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Shazam! REVIEW

Shazam! (2019)

It’s a little bit about the Seven Deadly Sins and a lot about how a 14-year-old boy would react if he were suddenly bequeathed with superpowers beyond imagining and also an Adonis-like adult physique in a bright red super-suit.

Unplanned REVIEW

Unplanned (2019)

“My story isn’t a neat and tidy one,” Abby tells us at the start, but this telling is still pretty neat and tidy. Perhaps the real story was messier.

Dumbo REVIEW

Dumbo (2019)

The Disney nostalgia train rumbles on with Tim Burton back at the throttle — not quite throttling the iconic tale of the flying baby elephant, but only barely rising to the challenge, sort of like Casey Junior struggling to clear that daunting hill.

Fathers Know Best? Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Surprising Animated Dads ARTICLE

Fathers Know Best? Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Surprising Animated Dads

Particularly striking to me, and even moving, is a theme connecting Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (though not The Lego Movie): how themes of father–son conflict ubiquitous in other cartoons play out with unexpectedly insightful, consequential fathers.

Captain Marvel REVIEW

Captain Marvel (2019)

At this stage in Marvel Cinematic Universe history you almost need a Tolkieneque set of appendices and diagrams to make complete sense of everything.

Best films of 2018: More lists! POST

Best films of 2018: More lists!

First Reformed made more than half of the nine individual lists below, and unsurprisingly topped the year’s best films according to the Arts & Faith Ecumenical Jury … What’s more surprising — anyway I’m a little surprised, and delighted — is that another film was even more esteemed in this little community … and it wasn’t any of the films I would have expected.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World REVIEW

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

The two sequels greatly expand the world and the mythology of the original Dragon. Yet our hero’s personal self-development was pretty much complete at the start of Dragon 2.

2018: The year in reviews ARTICLE

2018: The year in reviews

2018 was a remarkable movie year — for family films, films with religious themes, and documentaries — but it was also a year of family men who weren’t there for their families.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse [video] POST

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse [video] (2018)

Chris Miller and Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Phil Lord / Do whatever Chris Miller and Phil Lord do.
Can they swing from a thread? / No they can’t, they’re Hollywood filmmakers.

Mary Poppins Returns [video] POST

Mary Poppins Returns [video] (2018)

And so does Dick Van Dyke — but if you want the return of Julie Andrews, the movie to see is Aquaman.

Ralph Breaks the Internet [video] POST

Ralph Breaks the Internet [video] (2018)

Ralph doesn’t just break the Internet — he breaks the mold for Disney/Pixar sequels.

The Rider [video] POST

The Rider [video] (2018)

The lead actor in this film told me he feels much closer to God in the South Dakota Badlands than in New York or Paris. There were more theologically explicit films this year, but none that brought God closer to me.

Widows [video] POST

Widows [video] (2018)

There’s a lot to appreciate about this film from director Steve McQueen and Viola Davis, except the moral universe the film asks us to inhabit for a couple of hours.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald [video] POST

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald [video] (2018)

I swear I am not making any of this up. What else can I say?

The Hate U Give [video] POST

The Hate U Give [video] (2018)

If a parent having The Talk with their kids to you means the birds and the bees, you ought to watch this movie.

Aquaman REVIEW

Aquaman (2018)

Like the Star Wars prequels, like James Cameron’s Avatar, it’s a movie with tons of problems, but it also contains images that made me catch my breath — gorgeous and even numinous sights I will remember forever.

Mary Poppins Returns REVIEW

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Nostalgia for the original pervades virtually every aspect of the new film, from the production design of Cherry Tree Lane, where Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins arrives to look after the next generation of Banks children, to the beat-for-beat exactness with which the sequel follows the original.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse REVIEW

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Here, at last, is the Spidey that family audiences need and the Spidey they deserve — and that’s just two of them!

The Grinch REVIEW

The Grinch (2018)

Replacing Karloff-ian malice and spite / Cumberbatch-ian grousing makes this one Grinch-lite. / It’s a kinder and gentler tale than we’ve seen / Of course he’s not nice, but this Grinch is less mean.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms REVIEW

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

There’s something genuinely depressing about seeing one of the most audacious experiments in animation history used not for actual inspiration, but as a kind of scrap heap for spare parts.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer REVIEW

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (2018)

Gosnell is subtitled The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (echoing the similar subtitle of the book by producers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney) — but notorious abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell isn’t the only one on trial here.

First Man REVIEW

First Man (2018)

First Man is Damien Chazelle’s third film in a row about special individuals whose quest to achieve great things is linked to emotional isolation from others.

Operation Finale REVIEW

Operation Finale (2018)

It was the experience of reporting in Jerusalem on the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker that led the philosopher Hannah Arendt to coin her famous phrase “the banality of evil.”

The Darkest Minds [video] POST

The Darkest Minds [video] (2018)

The Hunger Games’ Rue is now Ruby: Amandla Stenberg takes the spotlight in another YA dystopia that runs its race, but doesn’t diverge enough from its peers to leave anyone hungry for whatever comes next.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies [video] POST

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies [video] (2018)

The superhero movie to end all superhero movies? Or every superhero movie at once?

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation [video] POST

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation [video] (2018)

Clearly I am not a vampire. As you can see here, I’ve changed quite a bit in the last six years … not necessarily in my opinion of this franchise.

Christopher Robin REVIEW

Christopher Robin (2018)

When such movies are done well, you get, say, The Incredibles or John Favreau’s Chef. When they aren’t, you get Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins or Steven Spielberg’s Hook — possibly the closest analogy for Christopher Robin, though Hook, for all its flaws, was clearly a personal film for Spielberg, whereas Christopher Robin feels cobbled together from bits and pieces of other movies without a cogent vision of its own.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout REVIEW

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout completes possibly the most improbable cinematic hat trick in Hollywood history: An unpromising series that began with three patchy, uneven entries has now produced three terrifically entertaining ones.

The <em>Dark Knight</em> trilogy: The inconclusive battle for Gotham&#8217;s soul ARTICLE

The Dark Knight trilogy: The inconclusive battle for Gotham’s soul

I’m struck by the extent to which Christopher Nolan’s celebrated Dark Knight trilogy (of which the monumental second chapter, The Dark Knight, was released 10 years ago this week), watched back-to-back, can be fruitfully considered as an extended comic-book riff on the story of Abraham and God’s judgment on Sodom in the Book of Genesis.

Incredibles 2 [video] POST

Incredibles 2 [video] (2018)

I dared to hope this one would be more than merely good. I was afraid it would be less than good.