Million Dollar Baby (2004)

This review was originally published at Christianity Today. -Some people live lives in which their prayers are answered, their dreams fulfilled, their needs met, and their lives richly blessed. Others live lives of frustration, longing to hear God's voice, carrying excruciating burdens and struggling to maintain their belief that their Creator cares … or that he exists at all.Million Dollar Baby looks like a boxing movie, but at its heart, it is the story of a spiritually frustrated ma … [Read more...]

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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The Two Towers is packed end-to-end with helter-skelter action, jaw-dropping New Zealand scenery, standard-setting animation, a lush and provocative soundtrack, and enough adventure for three or four typical films of its genre.Do you need more information? My review is at ChristianityToday.com.But if you want the detailed review ... the mad ramblings of a Tolkien fan and a nit-picker ... settle in for a long read. These are the thoughts that buzzed in my head after I caught the sneak … [Read more...]

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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Thanks to director Alfonso Cuarón and his dream-team of British actors, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban may mark the first time that the third film in a trilogy has been the best. But thanks to storyteller J.K. Rowling, the derivative plot lacks depth and suspense.Cuarón is clearly a great choice for the film, bringing with him the talent that made his 1995 film A Little Princess one of the best fairy tales ever filmed. He's got a knack for fantasy. Contrary to the typical Disney s … [Read more...]

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

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Whether viewers have read the book or not, they'll find no real surprises in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.Director David Yates makes this one of the darker episodes in the series, literally: there are few glimpses of daylight. That serves to accentuate that our rather self-absorbed, disobedient hero, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), is starting to discover his dark side, like Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3. It also serves to accentuate the lack of humor and whimsy in this … [Read more...]

I’m Not There (2007)

This review of I'm Not There was originally published at Christianity Today Movies.-If you want to inspire a challenging discussion about art and culture, try this: Watch Martin Scorsese's excellent 2006 documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, and discuss it. Then, reconvene a week later for a viewing of Todd Haynes' surreal new movie I'm Not There. Their differing, complimentary portraits of Bob Dylan will give you so much material to ponder and discuss, you won't know where to … [Read more...]

The Insider (1999)

'Tis the season to toss aside what other people think of you, do what you feel, and devil-may-care who gets hurt in the process.At least, that's what the movies will tell you.The leading men onscreen this season (Lester Birnam of American Beauty, Tyler Durden and "Jack" of Fight Club, Craig and Lottie of Being John Malkovich) are not generous people. They are not humble. They're not the kind of people to give up their own dreams for the good of others. They're distinctly American — "I hav … [Read more...]

Junebug (2005)

When filmmakers journey to the American South, they enter dangerous territory. Far too often, they aren't prepared to encounter such a rich, unusual culture, and they end up painting cruel caricatures.So it is a bit unnerving when director Phil Morrison takes us on a road trip from Chicago art studios to North Carolina baby showers in Junebug. Is this going to be just another movie exploiting Southern eccentricity for our entertainment?Not at all. Junebug is, at times, hilarious, but it … [Read more...]

King Kong (2006)

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A full hour of forgettable, underwhelming set-up introduces us to the key human characters of Peter Jackson's King Kong.That long, humdrum approach to the Main Event - the revelation of the ape - confirms what some have long suspected: that Peter Jackson, who served up those sensational adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, isn't much of a storyteller on his own. As his earlier track record proves, he's a bespectacled spectacle man. When you give him a script that is … [Read more...]

The Lives of Others (2006)

At the movies, transformations are the norm. Men become monsters and beasts are transformed by beauties on a regular basis. The formula is so familiar that storytellers and artists face a tremendous challenge if they hope to capture audiences with a sense of something new.Remember Schindler's List? In Steven Spielberg's beloved Holocaust film, we watched Oskar Schindler begin to question himself and his superiors. He gradually mustered the courage to take a small step in the right direction. … [Read more...]

The Passion of the Christ – A Letter to Christians about Mel Gibson’s Film

This commentary is a follow-up to my review of The Passion of the Christ.-Most Christian press publications will lavish praise upon Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. They will celebrate the arrival of a film rich with spiritual power, rendered with riveting and even excruciating detail.Some will go so far as to declare that in this film, the Church has a fantastic "evangelical opportunity."But the fact that many Christians — many churches — are responding to the film as if i … [Read more...]


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