Vic Thiessen Archive

Beauty and the Beast

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April 14, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney animated film. Featuring the delightful songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the highest quality old-fashioned animation, and a well-told (if heavily altered) fairy tale, the film has several flaws—the biggest being the redemptive violence at the film’s conclusion. Disney’s typical need to kill off the baddie has nothing to do with the fairy tale on which the film is based. The film’s biggest flaw was entirely predictable and is difficult to challenge in a remake. I am referring to the killing off of the baddie at the end of […]

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

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March 10, 2017 Vic Thiessen

The first season of American Crime Story is really a 10-part miniseries on the so-called Trial of the Century: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Unlike many people around the world, including tens of millions in the United States, I didn’t pay much attention to the 1995 trial of O. J. Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman. Perhaps that’s one reason the show didn’t blow me away the way it blew away many television critics. The People v. O. J. Simpson has received countless awards and overwhelming critical acclaim. For a television miniseries, The People v. […]

20th Century Women

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February 16, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Filmmaker Mike Mills’s last film, Beginners (2010), was about his father, who came out as gay at the age of 75. The film 20th Century Women, which is set in Santa Barbara, California, in 1979, is about Mills’s mother (his father is completely absent and apparently long out of the picture). Mills is represented by 15-year-old Jamie (played by Lucas Jade Zumann), who lives in a large house with his mother, Dorothea (played by Annette Bening), and her two boarders: William (Billy Crudup), the handyman and a former hippie, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), who is recovering from cancer treatments. Jamie’s […]

La La Land

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January 13, 2017 Vic Thiessen

The big winner at the Golden Globes this week was La La Land. It was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, a young filmmaker whose only previous film was 2014’s Whiplash, which concerned a young drummer sacrificing everything to achieve his dream of greatness. La La Land pursues a similar theme, albeit with greater subtlety and ambiguity. It’s a film that can generate hours of discussion on the meaning of life, which is a wonderful attribute, though whether the answers it provides are always helpful is a matter for debate. The central question in La La Land is whether love […]

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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December 16, 2016 Vic Thiessen

J. K. Rowling returns to the world of Harry Potter with a series of films based not on books she has written but on screenplays she is writing directly for the films. The first in the series is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and its blockbuster status assures that we will be seeing the rest of the series (five in total) in the years to come. Fantastic Beasts could have been a classic for the ages instead of merely a fun night at the movies. Fantastic Beasts is directed by David Yates (who directed the final four Potter […]

Manchester by the Sea

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November 11, 2016 Vic Thiessen

Hailed by critics as a masterpiece and viewed as a likely Academy Award nominee in all major categories, Manchester by the Sea will be coming to theaters on November 18. While I highly recommend this excellent film to most readers, for me it fell short of masterpiece status. Haunted by traumatic memories of his life in Manchester, Lee can neither imagine taking his nephew Patrick away from Manchester nor coming back to live there himself. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a man who returns to his small hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, […]

I, Daniel Blake and A Man Called Ove

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October 14, 2016 Vic Thiessen

I just returned from Edmonton, where I had the privilege of watching 19 feature-length films in 10 days at the Edmonton International Film Festival (now one of the most important film festivals in Canada). Only two of those 19 films stood out for me, and coincidentally they both featured 59-year-old widower protagonists. Critics will no doubt be unhappy with the pedagogical nature of I, Daniel Blake. This is not a film that hides its message. I, Daniel Blake, which will come to American theaters in December, is directed by Ken Loach, most of whose films are about the plight of […]

Pete’s Dragon

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September 16, 2016 Vic Thiessen

The latest Disney remake of one of its older animated films (the original Pete’s Dragon was made in 1977) is an improbable choice, because the animated film wasn’t very good, and translating this story to live action would appear to be challenging. Nevertheless, relative newcomer David Lowery was given the task of writing and directing a live-action version of Pete’s Dragon, with surprising results. Pete’s Dragon stars Oakes Fegley as the young five-year-old Pete, whose parents are killed in a car accident, leaving him alone in the woods. Pete ends up staying in the woods for six years, surviving only […]

Star Trek Beyond

August 12, 2016 Vic Thiessen

  The third film in this century’s revival of the Star Trek film series is directed by Justin Lin and written by Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty) and Doug Jung. Star Trek Beyond continues the adventures of the young Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), and Scotty in the alternate timeline introduced in 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, both of which were directed by J.J. Abrams. Unfortunately, the third film follows its predecessors in sacrificing an intelligent, complex thought-provoking plot in favor of action (often violent action). […]

The BFG

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July 15, 2016 Vic Thiessen

Steven Spielberg rose to fame and fortune as one of the world’s greatest film directors because of his uncanny skill in reading the inclinations of the masses, resulting in one blockbuster after another (though there were a few misfires along the way). That skill seems to have deserted him with his new film, The BFG, which has bombed all over North America despite being (in my opinion) one of the better children’s films made in this century. Unlike the nonstop action featured in most children’s films made today, The BFG is a slow, thoughtful film. Based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 […]

About The Author

Vic Thiessen

Vic Thiessen has been hosting weekly film nights for 12 years, speaks regularly on film and theology, and shares a film review blog with his brother. He is also film writer for the Canadian Mennonite.

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