Catholic Youth and Family Resources

FILM REVIEWS






Wanted.

Starring James McAvoy (as Wesley Gibson); Morgan Freeman (as Sloan); and Angelina Jolie (as Fox). A milquetoast accountant (Wesley) is recruited to become an expert assassin by a sexy woman (Fox) and a powerful man (Sloan). They introduced him into a world where the rules of reality cease to exist. He becomes capable of performing unbelievable feats—most of them involving a gun. Nope, this is not The Matrix. It's similar to The Matrix, but it's 109 minutes strewn with sex and violence. There's more of the latter than that of the former. In this film you've got many forms of violence: shootings (lots of them); stabbings, slashings, beatings and a graphic murder/suicide (among others). As for sex, there are two crude sex scenes (one with nudity; and the other, semi-clothed). A lot of sexual dialogue, with the f-word used in a sexual context. Fox sometimes wears outfits (revealing her flesh and her tatoos). Wesley is involved in a non-marital cohabitation. His friend enters into discussions about methods of artificial contraception, mentioning their erotic qualities. Just like many films of this sort, crude language resonates all over the film, such as the following: f-word (at least four dozen); followed by the s-word (around two dozen); abuses of God's name (a dozen); some misuses of Jesus's name. Moreover, the film shows Wesley feeling the absence of a father-figure. The listlessness, aimlessness and lack of self-possession of Wesley (who grew up fatherless) underscore the importance of fathers in the lives of their sons. It may very well be the positive point of the movie. Please click to proceed to read the comments and observations of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




The Incredible Hulk

This has nothing to do with Ang Lee's 2003 version. This new release is rated PG-13. But the violence may seem to be too intense. Moreover, some scenes may be too suggestive for some people. Like in the 2003 version, it has three or four action sequences. But the current one has more people dying, and is more destructive.

Bruce Banner, the alter ego of the Hulk, is an example of restraint in the first minutes of the movie: wearing a pulse monitor, practicing yoga, and practically lying low so as to prevent himself from getting too excited. Betty Ross, with whom Bruce had a romantic past, is also an example of restraint at the beginning when she offers him to stay in her home overnight (him on the couch, with Betty in her bed). However, the restraint diminishes when they are on the run and find themselves in a hotel room: kissing and, eventually, ending up in a passionate embrace. Bruce stops because he doesn't want to get excited, while Betty says she wants to get excited. Other suggestive contents are in the first part of the film during Bruce's stay in Brazil, some girls in low tops and high shorts, and Bruce's encounter with a recently-bathed woman. There's partial nudity on some occasions. We have a more extensive review from John Mulderig of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

REVIEW OF MOVIE NOW PLAYING: The Happening




The Happening.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. This is the first time Shyamalan has directed a movie with an R-rating. This is not because the main character's wife, Alma (played by Zooey Deschanel) wears low-cut tops, and flings around with a male colleague (secretly taking a dessert with him). It's because of the gruesome scenes of people killing themselves (for example, a woman plunging a six-inch hairpin into her throat, construction workers plunging into their death from a 10-story roof, etc.). There are more! No wonder, they chose for their opening date Friday the 13th (June 13, 2008). At the beginning, the story is engaging. No clear denouement is given to us. For fans of Shyamalan, this is quite surprising, bearing in mind his first films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs). Nonetheless, the film is beautifully shot and edited. We hope that Shyamalan does a better movie next time , considering the talent he showed in those first films. Here's a longer review from Harry Forbes, director of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.



Kung Fu Panda.

"Kung Fu Panda" features Jack Black as Po the Panda, a lowly waiter in a noodle restaurant, who is a kung fu fanatic but whose shape doesn't exactly lend itself to kung fu fighting. In fact, Po's defining characteristic appears to be that he is the laziest of all the animals in ancient China. That's a problem because powerful enemies are at the gates, and all hopes have been pinned on a prophesy naming Po as the "Chosen One" to save the day. A group of martial arts masters are going to need a black belt in patience if they are going to turn this slacker panda into a kung fu fighter before it's too late. -- © DreamWorks





The Incredible Hulk

This has nothing to do with Ang Lee's 2003 version. This new release is rated PG-13. But the violence may seem to be too intense. Moreover, some scenes may be too suggestive for some people. Like in the 2003 version, it has three or four action sequences. But the current one has more people dying, and is more destructive.

Bruce Banner, the alter ego of the Hulk, is an example of restraint in the first minutes of the movie: wearing a pulse monitor, practicing yoga, and practically lying low so as to prevent himself from getting too excited. Betty Ross, with whom Bruce had a romantic past, is also an example of restraint at the beginning when she offers him to stay in her home overnight (him on the couch, with Betty in her bed). However, the restraint diminishes when they are on the run and find themselves in a hotel room: kissing and, eventually, ending up in a passionate embrace. Bruce stops because he doesn't want to get excited, while Betty says she wants to get excited. Other suggestive contents are in the first part of the film during Bruce's stay in Brazil, some girls in low tops and high shorts, and Bruce's encounter with a recently-bathed woman. There's partial nudity on some occasions. We have a more extensive review from John Mulderig of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.




Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It is directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by George Lucas. Harrison Ford is, of course, Indiana Jones. Set in 1957, this fourth film in the Indiana Jones film series has an older and wiser version of Indy battling agents of the Soviet Union—led by Spalko (Cate Blanchett)—for the Crystal Skull. Indy is assisted by his former lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) as well as the greaser Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) and fellow archaeologist Mac (Ray Winstone). John Hurt and Jim Broadbent also play fellow academics.

The chaplain watched Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first Indiana Jones movie) when he was 14 years old. He has aged since then. Like the chaplain, Indy now has lots of white hair! This aging archaeologist however still rocks! Thanks to the stunt men. To maintain aesthetic continuity, there's much more traditional stunt-work than computer-generated action scenes. As usual, we find Indy at the beginning of the movie in trouble. The movie's first-half is particularly action-packed. There are some dashes of virtues and good values in the flick: Indy admonishing Mutt to love one's mother; Indy and Mutt talking with some nuns about a missing archaeologist in Peru; Indy and Marion finally getting married in church! But our intention to watch this film is not to draw some life-changing lessons. In an Indiana Jones film, we want action and adventure! Here's another review from the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.


10,000 B.C.



As if it were not obvious, this film takes place 10,000 years before the birth of Christ. It also means that the story happens even before Abraham decided to leave the land of Ur. At least this is a modest setting compared to the film "1 Million Years B.C." that launched Raquel Welch to stardom (for those of us who are forty-years old above, you may be familiar with this cave-man flick). The film relates the story of the Yagahl tribe, focusing on the adventure of D'Leh in saving his "gahl", Evolet from the "four-legged demons" (i.e., horseback riders). Evolet is her captors' object of desire (i.e., pretty much of a thing to be passed around; not a person to be truly loved and respected). Fortunately, no explicit scenes appear in the film. The English of these cave-men are more civilized than the people we know in this day and age (i.e., no bad words; perhaps, no Hollywood movies to ape at that time). Since, this happens prior to the Patriarchs, no reference is made to the worship of the Judeo-Christian God. Their worship is obviously pagan (in the case of the Yagahl tribe, a form of ancestor worship; while the other tribe, a pyramid-building civilizaiton that cruelly offers human sacrifices). The film includes animals and tribes from different epochs and geographical boundaries. Never mind, this is the film one needs after the final exams. Relax! Let yourself be entertained!


3:10 to Yuma



A remake of a 1957 film of the same title. A wounded Civil War vet, Dan Evans (played by Christian Bale) is about to lose his property. He also needs to recover the esteem of his adolescent son who wishes his father to be like the heroes of the Western novels he's fond of. An opportunity arises for Evans to prove his worth: a $200 offer to join the posse that will safely transport a notorious outlaw, Ben Wade (Russel Crowe).

Transporting Wade entails a three-day journey to the 3:10 train that will carry Wade off to the Federal Court in Yuma (thus the title). The trip is besieged by arrows and bullets, specially the one coming from the merciless gang of outlaws out to free their leader (Wade). But beneath all the violence is the psychological recesses of the main characters (which makes it a better version than the 1957 original). Wade is not only dangerous in his ways but also very clever in his attempts to control his captors, or even slay some of them along the way. He's adept in quoting the Bible to suit his needs. He uses the Bible (like Proverbs 21:2- "All a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart") to justify his actions. In other words, Wade is pretty similar to the devil. On the other hand, Evans moral fiber may not be in stark contrast to Wade's meanness. As the film progresses, his resolve becomes more ambivalent similar to our personal experience when we know the right thing, but we have to grapple with some or all of these at the same time: the devil's temptations; other people's unChristian views and lives; and our own pride and sensuality.

The fine acting of Russel Crowe and Christian Bale brings out the pyschological layers of the movie's antagonist and protagonist. It's a film that father and son can watch: relatively clean (brief rear nudity and some lustful talk), and the violence is not that gory. For a more detailed analysis of the film (which is more severe in judging some contents of the film), please click here.


The Spiderwick Chronicles

Based on the best-selling children's book series, Spiderwick Chronicles is an enjoyable adventure for all ages. Our take on the film's family theme is that it depicts fairly well children's emotional responses towards parental discord (in the case of the Grace children, their parents' divorce).

This is definitely much better than "The Golden Compass" when it comes to ethical and spiritual themes. Spiderwick Chronicles presents the enchanted world, very much like the human world. There's beauty and ugliness. There's good and evil. And like our world, evil will not stop to achieve dominion. The film calls for the natural world to do something against the wave of evil coming down upon the enchanted world. If not, evil will envelop not only the supernatural world, but the natural world as well. This is very much like the real world. As Edmund Burke would put it: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." The Spiderwick Chronicles is a movie that gives us a chance to talk with our family and friends about the noble things in life such as family unity; teamwork in the midst of difficulties; and the need for spiritual struggle. For the plot synopsis, please click this link. To see how the top critics rate the film, please click here.


Meet The Spartans. It's a parody of the 2007 hit "300." This film features graphic violence and lewd content. It is not appropriate for children. The film's content is troubling for many adults. It shows Spartan King Leonias attempting to gather an army to face the dreaded Persian king, Xerxes. Leonias is only able to gather a handful of misfit soldiers to stand and face certain annihilation. This film is full of crude and vulgar language and provides ample screen time for demonstrating an obsession with bodily functions. You may read a full review from John Mulderig, a staff member of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Screen It! has detailed analyses of this movie.



The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It's another film based on a novel written by Ron Hansen, a Catholic. The film is a narrative of the events leading up to the shooting of the bandit Jesse James in 1882. A 19-year old, Robert Ford, joins Jesse and his brother, Frank to stage their last heist. Robert idolizes Jesse, having kept novels and newspaper stories about the bandit's exploits. Obsessed with the desire to be like Jesse James and to carve out a name for himself, Robert (as the title suggests) assassinates Jesse James. However, the assassination turns the people against Robert Ford. There is no graphic sexual scene in the film, although there are references to it (crude jesting of a sexual performance; and a woman committing adultery- but nothing is shown). The celebrity crook and the wanna-be crook both have a miserable end. It's a reminder that one's corrupt ways will catch up on him, sooner or later. The "Assassination of Jesse James" is the celluloid version of the Pauline teaching, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). For details of blood and gore, and imitative behavior, please go to this link.

Jumper. A genetic anomaly allows a young man, David Rice, to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between "Jumpers" and religious zealots, the 'Paladdins," who have sworn to kill them. David Rice is a complete opposite of Peter Parker (Spiderman). While Peter Parker follows his Uncle Ben's reminder ("with great power comes great responsibility"), David Rice brags to his girl Millie: "Nothing is off limits" (when he shows her the off-limits portion of Rome's Colosseum). The film presents both David and Millie as coming from families with no adult supervision. In contrast to Peter Parker's freedom to do the right thing, David's freedom is to get anything, disregarding the legal and ethical prescriptions. His teleporting power brings David to different places, faster and with greater comfort than a Singapore Airlines flight: a morning coffee in Paris, lunch in Maldives, and, then, the afternoon sun on top of the Sphink's head in Egypt. This movie cum travelogue presents David's two brief sexual exploits: when he picks up a girl in a London bar (implied), and the other one with Millie in Rome (more lustful).

The movie is a good example of the contemporary mindset without a moral compass: relativistic and hedonistic, unmindful of the consequences of one's actions. Finally, majority of the serious movie reviewers (including the ones who have the same mindset) give the film a thumbs-down (see rottentomatoes.com).

Juno. A "chick flick" about a witty and rapid-fire talking character, Juno: a 16-year old who got pregnant in the course of dating with her shy classmate, Paulie. She goes to an abortion clinic but, upon reaching the clinic, she chooses (quite impulsively) not to have an abortion. Though this may encourage pro-lifers to endorse the film, the abortion protester (Asian) who confronts Juno is depicted as dumb and inarticulate. In any case, it's the ultrasound footage of the baby inside her that eventually leads her to choose life and to look for adoptive parents, similar to what happened to baby Steve Jobs (as na in his commencement speech at Stanford: the video at the left pane of this page). But the similarity ends there. Juno selects a childless couple living in a comfortable suburban house, Mark and Vanessa. Mark is immature and without ambitions, while Vanessa is manipulative and emotionally unhealthy. The marriage eventually ends in divorce. The film has one non-graphic teen premarital encounter with partial nudity. But it is not so much because of this scene that we don't recommend this film (Oscar or no Oscar nomination). It is more on the American teen-slang for sex and all others related to it strewn all over this film (of course, not to mention the abuse of the name of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ). The US Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting qualifies this movie as "for adults." For details of this movie, please read this from Screen It! For a review other than the Chaplain's: click!


Cloverfield. This 75-minute movie is a mixture of a monster movie and a horror movie. It's a story of a monster attack on New York City as told by five party-goers. The visual narrative is made through a camcorder like "The Blaire Witch Project." So, if you often experience motion sickness, we do not recommend this to you. For a more detailed assessment, please click the photo on the left.

What Every Parent Should Know About "The Golden Compass." In this interview with ZENIT, Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel discuss the movie adaptation of the fantasy novels written by Philip Pullman. The film, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, will be released in the United States in early December. Vere and Miesel are co-authors of the booklet "Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy," to be published by Ignatius Press next month (December 2007) on the topic, "The Golden Compass."

Bella, the movie. Nina, a young, unmarried waitress at a Mexican restaurant, finds herself pregnant and without work after coming in late several days because of morning sickness. Jose, the restaurant's chef, is taken by Nina's plight and becomes her sole confidant. Jose helps her walk through her decision on what to do with her pregnancy. In the process, he bears secrets from his own mysterious past, which reveal his tenderness and passion for her and the child she is carrying.