Decent Films Blog

42 [video]

Posted Apr 13th 2013, 01:16 PM

42 in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: History, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Biography, Sports

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To the Wonder [video]

Posted Apr 13th 2013, 01:08 PM

To the Wonder in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Malickian, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Drama, Religious Themes

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Evil Dead [video]

Posted Apr 13th 2013, 01:39 AM

Evil Dead in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Dead Teenager Movie, Exorcism & Demons, Rebootin', Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), This vs. That, Horror

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Jurassic Park [video]

Posted Apr 13th 2013, 01:36 AM

Jurassic Park in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Action, Science Fiction

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The Croods [video]

Posted Mar 22nd 2013, 05:36 PM

The Croods in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Junior Knows Best, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone [video]

Posted Mar 22nd 2013, 05:26 PM

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Smoke & Mirrors

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The Call [video]

Posted Mar 22nd 2013, 05:24 PM

The Call in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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Oz the Great and Powerful [video]

Posted Mar 22nd 2013, 05:22 PM

Oz the Great and Powerful in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Debilitating Sequelitis, Fairy Tales, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Smoke & Mirrors, Witchery

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Spotlight: Junior Knows Best

Posted Mar 22nd 2013, 12:49 PM

The release of DreamWorks Animation’s new caveman comedy The Croods seems as good an occasion as any to spotlight my 2010 blog post “Junior Knows Best,” about one of my least favorite trends in family filmmaking.

That blog post was inspired by the convergence of How to Train Your Dragon and The Secret of Kells, likable animated family films that each featured a doggedly authoritarian patriarchal figure with a default stance of fear and mistrust toward outside forces and an overbearing, uncomprehending disciplinary approach toward the curious young protagonist.

Since then, in 2012 alone we had the convergence of a trio of monster-themed animated films, Hotel Transylvania, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, each of which featured — in different degrees — similar or related paternal stereotypes (Frankenweenie being the most nuanced, Hotel Transylvania the least so).

Now, though, The Croods takes the stereotype to new depths. I’ll probably never write a full review, though a 60-second review is coming soon.

In the meantime, here’s “Junior Knows Best.”

Tags: Spotlight

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On the Air: Catholic Answers Live, 3/22/2013

Posted Mar 22nd 2013, 12:25 PM

This evening, Friday, March 22, I'll be appearing on the first hour of “Catholic Answers Live” (6pm–7pm EDT).

Host Patrick Coffin and I will be discussing current films including The Croods, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and much more. Listen live!

Tags: Decent Films Doings

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New Blu-rays from Warner Bros

Posted Feb 8th 2013, 01:36 PM

What does this year’s Best Picture front-runner Argo have in common with Grand Hotel (1932) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989), both recently released on Blu-ray?

If Argo wins, they’ll be the only sound movies in history to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination for the director. (The only other Best Picture winner without a director nomination was the Academy Awards’ first Best Picture ever, the silent 1927 Paramount film With Wings.)

Both Grand Hotel and Driving Miss Daisy recently debuted on Blu-ray, along with a third Warner Bros Best Picture winner, Mrs. Miniver (1942). For product notes on the Blu-rays, see the new reviews.

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On the Air: “Reel Faith” & “Catholic Answers Live!”

Posted Feb 1st 2013, 11:31 AM

Tune into the second hour of “Catholic Answers Live!” tonight as Patrick Coffin and I discuss the best movies of 2012 and take your calls. (Hear EWTN live.)

Then come back in a week for our annual one-hour “Reel Faith!” Oscar special! David DiCerto and I run discuss the nominees, pick our favorites and make our ever-dubious predictions. Can you outguess us? It ain’t hard. Plus, a sneak preview of what’s coming to theaters in the months ahead, and our top 10 lists for 2012. (Watch NET live.)

Tags: Decent Films Doings, Reel Faith

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Best Films of 2012: More Lists

Posted Jan 29th 2013, 06:49 AM
The Kid with a Bike

Last week, I published my 2012 wrap-up and top films list. Now I turn my attention to other best-film lists.

Perusing the lists below (and bearing my own picks in mind), a number of recurring titles stand out — above all The Kid with a Bike (my #1 film of 2012), appearing on every list below except one. (Actually, my friend Ken Morefield clarifies that The Kid with a Bike did appear on his top 10 list — for 2011. So it’s unanimous!)

Other oft-cited titles include Moonrise Kingdom, Lincoln, Les Misérables, The Loneliest Planet, Looper and Brave.

While it’s natural to focus on these “consensus films,” idiosyncratic choices can also be worth attending to. A number of films called out by just one of my friends below are now in my queue. (Disclaimer: Obviously, since I haven’t seen all the films below, I don’t recommend them all, nor do I recommend all the ones I have seen.)

One pick on my list, Planet of Snail, wasn’t widely seen and appears on only one other list below, but I’m confident those who seek it out will be glad they did. (Planet of Snail debuts on home video February 12, along with The Kid with a Bike.)

As in the past, I voted in the two top 10 lists produced each year by ChristianityToday.com, Critics’ Choice and Most Redeeming.

The ChristianityToday.com Critics’ Choice winners for 2012 are:

  1. Lincoln
  2. Moonrise Kingdom
  3. The Kid with a Bike
  4. Zero Dark Thirty
  5. Argo
  6. Anna Karenina
  7. Skyfall
  8. Life of Pi
  9. Les Misérables
  10. The Avengers

The ChristianityToday.com Most Redeeming winners for 2012 are:

  1. Les Misérables
  2. Lincoln
  3. The Kid with a Bike
  4. Moonrise Kingdom
  5. Life of Pi
  6. Undefeated
  7. Argo
  8. Looper
  9. Brave
  10. The Avengers

Remarkably, all but one of the Critics Choice films, and seven of the Most Redeeming films, appear on my own top 20 — and six films appear on all three lists. (Life of Pi appears on both CT lists but not mine.)

Turning to some of my friends’ lists…

Victor Morton of Rightwing Film Geek put together the only list besides mine to include Planet of Snail (a film I saw on a tip from him), as well as Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress; he also picks a number of films that appear on lists below.

  1. The Kid with a Bike
  2. The Deep Blue Sea
  3. The Turin Horse
  4. Looper
  5. The Loneliest Planet
  6. Damsels in Distress
  7. The Imposter
  8. Amour
  9. Planet of Snail
  10. Cabin in the Woods

Jeff Overstreet, now blogging at Patheos, has two overlapping lists this year, a “global edition” and an “American release edition.” Comparing apples to apples, here’s his American release top 10, four of which he shares with me and at least one of the CT lists. (Check out his page for additional films.)

  1. Moonrise Kingdom
  2. The Master
  3. The Loneliest Planet
  4. The Kid with a Bike
  5. Lincoln
  6. Holy Motors
  7. Margaret
  8. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
  9. Brave
  10. This is Not a Film

Also at Patheos, Christian Hamaker’s top 10:

  1. The Kid with a Bike
  2. Looper
  3. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
  4. Margaret
  5. Lawless
  6. Life of Pi
  7. The Master
  8. Les Misérables
  9. Your Sister’s Sister
  10. Cosmopolis

M. Leary at Filmwell:

  1. Moonrise Kingdom
  2. The Turin Horse
  3. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
  4. The Loneliest Planet
  5. The Kid with a Bike
  6. Looper
  7. Holy Motors
  8. Let the Bullets Fly
  9. Haywire
  10. Oslo, August 31st

Finally, at 1More Film Blog, Ken Morefield goes very much his own way, with five documentaries and a number of choices that he acknowledges could be called contrarian. (Ken’s #1 film made my runner-up list; the rest I either haven’t seen or didn’t think as highly of as Ken. Still, Ken’s prompted me to take a second look at a number of them.)

  1. The Queen of Versailles
  2. Miss Representation
  3. Wreck-it Ralph
  4. Great Expectations
  5. Under African Skies
  6. Django Unchained
  7. Looper
  8. The Central Park Five
  9. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  10. Head Games

Tags: More Lists, You're the Top

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Les Misérables [video]

Posted Dec 25th 2012, 10:59 AM

Buy at Amazon.com

Les Misérables

Les Misérables in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review (plus product notes).

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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Hyde Park on Hudson [video]

Posted Dec 14th 2012, 05:04 PM

Hyde Park on Hudson in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: History, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [video]

Posted Dec 14th 2012, 04:58 PM

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: All Things Tolkien, Peter Jackson's Middle Earth, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), The Hobbit

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On the Air: “The World Over Live,” “Catholic Answers Live!” & “Reel Faith”!

Posted Dec 12th 2012, 07:54 AM

This week I’ll be all over Catholic media talking about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: EWTN’s “The World Over Live” with Raymond Arroyo, “Catholic Answers Live” with Patrick Coffin, and our own “Reel Faith” with my co-host David DiCerto. (Pay attention and you may catch me on “Kresta in the Afternoon” at some point too.)

First on Thursday, December 13, Raymond and I will be discussing the Lord of the Rings prequel as well as current and upcoming films, such as Les Misérables, Skyfall and Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. “The World Over Live” starts at 8:00pm ET. (Watch EWTN TV live)

Then on Friday Patrick and I will be discussing the current crop of films on the first hour of “Catholic Answers Live,” 6pm–7pm ET. (Listen to EWTN Radio live)

Finally, be sure to watch the latest episode of “Reel Faith” on Friday at 9pm ET as David and I review The Hobbit, Hyde Park on Hudson and more. (Watch NET live)

Tags: Decent Films Doings

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Hitchcock [video]

Posted Dec 7th 2012, 06:54 AM

Hitchcock in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Hollywood, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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Anna Karenina [video]

Posted Dec 7th 2012, 06:54 AM

Anna Karenina in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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Life of Pi [video]

Posted Dec 4th 2012, 12:41 PM

Life of Pi in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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Skyfall [video]

Posted Nov 16th 2012, 10:39 AM

Skyfall in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: James Bond, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Spy vs. Spy

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Flight [video]

Posted Nov 16th 2012, 10:21 AM

Flight in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Bad Denzel, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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Wreck-It Ralph [video]

Posted Nov 16th 2012, 10:18 AM

Wreck-It Ralph in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Based on Game or Toy, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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On the Air: “Reel Faith” & “Catholic Answers Live!”

Posted Nov 13th 2012, 12:47 PM

This week I’m making a foray from my diaconal semi-hiatus from film reviewing, with new written and material and broadcast appearances — including the return of “Reel Faith”!

This Friday I’ll be on the first hour of “Catholic Answers Live” (6pm–7pm EDT) with Patrick Coffin. We’ll be talking about Lincoln, Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph, Flight and other recent films. Listen live!

Then at 9pm EST my cohost David DiCerto and I will be back on NET for the holiday season of “Reel Faith.” In this week’s episode we’ll be reviewing Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph and Lincoln. (Watch NET live)

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Frankenweenie [video]

Posted Oct 4th 2012, 10:49 PM

Frankenweenie in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review — plus bonus feature notes and a video clip!

Buy at Amazon.com

Frankenweenie

Product Notes

Frankenweenie, Burton’s best film in years, is available in a number of editions: four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo with 3-D Blu-ray and digital copy; 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo, and 1-disc DVD.

Bonus features, available in both Blu-ray editions, are worthwhile, if modest: There is no commentary track, alas, but a 23-minute making-of featurette is one of the most interesting looks at the stop-motion process that I’ve seen. Part of the challenge of this particular project was shooting in black and white, and finding the right shades of grey (or occasionally color) to suggest the desired colors onscreen.

Burton’s original live-action Frankenweenie short is also included, along with a charming new stop-motion short starring Victor and Sparky, called “Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers.” In scarcely over two minutes, it recaptures the genre nostalgia and home-video aesthetic that has animated every incarnation of Frankenweenie. Here’s a clip:

Tags: Burtonesque, Junior Knows Best, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Stop-Motion Animation, Stop-Motion Macabre

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Looper [video]

Posted Oct 4th 2012, 10:46 PM

Looper in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Timey-Wimey

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Hotel Transylvania [video]

Posted Oct 4th 2012, 10:37 PM

Hotel Transylvania in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Junior Knows Best, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video), Villaincentricity

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Finding Nemo [video]

Posted Oct 4th 2012, 10:34 PM

Finding Nemo in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

Tags: Fatherhood, Pixar, Reel Faith, Reel Faith Reviews (Video)

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On the Air: Catholic Answers Live, 9/28/2012

Posted Sep 25th 2012, 12:00 PM

This Friday, September 28 I'll be appearing on the first hour of “Catholic Answers Live” (6pm–7pm EDT).

Guest host Thom Price and I will be discussing recent and upcoming films including Hotel Transylvania, End of Watch, Finding Nemo, ParaNorman and more. Listen live!

Tags: Decent Films Doings

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Singing to Babies (and Kids)

Posted Sep 4th 2012, 09:25 AM

Our new arrival, Matthew, is going on a month old, and he’s learning a lot about the world. One of the things he’s learning is that when Papa holds him, it’s not delicious like with Mama — but Papa sings songs, which seems to interest him. Suz says that when he’s not hungry he seems to prefer to be held by Papa, which may have as much to do with my patented rocking hold technique as my crooning, but I like to think the crooning helps too.

I’ve always sung songs to all our kids. We sing hymns every evening with prayers, and occasionally I sing religious songs, but for the most part my eclectic repertoire centers on folk, work songs, lullabies and songs for children.

When I was a kid I listened all the time to a collection of folk songs for children written by Woody Guthrie (thanks to reader StephC for correctly calling out Woody Guthrie Children’s Songs by Bob & Louise DeCormier; you can also hear Woody’s and Arlo’s versions of many of the songs here and here). A number of those songs are staples in our household, like “Bling Blang,” which refers to the ringing of a hammer, not tacky jewelry. The versions I grew up with seem not to be online in their totality, but I kind of like this Johnny Cash cover

You get a hammer and I'll get a nail
And you catch a bird and I'll catch a snail
You bring a board and I'll bring a saw
And we'll build a house for the baby-o

Chorus
Bling blang, hammer with my hammer
Zingo zango, cutting with my saw
Bling blang, hammer with my hammer
Zingo zango, cutting with my saw

Other staples from that album include “Mail Myself to You” (here’s a Pete Seegar version), “Race You Down the Mountain” (“Magic Garden” rendition) and “Little Seed” (which I can’t find online in full, but you can hear excerpts here and here).

Some of my songs might raise some eyebrows for their somewhat dark content. Of course babies don’t understand the words, but I keep right on singing the songs as they get older (partially because the babies keep coming). One of my favorites is Merle Travis’s “Dark as a Dungeon,” about coal mining in the Appalachians, which I learned more or less as performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (it was also perfomed by Johnny Cash in his Folsom prison album; here’s a Gordon Lightfoot cover): 

Now listen you fellers, so young and so fine,
And seek not your fortune in the dark dreary mines.
For it’ll form as a habit and seep into your soul,
'Till the stream of your blood runs as black as the coal.

Chorus
Where it's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
Where the danger is double and the pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mines.

My favorite verse is the last, which I sing softly and slowly.

Oh, I hope when I'm dead and the ages do roll,
My body will blacken and turn into coal.
Then I'll look down below from my heavenly home
And pity the miner a-diggin' my bones…

Where it's dark as a dungeon…

Somewhat similar in mood, though very different in feel, is “Drill, Ye Tarriers,” a work song about Irish workers drilling and blasting through rock for a railroad. The version I learned goes like this (this version is pretty close):

Every morning at seven o'clock
There's twenty tarriers a-workin' at the rock
And the boss comes along and he says keep still
And come down heavy on the cast iron drill

Chorus
So drill, ye tarriers, drill…and drill, ye tarriers, drill
Oh it's work all day for the sugar in your tay
Down behind the railway
And drill, ye tarriers, drill…

(If you sing it with an Irish accent, it’s clear that “sugar in your tay” is “sugar in your tea.” By the same token, “tarrier” may be an accented form of “terrier,” comparing the workers to terriers digging out prey.)

The next two verses go on to expound on the epic stinginess of the new foreman, Dan McCann: After a “premature blast” sends a worker named Jim Goff a mile in the air, McCann docks Goff’s pay a dollar “for the time you were up in the sky”!

One of the things I most like to sing is a fragment of a song: just four lines of the chorus of a tune I first heard on the radio, and only years later learned was written by Lyle Lovett. The song is “If I Had a Boat,” and the words of the chorus are one of the niftiest bits of lyric writing I’ve ever heard. Here is how it starts:

If I had a boat, I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony…

I like to pause here a moment, because this is where Lovett’s brilliantly askew sensibilities come in. Convention leads you to expect a sort of analogous parallelism, so that the line should end, for example, “…I’d ride out on the range,” or something of the sort. Instead, Lovett unexpectedly deploys synthetic parallelism:

…I’d ride him on my boat
And we would all together go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat.

Ha! That cracks me up. “If I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat.” Of course you would! Who wouldn’t? What could be better than that?

There’s more to the song than the chorus, and I know some folks are fans of the verse about Tonto, but for my money the chorus is just perfect and the verses add nothing, so I only sing the chorus (anyway, there are limits to what I’ll sing to kids). It’s short, but I work variations and ad libs, and it holds up.

Another nifty bit of writing about riding a horse is “A Cowboy Needs a Horse,” which I learned from the delightful 1956 Disney short by that title, but which was apparently written by Donny Osmond.

Oh, a cowboy needs a horse, needs a horse, needs a horse
And he's gotta have a rope, have a rope, have a rope
And he oughta have a song, have a song, have a song
If he wants to keep ridin'

Now a cowboy needs a hat, needs a hat, needs a hat
And a pair of fancy boots, fancy boots, fancy boots
And a set of shiny spurs, shiny spurs, shiny spurs
If he wants to keep ridin'

Oh, the fence is long and the sun is hot
And the good Lord knows that a cowboy's gotta
Keep ridin', ridin' along…

Oh, and speaking of songs from movies, there’s the song from Babe, “If I Had Words” (or “Moonshine” as we call it), written by Yvonne Keeley and Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve often sung this as a lullabye. The lyrics James Cromwell sings are somewhat different from the ones the mice sing over the end credits, but apparently the version I picked is very close to the original:

If I had words to make a day for you
I’d sing you a morning golden and new. 
I would make this day last for all time
Give you a night deep in moonshine.

And speaking of lullabies from movies, the most famous of them all was popularized by Bing Crosby in the quintessential Golden Age Catholic movie, Going My Way, i.e., “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”:

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Hush now don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, That's an Irish lullaby.

I actually learned that one not from the movie, but from my mother who sang it to me.

That’s more than enough to give you a sense of my predilections in singing for children…How about you? Those of you with kids, do you sing to them? What are your favorites? Please post your songs (with Internet links if you can find them) in the combox at NCRegister.com.

Tags: Babies

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