Miracles From Heaven
Sony Pictures/Affirm Films
Rated PG for mature themes
12-Year-Old Recovers From Incurable Illness In Faith-Based Drama Recounting Real-Life Miracle
Annabel Beam (Kylie Rogers) was born in Burleson, Texas, where she was raised by her parents on a farm surrounded by cats, dogs, goats, cows and a donkey. She enjoyed an idyllic childhood there with her sisters, Abbie (Brighton Sharbino) and Adelynn (Courtney Fansler), until the age of 10 when she started experiencing severe stomach pains.
Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) rushed her daughter to an emergency room doctor who snap-diagnosed the malady as a combination of lactose intolerance and acid reflux. But when his course of treatment for those conditions failed, the frightened mother next took Anna to a gastroenterologist (Bruce Altman) who determined that she was suffering from an obstruction of the small bowel which called for immediate surgery.
He referred them to a highly-regarded physician in Boston specializing in intestinal disorders. However, Dr. Nurko (Eugene Derbez) had a nine-month waiting list which meant the little girl was likely to pass away before the appointment.
Frustrated by an inability to help her rapidly-deteriorating daughter, Christy began to question her faith when Anna asked, “Why do you think God hasn’t healed me?” Of course, it didn’t help the situation any when a couple of fellow parishioners had the nerve to suggest that the affliction might be punishment for sin. In response, Christy told her husband (Martin Henderson) she was through with church, at least until Anna was healed.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. So, Christy decided to show up at Dr. Nurko’s office unannounced and thereby embarrass him into seeing Anna. While the ploy did work, an MRI, endoscopy and a battery of other tests essentially confirmed that Anna was not long for this world and should get her affairs in order.
The two return home, but not before being befriended by a waitress with a heart of gold (Queen Latifah) who takes them on a whirlwind tour of Beantown in her junky jalopy. The prospects aren’t very brilliant for Anna back in Burleson until the fateful day she falls down a hollowed tree trunk, hits her head and blacks out.
When she comes out of the coma, lo and behold, her bowels have been miraculously healed. Furthermore, she proceeds to relate how she had just visited Heaven and even had a heart-to-heart with her Creator.
That is the sum and substance of Miracles From Heaven, a faith-based docudrama adapted from Christy Beam’s best-selling memoir of the same name. Directed by Patricia Riggen (The 33), this wholesome family flick features a touching tale of survival with a measure of Christianity mixed in.
The Lord working in mysterious ways designed to elicit an “Amen!’ from believers in the Amen Corner.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 109 minutes
The Young Messiah
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes
Adaptation Of Anne Rice Best Seller Chronicles Critical Year In The Life Of The Christ Child
2015 was certainly a banner year for Christian-oriented fare, with over 30 faith-based films being released in theaters. 2016 appears to be following suit, with Risen, The Lady In The Van and The Witch among the offerings already featuring heavy religious overtones.
Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning Of Soraya M.), The Young Messiah is a Biblical bildungsroman chronicling critical events which transpired during a momentous year in the life of the Christ child (Adam Greaves-Neal). The intriguing historical drama was adapted from Christ The Lord: Out Of Egypt, a best seller by the legendary Anne Rice, the Grand Dame of Gothic Fiction.
That debut foray into Christian-themed literature represented a big departure for Rice who nevertheless earned Beliefnet’s 2005 Book of the Year for her opus based on the Gospels as well as on theological scholarship. And now Nowrasteh has brought a version of the story to the big screen certain to capture the imagination of the target churchgoing demographic.
After all, the New Testament reveals precious little about Jesus’ formative years, and this ambitious project manages to flesh them out ever so convincingly. As the film unfolds, we find Him living in Alexandria and behaving like your typical 7-year-old while His parents, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh), struggle with how to go about explaining the concept of God to His own Son.
We also learn that they have been living in exile because of King Herod’s (Jonathan Bailey) order his soldiers to massacre all the young boys of Bethlehem. The maniacal despot was determined to prevent the rumored Messiah from ever seizing the throne. Herod’s demise frees the family to return home, although the obsessed centurion Severus (Sean Bean) is still searching for Jesus and sees a little King of the Jews lurking behind every rock.
Meanwhile, Jesus goes about inadvertently healing His sick uncle, curing a blind rabbi, and raising both a bully and a bird back from the dead. And He performs plenty of random acts of kindness, too.
But He remains desperate for an explanation of these superpowers until Mary finally ‘fesses up about everything from the Immaculate Conception to the Virgin Birth to His divine destiny. A plausible, cinematic parable presuming to fill in gaps in the Biblical narrative of the Lord’s early life.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 111 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening March 18, 2016
Allegiant (PG-13 for intense violence, mature themes and partial nudity) Third installment in the Divergent series finds heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) forced to abandon the self-contained city of Chicago for a world where shocking revelations lead to an epic showdown for the salvation of humanity. Ensemble cast includes Theo James, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Jeff Daniels and Maggie Q.
Midnight Special (PG-13 for action and violence) Sci-fi adventure, set in New Orleans, about a father (Michael Shannon) who goes on the run to protect his superhuman, 8-year-old son (Jaeden Lieberher) from both a cult and a government with designs on the boy. Featuring Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard.
The Confirmation (PG-13 for mature themes) Dysfunctional family comedy about a cash-strapped carpenter’s (Clive Owen) attempt to reconcile with his estranged, 8-year-old son (Jaeden Lieberher) who’s been dropped in his lap while his ex-wife (Maria Bello) is away on a weekend retreat with her new husband (Matthew Modine). Support cast includes Robert Forster, Tim Blake Nelson, Patton Oswalt, Spencer Drever and Stephen Tobolowosky.
Ktown Cowboys (R for sexuality, brief frontal nudity and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of the hit web series of the same name revolving around the antics of a quintet of party animals hanging out in L.A.’s Koreatown. Co-starring Danny Cho, Steve Byrne, Bobby Choy, Herson Chavez and Lee Doud.
My Golden Days (R for profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Flashback flick revolving around an anthropologist’s (Quentin Dolmaire) reflections upon his adolescence while preparing to return to Paris from Tajikistan. With Mathieu Amalric, Lou Roy-Lecollinet and Dinara Drukarova. (In French, Russian and Hebrew with subtitles)
The Program (R for profanity) Adaptation of Seven Deadly Sins, investigative journalist David Walsh’s (Chris O’Dowd) best-selling book exposing the truth about bicyclist Lance Armstrong’s (Ben Foster) use of banned substances while participating in the Tour de France. With Dustin Hoffman, Lee Pace and Edward Hogg.
Sweet Bean (Unrated) Bittersweet drama about the unlikely friendship forged between the manager of a pancake stand and the lonely 76-year-old (Kiki Kirin) he hires as his assistant, half out of pity, half for her yummy jelly recipe . With Kyara Uchida, Miyoko Asada, Etsuko Ichihara and Miki Mizuno. (In Japanese with subtitles)
Take Me To The River (Unrated) Atmospheric mystery revolving around a gay teen (Logan Miller) from California who changes his mind about coming out of the closet at a family reunion in Nebraska when he is suddenly suspected of molesting a 9-year-old niece (Ursula Parker). With Robin Weigert, Richard Schiff and Azura Skye.