The Revenant’s Brutal World

Review of The Revenant, Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez IñárrituThe Revenant is steeped in a thick nihilism. It is much more than a story of man versus wild. It is an engrossing vision of man as part of the wild. Man is not above nature, but under it.Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and his hunting team leaves him in the care of John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Bridger (Will Poulter), and Glass’s son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), as the rest of the team moves on. Da … [Read more...]

Ignore The Signal, It Means Nothing

Review of The Signal, Directed by William Eubank A cross between District 9, The Blair Witch Project, and X-Files, this new sci-fi thriller tries and fails to create something inventive. Nic Eastman (Brenton Thewaites), Jonah Breck (Beau Knapp), and Haley Peterson (Olivia Cooke) are three friends in the long tradition of trios--Nic and Haley are intimate while Jonah plays the lovable third wheel. The three MIT students are taking a road trip to drop Haley off in California for what appears … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

Not Loving This Enemy

Enemy, directed by Denis VilleneuveMen staring. Women naked but for stiletto heels. And, oddly, a tarantula on stage. A woman’s shoe lowers over it, cautiously at first, then strikes to kill.Apparently for some people such a scene is erotic, but for me and I suspect many others, it was just downright creepy. Also, it didn’t make sense. And that pretty much sums up the entirety of the film Enemy, from its arachnoid opening scene until — well, the ending was even creepier, but I won’t give it … [Read more...]

Gravity Soars

Review of Gravity, Directed by Alfonso CuaronWhat makes any work of art good? Years ago I had the opportunity to tour Europe. After weeks of walking through the Louvre, the British Museum, the Vatican, the Pergamon, the Acropolis, Topkapi Palace, the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, and more, I noticed something about virtually all art before the 19th century. Whether it was a painting, a sculpture, a frieze, or a building, it was about something: religion, war, victory, death, the … [Read more...]

Jack Ryan, God, and the Cold War

Jack Ryan: The Shadow Recruit, directed by Kenneth Branaghby Jeff GenotaIt's a cold January evening in Washington. I step into the breeze atop the Georgetown hill. Looking upwards, one can see the Russian tricolor and its storied embassy in the backdrop. Downhill, the towering Washington monument keeps me in place. I feel that lurking around me the Cold War was still raging, or at least my body warring against the cold with my tan overcoat. I look over my shoulder, left and right; to … [Read more...]

This Week on Sleepy Hollow: Family Matters

Review of Sleepy Hollow, Episode 10Did Ichabod Crane have a son? If so, why did his wife Katrina keep it secret? Can Denethor help him answer these questions? Will Ichabod survive the trip to Purgatory (or Limbo, I forget which) to confront his wife and ask for answers? And that's just the first five minutes of the episode!This week's 'Christmas' episode was, appropriately enough, all about families. Ichabod's family, Orlando Jones's family, Abbie Mills's family, and even the Sin Eater's … [Read more...]

Captain Phillips: Piracy, Courage, and Studies in Leadership

Captain Phillips, Directed by Paul GreengrassPaul Greengrass previously directed The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), the latter two installments in the Matt Damon spy thriller trilogy.  The Bourne movies enjoy an implausibly high critical and popular reception—the last of them won 3 Oscars, has a spot in IMDB’s list of the best movies of all time, and has a 94 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com.  To me, having read the books by Robert Ludlum of the same name, the mo … [Read more...]