RISEN – The Greatest (Detective) Story Ever Told

risen_posterRisen sets another high mark for faith-based film. Like Captive last year, it is somewhat messy, compelling and believable as a story – and on top of all that, it has to do with Jesus Himself.

The film also appears to be a spiritual successor to The Passion of the Christ, one of the most successful Jesus films of all time. It even emulates it at times in look and sound (though profoundly less violent) However, Risen elaborates on the central idea that Passion just touched upon (the Resurrection and Ascension), and picked up where Mel Gibson left off.

This movie shows that given quality showmanship and experienced actors and director, Christian-themed films can be not only poignant but entertaining. The production value alone makes it better in style and substance than any of the most recent, “feel good” Christian fare. And the story is told in a clever way that will hold an audience’s attention.

More than just a story about the Resurrection, its detective-story base makes for an interesting exploration of one of the most basic aspects of sharing our faith with others.

The Search Begins… SPOILERS AHEAD!

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ZOOTOPIA – We’re All Animals…Sort Of

Zootopia_PosterZootopia continues a winning streak of fun, interesting and heartfelt films from Walt Disney Animation Studios (with the exception of Frozen). While I think their last entry, Big Hero 6, is a superior film in general, Zootopia has a completely different vibe to it that makes it unique and charming.

A world comprised of anthropomorphized animals is nothing new at Disney (see the classic 1973 feature Robin Hood). However, this isn’t animals standing in for humans in a human-created world, but an entire society made by animals for animals. That makes for an interesting tale, especially in the world-building department. But this film is more parable than fairy tale, and has a lot to say about human society.

Zootopia‘s themes about prejudice and stereotypes are definitely prescient (and lacks a bit of subtlety sometimes). It is a reminder that pigeonholing someone based on an outward characteristic is unfair and, most importantly, un-Christlike.

Welcome to Zootopia! SPOILERS AHEAD

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Reviewing the Classics: BLAZING SADDLES

lw2326_largeWhen thinking of how to describe exactly how I feel about Mel Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece Blazing Saddles, I cannot help but paraphrase Hedy (That’s Hedley!) Lamarr:

My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of praise and compliments!

“Funny” doesn’t even begin to describe this film. It’s broad in its gags, but sharp in its wit. The one-liners come fast – so fast in fact, that it seems that one is still laughing at a hilarious line when the next one comes down. The acting is wonderful all around, particularly Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder and Harvey Korman.

Blazing Saddles is probably the most brilliant movie co-writer and director Mel Brooks has ever made. While films like Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights are awesome in their own way, Blazing Saddles is the apex of Brooks’ career – transcending its own time and genre to become a film that speaks to the culture, and making us take a good, long look at ourselves. And it’s a comedy!

What the film says about racism is the most honest, straightforward and politically incorrect way I have ever seen the subject dealt with in mainstream art. It makes racism out to be exactly what it is: stupid. Judging someone by their skin pigmentation is ridiculous. It is also un-Christlike, sowing the seeds of hatred and violence.

In today’s society, where the media and the culture insist that racism exists where there isn’t any, Blazing Saddles still has a lot to teach people about how we as people can get along.

“Excuse me while I whip this out.” SPOILERS AHEAD!

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