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Ad Astra REVIEW

Ad Astra (2019)

There seems to be no reason for the title Ad Astra, meaning “to the stars,” to be in Latin, except to highlight writer–director James Gray’s elevated intentions.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood [video] POST

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood [video]

Quentin Tarantino’s gifts are impossible to deny, but while I often find his set pieces mesmerizing, I have yet to fully buy into one of his films. This might be the closest one yet, though.

Midsommar [video] POST

Midsommar [video]

Why does Robin Hardy’s disquietingly cheery 1973 British folk-horror classic The Wicker Man work better than this sophomore film from the writer-director of Hereditary?

The Farewell [video] POST

The Farewell [video] (2019)

Fans of NPR’s This American Life already knew that Lulu Wang had an extraordinary story. What we now know is that she is also an extraordinary filmmaker.

Toy Story 4 [video] POST

Toy Story 4 [video] (2019)

For the first time, Pixar has made a Toy Story movie that adds nothing essential to the arc of the previous films. It’s still worth seeing.

The Dead Don’t Die [video] POST

The Dead Don’t Die [video] (2019)

I mean, you can kill them, but that’s not the point. The question is, were they ever alive in the first place?

The Secret Life of Pets 2 [video] POST

The Secret Life of Pets 2 [video] (2019)

It’s come to the point where the mere sight of the Illumination logo makes me think “lazy and scattershot.”

‘Conquerors of the moon’: Documentaries commemorating the Apollo project ARTICLE

‘Conquerors of the moon’: Documentaries commemorating the Apollo project

“Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams!” Paul VI exclaimed in his July 21 message to the astronauts on the day after the lunar landing. “Bring to it, with your living presence, the voice of the spirit, the hymn to God, our Creator and our Father.”

The Lion King REVIEW

The Lion King (2019)

Alas, the mission wasn’t to improve The Lion King, only to mount it as realistically as possible. Favreau wasn’t hired as a creative, but as a taxidermist.

The <em>Lion King</em> Chef (a meme essay) POST

The Lion King Chef (a meme essay)

It’s just like the opening act of Favreau’s Chef: Favreau is literally Carl, and Disney is Dustin Hoffman.

Spider-Man: Far From Home REVIEW

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Tony, Tony, Tony. How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Franco Zeffirelli&#8217;s complicated, Catholic life: What does it mean for his art? ARTICLE

Franco Zeffirelli’s complicated, Catholic life: What does it mean for his art?

For Catholics and other Christians, the contradiction between Zeffirelli’s faith and the themes of his religious films on the one hand and his openly homosexual lifestyle on the other raise perennial questions about the mysterious relationship of art and the artist.

Toy Story 4 REVIEW

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Toy Story 4 does not continue the story of the first three films, but casts about for new things to do in this world with the sprawling cast of characters in Bonnie’s orbit, most of whom once revolved around the now-absent figure of Andy.

<em>Emanuel</em>: Racial violence and Christian forgiveness ARTICLE

Emanuel: Racial violence and Christian forgiveness

Forgiveness in the face of murderous violence is a radical act that remains as shocking and controversial today as it was when a Second Temple–era Palestinian prophet commanded his disciples to love and to pray for those who persecuted them and ended his mortal life praying for divine forgiveness for his own executioners.

The secular apocalypse: Irreligion, pop culture, and the end of the world ARTICLE

The secular apocalypse: Irreligion, pop culture, and the end of the world

All art — even pop art, even bad or offensive art — is in some way a mirror to the soul of the culture that created it. Whether we embrace them, condemn them, or are indifferent to them, these secular apocalypses reveal something about who we are as a culture.

Amazing Grace [video] POST

Amazing Grace [video] (2019)

How can you watch a movie when you keep wanting to close your eyes in prayer?

Dark Phoenix [video] POST

Dark Phoenix [video] (2019)

The best X-Men movies, by my lights, are about hope. Dark Phoenix doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be about.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters REVIEW

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

It’s the classic movie monster’s dilemma: You either die a villain or live long enough to see yourself become the hero.

A Dog&#8217;s Journey [video] POST

A Dog’s Journey [video] (2019)

Who is the target audience for Precious Moments from hell, or at least from a bad country song?

Pok&eacute;mon Detective Pikachu [video] POST

Pokémon Detective Pikachu [video] (2019)

When they announced The Lego Movie, this is basically the movie I thought we were going to get.

Aladdin REVIEW

Aladdin (2019)

It’s the story you know already, almost exactly. They say the lines and sing the songs, the same songs, almost exactly. It’s a good story and they’re good songs. There are no spoilers in this review because how could there be?

Tolkien REVIEW

Tolkien (2019)

“One of my strongest opinions,” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a 1971 letter, “is that investigation of an author’s biography … is an entirely vain and false approach to his works.”

Zac Efron&#8217;s Ted Bundy is <em>Extremely Wicked</em> &#8212; but there are other things he should be, and isn&#8217;t POST

Zac Efron’s Ted Bundy is Extremely Wicked — but there are other things he should be, and isn’t (2019)

The real Bundy could be charming, but an honest film about Bundy and Kloepfer’s relationship could just as easily be called Super Weird, Emotionally Abusive and Threatening.

Hesburgh REVIEW

Hesburgh (2019)

Patrick Creadon (I.O.U.S.A.) offers a compellingly attractive if one-sided portrait of a figure of exceptional gifts, astonishingly diverse accomplishments and extraordinary influence.

Why Mary Magdalene gets a bad rap POST

Why Mary Magdalene gets a bad rap

A reader of my review of Mary Magdalene offers an impassioned defense for the medieval Western view of St. Mary Magdalene as a penitent with a notoriously wanton sexual past, a profligate adulteress or harlot.

‘The Redemption Project’: Convicts, Victims, Confrontation and Forgiveness ARTICLE

‘The Redemption Project’: Convicts, Victims, Confrontation and Forgiveness

The prison setting and the word “redemption” in the Ludlumesque title are vaguely evocative of the most popular prison movie of all time, The Shawshank Redemption. A prison sentence, though, is seldom a redemptive experience for anyone.

Avengers: Endgame REVIEW

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Running just over three hours long, Avengers: Endgame builds to a denouement with a valedictory air akin to the last act of Peter Jackson’s similarly sprawling The Return of the King, except that it comes at the end of 22 movies instead of three movies.

Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and <em>The Divine Plan</em>: Filmmaker Robert Orlando (Interview) ARTICLE

Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and The Divine Plan: Filmmaker Robert Orlando (Interview)

Anyone who directs a movie about the converging efforts of Pope St. John Paul II and Ronald Reagan to take on the Soviet Union is someone I’m interested in talking to. But Robert Orlando isn’t just anyone to me.

Mary Magdalene REVIEW

Mary Magdalene (2019)

Somewhere roughly between Risen and Last Days in the Desert in its narrative and interpretive sensibilities, Mary Magdalene presents an interpretation of Jesus’ ministry, passion and resurrection that seems in some ways — with important caveats — fairly traditional, viewed from a feminist perspective with some biblical justification.

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.