Jeremiah [1998] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeremiah grew up in the reign of Josiah, the last golden era for Judah as a nation.  As a young boy, God called him to be a prophet; however, he did not always accept this call.  As he grew, he knew he was destined to be a Levitical priest, but God gave him a message to tell the people that no one wanted to hear.  Jeremiah was persecuted for what he had to share and suffered terribly as Jerusalem’s days were numbered by the Babylonian siege.  Yet through it all, God was with him as he carried out the Word of the Lord.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, Jeremiah has plenty of good elements.  Affirm Films’ older Bible movies were certainly not perfect, but they definitely showed good effort.  The biggest plus to this production pertains to the excellent sets, locations, and props, which all demonstrate historical authenticity and great attention to detail.  Video quality and audio quality are also what they should be, including an effective soundtrack.  However, there are some drawbacks to point out, such as weird lighting in some scenes for dramatic effect, quick and rapid time jumps, fast cuts and transitions.  Thus, this production is overall average, but this is very good considering the time period.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Like too many other Bible movies like it, such as Affirm’s rendition of Esther, Jeremiah tends to portray Biblical characters in a too lofty fashion through the use of odd and cumbersome dialogue styles.  It would be nice if Biblical characters were not so inaccessible and theater-like.  But nevertheless, this is an interesting and noteworthy portrayal of a different Biblical account that often goes unnoticed.  It’s refreshing to see a different story, but at the same time, it is frustrating to watch because it had such potential that was wasted.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the cumbersome dialogue, too often in this film, the cast members use weird, archaic annunciation, like this is a 1970s or older Bible film.  In a similar vein, a lot of the acting is too dramatic and theatrical at times, and too much of the line delivery is breathy.  While some cast members are culturally authentic, others are not, including several British people.  Yet there are plenty of good moments here and some cast members tend to improve throughout.  In the end, this rounds out a nearly average film.

Conclusion

It would be great to see this idea remade because it is a very interesting story that deserves to be portrayed.  Yet this movie can also serve as an example of how not to portray Biblical characters.  Audiences want to see people they can relate to, not lofty characters in a play.  The Bible needs to be brought to life in authentic and even gritty ways because it’s real life and deserves to be portrayed that way.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 pointsj

 

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The Nativity [2010] (Movie Review)

Which way to Great Britain?
Which way to Great Britain?

Plot Summary

In some alternate universe long long ago, first century Judea looked like Europe and the Jews lived in European-style houses with glass windows.  All the Jews were of European descent and sported cockney accents.  The families of Joseph and Mary had enough money to throw parties and to eat fine food.  Everybody wore those ridiculous outfits you see in cheesy church plays and even had some makeup.  The only non-white people in their sphere were Hispanic shepherds (is this a subtle message for modern race relations?) and those Asian and African guys known as Magi.  Mary had creepy conversations with British angel guys and she and Joseph sometimes acted like a dysfunctional American couple.  The BBC historian’s personal favourite (haha) was that psychic gypsy that served as Mary’s midwife.  If you think all of this is a complete joke, you’re wrong and need to be educated by BBC, who knows far more about what really happened in the Bible than you do.  Or you can just watch this horrid viewing experience for yourself and see that I am not making any of this up.  Like seriously, this got approved.  And no, this is a not a plot summary.  This is a rant because I wanted it to be, kthxbye.

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

Did we mention that nothing about this miniseries-turned-movie is even remotely accurate to history?  Those BBC guys weren’t even trying when they put Mary in a house with glass windows.  With glass!  In first century Judea!  In fact, all of the sets are totally inaccurate to history.  The camera work and stuff like that aren’t even really that good, but they are so overshadowed by the complete and utter nonsense spewed by the remainder of this film that it doesn’t really matter.  I hate this film so bad that I gave it negative points, mostly for total disregard of reality.  So sue me if you think this isn’t a real review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Since when were Mary’s parents rich enough to throw even a moderate dinner party?  Since when did first century Jews have dinner parties that resembled the semi-modern Western world?  There is an infinite list of pertinent questions I could ask about this film.  What’s with the grinding planets?  Why does the Magi subplot seem like a cross between Lord of the Rings, Aladdin, and the Magi subplot from that better Nativity movie with a similar title?  Why does Mary constantly talk about being ‘bathed in light’?  What is the purpose of the Hispanic shepherd subplot?  Why do Mary and Joseph have emotionally unstable fights like a dysfunctional American couple?  Why does Mary’s invented midwife resemble a psychic?  And finally, why did BBC even make this movie?  From histrionic dialogue to historically inaccurate storylines, there are no redeeming qualities to this film and it is downright offensive.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Screaming matches, British voices, useless conversations, oh my!  There are too many actors and actresses in this movie that I recognize from way better BBC movies, like ones that are based on those books that depict the fictional yet realistic lives of actual British characters in the 19th and 20th centuries.  We don’t have to sit here and take this garbage.  First-century Romans and Judeans were not remotely European.  The Europeans actually were the ‘bad guys’ back then, or something like that.  You’re welcome for the history lesson.

Conclusion

Some may criticize me for being so hard on this film, but seriously, if anyone else besides BBC tried to make a historical film and made it so grossly inaccurate as this one did, they would be out of a filmmaking job forever.  They would be discredited and ridiculed, kind of like what I’m doing in this review.  It’s downright offensive to totally alter historical accounts for the sake of convenience, thus a negative score is warranted.  So if you’re looking for that perfect holiday film for the whole family to enjoy, unless you like out-of-touch unrealistic portrayals of historical figures, steer clear from this one.

 

Final Rating: -6 out of 10 points

 

A.D.: The Bible Continues (Series Review)

Plot Summary

After the death of Christ, His followers were lost and confused.  But following His miraculous Resurrection from the dead, He appeared to them and gave them new strength to carry out a new task: taking His gospel to all people.  After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, His apostles and other followers stopped at nothing to tell everyone of what they had witnessed in and through Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.  Though opposition came at them from every side, the cause of Christ did not fail but only gained more followers.  Even as Christian persecution became a global event, even the ‘worst’ of sinners came to follow the Resurrected Savior.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Following closely on the heels of mixed results of The Bible Epic Miniseries, A.D.: The Bible Continues uses similar production elements, yet improves upon them.  The surroundings are still gritty and realistic, allowing the audience to see that the events after the crucifixion of Christ were very real.  The camera work is exquisite—many things indicate that money was well spent in A.D.  The musical score is engaging and the special effects are used responsibly.  Really the only production complaint to raise is some slightly inconsistent editing—were more unnecessary parts cut and more essential parts amplified, production would have been perfect.  But there is still much to be proud of here; Mark Burnett and company definitely learned from past production mistakes and proved that they can do better in A.D.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In contrast to the breakneck pace of The Bible, A.D. elects to follow a slower pace.  Since this is not an exclusively Biblical series, historical context is responsibly explored—it actually aids and enhances the Biblical narrative.  The political elements are intriguing—some of these characters are better than others—yet this portion of the series tends to eat up too much of the runtime.  Some screen time should have been taken away from certain political characters, such as Caiaphas’ unrealistic wife, and given to Biblical characters with more potential.  Yet there is still much to enjoy in the Biblical plot lines.  The events of Acts are portrayed very well; A.D. actually accomplishes the goal of bringing a part of the Bible to life.  Historical truths are introduced in slightly unexpected ways without compromising authenticity.  While the early Christians could have been developed better, they are pretty good as they are.  There are also peripheral characters that are intriguing, yet tend to get squeezed out of the picture.  Were it not for a good deal of wasted time, the overall plot of A.D. would probably have been perfect.  It is a pretty good example of what a Biblical-historical series should be and can serve as a blueprint for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While British actors and actresses are still employed, A.D. does something revolutionary: cast diversity in first century Judea.  Some may consider African characters in this narrative to be inaccurate, and while there should still be more Middle Eastern characters, there is really no historical precedence to deny this.  In other areas, emotional expression and line delivery is fairly believable, allowing the audience to connect with the Biblical and historical characters as real people.  Overall, were it not for overuse of British actors and actresses, this portion could also have been perfect.

Continuity Quality (3 points)

The arc of A.D. is particularly epic.  The driving purpose behind the series is very clear.  There are multiple exciting character arcs that were just coming to full completion right before the series was cancelled.  But cancellation is not necessarily the fault of the writers, since we sincerely believe they were doing the best they could do.  Overall, the short time we were able to enjoy A.D. was well spent when it came to continuity, arcs, and driving purpose.

Conclusion

It’s a real shame that A.D. was cancelled, because it had nowhere to go but up.  It was progressing at an epic pace, had so many positive elements, adapted a historical approach to the days after Christ’s earthly ministry, and was ten times better than The Bible Epic Miniseries.  It had so much explosive potential, but it was cut off at the knees.  One factor that potentially led to the cancellation was trying to please too many people.  Perhaps if fewer edgy elements were employed and more family-engaging elements were used, then the show might have survived on Christian audiences.  But that may not have been enough.  Even still, A.D. was a key step in engaging even the Christian population in being more interested in the historical nature of the Bible.  There needs to be more of a bubble-up approach to these types of series, and independent means, such as on-demand series, may need to be used in order to make series like A.D. successful, since national broadcast ratings are often too fickle to sustain new concepts.  Future ideas for Bible series need to build off of the positive elements and the strong points of A.D. and to improve on its mistakes.  Such a series would be a thing to behold and something worth getting behind.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 14 points