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Dragons Fly
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.


How to Train Your Dragon
Date Night
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Goodbye Solo
The Marriage Ref
Film Capsules
Catholic Classifications

How to Train Your Dragon

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (A-2, PG): Long ago in the land of the Vikings, the teen Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel, She's Out of My League) struggles to become a dragon-slayer like his father. He is not as big and strong as the others and, instead, works in a blacksmith shop. Fire-breathing dragons have been attacking the village for seven generations. Meanwhile, the Vikings capture some of the many species of dragons to learn how to fight them.

Hiccup's father, Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler, The Bounty Hunter), and the dragon master Gobber (voice of Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) decide that the best way to destroy the dragons forever is to destroy their nests.

During one attack Hiccup fires a cannon and injures a green-eyed Night Fury dragon. Instead of killing it, Hiccup reaches out his hand in friendship and names him Toothless. Hiccup becomes a kind of dragon whisperer and builds a prosthetic tail so Toothless can fly again.

Astrid (voice of America Ferrera, Ugly Betty) aspires to be a dragon-slayer, too, and does not trust Toothless at first. Then the dragon takes both of them on an amazing flight, and she starts to change her mind about dragons.

How to Train Your Dragon is based on the first of a series of dragon tales by British author Cressida Cowell. The 3D film captivates from the very beginning because Hiccup intuits that violence is not the way to conquer those who attack, but that understanding them is.

Early on, Astrid tells Hiccup, “Our parents' war is about to become ours; choose what side you are on.” Hiccup walks the path of empathy and makes friends with Toothless when he sees that the dragon is just as afraid as he is. Hiccup learns about the life of dragons and why they act the way they do.

This animated film is visually stunning and entertaining—the Vikings' Scots accent and the kids' American accents notwithstanding. Even though three writers collaborated on the screenplay—and multiple writers are usually the kiss of death for a film—their efforts created an engaging narrative about how to get along. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders of Lilo & Stitch (2002) co-directed.

The ongoing war between the dragons and Vikings is easily a metaphor for the modern times. How to Train Your Dragon is a course in peacemaking, empathy and character-building for all ages. Intense fantasy violence.


Date Night

DATE NIGHT (L, PG-13): Truth be told, the advance reviews for this film were so poor I did not put it on my list. At a national meeting for catechists, however, so many people who had enjoyed the film recommended it to me that I went to see it.

Phil Foster (Steve Carell, The Office) and his wife, Claire (Tina Fey, 30 Rock), have friends (played by Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) who are in a rut and splitting up. Phil is afraid that their own well-ordered, New Jersey suburban life with their two children has become humdrum, too.

So for their regularly scheduled date night, he decides at the last minute to take Claire to a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. They have no reservations but Phil refuses to give up and claims a table not their own. Things are going along fine until two tough guys arrive at their table demanding to speak to them outside. The Fosters think it's because they took someone else's reservation. Instead, the men demand to know from the couple where a computer flash drive is.

Suddenly, Phil's little white lie takes on gigantic and dangerous proportions when one lie leads to another as the couple tries to outwit and escape the bad guys.

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are two of television's most recognizable comedians, and in Date Night they are funny without even trying. On their madcap nighttime journey around Manhattan, they take moments to talk frankly about how they really feel at this point in their marriage.

It is interesting that the etymology for the name Phil is from the Greek, meaning “friend, dear, beloved,” and Claire, from the late Latin, meaning “clear and bright.” Claire clearly tells Phil at one point that sometimes she fantasizes about being alone and not having to manage everything; Phil tells her that if she will only believe in him, she can trust him.

Date Night isn't a romantic comedy, but a film where two people become aware of the possibilities for change and growth in a marriage and the courage to work together and, at the end of the day, to love and laugh.

By the way, who takes a reservation belonging to someone else? This gag line pulls the film together and is laugh-out-loud funny. Some language, mature themes, some action/comedic violence.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Män som hatar kvinnor) (not yet rated): When the aging patriarch of a Swedish industrial dynasty, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), decides to hire the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to solve an old mystery, the stage is set for a dark thriller that never lets up.

Vanger orders a background search on Blomkvist, done by a peculiar young woman with body piercings, a dragon tattoo and a photographic memory, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She is a computer-hacking genius.

Although Blomkvist has been unjustly convicted of libel, Salander discovers not only is he an ethical journalist, but also has been set up. She feels sorry for him—in a technological way. Blomkvist accepts the job to find Harriet Vanger and asks Salander for help. She must learn to trust this man, even though all her experience works against this.

The film is based on the first novel of The Millennium-trilogy by the Swedish author Stieg Larsson, who died suddenly in 2004.

The director, Niels Arden Oplev, shows restraint in bringing the story to the screen, though for some it may not be enough. The film explores human behavior and exposes the damage and consequences from sexual, physical and emotional abuse in families, the sex-trafficking trade and the failure of the social system that is supposed to protect the weak.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a riveting motion picture filled with crime and mystery and tinged with hope, is certainly not for the fainthearted. In Swedish with English subtitles. Graphic violence and sexuality, language.

GOODBYE SOLO (PBS, June 10; check local listings): I briefly reviewed this film by director Ramin Bahrani in the May 2009 issue, but it takes on special meaning in this time of debate about U.S. immigration policy.

Solo is an immigrant from Senegal who drives a cab in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His Latina girlfriend is having their baby. He befriends a lonely and hopeless old man, William, who hires him to drive him to a park where he can take his own life. Over 10 days Solo tries to talk William out of his decision.

The film shows the differing gifts, optimism and love for life that immigrants bring to our culture, whose values are in deep need of meaning and renewal. The full film, available from, is rated R for language, but this PBS version has been edited for broadcast.

THE MARRIAGE REF (Thursdays, NBC, 10 p.m. EDT; 9 p.m. CDT): As host, comedian Tom Papa brings married couples with issues—such as eating a pet duck's eggs so her feelings won't be hurt, keeping a motorcycle in the dining room or moving to Malibu vs. moving to Amish country for a retired couple—before a panel of celebrities to see who wins, husband or wife. Contestants are rewarded with a second honeymoon. It's all about the little things.


CLASH OF THE TITANS (A-3, PG-13): In this tale borrowed from Greek mythology, people on earth are tired of interference from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and the other gods and choose Perseus (Sam Worthington), a demigod unknowingly fathered by Zeus, to lead them in battle. Superb special effects, though 3D was added as an afterthought. There are too many gods to count and painfully little drama or meaningful dialogue, and Worthington mostly just poses for the camera. Fantasy action violence.

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (El Secreto de sus ojos) (not yet rated, R): This brilliant film from Argentina won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film this year. It begins with a horrific crime and then follows the detective on the case, the district attorney and others over 25 years. It is a film about justice and love. The motif “the secret in their eyes” functions throughout as the visual link among story, images and characters. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rape scene, some graphic images, violence, language.

THE JONESES (not yet rated, R): One of my favorite films of the year so far because it deals with existential meaning and authentic relationships in a world of stuff. Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth appear to be a family when they move into a wealthy suburb. What they really are is a unit hired to sell lifestyle and the expensive products that go with it to their neighbors. Covetousness has consequences. Language, mature themes.

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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