Words and Pictures: Let the battle of the arts begin!

Words and Pictures, directed by Fred SchepisiThe flirting begins with a word game, where players go through alternating letters of the alphabet and have to think of five-plus syllable words that start with each letter. He, a top-notch prep school English teacher, has the obvious advantage, but she is a stubborn New Yorker, and their back-and-forth of long words like “anti-egalitarianism” punctuates the dialogue as their relationship builds.If you find that scenario at all adorable or app … [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 Heresy of Noah, and why it’s still a good movie

Review of Noah, Directed by Darren Aronofsky Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah has been analyzed and debated ad nauseum by critics and bloggers in Christian circles. I suppose given its biblical source material, everyone felt a need to weigh in. Normally I wouldn’t presume to try to add another voice to a subject so thoroughly flogged (and now ancient history, in internet terms). But there’s a simple way of framing Noah that I have yet to see presented.It is this:The film tells the sto … [Read more...]

Maleficent Love

Review of Maleficent, Directed by Robert StrombergAngelina Jolie makes Maleficent a movie worth watching. And she doesn’t even say very much throughout the film. Her accentuated cheekbones, her cold, creepy stares, the alabaster skin and ruby lips, the careful intonation of each phrase--the whole package keeps you fixated. There is no doubt that without Jolie, Maleficent would not sell, and fortunately both for the studio and for the audiences, the camera stays glued to this complex creature … [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...]

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...]

Best X Ever

X-Men: Days of Future Past, directed by Bryan SingerI imagine the birth of X:Men: Days of Future Past was the result of blatantly cynical studio scheming. Some years ago a bunch of studio executives at Fox probably held a secret huddle to plot the future of the X-Men franchise. The trilogy--including the well-received X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003), and the widely-reviled X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) had been successful, though not spectacularly so, grossing $1.2 billion over three movies. … [Read more...]

Cold Justice in July

Review of Cold in July, Directed by Jim MickleOn a summer night in 1989, Richard Dane (Michael Hall) and his wife Ann (Vinessa Shaw) find themsleves wakened by the sound of a burglar. Richard goes to investigate, gun in hand, and kills a man who the police later say is Freddy Russell. Cold in July is a nicely packaged thriller which goes in a completely unexpected direction. Freddy Russell’s father, Ben (Sam Shephard), recently released on parole, finds his way to the small East Texas town to f … [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...]