Special Collaborative Post: 10 Redeeming Films for Easter… or any other time of the year

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Image courtesy of River Valley Church Minnesota

Happy Easter everyone!

I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday. Fellow Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… I’m forever grateful for His atoning sacrifice. So in the spirit of personal redemption, I invited two of my best blog pals Terrence and Keith to participate in coming up with 10 redeeming films we’d highly recommend.

re·demp·tion
an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.

So, what’s a “redeeming” film? The definition varies, but borrowing from this Christianity Today article , we mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly.

So without further ado, I present to you our list…

[SPOILER ALERT: It should be obvious that in a list like this we’d be talking about some plot points about the film, so if you haven’t seen it, consider this a warning]

KeithIconKeith’s Picks:

Schindler’s List 

One of the most devastating and piercing movies about the Jewish Holocaust is Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”. The epic Academy Award Best Picture winner went to great lengths to offer the most transparent and realistic depiction of one of our world’s darkest moments. But as powerful and important as its historical focus is, there’s a lot more to “Schindler’s List” that just that. Within its brilliantly crafted 186 minutes lies one of the greatest stories of personal redemption you’ll find in cinema.

The lead character in the film is Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German business man and Nazi Party member using World War 2 as a means of financial gain. Schindler arrives in Krakow, Poland smelling profit. He buys a factory, hires local Jews for their cheap labor, and begins making supplies for the Nazi war effort. Schindler hobnobs with high-ranking Nazi officials and enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. But when a brutal Nazi Lieutenant arrives, Schindler’s eyes begin to open. A concentration camp is built and the Jewish ghetto roundup begins. Schindler sees first hand the murderous brutality of those he associates with and his heart is broken as he watches many who he’s grown found of victimized or slaughtered.
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Schindler makes it his mission to free as many Jews as he can from their certain death. He secretly uses his war profits and Nazi connections to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews. There’s no doubting his inner transformation. We see his life change before our eyes and even though his character would never say he has found redemption, I think it’s a beautiful picture of it. He does everything in his power to atone for his sins and not just with words but in deeds. And his sorrow for not being able to do more only verifies his genuineness.

Casablanca

If I had to list one movie that I would call my favorite of all time it would be the beloved 1942 classic “Casablanca”. It was one of the movies that introduced me to the magic of classic cinema as well as the starting point for the love I have of my favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. The film is as close to perfection as you’ll find with Bogie oozing coolness and the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman lighting up ever scene she’s in. There’s an amazing love story at the heart of “Casablanca” but there is also a wonderful depiction of a man’s self-sacrificial redemption.
Bogart plays Rick, the owner of a popular nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. He’s not beyond participating in a few shady dealing and he maintains a middle-of-the-road war position for the purpose of profit. We do get hints of a soft side to Rick but mostly he doesn’t stick his nose out for anybody but himself. Enter Rick’s old flame Ilsa (Bergman) who permanently damaged him when she left him at a train station in Paris a few years earlier. He’s mean and unforgiving to her until he finds out she and her husband are tied into the Allied war effort and are being hunted by the Nazis. Rick and Ilsa reconcile and their genuine love for each other softens his hardened heart.
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Rick turns away from the fence straddling and does the right thing. His redemption is shown through his personal sacrifice and it was all brought on by his willingness to love and forgive. Ilsa’s reappearance may have hurt him at first but the transformation her love brought is undeniable. Rick’s redemption may not be as profound as others in movie history but I think it’s a beautiful example of how true love can change even the hardest of hearts. What a great example of redemption and a perfectly fitting one as we talk about Easter.

3:10 To Yuma

Unlike the previous two characters and their stories of redemption, Ben Wade from the fantastic western “3:10 to Yuma” is undeniably a villain through most of the movie. Originally made in 1957, I prefer the 2007 remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Bale plays a father named Dan who is the only man willing to see that the captured murderer and thief Ben Wade gets on the 3:10 train to the Yuma prison. There’s a moving story about a father trying to prove his worth to his son. There’s also plenty of cool, well done western action sequences. But there’s also the story of Wade and his most unexpected shot at redemption.
Now let me go ahead and throw out a SPOILER WARNING here.As Dan is set to make the final push to the train station, Wade’s gang arrives to make sure he doesn’t get on board. All of the deputies and marshals skip out leaving this struggling father alone. But what folks don’t realize is that Wade has grown to respect Dan. Even more, Dan’s son and his constant belief that there is good in Wade ends up touching this wanted criminal. When its time to head to the station Wade’s gang comes with guns blazing. Dan is no match for them but it’s Wade who carries him all the way. Thinking they had made it, Dan is shot just as Wade is getting on the train. Wade, fully understanding the better man that Dan is, redeems himself by killing his entire gang and then boarding the train on his own just so Dan’s son can believe in his father once again.
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Now I suppose you could say Wade’s redemption wasn’t as pure or pronounced as Oskar Schindler’s or Rick Blaine’s. We are left to believe that he has no intentions of staying in Yuma prison very long. But you can’t deny his actions. Not only does his unselfish actions save a young boy’s life and rid the territory of some of its most brutal killers, but he also restores the love and admiration a boy has for his father. And he sacrifices his own freedom to do it. That’s where his redemption becomes clear. Sacrifice, true and genuine, often goes hand-in-hand with true redemption. We certainly get that from Ben Wade.


TerrenceIconTerrence’s Picks:

There are several films that deal with redemption as a theme, while the main story itself does not revolve around it. Everyone loves a story of redemption…that happy ending or fulfilling moment or triumphant success that appeals to the human heart and soul. Redemption movies tell great stories and are often more enjoyable due to the different levels of human emotion it reaches and touches. In my list of possibles were so many favorites (such as The Passion of the Christ, Ben Hur, American History X, Star Wars, A Christmas Carol, Shawshank Redemption, The Ten Commandments, etc), but I decided to go with a few different ones this time around:

Les Miserables

Up until a few months ago, I had never seen any rendition of this story (on Broadway, on TV, on VHS, etc) and this latest version of Victor Hugo’s classic story brought this tale, unknown to me, to my attention in such beautiful fashion. No one can deny that redemption is a thread throughout as Jean Valjean seeks and finds solace for himself through giving purpose to his life by caring for the young Cosette. But, not only does Valjean seek and find redemption, the same could be said for multiple characters in the story. So touching, so moving, I am now a big fan of this story and almost regret having never watched/read it before (but there’s something to allowing this beautiful version be my introduction to it.

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The communication of the characters and their plight through song translates so well with multiple strong performances full of power and emotion. Everyone hoping to find some true meaning, yet few really finding it. Jean Valjean himself saw the biggest turnaround and redemption and expresses that in his song “Suddenly” which I love to listen to. (Fantine as well, in the end). Hooper does a fantastic job portraying the toil of the “sins” of each character and their journey to recompense for transgressions made. Every character fights for redemption of sorts and Les Miserables is now one of my favorites in this category.

One worthy of being on this list, Les Miserables shows the rewards of hoping for and seeking redemption. People who rose above that which was miserable and found redemption for their souls.

Road to Perdition

Perhaps not a film that would come to mind when thinking of redemption, but it strikes a chord with me in this light because of Tom Hanks’ character, Michael Sullivan. Sullivan, a “muscle” member of the mob, ends up on the wrong side of their favor and now faces the trouble that he has inflicted for so many years. Loss, redemption, family, protection and more flood his mind and influence his actions as he now fights against the “family” he’s protected and fought for for years.

RoadToPerdition

Sullivan finds redemption (and purpose as the collector of payment for sins) through his last surviving son who goes on the run with him. In one of the best mobster movies, his character gives a look at one man in the mob and his inner struggle with conscience vs. duty. When the tables are turned, so are his priorities and he learns what his life should have revolved around and makes concentrated effort to make up for lost time and the mob circles in on him and his son on the run. A gripping movie that keeps you interested all the way to the surprising ending. Road to Perdition is a must-see redemption flick.

Despicable Me

Not expecting this movie on the list? I know, but Despicable Me is so great and it does share a message of redemption and that even the most evil conniving bad guy can find a happy ending and change his way. What greater message is there to tell kids? :) And what greater way to do so than with Gru, the minions, and three of the cutest little girls in search of a home and happiness (and a fluffy unicorn)?

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Stuck in his ways of evil and surrounding by an army of minions who obey his every whim, Gru is out to prove he is the villain of villains. But even the greatest of bad guys can be conquered by love. And that’s exactly what happens when Gru finds his heart torn between his unexpected growing love for three little girls that come into his life and his love for evil plans and the fulfillment of them. It gets complicated further when another villain threatens his title and makes Gru choose. Redemption is shown after a choice made for selfish reasons turns to a choice made for others and the reward is seen. From best villain to best dad, Despicable Me is such a fun film with other themes as well, but one of the main ones being that of attainable redemption.


FlixChatterIconRuth’s Picks:

Before I get to my picks for this year, I’d still want to include the three I’ve already recommended a couple of years ago. All three indie films are not widely seen as they perhaps didn’t even play in a theater near you, but now they’re available to rent. I’d see all of these again in a heartbeat as they’re beautifully-made and never fails to inspire me. Click on the posters below to read the post:

2011_EasterPicks

For this year, once again I choose films that are not box office hit (save for one). The first three are under-appreciated and overlooked films that should be seen by more people. Some are more obvious than others, but they all have strong redemptive quality despite the personal transgressions and vice the character(s) go through.

Everything Must Go

Now, people might not associate a Will Ferrell movie with personal redemption and neither did I. I thought the trailer was hilarious but there seemed to something more beneath the surface and it was. Nick Halsey’s a broken man, not only has he lost his job, he also lost his wife who left him and threw all his possessions all over their front lawn. He decided to hold a yard sale and ended up striking a friendship with two of his neighbors, a young boy (Christopher C.J. Wallace) and a pregnant woman (Rebecca Hall) expecting the arrival of her husband. His unlikely friendship with the two of them somehow helped him in a path to reclaim his life back.

EverythingMustGo

Ferrell is much more watchable to me in a serious role (like this one and in Stranger than Fiction) and I instantly empathize with Nick, a man who’s hit rock bottom and seemed to be without hope, wasting his life away drinking beer and lounging on the sofa. The journey to personal redemption isn’t always marked with dramatic or sensational moments, but the simple things such as a kindness from a stranger and going out of one’s comfort zone can transform one’s life. The film depicts how our excess baggage, more in terms of emotional than physical, that often hold ourselves back.  It’s a slow but  film that display a surprisingly quiet, restrained performance from Ferrell, which also boast wonderful performances from Michael Peña as Halsey’s cop friend, and a small–but–memorable turn by Laura Dern.

Machine Gun Preacher

It’s criminal how poorly-marketed this film was, making it look like a *Rambo in Africa* type of genre film (as Claratsi pointed out in his excellent review). It’s a shame as this film deserves so much better. Based on a true story about an ex-con and drug addict Sam Childers whose new-found faith in God drove him to build an orphanage in Sudan following a mission trip to the region. Based on his autobiography Another Man’s War, its tagline pretty much says it all: “Save the children, no matter the cost.” Seems extreme perhaps, but this film showed the brutality of what happened to these African children as they’re being recruited as child soldiers, forced to slay their own family member in order to *save* their own. Extreme situation calls for extreme measures. Childers’ battle his own personal demons, which did not immediately vanish at the moment of conversion as some people seem to assume.

Gerard Butler depicted Childers with such conviction. It’s a brutally honest portrayal, Childers’ not simply a one-dimensional *white man hero* but a fascinating man full of rough edges but with a stern, compassionate heart. It’s heart-wrenching to see such a tumultuous journey, warts and all, because we’ve all been there at some point of our lives.

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The script could have been more compelling and nuanced, yet the redemptive quality of it is not lost on me. Childers may have rescued the children and did his best to protect them, but it’s these very children who in turn *save* him and give him a new purpose in life. The one quote that struck me from the film comes from one the orphans living in Childers’ compound: “If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, they have won. We cannot let them take our hearts.” It’s a poignant moment and certainly a thought-provoking one, as even as we do try to do the right thing, we’re often so consumed by anger and sometimes hatred, which could lead us back to where we were before we found redemption. (read my full review)

The Visitor

Personal redemption doesn’t always take one to hit rock bottom, sometimes a docile existence is just as in need of a reformation. Walter Vale’s life is not out of control, in fact, the economics professor lives a comfortable, albeit boring, life that suddenly takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of two immigrants in his home. Richard Jenkins gave a wonderful, sensitive portrayal of Walter, and he’s got a nice chemistry with Haaz Sleiman as Tarek.

TheVisitor

In my review of The Intouchables, some people mentioned that the story reminded them of The Visitor and certainly the unlikely friendship has some similarities. Tarek, a Syrian immigrant and his girlfriend Zainab, a jewelry designer from Senegal ended up living in Walter’s apartment, having rented it from a swindler who claimed it was his place. Walter initially freaked out about the whole ordeal, as one could imagine, but a friendship slowly developed between them as they learn to trust each other. I love the scene where Tarek taught Walter how to play the drum and they played with Tarek’s drum circle in Central Park. There’s also a sweet relationship that developed between Walter and Tarek’s mother Mouna who lost her journalist husband in a Syrian prison. Their friendship give Walter a renewed joy and a sense of purpose, as he’s become determined to help Tarek and Mouna to stay in the country legally. The depth and humanity of the story is heart-wrenching as well as uplifting, even if the outcome didn’t turn out the way we wish it would be.

Gran Torino

Now, this film is not exactly overlooked. It’s grossed over $200 million worldwide so it was quite a box office hit, but I’d like to include it nonetheless as it has a strong redemptive theme.

Clint Eastwood has played more than his share of grump, taciturn protagonists in his lifetime, but few are as curmudgeon-like as Walt Kowalski. Mourning the death of his wife, Walt’s become embittered of and loathe the world around him. The Korean War veteran’s sole prized possession is a 1972 Gran Torino which he keeps in mint condition. He loves his classic car as much as he resents his Hmong neighbors. One day, their paths cross as a Hmong teenager Thao attempt to steal his Gran Torino out of peer pressure and their lives are changed in ways neither one could’ve anticipated.

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At 78, his quip ‘Get off my lawn‘ is still as intimidating as his ‘Make my day.’ Eastwood snarls, glowers, and growls like nobody’s business and his friendship with Thao doesn’t immediately soften him, which creates some amusing scenes. But there’s no denying that the personal redemption is real as Walt slowly opens up his life to his new friend and his family. He’s come to care deeply for them as well, to the point of laying down his life to save them from the threats of the violent gangs that frequent the neighborhood. It goes to show that even the most hardened hearts is not beyond the point of redemption, and the grace from those he discriminated against end up being his own personal savior as much as he become one to them.


THANK YOU Keith and Terrence for your awesome contribution!


Hope you enjoy our recommendations, we welcome your thoughts on our picks. Now, what other films with redemptive theme would you add to the list?

TCFF Day 4 & 5 Recap: Ordinary Family, Machine Gun Preacher, Where Soldiers Come From

The fun TCFF film fiesta continues! I think Day 4 breaks the record for me as far as movie watching. I saw three films in the theater which is the most I have done ever in my life. It’s quite a hectic day for me even though I took a day off from work after working half-days most of the week. It’s also a ‘historic day’ for me as I’ve never done an ‘official’ press interview right after a screening before. Hopefully this is the first of many 😀

Well I have summarized the Like Crazy interview and panel yesterday, so I’ll just jump into the other films I saw on Friday and Saturday. This is the beauty of the programs of this year’s TCFF, there is quite an eclectic mix of mainstream/indie and documentary films to satisfy any film fans, and it’s only going to get better!

Ordinary Family

This is one of TCFF lead programmer Steve Snyder‘s recommendations, and y’know what, it did not disappoint. The premise is pretty simple but you could see how it had so much potential for a humorous drama. The Biederman’s annual family reunion starts off rather well with everyone gathering at the table to enjoy a family meal together… that is, until the ‘prodigal son’ Seth suddenly reveals that the male friend he invites along is actually his boyfriend. Everyone seems to handle it quite well except Seth’s brother Thomas, who’s a pastor at the local church where he and Seth used to serve together in their younger days.

At first I had trepidation about how the film will play out, I wonder if they’d make the Christian person to be the ‘villain’ or at least the unsympathetic character, which is often the case in films these days. So it’s quite refreshing to see that it’s not the case here. I think the filmmaker did a pretty decent job in presenting a balanced approach to both sides, even though it doesn’t go in depth into the matters of faith apart from showing the church setting where Thomas serves in a straight-forward manner. I also appreciate of the positive portrayal of marriage as the married couples are shown as loving and supportive despite their occasional difference of opinions.

The film depicts a pretty realistic American family life, at least it appears that way from what I’ve observed having lived in the States for half of my life. Montages of family bonding in various setting as well as the nonstop bickering between various members, especially Thomas and Seth, make up most of the film. There are also equal number of scenes depicting the gay lifestyle and church life and both characters making the effort out of each other’s comfort zone out of their deep love for one another.

In the end though the filmmaker seems content with making a ‘safe’ film that show the best of both sides. That is perhaps intentional, though I’m totally unsure what their position is about homosexuality and matters of faith.

Machine Gun Preacher

This is the film I’ve been waiting for, as those who’ve been reading my blogs already know. Well, I feel like I need to give it a proper review but for now I’m going to say that I totally disagree with the critics’ take on this. 22% on RottenTomatoes?? Wow! But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, a film with such a strong spiritual Christian message like this is likely to be butchered by the same people who hated The Passion of the Christ (which only garnered 49% on RT). Interestingly, both films have a much higher Audience Rating (both around 80%) so the contrast between the two is quite staggering.

The reaction from the screening seemed positive, some people clapped at the end and most of them stayed in their seats until after the end credits rolled which showed footage of the real preacher. In fact, all of my friends who came to see the film (I went with a group of seven) loved the film and was really moved by the story. A fellow blogger who saw the film also praised it and called it an “… amazing film will want you to stand to your feet and take action as you see through the life of Childers…”

Now I’m not saying the film is without its problems and I did read this article about the real preacher Sam Childers about some of the inaccuracies of the films, particularly in regards to his faith crisis. This isn’t the first time Hollywood isn’t being faithful to the source though, but I think overall Childers’ humanitarian zeal and his deep compassion for the African children came through in the film and Butler did a good job portraying Childers.

I will have my full review of the film later in the week. For now, check out the behind-the-scene featurette from the film:

Where Soldiers Come From

This is the second documentary I was looking forward to see at TCFF and it also came highly-recommended by Steve Snyder.

As I’ve mentioned on this documentary list, director Heather Courtney explored the four-year journey of childhood friends from the Upper Penninsula (U.P.) of Northern Michigan who enrolled in the Army to pay their college tuition and saw how their lives are turned upside down when they get sent to Afghanistan. This doc puts a real personal spin to the effects of war on not just the young soldiers, but also on their families and loved ones in their community. Whatever your position is on the matter, you can’t help being moved by it.

Courtney did a remarkable job in framing their story, presenting each individual (Dominic, Cole & Bodi) in a straightforward journalistic style which is not overly political other than some footage of the election results playing on TV. It mostly shows an intimate look of this group of friends who sign up for the National Guard after they graduate from high school. None of them really have aspiration to be in the military, and didn’t seem to give a lot of thought into what entails in becoming one. It is clear a lot of them have very limited experience of the world they’re about to be thrown into, even during the briefing, the presenter not only know didn’t how to say Hamid Karzai’s name, but didn’t know if he was still the leader of Afghanistan. Once there, the filmmaker also had access to placing her cameras within the barracks and tanks as the young soldiers patrol the rural roads searching for IEDs (improvised explosive device).

The film does feel a bit long and tedious at times, but it really gives me an insight into what it’s like for a lot of families with their children being deployed to war. It’s definitely worth seeing for any documentary fans. It’ll be shown on PBS on November 10, check your local listing.


That’s it for now folks. Thoughts about any of these films are most welcome in the comments.

Machine Gun Preacher Clip and Soundtrack Preview by Chris Cornell & Aaron Hendra

Happy Fiday, all! I’m certainly looking forward to a long Labor Day weekend and hopefully catch The Debt at the cinema tomorrow, been anticipating that one for a while.

Well, speaking of anticipated movies, we got some new preview clips from Machine Gun Preacher. You know I’ve been waiting for this for quite a while. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer and official poster, and previous updates about the movie. Relativity Media also released a second version of the poster for the faith community, which is certainly a lot more serene than the first one.

This ‘death comes at night’ clip below shows Gerard Butler as Rev. Sam Childers when he first saw. the Sudanese kids who came by the hundreds to sleep outside his living quarter. His friend, played by Souleymane Sy Savane, told him ‘… you can’t save them all…’ but Sam was so moved by what he saw that he invited them in to sleep inside. It’s become a catalyst of what the real-life preachers is doing now with his Angels of East Africa ministry.

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There is also another exclusive clip at EW.com which shows Butler yelling at a banker. This film is sure to showcase Butler’s undeniable intensity as well as his more tender and dramatic side that a lot of people aren’t accustomed to if they’ve only seen him in 300 and the rom-coms.

The studio also announced the soundtrack for the movie, which includes a song from Chris Cornell. His You Know My Name song for Casino Royale is one of my fave Bond title songs, and I really like this one as well. Here’s a quote from MGP director Marc Forster from Rama Screen, “We were thrilled when Chris wrote this beautiful and heartfelt song for us. The first time I heard ‘The Keeper,’ I immediately saw it in the movie. Chris was able to articulate the essence of Sam’s story.” Cornell debuted the song on his official website and partnered with Childers’ ministry so a portion of the song’s proceed goes towards Angels of East Africa.

Take a listen of the song below:

Now I’m not sure if this one is going to be on the soundtrack or not, but Australian musician Aaron Hendra recorded a song specifically by request by Childers himself, it’s called One Man’s War, which is the name of Childers’ book as well. According to Hendra’s Facebook page, the sound of kids singing the chorus of the song are from the 300 Sudanese children now living at Childers’ orphanage! I found the video of the song that shows photos of the preacher and the kids singing the end chorus. I love, love, love the song, Hendra’s got such a soothing voice and the lyrics and melody is wonderful, I’ve been humming it all day long 🙂


I am beyond stoked for this film and there is even a rumor that this movie might be shown at this year’s Twin Cities Film Fest? I’m not going to get too excited until I hear a confirmation but my, oh my, I’d be so thrilled if I could see this one ahead of its limited release on September 23!


What do you think of the clip/music? Are you planning to see this movie?

THIS JUST IN – Machine Gun Preacher first trailer is here!

It’s raining Gerry! I wonder if the studios are planning this, but for some reason, both of Gerard Butler‘s upcoming movies are gearing up their marketing campaign in quick succession. Just a few days ago I posted the poster for this movie, but now we’ve got a trailer. It’s about time!

I’ve blogged about this movie many times before, but if this is the first time you’ve heard it, here’s the premise:

The film is inspired by the real-life preacher Sam Childers in his book Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan, a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been kidnapped and pressed into duty as soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.)


Wow! Just wow! I’ve always known Butler can act regardless of his recent film choices and I think this film will prove his range. Despite the lack of resemblance to the real life preacher, Butler seems to embody his tough-as-nails persona. But this is a bad ass guy with heart and the trailer shows the emotional and spiritual side too, which is what I REALLY want to see in this film. I’m hopeful that Marc Forsters will deliver something as extraordinary as Childer’s story.

Butler is joined by an excellent cast of Kathy Baker, Madeline Carroll, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon and Souleymane Sy Savane. You can read more about Childers on his official website. Oh man, I hope this will come to Minnesota when it opens in limited release on September 23!


Well, what do you think folks? Will you be seeing this one?

First Look: Machine Gun Preacher, Shame & Margin Call

Hi all, can I just say for the record that I LOVE Twitter!! I get most of my news from there and it keeps me informed even when I’m out and about on holiday… and in turn I can also inform folks of what’s going on right at that very second something is happening (i.e. when I was at Comic-con). Ok now, before you accuse me of working for Twitter, I just wanna highlight three brand spankin’ movie updates that are worth a look.

MACHINE GUN PREACHER

I can’t believe it’s been exactly a year ago that I posted these behind-the-scene photos of Gerry Butler on the set of Machine Gun Preacher, and we still haven’t got a trailer!

The only official thing they’ve released is this photo of him in Africa as Sam Childers, the former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been kidnapped and pressed into duty as soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army. The story is based on Childer’s autobiography, Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan, and Butler has personally met with the preacher and both of them are promoting the film together, I posted a photo of both of them here.

I found the photo from USA Today, in which Butler described Childers as ‘a guy of our times.’ “There is more complexity in a modern-day character who’s a drug addict and a biker turned businessman, missionary and soldier. You don’t get roles like this very often,” the actor said. Director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction) explained his rationale for picking Butler to portray the flawed hero, “He’s one of those movie stars today that I feel is a real man. There are very few around. He has this incredible rawness.” I absolutely agree! I know a lot of people doubt Butler’s talent as an actor but I feel that this year is his moment to shine and prove those people wrong.

I’m also happy to report that both his films Coriolanus and this one will premiere at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starting September 8th, you can see the full program here. According to the film bio, Machine Gun Preacher runs 123 minutes and Butler also serves as executive producer. This film opens on limited release on Sept. 23, hope it’ll open nationwide not too long after that.

SHAME

This is another film that’ll premiere at TIFF. It stars the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender as a New York man who’s confronting his sexual compulsions and the self-destructive acts of his sister (Carey Mulligan). This is his second collaboration with Hunger director Steve McQueen (the British filmmaker, not the famous classic actor).

Check out the photos below courtesy of SlashFilm:

As you know, I like Fassbender and he’s really on a roll right now. Obviously Hollywood loves him and he’s in the right age where there are tons of roles available to him. It’s great to see him maximize his versatility to the fullest, playing anywhere from a superhero villain in X-Men: First Class, a historical character Carl Jung in Dangerous Method, a bad ass spy in Haywire and now this. I also admire Carey Mulligan after seeing her in An Education and Never Let Me Go. The subject matter isn’t very appealing, but depending on the trailer and reviews, I’d be willing to give this one a shot.

MARGIN CALL

I had never even heard of this one until I saw this trailer today.

Woof! That looks mighty intense. On initial viewing, it kinda reminds me of Wall Street + The Insider and seeing Demi Moore there, a bit of Disclosure. I always appreciate a smart, taut thriller and this one certainly looks promising I’m not good at all with numbers though, so there’s a chance the plot might go a bit over my head.

The ensemble cast is impressive: Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy IronsStanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley, and Demi Moore. Ok so I’ve never seen anything Badgley does so he’s probably the only odd man out in this list. I had just seen Tucci in Captain America, and he’s always excellent despite his brief appearance, so he probably will be just as compelling here. Spacey seems to be drawn into ‘office’ type roles lately, I see him in business suits an awful lot, whilst Jeremy Irons seems to struggle with his American accent. He always sounds like Jeremy Irons no matter what movie he’s in 🙂

I find Quinto to be the most interesting one to watch here, he’s definitely the most promising actor out of NBC’s Heroes. FirstShowing said this movie is one of his favorites from Sundance, “…a dramatic thriller that does put you on the edge of your seat while waiting to see how everything plays out on the eve of a financial meltdown that we’re all very familiar with. Not only is it timely, not only is it entertaining, but it’s just riveting to watch.”

A good thriller doesn’t always need to have a car chase or shootout in it, it’s the impact of what a certain discovery might bring that puts you at the edge of your seat.


Does any one of these interest you, folks? Anyone going to TIFF this year?

This Just In: First pics of Gerard Butler as Machine Gun Preacher

I was going to make this week’s posts all about Inception, a tribute for Christopher Nolan and the cast of the movie. But hey, I make an exception for Gerry Butler, especially since I haven’t blogged about the guy in quite a while.

Thanks to HeyUGuys Blog’s tweet, we’ve got the first look of the Scottish actor as the machine gun preacher. I blogged about this last January when Butler was initially cast (there’s a photo of GB with the real preacher). The movie is based on a true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been kidnapped and pressed into duty as soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army. It’ll be inspired by Childers’ autobiography, Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan.

Click to enlarge – images courtesy of http://justjared.buzznet.com
Click to enlarge – images courtesy of http://justjared.buzznet.com

According to JustJarred, in this scene, Butler’s character returns home and his daughter is waiting for him with a “Welcome Home Daddy” sign. Well, well, well, I guess this is what happens when Leonidas become a bad ass biker, eh? First the beard, now comes the mullet 🙂 Kidding aside, I’m so glad to see him tackle a serious role of someone whose story is worth telling. As I said in my open letter last March, this is a welcome departure from banal rom-com territory!

Acclaimed director Marc Forster whose work I admire, Kite Runner, Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland, is directing the action drama, and filming takes place in Detroit starting last week, and later in South Africa. The cast is a pretty good one, too, Michelle Monaghan as his wife, Michael Shannon his best friend and Kathy Baker as his mother. Vera Farmiga was originally cast as his wife, but had to pull out of the project due to her pregnancy. Aceshowbiz reported that since the role means traveling to Africa this Summer, she’d have been too far along to be able to make it. That’s too bad, I’d have loved to see her opposite Butler, she was fantastic in Up in the Air.

Lionsgate has acquired the rights to distribute this film, and it’s set for release September 11, 2011 (man, that date still gets me after all these years). Can’t wait to see the trailer for this. I’ll be sure to post it as soon as it arrives!

P.S. More pics available @ Zimbio of GB riding a Harley

Quick Casting Updates: Gerard Butler set to play Machine Gun Preacher

Talk about wish granted. I just emailed my friend Prairiegirl literally minutes before I found out about this, wondering what else Gerry Butler’s got lined up for him after The Bounty. I know he’s going to be shooting Coriolanus (well not shooting as with guns, though swords might be involved 🙂 ) with Ralph Fiennes in Belgrade in a couple of months, but there are no other confirmed projects for him according to IMDb. Well, what do you know, whilst browsing on Collider site, I spot a casting update that Butler is indeed set to play Reverend Sam Childers!

Childers was an ex-biker and drug dealer who found God (that’s where the “Preacher” part comes in), then founded an orphanage for 200 Sudanese children, and then formed a militia to protect them, recover kidnapped kids, and bring the pain to their captors (that’s where the “Machine Gun” part comes in).

I blogged about this back in mid December and was really hoping this would actually materialize. Looks like Marc Forster is on board as well, just as previously reported. This is the director who cajoled an Oscar-winning performance out of Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, so who knows, could Butler be more than just an award presenter next year?

For now at least, my hope that Butler would ditch silly rom-coms is coming true. Having seen his work long before his bad-ass roles in 300 and Gamer, I have confidence in Butler’s acting ability and versatility. Just because he made some poor role choices doesn’t mean the guy can’t act. I think this and Coriolanus just might be enough to make up for The Ugly Truth The Bounty (it’ll take a few more solid roles from GB to erase TUT from my memory!!). I’m still hoping he’ll do another biopic though, that of Scot’s favorite son, the poet Robert Burns. After some intense and battle-filled roles, Burns would be a nice dramatic diversion that’s more romantic in nature.

Btw, Deadline Hollywood have some tidbits as to how the producers came to find out about Childers: After watching an NBC Dateline news story on Childers’ crusade, producer Robbie Brenner and Keller tracked him down to secure the rights to his memoir Another Man‘s War: The True Story of One Man‘s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan. Looks like Butler has met with the preacher according to this newspaper clipping to the right. Known for playing fearless characters, Butler finally gets the chance to play a real-life hero with a Higher purpose.

Production might start as early as later this year. Can’t wait!