Paul, Apostle of Christ
Faith-Based Biopic Chronicles St. Luke and St. Paul’s Close Relationship
I distinctly remember learning in Sunday school when I was a child that Jesus had 12 Apostles: But none of them was named Paul (James Faulkner). In fact, while Jesus was alive, the future saint was still a Jew who took a perverse pleasure in persecuting Christians.
But he famously had a change of heart after experiencing a blinding vision of Jesus while on the road to Damascus. Upon regaining his sight three days later, he converted to Christianity and became one of the fledgling religion’s staunchest advocates.
He proceeded to preach all across the ancient world for several decades, sharing his heartfelt conviction that Jesus was the Messiah. However, Paul’s proselytizing did not sit well with the Roman Emperor, Nero, who had the troublemaker tried for treason, convicted and tossed into a dank prison cell to await his fate.
That is setting of this depressing biopic, unfolding in Rome in 67 A.D. Co-written and directed by Andrew Hyatt (Full of Grace), the picture basically revolves around a jailhouse friendship allegedly forged between Paul and Luke (Jim Caviezel), a physician and fellow believer.
According to this speculative docudrama, the good doctor visited Death Row daily in order to secretly record Paul’s pearls of wisdom before his beheading. If the suspect storyline is to be believed, the upshot of that effort was the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Luke. But I can’t help but wonder whether there’s any proof that the two religious icons ever even met.
Regardless of the liberties that might have been taken with the truth, I was turned off by the pall cast over the production by Paul’s relentlessly-dire plight, and it didn’t help matters any that the movie has way more talk than action.
What does it tell you when a movie’s most-memorable moment involves Nero’s roasting Christians alive at the stake for fun, and referring to them as “Roman candles.” I bet you thought the term was coined for the firecracker.
Overall, a faith-based, snuff flick with little appeal beyond the Bible-thumping demographic.
Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for disturbing images and some violence
Running time: 108 minutes
Production Studios: Affirm Films / Outside Da Box
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
A Wrinkle in Time
Dazzling Adaptation of Beloved Children’s Classic Brought to the Big Screen
Madeleine L’Engle finished writing A Wrinkle in Time in 1960, but the escapist fantasy was rejected by over two dozen publishers before it finally captured the imagination of John Farrar, co-founder of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In 1963, the groundbreaking, illustrated novel won the Newbery Medal for being the best children’s book of the year.
Four decades later, Disney eviscerated the magical masterpiece of its religious overtones in the process of turning it into a generic, made-for-TV kiddie movie devoid of allusions to Christianity. Even the author expressed her displeasure with the sanitized production, remarking, “I expected it to be bad, and it is.” You see, L’Engle, long-time writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, had consciously laced the opus with lots of Biblical quotations.
Fast-forward 15 years, and we now find Disney mounting a big screen version of the beloved classic many consider unfilmable. That unenviable task fell to Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and the Oscar-nominated documentary, 13th.
Ava availed herself of state-of-the-art technology to create an eye-popping spectacular designed to enthrall young and old alike. She also cast the message movie in colorblind fashion.
The original ensemble only had a single, non-white member, Alfre Woodard. Compare that to the reboot which features an ethnic rainbow reflective of the direction in which the browning nation has been rapidly heading. Though the film has its spiritual moments, they are more universal in nature as opposed to pushing a Christian agenda.
The basic plotline sounds anything but faith-based. In 25 words or less, the story is about a brother (Deric McCabe), sister (Storm Reid) and friend (Levi Miller) who time-travel to distant universes with the help of a trio of astral travelers played by Oprah, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon.
The kids are searching for the siblings’ scientist father (Chris Pine) who went missing several years earlier. Along the way, they learn some big life lessons about what really matters in life.
An overblown, intergalactic saga certain to tug on your heartstrings during unapologetically-sentimental breaks in the action.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG for peril and mature themes
Running time: 109 minutes
Production Studios: Whitaker Entertainment / Walt Disney Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening March 30, 2018
BIG BUDGET FILMS
God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness (PG for violence, mature themes and suggestive material) Third installment in the faith-based franchise finds members of a tight-knit congregation being tested by God when a deadly fire destroys their church. Co-starring Tatum O’Neal, John Corbett, Ted McGinley and Gregory Alan Williams.
Ready Player One (PG-13 for action, violence, bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity and profanity) Adaptation of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel, set in 2045, revolving around a teenager’s (Tye Sheridan) participation with the help of his friends in a virtual reality Easter egg hunt where the winner will inherit an immense fortune from the contest’s late creator (Mark Rylance). Ensemble includes Olivia Cooke, Mckenna Grace, Lena Waithe, Olivia Cooke, Simon Pegg and Letitia Wright.
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Revenge thriller about a long-suffering wife (Taraji P. Henson) who finally gets fed up with her philandering spouse (Lyriq Bent). With Crystie Stewart, Danielle Nicolet and Jazmyn Simon.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
All I Wish (Unrated) Romantic comedy about a fledgling fashion designer’s (Sharon Stone) desperate search for a soulmate until she finally meets Mr. Right (Tony Goldwyn) on her 46th birthday. Featuring Famke Janssen, Ellen Bursrtyn and Erica Ash.
Birthmarked (Unrated) Nature vs. nurture comedy about a couple of well-respected science professors (Matthew Goode and Toni Collette) who retire to raise their kids to test what they suspect to be a genetic predisposition to pursue their careers. With Fionnula Flanagan, Michael Smiley and Suzanne Clement.
The China Hustle (R for profanity) Eye-opening expose’ highlighting how China has been eating America’s lunch by perpetrating a massive stock fraud in the deregulated financial markets.
Finding Your Feet (PG-13 for suggestive material, profanity and brief drug use) Romantic dramedy about a straitlaced senior citizen (Imelda Staunton) who moves in with her bohemian big sister (Cela Imrie) after catching her husband of 40 years (John Sessions) in bed with her BFF (Josie Lawrence). With Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley, Paul Chan and David Hayman.
Gemini (R for pervasive profanity and a violent image) Crime thriller about a Hollywood starlet’s (Zoe Kravitz) personal assistant (Lola Kirke) who ends up the prime suspect in a grisly homicide after lending a gun to her boss. Supporting cast includes Ricki Lake, John Cho and James Ransone.
The Last Movie Star (R for sexuality and partial nudity) Burt Reynolds stars in this poignant character study about an aging matinee idol forced to face the fact that his glory days are way behind him. With Chevy Chase, Clark Duke and Ariel Winter.
Outside In (Unrated) Romance drama about the taboo love affair between a recently-paroled ex-con (Jay Duplass) and a married, high school teacher (Edie Falco) he hasn’t seen since being sent up the river 20 years ago. With Kaitlyn Dever, Ben Schwartz and Aaron Blakely.