Paprika (2006)


This brief review of Paprika was originally published in Risen magazine.-In 2001, Hayao Miyazake’s Spirited Away won the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and introduced the glory of Japanese animation to a much larger American audience.Unfortunately, some of Japan’s most extraordinary animators are still relatively unknown in the U.S. You probably haven’t heard of Satoshi Kon. And thus you’ve probably missed Paprika, which isn’t just the most imaginative animated film of last year — it’s … [Read more...]

Killer of Sheep (1977, 2007)


Filmed in 1977 as a thesis project on a budget of about $10,000, Charles Burnett's award-winning Killer of Sheep won an award in Berlin in 1981, and was among the first 50 films entered in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. The National Society of Film Critics named it one of 100 "essential films." And Andrew O'Hehir at calls Burnett "the most important African-American director" and "one of the most distinctive filmmakers this country has ever produced."But this … [Read more...]

There Will Be Blood (2007)


This review was originally published in an abridged edition at Christianity Today.-In Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, detective Jake Gittes became suspicious of a devious California millionaire named Noah Cross, played by the great John Huston. Dazzled by Cross’s fortune, which he’d acquired through laying irrigation pipelines across Los Angeles, Gittes asked why such a rich man would want to get richer. “How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can't already afford? … [Read more...]

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)


For decades, viewers have marveled at the deeply engraved face of actor Tommy Lee Jones. Now, seeing his directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, it all makes sense. You’d have extravagant furrows in your brow too if your imagination lived in territory like this.The Three Burials is about border crossings, but instead of playing the guy who arrests illegal aliens — as he did in Men in Black — Jones is playing Pete Perkins, a guy who watches with grim dismay as border patro … [Read more...]

THX 1138 (The Director’s Cut) (2004)


Do you ever get the feeling that, to the government, you're just a number?Have you ever visited a church service, or a political rally, or a company meeting where you had the strange feeling that everybody had been brainwashed into "talking the talk" and going through the motions?Does the world sometimes feel cold and impersonal, and leave you longing for something more?If you said "yes" to any of these, it's likely that THX 1138 will draw you into its nightmare and leave you haunted … [Read more...]

Waitress (2007)


Fans of Firefly and Serenity, don’t despair. The charismatic Nathan Fillion may have a bright big-screen future ahead of him.In Waitress, Fillion is fantastic as Dr. Pomatter, the amorous doctor who comes to the rescue when a pregnant and perturbed young beauty named Jenna, played by Keri Russell, finds herself in a nightmare marriage.But there’s a problem. Both Jenna and her good doctor are married — Jenna to a hard-hearted, self-absorbed monster called Earl (Jeremy Sisto), and Pomatter … [Read more...]

Juno (2007)

An abridged version of this review was originally published in Risen Magazine.-Knocked Up, Waitress, Bella, and the internationally celebrated "masterpiece" 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days… yes, 2007 is officially The Year of the Unexpected Pregnancy.And now, here comes Jason Reitman's Juno, a comedy about a high-school girl whose sexual experimentation has left her pregnant and confused.What's going on? Is Juno just another movie in this unlikely trend? … [Read more...]

The Golden Compass (2007)

Finished with their phenomenal Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Line Cinema needed another series, something with box-office promise. Harry Potter and the Narnia chronicles were already spoken for. So they seized the next-best thing: Philip Pullman's award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials.The first movie, The Golden Compass, is full of dazzling spectacles. Director Chris Weitz conjures awe-inspiring environments and fantastic creatures that recall Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth movies. And, … [Read more...]

The Golden Compass – Christians, Controversy, and Phillip Pullman – A Commentary

¬†And so it begins.The first review of New Line Cinema's The Golden Compass, which is based on the first book in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, has been published in The Daily Telegraph.Telegraph reviewer John Hiscock says: ... an early screening of The Golden Compass in Los Angeles reveals that the investors who put up the $90 million cost of the film can rest easy - though it lacks the impact or charm of The Chronicles of Narnia, the special effects are ex … [Read more...]

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

A while back, maybe a year or two, I saw some photographs in the newspaper that revealed a new wax likeness of Brad Pitt for the famous Madame Tussaud's museum.My how far he's come. It seems like only yesterday that a feisty actor with a roguish grin showed up in Thelma and Louise, and then earned comparisons to the young Robert Redford in A River Runs Through It. Since then, Pitt has blazed his own trail through Hollywood history and become an uber-icon. His personal choices have thrown … [Read more...]