Hollywood’s hidden Christmas gems

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 What makes a compelling Christmas movie—the season, the music, the characters? Maybe it is something else entirely.The question of what makes a movie ideal for Christmas, the day we commemorate and celebrate Jesus’ birth, is subjective. It often depends completely on the audience—among my Facebook friends, for instance, the 1988 thriller Die Hard came out as an unlikely favorite when I recently posted this question. But come to think of it, John McTiernan’s action movie starrin … [Read more...]

‘Fury’ fuels the ‘war is hell’ mentality without shining fresh light on it

From left: Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal in "Fury" (CNS/Columbia Pictures)

"Fury" is writer/director David Ayer's latest action film, moving from city streets ("Street Kings," "S.W.A.T.") to the battlefields of World War II. Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) commands a five-man crew on a tank named "Fury." Their assignment is to join with three other tank units and first take one German town, then move on to take a crossroads and hold it. It is after the landing at Normandy -- many men have been killed, yet they must go on and do their jobs. The fifth man on the … [Read more...]

‘Left Behind’ or lost in space?

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The remake of the 2000 film "Left Behind" is based on the first of 12 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. This new film is a watered-down and somewhat changed version of the earlier movie with a bigger budget and not much else. There is barely enough undercooked scriptural theology to critique in the vacuous writing and painful acting. However, it offers an opportunity to explore dispensationalism, a popular way of interpreting the Book of Revelation, an idea that never comes … [Read more...]

‘The Heart of the Story: Storytelling in a Digital Age’

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  Here is a link to a presentation I gave at the Communicators for Women Religious (CWR, formerly the NCNWR) conference last week in Long Beach.Click hereHere is the description for the presentation:How shall we tell our stories in the age when traditional and new media converge are creating new languages that in turn create new networks, communities and contested discourse? What are the key elements to craft our stories and to mediate those produced by the … [Read more...]

“Faith-based vs. faith-filled in Hollywood: Is there a difference?” Guest post by Fr. Eddie Siebert, SJ

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This is a "guest post" x two actually because it is my friend and Catholic media colleague Jesuit Father Eddie Siebert's weekly column for the National Catholic Reporter online and I want to share it here.The article explores faith-based programming and people of faith working in TV and film. Eddie features an interview I had with writer/musician/producer and show creator of such favorites as "Judging Amy," "Joan of Arcadia." and now "Madam Secretary".Enjoy!______"Faith-based vs. … [Read more...]

‘The Giver’ what happens when we destroy what makes us human

Jeff Bridges, left, and Brenton Thwaites star in "The Giver" (©The Weinstein Company)

 The word "dystopian" has always intrigued me. The easy definition is that it means "anti-utopian," but it sets up too facile a dichotomy because life never reaches the utopian ideal except in dreams, books and movies. If anything, dystopian means post-apocalyptic, which most often brings us into the realm of science fiction. A once acceptable world, however imperfect, has self-destructed or suffered destruction from outside forces, or a combination of the two. Whatever is left is … [Read more...]

“Korengal” Same valley, same soldiers, different story

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 One of the loglines for Sebastian Junger’s latest documentary film “Korengal” is: “Same valley, same soldiers. Different journey” while another reads: “This is what war feels like.”In one way “Korengal” completes the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” that Junger made with cameraman, photojournalist Tim Hetherington who died in 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya. But as Junger expresses it, “’Restrepo’ was intended to be a way for civilians to experience what combat … [Read more...]

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” returns to familiar franchise themes

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   Somehow, I think the Transformers franchise started a trend in "look" even to Noah's prehistoric giants.The violence inherent in all the images is more troublesome.   I have always liked the X-Men film franchise. This most recent installment, again directed by Bryan Singer, revisits themes of predestination and free will, courage and hope, intolerance of "the other",  abuse of power, consequences of atomic bomb fallout (but … [Read more...]

‘Amazing Spider-Man 2′ explores complex themes (but bring ear plugs)

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 Of all the comic-book-turned-into-movie superheroes, Spider-Man has always been my favorite. Despite the launch of this new franchise in 2012 with director Marc Webb at the helm, my favorite film about the araneae homo is Sam Raimi's 2004 "Spider-Man 2." It's one of the best interpretations of creator Stan Lee's teenage hero as a young man of character and virtue.Ten years later, we have "The Amazing Spider-Man 2: The Rise of Electro," and the title says almost everything about … [Read more...]


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