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CULTURE DIGEST: ‘Passion Recut’ has less violence; Disney prepares ‘Chronicles of Narnia’; Korn guitarist accepts Christ

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In an effort to appeal to a wider audience including those kept from viewing “The Passion of The Christ” because of its depictions of brutal violence, Mel Gibson is releasing a tamer version of the film March 11 called “The Passion Recut.”

Gibson has edited at least six minutes out of the original film and is substituting different camera angles to show less blood and gore in the graphic scenes of the torture, scourge and crucifixion of Christ, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Bob Berney, president of distributor Newmarket Films, said he and Gibson are aware that “some people felt the gore overshadowed the message of the film.” The subtle changes will emphasize the sacrifice of Jesus rather than just the suffering, he told the newspaper.

Even with less violence, the MPAA still gave the new Passion version an R rating. The film’s production company, Icon Productions, has opted to release The Passion Recut without a rating.

“Exhibitors can decide for themselves how they want to handle the situation,” Berney said. “Some may choose to still treat it as an R and not let teens see it, unless accompanied by adults. Others may be willing to treat it as a PG-13. The film is still probably too intense for children, but Mel hoped to make it more available for teens.”

The Passion Recut will be carried in theaters on 500 to 750 screens nationwide beginning just before Easter. After The Passion’s February 2004 release, the film about Jesus’ final hours on earth grossed more than $370 million domestically and more than $611 million worldwide.

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During the upcoming Oscars Feb. 27, The Passion will be sidelined to nominations only in technical categories, illustrating what film critic Michael Medved called “Hollywood’s profound, almost pathological discomfort with the traditional religiosity embraced by most of its mass audience.”

Medved said the Academy shut out one of the year’s biggest box office hits and instead nominated for the major categories a list of films that “went out of their way to assault or insult the sensibilities of most believers,” notably “Million Dollar Baby” with its portrayal of assisted suicide as heroic and “Kinsey” in its depiction of sexuality without limits.

‘CHRONICLES OF NARNIA,’ DISNEY STYLE — Walt Disney Pictures is hoping its upcoming adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ children’s novel “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” will be a major blockbuster on par with “The Lion King” from 1994.

Disney has tapped the animation specialist responsible for megahits “Shrek” and “Shrek 2” for the film, which combines live action and computer-generated images, according to The New York Times Feb. 17.

Narnia is expected to hit theaters Dec. 9, and Disney is preparing to launch a line of moneymaking products like toys, clothing, video games and possibly a theme park presence, The Times said, which it expects to spark a pop cultural craze.

“But this time, the pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise,” The Times said.

Disney must decide whether to acknowledge the strong Christian symbolism and risk alienating a chunk of potential viewers or ignore the symbolism and offend the generations of Christians who are fans of the book.

So far, Disney says it is trying to be “as faithful to the book as possible,” The Times said, and would prefer to leave the spiritual conclusions or lack thereof up to the viewer.

KORN GUITARIST ACCEPTS CHRIST — A founding member of the popular hard rock band Korn has announced he accepted Jesus as his Savior and is leaving the band.

Brian “Head” Welch told a California radio station Feb. 20 that the aggressive tone of the music he made with Korn is at odds with his newfound happiness in Christ, according to CNN.com.

“Anger is a good thing, and if kids want to listen to Korn, good, but there’s happiness after the anger,” he said on KRAB-FM. “I’m going to show it through my actions how much I love my fans.”

A statement on Korn’s website said the band has “parted ways” with the guitarist, who “has chosen the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end.”

MTV.com said rumors were circulating in recent weeks that Welch disagreed with Korn’s direction. On Feb. 8, he had apparently written a letter of resignation to the band’s management, citing a long list of reasons for leaving, MTV said. Among those were increased moral objections to Korn’s music and videos, one of which superimposed Welch’s face on a dog patrolling a strip club.

“I can go up there and play those songs and those solos, but … I distanced myself from Korn for probably a year and a half, two years,” he said on KRAB, according to MTV. “I just wanted to fade away. It was crazy. I was so gone.

“But I found my way out and I want to help anyone that wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had to go through the lows to appreciate the highs….” he said.

Welch is expected to give his testimony at his church — Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, Calif. — Feb. 27.

EVIE TORNQUIST, OTHERS ENTER GOSPEL HALL OF FAME — Walter Hawkins, Mylon Le Ferve, Evie Tornquist, The Lewis Family, Ronn Huff, Don Light and Lou Hildreth were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame Feb. 22 near Nashville, Tenn.

John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association, said each is deserving of the honor “not only for their individual artistic contributions to gospel music, but for the profound influence they had on artists that followed them. Their contributions to gospel music will be forever remembered by this honor.”

Hawkins first emerged in the youth choir that recorded “Oh, Happy Day” and went on to become an accomplished recording artist, songwriter and producer. Le Fevre wrote “Without Him,” which was first recorded by Elvis Presley when Le Fevre was just 17 years old, according to a GMA news release. Tornquist was widely known by only her first name and is often referred to as the Amy Grant of previous generations.

The Lewis Family is known as the first family of bluegrass gospel music. Huff’s arrangements have been among the recordings of artists like Bill and Gloria Gaither, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, George Strait and Sandi Patty.

Light began as a Grand Ole Opry drummer and went on to launch the first booking agency for gospel music artists. Hildreth was an artist, songwriter, publisher and television host who became the first woman to own a gospel music artist booking agency.

The GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame was established in 1971 and has inducted 125 total members including Elvis Presley, Amy Grant, the Oak Ridge Boys, Petra and Bill and Gloria Gaither.
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