Reviews

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Citizen Kane (1941)

A+ | **** | +2| Teens & Up

While working on Citizen Kane, Welles joked that "If they ever let me do a second picture, I’m lucky." He was only half right. He was lucky enough to make many additional pictures, some of them masterpieces in their own right. But the luckiest he ever got, which is more than lucky enough, was getting to make Citizen Kane itself. That unprecedented level of control and magical synergy was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and, to his immortal credit, Welles made the most of it. He made Citizen Kane. Read More >

The Son (2002)

A+ | **** | +4| Teens & Up*

A tightly wound, middle-aged carpenter named Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) works with young boys at some sort of center. His inner life, his motives and emotions, aren’t revealed to us, and he doesn’t seem preoccupied with them himself. He wears a leather back brace, and has perhaps been injured at some point; and his work itself may be a similar sort of prop against some injury of his past. Read More >

Shane (1953)

A | **** | +2| Kids & Up*

If the Western is the quintessential American mythology, Shane (Alan Ladd in his best-known role) is the Western’s great knight–samurai archetype: stern in battle, mild with women and children, siding with the wronged, honoring marriage. Read More >

On the Waterfront (1954)

A | **** | +3| Teens & Up

“A Going My Way with substance” is how Elia Kazan’s classic, controversial On the Waterfront was recently described in a lecture at Boston College. Read More >

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

A+ | **** | +4| Kids & Up

In the end, perhaps the most enduring achievement of The Gospel According to Matthew is an ironic one, given Pasolini’s Marxism: No other life-of-Christ film is so contemplative, inviting the viewer simply to meditate on the life and teaching of Jesus. Read More >

Shrek 2 (2004)

B | *** | +1-1| Teens & Up

If Pixar’s Toy Story movies connect with the child in all of us, DreamWorks’ Shrek pictures are aimed squarely at our inner adolescent. I suspect I may be more in touch with my inner child than my inner adolescent. Read More >

Shrek (2001)

B | *** | +1-1| Teens & Up

Loosely based upon a story by children’s author William Steig (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble), Shrek is a satiric, updated fairy-tale love story, sort of like The Princess Bride, if André the Giant had been the hero, and had worn Lou Ferrigno body paint. And if Princess Buttercup did Matrix-style wire-fu and knocked out bad guys. Read More >

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

A+ | ***½ | +3| Kids & Up*

L’Chaim! Life itself, joyous and tragic, is the subject of the boisterous, comic, heartbreaking vision of Fiddler on the Roof. Read More >

Troy (2004)

B | *** | -2| Adults

So long is the shadow of The Iliad over the history of Western literature that before considering the merits of Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy it may be helpful to recall that the story of the Trojan War was not only likely told by poets long before Homer, certainly after Homer it has been retold and reworked by numerous poets and writers, including Virgil, Euripides, Quintus, Chaucer, and Shakespeare. Read More >

Emma (1996)

A- | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

If love makes the world go round, the dizzily whirling globe in the opening title credits of Douglas McGrath’s Emma is a clear statement of intent regarding the film’s theme. And when we see the globe is a painted model spinning on a thread in the hand of Emma (delightfully effervescent Gwyneth Paltrow), it’s clear how Emma sees herself — pulling the strings, orchestrating the happy convergences that make the world go round. Read More >

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)

B+ | *** | +2| Teens & Up

The Gilbreths were certainly disciplined and well-behaved, but there was also something a bit "off" about the whole family, and one could be excused for getting the definite impression that only a professional efficiency expert like Mr. Gilbreth could even think about having so many offspring. Read More >

Little Women (1933)

A | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Thus, while Little Women is far from hostile to its male characters, it has a positive feminine character and defines its protagonists not by relationships with men but by moral choices, experiences, and relationships with one another, their mother, and their community. Part comedy of manners, part morality tale, it’s more interested in its heroines "conquering themselves" than in a man conquering their hearts. Read More >

The Iron Giant (1999)

B+ | ***½ | +2-1| Kids & Up*

One of the pinnacles of non-Disney American animation, Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant is a nostalgic fantasy in the spirit of E.T. about a young boy (Eli Marienthal) growing up in a fatherless house, whose unusual friendship with a being from outer space — here a giant robot (Vin Diesel) with a penchant for eating metal — has to be hidden from his mom (Jennifer Aniston) and the federal government. Read More >

Man on Fire (2004)

F | ** | -3|

"In the Church they say to forgive," one character observes dubiously. But in Creasy’s book, to forgive is divine, to mutilate and butcher human. "Forgiveness is between them and God," he says, conveniently overlooking the relevant biblical injunctions even though we know he can quote chapter and verse when he wants to. "My job is to arrange the meeting." We know we should agree with Creasy, because his murderous rampage is scored by a cool rock soundtrack and sanctified by a mother’s kiss. That’s got to be righteous. Read More >

Ben-Hur [A Tale of the Christ] (1959)

A | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

The grandest of Hollywood’s classic biblical epics, William Wyler’s Ben-Hur doesn’t transcend its genre, with its emphasis on spectacle and melodrama, but it does these things about as well as they could possibly be done. Read More >

Places in the Heart (1984)

B+ | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

Sally Field gives an Oscar-winning performance as Edna Spalding, a wife and mother of two whose life is shattered by a sudden, pointless tragedy. In the aftermath, she is confronted by a bewildering array of hurtles which she never have imagined having to deal with, but must now rise to the challenge. These hurtles include financial dealings with condescending businessmen, a possibly shifty black drifter (Danny Glover), an unwanted and ungrateful boarder who is blind (John Malkovich), and a devastating act of God. Read More >

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

C- | **½ | -3| Adults*

Morpheus’s expository speech to Neo in the first film about the history of the power behind the Matrix — particularly the bit about the solar issue and the moment when he holds up the battery — is both the least persuasive and the least interesting thing about the film. It’s a perfunctory plot-level explanation that one accepts for the sake of the action and the hero’s journey, not something one particularly cares about for its own sake. Read More >

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

C | **½ | -2| Adults

Beyond that, unlike Reloaded, which featured an impressive but hardly groundbreaking freeway chase scene as its biggest set piece, Revolutions has startling new sights to offer, notably a spectacular siege scene that recalls the first act of The Empire Strikes Back with its Walker attack on the Hoth Rebel base. In fact, The Matrix Revolutions arguably had the potential to be the Empire Strikes Back to The Matrix’s Star Wars, had the Wachowskis not squandered that opportunity six months ago with Reloaded. Read More >

The Matrix (1999)

B | ***½ | -3| Adults*

Be that as it may, scratch the surface of the vast body of commentary and discussion devoted to The Matrix, and you could start to get the impression that Morpheus’s comment is a fairly accurate description of the film itself. The Matrix has been described as everything from a neo-gnostic parable to a Christian allegory, from a strikingly innovative action film to a derivative rip-off of kung-fu clichés and stock anime conventions. Commentators have found influences from Plato and Descartes, Lewis Carroll and Star Wars. At the end of the day, can anyone really say what The Matrix is? Read More >

The Alamo (2004)

B+ | ***½ | -1| Teens & Up*

(Written by Jimmy Akin) This is the story of a civil war. Not the one you’re familiar with, but one that occurred a quarter century earlier. In this civil war, the North seceded from the South, and since the secessionists won, it’s not called a civil war but a revolution: the Texas Revolution. Read More >

Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

A | ***½ | +3| Kids & Up*

Viewed as a whole, “Jesus of Nazareth” may or may not be the best life of Jesus film ever made, but it remains in some ways the standard by which other Jesus films are judged. Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew and Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ may be better films, but no other Jesus film offers an interpretation of the gospel story as comprehensive and definitive as “Jesus of Nazareth”. Read More >

From the Manger to the Cross (1912)

A | ***½ | +3| Kids & Up

The art of cinema had advanced dramatically in the few years between the two films, and From the Manger to the Cross is far more sophisticated — though I actually find the earlier, more primitive Life and Passion more effective. Even so, both are worthwhile, and they make a good double bill. Read More >

The Face [Jesus in Art] (2001)

A | ***½ | +4| Kids & Up

The Face, a remarkable two-hour documentary produced in conjunction with the Catholic Communication Campaign, is a visually sumptuous and spiritually rewarding exploration of Christian art that surveys the history of how Jesus Christ has been portrayed, and how Christian teaching has been understood, interpreted, and given different emphases by the art of different times and places. Read More >

Hellboy (2004)

C+ | **½ | +1-2| Teens & Up*

The best thing about Hellboy is Hellboy. And he’s a demon. Read More >

Clifford’s Really Big Movie (2004)

C+ | **½ | +1| Kids & Up

Reviewed by Sarah E. Greydanus, age 9, and Steven D. Greydanus Read More >

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1905)

A+ | **** | +4| Kids & Up

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ is a remarkable relic from the very dawn of cinema. Read More >

Miracle (2004)

B+ | *** | +1| Kids & Up*

Miracle manages the neat trick of establishing this game as much more than a game without making it all about politics or turning the Soviet players into ideological bad guys. Like Seabiscuit, with its Depression-era tale of a scrappy underdog racehorse taking on the much-favored champion thoroughbreds, Miracle establishes its setting in a time when American spirit is at a low ebb and people are ready to rally behind an underdog hero who can help them believe in comebacks and David-and-Goliath upsets. Read More >

The Sound of Music (1965)

A | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Other than The Wizard of Oz, no Hollywood musical is as familiar, reassuring, and beloved of all ages as The Sound of Music. Read More >

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

B | *** | -2| Teens & Up*

Yet against all odds, T3 is a smart, rousing extension of Cameron’s paranoid fantasy that not only meshes seamlessly with the past and future continuities of the earlier films, but actually advances and develops the series’ apocalyptic mythology. Read More >

Diary of a Country Priest (1951)

A+ | **** | +4| Teens & Up

Faithfully adapting its source material, Catholic novelist Georges Bernanos’s fictional autobiography of a soul, the film profoundly contemplates the spiritual meaning of suffering and persecution, conversion and incorrigibility, and the dark night of the soul with a rigor and insight evocative of Augustine’s Confessions or Thérèse’s Story of a Soul. Read More >

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