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Stouthearted Men
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.


Robin Hood
Iron Man 2
Mother and Child
Turmoil and Triumph: The George Shultz Years
Film Capsules
Catholic Classifications

Robin Hood

ROBIN HOOD (A-3, PG-13): With more than 30 film versions since 1913 and many television adaptations, some ancient ballads and court records that go back to the late 13th century, Robin Hood, whoever he was, has caught the imagination of audiences once again. Director Ridley Scott's (Kingdom of Heaven) latest version opened the Cannes Film Festival in May and stars Russell Crowe as Robin and Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion.

At the end of disastrous crusades to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims, England's King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston, Clash of the Titans) is killed in 1199 as he tries to conquer a French castle to bankroll the final leg of his journey home.

A knight, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge, Vanity Fair), is attacked in a forest as he attempts to bring the king's helmet home to the queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins, Last Chance Harvey), and his younger brother, Prince John (Oscar Isaac, The Nativity Story).

As he is dying, Robert asks Robin Longstride (Crowe), an archer who chases off the assailants, to bring the helmet to the queen and his own sword to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow, Shutter Island). Though the men do not know each other, Sir Robert's sword is a connection to Robin's father who died when he was a child. Robin decides to impersonate Robert for safe passage.

"Rise and rise again until lambs become lions" are the words etched on Robert's sword, and they begin to haunt Robin. He delivers the helmet to the queen at the Tower of London, and John is proclaimed king. Robin and his men depart for Nottingham where Sir Walter asks that Robin continue the disguise, much to the chagrin of Robert's widow, Lady Marion (Blanchett).

While King John and his henchmen led by Godfrey (Mark Strong, The Young Victoria) steal crops and treasures from a people already impoverished by the crusades, Robin is transformed from a homeward-bound archer, to a new identity as a landowner, to a forest-dwelling outlaw.

Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland's (Mystic River) script is a pointed interpretation of the Robin Hood legend. What's unique about the story, as compared to other versions, is that the Magna Carta, the great "Charter of Freedoms" that laid the groundwork for modern democracy, is a central character in the film. The Magna Carta anchors the narrative firmly in history and sheds light on current geo-politics and religion.

The "divine right of kings" is soundly challenged in the film that takes place about 16 years before the Magna Carta was actually signed in 1215, leaving room for a sequel. The focus on the Magna Carta is an invitation to revisit the circumstances that gave rise to it and what it can say to people today who seek either to promote justice or to subvert it.

Robin and Marion are more mature and credible than previous portrayals; both look sturdy and the actors give robust, earthy performances. Oscar Isaac, as the immature, egotistical King John, is a perfect villain. Director Ridley Scott has created a past world that engages the imagination as it reflects the bleakness of the era and the hope that arose from mud, ruin and oppression by powerful forces.

In some ways, Robin Hood is a natural follow-up to Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. Here the filmmakers, through the mythic and iconic figure of Robin Hood, a stouthearted man, and Marion, a woman who is his equal, boldly direct us to look upon our world through the lens of 800 years past, and consider what is good for all, not just a few. Action battle violence.


Iron Man 2

IRON MAN 2 (A-3, PG-13): Industrial-war-complex businessman Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is dying. His technological life-source, which operates as his heart, is degrading and poisoning his blood. This invention saved him in Iron Man (2008), and now it must be replaced constantly.

Tony keeps this threat a secret from his faithful assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and from the government and military that covet his body suit, which transports, protects and serves as a weapon. Even his good friend and military liaison, Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle, Ocean's Thirteen), a.k.a. War Machine, does not know.

Tony has planned a huge Iron Man expo on the site of the New York World's Fair to show off the inventions for world peace because "technology will save us." Senator Stern (Garry Shandling, Town & Country) wants the technology for the U.S. government, and industrial rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, Everybody's Fine) hires a rogue Russian physicist, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler), to enhance Tony's suit so he can get the government contract.

The ensuing action of this sequel is up to the standard that was set by director Jon Favreau in Iron Man, but the film's story is less developed, so more battles and explosions are required. The comic-book film genre, as well as the box office, is well-served by Iron Man 2.

While this information may seem trivial, it is important to consider the influence of comic books and films in our culture. The good-vs.-evil plots of popular entertainment that seem to interface well with Christian morality are actually more Gnostic in nature.

Generations of people reduce morality to this one-dimensional formula that justifies vengeance rather than forgiveness, reconciliation, transformation, justice and authentic peacemaking. Force through violence is the only thing that makes sense; there is no room for grace.

Images of light and darkness are confused. In the world of comic-book morality, the victors are mistaken for light because the vanquished are equated with darkness.

The difference between Robin Hood and Iron Man 2 is the difference between the belief that the principles of democracy will save us vs. technology. Sci-fi action violence and some language.

MOTHER AND CHILD (not yet rated, R): Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones, Amelia) runs a Catholic adoption agency. Years before, Nora (Eileen Ryan, I Am Sam) forced her 14-year-old daughter, Karen (played as an adult by Annette Bening, The Women), to give up a child for adoption. Karen was never able to adjust, enter into meaningful relationships or forgive her mother.

That child, Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), is a lawyer but is solitary, hard and almost soul-less. She lures her boss (Samuel L. Jackson, Iron Man 2) into an affair and becomes pregnant. Lucy (Kerry Washington, The Last King of Scotland) and her husband, an African-American couple, approach Sister Joanne to adopt a child.

How the lives of these characters intertwine forms the plot of this ensemble drama written and directed by Rodrigo García. He uses the same technique to explore women in relation to men as he did in Nine Lives (2005).

Mother and Child is a small film that concentrates on the experience of mothers and the consequences of the choices we make along the timeline of life. García elicits very strong performances from all the characters. The women are presented as the life force, while men are nudged out or choose to be sidelined.

While this reality may reflect aspects of Western society that have always existed, I wondered what the film might be saying about the primal connection between mothers and children and the role of men in their lives. Mother and Child is life-affirming, thoughtful and deeply moving. Cherry Jones gives one of the most authentic portrayals of a nun in contemporary cinema. Mature themes, sexuality, language.

TURMOIL AND TRIUMPH: THE GEORGE SHULTZ YEARS (PBS, premieres in July, check local listings): A laudatory and somewhat uncritical history of political economist and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz (1982—1989) in three parts. It includes footage of pivotal moments in U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations, including nuclear reduction talks leading up to the fall of the Iron Curtain.


BABIES (not yet rated, PG): This film documents the first year in the life of three girls and a boy from different countries and cultures. It is life-affirming, natural and warmly entertaining. It is curious that the fathers play such minor roles. This is an excellent resource for students of the Theology of the Body, and an opportunity for mothers to see with daughters—and fathers with sons—and talk about the miracle of birth. Mature themes, sexuality, language.

CITY ISLAND (not yet rated, PG-13): An insightful film about an Italian-American family that has lived for generations on City Island in the Bronx. Secrets and lies complicate relationships, and the truth heals and unites. Mature themes, sexuality, language.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (not yet rated, R): This almost incredible documentary tells the story of Thierry Guetta/Mr. Brainwash, a pseudo-filmmaker and would-be street artist who cons the art community of Los Angeles and beyond into buying his ersatz art for great sums of money. The film is also a history of how graffiti became a valid and profitable art form, from dissidence to acceptance. This film is a must for students of popular culture. Language.

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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