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.


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Entries in Movie Reviews (164)


The Magdalene Sisters

[Our Sunday Visitor, September 14, 2003]
The Magdalene Sisters

You know how, when you're changing channels and land on an old movie, you can guess when it was made? Cinematic "looks" change with fashion, and it's easy to tell opulent, color-drenched early-60's style from the sparer 70's or smoky 40's. In "The Magdalene Sisters," a film about the "Magdalene asylums" operated by the Irish Catholic church, director Peter Mullan displays his genius for capturing the look that today's moviegoers crave-one that proclaims authenticity.

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Seabiscuit, Pirates of the Caribbean

[Our Sunday Visitor, August 17, 2003]


"Seabiscuit" is the best big-story, big-heart movie of the summer. You know the type: it has underdogs, or rather an underhorse, and three men drawn to him by a common dream. Strings and cymbals crowd the soundtrack to the point of bumping elbows, and the action goes to slo-mo, then to black-and-white. An unseen narrator solemnly drops stones into the pond: "It was the beginning and the end of imagination at the same time," and the middle too, I'll bet. Later, the Works Project Administration is described as "showing somebody really cared," which must be how it won the Strawberry Shortcake award.

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Spellbound and other Documentaries

[Our Sunday Visitor, July 20, 2003]


Last month the movie buzz was about "The Matrix Reloaded" and its "What is reality?" theme. Joke's on us, because movies are inherently unreal. From the time you step into that darkened auditorium, you're a guest of Tinsel Town.

But there's another kind of movie which sets out to challenge this assumption. Documentaries are based on the irrefutable premise that film can capture reality more truly than any other art form. The 1922 silent, "Nanook of the North" set an early high standard. It depicted the harshness of Alaskan life with such directness that reporters flocked to the tundra to interview the star. Too late: he had perished, starving to death on an ice floe. That's reality, brother.

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Finding Nemo

[Our Sunday Visitor, May 27, 2003]

Finding Nemo

You probably don't need any encouragement from me to see Pixar animation studio's new feature, "Finding Nemo." If you have kids in the house, they have been clamoring about it for weeks. You can't turn on a TV without seeing the dazzling colorful ads. You can't go to the store without passing mounds of Nemo plush toys. If you huddled on the floor with your arms crossed over your head, someone would still shove Nemo fast-food coupons under the door.

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Bruce Almighty

[Our Sunday Visitor, May 27, 2003]

People may disagree over whether a glass is half empty or half full, but both sides have to admit that it's about half what it could be. "Bruce Almighty" is about half of "It's a Wonderful Life," the 1939 classic that it admires so much. On the plus side, it's got Jim Carrey in fine form, crackling with better-than-average lines and excellent timing. I'm not a fan of Scary Carrey, although some viewers prefer the hypermanic vicious Jim of earlier films.

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Matrix Reloaded, A Mighty Wind, Down with Love

[Our Sunday Visitor, May 19, 2003]

The Matrix Reloaded

George Lucas, watch your back: the Wachowski brothers have gone and made a Star Wars movie. The writing-directing team that gave us “The Matrix” (1999) is back with “The Matrix Reloaded.” It’s got a multi-level industrial hideout for the good guys. It’s got giant walking robot thingies. It’s got grandiose background music. It’s got gray-haired councilors saying grim and ponderous things. It’s got bold crews on ships—not a space ships, but ones that travel inside the earth, so I guess they’re dirt ships.

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The Matrix of Reality

[Christianity Today Online, May 11, 2003]

If you can read this, you're probably not waiting in line at a movie theater. If you don't know why people might be waiting in line at a movie theater, you need to come out of that fallout shelter. Fans have been anxiously anticipating the release of The Matrix Reloaded ever since the house lights came up at the end of 1999's blockbuster, The Matrix.

The Matrix is surely the most overanalyzed movie since they invented Christian film critics.

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Anger Management, Levity

[Our Sunday Visitor, May 4, 2003]

Anger Management

Gooze-frah-bah. Feel better? That’s a phrase taken from a lullaby that Eskimo mothers use to calm their children. Or so says Dr. Buddy Rydell, anger management therapist and author of “K(no)w Buddy Cares.” In this chewy role Jack Nicholson wears a beret, goatee and an incessant grin, and oozes with know-it-all condescension. If you weren’t angry before you met him, you will be.

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Why They Hated Pinocchio

[Touchstone, April 2003]

Why They Hated “Pinocchio”

I am the sole member of a very tiny club: as far as I can tell, I am the only reviewer in America who liked Roberto Benigno’s production of “Pinocchio.” I had sat all alone in a theater, thoroughly charmed by the production, the costumes, cinematography, and performances. And I wondered why I was alone. Later I checked a website that catalogues film reviews and did a double take. This site gives films a percentage score based on the number of positive reviews; the stylish film “The Hours,” for example, was enjoying an 88% rating. The site’s editors had not found a single review of “Pinocchio” they could classify as positive. “Pinocchio” scored a zero.

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Bringing Down the House, Shanghai Knights

[Our Sunday Visitor, April 6, 2003]
Bringing Down the House

There are many ways a movie can be bad. It can be badly written, badly acted, badly filmed; it can have a bad plot, a bad premise, or a bad message. "Bringing Down the House" is bad in all these conventional ways, but then invents new ways to be bad, and sets race relations back forty years. It's the decathlon of badness.

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