Ten movies to avoid this Easter
Want to know the ten films you shouldn't put on if the vicar comes round for tea this Easter? Then read on...
1. Almost an Angel (1990)
While it was Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ that lit up the box office like a burning bush, it was his compatriot, Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee’ Hogan, who delivered the far more violent and disturbing vision of the crucifixion with this crown of celluloid thorns from 1990. A harrowing slice of unoriginal sin, it sees Hogan as a degenerate thief who believes himself imbued with seraphic grace after a highball glass falls on his head from a passing Cessna. Your vicar might turn a blind eye to the wholesale blasphemy on show, but the scene where the altogether delusional Hoags beats up a paraplegic war veteran will have him blowing custard creams out of his parson’s nose.
2. Barabbas (1961)
Having jammily come up against The Messiah in the crucifixion X-Factor, the Other Guy at last gets his moment as we dust off the sandals and spruce up the arena for the violent, womanising, entirely speculative life of terrorist kingpin Barabbas and his (Roman) cop-killing spree. Anthony Quinn is heartwarming as the none-too-bright Barabbas who gropes his way to salvation, and Jack Palance wouldn’t be as chilling again until 'Curly’s Gold'. The inevitable dearth of excitement when redemption calls points up the fact that being good may get you to heaven, but it’s not actually that much fun. Realistically, if you had a choice between watching 'Jesus of Nazareth' and 'Barabbas', which would you choose?
3. Bad Lieutenant (1992)
AKA, ‘The film where Harvey Keitel masturbates into the wing mirror of a Ford Mustang’, ‘Bad Lieutenant’ sees its director– Bronx sleazebag Abel Ferrara – ridding himself of a lifetime’s worth of Catholic guilt (and, no doubt, countless run-ins with boy-crazy priests) and spewing it over the screen like he would a hastily downed carafe of expired Communion wine. Your vicar may warm to the film’s godly message which suggests that no one – even if they’re strung-out on smack and hold an unreasonable personal vendetta against LA Dodgers batter Darryl Strawberry – is beyond redemption, but he may not entirely enjoy all the rape, swearing and violence that are a must when trying to hammer home such a point.
4. End of Days (1999)
Having already thwarted the twin demons of childbirth (‘Junior’) and shape-shifting cybernetic armies from the future (the rest), Arnold Schwazenegger returned from a two-year acting hiatus to take on his greatest foe yet: Gabriel Byrne. ‘End of Days’ sees the Governator at the end of his tether, one protein shake short of a cable infomercial, wallowing in his cess-pit condo and – perhaps understandably – pointing the finger at God for the untimely passing of his wife and kid. He plays Jericho Cane, a grizzled punk cop who goes tonto when he finds out that the clergy have been diverting the proceeds from the poor box into a secret sect who have been given the task of getting Satan Jr. potty trained. Hilarity ensues.
5. Wholly Moses! (1980)
Inexplicably holidaying in the Negev Valley in a flared business suit purloined from the set of 'Arthur', Dudley Moore is shucked through a time-hole by his desire to get his end away and finds himself marooned as the true Moses in a sub-Python nightmare of staggeringly ill-conceived proportions. The leaky raft of reed-thin gags is barely kept afloat by the kind of willful anachronism that passed for wit at the time (see Richard Pryor’s jive-talking Pharaoh) as Moore struggles through an endless mirth-Sinai of biblical non-sequiturs and ethnic ‘satire’. Like Father Tourette’s sermon, the catalogue of inappropriate knob-jokes and little-league blasphemy can’t disguise the fact that this movie has no idea what it’s saying.
6. Sirens (1994)
Perpetuating the myth that all Men of God are jittery, Panama-wearing, Typhoo-sodden dandies who’ll choke on their Victoria sponge at even the slightest glimpse of female flesh, 1994’s ‘Sirens’ sees Hugh Grant’s effete local minister take a trip Down Under to give Sam Neil’s art pervert a theological dressing down. Presented with all the conviction of an ITV2 primetime investigation into the nature of blasphemy, the film does everything it can to stamp out the seriousness of its ideas about the boundless nature of artistic expression by descending into hazy-lensed erotica at any given opportunity: The film’s second half consists mainly of topless (read: liberated) women running through a row of sprinklers on a disused bowling green.
7. Logan’s Run (1976)
With its beatific cast of fanatical drones, the overbearing yet comforting menace of a capricious, unseen godhead and lashings of empty totemic symbolism, it’s difficult to see where the religiously inclined would find fault with 1976’s blow-dried sci-fi potboiler ‘Logan’s Run’. But when Michael York’s spunky Logan defies the prevailing theocracy of his coddling utopia, then he – like Martin Luther before him – not only drives a nail into the very heart of ecclesiastical doctrine, but frees an entire society and drags it, blinking and yet uncomprehending, into an enlightened rationalism where jujus, incantations and idolatry have no place. Amen.
8. Elmer Gantry (1960)
A juiced-up charlatan peddling spiritual snake-oil to a congregation of emotionally baffled sexual autistics may be an unnerving, near-the-knuckle theme to men of the cloth, but most would be flattering themselves if they thought they could pull off multiple fraud and nun-buttering with half the elan that Burt Lancaster brings to the role of Elmer. His traveling preacher’s boozy climb up the greased Jacob’s ladder of the Bible Belt circuit, strewn with careless promises, sex-pestery and grimy dollar bills, should make Gantry hateful. In fact, we love this slick mercenary, proving that when it comes to soul-jacking the people, content is optional: it’s all about style.
9. True Confessions (1981)
Whether it be spent chatting with tourists within the cool stone walls of a pristine, lottery-funded Cathedral, or amid the bowling greens, coffee mornings and gymkhanas of some half-imagined pastoral idyll, the British cleric has a relatively easy run of things. Contrast the plight of this winsome sitcom ninny with that of his opposite number in a downtown '40s Los Angeles that makes pre-Giuliani New York look like Center Parcs. Priest Robert De Niro is caught in the middle of rapacious land deals, the ‘Black Dahlia’ murder investigation and a corrupt LAPD. No wonder he spends the entire film doing that thing with his face that makes him look like he’s righteously constipated.
10. Jurassic Park (1993)
That’s right, ‘Jurassic Park’. From the titanic hubris of claiming Christ was a short, stocky spaceman (‘ET’), to freely speculating that humankind is far from the most intelligent life form in the cosmos (‘Close Encounters’), it’s fair to say that director Steven Spielberg has iconoclastic previous when it comes to the Man Upstairs. In kid-friendly toe-jam ‘Jurassic Park’, however, he goes even further and posits that God is, in fact, dead. In a fit of Nietzschean lunacy, he here unleashes the revivified scientific furies that outstrip the plans of their maker and reduce his very dominion over them to that of a moribund sideshow. White-knuckle thrill-ride or allegorical effrontery? You, viewer, must decide.
Author: Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, David Jenkins
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