Monday, January 30, 2012

Purple Rain (1984)

Title: Purple Rain (1984)

Director: Albert Magnoli

Cast: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III

Purple Rain is one of those movies that completely captures what it was like to live in the 80’s. I lived in the big apple during the time this film was made and watching it brought back so many memories about the over all experience of living during 1984, a day and age in which people break danced on the streets and break dancing battles erupted during lunch time amongst students. This was also the time when Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cindy Lauper and Prince’s careers were starting to really take of. Purple Rain came during those years in Prince’s career when fame was beginning to engulf him. The film was a brilliant career move  for Prince because it mixed the selling of box office tickets with the selling of the films soundtrack, which of course made Prince’s career and assured him as a main stay in popular culture. Plus, he’s just so damn eccentric! How could he be ignored? The dude was born to be on stage. I loved every second of this Rock and Roll film! When it was first released, I was just a kid; a pre-teen, what the hell did I know about Prince and how awesome this movie was? All I knew about Prince back in those days was how much I kept hearing “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” over the radio, and that I liked these songs. Little did I know that this awesome movie was attached to them!

Purple Rain is all about a character called ‘The Kid’. He has a band called ‘The Revolution’ and they are currently pretty popular in this music club they play in called First Avenue and 7th Street Entry, which by the way is a real life music club in Minneapolis. According to the manager the club is the hottest place in town to play if you want to start your career. The Kid is enjoying his trip to popularity, but he soon confronts a couple of problems on his way to stardom. Number one, there is a competing act called ‘The Time’ that is trying to muscle ‘The Kid’ and his band ‘The Revolution’ out of the stage. At the same time, there’s a new girl on the block called Apollonia who’s looking for fame and fortune and everything that goes with it. She wants to get her career started, and this club looks like it’s the place to do it. Apollonia is immediately attracted to ‘The Kid’ whom she sees performing up on stage, doing his thing. But Morris, the lead singer for ‘The Time’ thinks this new chick is hot too, so he offers her a position as lead dancer on his band. In the midst of this love triangle, ‘The Kid’ is trying to stay focused on his craft because you know, the dude wants to really make it. Will his ego get in the way? Will Apollonia end up with Morris Day or with Prince?

So first off, this is a rock and roll movie through and through. These are films that examine the Rock and Roll lifestyle from every angle, they glorify it, demonize it, explore it, make fun of it, the whole shebang. Good examples of films of this nature are Almost Famous (200), Still Crazy (1998), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny (2005), The Doors (1991), Sid and Nancy (1986) and Light of Day (1987) with Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox. These are films about characters that live and breathe Rock and Roll, and die by it as well. They’d give anything for it. In Purple Rain ‘The Kid’ as portrayed by Prince himself is the epitome of a rock star. He is self centered, focused on his career and kind of a pompous prick. But when he gets up on stage, there’s no doubt he is the best at what he does.

An interesting element about Purple Rain is that the whole film is sprinkled with songs from the album. Actually, let me make this clear, this film IS the album. The songs tell the story. During various points in the film, it’s all about The Kid getting up on stage and performing a song. If I’m correct, every single song of the album was played in the film. I don’t know if I should consider this a unique film because of this or if it was just a slick marketing move. It’s probably a mix of both cause I actually enjoyed hearing these songs I’ve heard hundreds of times before through out the whole film. I thought it was cool how the songs actually help to tell the story. It is also a romantic film, Prince falls for Apollonia, but so does Morris Day, so there’s this battle over Apollonia’s affections, yet we all know who’s going to win it right? This reminds me, Purple Rain is sprinkled with lots of sensuality, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows a thing or two about Prince. How sexy is this film? Well, when Purple Rain was first submitted to the MPAA, they gave it an X rating for a sex scene between The Kid and Apollonia, which is quite understandable. I mean, as it is, that sex scene is steamy enough already! So they trimmed it down and got an R. There’s another sex scene that was considered way to over the top which never saw the light of day.  Another element that distinguishes the film is the comedy. Morris Day is one of the funniest things about the movie. Actually many of the characters in the film all have a great sense of humor to them. They had me laughing out loud, this is a very lively film. But the film isn’t all happiness, The Kid has an abusive father who beats him and his mother. At the same time, some of The Kid’s band members hate him because he doesn’t want to hear their ideas for new songs. He only cares about his own music. Will he ever learn to collaborate creatively with others?

This movie was a smashing success for everyone involved. In fact, it was a triple edged success for Prince because at the time he had the #1 film, #1 single and #1 album in the nation, a feat never achieved before by anyone! The film made 80 million at the box office, which I guess was a lot for a film like this one back in those days. Prince actually won an Oscar for the music to the film. And while we are on the subject of film and Prince, Prince has tried his hand in filmmaking more than once! He didn’t direct Purple Rain, but I think it was a stroke of genius to pare the film with the album. This was a formula that Prince tried again and again through out his career. For example he mixed mediums again in one of his world tours where he would sell the ticket to the concert with a copy of his new album included in the price of admission, in this way ensuring that both his tour and his new album were successes! He tried duplicating the album/movie formula with a film called Sign of the Times (1987), unfortunately it didn’t work as well, the concert film flopped only to find some popularity when it was released on VHS. He tried the album/movie formula yet again with a film called Graffiti Bridge (1990), sadly, another flop, which surprised many considering that it was a direct sequel to Purple Rain. Even with this to it’s advantage, the film flopped. I guess it was too little too late, the times had changed. The truth is that outside of Purple Rain, Prince’s films have always flopped or received Razzies. Even when he is paying homage to Federico Fellini he does badly. His homage to 81/2 called Under the Cherry Moon (1986) was panned by critics, because audiences where expecting a sequel to Purple Rain and what they got was a black and white movie about two guys trying to swindle a rich girl out of her 50 million trust account. But forget all about Prince’s other cinematic experiments, Purple Rain is solid entertainment and well worth the watch, this is a time capsule of a movie that will send you directly back to 1984 without the need of a DeLorean!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Prophecy Films

So I finally got around to watching The Prophecy films. I bought them in this nifty dvd which collected all three films in one disk, so I ended up watching them back to back. I know that these films have gone past their third installment, I believe they are currently on their fourth sequel, but I don’t even count the ones after part 3 because they don’t have Christopher Walken in them, they feel more like a cash in, a last desperate attempt to milk the franchise for all it’s worth. I just don’t have any interest in them. But if anyone out there thinks that Prophecy: Forsaken (2005) and Prophecy: Uprising (2005) are worth a damn, let me know, I just might give them a shot at some point. But for now, they don’t even register on my radar. This review will cover only the first three films. So it’s a three for one deal, enjoy!

The thing about these movies is that they started out with a decent theatrical release, which was the first film, the sequels after that all went straight to dvd which always raises a red flag for me because they make me think that if they went straight to dvd, then they weren’t considered good enough by the producers, at least not good enough to bother with a theatrical release. So maybe this is the reason why I had never bothered seeing these straight to dvd sequels that followed the original. But curiosity always gets the best of me and I found this dvd with all three so cheap that I went for it. I’m glad I did, the first three films are fairly decent on their own right.

The interesting thing about these first three Prophecy films is that they all had a decent cast. I mean, take a look at the first one where we have the always entertaining Christopher Walken as the human hating angel, Gabriel. You see on these series of films, some angels hate humans because they are jealous of them. They feel that God loves humans more then angels, so some angels have decided to completely annihilate the human race, just so they could be number one again. They want to make it like before, when God loved them best. In order to achieve this, Gabriel wants to find the soul of the most evil human on the planet, who just so happens to be a military leader for the U.S. army. Just watching Walken playing an angel is great, he has such fun with the character; who by the way gets funnier as the series progresses. He spews lines like “I’m an angel, I kill firstborns while their mamas watch!” These movies are that much enjoyable simple because Walken is in them. So anyways we also get Elias Koteas, the guy who always plays secondary characters in every single movie he’s been in except this one, where he   plays detective Thomas Daggett, a priest wannabe who every now and then  gets horrific visions from god. The whole thing makes you wonder why God would send someone such horrible images! But whatever, Daggett is investigating the appearance of dead angels, which keep popping up across the city. Along for the ride is Virginia Madsen who plays a grade school teacher and the always underused Eric Stoltz who plays the good angel that’s trying to stop Gabriel. But the avalanche of talent isn’t over my friends! The amazing cast continues with Amanda Plummer as a zombie/ghoul who helps Gabriel move around and Viggo Mortensen playing Satan himself! So we got an amazing cast rounding up this horror film! Was the film worth it?

Well yeah. The story is all about humans, it preaches on about how we are capable of a lot of good, but unfortunately, a lot of evil as well. The idea that an angel needs the soul of an evil human to help him destroy humanity itself says a lot about how the filmmakers see humanity. We are creatures capable of such violence, that our violent capabilities rival even that of God’s own angels! We are the experts on the subject; so much so that they need US to destroy humanity; as Lucifer himself puts it: “Humans -and how I love talking monkeys for this- know more about war and treachery of the spirit than any angel” The film unfolds in a very dark and eerie manner, with angels running around the city killing each other as lightning strikes the skies. Somehow American Indian folklore works its way into the film! Same as in many horror films, Indians always have the best connection with anything supernatural, which really is something of a cliché in horror films. There’s always an Indian burial ground, or an Indian spirit, or an Indian shaman to help out. The thing about these Prophecy movies is that they are always on the verge of some big apocalyptic event happening, but nothing ever does. The big war between angels and humans, or good angels vs. rebel angels never really consummates. But whatever, the in between was also fun.

These films are all filled with angels crouching on top of furniture or on top of buildings like birds; problem is they never really fly! I never got his about these movies, these guys are angels but they don’t seem to ever use their wings for flying. We do get to see a five second sequence of angels flying in the clouds, but we see it from afar, and briefly. And they re-use that same stock footage on a couple of these films, which I hated. I guess it had something to do with budgetary limitations, but we never really get to take a good look at the angels spreading their wings and flying. If an angel opens its wings, we only see the shadow of that, or someone’s reaction to it, but we never see the freaking angels taking flight. They do skip around a lot and jump around a lot though. I found it funnyt that since angels don’t know how to handle human machinery, they have to resort to having humans doing things for them like driving them around town or showing them how to use a computer or a walkie talkie. Why don’t they just fly where they need to go instead of using a car?

So, in comes Prophecy II (1998) which was the most difficult to watch of these three films. I found it extremely boring, and disappointing for various reasons. Number one, I didn’t like the fact that the film resorted to using so much stock footage from the first film. To me this is a lame ass, lazy move from any filmmaker. You are showing us the same images from the first film! Don’t do this! We as an audience feel cheated as hell! Still, the director felt the need to show us the same sequence of angels flying far up in the sky, and these flashbacks of angels fighting that we already saw on the first film. Laaazy! On this second chapter of the Prophecy series Jennifer Beals has a one night stand with an angel. The angel is looking for the right girl to father his child. You see, the angels want to conceive a half breed, a half human, half angel child. This half breed is the one destined to stop the rebel angels from committing genocide. So Jennifer Beals character functions as a “Virgin Mary” of sorts on this film.

Even Satan doesnt want this guy in hell! 

Now here's where things dont stick to bible lore: in the bible the sons of angels are called ‘The Nephilim’. According to the bible angels actually looked down the from heavens at the eartlhy women and foudn them incredibly hot. Cant say I blame them, I'm merely a human and I find them irresistible. Yet, this idea of angels having sexual desires makes no sense because according to the bible, angels are supposed to be asexual! So anyhows, they found earth girls hot and materialized so they could get a taste of female flesh! So any way, they ended up having babies, and these sons of angels ended up being evil giants who terrorized the land. That’s right my friends, according to the bible giants once walked the earth! And they were evil! Yet on this movie the Nephilim is supposed to be some sort of savior! Humanities last hope for survival. See what I mean? No sense whatsoever. On top of this, the angel that screws Jessica Beals doesn’t even care for her, he just uses her! The bastard! Point is that this angel ends up committing what the bible refers to as fornication, which is just a big word for having sex before getting married. According to the bible, this is one of the biggest sins you could commit against god! But this angel doesnt care, he sins in order to defeat the bad angels? And these are supposed to be the good guys! So anyhow, this second chapter in the series has a cool cast, again Christopher Walken returns as Gabriel, we get Jennifer Beals as Rosario, we get Eric Roberts and Danzig as angels. And as an added bonus Brittany Murphy played the ghoul who does Gabriel’s beading!  But in spite of this film having a great cast, this second chapter in the series feels like an in-between chapter in a much larger story. It feels like they were setting everything up for something bigger. And that’s exactly what they were doing with this second film. The third film was far more entertaining and fulfilling. It wanted to end the series with a big bang! I think it achieved it.

Brittany Murphy in one of her earliest roles

The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000) surprised the hell out of me. Having seen the past two films and finding them only mildly entertaining, I went in to this third chapter with very low expectations, yet I’m happy to inform that I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it’s the one that I enjoyed the most out of all three! One thing I like about these first three films is that they have continuity to them. Characters return and reappear; problem is that sometimes it’s difficult to realize this because they keep changing actors. In spite of this, you do get a sense of continuity, and Walken’s Gabriel is the one character that holds all three films together. One element I enjoyed about this one is that Gabriel is human on this one, and so he is kind of getting used to being human. He likes living on earth, he’s dropped the short black hair and trench coat for long white hair and living like a bum on the streets. On this film he is slowly learning to actually like humans. With this film they pulled a Terminator 2 (1992) on us and went and made the villain a good guy this time around. Walken is no longer hell bent on destroying humanity, he’s lightened up. One hilarious scene has him just enjoying a drive down the dessert on this beat up old car trying to play a trumpet as he drives, cause you know, according to the bible, angels play trumpets in heaven all the time, which kind of makes you think about who gives angels music classes, and who makes these holy musical instruments? 

But who cares seeing Christopher Walken playing a trumpet as he drives is hilarious right?! In Gabriel’s place we now have a villain called Pyriel who is still very much interested in destroying all humans and proclaiming himself the “next god”. The Nephilim Danyael (who was introduced in the second film) is now all grown up and has lost all faith in God. In fact he runs a church that preaches against god! I thought this was so interesting! But across the film he learns to accept his true destiny which is going up against the Pyriel, the leader of the rebel angels.

This third film distinguishes itself for various reasons, first, it was directed by one Patrick Lussier. Now this is a director whom you can either love or hate, depending on how much cheese you can take. Lussier is the guy behind Drive Angry (2011), a film I enjoyed hating. He also made My Bloody Valentine (2009) and is currently hard at work putting the finishing touches on Halloween III (2012). He’s also the guy behind all those Dracula 2000 movies. All of these films are high in octane and cheese, unapologetic about their b-movie nature. I guess this is the reason why this Prophecy film was so fun to watch. The previous two films feel dreary and boring when compared to this one which is filled with chase sequences and matrix-style fighting. Also, it has this awesome showdown during its last sequences between two angels that is the most exciting thing in the whole trilogy. The film even has a happy ending to it! 

Another thing that made this one cool: it has Brad Dourif playing a gun totting religious fanatic who walks around with the bible in one hand and a gun to shoot any infidels on the other! This is yet another crazy character to add to Brad Dourif long list of freaky characters he's portrayed on film.Well, I guess I’ve run out of things to say about these movies. Not a bad trilogy of films, the third film offers up a nice wrap up to the trilogy and has finality to it. At least this series isn’t as bad as the Children of the Corn movies which by the way I will comment on soon. But these Prophecy films prove one thing to me once again: God hates to appear in horror films,  while Satan loves them. For proof of that check out one of my most popular blog posts: God and Satan inFilms. And another thing, if you freeze frame the last image in Prophecy II, just before the ending credits you can see a face forming in the clouds, while thunder and lightning crackle…don’t know if that qualifies as an appearance by God or not, what do you guys think?

Rating: The Prophecy (1995)  3 out of 5
Rating: The Prophecy II (1998) 2 out of 5
Rating:  The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000) 3 1/2 out of 5 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Artist (2011)

Title: The Artist (2011)

Director: Michael Hazanavicius

Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell


The Artist has gotten 10 Academy Award nominations this year, it is second only to Martin Scorcece’s Hugo (2011), which I placed on the number one spot on my Top Films of 2011 list a while back. But it’s easy to see why The Artist would be the second most nominated film of the year. It is a happy, lighthearted, ‘feel good’ movie and it does this while being an almost entirely silent film. Yes my friends, only one line of dialog is spoken through out the whole film! And it’s in black and white!

The story is all about an actor called George Valentin who when the movie begins is enjoying being at the top of his cinematic career. He has fame, money and everything that goes with it. If he tells the producers he wants that actress in the film, then that actress is in the film! He has one preoccupation though: the silent era of filmmaking is coming to an end and filmmakers and producers want to start using dialog and sound effects in film, something that Mr. Valentin doesn’t want to accept. You see he is of the mind that if a movie is to be good, it’s to be silent. He considers sound vulgar somehow. Because of his reluctance to accept this change, he’s career is starting to plummet. Will Mr. Valentin ever adapt? Or will his career come to a screeching halt? And who is the beautiful bomb shell dancer/actress who he’s just met?

I imagine that French director Michael Hazanavicius must have had a difficult time getting this movie green lit. I mean, telling producers you want your next film to be not only silent but also in black and white is like telling them you want your film to be a hard R! These aren’t exactly words producers love to hear. But the success of Hazanavicius’s French films gave him the leverage he needed to convince them he knew what he was doing and so The Artist got made. And it’s gotten 10 Oscar Nominations, so Hazanavicius knew what he was doing after all.

You ever see a silent film? Granted, watching a silent film can take some adjustment, you have to get in a certain mindset to watch them. You won’t hear sound effects or dialog, the dialog is transmitted through title cards and the constant classical score might get on your nerves after a while, but this Film Connoisseur says that watching a silent film can be just as rewarding as watching a ‘talkie’. Ever had the pleasure of watching F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1926)? Now there’s an awesome silent film; every bit as spectacular and fantastic as any modern special effect film. How’s about Friz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)? That film left me speechless, so many themes, such rich visuals, so symbolic, such a work of art! The art direction on some of these silent films is still mind blowing in my book. I mention Faust and Metropolis because to me they are the finest examples of silent cinema; I still revisit both of these films on a regular basis because there is always something new to see in them. Silent films can still be enjoyed, if you bring your sugar rush levels down to normal levels. Sad to hear that some theaters have had to do refunds because people walked out of The Artist because they didn’t know it was a silent film. That’s just wrong. Silent films are a whole different experience, and a valid for of storytelling. They shouldn’t be shunned like that. Silent films are simply different, they rely more on images, on the visuals, on facial expressions and performances to tell your story. Plus it’s not like every single film is going to be a silent film now. The Artist is retro, it’s a look back at how things were, and it should be enjoyed for paying respects to the origins of cinema.   

The film benefits from having a fantastic supporting cast, including the great John Goodman!
The best thing about The Artist is that it will more than likely leave a smile on your face. It has that charm and happy go lucky feeling that movies from that era  had. Characters are smiling most of the time, the whole film has a good sense of humor to it. I couldn’t help having a huge smile on my face during the films final dance sequence. These characters won me over with their charm and charisma. Jean Dujardin, the actor who plays George Valentin is an accomplished French actor who’d work with Michael Hazanavicius in the past on Hazanavicius’s successful spy spoofs OSS 17: Cario, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 17: Lost in Rio (2009) two films that spoof James Bond films and spy films in general. I guess now Jean Dujardin’s career will really blast off, he’s just earned an Academy Award nomination for best actor! Berenice Bejo, the actress who plays  Peppy Miller is actually Michael Hazanavicius’s wife! In this way, Hazanavicius reminds me of Fellini, who also used his wife in a lot of his films. Bejo has also received a nomination for best supporting actress, which means we will also be seeing more of her in the movies. Both actors exceeded in their roles, they have a happiness to them that’s infectious. You almost feel like that happiness is fake sometimes, which is probably true. Back in the days of silent cinema, actors always exaggerated their emotions for the screen. They always gave that dashing spectacular smile whenever cameras where rolling. Hazanavicius cought that very well on his film as well. But also, there is that kind of innocence that older films always exude, loved how the director managed to capture that era of filmmaking so well. The Artist achieved what it was going for, capturing an era.

The film plays with themes of change. About how we need to adapt to changes, or die, the world is ever changing and so should we. The Artist plays with the idea that we can’t be stubborn and try and live in the past, the past dies and we must move on. A lot of actors back in those days were stubborn and didn’t want to accept the fact that films were now going to talk. The best example was Charles Chaplin himself! Chaplin really didn’t want to talk in his films at all! This is most obvious in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) a silent film (Chaplin’s last silent film by the way) that was made during the time when films already talked; yet Chaplin refused to talk on it. Other actors talked, but he didn’t. Sound effects were heard, but we never heard Chaplin talking English. In fact, the one scene in which we do hear Chaplin’s voice in Modern Times is in a scene in which he made up his own language that sounds like Italian, but isn’t! I guess that was his way of telling us that we didn’t need words to understand him, he could talk gibberish and we could still laugh and even understand what he was trying to convey. You watch that scene in Modern Times and you do get the feeling that you understand him! But Chaplin’s stubbornness to talk shows just what an issue this was at the time for actors who were used to transmitting their performance through performance and emotion alone.  This is what The Artist is about.

 Chaplin eventually adapted and talked in his movies, and when he talked he really talked! The Great Dictator (1940) is a powerful film not only because of Chaplin’s amazing performance, but also because of the amazing script, the dialog is really astonishing on that film! It’s as if Chaplin said “so you want to hear me talk? Fine! Here it is, let’s see if you can take what I have to say about the world!” The Great Dictator remains one of Chaplin's most controversial films. As for The Artist, I will say that it isn’t the deepest film in the world, which is kind of odd, because films chosen for “Best Picture of the Year” are usually deep, heavy stuff. But I guess The Artist has charm to spare, and sometimes charm can take you a long way. This is a rather simple film, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do, it looks beautiful and has charismatic characters. It entertains and charms the hell out of you, what’s not to like?

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, January 23, 2012

Religion Bashing Films (Part 2)

So here’s part two of my Religion Bashing Films monster blog post as promised! The first one was a hit, so I'm hoping you guys will dig this one as well. I’ve enjoyed doing the research for these articles and watching all these movies. This article focuses on a group of films that talk about that moment when you first get a glimpse of that blinding flash of light, when you start seeing the real truth. The article speaks about a group of films that ask  questions like: What impulses religion? Can humanity live without it? Are we ready for that big change? And finally: "What does God need with a starship?" Hope you guys enjoy it and as always, I’m expecting replies galore and suggestions of films that can be added to this list so dont hold back on your comments! Also, if you haven't checked it out yet, go to this link for the first part of the article.    

Title: The Village (2004)

Synopsis: The Village is all about this group of people who live in a town that thrives on fear. You see, the towns leaders decided that in order to run a successful society, they must run it on just that, fear. Their purpose? To keep society in line, to make sure that everyone behaves. Again, we are presented with the idea that humanity doesn’t trust itself enough to run without religion. Can we be good people without believing in the bible and that God and his angels are watching us all the time? I’d like to think we can. In fact, I’m sure we can. The Village presents us with a faux society created by M. Night Shyamalan, but it kind of reminds me of the real world, with people being afraid of invisible beings that they’ve never even really seen. Also, I love the symbolisms on this film, for example, the main character in the film is a blind girl whose been brought up in this society, but she wants to venture out. She is an inquisitive being and so she wants to go further then she was led to believe she could go, which is what happens when someone wants to break with the ideas of religion and wants to venture into new ideas and ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world. At first you are blind, but upon further research and knowledge you soon discover that many things in this world are not what you’ve been lead to believe.   

Religion Bashing Quote: “I see the world Lucius Hunt, not as you see it”

Title: The Island (2005)

Synopsis: In The Island we meet Lincon Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta, two clones that live in a contained utopian society. On this society, everyone dresses the same and follows the rules. In this society everyone participates in a lottery, whoever wins it gets a free ticket to a place everyone calls ‘The Island’. Supposedly this island is a place where all your troubles vanish, and you can finally be completely happy. This idea reminds me of the Loto that we all hope we will one day win but also of the paradise that many religions promise their followers. Some religions have you think that when you die, you are going to a “better life” up in heaven, others have you believe that you will become a god yourself (Mormons) or that you can become an angel and reunite with all your loved ones in heaven. Other Christian factions would have you think that god is going to swipe you away to heaven in some sort of rapture. Or that God is going to destroy all evil in the world, and that only the faithful will remain to rebuild earth and turn it back to the paradise it once was. These are just some examples of how each religion has its own paradise. But are they all real? On The Island, Lincoln Echo Six and Jordan Two Delta learn that ‘The Island’ is a lie, an illusion that they have been fed. And now that they’ve discovered this truth, they want out! They want to live in the real world! This is quite possibly Michael Bay’s most thought provoking film, and that’s saying a lot since most of the time he concerns himself with action and special effects rather then deep themes. Thankfully, The Island offers up all of those qualities in one film. See? I guess I do believe in miracles after all.   

Religion Bashing Quote: “I want to know answers, and I wish that there was more; more than just waiting to go to The Island ”

Title: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Synopsis: It’s always amazed me how Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz could have so many deep and important themes in it, but of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that its based on L. Frank Baum’s famous Oz novels. Baum’s books where children’s books with some truly awesome themes hidden within them.  Interesting how sometimes children’s books and films are the ones with the deepest themes. Take for example Pans Labyrinth (2006), The Harry Potter Franchise and Alice in Wonderland, all films and books that explore everything from religion and the idea of god to politics and education. The Wizard of Oz has four characters searching for the all powerful God like Oz. They’ve been told that he can solve all of their problems with his powerful magic! They end up discovering that the ‘All Powerful Oz’ was really just a man, with no powers at all. He’d been lying to everyone all the time! Thankfully, they discover the solution to all their problems was always within them to begin with; which is what I hope humanity will one day learn. That we don’t need to rely on invisible beings that we can never see or hear; that all we need to believe in and rely on is in ourselves and our ability to make our dreams a reality.  

Religion Bashing Quote: The Guardian of the Emerald City says: “The Wizard?! But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody’s even seen The Great Oz! Even I’ve never seen him!” Dorothy replies: “Well, then how do you know there is one?”

Title: Agora (2009)

Synopsis: Agora is all about the clash between Christianity, which was quickly growing at the time, and the older schools of thought. This film takes place during the time when the Romans tried their best to spread Christianity amongst the masses in a very violent way. This meant that if you didn’t believe in Jesus, you’d most likely get your throat cut, which is kind of ironic because the bible is supposed to be all about love? But anyways, back then, if you worshipped some god in a temple that wasn’t Christian, your temple would get taken down and if denied Christ you were dead. This film focuses on that era when saying you were an unbeliever wasn’t the best thing to do; back then, saying something like that could have meant your life. Nowadays you say you don’t believe in Jesus and you’ll get judged, rejected or marginalized, hell, you’ll even be called ‘crazy’ but you wont loose your head over it or get burned at the stake like they did during the days depicted in Agora. This film shows how Christianity was practically forced down people’s throats, back then you either believed or you died! Fear is a powerful tool in deed. Agora is all about knowledge vs. religion, and let me tell you my friends, this film is vastly underrated! The production is so lavish; it reminded me of those old bible based movies from the past, like The Ten Commandments (1956) or Cleopatra (1963) with huge sets and hundreds of extras. Highly recommend this film from acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro Amenobar, the director behind The Others (2001), another film with anti-religious themes in it. Agora explores vividly and accurately the way in which Christianity spread its roots across humanities psyche; by way of the sword!  

Religion Bashing Quote: “Synesius, you don’t question what you believe, or cannot. I must!”

Title: Doubt (2008)

Synopsis: This film doesn’t necessarily bash religion, rather, it kind of respectfully slaps it lightly on the face. This film is told from the point of view of a couple of nuns, one is old fashioned and very zealous, the other is new and just starting out in her nun way of life. The nuns start noticing something kind of sexual going on between a boy and the priest of the church. No surprise there, priests of the Catholic Church have now become synonymous with child molestation. These events truly disturb the two nuns and cause them to doubt their faiths. They wonder why God doesn’t do anything about it. I ask myself the very same question. It’s sickening when you learn just how many millions of dollars the Catholic Church has to spend every year to legally protect its priests from child molestation charges. This film would make a good double bill with the documentary Deliver Us From Evil, though in all honesty, this double bill might prove to be too much for one night.  

Religion Bashing Quote: “I will step outside of the church if that’s what needs to be done, till the door should shut behind me! I will do what needs to be done, though I’m damned to hell! You should understand that, or you will mistake me. ”

Title: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul

Synopsis: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is one of the first Brazilian horror movies, and it’s about this grave digger named Ze Do Caixao (Coffin Joe for the American Audiences) who is kind of nuts and extremely intense. He hates religion and talk of the afterlife because to him it is all a lie. The supernatural is just silly superstition to him. To him, the only way we can live forever is by having offspring. So he goes through out the whole film looking for a woman to bare him a son. The filmmaker behind this film, the same actor who plays Ze (Jose Mojica Marins) used a technique that many filmmakers use, they have their villain say how they really feel about things, and boy can this Ze character spew some hatred towards religion! One scene has people walking down the street on a religious procession as Ze stands by his window laughing and eating meat while he makes fun of the Christians and their rituals, which he considers stupid. Another scene has him walking through a graveyard defying supernatural beings to come out and show themselves. This film was made for next to nothing, it is in black and white, and it has a lot of old school camera tricks. The sets are claustrophobic and half assed. Many times, scenes that take place in exteriors are obviously not. But ultimately, the end result was the creation of one of Brazil’s and horrordoms most anti-religious characters ever.  The villain is the star of the film, and it’s so easy to hate him because he is so selfish, and so evil. Weird thing is that sometimes what he says makes all the sense in the world!                                                                                                                                                                                          

Religion Bashing Quote: “What is life? It’s the beginning of death! What is death? It is the end of life! What is existence? It’s the continuity of blood. What is blood? It is the reason to exist!”

Title: The Matrix (1999)

Synopsis: So I’m not gonna go deep into what The Matrix is all about because I’m sure most of you know it by heart. But this film does need to be included on this list because this is exactly what it’s about. No matter how confusing the sequels became, the first Matrix film was always crystal clear to me. We all live under the assumption that life is one way, when in fact, the reality is another. Most people are asleep, never truly awake. But Neo is inquisitive; he wants to know just what The Matrix is. Asking a question like “What is The Matrix?”” is the equivalent of asking the big questions in life. Where did we come from? Where did we begin? And it’s that questioning that we must never loose, that curiosity to always ask why? “It’s the question that drives us Neo” is one my favorite quotes from that movie because it’s so true, the mystery keeps life interesting. Like a good movie. Neo’s curiosity eventually leads to his awakening. But just what happens when someone awakens from the slumber? What happens when we take the red pill of truth? When we wake up and finally see this world for what it really is? It’s a shock, and again, same as with many films on this list, we are presented with the idea of adjustment to this shock of how the world really is. But the question arises in that pivotal scene with the traitorous Cypher. Do you want to eat that fake yet delicious stake that you can eat inside of the Matrix, however fake it maybe? Or do you want to live in the real world, no matter how bitter it maybe? I love how the film also teaches the idea of believing in ourselves and reaching your maximum potential as a human being; that idea of not relying in a lie, but in you and your abilities to confront the problems in life. Sadly, many choose to live in the fantasy world that religion offers us. I love it how the film is so truthful, it presents you with that choice. Truth? Or fantasy? The filmmakers leave it up to you.    

Religion Bashing Quote: “The answer is out there Neo. And it’s looking for you, and it will find you, if you want it to” “You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. Many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependant of the system, that they will fight to protect it”

Title: Apocalypto (2006)

Synopsis: Including Apocalypto on this list is a bit of a stretch, but I decided to include it for various reasons. Number one, I found it really interesting that this was Mel Gibson’s follow up to The Passion of the Christ (2004), a film that for all intents and purposes served to fire up people’s faith, and to fatten up Mel Gibson’s wallet too. If you ask me, he wasn’t really making The Passion of the Christ because he is a devout Christian zealot. In my opinion, same as a television evangelist, Gibson saw an opportunity to make cash, and lots of it! And that he did. Then he went and made Apocalypto, and I find it curious that he did this film because it presents us with a peaceful tribe that is being hunted down by another violent Mayan tribe in order to use them as sacrifices for their Gods. One of the members of the peaceful tribe, a young native by the name of Jaguar Paw decides to run away and protect his pregnant wife. So basically, Mel Gibson first does a film that fires up people’s faith (to the point where people fainted and even crucified themselves after seeing the film) and then goes and does a film that shows religion as a tool used by the ruling class to control the masses. In the film, the Mayan ruling class used their keen knowledge of astrology to make the masses think that their Gods where causing a solar eclipse. And that they needed to sacrifice humans to these gods to appease them by chopping off their heads and ripping out their hearts! The big question that all those who watch this film must ask themselves is: who cares about these Gods now? Nobody, that’s who. These gods disappeared with this bygone civilization, and now, does anyone care about the Gods that these Mayans worshipped and sacrificed humans to? No, because they were never real. This should make viewers questions if the gods we worship today are just as ephemeral as well.    

Religion Bashing Quote: “Fear, deep rotting fear. They were infected by it. Did you see it? Fear is a sickness. It will crawl into the soul of anyone who engages it. It has tainted your peace already. I did not raise you to see you live in fear. Strike it from your heart!”

Title: The Others (2001)

Synopsis: The Others is a film whose blueprint comes from Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961). Both films take place in an old dark house, both films are about a woman taking care of children. Both films are extremely dark and eerie. But while The Innocents addresses issues of sexual abuse and repression, The Others explores the nature of religion. In The Others Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a woman whose only concern is taking care of her two children, and teaching them about the bible. One of the most interesting parts of the film is how the kids are so inquisitive about the bible and its teachings, letting us know exactly what the film is about. Another indicative of this films religious themes is the fact that Grace is a woman who doesn’t accept death, so she turns to the comfort brought on by religion. The problem with these kids is that according to their mother, they suffer from a decease which makes them sensitive to sunlight. She doesn’t want them exposed to it because she believes it might kill them, so she has all the windows in the house closed and all the doors shut. The children live in a perpetual darkness. But, the idea that the film presents us with is, maybe the children can be exposed to the light? Maybe it won’t kill them? Maybe they are ready to be exposed to the real world! Religion is created to comfort our fears of death; the powers that be think that we can’t take the truth; that we can’t live NOT knowing; that reality is too harsh of a truth, so they’d rather keep the masses in the dark, shielded from the ‘blinding’ truth. My take on it is that while the truth of the world and how things really are might come as a bit of a shock at first, with time we can adjust to the realities of the world we live in, and move forward with our lives; we can learn to accept the big mysteries. Same way that our eyes can adjust to a blinding flash of light, adjusting to reality takes some time, but it can be done. Other wise, we’d be living in darkness all our lives, like the children in The Others.

Religion Bashing Quote: “There are things your mother doesn’t want to hear. She only believes in what she was taught. But don’t worry, sooner or later, she’ll see them and everything will be different. You’ll see, there are going to be some big surprises. There are going to be changes.”

Title: Leap of Faith (1992)

Synopsis: On this film we meet reverend Jonas Nigthingale a phony preacher who goes around town using every trick he can muster to get people to believe he has magical powers given to him by God. When he becomes stranded in a small town, he sees an opportunity to scam a couple more people, but he soon finds out he cant fool everyone all the time. Here’s another pitfall of religion: that any crazy bastard out there can use it and the teachings of the bible to take advantage of people. And since there are lot of people out there who are sad and miserable (thanks to the wonderful conditions the world is in) well, these preachers always find someone who’s willing to listen. Now, I’m not going to deny the fact that some preachers out there truly do care about people and are selfless and caring, but they are an exception. Many of them are simply out there to take your money. It’s so sickening when you know that they know religion is a lie and that they are simply using it to their advantage. Preachers such as these don’t believe in the bible themselves, they simply use it to make moolah, and lot’s of it. Ever seen a preacher asking for 10,000 dollars on television? I have and it makes me sick to the stomach. This film explores the dangers of falling for these low lives and their tricks.

Religion Bashing Quote: “A town this deep in the crapper’s got nowhere to turn to BUT God!”

Title: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Synopsis: Spock’s brother, a Vulcan by the name of  Sybok has taken the starship enterprise and it’s crew hostage in order to use the ship to get to ‘Shangri-la’, a.k.a. the Center of the Universe. His purpose? To have a one on one with the head honcho himself: God. When I saw this movie upon its first release in theaters, I was shocked beyond belief because the film was about meeting God. I went in with no expectations, and came out with my mind blown. I was shocked to see the Star Trek guys attacking the idea of religion because Sybok is a religious leader. He goes around trying to convert everyone into his way of seeing things, and he actually succeeds! Uhuru actually falls for his ideas! Some of the ideas explored in this film are the need we have to learn from our pain and our mistakes. That we actually need to make mistakes in order to learn and grow as human beings; that mistakes actually help us become better people, as opposed to the idea that many religions try to impose on their followers: the idea of trying to be perfect. As some of you might have already discovered, perfection is something that is quite unachievable in this world we live in. If you think otherwise you’ll only come face to face with frustration. Life isn’t perfect, and that’s part of what makes it so unique, such a learning experience. It also explores the idea of God, and how we sometimes choose to appoint the title of ‘God’ to something that really isn’t. Some people don’t like this Star Trek film at all, in fact, I believe trekkies loath this one, but I found it interesting because of it’s themes. Obviously Shatner (the films writer and director) had a thing or two to say about religion. Since Shatner directed the film himself, this ended up being one the funniest of all Star Trek’s.

Religion Bashing Quote: “Damn it Bones! You’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away by the wave of a magic wand. They are the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we loose them, we loose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken”

Title: The Mist (2007)

Synopsis: The Mist was one of my favorite horror films of 2007. It’s the kind of horror film that rekindles your faith in good horror films. But of course, a lot of that had to do with the talent behind it. First it was based on a Stephen King novel, and secondly, it was directed by Frank Darabont, the director behind such great films as The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999). This is the kind of horror film I miss, because it reminds me of the time when great directors made horror films, like Stanley Kubrick doing The Shinning (1980) or Robert Wise doing The Haunting (1963). So what we have here with The Mist is one of the best anti-religion films ever! A group of people are trapped inside a supermarket as a strange and dangerous Mist engulfs their town. Some people think the mist is harmless, some think it’s deadly. Who to believe? I loved how the film explores the idea of how confusing the world is; the supermarket serves as a microcosm for humanity. To me the mist symbolizes the confusion in the world and the creatures behind the mist represent all the problems out there, some are big, some are small, some are gargantuan! In other words, things are pretty messed up out there in the world; and these problems make people react in different ways. Some take a more realistic approach towards things, while others appoint religious significance to the events, like the character of Mrs. Carmody, masterfully played by Marcia Gay Harden. This character decides that the mist and the creatures within it are a punishment from God! Her ideas and preaching begin to work in the minds of everyone trapped in the supermarket, until she pretty much has everyone believe they are being attacked by demons. The film explores how fear and confusion makes us see things that aren’t there, and how easily religion can take advantage of our fears because religion runs on fear and feeds off of it. It also explores the bleakness of the non-believer, whose outlook on life is usually a bit grimmer and sadder than the hopefulness of religion. How should we react when things seem hopeless? Should we end it all? Should we wait and see if things will get better? The symbolisms run high on this film, and while the film proves to be extremely thought provoking, at the same time it’s very entertaining. Highest possible recommendation!  

Religion Bashing Quote: “As a species, we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?” 

Title: The Holy Mountain (1973)

Synopsis: Writing up a synopsis for any Alejandro Jodorowsky film is not an easy thing, but I'll give it my best. On this one we meet a character simply called 'The Thief' who comes upon a holy temple. Once in it, he meets what I can only described as a religious leader (pictured above) called 'The Alchemist'. He's called The Alchemist because he can transform excrement into gold! Trust me, that will make sense when you see the film. So anyhows, this mystical religious leader takes TheThief through nine dimensions or worlds, each representing some sort of evil in the world. Jodorowsky takes these nine different worlds and uses them to criticize and comment on the world we live. He talks about everything from war, to religion, to politics, to name it, the film covers it. But at it's center is the message of religion and how it's not at all what it seems...that it's all an illusion! If you are ever in the mood for watching a film thats non-linear with its story telling, that is extremely surreal with it's imagery and at the same time will stun you and shock you...look no further than The Holy Mountain, in my opinion Jodorowsky's masterpiece. It's not a film you will absorb upon your first viewing, no my friends, The Holy Mountain is a film that you can experience over and over again because you will not get it all on one viewing. Experience it, take it in, and hope that upon a second viewing you will understand it a little better. Jodorowsky's films are a challenge, but they are rewarding one in the end.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Religion Bashing Films (Part I)

Along with politics, religion is without a doubt one of the most powerful divisive forces in all of humanity. Religion and politics are such touchy subjects that talking about them in the workplace is forbidden. Teachers in secular schools are not supposed to talk about the subject to their students. People have killed, and continue killing to this day because another doesn’t have their same religious beliefs; Catholicism, I’m looking at you kid! Truth is everyone has a different idea about what religion to follow, and everyone believes they are right. Problem is that what we end up believing in is sometimes determined by trivial things like what our parents believe in, or what country we happened to be born in. Think about it! What if you’d been born in India, you think you'd believe in Jesus? No, you’d believe in Elephant Gods with four hands! So many gods to choose from, so little time. Which one to believe in? Should you believe in any of them? Why exactly are their so many Gods in the world? If you ask me, the simple fact that there are so many of them let’s you know that there is no real one. That all these gods have been made up by man to fill that void, that void of not knowing, but that's just my opinion, take it for what it's worth. 

Personally, I don’t subscribe to any religious dogma because I believe  that no one on this planet truly knows anything. No one knows where humans truly came from, no one knows how we got started. No one knows how the universe came to be, religions offer answers to these questions, problem is the answers are all made up. All these questions -the big questions as they are often called- are just one gigantic mystery. THE big mystery, which is what keeps life interesting. To quote the character of Trinity from The Matrix (1999): “It’s the question that drives us Neo”.  I believe religions are a bunch of fairy tales designed to give us perfectly packaged answers to some of life’s most unanswerable questions. Religion is a way of soothing your psyche if you can’t take the idea that we really don’t know where humanity came from, or what truly happens after we die. But that’s my take on life, we each believe in what we want to believe. Ultimately, if you’re happy believing in throne rooms in the sky, then far be it from me to stop your happiness!

But me? I happen to think religion is nothing but an emotional and psychological crutch, designed to bring us some sort of emotional support, after all, life has a way of bringing us down at times. Religion gives us a fake comfort. It makes us think some magical guy up there gives a damn about us. That some guardian angel is watching over us and will make everything alright. My answer to that is: Why not teach people to believe in themselves? To get things done because they will it? Why not teach people that they can achieve anything they want to achieve, if they put their mind to it? You want to make your life better? Stop believing that an invisible old man in the sky is going to fix everything for you and take matters into your own hands! Live your life! Make your choices! Do your thing! You might make a couple of mistakes along the way, but that’s life. It’s a learning process. It’s a game we have to learn to play as we go along. Why live it ridden by lies and guilt? I say, wake up from the slumber! Disconnect yourself from The Matrix and live in the real world! And so, here I offer you guys 15 Religion Bashing Films, these are a group of films and documentaries that expose religions many flaws and show it for what it is: a big confusing mess that should be left behind. So without further ado I leave you guys with 15 Religion Bashing Films! And don’t forget, this is only part one of this article, for part 2 go here!

Title: Religulous (2008)

Synopsis: On this one comedian Bill Maher goes from religion to religion, from parishioner to parishioner questioning their beliefs, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Many people don’t like this film because it takes a funny route, but in all honesty I think it was great that Maher infused a bit of comedy into the whole thing, after all, religion is one touchy subject. There are some truly hilarious moments on this documentary. I find it funny that almost every one of these religious places he visits has their own little army that ends up kicking Maher out. Some religious institutions don’t even want to be confronted with the questions that Maher’s has for them, so they don’t even bother opening the doors to the filmmakers: Vatican, I’m looking at you kid! Either way, there is no denying that Maher asks some very interesting questions that will more than likely make you think. This documentary is a real eye opener as far as exposing some of the silly beliefs that some religions have…like the Mormons having to wear special underwear (sold at their church) so they can have sex? What. The. Hell!

Religion Bashing Quote:  “Rational people, anti-religionists must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider them only moderately religious need to look themselves in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price”

Title: There Will Be Blood (2007)

Synopsis: This film speaks about two great evils devouring our world today: greed and religion. But the real main objective in this film is to unmask religion, to show that it’s all a façade, that religious leaders are fooling the people and using them to their benefit. This is a film that pits the realist vs. the superstitious individual. Daniel Plainview is a realist; all he cares about is business, making money, being successful and not letting anyone get in his way. His god is the dollar bill. He is not a wholesome individual because greed proves to be his downfall as well. But the other great evil in the film is the religious leader, Eli Sunday. He paints himself as a holy man leading his people down a god fearing path, yet in reality all he cares about is power and money, same as Daniel Plainview, only Plainview is honest about what he wants. The preacher in There Will Be Blood even goes as far as denying god in order to get a deal made! There are some really shocking moments on this film, and I have to say its one of the strongest anti-religious films out there. It’s no surprise coming from a director like Paul Thomas Anderson, who is currently attempting to unmask Scientology with his next film.

Religion Bashing Quote: “I’d like for you to tell me that you are and have always been a false prophet and that God is a superstition”

Title: Golden Compass (2007)

Synopsis: The Golden Compass was an interesting film because it received so much heat upon its release. Basically, the movie presents us with the idea that we can live in a world without religion, an idea that I personally agree wholeheartedly with. Do we really need to believe in fairies and godfathers? Especially when there is no way to prove their existence? Why not live in a more realistic world, where we admit we simply don’t have all the answers to everything? These ideas and themes where targeted by the Catholic Church (and many other Christian religions) and basically marked the film as  the antichrist because it was teaching children ideas about “killing God”. Truth be told, the book is way more open with its anti-religious ideas than the movie ever was. The film went with using euphemisms for religion. The film chose not to mention religion directly for fear of loosing box office tickets; yet this didn’t stop the film from making kajillions, it made its money back. Strangest thing about this film is that in the U.S. it only made 70 million, while the rest of the world embraced it and brought the final box office receipts to well over 300 million dollars. The fact that this film made more money in foreign countries than U.S., speaks volumes about how the rest of the world sees the idea of living in a religion less world. Still, I’m thinking it would have made a whole lot more money without the Vatican warning all its followers not to watch it. I guess having a film that gives its back to faith and teaches us to believe in ourselves rather than imaginary beings is too much for society.

Religion Bashing Quote: “In my world, scholars invented an elithiometer, a golden compass that showed them all that was hidden; but the ruling power, fearing any truth but their own decided to destroy these devices and forbade the very mention of dust. One compass remains however, and only one who can read it ”

Title: The Wicker Man (1973)

Synopsis: The Wicker Man is a film that helped me understand that sometimes your belief system depends on where you are born. Had you been born in India, maybe you’d be worshipping Shiva or Kahli and not Jesus. The people of Summer Isle were born into a society that worships the Sun as their God and once a year they must sacrifice! Another thing this movie taught me is, any whacko can come up and say that a sacrifice must be made to some God because he says so, and somebody is going to say “sure!” and follow, no matter how crazy the idea. The idea of how easy it is to get the masses to believe in something, no matter how insane it is. This is also a film that shows a Christian asking to his god for help, and apparently, his pleas fall on depth ears! Why isnt god helping his loyal servent from certain death? Could it be because there’s nobody there? The Wicker Man is a film that is a bit unorthodox, and definitely “weird” but man, when it all hits you in the end, its soooo worth it! Called by many as the “Citizen Kane of Horror Movies” this is definitely a must watch for any true horror fan. Don’t bother with the laughable remake though, it’s a stinker.

Religion Bashing Quote: “Don’t you see that killing me isn’t going to bring back your apples?”

Title: The Name of the Rose (1986)

Synopsis: This film was so interesting; I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I tells the story of two monks, one young (Christian Slater) and one old (Sean Connery) who are sent to an old monastery up in the mountains, their mission is to investigate a series of mysterious murders that have occured. For some reason that nobody appears to understand, someone is murdering monks! The film plays out like a Sherlock Holmes film, with Slater playing Watson to Connery’s Sherlock Holmes. A hint that this is what filmmakers were going for is that Connery’s character is called William of Baskersville. This film speaks volumes about the tension between trying to live up to the expectations and requirements of being a man of the cloth, and being a flesh and bone man, with lust and desires. Also, it speaks about the one thing that many would like to hide from “the people” and that my friends is knowledge. This films ultimate message is that knowledge shall set us free! In the Name of the Rose is a very symbolic film that comments on religion on so many levels! It speaks of collective fear, and how it can make us see things that aren’t there. But most important of all it shows us the importance of educating ourselves as to how things really are in this world. One awesome scene has Slater and Connery lost in a gigantic labyrinthine library! Literally getting lost trying to find the truth, same way we should all struggle to find it!.    

Religion Bashing Quote: “The only evidence I see of the Antichrist here is everyone’s desire to see him at work”

Title: Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple (2006)

Synopsis: This documentary is a truly heartbreaking experience. You look at it and you wont believe it happened. It expertly explains the way Reverend Jim Jones convinced many of his followers not only to sell all their homes and properties and move with him to Guyana, but he also convinced more than 900 of them to commit suicide by drinking Cyanide! This documentary, more than any other film on this list will show you just how powerful the grip of a religious leader can be on the mind of his parishioners. The religious leader says it and it can and probably will be done. It shows how people who finally understand the true nature of religion can abuse its power, and how horrible and dark the consequences can be. It is amazing how much footage, how much video and how many pictures are available of this whole event. It’s as if Jim Jones knew exactly what he was doing and wanted to document it for future generations. Did he want to teach a lesson on how powerful religion can be? Or was he simply thirsting for power? Was he in the end suffering from a God complex? I dare you not to cry while watching this one!

Religion Bashing Quote: “Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think’s gonna hurt them. You join a religious organization, you join a political movement, and you join with people you really, really like”

Title: Deliver Us From Evil (2006)

Synopsis: One of the ugliest aspects of the Catholic Church is how they ignore the child molestation that goes on within their ranks. It’s really sick when you learn just how many millions they have to spend every year to legally protect all the priests that have sexually abused little kids. On this documentary we meet an old priest named Father Oliver O Grady who abused a bunch of kids when he was a young priest, funny how he is STILL a priest even after the Church knows how many kids he abused! Now that his dick has gone limp, he decides it’s time to ask for forgiveness to all those kids whose lives he messed up. The act of the priest wanting to say “I’m sorry” feels totally insincere; it feels like he is doing it to make himself feel better for all of his past sins. This is a really touching documentary because you actually get to know a lot of the kids that the priest abused of and how their lives have turned out. You meet their parents, and they all tell you their side of the story. This documentary even takes us to the walls of the Vatican, but, same as in Religulous (2008), the Vatican, and all it’s cardinals and priests never answer. Where’s the pope when you need him? Funny how the church simply turns a blind eye to these victims, to the people that their own priests sexually abused off when they were children. Where is the compassion and understanding that the bible speaks of? Where is the righteousness? Where is the caring?   

Religion Bashing Quote: (Said by one of the victims) “I made up my mind. There is no God. I do not believe in God, all right? All these rules, everything….they’re made up by man you know?”

Title: The Meaning of Life (1983)

Synopsis: The Monty Python guys have never been ones to shy away from bashing on religion, I mean, they’d already done it in Life of Brian, a 100% politics and religion bashing film every step of the way. On Meaning of Life, the Python guys criticize and make fun of everything from Catholicism’s rules about NOT using condoms, to the idea of a magical guy up there in heaven watching over us. Hell, God is the only character that appears in all three Monty Python films! These guys are definitely concerned with the idea of God. And they do get quite philosophical at times. But in all honesty, the film really makes fun of life itself; they make parodies of everything on this movie! Even of the moment when we are born, all the way down to when we die, and even what happens after that. This is an all encompassing film in terms of themes, but they do reserve a huge chunk of their time on the silliness of the church and religious tradition.

Religion Bashing Quote: “Look at them. Bloody Catholics, filling the bloody world up with bloody people they cant bloody feed”

Title: Life of Brian (1979)

Synopsis: This is the ultimate comment on religion by the Monty Python guys. Not surprisingly, the film also comments heavily on politics and government, and that makes perfect sense to me since religion and politics go hand in hand. This one is a bit different than Meaning of Life because it is almost entirely about religion as opposed to Meaning of Life which comments on everything. On Life of Brian we follow Brian, a character who has been mistaken for Jesus. Suddenly, people decide to follow him around and live by every word that he says, but Brian wants none of it. Brian just wants to be Brian, he doesn’t want zombie zealots following him around, repeating everything he says like some mantra! This film is considered by many to be one of the best comedies of all time, and one of the most important ones, I think that the importance that is given to this film comes from the fact that it lambasts the idea of religion so powerfully.

Religion Bashing Quote: “Look! You got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me! You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!”

Title: Jesus Camp (2006)

Synopsis: Jesus Camp is all about a group of kids who attend a summer camp that will help them “cleanse their souls” and become good preachers. This one feels like a horror film, when you watch it, you wont believe your eyes and ears. It really goes deep into the heart of the Evangelical way of teaching their kids the ways of the bible. Basically, they torture them psychologically, make them feel guilty for their ‘sins’ (these are kids for christs sake!) and hammer ideas into their heads about hating things like Harry Potter. Man, it’s really sad to see these kids crying their hearts out because they feel like sinners. And it is frightening to see the adults who do it to them. Saddest part of the whole affair is that this summer camp had been doing this for years and years before this documentary came along! After the documentary they had to close down shop because of all the hate they got from everyone in the world. This one is a real eye opener not only about religion and how it can wipe your mind clean, but also about the way that the government takes advantages of Christian churches to promote their political agendas and make their parishioners vote for certain candidates. These people actually believed that BUSH was chosen by god to lead the nation! Strangest part is that the events captured by these documentarians unfolded naturally before the lenses of their cameras, these are Evangelical Christians just doing and acting the way they do every day. And it is truly frightening. This documentary will make you feel sick to the stomach with religion and politics. In other words, it has the highest possible recommendation from me. 

Religion Bashing Quote: (Spoken by Becky Fisher, the woman who ran the Evangelical Summer Camp) “I can go into a playground of kids that don’t know anything about Christianity, lead them to the Lord in a matter of, just no time at all and just moments later they will be seeing visions and hearing the voice of God, because they are so open. They are so usable in Christianity”

Title: Conan The Barbarian (1982)

Synopsis: This is my favorite of all the religion bashing movies because it’s also a great fantasy film. But at it’s core, this is a film hitting brutally on the dangers of fanatism and cults. In the film we are presented with a group of religious folk who are spreading across the land…they worship snakes as if they were gods. They put up their snake worshipping temples across the land, brainwashing people into becoming their acolytes. They have been so successful with their cult, that even the daughter of a king has escaped her father and is now a fervent acolyte of the snake worshippers. Conan is offered the opportunity to rescue the Kings daughter, which is really a sweet deal because at the same time Conan will exact revenge upon the leader of this cult, for he was the one responsible for killing Conan’s parents as well! This film is so well written, it really goes into what religion is all about. The brainwashing; the blind devotion. One scene has the religious leader of the cult (called Thulsa Doom) tell one of his female followers to jump into the void, which she immediately does, sacrificing herself simply because her religious leader told her so. Conan The Barbarian really makes an effort to show how powerful a grip a religious leader has over the minds of his followers. I like how Conan isnt portrayed as a godless man, he actually believes in his god CROM, and talks to him asking him for help, but Conan says to Crom “I never pray to you, but I know you like valor. So grant me REVENGE! And if you don’t help me, than SCREW YOU!” I love it, he doesn’t deny god, but if his god doesn’t help him, he’ll do it on his own. I like that idea, that mentality that you don’t have to rely on Gods to do things for you, what matters is that you do things for yourself, through your own will. You know how in normal movies, the good guy saves the day and gets the girl? By the time you are done with this Conan movie he will have infiltrated the cult, killed a couple of their snakes, burned down their temple and chopped off of the head of Thulsa Doom, the religious leader. Anti-religious in deed.

Religion Bashing Quote: “To the hell fires with Thulsa Doom! He’s evil, a sorcerer who can summon demons. His followers’ only purpose is to die in his service; thousands of them.”

Title: Martyrs (2008)

Synopsis: Out of all the films on this list, this is the one most likely to shock the hell out of you. This amazing film comes to us from French filmmaker Pascal Laugier, the director behind the direct to video horror film House of Voices (2004). On this one we meet a girl who actually manages to escape the clutches of an evil cult hell bent no discovering the secrets of the afterlife. This is a very graphic film, make no doubts about it, you will see lots of gore, lots of blood. But it’s also a very symbolic film about the results of becoming a prisoner to a bunch of religious fanatics. This film really focuses on how once you are inside of a belief system, you are fed lies, you are promised paradise, you are even promised the secrets of the universe, but in the end, all you are left with is a negatively affected life with emotional scars that will last a lifetime. It also speaks about how religions simply take advantage of the suffering in our lives, the suffering that ‘the system’ puts most people through in order to make you one of them. It speaks of how after a while of hearing about angels and demons, you’re mind will make start seeing and hearing them, even if they are not there. Highly recommend this one!

Religion Bashing Quote: “It’s so easy to create a victim young lady, so easy. You lock someone in a dark room, they begin to suffer; you feed that suffering. Methodically, systematically and coldly. And make it last. Your subject goes through a number of states. After a while, their trauma, that small, easily opened crack makes them see things that don’t exist”

Title: Bad Dreams (1988)

Synopsis: Bad Dreams tells the story of Cynthia, a young woman who’s spent most of her life sleeping in a comma. You see Cynthia was the only survivor of a religious group called ‘Unity’, a group that commited mass suicide 13 years ago. They all burned themselves down because their religious leader told them so! And Cynthia was the only survivor of that ordeal. Now she’s awakened, and she’s in psychological therapy, trying to deal with the whole mess. Unfortunately, Harris, the religious leader, keeps visiting her in her dreams! And not only that, apparently he can also kill people from the great beyond! The thing about this movie is that it’s a great premise, but it feels just a little bit too much like A Nightmare on Elm Street, so much so that the actress who plays Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin) actually starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987) where she played the role of Taryn, the girl who loves to be “beautiful….and BAD!” This film also stars Bruce Abbott of Re-Animator fame, and Richard Lynch playing Harris, the crazy religious leader. Watching Harris playing the crazy religious leader is one of the best things about this one. The film explores the hive like mentality that permeates religion and it analyzes how difficult it can be to deprogram yourself from the ideas implanted in our brains by religion.    

Title: Silent Hill (2006)

Synopsis: This one is interesting because like Martyrs and Bad Dreams it analyzes how religion can scar us, and the psychological scars can last a life time. On this film, a little girl has gone missing. She’s apparently lost somewhere within the bowls of the spooky little town called Silent Hill. Her mother, a woman called Rose, decides to go into the spooky town to find her daughter….but why do things in this town keep changing? Soon, the mother discovers that there is a strange cult in this town, and that they all think they got god on their side! But do they? The film analyzes the idea of how every Christian religion believes that God is on their particular side. That He favors their Christian beliefs over the other Christian church across the street. It also speaks about the horrors committed in the name of religion, like sacrifices. And it also explores the psychological implications of always feeling guilty because of a little thing called ‘sin’. Why are religious leaders so hell bent on making their parishioners feel guilty? And what happens when one of the scarred decides to fight back and get revenge for all the damage that was done to her? You don’t want to miss this films grand finale, it’s a gory show stopper.   

Religion Bashing Quote: “When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world”

Title: Saved! (2004)

Synopsis: Mary  is a Christian girl living in a Christian town where everything and everyone is “Jesus-centric”, meaning that everything revolves around Jesus. The go to Christian school and listen to Christian music. Everything seems squeaky clean and perfect in the beginning. But problems start when Mary tries to cure her boyfriend of his gayness by having sex with him. She rationalizes having sex with him before marriage, she thinks it’s her mission from God to cure her boyfriend of his homosexuality. The real problem starts when she becomes pregnant with a baby from her gay boyfriend! Aha! I love this movie because it really shows what it is to live amidst a Christian society. How everyone is mentioning Jesus every five seconds and always seem to be happy, almost to the point where its fake. You know, that fake happiness? The film also speaks about how Christianity can make you negate your instinctive human desires and emotions. How some Christians are complete and utter hypocrites, preaching one thing but really feeling and doing another. I love how the film speaks about the Christians obsession with trying to be perfect, which is really an impossibility in this life. We all make mistakes and learn from them, this is how life goes. But Christians try to walk this perfect path, and this film shows that life has a way of showing us that things aren’t all that predictable, that life isnt squeaky clean perfect and that shit can hit the fan no matter who many times you went to church that week.

Religion Bashing Quote: “So everything that doesn’t fit into some stupid idea of what you think God wants, you just try to hide, or fix or get rid of? It’s all just too much to live up to. No one fits in one hundred percent of the time, not even you. ”

If you enjoyed this article dont forget to check out the sequel: Religion Bashing Films Part II


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