John Hanlon Reviews


Religious movies making box office waves in 2016

Posted in: General  |  By: John Hanlon  |  April 5th, 2016
Miracles from Heaven Photo

“This is the next world. Hope it’s good to you.” So states Jesus (Tom Payne), troche one of the new characters that The Walking Dead season 6 introduced to viewers. After the first half of the season found the story’s main group adjusting to a new normal in the city of Alexandria (and fending off the Wolves that threatened to destroy it), the second half of the season has found the group expanding their network.

Jesus, a loner that Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) found on a supply run outside the city, shows that their isolated community is not alone. There are others out there. Some of those communities are willing — and even eager — to trade. Others just want to take.

Currently in its sixth season, the high-profile show has gone through great highs (the strong first season) and notable lows (the meandering story-line at Hershel’s farm from season 2 stands out) but through those times, the show has remained one of the most watchable on television. This season, in particular, has stood out by focusing on the core cast living and surviving together in Alexandria.

After last season — where much of the season focused on Beth’s experience in a hospital and the attempts to rescue her — this season has focused more on developing and building already-established relationships even as new characters have seeped in.

Like several of the earlier seasons, Carol (Melissa McBride) is still one of the most fascinating characters on television. This is a woman who suffered abuse at the hands of her husband, suffered tragedy with the loss of her daughter and continues to reinvent herself as both one of the show’s strongest survivors and as one of the most kind-hearted members of the community (where she delivers cookies on a regular basis). Her early admonitions to a child in the community led to tragedy but she continues to pick herself up and in this season, she began a sweet relationship with Tobin (Jason Douglas), one of Alexandria’s long-term residents.

Other relationships that stood out this season was the multi-faceted relationships that Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), the leader of Alexandria shared with Rick, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), a young woman whose marriage to Glenn (Steven Yeun) has also served as one of the show’s most important relationships.  It’s true that the “mystery” of whether Glenn had or had not survived in the midst of a horde of walkers dragged on a bit too long but much of this season has really stood out and reminded viewers of why this show remains so popular and compelling today.

Now that we’ve reached the end of season six, there are a few developments that do seem a bit repetitive (like Carol’s walking away from the group again) but even such developments seem earned. This season, there’s been an underlying theme about the consequences of so much violence of man against his fellow man. Those questions — voiced frequently by Morgan (Lennie James), a season one ally of Rick’s who , after appearing briefly in season 3, rejoined the show fully at the end of season 5 – really add a nice emotional weight to the show.

If reports are to be believed, this season will end with the introduction of one of the greatest villains from the Robert Kirkman comic book that the show was adapted from) coming brutally to life. One doesn’t know what season 7 of this long-running AMC drama will bring but season 6 has been an extremely strong one and one that shows this program featuring the undead is still alive and thriving.
As the second quarter of 2016 begins, viagra dosage
one of the most interesting trends at the box office this year is the dramatic rise of faith-based films. In the span of only a few short months, medicine
several smaller-budgeted religious dramas have reaped serious financial rewards at the box office. At least four major national releases have featured prominent religious stories or themes since January.

This weekend alone, sick
the religious sequel God’s Not Dead 2 arrived in theaters nationwide while during its third week at the box office, Miracles from Heaven actually built on its own success story, expanding into 108 more theaters (according to

The rise of faith-based films is often partly attributed to the massive, unprecedented success of The Passion of the Christ. That film, which arrived in February of 2004, truly changed Hollywood’s perspective on religious films while earning over 600 million dollars at the global box office. Since then, there have been a variety of faith-based movies including the big-budgeted blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia in 2005 and more modest success stories like God’s Not Dead in 2014.

What’s interesting in 2016 though is how eclectic this genre of films has become.

God’s Not Dead 2 is the least surprising film of the bunch. After the success of the low-budgeted original, it seemed inevitable that a sequel would eventually arrive. Although in many ways it follows the original’s formula (with a heavy focus on religious prosecution of people in classrooms), it tells a different story and predominantly features a new cast.

Thus far, the sequel hasn’t done as well as the first film but with even meager success on such a low budget, the series will likely continue in the years to come.

Movies like The Young Messiah and Risen have taken a different tact. Both of them told fictional stories that were inspired by Biblical ones. The Young Messiah imagined what Jesus would look and act like as a seven-year-old boy. Risen, on the other hand, told the story of a fictional soldier who was tasked with finding Jesus’ missing body after it disappeared from the Messiah’s tomb three days after the Crucifixion. While The Young Messiah — which received five stars from Hot Air’s Ed Morrisseyreportedly hasn’t recouped its budget yet, Risen surely did. According to, that film cost approximately twenty million to make and has already earned more than thirty-six million.

The biggest success story of these films though is the under-rated Miracles from Heaven, which was based on the nonfiction book by Christy Beam. Based on the true story about Beam’s daughter being healed from a mysterious disease after a terrible fall from a tree, the movie averaged $2300 in each of its theaters this past weekend while Allegiant — the third big-budget dystopian drama in the Divergent series, which opened a few days after Miracles did— only earned $1900 in each of its theaters.

Miracles reportedly cost only 13 million dollars to make and has already made 46 million at the box office.

Admittedly since Passion arrived, there have been numerous flops in the genre. From the atrociously-produced 2014 Nicholas Cage-led drama Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage to the big-budget bomb Exodus: Gods and Kings, which relied on special effects over solid storytelling, there have been stumbles along the way. However, 2016 has shown that a wide variety of faith-based films can do well at the box office if they embrace their religious identities.

The positive trend could continue later on this year when the big-budget Ben Hur hits theaters nationwide but in the meantime, the 2016 box office has been kind to movies that speak to religious audiences who are looking for stories — from fictional ones that build off the Bible to contemporary ones that tell true stories — that show the power of faith and religion in our world.

For a list of five must-see faith-based films, click here.