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Of Love, Family and Home in America
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N


COLD MOUNTAIN (L, R): In July 1864, Union troops tunnel under Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia, to lay explosives. Many soldiers from Cold Mountain, North Carolina, are wounded in the terrible battle that follows, including Inman (Jude Law). When he has healed enough, Inman leaves the Army hospital and heads home.

Before the war, Inman became attracted to Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), who moved from Charleston to Cold Mountain with her preacher father (Donald Sutherland). When Inman joins the Confederate army in 1861, Ada promises to wait for him.

Back in Cold Mountain, Ada does a poor job tending to their small farm after her father’s death. Then one day, Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) shows up to help—as an equal, not as a servant. Her rustic, earthy ways make Ada come alive again. She yearns for Inman’s return.

Among the difficulties the two women face is a man named Teague (Ray Winstone), who wants Ada’s land. He is the leader of the Home Guard and hunts for deserters.

During Inman’s odyssey home, he encounters traitors in addition to kind people. This man of integrity is tired of war and death. Like Ada, he lives in courage and hope.

Cold Mountain was written and directed by Anthony Minghella, based on the 1997 novel by Charles Frazier. This visual masterpiece was filmed in exquisite, visceral detail that evokes a whole range of emotions from the viewer.

Similar to Minghella’s The English Patient in the telling, Mountain is more accessible to the audience. It starts in the middle of the tale, then loops back and forth gently between Inman’s and Ada’s stories.

Although I didn’t care for Nicole’s black pantsuit costume, this is a convincing anti-war film dressed up by a very moving and effective love story. A true cinematic experience with ideas and heart; intense war violence and sexuality.

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (A-2, PG): The Baker family lives in rural Midland, Illinois. The parents are Tom (Steve Martin), a college football coach, and Kate (Bonnie Hunt), who is just finishing a book about raising their 12 children. These parents are not happy that their eldest daughter, Nora (Piper Perabo), lives with her actor boyfriend, Hank (Ashton Kutcher).

Tom accepts an offer of a prestigious job coaching football at his old college. This means the family will have to move, which the children protest.

When Kate heads to New York to begin a promotional tour of her book, she leaves Tom in charge of the household. But he is busy coaching, so Nora and Hank come to help. Family unity begins to suffer as the children engage in various capers, and Dad’s patience is sorely tried.

Cheaper is based on the original 1950 book by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and his sister Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. A movie was made the same year, starring Clifton Webb and Jeanne Crain as the parents.

The new version resembles the original only in broad strokes, so some viewers may be disappointed. The Bakers are a thoroughly modern family, albeit a large one. They face the challenges of dual careers and raising lively, growing children.

Ashton Kutcher as the clueless Hank is the funniest, and Forrest Landis as the lonely son, Mark, is touching. An entertaining enough film that will appeal to a wide audience; some problem language and rough behavior.

IN AMERICA (A-3, PG-13): Johnny (Paddy Considine), Sarah (Samantha Morton) and their two young daughters, Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger) immigrate from Ireland to the United States in the 1980s. They are grieving the death of their youngest child, Frankie.

The family settles in a run-down Manhattan tenement, where their neighbors are drug addicts and an African immigrant named Mateo (Djimon Hounsou). Mateo, a “man who screams,” is dying. At first, the Irish family is wary of him, but he turns out to be their true friend.

Johnny is an unemployed actor and Sarah works as a waitress. Their children are enrolled at a Catholic school. As the family struggles to adjust and exist, they are haunted by Frankie’s death.

Director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) co-wrote the screenplay with his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten. It is loosely based on their own experience.

This poignant film showcases some wonderful talent by all the principal characters. The Bolger sisters as Ariel and Christy are natural and very effective. Ariel is a delightful, chatty sprite for most of the film. Christy narrates the story but speaks little, using a camcorder as a way to remember.

The line that moved me the most was when Johnny tries to comfort Christy and she answers, “Don’t little-girl me. I’ve been carrying this family on my back for over a year now.” In America joins Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham and The Station Agent as one of the most memorable films of 2003. Adult themes; full of heart, hope and insight into poverty, illness, death and sorrow.

JUDAS (ABC, March 8): Judas still remains an enigmatic figure forever linked to the passion and death of Jesus. In this thoughtful prime-time drama from Paulist Productions, viewers are invited to consider Judas from a contemporary psychological and theological perspective and seek to answer these questions: Why did Judas betray Jesus? Can a person be intrinsically evil? Who was Judas?

Executive producer Father Frank Desiderio, successor to Father Ellwood (Bud) Kieser (Romero, Entertaining Angels), describes the film as a 21st-century midrash, that is, a contemplative story written about a biblical figure or event. Judas also offers us a Jesus who is not portrayed in the usual Jesus-movie style.

It stars Johnathon Schaech, Jonathan Scarfe, Tim Matheson and Bob Gunton. Judas was written by Tom Fontana (Oz) and directed by Charles Robert Carner.

Judas is a different kind of Lenten film that will interest people who use this medium to contemplate what it might have been like to live when Jesus did.

PATRICK (Hallmark Channel, March 14): Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day comes this graceful, hourlong docudrama about the fifth-century missionary saint whose life and writings continue to influence the Church, the world and spirituality.

Patrick was a man who knew slavery, rejection and deep depression. He survived because of his faithful relationship with God. His beloved Irish people accepted him and converted from paganism to Christ because Patrick knew how “to insinuate new ideas into an existing culture” and taught them in their own language.

Patrick was created by Pamela Mason Wagner and Dyanna Taylor, the same team that produced Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi. Filmed on location in Galway, it is narrated by Liam Neeson. Gabriel Byrne is the voice of St. Patrick. In addition, Frank McCourt and experts in Irish folklore and history provide commentary.

THE APPRENTICE (NBC, Thursdays): It’s men against women as two teams of eight compete for a top job in the world of big business. At the end of 15 weeks, the winner will become president of one of Donald Trump’s companies for a year.

The show is a huge reality check for young people who seek to enter this ambitious world of high-stakes finance and real estate while retaining their dignity and integrity. There are many themes to unpack and values to explore through conversation.

 

CALENDAR GIRLS (A-3, PG-13): Chris (Helen Mirren) and Annie (Julie Walters) are two friends who raise money for a new waiting room at a hospital when Annie’s husband dies of cancer. They produce a calendar featuring photo portraits of themselves and their matronly friends naked behind various homey props. The women question the moral limits of their project and decide it is art. At its heart, this is about human relationships, friendship and the temptations of celebrity.

PAYCHECK (A-3, PG-13): I liked this multi-genre (sci-fi, thriller, action) film with Ben Affleck as a man who sells his technological talents and skills in return for money and an erased memory. Then he regrets his decision and spends the rest of the movie trying to get his life back. It goes where other films have gone before but continues to raise many of the same ethical questions about science, technology and conscience in the world today and tomorrow. Movies like this will keep prodding us to find the answers. Problem violence and language.

THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA (Not rated yet, PG): Remember the black-and-white sci-fi B movies some of us used to watch on television on Saturdays in the '50s and early '60s? This spoof is so painful it’s funny. See it for nostalgia and the corny dialogue. Opened in major cities in February. Some problem language.

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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