Ewan McGregor’s Last Days in the Desert — Review

LDD_01006.CR2

Finding out that Ewan McGreger stared in the film selected by AFI FEST and SUNDANCE, I felt it was a work that I needed to see during the launch of its limited release. I was also eager to see McGregor play both Jesus and Satan. While there were several moments of great value, the film was boring and diametrically opposed to scripture.

The premise of the film is a three-day journey for Jesus returning to Jerusalem after his 40 days of fasting in the desert. The exploration of this “what if” artistic expression found the filmmaker ignorant of the scriptures or not caring.

In fact, the inaccuracy and mishandling of scriptures was so bad, NPR raved about how excellent the film was and classified it to be as good as “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which Evangelical leaders declared blasphemous in 1988.

The first problem with this film is that Satan continues to tempt Jesus over the three-day journey back home. In the scriptures, after Jesus resisted the devil three times, using scripture, Satan flees. Their ongoing battle shows the two almost chummy in nature with Jesus calling on Satan to show him a boy’s future through divination. I counted seven of these types of inaccuracies.

The cinematography by Academy Award winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki was very well done, but the beauty of the picture was not enough to offset the confusion of story and a bad story structure.

The film is clearly presented as a story of Jesus, but the story unfolds about a boy that Jesus encounters. While a person might jump to the conclusion that it’s a story within a story, the idea fails to launch.

The parents of the boy are the most interesting of characters, save for Satan. The boy comes next and Jesus is the most passive person of little interest. Even director Rodrigo García shared his fascination for the parents and Satan and how he tried to compensate, bringing more life to the character of Jesus.

The biggest shock to me was the reaction of the audience after the lights came up. Most people raved about the film, dismissing the long boring parts and the mishandling of scripture. One person said that they understood the director’s choices based on artistic license and hoped the film would generate more like it.

While the film was a great discussion starter, it failed to entertain and it took faith-based films back to the Stone Age – Although, it was not promoted as a faith-based film due to its inaccurate content. And, while it was a selection of two notable festivals, it didn’t win a single award.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9 — REVIEW

Galaxy BuckAfter you get past the first 20 minutes of nauseating repetition about Buck wanting to do something BIG for God, the “Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9” story finally settles into a worthwhile message. Even adults who enjoy Star Trek and Star Wars will appreciate the story nods to both franchises.

The story is about Buck Denver who has a big dream to save the galaxy by carrying God’s love to every corner of the Milky Way. Unfortunately, Buck is frustrated working for the Galactic Mission Board, as the only help he gives people is making sure they receive their donation premiums.

Buck finally gets his chance to do something big for God when a tech devise needs to be repaired in sector 9. He quickly gets a space ship, since he’s been taking online courses to learn how to be a captain, and puts together a crew to pilot the ship from his call center buddies. It was disappointing that fun and games didn’t ensue from this awkward crew trying to figure out how to fly the ship, as it’s automated to the point of driving itself to sector 9 before anyone can push a button.

The away team steps off of the ship’s shuttle on the “uninhabited” planet to fix the equipment and Buck is separated by a sand storm. Finding shelter in a cave with a wise man, Buck learns about what its really like to serve God, rather than focusing on doing something big. That’s when things heat up at the hand of the planet’s inhabitants and forces Buck to make a decision that will impact the future of all involved.

Phil Visher (Creator of VeggieTales®) did a great job developing the story in the second half of the show, which means that kids might want to jump to the middle of the show after watching it a few times. The galactic adventure attempts to teach kids a message about trusting God with everything, but the intense repetition of Buck wanting to do “big” things for God might overshadow a child’s memory of the message – At least it did for this big kid.

“Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9” has an approximate runtime of 40 minutes, is well-shot and enjoyable to watch for young children. The puppets and sets work well, and the story in the second half of the program makes owning the show worth it. The show releases tomorrow.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 – Review

I’m always fascinated to sit with fans when reviewing a movie. They can give me the core elements that are missing or clarify what’s on target. The fan I sat next to was more impressed with the book than the movie. The heartfelt details were left out in order to build the film into an event with a battle scene that would draw a larger audience.

The idea of going more universal in its appeal was successful, as the theater was filled with a lot of men and people over 35 years of age. The Hollywood reporter announced that 21% of the audience was male, which was significantly higher than previous installments of The Twilight Saga. This drove the box office to exceed $140MM its opening weekend.

The franchise came a long way in four films. The first seemed to be put together with duct tape, bad acting and production values that barely rivals a vlog. Thanks to the millions of screaming teen and tween girls that watched it, the box office dollars suggested that the franchise needed to step up and become an event film. After practicing with the next two films, the team was able to get it right for its finale.

That is not to say everyone should run out and see the film, especially if you don’t like watching numerous decapitations by vampires ripping heads off of people. I’m merely suggesting that the production company finally put some of its box office dollars onto the screen, raising it to an “A” level film experience.

The film is still aimed at teen girls, although I’m a bit disturbed that parents would allow their young girls to watch such gruesome battle scenes. The good news of course, not that its really good news, is that there is no bloodshed in the movie since all of the warriors are already dead. When a head is torn off of a body, it just disables them until they can be burned alive.

What ever happened to the trend of teens and tweens watching princess stories? When did our society shift to girls watching vampire decapitations in The Twilight Saga, and kids killing kids in The Hunger Games? Have parents fallen asleep or are there no wholesome and moral filmmakers left to make uplifting stories that edify?

I don’t recommend this film for anyone. There is too many decapitations for kids to watch and too little of the thinned out, cutesy story for adults to watch. Yet, it was entertaining for those who have never scene wolves and vampires duke it out, not to mention the vampire child who grows to full maturity in seven years. Hmm, I wonder how she’ll turn out since her mother was more of a warrior than the nurturing type.

If I were you, I’d save my money unless you are a die-hard fan needing a fix. Then again, true fans prefer the book. For the rest, I’d save my money for the release of The Hobbit and Les Mis – Both will be strong Oscar® contenders.

Review: For Greater Glory

Most poor films die in the second act, but this little known religious war film has a very strong second act. Its first act is a bit confusing and its third act doesn’t give the pay-off hoped for by the audience, but its ride during the second act is worth watching the film.

For Greater GloryThis film is a finely crafted Mexican movie that stars Andy Garcia, and believe it or not, is shot completely in English – A bit odd for a foreign film. The film did rather well in Mexico with a box office of $4.1MM under the title of “Cristiada.” Fox released the picture this past weekend on 757 screens and brought in $1.8MM in its first two days.

This true life western doesn’t fit the typical Hollywood fare, as the gunplay is missing a grand Hollywood budget. However, it seems to be very true to the Cristero War that broke out in 1926 when the Mexican government persecuted Catholics and band their religious practices. The uprising formulated into a rebel army, whose clashes with the government left 90,000 people dead.

The story focuses on General Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), a retired military strategist who takes up the cause, an aging Priest (Peter O’Toole), who is killed in the first act, and a young boy (Mauricio Kuri), who joins the rebel army after watching his priest get shot down by a firing squad for conducting religious services.

The film explores the loss of freedom of religion and the various forms of apathy, compromise, and unorganized uprisings requiring unity to be effective. The film hits a little too close to home when it comes to the unbridled apathy and willingness to compromise our freedoms in the name of security here in the states.

For Greater GloryFirst time feature director Dean Wright, known mostly for his special effects work, wasn’t able to keep the intensity of the second act in the first or third acts. This coupled with its length, gave little room for strong emotional connections with the exception of the little boy who was martyred in front of his godless father and silent mother.

Screenwriter Michael Love didn’t create characters of great depth, but their situations helped to overcome that downfall. However, he did handle the religious aspects of the film with great care, making sure the story’s religious backdrop was handled both subtly and respectfully, to the degree possible based on the true-life tragedy.

This film was one of the best low budget films I’ve seen in years, but it is still a low budget film. If you enjoy history or have a passion for our freedoms, it is well worth your time to watch. And, I’d suggest seeing it in the theater for the sake of the grand vistas, although much of the film is in dark cramped quarters.