Movie News

Looking for a movie this weekend? J. Edgar, Immortals and Jack & Jill are the three big releases.

MOVIES01_jEdgar

"J. Edgar" (Warner Bros.)

Clint Eastwood's polished but taxing biographical drama recounts major events in the long public career of famed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and attempts to reconstruct his enigmatic personal life. As scripted by Dustin Lance Black, the film informatively chronicles Hoover's rise from obscure bureaucrat to power-besotted keeper of the nation's secrets.

Yet its exploration of the three main relationships in Hoover's life, with his domineering mother (Judi Dench), his girlfriend-turned-secretary (Naomi Watts) and his number two at the bureau (Armie Hammer) -- a man who was certainly Hoover's daily companion over several decades and might have been his lover -- feels sensationalized at times and will prove uncomfortable viewing even for mature audience members.

Brief intense but bloodless violence, a scene of semi-graphic adultery, homosexual and transvestite themes, a same-sex kiss, at least one use of profanity, a couple of rough terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Some material may not be suitable for children.

MOVIES03_immortals

"Immortals" (Relativity/Universal)

The Greek gods on Mount Olympus watch nervously as the mortals down below go to war in director Tarsem Singh's racy 3-D soap opera that borrows heavily from "300" (2006) and "Clash of the Titans" (2010) in plot and visual style. Centuries have passed since the Olympians vanquished the Titans, bringing tranquility to Greece.

But now an aggressive earthly king (Mickey Rourke) is on the march, vowing the destruction of humankind and "the end of the reign of gods." To close the deal, he must find the Bow of Epirus, "a legendary weapon of unimaginable power," which will allow him to free the Titans (who are in stasis) and become overlord of heaven and earth. Because their code of conduct forbids interference in the affairs of mortals, Zeus (Luke Evans) and his fellow deities look to an ordinary peasant (Henry Cavill) to save the day.

Unfortunately, the good-vs.-evil morality tale behind all this is overpowered -- make that, pulverized -- by persistent mayhem and bloodletting, much of it used for shock value, and not to advance the (rather thin) story. Relentless violence with gore including scenes of torture, upper female and rear nudity, nongraphic premarital sex. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

MOVIES02_JackJill

"Jack and Jill" (Columbia)

Half-witted comedy in which Adam Sandler plays both a successful Los Angeles advertising executive and his well-meaning but irksome, Bronx-based twin sister. When Sis comes to town for her annual Thanksgiving visit, the ad man can hardly wait for her to leave again -- until, that is, she artlessly wins the heart of Al Pacino (playing himself), whom he's been trying to convince to appear in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial.

Director Dennis Dugan's grab-bag of potty humor, harsh slapstick and pop-culture gags is too crude for kids and too puerile for their elders. Much violent slapstick and gross scatological humor, brief implied nudity, some sexual jokes and adult references, at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.

This week's movie releases - Nov 6th 2011

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Looking for a movie this weekend? Tower Heist and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas are this week's big releases.

Movies1_HaroldKumar

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

NEW YORK - Viewers of faith beware: In its largely vain pursuit of laughs, the comedy sequel "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" (Warner Bros.) stoops not only to sexual excess but to anti-Catholic animus and even blasphemy.

The result -- as written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg and directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson -- is a consistently vulgar, intermittently loathsome insult to the holiday.

The plot -- such as it is -- begins with reformed pothead Harold (John Cho) and unrepentant stoner Kumar (Kal Penn) accidentally burning down the former's family Christmas tree. Since the now-married Harold's intimidating Hispanic father-in-law (Danny Trejo) is a devotee of all things Yule -- and grew the destroyed stately fir himself -- this sets off a frenzied but rambling quest for a replacement.

Along the journey that follows, a secondary character is revealed to have a rendezvous with a teenage virgin named Mary who ardently longs to be deflowered on Christmas Eve. Similarly, when the titular duo concocts a plot to steal a church's evergreen, their imagined scenario involves pornographic images of lesbian nuns as well as pedophile priests chasing choirboys. Another fantasy is set in heaven where a playboy version of Jesus appears, accompanied by two topless angels.

That's not to mention the attempt to mine amusement from repeated incidents where a toddler is inadvertently made high on a variety of narcotics or the claymation sequence that exploits 3-D in a manner the fertility gods of pagan antiquity might have envied.

The general tastelessness on display, but more particularly the assault on Catholic sensibilities, make it sobering to reflect that Penn left his job as an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement to be involved in this misbegotten mess.

Anything less engaging than the defamatory interludes and overall "nothing sacred" outlook of his latest project would be difficult to imagine.

The film contains sacrilegious humor, graphic nonmarital and aberrant sexual activity, full nudity, a benign view of drug use, about a half-dozen instances of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Movies2_TowerHesit

Tower Heist

NEW YORK - Workers at a luxury Manhattan apartment building plan to rob a felonious financier in the action-comedy "Tower Heist" (Universal).

What could have been a crowd-pleasing caper is marred by a steady stream of crude language. Though it features some amusing moments courtesy of a talented ensemble, the topical romp is also short-circuited by manic energy that comes across as more slapdash than extemporaneously madcap.

Alan Alda plays Arthur Shaw, a Bernie Madoff-like money manager living in the opulent penthouse of "The Tower," which occupies prime New York City real estate across from Central Park.

After Shaw is arrested by the FBI for securities fraud, Tower employees learn he looted their pension fund. Building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), whose job it is to cater to the wealthy residents, feels responsible since he asked Shaw to invest the staff's money. Shaw's patronizing attitude toward him exacerbates Josh's thirst for payback.

Recruiting Slide (Eddie Murphy), a petty criminal from his Queens neighborhood, Josh hatches a scheme to steal Shaw's hidden stash of $20 million. Together with concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), elevator operator Dev'Reaux (Michael Pena), and bankrupt preppy Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), they put their risky plan into action during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Relying on stereotypical ethnic humor, and using expletives to express most every emotion, screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson don't score high marks for imagination. Their main attempt at being clever involves a famous chess move, which they incorporate in a manner that serves to telegraph the plot.

For his part, director Brett Ratner -- known as much for throwing lavish Hollywood parties as for helming raucous comedies -- stages scenes with little regard for logical continuity and an engaging flow. Loud and fast are his default settings.

The humor in "Tower Heist" is broad, so much so that parents thinking it might be acceptable for older children and teens should be forewarned. Inappropriate expressions, combined with some fairly explicit sexual talk, render the movie morally dubious, regardless of the fact it's being offered in the spirit of "harmless fun."

By underestimating their premise as well as their audience, the filmmakers prove there are better ways to give power to the people and seek justice at the multiplex.

The film contains some profanity, frequent crude and crass language, much sexual banter and innuendo, a suicide attempt and a scene glamorizing alcohol abuse. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

This week's movie releases - Oct 28th 2011

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Looking for a movie this weekend? Anonymous, In Time, Paranormal Activity 3,  Puss in Boots, The Rum Diary and The Three Musketeers are this week's big releases.

Anonymous


"Anonymous" (Columbia)

Director Roland Emmerich takes up the old but debunked conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare was a fraud, twisting history to suit a screenplay (by John Orloff) that is preposterous, lewd and farcical. We meet the "real" author of Shakespeare's works, Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans), the 17th earl of Oxford, as a child prodigy, performing his "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for the young Queen Elizabeth (Joely Richardson). Time passes, Edward writes dozens of manuscripts in secret, has an adulterous affair with the queen, and enlists playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) to stage his works. Enter unscrupulous -- and illiterate -- actor Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), who blackmails Edward and usurps his place in literary history.

Several incestuous and adulterous relationships, nongraphic premarital sexual activity, some bloody violence. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

In Time


"In Time" (Fox)

Though stylish, this sci-fi thriller fails to follow through on its chilling premise of a dystopian society in which everyone is genetically engineered to die at age 26 unless they can add more time to their biological clock. So time becomes the only currency. After receiving a chronological windfall, a previously impoverished factory worker (Justin Timberlake) flees the ghetto and, together with a mogul's daughter (Amanda Seyfried), attempts to redistribute wealth to the have-nots. Writer-director Andrew Niccol tries to distract the audience from analyzing the details of his intriguing scenario, but his film plays like a glossy fashion spread with a social conscience.

Nongraphic action violence, including gunplay, a suicide, a glimpse of rear female nudity, several nonmarital sexual situations, at least one instance each of profanity and rough language, several crude terms, some innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Paranormal Activity III


"Paranormal Activity 3" (Paramount)

In 1988 California, a videographer (Chris Smith) records the ominous doings of a malevolent spirit that has taken up residence in the house he shares with his new wife (Lauren Bittner) and two stepdaughters (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Brown). Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's horror sequel follows a tried and true formula to deliver mostly gore-free jolts. But the satanic elements of the plot that eventually come to the fore will make many want to steer clear.

Occult theme, brief harsh violence, drug use, some nongraphic marital lovemaking, a couple of uses of profanity, several sexual references, considerable rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Puss in Boots


"Puss in Boots" (DreamWorks)

Screenwriter Tom Wheeler's exceptionally intelligent and energetic script for this 3-D animated "Shrek" spinoff has the title character (voice of Antonio Banderas) -- accompanied by his childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (voice of Zach Galifianakis) and newfound feline love interest (voice of Salma Hayek) -- going in quest of the goose that lays golden eggs. Director Chris Miller's kid-friendly adventure combines imagery from fairy tales with a story line that makes Puss a mischievous, Zorro-like bandit to present a valuable lesson about the perils of greed and dishonesty.

Parents of young children should know in advance, however, that one of the principal characters dies. Intense action sequences. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

The Rum Diary


"The Rum Diary" (FilmDistrict)

Smoke, drink, be hung over, repeat is the lusty refrain of this film memoir, set in 1960 Puerto Rico and based on gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's roman a clef about his early years in the business. Writer-director Bruce Robinson and star Johnny Depp, who plays Thompson's alter ego, don't try to glamorize the abundant substance abuse. Rather, they highlight the origins of Thompson's well-known rages against injustice, corrupt politicians and corporate greed.

Still, although sweetly nostalgic at times, this material is strictly for mature adults prepared for its portrayal of drunkenness and drug addiction. Implied premarital sexual encounters, brief partial female nudity, drug and abusive alcohol use, pervasive rough and fleeting profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

The Three Musketeers


"The Three Musketeers" (Summit)

Alexandre Dumas' classic costume epic of 17th-century swordsmanship, French patriotism and political treachery is updated with 3-D, slow-motion fighting and two anachronistic airships, one of which has a flamethrower. Director Paul W.S. Anderson downplays the politics to have Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson as Athos, Aramis and Porthos, respectively, joined by Logan Lerman as D'Artagnan, fighting mostly for the love of their women.

Probably acceptable for mature adolescents. Fleeting crude and crass language, light sexual banter and highly stylized gun- and swordplay. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

This week's movie releases - Oct 21st 2011

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Looking for a movie this weekend? The Mighty Macs, Johnny English Reborn and The Big Year are this week's big releases.

The Mighty Macs

The Mighty Macs

"The Mighty Macs" (Freestyle)

The Mighty Macs is the fact-based story of a women's basketball team from a Catholic college who, through the grit and determination of their rookie coach, got a shot at the national title. This old-fashioned, family-friendly film is "Sister Act" without the singing, "Rocky" with basketballs, and "The Trouble with Angels" with Ellen Bursytn in the Rosalind Russell role of the mother superior.

The year is 1972, the feminist movement is picking up steam, and change is in the air. For Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), 23 and recently married, this means searching for a role to play beyond that of dutiful housewife to her husband, Ed (David Boreanaz). A star basketball player herself, Cathy missed out on her own chance for glory, as her college eliminated the sport.

Against Ed's wishes, Cathy takes a job at Pennsylvania's Immaculata College (now University), run by the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The stern mother superior, Mother St. John (Bursytn), has no time for sports; she's trying to keep the school afloat, fighting off appeals from the board and the church to close its doors. Impatient and irritable, she gives Cathy free rein to build a team from scratch. This is Cathy's big chance and, although not a Catholic, she is determined to fit in and succeed, inspiring a ragtag group of girls to become a fighting force by believing in themselves. They practice despite not having a court, with improvised uniforms fashioned from nuns' smocks.

Cathy's faith never wavers, as she hands out "We Will Be #1" buttons all over town. Help arrives in the form of the youngest nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton). Like Cathy, she is struggling with her vocation, trying to find her place in a traditional world. She also shares an interest in basketball. The two bond, and Sister Sunday becomes the assistant coach, drawing out the older nuns to cheer the team on at games. Against all odds, the "Macs" of Immaculata College make their way to their sport's first-ever national championship game. Cathy not only saves herself and her marriage, but the fortunes of the college -- melting the cold heart of Mother St. John in the process.

Directed by newcomer Tim Chambers, "The Mighty Macs" is a feel-good movie offering lessons in friendship, teamwork, trust and perseverance. For the most part, Catholicism is treated with respect, but it serves more as a colorful backdrop than a source for commentary. Sister Sunday provides some harmless comic relief. She lends Cathy a habit so they can qualify for free tickets on United Airlines. ("Second nun flies for free.")

Explaining her call to the religious life, Sister Sunday expresses her love for Jesus. "That whole Cana thing?" she observes, "Jesus just wanted everyone to have a good time."

The entire family will have a good time at "The Mighty Macs." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

The Big Year

The Big Year

"The Big Year" (Fox 2000)

Warm-hearted seriocomedy in which a business tycoon (Steve Martin), a rudderless nuclear power plant worker (Jack Black) and a home contractor (Owen Wilson) vie to win the titular bird-watching competition by spotting the greatest number of different species over the course of a calendar year. As the builder obsessively tries to defend his seemingly insurmountable previous record, the executive and the slacker form an unlikely friendship as well as an alliance intended to best their sometimes unscrupulous rival.

Director David Frankel's mostly agreeable film -- inspired by Mark Obmascik's book of the same name -- affirms the primacy of family life and personal relationships over materialistic or ego-driven goals. Brief nongraphic marital lovemaking, possible cohabitation, a fertility treatment theme, adultery references, at least one use of profanity, an obscene gesture and a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Johnny English Reborn

Johnny English Reborn

"Johnny English Reborn" (Universal)

Elaborately constructed spy spoof -- and cleaned-up sequel to the 2003 comedy "Johnny English" -- in which Rowan Atkinson as the titular secret agent overcomes severe odds to discover who was responsible for the assassination of the president of Mozambique. Atkinson and director Oliver Parker put Johnny -- a combination of Atkinson's Mr. Bean and Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin of the "Naked Gun" franchise -- through a series of droll set-pieces.

One dubious, and dull, sight gag aside, they also eschew the less-than-family-friendly humor of the original. Some cartoonish violence, a single tasteless visual joke and fleeting mildly crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

This week's movie releases - Oct 13th 2011

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Footloose

Footloose

"Footloose" (Paramount)

After a night of dirty dancing by five hard-drinking, drug-taking high school seniors from a small Southern town ends with a fatal car crash, one victim's father (Dennis Quaid), the local Presbyterian minister, spearheads legislation to ban public dancing. But his daughter (Julianne Hough) supports an underground teen revolt, which gains steam with the arrival from Boston of a James Dean-like pouting rebel (Kenny Wormald).

Director Craig Brewer's remake of the 1984 film of the same title retains -- and ramps up -- the problematic message of the original, namely, that teenagers must disobey their parents, break all the rules and follow their dreams no matter the consequences. Negative portrayal of religion; acceptance of teenage drinking, drug use, sexual activity and reckless driving; a brutal assault; and a few instances of crude and crass language.

The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

The Thing

The Thing

"The Thing" (Universal)

Billed as a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 movie of the same name, itself a remake of a 1951 horror classic, this passable creature feature follows a paleontologist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to Antarctica where Norwegian researchers have discovered a parasitic alien buried inside a glacier. Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen makes little attempt to deepen the story's thematic subtext or exploit the inherently menacing atmosphere.

The shortcomings of his adequate but unnecessary homage don't amount to an egregious crime against cinema, good taste or decency. But his focus on the forensic clarity of the visual effects will unsettle many. Frequent intense, gory creature violence, an implied suicide, some profanity, much rough, crude and crass language, a lewd reference to incest.

The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

The Way

The Way

"The Way" (Producers Distribution Agency/ARC)

After his semi-estranged son (Emilio Estevez) dies in a freak storm while hiking the ancient pilgrimage route from France to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela, a California doctor (Martin Sheen) and self-identified lapsed Catholic resolves to complete the journey as a means of honoring the lad's memory. Along the mountainous path, he meets three fellow sojourners -- a tart-tongued Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger), a merrily gormandizing Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen) and a garrulous Irish writer (James Nesbitt) -- who together begin to break down both his self-imposed isolation and the mild orneriness by which he enforces it.

Estevez, who also wrote and directed, takes viewers on a reflective, and ultimately rewarding, exploration of elemental themes that challenges materialistic values. But the film's focus, like the varied motivations of the contemporary pilgrims it portrays, is more broadly spiritual than specifically religious, faith being treated, albeit with refreshing respect, as something the characters encounter rather than fully embrace. Brief partial rear nudity, drug use, a couple of instances of profanity and of crass language, references to abortion and sexuality.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Harry Potter goes out in style

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One of the most successful movie franchises of all time goes out in style with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner Bros.).

Though this eighth installment in the series that began with 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone may bewilder newcomers — if there are any of the uninitiated left, they will not find themselves mollycoddled by patient exposition — director David Yates provides a gratifying wrap-up to a decade of blockbuster adaptations.

Based, like its immediate predecessor, on the last volume of J.K. Rowling's run of phenomenal best-sellers, Yates' fantasy is too intense for the youngest viewers. But scenes of combat, although frequent, are mostly bloodless, while the dialogue is marked by only one mildly improper turn of phrase, making this climatic adventure acceptable for most other age groups.

Film remembers beloved son, soldier Marc Diab

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Trooper Marc DiabTORONTO - He was a beloved son, youth leader and Canadian soldier who wore his faith and patriotism proudly as he served in Afghanistan.

So much so that a rosary was found inside the helmet he wore that was recovered after the roadside blast that took his life last year.

On Remembrance Day, the story of Trooper Marc Diab will serve as an “active remembrance” of the sacrifice of all Canadian soldiers, says the director of a new documentary about Diab and the impact of his death upon his family.

The American should be better, but leaves audience disappointed

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The AmericanGeorge Clooney is in a very bad mood in The American (Focus), playing a hired assassin who has soured on his profession and contemplates a better life. While this should be a gripping, fast-paced thriller worthy of the Jason Bourne franchise, the title character's depression and sheer lethargy keep the film's gears firmly in park, leaving the audience bewildered and disappointed.

Additionally, although the serious intent of the filmmakers is clear, scenes of graphic sexuality suggest a very restricted audience, while the treatment of Christian morality — via the presence of a far from exemplary, but nonetheless sympathetic Catholic priest — is unsatisfying and insubstantial.

Repo Men shows how capitalism is a part of us

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{mosimage}A certain kind of reviewer, many of them working for the religious press, is going to object to Repo Men because of all the blood and swearing. As if morality consisted of a list of banned words and bodily fluids.

Catholics know morality has nothing to do with purity codes or legalisms. When legalists (sometimes Pharisees and sometimes Scribes) confronted Jesus over purity issues (ceremonial washing before meals), His response was derisive.

The Book of Eli surprisingly reverent

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{mosimage}More contemplative and lyrical than advertised, the first big action movie of 2010 incorporates religious faith and Judeo-Christian principles to a surprising degree.

Directed by twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes, The Book of Eli (Warner Bros.) prompts the question whether, assuming a minimum level of respect, the attempt to integrate religion and Scripture into a mass-appeal film is by itself laudable.

Film fest highlights religious people and social activism

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{mosimage}TORONTO - The spirituality of making the world a better place gets a close look at the Conscious Activism Doc Fest.

The documentary film festival at the University of Toronto’s Hart House will present four movies that examine how religious people take on social and political issues.