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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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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