Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: "Angel Lane"

Angel Lane

by Sheila Roberts
NY: St. Martin's Press, 2009

Searching for a feel-good story about three businesswomen in a small town trying to help it regain its heart? "Angel Lane" is just the ticket. Sarah, a baker, is a grandmother sorely missing her grandchildren who have just moved away. Emma is struggling to keep her new quilt shop open. She dreams of a life out of the movies, but reality has her living alone with a stray cat who doesn't like her. Jamie, who runs a very successful chocolate business, is divorced from an abusive cop. She is working hard at starting over, but is extremely reluctant to open her heart to an attractive cop and his two young daughters.

These three women decide to start a "good-deed" campaign encouraging other in their community to perform random acts of kindness. The story tells of many of these deeds and their outcomes (which are not always positive!). It also tells of their relationships with each other and others in their world and how they develop. This story features three of my favorite things - baked goods, chocolate, and quilting. Even if it lacked all three, it still would have been a great read. It is light reading with a positive message. It pulled on my heart and made me both cry and laugh. I recommend it highly!

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Revolutionary Road: A Review with Spoilers

I find it impossible to review this movie without spoiling the ending for my readers. I have read numerous reviews on Christian sites, which seem to be afraid to talk about the main focus of the movie. Yet the topic of the movie – abortion – is something that the viewer will have wished he or she knew before going into it.

The star-crossed lovers of Titanic have reunited on the set, but their relationship is nothing to be admired. In the story based on the 1961 novel by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes, Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio play a husband and wife who have reached the stage of boredom in their 1950s upper-class suburban home in Connecticut. Two children float in and out of the picture, having no real roles but that of accessories, like the bland but elegant furniture in the large house in which they live on Revolutionary Road.

After starting his birthday with a marital argument with his wife April, Frank Wheeler seduces a young secretary at work. When he arrives home, there are tears in his eyes as his wife and children surprise him with a cake. Later, April convinces him that the way out of their unhappy situation is to sell all they own and move to Paris. There, she can take a good-paying job and he can find his purpose in life.

Setting a date for September, she purchases steamer tickets and puts the house up for sale. With some hope on the horizon, the couple seems happy that summer until two things happen that put their decision in jeopardy: she becomes pregnant and he is offered a job promotion.

“Don’t worry, Millie tells me as long as I take care of it before 12 weeks it will be okay,” she consoles him, and he says nothing. When he finds a piece of tubing in the bathroom closet, he knows she is seriously thinking of aborting. The tension grows and she becomes more and more emotionally distant. She frequently smokes and consumes alcohol. While she appears to be in control, there are times where privately she totally “loses” it, including when she gets drunk and cheats on her husband with the next door neighbor.

The night on which her pregnancy is dated at 12 weeks, they have a really awful fight, during which they both admit to hating each other, and he says he wished they had gotten rid of “it”. He later says he didn’t mean it, but he has already triggered a chain of thoughts in her mind that has set her resolve.

The last morning, there is a chilling scene during which she plays the perfect wife, making him a nice breakfast. She has placed the children in her friend Millie’s care, and you know what she is going to do as soon as he leaves the house.

Wearing perfectly starched linens, she carries the necessary instruments to the bathroom and closes the door. When she walks down the stairs, she stands at the window and smiles. She starts bleeding and calls for help. She dies in the hospital.

The movie ends with Wheeler sitting on a park bench, watching his children on the swings and obviously grieving over what he has lost.

I do not recommend watching this movie for fun. I would absolutely not recommend it for minors. I do think the movie tells some important truths, including the facts that: (1) abortion has been around for a very long time; (2) more often than society likes to admit, abortions happen even in upper-class marriages, just because the baby is not convenient; (3) abortion is a life-or-death decision for both the baby and the mother.

Vatican newspaper pays tribute to books on Beatles, Rolling Stones

cross-posted from A Catholic View

The December 25 edition of L’Osservatore Romano paid tribute to two new books devoted to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Mark Hayward’s The Beatles: On Camera, Off Guard 1963-69 and The Rolling Stones: On Camera, Off Guard 1963-69 contain photographs-- most of them previously unpublished-- of the bands.

The L’Osservatore Romano column was written by Giuseppe Fiorentino and Gaetano Vallini, who earlier this year commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the hippie film Easy Rider.


story here

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie Review: Did You Hear About the Morgans? - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Warning:Potential Spoilers


Paul and Meryl Morgan are a well-off New York couple. He's a lawyer and she's in real estate. They are separated because Paul had a one-night affair with someone and Meryl is having a hard time forgiving him. That was the main thing that bothered me about this movie: the repeated reference to his affair and the revelation of another affair. As the previews indicate, they witness a murder and have to enter the witness protection program. They are sent to Ray, Wyoming, a small town very much unlike NYC. In this situation, they become more dependant on each other and, as such, their relationship begins to improve. I found it very interesting how naturally their perspective changed as they were separated from their wealth and they communicated more with each other.

There are many funny moments, and some tense moments as someone finds out where they are. Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen are very good as the couple that hides them.

A very entertaining and engaging movie. I highly recommend!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Are the Beggars Music Review: Solid Praise and Worship




This debut album from Ike Ndolo is an interesting mix of quiet, passionate praise and worship songs spiced up with the occasional rock song. The lyrics tend to be simple but that is not necessarily to their detriment. After listening to the CD several times I found, to my surprise, that the louder rock anthems I originally liked best were not what grabbed my mind's ear as I would catch myself humming some of the straight forward songs. This is despite the fact that, although the album is well produced, it tends to be a bit conventional in places with musical changes predictable to anyone who has heard much praise and worship music. This is not the case in every song but it is there.

Ndolo's talent is obvious and although the album is being marketed to the youth group demographic there is much here to recommend it to all ages, especially considering that older listeners are usually well attuned to appreciate the passion of an electric guitar.

My personal favorite was Wade in the Water which instantly went into my God Mix playlist. An adaptation of an old spiritual, this song broke the more conventional sounds of the other songs and the hint of banjo in the background speaks to Ndolo's self professed love of bluegrass (which we share). My interpretation is that this might be more to Ndolo's personal taste and I hope that future albums will see the producers let this talented young artist break free from convention a bit more and trust his own musical inclinations.

Tom's pronouncement: "Solid." High praise indeed from someone who is all about the music and not moved much by praise and worship music unless it is good music in itself.

Definitely recommended. It is a bit late to get this for Christmas unless the local Christian store is lucky enough to have it on hand. However, it would be a great way to spend that Christmas cash if you are looking for a way to lift your heart in praise of God. (Although now that I think of it, you can download the mp3s instantly. I tend to forget that, preferring to have an actual CD in my hands.)

You can hear samples and order the album here. I received this CD as a review piece but would give it the same rating regardless.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Book of the Shepherd: Gnostic Twaddle Disguised as a Sweet Fable

I was asked if I'd like a review copy of The Book of the Shepherd: The Story of One Simple Prayer and How It Changed the World. The email commented, "... we believe this story of one simple prayer and how it changed the world does a superb job of examining the role of personal action in making the world more peaceful, and how peace on earth should begin with me."

My response was, "I must admit that I am dubious about this book, having read the first few pages at HarperCollins' site and also having just heard the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress. The Book of the Shepherd seems much of a muchness with that 300+ year old book.

However, if you believe I am wrong, then I am willing to read the book to see for myself."

Frankly, if I'd been them, that would have been enough to check me off the list. However, I received the book late last week and read it over the weekend.

My short review: the fable presented in this book is one of the biggest loads of sweetly simpering twaddle that has everything about 2/3 right. It should be avoided by all literature lovers and all practicing Christians.

I kept thinking that something was off as I read it, kept thinking "gnostic gospels?" but hadn't read any gnostic gospels. I got to the end and it turns out (Bingo!) that one of the author's sources was The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels which puts orthodox Christianity on trial as being formed from political and social reasons. Add to that her grateful credit to Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and my sense of something being "off" proved completely justified.

The author wrote the story to illustrate the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi that most of us know relatively well.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

However, the author forgets what St. Francis never did. As praiseworthy as that prayer is, St. Francis's words are not gospel in themselves. He never would have urged us to interpret them without having Jesus Christ in the heart and center of them. This book is missing that heart and center.

I generally do not give bad reviews, especially to review books, preferring simply to ignore them. However, in this case, I felt my warning to the publisher was enough to justify setting that policy aside, especially as I feel this book is potentially dangerous to those of unformed faith. In fact, I had to scrape off the coffee grounds from this book after I plucked it from the trashcan in order to give you the dubious sources the author quotes. That is how much I care, folks. Avoid this book.

My advice is that excellent advice for how to live is found in the Gospels. If you want another source, then pick up a true classic, The Pilgrim's Progress. If reading it seems daunting, then this version on audio (both dramatized and a straight reading) is excellent. There is also this version at Librivox, free for the downloading. I admit I haven't heard it so can't comment on the quality of the reading. However, the point is that there is plenty of good material available without having to resort to The Book of the Shepherd.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar (2009)

Short Review: I want to put this as plainly as I can. This film is so uniquely awful that it should be legal for me to enslave and neuter any movie critic who gives it a positive review. They should be forced to do my yard work and clip my toenails.

But then again, I can be an extremist about such things.



This is the worst movie I have ever seen.

Consider that statement. I have seen thousands of movies over the course of my lifetime. This is worse than any other film I can name.

Troll 2, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Leonard: Part 6, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Battleship Earth, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Glen or Glenda, Exorcist II: The Heretic,

Kazaam, even Kazaam. It is worse than an embarrassment starring Shaquille O'Neal as a genie who comes out of a magic boom box. Look at this:



This is better than Avatar.

How? Easy, no one within a thousand miles of Shaq in his hammer pants thought for one minute they were making a great work of cinema.

Everyone involved with Avatar has made it clear that this is supposed to be a game changer like Star Wars or The Matrix. This is meant to be one of the seminal moments in cinematic history. When future generations refer back to this time we're to believe that Avatar will be one of the cultural milestones.

I do think this film will go down in cinematic history. Hands down, it is the most self-loathing, insufferably pretentious works of human invention ever to be put before a paying public.

The film takes place on a planet call Pandora. PANDORA - get it? Astronomers, upon finding a planet that can sustain life, felt compelled to give it an ironic name warning of impending doom. Humans, after destroying the Earth's environment (this is mentioned a few times during the film), have shown up on Pandora to claim a mineral called Unobtanium. UNOBTANIUM - get it? Geologists, upon finding a valuable mineral, felt compelled to give it an ironic name warning of impending futility. The humans want the mineral so they can make money. One problem, on top the indigenous humanoid species known as the Na'vi live where the minerals are found. So, of course, the humans plot a pogrom against the planet's peaceful people.

Jake (Sam Worthington - no you don't know who he is), a paraplegic marine, arrives at the planet as a mercenary for the Resources Development Administration, the evil corporation who wants to displace the primitive Na'vi.

Jake is given an avatar, a body that looks like a Na'vi (meaning he looks like a big, blue kitty). He gets closed in a tanning booth and can control the body with his mind, or something like that, its not well explained. As one would expect, he meets up with the Na'vi, falls in love with the pretty one. Then the whole thing turns into Dances with Wolves in Space.

(Spoiler warning for the rest of this paragraph) Jake eventually becomes one of the Na'vi and after the humans attack a Na'vi's sacred site, he leads the attack on the marines. Yes, for half of the movie Jake leads an attack on his own species. Thus, everyone who would ever watch the film is his enemy. Jake and the Na'vi are victorious and send the humans back to their "dead world". Uh, doesn't that mean he sends his fellow humans to their extinction?

The story is a patchwork of other movies and various strains of the noble savage motif. Cameron provides the world with a shockingly unfiltered look at the modern, white liberal mindset. The primitive culture is idealized to the point of being laughable. Everyone is happily equal. The genders are on equal footing. Everyone is in tune with nature. Heck, they literally are wired into their world. The Na'vi have wires at the end of their ponytails that they actually link into dino-birds and trees so they can "talk" to them.

No, I'm not kidding.

Yes, this is a serious movie.

Back to the hippie stuff. The primitive culture is so perfect, so wonderful that every time they are on screen they are celebrated with sweeping World Music. Honestly, during every moment with the Na'vi, Cameron unloads the demo tapes for The Lion King. Now, when the humans are around, he plays the discount version of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. Apparently, he couldn't get the rights to play the theme music for Darth Vader.

So we're clear:

Primitives = happy, natural, honorable and spiritual
Humans = destructive, greedy, violent and conniving.

There is not a moment in the film that isn't noticeably crafted. There is nothing organic. The dialog is self-aware and often corny "Why did you save me?" "Because you have a strong heart!"

No, I'm not kidding.

Yes, this is a serious movie.

Characters act completely against their history and/or better interest. My personal favorite is when a mercenary who is collecting a paycheck to kill aliens is ordered to kill said aliens yells "I didn't sign on for this!" and then leave the battlefield. This is done without any character development leading to the decision, it just happens because Cameron needs the character for later on.

You will hear many people say that you see the budget up on the screen. Yes, they put all $300 million up on the screen. Too bad they didn't put one dime into the script. The film is visually full. However, the imagery is too intentional. The environment of Pandora is full of flashing lights, day-glo plants and the grass glows when it is stepped on at night. It is like the whole place is paved with Michael Jackson's sidewalk.

The expansive scenery in all of its intricate glory is so forced that I never lost the feeling I was looking at created scenery. I can say the same about the animated figures. Cameron has managed to get beyond the dead-eyes issue with animated humanoids. There are emotions in the eyes of his characters but they still looked unreal. The visuals are entertaining, but in the end the movie looked like a real long video game trailer. I kept expecting the game menu to pop up.

What puts this film over the top in its road to crapville is that it is a self-loathing racist screed.

The Na'vi are all played by African-American or Native American actors (CHH Pounder, Zoe Saldana, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso). The Na'vi are blue, but their society is an idealized hybrid of African and Indian tribal cultures with some white, middle-class New Age mumbo-jumbo tossed in for flavor.

The humans are almost all white. There are a couple of minority actors who have lines, but almost all of them turn out to be on the side of the natives. Now, let it be known that I don't normally go counting races when I watch movies. I normally don't care one bit. But in this case it was so obvious, you can't avoid it.

The Na'vi are so transparently supposed to be minorities and the humans are blatantly supposed to be oppressive white Capitalists that it is unsettling. I haven't seen a more open case of white guilt casting since the last time I saw a Brinks Home Security ad. Don't believe me? Then listen to Cameron who tips his hand with his own self indulgent dialog. Jake comes clean of his intentions to try to save the Na'vi. Col. Quarich (Stephen Lang - no you don't know him, although you should) turns to Jake. Quarich squints his blazing blue eyes and snarls "You don't want to be a traitor to your race."* The guy in charge of military operations swaps out "race" for "species" when he's dealing with a society of alien humanoids who are a) blue, b) seven-eight feet tall, c) have carbon-binding bones d) look like big kitties. Cameron intentionally uses the word race because that is his point.

The casting and the dialog may not tag Cameron as a self-hating bigot. But this does. (Spoiler for the rest of this paragraph) At the end of the film, Jake (the white boy) only achieves wholeness and his full heroic stature after he leaves his white boy body and enters the body of a Na'vi. In other words, until he kills all the white people (by sending them back to their dead world, remember) and then leaving his own white body behind can he be complete.

No, I'm not kidding.

Yes, this is a serious movie.

Try switching the races around and see how comfortable you feel with this plot. Cameron was one step away from showing white people and then flashing images of rats on the screen. Why not just have everyone chant "kill whitey!"

If all of this isn't enough here are some other problems with this, a great leap forward in world cinema:

  • A character leaves the battlefield against orders. The next time we see this character he/she isn't in the brig. He/She is smiling, casually walking around with a gun. No reason is given to how he/she managed to avoid being arrested or shot on the spot for cowardice.
  • The film is loaded, LOADED with anachronism. The film takes place in 2154 but people still use terms like "bitch ass", "bitch", "come git sum!" and "he's got skills". One character smokes - INDOORS. Heck, I can show you outdoor parks you can't smoke in. It goes on from there.
  • It is stuffed full of Mother Earth/Gaia nonsense.
  • We are never told why Unobtanium is so critical. The only reason given is financial. What if it cured cancer? What if it was used to revive the dying Earth? This is an important fact to leave out because it gives a fuller context to Jake intentionally killing off his own species.
  • The pretty Na'vi Jakes falls for and has sex with (yes, he has sex with a big, blue kitty) knows he is an avatar and really an alien. It is illogical she would allow herself to be taken in by what amounts to a big blue sock puppet sent by the enemy.
  • All of the Na'vi and their animal friends are glowing bright colors. Which makes them all easy targets in the brown and green jungle world they live in. Yet, no trained marine can seem to hit them.
  • Speaking of marines, (spoiler warning) we are asked to believe that after years of engaging with the Na'vi the marines are finally done in by a full frontal assault by the primitive warriors using spears and arrows. This is like asking us to believe the modern American military would be taken down by the Sioux.
  • Every time Jake returns to the human world his avatar body (made of flesh and bone) drops like a discarded rag doll. This is shown a few times. When this happens the Na'vi are accepting of it. Sure one says he's a demon but other than that they're cool. This is a culture that hasn't invented the wheel yet, let alone any complex tools (which is why they still fight with spears and not catapults). They could not conceive of why he would keep dropping over. They never bury or burn his apparently dead body?
  • Jake's avatar is left laying prone in a jungle for an extended period of time. No animals or insects devour the warm flesh of his dormant body laying on the jungle floor
I can go on for about another six posts.

I know you will feel compelled to see this in the theater and I don't blame you. It is a tempting flick to see. I will say that if you insist on seeing it you should do so on the big screen. I will also say that if you can find the will to resist its pull, of any movie I have ever seen, this is the one you want to miss.




* - I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the exact words, but this is dang close. The important point is the replacement of "race" for "species".


Friday, December 18, 2009

Song of Bernadette star Jennifer Jones dies at 90

Jennifer Jones, who achieved Hollywood stardom in “The Song of Bernadette” and other films of the 1940s and ’50s while gaining almost as much attention for a tumultuous personal life, died Thursday at her home in Malibu, Calif. She was 90.
Read the entire article in the New York Times.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review: "One Simple Act"

One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity

by Debbie Macomber
New York: Howard Books, 2009

Debbie Macomber is well-known for her best-selling fiction. However, in "One Simple Act," she has written a beautiful non-fiction offering with an important message. As she states, Macomber's goal in writing this "is to surprise you with the multiple benefits that come from small and large acts of generosity. . . intentional acts of generosity can open our lives to the very best that God has to offer." She offers powerful anecdotal evidence and Biblical quotes to support her thesis.

She emphasizes the importance of being thankful in all things, simple acts of sharing what we have, encouraging others, doing good deeds, forgiving others,
listening, offering hospitality, sending cards and letters, caregiving, giving of our time, praying for others, and sharing our faith. She offers concrete suggestions and offers much encouragement. None of these ideas are radically new, but we can all use the reminder. We all have so much to give!

"One Simple Act" is a wonderful book. The world would be such a better place if we all followed Macomber's advice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interview with William Mosely and Ben Barnes, stars of the Narnia Series film "Prince Caspian"

What made me, a busy working mother take a round trip cross country trip to meet two stars of a Disney film?  I have been a schoolteacher for the past 20 years, and a cultural watchdog all my life. I have become a film critic, in an effort to stem the tide of unhealthy darkness in entertainment, particularly that aimed at children. Darkness prevails in children's entertainment, both in the genres of fantasy involving witches and vampires, to the moral confusion of who is the good guy. It is a matter of utmost importance who the good guy is. Children are seeking heroes, and Hollywood holds up some fairly dubious characters for the adulation of youth.
CS Lewis, was an Oxford don, whose Narnia Series won worldwide acclaim and continuous readership from the time of it's publication in the 50's to today. His Christian faith was no secret to British society, he was a favorite radio broadcaster reading his books on the air. He left an indelible mark on British society, but nowhere was his influence stronger or more lasting than on children's literature. Lewis's heroes are children, called beyond their humdrum existences to feats of outstanding bravery, inspired by a noble lion named Aslan. No ambiguous hero, Aslan lays down his life for Edmund, a boy whose fondness for glory and Turkish Delight endangers his life. Aslan is a leader worth fighting for, worth the adulation he engenders in his subjects. He is an unambiguous Christ-figure, full of majestic virtue.
 How would Aslan be portrayed in the next installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, "Prince Caspian"? Would his role be downplayed or eliminated? Some critics say 'yes' but this critic sees the resurgence of Aslan's leadership in the new film. The message of faith informing one's life, and learning from the lessons of the past touched me powerfully and I was anxious to see if William Moseley(Peter Pevensie) and Ben Barnes(Prince Caspian) agreed with my assessment of the film. Would two actors raised in post-Christian Britain be as moved as I by the Christian themes in the film?

The journey to meet the heroes of Narnia began in the grey November twilight in my home in rural New England.  I followed the rolling country roads to the interstate, where a parade of taillights brought me to New York. I reached the airport in the pre-dawn darkness, taking the subway to the terminal for my cross country flight. "Weren't the Pevensies summoned into Narnia from a subway station?" I mused as I encountered exceptional people who, when I told them of my mission, to reach Narnia, went out of their way to insure my success. I had a ticket agent, inspired by my quest; send me by personal escort through the endless line of security, into my aircraft. The yearning to experience Narnia through me seemed to soften the hardest New York hearts.  The aircraft surmounted the cloud cover bursting into brilliant sunrise, and I spent the morning watching the entire majestic continent pass my window.
Dry Los Angeles sunshine warmed me, as a sought a cab driver to take me across LA to my hotel in the heart of Hollywood. He too, a hard working father of five, was inspired by my story to bring the magic of Narnia alive to my readers, and wished me well.
I might sound naïve, because I am new to the Hollywood junket, my desire to uncover the secrets of the magical film strong enough to inspire a cross-country excursion all the while risking discovery as a newcomer to the journalistic junket. I also felt a burden to thank those who made Narnia possible on the part of millions of Christians who grew up with those wonderful books and were rapturous at the opportunity to see their fantasy world materialize on the big screen.
Sitting in the hotel suite, awaiting my turn at the interviews, I watched a slender young man with flowing brown hair and two days growth of beard playing with the Blu-Ray screen version of the film's DVD. "This is Ben Barnes" I thought, "who played Prince Caspian". I began to watch him for hints of his character in the film.
Soon the journalists arrived who had spent the morning in the special effects studio getting made into creatures from the film; centaurs, fauns, hags, and minotaur. The sense of unreality again came over me, and I anxiously awaited my turn to interview William Moseley who played Peter Pevensie in both "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian".
William who stands at 6 foot in a sharp charcoal blazer over a dove grey t shirt, which set off his tousled blond hair, is a handsome yet unassuming figure. He smiled at the international corps of journalists shyly as the questioning began.
Transcript of interview of William Moseley:
No Peter in Dawn Treader are you happy"
WM:
"I am happy I think especially with a franchise film you certainly have to be careful, and not careful because you're gonna be type-cast, but careful because you don't want to be repeating yourself,  for the character you want to try and get as much out of it as possible, and I'm really  lucky I'd four and a half hours/ five hours to do that, to do Peter I think its' sever and a half hours, I wouldn't think I could bring out a side of me which people hadn't seen before, I wouldn't feel like I could bring a part  that was new and inspiring, or something like that, I feel really lucky actually, I've had these two films, achieved an incredible amount of  success and love around the world in truthful, good films, now I can do something else, whatever that might be.
What are you looking for in your next film?

WM:
 What film am I looking for next? O Theatre? I'd love to do theatre, I'm actually in a Shakespeare class in London right now, which I'm absolutely loving, and I'm also doing  a photography course, but I have a film going on in Spring of next year, which is called "Ironclad" and it's about the Magna Carta it's got some really interesting actors involved, so. . hopefully
Like who?

WM:
Richard Attenborough, Paul Giamatti, Robert Carlisle, Pete Posewitz, Bob Hoskins, should be really fun, James Pierpoint, do you know him, he's in a play, in the Lee--
When did you recognize that you had the potential to do this role?
WM:
I don't know if I ever realized I had the potential, but I realized it was  what I wanted to do,   I was about was ten years old, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, it just seemed right,
 its' like sometimes when you land somewhere or you smell something, or you walk somewhere, and you see, something, and it  seems familiar, as if this is where you've been before, you can't really explain it but it was one of these kinds of moments, I auditioned for this very local story which was a BBC adaptation, I didn't end up getting it, but I got down to the last few went through all the auditioning phases, but I loved it. We were kids and there was a whole group of kids, and we were bouncing off their energies, then five years later, the same casting director came back casting for Narnia, and I ended up getting the part as Peter, and I just knew at 10 years old that was it, for me
But at 21 you don't have to worry about the adolescent role any longer, you don't have to worry about the transition between teen star and child star/ adult star.
WM:
Well, you'd be surprised, you see, I look so young for my age, I cant' really play a romantic lead  cause I don't really look old enough, I look like somebody in high school, and  I'm not really a high school student either, you know what I mean? It's kind of like a little bizarre, so it's just finding that right place for me

When you started this whole process as Peter, had you read the books?
WM:
I hadn't actually read them, but I used to listen to story-tapes, I used to listen to The Silver Chair, I think the only one I'm not familiar with now, is the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (laughter) I'll have to go see that one in cinema.
ME Do you see a moral or spiritual theme in Caspian?
WM A spiritual theme is a really good point, and again you say a moral theme, What is the right thing, at the end of the day we have choices in life,  we have two doors, you know, we can choose the easy door which is where people usually end up getting hurt, and the other door which is the hard door, where you end up getting helped, and  Peter especially  in this film chooses the easy door, and people usually end up getting hurt,  and he realizes, you know, where do I stand emotionally physically in this role as this person, and he realizes that he needs help, he needs Caspian , he needs Lucy, he needs his family, you know, he ends up going the harder route, which obviously helps the whole of Narnia out. So I think Sprittually you can look at so many interesting things. . . .
On the DVD are you doing the commentary?
WM:
ALL of us sitting in the room six of us with Andrew, we just sit talked about each scene.
Where there any scenes where you did most of the talking about?
WM.
The fight scenes. (laughter)

I'm a pretty physical person, and I was  lucky that this film was a very physical film because Andrew. Really threw some incredible scenes in there, so I got to talk about my horse stunt, my Peter-Miraz fight, some of the battle scenes all sorts of different things because I sort of represented the stunt coordinator, Alan Poppleton a really incredible interesting guy who obviously doesn't get much appreciation, as you can imagine he was working three months  every Sat and Sun straight, so I felt like I also had to really make that clear to people as well.
Your character gets to explore this morality which the whole world of Narnia is all about, how did this inform your own life, assuming  the road which  he has traveled did it make your own road as a person easier?
WM:
It think that whether I was thinking about it consciously or subconsciously definitely helped me or made a difference to me it was kind of interesting, as I was going through struggles, in my life Peter was going through struggles in his world, and so I could automatically relate back to what I was naturally feeling at times, then when I was feeling trials, Peter was feeling ironically trials,  so there was definitely a sort of osmosis, there almost, where it's been …
End of transcript

Impressions,
William Moseley
Read part of Screwtape Letters found them too doctrinal, dictating right and wrong.
Doesn't necessarily want university, like we do here in US where everyone does university,  sister took a gap year off to go to South America and find herself, thought it was great that I went to London for a year, to do the same.
Takes courses to improve himself and occupy his time
Loves the idea of being a knight, like St George, patron of England, and King Arthur
Has a normal life going to pubs with friends, sees Skandar, and emails Anna and Georgi, they can get together often UK is small country.
Doug Gresham is funny guy buying a really fast racecar
Doesn't want to get a big head, no paparazzi camping outside his window, sometimes fans come to him for autographs he seems surprised and delighted when it happens, or when they recognize him at hotel registrations
Loves being able to travel and visit folk's home in country, coming to LA when it's raining like hell in London, I packed my bags like when I was a kid, a day earlySurreal sitting in Hollywood, talking about his next DVD in 85 degrees sunny



Ben Barnes, university graduate, read Narnia series in college, cynical, looking to develop himself as actor, new experiences.
Made snide comment on Christians after conference.
didn't see Cold War, saw President bush in Miraz council with knights, politics of fear, "They're coming to get us",
about to star in "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Hasn't read the entire series, heard them on tape as a reward when growing up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View.

Warning: Potential Spoilers.

The first half of New Moon was pretty tough to sit through. Bella was extremely moody and depressed after Edward ( a vampire) told her he was out of her life. He was really trying to protect her from his world. It is actually pretty pathetic and degrading how she throws herself at Edward and obsesses over him. Thereafter, he appears to her only when she is in danger, so she starts doing risky things like riding a motorcycle, facing a motorcycle gang, and diving off a cliff. While Edward is not there to protect her, her BFF Jacob protects her, and she finds out that Jacob is a werewolf. It also becomes more apparent that Jacob is in love with her, but she considers him just a friend.

Quite honestly, I don't see what Bella sees in Edward; with his pasty-white face, too-red lips, and unkempt hair, I find him looking a bit clownish. Bella's real dilemma is that vampires and werewolves hate each other. Bella wants to become a vampire so she can spend her life with Edward, but she doesn't want to lose Jacob as a friend. Edward won't perform the conversion until she makes a commitment.

There are non-Catholic beliefs presented such as vampires and werewolves, but I did not find it offensive. Although the second half was more entertaining, I think New Moon is over hyped.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Top 50 Movies of the 2000's

Over at my home site Good News Film Reviews I have posted the list of the Top 50 Movies of the 2000's. Unlike similar lists you may find online, this one is actually correct.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Review: Divine Mercy - A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI

Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI
by Robert Stackpole, STD
Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, 2009 (Revised edition. Original edition published 2008)

Robert Stackpole, STD has done an incredible job of tracing the "theological history" of Divine Mercy in "Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI." In his introduction, Stackpole asks a very important question. "Why has the message of Divine Mercy been revealed over time? If the message is so important, why didn't God reveal the whole thing to human beings right from the start?" Due to sin, humanity couldn't take it all in at once. "As century followed century, God progressively revealed Himself more and more." Stackpole explores that revelation through the words of the Old and New Testament, the lives of various saints, and the words of our current Pope and his immediate predecessor.

Stackpole defines Divine Mercy as "God's Love reaching down to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of His creatures." From the days of Adam and Eve, God has shown his mercy to his people. Even in the midst of God's punishments, there is always an element of mercy. Cain kills Abel, yet he goes forth with God's protection. In the midst of the flood, Noah and his family are saved. God did not abandon the Chosen People in the desert. The ones who were unfaithful would not get to enter the promised land, but their children still would. Even in chastisement, His mercy serves to encourage a "return to faithfulness to the convenant He had graciously made with them and so that they might enjoy all its blessings." God's discipline and his mercy are always for the greatest good.

The New Testament offers the ultimate act of God's mercy - His sending His son to save us. "If the Son of God Himself is overflowing with merciful love, it is no wonder that the New Testament encourages everyone to place all their trust in Him and in His heavenly Father." Also, God is not just waiting for us to turn back. Like the Good Shepherd, he seeks out the lost sheep. He searches us out and welcomes us back.

Several saints have also added to the message of Divine Mercy. Stackpole explores the teachings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, and Maria Faustina Kowalska among others. The work of each builds on and complements the others as God has chosen to reveal different elements of His mercy to each one, and through them, to us. Lastly, Stackpole focuses on Pope John Paul II, the Mercy Pope, and our current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.

"Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI" is a must-read for anyone interested in how God has revealed his mercy through the ages. "Divine Mercy is the center of the Gospel message, manifested through the Sacraments and works of mercy done by the Church. It is the only source of true peace for every human heart and every human community."

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Divine Mercy - A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI.

How to make a chocolate Christmas house

Today's article on the Examiner is a re-run of an old post with instructions on how to make a chocolate Christmas house. I have been making these every Christmas since I was a little girl. This year I added green trees, but my houses are not yet complete. First I had to make a mad search of the local stores for the large multi-colored non-pareils that serve as my "lights". Then I forgot to buy confectioners' sugar for the icing. I will post a picture when they are done!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Go to Joseph


I have been reading a really wonderful little book called Go to Joseph by Fr. Richard W. Gilsdorf.

The book description leans heavily on "easy to read meditations," "like going on retreat," "warm and contemplative" and so forth. None of which prepared me for the sharp, discerning mind that Father Gilsdorf brings to bear on what we know about Joseph both through what is said and unsaid in scripture. I didn't pick the book because I expected it to be simple but because I like Saint Joseph and go to him for my husband and also for us as a couple.

This book is unusual in many ways, one being that it was found among Father Gilsdorf's papers after his death. In fact, there are so many little introductions from a variety of people marveling at this sort of fact, that I would advise skipping them. It is the book itself that is a real marvel. Small as it is, this book is chock-full of fascinating insights and the scholarly, patient following of themes, all well within the bounds of Church teachings and tradition. The footnotes are extremely clear and have interesting references which the author urges readers to explore further for themselves. Although the chapters are short, each has a lot for our consideration.

This book is so unusual but I have enjoyed it so much that I am going to seek out Father Gilsdorf's other book which I had heard of but not cared about until now, The Signs of the Times: Understanding the Church Since Vatican II. I actually believe the ad now when it says the book is "Part history, part Bible study, part apologetics manual, part Marian devotional, part catechism..." If anyone could pull that off, it would be Father Gilsdorf.

However, back to the book at hand. I highly recommend Go to Joseph. It has a modest price and would be a great gift for a man seeking greater holiness, or indeed for anyone with that goal.

I will be sharing excerpts from the book beginning tomorrow at Happy Catholic for anyone who is interested in a closer look.

I received this book courtesy of The Catholic Company's review program. Read more about the book and order it at the link above.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Pilgrim's Progress as You've Never Imagined It Before ... Exciting and Interesting!

Frankly The Pilgrim's Progress is not a book I ever imagined that I'd be reading, much less excited to tell anyone about. My imagination showed John Bunyan's classic to be about as interesting as this original title page.

However, that was before I'd heard Spirit Blade's version which reimagines The Pilgrim's Progress as a dynamic audio drama complete with dragons, elves, and a mystical book of truth.

This is now.

Spirit Blade Productions has pulled off a masterpiece here. The original allegorical story has been refashioned featuring a full-cast, orchestral score, and complete sound effects to urge our imaginations on a quest with Christopher Pilgrim for truth. Waking after a nightmare of death and destruction, Christopher determines to find his way to the legendary Mystic City, looking for a cure that will avert disaster. Along the way he encounters others who have all sorts of advice for his journey, some helpful and some disastrous. Christopher must discern which actions will lead to success.

This audiodrama captured my attention so thoroughly that I found myself wondering exactly how much was modern imagination and how much was originally in the book. This is exactly what the audio drama producers intended so they made it easy to check by including the corresponding part of the original book, also recorded with sound effects and a musical score. I was completely surprised to find how the original text captured my imagination and had me considering the paths of faith as we journey through life, even as I enjoyed the story.

Spirit Blade's reason for existence is "to present the uncompromised truths of Biblical scripture in unique formats that will provoke thought and appeal to fans of creative music and imaginative fiction." I can attest that with this presentation of part one of Pilgrim's Progress they have done just that. I found myself immediately recommending the audio drama to a friend whose 6th grade brother has outpaced the reading resources available. Designed for 12 years and up, this production will capture the attention of readers of all ages who may never have heard of The Pilgrim's Progress but will be interested in Christopher Pilgrim's adventure. Just don't tell them it's a "Christian" book and see how fast they lap it up.

At $4.99 to download the first one-hour episode as well as the half-hour audiobook reading, this seems like a great deal to me. Right now you can also buy one and "gift" one free which makes it an even better deal.

It is always a pleasure to "discover" a classic book that one wishes to share and I must thank Spirit Blade Productions for giving me the review opportunity. I am going to be looking forward to future episodes in the series that shows us what sort of progress Christopher Pilgrim makes.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Get The Brothers Karamazov Audiobook Free

I got the email also but hadn't investigated yet ... Worthwhile Books did and I will let her announce it for me ... thanks hopeinbrazil!
Christianaudio.com is offering The Brothers Karamazov as a free audio book this month. (Although abridged, it's still 19 hours!) You may have to register to get the book, but it's worth it. They send occasional e-mails about special deals, but never hound you to buy from their site. I have listened to several of their free offerings over the past year and they are well done. The link is here. And the coupon code is DEC2009. Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Night’s Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars by Elena Maria Vidal

I had the pleasure of reading Elena Maria Vidals’ new historical romance, “The Night’s Dark Shade”, released by Mayapple Press in November, 2009.

The Night’s Dark Shade tells the story of a young heiress, Lady Raphaelle, who is caught up in the turmoil of the Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century France. En route to meet her betrothed in the castle in the Pyrenees that is hers by right, she is rescued from an ambush by the brave and alluring Sir Martin.

The sparks between the two are flying from the very beginning, while the readers learns of the history of the crusade as well as the mysterious Cathars, a polytheistic sect which claimed to be Christian. In the first chapter the setting, plot, and all the main characters are all well-established. The second chapter instructs us on some history as told by the sweet-smelling knight as he carries her on horseback to her castle. The novel moves on, mixing history and drama, at a good pace. Raphaelle is caught up in several major dilemmas; we can truly sympathize with what she is going through.

Raphaelle is a strong character who insists on doing what is right for her people. All that she does, including following through on her betrothal to a man she does not love, is seen as her duty to them. Even so, she is torn by the feelings she has for another man. She also chooses to harbor an evil object which results in dire consequences. Vidal shows us how even the very best of us can struggle with sin.

The book addresses some surprising delicate moral issues of the time that are seldom brought up in a Christian novel. The Cathars were against marriage because it regularized procreation, and they thought children were evil. The religious midwives used herbs to prevent conception or to abort, even killing live babies if they were not deemed fit to survive. They promoted homosexuality because it did not result in children. People were encouraged to live together without marriage because they were more likely to contracept.

These topics are intertwined through the plot; the immoral acts are alluded to but never described explicited. The historical research is well documented, and moral deductions drawn by the author are all consistent with Catholic doctrine.

The more you read about history, the more you realize that there is truly nothing new under the sun. What is going on in modern society is a rerun of what was happening in the Middle Ages. If you haven’t heard about the “dark side of being green”, many environmental groups have been saying that children are “emitters” and the best thing we can do for the environment is to stop having children! Planned Parenthood is supported by so many large and well-reputed organizations that it is hard to go shopping, go to a movie, or go to a theme park without purchasing a product that will go toward their “cause”.

I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. I was up until 3 AM reading the suspenseful ending! Justice is served (medieval style!) to the protagonists. The main characters all make turn-arounds for the better and there is forgiveness all around. The choice Raphaelle makes in the end is completely satisfying.

Elena Maria Vidal sent me a copy of the newly released book in exchange for my honest review of her book. The author studied the Cathars at SUNY Albany before receiving her Master’s Degree in European History. She also authored Trianon and Madame Royale. You can follow her blog at http://teaattriannon.blogspot.com

The book is available from Lulu.com and will be available from Amazon in a few weeks.

Signed copies can also be bought directly from the author at her blog Tea at Trianon

Movie Review: The Blind Side

Should I see it?
Absolutely.


Short Review: When you have a film that gets cursed by critics and praised by audiences, you know it has to be fantastic.



I adore this film.

The Blind Side tells the true story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless black teen who has fallen through the cracks. Michael applies to a private school and is accepted through the successful campaigning by the school’s football coach. Michael's large build and quick feet make him a natural for the position of left tackle on the school's football team. Michael attends the school but remains homeless, friendless and still suffering from his miserable childhood in the projects.

One evening, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) see the teen walking in the rain. Leigh Anne, a very commanding woman, makes the choice to not only invite the stranger into their car, but also into their home.

Michael finds safety and love in the Tuohy’s home. Through their efforts and sacrifice, Michael discovers his athletic gifts and develops his scholarly abilities as well. Michael graduates from school and is swarmed by colleges hoping to get him on their teams.

The plot of the film may make this sound like yet another black kid(s) + sports = redemption movie (Remember the Titans, Glory Road, The Express, Pride, Coach Carter and on and on). This film above comparison to these films. The performances, the acting and the careful direction are all exceptional and the film looks beyond the racism elements. The story itself is so invigorating and inspiring that it transcends its genre.

The story offers a clear example of living the Christian life. The Tuohy’s are Christians who understand the faith isn’t just going to church and memorizing passages. The heart of the Christian faith resides in relationships. The faith lives in our relationship with Christ and allowing His love to reflect in our relationship with each other.

Much of the reaction to the film is focused on Sandra Bullock's infectious performance as Leigh Anne. Bullock, looking like a Kathy Lee Gifford clone, offers what is easily her best performance. Leigh Anne is a sassy, direct woman who obviously knows how to get whatever she wants. Bullock manages to keep the strong willed aspect of the woman at the forefront but allowing her maternal caring to peek through when needed. The duality of her strong will and her soft heart makes for a wonderful character to witness on screen.

In contrast to Bullock's assertive performance is Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher. Oher is notoriously introverted. Playing someone who avoids interaction is a challenging task. Aaron is able to present Oher's almost debilitating shyness while also making him endearing. It would have been easy to wind up having Oher be little more that a oafish prop living in Leigh Anne's shadow. Aaron's nuanced performance is the emotional anchor for the film and provides the context for the entire piece. His delicate performance deserves the credit for the film's success. If he wasn't so engaging on screen his Oher's transformation wouldn't have been as fascinating.

The old line “Dying is easy, comedy is hard” can be changed. "Dying is easy, inspiring others is hard." The attempt to inspire an audience is one of the biggest risks an artist can make. Inspiration reminds us of the good deep in our hearts and encourages us to open our better natures to the world. Inspiration promotes the higher ideals such as the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

When a filmmaker attempts to inspire they risk the sarcasm of misanthropes. As we have seen with the release of this film, the attacks come easily from those who think upbeat equates simplicity of thought. If you come across critics bashing this film for being racist or manipulative you can assume the critic is filtering their own personal issues through their writing. This is simply a great movie. It is honestly inspiring and challenges the audience to not only improve their lives but to improve the lives of those around them. The production promotes all that is good in us. In an age of torture-porn and filth-laden Hollywood blockbusters this film is an absolute must see (as soon as you can).


Final Note: If you enjoyed this film, I strongly suggest you search out a documentary titled The Heart of Texas. Like this film it is inspiring and presents one of the most incredible stories of forgiveness and love I have ever seen.





Sunday, November 29, 2009

Movie Review: 2012 - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Warning: Potential Spoilers

It is interesting that I saw "2012" today considering today's gospel reading, which I posted below.

To sum it up, "2012" is not much more than a long trailer. There is a story, about different people facing the end of the world. President Thomas Wilson (Donny Glover) is the American President trying to lead the country, and the world, through this. Jackson Curtis (John Cusak) is trying to save his 2 kids and ex-wife. He finds out from Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) that the world governments have been secretly building giant ships preparing for this. They spend most of the movie trying to find these ships. Yuri Karpov is a Russian billionaire who has used his wealth to buy tickets on the ship for himself and his wife, as well as a huge plane filled with his possessions (mainly cars) to get there. There is also a Chinese family trying to reach the ships which are in China.The thing that kept going through my mind was how implausible this all was. Looking at it from our Catholic faith, God is the only one who knows when or how the world will eventually end. And when he does, no one can change it.

One thing I can say for it is that the spectacular special effects made it watchable.





From today's readings (11/29/09):

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Movie Review: 2012 (2009)

Should I see it?
If your brain is not connected to your spinal column, then yes.


Short Review: It’s as bombastic as it is ill conceived, which is fancy way of saying its loud and stupid.


2012 movie poster
John Cusack is in his forties and is still playing half-man schlubs who can’t manage relationships. His character Jackson Curtis is broken down, broken-hearted and just plain broke. His ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) has left him. His kids loathe his mere presence. In a way, this film is like seeing Better Off Dead as done by Michael Bay.

This is a horrendous film.

Awful.

Lousy.

Thankfully it is also a bloated disaster movie so it doesn’t really matter. All the film has to do is flash lights to distract from its limping plot in order to be successful. The only reason to see this film is to watch the end of the world in glorious high definition. Writer/Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, 10,000 B.C.) promises to deliver the apocalypse with as few words as possible. He delivers on his promise.

What I found amazing is that Emmerich still bothers trying to shoehorn relationship issues into the end of days. At one point Jackson and Kate have a quiet moment together. She complains that Jackson spent too much time working and not enough time with his family. They literally just watched billions of people perish, the totality of human civilization has been destroyed and she is still nagging at the poor sap. I guess we can see why things didn't work out them.

The problem with trying to pull off character development in a film like this is that once you show the USS John F. Kennedy on a tsunami wave crashing into the White House and killing the President, it's a little much to ask us to care about the gripes from John Cusack’s ex-wife.

If you are only interested in seeing crashing buildings, ridiculous plot contrivances and perilous escapes, this will be a good pick. If you have the tendency to pause while watching movies and consider how reality actually works, you will probably still enjoy it because it’s dang funny from that angle.

I laughed constantly through the film. Here is a moment which sums up the film for me. Jackson is driving a limo through Los Angeles as the city is literally falling to pieces. A building crashes down in front of him. He jumps the limo into the side of the falling building, drives the car across a floor, speeding through a business office, crashes out of a window and manages to land safely on the highway on the other side. If you can handle that level of dumb, knock yourself out.


Worldview: I was struck by Emmerich's treatment of faith. Every once in a while someone would casually mention that “its time to start praying”. Other than these passing nods to the notion that some people may or may not possibly consider asking for mercy from something that maybe perhaps might be something kinda like a God or something or who knows what, there is a remarkable absence of any real faith. The President begins to quote scripture at one point, but he is cut off before he finishes. The world is ending, billions are dying, and the only references to Jesus Christ are when characters are cursing.

Emmerich is very deliberate in his presentation of religion in this film, particularly when it comes to the destruction of iconic places. Emmerich is given credit for popularizing the destruction of landmarks in action/disaster movies. The White House being blown up in Independence Day started the trend. Destroying the White House, Washington Monument, and other landmarks serves to pervert the “Death of God Image" I’ve discussed before.

In this film, Emmerich takes the Death of God Image and runs with it. He not only shows the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil crumbling, but he stops the movie cold to spend time at the Vatican. Thousands of Catholics are crowded outside of Saint Peter’s Cathedral as the Pope looks down on them from the balcony. Inside, a collection of cardinals huddle in a circle praying. As the room begins to shake they look upward to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (apparently its been moved). The ceiling cracks and splits, severing the famous fingers of God and Adam. Suddenly, the Saint Peter’s Basilica plops over on its side and rolls over all of the collected Catholics killing the faithful like a big rolling pin made out of cosmic irony.

Beyond the obvious “imagine if they did this to any other group” argument, I need to point out that Emmerich goes out of his way to avoid showing large groups of people in this film. All of L.A. is destroyed but we only witness a few dozen actual deaths. The crowds that are killed on screen are shown from vast distances or are represented by focusing tightly on the fearful face of a known character.

The deaths at the Vatican are the only crowd shown killed in a specific, almost devious way. This is not by accident. Emmerich himself admits that the destruction of religious locations is intentional – in particular his choice in showing Christians getting it.


When asked about destroying Christ the Redeemer Emmerich explains,

"Because I'm against organized religion,"

For those playing at home, here is the math: Catholics = Let's drop one of their most precious places on their stupid heads. Islam = Let's not upset the poor dears, otherwise they may start acting wonky and hurting people - can't imagine what that would be like.


Cautions: There's death and destruction. There's some foul language and a few instances of people taking Christ's name in vain. Beyond these infractions, there's not too much that is worth being cautioned over (regarding the content).




Once you see the film read what follows:

Two items:

Congratulations! The Good News: you’ve been cast in a huge Hollywood blockbuster. The Bad News: Your character arc is that you learn to stop peeing the bed at night.

So, the world’s elite are given the chance to buy a seat on the arks. In the end the world leaders come together to allow some stranded folk into their ships. This is used to show how we maintain our humanity. Yeah, about that, the stranded people are also rich elites who also bought their way onto the arks. So, other than some Chinese slaves, the survivors of humanity are all billionaires who drained their resources from the rest of the world so they could comfortably survive the hell on Earth they left for everyone else. The worst of humanity gets to live. Nice message.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thumping Good Read: Crown of the World

“I will not wear a Crown of Gold where my Master wore a Crown of Thorns.”
—attributed to Godfrey de Bouillon, upon being offered the crown of Jerusalem

Some time later, Godfrey awoke. He had no memory of going to sleep, but his mind was much clearer. Clearer…except for an image and a thought on the edge of his memory. He had been dreaming, dreaming very vividly, and he had dreamt something about…

Godfrey tried to call the images into his mind:

Conrad and Adelaise…and me. Jacques was there too, but not with the rest of us. And old Otto of Freising. He was telling something to Adelaise and me…

Godfrey’s heart ached, but he could recall no more. The dream faded, and Godfrey let it go wearily.

How long has it been?

It was still dark, still night. He was lying on some torn piece of cloth next to the fire. Someone was sitting next to him. His vision was a little blurry, but he stared for a few seconds and it cleared. It was Humphrey. Humphrey still looked battered and wounded, but there was a broad grin on his face.

“I was bloody right, Templar.”

Godfrey frowned, but quickly went back to staring. Frowning hurt.

“About…what?” he managed.

“You do have some of Godfrey de Bouillion in you.”

Godfrey smiled weakly. “I’m not a saint…only crazy.”

“It seems to me,” said Humphrey, “most of the saints had a touch of madness in them. I think it’s a sign that God loves them.”

Godfrey tried to laugh, but it came out as a weak gurgle.

“If you are mad,” continued Humphrey, “we need more madmen. A few more fools like you and we’d have had the Ishmaelites running.”

Godfrey could remember now what had happened. You fool, he thought with a sinking heart, You’ve gotten yourself too deep in for even Blanchefort to get you out now.

He had been waiting with the knights of Tripoli. He had at last convinced Jacques that it would be wrong to fight, so the two of them were waiting at the rear. Godfrey had seen the infidels come, and had watched, shocked, as Tripoli began riding up and down, shouting out to his men.

‘Knights of Tripoli, do you know what the king wants you to do?’ Tripoli had roared, visibly angry. ‘He wants us to run! He wants us to flee, to try to deceive the infidels. Then his knights will crush the Ishmaelites and return to Jerusalem with tales of the cowardice of the men of Tripoli. What do you say to that?’

The knights of Tripoli had not approved of the king’s orders. Their uproar had drowned out Tripoli’s voice for a while, and Godfrey had caught only snatches of his speech. He caught words like ‘glory’ and ‘honor’ often. Finally the noise subsided, and Tripoli had ridden to the head of the line. All the men of Tripoli had waited in silence as Tripoli faced the infidels. Then the count had given the order to charge.

Godfrey had sat there on his horse, still not fully believing what he was seeing. The knights of Tripoli had surged forward towards the Saracens, leaving the rest of the army behind. A few minutes later, the knights of the Hospital had broken formation to charge, and then the knights of Ibelin. Jacques had made some insulting comment about the Hospitallers, but Godfrey had been too surprised to really notice.

So Godfrey had watched as a third of the kingdom’s knights charged up the hill, while the rest of the army sat and watched. He had kept looking up towards the king’s banner, to see if Amalric were going to come to their aid.

It was then that he had realized what was happening. To Amalric, this battle was no more than his bloody game of thrones. Tripoli and D’Aissailly and Ibelin had committed treason, so those three must die. If two thousand others must die with them, so be it.

Godfrey had grown angry at that, and in his anger had thrown caution to the winds. He still felt dizzy remembering it. He had spurred forward, drawing his sword and shouting incoherently. Then he began riding up to join the knights of Tripoli, forgetting any past resolution to stay out of the battle. As he rode up the hill, Godfrey had thought he was leaving them all behind, the king and the Army and Jacques, but to his surprise he had heard the sound behind him as others followed. By the time he had reached the top a dozen others had joined him, and most of the army was behind him. ...
Crown of the World is an exciting work of historical fiction set in the days of the Crusades when Christians held the Kingdom of Jerusalem ... and when that kingdom is slowly being lost. We follow Godfrey de Montferrat, a young Templar knight who truly has the goal of being a hero and a saint. We see him strive and fail and then try again to live as a true Christian should as he encounters all manner of people, places, and situations that are new to him.

I am a sucker for good historical fiction, which I find all too often cannot match the heights now that were achieved by many writers of the past. This book was a pleasure to read as it strove before all to tell a good story without hitting the reader over the head with a Christian message. That message is necessarily part of any tale of the Crusades, especially one focused around a Templar knight and the author wisely allows it to be a subtext.

The author, Nathan Sadasivan, began the book when he was 15 and finished when he was 19. It does show a raw talent that leaves me interested in reading the rest of the proposed trilogy and, indeed, any other book that he may turn his hand to. He has a definite talent for translating history into adventure while still giving the reader something deeper to ponder.

However, due to the author's youth and inexperience, Crown of the World is not an unqualified literary masterpiece. There are far too many points of view with the reader being whisked from person to person, place to place, often without necessary context to help recall under what conditions one last encountered a character. Indeed, there is too little contextual information given as a whole. Although there are commentaries here and there from various points of view, it would have been good to have an omniscient narrator to assist tracking so many characters. These are also points that one hopes an experienced editor could have pointed out to a young author as the book was being prepared.

I would advise Sadasivan to take some time to read some of the excellent historic fiction available and to note techniques to smooth out delivery as one moves the reader through time with the story. My own favorites to recommend would include Kenneth Roberts who was acclaimed for his works about the American Revolution; Rafael Sabatini who incorporates a good feel for the time period without skimping on action or thoughtful characters, and (my absolute favorite) Samuel Shellabarger whose Prince of Foxes and The Captain from Castile are landmarks of accurate history combined with riveting adventure, memorable characters, and social commentary that holds up today.

This is all offered as constructive criticism for the author and is not intended to discourage readers. I truly enjoyed Crown of the World and plan on reading the rest of the trilogy as it is published. It does not take too much effort to overcome what I felt were distractions from an otherwise very good book. Truly it is an amazing book for a 19 year old to have written. It makes me think back to the first time I ever read Georgette Heyer's The Black Moth, written when she was 19 to amuse a sick brother. It showed great promise and was a highly entertaining work that presaged greater works to come as her potential blossomed. Crown of the World is no different in those respects. One may enjoy it for its own merits and for the promise that I hope will give us many excellent works of historical fiction in the future. Highly recommended.

This was a review book received from Arx Publishing where you may read an extended excerpt here.