Movie News

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.

Harry Potter's continuing struggle against darkness

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{mosimage}NEW YORK - Played out on a vast — sometimes overcrowded — canvas, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.) is a richly textured adventure narrative in which good and evil are clearly delineated, but characters present a range of moral shading.

As they did in the franchise's earlier films, magical elements in this sixth adaptation of J.K. Rowling's hugely popular fantasy novel series serve merely as props in a study of loyalty, friendship and the varied human responses to temptation. Unlike the moral lessons on display, these spells and potions are not intended to have any more application to real life than the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.

He who is without sin...

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{mosimage}Just last year, a Pakistani couple was stoned for adultery, a Somali woman met a similar fate on the same charge and two Iranian men were executed in this excruciating manner. Five of the world’s predominantly Muslim countries, as well as about one-third of Nigeria’s 36 states, still include stoning among the penalties in their criminal codes.

This barbaric practice is depicted unflinchingly in The Stoning of Soraya M. (Roadside/Mpower), a compelling, often moving film version of Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1994 best-seller, based on an actual incident in 1986. Set in a remote Iranian village, the narrative charts a harrowing chronicle of oppression and community corruption.

Anti-gang film Mouse takes top prize

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{mosimage}TORONTO - Mouse, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board’s anti-gang film, has won a top prize at this year’s ReelWorld Film Festival.

The film beat out 19 other  submissions as the Best Canadian Short Film. The annual festival, in its ninth year, highlights diversity in film, video and new media.


Holocaust survivor spreads anti-bullying message through film

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{mosimage}TORONTO - The story of a Holocaust survivor who uses her experiences to relate messages about bullying, racism and tolerance to students has been captured in a feature documentary.

Stronger than Fire, by Toronto filmmaker Don Gray, captures the powerful tale of Eva Olsson, an 84-year-old woman from Bracebridge, Ont., who discovered a passion for speaking to students more than 12 years ago. She began facing her past after one of her three grandchildren convinced her to do a short presentation at her school.