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...]

Timbuktu Rejects Jihadism

A Review of Timbuktu, Directed by Abderrahmane SissakoImage: Attached, from the Cohen Media press materials page atTimbuktu, one of the current Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film, is a study in religious extremism. A story about Muslims, the film—the first ever nominated from Mauritania—is a quietly persuasive work about the destructive effects of jihadism. The story’s context is Muslim culture, but application can be made to other forms of strict, letter-of-the-law obedience that delig … [Read more...]

Moral Discussions Engage in “Winter Sleep”

Review of Winter Sleep, Directed by Nuri Bilge CeylanWriter-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest film, Winter Sleep, is rolling out slowly in North American markets. Despite winning the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this talky, three-hour-and-16-minute drama from Turkey is challenging fare even for the North American arthouse crowd. But like last year’s 250-minute Norte: The End of History from the Philippines, Winter Sleep is a deeply engaging moral drama and rich cinematic … [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...]

Ida Packs Guilt, Pain and Faith Into 80 Minutes

Review of Ida, Directed by Pawel PawlikowskiIda has no time to waste. The first 10 minutes of its 80-minute running time lay out the key elements of its story and establish its two main characters. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young nun in training in the early 1960s at a Poland convent when she’s ordered to visit her only living relative. Her Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), whom Ida has never met, greets her at the door to her home, invites her in and quickly explains to Anna that her real na … [Read more...]

Museum Hours Teach Art and Life

Review of Museum Hours, Directed by Jem CohenMuseum Hours is an illustration of how to appreciate art and the lessons it offers. A Canadian woman named Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara) finds herself in Austria to attend to a hospitalized cousin who is in a coma. On her initial search for the hospital, Anne enters the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna looking for directions. She finds the answers from the elderly Johann (Bobby Sommer), one of the museum’s security guards. A friendship blossoms as … [Read more...]

Like Father, Like Son a Valentine’s Day Gift for Film Lovers

Like Father, Like Son, directed by Hirokazu Kore-edaBy Christian HamakerWhat kind of love story do you like to watch on Valentine’s Day? A lighthearted story in which a man and woman meet cute, fall in love, break up and then find a way back together? A three-hankie weeper in which one of the lovers dies? A standard rom-com that doesn’t challenge you but delivers exactly what you want? Stories of love and loss come in different shapes and sizes. This last Valentine’s Day weekend brings a … [Read more...]

The Past Sneaks Up on You

The Past, directed by Asghar FarhadiTwo years ago, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. A beautifully performed film about a troubled marriage, the movie may be most notable for its screenplay, which also received an Oscar nomination.Farhadi’s new film, The Past, tackles a marriage on the rocks that, like A Separation, takes a winding path into unexpected territory. Just when we think we’ve figured out where the film is going, Farhadi twists … [Read more...]

Grandmaster, Your Kungfu is Weak

Review of The Grandmaster, Directed by Wong Kar-waiAs a fan of epic martial arts films, I was thoroughly disappointed by The Grandmaster. The beautiful cinematography and well-choreographed action sequences could not save the film from what can only be described as poor storytelling. This film is not recommended. For those still interested in watching The Grandmaster after the previous sentences, read below.The film tells the story of Ip Man (Tony Leung). Ip Man is the famed popularizer … [Read more...]

Beyond the Hills Joins the List of Great Spiritual Dramas

Review of Beyond the Hills, Directed by Christian MungiuHere’s the bottom line on Beyond the Hills, the new film from Romania’s Christian Mungiu: It’s one of the best religious dramas in recent memory, on par with the great spiritual dramas from Ingmar Bergman in his prime (The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring, The Silence).But like those Bergman films, Beyond the Hills is not designed to comfort. Based on a true story of an exorcism gone wrong, the film is, instead, a study of admirable d … [Read more...]