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Religion and antiquity alive on the big screen

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Three films out this Easter – Passover season – "Pompeii", "Son of God", and the soon-to-be-released "Noah" - are attempting to make religion and history cool with a younger audience, eager for big blockbusters, action, and riveting special effects. Staten Island families and film-goers are seeing films with deep religious messages and stories laden with drama and special effects that attempt to tell a historical or religious true story, with subplots and minor characters that make the literature of The King James Bible and the classical antiquity of Pompeii more dramatic in a bigger-than-life way. Staten Island theater-goers feast your eyes this holiday season on some new interpretations of classic stories.

Hot Jesus

Younger audiences can see a newcomer Diogo Morgado play the part with a Latin flair unlike the usual British exports enlisted to play Jesus for the big screen. The new version of Jesus is young, handsome, rebellious against the religion of the times, and angelic. He is also younger than most of the Jesus’s who have come before him. Remember Jesus was only 33 when he died horrifically on the cross, so a new face in the role is refreshing for the big screen and a new audience.

“Blame Mel Gibson for it if you like, but no Jesus movie these days is worth its salt without an utterly unflinching treatment of his torture and Crucifixion. And "Son of God" has stretches when the agony we watch this poor man endure is avert-your-eyes awful. If history ever produced a more excruciating form of punishment, it probably included lions at dinner time,” adds a review by Roger Moore in The Chicago Tribune that appeared on http://www.silive.com.

"Son of God," is a new screen version of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's History Channel TV series "The Bible." “Their Jesus may be all business. But he sports a beatific smile as he renders unto audiences lines that feel like rough drafts of the polished poetry of the King James Bible,” adds Moore. "I'll give my stone to the first man who tells me he has not sinned" doesn't have the memorable ring of "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

“And unlike (Mel) Gibson's bloody blockbuster, this loving, forgiving son comes back long enough to remind us of why the religion, founded in his name, has endured,” adds Moore in his review for The Chicago Tribune.

Adds Associated Press (AP): “Ten years after "The Passion of the Christ," Jesus is returning to movie theatres with a gentler, more inclusive approach. “Son of God," spun out of the hugely successful "The Bible" miniseries, plays up the political maneuvering that led to the crucifixion. It won an endorsement from the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman, one of the Jewish leaders who denounced Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster "Passion," according to the news syndicate.

"Using footage shot during production of History Channel's ten-part miniseries "The Bible," the film spends much of its final half examining maneuvering by Jerusalem's military governor, Pontius Pilate, and Judean high priest Caiaphas,” adds AP.

"Noah" brings action to the Bible story

Darren Aronofsky's film "Noah" is big on action and old-fashioned blockbuster appeal. The film stars Russell Crowe in the title role. According to The Christian Post, the director of "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler" Darren Aronofsky made the film to include both believers and non-believers. Aronofsky added to The Christian Post that he was especially interested in challenging any preconceptions that the latter group (non-believers) might have about attending a religious film. For more about Aronofsky’s ambitious version of Noah visit http://www.christiantimes.com.

“I'm more concerned about getting non-believers into the theater or people who are less religious. A lot of people are thinking, "Oh. I don't want to go see a Bible movie, but we completely shook up all expectations and people will see that as soon as they sit down and watch the movie. That is kind of what this art show is all about," he said.

Pompeii talks about a great classical disaster in human terms

Added The New York Times in this version of “Pompeii” that is filled with gladiators, Romans, and human story elements, the action takes a supporting role to character development. In this epic there are no survivors only humans forever immortalized in volcanic ash.

“Though the film’s gorgeous color palette resembles burnished jewelry, there is a staleness and overfamiliarity to these early scenes. The film is not even enlivened by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Waves crash and cliffs collapse, but we know exactly how this ends. Eventually, as Milo tries to save Cassia from the CGI lava, the film becomes a dripping, bombastic romance, with ash scattered like confetti,” adds The New York Times in its review of "Pompeii."

“But Mr. Anderson displays his mastery as a director in the sword-fighting scenes. The camera glides and tilts in exact counterpoint to the thrusts of the knives, as if a bloody ballet” adds The Times. “These scenes recall the elegance and deftness of great car chases from films like “Bullitt” (1968). But the glares and eye rolls that bookend these scenes are what make this film both GIF-ready and campy fun.”

For showtimes on Staten Island for “The Son of God,” “Pompeii,” and the soon-to-be-released “Noah’ visit http://www.silive.com. However Staten Island arts fans don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the pageantry, spectacle, majesty, and great action and drama that films inspired by history, The Bible, and classic literature can provide. A great year all in all for dramatic big-budget films.

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