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What If?
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

ARCTIC TALE
SPIDER-MAN 3
JINDABYNE
CHAMPIONS OF FAITH: BASEBALL EDITION
5TH WORLD SUMMIT ON MEDIA AND CHILDREN
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



ARCTIC TALE

ARCTIC TALE (not rated, G): Queen Latifah narrates this documentary about the struggles of polar bears and walruses in the Great North. Nanu and her twin brother are young polar bears discovering the seemingly endless ice kingdom that is their home and hunting field. Seela, a walrus, is born underwater and joins her family group to loll in the sun on ice floes and feast on clams.

As global warming impacts their world, the mothers of these young creatures are challenged as they struggle to teach their offspring how to avoid becoming prey as they search for food and enjoy life. The film follows Nanu and Seela through birth and adolescence, to becoming mothers themselves. It’s the North Pole-version of the 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary March of the Penguins.

The cinematography and narration are lyrical. Queen Latifah’s gentle narration endows the Arctic with personality, dignity and great worth. The camera’s view is deliberate as it captures the life cycles of the polar bears and the walruses, with humor, pathos and realism.

Above all, the film demonstrates the essential interdependence of these animals and their shrinking environment with all the life forms of the Arctic and, by extension, the entire earth.

My favorite scene was the majestic aerial shot of the beluga whales, orcas and other animals swimming in the canal between the ice floes during the summer migration. (The after-dinner sequence of walrus digestive behavior will delight young viewers especially.)

The musical score is by Joby Talbot (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). The team of writers includes Linda Woolverton and Mose Richards, who have written for Disney and nature documentaries, and Kristin Gore, daughter of Al and Tipper Gore. Kristin was the only female writer for the Emmy-winning, animated TV series Futurama.

Arctic Tale is coproduced by National Geographic and Paramount Classics. While there are many similarities between Arctic Tale and March of the Penguins, this documentary about the Far North ends with a question that elicits many more: What if these fascinating animals of earth’s ice kingdom can no longer find food? Implied peril.

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SPIDER-MAN 3

SPIDER-MAN 3 (A-3, PG-13): Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finally proposes to Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) in the third installment of this comic book-into-film franchise. Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) offers Peter her own wedding ring to give to MJ and tells him that a husband must put his wife before himself. She also reminds him that revenge is like poison.

Harry (James Franco) continues to blame Peter for his father’s death. Flint Marco (Thomas Haden Church), who killed Peter’s uncle, escapes from jail and becomes Sandman after he stumbles into a radioactive test site. Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a photographer who turns into Venom, is a new nemesis who will do anything to get Peter’s job at the newspaper. The darker side of Peter’s character is exposed when he wears a black spider suit.

Comic-book icon Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane continues to be a rather wooden figure. Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water) is supposed to threaten Peter and MJ’s romance, but her role seems superfluous.

Most comic-book-style films present a world where good triumphs against evil and free will is given short shrift. Spider-Man 3, however, delves into conscience, reflection, repentance, reconciliation and the choice to do the right thing.

There may be too many characters and plotlines in director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. But the special effects set a new bar for comic-book action films. And the moral dilemmas provide thoughtful people with much to talk about. Intense action violence.

JINDABYNE (A-3, R): Claire (Laura Linney) is a troubled American mother who lives in rural Australia with her son and Irish-born husband, Stewart (Gabriel Byrne).

One day, Stewart and some friends go fishing in a remote area where the landscape is majestic and the weather is beautiful. Within a few hours, Stewart discovers the body of a murdered young woman floating facedown in the river. The victim is part aboriginal. He tethers her to the riverbank so the police can retrieve her later and then continues fishing with his friends. The next day they hike out and contact the authorities.

The police question the men but cannot charge them with a crime. The way Stewart and his friends deal with the young woman’s horrible murder seems unnatural and the town turns against them.

As Claire copes with her own fragile psyche and tense relationships, she decides to find a way to bring dignity to the murdered woman. This fascinating film is based on So Much Water So Close to Home, a short story by American writer Raymond Carver. As students of film know, nature often plays a character role in Australian cinema. In Jindabyne, nature also demands—and satisfies—justice.

Director Ray Lawrence, who helmed the intricate tale of infidelity and suspicion in the excellent, award-winning Lantana (2001), demonstrates once again an acute awareness of his environment and an understanding of how the natural world and human nature are inseparable. Partial nudity, rough language.

CHAMPIONS OF FAITH: BASEBALL EDITION (not rated): Almost every baseball fan remembers the unexpected televised brawl between Kansas City Royal Mike Sweeney and Detroit Tiger Jeff Weaver in 2001. But not as many know about the teenage girl (youth minister at Sweeney’s parish) who asked him a few weeks later, “Mr. Sweeney, why did you do that? You broke my heart.” This marked the beginning of Sweeney’s journey to reconciliation that finally led him to pick up the phone and ask Weaver’s forgiveness, which was readily given.

I was moved to tears as Sweeney recalled this incident. All the stories are inspiring and appropriate for young adolescents, religious-education classes, Bible-study groups, Confirmation retreats and others. The distributor hopes this is the first of a series of programs that will explore the faith lives of the athletes who encourage us never to give up.

Mike Piazza, Dave Eckstein, Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney, Jack McKeon and Rich Donnelly are among the featured baseball champions. But many other baseball players offer faith commentaries throughout. They go to Mass, read the Bible and pray the Rosary. They work hard, ask forgiveness and support one another in the good times and in the bad.

The executive producer and director is Tom Allen, president of Catholic Exchange and distribution finance executive of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. This 65-minute film was shot in high definition and released in April (direct to DVD) with a helpful reflection/discussion guide. For more information, go to www.championsoffaith.com.

5TH WORLD SUMMIT ON MEDIA AND CHILDREN: I was among the 900 people, including 300 children, who gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, in March to revisit the World Summit movement’s goal of assuring quality TV programming (as well as films, radio, print and online media) for all children around the world (www.5wsmc.com).

Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, greeted the gathering in the name of Pope Benedict XVI and spoke about the Holy Father’s concern that media education needs to be integrated into the lives and education of young people.

Members of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication (www.signis.net), were also present and followed 5WSMC with two days on media education.

 

SHREK THE THIRD (A-2, PG) brings back many of the animated characters of yore voiced by celebrities. Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are filling in for the ailing King Harold (John Cleese). Shrek searches for the young Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) stages a coup in Far Far Away. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) are wonderful. The fun film spoofs Hollywood once again while encouraging the characters and viewers to be true to self. Mild off-color humor.

THE NAMESAKE (A-3, PG-13): Mira Nair’s (Monsoon Wedding) fond interpretation of the best-selling novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (who also plays in the film) tells this story of an Indian couple who come to the United States and try to raise their children in two cultures. I thought the book was better because it reads like a Russian novel that influences the life of the protagonist. But the film ultimately achieves the same narrative, showing that the love between parents and children transcends all cultures. Brief teen drug use and brief sexual encounters.

SIX DAYS (not rated) was released for the 40th anniversary of the June 1967 Six Day War among Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Filmmaker Ilan Ziv’s documentary presents a riveting account of the key people and what led up to the war. The decisions that they made changed the face, geography and future of the Middle East—and the globe—explaining much about its reality today. News footage of war.

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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