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It Is Finished
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
I AM LEGEND
THE SAVAGES
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
DEXTER
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



THERE WILL BE BLOOD

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (L, R): Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York) is a California oilman who goes up against the likes of Standard Oil during the late 1800s to prospect for the new black gold that is changing America. Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine) bargains hard with Plainview regarding the sale of property where oil seeps through the ground. (Dano also portrays Eliís brother Paul.) Eli wants a good price, not for his family but for his church.

This extraordinary tale is loosely based on Upton Sinclairís 1927 novel Oil! The two protagonists in this film set up the terms for their lives at which both will fail miserably. Plainview, the self-made businessman, represents the extremes of secular American virtues: individualism, ambition, pride and arrogance. Eli Sunday uses homegrown American evangelism to disguise his own ambition, pride and conceit.

Both men personify cold, calculating hubris that ends in tragedy and destruction. They misunderstand whatever virtues and freedom they perceive that America promises them and turn them into vices. Their total lack of empathy and love ends in nothingness. This is a cautionary American tale that audiences may want to compare with King Vidorís 1949 film The Fountainhead, based on an Ayn Rand novel.

The revelation in There Will Be Blood is multidimensional. The moral is clear: Getting what you want by stepping on everyone will not make you happy. Paul Thomas Andersonís (Magnolia) script and direction are darkly brilliant, as are the sound, cinematography and editing.

The film has been nominated for numerous Oscars and other awards. Daniel Day-Lewis gives the performance of his life. Paul Dano is also exceptional. Brief but intense violence.

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I AM LEGEND

I AM LEGEND (A-3, PG-13): In this futuristic film, Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) plays Lt. Col. Robert Neville, M.D., a scientist who is one of the few healthy creatures alive in Manhattan after a virus that had been genetically modified to cure cancer mutates and swiftly kills most people. Neville hunts deer in a Manhattan overgrown with weeds, but with electronic advertisements still working. He has increasingly violent encounters with vampire-like mutants.

Neville persists in trying to create a vaccine. Each day, he broadcasts a message of hope over the radio, in the event others have survived, telling people to come to Manhattan for food, clothing and shelter.

A woman named Anna (Alice Braga) and a young boy named Ethan (Charlie Tahan) show up one day, after hearing Nevilleís message. They want him to come with them to Vermont, where they believe that a colony of survivors exists.

This is the third film adaptation of Richard Mathesonís 1954 novel I Am Legend. The others are The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971).

If you like the horror/sci-fi/disaster genres, this film is engaging enough. But it leaves too many questions unanswered. For example, how could anyone get to and from Manhattan if all the bridges and tunnels were destroyed?

As with The Omega Man, there are images of Christianity and heroic self-sacrifice as well as a strong, though subtle, remnant (think Left Behind) flavor to the film. I Am Legend is scary enough, but itís not great or memorable. Intense violence.

THE SAVAGES (L, R): Aspiring Manhattan playwright Wendy Savage (Laura Linney, Kinsey) learns that her elderly father, Lenny (Philip Bosco, Damages), who lives in Arizona, is showing signs of dementia. She phones her brother, Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilsonís War), a drama professor who lives in Buffalo, about their father. Now Wendy and Jon, who seem to have raised themselves, must take care of their father, who has not communicated with his kids for 20 years.

Wendy, who doesnít have a life or a job, is having an affair with a married man. And Jon will not commit to his Polish girlfriend, whose visa has expired. Forced to work together to take care of their father, the siblings behave alternately like brats, adolescents and, eventually, adults.

Writer/director Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills), nominated for an Oscar for this screenplay, frames the story using the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brechtís dramatic theory that privileges narrative over plot. (Jon is an expert on Brecht.)

This film reflects the lives of ordinary people, especially when the time comes for grown children and their parents to change places. There isnít much of a plot, compared to other films, but there is some very fine acting and a sober yet life-affirming meditation for late baby boomers who are now coming of age. (Laura Linney, who has been nominated for an Oscar for her role in this film, portrays Abigail Adams in the new HBO miniseries John Adams, based on David McCulloughís Pulitzer Prize-winning biography.) Problem sexuality and language.

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS (PBS, check local listings): On the morning of October 2, 2006, a 32-year-old milk deliveryman entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He shot 10 of the girls, killing five of them and leaving the other five girls in critical condition before taking his own life. That day, townspeople overheard the Amish people saying that they must not think evil of this man, but forgive him.

This one-hour documentary includes many touching stories of forgiveness by award-winning filmmaker Martin Doblmeier (Bernardin, Bonhoeffer). This Journey Films production marks 20 years of research and study about the benefits of forgiveness to oneís spiritual, physical and emotional health as well as how forgiveness relieves grief and anger.

The program includes some interviews with people from a variety of faith traditions: Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Some of these personalities include Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel, best-selling authors Thomas Moore and Marianne Williamson, as well as two women who lost their loved ones on 9/11.

A longer version of this documentary is available on DVD at www.journeyfilms.com (phone 800-486-1070). Excellent for Lent, retreats, movie/Bible nights, and religious-education classes for adolescents and older.

DEXTER (CBS, Sundays): This Showtime (www.sho.com) psycho-vigilante cable hit is moving to network television on CBS (www.cbs.com). Dexter premiered in 2006 and quickly gained a quasi-cult following. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under) is a forensic technician for the Miami Police Department by day; at night he catches up with serial killers and murders them.

There are some obvious ethical and moral implications to these stories and how they are presented (based on novels by Jeff Lindsay). To accommodate about 20 minutes of commercials for network television, the episodes will most likely be edited to delete some content. The series is rated M for mature audiences.

THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP (A-2; PG) is another book-into-film by Walden Media. This adaptation of a novel by Dick King-Smith is about the origins of the Loch Ness monster. (He also wrote the novel the film Babe was based upon.) Angus (Alex Etel, Millions) is a young Scottish boy whose father is killed in World War II. The youngster discovers a mysterious egg that hatches a sea creature. Billed as a fantasy/adventure family film with excellent special effects; fantasy violence; too intense for young children.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (A-1, PG) is a rather charming film about how the singing chipmunks got their start in show business. No, this is not a documentary about Ross Bagdasarian, who created the five-time Grammy Award-winning singing group in 1958. Jason Lee (My Name is Earl) stars as Dave Seville in this film that combines very appealing animation and live action with a somewhat belabored narrative scripted by too many writers. It does, however, focus on family as well as the perils for young talent in the recording industry. My nephews loved it. Some crude humor.

THE PIRATES WHO DONíT DO ANYTHING: A VEGGIETALES MOVIE (A-1, G) is the second theatrical release from the VeggieTales franchise (Jonah in 2002). Itís about three entry-level workers at a dinner theater who are summoned back to the 17th century to be heroes. They fight mean pirates and evil cheese puffs, and save the princess and the kingdom. My nephews loved the cheese puffs. The filmís gospel values offer good things for parents and kids to talk about.

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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