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Family, Friends, Faith
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.




MORE THAN A GAME (not yet rated, PG): In Hollywood, when new filmmakers start out and their projects and futures are uncertain, they say that they obtain financing from three sources: family, friends and fools. In the case of first-time director/co-writer Kristopher Belman, he holds out for a different spin on why he made the film. This is because his new documentary about the highest-paid basketball player in the NBA, LeBron James, his boyhood friends and their coach, Dru Joyce, is based on family, friends and faith.

When Coach Dru’s son (also called Dru) was in middle school in Akron, Ohio, he was part of a traveling basketball team called “The Shooting Stars.” Coach Dru recruited three other young players, all from the inner city: LeBron James, Sian Cotton and Willie McGee. Together, they became known as “The Fabulous Four.”

When it was time for high school, young Dru, who was not as tall as the others, decided to apply to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School because he knew he could start there; the public high school already had a strong team which lessened his chances to play. Friends for so long, the other three boys decided to follow Dru. They caught a lot of grief for the decision to play for a mostly white school.

The four African-American teens, who were such close friends they were considered family, formed a core for “The Fighting Irish” team, later joined by Romeo Travis. For the first two years they were coached by Keith Dambrot and they won two state championships.

When Dambrot left, Coach Dru took over. He wanted to instill character first of all, and an example of Christian manhood. He also wanted to teach them that there was more to life than basketball. But the kids developed a swagger and it cost them championships and rankings in their junior year, 2002. The next year, however, they were back.

More Than a Game uses a visual 2˝-D effect, an editing technique that suits a documentary because it defines each character and makes it easier to follow their part in the story. I would have liked to have seen a complete team photo and their names, but as Akron-native/director Kristopher Belman, who went to Catholic schools and graduated from the film school at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, told me, there were just too many characters to follow. He had to remain true to the focus of the story.

While LeBron James, who was recruited out of high school by the Cleveland Cavaliers, is an amazing talent, the stories of Coach Dru—a corporate executive who had always dreamed of coaching—and Illya Smith, Willie’s older brother who raised him from the age of seven, are also inspiring and moving.

I am not exactly a raging sports fan, but I never took my eyes off the screen. Brief, mild language.



THE BOYS ARE BACK (not yet rated, PG-13): This film is based on the true story by Simon Carr as told in his 2001 book, The Boys Are Back in Town. It is directed by Scott Hicks, who also helmed the atmospheric crime mystery Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) and the proficient U.S. remake of the German film Bella Martha, entitled No Reservations (2007). He is best known, however, for directing Shine (1996), the amazing biopic of musician David Helfgott that won an Academy Award for Geoffrey Rush in the lead role.

The Boys Are Back is an uncomplicated story. Londoners Joe Warr (Clive Owen), a sportswriter, marries Flick (Natasha Little), and they have a son, Harry (George MacKay). When Harry is seven years old, Joe meets Katy (Laura Fraser), and they have an affair. When she becomes pregnant, Joe divorces Flick, marries Katy and relocates to Australia, Katy’s home.

When their son Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) is seven, Katy becomes ill with cancer and dies. Shortly after, Harry arrives on the scene and the three must figure out how to go on together.

One reviewer called this a “sun and sorrow” story, and it is that indeed. How the family came to be is less than desirable from a Christian perspective, true, but it happens. That Joe finally figures out how to bring his fragmented family together while in the throes of such intense grief is what matters. Artie’s grieving grandparents, as is universal in all cultures, are ports in the storm.

The landscape, wild and beautiful, filled with sun, the sea and rain, reflects the inner emotions of the characters. The Boys Are Back—but to what? Rather than to normal, they form a family bond so they can continue on their journey, this time in a convertible so that Katy can see them from the sky. Mature themes.

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (A-3, R): Oscar-winning director Michael Moore (Sicko) is back with a documentary about the bailout of the U.S. financial system and the reasons for The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of October 3, 2008, before the current financial meltdown and subsequent bailout of the housing mortgage and automotive industries in February 2009. The 2008 bailout permitted the U.S. Treasury to purchase $700 billion in “distressed assets” (mortgage-backed securities) and lend cash to banks.

Moore is outraged at capitalism run amok and the economic system that led to this disaster. His film is an incisive critique of capitalism, using his usual techniques of interviews, historical review, commentary and confrontation. Moore tries to get back at least some of the money of the American people by acquiring an armored car and holding out money bags in front of Wall Street banks; he also attempts citizen’s arrests of CEOs. Neither approach obtains the desired result, but it does make for entertaining viewing.

Moore uses a few examples of how greed and capitalism have corrupted aspects of American life: the legal system (two judges in Pennsylvania took kickbacks for sentencing teens for minor offenses to a privately owned juvenile hall) and how some major firms take out “dead peasant” life insurance policies on their employees and make hundreds of thousands of dollars when they die.

Moore then tries to demonstrate that there are alternatives to profit at any cost. For example, some airline pilots are paid a pittance (e.g., $20,000 a year) while the 40 employees of a small bread company, co-owned by the employees from its CEO to its bread packer, all make the same salary (about $60,000 annually).

Moore also speaks of his Catholic background and how he wanted to become a priest early on. He interviews two priests who call capitalism evil. A Chicago auxiliary bishop celebrates Mass for Republic Windows and Doors workers who refuse to leave the building until the bank pays their final salary after their company goes bankrupt. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit (retired) also adds Catholic social-teaching commentary. In fact, Catholic social teaching is an excellent framework with which to view the film.

Though not a perfect film, Moore succeeds in making the distinction between democracy as a form of government and capitalism, an economic system sorely in need of the consciences of people who profit from it, on behalf of those who are its victims. Strong language.

SCENES FROM A PARISH (PBS, check local listings): This documentary by James Rutenbeck follows the transformation of St. Patrick’s Parish in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a former mill town. Older parishioners question young Father Paul O’Brien’s methods to create a faith community between financially stable parishioners and young immigrant families who don’t speak English and need food, work and other services. They also confront social and generational issues. Those who reach out are not always successful, but together the parish comes together in creative ways in an ongoing journey in ever-changing realities.

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9 (L, PG-13): A futuristic disaster film in which nine characters survive to face “the machine.” The story seems to combine elements and themes from sci-fi films like Fritz Lang’s brilliant Metropolis (1927) to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) to The Terminator films and The Matrix trilogy. Religious symbolism is pervasive and provides a key to understanding the visually and philosophically complex film. Original animation. Animation violence, mature themes, peril.

BRIGHT STAR (not yet rated, PG): Based on the true story of unrequited love between the British poet John Keats (1795–1821) and his next-door neighbor, Fanny Brawne. Directed by Oscar-winner Jane Campion, the film’s cinematic qualities are as poetic as the man whose brief story it tells. Mature themes.

THE BLIND SIDE (not yet rated, PG-13): When Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock, All About Steve) decides to take in Michael Oher, a homeless teenager, she has no idea what it will mean for her or her family. Leigh Ann teaches Michael what it means to be loved and what it means to give of yourself for another. Based on a true story that almost seems too good to be so, this feel-good film will have you rooting for Michael and the Tuohys all the way. (Review written by Sister Hosea M. Rupprecht, F.S.P.) Brief violence and drug reference.

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

The USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See

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