Hellboy (2004)

This review of Hellboy was originally published at Christianity Today in April 2004. - Some superheroes focus on settling a score. Some learn lessons about responsibility, talent, and weakness. But for some, like Hellboy, being a superhero is just a job. For director Guillermo Del Toro, the job of bringing the comic book hero Hellboy to the screen was a labor of love—love for comics, and especially for the work of artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy's creator. Del Toro effectively recreates … [Read more...]

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

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[Here's my own original review, which was first published at the original Looking Closer website on January 21, 2001. I also covered the Christian media coverage of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone in Christianity Today's Film Forum.] - For the record, I'm not a big fan of the Harry Potter books — So already I'm in the minority. And many will immediately disqualify my opinion of the film because of it. But Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a film now, and needs to be … [Read more...]

Man on Fire (2004)

Jeffrey's review of Man on Fire was published at Christianity Today in April 2004. … [Read more...]

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

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[This review was first published at the original Looking Closer website in March 2001.] - Ready to test your imagination? Picture Jude Law as a Russian shepherd-turned-sniper. Then imagine Ed Harris as a sinister German Nazi. Yeah, Enemy at the Gates, a new film by Jean-Jacques Annaud, asks you to suspend your disbelief with all of your might. We see several familiar Hollywood stars as characters of foreign origins, in an area of the battle where the U.S. never becomes a presence … [Read more...]

Best in Show (2000)

[This review was first published at the original Looking Closer website in 2001.] • Sometimes humans are more beastly than their pets. Christopher Guest's new "mockumentary" about dog shows, Best in Show, revels in that fact. The nine human beings that converge on Philadelphia for the Mayflower dog competition seem themselves to represent a wide variety of breeds, grooming styles, and gaits, regardless of the quality of their dog. They all want to be validated by the success of their … [Read more...]

Monster’s Ball (2001)

Monster's Ball

[This review was first published on the original Looking Closer website on May 12, 2002.] - In Monster’s Ball, Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank, a corrections officer carrying intense racial prejudice in one hand and a sidearm in the other. Hank’s aging father Buck (Peter Doyle) constantly reinforces the family’s race-hate, calling Sonny, Hank’s son, "weak" because he befriends their black neighbors. Halle Berry plays Leticia, the wife of a convicted killer, a mother trying to … [Read more...]

The Dish (2000)

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[This review was first published at the original Looking Closer website in 2002.] - The Dish is one of those rare movies that does not aspire to be anything but short, sweet, and good for the heart. Thus, it doesn't arrive like an "event," and it leaves not with the hoopla of a blockbuster but with the whisper of a rumor. Those who plan their moviegoing by the Box Office Top Ten, or by what gets advertised on television, will miss it. Those who are paying attention and catch it will tell … [Read more...]

Max (2002)

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[This review was first published on the original Looking Closer website on May 12, 2003.] - Noah Taylor is best known for his charming lead role in the romantic comedy Flirting, and more recently made memorable marks on Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky. Now he’s starring as the most notorious monster of the 20th century. Max dares to delve into the life of Hitler in the days before the Holocaust, and Taylor is scarier than any orc in his intense performance as Adolf. His performance … [Read more...]

The End of the Affair (1999)

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[This review was first published at the original Looking Closer website in 1999.] - The End of the Affair takes us back to London in wartime. There, we're told a story in which the echoes of air raid bombings leave scars on history and hearts. At first, it might sound like the tale of a simple love triangle: The wealthy and beautiful Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore) betrays her boring husband Henry (Stephen Rea) and begins a passionate affair with an obnoxious novelist named Maurice Bendrix … [Read more...]

Galaxy Quest (1999)

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2012 Update: I've just revisited Galaxy Quest and am happy to report that it holds up very well more than a decade later. It has a special place in my heart for its sense of humor, for its remarkable use of Tim Allen (an actor I can rarely tolerate), and for the way it introduced moviegoers to the talents of Sam Rockwell, who has been vital to many impressive films since then. Its special effects look increasingly shoddy, but that seems to suit the spirit and shape of the movie, which shows … [Read more...]