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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Hollywood? No, SHER-wood!

How Sherwood Baptist Church became a hot spot for making Christian movies — including Facing the Giants and the upcoming Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron.

The regular film world has the Coens, the Wachowskis, and the Farrellys — brothers who collaborate on producing and directing both blockbusters and arthouse flicks.

The Christian film world has the Kendricks — a couple of associate pastors in Albany, Georgia who made a couple of ultra-low-budget movies with a mostly volunteer cast and crew as part of their church’s outreach program, and then hit it big when the second film, Facing the Giants, grossed just over $10 million at the box office.

Now they’re putting the finishing touches on their third film, Fireproof, due for a theatrical release on September 26. The film concerns a firefighter whose marriage is on the rocks, and whose father challenges him to take “the Love Dare” — a series of recommended activities that might, just might, help patch things up.

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Review: Standard Operating Procedure (dir. Errol Morris, 2008)

Errol Morris has been open about his politics at times, not least when he spoke out against the invasion of Iraq while accepting an Oscar for his documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. But until now, his films have never been all that concerned with current events. Instead, they have tended to explore the nature of evidence and the psychological factors that affect how people interpret that evidence. Where some documentaries can come across as works of politically-minded journalism, Morris, a former private detective, tends to be more interested in forensic science, and in the philosophical ambiguities and absurdities that result from people’s investigations of the cold hard facts.

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Review: Jumper (dir. Doug Liman, 2008)

When you think about it, teleportation is a natural subject for the movies. You could even say that filmmakers do it all the time, already: in a typical film, when, say, a character walks out the door, it is often the case that the shot inside the house, of the person walking to his or her exit, was filmed on a soundstage, while the shot outside the house, of that same person stepping onto the sidewalk, might very well have been filmed in another city, or even another country. But these images are generally edited together so seamlessly that you don’t have time to notice.

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Interview: Cindy Bond (The Ten Commandments, 2007)

As chief operating officer of Promenade Pictures, Cindy Bond had high hopes for The Ten Commandments, the first in a projected 12-part series of computer-animated ‘Epic Stories of the Bible,’ when it opened in theatres last October. But the film failed to make much of a splash, opening well out of the Top 20 and grossing less than a million dollars — on a project that cost $11.6 million to make.

The movie came out on DVD last week, and Bond spoke to CT Movies about what went wrong — and how things might be different with their next film, a comedy about Noah’s Ark due sometime around Easter 2009.

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Review: The Kite Runner (dir. Marc Forster, 2007)

kiterunnerIt’s probably safe to say you’ve never seen kite-flying scenes like the ones that form the emotional and metaphorical core of The Kite Runner. The film, based on the best-selling book by Khaled Hosseini, is partly set in Afghanistan in the 1970s, and the simple act of flying a kite comes to represent a freedom of spirit that is lost when the nation is invaded by the Soviets in 1979, and then remains lost when the nation is dominated by the extremist form of Islam that characterized the Taliban.

But the two boys at the heart of this story do not merely fly kites, they “cut” them — by chasing other kites through the air and curling around their strings until they snap. Kite-flying thus becomes a form of competition — and with the help of modern special effects, the film sometimes uses aerial shots to show how the airborne kites pursue one another, like fighter planes hot on each other’s tails.

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