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...]

Potent Story Lacks Punch in The Innocents

Recent years have seen a revival of the religious drama that goes beyond the retellings of the birth, life and death of Christ. While Christians have been served stories like Risen and The Young Messiah (both supplementing what we know of the life of Jesus Christ from the best-selling book of all time), not to mention the likes of Heaven Is for Real (based on a best-selling book) or Left Behind (another best-selling book), another set of films from overseas has told stories of believers living … [Read more...]

Les Cowboys Exchanges Indians for Islam

John Ford’s The Searchers, an American classic, sits at #12 on the most recent American Film Institute’s Top 100 American Films list. A Western that explores ethnic hatred and family ties, the film is beloved by critics and highly regarded among fans of the genre.With Les Cowboys, director Thomas Bidegain transplants this American story to France, just before and after the turn of the 21st century. Instead of an uncle pursuing a niece he sees as tainted by her years spent with the Comanches, Le … [Read more...]

The Neon Demon Doesn’t Know When to Quit

A review of The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding RefnRemember Drive, the stylish 2011 film about a stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who falls for a woman whose husband is in prison? Driven by a moody electronic score from composer Cliff Martinez, the 2011 film was moving but was also marked by outbursts of violence that weren’t easy to shake.Refn followed Drive two years later with another project starring Gosling. Provocatively titled Only God Forgives, it again played the Cannes Film F … [Read more...]

Sunset Song Sure Is Something to See

Review of Sunset Song, Directed by Terrence DaviesChristian audiences have long asked for moral stories undergirded by strong, Biblical values. The impulse for such stories has given rise to an industry of Christian films aimed at evangelical audiences and built around explicit gospel pitches. As art, the films have largely failed, in part because the message is presented at the expense of artful storytelling.That’s why audiences interested in tales with moral themes are so often drawn to o … [Read more...]

Last Days in the Desert offers portrait of Jesus the man

Review of Last Days in the Desert, Directed by Rodrigo GarcíaSPOILERSIf there’s one thing writer and director Rodrigo García’s “Last Days in the Desert” is not, it’s preachy. Simple in scope and setting, the film tells an extra-biblical story of Jesus’s encounter with an isolated family during his 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness. Here we find a portrait of Jesus as man qua man – probably too much of a man for most Christians’ tastes. This Jesus (played compellingly by … [Read more...]

Jazz Biopic Battle Goes to Baker

Reviews of Born to Be Blue, Directed by Robert Budreau, and Miles Ahead, Directed by Don CheadleIn the late 1980s, I used my transition to college as an excuse to explore music beyond the heavy metal and hard rock of my teens.Jazz reissues on CD were about to become a booming sector of the music market, and having played trumpet earlier in life, I wanted to explore the genre. When I mentioned my need of guidance to a music-store clerk, he directed me to a then-new Chet Baker double-CD, … [Read more...]

With ‘Knight of Cups,’ Have We Already Seen the Best Film of 2016?

Review of Knight of Cups, Directed by Terrence Malick“I think [Christian Bale is] really playing Everyman. We all get lost. …[Director Terrence Malick has] always found importance in people that are suffering, and I think that’s part of the spiritual side of him. I think this film is very spiritual.”—Jack Fisk, Production Designer, Knight of Cups, in conversation with Michael Sragow for Film Comment“I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul … [Read more...]

Eddie the Eagle takes flight, but doesn’t quite soar

Review of Eddie the Eagle, Directed by Dexter FletcherEddie the Eagle tells the story of “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton), the British Olympic ski-jumper of the 1988 Calgary games who fulfilled his lifelong dream of competing in the Olympic games. As is the case with many biopics, the story is heavily fictionalized. It is the film’s retelling of the story of Eddie the Eagle that I aim to critique here.As a character, you can’t help but love Eddie – the nerdy, chaste, teetotaler who always … [Read more...]