stuff close

Chesterton House

A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell

Movie Reviews

Film in our generation is perhaps the most dominant means by which ideas are communicated in Western culture. Film draws shamelessly from written literature, theatre, visual art, and music to create a powerful, pervasive, and larger-than-life spectacle that holds and shapes our minds and imaginations. so, it is natural that we, as Christians, attend to film to participate in contemporary conversations.

At Chesterton House we select films for group discussion that are not only well-crafted cinematic art, but also thoughtful and challenging opporunities for conversation. These discussions are excellent openings to consider matters of faith, culture, thought, and life.

We've been hosting movie night discussions for several years. For most of those films, our discussion host, Steve Froehlich, has written short reviews that are intended to help those attending the discussion to beging thinking about the ideas and structure of the film, hopefully to enrich the viewing experience. Since we look forward to hosting additional films, you will see new reviews appearing here throughout the year.

Finding Dory

"Probably the best thing about Finding Dory is that it delicately explores the challenges of raising—or being—a child with special needs. And the movie gives us all of these ways of caring for one another and living with physical and mental challenges in the least preachy package imaginable, so subtly that you barely realize it's happening." read more

12 Monkeys

"Solving the riddle of 12 Monkeys is an exhilarating challenge," says Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, The Fisher King, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote... well, not quite) has created an apocalyptic puzzle that dismembers time, like a surgeon performing an autopsy, so that we can explore what makes science tick--the science that unravels how the mind works, how the world goes, and how the heart sings. Read More

About a Boy

Will Freeman is a the character we suspected has been tucked behind the veneer of the superficial personalities embodied by Hugh Grant in many of his films. He is, as James Berardinelli so neatly describes, "the ultimate slacker. Read More

Autumn-Spring

It sounds much too bland to ask: How would you live today if you knew that it were your last? For someone who really did care about squeezing every drop of living out of life, the proposition must be framed with much more imagination. Read More

Autumn-Spring

It sounds much too bland to ask: How would you live today if you knew that it were your last? For someone who really did care about squeezing every drop of living out of life, the proposition must be framed with much more imagination. Read More

Big Fish

How will you tell the story of your life? How will you capture and remember the people, the moments that are the unfolding drama of life? Is there a story in your life worth telling? Read More

Blue

Watching any of the films by Krzysztof Kieslowski is like meditating upon an impressionist painting by Renoir or being embraced by a tone poem by Richard Strauss.  His films are compositions even more than they are stories - they are contemplations of the human condition, explorations of the soul that do not lose their grip on the real world. Read More

Bruce Almighty

"I don't need to sit here and explain this movie to you, do I?" So opens the review of Bruce Almighty by Christopher Null of filmcritic.com. He has a point. The film concept is painfully simple, and the point is glaringly obvious. Isn't it? So, don't be prepared for a labyrinth of intellectual exploration or profound psychological musings - that would be diving in the shallow end of the pool only to miss the universally obvious - which is the point. Read More

Chocolat

Chocolat is sinfully scrumptious cinema. Rarely does a film look good enough to eat, but Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) gives us a fairy tale that will tease your taste buds. Really. But feast your eyes -- you won't do any damage to your waistline. Read More

Changing Lanes

A fender bender on the FDR brings the lives of two men into collision as they both hurry to meet the demands life is pressing upon them. The lives of Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) are interrupted, and the delay resulting from the accident disrupts the order of their lives. In facing each other, they discover that they must be honest about the real root of the chaos in their lives. Read More

Citizen Kane

Most essays and reviews of "Citizen Kane" begin with either a haunting question or a bold statement: "Is Citizen Kane the greatest movie ever made?" or "Citizen Kane is undoubtedly the triumph of the American cinema, the greatest American film ever made!" Read More

CONTACT

For the Cornell community, the importance of the film CONTACT goes far beyond the fact that it is based on the 1985 novel by famous Cornell professor and scientiest, Carl Sagan. It is emblematic of issues formative to the founding of the university. Read More

Crash

Crash is a parable, a morality tale. As such it is terse with respect to narrative style, and it is focused with respect to theme. But the film and the subject it tackles are far from simplistic. Read More

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Woody Allen (writer and director of Crimes and Misdemeanors), notorious for doing some things badly, does at least two things well: he asks good questions, and he creates interesting characters to ask those questions. Read More

Dr. Strangelove

"Dimitri, we have a little problem." That's the President of the United States talking to the Soviet Premiere.

"He went and did a funny thing, Dimitri." That's the President explaining to the Premiere that General Jack D. Ripper has launched a nuclear strike because he's convinced that the Commies are poisoning "the purity and essence of our natural fluids" by adding fluoride to the water supply. Read More

Fight Club

"Things that you own wind up owning you," says Tyler Durden, provocateur, bare-fisted brawler, soap salesman. "Martha Stewart is polishing the brass on the Titanic."

"Shocking, disturbing, possibly dangerous, visceral, hard-edged" write reviewers of this intelligent and jarring film by David Fincher (The Game, Seven, Alien 3). Fincher, in a truthful and witty screenplay, tells us that he is giving us front row seats for the theatre of mass destruction. Read More

 

Frankenstein

It was a dark and stormy night. Really. It was the summer of 1816 on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, a site previously visited by literary giants like Milton, Rousseau, and Voltaire and a retreat to which another generation of literary greats had gathered for what some have called the most famous house party in literary history. Read More

Gattaca

Set in the "not too distant future" Gattaca asks questions essential to defining the identity, value, and purpose of human life. Vincent Freeman is a "faith-child" (born the old-fashioned way) living among the elite superstars of genetic engineering. Read More

Get Low

Get Low invites us to think about honesty and confession as it reflects on how Felix Bush has lived his life knowing that he has failed. Read More.

Hard Day's Night

John is gone. George is gone. Paul is now Sir Paul. Ringo is... Where is Ringo anyway?

2004 marks the passing of 4 decades since Richard Lester (director) and “the boys” gave us A Hard Day’s Night. For the Beatles the release of the film in September 1964 framed a sensational year that began with their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, an event witnessed by an unprecedented 70 million television viewers. Read More

Les Miserables 

Before attending Les Misérables, I heard from a friend - a long-time fan of the stage musical - that she found the rawness of the cinematography distracted her from the music. Armed with this observation, I did not expect to be as ravished by the film as I was. Read More

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation, an important film for our time, gives words and images to the lost loneliness of our generation. The deep longing of our heart for what we want more than anything, more than sex. To be found, to be understood, to belong, to be human. Read More

Midnight in Paris

As Roger Ebert says, “There is nothing not to like about this film.” Indeed. From my first viewing, I was thoroughly charmed.

Midnight in Paris (2011) is a pleasant potpourri of literary devices: love, longing, Paris, famous people, and a bit of time travel. Of course, since it’s a Woody Allen film, in some way you can be sure it is about him – don’t all of his films have an autobiographical narcissism? But in this case, it’s easy to look past his doleful eyes and enjoy the film. Read More

Minority Report

"You'd think we'd have found a cure for the common cold by now," opines Director Burgess as he blows his nose. In the year 2054, there may be no cure for the flu, but the Bureau of Pre-Crime claims that they have found a cure for murder. The Washington DC that we know as a madhouse of murder has been transformed by the mid-21st century--murder has become a thing of the past thanks to the new police system that prevents the crime before it happens. Read More

Moulin Rouge

The greatest thing

You'll ever learn

Is just to love

And to be loved in return.

These haunting lyrics from Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" weaving their way through Baz Luhrmann's "hallucinogenic fairy tale" (James Berardinelli), assure us that, whatever else the dazzling and exhausting spectacle ofMoulin Rouge may entice us to believe, it is a classic and simple love story. Read More

The Decalogue

Ten Commandments. Ten Films.

One work of art. One masterpiece. 

The Decalogue is a masterpiece of film-making written and directed by the Polish film genius, Krzysztof Kieslowski. Read More

The Royal Tenenbaums

The faded family banner still flies atop the peak of the majestic Victorian homestead in which the family Tenenbaum grew up. Well, no. That's not entirely correct. They never really grew up, and that's the problem. Each member of the family realized notoriety, even fame and glimpses of glory. But this is no family, and they resemble no family among our acquaintances. Read More

Unbreakable

Aristotle, in his Poetics, describes the classic literary hero falling from greatness when a tragic flaw is exposed. The story, then, is the struggle to reclaim the heights, wiser and nobler than before. This is the stuff of legends from Ulysses to Hamlet to Darth Vader. Read More

V for Vendetta

Remember, remember the fifth of November, The gunpowder, treason and plot, I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot.

On the Fifth of November, 1605, Guy Fawkes, the Catholic vigilante failed in his attempt to blow up the British King and Parliament. On the Fifth of November, 2010, the man know only as “V” and masquerading as Guy Fawkes, begins his year-long campaign to overthrow the totalitarian government of Britain. Read More

Wit

Vivian.  From the 1400-1500 Middle English (derived from the French vitalis, “to live,” and vit, “a life”). Vivian Bearing, as her names suggests, has lived life with drive and nobility, perhaps even a life that has been excessively bearing.  Over bearing.  She is a formidable, distinguished professor of English Metaphysical poetry renowned for her steely, intimidating rigor.  She is a scholar specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne.  Now, she is dying. Read More

 For more movie reviews from thoughtful Christian perspectives, see ...

 

See also:

 

Amy Sullivan, Jesus Christ Superstar