Film Freak: God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

godsnotdead3.pngGod’s Not Dead is the final movie in the PureFlix trilogy of movies. In addition to this trilogy, they released a movie based on Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ”, and a remake of the “Left Behind” movie starring Nicholas Cage. What I found interesting is that “The Case For Christ” was actually able to tell a story while presenting information from the book, presenting it as an arc. It gave me more hope that this company does know how to tell a story without relying on the persecution complex these movies have.

This movie has a different writer and director from the previous movies. I think the change in director and writer resulted in a better movie. The persecution complex is still there, but less pronounced. There’s only one plot! (But now, this makes the subplots of the other two movies even more irrelevant.)

Our focus is on Pastor Dave, who in my opinion was the only good thing about these movies. He is a flawed character and tries to live his life as an example. He’s the only character who doesn’t quote chapter and verse. The closest thing he says to a theological message is his motto “God is good all the time.” He lives his life the best he can. THIS is the character to build a movie around, not some stupid persecution complex that couldn’t happen in the real world. No more leaving out facts to fit an agenda here, like in the previous movies. We also see Josh Wheton, the protagonist of the first movie, but only for a few scenes.

Here, the plot is more focused on reconciliation. Dave is trying to stop his church from being moved off the evil atheist college. But once he hires his brother as a lawyer, the persecution complex stops! The movie then moves into its new plot: Dave and his brother Adam healing the rift caused by their dysfunctional family. Dave is an atheist, but the movie does not make him the bad guy! He actually does help his brother.

Another thing I can applaud is that there is no easy solution. Adam works out his problems, but he does not easily convert back to Christianity. The movie actually understands that faith is not that easy. It realizes that sometimes we can’t find the answers, and sometimes we think God doesn’t care. There are no easy solutions in this movie.

It’s far from a perfect movie. As I said, it still harps on its persecution complex for about the first 30 minutes of its run time. But once that’s out of the way, there’s no more preachiness. I have nothing against Christian movies. But I feel we shouldn’t act like we’re being persecuted in a country that has freedom of religion in its Bill of Rights. We shouldn’t be given a covert message to vote for a certain candidate and leave out key information that doesn’t fit an agenda. That’s not how you evangelize. You evangelize by sending God’s actual message, not one muddled with politics.

I’m not done with Pureflix yet. They’ve made a movie out of Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned. When I see that movie, I’ll talk about it here.

 

Film Freak: God’s Not Dead 2

notdead2A few years back, I reviewed the Pure Flix movie God’s Not Dead. I was not too happy with it, and at the time I was unaware that there was going to be a sequel, much less two. I believe that all three of these movies are terrible tools for evangelization. Now that Pure Flix has actually made a “franchise” out of this trilogy, I have decided I should go back and review the other two movies.

Although this movie is billed as  a sequel, it really has very little to do with the first movie. This time our main protagonist is not Josh Wheaton, but a high school teacher named Grace Westley. Josh is only mentioned in passing. Like the previous movie, this one has several different arcs, although much fewer and more tightly connected. The ones that don’t carry over now seem even more unnecessary than they were in the previous movie. If they weren’t going to carry over, why even have them in the first place?

Our story begins when Grace is talking with her class about Martin Luther King Jr. (coincidentally, it’s also the namesake of the school) When Brooke, a student she’s been consoling since the death of her brother, asks her about King’s own beliefs as a Christian, Grace affirms this. While this is going on, we see several students taking out their cell phones and texting to others, implying disbelief that a teacher would dare to bring up Jesus.

Brooke’s parents are outraged and even decide to get the ACLU to help them. This is one of my biggest problems with the movie. Despite what the right-wing propaganda people who made this movie want you to think, the ACLU is not some evil organization manned by atheists to persecute Christians. While they have brought cases against Christians (such as the infamous cases where bakers are sued because they refuse to bake cakes for same-sex marriages), the ACLU has actually helped Christians in many cases to defend their beliefs.  The whole name is AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union. I used to believe they were the enemy myself, but ever since I left the “right-wing” Christian mentality, I have reexamined my beliefs and learned that they are in fact an organization that helps ALL Americans, not just those who attack Christians. If you want proof of cases where they have assisted Christians, here’s a link! Yet every time we see their lawyer, he just can’t stop making evil glares and smiles. It’s a wonder we don’t see the lawyer rip a puppy’s head off the way they want us to know THIS IS THE BAD GUY!

Continue reading “Film Freak: God’s Not Dead 2”

Film Freak: A Wrinkle In Time

wrinkleSomeone once said in regards to movies based on books that the reason the book is usually superior is that the book is allowed to be itself. Maybe that’s why so many books, like Wrinkle In Time, often defy any attempts to adapt them. When this movie got Oprah Winfrey, I cringed. I cringed even more when it got a low score on Rotten Tomatoes. You see, I love A Wrinkle in Time. The whole cycle is one of my favorite series of all time. So I felt I had to give the movie a chance. What a mistake that was.

First, a warning. I am cutting the kids in the movie some slack. I know it’s hard to get good child actors, so I’m not expecting that. The adults, I’m not going lightly on. Anyway, on to the positives.

I didn’t have a problem with the multi-racial cast. Madeline L’Engle never specified what her characters’ nationalities were, so I don’t mind Meg being African-American. It’s a take I didn’t have in mind, but hey, if they want to mix up the races in the story, I’m fine. (I personally thought Meg was a redheard with an Irish accent, but that’s me.) Of the three women who played the Misses, Reese Witherspoon gave the best performance. The computer effects were fine. In fact, the visuals were mostly the only good thing about the movie. But when is Hollywood going to realize they can make the prettiest movie ever, but if it has no substance, it’s worthless?

Continue reading “Film Freak: A Wrinkle In Time”

Film Freak: The Last Jedi

lastjediLast year, I celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars movie by reviewing all the movies that had been released up to that point, stopping at The Force Awakens. For those who were wondering why I didn’t review The Last Jedi, it was because I didn’t think I’d see it in time to include it in my recap. I have no theater nearby, and they cost a LOT these days anyway.

So, was it worth waiting longer than most people to see what happens after that great cliffhanger of Rey finding Luke and giving him his light saber? Yes! In fact, I’ll say this right now: The Last Jedi is the best Disney Star Wars movie so far. It’s the best movie since the prequels. Ignore every hater.

Continue reading “Film Freak: The Last Jedi”

Remembering Star Wars: Rogue One

rogue oneWhen Disney acquired Star Wars from George Lucas, they decided to release one movie each year at Christmas. This started with Episode 7, The Force Awakens. In addition to the main movies (the “episodes”), we would also get movies that touch up more on the mythos of the franchise. Rogue One was just the first of these. Because it is the most recent Star Wars movie released, I have chosen it to end my retrospective. I don’t think I’ll be able to see The Last Jedi before the end of the year, so I will wait for the DVD.

Rogue One takes place before the very first Star Wars movie and follows a team of rebels attempting to retrieve the plans for the first Death Star (because Return of the Jedi has a Death Star too).

Continue reading “Remembering Star Wars: Rogue One”

Remembering 40 Years of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens-poster

When I heard that a new company had taken over Star Wars from George Lucas, I had mixed feelings. He was 100% involved with the prequels, and while I liked them, I still came to the same conclusion that most people did: less is more. When he did the originals, he had other people telling him what they thought worked, which was part of the reason he wanted 100% involvement in the prequels. He felt we weren’t getting his full vision. But now, Disney would have very little of Lucas, even less than the originals did.

Then I found out JJ Abrahms was directing. I was still wary. You see, I do like what Abrahms did with Star Trek, but my main problem with his version is that he doesn’t want the movies to be their own thing. He kept relying on Nimoy to come in and play future Spock, instead of creating his own thing. JJ Abrahms is a great producer, but he’s much better when he’s playing with his own toys, like in Lost, Cloverfield, or Super 8. (I never watched Alias, by the way) So I wasn’t sure. But I decided to do what I always do, give the new guy a chance.

Continue reading “Remembering 40 Years of Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

40 Years of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

attack of the clonesThe Phantom Menace, despite what people said about it, actually did well at the box office. This is why I say Star Wars can do no wrong. They can make a movie that is almost universally considered one of the worst movies ever, and it can still make great returns.

In the original trilogy, Empire Strikes Back was darker than A New Hope. Temple of Doom is the darkest of the Indiana Jones movies. That pattern continues here as well. And it seems George Lucas learned from his mistakes in The Phantom Menace. I could see why he wanted total control over these movies. Even though his name was still associated with the original trilogy, Lucas had people that would tell him if his ideas didn’t work. Here, he doesn’t have to worry about that. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but I’m saying I can see his reasoning.

One thing I like about this movie is that Jar Jar Binks is barely in it. He’s not the overbearing klutz he is in the previous movie  He still makes mistakes, but it’s more frightening because Emperor Palpatine doesn’t even have to use Jedi mind control to coerce him. In fact, a lot of the deception that Palpatine weaves is done through his own charisma, not mind control. That’s why he’s such a great villain. He knows when to use his powers and when not to.

I like that the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin has matured to the point where they’re now trading witty banter. I especially love the scene where Kenobi laments to Anakin “Why do I have the feeling you’ll be the death of me?”

Continue reading “40 Years of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”