Sunday, July 26, 2009

Movie Review: Public Enemies - R

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Early on, Pretty Boy Floyd is pursued, shot and killed by an FBI agent, Melvin Purvis(Christian Bale). This gets Purvis noticed, and he is assigned to capture John Dillinger, who is on a bank-robbing spree. There are also a couple other well-known gangsters in the story such as Baby Face Nelson and Frank Nitti.

The two hardest parts to watch both pertain to Dillinger's girlfriend Billie Frechette. When they first meet, Dillinger basically tells her she is now his woman. She does eventually fall in love with him, and the other hard part is a cop slapping her around to get her to talk.

Overall. a very good movie. The story is well-told, and there is lots of action. Johnny Depp is especially good in the lead roll.

Content Warnings: A couple of scenes where people got shot were more gory than they needed to be. There was a scene with Dillinger and his girlfriend in bed, and a scene with her in the tub, both of which were suggestive, but neither of which showed nudity.

Fox unlikely to air abortion episode of 'Family Guy'

Abortion is a very serious issue. It is not an appropriate topic for an animated series that attracts young viewers.

News Corp. paid Seth MacFarlane the ultimate compliment when it made him Twentieth Century Fox TV's $100 million crown jewel. But the "Family Guy" creator wasn't exactly returning the favor at Comic-Con..

At the series' panel Saturday, MacFarlane continued his show's tradition of jibing its host studio and network.

MacFarlane revealed he's producing a controversial episode about abortion for the upcoming season. But he and others on the panel said that Fox was unlikely to air the episode.

"Twentieth Century Fox, as always, allowed us to produce the episode and then said, 'You know what? We're scared to f--king death of this,'" MacFarlane said.

The episode will probably be available on DVD, he added.

A Fox spokesperson said that no decision has yet been made on the matter.

When asked for further comment, MacFarlane emailed a statement: "Clearly my sarcasm doesn’t come across in print. I completely support whatever decision Fox makes. We were allowed to take a crack at this controversial story and that’s enough for me.”

story here

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Actress Uma Thurman to Play a Nun

Several Hollywood sources are reporting that actress Uma Thurman will be playing the role of a nun in her next film, Girl Soldier.

The movie, MTV reports, is based on Kathy Cook’s firsthand account, Stolen Angels, of the kidnapping and enslavement of 140 Ugandan girls in 1996.

Thurman will play Sister Caroline (Rachele Fassera by birth), who was among a group of interfaith religious who fought to rescue the girls from their captors.

story here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music Review: Jordin Sparks: "Battlefield"

Back in April, I blogged about Jordin's potentially career-ending throat injury. Fortunately, she proved the experts wrong; she released her new CD "Battlefield" yesterday, and I've aready downloaded it from iTunes. The regular CD has 12 music tracks and a digital booklet. The deluxe version has 15 music tracks, 4 videos and a digital booklet (I got the deluxe). I'm a fan of Jordin because she has a tremendous voice and an excellent music style. The 3 best tracks (IMHO) are Battlefield, Watch You Go, and Don't Let It Go To Your Head. I was pleasantly surprised by her remake of Let the Music Play from 1983. I'm also supportive of Jordin because she's been an advocate of Chastity, and she's an ardent pro-lifer.

Here is a review from Entertainment Weekly

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review of "The Host" on Times Online

I have read only one Stephenie Meyers book. It was on a dare from someone who found my criticism of the book's sexual content hard to handle. Before I read the book, I based my criticism on the overreaction of adolescent girls to a dark romance. I opposed "Twilight" not so much for what it was, but for how innocent young minds were corrupted and obsessed by it.

I had experience with adolescent obsession over a book. When I was 13, I was obsessed with Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" reading the 1037 page book in only 4 days. I loved the pathos and the romance of her impossible love for Ashley Wilkes, the pathetic failure of her marriage to Rhett Bulter, and the fairy tale life of rich plantation owners in the antebellum South. My obsession ignored both the misery of the slaves and the adulterous actions of Scarlett kissing a married man. It was unhealthy escape of a shy, bookish teen, yet it is a romp in the tulips compared with the potent sexual pull of "Twilight" series.

I read "Twilight" and was mortified by the subtle yet powerful undercurrents of sexual tension, dragging readers into a story with masochism, sadism, necrophilia, and many other shades of ugly and unworthy elements for young minds. A well known child author called it "kiddie porn". Yet many Catholic writers defend the series, after I suspect falling under its sensual spell, calling it 'a good book about abstinence'. If my daughters ever practice that type of abstinence (Edward in bed with Bella yet restraining himself) she will find herself grounded till she's 25!

So, I enter this review by the Times Online of Stephenie Meyer's latest book series, "The Host" for adults as evidence that "Twilight" is kiddie porn, and not suitable for young women or old women.
"Erotic abstinence is the potent subtext that sold more than 40 million copies of Stephenie Meyer’s young adult Twilight series, working like catnip on teenage girls, for whom the theme of forbidden sexuality holds particular resonance. . .
The sizzling Edward/Bella dynamic is Meyer’s winning formula and abandoning it to write The Host, her first adult novel, would risk losing her marketplace monopoly on burning loins, along with the teenage characters to whom they belong. "

If the Times Online could name the attraction which drove the "Twilight" craze, why were intelligent Catholic women so blind? It's time to undertake a painful examination of conscience about the corrosive effects of literature and film on our sense of morality. I had a neighbor whose obsession with romance novels and her subsequent comparison of her husband to the romantic heroes, led to the breakup of a perfectly good marriage. Don't let a clever author make millions as you lose your soul.
Frs Eteneuer and Amorth warned us about implicit dangers in Stephenie Meyers books. There is something to be said about obeying good advice from priests, even when our loins are telling us to ignore them.
Let's not allow "The Host" to become an obsession.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Harry, Ron and Hermione are back at the Hogwarts school. Early on, we are introduced to the themes: the half-blood prince has been sent by the "Dark Lord" (Voldemort). This is bad news for Harry. We see Severus Snape make an unbreakable promise to obey the Dark Lord, and to look out for Draco Malfoy, a student at Hogwarts. Later on, the theme begins to focus on Dumbledore helping Harry prepare for his eventual battle with Voldemort. They focus on a question that a young Tom Riddle (who eventually becomes Voldemort) asked Professor Slughorn long ago, and a technique that enables a person to divide up their soul into separate containers, rendering them immortal. Voldemart has learned this technique.

In the meantime, we have some fun with a love potion that's going around the school. It is especially to see its effects on Ron, both as the object of desire and the pursuer.

This was one of the better Potter movies. I enjoyed the plot lines. and the special effects are awesome. I took my nephews, ages 9 to 11, and there wasn't any objectional content.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents

Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents

by Richard Wetzel, M.D.
Huntington Beach, CA: Sex Education for Advanced Beginners, 2009

Note: This review contains adult material.

“Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents” was written to fill a need in the realm of Catholic Sex Education. It is designed for older adolescents and covers a wide range of topics relating to sexuality. It is intended to be used in the home, either with parent and child together or having the child read it on their own.

Dr. Wetzel begins with a good introduction to the biology of human sexuality. He then moves on to discuss sex without love, premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, artificial contraception and sterilization, natural family planning, infertility, and sexual deviations. He handles these topics in a straightforward, pull-no-punches manner. There are many things that adults will learn from reading this book.

One particularly insightful chapter is on “Good Sex.” In it, Dr. Wetzel divides sexual activity into five levels with Level 1 being “Perfect Sex: God’s ideal toward which we strive but can never achieve.” Level 7 is “Most severe sexual problems.” It is a useful chart because it clearly delineates different sexual behaviors. One can find where one is on the chart and know what he or she needs to work on to move closer to Level 2, the level which is as high level as we can achieve. It was comforting to know that everyone does struggle with sexual sin at some point. No one is perfect in this area.

One concern is that this book is recommended for older adolescents. Dr. Wetzel acknowledges that some will want to discuss topics with their children at a younger age. Many of these topics are only appropriate for those approaching adulthood. One would certainly not recommend going into detail with young children about the variety of sexual behavior or sexual codependency. However, children in today’s world are exposed to sex and are often offered sex at much younger ages. It is sad but true. Waiting until a child is sixteen to inform them about sex can be much too late. Eleven and twelve year olds are engaging in sexual activity. They need to be informed about the moral issues and physical concerns relating to this and they need to hear it from their parents. While one would not want to allow their eleven year old to read this book, it can offer a good starting point for parents to read and then choose what to discuss.

Dr. Richard Wetzel and the Sex Education for Advanced Beginners, Inc., the publishers of this book, are offering to supply as many boxes of these books that are needed for distribution at any high school, diocese, parish or other organization that will distribute these books to 11th graders at the cost of $2/book. Details are available at

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vatican paper finds good and bad in new Harry Potter movie

cross-posted from A Catholic View

In an article entitled, “Magic is no longer a surprising trick,” the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has reviewed the new film in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” The paper finds that the movie's message is a mixed bag, with references to New Age spirituality and praiseworthy aspirations toward choosing the good.

On the eve of its worldwide July 15 release, the L'Osservatore article notes that “magic is no longer the surprising pastime that it was before.” “It’s no longer about adventures for children or even for those gifted with exceptional powers. Now, as we saw in the previous episode, lives are really at risk and what is really in danger is huge: preventing the forces of darkness from gaining the upper hand.”

The article goes on to explain that “the psychology of the characters takes a more precise form. In the fifth chapter, Harry went through a difficult period, tormented by his dreams and personal demons, by the memory of his parents murdered by Voldemort. And he was searching for answers.”

story here

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vatican newspaper analyzes successful TV series 'House'

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Unfortunately, L'Oservatore Romano overlooks the negative Catholic Sereotypes that have been consistently repeated on 'House'.

In an article titled “What if the Cynical Dr. House was Good?” L'Osservatore Romano reviews the book “Dr. House: Madness and Fascination of a Cult Series,” which examines the popular TV program “House” and how its “evil” protagonist conveys positive but often politically incorrect messages in support of life.

The book’s introduction points out that few programs on television escape today’s political correctness, a censor that teaches “very little culture and impresses just two values on the minds of viewers: self-determination (which culminates by turning into loneliness) and separation.”

The authors of the book, Carlo Bellieni and Andrea Bechi, call it surprising that “the protagonist (the hero)” of the popular series “is an open cynic.”

story here

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lord Valentine's Castle: A Wondrous Tale, Wonderfully Told

And then after walking all day through a golden haze of humid warmth that gathered about him like fine wet fleece, Valentine came to a great ridge of outcropping white stone overlooking the city of Pidruid. It was the provincial capital, sprawling and splendid, the biggest city he had come upon since-since?-the biggest in a long while of wandering, at any rate.

There he halted, finding a seat at the edge of the soft, crumbling white ridge, digging his booted feet into the flaking ragged stone, and he sat there staring down at Pidruid, blinking as though newly out of sleep. On this summer day twilight was still some hours away, and the sun hung high to the southwest beyond Pidruid, out over the Great Sea. I will rest here for a while, Valentine thought, and then I will go down into Pidruid and find lodging for the night.

As he rested he heard pebbles tumbling past him from a higher point on the ridge. Unhurriedly he looked back the way he had come. A young herdsman had appeared, a boy with straw-colored hair and a freckled face, leading a train of fifteen or twenty mounts down the hill road. They were fat sleek purple-skinned beasts, obviously well looked after. The boy’s own mount looked older and less plump, a wise and toughened creature.

“Hoy!” he called down to Valentine. “Where are you bound?”

“Pidruid. And you?”

“The same. Bringing these mounts to market. Thirsty work it is, too. Do you have wine?”

“Some,” Valentine said. He tapped the flask at his hip, where a fiercer man might wear a weapon. “Good red mid-country wine. I’ll be sorry to see the last of it.”
That's the beginning of this classic fantasy ... which I have reviewed for SFFaudio. Whether you choose to read or listen, it is not to be missed.

The White Moll: a turn of the century adventure about a plucky heroine fighting crime in New York's seamy underbelly

I think that about says it all.

But if you'd like to read more, here is my review of the Librivox recording of The White Moll. Highly recommended for good, clean, exciting adventure. You can either read it or listen free. Just follow the links. Librivox has the link to the Gutenberg hard copy.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Movie Review: The Proposal - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Andrew Paxton works for Margaret Tate, the proverbial "boss from Hell". Her employees are afraid of her, and a couple of the funniest moments in the movie are when employees use IM's to warn each other of her being near.
In order to avoid being deported to Canada, she coerces Andrew into a sham marriage. She gets more than she bargained for when they visit his family and he announces their engagement. It is clear how much Andrew's family cares for him. Margaret has a hard time dealing with this. It is sad when she explains that her parents are deceased, she has no siblings, and work is her entire life. She is actually unable to handle the emotion.

I was disappointed when Margaret tells Andrew that she hasn't slept with anyone in a year and a half. A couple of minutes later he asks incredulously "You really haven't slept with anyone in a year and a half"? The implication being that it's not possible to have a boyfriend or girlfriend without sleeping with them. Its an automatic part of any relationship; no "getting to know each other" or waiting to get married.

One character I didn't care for is an immigration agent, Mr. Gilbertson. It is a bit disturbing to see how much pleasure he takes in trying to prove their engagement is not sincere, and to deport Margaret.

It is a very entertaining movie and there are lots of comedic moments, and Betty White in particular is very funny as Andrew's grandmother. I won't spoil the ending, but it is a happy one.

Content Warnings: One brief scene where Margaret and Andrew are nude. This is shown in the preview; she is coming out out of the shower and encounters him unexpectedly, but all private parts are strategically concealed. There is also questionable scene with a male stripper at the bachelorette party.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Catholic radio show to feature novel: Mariette in Ecstasy

You can listen to 'Marriette in Ecstasy'  on the CRI website.

On Wednesday, Catholic Radio International (CRI) began its presentation on Ron Hansen’s highly praised novel, 'Mariette in Ecstasy', on its Cover-to-Cover show. The book is being read by CRI’s Joseph O’Brien.

The novel centers around Mariette, a young woman in 1906 upstate New York who joins the Sisters of the Crucifixion. After entering, she exhibits unusual behavior, including trances, moments of ecstasy, and extreme penances.

This intense emotion is foreign to the convent, and when the wounds of Christ appear on her hands, feet and side, the sisters are split about whether her experiences are genuine or simply a ploy for attention.

story here

Book Review: Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn

INK Ancient forms of ink were made from wood, ivory, or other materials burned to create carbon that was then suspended in a gum or glue solution. Ink is mentioned specifically only in Jer 36:18; 2 Cor 3:3; 2 John 12; and 3 John 13.
I don't know about you, but flipping across this reference had me going to my Bible to find these ink references. This one small entry contains not only Biblical references but archeological information that sent me mentally back to those long ago days. I had never thought about ink, imagined what it would take to make it, or pictured those scribes refilling their supplies. Until I read that entry by chance while looking for something else.

Such is the power of a good reference book. We all know the enjoyable pursuit of idly following one reference to another, having our eye caught and then beginning on a new trail. These days with search engines we find those habits almost lost. However, this Biblical dictionary has been both informing me and provoking thought about faith and the word of God. As well, it has been a valuable reference. I learned all about Ezekiel (and his book) in preparing for attending scripture study on the readings for next Sunday's Mass. I looked into the excellent entry on the Ten Commandments for something I was writing for our church bulletin, as well as delving into the issue of covenant in a related set of writings. This has proven to be an invaluable resource in merely one week of having it in my hands.

There are over 5,000 entries which include key information about books of the Bible, archaeological information, language and imagery, ancient civilizations, sociological info about Biblical life and times, people and places, Church teachings and theology, and detailed maps. Information about books of the Bible always include thorough coverage of an overview, authorship and date, contents, and purpose and themes. These entries may cover many pages but are always clear and easy to understand, within the context of how difficult the subject matter may be.

The layout is easy to read and follow. There are clear sets of subheads to help follow the reasoning presented as well as make it easy to find a particular topic within each entry. The cross-indexing is excellent. I have never failed to find something I was looking for. The scriptural references, as one would expect, are thorough. It is easy to track the reasoning for the entries through the Bible and the Catechism. As well, the book itself is handsome. The jacket image is actually printed on the hardback cover, which impressed me. This is a book that is designed to last and be useful.

In short, this is an impressive reference designed for frequent, easy use. I highly recommend it.

I will leave you with another short entry. Notice how much information is packed into it while still keeping it easy to understand. Especially take note of the last sentence which provides us with good food for thought in considering Jesus' sacrificial role.
HYSSOP A plant noted for its dense leaves and its habit of grown on walls (1 Kgs 4:33; cf. Lev 14:6; Num 19:6; Heb 9:19). Scholars believe that the hyssop in Scripture was the herb we call marjoram. hyssop was used especially in liturgical rites for sprinkling the blood of the Passover on the doorposts in Egypt (Exod 12:21-22; cf Num 19:18; Heb 9:19). Hyssop was used also in the purification of lepers (Lev 14;4-6) and the house of a leper (Lev 14:49-52). John (John 19:29; cf. Matt 27:48; Mark 15:36) makes mention of a branch of hyssop used to offer Jesus a sponge soaked in vinegar. This is probably an allusion to the use of hyssop in the Passover, dipped in the blood of the Paschal lamb.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book Review: "It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life!"

It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life:
Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right

By Joan C. Webb
Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009

If I had the money, I would buy a copy of “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life: Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right” by Joan C. Webb for every woman that I know. We all try so hard to do it all and get so down on ourselves when we discover that simply isn’t possible. Webb offers reassuring words based on scripture and rooted in her own experience to tell us that it is all OK. It is alright to let go of some of the pressure that we put on ourselves.

The 163 one-page devotions are divided into sections focusing on relationships, emotions, bodies, life-work, service, churches, culture, dreams and spirituality. If one particular area is troubling you, you can focus on just that section, or you can read it cover to cover as I did. Each page has something worthwhile to offer. For example, Devotion #1, “Smiling Here,” Webb invites us to recall a time we made a blunder and to laugh about it! As she reminds us, “I goofed. No big deal! It doesn’t make me less valuable.” In Devotion #30, “You Mad at Me?” Webb challenges us to stop taking on other’s moods. Women tend to feel that we are the reason someone else is upset or to feel that we must cure it. “The next time a loved one is in a bad mood and you feel the urge to ‘take it on,’ step back emotionally and ask God for wisdom.” Devotion #151, “Management Contract with God,” reminds us to turn over control of our lives to God. “Working for our ultimate good, He counsels us how to heal past damage, overcome self-defeating habits and experience contentment as we trust him for the future.”

“It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life” has much to offer for any Christian woman trying to do it all. I think it would take a lifetime to learn all these lessons, and even Webb admits she is still working on them, but the ability to pick up this book, take a deep breath, and stop and reflect and let go for a little bit is a great gift!

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur