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September 2010
Compressed Story Clips Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

In tying together multiple books, director Zack Snyder and screenwriters John Orloff and Emil Stern pack in too much and too little—too many characters in a plot that tries to cover too much ground for its 90-minute running time, leaving its characters and ideas underdeveloped.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 24, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Staying in the Box is What Makes Buried Effective

A heavy wooden coffin is where all of Buried takes place. Thanks to a seemingly never-ending supply of tight camera shots and rather limited lighting in those incredibly close quarters, the audience can't help feeling equally claustrophobic while tuning in.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 24, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Christian Themes Deliver Devil 

A good horror movie is hard to find. A good horror movie full of Christian themes and spiritual teachings that validate the reality of God is virtually non-existent—and yet this is precisely what audiences get with Devil, conceived and written by M. Night Shyamalan.

  • Richard Abanes |
  • September 20, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Alpha and Omega is a Howl and a Miss

Alpha and Omega doesn't bother scraping the bottom of the barrel for cheap laughs. But even with a healthy dose of aw-shucks charm, this road-trip romance still lacks the warmth and sophistication, not to mention those essential eye-popping visuals, of its recent animated counterparts Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 17, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Ben Affleck Pulls Triple Duty with Aplomb in The Town

With The Town, Ben Affleck gets ambitious serving as the film's director, co-writer and star. For the most part, he pulls off his duties with aplomb. And like his directorial debut (Gone Baby Gone), this is a multi-layered, unsettling morality tale where drugs and four-letter words are used in abundance.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 17, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Resident Evil: Afterlife Destined for Quick Video 'Afterlife'

It's hard to imagine this Resident Evil chapter expanding the franchise's audience. The film should have a brief theatrical run before finding its "afterlife" on home video, where its loyal audience can watch it over and over again. For everyone else, once will be quite enough.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 13, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Seriously Consider an Exit Strategy Before Going the Distance

In an effort to defy conventional romantic comedy, the screenwriter of Going the Distance took an intriguing premise—how does a long-distance couple actually make it work?—and immediately shot it in the foot with a bazooka.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 03, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Circumstance, Psychology Build Tension in The American

Director Anton Corbijn creates a moody but minimalist atmosphere in The American. The camera is mostly static, music scarcely heard, and shots linger. While thrillers usually depend on opposite tactics to set the tone, Corbijn strips those away—instead allowing circumstance and psychology alone to create confusion and build tension.

  • Jeffrey Huston |
  • September 01, 2010 |
  • comments
August 2010
Nostalgic Flipped Plods through Tale of First Love

When there's been nothing more than mindless popcorn flicks at a theater near you this summer, you can't help but want to root for a seemingly charming little movie like Flipped. But when the end product is little more than a plodding slice of nostalgia, you simply want something more.

 
Good Lessons Learned in Nanny McPhee Returns

Nanny McPhee Returns is a pure delight from beginning to end. It's packed with uplifting wit, nice plot twists, and a thought-provoking storyline that's bound to bring out the best in both adults and kids. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say it borders on inspiring.

August 2010
Sweet and Sour Mix in The Switch

This is a comedy about bodily fluids, with a few funny moments that unfold during the switch that give the film its title. But this is also a character-driven comedy about a man's slow awakening to the possibility that he's found someone he can spend his life with, and a responsibility to someone other than himself.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 20, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Uplifting Get Low Gets High Marks

An uplifting story of guilt, repentance and reconciliation, Get Low is a low-key work that is profound in its simplicity.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 16, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Journey Leads to Selfish Awakening in Eat Pray Love

That we are to be moved by the big-screen version of Elizabeth Gilbert's yearlong journey of self-discovery in Eat Pray Love is absurd. That the memoir on which it's based (and is reverent to) has become a phenomenon is downright disturbing.

 
Testosterone-Fueled Expendables is One Lame Throwback

Like watching Simon LeBon attempting to bust a move while singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" during a Duran Duran reunion tour, you can't stop wondering why 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone, who wrote, directed and stars in The Expendables, simply didn't quit while he was ahead.

 
Storytelling Slacks in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Gamers will understand the structure and hodgepodge approach to storytelling in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—or so I'm told—but the rest of us, who demand a smidgeon of narrative and stylistic consistency, will wonder what this film has wrought.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 13, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Ferrell's Just Coasting in an Uninspired Other Guys

For anyone who loves Will Ferrell's brand of absurd man-child humor, you get more of that in The Other Guys—but only in fits and starts. If his early films felt consistently inspired, this one follows the trend of feeling more like a work-for-hire. Ferrell's just coasting here, as is the whole movie.

 
Harsh Realities Aren't Whitewashed in Artsy Kisses

Though many independent films favor an equally bleak canvas for telling such a sad story, Kisses is striking and beautifully conceived thanks to gorgeous black-and-white photography and an enchanting score, even when the storyline turns dark and dangerous.

July 2010
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore Should've Gone Straight to Video

Aside from Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me, kids have really gotten the short end of the cinematic stick this summer. And sadly, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which is so bad it should've gone straight to video, doesn't exactly up the ante.

 
Charlie St. Cloud is More Creepy Than Weepy

The trouble with Charlie St. Cloud is that the screenplay tries to be so many things (part Field of Dreams, part The Sixth Sense, part The Notebook), that it doesn't do anything particularly well, including generating the necessary waterworks to win over its target demographic.

 
Sexual Jokes Coarsen Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks, a remake of the French farce The Dinner Game, expands on the original in many ways that improve the story, but it adds a heavy dose of sexual content that prevents the film from being easily recommendable.

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