Arts

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


"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.

CatholicRock.org 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 www.catholicrock.org 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.

Fr. Lewis finds writing meditative, yet challenging

TORONTO - For Jesuit Father Scott Lewis, writing is a dominant part of his ministry.

A columnist for The Catholic Register for the past eight years, Lewis is the author of the recently published God’s Word on Sunday: Liturgy Reflections from Year B.

“You have to open yourself up to the Spirit when you go to write,” said Lewis on where he gets his inspiration from when he sits down to write his weekly columns. Drawn from his Register columns, God’s Word on Sunday examines the Sunday readings of the 2011-2012 liturgical calendar, a year that focuses on the Gospel of Mark. It follows on the heels of last year’s book on Year A.

This week's movie releases - Oct 21st 2011

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.

Mary Jo Leddy shows us the face of the stranger

TORONTO - Mary Jo Leddy, co-founder of Toronto's Romero House, has discovered a school for Christian living. She has learned to live a Christian life by spending her days and nights among people who have been cut adrift by the violent politics and harsh economics we are usually sheltered from in Canada.

Leddy launched her new book The Other Face of God: When the Stranger Calls Us Home [click here to buy] at Regis College Oct. 20. The book is a spiritual guide to the practical, legal and bureaucratic process of settling refugees in this country. She has spent more than 20 years struggling against what she calls the bureaucratic absurdities and moral blindness of Canada's refugee system.

"Systems supposedly designed to do good develop routines of indifference, procedures for acceptable cruelty," she writes in the 150-page Novalis book.

New magazine brings faith to public square

More than two years in the making, Canada has a new magazine that intends to inject the voice of faith into public debates.

Convivium, which published its preview issue Oct. 18, is modelled on the influential American publication First Things. And just as First Things has been praised as an important vehicle to explore the delicate relationship between religion and society, Convivium publisher Peter Stockland hopes to engage religious-minded Canadians in public debates about the serious moral and cultural issues of our times.

This week's movie releases - Oct 13th 2011

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.

Oratorio rises out of composer’s Holocaust obsession

TORONTO - Composer Zane Zalis has a story to tell. Give him 90 minutes, 200 singers and a huge orchestra and Zalis will lead you through an emotional tale of the Holocaust.

I Believe is a 12-part oratorio that marshals enormous, complex orchestral forces but tells its story with popular, musical theatre singers. The work will get its Toronto premiere at Roy Thomson Hall Oct. 25 as a kind of lead-in to the 31st annual Holocaust Education Week, Nov. 1-9.

Zalis, who grew up Ukrainian Catholic but later slid his family over to the Roman rite, intended his oratorio to be educational and accessible to young listeners.

Nuit Blanche project highlights Sisters of St. Joseph’s

TORONTO - The Sisters of St. Joseph are lighting up Nuit Blanche. They are featured in Cloister, a multimedia art installation spotlighting the Sisters’ nearly 160 years of service in Toronto.

“We want to emphasize their amazing contributions to the city. They are amazing leaders and an inspiration to young girls,” said Judy Pregelj, teacher-librarian at St. Joseph’s College School.

“They have a long tradition of helping the poor,” she said, referring to the Sisters of St. Joseph’s outreach to the poor through numerous operations, including the Furniture Bank and Mustard Seed ministry.

Forgotten Rembrandt sparks Christ art exhibit

TORONTO - For many years, a painting of Christ that sat in storage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was believed to be a Rembrandt copy.

But there was something about the painting that piqued the curiosity of Canadian art expert Lloyd DeWitt, then the associate curator of the museum’s John G. Johnson Collection. DeWitt since June has been the curator of European art at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto 

Typical of the period, the painting was done on oak. That allowed DeWitt to initiate analysis of the painting using a process called dendrochronology, or “tree ring dating.” He made a remarkable discovery.

The story of Dorothy Day, warts and all

Jim Forest’s beautifully written and poignant All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day reveals the founder of the Catholic Worker movement as no ordinary saint, if her cause for beatification and canonization opened in 2000 proves successful.

The book does not gloss over any of the controversial aspects of her early life. Before becoming Catholic, Day sought an abortion, hoping losing the child would save her love affair with the baby’s father. Afterwards, she returned to their apartment to find the man had left, leaving behind only a letter urging her to forget him and a small amount of money that he had originally intended to pay a bar bill, Forest writes.

Four years later, she was delighted to become pregnant while in another relationship that, because of his atheism and her entering the Catholic Church, she realized she must end.

Canadian patrons help unearth Vatican’s Santa Rosa necropolis

TORONTO - A treasure that was buried for centuries within the Vatican walls will soon be on public display thanks to a triumph of local archeology and Canadian philanthropy.

The Canadian chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums will travel to the Vatican Museums in October to celebrate its role in the restoration of the Santa Rosa necropolis, a Roman cemetery of significant archeological and historical value. The patrons have donated about $1 million to the restoration cause.

Discovered by accident in 2003 when a parking lot was being expanded, the necropolis was a burying ground mainly for slaves, servants and Rome’s lower classes.