Review: The Omen (dir. John Moore, 2006)

In the last few years, we’ve seen two prequels to The Exorcist and a remake of The Amityville Horror, so it was probably only a matter of time before someone got around to reviving that other popular 1970s supernatural horror movie, The Omen. The producers of this film had an especially timely marketing hook: a release date (6/6/06) that lends itself to ad campaigns with a mark-of-the-Beast theme.

In other ways, though, the remake of The Omen cannot help but seem as dated as the movie on which it is based. This is partly because the new film is extremely faithful to the original. Composer Marco Beltrami does not just emulate the style of Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score for the original movie, he even re-uses some of its themes. And screenwriter David Seltzer does not adapt his earlier script so much as dust it off and tweak a few time-sensitive details; for example, where the first film speculated that “the Common Market” was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Roman Empire — a key piece in the end-times puzzles of Hal Lindsey and others at that time — the new film refers to “the European Union” instead.

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Review: The Da Vinci Code (dir. Ron Howard, 2006)

The makers of The Da Vinci Code have been saying for some time now that their film is not supposed to be taken all that seriously. It’s not history, and it’s not theology, director Ron Howard has said; instead, it’s just a rollicking good bit of entertainment. And leading man Tom Hanks has said it’s loaded “with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense,” calling the story “a lot of fun.”

If only they had taken their own advice. Dan Brown’s novel may be the product of extremely sloppy historical study, but even many of the book’s critics have admitted that it is a “page-turner,” an exciting yarn that carries the reader off on a semi-clever, fast-paced ride. The film, on the other hand, is a dull and plodding bore, and it takes itself far, far too seriously.

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From Temptation to the Code

In 1988, Christians picketed theaters that showed The Last Temptation of Christ. Today, they’re trying to find ways to “engage” a new controversial movie — The Da Vinci Code.

Two decades ago, Christians took a stand against Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. When a draft of the script was made public, protestors compelled Paramount to abandon the project, and when Universal produced the movie a few years later, in 1988, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright offered the studio some $10 million to buy the movie and destroy it. And then, when the film was released, Christians staged a number of boycotts and pickets outside theatres — a noisy tactic some believers now regret.

But today, churches are taking a different approach to controversial films, including The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard’s film adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller, which releases May 19. Pastors, scholars and teachers are writing books, preparing sermon series and Sunday school lessons, and creating websites devoted to “engaging” this pop-cultural artifact as part of an ongoing “dialogue.”

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Review: Three movies called The Ten Commandments (1923, 1956, 2006)

From its annual television broadcasts to its frequent repackaging for home video, The Ten Commandments is not only one of the biggest hit movies of all time, it is also one of the most enduring. But what many people don’t know is that this famous movie, like a number of other 1950s Bible epics, was actually a remake of a 1920s silent film.

A new DVD aims to fill that gap. Marking the remake’s 50th anniversary, both films have been combined in a three-disc package. The first two discs are identical to a “special edition” of the 1956 version that was released two years ago; but the third disc marks the first time that the 1923 version has ever been released on DVD.

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Review: Thank You for Smoking (dir. Jason Reitman, 2005)

thankyouforsmokingNick Naylor is the sort of character for whom the phrase “the charm of the devil” was invented. He’s witty, intelligent, engaging — and a completely unapologetic apologist for the tobacco industry, an industry that he openly acknowledges, to certain people anyway, is responsible for the deaths of thousands, if not millions, of people.

The thing is, he also believes those people are even more responsible for their deaths, because they actively chose to smoke cigars and cigarettes even though it has been common knowledge for decades that tobacco causes lung cancer. And so Nick campaigns against anti-tobacco activists, not only to defend his employers, but to save the public from those meddling, do-gooder government types who try to save people from themselves.

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Grappling with the Da Vinci juggernaut

“SEEK the truth.”

So say the posters for The Da Vinci Code. And so say many Christians who hope to make this movie a witnessing opportunity when it opens May 19 — despite its dismissal of the divinity of Jesus and its controversial claims about the marital status of Christ, the formation of the Bible and the church’s treatment of women.

In contrast to past controversies, such as the various efforts to suppress Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in the 1980s, pastors and scholars have written books, prepared sermon series, and created websites devoted to “engaging” the movie and book versions of The Da Vinci Code as part of an ongoing “dialogue” with the larger culture.

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