The weekend before last, a seemingly under-the-radar film called I Can Only Imagine wound up being a surprise box office hit. It was the first in a string of faith-based movies set to roll out in the weeks leading up to Easter. Paul, Apostle of Christ, a biblical drama starring Jim Caviezel, opened last Friday, and a second sequel to the 2014 hit God’s Not Dead sees release this week.

Caviezel, of course, played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and that movie is a prime example of how religious films are often underestimated when it comes to commercial success. Made on modest budgets, these movies have built-in support from an underserved niche of filmgoers who find their beliefs at odds with the pool of available viewing content. Local churches embrace the films in grass-roots campaigns, and it doesn’t hurt if they have ties to a bestselling Christian music single or self-help book. This is how I Can Only Imagine was able to win the weekend over Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, a movie that deliberately downplayed the Christian elements of its source material.

By now, there are enough titles out there that religious films have gotten to be a genre in and of themselves. Yet they almost always seem to be under a quality curse, much like video game movies. Those that aren’t outright bad tend to be mediocre. Why are so many faith-based movies subpar? And what movies actually get this right?

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Everybody loves Liam Neeson. It’s impossible not to. He’s a badass, he’s handsome, he’s got the cool accent, he seems like a smart guy and he’s starred in some of the best movies of the past quarter century. Even when he shows up for a quick and dirty paycheck like in Battleship it’s hard to begrudge the guy. (Given the recent tragedy in his personal life, my inner Jewish grandmother says “it’s good he should keep busy. And why not make a few dollars at the same time?”)

I won’t suggest that you skip Battleship this weekend. With friends and some smuggled-in tall boys of Coors Light you’ll have a fine time. But don’t expect that much Liam Neeson. In fact, it may leave you wanting more, so here are eight films of his you probably haven’t seen.

Note – Darkman isn’t on here. I’m giving you enough credit and assuming that you’ve seen that one already. Read More »

If Ben Affleck can make his hostage movie, maybe Brad Pitt can have one, too. Warner Bros. is putting together The Mission, a ‘based on a true story’ military action thriller escapade. The studio is trying to get Brad Pitt to don some fatigues, and David O. Russell is reportedly considering directing. Read More »

David O. Russell may have left behind the video game adaptation Uncharted, but the director’s not exactly wanting for new projects to work on. The latest potential additions to his slate are a Lorenzo di Bonaventura-produced action film titled The Mission, and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty retelling Maleficent. (In fact, the latter is likely the reason Russell was allegedly meeting with star Angelina Jolie last week — Russ called it when he expressed his skepticism that Jolie would be interested in the Silver Linings female lead.)

Oh yeah, and that’s in addition to The Silver Linings Playbook and a handful of other projects he’s been linked to previously. The man has been keeping himself very, very busy. More details after the jump.

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Ennio Morricone Now Composing Ringtones for LG

When film fans hear the word “composer,” we immediately think of a film composer. Maybe our minds even drift to some of our favorite scores by the likes of John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, Hans Zimmer or Jerry Goldsmith. When that happens, it’s easy to forget that a composer can write music for things other than movies.

So in an age where almost everyone’s life is run through their cell phone, it makes almost perfect sense that a great film composer is going to the digital medium. Ennio Morricone, the legendary Italian composer who has written scores for hundreds of films including Cinema Paradiso, The Good The Bad and The Ugly as well as The Untouchables, has signed a deal with LG to not only write brand new music for ringtones on their upcoming smart phones, but allow those phones to exclusively play some of his most famous themes. Read more about this deal after the jump. Read More »

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