Still Alice: Memory and the self-made woman

Review of Still Alice, Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash WestmorelandThe premise of Still Alice is remarkable simple: a woman gets early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But it is also remarkably compelling – something like a holiday family movie meets Memento – and the result is both heart-warming and frightening. Memory holds our own subjective, individual world together. It gives us our sense of identity and grounds our relationships. Without it, is there anything of us left?As the film u … [Read more...]

The Top 20 Films of 2014

1. The ImmigrantThe grace of God at work in the lives of the oppressed and the oppressor. Marion Cotillard is an immigrant and Joaquin Phoenix the man who takes advantage of her. But there are larger forces at work. Director James Gray’s most beautiful film is about a woman whose faith is tested but who perseveres and somehow finds a way to hope. The payoff is marvelous. 2. SnowpiercerJoon Ho Bong’s sci-fi story of earth’s last survivors riding around the planet on a train is quite a trip … [Read more...]

Unbroken by Jesus

Review of Unbroken, Directed by Angelina Jolie“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.” — Mark TwainAngelina Jolie, who directed World War II-flick Unbroken, and the Coen brothers, who wrote the script, had a lot to live up to. The book on which it was based is breathtaking. Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction narrative was a tantalizing read, full of high-speed action, glorious detail, comic romps and historical context — al … [Read more...]

Exodus: God versus Man

Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings, Directed by Ridley ScottAs with other Old Testament epics making its way to the big screen (think Darren Aronofsky’s Noah), we should not expect much from Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings in way of biblical accuracy. My rule of thumb is to take it for what it is and hope for the best that biblical themes are present.Overall, Scott’s take on the story of the exodus hits all the major plot points in the biblical narrative, with the expected crowd … [Read more...]

The Imitation Game: Decently likable, terribly trite

Review of The Imitation Game, Directed by Morten TyldumIn The Imitation Game, a brilliant mathematician sits before a detective and spills out his life story. The mathematician repeatedly urges the detective (and viewers) to “pay attention,” and not to “judge until it’s over.” The mathematician turns out to be Alan Turing, the man given most of the credit for breaking the German Enigma code during World War II, who was also openly homosexual. Certainly, his is a fascinating story. Certainly, … [Read more...]

The Imitation Game: A war story for the 21st century

Review of The Imitation Game, Directed by Morten TyldumAfter the hit BBC TV series Sherlock and last year’s The Fifth Estate, The Imitation Game shows that whenever the silver screen needs a brilliant, troubled, eccentric protagonist, Benedict Cumberbatch will be there to play the part. In this case he portrays Alan Turing, the World War II-era British mathematician tasked with cracking the Nazi Enigma machine. As a professor, Turing evaluates his life accomplishments by comparing them to Al … [Read more...]

Interstellar rages against the dying of the light

Review of Interstellar, Directed by Christopher NolanIn true Christopher Nolan fashion, Interstellar delivers a story unlike anything we have ever heard. It follows certain cinematic tropes, of course, finding a comfortable place in the sci-fi genre, but even after last year’s outer-space hit Gravity, and even given the cultural prevalence of Star Wars and Star Trek, Interstellar charts its own course. It is the closest thing our generation will have to a 2001: A Space Odyssey.The film a … [Read more...]

A Gift From Heaven, but Only for a Short Time

A Review of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Directed by Isao TakahataShe arrives unexpectedly in a glowing piece of bamboo in the middle of a forest, and she brings joy to the lives of an older couple.“Heaven must have sent her to me as a blessing,” declares the bamboo cutter who finds her. The child is so small she fits in the cupped hands of the bamboo cutter, but she begins to grow quickly.There’s magic all around in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and the film—based on a 10th ce … [Read more...]

The Book of Life: Brilliant artistic imagination clashes with blasé humor

Review of The Book of Life, Directed by Guillermo del ToroThe Book of Life is one of those films that should have been quite good. The components are there. Producer Guillermo Del Torro’s brilliant visual imagination is clearly evident. Stylistically it is a mashup of Spongebob Squarepants and Toy Story, full of charismatic puppet-like characters distinct from anything I’ve ever seen before. Set around the Day of the Dead, where families happily gather to remember their ancestors, it wond … [Read more...]

Where Perfection Is the Standard and Grace Is in Short Supply

Review of Whiplash, Directed by Damien Chazelle Watching Whiplash, the new film from writer/director Damien Chazelle, you may feel, for a time, like you’re experiencing déjà vu. An aspiring talent—in this case, a jazz drummer named Andrew, played by Miles Teller—delights when a revered teacher (Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons) takes him under his wing. The mentor challenges the student to do more than he ever imagined he could, pushing the student to the point where respect gives way … [Read more...]