My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro, by Hayao Miyazaki My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is a quiet, calm, beautiful film. There is no dialogue for very long stretches of story while characters explore, watch, and discover—akin to the opening sequence of WALL-e. There is no sass talk, there are no quick cuts, no pop-culture references, and no special effects.  Nothing explodes.  The movie is rated G.  It is a hand-drawn animated film made a quarter-century ago.  I watched it together with my two children, aged 3 and … [Read more...]

The General: A Train Full of Laughs

Review of The General, Directed by Buster KeatonIn our effort to blog our way through the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films, I picked out one of the few movies on the list I had not only not seen, but never even heard of:  The General (1927).  For some reason I expected a somber silent drama about some military officer’s dreary, tragic life.  I think the one-word nondescript title sounds drab and pretentious, so I assumed the movie would be too.The General (available on Netflix stre … [Read more...]

Here’s Looking at You, Casablanca!

Review of Casablanca, Directed by Michael CurtizIt’s December of 1941 in sunny, depressing Casablanca, where refugees flock in an attempt to flee the ravages of Nazi-infested Europe. They flock to Vichy-controlled Casablanca, and there they stay—unless Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) cares to bestow upon them the coveted exit visas that will allow them to catch the plane to Portugal and thence to freedom. These visas are a precious commodity, and Renault is careful only to trade them for … [Read more...]

The Raiders of the Lost Ark Discover That “Our God is a Consuming Fire”

Review of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Directed by Steven SpielbergWhen I was growing up, I read a lot of The Hardy Boys and The Sugar Creek Gang series, adventure stories in which boys solve mysteries, chase bad guys, rescue strangers, discover mysterious caves, explore abandoned mansions, recover exotic artifacts from far off lands, and learn Important Life Lessons along the way.  Much later I learned these were the latest in a long and venerable tradition of boys adventure serials that were … [Read more...]

May the Force Be With You

Review of Star Wars, Directed by George Lucas If you ask a cinephile what his favorite decade was, chances are he will pick the 1970s.  That decade was full of movies that movie lovers love to love--really dark, gritty, tragic, violent movies like A Clockwork Orange (1971), Mean Streets (1793), Taxi Driver (1976), The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974), The Deer Hunter (1978), and Apocalypse Now (1979).  These are movies that reflected their pessimistic times and, film buffs like to cl … [Read more...]

Howl’s Moving Castle

Review of Howl’s Moving Castle, Directed by Hayao MiyazakiRating: 8/10Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of a young woman named Sophie, who owns a hat store in a European-looking town. War is coming to the kingdom. It so happens that Sophie meets Howl, a wizard, and the Witch of the Waste is immediately jealous that Howl seems to have taken an interest in her. The witch is not only Howl’s nemesis, but someone who tried to win his heart in her younger years. The witch casts a curse on Soph … [Read more...]

Robin Williams, Biblical Counselor: Good Will Hunting

Review of Good Will Hunting, Directed by Gus Van SantBy PAUL D. MILLERWill Hunting is preternaturally brilliant, but has a troubled soul. His friends--Chucky, Morgan, and Billy, from Boston’s rough South Side--work menial jobs and pass the time drinking and cursing. Will, while working as a janitor at MIT, stumbles across an impossible math challenge by a legendary professor and he solves it without hesitation. The professor hunts him down to become his mathematical mentor but finds Will … [Read more...]

Gonna Fly Now; Or, the American (Non)Gospel

Review of Rocky, Directed by John D. AvildsenBy ALEXIS NEALI feel a little silly describing the plot of Rocky (1976). Still, I know there may be a few young whippersnappers out there who never sat around on Saturday afternoons watching old action movies on TNT and who thus don’t know who this Sylvester Stallone guy is or why people get so excited when he pops up on their movie screens in otherwise unremarkable films like The Expendables (2010) or the much improved (if unimpressively n … [Read more...]

Django Discusses Race

Review of Django Unchained, Directed by Quentin TarantinoBy KENDRICK KUODjango Unchained is everything you would expect from a Tarantino film. Much in the same vein as Inglorious Basterds, this story is a historical one. Instead of Nazi Germany, it is set in the antebellum South. If you liked Inglorious Basterds, I would reckon you will enjoy Django Unchained—if you can stomach the gore that underlines the brutal world of slavery.Naturally, any film depicting race relations in the U … [Read more...]

Lord of the Rings: A Timeless Trilogy

Review of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Directed by Peter JacksonBy PAUL D. MILLERIt is hard to remember how firmly entrenched the conventional wisdom was that The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable. A disastrous animated attempt in 1978, stuffed full of 70’s cheese, covered just half the story. The film only made $30 million, studio executives refused to fund the planned sequel, and a generation of children were condemned to confusion when the film ends and the ring has not been d … [Read more...]