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Make Way for Tomorrow REVIEW

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Any time I run across a list of movies people probably haven’t seen but should, one title I look for is the Catholic director Leo McCarey’s forgotten humanist masterpiece Make Way for Tomorrow.

Avengers: Age of Ultron REVIEW

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The first word in Avengers: Age of Ultron, from Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), is a rude expletive. The second word, from Captain America (Chris Evans), is a mild rebuke. In two words of dialogue, writer–director Joss Whedon gives us characterization, conflict and theme.

<em>Interstellar</em> and <em>Gravity</em>: Science fiction, outer space and the question of God ARTICLE

Interstellar and Gravity: Science fiction, outer space and the question of God

Last year’s Interstellar and the previous year’s Gravity follow different paths in a long tradition of asking ultimate questions against the biggest canvas available to our senses, the universe itself.

A pair of 1940s classics from Criterion ARTICLE

A pair of 1940s classics from Criterion

New this week from the Criterion Collection are the Blu-ray debuts of a pair of classic films from the 1940s — each arguably its director’s masterpiece, and one of two films for which the director is best known.

Sullivan&#8217;s Travels REVIEW

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

The comic genius Preston Sturges believed that laughter is the best medicine, and that what people in hard times want is to forget their troubles and escape for 90 minutes or so into a world of lighthearted comedy, snappy repartee and slapstick silliness.

Two Days, One Night REVIEW

Two Days, One Night (2014)

It is about self-interest and empathy, practical necessities and moral choices. It’s about the importance of work and the ruthlessness of economics based purely on self-interest and competition. I can think of no film that more persuasively or powerfully illustrates in human terms what popes from Leo XIII to Francis have been talking about for over a century regarding the dangers of pure capitalism unrestrained by moral concerns.

The queasy appeal of &ldquo;God&rsquo;s Not Dead&rdquo; ARTICLE

The queasy appeal of “God’s Not Dead”

Mirroring its populist tale pitting a devout young undergraduate against Kevin Sorbo’s hostile philosophy professor, the faith-based hit indie God’s Not Dead sharply divided enthusiastic faith audiences and scoffing critics.

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Q&A with SDG in America magazine

Recently I had the opportunity to field 18 questions from Sean Salai, SJ for a profile piece in the Jesuit magazine America. I had a lot of fun answering Mr. Salai’s thoughtful, sometimes surprising questions, ranging from how my faith informs my film writing to what I gave up for Lent.

Song of the Sea REVIEW

Song of the Sea (2014)

Like Miyazaki, Tomm Moore isn’t afraid to take the time to breathe deeply, savor moments of silence and beauty, and open the door to wonder and mystery.

Disney&rsquo;s new <em>Cinderella</em> and the problem of parents in Hollywood fairy tales and family films ARTICLE

Disney’s new Cinderella and the problem of parents in Hollywood fairy tales and family films

There are good reasons for introducing parent-child conflict into family films, depriving child protagonists of a parental safety net, depicting single-parent households, etc. There’s no good reason positive depictions of healthy, intact families in family films should be an endangered species.

Cinderella REVIEW

Cinderella (2015)

Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is such a gallant anachronism, such a grandly unreconstructed throwback, that it offers, without ever raising its voice, a ringing cross-examination of our whole era of dark, gritty fairy-tale revisionism.

Noah vs. Moses: Stacking up the two Old Testament Hollywood epics of 2014 ARTICLE

Noah vs. Moses: Stacking up the two Old Testament Hollywood epics of 2014

Of the two, Noah was by far the more divisive, with its startling fantasy trappings, alarming family conflict and invented antagonist. Many hated it; I loved it. No film last year inspired me to think or write more than Noah. By contrast, while Exodus: Gods and Kings sticks closer to the broad outlines of the biblical story and includes some provocative ideas, I found it generally less interesting and engaging.

There&#8217;s only one right order to read the <i>Narnia</i> books POST

There’s only one right order to read the Narnia books

I consider the chronological numbering system a travesty, since I maintain that the only right way to discover the Narnian world is the way Lewis “discovered” it.

Does the priest in <em>Calvary</em> recommend mortal sin? POST

Does the priest in Calvary recommend mortal sin?

Calvary is full of depraved, troubled characters, and in trying to minister to them Fr. Lavelle sometimes gets his hands dirty. Does he cross moral lines?

Why &#8220;Star Trek&#8221; &#8212; and Mr. Spock &#8212; matter ARTICLE

Why “Star Trek” — and Mr. Spock — matter

The ongoing cultural influence of the “Star Trek” phenomenon is incalculable, and Leonard Nimoy’s contributions are an immense part of that. Nimoy wasn’t just an actor doing a job; in a real sense he was a co-creator who helped to define his character in many ways.

Watership Down REVIEW

Watership Down (1978)

Newly remastered for Blu-ray and DVD, the classic animated adaptation of Richard Adams’ beloved tale is available from Criterion.

Narnian spirit: C. S. Lewis&#8217; religious themes in the books, the films &#8212; and any films to come ARTICLE

Narnian spirit: C. S. Lewis’ religious themes in the books, the films — and any films to come

With a new Blu-ray edition of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader available March 3, here’s a look back at the series so far … and a look ahead.

Best Films of 2014: More lists POST

Best Films of 2014: More lists

Looking over the eight lists below plus my own top 10, three films stand above the rest — two starring Marion Cotillard.

The Overnighters REVIEW

The Overnighters (2014)

Jesse Moss’s The Overnighters is an existentially probing documentary with more layers than a twisty Hollywood thriller, at turns inspiring, challenging, sobering and finally devastating.

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Welcome to the 15th anniversary Decent Films redesign!

This is the first completely new Decent Films in ten years. It’s also the first version ever that feels more or less complete to me. Not that there aren’t still bugs and tweaks to be addressed — and not that I wasn’t thrilled about the 2010 (and 2005) iterations when they were new.

The truth behind one of Netflix&#8217;s most popular shows ARTICLE

The truth behind one of Netflix’s most popular shows

Want to know the truth behind the “Devil’s Bible”? Or the Dead Sea Scrolls? How about one of the Old Testament’s two famous arks? Curious about UFOs, Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle?

Guardian Devils? Daredevil and Catholic guilt, superhero style ARTICLE

Guardian Devils? Daredevil and Catholic guilt, superhero style

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” says Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer turned masked hero in the first line of the new trailer for Netflix’s upcoming Marvel Comics superhero series “Daredevil.”

Boyhood [video] POST

Boyhood [video] (2014)

I’m not sure we get to know any characters in all of cinema quite the way we get to know Mason Evans, Jr. and his family.

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [video] POST

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [video] (2014)

Cinematically, Birdman is sort of an anti-Boyhood, at least with respect to how they each play with time. That’s not necessarily to pit them against one another, although at the end of the day my feeling is that Boyhood tells me about life, whereas Birdman only tells me about Alejandro Iñárritu.

Selma [video] POST

Selma [video]

Very few historical films so successfully deconstruct the Great Man view of history while nevertheless offering a credible portrait of a leader who was, in fact, a great man.

My Top 10 Favorite Movie Love Stories That Don&#8217;t Show Up on Romantic Movie Lists ARTICLE

My Top 10 Favorite Movie Love Stories That Don’t Show Up on Romantic Movie Lists

No Jane Austen or Shakespeare. No Hepburn or Cary Grant, Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks. No Say Anything or Jerry Maguire, no City Lights or Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Nothing against any of the above, but you don’t need me to tout them. Instead, here are ten films you might not find on other lists of movie romances.

The easygoing Catholicism of <i>Return to Me</i> ARTICLE

The easygoing Catholicism of Return to Me

Return to Me has an easygoing Catholic vibe akin, but not identical, to Golden Age Hollywood piety; in fact, the movie blends nostalgia and irreverence for the Catholic Hollywood of Bing Crosby’s era.

<i>Fantasia</i>: The Sistine Chapel of Disney animation ARTICLE

Fantasia: The Sistine Chapel of Disney animation

Among a few Disney films deserving of the title “masterpiece,” Fantasia remains a unique achievement.

2014: The Year in Reviews ARTICLE

2014: The Year in Reviews

The quest for justice and harmony echoed through the best films of 2014, playing out in various arenas: social, domestic and spiritual.

Raking through the ashes of unbelief: Woody Allen&#8217;s lost spark ARTICLE

Raking through the ashes of unbelief: Woody Allen’s lost spark

Woody Allen keeps telling us God is dead, but he also keeps compulsively burying him.