Kubo and the Two Strings Strikes a Masterful Chord

The summer of 2016 hasn’t been a great one at the movies, but just when the season should be ending with its customary August whimper of castoff titles aiming for one- or two-weekend cash grabs, it’s showing signs of life. Not only is adult fare like Hell and High Water getting raves from critics, but Disney’s live-action Pete’s Dragon has given families something they can enjoy together.To be fair, kids have had their share of summer movies this year. Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets d … [Read more...]

Potent Story Lacks Punch in The Innocents

Recent years have seen a revival of the religious drama that goes beyond the retellings of the birth, life and death of Christ. While Christians have been served stories like Risen and The Young Messiah (both supplementing what we know of the life of Jesus Christ from the best-selling book of all time), not to mention the likes of Heaven Is for Real (based on a best-selling book) or Left Behind (another best-selling book), another set of films from overseas has told stories of believers living … [Read more...]

Les Cowboys Exchanges Indians for Islam

John Ford’s The Searchers, an American classic, sits at #12 on the most recent American Film Institute’s Top 100 American Films list. A Western that explores ethnic hatred and family ties, the film is beloved by critics and highly regarded among fans of the genre.With Les Cowboys, director Thomas Bidegain transplants this American story to France, just before and after the turn of the 21st century. Instead of an uncle pursuing a niece he sees as tainted by her years spent with the Comanches, Le … [Read more...]

AFI DOCS Highlight Life, Death and Industries Struggling to Survive

The American Film Institute (AFI)—launched by Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to "enrich and nurture the art of film in America"—is probably best known today for its list of the Top 100 American films (issued back in 2007) or its annual list of the year’s best films. But for those of us who live near the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Md., AFI has become one of the great champions of nonfiction filmmaking.Having rebranded its Silverdocs festival a few years ago as AFI DOCS, the institute showc … [Read more...]

The Neon Demon Doesn’t Know When to Quit

A review of The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding RefnRemember Drive, the stylish 2011 film about a stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who falls for a woman whose husband is in prison? Driven by a moody electronic score from composer Cliff Martinez, the 2011 film was moving but was also marked by outbursts of violence that weren’t easy to shake.Refn followed Drive two years later with another project starring Gosling. Provocatively titled Only God Forgives, it again played the Cannes Film F … [Read more...]

A Peculiar Book

Review of A Peculiar Glory by John PiperJohn Piper's A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal their Complete Truthfulness is unlike any other book I've read on the subject of whether or not the Bible is reliable and accurate. More traditional approaches like those of F.F. Bruce, Josh McDowell, or Richard Bauckham argue that Scriptures are historically correct because they stand all the tests for accuracy that honest historians can throw at them. The problem in this approach should … [Read more...]

Sunset Song Sure Is Something to See

Review of Sunset Song, Directed by Terrence DaviesChristian audiences have long asked for moral stories undergirded by strong, Biblical values. The impulse for such stories has given rise to an industry of Christian films aimed at evangelical audiences and built around explicit gospel pitches. As art, the films have largely failed, in part because the message is presented at the expense of artful storytelling.That’s why audiences interested in tales with moral themes are so often drawn to o … [Read more...]

The Meddler: Interview with Lorene Scafaria

Review of The Meddler, Directed by Lorene ScafariaOn one level, “The Meddler” is simply a warm-hearted indie comedy about a meddling widow. For writer and director Lorene Scafaria, however, it is the product of one of the most difficult experiences of her life. The film is a fictionalized autobiography based heavily on her own experience of losing her father and the family struggles that follow. But while “The Meddler” starts from a place of loss and alienation - the passing of a father and a h … [Read more...]

Last Days in the Desert offers portrait of Jesus the man

Review of Last Days in the Desert, Directed by Rodrigo GarcíaSPOILERSIf there’s one thing writer and director Rodrigo García’s “Last Days in the Desert” is not, it’s preachy. Simple in scope and setting, the film tells an extra-biblical story of Jesus’s encounter with an isolated family during his 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness. Here we find a portrait of Jesus as man qua man – probably too much of a man for most Christians’ tastes. This Jesus (played compellingly by … [Read more...]

Jazz Biopic Battle Goes to Baker

Reviews of Born to Be Blue, Directed by Robert Budreau, and Miles Ahead, Directed by Don CheadleIn the late 1980s, I used my transition to college as an excuse to explore music beyond the heavy metal and hard rock of my teens.Jazz reissues on CD were about to become a booming sector of the music market, and having played trumpet earlier in life, I wanted to explore the genre. When I mentioned my need of guidance to a music-store clerk, he directed me to a then-new Chet Baker double-CD, … [Read more...]