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Fatherhood and Hollywood: Dads in the Movies

2010-06-18 08:26:31 Hollywood’s ambivalence about fatherhood is deeply entrenched. Ambivalence, though, is not mere hostility; often it is rooted in a real awareness of the irreplaceable importance of fatherhood, and in melancholy or anger over paternal failure in a fallen, broken world. Read More >

The Magdalene Sisters Controversy

2010-06-14 13:48:02 That the Magdalene asylums represent a phenomenon as deserving of critical scrutiny as the trial of Joan of Arc or the ecclesiastical abandonment of the Guaraní missions, I don’t question. Mullan, however, betrays his subject with smug Catholic-bashing. It’s a tragedy that the enormity of what went wrong at the Magdalene asylums has been trivialized by cheap manipulation. Read More >

The Magdalene Sisters Controversy Revisited (2010)

2010-06-14 13:48:00 The Ryan report confirms the substantial truth of the sort of stories dramatized in The Magdalene Sisters. These stories need to be told. But the report also reconfirms my fundamental objection to the way that The Magdalene Sisters tells its story, depicting the world of the asylums solely in terms of unremitting abuse, cruelty and sadism unbroken by any hint of kindness or humane treatment. This is not in accordance with the memories of those who endured the Irish institutions, according to the Ryan report. Read More >

Spectacular, Spectacular Spider-Man!

2010-06-04 05:56:22 All good things must come to an end, but “The Spectacular Spider-Man” ended too quickly, after only two seasons. In April 2010 Marvel effectively pulled the plug on the acclaimed series, long on hiatus. A couple of weeks later, Sony released the eighth and final disc in the series, bringing the story to a satisfying yet not fully resolved conclusion. Read More >

A History of Violence: Agora, Hypatia and Enlightenment Mythology

2010-05-29 17:48:04 Alejandro Amenábar’s Agora is a work of hagiography, and, for that matter, of anti-hagiography. Among its burdens are that Hypatia of Alexandria, the celebrated neo-Platonic philosopher and mathematician, is worthy of veneration, and also that Cyril of Alexandria, saint and doctor of the Church, is not. Neither of these theses is without prima facie plausibility, or unworthy of serious-minded and nuanced exploration. Agora is serious-minded to a fault, but nuance, while not absent, is lacking. Read More >

Talking Babies: Q&A With Director Thomas Balmès

2010-05-05 14:44:26 Opening on Mother’s Day weekend, French director Thomas Balmès’ Babies documents the first year in the life of four babies from four different corners of the world: Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo. Balmès, who lives in Paris with his wife and three children, discussed his film over the phone with me. Read More >

Notting Hill’s Nuns: Q&A with Filmmaker Michael Whyte

2010-04-23 09:38:41 British filmmaker Michael Whyte lives in West London’s Notting Hill area across the square from a Carmelite monastery, Most Holy Trinity. For years he wondered about the building across the square; then one day he inquired about making a documentary there. Read More >

The Worlds of Hayao Miyazaki

2010-03-01 07:09:18 Miyazaki’s whole body of work (less one or two sub-par exceptions) offers unduplicated vistas of imaginative wonder and beauty, images of startling power, admirable and likable heroines and heroes, humanely conceived supporting characters, elusively engaging storytelling, wholesome moral themes, and unexpected sly humor. He is the sort of artist whose work doesn’t just entertain audiences, but wins enthusiasts. For those who haven’t yet discovered him, Miyazaki is a taste well worth acquiring. Read More >

Horror, the Grotesque, and the Macabre: A Christian Appraisal

2010-02-13 07:50:27 Horror represents a field many Christians approach with trepidation, and rightly so. The horror shelves of bookstores and video stores are very largely a wasteland of mindless, tasteless trash; indeed, there may be no other genre as disproportionately overrun with junk. Yet the grotesque, the macabre, and the frightful have an abiding place in human imagination and culture — a place that Christian sensibility has historically not seen fit to reject or condemn, at least entirely. Read More >

Small-Screen Aardman: Wallace & Gromit Shorts and Shaun the Sheep

2010-02-04 03:55:16 More wordless Aardman animation on DVD! Read More >

2009: The Year in Reviews

2010-01-22 05:53:25 It was a year of quirky, darkly mature childhood fantasy adaptations. Neil Gaiman’s juvenile horror-thriller Coraline, Maurice Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are and Roald Dahl’s young reader Fantastic Mr. Fox were each made into unique, challenging films in radically different styles by directors Henry Selick, Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, respectively. Read More >

The Reluctant Saint: Joseph of Cupertino

2010-01-08 05:49:20 Like its protagonist, Saint Joseph Desa of Cupertino, throughout much of his lifetime and most of the film, Edward Dmytryk’s 1962 film The Reluctant Saint is a modest affair that has attracted little attention, but has more to offer than meets the eye. Read More >

New Moon: The Twilight Saga Returns

2009-11-20 08:07:51 There is even a Twilight tourism industry, centered on Washington State, where much of the story is set. While Robert Langdon fans get to go to Rome and Paris for the Dan Brown experience, Stephenie Meyer aficionados converge on rainy Forks, Washington to take “Twilighter tours” of locations more or less corresponding to settings in the books, from a Craftman-style house similar to the Swans’ to a locker at Forks High School designated Bella’s locker. Read More >

“Not Just Another Christian Film Festival”

2009-10-23 05:26:00 Miami’s brand-new John Paul II International Film Festival (October 27–November 7) aspires to be a festival with a difference. Read More >

Harry Potter vs. the Pope?

2009-08-05 08:51:03 To summarize: What we have is an informal, brief, obscurely worded opinion, in a private letter that may or may not have been written by Ratzinger himself, apparently declining to comment on a book that he may or may not have perused about a series of books he may or may not have ever laid eyes on. Read More >

Rome and Geneva: Religion and Science in Angels & Demons

2009-05-15 04:19:30 When Sony Pictures, the production company behind the hit film The Da Vinci Code and the new sequel Angels & Demons, reached out to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN management in Geneva saw a high-profile teachable moment for science. Read More >

Fact-Checking Angels & Demons: Lies, Damned Lies and Dan Brown

2009-05-08 01:59:47 In a Q&A billed as an “interview” on his own website, Brown writes (in a comment recently highlighted by Carl Olson in This Rock), “My goal is always to make the character’s [sic] and plot be so engaging that readers don’t realize how much they are learning along the way.” Or how much misinformation they’re absorbing. Read More >

2008: The Year in Reviews

2009-01-23 12:41:20 Jeffrey Overstreet called the movie year 2006 “the year of the nightmare.” I’m starting to think we haven’t woken up yet. Read More >

2008: The Year in DVDs

2009-01-02 05:50:26 For family audiences, 2008 was a good year at the cineplex — but an even better year for DVD releases overall. In fact, in 2008 quality entertainment for families as well as older viewers came by the boxload. Read More >

Family Films Move Forward in 2008

2008-12-19 07:14:42 Wall‑E is more than another confirmation of Pixar’s moviemaking virtuosity and magic touch with family audiences. It’s the crown jewel in a year that had in some respects had a bit more to offer family audiences from Hollywood than other recent years. Read More >

Hollywood and Religion: Priests, Nuns and the American Silver Screen

2008-12-12 10:46:59 An old witticism has it that Golden Age Hollywood was “a Jewish-owned business selling Catholic theology to Protestant America.” If not strictly accurate, the bon mot contains more than a kernel of truth. Read More >

Twilight Appeal: The cult of Edward Cullen and vampire love

2008-11-28 14:45:11 Chastity is a precious thing, and the struggle to be chaste is both an inevitable part of a moral life and a legitimate subject for narrative art. In part, this quest for chastity may legitimately form some part of Twilight’s appeal. At the same time, a narrative that wallows in the intoxicating power of temptation and desire, that returns again and again to rhapsodizing about the beauty of forbidden fruit, may reasonably be felt to be a hindrance rather than an affirmation of self-mastery. Read More >

Of Bond, Batmobiles and Bullwhips

2008-11-06 00:00:00 By rights, pulp heroes like Batman and James Bond belong to this world of escapism, not the world of The Godfather. Bond was even one of the original inspirations for Indiana Jones. (“I’ve got something better than James Bond” was how Lucas pitched the character to Steven Spielberg.) Now, though, the boundaries are becoming less clear. Read More >

Hellboy and Spiritual Warfare, Hollywood Style

2008-07-11 04:37:59 You won’t find the gospel in movies like Hellboy. What you may find is signs of a world that has been touched by the gospel — a world that retains some awareness of sinister forces to be avoided or resisted, of evil that cannot be overcome by therapy or education or communication, that calls for a response from another realm entirely. Read More >

Eye Candy and Vague Faith: Narnia Filmmakers Talk Prince Caspian

2008-05-15 14:05:52 Speaking by phone from New York, producer Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson and heir, suggested that the new film’s more mature tone was partly a reflection of the book itself. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written very much to be read aloud,” Gresham explained. “With Prince Caspian, in [Lewis’s] mind his audience had moved up a few years in age, and so Prince Caspian was written for them to read to themselves.” Read More >

Constantine’s Sword

2008-04-18 06:00:53 The most serious problem with Constantine’s Sword, though, is not its historical distortions. The most serious problem is its out-and-out attack on Christianity as such. It is not merely antisemitism that troubles Carroll. It is not even only Jesus’ death and resurrection. Ultimately, it is the very belief that in Jesus God did something both unique and definitive, something with universal applicability for all mankind. Read More >

Faith and Film Criticism: The Challenge of the Catholic Critic

2008-02-29 11:27:04 No critic can offer a one-size-fits-all approach for all committed Christians. I can’t, and have never tried to, tell anyone what to think or watch, or make definitive pronouncements about good or bad movies. I’m not the Pope; I’m not even the pope of movies. There is no pope of movies. Even the Pope isn’t the pope of movies. Read More >

2007: The Year in DVDs

2008-01-18 11:19:40 2007 was a remarkable DVD year for fans of the Vatican film list. Read More >

2007: The Year in Reviews

2008-01-18 11:13:41 There were ultrasounds. Disturbing images of post-abortion fetuses. Mention of fetal heartbeat and ability to feel pain. One way or another, over half a dozen 2007 films found themselves reckoning with the reality of life in the womb. It’s fair to call 2007 the cinematic year of the unborn child. Read More >

Bella: Metanoia Films’ award-winning first film about wounded hearts, family and a crisis pregnancy celebrates love, life and understanding

2007-10-26 02:35:54 For Verástegui — a former boy-band and telenovela heartthrob known to Latino fans as “the Mexican Brad Pitt” — the mission is simple. “Hollywood doesn’t belong to the studios,” he recently told Decent Films. “Hollywood belongs to God. And we need to take it back. And that’s what I’m trying to do, by example first, trying my best every day to be involved in projects that will inspire people to use their talents to do something positive for the world.” Read More >

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