Ushpizin which means the guests, is a Jewish film with subtitles. A middle age couple who are devout Jews in Jerusalem have no money and are praying for God to give them a child. Moshe and Malli pray for a miracle. A large sum of money is slipped under their door. Two escaped criminals happen upon Moshe and he invites them to stay and celebrate the Feast of Booths. They become rude and take advantage of the hospitality, but Moshe and Malli view it as a test of their devotion to God. Will he reward them as he did Abraham and Sarah if they continue their kindness toward these abusive guests? A very heart warming and inspiring film that gives insight into orthodox Jewish customs and faith. Watch and enjoy.
Praire Home Companion with Garrison Kellor. A movie by Robert Altman who said that he just showed up on the set everyday. He simply filmed the radio show that has been on PBS for the past 32 years on Saturday evenings from 5 to 7. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin do a great job as sisters who sing and dialogue with Kellor. Contains some crude language, but on the whole it presents a celebration of life. This movie is a slice of Americana that will make you laugh and cry. Some subtle philosophy about life and a lot of folk gospel and western music.
One Foot in Heaven with Fredric March. A 1940 black and white that was nominated for best film. A panel of leading pastors advized on the making of the movie so that it would realistically portray what pastors experience. A young man about to finish medical school is converted and enters the ministry. His fiancee decides to marry him anyway against the counsel of her parents. His first pastorate is in a small Methodist church, is a small community in Iowa (they are Canadians). He stays in churches about 3 years and moves on to help solve other problem churches. Over the next 30 years of ministry he encouters just about everything a pastor faces. Christianity is presented very favorably. Good moral and family values depicted. This film could not be made today with the bias in Hollywood and our culture against Christianity. A careful viewing indicates how much America has drifted from her Christian heritage. See it an weep.
Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrie and Morgan Freeman. Bruce is a reporther at a Tv station who is wanting the achor spot on the evening news. When a rival gets it he goes berserk. In the parking garage he mets the janitor (Morgan Freeman), who happens to be God. God turns over all his powers to Bruce. Here begins some great humor, but some serious theology as well. One of the funniest scenes is when Bruce answers the prayers of all those praying to win the lottery, and each person gets 5 cents when it is divided equally. This could have been a blasphemous film, but it turned out to be thought provoking.
King Arthur with Clive Owen. Much historical research has been done on King Arthur. He is no longer considered a legend. This story brings to life what it was like in England when the Romans withdrew in the seventh century. King Arthur is a Pelagian Christian who leads his Knights to do justice for the poor. Much action like in Braveheart, with excellent story line and acting.
Troy with Brad Pitt playing Achilles. My wife has taught the Illiad for many years and she said this movie stays close to the book. Pitt does a fantastic job in making Achilles a real character. A must see for people who love history.
Luther Joseph Finnes does a wonderful job with this role of the great Reformer. Those who have read the classic work on Luther's life: HERE I STAND by Roland Banton, will realize that the film is historically accurate, with a few exceptions. Not a politicall correct movie, in fact, I wonder how it got past the Roman Catholic critics. When I lived in a small town during the 60s which had a large German population that was RC, they put pressure on the local theater owner to not show the film of Luther made in the late 40s because it put them in a bad light by exposing what happened to cause the Reformation. The Gospel comes through so clearly and powerfully that this film could be used for evangelism.
The Gospel of John by a British director and actors. The entire Gospel is given word for word in this three hour film, but not boring or tiresome because the director keeps the action moving while dialogue is taking place. Not policially correct, it would offend the Jews greatly if they saw it because it places the blame for Christ death clearly upon this, as does the written Gospel of John. We showed this film at church on New Year's Eve and took a break half way through for snacks and cokes. This film makes the life of Christ come alive in ways I never saw just by reading the Gospel. It will deepen the viewers spiritual life.
Signs with Mel Gibson playing the part of a pastor who has left the church because his wife was killed in a macabre accident. Many classify the film as a Sci-fi thriller because it is about aliens making crop circles in a corn field. The aliens are real and do attack the family, but the undercurrent of the movie is the providence of God in our lives. At the end the pastor realizes that all he had experienced earlier has been arranged by God's invisible hand to work for his good in the present crisis. Does he return to the ministry? Check out the DVD and see.
You Can Count on Me has no outstanding actors, but the acting is good and the story is fantastic. It is about a sister and brother relationship. She is in a moral straight jacket and he has done almost everything with everybody. He suddenly shows up at her house and needs a place to stay. Before this movie ends everything turns up-side-down. Especially notice the minister who has no answers to life's problems. This movie is a powerful critique of modern, liberal Christianity.
Bedazzaled is the remake of the 1965 movie with Dudley Moore. If available, watch the '65 version first. Elizabeth Hurley plays the Devil in this new make. I suppose that if God can be a woman, the Devil can too. The deceptiveness of Satan in making a fool out of people is the point of humor throughout the movie. There is more truth is this film than the world knows. This would make for good entertainment at a dinner party and discussion afterward.
Oscar and Lucinda is an Australian movie about an Anglican priest, who has a gambling problem, coming to Australia for his first charge. He meets a young woman on the ship who is as addicted as himself. Ralph Finnes and Cate Blanchett deliver fantastic parts in this most unusual story. Unblieveable twists that will shock. A must see!
Elmer Gantry A classic film with Jean Simmons and Burt Lancaster, based on the life of Amy Simper McPherson, a female pentcostal evangelist who founded the Four Square Gospel Church in LA during the 30's. This story by Sinclair Lewis was a bombshell when it came out in the 30's, because everyone knew who he was writing about.
The Scarlet Letter This has little to do with Hawthorne's classic work. A politically correct version, starring Demi Moore, were there is no guilt or shame in their adultery, rather the church and community are faulted for being so judgmental. Three times the question is asked, "Who knows what sin is?" as if God did not write the Ten Commandments in stone.
Black Robe True account of the Jesuit priests who brought Christianity to the Indians in Canada during the 1600's. It proved disastrous for all involved. A must see!
The Mission with Robert DeNiro. He kills his brother out of jealousy for a woman. Notice the Roman Catholic emphasis on "doing penance" for his crime. Another film that shows the Jesuits entering the jungles of South America in the 1600's and the destruction to Indian culture which follows. Another must see!
The Green Mile with Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan. A poor black man (Duncan) has the power to defeat disease and death in others. He has to cast out the evil; it exits his mouth in the form of flies. (Beelzebub means Lord of the flies). He is charged with killing a young, white girl and goes to prison. Hanks plays a guard on death row. Duncan heals the wardens wife who is convinced that the prisoner should be spared. A cruel guard harrasses the black prisoner and delights in seeing prisoners put to death in the electric chair. The story could well be interpreted as being opposed to the death penalty. A powerfully moving story in spite of that twist. Some have seen the black man as a Christ figure.
At Play in the Fields of the Lord with Kathy Bates, John Lithcow and Daryl Hanna. A story of two couples that go to evangelize an Indian tribe in South America during the 1950's. A child of one couple dies and it destroys the faith of the mother. The other missionary's wife has desires for an American Indian pilot. A powerful critique of the American missionary policy during the 50's.
The Apostle with June Carter Cash, Farra Fawcet, Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duval. He spent 20 years writing the story, then produced it with his own money, and starred in it. The story recounts a Pentecostal evangelist in Louisana who is genuine in presenting the gospel, but morally weak. It is based on the Pentecostal concept that a preacher can just declare himself an apostle and start a church. Very moving conversion and baptism scene.
Tender Mercies starring Robert Duval. A story of an alcoholic country singer who is divorced and at the end of his rope. He meets a godly woman and is converted. Notice the contrast between his first wife, a female country singer, and his second wife who exhibits the Christian virtues of love and patience.
Heaven's Above A young Anglican clery (played by a young Peter Sellers)takes his first parish and tries to put the gospel into practice in a small English town by giving charity to anyone who asks for help. The film shows that the instruction to help the poor (Mt.5:42) can be taken advantage of by the deceptful scoundrels of this world. Malcom Muggeridge, the great British Christian intellectual, gave oversight to the production of this film.
How Green Was My Valleywith Roddy McDowell.Made in 1940's in black and white. This is the first film that dealt with a serious social issue. Up until this movie, movies were simply entertainment, and often silly. It also accurately portrays the difficulty of being a genuine pastor in a small town. Notice what the pastor has to do to maintain his integrity. Good insights.
Chariots of Fire The great Scottish athelete, Eric Liddell, who competed in the 1924 Olympics, but would not run on the sabbath (because Scottish Presbyterians taught and practiced Sunday as the OT Sabbath, i.e. no work of recreation to be done; which is an incorrect view of Sunday). I overheard a comment out in the lobby of the theater after the showing by a person who missed the point of the story, for he said, "This makes me want to start running again." He viewed it only on the most shallow level. After the 24 Olympics Eric Liddell went to China as a missionary and died there in a Japanese prison camp of a brain turmor. Very inspiring.
A River Runs Through Itwith Brad Pitt. Set in Montana (my favorite place) during the early 1920s, with fly fishing as a central theme. The story of a pastor's two sons who are completely different and how he loves them both. A modern version of the prodical son.
Babette's Feast A film which presents Lutheran spirituality, that is, how nature and grace come together. This deserves watching 4 or 5 times to comprehend all it conveys. Babette is a Christ figure, especially obvious when she proposes doing the feast for the sisters and the churcd and she turns the cross hanging around her neck with her fingers. Your spirit will be renewed at the end.
Now for two films that might prove disturbing, but I think they are worthy. Rosemary's Baby with Mia Farra. A film made in the '60s that shows a possible scenario of how the Antichrist might come into the world. This movie came out about the time I assumed the pastorate of my first large church just after graduation from seminary. I was teaching a church college class on Sunday evenings and some of the young people asked by if I had seen the movie. I had read ESCAPE FROM REASON by Dr.Francis Schaeffer, the great theologian/philosopher, who advocated doing 'cultural apologetics'. I told the students I would view it and discuss it with them one evening at our home over pizza (made by my wife because this small town had no pizza places). Well, how naive I was, for when several of the deacons heard what I had done, they called a meeting and charged me with leading the young people astray. I was forced to resign. However, I stayed in the community another 9 years with a new church that formed, and was vindicated. After many years of practicing cultural apologetics, I'm more convinced than ever that it is a most effective means to communicate the gospel to a generation that does not believe or want to hear the Bible. The Devil's Advocate Al Pacino plays the part of a lawyer (Satan) who is tempting a young man to become the father of the Antichrist. He does so by offering him fantastic riches and success. Hmm? Some great lines in Satan's dialogue with the young lawyer and very frightening scenes near the end. Nudity, but not gratuitous, that might offend. Maybe too intense for those who are sensitive.