Review: Pompeii (dir. Paul W.S. Anderson, 2014)

There are several movies coming out this year that are set in ancient Greece or Rome (or, if not in Rome itself, then at least within the Roman empire). Pompeii is the second of those films to get a theatrical release (and the first to get a theatrical release in Canada, since The Legend of Hercules never opened up here), and it’s not too hard to see why the studio wanted to get it out there as soon as possible, before all the other, and presumably better, films come along.

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The righteousness of Noah: what have the rabbis said?

My friend Steven D. Greydanus has just added his two bits to the growing dialogue around Noah — and you can get the gist of his take on the current “controversy” from his headline, which states: “Everybody chill out about the ‘Noah’ movie.”

Greydanus, like virtually everyone else who has participated in this debate (including me), has not actually seen the movie. But he offers several good points to keep in mind as we look ahead to the film’s release five weeks from now.

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Was Noah a righteous man? How righteous was he? How righteous should our portrayals of him be?

Darren Aronofsky recently said he wants his upcoming movie Noah to “smash expectations of who Noah is”.

And Russell Crowe said last year that the title character, played by him, is “not benevolent. He’s not even nice.”

The Gospel Herald has now picked up on these quotes and combined them with Monday’s bogus Variety story to suggest that the film will contradict the Bible, which describes Noah as a “righteous man”.

But what does that mean?

Let’s start with Aronofsky’s quote.

In context, it’s clear that he was talking not necessarily about Christian perceptions of Noah, but about the general perception of Noah that everyone has grown up with — everyone, that is, who has ever stepped inside a preschool or nursery where the walls are decorated with images of a man and a boat and lots of smiling animals.

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Paramount comes out swinging against Variety’s Noah story

Well this is unusual. Paramount, the studio producing Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, has just issued a press release responding to yesterday’s story in Variety which claimed that an online survey had found that the film was not appealing to religious audiences.

The studio notes, rightly, that Variety overinterpreted the survey results in its headline, and that the survey question itself is so vaguely worded that it never actually refers to Noah (though the webpage hosting the survey does make the connection explicit).

The studio then goes on to cite studies by secular and Christian research groups which indicate that over 80% of the self-defined Christian or “very religious” people who are aware of the film are interested in the film or would recommend it to their friends.

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Duck Dynasty defenders now raising doubts about Noah

The publicity team behind Noah sure has its work cut out for it. While the studio has been trying for months, if not years, to get Christian audiences excited about the film, it was recently reported that many attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast two weeks ago weren’t even aware that the film is coming out next month; and now Variety reports that Faith Driven Consumer, a website that campaigned on behalf of Duck Dynasty during that show’s recent troubles, is conducting an online survey which asks: “As a Faith Driven Consumer, are you satisfied with a Biblically themed movie – designed to appeal to you – which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?” Lest there be any doubt about the motives behind this survey, the website specifies that this question is prompted by the so-called “Noah Movie Controversy”. So far, 98% of the survey’s respondents have answered in the negative, which could be construed as a vote against the film itself. No wonder studio chiefs are openly pinning all their hopes on the film’s box-office performance overseas.

Son of God producers cast Satan out of their film

One of the more interesting things about last year’s mini-series The Bible was the way it linked the Old and New Testaments by making the character of Satan a recurring presence, from the Garden of Eden to the city of Sodom to the temptation and crucifixion of Jesus.

All of that footage, however, has been cut from Son of God, the big-screen Bible spin-off opening next week — partly because of a bogus controversy that erupted last year over the actor’s alleged resemblance to President Obama.

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