Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall - PG

Jim Caviezel plays Bob Ladouceur, the coach of the Spartans.   Bob tries to teach the team more than just football,  but principles, many faith-based,  that will help them in life.  

Much  of the story is about their 151 game winning streak.  It was surprising to see the impact that the streak had on the team and the whole town.  There's even a team member who is after a personal record.  It is especially rewarding to see a couple of team members take what Bob has taught them to heart.

Laura Dern, who plays Bob's wife Bev, does a good job of balancing her support for the team with her concern for Bob.  Michael Chiklis is good as Terry Eidson, Bob's assistant coach who is really supportive of Bob.   But Caviezel steals the show with his heartfelt portrayal of Coach Ladouceur.

WTGST is a very good story, much of which has to do with choices, and deciding what is most important.  

An excellent movie for the whole family.  My brother and my nephews really liked it too. :)


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rire Pagliacci; Robin William’s Secret Sorrow

Driving home late on Monday evening, I tuned into a conversation on local radio about Robin Williams, and my stomach twisted in premonition of a tragedy, which was later confirmed when the conversation turned to asphyxiation. The word ‘suicide’ was never uttered, but I knew enough about my favorite actor to know that it was a real possibility. I remember hearing that Williams, an upper middle class boy in 1950’s Chicago, had trouble keeping his mother’s attention. In order to gain it, he learned to be entertaining. Extremely entertaining. As we know, this became his life’s work: Gaining and keeping the attention of millions of people around the world by his rapier wit, spot on impersonations, and hilarious physicality. Apparently the comedy was not enough to sustain him.
No one could approach William’s manic sense of humor, which he learned from comedian, Jonathan Winters. In an interview, Williams said of him, “It was like seeing a guy behind a mask, and you could see that his characters were a great way for him to talk about painful stuff.” 1. The two comics had “painful stuff” in common; Winters spent years of his life in a mental institution with several nervous breakdowns, and now the world is mourning Robin Williams who unable to escape the grips of alcoholism and deep depression, has committed suicide. The two had similar styles, manic humor, remarkable impressions, and peeking out from beneath it all, a pathos that they could not hide. Jonathan Winters died last year of natural causes at 87, surrounded by his family. Miraculously, he overcame the pain masked by his comedy. We now know that Robin Williams was not so fortunate.
In the opera Pagliacci, Canio, the main character, is a clown in a travelling show who overhears his wife, Nedda pledging her love to another man just as the show begins. The couple act in a play whose plot centers around her infidelity, and Canio cannot bear it: He sings the heartbreaking aria, “Vesti La Guibba” where he states the dilemma of how the clown acts funny to hide a broken heart.
The people pay you and you must make them laugh.
And if harlequin should steal your columbine, laugh,
You’re pagliaccio (clown), and the world will clap for you!
Turn into banter all your pain and sorrow,
And with your clown’s face hide grief and distress...2
 I think that the overwhelming grief and shock expressed around the world at Robin William’s suicide, is not only because he was too young at 63, or that he took his own life while his career was still wildly successful: It was reported that he has six films coming out after his death. I think our grief at his death runs much deeper. At some level, we all hide internal pain, and many of us, transform ourselves into clowns in public, entertaining our friends and even strangers with comic routines to mask our suffering. Some of us find comfort in faith to feel loved and hope in a better future. Most of us are blessed with family and friends who lift our spirits and our self-esteem. We need the attention in varying degrees, but most of us, do not need the attention as much as Robin Williams did, and none of us are as incredibly funny as he was. The world knows that he was one of a kind.
We needed his twinkling eyes, his impeccable timing and his rapid fire wit to help us forget our melancholy. We related to his vulnerability and his kindheartedness in films like “Good Morning Vietnam,” and “Patch Adams.” Robin Williams in his emotional openness; admitting his struggles with substance abuse publicly, his three marriages and his last ditch attempt at rehab in July, is our Everyman. We wonder at how much silent suffering he endured as we were laughing and silently feel guilty because, as his first producer Gary Marshall said, “He could make everybody happy but himself.”3.
We can’t help but wonder if we knew Robin Williams personally could we have helped him overcome his demons by letting the funniest man on earth know that he would still be loved even if he weren’t funny anymore. Too many Hollywood idols become just that, larger than life idols to whom we don't allow to own their humanity.
Dee Dee Harvey sums it up in the comments on Deadline Hollywood:
What can one say? I was shocked. People think being famous is so great. Not me. To be ON all the time, to be zoomed in at all the time… With the Internet and instant posting who can really take it? Please people give Stars their much deserved space. They are people just like everyone else. They need to go to restaurants, be with their kids, live live! Just leave them alone! Maybe then, and only then, we won’t lose people prematurely. Let them live!!!!4.
Robin, you made us laugh and taught us how to give to others with your acts of charity to the homeless, to veterans, and sick children. You needed our laughter to help mask your pain, and we needed you to make us laugh.
We hope and pray that you are making the angels laugh in Heaven and, once in a while, look down upon us and forgive us for not loving you enough.

1 2.
4. Ibid

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Movie Review: And So It Goes - PG13

Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is obnoxious and self-centered.  He's a real-estate agent, and his goal is to sell one last house and retire alone.  His life changes when his estranged son drops off a granddaughter he didn't even know existed for him to care for.  Oren relies on his quirky neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton), who soon bonds with Sarah.  

Douglas is good as Oren, but Keaton is somewhat disappointing as Leah.  She is good-hearted, and a lounge singer and many times, she can barely get through a song without crying;  that gets old quickly.

Oren does gradually warm to both Leah and his granddaughter.  

An entertaining, heart-warming story.

Content warnings include one bed scene (no sex shown) and a few moments with crude humor and language.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - PG13

Set in the future, but the year was not specified.   There are many more apes than humans at this point, but the apes have not yet dominated humans.  The backdrop is that humans wiped themselves out through war.

One of the main themes is how fragile peace can be.  There were humans that want peace, and those who don't.   Likewise, there were apes who want peace, and those who don't.  For much of the movie, peace was hanging by a thread, and could be so easily derailed by those who oppose it.  

There were two things I didn't care for:  the political nature of the story, which was not necessary, and the fact that it put apes on the same level as humans, which they are not: only humans were created in the image of God, and only humans have an immortal soul.

Overall,  I did enjoy the film for what it is: entertainment.  The special effects, specifically the realism of the apes, are very well done.

Content warnings include violence, and some moderate gore. The  'Fword' was used, only once.  I saw it with my nephews (16) and they liked it too.

Movie Review: Ragamuffin

This is the story of Rich Mullins, a contemporary Christian musician.   Rich grew up on a farm, and it seemed that every time he tried to help his father, something would go wrong.   This led to a very strained relationship  between Rich and his father, and a lot of insecurity for Rich throughout his life.

I found Rich to be very self-righteous and judgmental, labeling most Christians as insincere and hypocritical.  There is a lot if irony in that statement alone;  He acted like he was the only 'honest' Christian.  Much of Rich's music was negative, which I believe was a reflection of his troubled past, and several people encouraged him to write more positive, uplifting music, which was appropriate, given that there is nothing more 'positive' than God loving us, and us loving God.

I will say that I admire his perseverance in his belief that God loves him, despite his failings, which is most certainly true.  He was strongly impacted by a preacher who coined the term 'ragamuffin', meaning those who humbly ask God for forgiveness.   

Overall, an inspirational film which overuses negativity.  The main point I came away with is how much God loves us, which is a good point to convey :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Music Review: Eventide by Voces8

This is the first album by Voces8  that I've had the opportunity to review.

Eventide is  a blend of chant and classical,  performed mostly in Latin, and some in English.  

The title theme of eventide is present in a few tracks:  Where I Sleep, The Seal Lullaby,  Underneath The Stars, and also Reflexionem.

I especially enjoy the hymns to our Lady,  Second Eve and Ave Maria.

Some of the adjectives I would use to describe Eventide are spiritual, soothing, and meditative,  the kind of album that can bring you closer to the Lord.

I highly recommend Eventide; it is a beautiful work.

Below is a sample.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Movie Review: America: Imagine the World Without her - PG13

This is more of a documentary than a movie, and in it Dinesh D'Souza discusses some of the 'atrocities' America has been accused of, ironically enough,  by enemies within, who actually reside in America who want to tear her down and 'remake' her while enjoying the liberties and freedom she offers.

These absurd accusations include 'stealing' this country, 'stealing' Mexico,  slavery, and the 'evil' of Capitalism (LOL)

The main critics of America that D'Souza focuses on are Howard Zinn, whose leftist attacks on America have , unfortunately, become required reading at universities in this country and Saul Alinsky, who has motivated such radical leftists such as Obama and Hlilary.   The most shocking point in the whole movie is that a very long time ago, Hilary was a conservative, but she was influenced by Alinsky.

D'Souza presents the issues America faces in a serious and  realistic, but not fatalistic fashion.
I  recommend America for all, as those who agree with it will be encouraged, and hopefully those who disagree may be educated :)  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book Review: Journey of Our Love: The Letters of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla

The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla

Edited by Elio Guerriero
Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2014

St. Gianna Beretta Molla is a popular saint, not only because she was so profoundly pro-life as to give up her own life in order to save her unborn child, but also because she was a modern woman and a working mother. She is someone mothers of today can relate to and aspire to imitate as we carry out our own vocation. “Journey of Our Love: The Letters of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla” allows us an intimate look at the relationship between husband and wife as they sought to establish and nurture their domestic church. While her letters were previously published, this is the first time the letters of both have been published together as Pietro Molla requested that his correspondence not be published until after his death.
As editor Elio Guerriero states in the introduction, “These letters are a convincing proof that the way of holiness does not necessarily pass through religious life or the priestly ministry, but can unfold in the midst of the world, living one’s own vocation as a Christian called to holiness with Christ in married life.”
The book offers a short biography of both St. Gianna and her husband, who met when he was 42 and she was 32. Their friendship quickly grew to love and they married in September of 1955. Their marriage would last seven short years until Gianna died soon after giving birth to their fourth child. They packed a great deal of love and joy into those years which is revealed in their letters. 
“Journey of Our Love” includes letters from their dating and engagement period as well as their marriage. They were separated frequently due to Pietro’s work travel as well as during vacations. While they did have access to the telephone and made use of it, they often wrote each other every day during these separations, leaving a wonderful record of their relationship. The copious footnotes provide the reader with background information and allow for a greater appreciation and understanding of the text.
In the days of their courtship and engagement, we see two people who want to make each other happy and who delight in each other. As Pietro wrote on September 6, 1955, “Your love makes everything more beautiful to me.” Their love, even in its infancy, was always rooted in prayer and references to God and the Catholic faith are frequent in their epistles.  This love, centered on God, made their relationship more blessed. 
During their married life, they shared the joy and expectation of the birth of their children and their struggles in caring for them when they were sick. The couple comes across very human as they discuss the early hour their daughter awakes, Gianna’s fear of airplanes, Pietro’s need to have teeth pulled, their in-laws, work issues, financial matters, and the simple missing of each other. These were two people living married life, coping with all the everyday matters that entails. Where their holy virtue is evident is that all of this daily living was deeply rooted in God. In addition, their love for each other always shines through.  
“Journey of Our Love” is a beautiful book for anyone who has a devotion to St. Gianna and who wants to learn more about her married life. It also provides a wonderful look at the beauty of a married life rooted in the love of God, the ideal to which Catholic married couples should aspire.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Dear God, You Can't Be Serious

Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious
by Patti Maguire Armstrong
Liguori Publications, 2014

“Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious” is the sequel to Patti Maguire Armstrong’s "Dear God, I Don’t Get It", but one need not have read the first one to enjoy the second. While the first book focused on older brother Aaron, a sixth grader who had to move to a new state and make new friends despite having prayed with all his heart to not have to move, this book puts the spotlight on Luke, the second child in the family.
Luke has just finished fourth grade and loves school. He enjoys hanging out with his friends and can’t imagine life any other way. Then, his parents decide they are going to homeschool the following year. Luke is beyond upset by the idea. As he says, “Homeschoolers are weird, and I don’t want to be one of them.” He prays for God to change his parents’ mind. 

Once again, as happened with Aaron, God does not seem to be listening, and his parents go ahead with their plan. Luke comes up with an idea to make the best of both the school and homeschool worlds, but gets himself in a heap of trouble in the process. In the end, it all works out and both Luke and those reading this story gain a valuable lesson.

Armstrong is a homeschool veteran herself and offers a wonderful perspective on homeschooling which would make this book ideal for a child whose family has decided to pull him or her out of school but who isn’t quite on board with the idea. “Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious” is geared for grades 3 – 6 and makes a great addition to a Catholic family library.