Saturday, May 30, 2009

Movie Review: Up - PG

cross-posted from A Catholic View

The first part of "Up" traces the lives of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from the time they meet as kids, to when they get married. They go through this quickly, but this was my favorite part, and I really like the way they show them as 'partners' in their relationship. They fix up their first home together, they deal with unexpected expenses (they show them using their savings each time), losing a baby, and growing old together.

Ellie has passed away now, and Carl is 78 years old and living alone in the house they shared so many years. There is now plenty of buildings and construction going on around his house. Car has resisted the offers to sell. He is finally given an ultimatum, and that's when he reveals his secret: he has hundreds of balloons connected to his house, and sets out for Ellie's dream place, Paradise Falls, a place in South America that she dreamed of going to someday.

Coming along for the ride is Russell, a Junior Wilderness Explorer who is looking for his Senior Service Medal. On the journey, they encounter a rare Snipe bird, which Russell names Kevin. They encounter Charles Muntz, an explorer who had discovered the Snipe years ago, but was discredited because he couldn't prove it's existence. At first, Charles is friendly and hospitable toward Carl and Russell, but that quickly changes when he discovers Kevin. In the end, Carl and Russell must rescue themselves and Kevin from Muntz and the mean group of dogs that he controls.

A very entertaining movie for kids, and the 3D is pretty cool.

Content Warnings: None. We took my nephews and niece, ages 7 to 16, and there was nothing objectional.



http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/up/




Friday, May 29, 2009

Al Pacino Set to Play “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian

cross-posted from A Catholic View

“Say hello to my little friend … Jack Kevorkian.” At least that seems to be the message from Al Pacino, as the Hollywood star, who made famous the above phrase in the gangster film “Scarface,” is getting set to play the man known as “Dr. Death.”

Variety magazine reports that director Barry Levinson has chosen Pacino to play Kevorkian, 81, who killed more than 130 persons through lethal injection administered by what he called his "Mercy Machine," between 1990 and 1999, when the Michigan justice system put his macabre death-dealing career to an end.

The planned HBO biopic is based on literary paean, "Between the Dying and the Dead: Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Assisted Suicide Machine and the Battle to Legalize Euthanasia" written by Kevorkian friends, Harry Wylie and Neal Nicol. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series has the tentative title, “You Don’t Know Jack,” but given the unapologetically laudatory nature of its source, critics are questioning whether viewers will really know Jack by the end of it.

story here

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students

Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students

by Kerry Weber
Twenty-Third Publications, 2009

Kerry Weber, a graduate of Providence College who recently received her master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University, has written a new prayer book designed for college students. As an R.A. in college, she witnessed many of the struggles that college students face, and she addressed these topics in these prayers. While she deals with the expected topics of stress and studies and friends, she does not shy away from difficult topics such as suicide, sexual assault and self-mutilation. Her goal in writing this was to help college students maintain their connection to God. This would make a great gift for any student heading off to, or returning to, college.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vatican Radio Goes Commercial

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Starting in July, the Vatican’s radio station will begin airing paid ads.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, announced at a press conference yesterday that Vatican Radio will transmit ads, beginning July 6.

BBC News reported the move is being taken to help raise the $30 million per year the station currently needs to cover its operating costs.

Vatican Radio broadcasts worldwide in 40 languages on five continents, and is also available on the Internet.

The Italian electricity multinational ENEL has been chosen as Vatican Radio’s first commercial sponsor, BBC reported, and the station hopes to find other advertisers from countries around the world.

All paid ads aired by Vatican Radio will be screened by an advertising agency to ensure they meet the Church’s moral standards, Father Lombardi said.  This is the part I am apprehensive about.


Pope2You.net receives nearly 500,000 visits on first day

On its first day online, the new website enabling young people from around the world to get to know Pope Benedict XVI, received almost half a million visits.

According to webmaster Father Paolo Padrini of Vatican Radio, the website sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity is intended “to create a climate of belonging, of participating in the Church, through ever greater closeness with the Holy Father.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pope2You

I received a message from Fr Paolo Padrini asking me to share Pope2 You. Since I attended the Papal Youth Rally last April, and watched the magic of the Holy Father's interaction with youth in person, I have longed for a way to recapture the magic of their special bond. Pope2You is a vehicle for the Holy Father to keep in touch with the youth of the Church between World Youth Days and other youth gatherings.
"The new media of Facebook, the iPhone, YouTube and Wikipedia are increasingly becoming the new forum where the Catholic Church dialogues with the world. As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his message for the 43rd annual World Communications Day, the Internet is a place where young people need to develop true friendships which spring from an encounter with the Risen Christ. With this awareness and the courage to enter into the world of social networks, the project Pope2You was started with the idea of helping these networks become authentic places of friendship and true dialogue.Pope2You was created in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications as an experiment in providing a new forum and channel of communication using the latest platforms. The Pope2You website provides a new way for Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to young people around the world. The site can be viewed in five languages and allows young people to learn more about the Church and Benedict XVI through his own writings, starting with the message for the 43rd World Communications Day. While the site aims to generate the interest of young people, it is also meant for people of all ages. It features news on the Catholic Church and details on the pastoral activities of Benedict XVI incorporating content from the Vatican’s YouTube channel. At the same time, a new application for the iPhone and iPod Touch has been created by the Catholic news agency H2Onews, with plans to add other mobile platforms later.Pope2You also provides a gateway to a parallel world in Facebook with an application where you can create and send to your friends virtual postcards with the Pope’s own words, greetings and excerpts of his writings staring with this year’s World Communications Day message. Also, with the help of the Media Office of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, a special area has been created along the lines of a WIKI with suggestions on how to put into pastoral practice the Pope’s 2009 Message. These new applications highlight the latest example of the Church reaching out in new ways in the world of social networks – a forum where the Church can meet new people, make new friends, dialogue and offer solidarity."
Cross posted at Causa Nostrae Laetitiae

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation - PG 13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

John Connor is leading the resistance against Skynet, which was a defense system which became self-aware, and is now making 'Terminators' at a record pace. Marcus Wright is an ex-con who was on death row. He was actually executed, but before he was, Dr Serena Kogan convinced him to donate his body to science for 'research'. He is back, but is he friend or foe?

The resistance finds a way to send a secret signal that will shut down the terminators. and makes plans to level sSkynet and everything/everyone in it. However, when John Connor finds out that Skynet has a lot of human prisoners, including Kyle Reese, a teenager who, in the future, will be his father, John can't convince General Ashdown to delay the attack until the prisoners can be rescued. Fortunately, the rest of the resistance views John as their leader.

Content warnings: Lots of killings, violence and explosions. There is a bit of gore, when you see someone part human/part Terminator and a very brief scene where you see body parts like hands and feet.

Spoiler Warning: Close to the end, John Connor fights a Terminator; One hint: Arnold. Yes, Arnold makes a brief appearance as a Terminator, but it seemed like they integrated older footage, because Arnold seemed a lot younger, and more fit than he is now.

Overall a pretty decent movie for those who are Terminator fans, but definitely not the best of of the four; I still think that Terminator 2 Judgement Day was the best of the four.

I did not care for the ending. It was fairly inconclusive, and indicated that there would be another Terminator. However, the way it ended did not, in my opinion, lend itself to another.



http://terminatorsalvation.warnerbros.com/


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fr. Barron reviews "Angels and Demons"

Book Review: Angels of God by Mike Aquilina

Angels of God
The Bible, the Church, and the Heavenly Host

by Mike Aquilina
Angels are persons. They can think, love and make choices. Like us, they have intellect and free will -- though their intellects make our own seem hardly worthy of the title; and their will is perfectly aligned with God's (at least in the case of the good angels), whereas our wills tend to veer and waver.

The fixity of the angelic will is the reason why we pray, in the Lord's Prayer, that God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Here again, heaven means the realm of the spirits, not the expanse of the galaxies. We're praying not that we might be more predictable, like planets and asteroids, but that we might be as morally sure and true as the angels are.
Suffice it to say that it was easy to understand without dumbing it down. Altogether an informative and fascinating read about the angels and their relationship to us. It makes a good accompaniment to The Angels and Their Mission. There is some duplication of information but a surprising amount in both books stands as complements to each other. Some of that is due to their different foci in the authors' intentions for their books, naturally. For that matter, it also would be a good complement to The Rite. Although that book is about exorcism it is essentially about angels, albeit fallen angels. Reading Angels of God would be a good counterbalance for too much worrying that could come along with reading about a dark subject.

Although the subhead makes the book sound a bit dry, nothing could be further from the truth. With his customary clarity and thoroughness, Mike Aquilina not only enlightens us about angels but actually makes us realize that our angelic brethren are just that ... our brothers.
We are companions to the angels! As incredible as it seems, the Incarnation has lifted us up to a kind of equality with the powerful spirits of heaven. When people of the Old Testament fell on their faces in front of angels, the angels were often content to leave them there. But when Saint John bowed before an angel, the angel told him, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God" (Revelation 19:10).

This should be amazing enough: angels calling themselves "fellow servants" with us puny humans. But in some ways we have even more than equality with the angels.

In Christ our humanity is assumed to God. "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12), and so we render judgment with him. And whom do we judge? "Do you not know that we are to judge angels?" Saint Paul asked rhetorically (I Corinthians 6:3). It's an amazing idea: We, mere creatures of flesh and blood, will judge powerful spirits!

And if that weren't startling enough, Saint Peter talks about "the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look" (I Peter 1:12). It seems that we know things that weren't revealed to the angels!
I also especially appreciated that the book contains entire excerpts of scripture or other works where it is referenced. Too often the reader is left to seek out another work in order to get the whole picture. In my case, I must admit, I usually skip looking up anything. Aquilina does not leave us stranded in that way and it makes a huge difference.

Highly recommended.

The 13th Day: new film on Fatima

This looks like a promising film on Our Lady's apparitions at Fatima.It was shown at the Cannes Film Festival on May 13, 2009. We will keep you posted on possible US release.
View the website here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Novelist’s Catholic thriller explores Church division in face of ‘secular spirit’

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Someone call Dan Brown. 

Apparently, it is possible to write a thriller set in the Vatican without rewriting history, lying and demonizing the Church.

A new novel by British author Piers Paul Read crafts a thriller story around terrorism, the 2005 papal election and the present-day conflicts within the Catholic Church. In an interview with CNA, Read explained how he drew on his experiences with liberation theology and “social Catholicism” to write his book, “The Death of a Pope.”

In his latest fictional work, published by Ignatius Press, Read depicts the mysterious behavior of ex-priest Juan Uriarte, a former liberationist who is put on trial for possessing sarin nerve gas. As Uriarte’s murky intentions are gradually revealed, the plot follows multiple characters in venues ranging from London and the Vatican to an African hospital for AIDS patients. Read is also the bestselling author of “Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors” about the horrific plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Book Review: "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids"

We Catholics can sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously. God has a sense of humor, however, and so should we. Susie Lloyd will have mothers, especially homeschooling mothers, laughing out loud with her latest offering "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids" (Sophia Institute Press, 2009). Susie Lloyd is a forty-something homeschooling mother of seven and a member of the Byzantine rite.

Each of the chapters of "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids" can stand alone as a quick humor break. Lloyd tackles many topics that will have seasoned mothers nodding, saying “Oh, yes, I have been there!” Who among us hasn’t been covered in vomit, struggled to keep children quiet in Mass, endured a road trip, faced the home haircuts vs. going to the barbers conundrum, or dealt with music lessons? For those who homeschool (which, one has to admit, makes life even more interesting!), there are even more things to laugh about. I brought this book to my homeschooling group and read a passage out loud because I thought it was so good. I plan to share this book with them so that it can make the rounds and they can all enjoy it.

Some of the funniest parts of this book concern what the world thinks of homeschooling moms as opposed to the reality which only fellow homeschoolers can fully appreciate. In her chapter, “It’s a Nerd! It’s a Saint! It’s Supermom!” Lloyd reflects on how others used to view homeschoolers with suspicion. Now, however, “the American public has changed its collective mind. It now thinks that homeschoolers can indeed do it, and do it well. All of it. We know because it exclaims, ‘How do you do it all?!’” She then goes on to explain how she uses triage as a management technique. She tells how she once asked one “put-together” homeschooling mother she knows how she did it all, and they mentioned something about a “schedule.” Lloyd responds, “I was going to look it up, but I couldn’t find a dictionary. Weeks later it turned up in a foxhole in one of the girls’ rooms. . . .If friends such as the family just mentioned drop by (which they rarely do because it’s not on the schedule), it is best to focus on the point of entry. Do not attack the guests. Attack the clutter.” Yes, I can relate!

Her chapter, “Homeschool Unceasingly” contrasts what the world thinks homeschooling looks like versus life in her home. Most people think of homeschooling in terms of the only model of education that they know – the classroom.

Let’s see, according to this picture, we should have one large blackboard, one overhead projector, and several assorted classroom-size pets: goldfish, salamanders, and possibly a tarantula. For d├ęcor, we have various instructional posters, such as an ABC scroll . . .A bell goes off at 8:30 a.m., at which time all normal family activities cease. . .Students then file in punctually for the raising of the flag (you will need a cathedral ceiling) and the Pledge of Allegiance. School commences. Each student (in uniform) sits at a little desk. . . .When he wants to speak, a student must raise his hand, even if he is the only one in the class. (If he gets the answer wrong, he snickers and whispers ‘duh’ to himself. If he gets in right, he secretly envies himself and hits himself in the back of the head with a spitball.) If it were really like this, I wouldn’t blame the neighbors for calling in an exorcist.

“Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids” is a hit. I recommend it for anyone who wants to have a little fun laughing about this vocation of Catholic motherhood.

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 Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids.

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

Steve McVeety loves a challenge

After making a roaring success over the world's most controversial film, "The Passion of the Christ", McVeety takes on "The Stoning of Soraya M." another important, yet distressingly violent film.
"We had to keep toning it down so that people could bear it," says McEveety. "It was far worse originally. But there were people who wanted us to tone it down even more than we did."Yet McEveety felt it was critical to depict Soraya's killing graphically so that audiences would leave the theater outraged. "You can't tone it down too much, or you do an injustice to the crime," he says. But he doesn't want people to be angry at the Islamic faith; rather, he wants to stop stoning around the world, even as it is . What's more, McEveety wants people who see the film to cease being passive witnesses to injustice in any form".
Read here about why he feels that this film and it's message must be shared.
HT LA Times

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Angels and Demons"

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), professor of symbology at Harvard University was swimming his customary laps in the University pool, when he emerges from the pool face to face with a bleary-eyed stranger Claudio Vincenzi (David Pasquesi) carrying what he immediately recognizes as a Vatican briefcase. Now why would the Vatican want to run after Langdon, who, according to the film “The Da Vinci Code” uncovered the greatest hoax of all time; the fact that Jesus Christ had a child with Mary Magdalene? Because they are desperate, and even though they have repeatedly denied him access to the Vatican Archives, this time the Vatican security is seeking his expertise in an emergency, which is above their capacity. This improbable opening scene immediately weakens the credibility of the plot of the film. In the novel, Langdon is summoned by scientists to CERN a huge laboratory complex in Geneva, to solve a murder of a priest-scientist, with the word “Illuminati” branded on his chest. Landon has written a book about this secret society of artists and scientists formed by Galileo in response to persecution by the Church. It seems that the ancient Illuminati have re-emerged for revenge, stealing anti-matter, a highly combustible secret discovery. Landon finds himself swept along with CERN physicist Vittoria Veetra (Ayelet Zuhrer) to Rome; to solve the Illuminati plot. It seems that, after the Pope’s death, the Illuminati are poised to strike at a leaderless Church to deal Rome a mortal blow. In the headquarters of the Swiss Guard, the Vatican Security Police, Langdon meets scientist Vittoria Veetra partner of the slain CERN scientist who is there to diffuse the ticking time bomb of undetectable, highly explosive anti-matter, before it is detonated at midnight. Langdon and Veetra’s missions merge as they discover that the Illuminati are behind both the threat to murder four cardinals in four different Churches in Rome, and the threat to release the power of the antimatter to incinerate the entire Vatican in an explosion of light.

The strange opening scene; Vatican comes to non-believing scientist for assistance, serves two ends; sparing the audience the painstakingly slow scenes in CERN, and lionizing Professor Langdon as a forgiving soul who overlooks the anti-knowledge bent of the Vatican by impetuously agreeing to save the Church. The cardinals are not portrayed as enemies; they are merely simple decrepit old men who cling to traditions for their own sake. The head of the Swiss Guard Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard) is a bull of a man with an instant distrust of Langdon and Veetra. Nowhere is there a profound display of religious belief, until we meet the young Irish Camerlengo Fr. Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), who was raised by the deceased pope, and bears the responsibility of holding the reigns of power until a new pontiff is elected. His calmness under pressure makes him a natural leader, despite his youth, but his authority is challenged by Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) Head of the College of Cardinals, and the Commander Richter. Fr Patrick overrides their objections and allows Langdon and Veetra access to the Vatican Archives to research Galileo’s files. Langdon’s current book involves the Church’s persecution of Galileo, and his founding of the Illuminati. It is in his pamphlet that clues to the first of four churches where the cardinals will be murdered within an hour are to be found. Galileo spread this pamphlet throughout Europe to invite scientists and artists to his secret meeting place within Rome itself. Will the team of intellectual unbelievers be able to lead the Catholic law enforcement team to the murder sites in time to save the Preferitti, or the four cardinals most favored to be elected pope?
Stunning visuals of Roman art and architecture are mixed seamlessly with remarkable computer generated scenes inside the Vatican (no commercial films are permitted in the interior of Rome’s churches) The score by Hans Zimmer ranges from traditional Gregorian chant to stirring modern choral crescendos, which add eternal significance to the film’s National Treasure style action. Director Ron Howard was right about one thing; this film portrays the Catholic Churches of Rome and the ancient splendor of the ceremony of the conclave with power and majesty, all built upon the bones of St Peter himself. Yet it is an empty grandeur, resting its foot on the neck of true knowledge, and without belief in Jesus Christ. In fact, Christ’s name is conspicuously absent in the film.
Ron Howard’s direction and the beauty of Roman churches may take the edge off Dan Brown’s cheap shots at the Church; however, some of them manage to puncture what could be a seamlessly spellbinding film with the adolescent vulgarity of spitballs in church. How is it essential to the plot for Langdon to mention a Pope Pius who allegedly ‘castrated’ statues to make them more modest? Bill Donohue said in his review, “Pope Pius IX is said to have bludgeoned the genitalia of male statues, a complete fabrication. In reality Pius IX lavishly funded the arts.” Then there is the Church’s alleged mistreatment of artists Rafael and Bernini whose genius decorate much of the Vatican, who Brown claims, became Illuminati, will rankle Catholic filmgoers. One does not have to be a Renaissance historian to recognize an illogical premise.
Further plot twists confirm the film’s erroneous position that the Church has always been anti-science, including a completely erroneous clash between ‘promoters of compassion and life’ and Catholics who oppose stem cells which takes place in front of St Peter’s Square. The Catholic protestors carry signs saying, “Stem cell research is murder,” a misstatement of Church position. The Church promotes adult stem cell research, which is responsible for 73 cures, while opposing embryonic research, which has produced nothing but cancer. MIT geneticist Dr James Sherley said that Europeans no longer consider embryonic research worthwhile, which further reduces the plausibility of a such a clash of protesters at the Vatican.
This is why Catholic criticize “Angels’ and Demons”: they sense an agenda behind an adventure film, their Church singled out again by Dan Brown who plays fast and loose with history to turn a profit. Thus, Dr Donohue requested a disclaimer at the start of the film stating that the film is fictional. There was such a disclaimer, way at the extreme end of the credits. I read it while the ushers were sweeping up the popcorn.
One artistic flaw of the film was casting Tom Hanks, as Professor Landon, the stuffed shirt who lectures Vittoria Veetra relentlessly while peering timidly into moldy tombs and awkwardly chasing gun-toting murderers a la Indiana Jones. Sorry, but Hanks lacks Harrison Fords’ masculine gusto. Indy was never more at home than when facing overwhelming odds in a dusty tomb, Langdon just looks and sounds ridiculous.
If you want a scenic, thrilling adventure film with less historical accuracy than the Indiana Jones and National Treasure films, and can stomach the cheap shots at Catholicism, “Angels and Demons” is worth a view. It contains graphic torture, murder, and morbid corpse views, gunfights and frightening explosions. No sexual content beyond Victoria’s low necklines and the reference to castration of statues. Occasional swearing in various languages. This picture is for adults only.
For further discussion of the misrepresentation of facts about the Catholic Church, see my comments "Just the Facts, Please" on Catholic Online.

Fr Wauck on "Angels and Demons"

Fr Wauck of Opus Dei, which received much bad publicity in "The Da Vinci Code" tells Zenit that Dan Brown is 'cashing in' on Catholicism. The blend of history, religion Brown includes in his novels can be found nowhere else but in the Vatican.

Dan Brown reminds me of James Joyce who left Ireland and the Catholic Church, yet he never wrote about anything else. Could he be resisting the baying of the Hound of Heaven close at his heels?

Here is Fr Wauck's list of scientific advances supported by the Church, in response to Dan Brown's accusation that the Church was the suppressor of scientific knowledge:
"Universities are an invention of the Church. Copernicus was a Roman Catholic cleric, and he dedicated his book on the heliocentric universe to the Pope. The calendar we use today is the Gregorian Calendar, because it was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII, who was working with the best astronomers and mathematicians of his time. Galileo himself always remained a Catholic, and his two daughters were nuns. One of the greatest Italian astronomers of the 19th century was a Jesuit priest, Angelo Secchi. The father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a Catholic monk. The creator of the "Big Bang" theory was a Belgian priest, Georges Lemaitre."
And this list leaves out my favorite saintly scientist, Dr Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the cause of Down syndrome and is up for canonization.

Read the rest of the interview here.

HT Spirit Daily

Bill Donohue on "Angels and Demons"

Bill Donohue saw “Angels & Demons” Friday. Here is his take:

The movie is so spectacularly stupid that it blunts its anti-Catholic elements. But there are problems, nonetheless.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

An excellent prequel that basically tells the origin of the original Star Trek series and how its crew came together.

About 25 years ago, Kirk's father, George Kirk, assumed control of his ship when the Captain left to board a Romulan ship; they were under attack from the much larger ship. Kirk evacuates everyone, including his pregnant wife, who soon gives birth to James T. Kirk. As a result, George Kirk saves hundreds of lives. George dies soon after that, while sacrificing himself.

The core of the story is the lives of James T. Kirk and Spock. They are the only two characters who are followed from childhood to adulthood. As children, they were both very much like they are as adults. Kirk is a risk-taker, who seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Spock is half-vulcan and half-human, often being torn between the two. When they first meet, and for some time after, Kirk and Spock don't get along; in fact, they don't even like each other. Later, they develop a friendship and mutual respect for each other. I especially got a kick out of seeing a younger McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Checkov, who was only 17 when he joined the Enterprise crew.

James T. Kirk assumes control of the Enterprise in much the same way his father did his ship. Christopher Pike is the current captain. He boards the Romulan ship, which is destroying the planet Vulcan with a device that creates a black hole within the planet, thereby destroying it. The Romulan captain, Nero, is the same one who attacked George Kirk's ship. Pike leaves Spock in charge, because he is currently first officer. Spock in turn makes Kirk first officer. Eventually, it is necessary for Kirk to assume control. (I don't want to give away the details of how this all happens).

I had heard that Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, makes a "cameo", but his role is actually more integral to the story than that.

Content(and SPOILER) warning : Not as risque as the previews would lead you to believe, but there is a scene where Kirk is in bed with Uhura's roommate. When Uhura returns, Kirk jumps up and you can see that the girl has a bra and underwear on. Then Kirk hides under the bed, and you see Uhura undressing. There is no nudity; all you see is her underwear and bra also. I felt that this scene was NOT necessary; they could have easily made the movie without it.


An EXCELLENT movie...see it!

http://www.startrekmovie.com/




Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Review: The Rite

While exorcists admit that their ministry can sometimes be a heavy burden, it would be a mistake, they say to overstate the power of the Devil. As Father Amorth writes, "A priest who is afraid of the Devil is like a shepherd who is afraid of a wolf. It is a groundless fear." The Devil," says Amorth, is already "doing us as much harm as he possibly can."

And so rather than fear him, exorcists say, it is better to emulate saints such as Teresa of Avila, who proclaimed, "If this Lord is powerful, as I see that He is and I know that He is, and if the devils are His slaves (and there is no doubt about this because it's a matter of faith), what evil can they do to me since I am a servant of this Lord and King? Why shouldn't I have the fortitude to engage in combat with all of hell?"
It is a funny thing. A friend of mine is creeped out by any sort of horror story. I mention Stephen King or Dean Koontz and she shudders. However, she is the one who recommended heartily a book by Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist in Rome. Three pages into it, I had to put the book down because I was so freaked out. When we compared notes later we discovered that fictional evil scares her but real life examples of Satan don't bother her a bit. While, as we can tell, I am just the opposite. Not that a zombie movie (or dream) might not freak me out, but the real life evil is what truly bothers me.

That might make you wonder just why I agreed to read this book. There's something fascinating about the idea of exorcism, don't you think? Also, I was intrigued by finding out just how objective this journalist was. What I found was an objective journalist who did his homework, a sincere priest going through exorcism school in Rome, and that the real-life examples of evil given didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought they would. One can hardly read how matter of factly the priests in this book deal with extraordinary activity of the devil and not be impressed enough to do likewise.

Essentially journalist Matt Baglio followed Father Gary from California as he began training to become an exorcist. Father Gary became the apprentice of an exorcist in Rome in order to get some sense of exorcisms outside of the classroom lectures. We are taken on the journey as well. Additionally, Baglio's accounting of the information from classes amounts to a brief catechism of Church teachings about anything to do with this subject including among other things. angels, free will, God's power, and human ailments. Skillfully interwoven with this are Father Gary's experiences and thoughts about the process every step of the way, and real life stories told by people who have been exorcised of a demon. (I did tend to skim or skip these. Too much of a strain to my already active imagination.)
While it's technically true that any priest can perform an exorcism, not every priest should. Guideline thirteen of the Ritual states that the bishop can only nominate a priest who is "distinguished in piety, learning, prudence, and integrity of life." In addition, "The priest [...] should carry out this work of charity confidently and humbly under the guidance of the Ordinary.

[...]

The importance of nomination by the bishop comes from the power of the prayer being tied to the Church as well as to the obedience of the exorcist. As the current president of the International Association of Exorcists, Father Giancarlo Gramolazzo, says, "I always use this phrase: The prince of disobedience is the Devil and you beat him by being obedient, not by your own personality, or charisms." According to Father Gramolazzo, if a priest were to perform an exorcism without the approval of his bishop, the prayers would still work to some extent because of the power of Jesus Christ's name, but they wouldn't have the same effect on the demon because essentially the exorcist would be praying the Ritual in a state of disobedience and the demon would know it. "Some priests have tried to perform an exorcism without the bishop's permission and the demon said to them, 'You cannot do it, you are outside your diocese and you don't have permission,'" says Father Gramolazzo.
It is clear that Baglio is a serious journalist as he examines what popular culture takes as truth and corrects misconceptions. As well, he thoroughly examines many of the questions that occur to any logical person when faced with the idea of demons and possession in modern times. To this end he interviews psychologists, doctors, and other specialists for information. All this is told without ever inserting himself into the book which allows the focus to stay on the subject and on Father Gary, whose journey yielded spiritual growth in several ways.

This book was fascinating and I read it in a matter of a few days. Highly recommended.
Thanks to a sensationalized report on Nightline (I mean, what did you expect, in depth treatment, they only reported on TOB in order to shock the public?) Christopher West is answering charges that he is over the top, misinterpreting Pope John Paul, and idolizing Hugh Hefner. He gives an explanation here to misinterpretations of his comments regarding Hugh Hefner;
"I never said Hugh Hefner is a hero, never," he remarked, explaining that Hefner said he started Playboy as a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of Americans’ Puritan heritage."The point I was making with ABC was that we as Catholics agree with Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease of Puritanism, a fearful rejection of the body rooted in heritage of Manicheanism. Sadly, that very important point did not come out in the interview.""Let the record stand very clearly: the pornographic revolution that Hugh Hefner inaugurated, the medicine that he suggested, proves to be in many ways more dangerous than the disease itself.'"

West went on to that while ABC took time to do a good interview, it was boiled down to a 7 minute clip with sound bites which were misleading. This is a danger of being part of tabloid TV; only the juicy bits make the cut, and who knows what the agenda of the editor is. I was asked to review The Dangerous Book for Girls (see my review here) on the Today Show, but after finding suggestions to practice both Yoga and the occult in the otherwise good book, I refused, on the basis that my comments on TV would be edited, and my appearance on the show with the book might be misconstrued as approval. As a Catholic film and book critic, I value my reputation of being orthodox and forthright too highly to risk it for 3 minutes of fame.
Maybe Christopher West should be more careful in the future about to what type of program he gives interviews. I have reviewed his latest book "Heaven's Song" very positively, in fact Ascension Press used my blurb(as well as Jeff Miller's who also writes for CMR) for their advertising, so obviously I feel his interpretation of Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body is important. Too important to trust to the National Enquirer of TV: Nightline. Maybe Huckabee or Bonnie Hunt would give him adequate time to express the true meaning of Theology of the Body.

Read the entire story on Catholic News Service.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek


DISCLAIMER: Way back in 8th Grade, my BFF told me about this cool new series on TV that took place in space and featured a captain, a doctor, and a pointy-eared alien who was completely logical.

"I can't describe it. You have to watch it," she said.

So I did. And I was hooked. As was Sis#1 and Bro#1, since the rest of the siblings were way young at the time. Or hadn't been born. Dad must have enjoyed it as well--or there was nothing better on--because he didn't object when we turned it on. And Dad was the final authority on what we watched in those days of one b&w TV!

When NBC threatened to cancel it after the second season, I wrote a petition and collected signatures from all my fellow
nerdettes in high school. This was not as brave as it seemed as it was an all-girl Catholic high school, so the social stigma of being a nerdette was minimal.

The same
BFF bought tickets for me to attend one of the very first Star Trek conventions, held at the Oakland Convention Center. We were out of college by then. Hubs, who was then merely Serious BF, came with me.

But I don't consider myself a "Trekker" or a "Trekkie," although I do have a copy of the original
Star Trek Concordia and blueprints for the original Enterprise somewhere in the boxes of books in the attic. And we did take DS#1 and DD#2 (who was a preschooler) to the "Science of Star Trek" exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences many years ago, where I bought a rubber stamp with the logo of Starfleet Academy. But I don't own a costume or pointed ears or a tribble. And I can't repeat the dialogue from past episodes word-for-word.

I'm just letting you know, up front, that I was well-disposed to
like this new re-imagining of Star Trek from the get-go.

REVIEW: The movie starts with a bang--literally. The U.S.S. Kelvin is transmitting information about an anomaly they discovered back to Starfleet (and are being told that their readings "don't make sense"), when there is a flash and what looks like black icicles emerges from the center of the "storm." After firing at the Kelvin and nearly destroying her, she is hailed by the captain, Nero (Eric Bana) of this strange-looking vessel, who tells them he wants to know where Ambassador Spock is. The captain of the Kelvin protests he doesn't know anything about an "Ambassador Spock." Nero then demands the Kelvin's captain shuttle over for a "discussion." The captain agrees--he has no choice, really--but not before leaving the con in the hands of his XO, Lt. Kirk, along with instructions to abandon ship if things go wrong.

And go wrong they do. The captain is killed shortly after boarding the black ship.

Kirk issues the order to abandon ship and everyone races to the pods, including his wife, who is in labor with their first child. He reassures her that he will join her. But, of course, Things Go Horribly Wrong, and Lt. Kirk ends up piloting the Kelvin into the black ship in an attempt to blow it up. But not before he hears the cry of his newborn son and tells his wife to name the baby "Jim."

Next scene is Iowa where a very young Jim Kirk has taken an antique muscle car for a joyride that doesn't end well. Jim is established as a wild child.

Contrast that with young Spock, taunted at school for being half-human. He calmly handles the taunts and jeers until his mother is insulted. He completely loses his cool, going after the three bullies who are older and bigger. Later, Sarek tries to explain to his son that it's not that Vulcans don't have emotions; in fact, their emotions are too strong, so they have had to learn self-control for the sake of survival.

Back to Iowa. It's several years later and the young-adult Jim (Chris Pine) is at a bar frequented by Starfleet types. He tries to pick up a hot young Starfleet cadet who is not buying any of his lines, and gets into a fight with a male cadet who is trying to stop Jim from harassing his fellow cadet. A bar fight ensues. Jim fights gamely, but is overwhelmed. The fight is finally broken up by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

Capt. Pike sits down with young Jim and challenges him to make something of himself by joining Starfleet. Jim accepts the challenge and off we go.

The new actors channel their predecessors quite well, in particular Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). The dialogue includes some favorites from The Original Series (TOS), which caused laughter in the theater among those of us in the know. And there are sly references to characters from Enterprise and First Contact. However, this is NOT Your Parents' Star Trek. As Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) tells the young Jim Kirk, this is an alternate reality. And because it is, the writers will have the freedom to move away from the Original Canon. With that freedom, however, comes an awesome responsibility to write well and to keep the stories consistent with this new canon.

DD#2 came with us. She claims she has never seen TOS, although I don't see how she missed the re-runs. She enjoyed this movie and is urging all her friends to see it. She was able to follow who the characters were and their relationships. Her questions afterwards were kind of interesting, for example, why is Star Fleet Academy headquartered in San Francisco? (When I told her that I thought it was because San Francisco was where the U.N. was founded, which was Gene Roddenberry's model for the United Federation of Planets, she was amazed. She didn't know that. Somehow that fact was glossed over in U.S. History in 7th Grade. I was more interested in whether the Golden Gate Bridge would end up destroyed yet again.)

The movie is fast-paced, which helped me ignore the plot holes. Yes, I want to see this again. In fact, I want to see it in IMAX so I can really appreciate the special effects. And, no, this movie doesn't depend solely on the special effects. The relationship of the characters is given equal weight. The story isn't as clever as the best, but it's acceptable.

The fights are physical and the combatants don't magically lose their bruises and cuts the next day. There is one seduction scene that implies Jim and his green-skinned female companion are going to have sex, but they are interrupted. That same scene features young females in bra and panties. There is some heavy kissing. I think it deserves its PG-13 rating.

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

(crossposted at The Mad Tea Party)

Sword of the Lamb Book Review

The first book of The Phoenix trilogy, the Sword of the Lamb has epic themes, good characters, interesting plot twists ... what could go wrong? Find out in my review of the audiobook at SFFaudio.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Star Trek Review - updated

AWE. SOME.

(go see it)

===================

To expound just a touch on my "two word" review of yesterday.

This movie took off with a bang that had me in tears before the opening title even came up.

I couldn't understand how reviewers were saying that this movie completely retools the Star Trek franchise while leaving it just the same. Having seen the movie, I must kiss the feet of the scriptwriters and director J.J. Abrams. Brilliantly done.

Simply put, Star Trek features the main characters of the original series, portrayed by a new cast, that shows their back story. The film introduces an alternate reality that is distinct from the original series and the other Star Trek movies. Simultaneously it leaves every character both somewhat changed and also completely true to themselves as we know them from the past. Not simple, I know. But they pulled it off.

This movie can be enjoyed by anyone but will be most enjoyed by fans of the original series as that is where tons of references lead. It is played with zest by a great set of actors whose risk taking paid off in taking these parts in a movie that may or may not work (Abrams being that sort of director). That left a solid core of Star Trek fans in the showing we attended laughing and clapping all through the movie. Which made it a lot of fun to watch.

I also didn't understand why girls were thrilling to Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. Blond haired, blue eyed boys are not that interesting to me. (Zachary Quinto in Heroes is much more my style ...) That is, until you see Pine is actually playing James Dean on a starship. (I found it both amusing and interesting to see just how they managed to keep him wearing black as much as possible.) As the movie went on and he became more and more dangerous looking, his appeal grew and grew. And, yes girls, I get it. Oh yeah ...

This is a movie that was applauded with gusto when it ended. And rightly so.

Later, Tom and I were comparing big summer movies. Star Trek or The Dark Knight? Hands down. Star Trek.

===================

Updated More
Reading Gina's comments about Star Trek, good, and evil made me decide to go ahead and post these thoughts. I also was thinking this morning that Star Trek (the movie, anyway) promotes the power of discernment and using one's own gifts the proper way. In Kirk we see both the rebel without a cause and the rebel with a cause. He has been helped along by a father figure who knows just how to motivate a rebel in the right way. How does Kirk use his gifts for good and not evil? This is also shown in Spock from a different perspective. Both are fighting personal demons to find the path they should take. The movie's writers may or may not have had this in mind, but a good story always contains at the base elements of Truth. This search for discernment and "self" is one such thing.

Note: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content. (Compared to most movies these days, this is the low end of the PG-13 rating spectrum. I see as much or more violence and sex than this on television, sad to say.)

Cross posted at Happy Catholic ... where you also may read the one spoiler I included from the movie, should you desire to do so.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Movie Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View


warning: possible spoilers

As you can tell by the previews, this movie tells the origin of Wolverine, also known as Logan. He was born a mutant. As a kid, when he kills the man who killed his mother, he finds out the man is his father. The man is also Victor's father.

He later serves in the army, and then he walks away from his life as a member of a team of mutants, and tries to live a quiet life with Emma Frost. But Colonel Stryker and Victor (Sabretooth), his brother and one of his fellow mutants, track him down. Soon after, other members of the mutant team start dying one by one. Stryker tries to get Logan to help find out who is responsible, but Logan is not interested. Later, Stryker and Victor find a way to get him interested; Stryker actually ends up being responsible for turning Logan into Wolverine, then Logan finds out their ulterior motive.

This movie reminded me of Rambo, because several times Logan is either lied to or betrayed much the same way Rambo was. But in the end, he finds an unexpected ally.


The thing that made this movie for me are the characters, specifically the mutants. They each have a specific ability. One can make fire with his eyes, John Wraith can move around in the blink of an eye, another is great with a sword, which leads me to the coolest scene: when he is being shot at, he actually cuts one of the bullets in half with his sword! Later, Logan finds out that Emma has an ability he didn't know about.


I really thought this movie was good: The characters are very unique and interesting, the plot is good, there is lots of action, and the special effects are great. However, I was disappointed with the ending; I felt it was anti-climactic and somewhat incomplete.


Only content warning is for some violence, which you'd expect here, especially if you've seen the previous X-Men movies. I'd only seen one of them before this. I took my nephews, who were more familiar with the characters than I was.






Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review: The Passion of Mary Margaret

“The Passion of Mary-Margaret”
by Lisa Sampson
Nashville, TN: 2009

For me, the sign of a truly great novel is that I am sad when it ends. “The Passion of Mary-Margaret” by Lisa Sampson was so good that I just wanted it to keep going. Mary-Margaret Fisher is a School Sister of St. Mary who has been asked to write her memoirs for future sisters that might come later. She is the daughter of a woman who had been about to make her final vows of religious life when she was raped by a seminarian. Her mother died in childbirth, and Mary-Margaret feels destined to enter religious life and take the place that her mother would have filled. She is also a mystic and has many face-to-face conversations with Jesus, a fact that she keeps secret from everyone. In one of these conversations, Jesus tells her to take a different route, one shocking in its self-sacrifice but which will ultimately lead to her fulfillment and another’s salvation.

There was so much I enjoyed in “The Passion of Mary-Margaret.” The story was extremely well-written and fast moving. I hated to put the book down. The themes of second chances and God having a plan were very comforting. Sampson had some wonderful insights into the human condition and the meaning of faith. She dealt with very adult themes of rape, incest, and prostitution in a very respectful manner with the point of showing that there is nothing so bad that God can’t bring some good out of it. God is there even in the suffering. One of my favorite quotes from “The Passion of Mary-Margaret” comes near the end when Sr. Mary-Margaret is reflecting on the whole of her life: “Jesus asked a lot of me, yes, but it all worked out in the end, didn’t it? And these days, that’s something nobody wants to hear about. But I tell you this, my sisters, because sometimes it takes many decades for all to become clear.”

“The Passion of Mary-Margaret” is a must-read for anyone who enjoys Catholic fiction or simply appreciates a good story.

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

TV Series Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Dectective Agency

Based on the popular novel of the same name, this series was co-produced by the BBC and HBO and is currently running on HBO in the States.

If you have read the book, you can jump right into the middle of this series. If you haven't, well, then you might be a bit confused at first. Or wait until HBO recycles the series from the beginning.

Filmed on location in Botswana, the series centers on Mma Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott). (Note: Mma, pronounced "ma," is a term of respect, like "Ms." or "Mr.") After her father's death, Mma Ramotswe sold her father's cattle and moved to the city to open up the first (and only) Ladies' Dectective Agency. She solves cases not by brute force, but through observation and her own understanding of human nature.

Assisting her is Mma Grace Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose). As big and open and relaxed as Mma Ramotswe is, Mma Makutsi is skinny, uptight, and nervous. Even their hair is different: Mma Ramotswe's is a bushy "natural," while Mma Makutsi's is usually pulled tight and pinned to the top of her head. Still, Mma Makutsi was the top of her graduating class at the Botswana Secreterial College and is very efficient. She is also very loyal to Mma Ramotswe, who, in turn, mentors the younger woman.

Mma Ramotswe drives an old right-hand drive truck that needs frequent repairs at the shop of Mr. JLB Matekoni (Lucien Msamati). He is falling in love with Mma Ramotswe, but she has been hurt badly by her first husband and is reluctant to commit. She also has to prove herself as a dectective in a community that is still strongly paternalistic.

Each episode features at least one investigation that's resolved and the continuing storyline of Mma Ramotswe and crew. The series is filmed in Botswana, so there is lots of gorgeous scenery, and the dialogue is in English. What I especially enjoy is that the setting is treated as "every day" (which it is to the inhabitants), rather than as some exotic locale. For example, in one episode, Mma Ramotswe goes to the "market plaza," rather than the mall.

One of the subtexts of the books is how the traditional mores of the community are changing and the conflict this brings between the older residents and the younger. That doesn't seem to be as obvious in the series.

Currently, there are only seven episodes. Anthony Minghella was the director and co-adapter, so I'm not sure if the series will continue.

As a fan of the books, I'm enjoying this series. Hubs, who hasn't read them, will watch the series with me, but it's a bit too "quiet" for him. (No chase scenes, no gun battles or stand-offs.)


On the March Hare scale: 4 out 5 Golden Remotes

(crossposted at The Mad Tea Party)

Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon Wants Planned Parenthood Mother's Day Gifts

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Cynthia must be a fan of Judy Blume. They both seem to think that donating to to abortionists is a way to 'honor' mothers on Mother's Day. 

Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda on the popular television program and movie, is the latest celebrity to stump for donations for the Planned Parenthood abortion business on Mother's Day. Her letter to Planned Parenthood donors follows one from children's author Judy Blume.

The Blume letter sparked so much national outrage after LifeNews.com exposed it, that Planned Parenthood begged its supporters to send thank you notes to her.

Like the Blume letter, the missive from Nixon ironically urges donations to Planned Parenthood to celebrate Mother's Day even though Planned Parenthood routinely puts women's health at risks with unsafe abortions and spends most of its time doing abortions instead of offering women legitimate prenatal health care services.


May is the month of Mary

Thursday, May 7, 2009

VATICAN’S POSITION ON “ANGELS & DEMONS”

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the Vatican’s position on “Angels & Demons”:

“The Vatican has apparently decided on a three track strategy to deal with ‘Angels & Demons’: ban Ron Howard from filming on its grounds; low ball any negative comments before the movie debuts; and slam it for its stereotypical portrayals while conceding its cinematic value.

“Howard was denied access to the Vatican because of his previous exploitation of the Catholic Church in ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ The Vatican also decided that reticence was the best way to handle ‘Angels & Demons’; it did not want Howard to use any negative comments it might make to boost sales. Now L’Osservatore Romano has weighed in saying that although the movie is entertaining, it is also filled with historical inaccuracies and ‘stereotyped characters.’

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Children's Author Judy Blume Seeks Donations to Planned Parenthood Abortion Biz for Mother's Day

cross-posted from A Catholic View

I was really disappointed to read this.  As a kid, I read some of her books and my niece and nephews have also.  

I'll bet that most of you did not consider celebrating 'Mother's Day' by donating to an abortion business.

Famous children's author Judy Blume is no stranger to controversy, but she's added to herself to a list of people who will be remember for something more devastating. Blume has lent her name the solicitation of donations for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business.

In a new missive ironically celebrating mothers day, Blume suggests sending a donation to the pro-abortion group to honor mothers.

"Say thanks this Mother's Day with a gift that honors her courage by making a donation to Planned Parenthood in her name. I guarantee you that she'll be pleased. I know I would be,' Blume writes.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One of world’s oldest bishops criticizes film 'Angels and Demons'

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Bishop Emeritus Antonio Rosario Mennonna, 103, of Nardo-Gallipoli (Italy), one of three living bishops born in 1906, has criticized the film Angels and Demons as “useless stupidity.”

According to press reports, the bishop criticized the movie based on Dan Brown’s novel, saying its contents are “highly denigrating, defamatory and offensive for the values of the Church and the prestige of the Holy See.”


Those close to the prelate said he is “deeply shocked and disturbed by the contents of the film.” Bishop Mennonna invited his brother bishops to denounce the film for attacking the faith of missions of spreading obscenity.

story here


Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: On My Own Now


On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debtfree and Regretfree

by Donna Lee Schillinger
Quilldriver, 2009

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Donna Lee Schillinger is a married homeschooling mom who has served in the Peace Corps and worked as an executive director of a homeless shelter for single young mothers. As one reads “On My Own Now” one discovers that Schillinger made a lot of mistakes in her own life. Much of this book comes from that perspective of learning from someone else’s errors in judgment. I realize that as a thirty-something married woman myself, I am not the target audience for this book. This is intended for young women just starting out in life. I can remember what it was like to be a young woman, however. I would love to say that if someone had handed me a book like this, I would have eagerly followed all of the advice and saved myself a bunch of heartache in the process, but I don’t think that would have been the case. Part of being young is making mistakes and learning from them (as Schillinger did from hers). I’m fairly certain that it is not possible to get through life regret-free. This does not mean, however, that the advice Schillinger gives is not good or that this book is not worthwhile. Indeed, the opposite is true. If a young woman takes even some of the advice in this book, it is well-worth it.

Schillinger touches on all the major issues in a young woman’s life – dating, money, friendship, work ethics, taking care of one’s body, and family. She does so in a very straight-forward pull-no-punches manner and with a sense of humor. She is also extremely willing to share her own mistakes in the hope that someone may learn from them. Each section begins with a relevant Proverb and then moves on from there. I honestly (and somewhat embarrassedly) admit that I am not as familiar with the Proverbs as I should be, and I did obtain much more insight into them from reading “On My Own Now.” There is good advice there for all of us, regardless of age.

“On My Own Now” is highly recommended. While I don’t think any young woman will take all of the advice, hopefully most will take some. Their lives would be better for it.

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

BRITISH PRELATE SLAMS ‘ANGELS AND DEMONS’; RON HOWARD CRITICIZES VATICAN

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham has criticized Angels & Demons, the new film based on a novel by Dan Brown. “This is so outlandish, it’s total rubbish,” Bishop McMahon said. “It’s mischievous to stir up this kind of anti-Catholic sentiment. It’s a gratuitous knocking of the Church, and I can’t see any reason for it.”

The film’s director, Ron Howard, charged that the Vatican obstructed the filming of scenes near churches. “When you come to film in Rome, the official statement to you is that the Vatican has no influence,” he said. “Everything progressed very smoothly, but unofficially a couple of days before we were to start filming in several of our locations, it was explained to us that through back channels and so forth that the Vatican had exerted some influence.”



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Find Catholics on Twitter

Through this helpful guide compiled by Fr. Roderick a Tweet Catholic superstar for the Catholic School Chronicle.
Connect with me, CauseofOurJoy and join the Catholic Twibe. Together we can influence the culture of death, one tweet at a time!

Book Review of "The Thrill of the Chaste"


What non-fiction book can rivet your attention so that you suspend normal activities until you have finished it without the 'obligatory sex scenes'?"The Thrill of the Chaste" of course!
Dawn Eden, former agnostic, NYU graduate, Sex in the City practitioner, writer for Rolling Stone, The New York Post and the Daily News was the least likely candidate to become a pro-life, chaste Catholic single woman.

"The Thrill of the Chaste" takes the reader back into her past when she was a typical professional urban woman looking for lasting love in a series of sexual encounters where each found herself lonelier than the last. She found herself holding back more and more of her herself as a relationship became more sexually intimate, in order to prepare for the inevitable emotional wreckage of the breakup. Dawn shares with the reader the poignant details of the emotional cost of the lifestyle which fails to satisfy, and her painful, yet steady climb out of it. Her evocative storytelling ability makes the story a great read as well as a valuable guide to those who are leaving sexual immorality behind for something far better. Her book draws from the wellspring of Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body as she
discovers her true vocation as a single woman and her renewed hopes for a future of true intimacy in married life.
This book should be on the bookshelf of every high school. So many young women today are suffering the painful loneliness inherent in unchaste lifestyles and fear that there is no starting over. Dawn's intimate testimony is proof that God's merciful grace is always sufficient to begin anew, and has awakened hope in thousands who have had the experience of reading it, or attending one of her talks.

I first met Dawn when I lived on Long Island, and she gave a Faith on Tap talk on her book. Because of her 'coming out' as a pro-lifer while working at the New York Post, and subsequently losing her job, I summoned up the courage to come out as a pro-life writer at Suffolk County Community College where I was an adjunct professor. We next met in 2007, as we gave presentations on the Catholic blogosphere at the Annual Meeting of the Catholic Society of Social Scientists at St John's Law School. Dawn has an engaging humility about her, she never acts like the celebrity, no matter when we meet, she warmly remembers me as a fellow blogger, further evidence of her profound conversion. She is a wonderful role model for single Catholic women striving to live a life of grace in a hostile, pornographic society.
Last fall Dawn spent some time in Baltic, my hometown in Eastern CT and was interviewed by Friar Roderick on AIR MARIA. We just met in Washington DC in January in the John Paul II Cultural Center where she was conducting a chastity workshop, and I promised to review her book here. Dawn recently held her own on The Today Show where the Sex and the City practitioners gave her a run for her money.
She blogs at The Dawn Patrol.

The Catholicism Project

Anyone who reads about the Catholic Church in the mainstream media knows that we are in serious need of a public relations expert. God knows this, and He has a plan. Enter Fr Robert Barron, professor at Mundelein Seminary and preacher from Word on Fire Ministries. I recently attended a childrens' birthday party where the enthusiastic hostess insisted her guests watch his DVD Seven Deadly Sins in the midst of hyped up kids on cake. I was riveted. Fr Baron is that good. See his video review of Grand Torino which I posted here.

Now, add film from locations around the world, including the Holy Land, and The Catholicism Project is looking truly extraordinary.
For this world-spanning, all-encompassing series, Father Barron is telling the story not chronologically but in essential themes. Everything works toward his second equally important goal: “to evangelize the culture using the riches of the Church. We weave in a lot for artwork because the greatest artwork in the Western world is about Christianity.”
Pope John Paul II was a big influence on him. Father Barron explains that “after the [Second Vatican] Council there was bad formation in Catholicism. Frankly, my generation has been taught a watered-down Catholicism.”
Consequently, he wants to re-educate and reintroduce people to the faith intellectually and visually, and then to reach out beyond the Catholic world and evangelize the culture.
Read the entire story on the National Catholic Register blog.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Movie Review: The Reader

Should I see it?
Nope.


The middle of this story holds a fascinating conflict which deserves a film. The opening and end of the film are indulgent, unnecessarily drawn out distractions from a potentially great tale. The story centers on Michael Berg (David Kross), a fifteen-year-old boy in post-World War II Germany. Berg becomes ill on his way home one day* and is helped out by an older woman, Hanna (Kate Winslet in an Oscar winning performance.) She seduces the lad and the two begin a fling. All of their grunting and fondling goes on for a while and then Hanna unexpectedly ups and leaves. Berg is dismayed that his middle-aged shag doll has run off. He carries on with his life. While studying to become a lawyer, he attends a Nazi war crimes trial. Not surprising to us, but rather shocking to Berg, is that it is Hanna who is on trial. It turns out his former lover is little more than a cold heart Nazi succubus. Berg watches the trial and makes the mental note to run full background checks on middle age women who offer themselves to him in the future. The end of the film focuses on Berg as a grown man (Ralph Fiennes). Berg is now an emotionally-awkward, snickering doofus, apparently still broken from his youthful mistake.

The trial portion is very well handled and carries the potential of a great film. There's a striking conflict played out in Berg. He has a secret about Hanna that could save her, but does he announce to the world what he has done? This holds some interesting questions about the truth, and law versus morality. The film toys with this question for roughly five minutes and lets it die on the vine. The trial itself is brief and not treated with the weight it deserves. If the film had focused more intently on the trial instead of all of the other aspects of the story, this would have been a brilliant work. As it is, director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) lingers an incredibly long time on the love affair between Berg and Hanna. While this is an important aspect of the film, Daldry ponders on their lovemaking far too long. All the audience needs to understand is that he is a virginal teen, she is an older woman. She takes his innocence and basically exchanges sex from the boy for him reading books to her (she's illiterate). Daldry takes the opportunity to show the two actors completely naked in multiple scenes and plays up the eroticism like some high-budget Skinamax flick. It gets to the point where the film is about nothing other than this kid getting laid. The relationship between the two is so focused on their sexing up one another that the emotional bond between the two is weakened. This is a fatal flaw since Berg must have a deep, and believable, emotional connection in order to explain his actions for the rest of the film. Daldry expends all of his energies with the sex scenes that the remainder of the film is devoid of any real emotional punch.

Kate Winslet won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Hanna. This once again proves that one does not need to actually provide a masterful performance to win an Oscar, one simply needs to seem like they did. Winslet's no slouch, but this performance could have been done just about anyone. Now that I consider it, it would have been a far more interesting film if it had been cast with Selma Hayek in the lead - but that would make this into an entirely different movie. Back to Winslet - she's okay in the role, not great. The other performances are solid, but also not masterful. David Kross keeps up with Winslet and shows he can act. He will probably have a good career. He manages the transition from innocent teen to jaded young adult effectively and is a good anchor for the whole production.

Overall, this film is not worth the attention and hype it has received. The Oscars were far too generous, as are most critics. This is a lopsided, and sometimes even boring film that misses its mark. On top of all of this, the relationship between a fifteen year old and an older woman is given far too much attention. I have strict rules when it comes to the portrayal of sexuality and children in film, this includes teens. David Kross may have been of age during the filming of this production, but to show him in full-frontal nudity while portraying a kid is unacceptable in my book. I don't know what the laws were in Germany in the late forties, so it may be incorrect to call Hanna a statutory rapist - but for the sake of what my point is, I will refer to her as such. She is raping a fifteen year old boy, taking his innocence; which yes, I understand is the whole point of the story. My issue is with Daldey fawning over the sex scenes. We can be told of the relationship without having to see her sagging breasts and his dangle. It is unnecessary and it is therefore pornographic in its delivery - given that he's supposed to be underage, this is a huge problem.

I don't recommend this film. It is no where near as good as others have claimed.


* - When was it agreed that every other film will not only display someone vomiting, but when it happens we have to SEE it happen. Having the character turn away after dry heaving a little isn't enough - we have to witness the projectile leap from their lips and splatter heavily on the ground. I've noticed the vomiting shot is usually found in films that are meant to be smart and serious. It is as if the filmmakers say to the audience, "See the despair of the human condition! Witness the trouble of this character's body and soul...okay, that's done, let's go look at Winslett's aged butt."


Cross Posted at Good News Film Reviews