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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Comment: His Dark Materials: How the Grinch stole God

goldencompass-weitzLAST YEAR, many Christians went out of their way to caution their fellow believers against over-reacting to the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. Yes, the film put forth a deeply problematic view of Jesus and church history, but instead of protesting against it, Christians were encouraged to see it, discuss it with their friends and, in general, “engage” with it as part of their broader engagement with the culture.

This year, however, many Christians have begun to raise the alarm over the movie version of The Golden Compass, which comes out December 7. They have sent each other e-mails full of warnings about the “anti-religious” books on which the film is based. They have pointed their friends to websites that describe some of the story’s objectionable content. And there has been little, if any, talk of “engagement”.

What changed between last year and this? What is different about this movie?

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Review: Shake Hands with the Devil (dir. Roger Spottiswoode, 2007)

AT LEAST one new movie about the Rwandan genocide has been produced each year for the past four years, ever since Terry George directed Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo to their richly deserved Oscar nominations for Hotel Rwanda — and to the casual viewer, it might seem like all these films are beginning to blur together.

All of these films — including Shooting Dogs (released in the United States as Beyond the Gates), A Sunday in Kigali and the newest film, Shake Hands with the Devil — have depicted the shock and horror felt by whites and blacks alike when Hutu extremists began killing Tutsis by the tens of thousands in April 1994.

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Review: Harry Potter more “Christian” than other current children’s best-sellers

harrypotter7-aYOU EXPECT many things when you read a new Harry Potter novel: magic, humour, a set of mysteries, a looming battle between good and evil, even some clunky exposition. But you don’t necessarily expect to see quotes from Christian scripture.

And yet, there they are, on pages 266 and 268 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — the seventh and final installment of J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular series about a boy who goes to a school for people born with magical powers.

The book, which runs to 607 pages, is not quite half finished when Harry and his friend Hermione Granger visit a cemetery and see a pair of tombstones. One marks the grave of two relatives of Albus Dumbledore, the wise Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry headmaster who died at the end of the previous book. The other marks the final resting place of Harry’s parents, James and Lily Potter.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (dir. David Yates, 2007)

harrypotter5bTHERE is a lot that could be said about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

It is the longest of the books in J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular series, yet it is also the shortest of the five movies that have come out so far.

The book, which came out in 2003, was the first to be written after the movies went into production — and it is tempting to wonder whether Rowling’s description of her characters was influenced in any way by the actors assigned to the roles.

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Review: A Man Called Peter (dir. Henry Koster, 1955); End of the Spear (dir. Jim Hanon, 2005); Saint Peter (dir. Giulio Base, 2005)

HOLLYWOOD studios are increasingly aware there is a market for religious films.

So lately, they have been making a point of creating special video labels, such as Fox Faith, and reissuing classic religious films – in addition to newer efforts. Here are a few such films.

A Man Called Peter, Fox, 1955

There is a big, big problem with the cover of this DVD: it shows Peter Marshall (Richard Todd) wearing a suspiciously large clerical collar, even though the film makes a big, big deal of the fact that Marshall – a popular Scottish Presbyterian minister who became chaplain to the United States Senate – was a spirited nonconformist who refused to wear such things.

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