Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Top 10 Biblical Movies


    It’s the season of Lent with only one week left till Easter, so what better way to celebrate then by acknowledging some the best Biblical themed movies, which highlight some of the most influential religious figures. For this list I’ll be counting down my personal favorite biblical themed movies or religiously inspired films. I won’t be including comedies, so don’t expect such films as “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” or “Bruce Almighty” on this countdown. Faith based movies like "Heaven is for Real" or "God is Not Dead" are welcome on this list. From epic tales, to subtlety inspiring stories, here are my personal favorite biblical or religious themed movies.   


#10 Ben-Hur (1959) 

 Based on Lew Wallace’s novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ”, this 1950’s historical drama is largely considered one of the greatest epic’s of its time. Set during the story of Christ, Ben-Hur tells the tale of a Jewish slave that rebelled against Rome. Despite being one of the longest movies ever filmed, it’s well worth a viewing and an unforgettable experience. The movie has been immortalized for its famous Chariot Race, and it’s star Charlton Heston shined in the title role, making this his second bog stand out biblical epic behind “The Ten Commandments”. It’s a great classic that walks a perfect balance between being religiously inspiring, and a sheer special to behold.










 

#9 Joseph King of Dreams (2000)


Following on the success of “The Prince of Egypt”, DreamWorks animation studios adapted another story from the Book of Genesis, only this time it was a direct to video film, not theatrical. “King of Dreams” is the story of a man named Joseph, who’s born with a gift of reading dreams. However, he’s soon betrayed by his step brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. Things only get more difficult from there, but through his faith in God he perseveres and ultimately aids the Kingdom through his gift of site. While it can’t match the size and scope of its predecessor, “Joseph: King of Dreams” actually sticks closer to its biblical source material, has some great emotional highlights, some really adult material, and touching morals revolving around endurance, charity, and family togetherness. The song numbers are also very uplifting, the animation is great (especially during the dream sequences), and the film just puts me in a really good mood every time I see it.  



    


#8 Therese (2004) 


St. Theresa of Lisieux is actually my mothers patron saint, so she was one of many religious figures that I wanted to learn about as a child. This 2004 biopic of Therese tells her story of Saint Hood, it’s very well crafted, and the acting is solid. Dealing with profound questions of death and separation, this film is a great example of how one guided by faith can impact the lives of others in a spiritual sense. Now admittedly, her story doesn’t translate perfectly into film form, but it’s a more then valiant effort. It’s dramatic, inspiring and one that shouldn’t be glanced over.













#7 Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)


Here’s a product that puts a more modern twist on the story of Christ, and in the style of a Broadway musical. I’ll admit, this film isn’t the most inspiring of biblical themed movies, but it’s depiction of the final week of Christ’s journey leading up to his crucifixion is still done well, and it really highlights Christ’s struggle with his traitorous disciple Judas. Plus, the popular music conceived by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is still just as catchy as ever. The original was kind of a classic sensation from the 70’s, but I personally prefer the 2000 film version, as I think both the singing and staging are hugely improved. Either film version provides a unique experience that separates them from other religious themed movies, but they have the same passion and spirit at the helm.









#6 The Five People you meet in Heaven (2004)


Now here’s a very unique film that depicts what happens before ones soul reaches Heaven. This is the story of a man named Eddie, played by Jon Voight, who after giving his life to save a child, finds himself in a strange middle ground between life and the afterlife. As the movie continues, we see Eddie go on a spiritual rite of passage, as he reflects on his greatest regrets in life, but also his greatest accomplishments. Along the journey he’s guided by five distinct people from his life, who council him and help heel his soul before he can enter the Promised Land. In the end, we learn of Eddie’s darkest secret, which leads to one of Jon Voight’s most powerful performances. With an imaginative concept and a strong supporting cast, this is just a beautiful tail of reflection and perseverance. It’s also quiet thought provoking on its themes of what the soul goes through after death, and it’s a film that I highly recommend.  





   


#5 The Ten Commandments (1956)


Okay, how many of you aren’t surprised to see this film on my countdown? Cecil B. Demille’s “The Ten Commandments” set the template for all biblical epics to follow, and is often regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest achievements. The film depicts the story of Moses, from his birth, to his contact with God, to his grand crusade liberating the Hebrew people from Egypt and ultimately to the birth (and smashing) of the 10 commandments. While it deviates a little from the bible story, the narrative is still consistent, and the result as a cinematic marvel with an all star cast and Oscar winning visuals.










    

#4 Joan of Arc (1999)


Here’s yet another biblical epic, revolving around a Saint who leads their people to freedom. This time it’s Saint Joan of Arc, who leads the French in a rebellion against the English, and once again it involves a character passionately sacrificing his or herself for what they believe in. It’s almost like Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”, just set in France instead of Scotland, and with a strong female lead as opposed to William Wallace. Ever sense I was a child, I’ve always looked at Joan of Arc as a great role model of one who takes great action when guided by faith, and this film is a very respectful telling of her story. For a late 90’s TV movie, it’s still just as epic as any of the classics from the 50’s, with a big scope, memorable imagery, themes of standing up for what you believe in, and excellent performances from a very well rounded cast. The historical Joan of Arc died at the age of 19, and thanks to films like this, her legend still lives on to this day.






#3 Jesus (1979)


Well, kind of an obvious choice, but really what better Biblical tale is there then the life journey of Jesus Christ. Most Christ based movies focus on his final week, but this biblical biopic highlights his story from the ground up. Beginning with his birth in the nativity, then his childhood, followed by the three years he lead his disciples, then dying on the cross, and concluding with his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It primarily uses the Gospel of Luke as the basis for the story and was filmed in Israel, with an Israel cast, so it has the right look and feel. The film highlights a lot of details in his life that are commonly glanced over in other projects, and it just gives me a complete feel of his religious journey. There was a special “made for children” version that was released in 2000, with new scenes added in featuring a group of young kids who were there during Christ’s time. It’s actually a great way to educate kids on the life of Christ, and one that I highly recommend.






#2 The Prince of Egypt (1998)



You wouldn’t think that an animated DreamWorks movie, with Disney style animation, and Broadway style song numbers could possibly live up to the 1956 classic “The Ten Commandments”, but it absolutely dose. In my opinion, it surpasses “The Ten Commandments”, and can be regarded as a truly great and respectable biblical epic. Adapting the classic story from the Book of Exodus, “The Prince of Egypt” once again tells the story of Moses as he delivers his people from slavery. The big difference between this version and the 1950’s classic is that it highlights the emotional turmoil between Moses and his brother Rameses, as both want to be a family again but refuse to back down from what they believe in. This added a juicy level of drama and conflict to the story, and the voice acting is excellent all around. In fact, just like it’s counterpart, “The Prince of Egypt” boasts quiet the cast of A list actors. The animation and visuals are also big spectacles, and even the music is sensational. The stand out song number “When You Believe” won the Oscar for best original song, and the score by Hans Zimmer is absolutely breath taking. With big visuals, captivating storytelling, respect to its religious source material, and a powerhouse sound track, “The Prince of Egypt” remains one of my favorite animated movies of all time, and my personal favorite biblical epic I’ve ever seen. However, there is still one slot left ... for one other film that's far more fitting for the number 1 spot.      


Before I reveal my #1 pick, here are some Honorable Mentions ...


The Nativity Story” (2006)

Quo Vadis” (1951)

King of Kings” (1961)

Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973)

Mary Mother of Jesus” (1999)







#1 The Passion of the Christ (2004)


2004 was a really big year for religious and biblical themed movies, and this film of course was the biggest of them all. I don’t think any other biblical movie has had more controversial debate or mixed reception then Mel Gibson’s epic drama revolving around the drawn out death and crucifixion of Christ. It’s admittedly hard to watch Jesus suffer for two and a half hours, but it also highlights how honorable Christ was as he willingly sacrificed himself through lots of suffering and pain, in order to save everyone else from their sins. It’s basically the essential film to watch on “Good Friday”, as it’s a time to reflect on his passionate death, and what Christ had to endure in order to save his fellow man. If you can look past how brutal and relentless the violence gets, you may notice some truly beautiful moments that are among some of the most inspiring scenes I’ve ever viewed in a motion picture. Definitely not a film for the faint of heart, but a powerful and moving experience all the same, and arguably the greatest biblical epic of all time.



           The End

Monday, March 14, 2016

Movies and Specials to watch on Saint Patrick’s Day


Halloween and Christmas seem to have no shortage of Holiday themed movies and specials, for Valentines there’s no shortage of romantic movies to choose from, and for Easter there’s several different Biblical movies that are more than fitting to watch at the time. Well, what about Saint Patrick’s Day? This has got to be the one popular holiday that has little to no films or specials to watch during the season. However, that’s not to say Saint Patrick’s Day doesn’t have anything, so for this post I’ll highlight some movies and specials that you might just want to check out for Saint Patrick’s Day.


Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)



Okay, let’s start things off right with Disney’s “Darby O'Gill and the Little People”, my personal favorite movie to watch around this time of year. The story revolves around a gardener who meets with a clan of Leprechauns and their king. The two become close friends, and the king soon finds himself owing the gardener three wishes. It’s a very simplistic experience, but the highlights are just too good to pass up on. It’s a movie that seems to encompass every legend that revolves around Irish lore. We have an underground world full of Leprechauns, a Banshee that haunts our main hero’s and all kinds of little magical experience and adventures that take place in the beautiful Irish country side. It’s extremely over the top in it's presentation, but it’s also very lovable and charming. The effects for the time are incredible spectacles, there’s some upbeat song numbers, the characters are likable, the atmosphere is heavy, and it just puts me in the right mind set for Saint Patrick’s Day.







The Quiet Man (1952)


While this film has nothing to do with either the holiday, or Irish legends, it’s still set in Ireland, it looks amazing, and it’s just a nice film to watch during the green season. Other movies like Ron Howards “Far and Away” are a little Irish centered, but this film is just swimming in it. This is one of John Wayne’s best departure’s from his usual Western setting, and the story revolving around a romantic relationship with Maureen O’Hara is every bit as charming as it is funny. These are two great legendary actors that have stared in a lot of really good movies together, but I think this was their best. When the movie segues between drama, romance, and comedy, it’s all very genuine, and the Irish setting just creates a warm atmosphere that makes this a worthwhile film to check out.







Patrick: Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle (1993)



So I’ve covered movies that either revolve around Irish legends or just happen to be set in Ireland, but how about a special that actually revolves around the Saint that the holiday is named after. In the early 90’s “CCC Of America” released a series of nine animated half hour short films that revolve around Catholic Morals and famous Biblical characters. This was one of their many terrific films, revolving around the story of Saint Patrick. I must say, for a 30 min short film, it tells everything you need to know about this Saint, and why he was so important to the Irish people. The films message is good, the voice acting is decent, and while the animation is exactly high art, it is still really nice. It’s just a sweet little special to watch, and a perfect one to teach kids about the history of Saint Patrick.







Luck of the Irish (2001)

I’ll be honest, I have actually never seen this movie, and really don’t care to. It just looks like a typical Disney channel movie, with the typical tropes that come with those films. From what I understand, the movie revolves around a boy battling for a mystical item that he has to keep away from an evil Leprechaun, then there's lots of Basketball and ... “meh”. However, many of my friends and even co-workers that grew up with the film consider it something of a guilty pleasure, much like how “Hocus Pocus” is a guilty pleasure for me to watch around Halloween. So if you were among the generation that grew up with this film, it’ll at least give you something to watch and look back on during this particular holiday season.









Leprechaun (1993)

Oh yeah, now where looking at the really silly, really stupid, yet still kind of amusing “Leprechaun”. This 1993 horror movie was one of the first to take a colorful holiday mascot and turn it into a scary, murdering villain. The movie revolves around a young and very attractive Jennifer Aniston (in her first feature film) who’s staying in a house with secret magical gold hidden inside. Soon, she and group of people are fighting off a menacing Leprechaun that’s hell bent on getting his gold back. Warwick Davis plays the beastly little Leprechaun and he is a lot fun to watch. The movie itself is terrible, but in a so bad its good kind of way. I don’t think I’d recommend it, but as far as trashy entertainment is concerned, this is kind of fun to watch. There were several sequels that followed, but they were also really bad.  


I think that’s enough, I know there are some other Saint Patrick’s movies and specials out there, including some cartoon episodes from TV shows I grew up with. Overall, if you want something to watch for the green holiday, I hope I’ve given you some decent options.  

                                           The End  
         

Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Top 10 Favorite Minor Villains in movies


In movies, the villains are always a tone of fun, but there even more fun when there’s that small supporting villain at their side. The henchmen hardly ever say anything, do anything but for some reason they always seem to leave an impression. It’s like they offer that little extra coolness that makes the main villains feel more complete. So here’s to all the small guys, and that little touch of evil that always goes a long way.


#10 The Rhino from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” 


I always pictured the Spider-Man universe as one where villains can just spike up randomly from anywhere, and for the most part we get that in the films, but there aren’t enough minor villains that can just show up once and have no bearing on anything else. Well, in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” we finally got one in the form of the Rhino, a crazy armed robber with a super robotic mech-suit, and played by Paul Giamatti. The character would have been satisfying enough, but it’s Paul Giamatti’s off the rail and cartoony performance that makes him so entertaining to watch. In fact, I actually thought he was more fun than most of the main villains we usually get from the Spider-Man movies.  
  

#9 Maugrim from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” 


When the magical world of Narnia is taken over by the sinister White Witch, she dispatches her own secret police force to insure that everything stays in her order. The leader among them is a wolf named Maugrim, who’ll never hesitate to do nasty deeds in her favor. There’s just something very fitting about a wolf serving as a witch’s right hand guard. His confrontation with Peter also marks an important turning point in the film, where our young hero becomes a man and honored knight after clashing with Maugrim in battle. Just for that novelty alone, Maugrim always stood out as one of the most memorable of the Narnia supporting villains.   


#8 The Drej Queen from “Titan A.E.” 


In this action packed Sci-Fi adventure from the early 2000’s, a group of human survivors find themselves battling a malevolent race of aliens called the Drej. Leading their reign of terror across the galaxy is their sinister Queen, who never amounted to the status of main villain, because two other villains took center stage. Regardless, this vial empress has one of the most unique alien designs I’ve ever seen, and a consistently menacing screen presence which makes her brief appearances in the film stand out.


#7 Bellatrix Lestrange from the “Harry Potter” series 


The Harry Potter series is no stranger to memorable villains, and even their smallest baddies can make an impressions. Case and point, the twisted and nasty Bellatrix never stood out as a main antagonist, but she came off as far more sadistic and menacing threat then even the franchises leading foe. This is actually the performance that introduced me to Helena Bonham Carter, and while she’s done a lot of credible things in her carrier, I’ll always remember her best as this savage witch that never made it past the side lines, but always left an impact.


#6 The Witch King of Angmar from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” 


Taking the lead in the final war for middle earth is this shadowy ring raider simply referred to as the witch king. Just look at this guy, he’s more imposing then any of the main villains. In fact his design almost gives a false impression that he is the main antagonist, even though he’s just a pawn. The Ring Raiders were already awesome evil henchman, but it’s their horned general that really stands out among them.


#5 Emma Frost from “X-Men First Class” 


With her seductive beauty, diamond skin, and silent menace, Emma Frost completely stole the show, despite her limited screen time. The X-Men films have had a fair share of memorable supporting villains, but Emma Frost has always been a favorite of mine, and actress January Jones really shines in the role. Actually, she’s one of the most enjoyable female villains I’ve seen in years to come from a comic-book adapted movie. Calm, cool, collected and always on top of things, this is one evil henchman you really shouldn’t underestimate.  


#4 Boba Fett from the “Star Wars” series 


Was there ever any doubt that he’d be on my list. The mysterious masked Bounty Hunter Boba Fett had a total of three speaking lines, and at best six minutes of screen time, yet his legacy has grown and evolved like any other classic Star Wars character. Over the decades of novels, video games and comics, Boba Fett has become quiet the dimensional villain slash anti-hero, but we fans will always remember him best as that one guy who just stood in the corner, and completely owned every frame he was in.    


#3 The Twins from “The Matrix Reloaded” 



Here’s another case in which some minor henchman with limited screen time still left a lasting impression. The Matrix was the biggest Sci-Fi action franchise of the early 2000’s, with sensational action scenes, and memorable, albeit one dimensional characters. Somehow, it’s these two pale faced, slow talking twins who I always remember with the most fondness. With a special power to transform into spectral like ghosts, and some fancy fighting moves, they not only owned every scene they were in, they also set a template for how awesome evil henchman can be.  
  

#2 The Evil Emperor Zurg from “Toy Story 2” 


Showing up for a total of 3 minor scenes in the whole film, Emperor Zurg somehow still stands out as one of the most memorable villains from my child hood, and the one character I always looked forward to seeing the most in “Toy Story 2”. With one heck of a cool design, a deep robotic voice supplied by the film’s director, and occasionally parodying Darth Vader, this one note villain had an all around cool factor that simply thrilled me every time he was on screen. Plus, after all these years, that one scene with him ascending up the elevator still stands out as one of the coolest sudden villain arrivals I’ve ever seen.    


Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions ... 


Lady Deathstrike from “X2: X-Men United

Colonel Ernst Vogel from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Jaws from the “James Bond” series

Lurtz from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Viceroy from “Star Trek Nemesis”,

and 

The Child Catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” 



#1 Arnold Toht “The Gestapo Guy” from “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” 


Of all the supporting villains I can think of, no one quiet stole the show from the main antagonist quiet like this creepy Gestapo agent. The famous adventurer Indiana Jones has had many memorable villains, and in “Raiders of the Lost Arch”, his arch foe came in the form of a rival archeologist named Belloq, but that’s not the bad guy we remember, oh no, it’s always the Gestapo guy who comes to mind first. Played by Ronald Lacey, and heavily inspired by the great Peter Lorre, this nasty little German agent has all the classy stuff.  A sickly voice, his signature glasses, hat and all black attire, chain weapon that’s really just a coat hanger, and a memorable death in which his face gets melted off by angry spirits. This is the guy who also stands out on the poster, and is that rare minor character who’s become a memorable movie villain in his own right.  

The End