Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall-E Review: A Celebration of What Makes Life Worth Living

By now anyone who cares to read a review (and I have plenty of good ones here) knows that Wall-E is a cautionary tale against consumerism, big business, and disregard for the environment. Wall-E is the last of the robots left behind to clean up the earth; a little fellow who does his duty but leaves room to delight in what his curiosity brings to light.

What you may not know is that this is the movie that can also make you anxious about a cockroach's fate (something I surely thought impossible), delight in the indomitable human spirit, and leave you feeling both joy and hope about the future. This is a big accomplishment.

As big an accomplishment is that the movie is largely without human dialogue, aside from the last part of the movie. In the finest tradition of old cartoons such as Road Runner or Bugs Bunny (which the opening short takes us back to in both style and story line), this movie expresses creativity in using sounds and actions to show us exactly how fine an art storytelling can be. We saw the movie with an audience of perhaps 1/3 children (that in itself is an accomplishment for an animated movie under the Disney flag) and never once did we hear anyone plaintively asking, "What is happening?"

Additional creativity is unleashed in the first half of the closing credits where the movie's storyline continues as reflected through the development of art. Not only is it a delight to watch but a clearer underline to the point of mankind's creative spirit could not be made.

Interestingly, this movie blends in images of real people. We only see them via holographs as recordings but they are there to underscore specific important points and to speak to the people in their future.

The movie is full of science fiction references for those who know where to look. Even those who don't like the genre will recognize the reference to 2001's Hal which is used to great effect. Those who know a bit more will recognize some of my favorite references, such as to Aliens in the airlock scene and to a favorite episode of Futurama when they recognize Sigorney Weaver's voice as that of the ship. I know I picked up very few of these references and will be checking out the trivia page at IMDB to find the rest.

There are two criticisms I have seen in reviews that I think are incorrect.

One is that this is a gnostic movie and not a "Christian" movie. Untrue. From time immemorial we have told and loved the story of the humble oddball not following the accepted way ... it is he who shines the light on where everyone else has gotten off track. It is Everyman's story and, ultimately, it holds the seeds of truth to allow us to recognize Christ's story as Truth itself. This story is in that fine tradition of showing what is best in man. Wall-E epitomizes curiosity, creativity, love of art, self-expression, a desire to love and be loved, and self-sacrifice for those he loves in cause of the bigger picture. Christians do not need to have it spelled out more than that. Read the Christianity Today and Catholic Exchange reviews from the link above.

Secondly, I have seen the people in the movie characterized as lazy slobs who only care about consuming more and more. The point, which is made very subtly, is that these people had their lives change little by little until they didn't know there was another way to live. The scenes with John and Mary show this most clearly with the Captain's realizations and the scenes of the babies reinforcing the point. They are not the way they are by choice as they make other choices when the blinders are knocked off and they can see the light of having more than one path.

I also would like to add that, although this movie clearly is against consumerism and big business, it is fair. Big business is shown to try to fix their mistakes. They do a very bad job but they clearly meant it all for the best. They are not shown as evil or plotting. They are simply run by people who lost track of balance. That the people in the movie's past were their victims was through their own choice (here I am applying the message to our own lives as we are meant to).

This movie joins my favorites from Pixar and makes a trinity of good watching which should speak to us as modern men about the choices we make and living thoughtfully: The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and ... now ... Wall-E.

Highly recommended.

Update -- Spoilers!
A commenter made an excellent point that had escaped me entirely and I will quote it here:
... one part I haven't seen commented on was when Eve goes into hibernation (or whatever that was) and Walle takes such good care of her, even though she cannot respond.

It made me think of how we need to take care of the frail among us. The image of Terri Schaivo came immediately to mind.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wanted - R

Those of you who are fans of the movie Office Space will really appreciate the first part of "Wanted". In establishing how bad Wesley Gibson's life is, his workplace is parodied much like Office Space. His boss is a despicable, mean character... who also carries and uses a red stapler. :) His co-worker and friend is sleeping with his girlfriend. Basically, he feels his life is meaningless and without purpose.

One night, he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie....who. BTW, has waaaay too many tattoos :). She first saves, and then recruits Wesley into a Fraternity of Assassins. It is revealed that he has gifts and abilities he was unaware of; he is then trained as an assassin so that he can avenge the murder of his father, who he had never met (his father left when he was 7 days old). His father, a member of the Fraternity, was murdered by a guy named Cross. The plan is for Wesley to kill Cross.

I found the Fraternity to pretty arrogant and self-righteous. They act like they are doing something noble by deciding who to kill. To me, it was demonstrative of the moral relativism that pervades our society...."it's right if I feel it's right...there is no right and wrong.." They also have this healing bath that stimulates white blood cells and enhances healing. As an aside, one of the members of the Fraternity wore a shirt with a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

There are a couple of surprises, such as the truth of his father's fate, and why Wesley was recruited.

There is also plenty of action and some really cool stunts.

Content Warnings: There are a couple of brief, but graphic sex scenes with his friend and girlfriend.
The "F-Bomb" is dropped quite often.
There are pretty graphic scenes where people are killed...and you see a close-up of the bullet entering/exiting the victim.

cross-posted on A Catholic View

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wall-E Reviews Describe an Extraordinary Movie

I have eagerly been reading the beginning and ending of WALL-E reviews ... I really don't want to know more than the trailers have told me. I am printing these out and looking forward to reading the middles after I have seen the movie. By the way, Jeffrey Overstreet warns us that Roger Ebert's review gives a giant spoiler right in the middle with no warning. Bad critic!

I don't usually do this with more than one or two trusted sources but everything I've read so far makes me think that this is going to be something extraordinary on many levels, hope filled, reflecting the truth of our human condition ... here are some snippets in case you are similarly curious.

Rod Bennett at Catholic Exchange

Via The Curt Jester in an earlier post on this site.

Pixar Animation Studio was founded in the 1980s by media moguls George Lucas and Steve Jobs, but whether they knew it or not, the guys who made their latest film release WALL*E (in theatres tomorrow) were working for God. So says this reviewer, anyway.

It’s not heresy. Catholics have been saying since at least the 2nd Century that God sometimes uses secular voices to speak to the world, especially when it comes to unreached peoples or neglected truths. Writing about the poets and mythmakers of ancient Greece, St. Justin Martyr put it this way, c. 155 AD: “Even unwillingly, these men were on your account forced to say many things by God’s compassion for mankind…For all these writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them.” Well, storytelling techniques have certainly come a long way since the days of Pindar and Sophocles — WALL*E pushes the high-tech art of computer generated graphics to hitherto undreamed of heights — but God’s willingness to communicate vital realities via the mediums of myth and fable has apparently continued unabated. WALL*E (directed by Finding Nemo’s Andrew Stanton) is funny, touching, beautiful, clever, and wildly entertaining — but it may also be the most powerful warning against consumerism, idolatry, and addiction to luxury ever to be offered in a mainstream film. ...

Christianity Today
This is science fiction the way science fiction is meant to be. It creates a world that's clearly not our own, but it's totally believable as the place we're headed, maybe a hundred years down the line. But it's not cynical or misanthropic; like the best sci-fi, it uses these imaginative conceits to ask big questions about our world and our humanity. It's a movie about love amidst chaos, about the dangers of unchecked greed and the forces that overcome it. ...

And it is absolutely not a political movie, no matter how hard a small faction of political bloggers might try to pin it as one. Yes, it has a message about the environment—take care of it. And yes, it has a message about capitalism—too much of it can be sinful. These aren't political points; they're very basic moral ones, and no rational Christian has any grounds on which to object to them.

But even more than a great work of sci-fi, this is a great work of cinema. WALL•E is Pixar's boldest, bravest film yet, opening with half an hour in which no dialogue occurs. Much of the story is told, then, only through images, and in this regard, it's the most sophisticated and subtle film Pixar has yet made. ...

And yet, the greatest feat of WALL•E—its most seemingly-impossible achievement—might be this: Despite the fact that it's hard science fiction, that it paints a dystopian picture of our future, that it's subtle and sophisticated, and that it's very light on dialogue, it's every bit the crowd-pleaser that we've come to expect from this studio—funny, romantic, imaginative, and utterly gripping. This is Pixar's magic. ...
Jeffrey Overstreet's interview with Andrew Stanton
In addition to Stanton's insights, he has links to many reviews that make fascinating points such as this tidbit from Moises Chiullan.
The movie is more fundamentally about what it is to exist and believe in hope. Every science fiction film with a desolate Earth as a backdrop does not make that its main focus, and neither does WALL*E. I’ve let WALL*E roll around in my head for around a week and a half since seeing it, and I can’t shake it (a good thing). It would be one thing if I were exploding with praise the day after seeing it, but the fact that it’s still as captivating almost two weeks later, to me, means the movie has to be the real deal. This movie falls under the Important Cinema banner regardless of what piece of its narrative you fall in love with. This really could be one of the movies people will still argue about in 25, 50, or 100 years.
First Showing's Review: The First Perfect Movie of 2008
Movies have the ability to make us feel every possible emotion. There are times we cry, times we laugh, times we love and times that we are scared out of our wits. With all the different feelings that I experience during the many films I watch, it wasn't until after seeing Wall-E that I realized there is one emotion that movies so rarely make me feel. The emotion that I'm talking about is joy. To be honest, Wall-E has so consumed my thoughts that I can't even bring another movie to mind that has made me feel the pure joy that I felt during or after seeing Pixar's Wall-E. ...

Pixar's Catholic Masterpiece

Rod Bennett reviews WALL*E

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Catholic group slams Love Guru

An American Catholic group has found the new Mike Myers comedy The Love Guru to be "morally offensive".

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also criticised the film to be "vulgar and tasteless".

cross-posted on A Catholic View

story here

Jimmy Akin: It's a good year for family films

Read his post here.

Remembering George Carlin

I first noticed George Carlin back in high school in the late 1960's-early 1970's. He was the "Hippy Dippy Weatherman," the "Stupid Disc Jockey," and the cousin of one of my classmates. Of course I didn't hear his routine about "The 7 Words You Can't Say on Television" until much later, when I was an adult and married and we had HBO. I remember thinking it was raunchy and outrageous and funny.

Then there was his routine about "Stuff." Hubs and I had just bought our first house and were in the process of consolidating our old "Stuff" and accumulating new "Stuff" (a process which hasn't stopped). His routine about the differences between baseball and football was dead on, even though I'm more of a football fan, myself. I loved the way he "ran home."

I'm not surprised to hear that he had issues with the Catholic Church. Most comedians of his era had problems with authority of any stripe and, of course, God is the Ultimate Authority. I was a bit surprised to hear he'd been married only twice--his first wife died of cancer. So however misanthropic and nihilistic his public persona was, he must have been different in private. I think some of that private persona came through in Jersey Girl, where he plays the gruff-but-loving father and grandfather. (I found it interesting that the granddaughter goes to Catholic School, although the family is never seen going to Mass.)

As for Carlin's anti-Catholicism... Personally, I thought his turn as the cardinal in Dogma was funny. The cardinal is trying to re-market the Catholic Church by introducing "The Buddy Jesus" and making the Church "hipper" and "more relevant." His character reminded me a lot of the early-post Vatican II days, exaggerated for comedic effect. And Carlin played it, I thought, like someone who had been raised in the Church, who knew about the dashboard Jesus and St. Christopher medals and who wanted to skewer that kind of obsession with symbols. Was it more vicious than that? Possibly. But I hadn't seen any of Carlin's recent stand-up routines or interviews, so I don't know.

In fact, I haven't kept up with George Carlin in recent years. He was not a comedian I sought out, whose routines I listened to regularly. Until I read the tributes to him, I didn't realize he was still doing stand-up and that so much of it was angry. But he was part the milieu of my adolescence--his death is another reminder that I'm getting old.

R.I.P, George.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees/The Mermaid Chair

ue Monk Kidd has a way with words, evoking scenes and smells, drawing idiosyncratic characters who seem perfectly plausible. Her writing style reminds me a lot of Pat Conroy's--if she's not a native Southerner, she's one who loves it all, the people, the land, the food.

The Secret Life of Bees is her debut novel. The main character is Lily Owen, whose life has been defined by the death of her mother. Lily was four when she accidentally shot her mother who was having an argument with her husband, Lily's father. Lily's father, whom she calls T. Ray, seems indifferent to Lily, leaving her in the care of Rosaleen, a black woman he's pulled out of his peach orchard.

Lily has found a box containing a few items that belonged to her mother. One is a picture of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" written on the back. When Rosaleen runs into trouble on the way to register to vote (it's 1964), Lily springs her from the hospital and they run away and they head to Tiburon. On her way in to town, she finds the Black Madonna--it's a label on a jar of honey, made by a local beekeeper, August. August (who is also black) lives with her two younger sisters, June and May. She lies her way into staying with the sisters, learning about bees and "The Daughters of Mary," the religion the sisters practice revolving around the Virgin Mary. Coincidentally, Lily also receives the mothering she needs and Rosaleen finds a place for herself as well.

Of course, the idyll cannot last. Lily is a white girl living in a black household and her father has no idea where she is. The situation comes to a head and Lily learns about her mother, her father, and herself.

Unfortunately, the ending is implausible and a disappointment. (Interestingly, DD#1 had the same reaction, but phrased it much more elegantly: "Ms. Kidd is a good writer but not much of a storyteller.) I enjoyed the book in kind of a lazy, laid-back way. It's a good summer read: pleasurable, but not enthralling.

The Mermaid Chair is another novel. Also set in South Carolina. This novel has more overtly Catholic themes, involving a saints, monks, and women. Jessie has been married to Hugh for 20 years. Their daughter, Dee, is off to college. Jessie is feeling restless, but doesn't know why. She has learned to live in "the smallest space possible." Then she gets word that her mother has chopped off her right index finger. Jessie returns home to Egret Island, to her mother and her mother's best friends, Kat and Hepzibah. And to the Monastery of St. Senara, home of the Mermaid Chair.

And home to Brother Thomas, who, in his previous life, was an environmental lawyer, happily married and expecting his first child, when his wife and their unborn child were killed in a car accident. Father Sebastian, the monastery prior, suspects that Brother Thomas is running away from life. Father Dominic has written the story of the Mermaid Chair which Kat sells to tourists in her store, The Mermaid's Tale.

Because the island is small, all the characters are intertwined. Brother Thomas and Jessie feel a strong attraction, a deep connection. And the island itself--its heat, its mud, its tides--is as much a character as the people involved.

Again, though, lyrical writing but weak story, especially the ending. Both The Mermaid Chair and The Secret Life of Bees have a lot of detail about Catholic traditions, but apparently Ms. Kidd was a Southern Baptist. Before writing novels, she was known for her writing about spiritual matters, including her journey to the "sacred feminine." Her novels reflect her world view.

On the March Hare scale: 3 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks overall. Fine summer reading, not too mentally challenging, but not enough of a guilty pleasure either.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl Review: A Man, His Doll, and Responsibility

Lars: I was talking to Bianca, and she was saying that in her culture they have these rites of passages and rituals and ceremonies, and, just all kinds of things that, when you do them, go through them, let you know that you're an adult? Doesn't that sound great?

Gus: It does.

Lars: How'd you know?

Gus: How'd I know what?

Lars: That you were a man


Gus: Okay, you know I can only give you my opinion.

Lars: That's what we want.

Gus: Well, it's not like you're one thing or the other, okay? There's still a kid inside but you grow up when you decide to do right, okay, and not what's right for you, what's right for everybody, even when it hurts.

Lars: Okay, like what?

Gus: Like, you know, like, you don't jerk people around, you know, and you don't cheat on your woman, and you take care of your family, you know, and you admit when you're wrong, or you try to, anyways. That's all I can think of, you know -- it sounds like it's easy and for some reason it's not.
You wouldn't think that a movie about a man and a life-size, anatomically correct sex doll would be described as charming, heart-warming, and delightful but Lars and the Real Girl pulls it off.

Lars suffers from crippling shyness and an extreme desire to be alone, to the extent that even enduring dinner with his brother and sister-in-law is a severe trial to all concerned. Six weeks after his cubicle-mate shows him a life-size sex doll, Lars' new girlfriend "Bianca" shows up and is treated as real, to the natural alarm of his family. The town doctor advises that sometimes such severely dysfunctional behavior is a way to work through problems and tells them that they should also treat Bianca as real. She then prescribes a weekly series of "treatments" for Bianca's "low blood pressure" which give her the needed excuse to talk with Lars and try to help him work out his problems. For those worried about the fact that Bianca's original manufacture was for unnatural purposes, Lars' faith is very important to him, and therefore to Bianca, who is given a spare bedroom at his brother's house.

Naturally, what emerges is bordering on the edge of fantasy, just as does The Castle, another small film that takes a fantastic premise and uses it to show us a bigger picture. In the case of The Castle it is the strength of family love. In the case of Lars and the Real Girl, it is exemplified in the exchange excerpted above between Lars and his brother. Gus must come to terms with how his past choices have affected Lars and take responsibility. Lars uses Bianca not only as a shield from the world which terrifies him but also as a way to gain experience and strength in order to become an adult, ready to take on responsibility. This transition is shown in small fits and starts that give the actors a chance to show their talents as many of them are not spelled out and must be inferred from glances or other small

Additionally, we are shown how various townspeople care enough for Lars to take on the fiction of Bianca's reality in order to help him. This gives them a chance to indulge in an opportunity to play as Bianca eventually takes on a life of her own in a way that is both humorous and charming.

This is an understated movie and the reflections on these themes are not deep but they are heart-felt. For those willing to let go and also play along this movie has big rewards.

Rated PG-13 for some sex-related content, which is fairly minimal and due to the fact that Bianca is a sex doll which leads to far less joking around than you would expect and in much better taste.

Highly recommended.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin R.I.P.

If you pay attention to the news, you already know George Carlin died yesterday at the age of 71. If you've been paying attention to his words over the past few decades, you know he was relentless in his attacks on the Catholic church and Christianity in general. His mockery of the Christian faith was a main theme of his stand-up routines, movies and books.

He was obviously hateful to Christians, a man who said his dream role would be to play "a priest who strangles children" was a hateful man. It is understandable that many Christians won't lose any sleep over his passing. For those who are quick to focus on his spite and say "good riddance", I want to ask you to take some time out this evening and pray for the man. Despite the hurtful things he's done and said over the years, he is now reaping the fruits of his labor. He was someone who knew God and rejected him, we should not feel relief or anger at the man, but deep sorrow for a soul that probably didn't see salvation.


cross-post from A Catholic View

Lewis Black is at it again.
Hey Lewis, your anti-Catholicism is showing again.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments today on the most glaring double standard among comedians:

“Lewis Black’s new book, Me of Little Faith, has a chapter titled, ‘Islam. All I’m Saying Is, I Got Nothing to Say.’ The chapter is three paragraphs long, beginning with the following: ‘I have nothing to say. Nothing. And let’s leave it that way.’ But Black has plenty to say about Orthodox Jews, the Catholic Church and Mormonism. Indeed, his references are replete with vulgarities. Why is it necessary for comedians to use vulgarity to be "funny"?
“Black’s book was endorsed by George Carlin, who died yesterday. Carlin trashed religion for decades, but like Black he had no stomach for bashing Islam. Indeed, he justified Muslim violence. He readily admitted that ‘when all those beheadings started in Iraq it didn’t bother me.’ In fact, the beheadings were easy to explain: ‘You strap on a gun and go struttin’ around some other men’s country you better be ready for some action Jack.’ I guess he didn't know about Nick Berg (a contractor who was helping rebuild Iraq) and Margaret Hassan( a CARE worker bringing food and medical supplies to the Iraqi people). But I guess that explains why he focused on Catholics...that's probably safer :) Catholics, however, were never the victims in Carlin’s playbook—they were always the victimizers.

story here

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Happening - R

What a disappointment "The Happening" was.

The acting and the dialogue were both lame. I kept hoping the plot would pick up and get better, but it didn't. The characters were all so caricature-like, that at first that I thought maybe it was supposed to be a comedy-drama.
The "Happening" was something, originally believed to be a chemical attack of some type, that caused people to kill themselves. They never do tell us what the "Happening" was, but in the end it is insinuated that the grass and the trees are threatened by mankind. (I guess they had to slip a global warming reference in there somewhere :)

As far as content warning, there is no sexual content and no overtly offensive language. The main warning is some "gore" scenes where people kill themselves.

Don't waste your money on The Happening....It's NOT happening!

cross-posted on A Catholic View.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Consciousness of Christ

After reading Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana I thought a lot about the consciousness of Christ and wanted to read up on the subject. I had remembered in my various readings several references to a recommended book on the subject called "The Consciousness of Christ" by Fr. William George Most. I was disappointed to find that the book was mostly not available until I was delighted to find all of Fr. Most's works are available at Catholic Culture in the Most Theological Collection.

For those who don't know Fr. Most was a theologian and scripture scholar who died in 1999. As I was coming into the Church I read many of his articles and posts since at the the time he was answering scriptural questions on EWTN's forums. I think it is too bad that there are so many other theologians and scripture scholars who are much more well known than Fr. Most was. You would have never seen Fr. Most on the History Channel, Discovery, or TLC in just another one of the dumb shows talking about scripture and biblical history. Fr. Most was a faithful priest and that doesn't make your scholarship too popular.

His book "The Consciousness of Christ" was exactly what I was looking for to answer the questions I had and to more fully understand what the Church teaches on this subject. The introduction to the book Can we Trust the Gospels? is an excellent essay on the subject in and of itself. Since their has been so much biblical criticism that seeks to deny so much of scripture this essay takes up the topic nicely. The end of the book even includes three appendixes which server as a in depth critique of form criticism and the way it has been used.

In the last century there has been much talk on the so-called ignorance of Jesus and the ideas proposed by Fr. Raymond Brown and others that Jesus did not know he was God. This idea has come to be accepted by many people and is routinely taught. Several scriptures form the Gospel appear at first to make this case such as when Jesus says he "does not know the day or the hour." Fr. Most goes through the scriptures as to related to Jesus' apparent ignorance, lack of foreknowledge, the knowledge concerning the Parousia. He details all of the scriptures often used to back up these assertions made by Rudolf Bultman, Fr. Raymond Brown and others. The then examines these scriptures in details and then examines them in their context. Later he looks a the Patristic evidence regarding these scriptural passages and how the Church came to interpret them. There is a definite development of doctrine that really starts quite early when it comes to these issues. The heresies that tried to rip the Church apart in the fourth century and beyond often came down to the view of Christ's consciousness and the false divide trying to split the humanity and divinity of Jesus apart. After this he goes into what the Magisterium has officially taught about Jesus' consciousness. It is quite clear from the Magisterial statements made that the human soul of Jesus enjoyed the beatific vision even from the first moment of His conception. Something many people who were taught novelties in their Catholic education might be surprised to hear.

I really found this book to be a great read and certainly not just dry theology. The concept of "accommodation" in the sense of what the Greek Fathers called oikonoma in what Pope Gregory the Great and others taught in regards to Jesus saying he did not know the day and the hour is quite illuminating. Many passages you wonder about are answered quite well in this book and taught in such a manner that even layman such as myself can easily digest it. Throughout the book he directly answers arguments primarily made by Fr. Raymond Brown and then others in a thorough manner. Though he does it in a scholarly and not polemic manner. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Vatican weighing in on "good cinema"

The Vatican said Wednesday that it is working on a set of guidelines for what it considers "good cinema."

The move comes two days after the Vatican told producers of "Angels & Demons" that their follow-up to "The Da Vinci Code" doesn't qualify.LOL

The Vatican on Monday barred Sony Pictures' "Angels & Demons" from shooting inside any of Rome's churches. On Wednesday, the film crew said it will move a bit further south and shoot the church scenes for the film inside the former royal palace in Caserta, outside Naples, a secular building.

cross-posted on A Catholic View

story here

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Answering the new atheism

Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God is a new book book by Dr. Scott Hahn and Benjamin Walker. When Scott Hahn had heard that there were students at Franciscan University of Steubenville losing their faith after reading Dawkins' The God Delusion he decided to write a book that specifically addressed Richard Dawkins' arguments. Even though the arguments that Dawkins' uses don't hold up to much rigor he writes in such a way that many people will be convinced by them. Even some of his fellow atheists after reading his book had said much the same thing about some of his arguments. Fr. Benedict Groeschel is fond of saying that he could write a better book defending atheism than Richard Dawkins' did. That being said many people just don't have the background to see the logical and philosophical errors made and this book provides and excellent counterpoint to Dawkins' contentions. While this book specifically addresses the arguments personally made by Richard Dawkins' it pretty much applies to many of the arguments used by all of the "new atheists."

I have never read any of Dawkins' books myself. When I was an atheist I didn't read any atheist apologetics until I started to lose my atheist faith and wanted to save it. This book though quotes extensively from the arguments used in "The God Delusion" and some of his other books to fairly state them. You also get a good idea how polemical Dawkins' book is from some of the statements quoted. This book though in contrary is not polemical towards Dawkins'. As is proper the arguments used by the authors stick to the realm of reason it does not rely on revelation at all. The focus of the book is not an apologetics work specifically towards Christianity or even atheism, but a direct response to Dawkins' reasoning for atheism.

Since one of Dawkins' main thrusts is to equate what is impossible as just highly improbable this book takes those arguments head on by showing how at times Dawkins' minimizes the numeric improbabilities of things happening purely by chance. Though this isn't done as Intelligent Design versus Darwinian evolution, but to answer certain claims that Dawkins' uses as proofs. This section of the book uses the type of information that was influential in bringing influential ex-atheist Anthony Flew from atheism to theism. Anthony Flew has even praised this book by saying "Rarely, if ever in my many years as a procfvessor of philosophy did I hever have the opportunity to read such a compelling argument."

The latter sections of the book deal to a large part with Dawkins' philosophy and his grounds for morality. This is really where Dawkins' case is weakest since he has such a poor grasp of real theological arguments and philosophy. In Dawkins' world straw men evolve quite quickly. He never seems to realize how the arguments he uses to bash religion, especially Christianity in many cases could be more aptly used against his view of how evolution works. It is quite evident that his own worldview departs from his chance-based evolutionary scheme when he feels it necessary to do so and will not quite go along with the conclusions of what he preaches. He is obviously trying to prove at times that atheists can be good people - something I would totally agree with. My own experience was that when I did something morally good when I was an atheist it was not because of my atheistic faith, but often despite it.

Richard Dawkins' also tries to show that religious believers have nothing to worry about from atheists such as himself while at the same time calling religion a "mind virus" and teaching religion to children as "child abuse." The last chapter of the book is an interesting theoretical exercise in the consequences of what a society that had a King Dawkins at its helm and followed what he has said would be like. Not a pretty picture if you take seriously that teaching religious belief is "child abuse" and that euthanasia, bestiality, and infanticide are "moral" choices.

I found this to be an excellent book and Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker have really done their homework in answering Dawkins' arguments in a very accessible way. Many of the arguments of the new atheists are not as strong as they appear and this book serves as a good inoculation to those arguments.

There's no need to review "Sex and the City" is there?

The title speaks for itself, without any of us having to incur a state of sin by seeing the film. Colleen Carroll Campbell, does an excellent job explaining why we needn't bother with this bit of cultural toxin in her review.

Virtue Media

Virtue Media a non-for profit pro-life organization is making a difference with it's high quality pro-life commercials which I recognized from EWTN. They have an upcoming commercial featuring Norma McCorvey, the woman whose court case was the basis of Roe v Wade in 1973. She is a pro-life Catholic now, so the commercial should be interesting. Virtue Media is a prime example of how people of faith need to re-capture the media for traditional morality.
See the Virtue Media website here.

Monday, June 16, 2008


cross-post from A Catholic View

Excellent move by the Vatican...Why should a movie that lies about the Catholic faith be allowed to film in the Vatican or in any Catholic Church?

A movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s book, Angels and Demons, is now in production; it is the prequel to the film, “The Da Vinci Code.” There are reports today that the Vatican has banned those associated with “Angels and Demons” from shooting in Catholic churches in Rome or in the Vatican itself. Don't let the door hit you on the way out! :) This is important because there are scenes in the movie that are supposed to take place in the Vatican and in two churches in Rome.

“Angels and Demons” stars Tom Hanks in his role as Robert Langdon, the symbologist. This time he is trying to unravel a plot by a secret society, the Illuminati, to blow up the Vatican during a papal conclave.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue defended the Vatican today:

“We are delighted that Ron Howard and his Hollywood minions have been denied the opportunity to exploit the Catholic Church again. Any movie about Catholicism which draws on the specious work of Dan Brown is bound to offend Catholic sensibilities, so it was only fitting that Howard was shown the gate.

“According to Brown, his latest effort purports to reveal ‘a lot of inside information about the Vatican’ that is ‘unflattering.’ Right away we know he’s playing fast and loose: How would he have access to ‘inside information about the Vatican’? Moreover, it goes without saying that anything he writes about the Catholic Church would be ‘unflattering,’ so much so that it explains his defensiveness. ‘It’s certainly not an anti-Catholic book,’ he says. Could it be pro-Catholic? Not!

“Just as revealing is Brown’s comment that ‘Separating Illuminati fact from fiction can be difficult on account of the massive quantities of misinformation that has been generated about the brotherhood.’ That's the same thing he did with DaVinci...pass off lies as fact. This is vintage Brown: mix fact and fiction together, stir well, and throw the stew on the screen. Then hope the gullible bite.

story here

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What the Frack???

So last night was the cliffhanger episode of Battlestar Galactica. I thought that this was the last season, but, apparently, there is a new definition of "season." Because the resolution of this cliffhanger won't be aired until January 2009.

In the parlance of BG, what the frack???

If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it, but I do have a general question.

Here, the child of Helo & Athena, is important because she is a hybrid--half human, half Cylon. But the Chief's (Galen's) son is also a hybrid, although no one realized that one of his parents is a Cylon--including that parent. Why isn't he as important as Hera?

Well, to help tide me over until January, SciFi Channel is bringing back Eureka! This series is about a quirky town of geniuses, hidden in Northern California (I think)--"Area 51 only wishes they had our security." The only non-genius is U.S. Marshall John Carter (an homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels?), who is now the sheriff. He may not be a genius, but he has common sense.

I love the characters in this town and the oddball problems they get into. The characters are well-developed and there are gizmos and gadgets galore. I got DS#2 hooked on this. It's a great summer series (the new season starts the end of July). I'm not sure if Season 1 and 2 are out on DVD yet, but SciFi Channel does show some episodes on the web--maybe they have some old ones available.

crossposted on The Mad Tea Party

Book Review: Good Omens

The complete title of this book is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. This is a joint effort by Neil Gaiman (Stardust) and Terry Pratchett (Discworld series). Which means it's hysterically funny, but you can't explain to anyone why you're laughing out loud without reading several pages to explain the set up.

It's also the kind of book where a complete stranger, who noticed I was reading this on BART, said, "Great book! You'll enjoy it!" Book recommendations don't come any more spontaneous than that.

The story is about Armageddon. A demon, Crowley, and an angel, Aziraphale, who have been on Earth since The Fall of Adam and Eve, aren't really too keen to have this happen. They've grown rather fond of this planet and its inhabitants, along with wine, classic Bentleys, well-cut suits, and books. But the Anti-Christ is born and the Hound of Hell has been unleashed, so what can they do?

Meanwhile, there is a book, with Agnes Nutter's prophecies, currently in the possession of Agnes's direct descendant, Anathema. The "Nice" in the title refers to the original meaning of the word: precise. And Agnes's predictions are accurate and precise--it's just that her relatives have to figure out what she means.

Meanwhile, Newton Pulsifer, answers a rather strange ad in the local paper in an attempt to add some drama to his life. He finds himself in an odd kind of Army of two, where his main job is going through newspapers looking for odd happenings.

The Four Horsemen appear, but their "horses" don't have four feet.

There is much British humor, which Gaiman & Pratchett explain to Americans with helpful footnotes, although access to the Internet for British history and folklore was also useful to me.

The tone is, of course, entirely irreverent, especially towards the end. Can any of God's creatures truly know what He wants?

In the afterword, Gaiman & Pratchett discuss their collaboration. They talk about signing copies of this book that are swollen from having been dropped in the bath, taped together with massive amounts of duct tape, and talking to fans who keep purchasing copies because the ones they've lent out don't return home.

I can see why.

This book is not for everyone. But if you enjoy Monty Python, Douglas Adams, or Doctor Who, chances are you'll enjoy Good Omens. It's a great vacation book.

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out 5 Golden Bookmarks

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

The Incredible Hulk - PG13

I took my nephews to see The Incredible Hulk today. By now, you probably know most of the story: Bruce Banner is trying to find a cure for the experiment that turned him into the Hulk. Betty Ross is his girlfriend.

William Hurt plays General Ross, her father, who is hunting for the Hulk to use him as a weapon. It is revealed that General Ross was involved in the experiment that originally turned Bruce into the Hulk. Mr. Blue is a scientist who has been helping Bruce research an antidote. Emil Blonsky is a government agent who just wants the power of the Hulk; he gets it (with the help of Ross) and becomes another Hulk-type creature known as the Abomination. After trying to control or destroy the Hulk, General Ross finds himself helping the Hulk fight the Abomination.

I enjoy movies, and although some of them are just nonsensical entertainment, I do usually look for some type of theme that I can learn from. In this case, the government turns to the very person(creature?) they have been trying to destroy to now help them against the Abomination.

Isn't that how we treat God sometimes? we "forget" God and don't make time for him or prayer. But when facing some of the challenges of life (often created by ourselves) , He is often the first one we turn to.

content warning: there is one scene where Bruce and Betty start to have sex. It gets pretty suggestive, and I feel it did not belong in the movie. Fortunately, Bruce stops it before anything happens, but I was embarrassed that my nephews saw it.

In the end, Robert Downey Jr. makes an appearance as Tony Stark.

I was left with 2 questions after seeing this, and if you've seen it, I would love to get your thoughts on both in the combox:

1. What happened to Mr. Blue?
2 What did Tony Stark mean by "we"?

If you haven't seen it, don't look at the combox in case there are spoilers.

cross-posted on A Catholic View

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ron Howard filming another Dan Brown novel

cross-posted from A Catholic View

DaVinci II?

Someone call Bill Donohue...

Actor Tom Hanks is in Rome for the filming of Angels and Demons, a film adaptation of the book by Dan Brown.

Director Ron Howard is working on the film version of Brown's novel, following up on his previous cinematic rendition of another novel by the same author, The Da Vinci Code. Scenes are already being staged around the Pantheon in Rome.

The production of Angels and Demons will cost more than $100 million. The film is due to make its appearance in theaters next summer.

story here

A Musical on the Life of Mary Coming from the Vatican

This may surprise some; however, the Church has always been a patron of the arts, most of the world's greatest choral and orchestral masterpieces were comissioned by Catholic monarchs. I don't know about the music, jazz doesn't seem to be the type of music which I hear when I pray the rosary, however, the fact that the doctrine was monitored does give me hope that this play is worthy of Our Lady.
Jeff Mirus of Trinity Communications describes the play here.
HT Catholic Culture

Book Review: "Passport"

Passport, a Novel
by Christopher Blunt
Pelican Crossing Press, 404 pages
Review by Ellen Gable Hrkach

From the back cover of Passport: “Stan Eigenbauer leads a comfortable life with his dog, season tickets to the Cubs, and a garage full of vintage hobby cars. When he meets a lovely young woman, he thinks he’s found the one thing that was missing: a passport to “heaven on earth.” But when a serious lapse in judgment changes everything, Stan must choose between the woman who loves him and the people who need him.”
Passport is the debut novel of author Christopher Blunt, who describes his book as a “coming-of-age story about a young Catholic man’s discovery of self-sacrificial love.”
At the beginning of the novel, we meet Stan, a likeable but somewhat shy and unassuming fellow. Stan is an average guy who is trying to live out his Catholic faith but who has not yet found a lifetime mate. Soon thereafter, Stan finds himself in the difficult and agonizing position of being torn between two women: one he cannot marry (but who needs him) and one who would be the ideal Catholic wife. Throughout the rest of the novel, we journey with Stan as he struggles to make choices, most of which, though painful for him, are selfless and moral.
Passport illustrates the growth of a man who strives to do the right thing, and shows that the struggle to live chastity does not end with marriage; it is simply lived out in a different way. Stan eventually comes to the realization that only in dying to ourselves can we truly love others and find meaningful happiness. It was a joy to read such an uplifting story in this day and age where self-centeredness is the norm.
I most strongly recommend Passport to Catholics in their twenties and thirties, although all people would find the story interesting. There are some romantic elements in the book but this is decidedly not a romance novel in any traditional sense. As a woman, I enjoyed reading a story from a man’s perspective, especially the inner workings of a man’s mind regarding chastity and natural family planning. The author does an excellent job of incorporating teachings on both the indissolubility of marriage and natural family planning without being preachy.
I would highly recommend Passport as it is easy to read, well-written and the characters are rich and well-developed. Blunt’s portrayal of family life is especially real, down to earth and believable.
Copyright 2008 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Movie Review: Control (2007)

***Cross-posted at Good News Film Reviews***

Should I see it?

Yes - if this is your thing.

Short Review:
Here's a shocker, a musician who's a depressive and selfish jerk. Wow, that's so unique, we better make a movie about him.

I've never been interested in Joy Division's music and never had much need to know anything about them. I come to this movie as a completely disinterested party. Actually, that's not true, as someone who has seen a lot of movies, I did come to this with the hope that this wasn't going to be yet another self-absorbed jackass who finds success and then destroys his life just like Walk the Line, Ray, The Doors, and Sid & Nancy. Although I liked these movies, they tend to be very predictable, overly sympathetic to the artist and just plain depressing. This movie sticks to the template but cuts out the sympathy. This is a predictable film for anyone with cursory knowledge of English pop culture, Curtis has been dead for 28 years now, we know how this is going to end. Where this film breaks from the crowd is in its warts-and-all look at the man. Where Walk the Line and Ray are splashy, epic feeling odes, this is a gritty examination of the artistic mind and the often dark results it produces.

The film follows the rise and abrupt fall of Joy Division's front man Ian Curtis. Curtis is a mopey fellow with a haunting voice. As his band climbs through the ranks for the Manchester music scene, he hastily marries his girlfriend Deborah. Like clockwork, as Ian's fortunes rise, his marriage falls apart. This collapse is plain to see given the two appear to be far to immature when they tie the knot and Curtis is obviously too selfish to be in a relationship. They crank out out a child and the pressures of life begin to weigh the singer down. On top of this, he is stricken with epilepsy which intrudes on his band's live performances as well as his private life.

The implosion of Ian Curtis is reminiscent of Jim Morrison in many ways. Both were deeply selfish men who were spurred on by their associates and fans. Both preferred to look through the back end of life instead of trying to see anything actually beautiful in existence. Both cruelly tormented those who loved them. And both could have been spared their fate by getting some help. Director Anton Corbijn (known for his work making videos for U2 and Depeche Mode) does well to connect Curtis to the pantheon of rock stars. He clearly lines Curtis up with the likes of Morrison, David Bowie and Lou Reed and the film is very successful at establishing Joy Division's worth. He also does a fantastic job at getting at the sorrowful man's private life and choices. The film doesn't give Curtis any sympathy at all, in fact, he comes off as a horrible person, not for who he is but the ultimate choices he makes. Again and again, he is given a chance to be redeemed , to be something - to live for someone other than himself. In his depressive stupor, he keeps choosing to feed his own needs and eventually finds himself completely isolated. Corbijn, in his feature debut, handles the subject with a gentle but unflinching hand and gives us a film that, while a little slow, is nonetheless enthralling.

The performances are as strong as the direction. Sam Riley is mesmerizing as Curtis. Much of Curtis' issues are internal and Riley gives light to these dark thoughts in a quietly intense performance that is worthy of a best-actor nomination. Opposite Riley is Samantha Morton (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) as Curtis' estranged wife Deborah. Usually, in these stories of imploding artists, the girlfriend or first wife is a cursory character who is pushed aside once the narrative moves along (see Walk the Line for a great example of this, Vivian Liberto, is cast aside by the film like yesterday's trash). In this story however, the abandoned wife clings on and we see the devastation brought on by the artist's myopia. Morton is brilliant in this role and honors Deborah Curtis with fair and moving performance. This woman obviously had to deal with a huge amount of pain being married to this man. Overall, this movie is depressing and not for everyone. I recommend it but only if you're into watching depressing, independent flicks about self absorbed jerks. Being a former self absorbed jerk myself, (now I'm just a jerk,) I can enjoy aspects of this film. I'd be surprised if there is a large audience for this kind of film.

Cautions: Foul language abounds but it is all contextual. It is a part of the culture shown and hardly gratuitous. Although there is a adulterous affair in the center of the story, it is handled with care. Corbijn is thoughtful director and doesn't play the more lurid parts of this story for cheap thrills.

***Spoiler Warning - I may ruin aspects of the film from this point forward***

Worldview: Curtis was clearly a troubled guy, that's an understatement. The opening scenes show Curtis as a teen in his dingy bedroom with pictures of David Bowie and Lou Reed hanging on his wall. Racked with teenage angst, Curtis loses himself in music and going to concerts. His trouble isn't unique or spectacular - he's just another Goth kid in the making. Your artsy types are a temperamental lot. The teenage years come to a close with Curtis dressing himself in glam rock style, mascara and frills, gender bending in the safety of his own bedroom. From early on Curtis is at odds with himself. You don't begin emulating Ziggy Stardust because he's cool, one does it because they want to escape what they really are - normal. As Curtis gets older and his band succeeds its precisely the normality of life that seems to drag him down. He has a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter and makes a living honestly helping people by locating jobs for the disadvantaged. Everything the man needed to be a complete person, a happy person, was at his fingertips. But Curtis was blinded by is angst, unimpressed with normality, he reveled in his torment thinking it was valuable.

His torments seem to come right from the verses of Ecclesiastes 2:17

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

His troubled mind wasn't petty but it was littered with the results of looking for peace in the wrong place. Worshiping rock stars and actors and looking to them for leadership is foolish. When you seriously consume messages of anger, depression and spite, the way you see the world will be affected. Curtis replicated what he consumed and became another sour lyricist projecting his sorrow in his music. His music, as interesting as some of it may be, does nothing to improve the world. He, like many artists, believed the lie that he needed to coddle his depression and denounce the world in order to be authentic. In the end, his disintegration was not surprising. When we deny the beauty of the world - a world created by God ,the meaningless of existence will overcome the best defenses and self-loathing and bitterness will be the result. The real shame of suicide is its angering senselessness. Curtis' death destroyed a number of lives beyond his own. All he needed to do to was turn his pathetic self around and see the real world around him.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Indiana Jones and the KIngdom of the Crystal Skull

My father told me that he and his three brothers spent every Saturday afternoon in the 1940’s watching double features at the local cinema, usually Westerns and war films. His mother never had to check in her local Catholic paper to make certain that the films would not steal her sons’ innocence or bash the Church. As a mother who is also a film critic, I have two reasons to envy my grandmother’s ability to trust Hollywood. This time you can relax moms, if you have nothing against bashing Commies, ugly corpses pot out at you, and really BIG explosions, you can let your older children see the revival of Harrison Ford’s incomparable Indiana Jones’ character in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.
This film is set in 1957, in the desert compound of the nuclear tests of the Cold War, and the bad guys are the Communists who want US military secrets, with a few PC swipes at McCarthyists and FBI agents. Indy’s reputation at the University is destroyed by the duplicity of a double agent war buddy, and, as he leaves town utterly dejected, we are left to wonder where the adventure will begin. We are not disappointed, Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch for suspense and rollicking adventure. He even ties in a bit of 1970’s space flick into the plot. Did anyone else out there see “Chariots of the Gods?” You’ll be putting your knowledge to good use in this film.

When the Indiana Jones films came out, they sparked a wave of historical adventure films, the most recent of which are the National Treasure series, which have more interesting story lines and fast moving plot twists than Crystal Skull. But they don’t have Indy. The revival of the college professor turned treasure hunter is still our good friend Indiana Jones, with a couple of references to his age notwithstanding, he still gets his archeological clues, defeats the bad guys, all the while keeping track of that weathered fedora. I have always preferred Indy to James Bond, he’s just as adventurous, he gets beat up and dirty yet still keeps his looks, and he doesn’t use women. They use him, or at least clobber him once or twice.
My favorite two Indiana Jones films involve religious artifacts: the Ark of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail. Stephen Spielberg spun wonder and awe at the power of God into those films, especially when juxtaposed against the diabolical Nazis, and the theme of this film lacked that punch, in the same way which Temple of Doom did. Perhaps, I could suggest a theme where the Shroud of Turin is lost to gangs of anti-Christian thugs?

It was gratifying to watch Cate Blanchett’s playfully overdone Dr. Irina Spalko, Soviet scientist, ruthless and drunk with her own power. Shia LeBoef, Indy’s new sidekick Mutt is not yet worthy of picking up the fedora, he lacks the personality of his mentor, and yes, even the looks. Indy at 65 may look worse for wear, yet can still wrestle bad guys on moving vehicles, spit out his defiance of his enemies when surrounded, and escape impossible situations with a crack of his bullwhip.
If you’re looking for a nostalgic return to the adventure of Indian Jones, with the added bonus of the return of a blast from his past, and are not in the market for an involved plot, this is the fun, scary, escapist fantasy for you. A throwback to the B-movie serials of the 1940’s with awesome special effects.
No nudity, no coarse language, fleeting references to crotch injury, and the only kissing was perfectly appropriate (imagine that! Older children and up, due to frightening scenes.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

‘Choosing To Forgive’ An Interfaith Religion Special To Air Sunday, June 8, On The CBS Network

From the USCCB:

Choosing to Forgive, an interfaith religion special on the meaning and practice of forgiveness, will be broadcast Sunday, June 8 on the CBS Television Network. For exact airing time check your local station.

Choosing to Forgive presents the idea of forgiveness from both a religious and a scientific point of view. Several major faiths teach we must forgive those who do us wrong. In recent years, the subject has interested psychologists who have studied it as a potentially effective means of getting past wrongs and injustices.

This special presentation is produced in cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission (IBC), including the National Council of Churches, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), a consortium of Jewish organizations and the Islamic Society of North America.

“IBC suggests a variety of ideas to the CBS production staff. We look for topics that relate to many faiths. Forgiveness seemed a natural topic for all,” said Ellen McCloskey, assistant director of the USCCB’s Office of Digital Media.

cross-posted on A Catholic View

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Movie Review: Iron Man

This is the latest installment of Marvel comics to come to the big screen and, I believe, it's the first to carry their production label. Iron Man is also the first of the summer popcorn movies to hit theaters.

And hit it does. The film opens with a tribute to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the genius son of the founder of Stark Industries. The senior Mr. Stark made his fortune during World War II, working on the Manhattan Project. Tony, who showed his engineering genius at a young age, has inherited the company after the death of his father, but has also inherited his father's corporate ethics: Stark Industries supplies weapons only to the U.S.

However, in his personal life, Tony's ethics are more lackadasical. He doesn't appear at the tribute to pick up his award. He seduces a female reporter who wants to interview him. He delays leaving for Afghanistan where he's due to demonstrate the latest Stark Industries weapon to work on his latest classic car. His old friend, Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and his assistant, Ms. "Pepper" Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), do their best to keep him focused, with moderate success.

After a successful demonstration of the "Jericho Bomb", the convoy heading back to the airfield is attacked. Tony wakes up with a car battery attached to his chest. He has been captured by terrorists and a fellow captive, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), has rigged a device to keep Tony's heart beating. The terrorists, who come from several countries, including Hungary and Yugoslavia, want Tony to build a version of the Jericho Bomb for them. Tony looks around and realizes that someone within Stark Industries has been selling munitions to these insurgents and Tony isn't happy about it. He's also not happy about being held captive. With Yinsen's assistance, Tony builds a small power source for his heart and then the ultimate in body armor. While building the armor, Tony learns about Yinsen's life--his family, his village--and comes to see how narrow his vision has been.

With the aid of his suit, Tony escapes and returns to New York. He is a changed man and announces that Stark Industries will no longer make weapons. He has a new vision, a vision that not everyone in his company shares. And he has to find out who is selling Stark munitions to the terrorists.

Tony confides his new plans to his assistant, Ms. Potts, and to Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) who was his father's closest confident and right hand man. He also shows Obadiah the power source that is keeping him alive. And then Tony goes into seclusion to work on and refine the design of the armored suit.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, the Head Bad Guy find the pieces of the body armor and vows his revenge.

The special effects in this movie are awesome. There's a great scene where Tony Stark is trying out his new suit and is picked up by Strategic Air Command, who are getting ready to blow him out of the sky. He avoids that not through techno-wizardry, but through his friendship with Rhodey. And, for me, it was the characters that made the movie great, not just the special effects.

Tony and Pepper have a chemistry, but when their relationship threatens to turn personal, she refers to him as "Mr. Stark" and he refers to her as "Ms. Potts." Tony sees Obadiah as a mentor. Tony and Rhodey have been friends since they were kids. Yinsen touched Tony's heart, literally and figuratively. Tony is flawed, but capable of change--although his flaws, and his genius, are what get him into trouble.

The casting is excellent. I didn't recognize Jeff Bridges at first and Robert Downey Jr. shows the talent for characterization evident in Chaplin. Gywneth Paltrow is strong, resourceful, and sexy. The dialogue is witty and snappy without resorting to profanity. There is some innuendo, especially between Tony and Ms. Potts, but it's well done. There is the one sex scene early in the movie and several violent fight scenes. The destruction of the convoy is particularly shocking--I jumped even though I knew it was coming. Iron Man provides lots of topics for later discussion, particularly with high schoolers, including

Oh--stay through the end of the credits.

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

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Made of Honor - PG13

I saw Made of Honor today, and there is both good and bad to report.

Tom and Hannah have been best friends for years. He dates many women, but is non-committal and hangs out with Hannah all the time. While on business in Scotland, Hannah meets Colin, who she decides to marry. She asks Tom to be her maid of honor. Tom begins to realize he has feelings for Hannah and he and his buddies spend most of the film plotting how he can win her over (since that is in most of the reviews, and takes most of the picture, I didn't consider that spoiling anything for anyone).
Despite the warnings in the next section, I spent most of the film laughing and enjoyed it quite a bit. However, I would suggest considering carefully whether kids should see it. I don't want to make it sound worse than it is, I'm just trying to inform you so you are not surprised by any scenes.

Content warnings:
  • Tom sleeps around quite a bit and treats sex very casually.
  • There is one scene where a saleswoman is selling and describing sex toys.
  • After playing basketball with Colin, Tom and his friends are impressed, in the shower, by how "gifted" he is.
  • When Tom's father (who is wealthy) is getting married, he is negotiating a pre-nup on the way to the wedding with his bride (#6), who looks more like a high-priced call girl in her very skimpy 'wedding gown'.
  • In a conversation with Tom, his father uses a very crude, offensive, word several times.
Again, I did enjoy the movie and spent much of it laughing. I won't spoil the ending, but it is a happy one :).

cross-posted on A Catholic View