Last Days in the Desert (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, he supposedly helped out a random family who lived there.  He was also tempted by the devil in various ways to see if He would fall before beginning His earthly ministry.  Though the battle was difficult, He prevailed and was ultimately prepared to do His Father’s work on earth.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that this film was mainstream produced, as its high production quality unfortunately sets it apart from most independent Christian films, especially other Biblical films.  This production is virtually flawless—it boasts professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative and intriguing.  Sets and locations are highly realistic and appropriate for the story.  Props are also historically authentic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slightly odd editing, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite its high amount of funding, this story is a total wash.  The first half of the movie is extremely empty and boring, with hardly any dialogue to speak of.  Hardly anything happens except for the introduction of bizarre spiritual elements and the development of a very unusual take on the Biblical account of Jesus’ tempting in the desert.  There is little justification for altering the historical account in this way, as the alterations seem utterly pointless and just for the sake of altering it.  As what little conversations there are meander on and on, they never go anyway and thus serve little purpose.  But without dialogue, what is a plot?  From start the finish, this story is useless and serves no purpose whatsoever, except to further muddy the waters of Biblical films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the costuming is very authentic and well-constructed, there is little else good to point out here.  Though this is a professional cast, and though they certainly have their good moments, they are all overly dramatic and too serious.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s ridiculous to cast Jesus and Satan with the same actor, regardless of who the actor is, just saying.  There are also shades of British accents among this cast, but what do you expect at this point?

Conclusion

Hollywood certainly knows how to fund a production, unlike a lot of independent and struggling Christian film makers, but their plots are just as bad or worse as independent plots.  Biblical films like this are so stupid because they alter historical accounts for fun, it seems like.  What if someone altered another historical account?  There would be an outcry.  Nonetheless, until Christians start making better Biblical films, there’s really not much else to say.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Nativity Story [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The timeless tale of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, has been told time and again, but rarely told from the correct historical perspective.  Mary, Joseph, and their families were real people with real struggles as they lived as poor people under the cruel dictatorship of Rome.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were a real couple who struggled with a real problem of not being able to have children.  The shepherds were also real people, living on the outskirts of society and shunned by the importantly religious.  Herod Agrippa was paranoid power mongrel who held his small locus of control in a firm grasp.  Yet his perceived power was no match for the divine plan of Yahweh.  The Magi were real truth-seekers who wanted to know the true meaning of the celestial anomaly they followed.  The lives of these characters all intersected in an epic moment in history when God stepped into the world He created in the form of an infant at the unlikeliest time and revealed Himself to the unlikeliest of people.  This story is not just for the holidays, but for every day, to remind us not only of God’s redemptive plan for humanity, but also to remind us that God works in ways we cannot even comprehend.

Production Quality (3 points)

Just as Jesus was born into obscurity, this film was created in obscurity and unfortunately still remains largely obscure in Christian circles.  But there is no reason for this.  Starting off, the camera work is superb in Nativity Story, as is the video quality.  The sound quality is above par, and the musical score enhances the viewing experience.  There is CGI used, but it is used properly.  The editing is excellent.  The surroundings and locations are authentic to first-century Judea, making for a realistically gritty experience.  This film joins an elite group of Biblical films as the only ones to capture the gritty reality of ‘Bible times’.  In short, there is nothing negative about this film’s production—it has every element needed to be perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As previously mentioned, this is not your children’s Bible nativity story.  Life was hard for Joseph and Mary, and the political climate was tumultuous.  Violence was a weekly occurrence and finances were very scarce.  Nativity Story correctly depicts all of these historical elements.  Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, their families, Herod, the Magi, the shepherds, and everyone else are all very authentic characters that are accessible.  Too many times, Biblical films depict characters as lofty and otherworldly, but this group of characters is your everyday working poor or political elite.  The dialogue is outside the norm of Bible movies, but it pays off.  There are unique psychological\spiritual elements throughout that make this movie stand apart from other Christmas stories.  The one tiny complaint that keeps this film from being perfect is the fact that it slightly bends historical fact to make certain plot elements fit together.  However, this is still a masterful piece of screenwriting.  It captures the epic feel that this story needs to have and translates it in a way that all audiences will enjoy.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Nativity Story, in keeping with its usual themes, also schools Bible filmmakers in how to cast a film that is supposed to depict Middle Eastern characters.  Not a single British accent is heard among this cast, as each actor and actress is exquisitely placed into a superbly appropriate role.  The costuming is extremely realistic, thankfully forsaking those horrid church play robes.  Emotions are felt and lines are delivered excellently.  We really cannot stop saying good things about every part of this film: it is a force to be reckoned with.

Conclusion

Nativity Story earns an x-factor point for being generally awesome and for portraying an important concept in a great way.  It stands apart in a dismal holiday genre and owns the Biblical genre like a boss.  It shows not only what a Bible film should look like but also what the world Jesus was born into looked like.  It brings the real historical nature of the Nativity into your living room and presents it in a way that makes you want more rather than to reach for the remote.  Instead of watching those ridiculous ‘traditional’ films every holiday season, watch this one.

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

Amazing Grace [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Wilberforce, always a crusader for social justice at all levels, had never considered the evils of slavery in the British Empire until his friend William Pitt introduced him to a group of anti-slavery activists, or abolitionists.  After learning about the horrors that occurred on slave ships and on plantations in the West Indies, Wilberforce began using his influence in the House of Commons to put a stop to the evil practice through legislation.  What he did not anticipate was the pushback from the pro-slavery lobby.  After exhausting all his options, the source of Wilberforce’s motivation suddenly comes from an unlikely source—a blind pastor with a song that was destined to change cultures everywhere.

Production Quality (3 points)

Amazing Grace has obviously been produced by a top notch crew.  Many crews are wary of historical movies, likely because it is difficult to achieve the proper level of professionalism and to acquire the props, costumes, sets, and locations needed for an authentic film.  Amazing Grace accomplishes all of these very well, bringing this historical story to life without committing the usual errors.  The camera work is excellent, as are the video and sound qualities.  There is nothing negative to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

Adapting a historical plot can be difficult, depending on how much content the writers want to cover—sometimes they can bite off more than they can chew.  However, it can also be a far better plot than most fictional plots, since it is based on true events, and both of these things can be said about Amazing Grace. Though it covers a lot of time, the character development is efficient and believable, which is very difficult to pull off.  This is due to great dialogue an a poignant message of social justice.  Sensitive elements are dealt with handily without sugarcoating reality.  Great care is given to historical accuracy while balancing effective storytelling.  This film has the true feel of a historical epic that has transformational application for us today.  Overall, this is a great historical narrative to adapt into a movie, and the end result is still masterful.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Since this is a professional and mainstream cast, we should not expect anything less than great.  As a side note, it is unfortunate that this cannot be said about predominantly Christian casts.  In Amazing Grace, each actor or actress fits their role very well—each has been cast very appropriately.  Line delivery is excellent, as is emotional expression.  Also, the costuming is historically accurate.  While there were a lot of potential acting pitfalls, none of them were fallen into.

Conclusion 

More movies need to be made on important historical topics such as the different facets and time periods of the abolitionist movement.  Though historical films often require sizable budgets and subject matter experts, this rendition handles these complications without blinking.  Amazing Grace needs to serve as a constant reminder of the types of movies that Christian film makers should be consistently rolling out.  Therefore, Amazing Grace receives an x factor point for re-watchibility and joins the ranks of perfect Christian films.

Final Rating: 10 out of 10 points