There’s something bracing about a blockbuster epic in 2024 that doesn’t care what you think of it, that is primarily concerned with being the best possible version of itself.
In my reviews of Dune: Part One and now Dune: Part Two (filed and pending publication; stay tuned!) I’ve written a bit comparing and contrasting Dune with Star Wars. Here I’d like to consider Star Wars in relation to The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien’s larger legendarium.
What the Mission: Impossible series discovers in this moment is this: Imperfect stunts can be more thrilling than perfect ones, and an unflappable superman who always knows exactly what to do and does it perfectly is less exciting than a fallible, vulnerable action hero — one who can be caught by surprise, who hesitates and has misgivings, who is forced to improvise, sometimes miscalculating and even getting hurt.
Eight years earlier, The Exorcist offered a gut-wrenching morality tale about, among other things, the spiritual dangers of messing around with Ouija boards and demons. The climax of Raiders offers a complementary warning about trifling with the no less terrible power of the holy.
Laura Linney stars in an Irish comedy set in 1967 about a group of women confronting their past on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The director talks about the trauma that Irish movies set in this timeframe tend deal with, and what he calls the “Lourdes Effect.”
What if the four elements had feelings? Pixar filmmaker Peter Sohn’s gentle, compassionate storytelling may have something to offer family audiences … if he can break away from what has become a rut in Pixar thinking.
What I can tell you at this point about Across the Spider-Verse is that I want to see it about ten more times.
There’s something profoundly melancholy about Disney returning, in its present state of creative exhaustion and corporate decadence, to The Little Mermaid — the nucleus from which the entire Disney renaissance exploded, in a way along with everything that has followed.
Released 55 years ago, Stanley Kubrick’s iconic masterpiece — honored on the 1995 Vatican film list — has often been likened to “a religious experience.” Why do some of its successors capture this better than others?
Sports movies are among the most durable of genres, and nostalgia sequels and long-running franchises have become almost the norm for popular movies from the past half-century, but the legacy of Rocky is unique.
Thirty years on, the spiritually evocative, time-bending comedy is as beloved as ever, but its legendary star has been subjected to new scrutiny over reports of inappropriate behavior.
The movie year 2022 was a year of memory and identity, with one film after another exploring how memory both gives us access to our past, to our roots, and also distorts and obscures the past.
“A glorified South America” was one of the odder dismissive takes on Pandora, the alien world of the Na’vi in James Cameron’s Avatar, that I heard when the movie was in theaters. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to see a glorified South America?
It’s tempting to view Calvary alongside Banshees and Bruges as a sort of unintentional McDonagh brothers trilogy: a “lapsed Catholic” trilogy, or, a bit more accurately, a “bad Catholics” trilogy, since most or all of the characters in Banshees and many of the characters in Calvary are at least minimally practicing.
One of the things that makes Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) such a riveting storyteller is how persuasively he imagines sympathetic characters who are more or less trying to do the right thing finding the consequences of that “more or less,” that small bit of wiggle room, compounding and spiraling out of control in unforeseen directions.
Season 1 ended for me closer to the quiet end of the whimper-bang spectrum than I had hoped. Yet the highs of the season’s second half offer ongoing reason for sustained interest.
Four episodes in, the lavish Amazon Prime series is delivering on at least some of its promise, but there’s room for improvement.
A Game of Thrones–ification of Tolkien? More Hobbit trilogy excess? Though not without missteps, Amazon’s ambitious Lord of the Rings prequel series gets off to a fairly promising start.
Perhaps you were glued to the news in 2018 as the world followed the ultimately successful efforts in Thailand to rescue the 12 young boys of a soccer team and their assistant coach from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave who had become trapped by sudden flooding. If you haven’t checked in on the story since then, though, you have no idea.
Recent installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe exacerbate the tension between the franchise’s humanistic ethos and its nihilistic cosmos. Is there still room for God in this universe?
Vivo remains focused on the experiences of its subjects and their spirituality. It’s not a catechetical or apologetical presentation, but a portrait of five souls and a document, perhaps, of the workings of grace. Vivo is alive.
If The Lord of the Rings is “fundamentally religious and Catholic,” why are there no religious institutions or rituals?
It pains me to say this: If Lightyear is Andy’s Star Wars, what an impoverished childhood Andy had.
The word “dominion” is uttered once in Jurassic World Dominion, in an oblique, irreverent allusion to Genesis 1. “Not only do we lack dominion over nature, we are subordinate to it,” asserts Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in one of his trademark, smugly iconoclastic epigrams. Later in the same speech, though, Malcolm turns with surprising optimism to the power of genetic science to shape the future. Does he really believe this? Is this speech coherent? Is the film itself coherent?
Top Gun: Maverick is more than a nostalgia sequel or legacyquel; it is almost more than a movie. It is a manifesto and a monument, a defiant time capsule and a swaggering IMAX spectacle without precedent or peer.
I’m thinking of a moment in the original movie in which Stephen looks skeptically at a deeply corrupted individual nattering about the greater good and retorts, “No. I mean, come on — look at your face.” Nobody says that in the sequel, but they should.
In the Viking epic The Northman, the arthouse horror auteur behind The Witch and The Lighthouse takes on his most ambitious challenge to date.
For a child, losing a grandparent can be part of growing up, a coming-of-age experience; losing a parent for an adult can be an encounter with childhood, especially if it involves going through the contents of the household they grew up in, the actual stuff of their childhood.
Based on the unlikely true story of an amateur boxer turned priest who died of a rare degenerative disease, Father Stu leans on Wahlberg’s mischievous charm and buoyant aura of invincibility, with hints of something darker and more fragile beneath the surface.
I recently spoke with Mark Wahlberg and Teresa Ruiz via Zoom about making the film and what it meant to them.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.