DVD review: Heaven Is for Real (dir. Randall Wallace, 2014)

The first thing you notice, when you pop the Heaven Is for Real disc into your player, is the trailers. Four of the five trailers that kick things off are for “faith-based” films of one sort or another, all of them co-produced by Sony’s Affirm Films division. (The films in question are When The Game Stands Tall, Moms’ Night Out, Courageous and Soul Surfer.) But nestled in the middle of that pack is a trailer for… The Amazing Spider-Man 2. One of these things is not like the other, right?

The funny thing is, the inclusion of that ad makes perfect sense — and not just because the Spider-Man films are also distributed by Sony. If you’ve seen Heaven Is for Real, then you know that Colton Burpo, the boy whose near-death experience the film is all about, has a toy Spider-Man. Indeed, the book on which the film is based mentions this toy a few times, and on page 33, the toy is explicitly described as “Colton’s favorite toy, his Spider-Man action figure.” (The bulk of the book takes place in 2003, i.e. one year after the first Spider-Man film.)

So the presence of Spider-Man on this disc isn’t just a case of corporate synergy. Even so, the inclusion of this detail, combined with the exclusion of other, more pertinent details from the book, serves as a helpful reminder that this film is no mere independent Christian film, but reflects a major studio’s effort to cater to the “faith-based” market while appealing to the broadest possible audience.

[Read more...]

Box-office update: Persecuted is another “faith-based” dud

The “faith-based” genre produced another dud this past weekend. Persecuted — in which an evangelist is framed for murder by a corrupt politician, thereby unleashing “an unprecedented era of persecution” — opened to a measly $851,391 on 736 screens this week.

The film ranked #19 at the box office. Four of the films that ranked above it actually played on fewer screens (Think Like a Man Too, Edge of Tomorrow, Chef and especially Boyhood), and the film’s $1,157 per-screen average was the second-lowest in the top 25.

This comes just five weeks after the once-hyped Alone Yet Not Alone opened to $534,626 — on only 103 screens! — before sputtering out with less than a million bucks altogether. (The film had earned $887,851 as of July 2, and presumably not much more since then.)

[Read more...]

Box-office update: Poor July 4 attendance affects two movies with a faith hook that are not “faith-based” movies

From the controversy surrounding Alone Yet Not Alone in January to the release of Moms’ Night Out in May, there’s been a lot of talk this year about “faith-based” movies, a genre that apparently covers everything from low-budget Christian propaganda to big-budget Bible movies with a distinctly Jewish sensibility. Curiously, though, one of the most faith-oriented films of the year came out this past week, and no one thought to group it in with the rest.

Well, perhaps it’s not that curious. Deliver Us from Evil, based on a book by retired NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie and directed by horror-movie expert Scott Derrickson, may have been made by openly Christian people — see this featurette on Sarchie and my 2005 interview with Derrickon for more on that — but the film is rated R, and it earns that rating with lots of four-letter words and disturbing images. So for those who are inclined to think that “faith-based” films are synonymous with “family” films and the like, there was never any question of putting this film in that category.

[Read more...]

Box-office update: Robots ride dinosaurs, some films do better than the buzz would suggest, and Noah leaves North American theatres (while enjoying its third week in Japan)

Life was too busy to post a box-office update last week, but that’s okay, I think, since not a lot was happening then.

The big story this week is that Transformers: Age of Extinction supposedly became the first film of the year to gross over $100 million in a single weekend (in North America, that is) — but that figure was quickly disputed by rival studios, who said the film actually came in just a tiny bit beneath that amount. Whatever. It was still pretty huge.

[Read more...]

Box-office update: Alone Yet Not Alone fizzles in its first week, Noah comes to Japan, and more

Before Heaven Is for Real, before God’s Not Dead, and before Son of God, the year of the religious movie began in January with the Oscar nomination — and the subsequent rescinding of that nomination — for the title song to the independent Christian film Alone Yet Not Alone.

The film itself had not been widely seen at the time; it was shown in only one theatre in Los Angeles last year to qualify for the Oscars. But the filmmakers had plans to release the film in June, and the Oscar controversy gave it lots of free publicity. And that was before the films mentioned above proved that there was a lot of gold in them thar “faith-based” hills.

So, on Friday, the film finally came out, and… it barely made a ripple.

[Read more...]

Box-office update: Edge of Tomorrow “wins” or “loses” the week depending on how you look at it, and more

Depending on how you look at it, Edge of Tomorrow either “won” or “lost” at the box office this past weekend.

That’s right, you can actually argue that Edge of Tomorrow “won”. Most reports have focused on the fact that the $28.8 million that the film opened to in North America last weekend fell well behind the $48 million that the low-budget romance The Fault in Our Stars opened to, and it even fell a bit behind the $34.3 million that Maleficent earned in its second week. But Edge of Tomorrow actually won the weekend overseas and thus worldwide.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X