Articles

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Ghosts of the Abyss: The Other James Cameron Titanic Film

2012-09-18 03:48:07 If you see only one James Cameron-directed movie about the Titanicand you should — see the one that doesn’t star Kate and Leo. Read More >

Mirror Mirror and Fairy-tale Revisionism

2012-07-05 12:12:28 I do take issue, though, with Hollywood’s current obsession with “dark,” “gritty,” “edgy” fare threatening to crush any sense of wonder and fantasy. What a joy, then, that Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror offers a gorgeous, fantastic fairy-tale world bursting with extravagant imagination and splendor. Read More >

Fortnight of Films: 14 Films for the Fortnight for Freedom

2012-06-21 15:16:56 In support of the Fortnight for Freedom, the National Catholic Register and Decent Films are pleased to present a selection of 14 films, chosen by me, all in some way engaging themes of religious liberty, moral conscience and commitment faith in the face of pressure and persecution have been reflected in cinema. Read More >

The Secret World of Studio Ghibli

2012-05-24 07:51:39 It’s still one of the better-kept secrets of family entertainment that the most imaginatively daring and influential animation house in the world isn’t Pixar, but Japan’s Studio Ghibli, best known for co-founder and animation virtuoso Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is revered in animation circles, but Ghibli films haven’t yet become the phenomenon in the States that they are in Japan and around the globe. Read More >

Jane Goodall on Chimpanzees, Language and the Soul

2012-04-20 21:18:20 Disneynature’s Chimpanzee, the latest family-friendly nature documentary from Earth directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, depicts a surprising twist in the early life of a young chimpanzee nicknamed “Oscar” living in the Taï Forest in the Ivory Coast. Dr. Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert in chimpanzees, has seen the film, and discussed it with me via phone a couple of days ago. Read More >

The 2012 Academy Award Nominees

2012-02-21 12:51:25 I like lists better than awards, so I look forward to the Academy Award nominations more than the Oscars ceremony itself. The process of whittling down countless contenders to a handful of nominees is more interesting than the process of picking one nominee as the winner — and this year is no exception. Read More >

2011: The Year in Reviews

2012-01-18 12:49:57 2011 was a good year for film, and particularly for depictions of faith in film — but not in the Hollywood mainstream on either count. Read More >

Looney Tunes: An Appreciation

2011-12-02 14:50:11 It’s hard to believe that many American children venturing into the theaters to see Happy Feet Two will have their first experience of Sylvester and Tweety Bird on the big screen in a new computer-animated short, “I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat.” Hard to believe, first, that Sylvester and Tweety are back on the big screen—and, second, that these iconic animated characters that defined Saturday morning for decades and were beloved big-screen icons before that have become pretty much strangers to many of the current generation of kids. How did that happen? Read More >

A House Divided: Broken Homes, Flying Houses, Divorce, and Death in Family Fantasy Films

2011-10-26 07:18:27 Like Dorothy’s house, uprooted in fairy-tale response to her running away, physical domiciles in one family film after another are displaced, torn asunder, and undergo fantastic, traumatic crises and transformations in visionary mirroring of the upheaval in the characters’ lives. Among the more striking examples of this poetic linking of house and household are Jon Favreau’s intriguing 2005 fantasy Zathura, Gil Kenan’s 2006 Halloween tale Monster House, Mark Waters’s smart, scary 2008 thriller The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Pete Docter’s 2009 Pixar fantasy Up. Read More >

Machine Gun Preacher: Sam Childers Talks About His Biopic, His Life and His Work in Sudan

2011-09-22 13:05:23 In 1998, a former gang biker named Sam Childers joined a church mission trip to the Sudan to help repair huts damaged in the Second Sudanese Civil War. Most of the people on that trip finished their charitable labors and left Africa behind, but Sam didn’t — not completely. Read More >

Hollywood Adjustment? Are religious themes and influences becoming more prominent in recent films?

2011-09-22 13:05:20 The Adjustment Bureau and Hereafter are among a remarkable number of recent and upcoming Hollywood films in some way invoking themes of spirituality, religion or belief. 2010 was particularly rife with such Hollywood religiosity, quantitatively if not necessarily qualitatively. Read More >

Citizen Kane, André Bazin and the “Holy Moment”

2011-09-16 11:24:49 Everyone knows that Citizen Kane — celebrating its 70th anniversary with this week’s 3-disc Blu-ray debut — enjoys a bulletproof reputation as The Greatest Movie Ever Made … What isn’t so generally known is that the film’s prominent place in so many film classes — and for that matter, the fact that there are film classes in the first place — has a lot to do with the work of a revolutionary Catholic film critic and theorist, André Bazin, whose critical theories were shaped by the same tradition of Christian personalist philosophy that informed the writings of Pope John Paul II. Read More >

September 11 and Hollywood: How Movies Can Help Make Our Past Real — Or Unreal

2011-09-09 08:36:25 “It was just like a movie.” A cliché, yes, but as is often the case, that phrase became a cliché for a reason. The frequency with which those words were repeated in the weeks and months after September 11, 2001 was a striking testament to the role movies have come to play in how we process and interpret reality. Read More >

Superheroes of Summer 2011: What Our Heroes Tell Us About Ourselves

2011-08-12 14:47:57 What do today’s superhero movies tell us about ourselves? For one thing, we’re more skeptical these days about heroes and heroism. In contrast to the stoic confidence of the typical Western hero — or even of Christopher Reeves’ Superman, who as late as 1978 could unabashedly say, “I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way” — today’s heroes have feet of clay, and have to grow into their heroic roles. Read More >

The Tree of Life

2011-06-10 12:46:14 Here is a film that not only asks, with unusual insistence, why God allows suffering, but contemplates God’s own answer to that question in the Book of Job, amplified by the sweeping vistas of the natural world available to modern science, the Hubble telescope and Hollywood special effects: God did all this; who are we to think we can judge or question him? It also asks why a stern, bullying father hurts his children. Is God like that father? Read More >

“Opus Dei does not tell people what to think”

2011-04-01 15:21:51 Roland Joffé, director of The Mission and There Be Dragons, calls himself an agnostic, but he seems to be a remarkably God-haunted one. Read More >

How Catholic is Of Gods and Men?

2011-03-18 08:21:12 Has any dramatic feature film ever more powerfully communicated the beauty and attractiveness of lived Christian faith, and of the Christian faith itself, than Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men? Read More >

Academy Crowns The King’s Speech

2011-02-28 13:02:56 The royal historical drama The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth as England’s Prince Albert, later King George VI, was the biggest winner at the 83rd Academy Awards, winning four of its 12 nominations in an evening with few surprises and a poorly staged ceremony whose primary virtue was its comparative shortness. Read More >

2010: The Year in Reviews

2011-01-14 09:08:43 Was 2010 “The Worst Movie Year Ever,” as Joe Queenan argued at WSJ.com a while back? Or at least, bracketing art-house and world cinema fare, was it Hollywood’s worst year ever? For most of the year, it sure looked plausible. Read More >

Treading the Dawn: Bringing Dawn Treader From Book to Film

2010-12-13 12:37:35 Douglas Gresham, Walden Media’s Micheal Flaherty and C. S. Lewis scholar Devin Brown discuss the book and the film. Read More >

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000: Revisiting the Sistine Chapel of Disney Animation

2010-12-03 12:40:37 (Newly available on Blu-ray/DVD) Rather than a static motion picture, Fantasia was originally conceived as a repertoire, a selection of presentations that over time could be augmented by new pieces while old ones were retired, like an orchestra rotating its concert lineup … Ten years ago, amid the wreckage at the end of the 1990s Disney Renaissance, the Disney studio marked Fantasia’s 60th anniversary with Fantasia 2000, a film intended to honor in a way the original repertory conception of Fantasia. Read More >

Harry Potter’s Empire Strikes Back? Don’t Make Me Laugh

2010-11-25 01:33:47 12 reasons why Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is no Empire Strikes Back … or even The Two Towers. Read More >

The Seventh Chamber: Edith Stein, the Interior Castle and Auschwitz

2010-10-08 06:02:38 The Seventh Chamber shows that for Edith it is only by knowing God that we know ourselves; only through Jesus that we know God; and only through the cross that we can know Jesus. Read More >

Catholic Producer Discovers Amish Grace

2010-09-14 12:12:34 Debuting today on DVD, the TV movie Amish Grace broke multiple network records when it premiered this spring as the most-watched and highest-rated original movie in Lifetime Movie Network history. Inspired by the nonfiction book of the same title about the aftermath of the 2006 Amish school shooting in Lancaster, Pa., the film was produced by the Larry Thompson Organization, founded by Larry A. Thompson, an executive producer on the film. Read More >

Now Would Be a Perfect Time to Panic! The World of A Town Called Panic

2010-09-07 06:30:58 A Town Called Panic may be the most oddball thing you see all year, if you see it, which you probably won’t, although perhaps you should. How can I explain it? Read More >

Fatherhood and Hollywood: Dads in the Movies

2010-06-18 08:26:31 Hollywood’s ambivalence about fatherhood is deeply entrenched. Ambivalence, though, is not mere hostility; often it is rooted in a real awareness of the irreplaceable importance of fatherhood, and in melancholy or anger over paternal failure in a fallen, broken world. Read More >

The Magdalene Sisters Controversy

2010-06-14 13:48:02 That the Magdalene asylums represent a phenomenon as deserving of critical scrutiny as the trial of Joan of Arc or the ecclesiastical abandonment of the Guaraní missions, I don’t question. Mullan, however, betrays his subject with smug Catholic-bashing. It’s a tragedy that the enormity of what went wrong at the Magdalene asylums has been trivialized by cheap manipulation. Read More >

The Magdalene Sisters Controversy Revisited (2010)

2010-06-14 13:48:00 The Ryan report confirms the substantial truth of the sort of stories dramatized in The Magdalene Sisters. These stories need to be told. But the report also reconfirms my fundamental objection to the way that The Magdalene Sisters tells its story, depicting the world of the asylums solely in terms of unremitting abuse, cruelty and sadism unbroken by any hint of kindness or humane treatment. This is not in accordance with the memories of those who endured the Irish institutions, according to the Ryan report. Read More >

Spectacular, Spectacular Spider-Man!

2010-06-04 05:56:22 All good things must come to an end, but “The Spectacular Spider-Man” ended too quickly, after only two seasons. In April 2010 Marvel effectively pulled the plug on the acclaimed series, long on hiatus. A couple of weeks later, Sony released the eighth and final disc in the series, bringing the story to a satisfying yet not fully resolved conclusion. Read More >

A History of Violence: Agora, Hypatia and Enlightenment Mythology

2010-05-29 17:48:04 Alejandro Amenábar’s Agora is a work of hagiography, and, for that matter, of anti-hagiography. Among its burdens are that Hypatia of Alexandria, the celebrated neo-Platonic philosopher and mathematician, is worthy of veneration, and also that Cyril of Alexandria, saint and doctor of the Church, is not. Neither of these theses is without prima facie plausibility, or unworthy of serious-minded and nuanced exploration. Agora is serious-minded to a fault, but nuance, while not absent, is lacking. Read More >

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