Religious-themed films abound at the theater this weekend


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If your idea of the perfect Easter movie is “The Ten Commandments,” you can see it for free on ABC at 7 p.m. Saturday or on the big screen at 2 p.m. Friday at Cinemark theaters in Robinson (tickets, $6.75) and Pittsburgh Mills mall ($6.25) in Frazer near Tarentum.

But there are other options in theaters this week:

‘HEAVEN IS FOR REAL’

Release date: April 16.

Source: Best-selling book by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, with screenplay by director Randall Wallace and Christopher Parker.

Story: Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly portray Todd and Sonja Burpo, a real-life couple whose son Colton (Connor Corum) claims to have visited Heaven during a near-death experience and to have met his great-grandfather and miscarried sister.

Rating and running time: PG for thematic material including some medical situations. 110 minutes.

Why it might attract the faithful: Timing and a built-in audience of people who bought more than 8 million copies of the book. It is Easter Week, when moviegoers may be looking for family-friendly fare, and Mr. Wallace earned an Oscar nomination for his “Braveheart” screenplay. He also directed “Secretariat” and “We Were Soldiers.”

Box office gross: Just opened, the first real test will be the numbers reported this weekend.

‘NOAH’

Release date: March 28.

Source: The Bible, with acknowledged liberties by writer-director Darren Aronofsky.

Story: A righteous man is chosen by God to survive, with his family and pairs of animals sheltered aboard a rough-hewn ark, while a great flood cleanses the Earth of corruption and violence.

Rating and running time: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content. 138 minutes.

Why it might attract the faithful: Russell Crowe delivers one of his strongest performances and reunites with “A Beautiful Mind” co-star Jennifer Connelly in a big-budget action picture wrapped around a story from Genesis. Emma Watson and Logan Lerman spell interest from younger moviegoers, too.

Box office gross: Nearly $247 million worldwide, with $85 million so far in North America, according to box-office tracker Rentrak.

‘GOD’S NOT DEAD’

Release date: March 21.

Source: Takes its inspiration from real-life court cases in which Christian groups have battled universities over the right to assemble, disseminate literature and be officially recognized, Variety reported in its review.

Story: A college freshman and devout Christian (Shane Harper) finds his faith challenged on his first day of philosophy class by the professor (Kevin Sorbo). Students are told to disavow, in writing, the existence of God or face a failing grade. When Mr. Harper’s character refuses, he then must prove God’s existence during the semester.

Rating and running time: PG for thematic material, brief violence and an accident scene. 113 minutes.

Why it might attract the faithful: A trailer appeared before “The Son of God,” it features an appearance by “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson and opened outside the usual critical circles. Most reviewers never caught up with it. Rottentomatoes.com has a dozen reviews with two fresh and 10 rotten.

Box office gross: $40,700,000, all in North America.

‘THE SON OF GOD’

Release date: Feb. 28.

Source: The Bible, by way of a History Channel production. The movie packages New Testament scenes from the cable miniseries and weaves in some footage not shown on television.

Story: Billed as the “first major studio feature film on the complete life of Jesus Christ since ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ 50 years ago.” It tracks Jesus from birth through teachings, crucifixion and resurrection.

Rating and running time: PG-13 for intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence. 138 minutes.

Why it might attract the faithful: It got the stamp of approval from influential leaders such as Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Bishop David Zubik. The movie was marketed to believers and churches and took advantage of the miniseries success and popularity of producer-actress Roma Downey, who plays Mary here.

Box office gross: Nearly $62 million worldwide, with most of that from North America.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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