Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of GOD’S NOT DEAD:  A LIGHT IN DARKNESS

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, rated PG
**  

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, the latest film from Pure Flix (God’s Not Dead, The Case for Christ), and is the third film in the God’s Not Dead series. Despite an excellent performance from John Corbett, the film too often falls into clichés in the script, stereotypical characters and behaviors, and religious platitudes. The film is directed and written by Michael Mason.
The film picks back up where God’s Not Dead 2 left off. Reverend Pastor Dave Hill, played by David A.R. White (God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2), is the pastor of St. James, located on the campus of Hadleigh University in the town of Hope Springs. In a storyline that could be pulled from our current news, the courts had ordered that he turn over his sermon manuscripts, which he refused. This landed him in jail. We see him eventually being released, resulting in growing tension between the church and the college students and administration.

***SPOILER WARNING***
After Pastor Dave is released from jail he appoints his good friend Reverend Jude, played by Benjamin A. Onyango, as co-pastor of St. James. Then Adam played by Mike C. Manning (Youthful Daze), a student hostile to the faith, throws a brick through a church window. Reverend Jude goes into the church and is killed after a gas explosion and fire.
Dave is devastated and angry about Reverend Jude’s death. To make matters even worse, the university’s Board of Trustees, which includes Dave’s friend Thomas Ellsworth, played by Ted McGinley (Transformers: Robot in Disguise), refuse to rebuild the church, instead claiming the land the church is on under eminent domain laws. They want to buy the property and tear down the church and build a student union.  Oscar winner Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon) portrays Barbara Solomon, another member of the Board.
Dave fights for the church building, in desperation turning to his estranged brother Pearce, a lawyer played by two-time Golden Globe nominee John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex and the City), who was excellent in the 2017 film All Saints. Pearce specializes in social justice cases, but he has rejected Christianity. As the brothers work together to save the building that was their father’s church, we see the brothers deal with past hurts.
Dave finds encouragement from Meg Harvey, played by Jennifer Taylor (Two and a Half Men). Meg runs a local soup kitchen and makes no secret of the fact that she is attracted to Dave.  (A bit of a ‘pushy broad’  in my wife’s opinion – always being the relationship initiator).
Keaton, played by Samantha Boscarino (Good Luck Charlie), is a young woman of faith who is struggling to hang on to it. Keaton’s boyfriend Adam, the one who threw the brick, is hostile to Keaton’s faith. Keaton is ministered to by campus group minister Josh Wheaton, played by Shane Harper (Good Luck Charlie).
Reverend Roland Dial, played by Gregory Alan Williams (Hidden Figures, Remember the Titans), tells Dave that the church cannot respond to hate with more hate. Instead it needs to be a light in the darkness.  Reverend Dial seemed to be the only Christian in the film whose faith was not rocked by hard circumstances.
*********************

The film overuses television news clips, some featuring Judge Jeanine Pirro and also Dana Loesch, covering the controversy between the church and the university.
Cissy Houston and two members of the Newsboys make brief appearances in the film.
Themes in the film include justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, hate, unity, doubt and love.
John Corbett is excellent in the role of Pearce.  David A.R. White, in the role of Pastor Dave, seems more concerned about a church building than he does with the people who worship there, and portrays a flawed character.
Unfortunately, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness is pretty much standard fare for faith-based films.


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My Review of ALL SAINTS

All Saints, rated PG
***

All Saints is one of the best faith-based films I’ve seen. Based on a true story, it is an inspirational film that is well-directed, written and acted.
The film is directed by Steve Gomer and written by Steve Armour. It tells the story of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee, located near Nashville. As a bonus, the movie is filmed at the actual All Saints Church and includes several actual church members portraying themselves.
Golden Globe nominee John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex and the City) turns in a strong performance as the likeable Michael Spurlock. He is a former paper salesman, who is a newly ordained pastor. His first assignment is to shut down All Saints Church, which now has just a few members and a large mortgage. The contents and land will bring a lot of money to the diocese when sold to a big box store.
Gregory Alan Williams stars as Pastor Spurlock’s kind but firm supervisor Bishop Eldon Thompson. He tells him to just do his job of closing down the church and he and his family – wife Aimee (Cara Buono, Stranger Things) and son Atticus (Myles Moore) – can move on to their next assignment in a few months.
Pastor Spurlock is not exactly greeted with open arms by the few remaining church members, particularly cranky Vietnam war veteran Forrest (Barry Corbin, Northern Exposure), who has recently lost his wife. They know why he is there, the inevitable closing down and sale of their church.  In the meantime, Aimee decides to start a choir at the church.
A week before it is to be demolished, several Karen State refugees from war-torn Myanmar (formerly Burma) arrive at the church. Led by Ye Win (Nelson Lee), one of the few who speaks English, the refugees are Anglican believers and farmers.  Pastor Spurlock’s heart goes out to them, but the church is broke and can’t really help them. But one night he believes that God speaks to him about letting the refugees farm the land around the church. The crops would feed the refugees, support them financially and pay the church mortgage. Spurlock will have to convince Bishop Thompson and the church council, who have been counting on the proceeds from the sale of the church property. But is this really God’s will, or the former salesman’s? And if they were to go for it, just how will they do it? The church is strapped financially, and doesn’t have any equipment to plant, plow and water the fields.
John Corbett is excellent in the role of Pastor Spurlock. It was refreshing that he was not portrayed as the perfect man or pastor.  He has good chemistry with fellow Northern Exposure cast member Barry Corbin and Nelson Lee, the self-sacrificing leader of the refugees.
This is the rare faith-based film that is well-made – directing, writing and acting –  that it is based on a true story makes it all the better. It is a story of self-sacrifice, building community and loving your neighbor.  Highly recommended!