THE KITE RUNNER
THE KITE RUNNER (A-3, PG-13):
Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and
Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada),
the son of the family’s servant,
are childhood friends in Afghanistan,
before the Soviet invasion. Amir loves
writing stories, as his deceased mother
did. But his father, Baba (Homayon
Ershadi, Color of Friend), disapproves and
wants Amir to be a doctor.
When Amir and Hassan are confronted
by Assef (Abdul Salam
Yusoufzai), Hassan scares off the
bully. But Assef gets revenge on
Hassan after a kite competition,
with a frightened Amir watching.
Hassan is never the same after
the attack, and Amir is ashamed
of his cowardice. Then when the
Soviets advance, Amir and his
father flee to the United States.
Years later, during the time of
the Taliban, Amir (Khalid Abdalla, United 93) has married and sold
his first novel. Rahim Kahn
(Shaun Toub, Crash), his father’s
former business partner, invites
Amir to come back to Afghanistan
to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab (Ali
Dinesh), as a way “to do good again.”
Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland)
and based on the best-selling
novel by Khaled Hosseini, this film is a
flawless adaptation. Homayon Ershadi
as Baba deserves Oscar attention. The
child actors (in particular Ahmad Khan
Mahmidzada as Hassan) are wonderful.
The themes (friendship, reconciliation
with self, neighbor and God, restitution,
the struggle to integrate being
good and doing good, the influence of
uncontrollable social class and social
forces), combined with interesting cinematography,
good direction and a fine
screenplay, make this one of the year’s
best films. (Mostly in Farsi, with English
subtitles.) Non-graphic rape scene, violence,
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (A-3, R):
Steve Burke (David Duchovny, The X-Files)
is a prosperous real-estate developer,
the loving father of two and
happily married to Audrey (Halle Berry,
Monster’s Ball). When Steve encounters
a man hitting a woman, he intervenes
and is killed.
The devastated Audrey sends her
brother, Neal (Omar Benson Miller, Shall
We Dance?), to find Jerry Sunborne
(Benicio del Toro), Steve’s friend since
childhood. Jerry, a former lawyer, is
now a heroin addict living in squalor.
Audrey knows that Steve, who never
gave up on Jerry, would want Jerry at
Audrey invites Jerry to live in their
newly renovated garage that had
burned. He gets along well with the
children and neighbors, and begins to
attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
This is a touching, intimate film.
The closeups reveal the inner strength
that people can frequently show in
coping with tragedy and personal failure.
They may have lost things in a
long-ago fire, but Steve’s family and
friends have one another. Problem language
and drug use.
INTO THE WILD (A-3, R) is based on the
true story of Christopher McCandless
(Emile Hirsch, The Emperor’s
Club), who graduated in 1990
from Emory College in Atlanta,
gave away $24,000 in savings and
He sets off on an odyssey, giving
up most of what he owns as
he hikes west, kayaks down the
Colorado River to Mexico, hitchhikes
north to the Dakotas, working
toward his goal: spiritual
freedom and Alaska. Along the
way, he burns his driver’s license
and takes a new name: Alexander
He becomes friends with many
people, including aging hippies and
Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook, The Firm), a
lonely widower who is a practicing
In Alaska, McCandless goes into the
wilderness with the desire to live off
the land. He lives in an abandoned bus and is, at first, blithely happy with his
freedom, faithfully keeping his journal.
He dies tragically.
Director Sean Penn (Mystic River) has
created a striking, spiritual film that
evokes the ethos of the 1960s. The film
is based on the best-selling book by
Jon Krakauer (Under the Banner of
Heaven) who, in my opinion, is the
finest nonfiction writer in America
today. Hal Holbrook’s performance is
The McCandless family cooperated
with the filmmakers, perhaps as a cautionary
tale for other parents. As a child
of the 1960s, I felt this film deeply.
This is a thought-provoking road trip
about one man’s search for freedom
and what he learned along the way:
True happiness is achieved only when
we share goodness with others. Rough
language and some nudity.
RENDITION (A-3, R) is a chilling political
thriller from director Gavin Hood
(Tsotsi). A permanent resident of the
United States who is originally from
Egypt is selected for extraordinary “rendition”
(torture for information in a
foreign jail by foreign military or police
while the C.I.A. observes).
This film focuses on the cold horror
of political inquisition that has been a
reality since the Clinton Administration.
It asks: “Do the ends ever justify
the means?” Not according to Catholic
teaching. Torture and drug use.
48 HOURS (PG-13) is the story
of a young Irish lad who has
a fatal illness. He sets out on
a journey of faith looking for God and
a miracle. He meets another boy and a
young man who are on their own journeys.
An exceedingly quiet, extended meditation
on living and dying; some violence
and problem language.
THE NATIVITY STORY, including special
features, will be available for Christmas.
(For more information about this 2006
film, see www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Dec2006/Feature1.asp.)
THE NEW NETWORK SEASON: My
favorite new television program
is Moonlight (CBS, Fridays),
a genre-blend of the ever-popular
police procedural and supernatural
thriller about a benevolent vampire
(Alex O’Loughlin). Its premise explores
the meaning of the struggle of good
and evil and engages viewers.
My next favorite is Life (NBC, Wednesdays),
about a wrongly convicted
police officer (Damian Lewis) who is
vindicated and reinstated in his job
after 12 years in prison. His peculiar
way of solving crimes is engaging and
Life Is Wild (CW, Sundays) is about a
veterinarian (D. W. Moffett) who moves
with his family from New York to South
Africa for a year. It’s filmed on location.
Although I’ve seen only one
episode so far, I enjoyed it.
Private Practice (ABC, Wednesdays)
is the spin-off from the hugely popular
Grey’s Anatomy. The setting is an expensive
clinic in Santa Monica, California.
The ensemble cast is solid but it’s not
on my “must-see” list yet.
Pushing Daisies (ABC, Wednesdays) is
a brightly illustrated fantasy-comedy, a
CSI-kind of show about a pie-maker
(Lee Pace) with the dubious and complicated
gift of bringing people back
to life, solving the mysteries of their
deaths and, hopefully, collecting the
rewards. It’s quirky and different.
AWAKE MY SOUL (PBS, check local listings):
This documentary focuses on
sacred harp singing, the oldest surviving
form of American music (www.awakemysoul.com). “Sacred harp” refers
to the unaccompanied human
voice, the instrument given by God,
as featured in the films Cold Mountain and Gangs of New York. Fascinating.