There is a sense in which “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is for my children in part what Star Wars was for my generation: a new and enthralling mythology about a young hero with a mysterious power slowly learning to channel that power to fight against a tyrannical empire.
Disney’s Aladdin does more than give Williams an opportunity to let loose the comic giant inside him: It offers the Disney animators perhaps their greatest creative challenge, and inspiration, in over half a century.
We aren’t exactly talking The Matrix here, but it’s been awhile since a Hollywood popcorn action movie elicited such a range of theological and philosophical analysis.
Much like Pope Francis himself at times — or even like Jesus himself — Saint Francis of Assisi has often been made into an avatar or mascot of people’s likes (or dislikes) rather than being recognized as the surprising, vibrant figure he really was.
Casino is more than a reboot: It’s also a kind of origin story, based on the first Ian Fleming novel. As such, it’s the story of how James Bond lost his soul, or whatever was left of it, at the very moment when he dared to hope for redemption.
The name of Saint Thomas More has cropped up in recent discussion of current events as never since — well, if not since the English Reformation, at any rate probably since one of my all-time favorite films, A Man for All Seasons, won six Academy Awards at the 1966 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), and Best Actor (Paul Scofield).
Nightmare’s surreal scares go beyond most slasher fare by evoking an irrational world in which normal rational defenses don’t apply.
As technology progresses and the culture and the Gospel continue to draw further apart, transhumanist aspirations flourish, both as a worldview and in the world of popular culture.
All violence is not the same. There are obvious, important differences between realistic war violence, violence in a serious social drama, cartoon violence in an action movie, horrific violence in a crime movie, slapstick violence in a comedy and so forth. Ultimately, though, I think it’s important to give ourselves regular breaks from violence of any kind. Violence is unavoidably part of human nature, but it’s far from the most interesting part.
The Dardennes’ films generally have redemptive arcs of some sort, or at least the hope of redemption — though there are no traditional happy endings, only hopeful new beginnings. Theologians ponder the mystery of evil; the Dardennes are intrigued by the mystery of goodness.
Are manmade things ever worth dying for? How do you weigh the value of art or artifacts against the value of human life? On the one hand, human life is sacred; things are just things. On the other, the cultural heritage of a people is an irreplaceable treasure that belongs not only to the whole community, but to all future generations.
In another movie, a line like “We are not things” could be a platitude, but in the context of vividly imagined atrocities with unnerving echoes of recent headlines, this simple affirmation is fraught with topical power that has only grown in the months since the film’s theatrical debut.
For the Aardman filmmakers, it seems that inspiration and the tactile work of stop-motion go hand in hand.
The negative buzz around the new Fantastic Four is so radioactive you could almost expect to develop superpowers just by reading about it. Ah, but that’s old-fashioned talk. In the 1960s radioactivity was mysterious and eldritch, capable of producing all manner of hulks and spider-men and what have you. In the 1950s you could even get godzillas.
The world of Shaun the Sheep puts a smile on my face before anything even happens.
One much-noted point about the BBC list is how few Academy Award Best Picture winners made the list. Naturally, I’m interested in a different comparison: How does the BBC list compare to the 1995 Vatican film list?
Building on the momentum of its predecessor, McQuarry whips up a similar blend of brilliantly constructed set pieces, spectacular stunts, humor, exotic locations and — well, that’s about it, really. What more do you need?
A haunting scene in Timbuktu depicts two teams of young athletes running back and forth on a field engaged in offensive and defensive patterns familiar the world over: kicking, dribbling, passing, blocking. All that is missing is a ball and goal markers.
The idea of saving the world from alien invaders with classic video-game skills is not without a certain dumb appeal.
I recently rewatched Fruitvale Station (2013), first-time director Ryan Coogler’s shattering Sundance winner, with my oldest son, who has since gotten his driver’s license. Some day he will face that inevitable first traffic stop, and I want him to be aware just how different that encounter will be for him, with his bleached complexion and shining towheaded crown, than for many young men in the minority neighborhoods all around us.
Three years ago, when Marvel first announced that Ant-Man would be getting his own movie, I tweeted, “I don’t care how much money Avengers makes. The world does not need an Ant-Man movie.” Ant-Man, I felt, was too minor a hero, too obscure and inconsequential — in a word, too small — to warrant the big-screen Marvel movie treatment.
Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is the latest in a string of recent science-fiction films exploring questions around artificial intelligence, transhumanism and the role of technology in our lives.
As a Catholic film critic, one of the top questions I get from parents during the summer months — right after “What’s good in theaters in this summer?” — is “Do you know anyone who does what you do, but for television?”
Like the Penguins of Madagascar and Mater the tow truck, the Tic-Tac-shaped, banana-colored Minions join the ranks of popular comic sidekicks who have taken over their animated franchises. This is usually a sign of the end, although Cars 3 is on the way, and nobody has said Madagascar 4 isn’t happening.
Only Pixar regularly impresses on viewers that just because you’re the hero of your story doesn’t mean you’re right about everything: that you may make serious mistakes, there may be consequences, and you must take responsibility.
Above all, it’s the story of the incredible lengths to which the Make-a-Wish staff and volunteers go in order to create special experiences for long-suffering children to make up in some way for their lost childhood.
“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” Pope Francis writes. “In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish” (LS 21). From the outset Wall-E looks as if it had been created with these words in mind, projecting them into a dystopian future in which rubbish has expanded to cover the entire planet, even surrounding the Earth in a halo of space debris.
Inside Out is a rare family film for so many reasons: a story with no villain, for one thing, centering on an imperfect but basically happy intact family going through a tough time. It is a wise and wounding depiction of growing up, a story of growth and loss, with real stakes and real consequences.
Sir Christopher Lee, who died on June 7 at the age of 93, had an extraordinary career and an extraordinary life. To speak only of his film work, while it’s impossible to sum up his incredibly prolific and varied output — IMDb.com credits him with more than 280 acting roles over a nearly 70-year career — Lee’s lean, towering build (he stood five inches over six feet) and sonorous baritone voice were well suited to playing villains and monsters.
Pratt more than delivers. You could almost say he manages to stand in for Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern. He’s got Neill’s toughness, Goldblum’s humor and Dern’s down-to-earthness. His character, Owen Grady, is Jurassic World’s velociraptor trainer, and in a terrific early set piece Pratt persuades me that he’s capable of standing up to three raptors armed with nothing but charisma and nerve.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.