Monday, December 21, 2015

The Best Faith-Based Movies of the Year

(Warner Bros., Pure Flix)

 MOVIES 

There was a time when faith-based movies were only shown in the basement of churches or in the living rooms of conservative Christian families. They were filled with good ideas but they were badly written, featured no-name actors who had very little acting experience and were often executed poorly. While this wasn't the case for all, it quickly became the reputation for faith-based films in general. Some defenders of the genre would argue that these films didn't have the same big budgets that Hollywood movies have. They would complain when critics gave these films bad reviews and argued that critics should give them a break. However, often these films were just bad and throwing more money their way wasn't going to make them better.

Today, faith-based movies are better than ever and are showing up in our local theaters more often, but many Christians still avoid them because of the stigma of the previous works. Here are six of the best films of 2015 that you probably haven't seen, but should.

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Unstuck LLC

Just released on December 4, "Christmas Eve" has been called a faith-based film, but unlike others in this genre, the God-talk isn't overbearing. The film is a comedy, about different groups of strangers who all get trapped in five different elevators in New York City during a power outage. Patrick Stewart plays a mean and wealthy business man who thinks that he doesn't need anybody until he gets stuck by himself and has no one to turn to. Jon Heder plays a man who gets fired on Christmas Eve and is then forced to spend it in a tiny space with his former manager. Cheryl Hines is stuck in a freight elevator with a group of other classical musicians who clearly can't stand each other. Though this film is centered around the holiday, you will still enjoy it even in the spring time.

90 Minutes in Heaven
90 Minutes in Heaven
Emmett/Furla Films  
Based on the book of the same name by Pastor Don Piper, "90 Minutes in Heaven" tells the true account of the pastor's life when after he gets into a serious car accident, dies for ... 90 minutes ... and is then brought back to life. However, instead of focusing on what he saw in heaven during that time, the film smartly shows how difficult his recovery was given his bad attitude and physical limitations. And though the story is about Don, who is played by Hayden Christensen, the film belongs to Kate Bosworth who plays Don's long-suffering wife, Eva. Christian singer Michael W. Smith has a small acting role in the film as well.

Do You Believe
Do You Believe 
Pure Flix

After the surprising success of 2014's "God's Not Dead," Pure Flix was looking forward to another hit with "Do You Believe," but the same momentum just wasn't there. Maybe audiences thought that it would be more of the same, but it's not. This film shows the lives of 12 different people, each one facing difficult decisions in their lives and how they literally collide together one night. Although the work is uneven in places and sports a few clunky lines, this film is surprisingly moving. The film stars Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Cybill Shepherd, Lee Majors, Alexa PenaVega, Ted McGinley and an incredible performance from former Seattle Seahawks player Brian Bosworth. Yes, Brian Bosworth - who is surprisingly good.

The 33
The 33
Warner Bros.

Based on the real-life event of when 33 Chilean miners got trapped underground when a mine collapsed, "The 33" has been somewhat of disappointment to critics and Christians alike. While the main story about how these men miraculously survived 69 days under the earth with limited supplies.is good, the faith aspect of the film (something that the men were very open about in news stories at the time) is downplayed. Fortunately, the film does show some key spiritual moments and the end result of the story is the same. The film stars Antonio Banderas (who is very good), Juliette Binoche and Lou Diamond Phillips.


Woodlawn
Woodlawn
Pure Flix  
You don't have to be a football fan to enjoy the true story of "Woodlawn" which is a good balance of faith and sports. The story is about how one non-segregated school struggled to overcome race issues. Since high school football is really big in Birmingham, Alabama, the sport plays a key role. The film isn't cheesy or overly preachy either. It fits well with other recent sports movies like "Million Dollar Arm" and "McFarland, USA." The film stars Nic Bishop, Sean Astin, Jon Voight and Caleb Castille. It isn't just a feel-good movie. It's a movie that will challenge everyone who watches it.

War Room
War Room
Affirm Films
Alex and Stephen Kendrick have gone a long way since, 2006's "Facing the Giants" and 2008's "Fireproof." With each production, their storytelling gets better and better. Still, they tend to cram more spiritual material than is necessary into each movie and the dialogue is occasionally stilted. With that said, "War Room" is unique in that it features a predominately African American cast, which is something that the brothers haven't done before. And like their other films, Alex has also carved out a role for himself too. The film tells the story of a seemingly perfect family who, like all families, have problems, but not everyone has their own Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) to help fix these issues with the power of prayer.

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