Interview: Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

LOS ANGELES, CA — Tom Shadyac made his name as the director and producer of such lowbrow comedies as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor. Then he took the bathroom humour in a more spiritual, if occasionally schmaltzy, direction with Liar Liar, Patch Adams and the phenomenally successful Bruce Almighty.

All of Shadyac’s previous films were rated PG-13 in the United States, but his newest film — Evan Almighty, in which God tells a man to build an ark, just like Noah — is rated a family-friendly PG. Shadyac, sitting down with several journalists on the Universal Studios backlot, is eager to let everyone know that the film is “safe.”

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Review: Spider-Man 3 (dir. Sam Raimi, 2007)

GIVE the Spider-Man series points for good intentions. Ever since director Sam Raimi first brought the web-slinging super-hero to the big screen five years ago, he has made a point of emphasizing the character’s humanity, indeed his fallibility. In doing so, he has shown how we, too, can learn from our mistakes and live more virtuously.

Even better, Raimi has given these virtues a distinctly Christian flavour. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the science student who fights crime as Spider-Man, clearly owes his sense of right and wrong to the uncle and aunt who raised him after the death of his parents — and the films have depicted Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), in particular, as a devout woman who says her prayers and thanks the angels for their help.

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Review: Next (dir. Lee Tamahori, 2007)

You know how movies sometimes make you think certain things are happening, and then one of the characters wakes up and realizes it was all a dream? Used once or twice, this device can be pretty effective, but used too often — or too excessively, like the time the writers on Dallas decided that an entire season’s worth of episodes never took place — it can be the most groan-inducing of gimmicks.

That isn’t exactly what happens in Next, the latest film to be based on one of Philip K. Dick’s trippy, mind-bending stories (in this case, The Golden Man), but it’s pretty close. The film stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, a man who can see up to two minutes into his own future — and if he doesn’t like what he sees, then he can change his course of action and bring about a different future. But Cris does not merely see his future, as though he were observing it from a distance; he seems to actually experience his future, and it is only after he reaches a bad end that he mentally hits the “reset” button and decides to do things differently.

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Review: Amazing Grace (dir. Michael Apted, 2006)

‘AMAZING GRACE,’ the song, is a beloved gospel classic; but once in a while, someone complains that it isn’t Christian enough — at least not in that first, famous verse.

Words like ‘grace’ are too vague, and phrases like “I once was blind, but now I see” could refer to just about any spiritual experience — or so the argument goes.

Amazing Grace, the film, has provoked a similar debate. Evangelicals have welcomed the film with open arms — partly because it shines a light on William Wilberforce, the Christian politician who brought an end to slavery in the British Empire in the early 1800s, but also because it is made with production values much higher than those of the typical Christian movie. In short, it feels like, and is, a ‘real movie.’

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Review: Beyond the Gates (dir. Michael Caton-Jones, 2005)

Beyond the Gates would make an interesting double-bill with Hotel Rwanda. Both films concern the genocide of 1994 — and the shock that those living in that country felt when the international community failed to do much more than evacuate the people there who happened to have white skin. But whereas the latter film was largely about Africans who survived the massacre, thanks to a cunning businessman who knew how to push the buttons of those in power, the new film concerns a Catholic priest and a teacher at his school, both of European descent, who can do little more than watch as the world gives up on their friends and neighbors.

Of course, the priest and the teacher can do more than watch — then can pray, too — and one of the most remarkable things about Beyond the Gates is its refreshingly positive view of the role that faith can play even in the darkest of times.

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Interview: David Belton (Beyond the Gates, 2005)

It has been over a dozen years since the Rwandan genocide — an atrocity in which as many as 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers were killed by Hutu extremists in just a few months, while the outside world turned a blind eye or, worse, withdrew what little help it had offered in the first place.

David Belton covered the genocide as a reporter for the BBC. He went on to become a producer of documentaries like War Spin and Soldiers to Be, and he returned to Rwanda for his first dramatic film, Beyond the Gates, now showing in limited theaters. (Look for our review on Friday.)

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