Tag Archives: Film

Mainstream conservative news site reviews The Case for Christ movie

This review is from Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, a major conservative news and commentary web site.

Excerpt:

[T]he pursuit of evidence forms the core of the film’s narrative. In 1980, Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) finds his marriage and professional life turned upside-down when his wife Leslie (Erika Christiansen) converts from their shared atheism to Christianity. Convinced that his wife has been brainwashed by a cult — being just a couple of years removed from the Jonestown massacre — Strobel decides to apply his journalistic expertise to debunk the central core of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Can Strobel find an evidence-based argument to refute Christianity, or will he be forced to face his own biases and assumptions?

Given that this is explicitly a conversion story (and that Strobel’s book sold 14 million copies over the last two decades), that outcome isn’t exactly a mystery, but the film isn’t intended to be a mystery anyway. At its core, The Case for Christ is a love story on multiple levels rather than an exposition about evidentiary support for the Resurrection. The love Lee and Leslie have for each other becomes redemptive, but so too the terribly strained relationship that Lee has with his father, and that Lee also has with The Father.

I think the love story is fine, because it is an winsome invitation for people watching who are not yet Christians to take a look at the evidence. People today are really struggling in their relationships because they have kicked God out of their partner-selection and how they relate to their partners. Most people today conduct their relationships as functional atheists, including Christians. Atheism is the denial of objective purpose in the universe, and a denial that there is any design for human behavior, and human relationships like love and marriage. Everyone is floundering about in a sea of relativism, trying to use each other like commodities in order to scrape out some happiness without having to love anyone else self-sacrificially. The idea that loving others self-sacrificially could actually be what we were designed to do (as revealed in the example of Jesus) is intriguing. But since it goes against our natural self-centeredness, something other than desire and emotion is going to have to drive the search for a better way forward. That something is God himself, revealing his existence and his character to us through evidence in nature, and through the historical evidence around the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Evidence has the power to drive us against our own selfishness and hedonism, making us capable of loving others, and helping us to choose those who will love us like Jesus, because they love God first and foremost.

Morrissey concludes:

The production values match those of higher-level independent films. The casting of Vogel and Christiansen is especially successful, as they present a very realistic depiction of a young married couple in serious trouble. Faye Dunaway and Frankie Faison have smaller but notable roles, and the ever-estimable Robert Forster portrays Lee’s estranged father. Eight is Enough’s Grant Goodeve has a cameo, but veteran character actor Mike Pniewski’s turn as the Chicago Tribune’s religion editor might be the most memorable outside of the featured cast. The direction and cinematography are straightforward and not at all overdone, with no “shaky cam” usage to generate a false sense of style. The film does an excellent job of recalling the 1980-81 period without making the mistake of falling back into kitsch, opting instead for a look as realistic and nuanced as the film itself.

It all adds up to a compelling and very human story about love, redemption, faith, reason, and finding peace with all of them. With the emergence of Risen and The Case for Christ, the faith-based segment of the film market has come into its own. On the Hot Air scale, I’d give it a five:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

If Christianity is anything, Christianity needs to be a worldview – a picture of reality. It’s not a set of stories designed to make us feel good about our attempts to eek out pleasure by doing whatever we want. It’s not a community, nor even worship songs that make us have feelings. There has to be something objective that is incumbent on us whether we like it or not. The call of Christianity is to turn around and go in a different direction, re-prioritizing goals in our lives according to someone else’s leadership and example. That’s not going to be possible unless we really believe that this behavior is in line with the way the world really is. For those born and raised in a society infused with secularism, we are already confronted with widespread beliefs that challenge the existence of God and miracles like the resurrection. We have to do something to break out of those background beliefs that we just absorbed uncritically. We have to pursue truth and conform our worldview to the evidence so that the behaviors of a Christian become natural and normal, against our natural self-centered desires and feelings.

My hope is that a large number and people will watch this movie and understand the factual foundations of Christianity for the first time. Maybe they will finally see themselves as guilty or refusing to take a look at the evidence. The problem with unbelief is that it really is a willful closing of one’s eyes against reality, so that one can continue to be in control. To search for the evidence is to be open to changing our deepest desires to match reality. Something that no non-Christian in the history of the world has ever done.

Consider John 18:37:

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Exactly right. Jesus came to demonstrate the reality of God’s existence and his power as Creator by giving us a historical resurrection that we could investigate using the ordinary methods of doing history.

And we know that miracles like the resurrection are possible from the scientific evidence for a cosmic beginning, and for cosmic fine-tuning, as Romans 1 explains.

Romans 1:18-20:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,so that people are without excuse.

This is the way the world really is, and we have to adjust to reality, because of the evidence.

Let’s hope that God uses this movie to get a lot of people to re-think whether they have been pursuing truth the way they should be. It’s very tempting to forget evidence and just pursue pleasure, but we were not intended to do that by the God who made us and everything else.

The Case for Christ movie opens today in theaters

Finally, a movie about Lee Strobel’s investigation of Christianity.

NewsMax has an article about the new movie.

Excerpt:

A former reporter and atheist who set out to disprove the existence of God – and came to “quite a different conclusion” – said Monday it is “disconcerting” to see his tumultuous story portrayed in a new film.

The movie based on the book “The Case For Christ,” which opens Friday, has had encouraging feedback at test previews, author Lee Strobel told Newsmax TV host Miranda Khan on Monday’s “Newsmax Prime.”

“A lot of faith-based films tend to be, if we’re honest, a little cringeworthy, a little cheesy,” he said. “And there’s none of that in this movie. This is a movie that is so well done from a production standpoint, the acting, the script, that we really are convinced that Christians will go to it, they’ll be encouraged . . . to come and see this story about a marriage, a love story, about a father-son story, and be drawn into the evidence.”

The movie stars include Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, and Faye Dunaway.

Strobel said after his wife converted to Christianity, he was anxious what it would mean for his marriage and “decided to . . . use my journalism and legal training and investigate the resurrection of Jesus, because I figured if I could disprove that, then the whole thing collapses.”

He said he came to “quite a different conclusion.”

“The evidence of history, I think, points powerfully and persuasively toward the conclusion that the resurrection is an actual historical event,” he said. “So, I became convinced that it’s true. I ended up becoming a Christian, and our lives changed from there.”

“It’s a little disconcerting because it’s my story, and it’s not a pretty story at some points,” he added. “A lot of our private arguments that we had about faith, they’re very personal, they’re now on the big screen.

“But we felt like there’s a lot of people who are curious about faith and wonder whether there’s any real evidence that God exists and that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and we thought, you know, if it can help people come to some resolution of that or begin their own investigation, then it’s worth kind of putting ourselves out there that way.”

I know what you’re thinking. Is this going to suck like so many other happy-clappy Christian movies, e.g. – God’s Not Dead 1?

Apparently, it’s actually a good movie:

Last night when my wife and I came to an early preview of The Case for Christ movie we had high, but hesitant, hopes. Far too often we have seen a trailer for an upcoming Christian movie that looked pretty good, only to be disappointed when we saw the actual movie. I’ve often used the qualification for half-way decent Christian films, “That was pretty good for a faith based film.

No such qualification was necessary for The Case for Christ. It was well written and superbly acted. It triggered both cheers and tears. It was a good movie.

This film was as much of a love story and a mystery as it was an apologetic for the Christian faith. It was equally relational and relentless. It kept you locked in right up until the climactic and emotional finale.

I can’t think of a movie better suited for you and your spouse to invite an unreached couple out to enjoy than this one. Afterward you can unpack the powerful message of the movie together. I call it a “popcorn and coffee double date.” Invite a couple out for a movie night, buy them tickets and popcorn and enjoy the movie together. Then take them out for coffee afterwards and ask,“What did you think about the message of the movie?” From there just let the conversation flow.

I almost NEVER go see movies in the theater, but I’m going to see this one for sure. I’ve read every single one of Lee Strobel’s books. It’s hard to say that they changed my life, because I was already a well-grounded Christian at that point. But it certainly gave me thrills to think that a very broad audience was going to get an evidence-based look at Christianity from those books. I expect the movie to reach an even larger audience than the books.

Here’s a passage from the Bible that I think is suitable, although the historical context of the passage is admittedly not especially applicable to Lee.

Jeremiah 29:10-14:

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

You can find out more about the movie here.

Maggie Gallagher does not like the message of the movie “La La Land”

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

I own a couple of books written by Maggie Gallagher, (“The Abolition of Marriage” and “The Case for Marriage”).

Here is an excerpt from her review of La-La Land, posted at The Stream: (excerpt contains spoilers)

The story begins as a classic story of two beautiful young people who meet in L.A. — a “city of magic, city of stars,” as the haunting lyric puts it, but clearly no longer City of Angels. Together they pursue their dreams both of love and success. Sebastian wants to become a jazz club singer. Mia wants to be a famous actress. The dramatic climax of the film comes after Sebastian at some personal sacrifice has given Mia the shot at her dreams, dreams she had given up on. And she chooses those dreams over him.

[…]In La La Land, [the director] chose to sharpen the clash between love and ambition. He does so in three ways:

  1. By making the choice to leave love behind the woman’s choice, rather than the man’s, brilliantly (in the commercial sense) situating the film among the emerging and popular female empowerment dramas in which women learn they do not need a man to be happy and fulfilled.
  2. By making the man a genuine hero — how else do you describe a guy who, after a woman has broken up with him and run home to Ohio to hide in the safety of her parents’ house, drives all night to deliver to her the message that she has a callback audition to a major movie? (She didn’t leave a forwarding address so he can’t just call her and let her know.)
  3. By portraying the obstacle to love as so feeble that it’s hard to imagine why it should destroy true love: Mia has to go to Paris for 6 months to make her movie. It’s her big break. Of course she has to go. But what is a love that cannot survive a few months in Paris? Is there no Skype? Are there no intercontinental flights?

One young online commentator described this twist on the iconic musical narrative, this “bittersweet ending,” as being more realistic, more grounded. I find it difficult to get into that young man’s head. How one can believe that however hard it is to find true love these days, becoming a famous Hollywood actress is a more “realistic” dream? Mia is not the loser for making this choice. She becomes famous and finds a new love, who seem a nice man, and they have a baby. She has it all, and has chosen correctly, because dreams are not transferable, but people can be replaced.

The message of the movie is clear: a good man is easier to find than a good career – especially a career that is fun, thrills and popularity. Follow your heart, and all these things will be added unto you.

She concludes with this:

[…]La La Land is a strange postmodern exercise in nostalgia, which tried to give us all the romantic feelings of the classic Hollywood musicals before ripping them away from us and substituting the idea that it is work alone on which we can rely.

If you Google La La Land, this synopsis pops up: “With modern day Los Angeles as the backdrop, this musical about everyday life explores what is more important: a once-in-a-lifetime love or the spotlight.”

I know a lot of Christian women who delay marriage because they want the spotlight.

Don’t give your money to Hollywood leftists

I don’t go to movie theaters except once every 1-3 years, because I don’t want to give Hollywood my money. If I like a movie, I buy it later on DVD for less than $10. The last movie I saw in the theater was “13 Hours”. I rarely see anything in the themes of popular movies (or popular music) that is true, good or beautiful. This movie does nothing to make me question my stewardship of my dollars. What I end up spending my money on these days is World War 2 and Korean War history audio books. Nothing in those books hurts my character. Reading military history helps me to be thankful and humble.

Consider Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And Phil 4:8:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

I don’t want to explain to God later why I gave the money he entrusted to me to radical leftists. What is frustrating to me about movies, (and entertainment in general, including far-left ESPN), is that all too often, my friends seem to think that my choice of entertainment is not something that God cares about.

Brian Godawa: what “The Imitation Game” tells us about homosexuality

I usually only go to see about one movie in the theaters per year, because I don’t share the same worldview as most people in Hollywood, and I share Plato’s concern about the power of drama to move me to accept their worldview through my emotions. Art is wonderful when it tells the truth, but most of what comes out of Hollywood doesn’t tell the truth.

This related blog post is from Brian Godawa’s blog. I thought it was very interesting.

He writes:

The story of Alan Turing, the brilliant yet troubled mathematician who led the cryptographic team that defeated the Nazi Enigma code in WWII and created the world’s first computer.

Wow, this Oscar season offers a slew of amazing performances. This one by Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing is a riveting and pathos filled drama that views like a gay version of the Oscar winning A Beautiful Mind.

This movie is a riveting, solid, well-told story. Brilliant in its machinations and exciting in its imagination. It explores the nuance of moral decisions in war, the complexity of social classes and issues, the alienation of mental illness, and the pain and irony of genius.

Who could have thought that there could be such exciting suspense, such heart-stirring pity, and such powerful moments of cheerful dramatic victories in a movie about a group of weird nerds penciling out mathematics and building a computer? But The Imitation Game is all that.

And it’s a brilliant artistic masterpiece for the homosexual agenda.

How so?

The Imitation Game is a similar timely metaphor. It tells the story of an oddball man who was rejected by the very society that he saved because of his genius. A tragedy of greatness. It is about breaking down our personal and social prejudices by showing that the very kind of people we often reject are the ones who do great things, such as, oh, save the world. History definitely bears out the repeated theme of the movie, “Sometimes, it’s the very people that no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine.” Society too often rejects the misfits, who may offer the most to bring balance to the world. And who of us doesn’t at some time in our lives feel like such misfits and oddballs who feel out of place?

[…]Storytelling does not make logical arguments so much as emotional arguments. It incarnates logic or worldviews which touches us existentially as storied human beings. Story makes its most powerful connections emotionally through such rhetorical techniques as montage. The concept is that by placing two or more disparate images or storylines next to each other, viewers make emotional connections between those things, whether or not they are logically connected.

[…][The movie] shows us Alan’s alleged autistic Asperger’s type social awkwardness. Well, who among us would not feel sorry for such innocent suffering? The poor guy can’t help it, and he’s really quite sweet underneath that rudeness and lack of emotion and sensitivity. Heck, understanding people is like cracking a code for him. And of course, it is precisely that autism that blesses him with the mathematical brilliance to break the Enigma code of the Germans that ended the war early and saved millions of lives. But that is not all. That autism that we would see as “abnormal” resulted in figuring out the world’s first computer, one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

So, you can see the litany of injustices that are laid out, with which the viewers could not disagree.

[…]Americans are suckers for the underdog. If you want to engender sympathy for a character, make them suffer persecution, unfairness, injustice. In other words, make them a victim.

[…]The thematic cleverness of The Imitation Game lies in its montage connection of Turing’s homosexuality with his genius and with all these other civil rights issues with which we have all come to agree upon. The movie creates a touching tragic homosexual love story from Turing’s past to show his deep pain of loss. And then it lays it on heavy with a bookend story of Turing’s tragic arrest and conviction of his homosexual acts in a time and place in British history where it was illegal. Who wouldn’t feel sorry for the suffering of chemical castration that he had to endure as a legal penalty? Again, more victimization, more emotional sympathy.

It will never occur to many viewers that there is no rational justification for claiming sexual behavior as an innate civil right, that there is no logical or rational connection between Turing’s homosexuality and his genius, his saving the world, or other civil rights protections. There doesn’t have to be. An emotional connection was made through montage and analogy, and that is just as powerful on the viewer’s psyche. Emotionally, the viewer feels the connection of Turing’s homosexual identity with greatness and with saving the world. The irrational, yet emotional conclusion is that to be against homosexuality is to be against greatness and saving the world.

When I talk about movies, video games and other forms of entertainment with Christians, I am often told that I am analyzing too much and I need to enjoy art for art’s sake. But my mind works more like Godawa’s does. I am always disregarding the obvious stuff that is happening on the screen, and thinking about what the artist is trying to get me to believe. If it’s good stuff, like in the BBC production of “North and South”, then after a few minutes of watching and thinking, I lower my guard and enjoy. But if it’s bad stuff, then the guard stays up, and it’s no fun for me at all. I don’t play video games where there is a heavy-handed anti-conservative or anti-Christian message, either. Certainly I am not going to pay to be told by Hollywood leftists that my Christian / conservative views are wrong, when all they use to persuade me are emotional tricks.

Something to think about when you decide where to spend your money.

Matt Walsh urges everyone to avoid the “Noah” movie

This movie review on Matt Walsh’s blog should save you some money.

He writes:

On Friday, my wife and I had a very rare date night.

Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian filmmaking to come along since, well, probably just last week.

[…]Noah is a major Hollywood blockbuster, made by an atheist director best known for his previous flick where a mentally disturbed lesbian ballerina goes insane and bleeds to death on stage. Already, a critical person might be slightly concerned about his handling of the Bible, considering what he just did to the ballet.

These concerns grew from suspicion to reality before it was even released, when the man himself came out publicly and professed Noah to be both an environmentalist propaganda piece, and the “least Biblical” Bible film ever made.

He wasn’t lying.

But he forgot to mention that it’s also a terrible film.

Matt continues the review by through the movie and explaining the worldview they are trying to push in it. You have to read the whole post if you want the details, but the summary is that this movie has nothing at all to do with the Biblical story of Noah. It’s something that could have been made by animal rights activists and global warming alarmists.

Here is the conclusion:

I’ve heard the movie compared to Titanic and Gladiator. Personally, I’d say it’s more of a cross between Mutiny on the Bounty and The Shining. Only far less coherent than any of them.

I’ve also heard some “Christian leaders” endorse this steaming pile of heretical horse manure. I’m tempted to accuse them of being cowardly, dumb, or dishonest, but I’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they slept through the most troubling parts — like the part at the beginning, and the end, and all of the parts in between.

It’s true that it might be a bit difficult to discern the “message” in a film so filled with explosions (the Bad Guys have bazookas, naturally), monsters, and infanticide, but any supposed Christian “leader” ought to try a little harder. Pay a little closer attention. If you do, you’ll see a tale that entirely perverts the nature of God, while flipping sin and immorality on its head.

Aside from a brief glimpse of something that appeared to be either rape or cannibalism, wickedness is portrayed as mostly a matter of eating meat and mining the earth for resources. Noah — a righteous man in the Bible — is stripped of his righteousness in favor of obsessiveness. God is stripped of any characteristics at all, apart from vindictiveness.

It’s not that ‘Noah’ strays from the text — of course it does, the actual text is only a few pages long — it’s that the movie completely and utterly distorts the message and meaning of the original story.

If you are thinking about watching this movie, I urge you to reconsider. That money would be better spent on something else. Really, anything else would be better. It’s a fine movie for people who like to see Bible stories butchered by atheists who are pushing an Earth-First environut agenda, but it’s not a good movie for believing Jews and Christians. When an atheist director claims to have made “the least Biblical film ever made“, you should believe him.

This is an issue of stewardship – why would you give your money to someone who hates your worldview, when there is no possible purpose for it other than entertainment? Be a good steward of your money and don’t hand it to people who are tearing up your religion. There are plenty of better things to do with it than hand it to people who are opposed to the God of the Bible. You don’t have to watch a movie just because it’s new and a lot of money was spent making it.