The Reformation for Dummies

Review of Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary Edited by Matthew BarrettIn a year that has seen (and no doubt will continue to see) many, many books on the Reformation released to the public, Reformation Theology is certainly going to be one of the most thorough. It is a systematic theology that walks through the thought of key Reformers on topics ranging from predestination to baptism to the Trinity. (And of course, while it is for laymen, it's not really for dummies.) Here are a … [Read more...]

The Top 20 Films of 2016

(Scroll past my Top 20 Films of 2016 for a list of 10 honorable mentions, 10 of the year’s best documentaries, a list of standout performances, the most illuminating repertory screenings I saw in the Washington, D.C., area the past 12 months, the year’s best cinematography and 2016’s breakout performances.)Manchester by the SeaA tough sit, Kenneth Lonergan’s story of coping with loss is filled with note-perfect performances that will break your heart. So why did it barely crack my list? It’s … [Read more...]

Coyle’s Best of 2016

As with previous year's recaps, these are the best books I read this year, not necessarily the best books I read that were published this year, or even the best books written this year in general. And as with previous years, the twin dragons of "work" and "family" have killed most of the time that I might otherwise have used to write extensive reviews. So apologies in advance for the brevity here. Also, I've not included re-reads, children's books read to the kiddos, or most of the long list of … [Read more...]

Passion Projects Light Up Middleburg Film Festival

By Christian Hamaker“People love what other people are passionate about,” says a character in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. That sentiment, from a film that was the Saturday Night Centerpiece screening of the Middleburg Film Festival, captured what made this year’s fest so notable: The stories behind the screened films and the emotional responses the movies evoked powered a festival that has quickly become a destination for passionate film lovers in and near the nation’s capital.Now in its fo … [Read more...]

Does the Reformation still matter today?

Review of Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim ChesterOctober 31, 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (The "quingentesimus", if you care about the fancy name for that particular anniversary.) As a result we have seen and will no doubt increasingly see a spate of books on the market celebrating or decrying the Reformers and the work God did through them. One of the best introductions to that reforming work so far is Why the Reformation Still … [Read more...]

Cameraperson Points Its Lens at Both Death and Life

A review of Cameraperson, directed by Kirsten Johnson.For 20 years, Kirsten Johnson has shot memorable documentary features about human suffering and the ravages of war (Pray the Devil Back to Hell, The Invisible War). Her new film, Cameraperson, collects snippets from her work on many of those features to weave a challenging tapestry—an odd hybrid of autobiography and catalog of infamy and human suffering—that threatens to become morose but which provide moments of transcendence and deep hum … [Read more...]

The Legend of Tarzan fails to build on the myth

Review of The Legend of Tarzan, Directed by David YatesBefore any discussion of The Legend of Tarzan can begin, we must first make one thing clear: it isn’t a Disney film. Expectations should therefore be adjusted accordingly (which means downwards).Legend tells the story of Tarzan in reflection, almost like a sequel, except rather than building on a prior film it relies on flashbacks and the audience’s familiarity with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes. This time around, Tarzan’s vi … [Read more...]

Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience Condenses All of Time to 44 Minutes

Review of Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience, Directed by Terrence MalickThe Terrence Malick surge continues. This blog has covered the filmmaker’s Knight of Cups from earlier this year and, even more recently, The Vessel, which he executive produced. The sudden burst of output from a filmmaker who took off 20 years between his second and third features has more than satisfied audiences hungry for his sincere grappling with nature, desire and the state of the human soul.The arrival of M … [Read more...]

The Vessel Proves See-Worthy

Review of The Vessel, Directed by Julio QuintanaWhen the BBC earlier this year polled 177 film critics around the globe to determine the best films of the 21st century, director Terrence Malick’s name appeared more than once. Of the four films Malick has released since 2000 (a fifth, Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, just played at this year’s Toronto Film Festival and will release later this year in North America), two of them appeared on the BBC list: The Tree of Life landed highest, at #7, whi … [Read more...]

Identity Crisis Applies to More Than Just Characters in “Morris From America”

Review of Morris from America, Directed by Chad HartiganThree summers ago, writer/director Chad Hartigan’s This Is Martin Bonner slipped into theaters and, over three months, accumulated a miniscule $13,000 at the box office. It was gone from theaters by September of that year, but between its pre-release festival appearances and brief theatrical run, the film found favor with many critics—Christians included—who responded to the warm humanity of Hartigan’s story about a man trying to help a ju … [Read more...]