Review: Juno (dir. Jason Reitman, 2007)

junoWho could have foreseen that 2007 would be the year of the unplanned pregnancy at the multiplex? And who could have foreseen that, as the year progressed, the films dealing with this topic would be increasingly bold in expressing their implicitly pro-life — not “anti-choice,” but certainly pro-life — sensibilities?

First there was Waitress, which starred 30-ish Keri Russell as a married woman who learns that she is bearing the offspring of her neglectful, even abusive, husband; deeply ambivalent about the pregnancy itself, she simply states that she recognizes the child’s “right to thrive,” and that is that. Then there was Knocked Up, in which Katherine Heigl played a single up-and-coming journalist in her 20s who keeps her baby partly because she is repulsed by her mother’s suggestion that she “take care of” the pregnancy now and have a “real baby” at some point in the future.

And now, there is Juno, which is arguably the funniest and most meaningful of the lot. The film stars Ellen Page as the youngest mother of them all, a whip-smart high-school student named Juno MacGuff who discovers that she is in the family way after a single sexual experience with her best friend and bandmate, a semi-dorky track star named Paulie Bleeker (Superbad’s Michael Cera).

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Review: Lions for Lambs (dir. Robert Redford, 2007)

Imagine that you are Tom Cruise, and that your career and reputation have begun to falter a wee bit, and so you decide to launch a new phase in your career by, say, taking charge of an entire studio. Imagine that the first film released under your leadership — a film that, not incidentally, features you as one of its stars — is about to come out. Now imagine that the only publicity you intend to do for this movie is a single, private, hour-long, one-on-one interview with a reporter who works for a TV network but brings no recording devices whatsoever with her, let alone anything resembling a camera crew. No photos, no televised interviews, no beaming face on television screens everywhere; instead, nothing but your words, as scribbled down in shorthand by a reporter who, incidentally, doesn’t like your movies very much.

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Review: The Ten Commandments (dir. Bill Boyce & John Stronach, 2007)

Another year, another Moses movie. Cecil B. DeMille made two movies called The Ten Commandments — one in 1923, during the silent era, and the other in 1956, starring Charlton Heston and a whole lot of deliciously campy dialogue — so it only makes sense that others would continue to tell this story, even to the point of recycling the title. In the past few years alone, we have seen a TV mini-series called The Ten Commandments as well as The Ten Commandments: The Musical — a straight-to-DVD adaptation of a stage production starring Val Kilmer, who once provided the voice of Moses for the big-budget cartoon The Prince of Egypt.

Now comes the low-budget cartoon — and this film, too, features at least one actor who has parted the Red Sea before. The computer-animated version of The Ten Commandments, which opens in theatres this week, is the first in a projected 12-part series of epic Bible stories, and the warm, smooth voice that narrates the movie is provided by Ben Kingsley, who once starred in the 1996 mini-series Moses.

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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: The Bourne Ultimatum (dir. Paul Greengrass, 2007)

In this high-tech digital age, the makers of high-profile action movies sometimes like to brag about how they used real cars and real stunts — even when some of the defining images in their films couldn’t possibly exist without pixels on a screen. (Yes, Live Free or Die Hard, I’m pointing at you and that spinning airborne car that just happens to miss our hero by a hair.) But every now and then, along comes a film that really seems to have happened in front of the cameras — and The Bourne Ultimatum is just such a film.

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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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