Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Movie Review: Stranded

On October 13, 1972, a young rugby team called "The Old Christians" from Montevideo, Uruguay, boarded a plane for a match in Chile--and then vanished into thin air. ... 16 of the 45 passengers miraculously resurfaced. ... Thirty-five years later, the survivors returned to the crash site--known as the Valley of Tears--to recount in their own words their harrowing story of defiant endurance, intense spirituality, and indestructible friendship. ... this shocking true story finally gets the cinematic treatment it deserves. Visually breathtaking and crafted with riveting detail by documentary filmmaker (and childhood friend of the survivors) Gonzalo Arijon with a masterful combination of on-location interviews, archival footage and reenactments, Stranded is a hauntingly powerful and spiritually moving celebration of humanity.
If a rugby team and the Andes were ever mentioned to me I very vaguely would remember something about a plane crash and the survivors having to turn to cannibalism to stay alive. That was all I knew and frankly I never gave it much thought. After watching this DVD, I can say that there are hidden depths to this story that make one reflect for days afterward the indefatigability of the human spirit and tenacity of our survival instinct.

The "Old Christians" rugby team with family and friends boarded their plane in a carefree, holiday frame of mind. Most were 19 years old from upper class families. These were pampered kids dressed for spring weather who were not equipped for wilderness survival. The plane ran into a storm system high above the Andes that crashed them in the middle of a forbidding landscape. At first, grieving for those who died in the crash, tending to survivors, they waited for a rescue team to pick them up within a few hours. However, this was not to happen. As day after day went by, they began dealing with the rigors of the climate, lack of food, and the uncertainty that comes with not knowing if rescue would ever come. Eventually, with survival uppermost in their minds, they were forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.

This story is told strictly through the words of the survivors, their family members, and others who were part of the story. We see the faces of the men telling their story, woven with beautifully and sensitively reenacted scenes to take us through the story. There is never a single word of narration. This forces a slow pace that I found frustrating at first. I longed for a narrator to clarify locations, time lines, and provide an omniscient point of view. Gradually, I realized that we would eventually receive all that information just as everyone else did at the time. This put us even further into the story with the men, agonizing as no one came to help, suffering as they realized what must happen to survive, and holding out hope even when uncaring nature seemed certain to leave none of them alive.

The story unfolds on two levels. First, there are the simple mechanics of the rescue. I had no idea if they were found or rescued themselves, how long they endured this time stranded, or what they actually went through simply to survive on the mountain. I am deliberately refraining from discussing these details so that any similarly unaware viewers may also follow the story as it develops. Rest assured that the story is simply incredible.

Secondly, there was the spiritual and mental level of survival. The promotional materials I received for the movie spoke stirringly of how they survived with the aid of their Catholic faith. This actually was not an overarching theme and depended largely on the individual person, as one might expect with any group of people. Occasionally one person or another would speak about how saying the rosary helped him at a particular moment. Another would talk about a time when he felt distinctly the presence of God. Regardless, one cannot miss the many images of hands telling the rosary beads that the director shows in the background time and again, even when no direct words are speaking about faith.

A particularly moving instance is when the survivors talk about when they realized that they were going to have to eat the dead in order to live. I don't know why this never occurred to me but it is not as if it were a plane full of strangers, which would be horrific enough in itself. These people were all friends and, in some cases, close family members. Just watching the faces of those speaking gives an immense depth of feeling to the horror of the very idea when it surfaces and then again when it becomes clear that cannibalism must be carried out. For those who were deeply Catholic, the thought that helped carry them through was that Christ himself gave his body and blood to his followers through Holy Communion. They said that if Christ did such a thing surely they would be forgiven for following those actions through their extreme reluctance. This subject is treated with the utmost respect and reverence on all levels.

One thing that we realize above all is how precious life is, that it is worth fighting for, and just how much these men love each other both in life and in death. Especially touching was seeing the men visit the crash site with their children and the children of those who never left the mountain.

Highly recommended.

(Cross-posted from Happy Catholic).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jim Caviezel's upcoming film, "The Stoning of Soraya M"

The Stoning of Soraya M will be released on June 26. Besides Jim Caviezel, it stars the richly talented actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who was Elizabeth in "The Nativity Story" and the Anthropologist in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose".

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Movie Review: State of Play - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Cal McCaffrey (Crowe) is a Washington, D.C. newspaper reporter. He happens to be old friends with Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck), whose assistant/mistress is killed in an 'accident' which is quickly determined to be a murder. They also reveal early on that Cal had a past relationship with Stephen's wife Ann. Cal's boss Cameron assigns him and a newer reporter, Della, to the story. I thought one of the best aspects of the movie was the way Cal and Della work together on the story; the way he takes her under his wing. It is not an easy investigation, because there are many people who don't want the truth to be discovered. Like most good murder mysteries, this movie does a good job of transferring the blame and making it more difficult to figure out who is the guilty party.

Content warnings: some cursing, and a couple of murder scenes. Not appropriate for younger kids, and they might have some difficulty following it.

I'm not a big Russell Crowe fan, but he was good in this.

I thought it was a good movie overall.

Movie Review: Monsters vs. Aliens

It's Susan Murphy's (Reese Witherspoon) wedding day and she is about to marry up-and-coming Modesto news anchor, Dexter Dietl (Paul Rudd). During the preparations, Susan and Dexter have a moment alone and Dexter confesses that they are not going to Paris for their honeymoon. Dexter has a chance for a job in Fresno, which could be his stepping stone to a larger market. Susan is disappointed, but as part of "Team Dietl," she'll accept the change in plans.

Dexter heads back to the church. Meanwhile, a meteor crashes nearby and Susan is irradiated. At the altar, she begins to glow green and grow. And grow, crashing through the ceiling of the church.

The men in the black helicopters are not far behind. Susan is captured and taken to a secret facility where she meets other "monsters": a blob (Seth Rogen), a mad scientist who is a cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the "missing link" (Will Arnett), and Insectasaurus--a giant caterpillar. And their guard, General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), gruff and officious. There is no hope of escape; no hope of returning to "normal"--which is what Susan desperately wants.

Meanwhile, an alien is trying to recover the mysterious substance from the meteor that made Susan big. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) at first sends down his evil robot to do his dirty work. General Monger realizes this job requires the talents of his "monsters" and takes them to the fight, which happens to be on the Bayshore Freeway (Highway 101), just south of Candlestick Park.

The ensuing fight takes place all over San Francisco, including a scene where the Golden Gate Bridge is demolished. Eventually, the alien robot is also destroyed. As a reward, Susan and her new friends are allowed to visit her family in Modesto, where she learns a few things about Dexter.

Meanwhile, Gallaxhar decides to retrieve the substance himself--which means he has to kidnap Susan. And so he does. However, her friends decide they have to rescue her. General Monger drops them off on the spaceship and promises to return.

Gallaxhar is using the substance to make clones of himself so he can take over the Earth. So our brave "monsters" not only have to rescue Susan, but also thwart Gallaxhar's plan.

Hubs and I paid an extra $3.00 to watch this movie in 3D. The effects were pretty awesome: the movie starts with a guy playing with a paddle ball that had me ducking in my seat. And the writers pay homage to several B-monster movies, including the aforementioned scene at the Golden Gate Bridge.

The attention to detail is amazing. Strands of hair and fur move, the backgrounds are realistic, including just the right amount of fog on the Bayshore Freeway, the buildings in downtown San Francisco, the streets of Modesto. The story is okay: believe in yourself, don't judge people by their appearances (even generals).

But this is not a story for younger kids. One toddler spent the entire time crying (and mom was trying to explain that they couldn't leave older brother, who was enjoying the movie, alone). I'm not sure if younger children would handle the 2D version better. I discussed this with my sister-in-law who has a five-year-old and a 2.5-year old. The five-y.o. would probably enjoy it, especially in 2D, because he loves Shrek and Monsters Inc. The 2.5-y.o. wouldn't be able to sit still for it. Some children will be scared by this.

For a DreamWorks movie, it wasn't bad. For once, the actors personalities didn't overwhelm the animated characters. And the storyline wasn't completely left behind for the special effects.

On the March Hare scale: 3.5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

(crossposted on The Mad Tea Party)

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

The novel, by Alice Sebold, starts with the stark facts: "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name , Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is a member of the Chess Club, the Chem Club, burns everything she tries to cook in home ec, and loves biology and her teacher, Mr. Botte. A boy in her class, Ray Singh, has a crush on her and is close to kissing her for the first time. Her sister, Lindsey, is a year younger, and her brother, Buckley, is four. She is lured into the underground hiding place built in the cornfield by her neighbor. The design intrigues her and she is too naive to realize what is going on until it is too late.

Susie finds heaven a different place than she has imagined. She has a roommate, Holly, and an intake counselor, Franny. Heaven, for Susie, looks a lot like her neighborhood and the people she sees are in their version of heaven that overlaps hers. Franny tells Susie and Holly that they can have whatever they desire--except to grow up.

But Susie can watch her family and friends left behind on Earth. The police are stymied by the lack of clues to her death--the only part of her body that is found is an elbow. Her sister, Lindsey, handles her grief by pushing it down deep. Buckley doesn't understand, at first, that Susie will never be coming back. Her father searches for the killer on her own. Her mother moves away and Susie's Grandma Lynn comes to take care of Lindsey and Buckley. The detective handling the case can't forget it.Life continues on Earth and Susie's understanding of Heaven and what she can, and cannot, do broadens. Two classmates of Susie's continue to feel her absence: Ray Singh and Ruth Connors. Susie's spirit had brushed by Ruth on her way to heaven and Ruth had felt it. Susie's spirit haunts Ruth throughout high school and her memory affects Ray.

But the story is not dark and gloomy. Ultimately, it's about love, the different ways it's expressed, and the healing love brings. And, for us parents, it's about how we can't always protect our children from evil, but we have to let them grow up.

Ms. Sebold's idea of heaven and the afterlife doesn't exactly jibe with any Christian theology I'm familiar with, although I like the idea that there are dogs in heaven. But it works really well for the novel and what a fourteen-year-old girl might envision.

On the March Hare scale: 3.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks

(crossposted on The Mad Tea Party)

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Thine Eyes" new prolife documentary premiered 4-21

What's America's most under reported event? The Annual March for Life. Imagine over a quarter of a million Americans marching annually on Washington, half of them under 30 and only EWTN and foreign TV stations are filming it?

Well this year, Jack Cashill was there with a five camera crew. And they made a long overdue documentary of America's largest grassroots movement's yearly national demonstration. Their rooftop cameras captured the vast multitude of marchers in a way which indisputably documents the truth in numbers, as I've never seen before.
With reference to "Thine Eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" the first line of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", "Thine Eyes" is a professional, moving documentary on the March for Life. View trailer below.

Book Review: Lamentation

A pillar of black smoke rises from the plains where the ruins of a city lie. Four people watch it. Petros, an old fisherman; Nebios, a boy who is the only eyewitness; Rudolfo, the Gypsy King and Lord of the Ninefold Forest; and Jin Lee Tam, consort of a powerful madman. Each takes up the story in turn and we learn as they do what has happened and what changes it bodes for the Named Lands.

Through their eyes, Ken Scholes masterfully unfolds layer upon layer of complexity to reveal an epic tale of the struggle not only for power but to serve the Light. This struggle between vengeance, knowledge, mercy, and justice is what drives the main characters. Scholes takes us into a world where Machiavellian politics are constantly intertwined between characters’ motivations. However, because he uses interesting characters to tell his story, it always feels personal and we realize the “epic” quality only as we look back over storyline development. As well, he skillfully manipulates these believable people (and, let us admit it, his readers as well) so that I literally went from worrying about one character being killed to hating him to coming back into sympathy and understanding again by the end of the book. In the end, what we see is that despite epic qualities, the question the book is asking is a simple one. Who was the evil mastermind that destroyed Windwir and why?
Read my entire review of this brilliant book over at SFFaudio.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Movie Watching, Christians and The Cult of Me

Scott at Good News Film Reviews makes a point that I could not agree with more. In a Christian discussion forum after reading his review of Pirates of the Caribbean where Scott loved the plot but decried the reversed moral message comes this ...
The person with the 13 year old says:

"I don't guess we'll be watching it. Better safe than sorry.”

This is where I slap my palm to my forehead.

Previous generations confronted witchdoctors, satanists and all matter of philosophical creep. Us? We’re sent running by Johnny Depp in a handkerchief.

It is my opinions that many Christians have become far too scared of this big bad world to be of any use in saving it. Honestly, better safe than sorry over a Disney movie? Regarding a 13 year old? This teen will presumptively be leaving the home in less than five years and he/she is too fragile to handle Pirates of the Caribbean? ...
The whole thing is worth your time in reading it but I can't resist in putting forward this further excerpt.
... Disgusted by the mockery of our Lord on prime time television? We have no one but ourselves to blame. The maintenance of this world falls to us, not someone else. When we turn our backs on the culture because it’s too icky and gosh I’m so sensitive – what do you expect will happen? Go find your Bible. Look up Acts 17:16-34. Did Paul shy away from the enemy? Did he turn from a fight? No. He went in, learned the culture and learned its language. He became like his hosts and turned them using their own arguments, their own ways. If Paul was with us today would he be too scared to view Pirates of the Caribbean? No. I believe he’d watch it to discuss its merits and its flaws. Then he’d use it to teach if he could find a way. Then again, Paul wasn’t so much into that whole me thing.
Be sure you read the entire article before commenting. He isn't saying to watch without discrimination, believe me. Also, although this is aimed primarily at Protestants, I know plenty of Catholics who would do well to undergo a little self examination on this subject.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Ignatius Press Critical Editions of Classic Literature

from the Ignatius Press Website:
The Ignatius Critical Editions represent a tradition-oriented alternative to popular textbook series such as the Norton Critical Editions or Oxford World Classics, and are designed to concentrate on traditional readings of the Classics of world literature. While many modern critical editions have succumbed to the fads of modernism and post-modernism, this series will concentrate on tradition-oriented criticism of these great works. Edited by acclaimed literary biographer, Joseph Pearce, the Ignatius Critical Editions will ensure that traditional moral readings of the works are given prominence, instead of the feminist, or deconstructionist readings that often proliferate in other series of 'critical editions'. As such, they represent a genuine extension of consumer-choice, enabling educators, students and lovers of good literature to buy editions of classic literary works without having to 'buy into' the ideologies of secular fundamentalism. The series is ideal for anyone wishing to understand great works of western civilization, enabling the modern reader to enjoy these classics in the company of some of the finest literature professors alive today.
Click here to visit the website on the Ignatius Critical Editions

"To step out of the assumptions of one's own time and place; to understand the literary classic with the mind and heart of the author requires such a breadth of understanding and grasp of history and tradition that few publishers attempt it and fewer still succeed at it. Ignatius Critical Editions, edited by Joseph Pearce, has succeeded admirably."
—Patrick S.J. Carmack, President, Great Books Academy, Great Books Program, and the Angelicum Academy
"The real battle for America’s soul is not waged in legislative halls but in lecture halls. Congratulations to the courageous souls at Ignatius Press for firing off what is nothing less than a direct hit in the culture war. For too long, the Western Canon has been co-opted by those who, in fact, hate the West and the three things for which she stands: the good, the beautiful, and the true. These magnificent editions, edited by a scholar who loves all three, belong on the shelves of every campus bookstore, every high-school classroom, and every home school."
—Christopher Check, Executive Vice President, The Rockford Institute
"The Ignatius Critical Editions are a smart and long overdue response to the literary hijacking of the classics. Three cheers for Joseph Pearce and Ignatius Press!"
— Chris Michalski, ISI Books, Imprint of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute
"For many years I've avoided recent "critical" editions, stuffed and padded as they are with political faddists and special interest hacks. What a delight to find an edition of a work of literary art treated with the reverence, the critical tact, and the wonder its beauty and wisdom demand!" —Anthony Esolen, Ph.D.,Professor of Renaissance English, Providence College

Promoters of ‘Angels & Demons’ two-faced about fact and fiction, Bill Donohue says

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, has accused promoters of the movie “Angels & Demons” of “trying to have it both ways” by first claiming the movie’s “pernicious lies” about Catholics are fiction, but then promoting its premise as based in fact.

He said that the actions echo the tactic used to promote the movie’s predecessor, “The Da Vinci Code.” Donohue and Ron Howard, director of “Angels & Demons,” exchanged arguments about whether the new movie based upon a Dan Brown book is anti-Catholic.

Claiming that the makers of the movie “do not hide their animus against all things Catholic,” Donohue charged that the movie’s trailer “lies” when it says the Catholic Church ordered a massacre to silence the Illuminati, an occult secret society featured in the movie.

story here

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Corpus Christi" Hoax

From the Catholic League:

Several people have contacted the league about the rumor that the anti-Catholic play "Corpus Christi" is being turned into a movie to be released this summer. Please be advised that this is a hoax.

Ron Howard, claims Catholics will like "Angels and Demons"

Ron Howard thinks Catholics will enjoy his upcoming film, "Angels and Demons"
Read the entire story

. . .and then slams Bill Donohue for saying they won't, in my favorite blog, The Huffington Post.

"Mr. Donohue's booklet accuses us of lying when our movie trailer says the Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence the Illuminati centuries ago. It would be a lie if we had ever suggested our movie is anything other than a work of fiction (if it were a documentary, our talk of massacres would have referenced the Inquisition or the Crusades). And if fictional movies could never take liberties with reality, then there would have been no Ben-Hur, no Barabbas, The Robe, Gone With The Wind, or Titanic. Not to mention Splash!"

Hey Opie, that little mention of the Inquisition and the Crusades is classic anti-Catholic trash talk. I'm giving you a pass this time because I know that you were raised in Hollywood, but if you really want to avoid seeming anti-Catholic, better leave that out next time.

AND stop the nonsense about "it's only fiction". We heard that before with "The DaVinci Code", and we're not buying it now either.

HT Spirit Daily and The Deacon's Bench
Book Review: Sabbath: The Ancient Practices
by Dan B. Allender
Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson, 2009

What would you do with a day dedicated to delight? That is the question that Dan B. Allender poses in “Sabbath,” one of the books in the “Ancient Practices Series” edited by Phyllis Tickle and published by Thomas Nelson. Allender’s take on the Sabbath is unique. While other books on keeping the Sabbath tend to focus on dedicating the day to God or resting from work, Allender expands on that, stating that “the Sabbath is a day of delight for humankind, animals, and the earth; it is not merely a pious day and it is not fundamentally a break, a day off, or a twenty-four hour vacation.The Sabbath is a feast day that remembers our leisure in Eden and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God.”Allender acknowledges that it is difficult to dedicate one day to experiencing joy and beauty and delight. It might be hard to dedicate one day in a lifetime to that, much less one day each week! Yet, Allender invites us to make a concerted effort to do so. Allender examines how we treat time in this over-stressed twenty-first century world and encourages us to take a second look at the value of taking that weekly Sabbath to sanctify time. He also discusses the value of feasting and of play.

It will take some preparation on the other days of the week, but we need to open our hearts to the gift of the Sabbath.One chapter that was very insightful was “Sabbath Play: Despair Surrenders to Joy.” Allender explores what it means to regret and despair. “Both regret and worry assume there is no God, or at least not one who loves and pours himself out for his children. . . Despair shows itself in cynicism, conventionality, and consumerism.” Sabbath invites us to set those feelings aside. Gratitude and joy are to be the dominant emotions of Sabbath.

The only criticism of this book is that Allender didn’t seem to place much value on attending religious services on Saturday or Sunday. My sense is that he tried to make this book accessible to all people of faith, even those who consider themselves to be “spiritual but not religious.”
Overall, however, Allender offers considerable food for thought.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Masters in Applied Theology from Elms College and is a homeschooling mom of two sons. Visit her blog at and

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Susan Boyle; the latest Catholic superstar

Until she wowed the world with last week's performance on "Britain's God Talent" (see video here) auditions in Scotland, Susan who was deprived of oxygen at birth, and suffers a learning disability was a 'nobody' in the eyes of the world. The youngest of 9 children, Susan was mocked at school for her disability and lived a quiet life centered around her home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes where she sang in the choir until her mother's death in 2007. She has never been kissed, her only companion is her cat, Pebbles, and she has a reputation for quirky behavior and kindness, according to her pastor, Fr Clark in this CNS interview.
She is a beautiful soul. You can tell by the reaction of the audience to her song. It was an epiphany; yes, a disabled woman who is unattractive in the eyes of the world has something wonderful to contribute. Listen and learn. And next time, keep an open mind.
We can feel pride that while most Catholic celebrities disappoint, Susan is too innocent to be ruined by her 20 million viewers worldwide. Yet. I hope her pastor, Fr Clark, and her 8 siblings keep her safe from Hollywood. I'm waiting for her first CD.

CBS to air movie on 'courageous' Polish Catholic who rescued Jewish children

On Sunday evening  CBS will broadcast a movie about the heroic efforts and “courageous heart” of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who created and led an underground group that rescued Jewish children from Nazi persecution. Sendler created and led a conspiracy of women who moved in and out of Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto disguised as nurses. While saying that they were simply to prevent and contain the spread of Typhus and Spotted Fever, Sendler and her companions helped the children of consenting Jewish parents escape imminent deportation to death camps, CBS' website says.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Movie Review: Monsters vs. Aliens - PG

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Warning: Possible Spoilers

A meteor lands near Susan Murphy on her wedding day, transforming her into a 49-foot woman.    After her 'mishap', she is immediately recruited by the government and brought to a secret facility where she joins her fellow monsters Dr. Cockroach, the Missing Link, B.O.B., and Insectosaurus. Susan is also renamed Ginormica. They are soon called into action by General W.R. Monger when an alien robot probe comes looking for quantonium, which we later find out is what made Susan grow so large. It is up to the monsters to stop the alien robot and save the world. In the end, the monsters must confront the aliens on their own turf to try to stop them.

Comments and Observations: It was really cool how naturally Susan fit into the role of 'superhero' the government put her in. At first she is somewhat reluctant, but she comes to appreciate her position.

I found the contrast between Susan and her fiance Derek quite striking. She was not very happy about going to Fresno after the wedding, but she was willing to, to support his career as a news reporter. However, after she was transformed, he wanted nothing to do with her until.... he was offered a network anchor job if he got an interview with her. Fortunately, she sees through his selfishness.

No content warnings. I brought my 3 nephews, ages 8-11, and there was nothing objectional.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Conversation With the Archbishop

cross-posted from A Catholic View

As I've mentioned before, I listened to "A Conversation with the Cardinal" every week. I was really glad to hear that Archbishop Dolan is going to continue the show. For those of you with Sirius or XM radio, I recommend the show. If you don't have Sirius or XM, you can listen online.

N.Y. Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s first episode of “A Conversation with the Archbishop” airs April 16 at 1 pm ET (and replays Saturday at 6 am and 1 pm ET and Sunday 9 am, 6 pm and midnight ET) on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel (Sirius channel 159 and XM channel 117).

Register readers love The Catholic Channel because it turns to the Register for news every Thursday morning. Now the Channel will make news, airing Archbishop Dolan’s first public comments following his installation as Archbishop of New York.

The program, which will be co-hosted by Catholic Channel program director Rob Astorino, will air every Thursday afternoon throughout the year on The Catholic Channel.

Movie Review: Earth

"Earth" is an exquisitely photographed and presented film that promises to take us with three animal families through a year. However, this is simply the easiest way that they can market the movie. Actually, the movie does exactly what the name promises, which is to celebrate the planet Earth in its own right. Beautifully narrated by James Earl Jones, we are introduced to the movie with the information that Earth's tilt toward the sun is integral to the planet as we know it. This is basic information for many of us but it sets the tone for our appreciation of the unique life forms with which we share the planet. As well, it sets up the fact that Earth itself is the star of the movie. We see how planetary cycles of water, weather, and sun work together and how they in turn have shaped the forces that living creatures struggle with daily for existence.

Interspersed with fantastic shots of Earth's vistas we are taken into a more personal connection through the many featured scenarios of living creatures in the circle of life. Although there are three main animal families that we watch on a migration adventure, there are numerous sequences where we are treated to many other animals in humorous, dramatic, or threatening circumstances. We are reminded that every day there is so much more to life than we experience in our civilized routines. Especially memorable were the intense night scenes of the elephant herd versus the pride of lions whose roars seemed to split the night. I was also impressed with the scenes of aquatic predators pursuing prey. It never occurred to me that watching a school of sailfish (the cheetahs of the ocean) hunt smaller fish in their darting, elusive school could be as riveting as watching wolves hunt caribou ... and eerily echoing of similar movements. I also will never forget the shots of the great white shark with part of a seal dangling from its mouth like a toothpick.

Amazing in themselves were the many shots of Earth from a great distance in the sky. This allowed us to see changes in desert regions of Africa after the rainy season. Shots of migrating herds taken from such a height that one could see the hundreds and hundreds of animals all wandering in the same direction in a loose formation. In fact the many views from overhead were unusual and gave us a different perspective on the progressions of rivers to waterfalls. Time lapse photography was used frequently to great effect so we could see the overall results of seasons, rain, or other natural phenomenon.

At about an hour and a half in length I never found the movie to lag and was always captivated by the remarkable photography and subject matter. Although there are tense moments and clear victories by predators there is never a violent coup de grace or bloody tearing at a corpse. Shots are always cut short just after we understand what happened. This makes it appropriate for younger children as long as they don't mind the tension of hunting scenes. The music, which is beautiful and grandly recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic, was occasionally over the top in setting a sentimental scene. As well, I found the infrequent comic scenes a bit over the top musically. However, from the response of the audience, this was more a matter of personal taste than anything. I did like the fact that there wasn't any attempt to find reasons for planetary warming or other conditions that might make life on a changing planet riskier for animals. The statement that the planet is warming was repeated a tiring number of times when talking about polar bears, however, there was no guilt-trip put on humans because of it. Sometimes a clarifying comment would have been welcomed, such as pointing out that predators miss their prey most of the time or that most animals in the wild live large parts of their lives hungry. This would have helped cut through a bit of the sentimentality present, but it was not really a big factor in the movie.

I saw this with my mother, who also thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Her one serious objection is one that I shared. The narration continually called the animals "Mom" and "Dad" when looking at family groups. This anthropomorphizing was jarring. However, I must point out that it was a far cry from the shameless example found in March of the Penguins and actually was a fairly minor point.

I also was occasionally left wondering, "just how on earth did they get these shots?" Naturally, I was very pleased when we are shown some footage from the photographers' experiences during the movie credits at the end.

For any person of faith this movie also serves to make us appreciate even more the diversity, creativity, and beauty that God has given us in this beautiful planet. Marveling at the scenery and incredible living creatures I saw, I was again moved to thanks that God's ways are different from ours. We are just not imaginative enough to come up with the marvels that are all around us. I was left at one point thinking just how unimaginable was the mind of God to be able to come up with evolution as a developmental tool that still left life so free to find its way to the incredible variety that was displayed in this movie. In fact, the ingenuity, curiosity, and appreciation of nature that we saw in the clips of photographers during the credits also left me with an appreciation of the human spirit.

"Earth" opens on Earth Day. As has been noted before, I'm not a fan of Earth Day as it tends to bring out the least attractive features of many environmentalists in treating it as a religious day of observance. However, I'm a big fan of Earth itself and watching this movie will remind you just what an incredible home we have. It lends itself to appreciation on many levels and I encourage you to go.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From the In-Box ... Media Releases of Interest to Catholic Audiences

Reading from my in-box... Dappled Things has their new issue up.
It’s funny—eerily funny, some might say—how Lent falls upon you just as you’ve finished reading that last story, savoring that last poem from the Advent/Christmas issue of Dappled Things. What follows? A desert: a literary desert of forty-plus days that you must endure before rejoicing at last in the glory of Easter—and the delights of the new issue that comes with it! Dear reader, your days of penance are over: the Lent/Easter 2009 edition of Dappled Things, our most exciting issue to date, is now available online!
Music from my in-box ... Jade Music Offers Free Music Downloads through ... click through the links to check out all the offerings.
Site members can download free songs each week through June 10;

Partnership provides online venue for Jade Music’s complete song collection

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – April 15, 2009 – Jade Music has partnered with MyCatholicVoice to offer a featured free music download each Wednesday through June 10.

From a deep catalog of sacred and classical music, these free downloads will include works by Giulio Caccini, Hildegard von Bingen, as well as chant recordings by the Benedictine Choir of Santo Domingo de Silos, and the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey, among others...
Movie from my in-box ... when I read this email I began looking around for reviews and was interested to see that this movie has garnered many awards at festivals.
This week, our movie distribution company is releasing a new Catholic-themed feature film called SINNER. The film is a thoughtful and poignant look at the Catholic sense of forgiveness and redemption.

SINNER is just the type of movie that we seek out. It has won numerous international film festivals, has been praised by theological luminaries, and presents an honest exploration of serious Catholic issues. Here is a quick synopsis:

Hidden away in small town America, in an anemic parish on the brink of bankruptcy, Father Anthony Romano finds himself at a mid-career crisis in the wake of both his personal conflicts and the real world scandals that have left the Catholic Church an anathema to so many. When his junior colleague, a fundamentalist named Stephen, clashes with a prostitute who preys on Catholic priests, Anthony finds his private world invaded and his deepest secrets exposed by a modern day Mary Magdalene.

DVDs will be available from our website. To view a trailer and other press materials for the film, go here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If You Have a Loved One with Alzheimer's ... You Need This Book

When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too. We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory. Five minutes later, they won't remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger.
Tom's mom recently was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, delusional. In her case, that also means she is increasingly angry and hostile because of imagined situations that we can't predict. It is a big challenge for everyone to deal with.

One of the biggest helps for Tom and me is the recommendation of this little book. I find the description to be somewhat misleading as it is not about creating moments of joy together in the way we interpreted it initially, which would be for those great little moments of laughing together. Much more helpful is that this book gives many examples for helping you understand more about where your loved one is mentally. This allows you to come much closer to making them happy which consequently makes you happy as well.

For example, understanding that an Alzheimer's patient tends to regress mentally in age would help a son whose mother screams when she sees him but can talk to him happily on the phone. Hint, mentally she is in her forties and her mind's eye of her son is not a 50-year-old man but a young fellow in his twenties. His voice sounds the same even though in person she thinks he is a strange man who has broken into her room. Another idea would be that someone further along in Alzheimer's may be mentally about three years old. Therefore, they would be proud that they dressed themselves and not understand the distress of a daughter upon beholding her mother with her bra and underwear on over her dress.

These are some of the simplest examples but they give a flavor of the very helpful scenarios and advice contained in this gem of a book. We are both midway through but are continually finding ourselves bringing up examples to help in trying to figure out how best to deal with Tom's mom. And when I say "deal with Tom's mom" I hope that you understand what I really mean ... is to make her happy.

Highly recommended.

Mel Gibson's wife of 28 years files for divorce

cross-posted from A Catholic View

The wife of actor Mel Gibson filed for divorce on Monday after 28 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences.
In divorce papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, Robyn Gibson asked for her 1980 marriage to the "Lethal Weapon" actor to be ended, and in a joint statement the couple, who have seven children, sought privacy.
"Throughout our marriage and separation we have always strived to maintain the privacy and integrity of our family and will continue to do so," the statement said.
Late on Monday, the actor and director of movies including "Braveheart" and "The Passion of The Christ," filed a response saying the two had been separated since August 26, 2006.

Monday, April 13, 2009

NBC Talk Show Host Jay Leno Under Fire for Hosting Fundraiser for Pro-Abortion Group

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Late-night NBC talk show host Jay Leno is coming under fire for plans to host a fundraising event later this month for a prominent pro-abortion organization. A pro-life group is taking Leno to task for announcing that he will host a dinner for the Feminist Majority Foundation.

As the king of late night comedy, Jay Leno has few living peers and he is watched and beloved by millions of American viewers.

To Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, that makes it more difficult to understand why he would support a group that Perkins says works against the interests of pregnant women.

“On April 29th, Jay Leno and his wife are hosting a fundraiser for the Feminist Majority Foundation, a radical pro-abortion group that not only advocates for abortion on demand, but also for the closing of pro-life pregnancy centers,” Perkins tells this month, FMF sent an e-mail to its 400 college campus affiliates asking the young abortion advocates to launch protests against their local crisis pregnancy centers. Why? If they are "feminist" and "for women", they should be protesting abortion centers, which do great damage to women, and supporting crisis pregnancy centers, which provide women alternatives to abortion.

story here

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Movie Review: The Haunting in Connecticut - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Warning:possible spoilers.

Matt Campbell is a teenager afflicted with cancer. He is participating in a treatment trial at a Connecticut hospital, so his family rents a house near the hospital. The guy who rents them the house mentions that the house has a "bit of history", which turns out to be a huge understatement.

As soon as they move in, Matt starts to have visions, but he and his parents are reluctant to tell the doctors, because then he would not be able to participate in the next stage of the trial. They eventually find out that the house used to be a funeral home. They also find some pictures matching the visions that Matt has been having. As the previews indicate, the problem is the dead people's spirits are still there. Matt enlists the help of one of his fellow patients, who introduces himself as "I'm a Reverend". He does not wear a roman collar, and he doesn't identify himself as a priest, so it is not clear if he is Catholic, but he does perform some sort of an exorcism to remove the spirit he believes to be the problem. Later, he realizes there is more "housecleaning" needed to get rid of the rest of the spirits.

The family does turn to prayer. They pray together, and at one point, Matt's mother is saying the rosary and looks up and says "you can't have him". She is not ready for her son to die, and later the doctor tells them just how close Matt is to death. In the end, Matt figures out what is needed to rid the house of the spirits.

The main content warning is gore. There are several gory scenes, with slime coming out of people's mouths. Also some gory scenes from when it was a funeral parlor

Friday, April 3, 2009

TV Review: ER's Last Episode

cross-posted from A Catholic View

I have been a fan of ER since the beginning, all 15 years, so I wanted to share some thoughts on the final episode last night. I was touched by a few life issues that I saw. Ernest Borgnine played a man whose wife was dying (they were also on a couple of episodes ago). He explained that he's known her for 72 years; he met her when he was 6 years old. He is obviously very much in love with her, and although he knows that she's dying, he's not ready to let her go. Because she is so close to death, they call her daughter, who has been estranged from her parents. After she arrives, she says that she cried the whole drive down, and she couldn't remember what they had been mad about. She is with them when her mother dies. It is very touching later, when he lays next to his wife to say goodbye.

Another woman, this one pregnant, comes in and gives birth to twin girls, but there is a complication: her uterus is inverted, and she dies in surgery.

Tony Gates was especially upset when a teenage girl comes in with alcohol poisoning. I think it had to do with the fact that Alex, Sam's son, was in a car accident some time ago after a party (he wasn't drinking, he swerved to avoid someone else).

One of best parts of the final show, as it has been for the final season, is the reunion of characters from the past. The backdrop for the reunion is the opening of the Joshua Carter Center. Joshua was the baby that Carter and his wife lost about 5 or 6 years ago. They named the center in his honor and it will provide medical care, counseling and assistance to many people, including AIDS patients and the homeless. Attending the opening is Carter, whose estranged wife comes, Peter Benton (he was on a few episodes ago, during Carter's kidney transplant), his son Reese, Kerry Weaver, Susan Lewis, Elizabeth Corday, and the newest Dr. Green, Mark's daughter Rachel, who is now a medical student.

I was a little surprised at how uncomfortable Peter Benton and Elizabeth Corday seemed to be with each other. Some of you who are longtime ER fans will remember that Benson and Corday dated many years ago, before she married Mark Green. But they had seemed to be fine after that, so it was surprising to see them so ill-at-ease with each other.

I thought the ending was very appropriate; an explosion at a power plant sends 8 victims to the ER. Everyone jumps into action, including Rachel.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

StarShipSofa podcasts all Nebula Short Story nominees for 2008 In one day!

Yes, Tony did that thing. Get the iTunes links at SFFaudio which has the whole story. Science fiction can challenge your faith, but it also can broaden your horizons ... only you know if it is a genre that you will enjoy. I just wanted to let everyone know about all these free audio stories, which I will be listening to, you can be sure.

I haven't heard the others, but if you want to try out only one, might I suggest Trophy Wives? It is the one that I read for Tony.

Kudos Tony and thank you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Retiring Cardinal Egan to host final show on The Catholic Channel

cross-posted from A Catholic View

I listen to "A Conversation with the Cardinal" every week. I will miss hearing Cardinal Egan, but I also look forward to hearing Archbishop Dolan.

Cardinal Edward Egan, the retiring Archbishop of New York, will host a retrospective covering his nine years in New York City in the final episode of his radio show “A Conversation with the Cardinal,” which will be broadcast on April 2. The show will air on The Catholic Channel from 3:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern time on SIRIUS channel 159 and XM channel 117. You can also listen online at the link below.

Cardinal Egan will look back at his years as archbishop, talk about his future plans and recall some highlights of his career, according to a SIRIUS XM press release.

He has hosted his show since December 2006 with Catholic Channel program director Rob Astorino. The cardinal answered listener e-mails, discussed a variety of significant issues and also addressed current events in the archdiocese.

The cardinal described his appearances on the radio show as “a splendid way” to talk directly with people from across North America.