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.

Revelation Road, 2 and Black Rider – Triple Feature

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant to watch this series at first, only because acting and production in values in Christian movies have largely been so-so for me over the years. However, after finishing the latest film — Black Rider: Revelation Road — I can say now that I was pleasantly surprised.

This is good deal on three movies in the same series — only $15 or so — and I’m looking forward to the fourth installment, if and when it ever gets made.

The first movie is a tad hokey in places, from a cinematic standpoint, but shows promise. The second one is better, and fleshes out the characters more, and is where the bulk of the “good news” message is in terms of the main character finding redemption. The first two films are basically one, at made-for-TV quality. Not bad, but not great.

The third one, however, shows real signs of quality shining through, and is a very good follow-up film overall. It also places a heavier, more obvious focus on end time prophecy playing out, and I think that was a welcomed addition, where the first two films were a bit more vague, up until the very end.

The acting, pacing, soundtrack, editing and plot structure are pretty good across all three, considering their small budgets and limited casting choices … and have a very Christian message to spread throughout, despite the depiction of violence. I would say, if you’re looking for an interesting end-time scenario film series to watch, you should give the Revelation Road series a chance. You’ll most likely be like me, and find yourself glad you watched them by the end of the third film.

Luther

2017-02-20-lutherIt’s hard to believe that this film — Luther — came out nearly 15 years ago and has pretty much stayed under the radar since then … because in all honesty, it’s a very, very good historical film about Martin Luther and the beginning of the Reformation movement.

In the film we follow Martin Luther as a young, inexperienced Catholic priest who wants to glorify God and know God’s will — but is at war with himself because he feels he cannot overcome his own personal demons. On top of that, when Luther visits Rome, he is disgusted at the blatant disregard fellow men of God show for God!

Upon returning to Germany and seeing even more money grabbing behavior by the newest Pope affect people in the land, Martin Luther creates a list of things that all in town need to read. The letter, boldly nailed to a church door, details the major conflicts Catholic teaching has with the true Word of God.

From then on Rome is at odds with Luther, and eventually the Pope and Cardinals and German royalty in it get involved as well — all the while Martin works on translating the New Testament to German, so everyday Germans can read the Bible for themselves, vs. being told what to believe.

Overall the film is very well done, and has very good production values, acting, dialogue and a good score as well. The pacing is a bit off at times though, and a lot of material is covered near the end (an extra 30 minutes would have fleshed things out more). This is a great historical drama, and can be enjoyed by just about anyone — whether they are a believer or not. But if you are a believer, you will find the story even more interesting, because it shows how Europe finally escaped the Dark Ages by embracing the Word of God instead of keeping it hidden away, as a means to rule others.

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.

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.