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Fathers' Day
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

IMAGINE THAT
DEPARTURES (OKURIBITO)
AMERICAN VIOLET
MORE COP SHOWS
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



IMAGINE THAT

IMAGINE THAT (not yet rated, PG): Evan (Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls) lives the hectic life of a financial advisor to the rich and prosperous in Denver. Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways), supposedly a Native American, makes counter-proposals couched in spiritual clichés delivered with smarmy eloquence.

Evan shares custody of his young daughter, Olivia (Yara Shahidi), with his former wife. He searches for a way to reach Olivia, who escapes into an imaginary kingdom of three princesses and a queen.

When the child says things that seem to relate to the stock market, Evan pays attention and advises his clients accordingly. His reputation grows and Whitefeather becomes more competitive.

When the company’s chairman (Ronny Cox) decides to retire, the owner (Martin Sheen, The West Wing) asks Evan and Whitefeather to submit complex plans so he can choose a new chairman. Evan must decide between his daughter and his profession.

This film shows what happens when a father takes the time to stop and really listen to his child. Olivia helps Evan rediscover his own inner world.

Eddie Murphy plays his role just right. He is funny without being goofy. The moment where he realizes just how precious Olivia is to him is very moving.

Yara Shahidi’s performance is excellent for such a young child. And Thomas Haden Church’s Whitefeather is funny: His artifice contrasts humorously with Evan’s search for authenticity.

Director Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) told me in an interview that the inspiration for his life’s work is Christopher Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. “The movies I have done deal with big archetypical characters that are representative and allegorical,” said Kirkpatrick. “Most stories are about conquering your fear of dying. For Evan to lose his connection to his daughter is to lose his soul, and all for things that don’t really matter. After all, no one says on their deathbed that they wish they had spent less time with their children.”

Imagine That is a gift to fathers of all ages, everywhere: It’s never too late to be the dad you always wanted to be. Gentle comedy that will appeal to families because they can watch it together.

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DEPARTURES (OKURIBITO)

DEPARTURES (OKURIBITO) (not yet rated) won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the first jury award for SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communications). In this film, Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki, 1996 version of Shall We Dance?) loses his dream job as a cellist in a small Tokyo symphony orchestra. Daigo and his wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), return to his hometown of Hirano and move into a flat above a rundown pub.

Searching for a new job, Daigo sees an ad in the local paper headed by the word departures and happily imagines himself as a travel agent. He is interviewed and hired by Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) to help prepare bodies of deceased people in the traditional way—for cremation.

Daigo is too embarrassed to tell his wife about his new position. But when he modestly prepares corpses in full view of the mourners, as is the tradition, Daigo is truly reverent to the dead and kind to the family members.

In learning to respect the dead, Daigo discovers the meaning of life. Above all, he learns empathy, which transforms him into a better man.

This is the first film from director Yojiro Takita that I have seen: If Departures reflects its maker, then this surprising and moving film is a work of a master’s hand. To date, it’s one of my favorite films of the year.

In a country with so little land for burial that cremation is mandated for everyone, Japanese burial customs are a revelation. Filled with grace and life; themes of compassion, death and dying, honesty, reverence, respect, marriage, family, and fathers and sons are blended together with a soft and beautiful soundtrack.

AMERICAN VIOLET (Not yet rated, PG-13): Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) is a young mother of four who lives in the town projects in Melody, Texas. She is arrested for selling drugs in a school zone—one of many African-Americans rounded up in a raid that’s carried out with military precision.

Dee insists she is innocent. But Calvin Beckett (Michael O’Keefe, Frozen River), the racist district attorney, wants her to take a plea bargain and avoid prison. If Dee does so, however, she will be convicted as a felon, lose public housing, the right to vote and public assistance.

Dee refuses to take a plea. Her mother, Alma (Alfre Woodard, Take the Lead), posts bail for Dee but doesn’t hold out any hope because she knows how the system works.

The ACLU suspects racism as the motivation for the raid and sends an attorney named David Cohen (Tim Blake Nelson, Hoot). He tells Dee that the ACLU will defend her if she will stand up to Beckett and the system.

The acting is excellent, especially by newcomer Nicole Beharie as Dee. It is also refreshing to see Will Patton in a truly sympathetic role as a local attorney who signs on with the ACLU to assist in Dee’s case.

American Violet is a fictionalized David-and-Goliath drama based on a true story that took place in Hearne, Texas, in 2000. It is directed by Tim Disney (son of Roy E. Disney), who produced the Gabriel Award-winning documentary The Price of Sugar (2007). Once again, Tim and screenwriter Bill Haney have teamed up to make a powerful statement by revealing the human face of racial injustice and the workings of a legal system that runs hidden below the surface, out of sight to anyone who is not looking.

The film turns on two key facts: The more drug convictions a county/state hands down, the more money it receives from the federal government. Also, in 2000, a Texas grand jury could hand down an indictment based on the word of a single informant.

American Violet says there are 2.3 million prisoners in this country and 85 percent of them took a plea bargain. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and Texas has the largest in the country.

This film challenges the social, political and religious status quo. Thoughtful viewers will want to know more and ask, “What can I do?” Domestic and police violence, problem language, drug references.

Both The Unusuals (Wednesdays, ABC) and Southland (Thursdays, NBC) are mid-season freshmen that follow the same basic premise: the inside and personal stories of cops and detectives. The Unusuals is set in New York City and Southland (where else?) in Los Angeles.

Of the two, I like The Unusuals more, starring Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). It spins the drama with weakness, humanity and dedication, and is quirky enough to claim some originality.

Southland, with Ben McKenzie (The O.C.), Michael Cudlitz (Band of Brothers) and Regina King (Ray) is very earnest and takes itself more seriously. It has a reality-show flavor, even bleeping out curse words.

I read recently that there are more than 50 cop shows on television at any given time (including cable). The question is: Why? Mature themes; problem sex, violence and language.

STATE OF PLAY (A-3, PG-13): Russell Crowe is excellent in this political thriller from director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and screenwriters Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs). It’s based on a BBC miniseries. Nongraphic violence, sexual references, problem language.

TWO LOVERS (not yet rated, R): Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard, a fragile young Jewish man who moves back to his childhood home in Brooklyn after his fiancée leaves him. In this lovely romance, Leonard meets two women, Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), a volatile neighbor, and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of a business associate of his father. Some problem language and sexuality, brief drug use.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (A-2, PG) is a successful 3-D animated film that features the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd and Will Arnett. Although it’s congenial and clever enough, it put me to sleep. Tries too hard and too long to impress; fantasy violence, some peril.

KNOWING (A-2, PG-13): When an astrophysicist (Nicolas Cage) tries to figure out a numeric message in a time capsule, he ushers in the end times. It is a good fit with Catholic apocalyptic theology and showcases the existential significance of reconciliation between fathers and sons. This film set the Christian blogosphere on fire with chatter and reflection about Scripture, theology, the end times, guilt, family, grace and God’s presence in and care for the world. Peril, some crude 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 www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

 


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