All the Pretty Horses (2000)

[This review was first published at the original Looking Closer website in December 2000.] – What a shame. All the Pretty Horses, director Billy Bob Thornton’s adaptation of the great Cormac McCarthy novel, must have been a marvelous film. But this is not that film. This feature-length montage of scenes from Thornton’s as-yet-unreleased movie has breathtaking cinematography, reminiscent of the wild and beautiful natural world captured in Terrence Malick’s films. Its performances, especially the crucial roles played by Matt Damon… Read more

The Ladykillers (2004)

Jeffrey’s review of The Ladykillers was originally published at Christianity Today on March 26, 2004. – This is not the first time moviegoers have seen Tom Hanks secretly tunnel through the earth beneath a stranger’s house. In 1989’sThe ‘Burbs, a subversive comedy  by Joe Dante about eccentric criminals in a friendly suburban neighborhood, Hanks dug his way right into an explosion that rocked the neighborhood. It happens again here, in The Ladykillers — which happens to be a subversive comedy about eccentric criminals in… Read more

Todd Komarnicki: Producer, Director, Writer—and Believer

My interview with Todd Komarnicki, the producer of the holiday-season comedy Elf (starring Will Ferrell), was published at Christianity Today on November 11, 2003. Read more

Sam Phillips – A Boot and a Shoe

When no one’s listening I have so much to say… That’s a line from “How to Quit,” the first song on Sam Phillips’ A Boot and a Shoe. It’s a loaded line. She’s been a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter since her debut The Indescribable Wow in 1988. Her work has been consistently produced by the best in the business—T-Bone Burnett—every step of the way. If the torch of the Beatles’ sound, style and songwriting prowess has been carried by anyone, it’s… Read more

Over the Rhine’s “Ohio”: A Double Dose of Brilliance

“I want to do better, I want to try harder,” sings Karin Bergquist at the opening of Disc 2 in Over the Rhine’s monstrous, beautiful, country-laced double-album Ohio. The next line in the same lyric gets at the essence of the album: “I want to believe… down to the letter.” Clearly, they are trying harder. And, yes, they’re doing better too. Turning the spotlight fully on Karin’s performance as a stellar vocalist and an intense, intuitive interpreter of Linford Detweiler’s… Read more

X2: X-Men United (2003)

A Sequel that Celebrates the Best Sequels Ever You’ll think you’re watching a Star Trek film when X2:X-Men United opens. First, there are stars… and then the voice of a former Enterprise captain expounding upon mysteries and the future. I doubt the resemblance is accidental. Echoes of Trek resound throughout Bryan Singer’s exhilarating, exhausting X-Men sequel — specifically, references to Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. And that’s not all. Singer has clearly devoted his attentions to those Second… Read more

Dreamcatcher (2003)

I don’t want to write this review. But you are here to read about whether you should spend your hard-earned money on Dreamcatcher, and I don’t want you to waste your money, so let me exhort you: Run away. Run as fast as you would run if somebody invited you to a movie in which aliens burst, in bloody fountains, out of the characters’ backsides. Why? That’s what happens in Dreamcatcher. I am not making this up. And that’s just… Read more

The Innocence Mission – Birds of My Neighborhood

April 2006 UPDATE: The new re-mastered version of The Innocence Mission’s Birds of My Neighborhood lets this masterful recording expand to fill a room, resonating in hardwood floors, giving the listener the freedom to move about in the spaces between Don Peris’s exquisite guitar stylings and the fragile beauty of Karen Peris’s vocals. It’s the next best thing to having them visit you personally in your living room and play you a song… a dream I haven’t given up on… Read more