By: Michael Parnell
Don't get bogged down over theology when you watch "The Shack," based on the best-seller. It's a movie that speaks to the millions who struggle with unresolved grief. (Photo: Lionsgate)
By: Michael Parnell
"The Founder" reveals an unflattering picture of the American success story. While we idolize folks who make big money, we never ask the hard question of how they made those millions. (Photo: The Weinstein Company)
By: Michael Parnell
Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' may be the most Christian film ever made, but few will see it. The story of two priests in 16th-century Japan, the challenging film isn't for the faint of heart. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
By: Michael Parnell
For a window into our nation's larger history and the role that three extraordinary African-American women played in the space program, "Hidden Figures" is stellar. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
By: Michael Parnell
August Wilson's play, "Fences," is lovingly brought to the screen by actor and director Denzel Washington. This film features some of the best performances of the decade. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
By: Michael Parnell
Writer and director Damien Chazelle reinvigorates the classic Hollywood musical with "La La Land," and his two stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, deliver Oscar-worthy performances. (Photo: Lionsgate)
By: Ircel Harrison
Disney's "Moana" is the story of a strong-willed Polynesian princess teamed up with a mythological demigod, whose story of redemption is one of the animated film's key themes. (Photo: Walt Disney Studios)
By: Michael Parnell
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" tells the saga of what took place before that first Star Wars movie in 1977. It's a rousing film that takes its role seriously as part of a larger whole. (Photo: Disney / Lucasfilm)
By: Michael Parnell
"Loving" tells the story of an interracial couple marrying in 1950s Virginia. Their union violates state law, and they take their battle to the Supreme Court. One of the year's best films. (Photo: Focus Features)
By: Ircel Harrison
Thoughtful science fiction films are few and far between. 'Arrival' is one such rare gem. In this close encounter, we're challenged by what it means to communicate with those who are different from us. (Photo: Paramount)
By: Michael Parnell
The newest comic-book movie on the block, "Doctor Strange," introduces the topic of the spiritual into the Marvel Universe. While serviceable, it tries too hard to cram too much into the story. (Photo: Marvel)
By: Michael Parnell
"The Birth of a Nation" may have its flaws, but it tells an important story about a preacher to the slave community who can no longer preach submission and calls his fellow slaves to rise up. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
By: Michael Parnell
Is 'The Magnificent Seven' a great movie? Not by a long shot, but it's not a bad movie either. And even a bad Western is generally better than most good movies. (Photo: MGM)
By: Michael Parnell
With payday lenders putting people into indentured servanthood, "Hell or High Water" follows two brothers doing wrong things for what seems to be the right reason. (Photo: CBS Films)
By: Alan Cross
"The Free State of Jones" tells the story of the Mississippi rebel who fought against the Confederacy. When you know your ancestors may have been among the bad guys, it's a heartbreaking tale. (Photo: STX Entertainment)
By: James Gordon
"Eye in the Sky" is a powerful exploration of the moral wilderness that is modern high-tech warfare. At the film's heart is a child, whose life hangs in the balance. (Photo: Bleecker Street)
By: Joe LaGuardia
Although the plot seems recycled from "A New Hope," the blockbuster "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is a rousing tale that reminds us of our own uncertainties. (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.)
By: Ircel Harrison
'Trumbo,' a film about a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, reminds us how easily we turn on those who are different from us. It's particularly interesting in light of our current political climate. (Photo: Bleeker Street Media)
By: Jerrod Hugenot
Veteran actor Ian McKellen portrays an elderly Sherlock Holmes in "Mr. Holmes," a film that revolves around memory and the way we tell our stories. It has some lessons for the church. (Photo: Roadside Attractions)
By: James Gordon
With the same winning ingredients as its predecessor, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" offers an amusing and poignant reminder that growing older has its positives. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
By: Courtney Pace Lyons
We need movies that show the horrors of our history in plain view. We need movies that stir our souls, quicken our heartbeats and empower our feet to take steps for change. "Selma" delivers. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
By: Cliff Vaughn
Ridley Scott can't or won't shake faith on film, but one thing seems certain: "Exodus" works best when it's about Scott's artistry, not Moses' theology - imagined or otherwise. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
By: Brock Ratcliff
The new "Godzilla" does not disappoint. The monsters look great, and the destruction is grand and thorough. This is no mock-up of Tokyo being trampled by a man in a costume. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
By: Roger Olson
Based on the best-seller about the purportedly true story of a 4-year-old's visit to heaven, "Heaven is for Real" is a surprising film, treating evangelical Christianity sympathetically. (Photo: Sony Pictures)
By: Terry Austin
You might enjoy "Noah" if you don't expect a spiritual experience. If you're a big fan of robots and apocalyptic movies, this film may be what you're seeking. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
By: Brock Ratcliff
While "Noah" is an interesting and thought-provoking movie, it is also cumbersome and stretched too thin. The film simply isn't entertaining enough to be worthwhile. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
By: Jon Kuhrt
"12 Years a Slave" is a brilliant yet relentlessly traumatic film that shares a disturbing and epic tale of the way one man survives the kind of injustice that God hates. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
By: Brock Ratcliff
"Saving Mr. Banks" tells the story of Walt Disney's negotiation with the author of "Mary Poppins" for the novel's rights. It's a story about our need for redemption and release. (Photo: Walt Disney Studios)
"The Gatekeepers," a documentary featuring interviews with former heads of Israel's security agency, leaves viewers with a surprising message – peace through friendship. (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
"42," the story of baseball's Jackie Robinson, may not win the best picture, but it will touch something deep within you. And that makes this picture a home run. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Sure, it has its shortcomings, but "Oz the Great and Powerful" tells the origin of The Wizard, a conman transported to a magical land where he soon becomes a messiah. (Photo: Disney)
Based on a true story of a family that survived the tsunami that struck Thailand, "The Impossible" reminds us that we must be willing to share what we have to help others in need. (Photo: Summit Entertainment)
"Zero Dark Thirty," which chronicles the hunt for Osama bin Laden, asks us to consider when seeking justice crosses the line and turns into seeking revenge. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
"Les Miserables" is one of the best illustrations of Christian redemption in recent times, yet the movie has lost the dramatic punch of the original stage musical. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
Ben Affleck's promising trajectory as a director continues in "Argo" as he balances the serious hostage drama with the comic moments of organizing the escape plan. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
The journey in "The Hobbit" just begins when the movie ends, but its story of playing it safe versus seeking adventure is a message many churches need to hear. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Directed by Ang Lee, "Life of Pi" fills the screen with images of depth and wonder. A rare filmmaking marvel in 3-D, it's the story about one man's faith journey. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
Mirroring his 1997 drama "Amistad," Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" explores the lengths to which Lincoln goes to secure votes for the amendment to abolish slavery. (Photo: DreamWorks)
Perhaps too intense for young children, "Wreck-It Ralph" has beautiful animation and an engaging story about a video-game villain who becomes a true game-changer. (Photo: Disney)
Denzel Washington is at the top of his game in "Flight," an unflinching look into the life of a commercial airline pilot who will do or say anything to keep drinking. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
James Bond is not a teacher; his films are not parables. We watch them because they are enormous fun. Agent 007's latest film, "Skyfall," is no exception. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
What would happen if the mob controlled time travel? "Looper" takes viewers on a roller-coaster ride when a hit man has to kill his future self who has traveled back in time. (Photo: Sony Pictures)
"The Master" explores how a damaged man is presented with a religion that claims to be able to help him be whole. Look for it to be one of top Oscar nominees. (Photo: The Weinstein Company)
"ParaNorman," a stop-motion animated film, is about a boy who talks to the dead but has few friends among the living. It's a funny movie with a strong message about forgiveness. (Photo: Focus Features)
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" tells the story of a 6-year-old trying to survive in the days after Katrina. With a powerful performance from its young star, it's a magical movie. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
"The Dark Knight Rises" is a wondrous, wild ride to close Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The Oscar-worthy movie is about so much more than a comic-book hero. (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
Although the origin of Spider-Man was told in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" only a decade ago, "The Amazing Spider-Man" works because it balances its action with a love story. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
"Brave," the new animated tale from Disney and Pixar, tells us that our families are important centers of learning, but the family's wishes do not have to define us. (Photo: Disney/Pixar)
"Prometheus" is a wonderfully shot movie with a lot to say about faith. Still, it's a flawed effort with little character development. Maybe the director's cut will be better. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
Director Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi with "Prometheus" – a far more cerebral exploration about mankind's broader place in the universe than its predecessor, "Alien." (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
"The Avengers" shows how people that do not trust each other overcome their differences, become a team and do a job – in this case, saving the world from an alien invasion. (Photo: Marvel)
The documentary "Street Paper" profiles the most circulated "street newspaper" in the nation and focuses on its vendors, who are either currently or formerly homeless. (Photo: Digital Bohemia)
More than slaps and eye pokes, the original Three Stooges were subversives who revealed the world's hypocrisy. The new movie, however, is "a victim of soicumstance." (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
A newly release documentary, "Holy Rollers," follows an unusual group of professional card-counting blackjack players. They're Christians, and many are pastors. (Photo: HolyRollersTheMovie.com)
Turning "The Lorax" into a full-length movie required a lot of filler that doesn't do justice to Dr. Seuss' original masterpiece. It's another adaptation gone wrong. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
Three teenagers gain telekinetic powers in "Chronicle," an entertaining film that examines what happens when a downtrodden soul has the power to strike back at those who bully him. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
"Undefeated," Oscar winner for best documentary, which follows a high school football team's season, offers as much emotional punch as any fictitious feature film of the genre. (Photo: The Weinstein Company)
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to go to your nearest theater and see "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," one of the best popcorn movies of 2011. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
"War Horse" is a sweet film but not one of Steven Spielberg's better works. The weak link is the writing, which lacks subtlety and too often plays like melodrama. (Photo: DreamWorks)
For all the Hollywood films that glamorize and justify adultery, "The Descendants" instead shows the destructive power of sin – and it's one of 2011's finest flicks. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," the story of an orphan trying to fix a mysterious automaton, is filled with beauty and grace, using 3-D in a remarkable and truly dimensional way. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
"The Muppets" isn't a bad movie; it's just the same old shtick of song-and-dance numbers and celebrity cameos. It's a shame their comeback couldn't have been something fresh and new. (Photo: Disney)
A film that rings true, "Take Shelter" is the story of an Everyman who begins having dreams that foretell bad things. Can he see the future or is he losing touch with reality? (Photo: Sony Pictures Classic)
Heist movies are known for their twists and turns, but "Tower Heist" offers no real surprises. And the scene-stealing star of the movie doesn't appear until the film's half over. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
"Higher Ground" tells the story of a woman's faith struggle as she yearns for something more than her strict fundamentalist faith community is willing to give her. (Photo: Sony Pictures Classic)
"Real Steel" is not an original story but it has the stuff that entertains audiences: the underdog who gets the opportunity of a lifetime, and a father-son relationship with potential. (Photo: DreamWorks SKG)
Using The New York Times as a lens, "Page One" is an engaging and illuminating documentary that explores what's happening to the newspaper business. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)
"Moneyball" is more than a movie about baseball and statistics. It's about what happens when someone tries to breathe life into an old institution and how some people resist that change. (Photo: Columbia TriStar)
Going back and forth between 1997 and the days after World War II, "The Debt" tells the tale of a trio pursuing a Nazi war criminal, but the muddled motivations of the characters make this film fall short. (Photo: Miramax)
(RNS) Don’t believe most of what you’ll hear about Kevin Smith’s new movie, “Red State.”
"Another Earth" is a film about regret and remorse. The sci-fi movie is a small personal story about a young girl's desire to find redemption and forgiveness for and from herself. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
Based on the best-seller, "The Help," which examines the lives of African-American maids working for white families in the '60s, is a sugar-coated film that glosses over the real dangers of the time. (Photo: DreamWorks)
While "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" doesn't follow the history laid out in the original films, it's a good summer movie that pulls you into its story through Caesar, an ape with remarkable abilities. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
"Gospel Without Borders," the new documentary from EthicsDaily.com, challenges viewers to look at the immigration issue through eyes of faith and step outside hyperpartisan and vitriolic viewpoints.
"Captain America" is another rousing superhero story from the Marvel Comics universe and brings us one film closer to the cinematic debut of "The Avengers." (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
The Harry Potter film franchise comes to a satisfying end with "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" as the "boy who lived" faces insurmountable evil with courage and love as his weapons. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
With its unresolved story, "The Tree of Life" is a movie that few will like. However, its mystical reflection and stunning visuals are like taking in the Grand Canyon. Anything you say feels inadequate. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
While "Cars 2" may have missed the mark compared to Pixar's other superb movies, the animated sequel is still a fun summer flick that will appeal to all ages. (Photo: Disney/Pixar)
Ryan Reynolds tries hard to make us like his superhero character, but there's one thing this Green Lantern can't defeat – a bad script. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Paying homage to the movies of Steven Spielberg, "Super 8" is a nostalgic trip back to the '70s about kids who are thrust into a government cover-up while making a zombie movie. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
"X Men: First Class," a prequel to the previous X-Men movies, follows two mutants, Professor X and Magneto, and their strikingly different views of humanity. It's a fine reboot to the franchise. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
Movie sequels are usually watered-down versions of the original, but not "Kung Fu Panda 2" – a movie that asks subtle questions about what it means to live a spiritual life. (Photo: DreamWorks Animation)
The summer movie season launched with "Thor," another adaptation of a Marvel comic-book character. It's an above-average film that doesn't have a deeper message. It just entertains. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
Who wouldn't love a tale about running away and joining the circus? Sadly, with weak characters and a miscast male lead, "Water for Elephants" evaporates into a pedestrian love story. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
"Win Win" features Paul Giamatti as a cash-strapped lawyer who sees a way to make some easy money and break his wrestling team's losing streak. It's another win for director Thomas McCarthy. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
The science-fiction offspring of "Groundhog Day," "Source Code" is a traditional Hollywood movie with a typical Hollywood ending – and that's its undoing. (Photo: Summit Entertainment)
"The Elephant in the Living Room," opening today in 22 cities, is a 95-minute documentary that explores the U.S. subculture of people who keep wild animals for pets. (Photo: Edify Media)
With "True Grit" and now the animated "Rango," the Western is alive and well in Hollywood. And this Western with desert critters is delightfully strange and filled with pop culture references. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
In "The Adjustment Bureau," Matt Damon discovers his life has been scripted to follow a carefully predetermined path. The movie is a nice attempt, but the script needed some adjustments. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
With his right arm pinned down by a boulder in a Utah canyon for five days, James Franco's character in "127 Hours" must come to terms with the grim reality of loss as the path to his life's salvation. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
"The King's Speech" is more than a costume drama about the royals. With a brilliant performance by Colin Firth, it's a film about finding the courage to overcome your fears. (Photo: The Weinstein Company)
The first "True Grit" focused on the legendary John Wayne. This new version by Joel and Ethan Coen focuses on a 14-year-old girl and what she'll do to make things right in a world of sin and loss. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
Featuring a particularly powerful performance by Christian Bale, "The Fighter" is more than a boxing movie. It speaks to us about drug use and the pain it inflicts on families. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
The movie series based on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books comes to an end with the first part of a two-part movie. It's a very mature beginning to the end of a wonderful story. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
"Unstoppable" tells the story of an unmanned freight train speeding into an urban area. It's a fine movie to see when you want to forget about the world and get lost for a time. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
DreamWorks' latest animated feature, "Megamind," takes themes from the Superman mythos, puts them in a blender and hits puree. What comes out is unpalatable. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
While "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," from well-known filmmaker Alex Gibney, is a compelling documentary, one of its main arguments falls short. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)
"Conviction" is the story of a woman's sacrificial quest to exonerate her wrongfully convicted brother. Hilary Swank embodies this working-class woman, who gives all she has for her wayward sibling. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" weaves together three stories about death. While he resolves these stories with sensitivity and warmth, the larger picture of what he's trying to say remains elusive. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Walt Disney has made several sports-themed movies that have been popular box-office winners, but its latest offering, "Secretariat," doesn't win, place or even show. (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
"The Social Network" is a witty and poignant story about the creation of Facebook. Giving us the grand tour of how kids can become billionaires, the film is an early Oscar contender. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
You would think "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" would offer insight into the why and how of our economic collapse. Sadly, the sequel is a sad and weak reflection of its predecessor. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
In "Get Low," the reclusive Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) decides he's going to attend his funeral – alive. The movie reminds us that those we dismiss are people with feelings, longings and truth. (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
"Winter's Bone" is the story of a teen who gives up everything for the sake of two little ones and a mama who knows no better. It is film storytelling in one of its best incarnations. (Photo: Roadside Attractions)
The twists and turns in "Inception" propel it to the finest movie of this summer. Director and writer Christopher Nolan gives us a complex story that has a real heart at its core. (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
Movie villains are often more interesting than heroes. In "Despicable Me," the villain is the star. The bad guy, Gru, is determined to steal the moon and earn his mother's love. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
The documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" follows the show-business legend in her 76th year. The filmmakers deftly capture her insecurity, competitiveness, sensitivity and hard work.
"Toy Story 3" is a bit darker than the other two in the series. While children will love the movie, this is really a parent's film, reminding us that we all must let go. (Photo: Disney/Pixar)
"The A-Team," a remake of the '80s TV series, combines explosive action and genuine humor to make a great popcorn flick, but the language makes it inappropriate for kids. (Photo: Twentieth Century-Fox)
Filmmaker Roger Nygard's new documentary asks people all across the globe "Why do we exist?" What you get is a blitz of beliefs, comments and puzzling sayings about God and existence.
"Prince of Persia" isn't a bad movie. Based on the video game of the same name, it plays like a Western and is a rip-roaring good time, but then logic kicks in. (Photo: Walt Disney Studios)
"Shrek Forever After" lacks the subversive tone of the original, which turned the fairy tale paradigm on its head. The latest sequel is the last gasp of a once-fun movie series. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
"Burma VJ" focuses on the 2007 citizen uprising against Burma's military regime, mixing on-the-ground footage from undercover video journalists with re-enactments. (Photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories)
While lobbyist Jack Abramoff, currently in prison, is the subject of the documentary "Casino Jack," filmmaker Alex Gibney is more interested in the system that enables him. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)
The tale of Robin Hood has been told many times in film. This latest version is plagued by its attempt to update the legend. Sadly, an arrow pierced this story's heart. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
"Iron Man 2" is good but not great. The action movie doesn't meet the original's standards and borders on campiness. However, more than anything else, it does shine because of its actors. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
If you complain that Hollywood doesn't make enough wholesome movies, get in line to see "The Perfect Game" – now. While it's far from a perfect film, the emotional script ultimately lifts the spirit. (Photo: Lionsgate)
A movie like "Date Night" doesn't enhance cinema greatness. It's not even a fantastic must-see movie. But what it does, it does well. You'll laugh and walk away entertained. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
While the animated film "How to Train Your Dragon" is boilerplate storytelling, the film makes up for it with real characters, a sense of humor and a strong message about the pressures faced by teens. (Photo: DreamWorks SKG)
In "The Art of the Steal," a documentary now in theaters, art takes a backseat to politics as director Don Argott spins a suspenseful tale about the fate of a multibillion dollar collection. (Photo: IFC Films)
An Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Most Dangerous Man in America," is worth finding in your community; it goes to the heart of presidential history, national security and the First Amendment. (Courtesy AP photos)
Premiering Palm Sunday on the Lifetime Movie Network, "Amish Grace" examines the forgiveness extended by the Amish community after 10 of their schoolgirls were shot by a non-Amish milkman in 2006.
In "Shutter Island," director Martin Scorsese is at the top of his craft here. Delivering suspense and intrigue akin to Hitchcock, Scorsese gives us a vision not seen in movies for decades. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
"Alice in Wonderland" is a wonderful story, but this latest take on Lewis Carroll's classic implies that the way to become fully woman is to behave like a man. In that respect, this film's a bad dream. (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
"Blood Done Sign My Name" is a mildly disappointing story that's been told many times about a town torn apart by racism. It seems better suited as a TV miniseries rather than a feature film. (Photo: Paladin)
A new best picture will be crowned at the Oscars on March 7. From films about the Iraq War to animation and romantic comedy, here's a look back at 10 of the best films from 2009.
What would a world devoid of faith and religion look like? "The Book of Eli" gives us a glimpse. As Eli, Denzel Washington is a man walking by faith in a post-apocalyptic land with the last Bible. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Settle in with your popcorn and prepare to have your breath taken away by "Avatar," an exhilarating film about an outsider who becomes immersed in an alien culture and becomes its savior.
In "Up in the Air," one of 2009's finest movies, George Clooney plays a corporate hired gun who's more comfortable flying from city to city than dealing with relationships on the ground. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
"Avatar" is a wondrous movie that's worth the extra price to see in 3-D. Director James Cameron immerses moviegoers in a new world in this tale of greed and unbridled desires. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
A new documentary, now airing on ABC-TV stations, features the efforts of some religious bodies to welcome the disabled among us. What message does your place of worship send to the disabled?
Many people won't get "A Serious Man," the Coen brothers' latest film. Based on the story of Job, it's the tale of Larry Gopnik, who seeks answers as his life crashes down around him. (Photo: Focus Features)
"Precious" takes us into a world that is not too far from where we live but we don't often see. It's an unrelenting film about an overweight pregnant teen trying to survive a living hell while craving to be loved. (Photo: Lionsgate)
In this hour-long documentary, a speaker and his PowerPoint make the case for the specific celestial event that he believes was what magi from the east were tracking at Jesus' birth. (Inset: thestarofbethlehemmovie.com)
Based on the popular book, “New Moon,” the “Twilight” sequel, is a fun film of total escapism. But newcomers beware. This is no entry point film if you’re new to the franchise. (Photo: Summit Entertainment)
Based on a true story about a homeless African-American youth taken in by a wealthy white couple, "The Blind Side" is a satisfying film that reminds us of the importance of saving one soul. (Photo: Ralph Nelson)
Director Robert Zemeckis creates visual magic in the latest theatrical version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Once again, we see Ebenezer Scrooge learn that anyone can find redemption. (Photo: Disney Pictures)
Following the path of his other films, including "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," Roland Emmerich's "2012" is template storytelling that revels in annihilation, obliteration, devastation. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
Spike Jonze directs a movie about the foibles of family. It's an honest film about a boy trying to find his way in the world, longing for what should be but stuck with what is. (Photo: Warner Brothers Pictures)
Set in a world where no one tells a lie, "The Invention of Lying" is a comedy that works at times. However, its myopic observations about religion and personal faith are offensive. (Photo: Warner Brothers Pictures)
"Ready to Forgive," a documentary airing on ABC-TV stations over the next two months, focuses on the ability of the Acholi people of Northern Uganda to forgive their own after more than 20 years of conflict.
"Whip It" offers something that's rare in Hollywood movies – strong, confident female characters. It's a nice movie about a young woman who finds her voice in the roller derby rink. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
"9" is an ambitious and beautiful movie. Its makers try to say something about humanity's flirtation with technology and the danger it presents. Sadly, the storytelling suffers. (Photo: Focus Features)
Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" is about death and redemption as well as the loss of an American way of life. It's theological and timely given our age of rage against people of color.
"G.I. Joe" may be the victim of hyperbole with a claim that it's "the worst movie." Granted, it's clearly silly and not for kids under 10, but it has a theme about family. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
When the American Film Institute reconsiders its list of best romantic comedies, "500 Days of Summer" should take its place as the best of this decade. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
"G-Force" is not a great movie. While the target audience of tweens will find it entertaining, too many plot holes exist for adult viewers. (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
The one-liners fly off the screen like rapid-fire artillery in the political satire "In the Loop," leaving you laughing so hard till you realize its absurdity is grounded in reality. (Photo: Nicola Dove, IFC Films)
While multiplexes are filled with explosions, floating houses and pubescent wizards, "Away We Go" is a funny and reflective look at parenting and child-rearing. (Photo: Focus Features)
If you've not seen any of the Harry Potter movies so far, don't try to jump into the series with "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." You'll never get up to speed. (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" blows up real good – and that's about it. With plot holes large enough to drive Optimus Prime through, this sequel should be avoided at all costs. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
No one likes tyrannical editor-in-chief Margaret Tate in the romantic comedy "The Proposal," especially her downtrodden assistant, Andrew. Yet in a plot that can happen only in the movies, we know these two must get together. (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)
Disney/Pixar's new movie, "Up," is an answer to the complaint that there's nothing good in the movies. People wonder why they just don't make an old-fashioned movie like they used to. "Up" is that movie. Don't miss it.
Three years after the original hit the theaters, the entire gang is back for "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." Sequels rarely surpass originals, but this one proves a worthy follow-up. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" isn't a bad movie, but it's not a good one either. Its high point is Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart, who brings a breath of fresh air to the staleness of the musty old museum air.
Oscar-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite (seated) stars in 'The Age of Stupid,' which combines drama and documentary to explore consequences of humanity's current behavior. (Photo: Spanner Films)
In a good thriller, you have to help your audience buy into the story's premise. Although Ron Howard knows how to make a good thriller, "Angels and Demons" strains under the weight of too much narrative baggage. (Photo: Sony Pictures)
"Star Trek" is a movie about the marking of family. It is the telling of how the iconic 1960s television characters James T. Kirk and Spock come to be friends and what the forces were behind that friendship. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
Anyone who's read Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" or seen any of its cinematic variations knows exactly how "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is going to end. You can only hope the journey will be worth the predictable destination. It isn't. (Photo: Warner Brothers)
Friendships are messy things. It’s neater to tell other people how to fix their lives or to find someone else to clean up those problems. But, as “The Soloist” reveals, if you want to make a difference in someone’s life, be prepared to embrace the mess.
"Cities of Light" is a 47-minute documentary showing how Islamic Spain bloomed—as a result of interfaith cooperation, the documentary argues—while Europe lay in the Dark Ages. (Photo: Unity Productions Foundation)
The struggle between getting the story right and getting it first is at the heart of “State of Play,” a journalistic thriller starring Russell Crowe. With daily newspapers closing their doors or shifting to online editions, the theme merited greater exploration. (Photo: Universal Pictures)
“Monsters vs. Aliens” wants to recreate the vibe of Looney Tunes and the social consciousness of those ’50s science fiction/horror movies, but it misses. The jokes are not that funny and the gags are hackneyed.
The relentless stories of abuse mirror the dread that missionaries’ kids, some as young as 5, experienced for nine months at a time, hundreds of miles away from their missionary parents.
Clint Eastwood is one of our great directors, but this is not one of his great movies. It's good, but not satisfying.
One can watch Oliver Stone's 'W.' and think that Stone is trying to tell a Greek tragedy. Much here sounds like Oedipus, but the story works from a different point of reference.
The challenge of losing weight is a staple of American reality television. Shows like "The Biggest Loser" and "Celebrity Fit Club" revolve around weight loss, while others like "Supernanny" or "Wife Swap" have included their share of fitness and healthy eating storylines.
"Islam in America" doesn't get distracted by the deep-seated fear and hatred that exists between the United States and other parts of the world. No--"Islam in America" is about another Abrahamic faith community on these shores.
Set in modern-day Mumbai, Jamal (Dev Patel) has answered all but the last question on the popular game show. He's now in the hands of the police, who torture him trying to find out how he cheated.
“Watchmen,” based on a best-selling graphic novel, tells a story that is based in an alternate history, but with overtones in current events.
“Coraline” is the most visually stimulating movie I have seen. It ranks with any that Pixar or Dreamworks have produced.
Kate Winslett, nominated for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars, gives a remarkable performance. She is restrained emotionally in moments seemingly requiring emotion, but passionate in passionless moments.
Mickey Rourke is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar this year. And well he should. No actor in recent memory shows more physicality and pathos. He is beaten down and you see the pain, but you also see the hope for redemption on his face.
It is hard to watch “Milk” and not be struck by sinfulness. There is the sin of sexual promiscuity and drug use, but also the sin of intolerance.
I found “Gran Torino” both compelling and theologically interesting. Eastwood's character is Walt Kowalski, a Korean war vet and Ford Motor Company retiree who in many ways is still fighting those wars (he hates his Hmong neighbors; he loathes his son's affiliation with Toyota).
An earlier column at EthicsDaily.com spoke of this movie from a Catholic point of view. Phyllis Zagano believes this movie paints a caricature of the Catholic Church and that it speaks doubtfully about religion, the church and God. My opinion is much different.
How important are lace-up shoes for men? According to Richard Nixon (Frank Langella), in Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon,” a man who doesn’t wear laces is less than a man. That small opinion is a big part of this movie.
Time does strange things to opinions as moments for deeper reflection can alter what one originally thought. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a good example of how my opinion changed.
The latest comedy from Adam Sandler, which opens Christmas Day, is mostly innocuous and average.
Running 1 hour 48 minutes, "Young at Heart" relies on observational footage, interviews with participants, some narration by Walker, and the inclusion of several stylized "music videos" that Walker shot of the chorus in rock-opera fashion—like the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," sung by chorus members feigning disablement.
Brown delivers almost a journalistic record, eschewing editing that betrays judgment and opting instead to paint a picture at once easy to comprehend yet baffling in its complexity. It's a complexity that builds with each generation and is, in this case, negotiated each year amid human celebration.
Despite minor shortcomings in the translation from book to screen, "The Secret Life of Bees" stands as an emotionally fulfilling trip to the movies.
Oliver Stone will release his biopic of George W. Bush on Oct. 17. Prediction: Almost no one will want to see it.
New Orleans natives Kimberly and Scott Roberts wound up in their attic during Hurricane Katrina. Unable to leave the city, the husband and wife holed up in their Lower Ninth Ward home with a little food, several neighbors and a hi-8 camcorder.
"Fireproof" succeeds as the Christian-genre film it was produced to be. However, it does not advance "Christian cinema" such that many non-Christians would find "Fireproof" attractive in its own right.
Not everyone is a "people person." Take Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais). He's a dentist, and he likes the fact that dental implements keep people from talking. With an office next to his apartment building, he merely moves a couple hundred feet and hardly sees a soul. But things change.
An action thriller ripping across three continents has a storyline about the son of an Islamic cleric, who displays admirable piety and wrestles with moral ambiguity, and the son of a Baptist preacher, who discloses a minimalist faith. One seeks God's will; the other says he believes in God without letting faith trouble his actions. One is black; the other is white. Both are Americans.
Ah, Kansas. Wheat. Tornadoes. State fairs with pig races and booths selling a pork chop on a stick.
In a well-known historical moment on Aug. 8, 1974, Richard Nixon went on TV to resign the presidency.
Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is a man looking for a cocoon. He just wants to buy a house in his childhood neighborhood, get lots of alcohol and frozen pizza from the supermarket down the street, and hunker down to live out the remaining days of his life. Alone.
What if Larry the Cable Guy chose the next president? That's basically the premise of "Swing Vote," the new Kevin Costner starrer satirizing presidential elections.
It begins with a heist, but in the midst of it we see something of what is to be.
A friend in ministry once remarked that when you are discouraged, you have to do the last thing God told you to do. You keep doing that thing until someone comes and tells you differently.
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a genius on the run. Where does a genius on the run hide? In a soft drink bottling plant in Brazil, of course, and it's there that "The Incredible Hulk" opens.
Poor Po the Panda. He dreams of glory as he works in his father's noodle shop. The glory Po seeks is that of a great kung fu master, but he (Jack Black) is clumsy and unfocused.
Indy aged, and so did the world. In the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indy (Harrison Ford) is embroiled in the controversy of the day, Soviet Communism. It's 1957, and Indy is prisoner of a Soviet paranormal researcher named Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who's snooping around Roswell, New Mexico.
A sign on the wall says it all: "Immigrants, America's strength." Of course, it's located inside a detention center where illegal immigrants are held in Thomas McCarthy's new movie, "The Visitor."
It's been two and a half years since "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" from Disney and Walden Media appeared in theaters. The second installment in the adaptation of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series, "Prince Caspian," opens nationwide today, and it's better than the first go-round.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has the world by the tail. He is a billionaire with a genius IQ. Stark Industries, his company, is a top weapons producer for the Department of Defense. Women fall into his bed with ease. Life is good.
Quick! What is intelligent design? Anyone? Anyone?
Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a genius. At the top of his class at MIT, his mind can add, subtract, multiply and divide large numbers. He wants to attend Harvard Medical School, but there's a problem: money.
"Why is the gospel of love dividing America?" That question fuels the provocative new documentary "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers," from Oregon-based filmmakers Dan Merchant and Jeff Martin.
Tuesday night's premiere of the HBO documentary, "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo," was hard to watch. Basing herself in Bukavu, filmmaker Lisa Jackson traveled through South Kivu last year to make a movie about the victims and perpetrators of this brutal war against women and girls that most of us know little about.
What makes a hero? Are heroic deeds more than actions? Can heroism be seen in a commitment to truth?
"Under the Same Moon" tells a most engaging story about the power of love between a mother and son in 21st-century North America. "La Misma Luna" (its Spanish title) doesn't try to explore the complexities of politics and economics in the U.S.-Mexico immigration scene. It simply focuses on the heart-wrenching social aspects through the eyes and hearts of believable people.
Filmmaker James D. Scurlock pulls back the curtain on American debt in "Maxed Out," a documentary "you can't afford to miss," according to promotional efforts.
"Stop-Loss" is an anti-war movie with a war hero at its center. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) is a decorated soldier who returns to his Texas hometown believing his days in the Army are over. But instead of being discharged as expected, he is told he is being shipped back to Iraq as a stop-loss: the way the Army holds on to soldiers who fulfilled their contracts, but are deemed too valuable to allow out of the service.
"Atonement" shows the power of a lie and how hard it is to undo a wrong done. It begins as a piece of fluff, during the days before World War II, on an English estate. Young writer-to-be Briony Tallis (Saorise Ronan) witnesses an act and misunderstands what she has seen, then tells a lie. That lie turns the world upside down for her sister, Cecilia (Keira Knightley), and Cecilia's lover, Robbie (James McAvovy).
"No Country for Old Men" addresses an age-old problem: Why is it hard to do the right thing? A character from a forgotten movie once said: "Funny, ain't it, how it comes around. Right way's the hardest, wrong way's the easiest. Rule of nature, like water seeks the path of least resistance. So you get crooked rivers, crooked men."
Daniel Day-Lewis gives a stellar performance as Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-20th-century robber baron in "There Will Be Blood." Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia") wrote and directed this bleak picture on the intersection of money and religion.
Jesus appeared on movie screens four years ago in Mel Gibson's controversial "The Passion of the Christ." Jesus is back at the cinema, but this time Islam—not Christianity—provides the lens.
The Camp David Accords matter to the film because almost 30 years later Carter is still embroiled in the issue of Middle East peace. This man from Plains—who reads his Bible each night and tells visitors to his church that "you don't have to believe about Jesus, you have to believe in Jesus"—can't shake the moral compulsion to get involved.
If I told you your soul was a pig, would you be offended? You wouldn't be in Philip Pullman's world of "The Golden Compass." That's because in this parallel universe people don't walk around with their souls inside their bodies, like here.
Everyone who took 12th-grade English knows the story of Beowulf. When I entered my first class of English Literature, Mrs. Gane told the class, "Yes, I'm Grendel's mother." We had no idea who she meant, but by end of the first six weeks, we did.
Disney again mines the fair maiden narrative--Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty--to bring us a moderately entertaining entry into the holiday movie season.
Thou Shalt Laugh … some more.
The new movie "September Dawn" dramatizes an 1857 event known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre in which 120 men, women and children—heading from Missouri to California—were killed in cold blood by a raiding party of Mormons in the Utah territory.
When was the last time a movie had the catalyst for its story set in church? The last one I remember is "The Blues Brothers" in 1980. "The Simpsons Movie," now playing, really begins its story in the midst of a church service, and what happens there sets up everything to follow.
"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth movie in the series, sets the stage for the end of the franchise, which has only two more installments.
Movie franchises ebb and flow. Thinking about the "Star Wars" series, most people believe "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best movie of the lot, and the quality went downhill from there.
New to DVD today is "Charlotte's Web," the Dakota Fanning-starrer from 2006 based on the best-selling book by E.B. White about the friendship between a pig and a spider.
Will Ferrell goes from racecar driver Ricky Bobby to figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels in "Blades of Glory," a slapstick comedy about the first male-male figure skating pair.
Sin, wrote Paul Tillich, is estrangement from God. He believed that estrangement reaches not only the relationship between the person and God, but the person and all other relationships. When a person is caught up in sin, that person gets disconnected from everyone.
"Amazing Grace," the story of William Wilberforce's effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire, delivers everything you want: solid script, outstanding performances, clever wit, tight drama, inspiring story.
In the independent documentary "Red State: The Movie," self-described California liberal Michael Shea sets out from his Blue State Venice Beach home to travel across America, stopping mainly in Red States to talk to folks and see what makes them tick.
It bothers me, and it should bother you too, that out of all the movies that could have been made with a couple million dollars, "Thr3e" was chosen. This alleged psychological thriller, adapted from a novel by Ted Dekker, is so derivative as to be pointless.
"This is a true story" begins the movie. Not "based on" or "inspired by," but "this is." And aside from a couple of composite characters, "We Are Marshall" seems to be the true and still largely unknown story of a school and community forever changed by tragedy.
Will Smith turns in a bravura performance in "The Pursuit of Happyness," which opens nationwide today. The movie, inspired by a true story, builds to one of those marvelous endings where an actor like Smith makes the screen shine and your money feel well spent.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from New Line Cinema that "The Nativity Story" should be produced …
The saying "familiarity breeds contempt" doesn't hold true for James Bond. With six different actors playing Bond across 21 films, it might seem that we would grow weary of 007. Not so in "Casino Royale," now playing.
Hollywood has issued the 11th commandment: Thou shalt laugh. That's also the title of a DVD, released today, featuring seven comedians—all Christians—delivering some of their best stuff.
The PBS documentary series "P.O.V." concludes its 2006 season tonight with "My Country, My Country," which chronicles the run-up to the 2005 Iraqi elections.
The black gold of this new documentary isn't oil. It's coffee. British filmmaking brothers Marc and Nick Francis have fashioned a gripping work about this most precious of commodities, and they've done so by tracing and contrasting how coffee is produced and consumed.
I tend to compare all horse movies to "The Man from Snowy River." That 1982 Australian film offers not only beautiful horses but also breathtaking scenery, a solid coming-of-age story, an engaging familial conflict, and outstanding performances by Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton and Kirk Douglas.
New to DVD is "Thank You for Smoking," a satirical story about Big Tobacco's primary spokesman and how he peddles cigarettes to the American people.
The Book of Esther has many elements making it an obvious target for Hollywood producers: beautiful women, political intrigue, powerful secrets and a shrewd comeuppance for the villain.
The PBS documentary series "P.O.V." continues tonight with "Maquilapolis: City of Factories," which takes viewers inside the lives of factory workers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
If you're not familiar with this movie, you can probably guess by the title it's not exactly a love letter to Halliburton.
The World War I aircraft in "Flyboys" fill the European skies with a wobbly grace. No wonder, for though the airplane—as a modern invention—was still finding its wings, some young Americans had already found aerial delight.
After the last image was shown of a Sudanese child whose future is uncertain, the theater was completely silent. The few hundred of us who came to watch "Darfur Diaries" were in a place of mixed emotions. On one hand, we were motivated to act like never before. On the other hand, we were paralyzed by our own ignorance on how to act.
Becky Fischer believes children can fix a "sick old world." They just have to get on fire for Jesus.
"Little Miss Sunshine" is a dysfunctional-family-on-a-road-trip movie. And there's more going on here than in the "National Lampoon's Vacation" movies. The story here is not about a vacation, but about trying to make a little girl's dream come true.
The PBS documentary series "P.O.V." delivers its 10th film tonight with the sobering "Waging a Living."
"Lady in the Water," now in theaters, swings for the fences as writer-director M. Night Shyamalan stuffs his movie with a study of the creative process and a primer on purpose. Paul Giamatti plays maintenance man Cleveland Heep, a sad gentleman who stammers when he talks, but who also spends his life caring for the people of The Cove apartment complex.
Even cows come of age, and in "Barnyard," they do it like "Dogs Playing Poker" jacked up on bovine growth hormone. Writer-director Steve Oedekerk delivers plenty of hilarious moments for children and adults in this Paramount-Nickelodeon film, which opens nationwide today.
The PBS documentary series "P.O.V." debuts its fifth film tonight with "The Tailenders," by filmmaker Adele Horne.
"An Inconvenient Truth" is a riveting journey into one of the most ignored issues on the American landscape, one that demands our immediate attention, especially for those who belong to the community of truth.
The PBS documentary series "P.O.V." rolls out its second film tonight with the sublime "Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball."
The documentary series P.O.V. kicks off its 19th season on PBS tonight with the hour-long "No More Tears Sisters," about slain human rights activist Dr. Rajani Thiranagama.
Hybrids are the latest technology in automobiles, pairing the power of a gasoline engine with the smooth economy of an electric motor. But "Cars," the latest offering from Disney/Pixar, is a hybrid of a different and delightful kind. It combines the sleek, "wow"-worthy visuals of Pixar's computer animation with the rich, old-fashioned storytelling of classic Disney.
I've never been a fan of Garrison Keillor's radio variety show, but when I met the man on screen in director Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion," I instantly liked him.
From the first scene, when Louvre curator Jacques Sauniere rumbles through his Grand Gallery to avoid a gun-wielding albino monk, you get the sense that this adaptation—if you've read the book—might be disappointing.
There are some people who have made watching "The Passion of the Christ" a part of their Good Friday traditions. I have friends and family members who make a point to watch the film each year. I have not seen "The Passion" since its first theatrical run in the winter of 2004. The images have stayed with me, and I am not comfortable viewing it repeatedly. So I have never watched it in my home, and probably never will.
They say talk is cheap, but the smart, funny satire "Thank You for Smoking" illustrates that talk can also be very profitable—if you're good enough at it and open to the highest bidder. When consummate spin-doctor Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) talks on behalf of Big Tobacco, people light up.
Adam Chamberlain is a young man who seems to have it all: a lovely fiancée, a best-selling book and regular appearances on television. For most 20-year-olds, that's the American Dream. But Adam has also done something that would seem practically un-American in this day and age: He has sworn off sex until marriage.
In Romans 13, Paul wrote: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
In modern times, there has never been so grand a stage for the battle between good and evil as World War II. Great leaders and common soldiers amassed for epic battles and bold gambits that would rewrite world history.
"Failure to Launch," which opens nationwide today, stars Matthew McConaughey as Tripp, a 30-something slacker who refuses to leave his parents' home. When mom and dad (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw) decide enough is enough, they hire a "professional interventionist" (Sarah Jessica Parker) to wean Tripp and prepare him for independent living.
Scientists use a machine called a particle collider to smash atomic particles at a high speed to break them into smaller, more elementary parts, thus allowing study of even simpler, more basic parts of physical matter. "Crash" is like a "people collider"—thrusting diverse individuals together unexpectedly, shockingly and often violently—giving us a look at the elemental, more basic aspects of humanity.
Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon literally light up the screen in "Walk the Line," bringing to vibrant life Johnny Cash and his great love, June Carter.
Most kids love snow and dogs. Combine them in an adventure film, and the hook is set.
Harrison Ford's recent box-office track record hasn't been good. Though his history as Han Solo and Indiana Jones is enough to keep him (for now) as one of the all-time most bankable stars, his films since then have been hit or miss.
"Nanny McPhee"—with its gaggle of children—is more than the hoity-toity version of "Cheaper by the Dozen" or "Yours, Mine and Ours." It's a descendant of "Mary Poppins" and "Cinderella," moving beyond slapstick to deal in the magical, where childhood and parenthood really exist.
Go into "Annapolis" expecting a pre-hung script for a Hollywood military drama, and you won't be disappointed.
"The Gospel" opened on fewer than 1,000 screens back in October, easily recouping its small budget in the theater before moving on to DVD, where it just arrived.
In 1956, Waodani tribesmen in Ecuador speared to death five American missionaries. The incident immediately made the cover of Life magazine. Later one of the widows penned a popular book. An excellent documentary titled "Beyond the Gates of Splendor" was produced a couple of years ago.
As movie awards season kicks in and movies about BIG THINGS take over everyone's talk, you might find yourself craving something light yet satisfying. If so, "Last Holiday" might be your dish.
"Glory Road," the latest movie from mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, is "based on the true story of the team that changed everything."
Home has a cost. That simple yet frightening notion gives Steven Spielberg's "Munich" its everlasting power as a cinematic work.
Grass waving, birds flocking and water rippling—those are stock shots in writer-director Terrence Malick's latest film, "The New World," which lays out the legendary story of Pocahontas, John Smith and John Rolfe with Malick's usual lyricism. "World" opened Christmas Day in New York and Los Angeles. It opens in the rest of the country Jan. 13.
The recently released film "Bee Season," based on the book by Myla Goldberg, is in many ways an extraordinary movie. I do not ever remember seeing a popular film that was based so much on Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism.
As I child, I would stay up late on Saturday nights and watch "Shock Theater." It was a local show hosted by Paul Bearer, who screened old horror films. Yet one of those horror films was no horror at all: It was "King Kong," which told the story of a large ape that fell, literally, for a blonde.
When I learned of this behemoth adaptation of C.S. Lewis' classic about the magical world of Narnia, I had doubts that the story itself would allow for a cinematic tale as gripping as, say, "The Lord of the Rings."
"Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher," a documentary directed and produced by indie filmmaker David Di Sabatino, isn't easy to categorize. Its opening credits probably say it best: This film is "A Bible Story by David Di Sabatino."
Poor Harry Potter. In his latest adventure he faces fire-breathing dragons, an hour-long underwater swim and a maze that rises up to claim those who walk in it. And then it gets worse: He has to get a date for the Yule Ball.
Ah, the fat suit. How did Hollywood ever manage a comedy without one?
"Walk the Line," the latest offering from director James Mangold ("Girl Interrupted," "Identity"), chronicles the first 36 years of the life of rock and roll pioneer and country music legend Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and his one true soul mate, June Carter Cash (Reese Witherspoon).
Joseph Fletcher put forth the tenets of "situational ethics," stating that each situation dictates proper action and that love ultimately guides the process of decision. What we see in "Capote," the new film biography of Truman Capote, is how the idea of situational ethics can be a slippery slope into self-destruction. When love for the sake of art is the motivation, there can be consequences.
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, previously best known as the man behind "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," is probably going to be known as the man behind "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" for a while.
Walden Media and Walt Disney aren't the only ones with a movie about kids who get transported to another world when they find a bit of magic in their house.
Now available on DVD and VHS is "Beyond the Gates of Splendor," the beautifully told story of five American missionaries who were speared to death by tribesmen in Ecuador in 1956.
In 1993, a filly named Mariah's Storm had her bid for a Breeder's Cup smashed when she fractured her cannon bone in a race. Her trainers persevered, however, and the horse's eventual comeback has now inspired a terrific movie from the producing team behind such sports dramas as "Varsity Blues," "Radio" and "Coach Carter."
"An Unfinished Life" is set in the high-country of a remote Wyoming ranch. But it also transports us to the high-country of the soul—an inner place that is stark and lonely, where people hide their hurt behind cowboy stoicism and mountains of reserve.
Cameron Crowe, filmmaker of "Say Anything," "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous," is one of the best writer-directors working in Hollywood. That's why "Elizabethtown" is both doubly disappointing and still understandable.
Sometimes a film presents a tremendous vision, but it comes wrapped in images that obstruct the vision for many. We see descriptions of "graphic violence" and "strong sexual content" and decide the movie isn't for us.
I never watched "Firefly," the FOX TV show on which "Serenity" is based. I therefore am not part of the cult following that will flock to this picture, much like X-Philes turned out for the 1998 feature based on the popular TV show starring Mulder and Scully.
As far as film adaptations of Charles Dickens go, Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" is a good one.
"The Greatest Game Ever Played" is based on a book … which is based on a true story … which happened in 1913. It's a PG film that could pass as a G, and you may not recognize most of the actors.
In Steven Martin's new film "Theologians Under Hitler," we hear yet another series of gruesome tales in which a nation-state co-opted Christian faith for its purposes and left prominent Christians in the unenviable position of providing ideological fodder for one of the 20th century's worst nightmares.
The PBS series "P.O.V." continues its winning streak tonight with "Omar & Pete," an hour-and-a-half documentary about the struggle to forsake a life of crime and addiction and be reintegrated to society.
"Echoes of Innocence" is really a fascinating piece of film work—not because it's an incredible movie, but because of what it represents.
In the late 1960s, a young German woman named Anneliese Michel began exhibiting bizarre behavior. Unable to control her mind and body, Michel's condition soon led to diagnoses of epilepsy and depression. When treatments failed, the Michel family turned to their Catholic Church, believing Anneliese was possessed by demons.
When Menachem Daum hears a rabbi in the States urging hatred of Gentiles, he orders an audiotape of the lecture. Armed with the cassette, Daum sets off for Israel to play it for his two grown sons, Tzvi Dovid and Akiva, who are studying the Torah and raising families there.
For those who believe Jesus actually walked this earth, the new documentary "The God Who Wasn't There" won't sit well.
"This is America, homeboy. Black people don't get what they want in this country. Why should you?"
One Day in September offers a terrific overview of the terrorist attack in Munich on Sept. 5, 1972, and its aftermath.
"Murderball" is further proof that some of the best stories on screen right now take documentary form.
"Everyone wants to live forever. It's the new American dream." So says a character in "The Island," the latest pyro-fest from Michael Bay, director of "Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor." But this film, which opens nationwide today, offers more than slick car chases and explosions; it offers story, too.
Why did "The Bad News Bears," the 1976 film starring Walter Matthau, need remaking? It didn't, but Paramount was stuck on remaking it, apparently of the mind that if you're going to deliver a bad movie anyway, it's just easier not to come up with a new idea.
Narrated by Michael Douglas, the feature-length documentary "One Day in September" covers many aspects of the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
With "War of the Worlds," the man who invented the movie blockbuster proves again why he owns the patent.
Close to three hours long and nearly 20 years old, this TV movie from HBO fares decently for what it was and is—a look at Israel's legendary counter-terrorist initiative following an attack on its Olympic athletes in Munich.
If you go down to your local multiplex, you will probably find a movie based on a comic book. When these movies are good, they are good. When they are bad, they generally stink. Warner Bros., which is part of the media group that owns DC Comics, comes back to comic-based movies with "Batman Begins." And it is not just good; it is great.
Judging by its $50 million-plus opening weekend, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" wasn't hurt by speculation about an off-screen romance between stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The name "Cinderella Man" was given to Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock by journalist Damon Runyon, and Runyon's assessment of Braddock's story as one of the greatest in the history of sports begins one of the summer's most anticipated movies.
The new documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" opens with a shot of the Enron building in Houston. A church spire wrapped in a banner reading "Jesus Saves" peeks into frame.
The relationship between religion and politics continues to draw the public's attention. The public might be well served to revisit that relationship's history—specifically the chapter involving the Third Reich.
All is forgiven, George. We thought you had lost your way.
A modern master of the historical drama has returned, this time to play with Christians and Muslims. Just what we need. Seriously.
Growing up "born again," you heard sermons on all kinds of subjects—like "no dancing," because you can't witness on the dance floor. Or "no movies on Sunday," because the Rapture could happen and you didn't want Jesus to catch you in a theater.
In the tradition of "The Black Stallion" and "Fly Away Home" comes "Duma," a modern-day tale of a boy who journeys across Africa to return his pet cheetah to the wild.
Mike Foster, a young California pastor, was taking a shower one day when he got a word from the Lord. That word was … porn.
Africa is a land of intrigue, partly because it has been victimized by colonialism. Once the European powers released their grip on the continent, many of Africa's countries were taken over by dictators who continued to rule with an iron fist.
"The greatest story ever told … has a final chapter." That's the tagline for NBC's new six-hour miniseries, "Revelations," which debuts April 13 at 9 p.m. ET. It will run on consecutive Wednesday evenings in "The West Wing" slot, which is shortening its season this year.
"Sin City" reminds me of one of Billy Preston's songs, "Will It Go 'Round in Circles." "I got a story, ain't got no moral," go the lyrics. "Let the bad guy win every once in a while."
Yes, Kevin Costner has played in some baseball movies: "Bull Durham," "Field of Dreams," "For Love of the Game." And yes, in "The Upside of Anger" he plays a retired baseball player who finds time between drinks and smokes to sign a few baseballs.
Filmed over seven years across seven countries, "Stolen Childhoods" examines the crisis of child labor—crisis, because a quarter of a billion children remain slaves to work.
"Just about everything good that happened that summer happened because of Winn-Dixie," says Opal, the young girl at the heart of "Because of Winn-Dixie."
John Constantine is going to die—again—and it seems he has hell to look forward to.
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a pastor's nightmare: He attends every service, pays attention to what is said, and asks questions about the faith so tough they can make a priest curse.
Remember Benji? He's back. "Benji: Off the Leash," the character's fifth motion picture, hit theaters last August and is now available on DVD and VHS. It's being hailed by families and critics as a solid family film.
Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors never to win an Oscar. He made "Raging Bull," considered by many to be the greatest movie of the 1980s, and "GoodFellas," which others consider the greatest movie of the 1990s. Still, he has not won an Oscar for best director.
The new Warner Bros. film, which opens nationwide today, centers on a plucky zebra who thinks he's a race horse. It's cookie-cutter storytelling—an underdog, a formidable challenge, some unlikely help—but well done.
The latest movie from writer-director Paul Weitz is, to use a favorite adjective from the film itself, "awesome." Weitz demonstrated a fine sensibility with "About a Boy," and he does it again with "In Good Company," which expands nationwide today.
"Coach Carter," which marries lessons in basketball with those of becoming a good citizen, crosses "Lean on Me" with "Hoosiers" and results in an inspiring story.
Though originally released in October, "Sideways" is still knocking around various cities and screens. It's a small film with a big appetite, gobbling up critical praise on its way to the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
When a movie tells its story through voiceover narration, it's usually a bad sign.
"Spanglish," from movie maestro James L. Brooks ("Broadcast News," "As Good As It Gets"), is a light holiday treat. It's not a fabulous film, but a good one. It delivers some genuine laughs and much to ponder about family life.
Rewatchability. Some movies have it, some don't. The 2001 remake of the Rat Pack classic "Ocean's Eleven" had—and has—it. Each time you watch it, you see something new. It's got rewatchability.
About 40 million people are currently refugees—unable to return to their homeland on account of persecution stemming from social and political reasons.
In recent interviews, actor Jude Law has described the characters in his latest film, "Closer," as "mature adults."
"National Treasure" tells the story of Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage), a self-proclaimed "treasure protector" in search of the treasure of the Knights Templar. He doesn't want the treasure for himself, but to keep it from falling into the hands of ruthless men. As such, he follows clues to the treasure's whereabouts left behind by America's forefathers.
Bridget Jones—poster girl for weight watching, relationship troubles and career fallout—is back in this serviceable sequel to 2001's "Bridget Jones' Diary."
If you love James Bond and Jonny Quest, you will love "The Incredibles." Brad Bird, who worked on "The Simpsons" and made one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, "The Iron Giant," creates a universe where superheroes have real-world problems but out-of-this-world adventures.
"Alfie" is what Paramount calls a "stylish reinvention" of the 1966 original starring Michael Caine.
Where is the line between the sacred and the secular? Does a clear line define when a person has moved into the area of the profane? What is the nature of religion?
It's hard to know where to start and what to say about "Team America: World Police." This movie-going experience is quite like no other, though reasons for that range from its clever production to its unbelievably crude humor.
"The Dust Factory" is like a cross between Cirque du Soleil and "The X-Files." Or maybe it's a cross between "Holes" and "What Dreams May Come." Or maybe it's between "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz." And all of that with a slight David Lynch flair.
"Spin," a 1991 novel by Donald Everett Axinn, is now a film from James Redford, who adapted and directed the project.
In "Raise Your Voice," Hilary Duff plays Terri Fletcher, a small-town girl with big-city dreams. Terri wants to make music, and she sees the route to her dreams through the Bristol-Hillman Conservatory in Los Angeles.
The TV series "The Twilight Zone" is a classic show that never ages. Its shocks, jolts and twist endings still reverberate in this age of special-effect-driven entertainment.
Most matinee idols play the "good guy." They wear the white hat, end up with the girl and ride off into the sunset. But if you ask a matinee idol what role he wants to play, he'll say, "The bad guy."
This review is long overdue. Errol Morris' documentary "The Fog of War" is not only a brilliant piece of filmmaking; it's also a frank discussion about the ethical and moral landscape of the 20th century as it pertained to war.
It will be more difficult to catch a screening of "The Corporation" than, say, "Alien vs. Predator," but embrace the challenge if you want to see the world in which you live with a fresh set of eyes.
M. Night Shyamalan's new film, "The Village," had a lot to live up to. After the writer-director's successes with supernatural thrillers like "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable" and "Signs," audiences were primed with high expectations.
Paramount has been trying to minimize its movie-making risk by remaking older films. To that end, we've had 21-century versions of "The Italian Job" and "The Stepford Wives," and we're about to get "The Longest Yard."
"Saturday Night Live" has spawned many stars. They break out from the cast and move off the stage and onto the screen. Chevy Chase began the exodus after the first season. He made lots of movies, most of which are forgettable, and since then there has been a revolving door from Rockefeller Center to Hollywood.
Tom Hanks is perhaps the most daring actor of his generation: He thought people would watch a movie about a man stranded on an island. He was right. "Cast Away" grossed more than $230 million. That's incredible, especially seeing how his co-star was a volleyball.
One of the themes of comics is the "POW!" and "BIFF!" of battles between a superhero and a supervillain. These battles overshadow almost every other aspect of the comic.
"Fahrenheit 9/11," the latest opus from guerilla filmmaker Michael Moore, is indeed what it has been cracked up to be: a full-on body slam of George W. Bush.
"The Notebook" is a beautifully shot love story. From the opening frames to the last, viewers experience a cinematic atmosphere as enveloping as the love of the film's main characters.
My father used to say that even a blind hog would find an acorn every once and a while. In my recent review of "Shrek 2," I wrote that most sequels are nothing more than dumbed-down copies of the original. My father also used to say that you need to make your words sweet, because you might have to eat them.
Cinema, at its best, helps us see the world anew. The commonplace becomes compelling, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Few films accomplish this feat, but the ones that do stick with you like …. well, like a Big Mac.
"The Simpsons" offers a Halloween episode each year. In one of these episodes, Homer gets a magic hammock that allows him to clone himself. The only problem is that each clone is dumber than the already mentally challenged Homer. It seems that each copy gets a little worse than the original.
There was a time when most TV stations ran old monster movies. Usually on a Saturday night, kids would stay up late to see Bela Lugosi's Dracula, Boris Karloff's Frankenstein and Lon Chaney's Wolfman. These old movies had thrills and chills, and we all grew afraid of those creatures that went bump in the night.
"Laws of Attraction" is an appealing movie not because its two opposing divorce attorneys are attracted to each other, but because those two divorce attorneys weigh whether to move beyond attraction to commitment.
It seems like every other movie released has a comic book as inspiration. A message board on comics has a thread that asks the question: "Are there too many comic-based movies?" That looks to be a moot point; movies based on comics are here to stay.
Joel and Ethan Coen make iconoclastic movies. Theirs is a strange world inhabited by Bikers from Hell, dumb kids who become executives, and erudite convicts on mythic journeys.
Tony Campolo once said that parents' greatest desire is that their children be happy. Our culture is obsessed with wanting to be happy, and much of our unhappiness could be attributed to our bad experiences in relationships. Those that end abruptly seem to multiply the pain.
In I Corinthians 13, Paul makes this statement: "We don't see things clearly. We are squinting in a fog, peering through a mist." It seems that no matter how sure we are, there are times in which the vision of God becomes like finding a needle in a haystack.
Sex and gore are about as basic to teen thrillers as guns and horses are to westerns. But Twentieth Century Fox is gambling with "Hangman's Curse" that the thriller genre can be redefined with a family-friendly approach.
If you were a male who grew up in the late 1970s, you probably wanted to drive either a red Grand Torino or an orange Dodge Charger. Hollywood has yet to make a movie version of "The Dukes of Hazzard," so those who want to see the General Lee in action will have to wait. But those who want to see the red Grand Torino can watch it tearing up the streets of Bay City in "Starsky & Hutch."
Why did Judas Iscariot betray Jesus Christ? Many will of course say the betrayal was divinely ordained, and they'll leave it at that. They won't seek to understand historical context or human motive.
Before the first frame of the movie ever came up, a couple on the theater's back row was making sure tissues would be handy.
A great many Christians proclaim to those who will listen that there is no such thing as luck; everything happens for a reason. With this kind of philosophy, Buffalo Bills fans must think that God really has it in for them. Perhaps things like the Super Bowl are not determined by God's will but rather by chance. That riddle won't be solved in this lifetime.
Langston Hughes wrote of what takes place when a dream is deferred. He used graphic terms, like rotten meat and running sores. But sometimes a dream deferred is a fire that burns in a person.
Living away from a large urban area can be hard—especially hard when you are a movie buff. Many of the art house films do not come your way. When a movie comes out you cannot get to, you wait with bated breath for its DVD release.
"The Fighting Temptations" wasn't the film it should have been. This story about a down-and-out New York advertiser who heads South to claim an inheritance—with strings attached—just didn't make the grade when the music stopped. Had the acting been as rhythmic as the music, "Temptations" would have been a lot of fun.
If you missed "Secondhand Lions" in theaters last summer, you have another chance to see this fantastic family-friendly film. It's being released on DVD and VHS today.
Sometimes the trailer for a film can be deceptive. This can be a very bad thing when the trailer shows several great moments that, one discovers upon seeing the film, are the only inspired scenes in the film.
One of the great horrors of our national history—the Civil War—has been the backdrop of some wonderful stories. The most famous is "Gone With the Wind." The love triangle of Scarlet O'Hara, Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes is a part of American popular culture. Now, "Cold Mountain" joins the ranks of love stories etched in the wasteland of the Civil War.
Almost two years ago a film was released entitled "Changing Lanes." It told the story of two imperfect men who end up entwining one another in a series of vengeful reactions—because of a fender-bender.
There is a moment when the tension portrayed on screen is so powerful that "In America" succeeds as well or better than any film released in 2003. The scene involves a doll, a carnival game and the rent money. If all of the film had achieved the emotional level of that brief scene, "In America" would be one of the best, if not the best, films of 2003.
In this season of big blockbusters and major contenders for Oscar, there are a few small films not getting the attention they deserve. "The Station Agent" is one of those films.
Why does the woman in Da Vinci's famous painting smile? The film "Mona Lisa Smile" offers one possible reason, a very profound one.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Richard Zanuck—producer of "Jaws"—brings you "Big Fish."
Some films impress the audience with breathtaking effects and thrills. Some films amuse audiences with countless physical jokes, accented with crude and often lewd humor. Some films yank the emotions of the audience with multiple attempts to move viewers to tears.
Ron Howard may never make another film as great as "Apollo 13," a masterpiece of filmmaking and an inspiring story of what can happen when people cooperate and work toward a common goal. His Oscar-winning Best Picture, "A Beautiful Mind" from 2001, which also garnered Howard a Best Director Award, is almost its equal.
If you thought the battle at Helm's Deep in "The Two Towers" was spectacular, wait until you see the magnitude of the conflict at Pelennor Fields in "The Return of the King."
The writer of Ecclesiastes was right. There is nothing new under the sun.
Though computer animation has dominated the animation genre in America in both quality and creativity for a few years now, some traditionally drawn features still make it to theaters—and of course home video and DVD.
"Timeline," the latest Michael Crichton novel-turned-movie, lobs its story forth like the medieval catapults in the climactic battle: always vividly, if sometimes clumsily.
Some great books become great films. "Forrest Gump" comes to mind, as does "To Kill a Mockingbird." These movies succeed because they bring to life characters that transfer easily from page to screen. It is now hard to read either book without thinking of Forrest and Atticus being fleshed out by Tom Hanks and Gregory Peck, respectively. These movies leave an indelible mark on the mind. That is the nature of movies; their images stay with us long after the movie is over.
Before the recent scandals at the New York Times, there was a reporter named Steve Glass who fabricated stories while writing for the political magazine The New Republic. "Shattered Glass," a new film, tells the true story of Steve Glass and how he became caught in a web of lies.
"Brother Bear," a traditionally drawn animated feature currently in theaters, is worth seeing.
At the beginning of the new romantic comedy "Love Actually," Hugh Grant's character discusses love. Many people feel our society is prone toward greed and hate, he says, but he believes love is still everywhere.
A few decades ago when Clint Eastwood was busy making spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harry movies, who would have conceived that he would one day be such an incredible director. "Unforgiven," the film that won Eastwood the Oscar for Best Director and also won Best Picture for 1992, gained the actor much respect.
There was a time when Hollywood made big pictures. Wide panoramas filled large, curved screens. Those big screens held larger than life characters driven by ambitious ideals and values.
It started with a bang and ends with a whimper. "The Matrix" presented a universe wherein what we saw and inhabited was not real. Reality was unknown, but there was a man, Neo, with the ability to bring salvation to the millions caught in this Matrix.
If you're looking to get in the holiday spirit, check out "Elf." This PG movie, which opens nationwide today, hearkens back to classic Christmas films and manages to capture some of that magic.
"Radio," starring Ed Harris and Cuba Gooding Jr., is more than a sports movie. It's really a story about helping others, treating others with respect, and having the courage to do what's right—especially when it's not easy.
Good news for those who missed Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" documentary—about violence in America—in theaters: It's now on DVD and VHS, and the special features on the former are terrific.
"There is nothing more dangerous than a virtuous man," says Guo Yi to his friend Okwe, who happens to be the protagonist of "Dirty Pretty Things."
Joel and Ethan Coen make wonderful movies, many of which focus on love and marriage. One of their funniest movies, "Raising Arizona," deals with a couple's search for completeness through the kidnapping of a child. "O Brother Where Art Thou" takes Homer's Odyssey and turns it into a journey to win back Everett McGill's wife.
This new documentary on German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer features more than grainy black-and-white footage of Hitler, "Achtung Juden" signs and book burnings—though those images are always unsettling.
Martin Luther is arguably the most important historical figure of the last thousand years. "Luther" won't be the best movie in 1,000 years, but it is a good film about a great story.
If you know who Beyoncé Knowles and Rue McClanahan are, you'll be shocked to see them on stage together. Did any of us ever think that would ever happen in any universe? But the real irony of "The Fighting Temptations"—a movie about a gospel choir struggling to find its voice—is that the movie itself has no rhythm.
A recent survey declared 1939 the greatest year for movies. That year W.C. Fields starred in "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man," one in a long line of con movies with flim-flam men, grifters and con men as protagonists.
One of the major criticisms some Christians level against Hollywood is that sin is portrayed constantly on screen. For years I have argued that, in most cases, there must be sin for there to be conflict, and thus a compelling story.
Most of us aren't child stars, but we are the people who make—and break—child stars. We don't make them in the sense that we broker their deals, schedule their interviews or fashion their images. We do, however, collectively decide if their deals, interviews and images are worth anybody's time.
Kevin Costner's career has had some low points in recent years. In fact, since his Oscar-winning directorial debut with "Dances With Wolves," many have criticized him for making one bad film after another.
"There's a treasure hidden deep within everyone," says the title character in "The Legend of Johnny Lingo." "The adventure is to discover it."
As the summer winds down, the opening of action movies is becoming less frequent, but there are still a few that hope to create box office magic. "S.W.A.T." could have been just one more film of explosions, car chases and endless stunts.
Five years ago, Disney recycled a classic Haley Mills film from 1961, and the studio remade "The Parent Trap." Though many feared the worst, the new version of "Trap," starring Lindsay Lohan as twins, was charming, often funny and a great tribute to the original.
It has been a long time since I have seen a film audience burst into applause, yet this happened not once but twice in my screening of "Seabiscuit."
If the original "X-Men" film had not been so successful, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" would have never been made. This loud film is much more a showcase of special effects than an attempt to give the audience anything worthwhile.
Rarely is a sequel better than its predecessor, but "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" is much better than "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" because it actually went back to the source material: Indiana Jones.
With "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" opening July 25, some viewers will likely want to check out the original on VHS or DVD. But be forewarned: The original is a shard of common pottery, whereas the sequel is a gem.
"Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirate's life for me!" If you have ever been to Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California, those words are probably welded into your brain. One of the best rides of the park is now a pretty good popcorn summer movie.
Filmmakers do not meet to come up with themes for the best films released in a given year, but it sometimes seems like that is the case. Two years ago, many of the best films dealt with altered realities: "A Beautiful Mind," "Mulholland Drive," "Vanilla Sky," "Waking Life" and "The Others."
The first two "Terminator" films were classics, and the hope was that the third would continue this sensational series at the same level. Sadly, "Terminator 3" followed Hollywood tradition and is not as satisfying as its predecessors.
During my seminary days, I was required to take pastoral care, where the professor explained that all of us are messed up, and that our parents are the ones who did it to us. "Hulk" is a movie that attempts to deal with the ways that family messes us up.
If the film is neither funny nor romantic, how can it possibly succeed as a romantic comedy?
The film industry is still in shock and awe over the success last year of a little film called "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Though it will not match "Wedding's" success, "Bend It Like Beckham" is currently poised to surprise the industry with its final box-office grosses.
"Toy Story" opened the door to a new kind of moviemaking by using computer-generated animation. Such film universes, created with pixels and high-profile celebrity voices, could become box-office hits.
"The Italian Job" is a heist film, and there have been some good ones in recent years: "The Score," "Ocean's Eleven" and "Entrapment."
What if an average Joe, thinking he had what it takes to run the world, assumed God's powers for a few days?
"The Matrix Reloaded" roars on the screen like a juggernaut, with both the visual power to stun the senses and the philosophical underpinning to tantalize the intellect. It will be discussed for months to come in anticipation of the third Matrix film, "The Matrix Revolutions," due for release in November.
It's easy to find fault with Eddie Murphy. His recent movie track record is not good. He had what I called the trifecta of bad movies last year: "Pluto Nash," "Showtime" and "I Spy."
Television is a minimalizing medium. Thirty- or 60-minute shows don't allow for much subtlety, so producers reduce characters to caricatures and simplify complex issues to make them fit into the allotted time. Those are the producers who try; most have settled for "reality" television, abandoning the notion of well-produced, scripted dramas.
Moviegoers with only a passing knowledge of X-Men will probably not like this sequel to 2000's successful "X-Men" movie. This latest adaptation of the comic-book series will seem like an endless series of events with no correlation. But those who know the X-Men and the work of comics creator Chris Claremont will love it.
"Bulletproof Monk" is another entry in the long line of comics-based movies. The problem with "Monk" is that it's like a Chinese dinner: You take one thing from column A, another from column B and yet another from column C to make a meal (or in this case, a movie.)
Adam Sandler made one of the best movies of last year in "Punch Drunk Love." It helped many of us better understand the characters he has played in his other movies. It also gave him a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye to those characters and branch out into new roles.
Judaism teaches that God created Adam alone in the world to teach humanity that whoever destroys one soul destroys the whole world, and whoever saves one soul saves the whole world.
The qualities that make "Holes" hard to synopsize also make it a good story.
If you hang around Hollywood long enough and your star power shines bright enough, you'll be given an opportunity to direct your own feature film. The old joke is that most people who act do so in hopes of one day being able to direct. "Head of State" is a vanity project for its star, Chris Rock.
At day's end, audiences will find that this disaster flick is more about the crust than the core of moviemaking. But life on the crust isn't always all bad. And neither is "The Core."
Avoid "Dreamcatcher" like the plague spoken of in its story. It will rank as one of the 10 worst films for 2003.
"Agent Cody Banks" isn't all that bad, but it's not all that good either. There is little imagination. It is a stock movie with some popular teenage stars drawing in kids.
Robert Altman's film "The Player," arguably the best film released in 1992, skewers Hollywood through several different storylines, including one about two struggling writers who want to make a serious statement about capital punishment. Anyone familiar with Altman's great film cannot help but remember it as "The Life of David Gale" plays out on screen.
"The Jesus Experience" is more than a collection of how cultures have painted Jesus, though it is certainly that. It's also a look at how humans, claiming Jesus as their own, have acted. These stories inspire and insult, impress and embarrass.
The stage for war is set, and the bullets—and prayers—start flying. That's right: "Gods and Generals" features more divine petitioning than any Hollywood product in recent memory.
"Daredevil" is good, but not great. For comics fans, it will be hailed as a wonderful realization. But for others, it may seem to be just another guy in a leather suit beating people up.
"The Quiet American" reminds viewers that taking a human life is never as simple as black and white, good and evil. "The Quiet American" is exactly the kind of film that needs to be playing in multiplexes, and should be seen by many in these troubled times.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of the film is to set higher standards for oneself in the beginning; then the dreams that are realized will truly be worthwhile.
Movies like "The Recruit" follow a simple formula.
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson team up again—and follow the same formula—for "Shanghai Knights."
"Lose a Guy" has star power, a good marketing campaign and an audience primed by reality TV shows like "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelorette." The movie won't disappoint. But, like the shows, it should cause critical minds to think about the phenomenon of relationship as game.
Cinema has found many ways to approach the Holocaust. The masterpiece "Schindler's List" tells the true story of how one man, in the face of the worst possible horror, made a difference and saved over a thousand lives.
Anyone who saw 1999's "Being John Malkovich" knows that when screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze collaborate, the end product is both profound and strange. "Adaptation," their second achievement together, is a little more of the former and less of the latter.
It has been reported that the visually stunning "Moulin Rouge" revived the movie musical last year. If that is true, then "Chicago" (the film based on the Bob Fosse stage musical) is continuing to stoke the fire started by "Moulin Rouge." Hopefully, that flame will turn into a brilliant blaze welcomed by all fans of musical cinema.
In an end-of-the-year rush when a lot of great films are being released, "Fisher" is not one of the best. But with a smart and emotional script, two fine performances and the directorial debut of a star, there are some good reasons to check out "Antwone Fisher."
Retirement is anything but blissful for Schmidt. First, he faces boredom, then tragedy. Finally, he takes control, and he hits the road in his RV. This "road picture" focuses on Schmidt as he travels across country hoping to discover or manufacture a meaning and purpose for his life.
One can hardly be a fan of cinema and not be acquainted with the works of Martin Scorsese.
Spielberg has crafted a movie dealing with issues historically important to his films. The movie may look like just another crime caper, but it asks deep questions about family and relationships.
Hathaway is just one member of a young but exceptional cast in this adaptation of Charles Dickens' lengthy novel Nicholas Nickleby. Hathaway plays Madeline Bray, a destitute young woman who captures the attention of Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam), recently come to London with his mother and sister after the death of his beloved father.
Have you noticed that when you eat a piece of cake that is so good you have to have a second piece, that the second piece does not taste as good as the first? "Star Trek: Nemesis" is the about the fourth piece from this cake, and it is not as tasty as the other ones.
"Solaris" uses science fiction to explore the problems we have in relationships and our lack of understanding those we relate to.
"The Two Towers"—like the trilogy's first installment, "The Fellowship of the Ring"—is a massive movie in terms of narrative, production and box office. But the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's work shines most brilliantly through windows into character.
For those who do not want to return to the prejudice and false piety of a half century ago, the closing shot of "Far From Heaven" offers a glimpse that something better, namely the future for the film's characters, indeed is coming.
Pierce Brosnan proves that he should have been Bond during that sad period when Timothy Dalton was 007. Brosnan is funny and frightening, and he has now placed his signature on the series with this movie.
Based on a short story called "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin, "Club" follows the fortunes of classics teacher Mr. Hundert (Kline) and his young charges at the St. Benedicts School for Boys, where one of the directives is "non sibi"—Latin for "not for self."
Is this film worth all the praise and attention? Most definitely. For those die-hard fans who love the books and liked the first film, "Chamber of Secrets" will leave them breathless.
For older children still moved by metaphor and its magic, this is a wonderful movie. It shines in its story and its portrayal. It can help parents talk to their children about the nature of fame (which has become a national obsession) and its consequences.
If these movies must be made, do with them what should be done. Put them on the Wonderful World of Disney the week before Christmas, not Nov. 1. All the latter does is make us think about Christmas when we have yet to give thanks on Nov. 28.
"Punch-Drunk Love" is a wonderful movie. Billed as a dark comedy, it really is a parable about what family can do to a person.
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When it comes to movie remakes, it can also be the source of bad movies that could have been much better. A good case in point is "The Truth About Charlie."
Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and here are … abortion, homosexuality and gun violence—at least in the annual "Hell House" sponsored by Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) in Cedar Hill, Texas.
Writer/director Brad Silberling actually lost his fiancée to an inexplicable act of violence, and he used his experience to write a script that authentically portrays the different ways individuals deal with loss.
If you are looking for a good vision of the New South and the prodigal returning, don't look here.
It is doubtful that "Possession" will make much of a splash at the box office, even as the summer winds down. But if you are looking for something written for adults—say, a different sort of mystery, one involving history and art rather than violence and murder—then "Possession" is a film to see.
Movie executives and industry commentators are of course calling "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" the "surprise hit" of the summer. That's accurate but distressing, for we shouldn't be surprised that an actual story well-told on film will do good business.
Robert Rodriguez is one of those young directors greatly influenced by the old movies on the racks at Blockbuster. We see those influences in his latest movie, "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams."
From "It's a Wonderful Life" to "Mr. Holland's Opus," film characters have yearned for another life, only to discover that the life they are living is better than anything they could have imagined.
There are two types of people in the world, the distinction resting on how we interpret the incredible. One type sees only luck or coincidence. The other sees a sign or a miracle.
A tradition seems to have developed in the summer movie season: The big films are released in May or June, and July is for the "second string."
Oddly enough, thoughts of "mutually assured destruction"—as a part of Cold War strategy—were meant to comfort Americans and Soviets.
It is sad that this film has been compared to "The Godfather." "The Godfather" showed us the politics of the mob within the context of family. "Road to Perdition" shows us the context of family within the politics of the mob.
If you want something fresh, don't go see "Men in Black II." It's the same as the original. But if you want to laugh out loud, go see it. It's funny.
A number of topics may come to mind when one reads the title of this film. Americans converse about everything from politics to religion to sex, sometimes finding a reason to combine all three.
If you go to the movies often, you may notice that most of today's movies have one theme: the fish out of water. These movies place a character in a foreign setting and wait for sparks to fly.
Lurking in the smaller theaters of your multiplex is an easily overlooked movie.
There is an old formula used for movies. You find it in varied forms like "The Three Stooges" short, "Hoi Polloi" and the very funny Eddie Murphy movie, "Trading Places." It focuses on this idea: people are what they are. Nothing can change you because what you are is locked up in your DNA.
Steven Spielberg's new film, "Minority Report," may be appropriate just now. Just as our attorney general is reporting that we will hold someone indefinitely for crimes he may commit in the future, along comes a film about a pre-crime division of law enforcement in America.
"The day you turn 16, your whole life changes." So says an Amish teenager reflecting on rumspringa, a period lasting anywhere from ages 16-21 in which Amish youngsters are free to sample "English" culture—that is, non-Amish living.
Scooby Doo? Scooby don't.
Many have been willing to die for their beliefs. From the patriots who forged our nation to modern advocates of change and revolution—like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi—many have stood tall and sacrificed all for the greater good.
Based on the best-selling Rebecca Wells novel, "The Divine Secrets of Ya-Ya Sisterhood" is a southern tale of family life. It presents Sidda Lee Walker, an accomplished playwright whose play has finally hit Broadway. In an interview with Time magazine Sidda reveals her troubled childhood growing up in Louisiana.
"Insomnia" is a murder mystery from Christopher Nolan, director of last year's highly successful independent film, "Memento." The film is based on a 1998 Norwegian film by the same name that starred Stellan Skarsgard and was directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg.
Much is already known about "Stolen Summer." Originally a screenplay written by Peter Jones, "Summer" won a contest sponsored by Miramax and actors/screenwriters Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Once the screenplay was chosen, the writer and soon-to-be director Jones began work on his film.
At a time when the preservation of wilderness country is a hotly debated political issue in our nation, there is nothing wrong with a reminder of how much we have already lost. "Spirit" is worth seeing just for the stunning animation and that environmental reminder.
"What's a South African doing in the Ukraine with three Russian scientists and a crate from Israel?"
Films, from the classic masterpiece "The Godfather" to the exemplary contemporary film "A Simple Plan," have dealt with the breakdown of moral character. The lesson of all of those films is that the journey toward evil usually begins with small steps.
The story goes that when Stan Lee wanted to produce the Spider-Man comic, the powers that be at Marvel Comics did not find a geeky teenager with superpowers enticing.
In John Ford's masterpiece, "The Grapes of Wrath," Casy, the preacher who lost the call, says, "So maybe there ain't no sin an' there ain't no virtue. It's just what people does. Some things folks do is nice and some ain't so nice. That's all any man's got a right to say."
Like other "baseball movies"—"The Natural," "Eight Men Out," "Field of Dreams"—"The Rookie" is only superficially about America's game. It's really about dreams, second chances, family and faith. Baseball—a sport where you can strike out one time and hit a homer the next—simply provides the context for this true story from Walt Disney Pictures.
"Contact" (1997) examines the intersection of faith and science. It tells a great story and allows for meaningful interaction between characters without being too preachy.
Animation has become a huge part of the movie industry. Years ago, animated pictures were "event" pictures because they were released infrequently. But Disney revived animation with "The Little Mermaid," and now most major studios are producing animated features.
"Behind Enemy Lines." "Black Hawk Down." "Hart's War." And now "We Were Soldiers." Soon we'll be watching a spoof called "We Were Soldiers Behind Enemy Lines When Hart's War Took Black Hawk Down."
"A Walk to Remember" opened Jan. 25 to cheering crowds of preteen and teenage girls dressed in their best duds, smelling of bubble gum and other sweet fragrances. Teen pop singer Mandy Moore and heartthrob Shane West, leading actors, fueled the teen craze surrounding the film.
"I Am Sam" tells the story of Sam Dawson, a man who has not developed mentally past the age of seven. He fathers a child with a homeless woman who used his apartment as a flophouse. After the birth of their daughter, the mother disappears into the urban landscape, never to be seen again.
"The Majestic" tells the story of an unwitting Moses who comes to a town in grief and leads it back from the banks of the river of denial.
"A Beautiful Mind" isn't exactly what the trailer leads one to believe it is. It's better. Much better.
Director: Chris Columbus Cast: Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Richard Harris (Professor Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Professor Snape).
"Change the way you look at the world."