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Down the Rabbit Hole Redux
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

Alice in Wonderland
The Mighty Macs
The Perfect Game
Sunshine
V
Film Capsules
Catholic Classifications



Alice in Wonderland

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (A-2, PG): Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska, Defiance) is the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate (Marton Csokas, Kingdom of Heaven) and of marriageable age. One beautiful summer day her mother (Lindsay Duncan, Rome) takes Alice to a Victorian garden party where it is expected that the boorish Hamish (Leo Bill, Me and Orson Welles) will propose and she will accept.

Alice shocks everyone when she wanders off to consider the proposal vis-à-vis her dreams of a future traveling the world to continue her father's business. When Alice sees a rabbit in a waistcoat, she follows him and tumbles down a hole into a place called "Underland."

She drinks a potion that makes her small and eats cake that makes her big. She encounters a "Mad Hatter" (Johnny Depp, Public Enemies), who is in charge of some strange characters she meets. These consist of the twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas, Astro Boy), the Cheshire Cat (voice of Stephen Fry, V for Vendetta), Absolem the Caterpillar (voice of Alan Rickman, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, Terminator Salvation), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway, Bride Wars), the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee, Corpse Bride), and the list goes on.

Alice in Wonderland is based on the classic 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The first (silent) film version was released in 1903, and the book has been made into more than 20 movie and television adaptations since then.

Director Tim Burton (Corpse Bride) and screenwriter Linda Woolverton (The Lion King) present a more mature Alice here. She is no longer a confused adolescent, but a young lady who comes of age via the exercise of her moral imagination. Through her afternoon journey she is able to consider the consequences of choices and qualities of character that make up a mature person. This leads her to make an adult decision of her own. The transformation of the Caterpillar into a butterfly symbolizes the entire film—the dying of childhood and taking free flight into the beauty of the future.

Alice in Wonderland is a delightful visual feast that pulls in the viewer so much that it doesn't really matter that the narrative is rather prosaic. There is a beginning, a middle and an end which are somewhat disappointing, given the amazing dreamlike universe that the filmmakers went through such trouble to create and populate. Some fantasy action and violence.

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The Mighty Macs

THE MIGHTY MACS (not yet rated): It is the early 1970s, at the dawn of the women's movement and just before Title IX programs for athletics were extended to women. The president and mother superior (Ellen Burstyn, W.) of the small Catholic all-girls Immaculata College, northwest of Philadelphia, hires a new basketball coach, Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino, Race to Witch Mountain).

Rush, who is non-Catholic and newly married to Ed (David Boreanaz, Bones), discovers that the team has no uniforms or a gym to practice in and that the school itself may soon be sold. But she takes on these challenges with sheer determination. Ed thinks that she is just trying to find a way to spend her time, but becomes confused by her dedication and their marriage suffers.

Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton, W.) is questioning her vocation and wants to request a leave of absence from the community. But Rush notices her interest in basketball and invites her to be the assistant coach. They become friends, and the young nun grows in her understanding of her own calling.

With the energy and talent of the team, coaches and nuns, the Mighty Macs power their way to the first AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) national championship in 1972. They would subsequently win in 1973 and 1974, as well.

The Mighty Macs is based on a true story, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters were consulted on the film. The story was developed for the screen by first-time writer/director Tim Chambers and producer Pat Croce.

Themes of hard work, faith, character and heart permeate the film. Coach Cathy tells the girls before a game: “'Do you know that in a race all the runners compete? But only one receives the prize. So run, that you may obtain it'—Corinthians. You've earned the right to run the race tonight and it's O.K. to want the prize. Do you know why teams get to championships?"

A player answers, "Trust."

Rush continues, "That's why they get to the championships. But do you know why they win championships? I want all of you to point to yourselves. That's right. Look where you are all pointing [to their hearts]. This is why championships are won. One team, one beat, one heart."

Though the film gives off a low-budget vibe, the feel is authentic and consistent with the story. The acting is frank, open and moving. Cathy Rush, a breast-cancer survivor, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 with Pat Riley and Dick Vitale, and the little college is now Immaculata University. Mature themes.

THE PERFECT GAME (not yet rated, PG): In the mid-1950s a ragtag bunch of boys on the outskirts of the industrial city of Monterrey, Mexico, formed a baseball team under Padre Estaban (Cheech Marin, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) and a washed-up janitor, César (Clifton Collins, Jr., Star Trek), who once worked for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The story takes off when César sees Angel Macias (Jake T. Austin) trying to pitch. César, who has always loved baseball, begins to train Angel, but lies about his history with the Cardinals. Angel, in turn, convinces him to become the team's coach.

This small team of underdogs from mostly poor families joins the Little League Organization. They overcome racism, family and financial challenges to make the playoffs in the United States and go on to win the 1957 Little League World Series—the first non-USA team to do so. And Angel Macias throws the second perfect game in Little League history. (In a perfect game, a pitcher does not allow anyone from the opposing team to reach first base.)

The Perfect Game is based on the 2008 book by W. William Winokur, who also scripted the film. Director William Dear (Angels in the Outfield) draws credible, inspiring and entertaining performances from the young actors.

Some aspects of the script and movie reveal lazy filmmaking, however. The filmmakers include one regrettable scene of a Mass where their lack of knowledge and sensitivity about Catholicism required a consultant and may irritate viewers. Some of the typical clichéd comments boys make about girls could have been easily left out. But all in all, the film is a David and Goliath story about teamwork, character and good baseball. Some mature thematic elements.

SUNSHINE (PBS, May 4, check local listings): A look at two generations of Catholic unwed mothers in Victoria, Texas, and how social and religious reactions to unwed mothers have changed.

V

V (ABC, Saturdays, 10 p.m.): V, which stands for "visitors," is a "re-imagining" of the 1980s sci-fi miniseries by the same creator/writer, Kenneth Johnson. It stars Morena Baccarin as Anna, the leader of the aliens who wish to enter into diplomatic relations with the United States.

Scott Wolf stars as a gullible, smitten television news reporter. Joel Gretsch plays Father Jack Landry, who must decide to fight the aliens or sit back and run the parish.

The beautiful and creepy aliens seek to draw in Americans by offering universal health-care clinics and other benefits. The show seems almost too overtly political, given the ongoing debate on health care and immigration. But with space aliens and science fiction, anything can happen.

 

SHUTTER ISLAND (O, R): Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo are two U.S. marshals in the 1950s who travel to an asylum for the mentally ill on an island in the Boston harbor. A female inmate has mysteriously escaped. But things are not as they seem in this noir psychological drama by director Martin Scorsese. The film explores who has the power to define mental illness and treat those deemed mentally ill in society, as well as the effects of war, guilt and grief on the human psyche. It's based on a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River). Disturbing content, language, brief nudity.

THE GHOST WRITER (not yet rated, PG-13): Ewan McGregor is hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of a former British prime minister, played by Pierce Brosnan, after the original ghostwriter is found dead on Martha's Vineyard. Political intrigue reveals a decades-long conspiracy covered up by both the U.S. and British governments. Directed by Roman Polanski, the film is well-acted but predictable. Language, violence, brief nudity.

A PROPHET (Un prophète) (not yet rated, R): This French film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year. A 19-year-old Muslim man is sentenced to six years in prison and becomes the runner and enforcer for the prison's Corsican mob boss. The violence is explosive and all the more terrible because we care for this young man who is vulnerable and wants to survive. It's masterful filmmaking but bleak viewing. Strong violence, sexual content, nudity, drugs.

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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