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How The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies betrays Tolkien’s Catholic themes — and his religious fans

2014-12-20 14:15:02 Changes like these are sadly typical of the Hobbit prequel trilogy, which is far cruder and less sensitive to the charm and beauty of its source material than the Lord of the Rings films were. As bad as Christopher Tolkien’s fears in 2012 about The Hobbit films might have been, the reality is worse. Read More >

Exodus: Gods and Kings: Theological reflections

2014-12-13 00:15:47 It’s a movie with many problems, like most of Scott’s recent epics (Prometheus, Robin Hood, Kingdom of Heaven), but Scott has a better story to work with here and adds something of value to the world of Bible cinema. Read More >

Interview: Exodus filmmakers Ridley Scott, Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton

2014-12-13 00:08:25 Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (in theaters Dec. 12) is the year’s second major Old Testament epic from a director who is not a believer — but don’t get Scott started on Noah’s rock-monster Watchers. Read More >

Moses at the Movies

2014-12-12 23:58:29 The Exodus is probably the Bible’s most cinema-ready story, the perfect Bible-movie subject. Unlike the stories of Noah, Abraham, David, Jesus, Peter, or Paul, it offers a sustained narrative structure, with a clear central conflict between a strong hero and a strong villain, building to a series of grand climaxes. Read More >

How Disney’s Maleficent subverts the Christian symbolism of Sleeping Beauty

2014-11-14 13:19:43 I’m very much open to fairy-tale revisionism in general, and to feminist critiques of classic fairy tales in particular. As a father of three daughters, I chafe at the passiveness of so many traditional fairy-tale princesses waiting for their prince to come and rescue them. Give me princesses like Leia from Star Wars, Merida from Brave or Tiana from The Princess and the Frog any day. But there’s a difference between creative revisionism and simple inversion. Read More >

Dystopia, The Hunger Games and the critique of the culture of death

2014-11-12 19:00:05 The word utopia was coined by St. Thomas More in his book of that name — an important and enigmatic work of fiction and political philosophy generally understood as some sort of satire. Read More >

Seeking accessible saint movies … for less arty viewers

2014-11-07 17:45:43 A reader writes: “I am looking for easy-to-approach religious movies, especially ones on saints. Intellectually challenging, subtitled, confusingly artistic movies seem to dominate. While I really love those types of movies, I am trying to find films for my Bible study group … We tried the first half of Diary of a Country Priest, and I worried one might try to smother herself with my sofa pillow to end her misery. Do you have any thoughts?” Read More >

Taking themselves lightly: “The Flying Nun” and The Reluctant Saint

2014-10-31 11:48:45 If “The Flying Nun” is a bit too, well, flighty for some tastes, consider another 1960s production about a consecrated religious — a real-life one in this case, and a canonized saint — given to slipping the surly bonds of earth. Read More >

Religious filmmakers explore — and cross-examine — faith

2014-10-24 11:44:17 Strikingly, where the religious films of nonbelievers often feature idealized religious characters more or less certain in their faith, films by believers often put their religious characters’ faith to a more existential test. Read More >

Do atheists and agnostics make the best religious films?

2014-10-17 10:29:16 One of the noblest functions of art is the invitation to empathy: an invitation extended not only to the audience, but also to the artist. Read More >

From the Crusades to Columbus: Religion in Ridley Scott’s Historical Epics

2014-10-10 10:53:57 A self-described atheist, Sir Ridley Scott has developed a generally bleak vision of religion, particularly the Judeo-Christian tradition, throughout his work, above all in historical sagas like Robin Hood (2010) and 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992). Read More >

Two Very Different Responses to Parenthood: Chef and Obvious Child

2014-10-03 14:45:01 Among this summer’s successful indies were a pair of R-rated comedies — each from a filmmaker serving as writer, director and star — depicting two very different responses to the formidable responsibilities of parenthood. Read More >

Jewish/Catholic: Religious Identity, Fluidity and the Holocaust

2014-09-26 13:05:21 “One is Christian or Jewish, not both.” So says the chief rabbi of Paris in The Jewish Cardinal (2013), Israeli-born filmmaker Ilan Duran Cohen’s biopic about Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (Laurent Lucas) — a Jewish convert to Catholicism who insisted on religious dual citizenship, embracing Catholicism without rejecting Judaism. Read More >

Stop-Motion Macabre

2014-09-26 09:27:20 Stop-motion animation — which, unlike computer animation and traditional hand-drawn cel animation, utilizes real objects shot frame by frame, with tiny adjustments made between shots — is a defiantly old-fashioned, niche medium, often used to creepy effect: Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline; Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie; Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Read More >

BBC’s amiable, nostalgic ‘Father Brown’ doesn’t keep faith with Chesterton

2014-09-19 10:47:28 “I like detective stories,” G. K. Chesterton once wrote; “I read them, I write them; but I do not believe them.” Chesterton put into his beloved Father Brown stories a great deal that he did not believe — exotic crimes, improbable methods, wiredrawn detective work — but also a great deal that he did believe, much of it on the lips of his moon-faced clerical sleuth. Read More >

Superhero Movies and Catholic Faith

2014-09-12 18:31:32 Less than two months ago, the British Catholic writer Stratford Caldecott died after a lengthy battle with cancer. In the weeks prior to his death, his name became improbably entangled in a viral Twitter storm that made international news in connection with the superhero movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, now available on home video. Read More >

Hollywood After September 11, 2001

2014-09-11 11:56:20 The shadow of September 11, 2001 over Hollywood still lingers. Read More >

A haunting film about the “martyr of Auschwitz”

2014-09-05 09:19:27 Nearly two decades before his Oscar-winning role as a Jew-hunting Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s lurid WWII fantasy Inglourious Basterds, Christoph Waltz played an Auschwitz survivor whose escape is linked to the death of one of Auschwitz’s most celebrated victims, St. Maximilian Kolbe. Read More >

Auf Wiedersehen! Stay tuned!

2014-09-02 14:44:27 It was a busy summer season; it wasn’t a terribly good summer season — above all for family audiences, who were left almost completely out in the cold. Still, it was generally an improvement on last summer, particularly for popcorn spectacle and action. Read More >

Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe

2014-08-27 17:43:33 Two great mysteries hover over the cardinal moment in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s life, a quiet exchange of words with the deputy camp commander at Auschwitz-Birkenau heard by few and lasting probably less than a minute. Read More >

Robin Williams RIP

2014-08-13 18:59:11 In the flood of commentary and sorrow surrounding the death of Robin Williams, apparently by suicide, so many are struggling over what to say about a man who seemed never to be at a loss for words. Read More >

Interview: Filmmaker Scott Derrickson on Horror, Faith, Chesterton and Deliver Us From Evil

2014-07-03 00:53:44 Scott Derrickson is a very nice guy who makes movies about things that aren’t very nice. Read More >

The Trouble With Angels: Heavenly Messengers According to Hollywood

2014-06-19 17:29:19 The popular eschatological confusion that we “become angels” when we die may be a headache for catechists, but only a curmudgeon would object to a Hollywood fable taking this sort of creative license. Still, there’s no reason for all movie angels to be as angelically incorrect as Clarence. Read More >

Maleficent, Rape and Sympathy for the Devil

2014-06-19 13:26:39 A story like this demands to be seen through the lens of what biblical scholars call “redaction criticism,” which basically means “What was changed, added or deleted in this retelling of the story, and what do those changes tell us about the storyteller’s intentions and outlook?” Read More >

So, How Gay is How to Train Your Dragon?

2014-06-19 11:29:08How to Train Your Dragon’s Gobber the Belch Comes Out As Gay,” headlines screamed in the weeks prior to the release of DreamWorks’ animated sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2. Read More >

Our Lady of Fatima at the Movies

2014-05-09 12:29:08 I have never seen a bad movie about Fátima. Three stand out to me: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) is the best known; Apparitions at Fátima (1992) is the most authentic; and The 13th Day (2009) is the most artful — and my favorite of the three. Read More >

Top 10 Superhero Movies

2014-04-04 17:30:49 Why do we love costumed crusaders? Larger-than-life heroes fill a cultural niche occupied in the 1950s by gunslingers, in earlier centuries by Robin Hood and King Arthur, and in antiquity by the likes of Hercules, Perseus, and Odysseus. Read More >

Noah: A Theological Reflection

2014-03-28 20:44:25 “Let me tell you a story,” Russell Crowe’s Noah says to his family in a moment of great crisis and emotion. “The first story my father told me, and the first story I told each of you.” What he recounts are the events of Genesis 1, the creation of the world; and Aronofsky relates them both verbally and visually in a way that bespeaks a confidence in the power of this story to speak to us today: a story still worth telling and retelling. Read More >

The Noah Movie Controversies: Questions and Answers

2014-03-28 20:34:03 The punning headlines write themselves: “Noah Awash in Flood of Controversy.” “Deluge of Criticism Inundates Filmmakers.” In the weeks preceding the release of Noah, controversy has swirled around the film — and will no doubt continue to do so in the weeks ahead. Read More >

Interview: Noah Writer-Director Darren Aronofsky and Co-writer Ari Handel

2014-03-21 05:00:01 In a way, the figure of Noah stands over filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s whole career. Read More >

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