Review: The Last Exorcism (dir. Daniel Stamm, 2010)

THE BEST movies about demonic possession have always tried to ground themselves in a certain kind of realism. The Exorcist cast real-life doctors and priests as fictitious doctors and priests, while The Exorcism of Emily Rose was loosely inspired by a real-life court case.

So it was probably inevitable that someone would make a movie like The Last Exorcism, using the same pseudo-documentary techniques that have made films like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project so down-to-earth despite their otherworldly premises.

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Review: Munyurangabo (dir. Lee Isaac Chung, 2007)

IF YOU are reading this paper while it’s still hot off the presses, then here’s a tip: get to the VanCity Theatre as fast as you can and catch Munyurangabo, a stirring independent film, made in Rwanda, that is playing at that theatre for a few days until November 30.

If you miss the film’s Vancouver premiere, don’t worry; the film, which has been making its way around the festival circuit for the past two and a half years, also came out on DVD several weeks ago. So, one way or another, you should be able to find a copy.

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Review: Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

Seventeen years after he burst onto the scene with the talky, violent crime flick Reservoir Dogs, the films of Quentin Tarantino continue to generate intense debate, even in theological circles.

Just the other day, I heard a prominent Christian professor assert that the hit men played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction make evil look attractive, and that those two characters remain “sociopaths” right to the end of the movie.

Many other Christians, however, have argued that Fiction does reflect a moral sensibility of some sort: the Jackson character abandons his criminal ways in the end, after he experiences something he believes to have been a “miracle,” while the Travolta character, who remains a criminal, is eventually killed with his own gun.

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Review: Religulous (dir. Larry Charles, 2008)

RELIGULOUS is a documentary in which stand-up comedian turned talk-show host Bill Maher tours the world, visiting Jews, Muslims and Christians of various stripes in a bid to prove that religious belief is foolish, childish and basically dangerous.

Maher’s basic thesis, as the movie’s title suggests, is that “religion” is “ridiculous”, and so, as a professional comedian, he does not merely approach religion as a thoughtful skeptic or agnostic who is not yet convinced of, say, the existence of God. Instead, he “ridicules” the beliefs of the people he meets, often to their faces.

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Review: The Dark Knight (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2008)

FOR YEARS, the people who write the Batman comics and movies have been drawn to the theme of insanity. The Joker is wild, of course, and so are many of the other villains; and it is often suggested that a billionaire like Bruce Wayne must be crazy on some level too, if he feels compelled to wear a bat-shaped costume every night just so he can prowl the streets looking for criminals to terrorize.

Thankfully, the two Batman films directed by Christopher Nolan have so far avoided this cliché. Instead of dwelling on the inner psychology of Batman, they have explored the social implications of the character, using him as a lens through which to raise profound questions about the nature of authority, the value of myths and the lengths to which any civilization should go in protecting itself from evil.

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Shyamalan’s cinematic magic no longer Happening

IT’S a common mistake, but still worth noting: Contrary to what many people seem to think, The Sixth Sense was not M. Night Shyamalan’s first movie.

It was, in fact, his third. But virtually no one had seen his first film, Praying with Anger (still not available on DVD), or his second film, Wide Awake (with Rosie O’Donnell as a nun who really likes baseball).

So when The Sixth Sense came out in the summer of 1999 and wowed audiences with its deeply felt drama and its shocking twist ending — becoming such a big word-of-mouth hit that, for the next couple years, it was one of the top 10 films of all time at the North American box office — it was easy for many people to treat the film as though it marked the debut of a brilliant and brand-new talent.

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