MOVIE BUFF-ET: Faith-based films usher in Easter season

Easter is on its way, but it’s already arrived at local movie theaters with a number of faith-based movies.

Opening today is the inspirational film Miracles from Heaven about a family whose ill daughter is cured in a mysterious way. Two other films in wide release focus on different aspects of the story of Jesus. The Young Messiah depicts a portion of Jesus’ youth, while Risen centers on the period just before and after Jesus’ resurrection.

The Young Messiah

(PG-13) 1 hr., 51 min.

The Young Messiah / Focus Features

The Young Messiah is based on an Anne Rice novel Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt, and if you are wondering, it is the very same Anne Rice most known for penning a series of novels about vampires, witches and ghosts. Rice wrote the novel and its sequel Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana after returning to the Catholic Church.

Rice’s novel and the film are influenced by the Gnostic Gospels, ancient writings that date back as far as the 2nd century AD and even further that are not considered inspired writings by any mainline Christian group. First century Gnostics departed from the central Christian teaching that Jesus was God incarnate on Earth, and the New Testament epistles of I, II and III John were written to warn Christians against Gnostic teachings and other forms of apostasy.

The film depicts Jesus at age 7 while his family lives in Egypt. Joseph and Mary fled there to escape Herod’s edict that all male, Hebrew children born that year should be killed to forestall the prophecy of a new King arising from the line of David.

The death of Herod along with Jesus’ display of miraculous and fearful powers prompts the family to travel back to their home of Nazareth.

Being so young, Jesus doesn’t understand the nature of his powers or why his parents and others are so fearful of what he can do. Jesus’ parents, who know the secret, feel he is too young to handle the truth.

During the course of the movie, a cloaked, bleached-blond, goateed man with eyeliner, whom only Jesus can see, menaces the family and others. With only whispers, this devious spirit influences people’s decisions and points of view. The entity also coaxes Herod II to follow in his father’s footsteps and have his army hunt down and execute seven-year-old males in another attempt to stop the rise of the Messiah.

Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, the film has production values and acting better than a lot of the faith-based fare. Sean Bean is solid as the Centurion who is hunting for Jesus. Overall it’s an average film. However, it just seems odd that a movie which courts a Christian audience would take its inspiration from writings that most Christians would consider blasphemous.


(PG-13), 1hr. 47 min.

Risen, directed by Kevin Reynolds, stars Joseph Fiennes as the Roman tribune Clavius who is taxed with the duty of overseeing the crucifixion and disposal of the body of a Hebrew political criminal named Jesus.

At first all seems to go as planned, Jesus is crucified. He’s proven dead when a spear is driven through his side. The body is buried in a tomb that is enclosed with a large stone and two men are left to guard it.

But low and behold, the tomb is found empty three days later, and thus the mystery begins. Somewhat like police procedural the film plays out with Clavius and his aide Lucius (Tom Felton)searching for the missing body and those who stole it.

Obviously, Clavius suspects that Jesus’ followers have stolen the body, and he searches them out. As he gets to know the men and women who followed Jesus, he finds himself drawn to them and their life of faith. The disciples begin to trust Clavius after he helps them escape others who are searching for them, and like the disciples Clavius witnesses the resurrected Christ.

Some might find the mystery aspect of the film most appealing, but others who put themselves in Clavius shoes might find the film more emotional as the character meets Jesus and moves from being a skeptic to a believer.

Risen is a solid movie that focuses on the story of Jesus after the crucifixion, which is a part that a lot of films about Jesus give short shrift or no attention at all.

New In Local Theaters

  • Divergent Series: Allegiant (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    (PG13) 2 hr.
    » Watch trailer
  • Miracles from Heaven (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
    (PG) 1 hr., 49 min.
    » Watch trailer
  • The Bronze (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Rogers Towne)
    (R) 1 hr., 48 min.
    » Watch trailer

Classic Corner

The 10 Commandments

If you are of a certain age, the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille, Technicolor epic The 10 Commandments may be as much of an Easter tradition to you as hiding colored eggs and eating hollow chocolate bunnies. For decades ABC aired the film on Easter and in later years splitting up over two nights.

The movie never fell into the public domain like It’s a Wonderful Life, but the drama that pits Charlton Heston’s Moses against Yul Brynner’s Ramses in a battle over the children of Israel is revered by nearly as many.

For two special showings on Sunday at 2 p.m. and Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Malco Razorback Theater, patrons will have the opportunity to see the dramatization of The Book of Exodus in its entirety on the big screen. The movie won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and despite the technological advances over the years, the film’s special effects still stand up stunningly well.

Be warned if you do opt o to see the film at the theater, it’s a four-hour event. Thankfully there is an intermission.

Easter Parade
Musicals are perhaps the most contrived genre of film. Some have the intellectual integrity of marshmallow, and their plots have, no doubt, influenced more Hallmark Channel movies than anyone could possibly want to count. Some if not most are dated, and many can be described as silly.

But honestly, as Sir Paul McCartney once queried with his band Wings, “What’s wrong with that?”

The skill, talent and effort marshaled to make the flimsiest of big-screen musicals are formidable, and the best musicals — The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and Grease — create pure magic, if you give them half a chance.

Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade doesn’t quite rise to that magical level, but the 1948 Charles Walters’ film does feature Judy Garland at her apex and Fred Astaire while he was still near the top of his game.

Astaire had announced his retirement, but Gene Kelly, who was supposed to co-star with Garland before breaking his ankle playing volleyball, talked Astaire into taking the part.

The movie also feature Peter Lawford as Astaire’ rival for Garland’s affection, and Ann Miller as Astaire’s dance partner, whom Garland replaces in the film.

The movie, which won an Oscar for Best Music Score, features 14 Berlin songs that provide the perfect vehicle for the performers to spotlight their talents.