Surely J. J. Abrams Can Do Better: Phantom Menace at 15

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UPDATE: May 2014 Star Wars - Episode One: The Phantom Menace is 15 years old this week. I know, I know. Take a deep breath. Let go of your anger, young Jedi. Most of us agree that it was a major disappointment. Many had hoped for a new trilogy that would be, for a new generation, what that first trilogy was for those of us who experienced it as children — something truly revolutionary, enthralling, and worth watching over and over again. But it was easy to see, right away, that The Phantom Me … [Read more...]

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) … or Squandering Mr. Hanks

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Dear moviegoers who enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks, including those among my friends and family,I'm glad you had a good time at the movies.Seriously.I would be nothing but a snob if I scorned anybody for enjoying a heart-warming work of fiction like this one.I recognize that there are a lot of things moviegoers will enjoy here:Tom Hanks, being witty and skillful; Emma Thompson, being amusing and... British; nostalgic musical celebrations of Mary Poppins™; Paul Giamatti, in w … [Read more...]

Forget Twilight: These Are My Favorite Vampires

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We're all vampires.That is to say, we all have particular kinds of "blood" that we seek — sources of sustenance and inspiration that keep our eyes open and our hearts beating in a dark and punishing world. … [Read more...]

Scarlett Johansson is a Monster: Under the Skin

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Feel free to eavesdrop as I argue with myself upon exiting the theater after seeing Jonathan Glazer's* troubling new sci-fi horror film Under the Skin. But it's a spoiler-ish conversation... … [Read more...]

Noah (2014): Part Two of a Two-Part Commentary

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[This is Part 2 of Looking Closer's Noah review. Part One was posted yesterday.]Here's another story.Once upon a time, two total strangers — one a mother and a teacher with a background in business; the other a writer, editor, and film critic — became friends after she invited him to join an online discussion of his book about film. They were both Christians. And they met at an arts-and-faith gathering called Hutchmoot in Nashville. They both agreed that they wanted to work together on so … [Read more...]

Noah (2014): Part One of A Two-Part Commentary

Noah tries to take cover from the flood of wrathful judgment cast by quick-to-anger, presumptuous, unmerciful religious moviegoers.

Once upon a time there was a 13-year-old boy named Darren. He wrote a poem about Noah's Ark for his seventh-grade teacher, Vera Fried. Something about that story stirred up a passion within him. It wouldn't go away.Darren would grow up to become a filmmaker who wrestled with heavy questions. Each of his films would focus on characters who went to extremes in order to achieve a kind of transcendence. They would careen between moments of glory and moments of madness.First, there was Pi, ab … [Read more...]

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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Wes Anderson's new movie [New Anderson Movie] has arrived! And while reviews are almost all very positive, they differ dramatically in how they think it compares to the rest of the movies in Anderson's oeuvre.I'll get to my thoughts about [New Anderson Movie] in a while. But first...Moviegoer 1 calls [New Anderson Movie] "a masterpiece — the most 'Andersonian' movie yet! You can see pieces of all of his previous films here, like he was building to this one all along!"Moviegoer 2 di … [Read more...]

The Great Beauty (2013)

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The Great Beauty. You have to have some ambition to give a movie a title like that.And Paolo Sorrentino has ambition. Huge ambition. Maybe a little too much.I've just seen The Great Beauty on the big screen, and I'm still a little bit drunk on its imagery. Turns out that the title is entirely appropriate for so many reasons. Sorrentino's camera-eyes are as wide open to glory as Terrence Malick's. (This film seems as heavily influenced by The New World and The Tree of Life as it so … [Read more...]

Now You Can Watch the Zany Adventure Movie That America Missed

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Looking for an escape? Searching for an exciting, hilarious, fun adventure film for the whole family?I highly recommend Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. Globe-trotting adventure, over-the-top comedy, extravagant costumes, Egyptian tomb-raiding, and a rampaging pterodactyl... this movie has all of that and more.And it just arrived on Netflix. … [Read more...]

The LEGO Movie (2014)

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Skeptical? No, I was downright cynical.A big screen movie about plastic building blocks? Give me a break. This has got to be the hardest evidence yet of Hollywood's imaginative bankruptcy. "Okay, Blockbuster Movie Council, what are your new ideas?" "Well, we've made movies about bestselling pregnancy guides. We've made movies about the game of Battleship and and the Pirates ride at Disneyland. What are the best-selling toys in the world?" "Let's make a movie about LEGOs! Kids will line up … [Read more...]


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