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Lords of War
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL
IRON MAN
SON OF RAMBOW
THE TUDORS
REVEREND BILLY AND THE CHURCH OF STOP SHOPPING
LOVE’S UNFOLDING DREAM
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



Three distinct and interesting theatrical films converge on the theme of war. One is based on a Christian classic, another on a comic book and the third takes its cue from the Sylvester Stallone Rambo franchise. All of these films are about growing up, in some way.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (A-2, PG): Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) leads her siblings through a closet into the magical land created by C.S. Lewis. This time, the children rescue a grumpy dwarf, Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent).

Crown Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes, Stardust) is on the run. His Uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto, Mostly Martha), the usurper to the throne and persecutor of Narnians, wants to kill the young prince so his own son will one day be king.

Director/co-writer Andrew Adamson has created a film rich in artistic and thematic texture. He has developed the characters and events so that, to me, the story is more interesting than the book. The problem I have with the film is the extensive and unnecessary (but completely bloodless) battle scenes leading to a very long film that clocks in at nearly two and a half hours.

There is one profound moment that captures all the themes of the story and reflects Lewis’s Christian heart and his view of peace. When the children are trying to decide whether to attack the Talmarine castle or to fight Miraz and his minions, Lucy quietly says, “You are talking about only two options: whether we will die here or at the castle. There is a third way: Aslan.” This statement can launch many conversations about the meaning of the film and the influence of faith on life.

In addition to themes of character, imagination, faith, hope, love, coming-of-age and complex decisionmaking about the right thing to do and who to follow, this is a worthy, exciting tale for adolescents and grown-ups. Intense battle violence makes it unsuitable for young children.

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KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL

KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL (Not rated, G): Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine) is an 11-year-old aspiring journalist in Depression-era Cincinnati. When her father (Chris O’Donnell, Grey’s Anatomy) leaves to look for a job, her mother (Julia Ormond, Sabrina) takes in boarders.

Kit writes about what is going on around her and wants to be published in the local newspaper. Kit befriends two kids, Will (Max Thieriot, Nancy Drew) and Countee (Willow Smith), who arrive at the Kittredge home asking to work for food.

But the boarders are not what they seem, especially the magician (Stanley Tucci, The Devil Wears Prada) and the somewhat ditzy bookmobile librarian (Joan Cusack, Runaway Bride). Kit and her pals also become occupied trying to solve a mysterious crime spree.

This is the first feature-length American Girl film (three others were made for TV). Breslin is fresh, smart and credible.

The film is directed by award-winner Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park), who elicits sympathetic and strong performances from the many child actors. Rozema also delivers a healthy dose of admirable girl-power. The film treats issues of racism, social status, family, friends, honesty, courage and integrity.

Kit Kittredge strives for historical authenticity, and cultural and racial diversity. It falters only during Thanksgiving, when no one mentions God, which would be historically accurate to include. Rare film that celebrates being a girl.

IRON MAN (A-3, PG-13): Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., Zodiac) is a brilliant industrialist whose company makes weapons for the U.S. government for its war in Afghanistan. When Tony goes there to deliver a new weapons system, he discovers that a warlord is using Stark Industry’s weapons not only to fight Americans but also to kill innocent local people.

Stark is captured and severely injured. Yinsen (Shaun Toub, The Kite Runner) saves his life by implanting a device in place of his heart. When the guerrilla warlord Raza (Faran Tahir) demands that Tony re-create his new weapons system, Tony and Yinsen deceive Raza by creating an iron suit, which is a weapon that targets only the enemy and enables Tony to fly. Tony also discovers that someone in his firm is double-dealing.

Downey, an unlikely superhero, gives an outstanding, award-worthy performance. Gwyneth Paltrow (Running With Scissors) is effective as the unrequited romantic interest and Terrence Howard (Crash) plays the likable military liaison.

The film follows the proven but typical Stan Lee comic formula. Director Jon Favreau (Elf) and his team of writers have crafted an evocative and entertaining film, especially by developing Tony’s character so well. This is evidenced from Tony’s soul-searching as he questions his personal and corporate responsibility for his part in the development and continuance of the military-industrial complex. The film does demonstrate other ways to engage the enemy and avoid the collateral damage that weighs on Tony’s conscience.

Although this is a high-concept, well-cast production that I enjoyed, the film misses a step by never questioning the role and responsibility of government in the arms industry, trade and trafficking. The fact that it is called an “industry” in the film and real life should weigh heavily on all believers and people of goodwill. Intense war violence and torture.

SON OF RAMBOW (A-3, PG-13): In mid-1980s England, Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) sits outside his classroom because his strict Plymouth Brethren religion does not permit him to watch films—not even documentaries.

He becomes friends with the wild Lee Carter (Will Poulter), who includes Will in his film project, based on the Rambo movie about a character in the Vietnam War. Although isolated from media, Will has a vivid imagination and has artistic talent, which helps Lee develop his film into a wartime action-adventure story and a search for his deceased father.

This is a cinematic surprise written and directed by Garth Jennings (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). It’s a charming, low-budget independent film about friendship, loss, family, religion and reconciliation.

Both a sad and positive commentary on parenting, the film excels by showing the innocence and resilience of childhood, and the power of movies to express the inner life of children and tell stories of the heart. Rough and risky behavior and some problem language.

THE TUDORS (Showtime): This lusty historical drama, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (August Rush) as Henry VIII, was just renewed and is already on DVD.

This past season focused on the Act of Succession (1534), legitimizing the heirs of Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) and making Henry the head of the Church in England. The refusal of Bishop John Fisher (Bosco Hogan) and Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) to sign the act which led to their martyrdom (1535) was portrayed accurately, with much feeling and dignity.

We have seen numerous interpretations of Henry VIII’s descent into the hell of the consequences of his unquenchable quest for money, sex and power. But he remains a religious man of sorts, although fixated with the need for an heir. Even though we know how his era is going to end, The Tudors makes for riveting television, and conversations about what faith and the Church mean in our own times. For mature audiences; sexual themes and nudity.

William Talen is not an ordained preacher. But he began preaching and parodying gospel choirs and evangelical preaching to spread his anticonsumerism message: “We live in absurdity where monopoly is called democracy, the mall is called the neighborhood and patriotism is called shopping.”

In this documentary, he contends that “we shop because we are afraid of death.” His retail interventions and message are controversial, hard-hitting, humorous and thought-provoking. The DVD and CD, in addition to his book, What Would Jesus Buy?: Fabulous Prayers in the Face of the Shopocalypse, are available at www.Amazon.com.

LOVE’S UNFOLDING DREAM: This Hallmark Channel production is based on the Love Comes Softly series by Christian novelist Janette Oke. It’s wholesome family viewing with a strong message from executive producer Michael Landon, Jr.

A MAN NAMED PEARL (not rated, G): This limited-release documentary focuses on self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryer, who responded to a racist remark that African-Americans didn’t keep up their yards when he moved to Bishopville, South Carolina. Pearl gathered cast-off plants from the local nursery and won the coveted “Yard of the Month” award in 1984. He did that and more: His garden draws thousands of tourists and students each year. An inspiring, beautiful film for all ages.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (O, R): Similar to The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, this is basically an insightful story about what a young man learns when his girlfriend dumps him. But it is couched in so much raunchy sexual crudeness that I found it annoying. Nudity, pervasive sexual/genital themes.

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

The USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

 


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