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Dunkirk REVIEW

Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk is the first film Christopher Nolan has made that feels bigger than the director’s preoccupations and obsessions.

War For the Planet of the Apes REVIEW

War For the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Too often I find myself in the melancholy position of trying to articulate why a movie I ought to like doesn’t work for me. War for the Planet of the Apes poses the opposite challenge: This is a film that, on paper, ought to leave me cold, but instead seared into my mind like a house on fire.

Spider-Man: Homecoming REVIEW

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

No one almost destroys the universe or the planet, or even demolishes a large European city or a sizable chunk of a New York borough, in Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Despicable Me 3 REVIEW

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

To call Despicable Me 3 desperate would be to ascribe too much effort and passion to the thing. Ice Age: Collision Course, now: There was a properly desperate sequel.

Cars 3 REVIEW

Cars 3 (2017)

At this point it seems like too much to hope for that any Pixar sequel, let alone a Cars sequel, should function smoothly from start to finish, but at least it ends well.

The Mummy REVIEW

The Mummy (2017)

I have never seen a movie work harder or more hopelessly than Universal’s new The Mummy, not merely to launch a new franchise, but to jump from a standing start into a full-blown Marvel-style shared cinematic universe in one go.

Wonder Woman REVIEW

Wonder Woman (2017)

Movies like Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger misunderstand and besmirch their iconic heroes. This movie understands and reveres its protagonist. That’s worth a lot, especially today.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales REVIEW

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Even skeptics of the franchise must admit, I think, that the Pirates of the Caribbean films have generally aimed higher and been smarter than might have been expected.

Alien: Covenant REVIEW

Alien: Covenant (2017)

To succumb to a regrettable but practically inevitable coinage, Scott wants to make the world of Alien great again — to remind us all what was so terrifying nearly four decades ago about being in space where no one can hear you scream.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword REVIEW

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

However Arthur himself is depicted, the Arthurian hero (be it Gawain, Bedivere, Perceval, Lancelot, Galahad or Arthur himself) is a man who stands for an ideal or a cause … If you can’t manage this much, you aren’t reinventing the myth — you’re simply committing an act of cultural vandalism.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 REVIEW

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Here’s the thing: You haven’t even seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 yet, but you’re already an incipient fan, aren’t you?

Tolkien and Lewis disliked <em>Snow White</em>. You know who wouldn&#8217;t have? POST

Tolkien and Lewis disliked Snow White. You know who wouldn’t have?

Indeed, it would be impossible to imagine Tolkien — a brilliant worldbuilder and a famously purist curmudgeon who disliked Lewis’s own Narnia stories, a sentiment contrasting greatly with Lewis’ enormous esteem for Tolkien’s Middle-earth — being anything but appalled by Disney’s silly dwarfs, with their slapstick humor, nursery-moniker names, and singsong musical numbers.

An inherited nightmare: Watching the Puritan horror of <em>The Witch</em> with Catholic eyes ARTICLE

An inherited nightmare: Watching the Puritan horror of The Witch with Catholic eyes

What is most unsettling about The Witch is not the manifest presence of the Devil and the malevolence of his minions, but the seeming absence of God and the impotence of the family’s faith and prayers.

Jesus of Nazareth REVIEW

Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

After the four Gospels, if one text is more influential than any other in the tone of Jesus of Nazareth, it might be the Vatican II declaration on the Church in relation to non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, a watershed document in Jewish-Catholic relations.

The Case for Christ REVIEW

The Case for Christ (2017)

The atheists and nonbelievers in The Case for Christ don’t have horns and tails, or even mustaches for twirling.

Grand Illusion REVIEW

Grand Illusion (1937)

Asked what he was trying to do in Rules, Renoir is reported to have said, “I don’t care.” With Grand Illusion, it may not be much easier to say what he’s trying to accomplish, but there is no doubt that he cares.

Ghost in the Shell REVIEW

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Scarlett Johansson is becoming — no, at this point it’s safe to say she is — the default Hollywood poster girl for transhumanism.

Beauty and the Beast REVIEW

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Can a realistically computer-rendered French gilt bronze candelabra be debonair? Jaunty? Rakish, even?

Kong: Skull Island REVIEW

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

The MutoVerse is ramping up to a Godzilla vs. Kong rematch, and in due course Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah will presumably all take turns fighting one another, culminating in something like the airport set piece in Captain America: Civil War, with everyone against everyone else, only with Mutos instead of superheroes.

Reinventing the Vault: Disney&#8217;s classy new remakes ARTICLE

Reinventing the Vault: Disney’s classy new remakes

Linking these three terrific family films is a defiantly old-fashioned, almost countercultural lack of ironic revisionism and gritty edginess. Each of them feels in some way like a kind of movie they don’t make any more — if they ever did.

Logan REVIEW

Logan (2017)

Stewart gives us a brittle, confused Xavier somewhat akin to his elderly Picard from the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And Jackman, who has invested even more in Wolverine than Stewart has Xavier, gives his most complex, conflicted performance to date as a battered, weary, despairing warrior longing only for oblivion.

The Shack REVIEW

The Shack (2017)

Like many popular sensations, from Titanic to Twilight, from Dan Brown to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, The Shack is easy to rip apart if one has a mind to.

Best films of 2016: More lists! POST

Best films of 2016: More lists!

I’m pleased to note that my three top films of 2016 achieved a striking consensus in this group of cinephiles.

The Great Wall REVIEW

The Great Wall (2017)

The Great Wall is one of those movies that is more interesting for what it portends and the discussion around it than for what is actually onscreen. Not that what is onscreen, in the most literal sense, is bad or uninteresting.

Apostasy, ambiguity and <em>Silence</em> ARTICLE

Apostasy, ambiguity and Silence

Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel Silence honors 17th-century Japanese martyrs who sang hymns as they succumbed slowly to grueling deaths. But it also empathizes with, perhaps even exonerates, many who capitulated to official demands for ritual renunciations of Christian faith — typically trampling on images of Jesus or Mary, called fumie, designated for this purpose.

The Lego Batman Movie REVIEW

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Despite the villainous full-court press, Batman’s victory is so assured that no one is even worried about it. Clearly, something subversive has to happen to kick things out of superhero-movie business as usual and challenge Batman to his core. Would you believe … a giant swirling energy portal in the sky?

The Leopard REVIEW

The Leopard (1963)

One comes, like these Redshirts, as a cultural sightseer to The Leopard, with its palatial grandeur, replete with lavish, painterly images of the bygone glory of the Italian aristocracy: already in their own day semi-mythological figures, as we see in a vignette in which Father Pirrone, tries to explain to the common people the mysterious ways of the nobility: “They live in a world apart, not created by God, but by themselves.”

2016: The year in reviews ARTICLE

2016: The year in reviews

In a sense every year is a good film year, but some years you have to go further afield than others.

Paterson REVIEW

Paterson (2016)

For the second year in a row, my favorite film is a winning love story named for an urban area more or less in my backyard.

Religion and rootlessness in 2016 movies ARTICLE

Religion and rootlessness in 2016 movies

The many faces of Jesus at the movies in 2016 were perhaps the most notable trend in a larger pattern of notable religious themes in the year’s films. There were, though, other trends last year worth noting.