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World War Z

Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

Brad Pitt, Abigail Hargrove, center, and Mireille Enos star in a scene from the movie "World War Z."
When the zombies come a-runnin', as they do throughout "World War Z" (Paramount), the only defense will be guns, knives, duct tape and maybe a vaccine.

That's all there is to this dreary apocalypse tale, which stars Brad Pitt as United Nations troubleshooter Gerry Lane. As in, there's trouble, and he shoots.

Lane, who's retired from that job, is called back into action by U.N. Undersecretary Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) because the president of the United States is dead, the vice president is missing, and no one in particular seems to be in charge, so the planet needs an exterminator -- right quick.

This loose adaptation of Max Brooks' novel by director Marc Foster and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof respectfully observes all the cliches of the zombie-pandemic genres without much gore, possibly because there are thousands upon thousands of zombies to shoot at, blow up, or hit with flamethrowers.

Lane's calm morning, as he takes daughters Connie (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) to school with wife Karin (Mireille Enos) in Philadelphia, is interrupted with zombies running amok, holding up traffic and wrecking his minivan. He manages to steal another vehicle, and they get as far as Newark to loot a drugstore for Rachel's asthma medicine. Umutoni is on the phone, demanding that he get to where a helicopter can pick them all up, and soon they're at sea on an aircraft carrier.

Lane is ordered to find the source of whatever it is that's creating zombies, which takes him to a military base in South Korea, then to Jerusalem, where a huge wall surrounds the city to keep the undead at bay.

There may be a sublimated political message here about the Palestinians, undocumented immigrants or maybe even the walls of Jericho, but the scenes there move too quickly for obvious subtext. They're just an excuse to show how zombies can pile up and scale that wall.

Finally, Lane heads to a World Health Organization research lab in Wales. Along the way, he picks up Israeli security guard Segen (Daniella Kertesz), who, like himself, is durable enough to survive the crash of the jumbo passenger jet taking them there.

What pluck! What moxie! And what a time-waster!

The film contains gun and physical violence, zombies biting people, and fleeting crass language. Possibly acceptable for older teens. 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.

Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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