Based on a bestselling book, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL tells the story of a four year-old named Colton who says he goes to Heaven during an operation where he was near death. Wonderfully written by Chris Parker and directed by Randall Wallace, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is one of the most engaging, most inspiring Christian movies ever made. The acting, dialogue, cinematography, and editing are first-class. Best of all, the movie shows the truth of God’s love.
Colton is an adorable 4-year-old with a loving family, including his hard working father, Todd. Todd works as a garage door repair guy, volunteers as a fireman, and is a pastor of a local church in a Nebraskan small town. His wife, Sonja, leads the church’s music department, but the two are barely scrapping by on finances.
When Todd breaks his leg playing softball and has kidney stones, the couple gets in to even more financial debt. Sonja suggests they should take a road trip to relieve the pressure.
When the family returns Colton gets very sick. For days, Colton is sick and his temperature is extremely high. Todd and Sonja take Colton to the emergency room. Doctors have to operate on him immediately because Colton’s appendix has burst. While they operate, Colton’s mother calls their friends asking for immediate prayer. Meanwhile, Colton’s father goes to the hospital chapel, where he angrily rails at God.
Happily, Colton survives the operation, though at one point he was near death. Everything starts to return to normal, until Colton tells Todd that, during his operation, he went to Heaven and met Jesus. At first, Todd is amused by the little boy’s statements. Then, he becomes perplexed and questions whether Colton is telling the truth.
However, some of Colton’s statements have the ring of truth. For example, he knew exactly what his mother and father were doing during his operation. Suddenly, Todd feels that he must share with other people, including his church congregation, Colton’s experience. This causes resentment and concern in the church, and even causes a rift between Todd and Sonja. What will happen next?
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is an extremely well done faith-based movie. Though it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s one of the most captivating, inspiring movies of this or any other year. The dialogue is wonderful. Greg Kinnear does a superlative job as Todd Burpo. Also, little Connor Colum is absolutely amazing as Colton, the boy who went to Heaven.
Randall Wallace (the writer of BRAVEHEART, writer/director of WE WERE SOLDIERS, and the writer/director of SECRETARIAT) does a brilliant job of directing HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. With this movie, he’s clearly become one of the best directors working in Hollywood today. The cinematography in HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is beautiful. The editing is sharp. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is simply terrific in almost every way.
Of course, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL has a very strong, positive Christian worldview. It honors Jesus Christ while, at the same time, showing that the Christian life won’t always be perfect, that doubt often is part of faith, and that each and every Christian must always grow in love. Thus, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is an honest portrayal of Christian faith and its struggles, with little or no ham-fisted preachiness. In the end, the movie shows that God is real, Heaven is real, Jesus is real, and God is love. As such, it challenges all of us, not just Christians, to go forth in faith and love. Bravo!

Imagining Heaven in HEAVEN IS FOR REAL


Love and Hope:

Imagining Heaven in HEAVEN IS FOR REAL

By Carl Kozlowski, Contributing Writer

What is heaven like?

That is one of the greatest questions faced by mankind, as nearly everyone on the planet believes in some form of the afterlife, even as different religions think of it and even name it in different ways. Even among Christians, the stories of what people who have had near-death experiences have seen have varied greatly.

In 2010, a small-town Nebraska preacher named Todd Burpo took the world by storm with the release of his book, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, which claimed to detail the true story of what happened when his four year old son Colton believes he left his body during an emergency appendix surgery, visited Heaven and returned. The book became a massive No. 1 hit on the New York Times best-seller list, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide while being translated into 35 languages.

That kind of success stirred the attention of Hollywood, where veteran movie producer Joe Roth decided that the Burpos’ story was compelling enough to get behind. Lining up an impressive cast led by Greg Kinnear, who has appeared in several MOVIEGUIDE(r) Award winning movies, and Thomas Haden Church and Emmy winner Margo Martindale, who lined up to work on a screenplay co-written and directed by MOVIEGUIDE(r) Award Winner Randall Wallace of BRAVEHEART, WE WERE SOLDIERS and SECRETARIAT fame, the movie version of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL quickly stood head and shoulders over most of the Christian-themed fare released by Hollywood in recent years, often with low budgets and mostly unknown actors.

The fruit of their efforts hit theaters this Wednesday, when HEAVEN hopes to ride Easter-weekend interest to miraculous box-office results. Hitting wide release amid a wave of Christian and biblical-themed hits including GOD’S NOT DEAD and SON OF GOD, it does stand a good chance of making this truly be the Year of Our Lord in theatres.

“Randy’s themes of love, honor, courage are in all his movies, and if anyone could make this story accessible to the audience, I knew it would be him,” says Kinnear, speaking about the movie in which he plays Todd Burpo on a recent Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

“Love runs through this movie like water. It’s just there. Meeting Todd, one of the things I was taken by was his love for his children. Certainly, to see him go through what he did and face what he did, we wanted to trace that relationship between him and Colton as best we could.”

Getting the tone of that core relationship right, while also clearly showing that Todd Burpo and his family were not uptight stereotypes, came from Wallace’s frequent conversations with Todd during the writing and filming of the screenplay. That personal attention to detail also served to make Kinnear confident that this was a project worth shooting, rather than poorly funded religious propaganda.

“I guess I might have agreed with plenty of folks a few months ago, but now it’s, ‘You’re doing another one of those movies?’ They’re definitely happening now, and whether it’s a trend or coincidence I just don’t know,” says Kinnear. “The subject matter to this movie is tricky. I wasn’t familiar with the book when I heard about the story and the script, but I think it did a nice job of bringing you into the story. Even though Heaven is in the title and the movie, it doesn’t over serve with specifics of what Heaven was like. It avoids that pitfall and tries to tell you this movie covers the events of this family as best as it can.”

Indeed, Wallace and his band of actors had to choose wisely regarding what they could show about Heaven, both due to the practical reasons of fitting an earthly budget and because dwelling on the details of what Colton saw for too long would knock the movie’s dramatic elements off-balance. What remains in the final movie is a vision of a glowing chapel with levitating angels floating in space, and a string of miraculous encounters with relatives that Colton never would have seen in the real world.

In fact, it’s those encounters that finally convinced Todd that his young son wasn’t crazy or inventing his stories about Heaven. There were just too many facts he was sharing about people who had died well before he was born.

“He’s not a dumb guy, and no father wants to put his son in jeopardy but in going public with this story he was in choppy water doing that,” says Wallace about Todd Burpo. “Greg felt strong about the subject matter and that’s why he did it but I think he handled it honorably. It’s not like his son says everything you’ve been talking about is consistent with what I saw and Todd high-fives him back. I think it’s a very hopeful story as well, regardless of where you’re at on the faith spectrum and the movie does a very nice job of honestly giving you a front row seat to watch how this family dealt with these events.”

The Burpos have handled their newfound success well, by all accounts. While their church attendance boomed, requiring them to hire 13 staff members in addition to heavily funding several children’s programs, they have also tried to stay grounded in the roots of their usual daily lives.

Ultimately, it’s that universality that Wallace is hoping will prove to be the film’s strength with audiences.

“I told Joe Roth the movie was like FIELD OF DREAMS or THE SIXTH SENSE, that I saw it in those terms and they loved that. Not as a preachy movie but in the experience of seeing movies,” Wallace says. “I expected my church friends to like it, but I intentionally invited atheist friends …, and they were as moved as the Christians were and that to me was incredibly gratifying. They felt the doubts made it authentic, and they came out of the movie with a sense of joy and gratitude.”

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL opens nationwide on Wednesday. You can read MOVIEGUIDE®’s review of the movie here.

BBC Criticized Again for Left-Wing Bias


This is not the first time the British Broadcasting Corporation has been denounced for its largely left-wing viewpoints, but in an article published by Breitbart London, the BBC is taking it even further.

BBC Three (which, like the PBS-TV in the United States, is run by the government) recently aired a panel discussion show entitled “Free Speech,” but many critics are complaining that the panel is biased because it only had left-wing contributors. The panelists included:

Mehdi Hasan, who currently works for the Huffington Post UK, and has been criticized for describing Non-Muslims (especially atheists) as “people of no intelligence” and comparing them to “cattle.”

Baroness Susan Kramer, a member of the Liberal Democrat party in the House of Lords.

Heydon Prowse, a comedian who often uses his sway to make political statements, including a plea through Twitter to “follow the Egyptian model and ban the Tory brotherhood [the Tory Party is Britain’s leading conservative party] from running in the next election.”

Paris Lees, a self-identified “transgender” person focused on political activism, who was recently quoted, saying, “Get [the Conservative Party] out in 2015!”

Shazia Awan, an ex-Tory candidate who has departed from the Conservative party and is now “politically undecided.”

One member of Parliament from the Tory Party, Aidan Burley, commented, “This is another classic example of BBC bias. They say ‘Free Speech’ is about teaching young people about politics; with this panel they are bottle-feeding them left-wing propaganda.”

While BBC’s liberal views are hardly a new trend, complaints continue to rise as people advocate for removal of such heavily liberal and biased output, especially considering that the BBC is paid for by taxpayer monies.

- Source:  Breitbart London, 03/12/14.

Sony Executive Discusses “Following Christ’s Example”

MegaFest 2013 - Day 1

For Christians in Hollywood, there’s extra pressure to hold onto Biblical convictions amid a culture that is antithetical to those Christian values. Columbia Tristar senior vp of production DeVon Franklin is one of those Christians who is using his sphere of influence to produce Hollywood movies that honor God. Read  Hollywood Reporter’s in depth interview with DeVon where they discuss how Christians can and should work in Hollywood. 

Jim Caviezel’s New Football Movie About Family and Faith



WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL comes out this September and is a true story about a High school football team that held the record for the longest winning streak ever. Jim Caviezel plays the coach in the inspiring story about faith, family and football. Watch and share the trailer below.


Since We Started


When we started MOVIEGUIDE® in 1985, the major studios in Hollywood released few movies with any positive Christian content or values – less than 3%!  By the time we started the Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in 1992 and 1993, however, there were 27 such movies, or about 10.38% of the market share. Incredibly, 22 years later, in 2013, at least 179, or 65.57%, of the movies released by the movie industry contained at least some positive Christian, redemptive content! That’s a numerical increase of almost 563% and a percentage increase of nearly 532%!!!

Also, when we started in 1985, less than 6% of the major movies were aimed at families. In the past several years, movies marketed to families have increased to nearly 40% of the top movies released in your local movie theaters.

Finally, since we started in 1985, there were only about one or two movies being made with strong, explicit Christian content or values, but, now, there are 65 or more such movies each year! That’s at least a 3,150% increase.

The former chairman of a major Hollywood studio told me he attributed all these positive shifts directly to MOVIEGUIDE®’s influence as well as the Christian Film & Television Commission®’s box office analysis and Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry. Many major movie studios now have a Christian, faith-based film division, and several studios are doing major movies with strong and overt Christian or biblical content. Also, now, all the major studios, not just Disney, are doing movies for young children and

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the studios aren’t doing bad or horrible movies any more, but it does mean there are fewer and fewer bad movies, and an increasing number of good ones. It’s our prayer that the movie industry will make more and more commendable movies, and remove all offensive elements from them.

Clearly, however, the work of MOVIEGUIDE® and the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry, especially our Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to Hollywood, has helped significantly to redeem the values of the entertainment industry!

Please help us maintain this magnificent momentum by giving us your full support, including your generous donations.


Below are charts showing the increase in the Christian numbers since we began producing the Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in 1992:

As the accompanying chart on the number of movies with positive Christian and moral content since 1991 demonstrates, the number of movies with at least some moral content has more than quadrupled since 1991, a percentage increase of 308%, and the number of movies with at least some Christian content has increased
more than six times, a percentage increase of nearly 532% since 1991! We attribute that second great advancement in Christian content not only to the Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, but also to the awarding of the $100,000 Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring Movie of the Year, which rewards the best movie that resulted in “a great increase in man’s love or understanding of God.”

Two other charts calculate the rate of increase over five and ten years.


Number of Movies with

Positive Moral/Biblical Content

Number of Movies with

Positive Christian/Redemptive


out of 260 movies or 26.15%

out of 260 movies or 10.38%




out of 273 movies or 83.52%

219% Percentage Increase

out of 273 movies or 65.57%

532% Percentage Increase


Number of Movies with

Positive Moral/Biblical Content

Number of Movies with

Positive Christian/Redemptive Content


out of 282 movies or 67.02%

out of 282 movies or 45.39




228 out of 273 movies or 83.52%

A 24.6 Percentage Increase

179 out of 273 movies or 65.57%

A 44.5% Percentage Increase


Number of Movies with

Positive Moral/Biblical Content

Number of Movies with

Positive Christian Content


out of 277 movies or 77.62%

out of 277 movies or 54.51%




228 out of 273 movies or 83.52%

A 7.6% Percentage Increase

179 out of 273 movies or 65.57%

A 20.3% Percentage Increase


CUBAN FURY is a funny romantic comedy from England about a chubby jellyfish, who used to win trophies in his childhood as a young salsa dancer but needs to regain his confidence to woo the girl of his dreams. Sadly, the filmmakers decided to put a lot of “f” bombs and other lewd language in their movie, which, otherwise, is a sweet, funny, and touching story that could have reached a wider audience.
The movie opens with an overweight man named Bruce Garrett telling how his budding salsa career ended in 1987 when he was only 13. On his way to the UK Junior Salsa Championship with his sister, some young bullies attack Bruce and humiliate him, and he tells his coach that salsa is for sissies. As a result, Bruce loses confidence in himself and begins to put on weight.
Twenty-two years later, Bruce is an unloved, white collar worker, trapped in a downward spiral of self-pity, regret, and defeatism. Only his pretty and smart (and thin) new American boss, Julia, gives him reason to live. However, she’s out of his league, even though she clearly enjoys his sense of humor.
When Bruce discovers Julia has a passion for salsa dancing, he decides the only way he can get the girl, and defeat his rival, Dean, is by going back to his salsa coach and re-discover his salsa passion. Will Bruce be able to regain his confidence and recapture his salsa magic? How can Bruce stop his rival from taking advantage of his lack of confidence and woo Julia away from him forever?
CUBAN FURY has a perfect romantic comedy plot. The story structure is on target. A completely engaging and dance-worthy performance by Nick Frost as the sadsack hero completes the picture, as does his talented supporting cast led by Rashida Jones as Julia, the object of the hero’s affection. Viewers will really want to root for Bruce to get the girl. Chris O’Dowd and Ian McShane are hilarious as the annoying, conceited rival and the grumpy, passionate coach, as is Kayvan Novak as a crazy homosexual salsa dancer from Eastern Europe who befriends Bruce. As a result, the movie delivers a funny, touching, and inspiring story, with some very entertaining dancing scenes.
All that said, CUBAN FURY puts a damper on everything by including plenty gratuitous R-rated foul language. This movie could have been rated PG-13, or even PG, and attracted a much wider audience. In fact, according to The Numbers website, PG-rated movies have averaged two and one-half times more money at the American box office than R-rated movies since 1995, $31.59 million per movie versus only $12.40 million per movie (http://www.the-numbers.com/market/mpaa-ratings). Also, MOVIEGUIDE®’s own statistics over the years show that R-rated movies are much less likely to make it into the Top 10 or Top 25 Movies Overseas and on Home Video.
Because of all the foul language, some lewd jokes and references, and a homosexual character, CUBAN FURY warrants extreme caution, especially for media-wise viewers and their families.


Idiosyncratic filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s latest movie, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, is an artsy drama about two art-worshipping vampire lovers trying to survive a broken modern world. ONLY LOVERS EFT ALIVE is decidedly better than Jarmusch’s last movie, the overly cryptic and pretentious THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. However, it still suffers from the filmmaker’s obsession with character, setting and ideas over story and plot. Also, the worldview is too humanist and, ultimately, rather snobbish. It’s the worldview of a humanist misanthrope who prefers ideas over real people, especially the average humdrum person (or at least seems to prefer them).
Inspired by a story written by Mark Twain, the movie focuses on two vampires, Adam and Eve, living thousands of miles away from one another in different parts of the world.
Adam has secluded himself in a large rundown house somewhere near the outskirts of a rundown Detroit. Adam buys special purified human blood from a hospital doctor in town. A musician who creates alternative rock music that he keeps to himself, Adam also buys valuable antique guitars on the black market from a young human named Ian.
Eve is living in Tangier in Morocco. There, she hobnobs with an elderly vampire who apparently is the real Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright whom the movie considers to be the real writer behind Shakespeare. Himself a vampire, Marlowe supplies Eve with the purified human blood she needs to survive.
No longer able to live without her, Adam urgently summons Eve to Detroit. In between bouts of sex, erudite conversations about history and art and science, and intoxicating sips of purified human blood, Adam and Eve renew their centuries old bonds of love. However, their idyll is suddenly interrupted by a visit from Eve’s wild, careless, annoying, and selfish younger sister, Ava.
Ava’s visit leads to the movie’s big plot question: Can Adam and Eve continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
Once again, Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch avoids story and plot conventions to focus on character, atmosphere, and ideas. However, while the characters and atmosphere may be interesting because they are rather unique and striking, the ideas just seem to offer viewers a kind of hollow hubristic humanism. These vampires, especially the two lead vampires and, of the two, especially Adam, are humanist snobs. Thus, several times during the movie, Adam offers self-righteous, condescending commentary on Hollywood, popular culture, human stupidity (other people’s, never his own), religion, and science. Only he and Eve, and their friend, Marlowe, have the right ideas, taste, intelligence, and knowledge. Of course, this kind of humanist hubris usually, if not always, comes from the Left. So, in a way, there’s a Marxist, communist subtext to ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, but, admittedly, this point is debatable. The movie does seem to excoriate Christianity and promote Darwinistic evolution in a couple lines of dialogue, however. So, there’s a strong politically correct tone to the movie’s condescendingly humanist worldview. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE also contains an excessive, gratuitous amount of foul language, including an overuse of “f” words, as well as brief nudity.
Artistically and cinematically, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE ultimately is a failure, though perhaps an interesting failure. Finally, its humanist worldview is more annoying, especially for its pseudo-intellectual snobbery, than it is extremely offensive. So, MOVIEGUIDE® gives the movie Two Stars and rates it a Minus Three.


OCULUS is a horror movie about an evil mirror haunting a middle-class American family. The movie cleverly employs some classic horror movie tropes, but the ending is a letdown. Also, the occult evil faced by the protagonists is much too powerful, so evil inevitably wins out in the end. By doing this, the filmmakers have not only offended a big portion of the moviegoing audience, but also diluted the power of their story’s suspense.
The movie opens with a young man, Timothy, finally being released from a mental institution after killing his father when he was young. His sister, Kaylie, believes Timothy had no choice but to kill their father, who had been driven mad by an old haunted mirror in their house. However, the humanist psychiatrists at the mental facility have convinced Timothy that Kaylie’s belief about a haunted mirror isn’t real. They’ve given him a completely naturalistic interpretation of everything that happened when his father tortured and murdered their mother, and Timothy shot his father.
Despite this, Kaylie reminds Timothy he promised her years ago he would help her destroy the mirror and kill the demonic ghost lurking within it. She has bought the mirror back and put it in their father’s office in their old house, where the tragic deaths occurred. To thwart the ghost inside the mirror and prove to the world that their father and Timothy are innocent, Kaylie has set up cameras all over the house. If things get bad, she has also rigged a heavy automatic device that will come down and shatter the mirror into a thousand pieces.
Of course, the best-laid plans often go astray, as the old Scottish poet once wrote. Timothy at first refuses to go along with Kaylie’s plan, but once inside the house, he’s magically, and horrifically, compelled to stay. The evil mirror, with its demonic spirits, continues its rampage with a vengeance.
Within the classic conventions of the horror movie, the characters are often faced with a potentially fearful situation where the “normal” order of things is disrupted. This disruption can be graphed by “binary oppositions,” i.e., Life/Death, Human/Animal, and Civilization/Jungle. For example, Dracula the vampire upsets the boundary between Life and Death because he’s both alive and dead, the Wolf Man confuses the line between the Human and the Animal because he’s both a wolf and a man, and King Kong upsets the boundary between Civilization and the Jungle when he escapes his chains to wreck havoc on New York City and its denizens. Faced with this chaos, the characters in a horror movie try to restore order by repairing the balance, frequently by killing or banishing the monster responsible for the disruption. Once the chaotic monster is destroyed or banished, the characters are then able to begin their lives anew.
OCULUS takes almost full advantage of this classic structure. For example, as Kaylie and Timothy attempt to carry out Kaylie’s plan, the movie flashes back to tell the story of what happened during the first encounter with the haunted mirror. This continues throughout the movie. However, the twist to the movie is that, the longer Kaylie and Timothy stay in the house with the mirror, the more that the boundary between Past and Present starts to erode. Thus, Kaylie and Timothy start to encounter their younger selves, and their poor mother and father, and vice versa. Even worse, the haunted mirror seems to be able to confuse Kaylie and Timothy so that they can no longer tell what is Real and what is Fantasy.
The filmmakers brilliantly exploit this disruption of Past and Present, and Reality and Fantasy. It provides almost all of the movie’s most intelligent spooky atmospherics and frightful scares.
That said, the movie seems to fall apart in the third act, which becomes rather predictable. Part, or much, of the problem stems from the increasingly apparent fact that the haunted mirror is just too powerful. After all, a mirror that can manipulate both time (Past/Present) and existence (Reality/Fantasy) is a pretty powerful mirror indeed. Thus, no matter what Kaylie or Timothy try to do, the haunted mirror is able to counteract it. As a result, the protagonists become more and more ineffectual, and the movie starts losing its suspense. Also, it’s pretty hard to sympathize with people who run toward serious danger in a vain or conceited attempt to overcome it.
Eventually, OCULUS makes it clear that the forces Kaylie and Timothy try to overcome are demonic. For example, at one point, the father says that, when he looks in the mirror, “I’ve met my demons, and they are many. I’ve met the Devil, and he is me.”
Because the mirror is so powerful, the evil demonic powers living in it are able to easily overcome the protagonists, causing more murder and misery. This means that OCULUS has an abhorrent, unacceptable, uninspiring conclusion. Therefore, media-wise viewers should want to stay away from OCULUS and its scary occultism.
Ultimately, OCULUS leaves the classic horror movie formula behind. In doing so, it neither satisfies nor inspires. Such dark horror movies seem to have increased in our modern world, probably because so many people have forgotten or forsaken God, including His Law and His Salvation, not to mention His Holy Word, the Bible.


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