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8/10
Facing the Giants Is More Than Hollywood Clichés
29 September 2006
Facing The Giants is a "feel good" movie. As I type those words, I can't help but think, "OK, I've just alienated at least half the readers from seeing the movie". A "feel good" movie doesn't have to translate to pure sap. Think Rocky more than Steel Magnolias. Although even that comparison is lacking, because similarities between Giants and Rocky or Rudy or for that matter any other "come from behind" sports movies also come up short. One thing is for sure, no one viewing Giants will miss the Christian content, and that difference alone makes the film unique. But that's not the only thing that sets this film apart. The fact that it was made mostly by volunteer amateurs from Albany, Georgia's Sherwood Baptist Church-for $100,000-is a testimony to what people can do when they passionately believe in something. That alone makes this a truly "inspiring" film! The story focuses on Coach Grant Taylor (played by writer, director, and Sherwood associate pastor Alex Kendrick), whose Shiloh Christian Academy football team hasn't had a winning season in six years. After losing a star player to another team, things are looking down for the Shiloh Eagles, and school board members begin to consider showing Taylor the door. The coach is having a bad year for sure. He drives a beat up car, his house smells like something died, and worst of all-he and wife discover they can't have children of their own. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) board that hands out movie ratings says that it was in fact this pregnancy theme that earned Giants it's PG rating. Don't be concerned by this "adult" topic-it's handled very appropriately for the whole family. On the "family" topic: yes you can the kids. My recommendation would be ages 8 and up, only because younger children may be bored with the football and "personal crisis" themes. But there is no sexual content or profanity, and violence is limited to football tackles. By the way, the football action looks great, thanks to one of the paid crew members, cinematographer Bob Scott. He's worked with the amazing NFL films as well as Friday Night Lights and many others. This is a very good film for the family-I actually think that's what this movie was made for. I can see families going out to eat after the movie and discussing some of the themes (trust in God, respecting your parents). If my son was older, I would be taking him to see it for sure. The movie could truly have a positive impact on kids-as opposed to the mindless entertainment they are often subjected to. As the story unfolds, Taylor reaches a breaking point, and decides that all he can do is trust the Lord for guidance. He tells his team, "If we win, we praise him and if we lose we praise him". Most adults won't be too surprised where the films goes after that-however I think kids in the audience will be delighted-and maybe inspired-by the turn of events. Let me go back to the "pure sap" comment for a moment. Some people may think this film is the definition of "sap" as the story progresses. I didn't see it that way. As a Christian, I have seen God turn around impossible situations-so for me, I was thinking "yeah, God can do that". So does Giants show us that when the chips are down, all we have to do is pray and things change immediately? Alex Kendrick talks about this in an interview with Christianity Today: "That's always the first negative comment we get after our test screenings. I'm not a name-it-and-claim-it guy; I think God does allow us to struggle." However I understand where Kendrick is coming from when he goes on to say, "We ended up with our story for two reasons: Number one, we had seen it happen around us. And number two, it's a movie and we wanted people to leave inspired and encouraged." We had seen it happen around us. Giants is a reflection of that. If you're like me, you will "feel good" at the end of the movie. That's not a bad thing! Go see this movie-and take the kids.
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8/10
"The Second Chance" Reverses the Curse on Christian Movies
16 February 2006
I watched an advance screening of "The Second Chance" Thursday night, and was pleasantly surprised. This certainly the best movie I've ever seen from the Christian movie bubble (whose track record is horrible, admittedly). First time director Steve Taylor hits it out of the ballpark with this one. The film stars Micheal W. Smith as an associate pastor of a wealthy white church who ends up working in the "hood" with a black pastor, played excellently by newcomer jeff carr. Smith does a fine job by the way. I found it to be throughly entertaining-although I admit that part of that may be because as a life-long church attender, I'm interested in the subject matter. My expectations were low as well. Despite the "Christian" connection, the film is never hokey and the acting is top-notch. I even had to fight back tears at one point! There was quite a bit of emotion in the theater especially in one scene. My only criticisms would be that there are too many sub-plots, many unresolved. None of these are boring however, and perhaps director Steve Taylor didn't want to wrap things up nicely. Also, carr (yes he spells it lowercase)'s character curses several times throughout the film-which is disappointing considering he plays a minister. The rest of the profanity in the movie makes sense. I think the central message of the film, which is that we need to do more for the poor than just give them cash, is an important one. It's rarely told these days outside of the "Blame America First" crowd, who fail to reach people just like many churches.

Mel Gibson once talked about the "curse" that's been on "Christian" movies and how bad they are. I think "The Second Chance" has finally broken the curse.
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