Review 46: Darkness (1/5)

Darkness

Directed by Jaume Balaguero

Starring Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Stephan Enquist

Released on October 3, 2002

Running time 1h 42m

Rated PG-13 (For this review, I watched the unrated version)

Genre: Horror

First off, just because I’m LDS, don’t expect me to moan and complain about Anna Paquin’s recent revelation of being bisexual. I still think of her as a fellow human. However, I think she’s made a potentially damaging mistake. That’s all I will say. I’m not here to talk about Paquin’s sexuality. I’m here to review Darkness. And no, it has nothing to do with Darkness Falls, thank heaven.

Our story begins with a prologue that actually has something to do with the rest of the film. However, by the time the film was over, I had completely forgotten about it, so screw it. Yes, I know, I just pulled this gimmick in my The Haunting of Molly Hartley review, and I already regret bringing that thing up. But I definitely remember one thing about the prologue. The same bloody flashes are recycled throughout the movie again and again and again. It’s PG-13 blood, but blood nonetheless.

I know that the title says “Darkness”, but during the title sequence, the title is completely unintelligible.

We transition to a small American family that has moved into a “never before inhabited” house in Spain. Where in Spain? Madrid? Seville? Valencia? The film doesn’t say. It’s probably near “Seaport, Eastern Mediterranean”, or “Somewhere in China”. Why have they moved into this house that has “HAUNTED” written all over it? I think the film mentioned it once or twice, but I’ve forgotten. Something to do with the father, Mark (Iain Glen) (Oh, hai, Mark {No, I will not be reviewing The Room in the future}) going back to school? I don’t know. Anyway, we are also introduced to Maria (Lena Olin), Paul (Stephan Enquist), and Regina (Anna Paquin, who I wish I could see more of in True Blood {don’t judge me}). Strangely, Mark is Scottish, Maria is Swedish, Paul is Latino (I think), and Regina is Canadian. What a racially diverse family that clearly cannot exist in the real world. Another interesting thing is this: despite having lived in the house for three weeks, the family has still not completely unpacked. Wow.

Before I go into the stringy, tough, overcooked meat of the plot, I must mention that just barely before it does, we hear a voice on the radio talk about an impending solar eclipse. But not just any solar eclipse – a SPECIAL type of solar eclipse that happens only once every forty years. Gee, I wonder if this is going to be a plot point.

Anyway, the plot kind of takes off when Mark begins to suffer from periodical mental breakdowns, and Paul becomes afraid of the dark for the first time. Paul also begins drawing crude drawings of generic children having their throats slit. This disturbs Regina, but Maria brushes it off.

And then we are introduced to the type of gimmick that makes up the majority of the scares throughout the movie: a shadow, or, in this case, g-g-g-g-g-ghooooost walking across the screen accompanied by a thump or instrumental sting. Not only is it not scary, but it gets old quick. The second most frequent scare in the movie is lights flickering and/or going out.

The plot thickens, like a meaty stew left out in the sun, when Regina and her boyfriend Carlos (Fele Martinez) come up with the idea that something is wrong with their house. They meet the house’s designer (Fermin Reixach), who tells them that the house was intentionally designed to be egg-shaped in order to suffice for a supernatural ritual involving the entity Ouroboros (mentioned only once in the entire film), where seven children must be sacrificed by “hands that love them”. The phrase “hands that love them” is seriously overused. This ritual must coincide with – GUESS WHAT? – the eclipse that occurs only once every forty years! I told you it’d be a plot point. Because OF COURSE the next one is imminent.

And then the plot sours like burned bread when, for some strange reason, Regina learns that her grandfather was one of the cult that attempted to perform this ritual forty years ago. There actually were seven children in the previous ritual, but not only did the grandfather not genuinely love Mark, but Mark escaped.

Regina races back home to find her father in the middle of a nervous breakdown which has caused him to attempt a pill overdose. However, this caused him to choke. Regina and Maria perform an emergency tracheotomy on him, but this inadvertently kills him. Considering that Regina and Maria genuinely love Mark, the ritual is now complete. What does this cause to happen in the real world? I don’t know. The film doesn’t say. Anyway, the darkness in the house kills the lights and Maria. We also see a poorly rendered figure that will eventually be perfected in the Grave Encounters duology. The darkness – wait, what? When was the darkness in this house ever sentient? Anyway (I really say that a lot), Carlos arrives and picks up Regina and Paul in his car and drives away. But UH-OH! PLOT TWIST! The REAL Carlos then arrives at the house and is killed by the darkness. It is revealed that the Carlos driving Regina and Paul away is a trick played on them by the darkness, and the film ends as they drive into a dark tunnel.

I must mention two particular scenes. One, in which Mark finds a photograph of three bald men with black, wide, hollow eyes. Two, about forty minutes from the end, in which Regina finds this photo in the darkened house. However, the center man is missing from the painting, leaving a black blotch on the photo. To understand why I found this so creepy, just look up the The Hands Resist Him painting urban legends. Damn, is it creepy. It is a major pity that Darkness chose not to utilize this idea. Upon seeing this sequence, I literally shouted, “Oh, NO!” and then was incredibly disappointed that the idea was not used.

Anna Paquin was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Piano. You would be hard-pressed to find out how, as she gives a dismal performance in Darkness. This film hurts even more considering that this director, Jaume Balaguero, directed the fantastic REC and two of its sequels.

It also hurts even more that despite its plot holes, subpar acting, and cheap scares, Darkness was on the cusp of actually being half decent. The “missing man from the painting” scene was SO CREEPY!

Close but no cigar.

Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars. It would have gotten a .5/5 if not for that one scene.

Advertisements

Review 45: The Haunting of Molly Hartley (0/5)

The Haunting of Molly Hartley

Directed by Mickey Liddell

Starring Haley Bennett, Chace Crawford, Jake Weber, Shannon Woodward, Shanna Collins

Released on October 31, 2008

Running time 1h 32m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror

PG-13 horror movies. I’ve done a lot of those recently. Sometimes gems like Insidious come along, but most of the time they either suck or are painfully average. And then we get bad apples like The Messengers and The Apparition. And then we get an apple like The Haunting of Molly Hartley. You will spit out the first bite, ultimately to no avail as the apple is infested with pathogens and you are made incredibly sick, and you will soon die in horrible pain.

Our story begins with a prologue…which has absolutely nothing to do with the main story, so…screw it.

Introduce Molly Hartley (Haley Bennett). She’s an atheist and a self-centered little whorebag, who, for some reason, is a straight-A student. She’s starting anew at a renowned private school (with tacky uniforms) after a traumatic childhood. What happened during her traumatic childhood, you may ask? I will explain later, even though it is very poorly explained in the movie. Anyway, she meets Joseph (Chace Crawford), the popular guy with whom Molly develops a romantic interest in, Alexis (Shanna Collins), the religious nut, and Leah (Shannon Woodward), the antisocial chick.

I must address the character of Alexis briefly. In one scene with Molly on Molly’s first day, Alexis lets Molly know that the other students laugh at her because she has a close relationship with Jesus. I would say “Good for her”, but in this flick, that is not the case. I will explain later. In order for Molly’s English class to fully understand Paradise Lost, the teacher passes out Bibles to the class, much to the dismay of everyone but Alexis. This isn’t going to turn out like Sunshine, is it? Where the only religious people are absolutely crazy? Starry-eyed kooks or freaking homicidal maniacs (I will explain later)? Anyway, Alexis complains that she has her own Bible, and gets into a brief argument with her teacher over the Bible. I found myself asking the rest of the class, What the hell is wrong with the Bible? I had originally thought, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett would love this movie, but I ultimately rescinded that statement. I will explain later. Throughout most of the movie, Alexis constantly encourages Molly to read the Bible and accept Christ.

Over the course of about two thirds of the movie, Molly begins hearing voices and hallucinating her mother. It is revealed that the mother was a religious whackadoo who tried to “save” Molly when Molly was a child by stabbing her in the chest with a pair of scissors because of…something happening when Molly turns eighteen. Molly’s mother has been in a mental institution ever since, leaving Molly’s father (Jake Weber) to raise Molly himself. I told you I’d explain her traumatic childhood.

After a surgery, a party, more romantic interest, and more hallucinations, Molly comes home the day before her eighteenth birthday to find her crazy mother actually there. After a brief struggle, Molly’s mother falls on her own knife and kills herself, but not before revealing a twist. A twist that M. Night Shyamalan, the master of the modern plot twist (no sarcasm, I really admire him for that {and yes, The Village included}), would have slapped the scriptwriter in the face out of the twist’s stupidity. It turns out that Molly was born prematurely and without warning in a restaurant bathroom. Molly was going to die, but a woman came into the bathroom and offered Molly’s parents eighteen years of Molly’s life in exchange for her soul in service of the Devil. Uh…okay?

Out of desperation, Molly goes to Alexis, who, with Molly’s consent, baptizes her. And then we get another poor twist: Alexis was in on Molly’s past the entire time, and attempts to “save” her by drowning her. Molly fights back and inadvertently kills Alexis. Still desperate, Molly encounters Joseph, who hears Molly’s ordeal and decides to help her. And then we get the next plot twist. It turns out that the woman who offered the deal to Molly’s parents was actually Molly’s school’s guidance counselor (who we’ve only ever seen once in the entire movie), and that Joseph and several other people whose identities escape me are working with her. They have abducted Molly’s dad. He is presented before her and they say that the only way to stop the induction into this Satanic cult is for Molly to kill her own father. Molly raises the knife to do the deed, but the clock strikes midnight. Realizing she is too late, Molly stabs herself in an attempt to deny the cult her soul, but then we receive the final plot twist: Molly cannot harm herself, as her induction into this Satanic cult was predestined. Wow. Fade to black.

We essentially get an epilogue. It took me a while thinking about it to get the idea, but I think I’ve got it. We fade from black and see that Molly has accepted Satanism with open arms. She abandons her father to a mental institution, graduates from school as valedictorian, has a successful relationship with Joseph, and essentially has a much happier life. Uh…go Satanism?

This film went beyond Sunshine. This was not atheism or anti-theism. This was Satanism. In The Haunting of Molly Hartley, not only were Christians demonized as homicidal, but Satanism was promoted as a happy alternative. Wow. Wow. Unbelievable. Wow. I mean, WOW. I have never seen such a blatant promotion and veneration of Satanism in film to date and perhaps never will. It is movies like this that made me start this blog.

This is one of those films that not only is incredibly bad, but transcends badness and becomes offensive, insulting and painful. The Haunting of Molly Hartley earns a well-deserved spot on my Worst Movies list.

And then the final bit that hurt was this: Stephen Kay, the executive producer of this film, was the director of the incredibly disappointing and ultimately mind-numbingly boring Boogeyman, the very first film I reviewed on this blog. It’s nice to know that he had a bright future ahead of him.

It’s also not enough to know that I just dealt with Chace Crawford in The Covenant.

Final verdict: 0 out of 5 stars.

Review 44: Burning Bright (1/5)

Burning Bright

Directed by Carlos Brooks

Starring Briana Evigan, Charlie Tahan, Garret Dillahunt

Released in 2010, but officially on May 2. 2012

Running time 1h 26m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies / Burnt the fire of thine eyes? / On what wings dare he aspire? / What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art / Could twist the sinews of thy heart / And when thy heart began to beat / What dread hand? And what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain / In the furnace was thy brain? / What the anvil? What dread grasp / Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears / And water’d heaven with their tears: / Did he smile his work to see / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

To me, “The Tyger” by William Blake is unique in how it manages to make sense and simultaneously not. Burning Bright derives its name from the first line of the classic poem, as you probably guessed. Unfortunately, it does not, like the poem, simultaneously make sense and not make sense. It just doesn’t make sense. Well, some of it makes sense. But not enough.

Our story begins in an unspecified part of the eastern United States that is currently bracing itself for a Category 3 hurricane. That was a missed opportunity. You could have given us a Category 5, or, hell, a Category 6 hurricane hypercane. A courier meets up with John Gaveneau, who, for some reason, is creating a “Safari Ranch” at his home. He has been buying several African animals, like a bobcat and an orangutan, which, among the rest of the animals, are featured in a second-long shot and are never seen again. The only exception to this is the animal that the courier is currently delivering to him – a Bengal tiger. This is because John wants a “scary animal”. John, you really could have picked a better, more manageable “scary animal”. This tiger had been starved for two weeks out of a claim that that’s how you show the tiger who’s boss. And then the courier feeds John some gruesome cock-and-bull story about how the tiger was part of a circus, and that it attacked and brutally killed “the prettiest” circus horse. Oh, and it’s not nature that gives this tiger its ferocity. It’s because this tiger is EEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL. But John doesn’t care. He buys the tiger anyway, and takes it back to his house.

By the way, when I heard John being addressed by his last name in this scene, instead of “Gaveneau”, I heard “Kavanagh”. And I thought, As in Katharine Kavanagh from Fifty Shades of Grey? Do we seriously have to put up with the Katharine Kavanagh Inquisition again? I already put up with it too many times in that immature excuse for erotic fiction.

Yes, I have read Fifty Shades of Grey. Don’t judge me. Because somehow spelling it “Grey” instead of “Gray” makes it sound darker and more mysterious. I’m going to stop talking about it now and move on with the story of Burning Bright before I get started on an angry rant. I’m reviewing Burning Bright, not Fifty Shades of Grey. By the way, does anyone else think that it was insulting that the FSoG movie came out on Valentine’s Day – SHUT UP, ME!

Anyway, we are then introduced to John’s stepdaughter Kelly and her autistic brother Tom. Kelly has brought Tom to a special hospital so that he can get proper care while she’s away at college. What college is she going to? The college is never named, but considering that throughout the course of this movie, she consistently displays a severe lack of brainpower, I can only assume that she’s going to a cheapo community college that accepts anyone with a pulse. For example – NO. I have dear, beloved friends that go to or have gone to that college. I am not about to insult them. Anyway (I say that a lot), Kelly’s check for Tom’s care has bounced, and when she phones the bank, she is informed that her account has been closed, and that all money has been withdrawn from it by John to – GUESS WHAT? – buy the tiger! They REALLY want us to hate John, don’t they?

John has a group of illegal immigrants (insert anti-illegal-immigration political statement here supporting Donald Trump) board up his, Kelly’s, and Tom’s house against the impending hurricane. Kelly and Tom arrive at home, and Kelly confronts John about her missing funds. John reveals that he, of course, spent it all on the damn tiger. Kelly is obviously pissed the hell off and says that when her mother died (suicide in the same M.O. as Marilyn Monroe), she wanted her money to go to Tom and Kelly. Unfortunately, the mother left no official will, so John took the money for himself to start his “Safari Ranch”. Again, this movie is trying WAY TOO HARD to get us to hate John. I’m sure that this movie won’t be trying harder in later scenes, like adding an amazingly stupid and overblown plot twist toward the end.

Anyway, Kelly calls her college professor, who’s acting way too kind for a college professor, and asks him to defer her start at college another semester, citing family issues. Unfortunately, she has already deferred twice, and her scholarship money cannot be delayed further.

Kelly sends Tom to bed, goes to bed herself, and has a violent dream about her strangling Tom. If she hates Tom so much, why is she trying to care for him? Even if her attitude toward Tom lightens up later in the movie, the fact that she was even thinking about flat-out murder is inexcusable.

While Kelly sleeps, the tiger gets out of his cage. Yes. We’re never shown how, but the tiger gets out of his cage and into the house. This plot hole is so big that you could throw a massive star through it. Maybe Antares multiplied by the size of Betelgeuse. I don’t know – it’s the best and biggest thing I could come up with. Anyway, the next morning, as the hurricane hits, Kelly goes downstairs to get a drink. She finds a note from John saying that he has gone to the store. In a Category 3 hurricane? That’s impressive. As Kelly heads back upstairs, she sees the tiger cross the foyer under her. She and Tom hide.

How has the tiger not smelled, tracked down, and eaten Kelly and Tom by now? A tiger – screw it, a cat in general’s sense of smell is impeccable. Their hearing is five times better than that of a human, and three times better than that of a dog. They can sneak up on their prey almost silently. Even if you slammed a typical hollow wood household door in the tiger’s face, it would take less than ten seconds for the tiger to bash the door down by sheer brute force alone. Kelly and Tom should be tiger chow by now. But, in this movie, the tiger’s six senses work only when the plot demands that they do. Not only that, but even if the tiger’s senses actually worked in this movie, and if the tiger’s continuously relentless stalking actually remained consistent, and if Tom’s freakish autism remained consistent throughout the movie, Kelly and Tom would have been tiger chow in minutes. And, frankly, I want them to be tiger chow. I want to see this terrifyingly beautiful animal satiate its hunger in the most brutal of fashions.

Don’t judge me – I myself am high-functioning autistic. So I KNOW that Burning Bright shows autism in a completely unrealistic way. Tom acts not only like he doesn’t and refuses to live in the real world, but he also has no sense of fear or danger unless he is touched.

TOM: NOOOOOOOOO! NO TOUCH! NO TOUCH! NOOOOOO! AAAAAAAH! (General freaking out)

Do I mind being touched? A little. But I have a very good friend who is many times more autistic than I, and he minds being touched only a little bit more than I do. Thanks for your unintentional help, Fred.

Anyway, the tiger learns that Kelly and Tom are there, and, over the rest of the movie, it stalks Kelly and Tom throughout the boarded-up house.

Occasionally we get a few brief couple-second-long scenes of John at a busy, well-lit bar, drinking. During a hurricane? Not just why, but how?

And then, about twenty to thirty minutes before the end of the movie, we get this little screwup of a plot twist. While Kelly and Tom hide in John’s study, Kelly tears apart John’s desk looking for his gun. Good luck finding a home-owned gun anywhere in Hollywood. While rooting through the desk, she finds a form that…has something to do with life insurance. I don’t even know. I had to look up Burning Bright’s plot to learn that John has taken out life insurance policies on Kelly and Tom. Call me stupid, but I didn’t get the rest of the plot twist until about five minutes before the end of the movie, when John shows up at the house, takes the board off of the front door, and enters the house with a hunting rifle. I also had to look this up to learn that it was John who allowed the tiger to get into the house, so it could kill Kelly and Tom and so John could get the government benefits. Way to make up for a gigantic plot hole by making up a weak plot twist, scriptwriter. Kelly acts like this is a shock: John killed the mother and made it look like suicide. Honest to God (literally), I didn’t get that until Kelly actually said it. Again, call me stupid.

And then, literally out of nowhere, the tiger attacks and kills John, giving Kelly and Tom enough time to sneak out of the house. And then the movie just ends. Let me rephrase that. The movie sort of just…stops.

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Well, frankly, Burning Bright shouldn’t have dared.

Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars.

Review 43: The Rite (3.5/5)

The Rite

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Starring Colin O’Donaghue, Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds

Released on January 28, 2011

Running time 1h 54m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror, Religious

Finally we have a PG-13 horror flick that doesn’t just not commit the Darkness Falls sin of being too short, but it ignores the fact that Darkness Falls ever existed, coming out to just short of two hours.

Though The Rite isn’t fantastic, I can clearly tell that it’s trying. It’s taking its subject material – faith – seriously, and it’s at least trying to give us a message.

The story, unfortunately, is rather cliché. It concerns a doubting, faith-lacking priest named Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donaghue) who is trying to find himself through going to the Vatican and learning to become an exorcist. He is disillusioned with the Vatican-sponsored classes, so his teacher, Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds), sends him to meet and work under a renowned Welsh Jesuit exorcist, Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), whose methods are unorthodox, but nonetheless get results. Kovak meets the journalist and pointless love interest Angelina (Alice Braga), who is writing an article based on exorcism. As Kovak works with Father Lucas and one of his patients, Rosaria, he witnesses strange preternatural activity surrounding the exorcistic treatment. Contrary to popular belief, actually exorcising a demon can take months, even years, requiring multiple appointments. Apparently Rosaria was raped by her father, leading to her pregnancy and demonic possession. After the second appointment witnessed by Kovak, Rosaria’s condition worsens and she is placed in the hospital. That night, she miscarries, and both her and the baby die. Father Lucas is completely disheartened, and now that it has broken down all his defenses, the demon who possessed Rosaria possesses Father Lucas. Kovak and Angelina discover this, and, with Father Xavier out of town, Michael is forced to perform the exorcism on Father Lucas on his own. And the demon is just as evil as it ever was. It knows exactly what to say to get under your skin. It knows your secrets. It knows what you fear. It knows all your sins. And it knows exactly how to use its knowledge to its advantage. Ultimately, after a long, hard, verbal and spiritual battle, Kovak regains his faith and forces the demon to reveal its name: Baal (pronounced “ball”, not “bale”). Upon revealing its name, Baal is weakened, and promptly exorcised. Father Lucas is in good shape in the days afterward, and Kovak heads back home and ultimately realizes his true calling as a priest.

I expected this to fall apart compared to 2010’s The Last Exorcism. I expected it to completely die in the third act. I expected something like the neon red baby.

But this film redeems itself entirely on the performance of Anthony Hopkins. I try to take him being a good guy with a grain of salt, considering that he used to be Hannibal Lecter (Lecktor?). But he gives it his all, and singlehandedly saves the movie from being just another below average demonic possession flick. And his demonic makeup is fantastically terrifying. I think that Hopkins as an actor singlehandedly saved The Wolfman from being absolutely terrible.

The acting, overall, is decent. Colin O’Donaghue does as well as he can.

I applaud the movie for not relying on over-the-top gore or crazy special effects.

I applaud the very dark and gloomy atmosphere. Especially considering that this is the Vatican.

I applaud the proper execution of the plot device known as the “Slow Build”.

While you certainly won’t be watching The Exorcist, or The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or even The Last Exorcism for that matter, you will indeed get what you paid for.

Did you know that Anthony Hopkins was able to conquer his alcoholism through his belief in God?

Final verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Review 42: The Darkest Hour (1/5)

The Darkest Hour

Directed by Chris Gorak

Starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Varnadskaya

Released on December 22, 2011

Running time 1h 29m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Sci-fi, Disaster, Thriller

In this review, I will be comparing The Darkest Hour to two other alien invasion movies that came out the same year: Skyline (which I would give a 4/5) and Battle: Los Angeles (which I would give a 3.5/5). I actually enjoyed the two. Skyline for its suspense and cool-and-scary-looking aliens, and Battle: Los Angeles for its mindless, badass fun.

I’ll try to be concise with Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles, because this is a review of The Darkest Hour.

  • Skyline: A small group of Los Angeles citizens desperately try to hide in a penthouse apartment as an unstoppable extraterrestrial horde invades the earth over the course of three days. One by one the group is picked off. Why are the aliens here? It is revealed that each individual alien is powered by our brains. That is probably the most original idea I’ve ever seen in a movie like this. Alien ships “vacuum” up humans, and machines inside destroy the heads of humans, leaving only the blue-glowing brain. Only at the cliffhanger end does it look like the human race has even a small shred of hope.
  • Battle: Los Angeles: A horde of seemingly unstoppable aliens invades the earth from the sea. A small group of Army soldiers are stranded in overrun Los Angeles. They fight their way out, and along the way learn that the aliens are here for our water. The climax reveals that humanity actually has a legitimate fighting chance, and the still-intact U.S. military ends the movie on a cliffhanger, launching a massive assault on Los Angeles.
  • And then we have The Darkest Hour. Two American software designers (I think that’s what they are) travel to Moscow to…uh…something about a business deal. Of course, the deal goes sour, and the two Americans are left broke. They, oh how coincidentally, meet two American chicks at a bar. Yellow lights that look like auroras flash across the Moscow sky. Yellow spritz-sprite-thingy-balls fall from the sky and fade away, while everything electric dies. A policeman investigates where a ball was and is yanked into the now invisible ball and disintegrated. This causes the other balls to hunt and disintegrate other people. The now four Americans hide from the balls. The next morning, they go outside to see the streets of Moscow completely empty. They decide to go to the American Embassy, which they learn to their dismay is abandoned. They meet up with other survivors, learning that the aliens are surrounded by an electric ball-shaped force field, and that their only weakness is microwave emitters. They also learn that a nuclear submarine is waiting in the Moscow River to take survivors to safety. They make a break for it, meet up with other survivors, get to the sub, and end the movie on a hopeful cliffhanger. Just like Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles. Damn.

I thought I’d also complain about the aliens.

  • Skyline’s aliens were definitely the most original, innovative, and COOL out of these three movies. They were essentially made of organic tissue combined with mechanical stuff with a bunch of blue eyes or lights. I divided them into four classes: the mothership, the bigger ships and fighters, dropships, the behemoths or tanks, and the slug-beetle-centipede hybrid grunts. I can’t say anything about them except that they looked SO COOL! Clearly the budget was utilized well!
  • Battle: Los Angeles had three types of aliens: motherships, flying drones, and Terminator-esque grunts. They looked really cool, but less cool than Skyline. The budget was utilized slightly more to hire bigger name actors like Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, but the aliens were very well done.
  • And now we come to the cheap golden sprites in The Darkest Hour. They clearly have little to no budget dedicated to making the aliens actually look good. They clearly made the aliens invisible to save money rather than to be original. And The Darkest Hour had as much as ten to twenty million buck larger budget more than Skyline. And Skyline’s budget was between ten and twenty million dollars. To have that low of a budget and have that impressive of special effects is incredible. But seeing The Darkest Hour waste its thirty million dollar budget on filming in 3D in Russia. I may have seen The Darkest Hour in 2D, but I cannot tell how it could have been even slightly effective in 3D.

Wait, how’d I get from aliens to wasting the budget on 3D? Way to just ramble on into particular subjects.

One last thing: how’d they get Olivia Thirlby, who played Judge Anderson in the fantastic Dredd, to star in this train wreck?

I’ll shut up now.

Final verdict: 1 out of 5 stars.

Review 41: Into the Storm (3/5)

Into the Storm

Directed by Steven Quale

Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon

Released on August 8, 2014

Running time 1h 29m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Disaster, Thriller, Action

From here on out, whenever I think of fantastic special effects, I will think of this film. I mean, WOW. I say that a lot, don’t I? But, yeah, WOW. Those special effects are impeccable. Rarely have I ever seen such cool-looking twisters.

Tornadoes are truly wonders of nature. They are terrifyingly beautiful. Their sense of organization, the strange way nature forms them, the massive amount of destruction they can cause, and the things they can do that seem physically impossible, such as impaling a tree with a strand of hay, with no damage to the hay. Or, in Into the Storm, impale a car with a bicycle with no damage to the bicycle.

Of course, just completely forget about the mind-numbingly dull Sharknado soon-to-be-quadrilogy.

I think Into the Storm’s major mistake was deciding to be a “found footage” disaster flick. There is much of the film that clearly is not found footage. Parts of it are, but not nearly enough.

But let’s get to the story.

There are four main plot threads brought together by the forces of nature – a massive storm system hitting the town of Silverton, Oklahoma.

  1. Donnie Fuller (Max Deacon) and his brother Trey (Nathan Kress) are supposed to film their high school’s graduation ceremony in an attempt to create a time capsule that will be opened in twenty-five years. Donnie makes a last-minute attempt to win the heart of the hot chick at school, Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner Kaitlyn Johnston. In an attempt to salvage Bruce – sorry, Kaitlyn’s doomed project, they ditch their high school’s graduation ceremony to go shoot a video at an old abandoned paper mill. The storm, which spawns a tornado, hits the mill and makes it collapse on top of them. The storm makes a pipe burst, causing water to flood the cavity where Donnie and Bruce Kaitlyn to fill up with water, leaving them with severely limited but sufficient time to develop a relationship.
  2. Trey is left behind at the school to deal with his father, Gary (Richard Armitage, Thorin from The Hobbit trilogy). The graduation ceremony goes swimmingly until it begins to rain hard. The tornado siren goes off and all the students, staff, and ceremony attendees take shelter in the school. The tornado hits the school and severely damages it, but no one is killed. After Gary contacts Donnie and learns of his location, he and Trey go to find Donnie. The tornado hits the mill at this time.
  3. A group of storm chasers, consisting of Pete Moore (Matt Walsh), Allison Stone, Ph.D. (Sarah Wayne Callies), Daryl (Arlen Escarpeta), and Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter) are down-on-their-luck storm chasers that take a major risk when they go to Silverton purely on a hunch. They have a van with the inside covered in TVs, radar, and other equipment, and a heavily armored and upgraded Tornado Intercept Vehicle nicknamed Titus. When they get to Silverton, they learn the hard way that they’re going to get a lot more than they bargained for. They eventually meet up with Gary and Trey after surviving the day’s second twister. A group of six-ish twisters destroys a residential neighborhood and car lot and throws a bunch of crap in their path. One of the twisters even becomes a FIRENADO after destroying an oil tanker and causing an explosion. Jacob is sucked in and killed, and the rest make it into a church. The tornadoes dissipate, and the group makes it to Donnie and Bruce Kaitlyn just in time.
  4. A pair of adrenaline junkies, Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), capitalizing on making money off of YouTube show up several times throughout the movie purely to chew the scenery and, around the middle of the movie, get carried off by a twister. Thank heaven.

THE CLIMAX. The three plot threads have come together, and the fourth one has been eliminated.

A series of tornadoes converge to form a massive EF5 tornado. If you don’t know what EF5 is, look up the Enhanced Fujita scale. It’s easy to wrap your mind around it. Anyway, the massive tornado, which will be addressed later as the largest tornado in history (Does it compare to the 2013 El Reno tornado being 2.6 miles wide? If it does, great, but it doesn’t look quite like it.), is headed for the school. What a coincidence. Pete, Gary, Allison, and the rest of the group head to the school, herd everybody onto buses, and attempt to escape. Everyone but the last bus and a few cars escape, as a downed power line falls in their way. Coincidentally, the people on the last bus and cars are – GUESS WHAT – our group that we’ve been following for the entire movie. Typical. The group takes refuge in a storm drain, but flying debris compromises the shelter. Pete, in a sudden act of heroism, after giving Gary his research hard drives, pilots the Titus to the storm grate and utilizes the combination of the Titus’s weight, ground anchors, and winch cable to anchor the storm grate in place. The group gets to see only what God and Jo and Bill from Twister have ever gotten to see: THE EYE OF THE TORNADO, which made me realize: This isn’t a tornado. This is a Hurricanus Ultimo. But then the second half of the tornado hits. The Titus’s bumper, which the winch cable is attached to, breaks off, and the Titus is sucked up into the tornado. In fact, it is thrown up above the clouds somehow. And then the Titus falls and hits the ground within seconds, killing Pete instantly. And then the tornado dissipates, and we learn that everyone inside the storm drain survived somehow. And the tornado may as well be screaming in the style of Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget, “I’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, GARY! NEXT TIME!” and then have Mad Cat give an angry yell.

Anyway, the next scene shows, through a series of interviews finishing out the time capsule, the flattened community of Silverton rebuilding, having grown stronger and closer together as a community, as friends, and ultimately as family. They all show a newfound appreciation for life. I honesty cannot and will not object to this.

But I can object to the final scene. It is revealed that Donk and Reevis survived, and are hanging from a tree. Ho, ho.

It’s not an original story, the characters are not very well developed or interesting (except for maybe Allison and Gary), and the script can be a little clumsy at times.

I may sound like a broken record for saying this, but the special effects are impeccable. Beautiful. Some of the best I’ve ever seen. Had it featured blue cats, I could have easily said that Into the Storm tosses aside Avatar as the best CGI I’ve ever seen.

I can also praise the soundtrack for being not only minimalist, but done by a full orchestra. Good for Brian Tyler!

Of course, I’m not going to act like this was a great movie. It wasn’t. But it is not only passable, but it takes the cake away from Twister as the best tornado film I’ve seen to date.

Thank heaven.

Final verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.

Review 40: The Passion of the Christ (5/5)

The Passion of the Christ

Directed by Mel Gibson

Starring Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Hristo Zhvikov

Released on February 25, 2004

Running time 2h 6m

Rated R

Genre: Religious, Historical

As The Passion of the Christ  ended, I sat in my computer chair and stared at the computer screen. I was exhausted. I was emotionally and physically drained. The tears were busy drying. But, most importantly, I felt happy. I felt that I was a better man. I thought, This. This is…wow. Wow. I…this is easily, easily one of those movies that I will measure all other movies against. This is beauty. This is exaltation. This … is … joy embodied. I have never seen and probably will never see another movie quite like The Passion of the Christ. This is not a movie. It’s an experience.

As a Mormon/LDS (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a mouthful), I believe that Jesus’s Atonement and Crucifixion are the greatest miracle ever performed by the grace of God. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to go into great detail why. And, strangely, it took an R-rated movie to actually show me and pound into my thick skull and closed mind what Jesus actually went through to save us not just from death, but from sin itself.

Fellow Mormons, I know that is has been said by our former Prophet that we are discouraged from watching R-rated movies. I encourage you to make an exception for The Passion of the Christ. Whether you decide to or not is fine with me.

We all know the events that transpired in the last twelve hours of Jesus’s life. After the Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him further into the garden as He told them to wait by a tree and watch Him. The three fell asleep as Jesus prayed, and atoned for all our sins, suffering all the pains of everyone, blood seeping from every pore. Even Jesus was scared for this to happen, as He begged God to “let this cup pass from me”, but accepted His fate: “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.”

For all atheists and agnostics who are reading this, yes, you have to deal with me quoting the Bible. Of course, if you’ve gotten this far into this review, you obviously don’t mind. Good for you! 🙂

Anyway, while the events in Gethsemane are transpiring, we see Judas, one of Jesus’s disciples, before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish judicial body. A small strike force has been assembled, and Judas is given thirty pieces of silver to lead them to Jesus.

They arrive at Gethsemane, and Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss. As the group moves in to arrest Jesus, Peter fights back and with his sword cuts off the ear of the man named Malchus. Jesus rebukes Peter, “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword”, and heals Malchus’s ear. During this scene, we also see the young man, mentioned only once in the four Gospels, appear, dressed in a single cloth, have the strike force see him, seize him by his garment, see him slip out of it and run away in his undergarments. Biblical Easter egg…I just realized that Biblical and Easter egg are contradictory. Oops.

Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin and relentlessly bashed, including bringing in two false witnesses that accuse Him of blasphemy. Back then, blasphemy was worse than murder. Through all of this, Jesus remains silent, until Caiaphas asks Him if He is the Son of God, to which Jesus replies, “I AM,” and declares that they will see him sitting at the right hand of the Father. Caiaphas tears his robe open in fury, and Jesus is removed from the courtroom and taken to Pontius Pilate to be tried.

As Jesus is removed from the courtroom, Peter is confronted three times by people who accuse him of being with Jesus, and he, as Jesus predicted, denies Him three times. The cock crows, and Peter realizes what he’s done. Peter runs away, and out of the movie.

Judas reappears and comes before the Sanhedrin, saying that he has sinned, and betrayed innocent blood. The Sanhedrin are indifferent to Judas, telling Judas that it’s his problem now, and Judas throws the silver pieces at them in anger and anguish. He runs from the courtroom and hangs himself. I frankly feel sorry for him when I see his punishment in Dante’s Inferno. I mean, ouch. If you’re wondering what that punishment was, READ THE BOOK. It’s not a hard read.

Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, who, after questioning Him, finds no fault in him, much to the anger of the Sanhedrin and the crowd. Pilate sends Him to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, who also finds no fault with Him, and sends Him back to Pilate. Pilate presents Jesus to the Sanhedrin and crowd again; Caiaphas demands that He be crucified. Pilate instead orders Jesus to be flogged, hoping that this will make the Sanhedrin reconsider their desire for the death penalty.

Two Roman soldiers execute the flagellation. Jesus is brutally scourged. A red soldier’s cloak is placed on His bloody, mangled, mutilated back, and a crown of thorns (each thorn was roughly an inch long) is roughly shoved onto His head. He is beaten, mocked, and spit upon by the guards.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.” By the way, that’s the quote that opens the movie.

Pilate brings Jesus before the crowd and Sanhedrin again, where Caiaphas continues to demand that He be crucified. Pilate enacts an action performed at the beginning of each Passover, which is to release a prisoner out of “forgiveness”.  Pilate presents Barabbas, a treasonous murderer, and asks the crowd to choose between Jesus and Barabbas. But the crowd immediately demands, “Give us Barabbas! Barabbas!” Pilate washes his hands of this decision, and makes the decision to crucify Jesus.

Jesus, along with two thieves, carry their crosses along the Via Dolorosa to the hill known as Golgotha, the place of the skull. Jesus, already exhausted and in tremendous physical pain, collapses under the weight of His cross. Simon of Cyrene is brought out of the crowd to carry Jesus’s cross for Him. Saint Veronica comes out of the crowd and wipes Jesus’s bloody face with a cloth. Afterward, it is shown that the cloth has been imprinted with His face. That is what is known as the Veil of Veronica.

Jesus arrives at Golgotha. He is nailed to his cross and raised. A sign is hung from the cross, reading, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. The soldiers below the cross cast lots for His garments. Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for the know not what they do.” The thief on the left (my left, if I was viewing the crucifixion), named Gesmas, mocks Jesus, saying, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” The thief on the right, named Dismas, who has been sanctified in some Catholic traditions, responds, “Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” He then says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Jesus replies, “Verily I say unto you, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Jesus hangs on the cross for over nine hours. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John, Mary (as in sisters Mary and Martha), and Mary Magdalene stand below the cross. Jesus addresses the Blessed Virgin and Saint John, saying first to the Blessed Virgin, “Woman, behold thy son!”, and then to Saint John, “Behold thy mother!” John takes the Blessed Virgin to his home. Jesus says, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”, and “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. It is finished.”, and dies. The Roman centurion, who will later be known as Saint Ctesiphon, realizes that he has truly killed the Son of God. The curtain in the temple is rent  in twain.

Bodies were not allowed to remain on the cross on the Sabbath, so Dismas’s and Gesmas’s legs were broken, but Jesus’s legs were not, as He was already dead. One Roman soldier, who will later be known as Saint Longinus, is ordered to make sure. He stabs Jesus’s side with a spear, and blood and water flow out.

Jesus’s body is taken down from the cross and buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.

“…and on the third day He shall rise again.”

Mel Gibson, when he wrote, produced, and directed The Passion of the Christ, decided to take a few creative liberties. I can say with total and complete honesty that these creative liberties were incredibly effective and only ever added to the overall experience.

  • All dialogue in this film is entirely reconstructed in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin. No English version of the film has ever been released.
  • There are a series of fifteen flashbacks in this film, such as: Mary comforting Jesus as a small child when he fell over. Jesus making a table for a rich man, and joking about it with Mary. John 8:3-11. The Sermon on the Mount; Matthew 5:43-44. John 10:17-18. John 15:12-13. John 14:6. Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The Last Supper. (To understand these references, I implore you to read the Bible.)
  • For some reason, Jesus’s irises appear to be gold. I suppose this was done to make him look godly.
  • Satan shows up several times throughout the movie. First, he shows up in Gethsemane in an attempt to dissuade Jesus from going through with the Atonement. When it is clear that Jesus has every intention of going through with this, Satan sends a snake toward Jesus. Jesus is not fazed, and Genesis 3:15 happens when the snake attempts to bite Jesus’s heel, and Jesus crushes its head. Second, Satan shows up to torture Judas. I will explain later. Third, he shows up at Jesus’s flagellation carrying a really creepy hairy-backed demonic baby in a deliberate perversion of Madonna and Child. Fourth, just as Jesus has died, Satan is shown in the middle of a desert-like Hell, screaming in anguished defeat and impotent rage, as his power has been broken forever. Oh, and Satan is portrayed by a woman in this. Interesting. I suppose this was intended to show Satan as unnaturally skinny.
  • Malchus, after getting his ear healed by Jesus, is actually touched by what has happened.
  • Jesus, on his way to his Sanhedrin trial, is beaten multiple times en route. His right eye is swollen shut for most of the rest of the film.
  • Judas is tortured by children who appear as demons to him. It is implied that this was the reason he betrayed Jesus. The demonic children and ultimately Satan himself torture him after the betrayal, regret, and confession to the Sanhedrin, and being part of the reason he commits suicide.
  • The character of Pilate is expanded upon. He is portrayed in a sympathetic manner, and muses over the question of “What is truth?”
  • Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, is an effeminate bisexual. He is legitimately impressed by Jesus’s miracles. He asks Jesus to perform a miracle for him, but Jesus remains silent. Herod does not find fault with Jesus, saying that He is just crazy.
  • And now we get to the infamous flagellation scene. It begins with two Roman soldiers taking thin wooden rods and brutally beating Jesus with them. After the beating, Jesus, to the astonishment of onlookers, wills Himself back to his feet. In response, the soldiers pick up cat-o-nine-tails, with sharp bits of stone, bone, and metal on the ends, and savagely and sadistically scourge Jesus. This is easily the most brutal scene in the entire movie. There are no close-ups, but whenever Jesus is onscreen, we are easily able to see the whips slice up Jesus’s skin. You will wince with every lash. I will not mince words when I tell you that the scene is very hard to watch. One particular shot shows the rock, metal, and bone bits on the ends of the whip getting caught on the skin covering Jesus’s left ribs. The soldier yanks the whip away, and the bits tear off chunks of flesh. This out of the entire scene made me cringe. If you know me, I’ve seen some pretty nasty stuff. But this made me cringe. And that’s not all. When the soldiers finish whipping His back, they turn Jesus over and start whipping His front. By the time Future Saint Ctesiphon comes out and demands that they stop, parts of Jesus’s ribcage are visible. Wow.  Oh, and when He is given the crown of thorns, the soldiers say “Hail, King of the Worms” rather than “Hail, King of the Jews”. Pilate is disgusted at how brutally Jesus has been punished.
  • While the thieves are given just the horizontal part of their cross, Jesus is given his own huge entire cross. As he trudges along the Via Dolorosa towards Golgotha, he falls over many times.
  • Simon of Cyrene is a Jew instead of a pagan, and he is visibly touched by his experience helping Jesus carry His cross.
  • When Jesus is stretched onto the cross, the soldiers yank his right arm out of its socket to reach the pre-drilled hole for the nail. The process of the nail entering Jesus’s palm rather than both palm and wrist is shown on camera. Ouch. I was intrigued to know that the hands nailing Jesus’s hands to the cross were actually Mel Gibson’s. When Caiaphas, the rest of the Sanhedrin, and Gesmas mock Jesus, and He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Dismas shouts to Caiaphas that “He prays for you”, before he says, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”, and Jesus responding “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Gesmas laughs, but a crow shows up and pecks his left eye out.
  • The final, and most important creative liberty is this: the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene are present from the Sanhedrin trial to the end of the movie. It begins with the Blessed Virgin waking up from a nightmare, asking Magdalene, “Why is this night different from other nights?” Magdalene replies, “Because once we were slaves and we are slaves no longer.” Saint John bursts in and says that Jesus has been arrested. Jesus sees them at the trial, and recalls a memory of His earlier years, when He built a table for a rich man and joked about it with his mother. As Peter flees after denying Christ three times, he encounters Mary, Magdalene, and John before declaring to them that he is unworthy and fleeing once more. Mary, Magdalene, and John are present at Jesus’s flagellation and are all totally shattered, the Blessed Virgin in particular. Pilate’s wife, Claudia Procles, just as shattered as they are, presents Mary, Magdalene, and John with linen towels. After Jesus is removed from the flagellation pillar, the three mop up Jesus’s blood. Mary Magdalene reveals to us in flashback that she was the woman taken in adultery at Jesus’s “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone” lesson in John 8:2-11. As Jesus is carrying His cross along the Via Dolorosa, Mary, Magdalene, and John follow Him. When He falls for the first time, the cross falls on top of Him. Mary flashes back to a time when Jesus fell as a small child as she rushes forward toward Him. When she reaches Him, she attempts to comfort Him, saying “I’m here,” and Jesus responds by quoting Revelation 21:5, saying, “See, Mother? I make all things new.” While Mary, Magdalene, and John are present at the crucifixion, as detailed in scripture, Mel Gibson takes a few more amazingly effective creative liberties. After Jesus says “I thirst,” and Saint Longinus spears a sponge, dips it in vinegar, and attempts to have Jesus drink it, the Blessed Virgin pleads with Jesus to let her die with Him. In response, Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, behold thy son!” and to John, “Behold thy mother!” Mary then kisses Jesus’s feet. Mary, Magdalene, and John remain at Golgotha for the entire crucifixion. Finally, when Jesus’s corpse is taken down from the cross, a visibly older Mary embraces the bloody body of her son in a manner intentionally reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s Pieta.

Most critics claim that the graphic violence that plays a major part throughout this film obscures its message. I say different. If anything, it shows what Jesus had to go through in order to atone for our sins. Obviously, Mel Gibson could not show us the spiritual torture in Gethsemane.  That’s impossible to visualize. Because of that, showing Jesus in immeasurable pain from the flagellation onward is not only justified, but incredibly effective, especially for its Christian audience. To truly drive the point home, we must be there for every moment. Anything less would take away from the message. In fact, the actual Crucifixion was significantly more violent.

Many critics also denounce this film for its anti-Semitic overtones. I say different. In fact, the only anti-Semitism I could detect in this film was directed toward Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin, rather than the lowly citizenry.

I must speak out against the blackballing of Mel Gibson and Jim Caviezel as a result of this film. Mel Gibson is seen as officially crazy in the eyes of Hollywood and the liberal media. For Jim Caviezel, his acting career is in shambles, as it has been hard for him to find anything other than minor film roles. Mel Gibson did not make The Passion of the Christ out of getting off to violence, as the media would have you believe. In fact, Gibson made this film because he believed that God wished him to make it as repayment and homage to God and Christ for the Atonement and therefore forgiveness. Tell me that that’s not a worthy cause.  I feel terrible for criticizing this film in earlier months as Mel Gibson’s personal porno. Sorry, Mel. As for Jim Caviezel, his performance as Jesus Christ is purely incredible, possibly divinely inspired. He doesn’t just play the role of Jesus. He literally becomes Jesus. In fact, when he was cast as Jesus, Mel Gibson personally informed him that this role would almost certainly destroy his career. Caviezel, a devout Catholic, understood Gibson but still took on the role. It has been the most demanding role in his career. Caviezel suffered a dislocated shoulder (the shoulder-dislocating scene actually legitimately dislocated Jim’s shoulder), hypothermia, a lung infection, pneumonia, endured eight-hour makeup sessions that gave him severe headaches,…and he was struck by lightning. The physical demands of the role also took a toll on him as well. First, he had only one eye functioning, thanks to the scene in which Jesus’s right eye is swollen shut for most of the film. Next, the crown of thorns was tied on his head very tightly. The cross that Caviezel had to carry was upwards of one hundred and fifty pounds. Caviezel, while hanging on the cross, dealt with twenty-five-degree temperatures and thirty-five-mile-an-hour winds. And through all of that, he actually did suffer some injuries as a result of the torture scenes. It’s almost as if the Devil didn’t want this movie to be made. But through all that, Caviezel considers it an honor to have played Jesus, and has absolutely no regrets about taking on the role. God bless him.

It wasn’t just Jesus’s suffering that makes this movie, and actual events, powerful. Another main factor is the overwhelming love that the Blessed Virgin Mary has for her son, and that love being reciprocated an hundredfold. Seriously, look at how much emotional torture Mary’s going through! When Mary ran up to Jesus as He fell under the weight of His cross and tried to comfort Him, and Jesus responded with “See, Mother? I make all things new,”…good heavens, the tears came fast and hard for me. I was already tearing up a little bit earlier, but from this sequence onward, the tears flowed freely. I didn’t just cry hard. I fell to pieces. I set my laptop on the ground and I fell to my knees. I watched the rest of the movie through a teary blur, though the tears didn’t obscure my vision as far as not being able to see the screen. And when the film ended, I gave a small prayer of thanks to God. Frankly, I was one of those people that were taking Jesus’s sacrifice and the overall impact it has had for granted. But seeing Jesus go through such horrible things, knowing that he did it all for us in order for us to conquer sin and death was staggering. This transitions into the other main factor: Jesus didn’t just do this because God told Him to. He did this out of love. And it is a staggering message: Jesus did this for me, you, and all of humanity. As I stated earlier, I felt like a better man for seeing this film. Very few films manage to do this. But The Passion of the Christ did it and did it well.

What else can I say about this wonderful film? The cinematography is beautiful. The acting is amazing. The story is one of the strongest I’ve come across. The soundtrack was gorgeous. But the fact that it was about what Jesus did for us, that it was done right, and that it made me cry my eyes out makes it gold to me.

Thanks, Jesus. I think I appreciate Your sacrifice at the very least a little more.

I’m still crying as I wrap this up.

Final verdict: 5 out of 5 stars.