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The Eighth Deadly Sin
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE BUCKET LIST
VANTAGE POINT
EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED
CONSTANTINE’S SWORD
UNNATURAL CAUSES: IS INEQUALITY MAKING US SICK?
TYLER’S RIDE
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



THE BUCKET LIST (A-3, PG-13): Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson, The Departed), owner of a hospital chain, has cancer. He is arrogant, demanding, thrice divorced and has an estranged daughter. His hospital roommate is Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman, Evan Almighty), a happily married mechanic.

The well-adjusted Chambers has written a list of things he wants to do before he “kicks the bucket.” They are noble, ordinary and altruistic items. Cole adds pleasurable pursuits. They begin a journey to accomplish as many things on the bucket list as they can before the inevitable happens.

Directed by Rob Reiner, this film has been dismissed as formulaic by some critics. But the real problem is that it was promoted as a comedy when it is, in fact, a dramatic road movie with comic moments. It tends to be a bit preachy, but the conversation the men have about faith and family seemed very real to me. This is also the moment when Cole reveals the state of his soul.

The fifth-century priest John Cassian identified eight deadly faults in his writings. Later, Pope St. Gregory the Great pared the list to seven sins and merged the sin of acedia (spiritual apathy or sadness) with sloth. Acedia is a spiritual term, not a psychological one, that describes a person who is too lazy to engage in the spiritual life.

Cole, who epitomizes spiritual laziness, has spent his adult life refusing to make a spiritual assessment. Actually, he is afraid of what he will find and is too lazy to change.

When Chambers resists temptation, Cole begins to understand that the fidelity and sacrifices his friend did for his family made Chambers a genuinely good man, ready for the next life.

It may not be a great film but this inspiring film is excellent for retreats and enjoyable enough to watch on its own merits. It speaks frankly about death and dying, topics our culture goes to extremes to avoid. It’s about redemption and two unlikely buddies who learn profound and life-changing lessons on their journey. A vulgar gesture and one implied sexual encounter.

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VANTAGE POINT

VANTAGE POINT (A-3, PG-13): Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid, In Good Company) returns to President Ashton’s (William Hurt, A History of Violence) detail after taking a bullet for him. Barnes is anxious as he waits for the president to arrive for a summit gathering in Salamanca, Spain.

Just as his partner, Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox, Lost), checks out some movement, shots are fired, the president is hit and a bomb goes off. Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland) is an American tourist who records the event with his camera, as does a U.S. news network.

The film sends a message to audiences that America will prevail in the fight against terrorism. Vantage Point shows a president who resists manipulation by his aides and questions a policy of retaliation.

This film emphasizes loyalty, friendship, homespun American kindness, courage and generosity abroad. The way TV news reporters decide what to tape and broadcast and what to leave out makes for an important conversation from a media-literacy perspective.

But everything is from a male character’s point of view: The female characters are killed, killers or in need of rescue. Why the filmmakers would cast an A-list actress like Sigourney Weaver as the news director and then never weave that particular thread into the ending left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Intense action violence.

EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED (unrated, PG): When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, it was immediately controversial because it challenged the then-accepted explanations for the origin of life. Today, according to this compelling documentary, co-written and narrated by former presidential speechwriter, TV host and actor Ben Stein (Win Ben Stein’s Money), Darwin’s theories for the origins of life are so entrenched in the U.S. scientific community that to question them is academic suicide.

Stein travels across the United States and Europe to interview scientists who have lost research grants, professorships and tenure at universities because they suggest that the scientific evidence for intelligent design is stronger than the evidence for the origin of species provided by Darwin and his subsequent adherents.

Stein interviews Richard Dawkins, a proponent of Darwinian atheism, who is unable to sustain a logical argument to support his uninformed views about God.

To most of the academics, scientists and observers in the film, Darwin’s theories of evolution (and the origin of species and their negative influence on the scientific and social policies of governments and the world) have failed. The debate, the filmmakers say, will be settled by the scientific evidence, if scientists are allowed to question Darwinism in their research and if teachers may question it in schools.

This film wants to spur audiences to question Darwin’s theories but never acknowledges that intelligent design is a philosophical argument for the existence of God (from Aristotle to St. Thomas Aquinas) rather than a scientific one. This is an important distinction that Vatican scientists have urged those engaged in the creation/evolution debate to keep in mind—a clear voice the film could have used.

Ben Stein’s humor engages, but Expelled may appeal more to creationists than scientists, though it protests that the dogma of Darwinism is an issue of free speech—not a religious one. Mature themes and disturbing images.

CONSTANTINE’S SWORD (unrated): James Carroll, a writer and former Catholic priest, documents how the cross became a sword of war from the fourth century, through centuries of the Church’s role in anti-Semitism, to recent efforts at the U.S. Air Force Academy to allow cadets to evangelize and convert fellow students to fundamentalist Christianity and promoting anti-Semitism. A rather one-dimensional mix of autobiography, history, religion and polemic, this documentary is based on Carroll’s 2001 book of the same title. May irritate as much as it provokes audiences to question the role, reality and influence of religion, war and politics in American culture today.

UNNATURAL CAUSES: IS INEQUALITY MAKING US SICK? (PBS, beginning March 27, check local listings): Universal health care is one of the most debated issues in the United States today. This six-part documentary series breaks new ground by raising questions and identifying the inequalities in our social systems that determine America’s health: economics, education, housing and subtle racism.

The series challenges us either to react to health-care crises or revise the systems that make us sick. As one expert states, revising these systems can benefit everyone because it is the right thing to do—and because good health is good economics.

The content correlates well with the principles of Catholic social teaching and can be integrated into courses on social justice for high school and above. Available on DVD from www.pbs.org.

TYLER’S RIDE (Paulist Productions) is due to launch an innovative faith-based series this month of 12 “webisodes,” each three to five minutes long, on www.tylersride.com. It stars Grant Alan (Cold Case) and the popular Christian singer Jeremy Camp.

When Tyler’s father kicks him out of the house to grow up, the young man has to make big decisions about life, work, family and relationships. It focuses on topics teens, parents and youth ministers can talk about.

JUMPER (A-3, PG-13): David (Hayden Christensen, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) discovers he can teleport—jump from place to place. He helps himself in bank vaults but always leaves an I.O.U. David is tracked down by paladins, led by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), who think jumpers don’t consider consequences. This sci-fi action flick connects with teens on issues of parental abandonment, adolescent quest for freedom and coming of age. Intense action violence and language.

PERSEPOLIS (unrated, PG-13): This Oscar-nominated feature-length animated biopic follows a young girl in Iran during the 1970s. When the shah’s government collapses, her parents send her to school in Austria. She remembers her grandmother’s advice about being a person of integrity. This magnificently artistic coming-of-age tale is based on two graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi. What real life and the film lack in hope, Persepolis makes up for with heart. French with English subtitles; violence, some brief sexuality and drug use.

NANKING (unrated, R) is a gripping documentary about the 1937 invasion of Nanking, China, by Japanese forces. Actors read the actual letters of the handful of Westerners who created a safety zone for 200,000 people, many of whom were raped and massacred. Some survivors give their heartbreaking testimony as well. This film is an important contribution to history and perhaps a contribution toward the reconciliation that is only beginning, but it’s not for the faint of heart. English and Chinese, with subtitles; disturbing war images and descriptions of atrocities.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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