The Buzz On Religious Films

 by D.J Wilson –

There’s been a lot of buzz about the large number of Biblical movies about to be released in 2014.  Will religious groups across America rise up to support such films?  Faithful churchgoers are being urged to attend these productions in large masses with the goal of selling out theatres.  Meanwhile, Hollywood is waiting with baited breath to see the turn-out.  While Hollywood does look for money signs, success of the films will send a wake-up call to liberal Hollywood and create support for future religious projects.  Due to restricted production and marketing funds for some of these current films, producers are working diligently to stir grassroots movements through social media to turn these dramatic expressions of faith into mega blockbusters.  Here’s a taste of what to look forward to:

First of the motion pictures to be released this year is Son of God, slated to hit theatres on Friday, February 28, 2014.  Critics are hailing this 20th Century Fox release as one of America’s most powerful religiously-themed films ever made.  The film is produced by husband and wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. To maintain religious sensitivity, they consulted over 40 academics and church leaders while the film was being made.  Opening to 3,000 screens nationally, this stand-alone film production is based upon their successful miniseries The Bible, which attracted over 11 million viewers during its five-week run on the History Channel.  The movie chronicles the life of Jesus Christ through his resurrection.  Brilliant acting, captivating sceneries and beautiful orchestral pieces enhance the movie’s appeal.  Co-producer Roma Downey, of Touched by An Angel fame, also acts in the movie.  She describes her part as “…the most beautiful role of my career playing Mary the Mother of Jesus.”  Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado poignantly portrays the adult role of Jesus in this larger-than-life movie.

Though Mary of Nazareth was previously released in October, 2013, it made our list as it’s currently being presented in limited theatres.  Interested groups may arrange a showing by contacting Ignatius Press and Carmel Communications.   In this sensitive portrayal of the Blessed Mother, German born actress Alissa Jung gives a moving performance of Mary, mother of Christ.  Pope Benedict XVI viewed the full length feature in the Apostolic Palace and was deeply moved by Jung’s portrayal of Mary and her expressions of tenderness and hope.  The story follows Mary from her childhood through the Resurrection of Jesus and brings us into her daily life.  The movie shows the agony which Mary felt at her son’s violent Crucifixion, demonstrated through Jung’s deeply emotional portrayal.  Many critics feel the film is worth seeing as it truly captures Mary’s essence and shares her faith and trust in God.

Noah, to be released by Paramount Pictures, has a large and impressive estimated budget of $150 million and features an all-star cast including Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson.  The film is based on the story of Noah, a virtuous man, who is instructed to build a wooden ark and save remnants of life from a massive flood which covers the earth.  Set to be released in theatres on March 28, 2014, the film uses extensive visual effects to simulate an animal kingdom.  Poor early reviews by faith-based audiences caused critics fear the movie may veer off course from the Biblical story.  Should Hollywood’s version stray from the Scriptures, the film may lose its appeal to religious moviegoers.  Just one month shy of release, Paramount Pictures is standing by director Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of the film.  Actor Russell Crowe, who plays Noah, is hoping to get the Pope’s endorsement to create public acceptance and seal the movie’s success.

Heaven is for Real is an interesting religious themed movie, though not technically a Biblical movie.  It’s a film about a little boy’s life-after-death experience and is based on the New York Times Bestseller of the same name. The story is the true account of a nearly four-year-old boy, son of a small town Nebraska pastor, who during surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven.  He returns to life with the astonishing story of his trip to heaven, where he met his great-grandfather, the biblical figure Samson, John the Baptist, a sister he never knew of, and Jesus.  He describes angels who sang to him to ease his anxiety.  He also watched his parents from heaven and could recount their actions while his body was still in surgery.  While some folks shoulder criticism over the story, it’s tough to argue with the inspirational and Christian based message of the movie, that heaven is genuine.  Stars of the movie include Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly and Thomas Haden Church.  Sony Pictures will release the movie on April 16, 2014.

Considered a smaller budgeted dramatic motion picture, A Long Way Off, is a modern day retelling of the parable of the prodigal son.  Young Jacob grows tired of life on the family farm and demands his father’s inheritance.  Jacob ignores the advice he receives and heads to the city for a new life.  He seeks the highlife and begins taking risks, only to discover his world comes crashing down around him.  After hitting rock bottom, he returns home.  Audiences will be on the edge of their seats waiting to see his father’s reaction.  The film features well-known actors like Robert Davi, Edie McClurg, John Diehl and Jason Burkey, with cameos from famous people like talk show host Sean Hannity.  This well produced film is a personal favorite of mine as I was lucky enough to be an extra in the bookstore scene.  PRODIGALFILM LLC and its production partners have announced the film will be distributed by Word Films/Warner.  A limited theatrical release is planned for May and the DVD release is scheduled for June, perfect timing for Father’s Day.

20th Century Fox announced it will release the biblical epic film Exodus on December 12, 2014, just before Christmas.  The movie will star Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver and Joe Edgerton.  Bale will take on the role of Moses, and critics are sure to compare his performance to that of Charlton Heston in The Ten CommandmentsExodus is based on the biblical story of the ancient Israelite people and their liberation from Egypt as led by Moses.  It is believed the movie will cover Moses’ life and show aspects never before presented on screen.  Based on the Book of Exodus, Moses was hidden by his mother when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys killed when learning of the prophecy of a messianic deliverer.  The child was discovered on the Nile River and was adopted into an Egyptian royal family.  Moses encounters God in the form of a burning bush.  God persuades him to lead enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt and into the “promised land.”  Later, Moses receives the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.  Like Noah, this is another big budget films coming out this year based on a story from the Old Testament.

The prequel to Mel Gibson’s 2004 Passion of the Christ is slated to arrive before Christmas.  The cast includes Peter O’Toole, Sir Ben Kingsley, Julia Ormond and Odeya Rush.  In the first film, Gibson and his director took criticism for refusing to put the film in English.  Despite the subtitles and some graphic violence controversy, the movie went on to earn over 600 million dollars.  The prequel hopes to follow in popularity and will be called Mary Mother of Christ.  Popular televangelist Joel Osteen is an executive producer of the picture.  The movie, to be distributed by Lionsgate in North America, will focus on Mary during her youth and tell the story of her tribulations as a young mother caring for Jesus.  The film is also expected to emphasize Mary and Joseph’s experiences during the reign of terror of Herod the Great. Look for its release near Easter, 2015.

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Edith Canaan
6 years ago

How can this movie called Exodus use this title? There already is a movie named Exodus with Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint.

JoAnna Wakefield
6 years ago

I am so glad to see some religious movies coming out. So many have been stricken from our TV Channels and most of the movies are love scenes, killing , robbing etc. I thank each and everyone who is putting these moves on. We need more of them.

Joanna Gulli
6 years ago

My husband and I went this evening to see “Son of God.” Not a new story but SO WELL DONE! To me it was an accurate, inspirational and pictorial reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for the love of ALL of us. It will forever be etched in my mind. As an active Cradle Catholic and a graduate of 12 years of Catholic School, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this well written, wonderfully acted masterpiece. Although the brutality of Jesus’ abuse, torture and crucifixion was graphic, it was necessarily so, to instil… Read more »

Gloria Sterling
6 years ago

The “Jesus” film that has been shown all over the world is the best I have ever seen and sticks closer to Scripture than any other. It’s based on the Gospel of Luke and every word that Jesus speaks is real Scripture. I don’t think it has ever been shown in movie houses, but teams take it all over in languages of the people who are viewing and many have accepted Christ as Saviour through the showing. Campus Crusade for Christ, now called CRU has info available. I receive the newsletter which always has miracle stories and ways to contribute… Read more »

Gloria Sterling
6 years ago

I just read about another movie based on Noah that is truer to Scripture than the one with Russell Crowe. If what I read is correct, the one with Russell Crowe depicts Noah wrongly.

Mickey D
6 years ago

I am a movie freak and watch four or five movies a week. I read a lot of religious based fiction novels in addition to non religious novels. I was raised in a catholic environment and educated in a catholic school. So what? I saw “Son of God on the big screen last Friday and would recommend it to all who are interested in a great movie production that represents the newest advances in film making and story telling. It was as close to the story of Jesus Christ as I have seen in any movie in the past when… Read more »

6 years ago

In regards to the authors comment in the second sentence:Will religious groups across America rise to support such films? We know as Christian’s that we are the ones that will be supporting such films…completely believing that the religious sect should urge churchgoers to attend, as mentioned in the next sentence. I know that I will be speaking it up and addressing local churches to get a roll on…U – GO – D. – J;-) !!! I think their main objective should be to give back to the religious sect for His kingdom advancement.~ For by Him were all things created,… Read more »

Louise K.
6 years ago

Hollywood cares most about the bottom line and will produce what they think will bring in the $$$$. I would hope that if the producers and actors of this genre of films are making substantial profits and income off the people of the Bible, that they would donate some of this money to worthy causes. But…knowing the hypocrisy of Hollywood I doubt that this will happen.

Joe L
6 years ago

Saw Son of God on the day of release. Recommend it highly. Images and text (all consistant with the Bible to my eye and ear) will stay with me for a long time. Great thing to do for lent or anytime for that matter.

Ivan Berry
6 years ago

Those of the Mohamadan persuasion damned the decadence of western films while they watched them anyway and cavorted with western women when given a chance. Wonder what they’ll do if one of these movies comes to a theater near them. Bet I could guess.
To you Christians among us, regardless of denominational roots, beware Hollywood. If they can slip in propoganda, they will.
I enjoyed Mel Gibson’s first foray. Maybe the prequel will match its quality.

6 years ago

What about “Gos Is Not Dead”?

Ronald Bero
6 years ago

My wife and I just came from the movie. While as someone stated, the movie may have left out some significant passages and did not really explain the true purpose of Christ’s crucifixion, in fairness it also did not contain any distortions or falsehoods in the message that was delivered. All in all, we found it inspiring and, again, as someone previously said, those who are biblically grounded will have cause to reflect on what Christ has done for them. Hopefully for those who are not so grounded the movie may well raise enough questions to cause further interest and… Read more »

George Jameson
6 years ago

I very frequently ever go to a theater. However, I did go and see “Son OF God”. It was fantastic!! I will go and see more Biblical movies. The reason I don’t attend movies is because of the violence and ugly words that are used. I really felt that while people saw this movie, which by the way was shown to a capacity crowd, that many unbelievers would perhaps take a second look and just start to begin to understand why people are Christians. Some, who see the film, just may start reading the Bible or maybe begin to attend… Read more »

Jerry York
6 years ago

I am afraid anything coming out of Hollywood will be a perversion of the true gospel.

Rachel Anglin
6 years ago

I used to enjoy going to the movies. At one time movies were actually good entertainment. Unfortunately some of the garbage Hollywood is putting out is making it’s way into our homes via TV. We are looking forward to the new films that will be coming out with religious themes and those that do not have religious themes but are cleaned up.

6 years ago

Say, I posted I thought was a very respectful and yet honest evaluation of Son of God. I mentioned that it followed the style of the Bible series on TV. I also stated that Muslims, Jews and Christians were said to not have any objections as stated by the films creators. They also stated that none of Hollywood had been giving them objections to the film. This of course along with ecumenical pastors recommendation threw up red flags. So my wife and I went thinking we would have issues but wanting not have any. The movie had great photography and… Read more »

Rachel Anglin
6 years ago

Is Hollywood going to finally clean up the trash they have been throwing at us? Or is it too soon to sing Horay for Hollywood? I can honestly say I haven’t wasted my money on the trash.

6 years ago

Here is an oxymoron for you: God and Hollywood.

Those two words shouldn’t really be used in the same sentence. Hollywood is Godless. Many in Hollywood are not Christians. Quite a few are admitted communists and atheist. They are only making these films for the potential of making money. The see us Christians as an untapped source of revenue. Jesus warned us to expect this kind of thing in the end times. Many will come using my name. They are not of my flock. So beware!

Judith Lisle
6 years ago

My objection to most movies that claim to be from the Bible usually have some form of Hollywood radicalism thrown in. The new movie “Noah” expresses global warming, not something mentioned in the Bible. We Christians have been mislead too many times to support something that we really shouldn’t have. I am very leery of Hollywood. The one movie that followed the Bible word for word and was very uplifting was “The Book of John” and it didn’t have special effects or dogma just the words of John. But how many people have even heard of it? In my opinion,… Read more »

Sal Sanders
6 years ago

Whether you believe in God or not, mankind is on the brink of self-improvement or self-destruction. A belief which enhances the former and avoids the latter should be respected. We have free will and can choose between ignorance or knowledge and hate or love. In this sense, both intellectual and religious arrogance are self-imposed boundaries to knowledge and truth Open-minded humility is the portal for escaping such boundaries. In this regard. religion or science, evolution or creation, are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. Do the right thing. Be humble. Open your mind. Be respectful of good beliefs and open to… Read more »

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