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A Tale of Two Brothers
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N


TWO BROTHERS (not yet rated, PG): In the jungles of Southeast Asia before World War I, twin male tigers are born in the ruins of an ancient temple. Before long, however, their sanctuary is disturbed by an expedition that is looting the country for art treasures to be sold in Europe.

Aiden McRory (Guy Pearce) kills the father tiger when it attacks someone. The tigress escapes with one cub; Aiden finds the other and names him Kumal.

When the tigress follows the truck carrying her cub, the driver shoots her through the ear and leaves her for dead. When Aiden arrives in the city, he is arrested (for stealing) and Kumal is sold to a circus.

Aiden is released from prison to lead a group that includes the French governor, Normandin (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), and his family on a tiger hunt. Normandin’s son, Raoul (Freddie Highmore), discovers the other cub in a cave and takes him home as a pet.

Raoul and Aiden parallel the dignity and brotherhood of humankind with that of the animals of the created universe. How the two captive brother cubs mature and discover their kinship is the dramatic turning point of this amazing and visually stunning motion picture by Jean-Jacques Annaud, director of The Bear, nominated in 1990 for an Oscar (best film editing).

In Two Brothers, Annaud returns to his nature theme: “The greatest thrill of all is not to kill but to let live.” Viewers of both films will find much to compare between their themes and cinematic style. Some tense scenes; deliberately paced and beautiful; recommended for families and wild animal lovers willing to contemplate and compare how the human story is reflected in God’s nature.

HELLBOY (L, PG-13): At the end of World War II, the Nazis open a portal to the dark side in a final effort to win the war. They are stopped by the arrival of the U.S. troops and President Roosevelt’s personal psychic advisor, Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm (John Hurt).

The only being to pass through the portal is a little red creature with horns and a tail. Professor Bruttenholm calls him Hellboy, brings him to the States, raises him as his son and superhero in the fight against evil. At the same time, the Nazi psychic expert, Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) is sucked through the portal to hell.

Fast forward to the present: The U.S. government’s Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is located in Newark, New Jersey, where Hellboy (Ron Perlman) lives with the professor and his F.B.I. companions. A new G-man, John (Rupert Evans), arrives to make sure Hellboy stays under the radar as he thwarts the returning evil beings, Rasputin and Ilsa (Biddy Hodson), who are determined to cause the apocalypse that the professor and the U.S. Army prevented 60 years ago.

This enjoyable comic-book-made-into-a-movie has similar elements to X2 and Daredevil, all rich in Catholic imagery (for example, the crucifix and the rosary). Hellboy, in particular, draws on the opposing themes of religion and the occult: You can get theological if you want.

Like the Dracula classic, evil tries to reverse and replace the roles of God and the redeemer in the world. But those who are chosen will lay down their lives to prevent this. The film also considers the question of what makes a person human: Is it nature or nurture? Is it one’s origins or the choices one makes?

I could follow the plot most of the time. But in the final analysis, it gets confusing and doesn’t matter very much. A film to be enjoyed if this is your style; some comic-book violence.

GOOD BYE, LENIN! (not yet rated, R): Communist Party member Christiane (Kathrin Sass) has a heart attack near the Berlin Wall as it collapses in 1989. She is in a coma for six months, not knowing what has happened to Berlin or Communism. When she wakes, the doctor tells her son, Alex (Daniel Brühl), and daughter, Ariane (Maria Simon), that if their mom has any surprises or shocks she will have another heart attack and die.

Meanwhile, the world has changed. The children have thrown out all the old furnishings and upgraded the apartment. But Alex cannot bear that his mother might die of a shock, so he goes scrounging for the cast-off furniture and turns the apartment back to the way it was. He and a friend create a daily news program on video so Christiane will think that the Eastern bloc life and politics are the same.

In one of the funniest scenes Alex hires former members of the Communist Youth to dress in their old uniforms and come and sing songs for his mother. But the façade starts to crumble when Christiane sees a helicopter carrying a statue of Lenin and then a banner for Coca-Cola hanging from a large building.

This film has become one of Germany’s most commercially successful ones yet. Awards include a Blue Angel at the Berlin Film Festival in 2003, where I was present as a member of the ecumenical jury. Even with subtitles, Lenin is laugh-out-loud funny.

Similar to In America, this film has heart, humor and humanity. Inspiring and satisfying movie; some problem language and sexuality.

FAREWELL TO FRIENDS AND FRASIER: The final episodes of Friends and Frasier aired during the May 2004 ratings sweeps. But comedy aficionados of the shows will not weep for long as one of the most elegant baby-boomer comedies of all time, Frasier, and one of the most Gen-X shows of prime time, Friends, pass into broadcast and cable syndication for TV eternity. (Friends commanded $2 million for 30 seconds of commercial time on the final episode, reported The Baltimore Sun: That’s a record for a non-Super Bowl broadcast.)

Both shows suffered from casting that was homogeneously white and lacking in the kind of cultural diversity for which broadcast television is starving. On the other hand, the older ones among us laughed at the guys and gals on Frasier (even though we never saw Niles’s first wife, Maris) because their psychological foibles relentlessly surprised us.

Friends had perhaps a wider audience because of its appeal to the younger generation for whom loyalty is the epitome of what relationships are all about. Viewers opened their homes to the six very funny young adults and their intermingled lives (and often morally ambiguous ’90s life-style), and became their best friends from the very first night.

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the English writer and arbiter of good taste in the arts, could have been talking about Frasier and Friends when he wrote that comedy is “a dramatic representation of the lighter faults of mankind.”

The best comedy makes us laugh at ourselves. Really good comedy invites us to think and talk about what really does matter by making us laugh about what doesn’t. What’s next, NBC?

THE WAY HOME (May 23, Hallmark Channel): Three stories, narrated by Glenn Close, chronicle the transforming power of people who struggle to reconcile. I especially recommend viewing for religious educators and pastoral ministers.

THE OTHER HOLY LAND (June 6, Hallmark Channel): This one-hour documentary explores Turkey as the cradle of Christianity, where Paul preached to the Ephesians, John the Evangelist is said to have written his Gospel and Mary, the mother of Jesus, is thought to have lived out her last years. Written and directed by award-winning television producer Frank Frost (Bernardin; Thérèse: Living on Love), this is an informative commentary on early Church history and the origins of Eastern Orthodoxy.

 

THE LADYKILLERS (A-3, R): Smooth-talking Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D., (Tom Hanks) rents a room from a sweet little old widow, Marva (Irma P. Hall), so he and his scatterbrained posse can tunnel through to a riverboat casino and rob it.

The funniest line in the movie is when Marva tries to understand Dorr’s name with the Ph.D. at the end: “You mean like Fudd, Elmer Fudd?” I’m still waiting for the next really great film by the Coen brothers. Extremely crass language suits the characters.

SPARTAN (L, R): Val Kilmer plays Scott, a military man who trains Marines for undercover combat missions. He gets called in when the daughter of the man we assume is the American president is kidnapped.

Things are not as they seem, and Scott and his team have to make dramatic decisions and sacrifices to do the right thing. In some ways, the ethical dilemmas reminded me of 1999’s Three Kings. Tightly written by the virtuoso director David Mamet, this is a good watch. Graphic violence; some problem sexual references and language.

SAVED! (not yet rated, PG-13): The figurative story of a teenage outcast (Eva Amurri), adulteress (Jena Malone), cripple (Macaulay Culkin) and leper (Mandy Moore) who attend an evangelical Christian high school, all for the love of Jesus. This subversive comedy lampoons people’s black-and-white interpretations of how Jesus wants us to live—to include sinners and not exclude the flawed and imperfect. A must-see for youth ministers.

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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