Blade Runner’s Vision of Hell

Blade Runner: The Final Cut, directed by Ridley ScottWhat is hell like? The Bible gives us images of unquenchable fire and a smoke that goes up forever. But C.S. Lewis opted for a different metaphor in The Great Divorce: a drab town where it is always dark and mostly empty. Hell, in Lewis’ depiction, is a failed city: a place of crowded loneliness and frustrated aspirations.I thought of Lewis’ hell as I rewatched Ridley Scott’s 1981 dystopian masterpiece, Blade Runner. The film takes plac … [Read more...]

Ben-Hur Discovers the Epic Epicness of Grace

Ben-Hur, directed by William WylerBen-Hur (1959) is the epic to end all epics. The most expensive movie of its time, the production hired 100 people just to make the wardrobe and 200 to build its massive sets. Ten thousand extras filled in the background. It cost one-hundred and thirty million dollars to make (in today’s dollars). It received twelve Oscar nominations and was coronated as the best picture of 1959 by the Academy, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs, and is counted the 100th g … [Read more...]

The Godfather’s Justice

The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola“For justice, we must go to Don Corleone.”The appeal of Vito Corleone is his love of family, his passion for justice, his hard work and up-by-your-bootstraps ethic, and his dislike of unnecessary murder. The Godfather is a kindly uncle, a benevolent papa who showers his closest family with his protection, with gifts, and with the wit and charm of his presence. We love Vito because we want to believe he is, at heart, just a lovable big daddy.We … [Read more...]

A Vertiginous Horror

Review of Vertigo, Directed by Alfred HitchcockAlfred Hitchcock made famous movies, lots of them. Four of his films are on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest movies of all time; five on BFI’s list, six on Roger Ebert’s, and nine on IMDB.com’s. Volumes have been written about the man and his movies, and a movie has been made about the man making his movies. His stuff has become so iconic that it has entered into the cultural atmosphere. Even if you have never seen it, you know the … [Read more...]

No Savior for the Raging Bull

Review of Raging Bull, directed by Martin ScorseseIf tragedy is the story of a noble man undone by a singular flaw, Raging Bull is no tragedy: Jake LaMotta is ignoble--obsessive, jealous, mean, petty, insecure, violent, and ungrateful. His downfall--the story of Raging Bull, based on his true-life memoir--is the simple function of what a terrible person he is, not of a tragic flaw in an otherwise admirable character. That such a film could be made and be so universally admired suggests that … [Read more...]

Come stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel

Every once in a while I run across a film that I don’t understand - and frankly, don’t even see the point of - yet still find immensely enjoyable. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films.Set somewhere in a fictionalized European nation called the Republic of Zubrowka circa 1932, The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the story of Zero, a young orphan from a war-torn country who lands a job as a bell hop in The Grand Budapest Hotel. It flows something like a storybook, with pl … [Read more...]

Everyone who has ever loved Legos should see this movie

Review of The LEGO Movie, Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher MillerThe LEGO Movie begins just a few clicks away from facepalm status with a series of childish comedy-laced scenes that make us think “Oh please, not another hour and a half of this!” The cliché jokes start immediately: “Of course there’s a prophecy,” which is true “because it rhymes.” The bad guy is named “Lord Business,” and our protagonist, Emmet, is a brick-headed construction worker who needs an instruction manual to get … [Read more...]

City Lights: Seeing Past the Surface

Review of City Lights, Directed by Charlie ChaplinThere are two kinds of great movies. There are really old movies that were great in their day but are today museum relics admired by film snobs and nobody else, and there are the kind that people actually enjoy watching. It is the difference between Birth of a Nation (1915) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It is a rare film that was great in its day and still holds attention decades later.Is City Lights (1931) one of them? It is, … [Read more...]

The Lion King: Disney’s Almost Christian Tale

Review of The Lion King, Directed by Roger Allers and Rob MinkoffAs my kids continue to grow up, my wife and I continue to revisit our youths and indulge in a little nostalgia by popping in another Disney classic every few weeks. Then I blog about them. I previously found Snow White lacking, Bambi interesting, and Beauty and the Beast weird. The Lion King (1994) stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is probably the best movie in the Disney opus (not counting Pixar).The Lion King … [Read more...]

Touch of Depravity

Review of Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson WellesOrson Welles started strong. His first movie, Citizen Kane (1941; reviewed here) is sometimes hailed as the greatest movie ever made. Welles, only twenty-six years old when Kane was released, could have enjoyed four or five decades of productive work in Hollywood, akin to the careers of John Ford, Howard Hawks, or Steven Spielberg. Instead, Welles did a handful of documentaries and TV movies accompanied by fewer than a dozen full-length, … [Read more...]