Search
I'll Come Speak

    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.

 

Powered by Squarespace

Entries in Movie Reviews (164)

Tuesday
May172005

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

[National Review Online, May 19, 2005]

Well, that's a relief. This last of six films in the Star Wars saga, that monument of American myth-making, is finished - and it is good. There was danger that things would turn out differently, and the tale of these characters would have been eclipsed by the tale of their maker: a young man who started out brilliantly, then hesitated, then fumbled, and wound up being an object-lesson himself. Instead, the applause George Lucas receives for "Revenge of the Sith" will be genuine and sincere. That's got to be gratifying to him, and a relief to us.

Readers who have a vague sense that there have been some movies called "Star Wars" (or is it "Star Trek"? Maybe that's on TV) should prepare to get further confused.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Apr292005

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

[National Review Online, April 29, 2005]

What's wrong with this picture? Take your red crayon and draw a circle around the whale falling through space. Now draw a circle around the bowl of petunias falling beside him.

A whale and a bowl of flowers falling through endless space are not impossible-they're merely *improbable*, which is how they happened to get there. The spaceship Heart of Gold has an Improbability Drive. It would be improbable for this elegantly minimalist spaceship to leap from one end of hyperspace to another, so if you push the big Improbability button on the dashboard, that's what will happen. Other improbable things happen too: the two missiles pursuing the spaceship are changed into a whale and a bowl of petunias. The people inside the spaceship might be changed into anything. When the Heart of Gold first picks up the hitchhikers Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, they arrive in the form of sofas. In a later scene, the whole crew is turned into yarn-doll copies of themselves. Arthur, spacesick, emits a brilliant flow of multicolored yarn.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Apr032005

Millions

[National Review Online, April 5, 2005]

You'd be excused for thinking that the storyline of "Millions," while appealing, is not all that exceptional. A pair of brothers have recently lost their mom, and moved with their dad to a home in a brand-new development. The younger boy, Damian (Alexander Etel), a charmer with a freckled, open face, is playing in a grassy field near his home when a gym bag thrown from a passing train crashes through his cardboard fort. The bag contains a lot of lot of cash.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Mar122005

Robots

[National Review Online, March 14, 2005]

Towards the end of "Robots," a character resembling the Tin Man of Oz clutches his chest and says, "Now I know I have a heart, because I can feel it breaking."

Better check again. This animated feature has just about every pounding, clanking, or squeaking mechanism imaginable, but nothing in the shape of a heart. What it's mostly got going for it is an extraordinary look, and that look is undeniably a humdinger. This movie's visual style is so appealing you can't gobble up the screen fast enough.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Mar072005

Be Cool

[National Review Online, March 4, 2005]

Every once in awhile a comedy comes along that is bright and quirky enough that it lingers companionably in the mind a long time after. "Get Shorty" (1995) was one of those movies; the first time I saw it, I spent the ending credits wearing a big grin, thinking back over delicious scenes and wishing I could see more of those characters. They were reliably, satisfyingly odd, in the way that only someone who has a lot of complicated past history can be. What you saw on the screen had a tip-of-the-iceberg quality.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb122005

Because of Winn-Dixie

[National Review Online, February 18, 2004]

A cute little girl with no mommy, a shaggy dog with no home, a preacher-daddy, and a sleepy southern town peopled with adorable eccentrics - who could ask for anything more?

Those who are moved to beg for much, much less will want to steer clear of "Because of Winn-Dixie," a film based on the beloved children's novel by the same title, authored by Newberry Award winner Kate DiCamillo. Yet the film has surprising charm, and yields some unexpected insights. While the prime audience will always be kids and their tag-along grownups (an audience that will find this film more than satisfying), the occasional grumpy outsider who wanders in will also find plenty to enjoy.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb022005

Million Dollar Baby

[National Review Online, January 31, 2005]

Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" has won a basketful of Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. If they gave one for Best Kept Secret, it might win that as well. There's a twist in the plot of "Million Dollar Baby." It's not a whiplash turn, like that "Sixth Sense" or "The Usual Suspects." It's more of an unexpected plot morph that turns it from one kind of movie into another.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan262005

In Good Company

[National Review Online, January 28, 2005]

"In Good Company" opened the same week that Academy Award nominations were announced. Top honors went to movies about big-shouldered men: a crazy-brilliant inventor and filmmaker, a man who saved a thousand people from machete-wielding Hutus, the quiet genius who invented Peter Pan. Now comes Dennis Quaid as Dan Foreman, a suburban fifty-something who sells ad space in a sports magazine. Can this man be a hero?

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec182004

Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'

[National Review Online, December 19, 2004]

When I got home from seeing "Lemony Snicket," I read through "The Bad Beginning," the first in the 11-volume series about the unfortunate Baudelaire children. What with small pages and large print, it took about an hour. There I discovered that thing more precious than gold in publishing circles: a unique authorial voice. Daniel Handler, writing under the pseudonym "Lemony Snicket," narrates in a quietly morose, worried tone, recounting events that go from bad to worse and then worse again. The Baudelaires -- Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny, who bites -- were left parentless by a fire that destroyed their home, and have been placed in the care of a distant, evil relative, Count Olaf.

If you've never read any of these books, you think you can write it yourself from here. You can't.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec152004

Spanglish

[National Review Online, December 10, 2004]

Director James L. Brooks works hard; in such films as "Terms of Endearment," "Broadcast News," and "As Good as it Gets" he's laboring all the time to tickle your heartstrings and wring a tear from your funnybone. When it all comes together, that's entertainment, buster. But with "Spanglish," you get the feeling a whole other movie was left on the cutting room floor.

It's a shame, because the point this movie is trying to make turns out to be a good one: parents should make sacrifices for their children, noble self-discipline is good, impulsive self-indulgence is bad, and breaking up a marriage, even a desperately unhappy marriage, is very bad.

Click to read more ...