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How the Mighty Have Fallen
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
THE DEPARTED
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
THE NATIVITY STORY
ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING
UGLY BETTY
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (L, R): Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is a Scottish doctor working in Uganda with Dr. Merrit (Adam Kotz) and his wife, Sarah (Gillian Anderson).

When General Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) is in a car accident, Nicholas treats him. Amin, taken with the doctor’s take-charge attitude, asks him to be his personal physician. Later, Nicholas regrets naïvely submitting to the charm of this charismatic giant of a man.

Nicholas treats Amin’s epileptic son and has a reckless affair with the boy’s mother, Kay (Kerry Washington), who is one of Amin’s wives. Kay warns Nicholas that Amin is killing thousands of people, but the doctor is blinded by Amin’s flattery. Eventually, Nicholas is forced to face the truth about Amin’s regime.

Between 1971 and 1979, it is believed that Amin killed between 300,000 and 500,000 Ugandans. He gave himself several titles, including “King of Scotland”: He admired the way the Scots rebelled against the British, who had once ruled Uganda. Amin was ousted in 1979 and died in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003.

Forest Whitaker’s stellar embodiment of the despot chills, convinces and deserves Oscar consideration. James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, in The Chronicles of Narnia) plays Nicholas with just the right blend of careless naïveté and ambition.

The film is based on historical events described in the novel by Giles Foden. The screenplay is by Jeremy Brock (Mrs. Brown). Scottish director Kevin Macdonald has crafted a masterful tale of Africa, calling us to pay attention to this suffering, emerging Third World land. In 1912, geographer George Kimble wrote, “The darkest thing about Africa is our ignorance of it.” The best film I have seen so far this year in terms of a strong story, powerful acting and earthy cinematography; extreme and graphic violence and torture; crude language.

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THE DEPARTED

THE DEPARTED (L, R): Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Evermore in this world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats.” This film is a testament to just how infested human societies can become with rats, both large and small, old and young.

Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is an Irish-American crime boss in Boston. He grooms Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) to become his man in the Massachusetts State Police. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), another young cadet, is sent to infiltrate Costello’s mob. Everyone seems to be after Costello, and trust comes at a very high price because no one ever knows who is going to rat you out.

William Monahan’s (Kingdom of Heaven) script is fast-paced. Between him and director Martin Scorsese, the vision of humanity is disgusting, pessimistic and infested with rodents. Rats are a gangland metaphor everyone understands and abhors.

Catholicism is not integrated into the lives of the Catholic mobsters, although some go through the motions. Instead, religion runs parallel to the Irish gangs so that God seems very distant as the characters kill off one another. And for what?

Scorsese films written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Bringing Out the Dead) deal with guilt; this one is concerned with conscience. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Departed (of which there are many in the film) doesn’t gain an Oscar for Scorsese, at last, and another nod for DiCaprio, who is brilliant as the conflicted good cop. Crude language and brutal violence.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (not rated): Filmmaker Amy Berg has created a harrowing, heartbreaking, dramatically powerful documentary about Father Oliver O’Grady, described on the film’s Web site as “the most notorious pedophile in the history of the Catholic Church.” (Berg assures me personally that everything in the film is documented.)

This Irish-born priest ministered in the Diocese of Stockton, California, for over 20 years before he was finally arrested for rape, sodomy and child abuse. After serving seven years of a 14-year sentence, O’Grady returned to Ireland, where he is free to come and go.

Unbelievably, O’Grady cooperated freely with Berg, offering creepy and chilling testimony. His own words and filmed depositions of Church officials assert that O’Grady’s behavior was known and that little was done to prevent him from continuing his pernicious and devastating activities.

Father Thomas Doyle is a canon lawyer who has been working with victims of clergy sex abuse for many years. The film shows Doyle with a group of victims and their families attempting to deliver a letter to the Vatican about their pain. We share the pain of these good, faithful believers who, unknowingly, allowed a snake into their homes. The most difficult film I have ever watched.

THE NATIVITY STORY (PG): Unlike many other films about Christ, this one begins a year before Jesus’ birth and concludes with the flight into Egypt. (See The Nativity Story: The Making of the Movie.)

Although we hear the familiar story every year, Mike Rich’s (Finding Forrester, The Rookie, Radio) script reaches inside the minds and hearts of the characters and makes them real for us. The Magi provide some comic relief. The story of Jesus’ birth is layered with meaning so that the youngest child to the wisest of adults can experience Christmas anew. Both Rich and producer Marty Bowen credit The Passion of the Christ for making The Nativity Story a reality.

Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) was director Catherine Hardwicke’s (Thirteen, Lords of Dogstown) first choice to play Mary. Castle-Hughes does a fine job, but her work is eclipsed by the performance of Oscar Isaac (Joseph) in his first major screen role.

This film is certain to be a classic for all Christians, even though the nativity scene (as of the date I’m writing this) looks as if it was lifted off a Christmas card. A little more subtlety would have been my preference, such as less direct lighting.

When Mary recites words now known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), we know that God has lifted up the lowly and visited his people. This film invites us to contemplate anew the wonders God has done for us. Some mild peril.

ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING (not yet rated, PG): A young Jewish girl named Hadassah risks her life to save her people from extinction because of the machinations of Haman, the evil royal assistant. The girl becomes the biblical Esther, queen of Persia.

The film repeatedly uses an ornate swastika, which is really of Buddhist origin, to represent the Persians while Haman gives brief speeches about democracy.

Based on the novel by Mark Andrew Olsen and Tommy Tenney, the film stars Omar Sharif and John Rhys-Davies. Despite favorable reviews from some quarters, this film made me feel uncomfortable. I found it overly costumed, unevenly acted and ideologically flawed. Confused, contemporary political commentary disguised as biblical drama.

UGLY BETTY (ABC, Thursdays): America Ferrera (Real Women Have Curves, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) stars as Betty Suarez, fresh out of college and hired as the executive assistant to the editor of a fashion magazine in New York.

Based on a wildly popular Colombian telenovela (soap opera), this sitcom radiates freshness. Betty’s kind and practical intelligence and good character clash with many of the stereotypical characters.

This show is filled with themes about family, advertising, social justice and what it takes to be a person of integrity in a world that values honesty only when it serves profit or reinforces superficiality. Parents, preteens and adolescents will enjoy watching this show together and talking about Betty’s dilemmas, the choices she makes and what makes a person beautiful. I hope this series will maintain its quality and keep us watching and talking.

 

FLICKA (A-1, PG): Loosely based on the classic novel by Mary O’Hara, Flicka is a coming-of-age story about a teen who would rather be tending her family’s ranch than studying. The conflicts between the girl (Alison Lohman) and her parents (Tim McGraw and Maria Bello) are realistic. Taming the wild mustang tests the girl’s maturity and her father’s patience. Beautiful cinematography; many family themes to talk about; some peril.

ROCKY BALBOA (not yet rated, PG): Sylvester Stallone wrote and stars in this (almost) family film showing what happened to Rocky 30 years after the first film in this series. Rocky is a widower who moves beyond grief to do good. The boxing is too violent for young children. At the screening, Stallone spoke movingly about his own journey. An appealing movie dotted with gentle humor and human kindness; boxing violence.

GUADALUPE (not yet rated): In celebration of the 475th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, this film is being released in the United States and most Spanish-speaking countries.

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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