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Does the World Need Superman?
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

SUPERMAN RETURNS
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO
P.O.V.
THE UNIT
THE BITUMINOUS COAL QUEENS OF PENNSYLVANIA
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS

SUPERMAN RETURNS

SUPERMAN RETURNS (A-2, PG-13): Superman/Clark Kent has to be one of the most popular, recognizable and accessible comic-book superheroes. The late Christopher Reeve played him in films in the 70’s and 80’s. Now, Brandon Routh portrays the Man of Steel in director Bryan Singer’s new film.

When Clark returns to earth after a five-year absence, Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) is thrilled to see him working again at The Daily Planet. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has a five-year-old son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), and lives with Richard White (James Marsden). Although Lois is happy to see the nerdy-looking Clark, she’s distracted by Superman’s return because he never said good-bye to her.

When Lois is on a passenger jet, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) causes the plane to fall to earth. Superman’s intercession gives the audience one of the most spectacular sequences in comic-books-into-film movies ever made.

Lex persuades a rich woman (Noel Neill) to turn over her wealth to him on her deathbed. (Neill played Lois Lane on the 1950s Superman TV series and Lois Lane’s mother in the 1978 film Superman.) Another familiar face is Jack Larson, the bartender, who played Jimmy Olsen in the old TV series.

The imaginative parallel between the beginning of the 1978 film in this series and the Prologue of John’s Gospel (1-18) continues in Superman Returns. Through archived footage of Marlon Brando, we are reminded of Jor-El’s words as he sent his son to earth: “Even though you’ve been raised as a human being, you’re not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you...my only son.”

In Superman Returns, we experience the realism of the passion, death and resurrection when Superman faces the greatest trial of his life. He is a Christ figure, though with a creature’s flaws and limitations. Martha, Superman’s foster mother, is a Mary figure, and Kitty, Lex Luthor’s moll, is the sinful woman who is capable of greatness.

There are many iconic visuals in the film: Michelangelo’s Pietà, Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John, the image of an angel, and Pontius Pilate and his Roman soldiers.

Superman Returns is a romance as much as it is an action film. But there should be more diversity in the very white population of Metropolis. As part of our contemporary mythology, Superman shows us heroism and the power of sacrificial, transforming love; a great ride of a summer film.

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AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (not rated, PG): Al Gore has changed paths from politician to environmental evangelist. This is a slick, high-tech presentation of a lecture about global warming that Gore has given more than a thousand times around the world.

Gore uses scientific facts that only a few critics have feebly questioned (check out National Geographic’s analysis of the film). He wants to motivate us to make lifestyle and economic, industrial policy changes so that the damage to the earth that is causing global warming will halt.

At this point, he believes that we still have time. If we wait, however, and the polar ice cap melts by the year 2050, the earth will change so much that it will not sustain life as we know it. Gore told viewers on Larry King Live that he believes global warming is a moral and spiritual issue, not a political issue.

As for those who believe the economy will suffer if we change from fossil fuels, Gore notes that American-made automobiles are not allowed into China because our cars do not meet their environmental standards. “You can’t make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it,” he says.

The principle of Catholic social teaching regarding care and stewardship for the earth comes to mind when watching this film, which received the Humanitas Prize Special Award for making “a significant contribution to the human family by communicating values, forming consciences and motivating human behavior.” Care for the environment is also a human-rights issue, and the United States is the world’s biggest offender through CO2 emissions.

Gore praises U.S. cities and the state of California for voluntarily implementing the 1997 Kyoto Accord (or Protocol) about climate change that the U.S. Congress and Australia refused to sign.

Every responsible citizen and believer will want to see and question this film. The earth is ours to save. Gore’s style is personal and calm, the film is fascinating and evocative.

THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO (not rated, R): This docudrama focuses on Asif Iqbal, a British citizen of Pakistani parentage, who went to Pakistan to find a bride a few days after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He invited Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, two of his friends from Tipton, to come to his wedding.

Although these naïve young men were not political or radical, they joined a large group of men who plan to help their brothers in Afghanistan when the U.S. offensive began.

When the U.S. started paying $5,000 for each foreigner turned in to American forces, these young men were rounded up by the Northern Alliance. A couple of months later, they were incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.

Dubbed the “Tipton Three” by the British press, they were released in 2004. Filmmaker Michael Winterbottom approached the trio, now in their 20s, about making a film after reading news accounts about their torture while in U.S. custody. Co-director Mat Whitecross spent a month with them, recording hundreds of pages of their transcribed testimony.

The result is a drama with documentary elements: The Tipton Three talk about their experiences throughout the film while actors portray them in dramatic episodes.

“Stress positions,” said Jumana Musa of Amnesty International at a screening in Los Angeles, “loud noise, strobe lights and isolation may seem innocuous, but taken together they mean torture to the rest of the world.” She also said, “There are bad guys at Guantanamo, but there’s no excuse for throwing out the rule book.” A gritty and timely film worth watching but not always easy to follow because of the handheld camera and the recreated chaotic situations; will cause the thoughtful viewer to reflect, question, dialogue and ponder a Christian response.

P.O.V. (PBS), which stands for “point of view,” puts a human face on contemporary social issues. “Lomax the Songhunter,” airing August 22, centers on Alan Lomax (1915-2002), whose career was devoted to recording folk music in the United States, West Indies, Italy, Great Britain and Spain. Filmmaker Rogier Kappers includes interviews with Pete Seeger and other colleagues of Lomax. “Waging a Living” (August 29) is a somber look at what constitutes a just wage in America. One nurse’s aide has been making the same wage for 14 years. “I take care of human beings,” she attests, “and I make less than a garbage collector.” (Check local listings.)

THE UNIT (CBS, Tuesdays): Created by master playwright/screenwriter David Mamet, this action-drama premiered last spring. Dennis Haysbert, Regina Taylor, Robert Patrick and Scott Foley are in a contemporary top-secret military unit that answers only to the president. This well-written entertainment teaches military wives (and us) how to behave but neglects to question the political status quo.

THE BITUMINOUS COAL QUEENS OF PENNSYLVANIA: This documentary by Emmy-winning actress Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) and husband David Hunt examines coal-mining families and communities through the lives of the beauty queens who return to Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, for the pageant’s 50th anniversary (www.coalqueens.com).

 

WORDPLAY (not rated, PG): This affectionate documentary focuses on the annual Crossword Puzzle tournament in Stamford, Connecticut. It features several winners and the 2005 competition. The New York Times Crossword Puzzle editor Will Shortz shares the history of the newspaper’s puzzle. If you love words and figuring things out, don’t miss this charming and funny fringe film.

NACHO LIBRE (O, PG): Jack Black (The School of Rock) is a friar who wants to be a Mexican version of an entertainment wrestler. Written by Jared and Jerusha Hess, who gave us the wonderfully surprising Napoleon Dynamite in 2004, this is but a thin shadow of it. Disappointing and mediocre.

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (A-2, PG-13): Without any character development, this movie is all about special effects. The point that it’s O.K. to be different is obvious. Beast/Dr. Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer) is original and I would have liked to have seen more of him. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was hardly there. Stick with X-Men 2. Let’s hope this is the final installment in this series.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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