Movies/Films/TV

CNN’s Finding Jesus series: What do you believe?  What’s your take on New Testament stories about Jesus’ life and death and their aftermath?  Did the events described really happen, or are they merely inspirational fables about a great man?  For many years, I was skeptical.  CNN’s second season of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery appears to be designed with questioners like me in mind. (Short op-ed)

The Shack movie: God and your tragedy.  When your personal tragedy strikes – and it will – is God good?  Millions wrestle with that question.  The Shack, a bestselling novel and now a movie, uses fanciful fiction to help people process age-old intellectual and emotional struggles about evil, suffering, and divine character.  (Short op-ed)

New Life movie: Real love, real life.  As I watched this film, I often felt like the screenwriters had placed a hidden microphone in my home.  True love.  Romance.  Exciting, intimate, emotional connection.  Fulfilling, committed partnership.  Joys and sorrows.  Drama … tragedy … recovery … triumph.  This one’s got real love and real life, folks.  (Short op-ed)

I’m Not Ashamed movie: Columbine victim’s inspiring story. The 1999 Columbine High School massacre became etched in a nation’s collective consciousness.  Shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered twelve fellow students and one teacher.  Rachel Joy Scott was their first victim.  This new film tells her inspiring story.  (Short op-ed)

Birth of a Nation movie: Freedom fighter or domestic terrorist?  Into a nation boiling with racial conflict enters a film about an antebellum Bible-quoting Virginia slave whose revolt inspires many today to counter racial oppression.  Who was Nat Turner?  What did he accomplish, and why should we care?  (Short op-ed)

Deepwater Horizon movie: horror, heroism, fear and faith.  The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion, oil spill, cleanup, and lawsuits against British Petroleum dominated the news back then.  But the saga of what happened on the rig that night – and the valor that saved many lives – is a lesser-known story.  (Short op-ed)

Ben-Hur remake: Revenge, redemption, inspiring backstory.  Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have remade the classic MGM film for a new generation … complete with a chariot race for the ages, plus plenty of action, romance and inspiration.  What’s behind this story, and why has it endured so long?  (Short op-ed)

The Real MVP movie: Kevin Durant’s inspiring mom struggles and shines.  When NBA superstar Kevin Durant received the league’s Most Valuable Player award, he named his mother “the real MVP.”  The standing ovation and subsequent media groundswell confirmed that something significant had just happened, something transcending the game.  Now, Lifetime Television brings the inspirational backstory to a wide audience.  (Short op-ed)

Batman v Superman movie: Superhero rumble.  Both stand for good, fight crime, and help the needy.  So, why are these two guys fighting each other?  Is it turf wars – Gotham vs. Metropolis?  Do they each have Lois Lane crushes?  Welcome to the backstory of how these two met.  (Short op-ed)

Miracles from Heaven movie: Astonishing outcomes.  A nine-year-old girl falls thirty feet, lands headfirst, sustains only minor scrapes and bruises, and leaves the hospital the next day.  She says she visited heaven and sat in Jesus’ lap.  Eventually, her chronic, life-threatening illness is gone.  What happened?  (Short op-ed)

Young Messiah movie: Jesus’ childhood imagined.  Seven-year-old Jesus is accused of killing a bully … then raises him from the dead.  He restores life to a dead bird, sight to a blind man.  Sound familiar?  Maybe not.  Filmmakers and novelist Anne Rice – a former atheist who became a Jesus follower – portray a touching fictional story about how the child Jesus learned who he really was.  (Short op-ed)

Risen movie: Resurrection hoax?  Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead, or was his “resurrection” an elaborate hoax?  A Roman tribune searches for Jesus’ missing corpse.  This novel, detective-story approach to centuries-old questions uses dramatic historical fiction to let viewers consider the evidence – and its implications – for themselves.  (Short op-ed)

The 33 movie: Chilean miners’ despair, faith, miracle rescue.  In this dramatic true story that captivated the world in 2010, a huge explosion traps 33 miners deep underground.  Up top, an international team works frantically to save them.  With miniscule rations and little human hope – but with deep determination and fervent prayer, both above and below ground – the miners last 69 days until liberation.  (Short op-ed)

Peanuts movie: good grief – plus fun – in 3D!  Charlie Brown wants to change who he is and become a winner.  Snoopy’s determined to shoot the Red Baron from the sky.  The perpetual underdog and his dog embark on an epic quest that’s all about dreaming big.  Lots of family fun in this delightful film; lots of inspiration in the Peanuts stories.  (Short op-ed)

Woodlawn movie: racial strife, football, faith.  A nation too-often tarnished by racial conflict could use an inspiring film like this.  The poignant story of NFL star Tony Nathan and how football plus faith helped bring harmony among racial enemies during his high school years in early 1970s Birmingham, Alabama.  Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are executive producers.  (Short op-ed)

Captive movie: gripping Atlanta hostage drama.  Her story captured a nation’s heart.  Hostage Ashley Smith reads to courtroom killer Brian Nichols from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.  Two broken, wounded souls navigate a risky journey about purpose, survival, faith and redemption.  (Short op-ed)

90 Minutes in Heaven movie: There and back again?  What’s it like to die and go to heaven?  Don Piper believes he knows.  A horrendous 1989 auto accident left him battered, bloody, and – according to four Emergency Medical Technicians – dead.  Yet 90 minutes later, he was alive.  He says he visited heaven’s gates, heard celestial music, met deceased friends and family, saw streets of gold, and sensed God’s presence.  Was his heavenly experience real?  (Short op-ed)

War Room movie: got prayer?  Got marital problems?  Job-related stress?  Ethical conundrums?  Try prayer.  This Kendrick Brothers / Sony TriStar release weaves prayer insights into a lively drama about a troubled middle-class family.  (Short op-ed)

Faith of our Fathers movie: Vietnam War healing.  What was/is the Vietnam War for you?  Guided by wartime letters from their dads – combat companions who died in Vietnam – two men embark on an odd-couple odyssey to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC, to discover the fathers they never knew.  (Short op-ed)

John Rhys-Davies: Veteran actor with heart and conviction.  When I interviewed veteran actor John Rhys-Davies at a film premiere recently, I already knew we had several things in common.  We both understand some Swahili, studied at UK universities, and married older women.  But I was not aware of his deep concerns about two significant social issues – slavery and anti-Semitism – that also ignite my passions.  (Short op-ed)

WW II movie drama: Christian students hiding Jews from Nazis.  As the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Return to the Hiding Place dramatically portrays a forgotten story of dedicated Dutch students’ vital role in rescuing hundreds of Jews from Nazi persecution.  Driven by faith, love and conviction, they endured great hardship and risked their lives to protect the oppressed from Hitler’s terror.  (Short op-ed)

Cleveland Abduction: Courage, faith, riveting TV drama.  No one should have to suffer what Michelle Knight and her fellow captives did in Ariel Castro’s house of horrors.  With gripping realism and tender reflection, Lifetime’s movie tells this absorbing story from abduction to liberation and beyond.  (Short op-ed)

A.D. TV series: The Bible continues … in prime time.  Mark Burnett and Roma Downey – Hollywood’s Bible Power Couple – are back with a flourish, this time on prime-time network television.  Their dramatic series about Jesus’ first followers, premiering Easter Sunday evening on NBC, captures the personal angst and adventure of those tumultuous early years.  (Short op-ed)

Beyond the Mask movie: Swashbuckling fun, with a message.  It’s certainly got swash.  And buckling.  Plus romance, intrigue, thrills, spills and chills.  The protagonist in this Revolutionary War-era action adventure film even saves George Washington’s life … and then saves America.  (Short op-ed)

Old Fashioned movie: 50 shades of nice.  Want an alluring love story for your Valentine’s Day movie date?  You have distinct options.  Much-discussed Fifty Shades of Grey is based on the erotic novel that’s drawn countless bookclubbers into lip-biting, toe-curling ecstasy by offering excitement, mystery, pleasure, bondage, and pain.  Old Fashioned takes, shall we say, a somewhat different approach to relationships.  Romance lives.  (Short op-ed)

Unbroken movie: hope, despair, redemption.  When Louie Zamperini boarded a World War II bomber in late May, 1943, unforeseen dangers awaited the Olympic runner and war hero.  He later said he’d prefer suicide to repeating his castaway and POW ordeals.  His enthralling story – told now in film – still inspires.  (Short op-ed)

Exodus movie: brother-enemies, slavery, liberation.  If you were an epic-adventure filmmaker and wanted a protagonist who could connect with over half the world’s population, Moses would be a prime candidate.  He’s revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews.  Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings stimulates interest in this timeless story.  (Short op-ed)

The Identical movie: Elvis-esque, secret past, conflicting dreams.  Ever have trouble getting people you love to embrace your life dreams?  You’ll likely identify with Ryan Wade.  Music is in his soul.  He has the looks, voice and moves of Elvis, and drives audiences wild.  But his preacher father has different dreams for him, setting up a monumental collision.  A fun Rock ‘n’ Roll parable with an upbeat, inspiring, message about finding purpose, revealing secrets, and experiencing redemption.  (Short op-ed)

New Football Movie: Character trumps winning.  Could a football coach who teaches that character trumps winning … win games consistently?  It’s happened – and quite dramatically – inspiring the film When the Game Stands Tall.  Jim Caviezel plays Coach Bob Ladouceur, who led an obscure, struggling California high school team to record-shattering national prominence by helping his players mature toward adulthood.  (Short op-ed)

Moms’ Night Out movie: Laughs, plus hope for frazzled moms.  Want laughs, plus a way to tell a mother she’s loved?  Take her to see Moms’ Night Out, opening Mother’s Day weekend.  On the set, actors and producers promised the comedy would be a hoot.  They’ve delivered, with loads of family fun.  I laughed out loud.  (Short op-ed)

Heaven is for Real, movie claims.  Colton Burpo says that at age 3, he went to heaven, saw Jesus, heard angels sing, and met both his deceased great grandfather and his miscarried sister.  The best-selling book about him is now a major motion picture.  Is heaven for real?  (Short op-ed by Rusty Wright)

Noah movie: courage, faith, hope.  With breathtaking cinematography – and not without controversy – Paramount Pictures releases an intense portrayal of a classic story.  That story brings important lessons for 21st–Century living.  (Short op-ed)

Son of God movie: Jesus for the third millennium.  By Meg Korpi.  Politics and religion; an enigmatic attraction. Television producer Mark Burnett and actress/producer Roma Downey have created an accurate and accessible portrait of Jesus of Nazareth for the big screen. See how this intriguing story continues today.  (Review/Analysis)

Mark Burnett’s Son of God movie: Action Epic.  The Survivor producer and his wife, actress Roma Downey, wanted to communicate “the story of Jesus for a whole new generation.”  Their new film presents adventure, drama and passion; a Jesus that is tough and tender; and enough gripping stories to allow skeptics, searchers, and the faith-filled alike to consider whether he really was the Son of God.  (Short op-ed by Rusty Wright)

Linsanity movie: hoops, hopes, Harvard, heaven.  Benchwarmer Jeremy Lin set the basketball world ablaze when he led the faltering New York Knicks to seven straight wins and helped boost them into the NBA playoffs.  The film documentary of his phenomenal rollercoaster ride – from struggling underdog to global star – will inspire you.  (Short op-ed)

New Comedy Brings Hope for Frazzled Moms.  Hang in there, frazzled moms.  Hope is coming!  Moms’ Night Out, a new movie comedy about the challenges of parenting, recently wrapped shooting and is headed for release in 2014.  (Short op-ed)

Man of Steel movie: got hope?  “What’s the ‘S’ stand for?” Lois Lane asks Superman in the new movie.  “It’s not an ‘S’,” responds the Man of Steel.  “On my world, it means ‘hope’.”  Man of Steel is a fun film that taps deep human desires for self-identity, purpose and hope.  How do you find genuine, lasting hope?  (Short op-ed)

Human Trafficking Movie Grabs Hearts.  Annika, a delicate young girl, has been unwittingly handed into virtual slavery by her homeless father.  Sweatshop labor and sex-for-sale portend a bleak future, unless someone intervenes.  Caden, a spoiled, rich, 20-year-old Southern California student, determines to be that someone.  Their inspiring saga in the feature film Not Today might grab your heart, too.  (Short op-ed)

Mark Burnett’s Bible TV Series: Epic Adventure.  The Survivor producer and his wife, actress Roma Downey, have produced an exhilarating take on classic stories about the epic struggle of the centuries between good and evil.  Powerful depictions; gripping scenes.  Well worth seeing by skeptics, searchers, and the faith-filled alike.  (Short op-ed)

Les Misérables film: Mercy Triumphs.  Could receiving a healthy dose of kindness and mercy help transform a person’s life?  Victor Hugo thought so.  The 19th Century French social reformer wove his famous novel Les Misérables around the theme of grace trumping legalism.  A new film based on the successful musical opens Christmas Day.  (Short op-ed)  French

October Baby movie:  Do you feel wanted?  For nineteen-year-old Hannah Lawson, that desire drives a quest to discover her real identity.  You see, she’s just learned that she was adopted, and the product of a failed abortion attempt.  (Short op-ed)

Mighty Macs Movie – Teamwork Works.  The basketball team at tiny Immaculata College – a “pint-sized papal institution” – became an example “for every team that thought they never had a chance” as they played for the national title.  Their story could get you cheering, too.  Rocky meets Sister Act meets Hoosiers.  (Short op-ed)

Courageous Movie Portrays a Different Kind of Courage. Courageous is a fast-paced police drama with heart-pounding action and a spine-tingling surprise in the first three minutes. Good-natured banter and comic mishaps had us laughing, but the movie quickly reveals an introspective side that portends a human drama that challenges norms and will get you thinking.  (Short op-ed by Meg Korpi and Rusty Wright)

Soul Surfer: A thought-provoking film for the whole family. A 14-foot tiger shark bursts through the waves and tears off 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton’s left arm. Three months later, she’s surfing competitively again.  If you’re looking for inspiration to thrive in tough times, the true story of this determined teen’s triumph over tragedy will knock your socks off.  (Short op-ed by Meg Korpi and Rusty Wright)

Superman Returns: Superhero Still Needed?  Superman has returned.  Bad guys, beware!  Why has the Superman story remained so popular?  What is it about the Man of Steel that captures the public imagination?  Does the world still need a superhero?  Spanish

Basic Instinct, Showgirls & God?  Self-described “Hollywood Animal” Joe Eszterhas, the blockbuster screenwriter famous for steamy eroticism and dark thrillers, says God found him and life’s never been better.  (Short op-ed)  French

Mel Gibson’s Passion Film Ignites Passions.   Is Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ anti-Semitic?  Did Jewish people kill Jesus?  Are all Jewish people guilty of his death?  (Short op-ed)

Da Vinci Code Faith: Who is Jesus, really? Was he a mere mortal – as The Da Vinci Code claims or something more?  Consider the evidence on this controversial subject and decide for yourself.  (Short op-ed)

Amazing Grace Movie: Lessons for Today’s Politicians.  Can God and politics mix?  Leaders contemplating faith-in-action would do well to look back two centuries to William Wilberforce, the famous British parliamentarian who led a grueling but inspiring twenty-year struggle to outlaw the slave trade.  (Short op-ed)