This week's movie reviews - New Year's Eve, The Sitter

The Sitter

The Sitter

Felony child endangerment presented as "life lessons" constitutes the theme, such as it is, of "The Sitter" (Fox).

Director David Gordon Green and screenwriters Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka run the gamut of degradation, tossing in some racism for good measure.

A five-person journey to find the spirit of Christmas

This Christmas season, the stories of five diverse people and their journey to the Holy Land to discover the season’s true meaning is airing on CTS’s Journey to Christmas.

The goal of the four-part documentary series was to discover if there was more to Christmas than is typically experienced in North America, said producer Karen Pascal.

“We’re so caught up in the commercialism and the busyness and the gift-giving and I think the true meaning of Christmas has become something really distant,” said Pascal.

Exhibit explores universal themes of religion

GATINEAU - A new exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization manages to explore the diversity of religious belief without falling prey to moral relativism.

God(s): A User’s Guide also conveys through artifacts from a wide range of faiths and multi-media presentations the amazing diversity of religious expression.

The exhibit, which opened Dec. 2 and will run until Sept. 3, 2012, invites people to contemplate the ultimate questions about meaning that underlie all religious faiths, such as the existence of God, the creation of the universe and life after death.

Third World ethical challenges for the First World

When I began work as a health care ethicist more than 20 years ago, the discipline was focussed on two main issues: respecting the rights of individual patients, particularly through the practice of informed consent, and working through issues posed by the growth in medical technology. Artificial organs, gene-altering therapies, conceiving children in Petri dishes sounded like the stuff of science fiction. But they were real and ethicists grappled with questions of limits, of preserving human dignity, of trying to understand what death meant when a body could be kept warm and breathing almost indefinitely. This was medical ethics in the first, or developed, world.

This week's movie reviews - Arthur Christmas, Hugo, The Muppets & Twilight

With Thanksgiving in the U.S., there are lots of big releases this weekend. If you need help deciding what to see, we've got reviews of Arthur Christmas, Hugo, The Muppets and the latest movie in the The Twilight Saga: "Breaking Dawn - Part 1".

Vatican newspaper says Shakespeare was secret Catholic

VATICAN CITY - There is "little doubt" that William Shakespeare was a Catholic who was forced to hide his faith in Protestant England while leaving hints about his faith throughout his vast body of work, said an opinion piece in the Vatican newspaper.

Taking a cue from renewed speculation about Shakespeare's true identity sparked by the film "Anonymous," L'Osservatore Romano wrote, "There may be questions regarding his identity, but not his religious faith."

Artist Tim Schmalz’s Nativity sculpture spreads joy of Christmas

TORONTO - As sculptor Tim Schmalz works on his Nativity sculpture, he compares it to a Christmas carol — one of the songs of absolute happiness.

“Throughout this process, what happened was the figures became more joyous, the designs became more lyrical… And it wasn’t ‘Silent Night.’ It was definitely one of loud celebration as far as the representation is concerned,” said Schmalz.

The view from here on Dorothy Pilarski's Motherhood Matters

Editor’s note: Dorothy Pilarski’s Motherhood Matters: Inspirational Stories, Letters, Quotes & Prayers for Catholic Moms is sure to make you think about modern-day mothering.

To wit, The Catholic Register has enlisted two reviewers to give us their take on the recently released book.

The book is available to order from our site or by calling (416) 934-3410.

Author forces mothers to take a look at their lives

By Elena Maria Vidal, Catholic Register Special

In Motherhood Matters, Dorothy Pilarski writes with profundity and wit about matters practical and divine. Full of anecdotes and humour, this book makes us take an honest look at the lives of women today and enourages us to focus on what matters most.

Has “liberation” truly led to greater happiness for women? Are children to be viewed as commodities to be acquired just as we acquire a house or car? Or should children be seen as gifts from God given to our stewardship?

Pilarski makes it clear that until we resolve our confusion about such basic questions then peace of heart will elude us.

“We will find happiness in living out God’s purpose for our lives, not our own,” she writes. “The culture of the early 21st century makes it easy to follow mistaken paths. The media bombards us with the temptation to fulfill ourselves, to find ourselves, to meet our own needs. It is a message of selfishness. And it is spread constantly. Magazines, television, radio, films, books and the Internet promote images of the ‘ideal’ career, body, fashion, home, car, vacation, husband and parenting.

“These ‘ideals’ are often reinforced by friends and family. Influenced by these ‘ideals,’ many of us make important life decisions without first considering our relationship with Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith . . .  As Catholic mothers, we are called to dig deep into our hearts and pray that we are actually co-operating with God’s grace . . . Our children are gifts from our Creator who has entrusted the souls of our children to us.”

Motherhood Matters is comprised of dozens of small essays, which makes it easy for busy people to read. Yet it is never disjointed. One paragraph flows seamlessly into another.

Pilarski substantiates her beliefs about women and motherhood, about divorce, illegitimacy, diseases and the many trials of modern life by using not only her own faith beliefs but by employing statistics from several recent studies. The statistics uphold her piety, showing that when we depart from God and His law there is a price to be paid by us, our children and all society.

Pilarski laments that many women are forced to delay childbearing in order to make money. Even when children are born, women must often forgo nurturing their children and creating a home in order to be part of the workforce.

It becomes obvious in Motherhood Matters that modern culture places less value on motherhood than past generations. Motherhood is depicted as a calling of convenience. Is that fair to women? No, and it is definitely not fair to children.

Women today hear repeatedly that their value to society requires that they be breadwinners like men. Other than that, women are often judged by their sexuality.

Can things ever be made right? Motherhood Matters explores many simple and practical ways women can reclaim their feminine vocation. It examines several obvious truths about women and motherhood, which Pilarski illustrates with short stories from her personal experience.

Motherhood Matters entertains, yet it is impossible to read without taking a hard look at oneself. Throughout the book we are enjoined to turn to prayer as the key to finding the path we are called to follow as women and mothers. We are encouraged to watch and pray, especially when we have teenagers.

“Remaining grounded in a fervent prayer life and being aware of the dangerous messages that exist in the media can better equip parents to understand the challenges that vulnerable teenage girls wrestle with,” Pilarski writes. “Awareness leads to conversations we might have never had. But be prepared. I guarantee that those conversations will challenge you, yet I cannot imagine a life without them.”

The choice that lies before each of us is between a life of authentic love and one of  fleeting material gratifications. No one can make the choice for us. Reading a book like Motherhood Matters makes it easier to choose a life of love, a life which foreshadows the eternity of endless happiness and fulfilment.

(Vidal is the author of three historical novels: Trianon, Madame Royale and The Night’s Dark Shade. You can visit her website at

Pilarski makes her case, but it is not for all

By Eleonore Fournier-Tombs, Catholic Register Special

For Western young women, motherhood is not necessarily a fait accompli. It is often a source of public debate, private questioning, discussion and concern. For women in their 20s and 30s, the possibility of one day being a mother is a source of joy, fear, excitement or indifference. Some women want six children and some women want none. Some women can’t decide and many wonder if they can handle it.

As Dorothy Pilarski writes in Motherhood Matters, being a mother can, no doubt, be a meaningful part of a woman’s life — one that is difficult without a strong support network and a solid faith. With today’s social and material pressures, many juggle several full-time commitments and feel exhausted and unappreciated.

But Pilarski doesn’t stop at these generally uncontroversial claims. Her advice is personal and specific. To the modern young Catholic, her point of view can seem contentious and even harsh.

Pilarski is a well-known Canadian Catholic personality who maintains two blogs, “Gutsy Catholic Mom” and “Catholic Talks by Dorothy.” She also regularly writes for The Catholic Register and has, among many writing and television projects, co-developed a series on Salt+Light Television. She is a mother of two and projects a happy family life.

This collection of essays describes meaningful moments and turning points in her life. She uses personal anecdotes to explain specific advice for mothers, building up to a 45-item list on setting spiritual goals.

While the level of detail with which she discusses her own life is interesting and insightful, the assertiveness with which she makes claims about how Catholic women should approach motherhood might be disconcerting. She argues, for example, that Mary would not have asked another person to raise her Son. By that she means that although women should be encouraged to pursue an exciting career before childbirth, they should take several years off to raise their children. She is critical of women who only take one year off after giving birth. But what about those who can’t afford to take time off or who want to start working again soon after their child is born?

Modern women, and their spouses, take many different approaches to parenting. Some couples decide that the wife should pursue her career while the husband stays at home with the children, other families have extended networks that allow for a warm, loving community even while both parents are working.

Just like men, women often struggle to strike a balance between their work, relationships, spirituality and physicality. Striking this balance is a daily commitment, unique to each person. Motherhood may be a fulfilling and meaningful life path, but it is not the only one, nor is there only one way to engage on it.

Pilarski criticizes feminist women, claiming that a woman should instead be feminine. But feminism — the recognition of the need for political, economic and social equality of the sexes — and femininity — a characteristic that is unique to women — can go hand in hand. Women can be both unique and equal by choosing their own path. And perhaps, unlike Pilarski, they may choose to celebrate Halloween, go back to work or take up yoga when their children are in school.

On the other hand, Pilarski describes raising her children in the Catholic faith with such warmth that it is difficult not to be inspired. Living in joy rather than in fear, and creating an environment in which children can explore and express their spirituality are pillars of the loving home. Her tone in these passages is reminiscent of Jean Vanier’s, who said: “We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”  

In this sense, motherhood, career or any combination of the two is a vocation that a woman feels called to, and that, when chosen, allows for the full expression of faith and compassion. In order to be a role model for those around her, a woman needs to trust in her conscience and intuition. It is then, in partnership with her spouse, that she can create a joyful atmosphere in which children can enter, if she feels so called to do so.

(Fournier-Tombs is a freelance writer in New York.)

This week's movie releases - Nov 13th 2011

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


"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.


"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.


"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

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


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.


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

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" (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.

For Catholics who want to rock

Calling all Catholic rock fans.

Musician David Wang has launched a new web site that he hopes will contribute to building an online history of contemporary Christian music. went online in August. It is the brainchild of Wang, leader of the award-winning Canadian Christian rock band Critical Mass and a former music columnist for The Catholic Register. It can be found at and features Wang’s collection of Register columns.

A mother’s wish, and more, comes true

Growing up, Denyse Gervais Regan’s mother Marie Louise would always tell her children stories about her life.

Having been left by her mother in an orphanage at the tender age of four, and then going on to have 14 children of her own, what a story Marie Louise Gervais had to share.

“She’d always end by saying my life story would make a good book and I hope one of you kids one day writes that book for me,” Gervais Regan, 73, told The Catholic Register.