Oldboy (2005)

Park Chanwook, the Korean director currently winning fans with his hyperviolent stories of revenge, has clearly absorbed the techniques of great kung-fu filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, and other contemporary stylists like David Fincher. He knows how to dazzle you with visions of supreme “coolness.” He knows how to shock you. He knows how to make you squirm, and how to send the squeamish — and even many of the ironclad — running for the exits.So, does the hype generated by the … [Read more...]

Tsotsi (2005)

Question: What happens when a newborn baby ends up in the care of a lawless, gun-toting gangster?Answer: That really depends on the gangster.If Gavin Hood's directorial debut, Tsotsi, is going to make a lasting impression on moviegoers, it will have to succeed on word-of-mouth reviews. It just doesn't have the stuff that makes a flashy marketing campaign. Let's skip the fact that most American moviegoers will have trouble pronouncing the title... Tsotsi is a tough, violent film about … [Read more...]

Review flashback: “Watership Down”

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2014 Update: Oh how I wish someone would re-release Watership Down on Region 1 blu-ray in a format that captures the vivid beauty of the theatrical release. The current American DVDs show that they were produced from a worn and faded print. Attention, lords of the Criterion Collection! Save this timeless, exemplary work!-Before you choose Martin Rosen's animated feature Watership Down as a movie-time babysitter for your kids, please note: This is not Finding Nemo. … [Read more...]

You Can Count On Me (2000)

2007 Update: It's been a few years since I've seen this 2000 film, and yet I remember moments from it so vividly. Terry and the boy taking a nature walk. The reverend informing Sammy that fornication is a sin. Sammy's office confrontation with the boss. And yet, I wonder... what has become of Ken Lonergan, who wrote such a delicate, heartfelt screenplay? He was a co-writer on Gangs of New York, and then what?Turning to the IMDB, I learn that he's written and directed a drama called Margaret, … [Read more...]

2046 (2004)

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2oo7 Update: This post, my 2005 first-impression review of 2046, is much too long... I know, I know. But reading through it again I was caught up in Wong Kar-Wai's work as if for the first time. So I remember why I was so effusive and enthusiastic about it. I may just re-watch a few scenes of it tonight. If you haven't discovered In the Mood for Love, or this, its glorious sequel, you're in for an intoxicating treat. … [Read more...]

Manderlay (2005)

Danish director Lars von Trier gave us a remarkable, audacious film in 2004 called Dogville. The film starred Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Anne Bancroft, and a supporting cast of familiar faces, but it also demanded our own participation. The story played out on a stage decorated with a few props and chalk outlines that told us where the houses, streets, and other important landmarks were.The film told the story of a gangster's daughter, Grace, who happens upon a small town and, during her vi … [Read more...]

“United 93″: First Impressions

Well, I took a deep breath and watched United 93 during the Seattle snowstorm.And it was just as harrowing as I feared, just as harrowing as it should be. … [Read more...]

Babel (2006)

This review was originally published at Christianity Today in October 2006.-It's bullet time at the movies. Martin Scorsese's cops and crooks are clashing are unleashing storms of bullets, and Clint Eastwood's Marines are firing more shots than anyone could hope to count. But in Alejandro González Iñárritu's new film Babel, a single gunshot causes an international crisis. It's a shot heard around the world, and one you won't forget anytime soon.Who is to blame for that shattering blas … [Read more...]

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

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[A severely abridged version of this review was previously published at Christianity Today, and it did not end up representing the perspective I presented in my original draft. Here is the original, unabridged review.]•In Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, Keanu Reeves plays “Agent Fred,” an undercover officer in America’s war on drugs. He’s so deeply undercover that he’s become a drug addict himself, losing touch with reality. So the irony is painful when Agent Fred is ordered to foc … [Read more...]

Little Children (2006)

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This review was originally published at Christianity Today in October 2006.-Ever watch moths fluttering around bright lights at night and ask yourself, "Don't they know that they'll burn themselves up?"And yet, so many of us play out the same sad drama. Restless with longing, we respond to dangerous temptations and indulge misguided passions. And then we — and sometimes our families — pay for it.This metaphor comes to vivid life in Todd Field's riveting new film Little Children. W … [Read more...]


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