Cornelius and Caligula: biblical and secular history come together in two shows called A.D.

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One of the things I have always loved about the 1985 miniseries A.D.: Anno Domini is the way it links the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who became the first Gentile Christian, to Caligula’s efforts to have a statue of himself placed inside the Jerusalem temple. In this telling, Cornelius reacts to the insanity of Caligula’s decree by abandoning paganism altogether, while Peter and the other Christians argue over whether they, as Jews, should still regard the temple as “theirs” in some sense. Caligula’s plans to desecrate the temple, which we know about from writers such as Philo and Josephus, provoke a number of identity crises that are so interesting, you begin to wonder why the book of Acts itself never mentions this episode.

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The Bible sequel gets the green light — but what is it about?

Deadline reports that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey formally announced today that the sequel to The Bible will be a mini-series with the working title A.D.: Beyond the Bible. And instead of telling more stories from across the entire Bible, it sounds like the new series will focus exclusively on the period covered by the Book of Acts, with a heavy helping of secular history courtesy of historians like Josephus.

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It’s all connected: Gertrude Bell, Harry Potter and more!

Deadline reports that James Franco is “circling” a role in Werner Herzog’s long-in-development Gertrude Bell biopic Queen of the Desert. The role — which was once going to be played by Jude Law — is that of Henry Cadogan, a British diplomat who met Bell when she visited Persia, or modern-day Iran, in the 1890s. Bell herself will be played by Naomi Watts.

This bit of news reminds me that I never got around to blogging the last bit of casting news around this film, when it was announced last summer that Twilight star Robert Pattinson is attached to play T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia”. I found that news kind of amusing because Pattinson has already co-starred with another actor who once played Lawrence.

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The Bible: final episode, first impressions

And so it ends. Here are my first impressions of the final episode of The Bible, which aired last night.

Continuity between Bible stories, redux. Once again, I am impressed by the fact that this adaptation-of-the-whole-Bible approach — whatever its limitations — has allowed the filmmakers to emphasize the continuity between Bible stories in a way that you rarely see in other films.

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The Bible: second episode, first impressions

Another week, another episode of the mini-series The Bible. These are my first impressions of the second episode.

The pacing, redux. The second episode is 86 minutes long, and the first six minutes consist of footage from the first episode, so that leaves only 80 minutes for the second episode to take us all the way from the spies in Jericho to the birth of King Solomon — a period that covers about two or three centuries.

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Review: Paul the Apostle (dir. Roger Young, 2000)

Numerous films have been based on the Gospels, but few have been based on the Book of Acts. Even when filmmakers make a point of depicting stories from across the Scriptures, the early church tends to get left out; a typical example is the otherwise excellent series of British-Russian animated films that began with Testament, a collection of nine half-hour episodes from the Old Testament, and ended with The Miracle Maker, a feature film about Jesus. As finales go, the death and resurrection of Jesus are pretty hard to beat.

Thankfully, some filmmakers do explore the work of the apostles once in a while. The best examples to date are probably the 1985 mini-series A.D., which does a marvelous job of depicting the joy that animated the Jerusalem church but gets increasingly sidetracked by secular history and fictitious love stories between soldiers, slaves and gladiators the further it moves into Gentile territory; and the 1981 TV movie Peter and Paul, starring Anthony Hopkins, which takes superb advantage of the autobiographical information in Paul’s epistles.

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