The Bible: In The Beginning… (1966 Film)

Recently I watched The Bible: In The Beginning, a 1966 film that covers the events of creation until when Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.

Now, I will say that for a film so old, the visuals hold up — and the scenes in the Noah segment of the movie are really well done (compared to the mostly computer generated effects done nowadays) … and many scenes are well shot and really transport you to a different place — for example, during the Tower of Babel section when you see little people moving in the distance — those are actually actors!

The most effective and interesting parts of the film to me were the Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah parts. The Noah part is impressive due to the animals and care it took to coordinate everything. The sets also looked really neat, and I enjoyed the idea of Noah’s family staying busy during the time on the boat, taking care of the animals. The Sodom and angel scenes though were striking for a different reason — it was an incredibly dark and terrifying thing to watch. The goat with with weird headdress and its human female worshipers was particularly creepy, and the city masked in dark shadows was very unsettling, along with the terrifying mob of men.

Unfortunately the rest of the film just isn’t very good, and has some very questionable content. The very first part of the movie features multiple scenes of male and female nudity, when it could have been implied and not shown. The other part is the casting of George C. Scott as Abraham, who doesn’t look the part at all … and his (and his wife’s) dialog is so hard to understand and bizarre that audiences will get bothered by it. Luckily, Peter O’Toole makes a brief cameo as an angel, and balances things out somewhat, acting-wise.

Personally, I would avoid this long, strangely cast film with pretty graphic content.

Six – The Mark Unleashed

I didn’t plan on watching this film, but one evening after working at my house I turned to TBN and “Six: The Mark Unleashed” came on. Apparently this is a film from 2004, starring well-known stars like Eric Roberts, Stephen Baldwin and Christian film star David A.R. White — and the film’s main star is actually Jeffrey Dean Morgan, best known for his recent work on cable television nowadays.

The story takes place sometime after the Rapture, when all that’s left are the unsaved people of the world, and after a global world leader has taken control of things. The film also implies this is during the Great Tribulation, because the world leader has already begun calling himself God and demanding worship. In exchange for their devotion, people are implanted with a chip on their hand or forehead that gives them access to all sorts of knowledge, and allows them to behave however they wish (carnally) without any punishment.

The few people who resist are unable to buy or sell anything (the first part of the film shows David White’s character and his friend stealing cars in order to get paid, in black market dealings) and are tracked down by devoted followers of the Antichrist. When found, they are given a choice — take the implant willingly, or be sent to jail to be executed (or if they resist too much, be executed immediately).

Unfortunately the movie suffers from some cheesy editing, dialog and bizarre plot points (like David’s friend trying to hack a satellite controlling everyone, or prison cells being covered in Biblical verses, while inmates walk around with Bibles [wouldn’t guards destroy those?]). I can’t really recommend this — not because it’s blasphemous or insulting — but because overall the film isn’t very good.

The Encounter and The Encounter: Paradise Lost

I’m gonna admit it finally — when it comes to an on-screen portrayal of Jesus Christ — which is no small thing to attempt to do for ANY actor (I feel like it’s a role that needs to be done with sincere love and respect in one’s heart, for their creator — more than any other role), Bruce Marchiano is hands-down the best at doing it.

The Encounter and its sequel, The Encounter: Paradise Lost, shows strangers coming together for a short window of time and then Jesus appearing to them — in an effort to give them once last chance to get their lives straightened out — before they die.

I’m unsure if this type of story has been done before in play form, because it seems like something that would be great for such a thing. In the first movie, the strangers are in an old diner during a stormy night that closes down a nearby road they all are traveling on. The second film is set in a hotel in Thailand during a tropical storm, but the people don’t leave this time due to being held hostage by drug dealers.

The films don’t waste time in showing who Jesus is to the strangers. In both He just comes out and admits it straightaway, and after He begins to tell each of them their pasts in vivid detail, they start to listen. They don’t all believe, but He definitely has all of their attention. The second one spends more time in the setup before Jesus enters into the plot, but it’s needed. Personally, I think the sequel was better than the original overall.

These heartwarming and well-made films act as both a story of hope for even the most wicked of people and one of caution to those who refuse to listen. These aren’t films where everyone has a happy ending. It also needs to be said that Bruce’s emotionally convincing portrayal of a loving and concerned Christ is amazing to watch, and you really get the impression the actor loves trying to accurately show how loving, thoughtful and well-spoken Jesus would be, if these situations were indeed true.

These are both excellent films, and you should definitely check them out.

The Book Of Daniel

Pureflix is a major Christian movie studio where I would say the vast majority of Biblical feature films originate from nowadays. In this particular film — The Book of Daniel — the studio (which typically operates on very small budgets, but manages to get one or two decent/known cast member in each movie) attempts to give an overview of Daniel’s life.

Overall, the film does a good job of creating entertaining and visually interesting content for its approx. 90 minute runtime. Now, the movie is not a verse by verse retelling of Daniel’s life, but rather a summary of it, with old-Daniel’s narration serving as the basis for flashbacks, which allow a lot of different content to be covered more easily.

The actor who plays Cyrus is the same one who played the android in the first Alien film, and was also on the TV shows X-Files and Millennium as well — and while he’s the only recognizable actor in the film, he does a good job taking his role seriously and making it worth watching.

I would say give this film a watch if you find it for cheap, or if it’s available for streaming. The set designs are obviously small, some casting choices are odd, some of the effects shots are lacking and some of the material is briefly covered … but in general it’s a solid Christian film, is safe for all audiences and is worth an hour and a half of your time, if you want Christian entertainment.

The Visual Bible: Matthew

This mid-1990s movie covers the entire Gospel of Matthew, from start to finish, verse by verse. An ambitious project, the movie is over 3 hours long and comes on 2-discs, so set aside a couple evenings.

Some things I liked about this movie are its awesome outdoor shots, editing, musical score and the actor portraying Jesus. While I’m not entirely sure what kind of person Jesus was in terms of individual personality mannerisms/inflection/style-of-speaking/body language/etc., I wouldn’t be shocked if Bruce Marchiano’s portrayal was the closest to the source. In this film Jesus is serious when he needs to be, obviously, but He very much enjoys life among his creations (smiling a lot, enjoying his companions), and I would surmise that’s likely how Jesus was, vs. being always angry or moody at those around Him or reclusive or demeaning.

Additionally, I must speak about the movie’s music, which I think helps out the film immensely — it creates an uplifting, joyous tone throughout both parts, and helps highlight pivotal and emotional scenes effectively.

I also must give kudos to whoever edited this, as the switch between Matthew’s narration using his own family as a backdrop (and scribes) vs. showing the life of Jesus really helped the entire story work together visually. This is necessary due to a lot of material needing to be covered, and some things would be hard to easily portray on screen (especially on a limited budget, like when an angel is supposed to appear or certain miracles occur, for example).

In short, this is a very positive and interesting film to watch, and I appreciate the effort and production that went into it. Aside from a few signs of a small budget (some sets/locations/props/costumes are lacking), the entire movie does a great job keeping viewers interested.

The Mark and The Mark 2: Redemption

As I’ve said before, traditional movie offerings for Christian viewers are somewhat limited … so I was more than willing to check “The Mark” and “The Mark 2: Redemption” despite having just seen Revelation Road a month or so ago. In these movies you see what happens when a soldier-for-hire is unwillingly implanted with the first working version of a chip that will ultimately be used in the last days.

The first film mostly takes place on a plane — like the recent Left Behind movie — and centers around a competing company trying to apprehend the man (so that his one-of-a-kind implant can be used to spur mass production of the one used by a new leader, the Antichrist). The second film then takes place in Thailand, where the same man and a stewardess friend (from the first film) continue to avoid people trying to catch him.

Unfortunately, unlike Revelation Road, which starts off with a pretty weak first act but finishes strong, this film series never finds its footings. The highlight of the films is Eric Roberts (by far the most recognizable and best actor in it) but the many plot issues, odd casting choices and very underwhelming visual effects make for a mostly so-so experience.

You also get the sense that the film creators fully expected a third film to be made — but unlike Revelation Road which told a pretty wrapped-up story in the first two films — this one seems very incomplete.

It also is very weak in terms of Biblical messaging, and likely wouldn’t make a non-believer pick up the Bible afterwards. That’s really the two films’ biggest issue, and is ultimately what keeps me from recommending it at all … even moreso than the previously mentioned poor casting and special effects.

Left Behind – 2014

I had heard unflattering things about this film before I ended up renting it, but when the price dropped temporarily to less than a dollar, I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance to see it. After all, Christian films often get negative reviews –in spite of overall decent stories and acting, simply because of their Biblical message — so reviews could be wrong.

Well, in the case of Left Behind (the 2014 remake of the 2001 Kirk Cameron-led film), the criticism from audiences and critics alike was well deserved. The movie stars Nicholas Cage as an airplane pilot who is flying from New York City to London when the Rapture occurs, which results in a lot of the passengers disappearing instantly, thereby causing all sorts of chaos.

I actually had no problem with Cage’s character or his acting in the film — of all the people trying to take the film seriously, it’s clear Cage at least gave it a shot. Everyone else, however, seemed like a strange caricature of normal people, from all walks of life (particularly the Mom). The film also has very odd casting, music and dialogue choices that will make audiences groan and scratch their heads.

The biggest offense of the movie though is how little it actually speaks of Christianity. It mentions “the Rapture” a couple times, and a few times a generic “God” is mentioned, but that’s about it. I don’t recall hearing one mention of Jesus Christ, and near the end when people were faced with death, they were just told to pray. Not to Jesus Christ, asking for forgiveness of their sins … but just to “pray.”

By the end of the film you don’t really like any of the characters (especially the unbelieving daughter, who never does repent) and the film ends abruptly, setting up a sequel. Thankfully, no sequel is being made.