Nanny McPhee

[National Review Online, January 27, 2006] The best line in “Nanny McPhee” is not actually spoken; it's merely exhaled through Emma Thompson's prodigious nose, a quietly observant “Hmmm.” You may not remember Thompson's nose being particularly notable in such arched-pinky movies as “Howard's End,” “The Remains of the Day,” and various Shakespeare and Jane Austen productions. But here it is bulbous and red,

Paradise Now

[Review of Faith & International Affairs, Winter 2005-2006] In “Paradise Now,” a new movie from director Hany Abu-Assad, there's a moment when the character Khaled (Ali Suliman) does a good imitation of a Wild West gunslinger. He faces a corner and then spins back out on one foot, turning toward his pals with a “quick draw” gesture and a grin. The joke is that he has just had a set of explosives strapped to his chest.

Narnia: Deeper Magic

[, December 9, 2005]‘Deeper Magic.’ No, that’s not the name of a new ecstasy-inducing shampoo. It ‘s the two little words that tradition-minded Christians will be listening for as they watch Disney’s new family blockbuster, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.’ This dazzling film includes just about everything a child could want for Christmas: evil spells, talking animals, spectacular battles, and four apparently-ordinary siblings who discover that they can be heroes.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

[National Review Online, December 9, 2005] Any director who attempts to bring a beloved novel to the screen can expect his fair share of slings and arrows. Just ask Peter Jackson, the hardworking genius behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, or any of the parade of directors who have delivered “Harry Potter” films. The latest to step up for a smackdown is Andrew Adamson, previously known for “Shrek,” as he offers his fresh and magnificent production of C.S. Lewis' novel, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Unlike the “Potter” directors, Adamson has not only junior readers to please

Walk the Line

[National Review Online, November 18, 2005] Someone watching “Walk the Line,” the immensely enjoyable 20th Century Fox movie about Johnny Cash, would gather the impression that Cash had something to do with music. Yes, we see him on stage frequently, and are treated to numerous song fragments. But music isn't what the movie is about. Instead, it's chiefly about his relationships with women - a first marriage troubled by his infidelity and addiction, a descent to the depths, a long yearning for another woman, and her eventual consent.

Pride and Prejudice

[National Review Online, November 11, 2005] Keira Knightley has a way of squinting -- narrowing her eyes and looking simultaneously skeptical and perky - that I just can't believe they had invented in the early 19th century. This stands out solely because everything else about this production of “Pride and Prejudice” is so well-appointed, from the gently-worn blue paint on the walls to the cotton lace on the pillows. Jane Austen's 1813 novel has been brought to the big and little screens many times before, but this new version, directed by Joe Wright, can't be beat. It is charming, lively, and satisfyingly authentic.

Chicken Little

[National Review Online, November 4, 2005] Is the big green head of the Wizard of Oz still scary? It sure used to be. Back in the days when “The Wizard of Oz” was broadcast once each Spring, the moment when that looming lightbulb head boomed “Silence!” was the closest a seven-year-old came to numinous awe. (Though it was the witch cackling “I'll get you, my pretty,” that caused my little sister's feet to thump-thump-thump away down the hall.) I ask because a good bit of “Chicken Little” is just as scary. Giant heads looming out of darkness and thundering “Silence!” is just one example.


[NationalReview Online, October 18, 2005] You had me at “Spasmotica.” Cameron Crowe, director of “Elizabethtown,” has a knack for the perfect detail. In “Elizabethtown,” one of them comes along at the start: a billion dollars' worth of high-end athletic shoes are being returned to the factory, and on each box the ultra-hip name reads “Spasmotica.” With two dots over the first “a”.

In Her Shoes

[National Review Online, October 11, 2005] About midway through “In Her Shoes” we see Rose Feller (Toni Collette, always a delight), semi-professional dogwalker, being yanked down the streets of Philadelphia by a team of mismatched pooches. It's a good metaphor for this film, which is propelled by several different stories at once, and some are livelier than others. That's an eye-of-the-beholder thing, of course, and there were many in the audience who were happy-teary puddles by the end of the film. A great majority of that audience segment was female, and many of them were wearing red hats. If you don't fit that category, approach with caution.

Oliver Twist

[National Review Online, September 29, 2005] Watching Roman Polanski's diligently faithful version of “Oliver Twist” prompts the question: how did anyone ever think they could get a musical out of this material? For 40 years now children have been prancing around theater stages, grinning and shouting about “Food, Glorious Food,” little aware of the relentless gloominess of the original. The darkness of Charles Dickens' 1838 novel must have come as a surprise even at the time; his only previous book was “The Pickwick Papers,” a jolly diversion. Dickens' fans eagerly awaited his second work, and as they paged through “Oliver Twist” it must have been as if Dave Barry had released “The Gulag Archipelago.”