The Water Diviner takes a refreshing dive into one of history’s footnotes

Review of The Water Diviner, Directed by Russell CroweRussell Crowe’s freshman directing effort tells the story of Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe), who travels to Turkey to recover the bodies of his three sons, all of whom were killed fighting in the battle of Gallipoli during World War I. On its face, Connor’s journey is a fool’s errand, and so the story is weighted with an honorable pointlessness reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan. What does it really matter that he finds his sons’ … [Read more...]

Underdogs and the power of faith: director Alejandro Monteverde on Little Boy

Based on Interview with Alejandro Monteverde, Director of Little Boy The “faith-based” boxWhen it comes to telling stories, director Alejandro Monteverde doesn’t believe in a sacred-secular dichotomy.“I’m constantly being put in a box, he says, “constantly.”At first blush, it’s not hard to see why. His new film Little Boy tells the story of a young boy in a sleepy California coastal town during World War II whose father leaves to fight in the Pacific Theater. Pepper Flynt … [Read more...]

There are still new stories to be told in the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Review of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Directed by John Madden“Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life,” writes Roger Angell, longtime editor and staff writer at The New Yorker, in an essay about life in his nineties, “but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love… I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight.”This sentiment goes right to heart of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films. Director Jo … [Read more...]

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?”

Review of Leviathan, Directed by Andrey ZvyagintsevIn a recent blog post for the New York Review of Books, journalist Masha Gessen makes a “bizarre and disturbing” observation about her experience in Russia: people kept dying.  It wasn’t like there was a war or epidemic, but the death rate was inexorably high, going back nearly half a century.Upon digging into the question, she concluded that Russians seemed to be dying from a lack of hope. And despite some improvements since the collaps … [Read more...]

Still Alice: Memory and the self-made woman

Review of Still Alice, Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash WestmorelandThe premise of Still Alice is remarkable simple: a woman gets early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But it is also remarkably compelling – something like a holiday family movie meets Memento – and the result is both heart-warming and frightening. Memory holds our own subjective, individual world together. It gives us our sense of identity and grounds our relationships. Without it, is there anything of us left?As the film u … [Read more...]

The Imitation Game: A war story for the 21st century

Review of The Imitation Game, Directed by Morten TyldumAfter the hit BBC TV series Sherlock and last year’s The Fifth Estate, The Imitation Game shows that whenever the silver screen needs a brilliant, troubled, eccentric protagonist, Benedict Cumberbatch will be there to play the part. In this case he portrays Alan Turing, the World War II-era British mathematician tasked with cracking the Nazi Enigma machine. As a professor, Turing evaluates his life accomplishments by comparing them to Al … [Read more...]

The stories we tell on the big screen long for and echo the truth

Review of The Stories We Tell by Mike CosperMike Cosper’s The Stories We Tell falls in the tradition of C.S. Lewis’ line of thought that Christianity is the “one truth myth.” A worship and arts pastor and admitted television addict, Cosper sets out to find the spiritual core of modern cinema, showing how all the stories we tell flow from and point to the greater creation-fall-redemption-consummation narrative of the bible.I’m surprised that this is not used more often as an apologetic for … [Read more...]

Interstellar rages against the dying of the light

Review of Interstellar, Directed by Christopher NolanIn true Christopher Nolan fashion, Interstellar delivers a story unlike anything we have ever heard. It follows certain cinematic tropes, of course, finding a comfortable place in the sci-fi genre, but even after last year’s outer-space hit Gravity, and even given the cultural prevalence of Star Wars and Star Trek, Interstellar charts its own course. It is the closest thing our generation will have to a 2001: A Space Odyssey.The film a … [Read more...]

The Book of Life: Brilliant artistic imagination clashes with blasé humor

Review of The Book of Life, Directed by Guillermo del ToroThe Book of Life is one of those films that should have been quite good. The components are there. Producer Guillermo Del Torro’s brilliant visual imagination is clearly evident. Stylistically it is a mashup of Spongebob Squarepants and Toy Story, full of charismatic puppet-like characters distinct from anything I’ve ever seen before. Set around the Day of the Dead, where families happily gather to remember their ancestors, it wond … [Read more...]

Another ode to Americana action films

Review of The Expendables 3, Directed by Patrick HughesI was tempted, as an experiment in criticism, to write a review of The Expendables 3 before I even saw the film, just to see how much I’d have to revise it.As it turns out, I wouldn’t have had to do much. The third installment of the Expendables sticks to the tried and true formula of the previous ones, which embody the formula of the American action movie to a tee.At this point, I could go on for a couple hundred words about how … [Read more...]