Junior Knows Best

03/30/2010 Comments (3)

Top: Brendan and Aisling from The Secret of Kells; Bottom: Hiccup and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon

In theaters right now are two charming and visually engaging animated films at opposite ends of the budget spectrum, different in many respects but with some interesting overlap as well. One is How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks’ big-budget CGI adaptation of a popular children’s book. The other is The Secret of Kells, an Oscar-nominated Irish animated indie made on a comparative shoestring budget, now in limited release.

Both films are European-set fantasy period pieces, with Vikings and mythological creatures both friendly and decidedly unfriendly. (In How to Train the Vikings are the hero and his people; in The Secret of Kells they’re the bad guys.) 

In each film, the protagonist is a...READ MORE

Filed under animation, family films, how to train your dragon, movies

Amish Grace: Forgiving Our Enemies

03/26/2010 Comments (5)

Kimberly Williams-Paisley stars in Amish Grace as an Amish mother bereaved of her daughter in the 2006 Amish school shooting.

Amish Grace premieres this Sunday, March 28 at 8pm EDT / 5pm PDT on LMN.

Three years ago, coinciding with a rash of post-9/11 deaths from respiratory and circulatory ailments about five years after the attacks, my brother-in-law David succumbed suddenly to an incredibly aggressive form of leukemia. He had been in the ash cloud emanating from Ground Zero on 9/11, and my wife Suzanne suspects his death was 9/11-related. As she’s the one with medical training, I usually accept her judgment in such matters.

Do I forgive the 9/11 terrorists? It’s a question I can’t remember asking myself before this week after screening the upcoming Lifetime TV movie Amish Grace. Inspired by the nonfiction...READ MORE

Filed under forgiveness, movies

On DVD: The Blind Side

03/24/2010 Comments (5)

Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) is a red-state, family-values, guns-and-religion Erin Brockovich. Righteous, indomitable, unflappable, glamorous in plunging necklines and thigh-hugging skirts, she’s also a pistol-packing mama, a happily married homemaker and mother of two, a Bible-belt Evangelical and a dyed-in-the-wool gridiron junkie. She isn’t crass like Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning part, but she’s as blunt and direct as an offensive tackle, and about as apt to be cowed by other people’s crass or intimidating behavior.

Leigh Anne and Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) are from different worlds. She’s a former cheerleader, an Ole Miss alumna and interior designer married to a successful...READ MORE

Filed under movies, reviews

Bedrock Studios: Birds, the Bible and Children's Books

03/22/2010 Comments (10)

This is not Bedrock Studios co-founder Cary Granat.

If the name Bedrock Studios doesn’t sound familiar, you might think it’s because you haven’t watched “The Flintstones” lately … especially since the new production company was co-founded by Cary Granat—not the Hollyrock star, the former CEO of Walden Media—and Ed Stones, er, Jones of Industrial Light & Magic.

Like Walden, Bedrock Studios aims at family audiences. Their first project, an animated buddy film bravely named Turkeys, stars Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson; their sophomore project is an eye-popper: In the Beginning, a 3D live-action adaptation of the creation story of Genesis. Granat is a Christian, and I have to admit I’m curious where this will go. 

Bedrock is also...READ MORE

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Joseph of Nazareth: The Man Closest to Christ

03/19/2010 Comments (2)

I don’t often discover a new angle on a biblical text from a Bible movie, but Joseph of Nazareth: The Man Closest to Christ (available on DVD from Ignatius Press) suggests an attractive approach I had never before considered to a deceptively knotty passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel, namely, the passage in Matthew 1 in which Mary has been found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, and Joseph resolves to “divorce her quietly” and not “put her to shame.”

What exactly does this mean? Divorce was a public act; there would seem to be no way to abandon Mary in her pregnant state, however undramatically, without “putting her to shame.” I remember puzzling over this passage in scripture studies...READ MORE

Filed under bible, movies

The End of Fairy-Tale Princesses?

03/17/2010 Comments (4)

Yesterday I wrote about the possible effects of the box-office success of Alice in Wonderland on fairy-tale revisionism in family films to come. The flip side is the box-office disappointment of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, which hit DVD shelves yesterday.

It looks like concern over The Princess and the Frog‘s poor performance is translating into branding concerns for upcoming animated fairy tales, including the Disney project formerly known as Rapunzel, and possibly Pixar’s The Bear and the Bow.

I found The Princess and the Frog to be an engaging blend of classic Disney themes and contemporary sensibilities, despite scary, morally mixed voodoo imagery too intense for younger...READ MORE

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Coming at You: More 3D, Fairy-tale Revisionism

03/16/2010 Comments (1)

It’s a straw in the wind: As the recently restored 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz comes out on Blu-ray today, Warner Bros is giving renewed attention to a pair of new Oz projects in early development, now likelier than ever to come to fruition. The reason: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Avatar’s monster box-office performance may have been the game changer, but it was Alice’s inflated opening ($116 million on the first weekend and still #1 in its second frame) that confirmed the trend: After six decades of curiosity status and technological evolution, 3D is finally the future of big-screen spectacle.

Upcoming movies like the Clash of the Titans remake and two final Harry Potter movies...READ MORE

Filed under movies

Green Zone and Torture

03/12/2010 Comments (34)

Regular readers know that I usually pass on writing about politically themed movies. I’m the same in real life; political discussions usually shut me down, simply because I feel I have nothing to say, and on the rare occasions that I do I often wind up regretting it.

I don’t quite regret taking on Paul Greengrass’s new Matt Damon thriller Green Zone, although it turned out to be such a tough review in an even tougher week that I almost do. All things considered, I’m reasonably pleased with how the piece came out, though I’m sure if I were a savvier political thinker it would be a better review.

Now, though, as it goes live, I suddenly wish I had given some space to an angle I missed. I...READ MORE

Filed under movies, torture

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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.