries had. You can also tell (very obviously) that the entire film had audio issues (or filmed in another language), and had to be re-dubbed in the editing room. It almost feels like this film was very low budget and known to be the final one.

Even worse, the movie features not one but TWO scenes of nudity — both male and female! How could this be!? And yes, if you watch the high-definition version, you can definitely see this stuff clearly. Incredibly inappropriate. I can’t believe they would include such graphic scenes. What were they thinking!?

What’s unfortunate is that the film itself is pretty decent overall and the actor playing Barnabas does a good job, unlike his last role as Pontius Pilate’s lackey. Way too much time is spent on Paul’s backstory and his friend (and the friend’s wife) and little (by comparison) is devoted to Paul’s missionary work across Asia and Europe. Towards the end though, the movie feels like it finally starts to find its footing … but at that point there isn’t much time to work with, so you’re left unsatisfied. The film abruptly ends as Paul reaches Rome, while the audience scratches their head.

I wouldn’t recommend this particular Bible Collection film, mainly because of the tasteless content included, the weird audio issues and strange story structure.

The Bible Collection: Jesus

2017-01-09-jesusJesus, the two-part film in The Bible Collection series, is certainly an adaption of Biblical events … but is it a good one?

Well-known actor Gary Oldman stars as Pontius Pilate — and while he was okay in the role — different actors have portrayed this person far better in more recent works. The role of Jesus probably would have benefited by using a different actor too, in my opinion. The strangest casting choice of all was the bad guy from Police Academy films, who seems to be out for Jesus more than anyone else, despite being a lowly-Roman official in Jerusalem. The casting in this film is rather odd.

What sets this version of the story of Jesus apart from others is the way it focuses on Jesus’ young life, his relationship with Joseph and even how it flashes back to scenes like him teaching in the temple as a young boy. If you weren’t aware of these characters or events though, the film would leave you confused. The film also, in my opinion, doesn’t really focus on the miracles Jesus does and the teaching he communicates to the masses. Instead, we get many scenes where Jesus is dancing, laughing and playing with his friends but few about his actual message.

The strangest parts of the movie involve a hinted at love story involving Jesus and scenes where Satan somehow shows Jesus the future, as if he’s the “Ghost of Christmas” future. Not sure if the filmmakers are aware, but Satan doesn’t know the future, other than what is written in the Bible (which he believes is false).

The entire movie felt “off” to me and never quite found its footing in regards to a Christian message. It’s not a horrible movie about Jesus, but with so many other adaptions available, this one should probably be put near the bottom of the list.

Mormonism – Charlie Campbell

2017-01-08-mormonismIn this video Charlie Campbell takes a close look at Mormonism (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and exposes its ungodly origin, beliefs and how to witness to its millions of members.

I enjoyed the way Charlie used PowerPoint slides — combined with his teaching — to better illustrate the many oddities about the Salt Lake City-based cult. And, just like it is clearly shown in the video, Mormonism is indeed a cult — distorting the truth of the Old and New Testaments by adding additional books and calling those the only inspired works. The Bible, while recognized, in their eyes is a poorly translated and not entirely accurate account of what God wanted to convey to humanity.

In fact, as Charlie shows — the God of the Book of Mormon is not really God at all! He’s just a regular person, who attained God-like status at some point in the distant past. Not only that, but any given human can achieve the same status as well, provided they are the best Mormon possible. This, as explained in the video, means getting married at a very young age, taking part in door-to-door missions as a young adult and making your life revolve around the ever-growing organization that calls Utah home.

This video is an excellent primer on Mormon thought and application, and everything from the adding of bizarre works like “The Pearl of Great Price” to the golden-plates-that-no-one-can-verify-existed to the thousands of edits/contradictions/inconsistencies “fixed” over time in the Book of Mormon shows — without a doubt — that the entire religion is a hoax. And what’s really sad, for those born into the religion … it’s even harder for them to escape the anti-Christian cult without potentially losing contact with everyone they love.