The Count of Monte Cristo (Touchstone), according to promotional materials, strives to be "the first major swashbuckling movie of the new millennium." The film, based on the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas, tells the story of Edmond Dantés (Jim Caviezel), who is framed as a traitor by his duplicitous friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce). Dantés spends 13 torturous years on the island prison of Chateau d'If, learns life lessons from an imprisoned priest, Abbe Faria (Richard Harris), then designs an elaborate scheme to seek revenge on Mondego and others who betrayed him. In his cell, Dantés finds a wall carving that says GOD WILL GIVE ME JUSTICE, and he deepens the carving in his years of imprisonment. Faria, the most engaging character in the film, pleads with DantÉs not to seek revenge, but to no avail. After more than two hours of new-millennium swashbuckling, the film's resolution is so abrupt that it seems like a non sequitur. The cinematography is rich, the acting is competent all around, but a nagging question remains: Why now?

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The Miracle of the Cards and Waterproof are the two latest films from Cloud Ten, which until now has concentrated more on end-times pictures (Apocalypse, Left Behind, Revelation). Both films are refreshing departures from the exploding cars and other pyrotechnics of the apocalyptic genre.

The Miracle of the Cards is based on the true story of Craig Shergold (Thomas Sangster), a boy who seems doomed to an early death by a brain tumor. Young Craig expresses his wish to win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by receiving the greatest number of get-well cards. His wish will be familiar to the millions of people who have received dated e-mails suggesting that his challenge remains urgent. Stop sending those cards, everyone: He surpassed the record within a year, receiving 16 million cards by 1990.

Do not be misled by the flat-footed title: The miracle here is not merely that a gravely ill young man received millions of cards from around the world. The film sometimes feels like an extended episode of PAX-TV's series, It's a Miracle (complete with a cameo appearance by actor Richard Thomas). But the film is mature enough to include dramatic elements of jealousy, obsession, and religious doubt.

Waterproof will feel familiar to film lovers who were fortunate enough to see Maya Angelou's Down in the Delta (1998). The plots are similar: An African American woman in crisis returns to her hometown in the South, where she experiences redemption.

Waterproof, directed by Barry Berman (Benny & Joon), throws in some other interesting curve balls, however. Its protagonist, Tyree Battle (April Grace), essentially kidnaps a Jewish shop owner, Eli Zeal (Burt Reynolds), who has been shot by her son. While he mends, Zeal discovers a friendship with Sugar, the family patriarch (Whitman Mayo, in his final film). It's great fun to see Mayo, who played Grady Wilson on TV's Sanford and Son, in an entirely different role.

Too often this film strains credulity, especially in suggesting that Zeal would be so longsuffering about being shanghaied from inner-city Washington, D.C., to a small town in Louisiana. Nevertheless, Waterproof explores interracial love, the destructive power of guilt, and the sheer joy of Christian baptism.

If Cloud Ten continues making films like The Miracle of the Cards and Waterproof, it will attract a devoted core audience of people who respect storytelling over propaganda. Both films will have limited theatrical releases, but they are also available on VHS and DVD. And they both offer impressive Web sites ( and

Related Elsewhere

The Count of Monte Cristo’s Web site contains trailers, story information, and a chance to send friends to a “virtual jail.”

Recently, Monte Cristo star Jim Caviezel talked to CCM Magazine about his faith and said his number-one priority is making sure the story in his films has "redeeming value."

The official sites for Waterproof and The Miracle of the Cards feature story information, images, trailers, and reviews.

In last months’ Coming Soon, Douglas LeBlanc looked at A Walk to Remember, The Magic Never Ends: The Life and Work of C.S. Lewis, and The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It.

Christianity Today'sFilm Forum looks at what critics are saying about new films each week. Reviews of The Count of Monte Cristo were featured in January.

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