Harry Potter’s Empire Strikes Back? Don’t Make Me Laugh (Part 2)

12 reasons why Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is no Empire Strikes Back … or even The Two Towers

Friday, November 26, 2010 9:56 AM Comments (0)

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  1. Memorable new characters and creature designs. ESB and TTT introduce memorable, consequential new characters and state-of-the-art creature effects—sometimes at the same time, the crowning examples being Yoda and Gollum. Consider also Treebeard and the Ents; Taun Tauns, Wargs and winged Fell Beasts; Lando Calrissian, Éowyn, Éomer and Faramir.
  2. Characters and creature effects, of course, have been a stock in trade of the HP series. For nearly a decade, a who’s who of British thespians sporting outrageous prosthetics and even more outrageous performances have brought to life a supporting cast as colorful as Batman’s rogue’s gallery; and we’ve seen everything from giant...READ MORE

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Harry Potter’s Empire Strikes Back? Don’t Make Me Laugh (Part 3)

12 reasons why Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is no Empire Strikes Back … or even The Two Towers

Friday, November 26, 2010 9:55 AM Comments (56)

"42? Well, that's not bad for a pointy-eared elvish princeling, I myself am sitting pretty on 43."

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  1. Humor. ESB and TTT are way funny—funnier than their predecessors, arguably. Besides the romantic comedy between Han and Leia, See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo are at the top of their comic-relief game. Yoda: Funny also. Funny bits in TTT include Legolas and Gimli’s orc-slaying competition, a mortified Gimli asking Aragorn to toss him, and Merry and Pippin drinking Ent-water. DH1 isn’t without a few mildly funny bits —the polyjuice bits are amusing, and there’s Hermione’s seemingly all-inclusive bag—but I can’t think of a single exchange remotely as funny as Han and Leia’s exchange about discussing things in a committee. Is DH1 even one of the funnier HP films to date? I doubt...READ MORE

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Jesuitical

Friday, November 12, 2010 9:45 AM Comments (28)

Blaise Pascal was a great critic of Jesuit casuistry, and coined the pejorative adjective “Jesuitical,” meaning “crafty; practicing equivocation or overly subtle rationalization.” That may not have been fair to the Jesuits of Pascal’s day, but the image of the sly, deceptive Jesuit stuck.

More recently, among many orthodox Catholics, the Jesuit order has become associated with dissent and “progressive” theological heterodoxy, which, again, may or may not be fair.

Soon, though—if Last Temptation of Christ filmmakers Paul Schrader and Willem Dafoe have their way—the Jesuit name could carry another connotation entirely: hyper-violent criminal reign of terror?

From ComingSoon.net:

In...READ MORE

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Shaun on the Farm

Shaun the Sheep: Season One now on Region 1 DVD

Saturday, October 23, 2010 1:01 AM Comments (10)

For almost a couple of years now, I’ve been crowing about the joys of “Shaun the Sheep,” Aardman Animation’s “Wallace & Gromit” spin-off series on British television—until now available on Region 1 DVD only in one-disc collections of six to eight episodes. Now at last all 40 episodes of the first season of “Shaun the Sheep” are available in a two-disc edition from Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment. If you’ve been holding out, now is the time to discover the joys of Shaun.

The seven-minute episodes feature a Sheep named Shaun (get it?), originally introduced in the third “Wallace & Gromit” short, A Close Shave, as part of a flock on a small English farm with a trio of mischievous pigs, a...READ MORE

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Is Hollywood Rediscovering Religion?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 8:44 AM Comments (9)

Matt Damon and Cécile de France in Clint Eastwood's Hereafter

Are religious themes cropping up in more mainstream movies these days? Stephen Whitty, film critic for New Jersey’s largest newspaper, the Newark Star Ledger, thinks they may be. In a recent article Whitty connects the dots on a number of recent Hollywood offerings that touch on spiritual questions or themes of faith, from Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, starring Matt Damon, to the Ed Norton/Robert De Niro prison film Stone, from Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger to the Disney sports film Secretariat.

“These aren’t tiny indies,” Whitty notes, “like the evangelical films that sprang up after The Passion of the Christ” (i.e., movies like Facing the Giants and One Night With the...READ MORE

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The Palin-ing of Secretariat

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 3:15 PM Comments (27)

Here is a strange thing. Secretariat, a quietly faith-laced Disney movie from Christian director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) and Christian screenwriter Mike Rich (The Rookie), has bizarrely been catching politically tinged flak even more violent than last year’s inspirational sports film, The Blind Side. It also has an ironic if not improbable defender: Roger Ebert.

Take Jeffrey Wells’s comment at Hollywood Elsewhere: “I didn’t hate it—the racing footage is wonderful—but I loathe the white-a** Republican atmosphere. As I wrote last Sunday, ‘You never forget you’re watching a Randall Wallace family-values movie for the schmoes.’”

Notice that he doesn’t say there is a political...READ MORE

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New on DVD: Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber

Friday, October 08, 2010 10:12 AM Comments (6)

Recently I wrote an essay on an unusual film about an unusual saint: Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber, newly available on DVD from Ignatius Press. The project required me to watch the film a number of times—more often than I would usually watch a film before writing an essay—and the more I watched it, the more I came to admire and appreciate it.

Maia Morgenstern (the Blessed Virgin in The Passion of the Christ) plays Edith Stein from the day of her baptism to her martyrdom at Auschwitz. Although the film refers to her Jewish upbringing, loss of faith and atheism, pursuit of philosophy, and discovery of Teresa of Avila, whose writings led her to the Catholic Church, all of this is in the...READ MORE

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Tale as Old as Time: New on Blu-ray/DVD

Tuesday, October 05, 2010 10:31 PM Comments (44)

At the intersection of great animated films, great filmed stage musicals, and great fairy-tale romances, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast stands alone. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, it is simply the quintessential Disney masterpiece, the perfection of everything that Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid aspired to.

True, Disney’s great pre-war fairy tales, Snow White and Pinocchio, are no less perfect—but they belong, with Fantasia and Bambi, to a world of their own, and each of those early, experimental films stands alone, unique and untouchable. (Dumbo is a ringer, a slight effort that almost feels more like the “package films” that filled out...READ MORE

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About Steven D. Greydanus

SDG
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Steven D. Greydanus is film critic for the National Catholic Register and Decent Films, the online home for his film writing. He writes regularly for Christianity Today, Catholic World Report and other venues, and is a regular guest on several radio shows. Steven has contributed several entries to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, including “The Church and Film” and a number of filmmaker biographies. He has also written about film for the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy. He has a BFA in Media Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and an MA in Religious Studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA. He is pursuing diaconal studies in the Archdiocese of Newark. Steven and Suzanne have seven children.