AUGUST 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Aug16Recap

Well, that’s it folks… Summer days are definitely numbered now that we’re entering the ‘brrr’ months. Ok so I’m being a tad dramatic. September is actually still quite warm here in the upper Midwest, and in fact Autumn is my all time favorite season, it’s just the season that followed that I’m not looking forward to.

2016 Summer blockbuster season has been seriously lackluster, with mostly duds than gems. I don’t think there’s a single film I absolutely love, except maybe Pete’s Dragon, but it remains to be seen if that would be a classic down the road. Well, I always look forward to smaller Fall films.

September screenings include Queen of Katwe, Sully, Blair Witch, Bridget Jones Baby and The Dressmaker. None of them are on my must-see list, but I’d think they’d be pretty entertaining. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Bridget Jones Baby (and she’s in it as well), so that’s the main draw for me in seeing it. Still hoping there’d be a screening for The Magnificent Seven and American Honey!

So anyway, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

SuicideSquad

Suicide Squad

FlorenceFJ

Florence Foster Jenkins

PetesDragon

Pete’s Dragon

BenHur

Ben-Hur

Anthropoid

Anthropoid

IANASK

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Equity

Equity

HologramForKing

A Hologram For the King

LightBetweenOceans

The Light Between Oceans

CliniqueDrBlanche

La Clinique du Docteur Blanche (2014)


That last one is a French TV movie starring Stanley Weber that’s now available on Amazon Prime!


As you can see, I didn’t really see that many movies this past month. I’m so behind on my reviews, too, but I’m hoping to do my write-up of Florence Foster Jenkins, Ben-Hur, The Light Between Oceans and Equity sometime in the next couple of weeks.


I’ve also posted my top 10 list of the year so far…
are any of your favorites on the list?


 TV Series

WineShow

The Wine Show

MrRobot

Mr. Robot (Season 1)


 Rewatches


Starz’s The White QueenBBC North & South
The Age of Adaline | Not Another Happy Ending

I didn’t rewatch many movies this month. I did watch about an hour worth of the 1959 Ben-Hur, especially some of the key moments that are so indelible to this day. It’s incredible how in the age of pre-CGI, the epic chariot race still got my blood pumping, and the rowing/ship battle scenes are simply incredible. It made me miss Quintus Arius’ presence in the 2016 all the more.


MOVIE OF THE MONTH


EQUITY
 might not be the first Women-on-Wall-Street film, but it certainly is an important one that paints a realistic portrayal of real women on the male-dominated financial industry… strong, driven, ruthless, conflicted… This film isn’t afraid to show powerful women who are flawed. It’s a warts-and-all approach that I find refreshing. A far cry from the rosy, fantasy world of Mike Nichols’ Working Girl.

Produced, written, directed by women featuring a female-driven cast, this is a film I wish Hollywood would make more of! It’s not perfect, but the story’s well-crafted and Anna Gunn is excellent in the lead role.


Well that’s my viewing recap of August. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

My entry to the Against the Crowd Blogathon: A battle of two Sword-and-Sandals Movies

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Wendell over at Dell on Movies is reprising his blogathon from a year ago. Since I didn’t participate at the time, I knew I had to do it this time around. Dell’s idea is that this is our chance to tell the world about our love for a movie everyone else hates and the other way around.

1. Pick one movie that “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 75% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 35% on rottentomatoes.com. Should a movie you select not have a grade on rottentomatoes.com, use a score of at least 7.5 on imdb.com for ones you hate and less than 4.0 for ones you love. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

I always like this ‘against the crowd’ idea because it happens all the time that my taste doesn’t align with critics or other moviegoers. Heck I actually enjoyed the latest video game flick Agent47 but I kinda knew the critics’ gonna trash it.

Well, I’ve sort of already made a list for both categories, Ted & I collaborated on 12 *rotten* movies we secretly adore and I picked five movies everyone loves that leave me cold. But for the purpose of this blogathon, I thought it’d be fun to pick a film of the same sword-and-sandal genre.

Now, let me preface this list with the fact that I think *hate* is a strong word. But it baffles me why this movie is regarded so highly as I could barely finished watching it. I have already included it the ‘movies everyone loves’ list above, but I’m going to pick it again because out of that list, this is the reigning *king*  as I even shudder thinking how much I don’t care for it…

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I’m a fan of swords & sandals genre and I LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur which came out the year before. Now, whilst I saw Ben-Hur years ago as a young girl and it has since became one of my favorite films of all time (not just from this genre), I could barely made it through this one. My jaw dropped when I found out just how high the score is after seeing the film. I saw this a few years ago and I could barely made it to the end.

Firstly, I simply don’t buy Kirk Douglas as a gladiator slave for a second. He just isn’t tough nor ruthless enough I’d imagine the character to be and he (as well as Tony Curtis) looked way too healthy to play a supposedly desolate and malnourished slave. Despite what some may called wooden acting from Charlton Heston, it was easy to root for him to get back at all the injustices that befell him and I was fully invested in Ben-Hur journey throughout the film. I really didn’t care for Spartacus as I was too distracted by how I think Douglas was miscast. Even the great Laurence Olivier and couldn’t save this movie and it didn’t help matters that Douglas had zero chemistry with the lovely Jean Simmons. I couldn’t stop laughing at the awful, fake looking backdrop wallpaper they used for the romantic scene.

Spartacus1960stills

As of 2008, this movie was ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Epic.” Seriously?? The only epic thing about it is the epic squabbles behind the scenes that you can read on IMDb trivia about the falling out with not one but TWO directors and all the studio meddling due to everyone having a huge ass ego.

In regards to his casting, later on Douglas himself admitted that he made this film partly because he didn’t get the role as Ben-Hur (he was offered the role of Messala but refused to play second banana to Heston). “That was what spurred me to do it in a childish way, the ‘I’ll show them’ sort of thing.” Heh, clearly Ben-Hur‘s director William Wyler made the right decision as I doubt Douglas could do a better job than Stephen Boyd as Messala, let alone the title role! It’s common knowledge that director Stanley Kubrick disowned this project as he didn’t have complete creative control over it, well that pretty much explains it.


Now, I’m going to contrast that with a much lesser-known film that’s released last year. I know that most of you haven’t even heard of it as it barely got a theatrical release and went straight to VOD/Blu-ray.

SwordOfVengeanceRTscore

Yes ok so naturally the fact that Stanley Weber is in this automatically makes me want to defend this movie to the death, ehm. But hear me out. I initially doubted this too, thinking that even my undying love for this French Adonis still wouldn’t make me enjoy it. But then it came to Netflix earlier this month and I decided to check it out. Voilà! I actually like it a lot and have seen it four times since.

SOV1

It’s a visually-driven genre film that doesn’t pretend to be deep or philosophical. The mysterious protagonist, only billed as Shadow Walker, quipped ‘Vengeance is my only belief.’ And you know what, he lived by that rule in the movie. He didn’t seek out to be a hero or has aspiration to lead a nation or anything like that, he just wants vengeance. It’s as minimalistic as it gets, so if you go in expecting a whole lot more, then you set yourself up for disappointment.

Stanley Weber is freakin’ bad ass in the lead role, sporting a historically out-of-place corn rows but who cares, it looks so damn cool! Apart from that hairstyle, he looks suitably grim and gritty, and his rugged costumes look believably soiled and grubby. His character is the strong silent type who’s as efficient with words as he is with his sword fighting. He’s like an 11th century John Wick!

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The movie has the look and smell of the dark ages, the set pieces look appropriately harsh and gritty, the fact that it was shot on location in Serbia in the middle of Winter. Even from the opening sequence when we first met Shadow Walker slaying off people in the rain, I love Jim Weedon‘s style and his use of music. It’s decidedly modern, even sounds a bit like John Wick‘s score, but somehow fits perfectly with the action. Weedon started out as an award-winning commercials director who also worked on some SFX work for films like Gladiator (the Elysian Field sequences).


Obviously I dug Stanley in the lead role but I also like his fellow French actor Edward Akrout who co-starred with him in BBC’s The Hollow Crown Henry V. There’s a great mano a mano sword fight between the two that’s fun to watch, but my favorite scene is the one in the woods where the Shadow Walker get to show his action hero prowess. Annabelle Wallis might not be as convincing as a leader of exiled rebels, but she has a nice enough chemistry with Stanley.

Sword of Vengeance is stylishly-shot and the decidedly stark, bleak color scheme actually looks quite artistic in contrast to all the red of the spurting blood from those who get in our hero’s way. But I think the simple, no-frills plot suits the piece. I mean the title says it all, obviously the protagonist is seeking vengeance and once it’s revealed what’s taken from him, you get why he does what he does. Yes, a bit more character development is always nice, but at a brisk 87 minutes, it was entertaining enough without overstaying its welcome.

SOV_shadow_walker

Glad that I’m not the only one liking this flick, this THR reviewer also said nice things about Stanley: “…the chiseled, handsome Weber, whose beautifully coiffed cornrows suggest his character had time for long hairstyling sessions between battles, is a suitably taciturn, macho hero in the Eastwood tradition, even managing to make such declarations as “Vengeance is my only belief” sound convincing.” Indeed!

So yeah, I have no qualms about liking this flick. It’s not for everyone but if you like this type of genre flick, I’d say give it a shot. I love seeing Stanley as an action hero, it just shows just how versatile he is as an actor. He did this movie whilst juggling a yet-to-be-released French WWII drama and a French stage adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie, so obviously he can handle a variety of roles.


Ok so I’m sure you have an opinion about my picks. Let’s hear it!

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Since this months’s edition falls on Easter Sunday, I think it’s the perfect time to highlight films with redemptive themes. They don’t have to be spiritual films per se, it could be from any genre, so long as it contains films where the character realize the error in his ways and become a changed person. Some of the ones that have memorable redemptive themes Road to Perdition, Michael Clayton, Schindler’s List, Gran TorinoLéon: The Professional, Children of Men, Star Wars, those are just at the top of my head.

But the one that I always find profoundly moving is the finale of Ben-Hur

BenHurRedemptionFinale

Judah: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Esther: Even then.
Judah: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

It’s a perennial favorite around Easter time, but really, I’d recommend one of the greatest epics in cinema history any day of the year.

Which film(s) with redemptive theme resonate with you most?

….

2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Steven Spielberg‘s WWII drama Bridge of Spies.The name refers to a bridge across the Havel River in Germany used by the Americans and Soviets for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War.  

BridgeOfSpies_FirstLook

This marks the fourth Spielberg – Tom Hanks collaboration and the Coen brothers are apparently polishing the script originally written by Matt Charman. Wow, with such a pedigree and an intriguing premise, I can’t wait to see this! 

Too bad John Williams won’t be scoring the film though, apparently due to “a minor health issue that’s now been corrected,” (per EMPIRE) and replaced by Thomas Newman. The article also provides a caption of the image we see above: James Donovan (Hanks), a lawyer who was pushed headfirst into the Cold War during the 1960s when he had to negotiate for the release of downed U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers after the airman was shot down over Russia. Alongside him is Mark Rylance’s Rudolf Abel, a suspected KGB spy who was defended by Donovan in a US courtroom in 1957.

What’s your initial thoughts of Bridge of Spies?

3. I just read this over at Slash Film that series creator Steven Moffat wants a crossover of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Now, though I’m not obsessed with either show, I totally get the appeal and I think both are fun and well-written. Crossover ideas are nothing new in pop-culture, we’ve seen ’em in a lot of comic-book adaptations like CW’s Arrow and The Flash, and of course the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universe are full of them.

DrWhoSherlockCrossover
Photo courtesy of Geek Tyrant

Well, apparently Moffat is the only one excited for the crossover idea as the lead cast Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman, as well as the series’ co-creator Mark Gatiss aren’t keen on the idea, saying “Look, it will never be as good as they think it’s going to be.” You know what, I kind of agree with them. It seems like a fun idea, but whether it’ll actually work or not is another story. Though if there’s anyone who could somehow make it work, it’d be Moffat. So never say never I guess.

What do you think of this Sherlock/Dr.Who crossover or other crossovers on film/tv?

….

4. This question is inspired by my recent roundtable interview with the two lead cast of The Longest Ride: Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood (I will post the transcript next week). Also, I saw A Woman in Gold last week in which Max Irons has a supporting role (I first noticed him in The Riot Club trailer) and Colin Hanks was just on MPR’s Wits, a live public radio show filmed here in town. Well, just looking at the last names, you might be able to deduce that all three have famous dads who are practically screen legends: Clint Eastwood, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hanks. Boy, they all seem to be splitting images of their dads, aren’t they?

ScottMaxColin
Scott Eastwood, Max Irons, Colin Hanks

Now, I haven’t seen enough of their work to judge their talent as an actor, but they seem to have a decent career so far in Hollywood. It made me think of other famous Hollywood actors’ offsprings who’ve made it in showbiz. There are no shortage of them, and some have even match or even surpass the success of their parents, Angelina Jolie, Michael Douglas, Jeff Bridges, those are just a few that come to mind.

So I’m curious, who are your favorite famous actors’ offsprings?

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Stu from Popcorn Nights blog!

BladeRunnerFinalCut

The Final Cut of Blade Runner has just been re-released in cinemas in the UK, and stands as Ridley Scott’s definitive version of the film, and far better than the 1982 cinema release. Here’s the trailer:

Which director’s cut of a film do you think is the biggest improvement on the original work?


Well, that’s it for the April 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Music Break: Ten Favorite Oscar-Winning Film Scores

TenFaveOscarWinningScores

The Oscars is just a week away, folks! Well, a week ago, as I was listening to 99.5 Classical MPR they were playing my favorite score from Titanic and I knew I had to make a post of it. For this post I’m focusing more on the instrumental themes instead of the songs, hence my exclusion of Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, etc. Y’know, I’m still surprised that some of my all time fave scores did NOT win an Oscar, i.e. Gone with the Wind, Superman, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, The Hours, and The Passion of the Christ, just to name a few. Heck, the one I considered one of the greatest scores ever, Somewhere in Time, wasn’t even nominated! But its composer John Barry had been nominated six times. John Williams, the reigning champion of the most-nominated composer ever with 44 (he beat Alfred Newman who had 43 noms) have made some truly iconic scores, but my faves did not win, so I only included the one I love the most.

Thanks to Wikipedia for making it easy for me to see the winners all the way from the 1930s. Now, I’ve seen most of the films the scores appear in, with a couple of exceptions (Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves). So in any case, here are my Top 10 Fave Oscar-Winning Scores, in order of release:

BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

Ever since I saw this as a young girl with my late mother, few films have touched me as much as Ben-Hur did and Rozsa’s score is one of the reasons it’s such an enduring epic.

 

Lawrence of Arabia – Maurice Jarre

I actually just saw this film two years ago but I’ve heard the soundtrack years before and it’s remained one of my favorites!

 

Out of Africa – John Barry

Ahhh John Barry… nobody could create a more lush and devastatingly gorgeous music that pierces your soul. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m actually afraid the music would actually eclipse the film itself.

 

The Little Mermaid – Alan Menken

I grew up listening to all Disney Princess songs and I somehow identified with Ariel’s loneliness and her yearning to belong in someone else’s world. Mr. Menken is an absolute musical genius in that he somehow could capture the sentiment of her character.

I also have a special fondness for the Caribbean-influenced style of Under the Sea. I LOVE the little crab Sebastian so much I actually bought the tiny stuffed animal, and I’m still using The Little Mermaid‘s beach towel to this day 😀

 

Schindler’s List – John Williams

Perhaps one of the most hauntingly-beautiful music ever conceived. I never NOT tear up whenever I listen to this. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solo adds so much to the piece, making it ever so unforgettable.

 

Beauty & The Beast – Alan Menken

I was just listening to this the other day and out of all the music in the wonderful album, this has to be my favorite. Yes, it even beats the more popular Tale as old as time. The scene itself of the Beast’s transformation is beautifully-done and it always packs such an emotional punch.

 

Dances with Wolves – John Barry

Another one by John Barry, can’t you tell I absolute LOVE this man’s work? I really should see this film already, as I’ve listened to the soundtrack more often than I can count.

 

Titanic – James Horner

THIS is the piece that was played in Classical MPR on my way home from work last week. I’m glad they chose to play Take Her to Sea Mr Murdock instead of the massively popular My Heart Will Go On. I always remember the first time I beheld the majestic ocean liner on the big screen and there’s a lump in my throat when that music came on. There’s such an energy to it, a joyful optimism of that day that’s so infectious, which makes the doom fate of Titanic later on in the film even more heart-wrenching.

 

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Howard Shore

I really think the soundtrack of the entire trilogy is simply exceptional. It’s just as epic as Peter Jackson’s creation and it really transport you into the realm of Middle Earth!

 

The Artist – Ludovic Bource

The strength of a lot of silent films is the soundtrack and The Artist is no exception. I love most of the tracks but this waltz is my absolute favorite. I LOVE Bérénice Bejo in the role, this music is as pretty and playful as Peppy herself, there’s such a wistful nostalgic vibe that takes you back to those Chaplin classics.


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break! Which of these Oscar-winning score(s) is your favorite?

Easter Special – ‘God is in the Movies’ Blogathon

GodIsInTheMovies

Today is Maundy Thursday, a few days before Easter Sunday. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for such a blogathon. Well, Andrew has planned this since mid March but he was gracious enough to extend the deadline, bless his heart!

I was actually planning to do a similar post for Easter anyway so I just had to participate!

The concept is simple. I want you to rack your brains for the film that, to you, defines how the Bible (and all of its facets) should be presented in film. Do you like your scripture presented in a grand, sweeping epic like 1956’s The Ten Commandments? Do you like your scriptures tampered with, as in Scorsese’s polarizing The Last Temptation of Christ? Do you want to see an artistic approach to God’s book, like with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?  Or, do you prefer your faith handled in a more provocative and less direct way, as in the many works by Ingmar Bergman?

So Andrew’s assignment is to pick a movie (or style) and write a post explaining WHY it is your preferred dip into the Bible.

It’s a simple question but I’m going to expand on that topic a bit. as I was planning to do a post on that before I saw Andrew’s blogathon, I’m including my commentary about how Biblical movies as well as Christ’ portrayal in the movies.

I was actually re-watching Ben-Hur (1959) as I started this post… and I always rewound the Jesus scene as the enslaved Judah was bound and chained en route to the Roman galleys. He was dying of thirst when he fell to the ground and whispered, ‘God, help me…’ Almost instantly, someone came to him and gave him water.

BenHur_JesusWaterScene2

That scene alone is wonderful, but the BEST part is when one of the Roman soldiers scolds the stranger for giving Judah water and is about to whip him. The man stands up and simply looks at him.

BenHur_JesusWaterScene

The soldier’s thunderstruck expression is priceless. It’s as if he knew that the stranger could see through his entire being, and that makes him uneasy. He then starts backing away. Later Judah too looks up at the stranger and is rendered speechless. The end of the scene shows Judah looking so revitalized and full of hope that he barely noticed being whipped. He can’t take his eyes off his Savior as he’s led away, still in chains but somehow free.

So by mentioning that scene, I guess you could say that is my preferred way of God being depicted in Hollywood movies. It’s subtle but powerful and undoubtedly moving. I’d think that people who have no idea about God nor Christianity would be intrigued by the long-haired man in ragged clothing and why people react to him the way they did. Even without his face being shown, his presence is certainly felt and that’s truly one of the most memorable scenes in the entire 4-hour film. In fact, Ben-Hur is my Easter film of choice, yes even over Charlton Heston’s equally epic adventure The Ten Commandments. 

Truth be told, I felt that even with the sparse appearance of Christ in Ben-Hur, I was far more moved by those scenes than the entire film of Son of God. Now, as a Christ-follower, obviously I love films that glorify God and speak of His love for humanity. But even with the best intention of bringing the story to Jesus to mass audiences, the acting and dialog of the Mark Burnett’s film leave much to be desired and overall it just wasn’t as emotionally engaging as I had hoped. Cut from the TV-miniseries version of The Bible, the film was more of a Cliff-Notes chronicle of Jesus’ life. It also lacks any sense of mystique and grandeur, barely scratching the surface of His life on earth as uniquely extraordinary figure who’s both man AND divine. One of the main issue I had is with the portrayal of Jesus himself, which brings me to …

Christ Portrayal on Film

When we’re talking about how Christ is being depicted on film, it seems that Hollywood always subscribes to THIS classic drawing of Jesus that I often saw growing up in a Catholic household. Having seen Jesus of Nazareth and The Greatest Story Ever Told as a kid, Christ was always portrayed as tall and blue-eyed European figure. Slowly though, seems like Hollywood’s starting to concern themselves with authenticity, at least how the studio honchos see as authentic anyway. The latter portrayals of Christ is starting to look more Jewish, even Jim Caviezel wore prosthetic nose in The Passion of the Christ and had to wear brown contact lenses for the role.

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Jim Caviezel, Henry Ian Cusick, Diogo Morgado

But to me, it’s not just about what Christ look like that matters. There’s a delicate sensitivity combined with screen charisma required of any actor portraying Jesus. Out the three most recent feature film about Jesus: The Passion of the Christ, The Gospel of John and Son of God, Jim Caviezel‘s portrayal is my favorite. He has the right mix of otherworldly compassion, eternal wisdom and commanding gravitas as a leader. I often wish we got to see more of his portrayal in an extended look into Christ’ ministry instead of just the last 12 hours of his life. The brutal violence made it tough for me to revisit that film again, I was literally in agony watching it, it shook me to the core. But that was the point, Mel Gibson wanted to illustrate the extreme passion that Christ had for humanity, the length He went through to atone for the world’s sin, which was in line with what the Bible said about how Christ became horribly disfigured that he was barely recognizable as a human being.

GospelOfJohnDVDcoverAs for Henry Ian Cusick in The Gospel of John, I was skeptical about his casting at first as he seems too tough for the role. But he’s certainly got the charisma and screen presence, and portrays a more virile but also more relatable and approachable version of Christ. The adaptation itself was unique in that the dialog follows the Good News Bible, word for word, in sequential order from beginning to end. The excellent production quality + Cusick’s engaging portrayal made The Gospel of John my favorite Jesus feature film biopic so far.

In Son of God, we got a former Portuguese model Diogo Morgado, who despite his best effort is the least convincing of the three. He may look the part and has a serene and kind look about him but to me he lacks the gravitas and that effortless magnetism to make me believe he could inspire so many people to drop everything and follow him. His beatific smile seems more superficial and proved to be distracting rather than inviting.

So to answer Andrew’s question of

What movie/style is your preferred dip into the Bible?

I’ve already partly answered my question with Ben-Hur and the reason is the subtle way Christ is depicted actually made a greater impact as we saw how an encounter with Him changed a person life. At the start of the film, Judah Ben-Hur was not a believer and he became consumed with hate for Mesala after what he did to him and his family. Here we have a flawed man, just like the rest of us, being touched by God in the most unexpected way. Through a direct act of kindness (Jesus giving him water in his desperate hour), as well as seeing Him set an example of practicing what He preaches (forgiveness and loving one’s enemy) as Judah witness him being crucified, Judah’s heart is softened.

Judah Ben-Hur: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Esther: Even then.

Judah Ben-Hur: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

We later see his mother and sister were also miraculously healed the day Jesus died on the cross. But even before that, Judah has already let go of his hatred, which is a miracle in itself. The film never overtly displays Judah’s conversion but his transformed heart is palpable and that is deeply inspiring. We’ve all struggled with faith at one point or another, and that to me makes Judah so relatable and his story made a lasting impression to me.

Bale_Moses_ExodusI think more than the style of how God is being depicted is the intent or the essence of the film in question. It’s not just about Christianity, it applies to other Deity being depicted on screen. I feel that a filmmaker ought to at least treat a story about God or faith with care even if they don’t believe in that viewpoint. That’s why I choose NOT to watch films that I feel is deliberately blasphemous (The Last Temptation of Christ, The Da Vinci Code) or show obvious contempt for the subject matter (Religulous).

So naturally I have mixed feelings about Biblical movies that are on the rise again in Hollywood. Creative license being taken is one thing, but taking something from the source material and turn it into something else entirely (i.e. Noah) is another matter. Just in time for Christmas, we’ll have Ridley Scott’s retelling of Moses leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt in Exodus: Gods & King. Well, according to this article, [Scott] has chosen an unconventional depiction of God in the film,” and in Total Film April issue, it’s said that Christian Bale as Noah is more Maximus type warrior than the Charlton Heston’s deliver in The Ten Commandments. So it seems God is to be overlooked once again in His own story [sigh]

So pardon the elaborate essay, but some of these topics have been on my mind for some time. So back to the burning question, my favorite depiction of God in cinema is the kind that presents Him in a respectful and authentic way. I don’t think the [borrowing Josh’ statement here] ‘hit me over the head with your belief’ approach appeals to me and I don’t think it rarely inspire people anyway. Subtlety paired with firm conviction can work wonders and as with the case of Ben-Hur, it proves to be quite powerful. The genre itself doesn’t really matter to me, whether it’s a grand, sweeping epic or a small indie about someone struggling with their faith, what I’d like to see is a stimulating and thought-provoking story of how God relates to man that makes me pause and reflect on our own belief, whatever that may be.


So there you have it folks. I welcome any comment you may have, and feel free to give your own answer to Josh’s question on your preference of God being depicted in cinema.

Follow-up Question of the Week: Favorite FICTIONAL biopics?

Hello everyone! As I’m still working on my review of Lee Daniels’ The Butler that’ll be up tomorrow, biopics are still on my mind this week. Thanks to Chris from Terry Malloy Pigeon Coop and Nick from Cinematic Katzenjammer for bringing up this topic on the comments of yesterday’s post on favorite biopics.

When I did my post, I excluded documentaries from the discussion but I didn’t think of fictional biopics, which are actually made quite often in Hollywood. I do think it’s a separate sub-genre than straight biopics that are based on real life individuals. Nick brought up Forrest Gump, in which Tom Hanks winning an Oscar for playing the fictitious protagonist, and Big Fish in which Albert Finney & Ewan McGregor plays a fantastical character Ed Bloom. I’d think that The Great Gatsby is a fictional biopic on a larger-than-life character Jay Gatsby.

FictionalBiopics

Of course I can’t leave out my own personal favorite, Ben-Hur. Perhaps one of the most epic of all fictional biopics, shrewdly mixing the fictitious Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur with historical events, i.e. Christ’s crucifixion. As far as music-themed ones, you might consider Velvet Goldmine a fictional musical biopic as the character Brian Slade is based on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. It’s a bizarre and amusing film for fans of Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor, and a must for Bowie fans too naturally.


So for today’s question, what’s your favorite FICTIONAL BIOPIC(s)?

Scene Spotlight: Easter Hymn scene on ‘The Purple Plain’

image courtesy of river valley church

Happy Easter Sunday, friends!

Today’s always a special time for me, a reminder how each day is a gift from the Lord and I’m always thankful for the Christ’ unparalleled sacrifice on the cross on my behalf and every creature living on earth.

Last year, I posted three film recommendations for Easter  if you’re in the mood for some spiritual-themed films to watch not just this weekend, but any other time of the year. I don’t know if people have any Easter movie-viewing traditions the way they do around Christmas. I might watch parts of Ben-Hur Sunday afternoon after church, it’s been a while since I saw it and reading Max’s review recently made me want to see it again.

Another one I might actually watch is David and Bathsheba, which is fitting considering this past Thursday was Gregory Peck’s birthday. I have mentioned that film last year on one of my GP marathon updates, it’s one of Peck’s lesser-known films that was actually pretty huge back in the day, earning five Oscar nominations including Best Screenplay and the biggest box office success of 1951. Though the title role suggests where the film’s focus, that is the romance between the two leads, it’s Peck’s David that carry the whole film. The highlight for me is towards the last 20-min of the film, a solemn sequence of David is praying in front of the Ark of the Covenant, it packed an emotional punch and as Martin Scorsese once said, that scene”…showed Peck’s ability to convey the darkness of the human soul.” I do think that scene is truly the heart of the film. I highly recommend that one if you’re looking for an alternative to The Ten Commandments. 

Ok, now on to the scene spotlight…  this time it’s from Peck’s most underrated WWII drama The Purple Plain.


I’ve mentioned this film before here — Peck played a suicidal squadron leader who found a new purpose in life when he met a Burmese girl Anna, at a Christian missionary camp near his base. In this scene, Forrester is introduced to Miss McNab, the Christian missionary Anna’s family is living with. The most amusing part of the movie is seeing Peck singing the Easter hymn ‘Hallelujah,’ all the while he couldn’t take his eyes off the girl. Definitely a small indie that’s worth your while, it also boasts one of the most-unexpected yet heart-warming movie endings ever.


Have a blessed Easter, everybody! What film(s) are you watching this Easter weekend?