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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 >

Good Morning (1959)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Formality and courtesy attend adult interactions, but beneath the surface lurk petty misunderstandings, resentments, suspicions. A boy complains that adult conversation is bloated with meaningless, empty pleasantries, while his friends prefer to engage each other with an amusement that appears to be an Asian equivalent of “Pull my finger.” Read More >

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the original inspirational-teacher story, and a beloved valentine to classical education, tradition, and the English public boarding schools of a bygone era. Read More >

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (2002)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Not a remake of the 1939 classic but a new adaptation of James Hilton’s sentimental novella, Masterpiece Theater’s engrossing Goodbye Mr. Chips couldn’t be more different from the 1939 film — and that’s all to the good. Read More >

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

B | ***½ | +2-2| Adults*

Obviously, a Kaufman film called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn’t going to be as cheerful and wholesome as the title might suggest. Despair, isolation, and loneliness continue to hang like a fog across his world. Eternal Sunshine also resembles his other films in its characters’ milieu of general dissipation, casual sex, drug use, and so on. Read More >

The General (1927)

A+ | **** | +0| Kids & Up

Arguably the greatest of Buster Keaton’s silent comedies, The General begins with a single, brilliantly sustained premise and works it into an engaging story that combines edge-of-your-seat excitement, stunningly conceived stunts and sight gags, spectacular set pieces, touching sentiment, and a rousing finale. Read More >

Shattered Glass (2003)

A- | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

With unsettling plausibility, first-time director Billy Ray depicts Glass’s uncanny ability to insinuate himself to his coworkers while ingeniously covering his tracks, mounting a deception on such a scale his peers and superiors can scarcely comprehend it even when he’s practically caught red-handed. Read More >

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004)

D | | +0| Kids & Up*

Unfortunately, while this sequel is the least morally problematic of Muniz’s three big-screen outings, it’s also far and away the lamest, lacking utterly its predecessors’ fitful humor and excitement. When the high point of your movie involves a Queen Elizabeth lookalike getting down to a youth-orchestra Euro-pop version of Edwin Starr’s "War," something has gone disastrously wrong. Read More >

Best in Show (2000)

C- | *** | -2| Adults*

The good news about Best in Show, the latest film from mockumentary veteran Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman), is that it’s funny — sometimes very funny. Guest is a sort of purist who creates the impromptu feel and immediacy of documentary by working from a short outline rather than a finished script; so his players really are ad-libbing to a significant degree. Read More >

My Architect (2004)

B | ***½ | -1| Teens & Up*

Nathaniel was 11 when his father died in 1974 at the age of 73. Nathaniel’s film, made nearly 30 years later, represents both an instrument and a chronicle of his efforts to explore who his father really was, what legacy he left behind, and what it might mean for his son. Part travelogue, part interview documentary, part home movie, My Architect surveys the elder Kahn’s most important buildings, from La Jolla’s Salk Institute to the Exeter Library to the Bangadeshi capital, along the way interviewing colleagues, peers, family members, even chance acquaintances — anyone who might have light to shed on the mystery of his father’s character and personality. Read More >

The Missing (2003)

D+ | ** | -2| Adults*

In place of Ford’s iconic but Indian-hating cowboy hero, Howard gives us two white protagonists who are each, in their own ways, the antitheses of the John Wayne character. Read More >

A Night at the Opera (1935)

A+ | **** | +0| Kids & Up

The fact is, A Night at the Opera is one of a kind, for which we can all be grateful. But it’s also something more. The most successful Marx Brothers film in their day both critically and popularly, A Night at the Opera is one of the two front-runners — along with Duck Soup, which was not successful at the time — for the best and funniest Marx Brothers feature ever. Opera was also reportedly Groucho’s favorite. Read More >

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

A- | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

The brief story is as simple as it is tragic. Recent incidents of cattle rustling have a small Nevada town jumpy, and news that a popular local rancher has been murdered has the townsfolk up in arms. In the absence of the sheriff, a self-appointed posse forms under the leadership of an ambiguously disreputable ex-Confederate officer, despite the ineffectual protests of some, including the town judge. Read More >

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