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Love and Football
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N



RADIO (A-2, PG): James (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) walks along a rural road in South Carolina with a shopping cart full of his small treasures. The mentally-challenged man is, in the words of his mother (S. Epatha Merkerson), “the same as everyone else, just a little slower than most.”

James gets the cart going, hops in for a ride and throws his arms up in joy as the wind rushes across his face. It is a beautiful day in a happy world.

James comes to the Hanna High School football field, picks up a stray football, puts it in his cart and walks off. Some of the team members, especially Johnny (Riley Smith), take note. Later the boys take James into a room, tie him up and taunt him. The high school coach (Ed Harris) rescues the terrified young man.

Coach Jones is not good at relationships, but there is something about James that captivates him. He begins to look out for James, whom he calls “Radio” because of his love for music and old radios.

Radio, based on real-life events, is told in the inspirational style of such earlier sports films as Remember the Titans (2000), Rudy (1993) and Hoosiers (1986). Director Mike Tollin learned of the relationship in a 1996 Sports Illustrated story (“Someone to Lean On,” by Gary Smith).

This film will evoke tears but it is not overly sentimental. Its strength lies in the manner in which it reveals friendship, acceptance, empathy, tolerance, diversity and generosity. Radio learns from his coach and the school. But, more importantly, he brings a lesson on being human to Coach Jones and the people of Anderson. Mildly problematic language and themes.

SECONDHAND LIONS (A-2, PG): Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) needs to spend the summer studying court reporting, so she deposits her 14-year-old son, Walter (Haley Joel Osment), at the farm of his great-uncles in rural Texas. She tells Walter to find out where the uncles hid the money people believe they stole: The men had been missing for 40 years.

The two uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine), know nothing about raising kids. They sit on the front porch and exude eccentricity. They fire their shotguns at anyone who dares to visit them. They send off for a retired lion so they can keep up their big-game hunting skills.

Hub sleepwalks down to the pond and dreams of the past. Both men have marvelous stories of great adventures and lost loves. But are they criminals or heroes?

Lions is about two aging, tough and tender brothers who take in a young boy. In their own way, they give him love and caring.

In addition, they provide him with a much-needed male presence in his life. Their masculinity involves the elements we see all too much in contemporary entertainment: They shoot rifles, drink alcohol, chew tobacco and use their fists to solve problems.

But the uncles also show Walter that men can live and love deeply. “They really lived,” says Walter at the end, after his own life is transformed. Fans of Duvall and Caine should enjoy this entertaining and imaginative tale. Some violence and problem language.

OPEN RANGE (A-3, R) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (O, R): The first film focuses on cowboys grazing their small herd on the open range. When Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Kevin Costner) send Mose (Abraham Benrubi) to the nearest town for supplies, he is harassed by the men who work for Baxter (Michael Gambon), a rancher who despises free rangers.

The sheriff is on Baxter’s payroll and most of the town is intimidated by the rancher. Boss, who says he does not like violence, opines that Baxter “may need killing.”

Charley, who was an expert gunman in the Civil War, says, “I got no problem with that.”

Against a gorgeous landscape, Boss and Charley, with the help of some of the locals and the sister of the town doctor (Annette Bening), elicit revenge to protect the rights of the people and the cattlemen. The battle is long, brutal, bloody and horribly violent.

Range (directed by Kevin Costner) perpetuates the Western myth of silent, larger-than-life heroes who conquered the land and oppressors, and the often ambiguous values that guided them. Violence and some problem language.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and a sequel to El Mariachi and Desperado) brings the same story of oppression, corruption and greed from the micro (American West) to the macro, the global stage (Mexico), and from the past to the present.

A psychotic C.I.A. agent (Johnny Depp) tracks down El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) and hires him to prevent the assassination of the president by the head of a drug cartel and the rogue military. The drug lord’s daughter is a dirty cop. The C.I.A. agent’s plan goes awry and El Mariachi gets revenge and does battle for the freedom of the Mexican people.

This battle is also long, brutal, bloody and incredibly violent. El Mariachi is a mythic hero whose ambiguous values and actions provide an overarching story that seems intended to give courage to the people. Strong violence, problem language, brief nudity.

Open Range (which I did not like because it is too slow, self-conscious and ambitious for a very thin story) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (which I at least appreciated because it is offbeat, honest and shorter) are two films that basically tell the same story. The good guys, however flawed, will risk their lives for the freedom of others.

While Range pitted (U.S.) Americans against one another in a situation that no longer exists, Mexico shows how U.S. government agencies try to manipulate events in our times on the world stage: in this case, North Americans against one another.

I would not take my grandmother to either film, but as pastoral people, it behooves us to listen to the cry of the oppressed wherever we hear it.

HBO continues to launch original and innovative programming with this “fly-on-the-wall” half-hour program on the political process inside Washington, D.C.’s Beltway. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, K Street is like The West Wing (minus the flash) mixed with Meet the Press.

Real-life Democrat James Carville and wife, Republican Mary Matalin, are in the midst of starting a consulting firm in K Street and they are always a good watch. Now we’ll have to see if this blend of fiction and fact, actors and politicos, can be bipartisan or, as Mary mutters at the end of the first episode, will it be “too good to be true”? Adult language and content.

SAINTS PRESERVED (The History Channel, October 30): This one-hour special by Paulist Productions is a look at the phenomenon of the incorruptibles, those holy persons whose bodies have not decayed over the centuries. It goes beyond trivia to help the viewer understand what’s most important about the saints: that they practiced charity to a heroic degree.

OH DAVEY! HISTORY OF THE DAVEY AND GOLIATH TELEVISION SERIES: Following renewed interest in the series that began when PepsiCo obtained rights to use Davey and Goliath for a Mountain Dew commercial, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has produced a one-hour documentary on its hit TV series that ran between 1962 and 1977.

Mary McDonough (The Waltons) is one of the narrators who trace the series from its inception as a values-based series to teach children that God loves them, through an in-depth look at stop-motion animation and into the future for these two characters. The documentary will air through November 2003 on ABC affiliates across the country. Check local listings (www.daveyandgoliath.org).

 

FREAKY FRIDAY (A-2, PG): Watch what happens when Mom and her teen daughter change places for a day. An enjoyable family-friendly caper about walking in another person’s shoes.

UPTOWN GIRLS (A-3, PG-13): A kind of Nanny Diaries with a twist. There’s way too much of the nanny’s story (Brittany Murphy). But Dakota Fanning, as the nannied child, saves the show. You’ll be glad if you wait for the video.

LE DIVORCE (A-4, PG-13): A contemporary literary comedy of manners from the Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala team (based on a novel by Diane Johnson) that illustrates and comments on what’s the same and different about American and French relationships and culture. Watch for the visual motifs that move the story along, from start to finish.

S.W.A.T. (A-4, PG-13): Standard high-voltage police vs. drug-lord jail-bust. Too much action and too many guns.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
A-4 Adults, with reservations (soon to be "L"—see below)
O Morally offensive

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Film and Broadcasting is changing its “A-4” (adults, with reservations) classification to a new “L” classification, reports Catholic News Service.

“L” designates films for a limited adult audience whose problematic content many adults could find troubling. (Films are more explicit these days in terms of violence, language, sexuality and themes.) This new classification offers a more cautionary assessment.

The change goes into effect November 1. Movies previously rated “A-4” will gradually be moved into the “L” classification.

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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