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.

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Review: National Treasure (dir. Jon Turteltaub, 2004)

About eight years ago, something happened to Nicolas Cage. Known until then as an offbeat but fascinating charactor actor, Cage won an Oscar for playing an alcoholic who literally drinks himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas — and then he suddenly turned into an action hero. Many, but not all, of Cage’s onscreen adventures since then have been produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, including the R-rated action movies The Rock and Con Air and the PG-13 heist flick Gone in 60 Seconds. But now, with National Treasure — a PG-rated romp through the relics, myths and legends surrounding America’s founding fathers — Cage and Bruckheimer have set their sights on a younger, and perhaps less critical, audience. This film is being released as a full-fledged Walt Disney picture, and unlike some of Cage’s more intense flicks, this one has the benign villains and occasionally silly sensibility of those films Disney used to churn out back in the ’70s and show as two-parters on their Sunday-night “Wonderful World of Disney.” The main difference is, this new film has bigger stars and a bigger budget.

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Review: Black Hawk Down (dir. Ridley Scott, 2001)

The folks who brought you Pearl Harbor are now bringing you Black Hawk Down, and despite the fact that both war movies feature Josh Hartnett and Tom Sizemore in key military roles, the films are very different.

Where Pearl Harbor was full of saccharine romance, nostalgic production design and eye-popping special effects, Black Hawk Down is a decidedly grim and realistic account of a botched military operation that resulted in the deaths of 18 Americans and more than 1,000 Somalis eight years ago. Where Pearl Harbor was widely dismissed for its commercialism, Black Hawk Down tries very hard to earn respect. This is the film producer Jerry Bruckheimer hopes will be remembered at Oscar time.

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