Monday, July 8, 2013


What a pleasure it was to discover an uplifting AND entertaining Christian movie!

Okay, let's be honest here. Christian movies have come a long way from the offerings of the 1970s and early 1980s. I'm not talking about the unforgettable Passion of the Christ with Jim Caviezel. What I'm referring to is the low-low budget films with the disciples who speak with a Southern twang. Yes, I remember a couple of movies like that, usually shown at church on Youth Night! They were nothing like Fireproof and Courageous, movies of today that are both wonderful and very well written, besides being a blessing with powerful messages.

But, hey, considering Hollywood has lost nearly all its imagination and mostly now just rehashes old TV shows and movies, many of the "regular", or more accurately, the secular movies are sadly not what they used to be, either. You're just paying more at the box office for something that's not nearly as good as the original.

So it was great to find both The Encounter and The Encounter: Paradise Lost on Netflix this weekend. I don't suppose either movie will win any Academy Awards (and a lot of wonderful movies never do), but as far as Christian entertainment goes, both were well worth their weight in popcorn and Junior Mints.

The first movie, The Encounter, has something of a Twilight Zone feel to it, so yes, we enjoyed that. Because of a road that's been closed (by a shady deputy named DeVille--not hard to figure out!), a group of travelers along a mountain highway are diverted to a lonely diner out in the middle of nowhere, aptly named the Last Chance Diner. The potpourri of people include a couple on the verge of divorce; a confused young girl with a troubled past; a former football player who now owns a burger restaurant chain; and a young woman on her way to her fiance.

Imagine their surprise when their host, the diner's amiable owner, claims to be the Son of the Living God Himself. He even wears a nametag that reads JESUS. (That was precious! :D) In one of the film's most amusing scenes, one of the customers reads his name tag and says, "Hello, Jesus!" pronouncing it like the Spanish hay-zoos. The Lord gently corrects him, saying, "Actually, it's pronounced jee-suhs." The movie has sweet touches; for example, Jesus knows exactly what each of his "customers" would love to eat that night, and He serves everything with more than a dash of humility and a heaping of love.

Christian recording artist, Jaci Velazquez, is cast in the role of Melissa, the engaged traveler, and she does a good job, her moments with the Lord believable and tender. Her story made me smile, because the character reminded me of myself when I accepted the Lord as a 20-year-old college student.

Bruce Marchiano gives a unique, warm and intriguing performance as Jesus, in both films. He gives the Lord an "average Joe" sort of persona, while at the same time reminding the viewer that He is God the Son. He conveyed Jesus as having a sense of being compassionate..."as not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) There's real delight in this actor's face and true concern, both when are appropriate to the scene at hand. The movie, incidentally, is scripturally sound.

My husband and I loved The Encounter so much that we didn't waste time in watching The Encounter: Paradise Lost. That one moved much slower at first and seemed convoluted in the beginning. We stuck it out and were rewarded for our patience. The storylines include a drug dealer, a DEA agent out to avenge the death of his sister who died of a heroine overdose, a couple who own a resort hotel whose marriage is also in trouble after their son dies in the 2004 Thailand tsunami, and a former Thai prostitute who is rescued by the drug dealer, played by Robert Miano. As I said, this second film has something of a clunky start, but it was Robert Miano's multi-faceted performance as Bruno Mingarelli that kept us watching. Bruno, a brutal drug dealer, was no one-dimensional character, but rather he had these interesting layers to him, including the fact that he truly loved Mimi. Paradise Lost had its high points and is still more worthwhile than watching a film where swear words are tossed around mindlessly like confetti, and considering the subject matter, the violence level is much less than what you'd see in non-Christian films.

All things considered, both movies made our Movie Night a blessing. If you haven't caught these films, go on and give them a chance. Don't forget the popcorn and Junior Mints!

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