Time Changer

I had never heard of this early 2000s Christian film until I came across a mention of it in an online preacher’s video … and surprisingly, Time Changer turned out to be a very good movie.

The story revolves around two seminary professors in 1890 having a disagreement over whether or not the teachings of Jesus should be taught, even if Jesus Himself is omitted from the conversation. The disagreeing professor urges the other to visit him late one evening, to show him something. The other reluctantly visits him, only to find that the urging professor claims to have build a time machine. The reluctant professor initially thinks it is a prank, but nevertheless, he goes along with it, as a doubter, and soon finds himself in the year 2000, but only for a few days at the most.

However, in that time the professor (who wishes to teach the message of Jesus even if it means not mentioning Him) learns very quickly how corrupt the world has become.

The acting is pretty good throughout the film, and even though the main character is portrayed almost childish and naive at times, I suppose that is how someone might behave if propelled forward a century where so little makes sense. The message presented to the audience is good, and on the whole the film is satisfying (and warrants repeat viewings).

The thing that stuck out with me the most though was the final scene, in which the music, editing and content makes you go, “Wow.”

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Bamboo In Winter

Recently I watched a film about Christianity in oppressive Communist China, and I felt like it didn’t do a very effective job of showing the transforming nature of belief in Jesus Christ, or have a strong narrative regarding ordeals normal Christians dealt with in that country.

Bamboo In Winter, released in 1990 (on an obvious low budget and mere 58 minute runtime), focuses on the everyday Chinese resident and is set in a rural community, but at a time when cars and televisions are known to citizens — so maybe late 80s, early 90s.

The plot begins with a girl who is home from studying at a university, and enjoying her brief time with her father, a farmer (her mother passed away years earlier). She enjoys the familiar, slower-paced lifestyle, but fully expects to return to college, where she can study modern things she enjoys, like science, logic and topics like Darwinism. When a traveling preacher comes through town though, she humors her elderly grandmother by attending the service, and becomes enthralled with the teachings of the Bible. She asks the preacher one question after another, in an attempt to not only trip him up, but understand why he genuinely believes it’s the word of God.

Ultimately she has to decide between following the teachings of Jesus Christ or going along with what atheist China demands of its citizens, and she makes the difficult, life-altering choice, with minutes to spare before the credits roll.

It may not have the biggest budget, camera quality or best production values, but it certainly has heart, and very good acting throughout. I would definitely recommend this … and even better, it’s free on Amazon Prime.

Tares Among The Wheat And Bridge To Babylon

In these follow up videos to A Lamp In The Dark, the film series dives into the deep and rich history and controversy surrounding the non-Textus Receptus-based translations which all modern day translations are based upon. The second film — Tares Among The Wheat — carefully details how the two main manuscripts used for the basis of the non-TR came to be, and the mysteries surrounding them. For example, if it wasn’t bizarre enough that the primary text upon which the non-TR translations are based upon was being burned by monks in a random Catholic sanctuary (only to be saved at the last second by a random scholar over multiple visits spanning 15 years) … it’s even more bizarre to learn that a well-known and another respected ancient manuscript scholar of the time claimed the found document wasn’t old at all — but that he wrote the document in question years earlier, for royalty, as a gift!

From there a variety of people like Westcott and Hort are discussed — the two individuals largely responsible for the claimed “more accurate” Greek text that every non-KJV translation nowadays uses. The films do a wonderful and extremely detailed job explaining how these individuals thought, whose company they often kept, what their motivations were and the great lengths they went to promote whatever they were working on.

The third film goes even more in-depth with name after name from the 1800s onward, detailing just how complex and widespread the coordinated attack against the Word of God (and the KJV specifically, since the reformation) has become and how it has intensified in recent centuries. The one complaint I have with Bridge to Babylon? The large amount of screen time devoted to James White, an author of a book criticizing the KJV. While I do believe the film includes him to give balance to the narrative, so watchers are aware that the filmmakers know of other opinions, his multiple appearances are confusing if you don’t pay close attention. That’s not a guy on the side of truth.

There’s apparently another part in the series, but it won’t be released for another couple of years. But with each film clocking in at three hours, and nothing being filler, it’s worth the wait to hear what these filmmakers have to say next. Until then, be sure to watch both of these (available now for free, on Amazon Prime).

China Cry

While looking for older Christian films, I came across a reference to this early 90s film set in Communist-era China. I read it was the story of a young girl, telling her true story of how Christians were persecuted during regime changes after World War II.

Despite an odd 20-minute making of feature at the beginning you better skip to avoid plot reveals, China Cry starts off well, with good acting and writing and an intriguing/cute relationship between the main star and a boy she likes at school. Bizarrely though, the eventual-husband character is always portrayed as a constant mystery, even after they have multiple children. Does she even know him at all? Very odd.

Even stranger is the Christian aspect of the film, which feels made up. Sure, the main character goes to a Chinese church service (I will admit, the silent singing scene was pretty eye-opening), but beyond that we see nothing that she personally does in the name of Christ. The main character is supposedly saved from a firing squad by a miracle, but that seems highly suspect to me … mainly because in the film not only is this pregnant woman kicked in the stomach/beaten multiple times, she’s even forced to work in a labor camp, hauling giant rocks around (wouldn’t Communists just kill her at some point?). Oh, and her husband and children all leave China safely, and no one is ever hurt, except for her father, who the Communists punish repeatedly. Why?

It’s a very strange film, and feels too-inwardly-focused about “how God favored the protagonist.” I’m not saying she wasn’t a Christian, but modern-day heavy-miracle-filled stories always raise an eyebrow. There may be a tiny bit of truth in her story (like she escaped China), embellished immensely for dramatic effect.

Genesis: Paradise Lost

This two-night event, which was shown exclusively in 3D, was supposed to be a big-budget and eye-popping look at the story of Genesis. I knew very little about the movie beyond some promotional imagery, but the concept intrigued me. At $18/ticket, the film wasn’t cheap, but I figured if the movie was as good as it claimed, the experience would indeed be worth it (afterall, how many expensive, spectacle-based Biblical films appear in theaters?)…

The film starts off pretty well, with an interesting look at a 3D Earth, with text and certain shots truly appearing to “pop” off the screen, as if you can touch them.

Unfortunately, after a few minutes of this, the actual meat of the film appeared, and it was just a bunch of talking heads, consuming probably 75% of the entire film. Even worse, the 3D visuals, when they did finally appear, often played at a low, stuttering framerate. Other times, animation was silky smooth. My guess? The 3D film parts were finished and then “stretched” to be longer, but that created a lower framerate. Near the end the animation was tired, and the odd human sequences, models and animation of Adam and Eve looked very unimpressive.

The random people talking were the worst parts of the film, because they were preaching to the choir. Unbelievers wouldn’t plunk down $18 to watch this — so why bother explaining common arguments against the Bible? The worst part of all? Not ONCE is Satan mentioned, and only ONCE is Hell mentioned (by Ray Comfort, the lone Evangelist featured in the film). Oh, and the Holy Spirit is mentioned just ONCE also, as Genesis verses are read. The film also only covered the first seven days of creation and ended on “To Be Continued…” I would skip this.

Hillsong United – Zion

This was the first Hillsong United album I bought, and is almost certainly the last I will buy, if not listen to altogether. Like many people who heard “Oceans” — a nine-minute song that dominated Christian music charts for a couple years (almost every week, solid, for multiple years!) — that was my first exposure to this band, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Now, I’m not necessarily against “worship” music — which is basically a newfangled way of saying “Christian pop that can be ‘sung’ easily by a wide audience” — but I do find it to be all-too convenient way of making very generic songs in an easy-to-digest manner for the masses. Outside of “Oceans” and maybe two other tracks, this album is entirely forgettable in nearly every way.

Too many tracks have a rotating list of male singers that literally simply speak generic religious words like “hallelujah!” (really?) to overly synthy music (that typically blends together into a mess you can’t even differentiate). It feels like the whole album (outside of “Oceans”) was made in an automated Create-A-Song machine where a random grab-bag of Christian terms and phrases were thrown in.

As before, the only highlight are the songs featuring Taya Smith — the band’s sole valid selling-point and the singer of “Oceans” that catapulted the band to across-genre-recognition. Sadly, I think we get two sings from her, and backing vocals on a couple others.

In short, I would say just avoid these Hillsong United albums. They aren’t very well made overall (aside from one or two radio-friendly tracks), and the lack of lyrical substance and creativity and musical distinctiveness on almost all of their songs makes the whole listening experience rather unpleasant.

The Printing

Another terrific Christian film came across my path recently, in the form of “The Printing.” Set in the mid-1980s in Soviet Russia (near the end of it), the film tells the story of persecuted Christians as they secretly print and distribute Bibles there.

Of course, to the outside world the USSR tried to claim that religious tolerance was being practiced, and that there were indeed Christian churches throughout the Communist nation. Sadly, those churches were unable to do basic things like teach the whole Bible, perform public Baptisms or even let believers hold services, if the State didn’t approve of the event or people. And the State promised more Bibles for years, but almost never delivered.

Basically, as a Christian in oppressive Russia, imprisonment, forfeiture of property, torture and even death were not out of the realm of possibility.

This film does a great job of showing real-life persons and how they interacted with one another, as they maneuvered in secret and in faithful believers’ homes to print out Bibles and tracts, in small quantities, as to not call attention to themselves. The acting in this is really good throughout, the visuals clearly show the dreary, backwards, depressing world of Soviet-rule and the music is effective as well. The entire film is well-paced and the story detailed enough to give viewers a clear idea of the settings and events presented.

I would recommend this film, and you should check it out if you get a chance.